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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, September 2, 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.

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Vuelta a España stage 17 reports

We posted the organizer's report with the results.

Here's the report from stage winner Primoz Roglic's Jumbo-Visma team:

Primoz Roglic has taken a double victory in the seventeenth stage of the Vuelta. The Team Jumbo-Visma leader attacked with Egan Bernal halfway through the stage and rode away from his breakaway companion on the steep final climb to Lagos de Covadonga. Sepp Kuss finished second behind his leader. Roglic regained the lead in the general classification.

Primoz Roglic

Primoz Roglic wins stage 17. Sirotti photo.

Several riders wanted to get in the breakaway of the day from the first kilometre. However, the peloton did not allow this and retrieved the last fugitive before the second climb of La Collada Llomena. On the climb, Egan Bernal attacked with an attentive Roglic in his wheel. The two took the initiative in the valley, in rainy conditions, and with a large lead they started the final climb towards Lagos de Covadonga. There, Roglic achieved his third stage victory of this Vuelta and his ninth win of the season.

The Olympic time trial champion was delighted with the win. "I really enjoyed this stage. It was a perfect day for me and for the team. Maybe this is my best stage in the Vuelta so far. Of course it’s a risk to attack at that moment, but I just wanted to follow Egan. We worked well together. On the final climb I went full throttle, also because of the great support from all the supporters alongside the road."

"Tomorrow we have to be there again", the two-time overall winner of the Vuelta continued about the grueling mountain stage scheduled for tomorrow. "I’m in a good position in the general classification now, but the lead is never big enough. We have to stay sharp and keep riding as a team. I have every confidence in that."

Here's the report from Enric Mas' Team Movistar:

Against the irresistible strength from Primoz Roglic (TJV), back in the lead of La Vuelta with one of his most stunning exhibitions en route to Los Lagos, and the courage of Egan Bernal (IGD), who created the decisive move at the Collada Llomena with 61km to go, the Movistar Team made the most out of the energy they had for the first big Asturias mountain stage of the race, which leaves Enric Mas and Miguel Ángel López back in 2nd and 3rd overall.

Miguel Angel Lopez

Miguel Angel Lopez finishing third. Sirotti photo

The Telefónica-backed squad fought hard to get some of their riders into the elusive morning break -the race kept a whopping 55kph through to the foot of the first Llomena ascent-, sending up to three members into a 35-man group quickly caught by Bora, then Nelson Oliveira on the move over the first Cat-1 climb. Jumbo never allowed anyone going too far, as Roglic jumped across to Bernal and ended up taking a 1-2 at the finish as Kuss led the pursuit group home, 1’35” back.

As their forces were limited to just their two leaders at the section between Llomena and the start of Los Lagos, López -who unsuccessfully tried to join Roglic and Bernal on the attack- and Mas, always part of the Bahrain-led group, tried with several attacks to get closer to Roglic -with Bernal caught almost at the top Covadonga in the process- and finished in the elite second group. Another huge battle is awaiting them on Thursday’s Queen stage, over the ‘altos’ of San Lorenzo (Cat-1), La Cobertoria (Cat-1), the Cordal (Cat-1) and the finish atop the brutal Gamoniteiru (HC).

The day’s most negative news came with a crash on the second Llomena descent for Carlos Verona, who fell against a slope of grass after slipping off his bike into one of the wet corners of the downhill. The Spaniard, who was able to cross the finish, will undergo checkups at a Oviedo hospital to confirm his condition, after suffering several contusions in the descent and, more importantly, a big hit to his hip and back. A big hematoma on his left side will require his staying in hospital for the night.

Miguel Ángel López: “Neither the attack nor Roglic’s pace caught me by surprise. He’s such a talented rider. At first, I tried to go with him and Bernal, yet I couldn’t bridge to them, and I thought I couldn’t continue alone and it wasn’t worth keeping my effort, because, as we saw, Egan would pay that near the end. If you’re not sure about your condition, knowing that there’s a 40km full-gas effort ahead, you can really pay, even more so considering there’s another important test tomorrow. We were going at full speed both at the front and behind, to either open the gaps or reduce them. It got over 2’ at some point, and we eventually started that last climb with 1’30”. That’s why everyone was struggling so much into the climb, with no real gaps. There’s really important days still ahead – we’ll see how we get through them. I don’t know how Enric’s legs and mine will do tomorrow, but I think we did well today, keeping the front and together. Roglic completed a stunning performance, then it’s pretty much even between the rest. We’ll see tomorrow.”

Enric Mas: “We’ve got over a really, really difficult day in a good way. It was such a demanding start, with no real early break forming – that big group went after the first climb, we had three riders there and they were actually neutralized, then Jumbo pushed so hard to catch any other attacks. Personally, I wasn’t expecting that move from Roglic. He was so strong today – we can only congratulate him for what he did. Other than Primoz putting a big gap on us, even if we can’t be really excited about it, I feel both Miguel and I can be more or less satisfied at this point. We’re still there, the other GC guys finished basically together, we’re back in 2nd and 3rd overall and we got through this tough, important day with a decent result.”

And here's the report from Odd Christian Eiking's Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert team:

Stage 17 of the Vuelta a España, which led to Lagos de Covadonga, promised to be decisive for the general classification. In addition to the well-know summit finish (12.5 km at 7%), the riders would face the climb of La Collada Llomena (7.6 km at 9.1%), a new difficulty that had to be completed twice.

And this 186-kilometer stage through Asturias proved to be intense right from the start thanks to the fight to create a breakaway. However, no rider managed to escape after an hour of racing, despite the Altu de Hortigueru (5.3 km at 4.7%) encountered after 35 kilometers. With no clear breakaway in sight, the contenders for the leader’s jersey, worn by Odd Christian Eiking, launched the hostilities in the first ascent of Collada Llomena.

