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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, September 1, 2021

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2020 Tour de France | 2021 Giro d'Italia

The audiobook version of The Story of the Tour de France, Volume 1 is available.

Puritanism. The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy. - H. L. Mencken

Dirty Feet: Early days of the Tour de France

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Vuelta a España stage 16 reports

We posted the organizer's report with the results.

Here's the report from stage winner Fabio Jakobsen's Deceuninck Quick Step team:

Fabio Jakobsen couldn’t have dreamed of a better birthday present on the day he turned 25. Clad in the green jersey he sports since the opening week of the race, the “Hurricane of Heukelum” made it a hat-trick of victories at the final Grand Tour of the season, in Santa Cruz de Bezana, a small Cantabrian town which welcomed the race for the first time.

Fabio Jakobsen

Fabio Jakobsen takes stage 16. Sirotti photo

The 180km stage wasn’t an easy one, a series of unclassified climbs testing the sprinters. On the hardest of these, with around 50 kilometers to go, several teams piled on the pressure, splitting the peloton, among those dropped being also Fabio. As soon as this happened, the Wolfpack rallied around its leader and clawed back time, helping Jakobsen bridge across inside the final 40 kilometers.

Deceuninck – Quick-Step remained at the front, bringing back the five escapees, and guiding its sprinter through the nervous final part of the stage, where also the GC teams made an appearance due to a brief threat of echelons. Coming out of the last corner, the Dutchman combined physical presence, positioning, timing and speed, and emerged again as the fastest thanks to another immensely huge sprint that gave absolutely no chance to his opponents.

“This victory belongs to my teammates. They brought me back when I was dropped, kept me at the front, worked hard to reel in the breakaway and made sure I was where I needed to be for the final part of the stage, which featured several tricky parts. I am happy I could gift them the victory on this beautiful day”, said an emotional Fabio, the first rider in 15 years to win at La Vuelta on his birthday.

“This time last year, I had no idea if I was going to be a bike rider again. I am extremely grateful to be here, able to fight for victory. I love the adrenaline this sport gives you, I love winning, and I love being part of the peloton and of this great team. To get my third stage here on my birthday, with the green jersey on my shoulders, it’s a dream. I’m over the moon, I really couldn’t be happier”, added Jakobsen after his fifth Grand Tour stage victory.

Here's the report from GC leader Odd Christian Eiking's Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert team:

The riders in the Tour of Spain (2.WT, 14/08-5/09) started the final week of the event with a transition stage towards Asturia. This sixteenth stage, with start in Laredo (Cantabria) offered a parcours suited for a bunch sprint with the Alto de Hijas (3.7km at 7.2%) as the only categorized difficulty of the day with 80 kilometer to go.

The stage of 180 kilometer was presented as flat, despite the more than 2000 meters of climbing. It didn’t prevent the sprinter’s teams to chase behind the early breakaway of six riders. In the beginning of the race, Rein Taaramäe was involved in a big crash. UAE Team Emirates tried to make use of the non categorized Alto de Cipriano (5.1 km à 4,2%) to drop some of the sprinters. Race leader Odd Christian Eiking was vigilant and well surrounded by his teammates so wasn’t caught by surprise. The acceleration brought most of the escapees back, except for Stan Dewulf who was only caught in the final kilometer. The curves in the roads of Santa Cruz de Bezana welcomed Fabio Jakobsen as the winner of a bunch sprint. Italian sprinter Riccardo Minali took a fourth top 10 thanks to his 8th place.

The Norwegian leader Eiking reached the finish without issues and will take the start of the seventeenth stage in his red jersey for the seventh day in a row. Louis Meintjes (13th) climbs one position in the general classification as a consequence of the abandon of Ciccone. This Wednesday will be a decisive day for the general classification in the heights of Asturia, with a mountain top finish on Lagos de Cavadonga (12.5 km at 7%), preceded by a double ascension of the Collada Llomena (7.6 km at 9,1%).

Odd Christian Eiking

Odd Christian Eiking is still in red, Sirotti photo

"Even though on paper there was no big danger of loosing the jersey today, I admit that I didn't feel great after the restday. So this stage was a perfect opportunity to warm up the engine before tomorrow's hard stage. I knew the Lagos de Cavadonga and I'm convinced that the stage will be decisive for the general classification. It will certainly be a hard race from the start. I'm looking forward to it!" - Odd Christian Eiking

"I'm satisfied with this 8th place, because taking into account the circumstances it was probably the best possible result. It was not my best day after the restday, so I suffered a lot in the final 50 kilometer. With my teammates doing a fantastic job again to keep Odd Eiking and Louis Meintjes in the front, I managed to sneak in the sprint. My sprint wasn't perfect, but I'm satisfied with my fourth top 10. Maybe there's another sprint chance on Saturday, bur before, I'll be with my teammates to battle for the defense of the red leader's jersey!" - Riccardo Minali

"We knew that it wouldn't be easy to control this transition stage, and the race was nervous indeed. We gave the responsibility of the chase out of hands to the sprinter's teams, which enabled us to save some energy. We will need all of our resources in the next days! Louis Meintjes is feeling good and Odd Christian Eiking is still leading the general classification, so our ambition to finish in the top 10 is realistic. We're curious to know how Odd will pass the climbs tomorrow, because this is a whole new situation for him. We stay down-to-earth and wee'll fight till the end for this leader's jersey!" - Valerio Piva (Sports Director)

Here's the report from second-place Jordi Meeus' Bora-hansgrohe team:

After yesterday's rest day, the Vuelta continued today in northern Spain, where the 170.8km long coastal stage commenced in Laredo. With only a few small hills on the fairly flat course, the sprinters had a last opportunity today to net a stage win. A small breakaway group set off early but was kept on a tight leash by the field and eventually their luck ran out, being caught with 4km remaining. Jordi Meeus, who was involved in a crash earlier in the race, was nevertheless still able to mix things up in the bunch sprint in Santa Cruz de Bezana, ultimately racing to a strong second place, his best result at the Vuelta so far.

Stage 16 finish

The sprinters close in on the finish line. Sirotti photo

From the Finish Line:
"It was a tricky final today, but the team really did a perfect job. We lost each other a bit over the last kilometre, but I still managed to stay up front. I was in a good position but I have to be honest, Jakobsen was just simply faster today. I think I can really mix things up in the sprints now. But the Vuelta is my first Grand Tour and I'm just lacking a bit of that final speed against riders who have some more experience. But this strong result definitely gives me more confidence for the near future." - Jordi Meeus

"This was a very eventful stage. We wanted to go for the sprint today, of course, but after 6km Jordi was involved in a crash. The right femur was quite injured and so during the stage the team doctor took care of him. He told us that he was fine and that it wasn't that bad, so he was able to follow our initial goal of going after the sprint. Quite a lot then happened during the stage. UAE Emirates was trying to separate the peloton from the sprinters and various attacks also occurred in between. We just aimed to put ourselves into a good position for the last 1000 metres. We knew the course was going to go somewhat left and right, so position was everything. However, the guys did a great job of getting Jordi into the right place. Everyone was in position and ultimately he sprinted out of the last corner into the home straight in first place. After that, however Jakobsen sprinted past him. But we are very satisfied with second place. Not being able to take the win against Jakobsen, one of the best sprinters in the field, can be taken quite sportingly." - Steffen Rachocla, Sports Director

And here's the sad news from Team Trek-Segafredo about Giulio Ciccone's abandonment of the Vuelta:

“A huge disappointment.” This was the first reaction from Giulio Ciccone after withdrawing from La Vuelta a Espana during Stage 16.

Giulio Ciccone was beginning to find his Grand Tour form as La Vuelta entered its third week but will not get to test his legs in the next mountains after a crash seven kilometers into Stage 16 has ended his race.

Giulio Ciccone

Giulio Ciccone finishing fifth in Vuelta stage 15. Sirotti photo

Ciccone has had an unwavering race: no big days, but no massive cracks either. At the end of the second week, Ciccone was discovering better legs, attacking, and with a feeling of better form had found renewed motivation.

Sadly, he will not get to see what he can do against his rivals in the final mountain stages as a fall early in Stage 16 has ended his bid for a top 10 GC.

The massive high-speed crash occurred in the first positions of the peloton, around seven kilomeers after the official start and just as the breakaway was forming.

In a sudden pile-up of riders and bikes, a chainring hit Ciccone’s right knee, causing a severe contusion and puncture hole. Gianluca Brambilla and Alex Kirsch were also involved and fortunately escaped without serious consequences.

After receiving first aid from the Vuelta’s medical staff, Ciccone got back on his bike and was able to return to the peloton. However, the pain and difficulty in pedaling increased, becoming unbearable, and Ciccone was forced to stop.

In the team bus, team physician Emilio Magni medicated the wound and diagnosed a lacerated contused deep cut in the inner part of the right knee that caused functional weakness.

Further investigations were carried out at the Santandar hospital and X-rays revealed no fractures in his right hip and tibia.

“It’s a very difficult situation to accept; I’m so sorry,” said an emotional Ciccone. “After the Giro, I am forced to abandon again in the Vuelta in the key moment of the race. After the crash, I wanted to restart even if the pain was so strong. I really didn’t want to give up, but at one point I couldn’t pedal anymore. Leaving the race due to bad luck makes no sense, I have to get over it, but right now it’s not easy.”

Ciccone will now return home where he will face the first part of the recovery that in the first days will see him off the bike. Further steps and decisions on the next races will be evaluated later.

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