Never surrendering, the Norwegian resisted the high tempo of his opponents until the second time on the Collada Llamena. It was in this climb, 60 kilometers from the finish, that Roglic (Jumbo) and Bernal (Ineos) distanced the rest of the pursuit of around fifteen riders. Part of this second group was Louis Meintjes (13th overall), who could rely on his teammate Jan Hirt as the rain appeared on the roads of the Vuelta. A wet asphalt that did not spare the red jersey, victim of a crash on the descent of the penultimate ascent as he was getting closer to the pursuit. This new setback did not bring down Eiking who, helped by Simone Petilli, fought bravely to reach the finish line.

Odd Christian Eiking

Odd Christian Eiking during his last moments in red. Sirotti photo

An epic final climb saw a man-on-man battle between GC contenders, under rain and fog. Roglic won the stage and became the new leader of the race. Louis Meintjes took ninth place, solidly supported by Hirt (14th). The South African now occupies 12th place in the general classification, just behind Eiking (11th). The overall standings could change again tomorrow, with a mountaintop finish in Altu El Gamoniteiru, preceded by three more difficulties.

"Yesterday I said that I wouldn’t be disappointed if I couldn’t keep the jersey in this hard stage and I’m still thinking the same today. Those two weeks were fantastic and I’m very proud. Until today, luck has been on my side. Unfortunately I had back luck today, just before joining the group of favorites. I saw a crash in front of me and my wheel slipped on the very slippery surface. It is a pity, because without this time loss I would probably still have been close to the top 5 in the general classification tonight. The good thing is that I don’t have a bad injury. Of course I’m feeling stiff and we’ll have to wait until tomorrow before knowing how my body reacts to this crash. Louis and I are knocking on the door of the top 10 of the classification, so this is a nice goal for the coming days!" - Odd Christian Eiking

Benelux Tour stage three team reports

We posted the report from stage winner Taco van der Hoorn's Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert team with the results.

Here's the report from Wilco Kelderman's Team Bora-hansgrohe:

It was back to the road for the third day of the Benelux Tour after stage 2’s time trial action, with 168.3km separating riders from the start in Essen and the predicted sprint finale in Hoogerheide. After crossing a more undulating parcours than the previous stages, the finishing circuit would be ridden three times, giving the faster riders a chance to check out the finishing straight in preparation for the finale, but as usual, the breakaway would be looking to frustrate the peloton.

Five riders went out early on, and while their advantage remained slim, never reaching more than three minutes, the bunch was always just out of reach. With the kilometres ticking down, BORA - hansgrohe took to the front to try and reduce the gap, and with 50km to go this lead was down to a minute and falling steadily, but this rose again to 1:25 as the breakaway started their final lap of the street circuit.

The high speeds and street furniture saw many of the sprint favourites dropped or suffer mechanical problems, but Peter Sagan was staying safe and towards the head of the chasing group with support from his teammates. However, disaster struck when in the chaotic push to make the catch, a crash 5km from the end forced Wilco Kelderman to abandon the race. Having reduced the escape group’s advantage to just seconds, Peter gave it his all in an incredibly strong sprint performance, but the Slovak national champion had to settle for sixth spot as the first of the peloton to cross the line after the breakaway took the stage, just three seconds behind.

Wilco Kelderman

Wilco Kelderman finishing stage 20 of the 2020 Giro d'Italia. He broke his pelvis and some ribs in the stage three Benelux Tour crash and will be out of action for a while. Sirotti photo.

From the Finish Line
"I felt well in today's fast stage. It was important to stay at the front of the bunch as much as possible in order to avoid getting caught in any crashes. Unfortunately, Wilco went down, so that is a hit for us. The breakaway was close to getting caught but there were a few mechanicals in the finale, so the sprinter teams weren't always pulling. I had good legs in the bunch sprint and we'll try again tomorrow." – Peter Sagan

"Unfortunately, it wasn't the stage result we were expecting. We were meant to have a bunch sprint, we were close, but the break held on to the finish. However, the worst thing is that we lost Wilco in a crash with 5km to go. It's really sad because he was our main GC rider and we will now have to see how he is, we are currently waiting for an update. Hopefully, it isn't anything serious. As for the sprint, the break managed to stay, barely, at the front. In the closing kilometres, some of the sprinters suffered from punctures, so we missed some pulling power at the front from some teams. On top of that, after Wilco's crash, we weren't in the ideal position to close the gap in the final few hundred meters. Peter prevailed in the bunch sprint but it wasn't the best day for us." – Jean-Pierre Heynderickx, Sports Director

Here's the report from Luke Durbridge's Team BikeExchange:

Australian powerhouse Luke Durbridge put himself in a position to win today’s third stage of the Benelux Tour, after riding into the day’s breakaway which survived to the line and then sprinting to a respectable third place in Hoogerheide.

Durbridge showed his experience riding cleverly in the move, initially with eight riders for company before they whittled down to five, with the 30-year-old riding as the virtual general classification leader for most of the stage, after starting the day just 39 seconds down on overall leader Stefan Bissegger.

Taco van der Hoorn

It was Taco van der Hoorn who won the stage. Photo: Benelux Tour

During the 168km stage, the Team BikeExchange rider managed to take an additional nine bonus seconds on offer, with the chance of taking the overall lead becoming more and more possible as the escapees hovered more than one minute ahead as they edged closer to the finish line.

The sprint teams finally got themselves organised and began a fierce chase in the closing 25km which saw Durbridge’s group almost denied their chances to battle it out for victory. However, the peloton mistimed their efforts and crossed the line just three seconds behind the five leaders.

After a big effort, Durbridge walks away from the stage with a respectable third place finish, moving into the lead of the points classification and jumping up to fourth place on the general classification.

Luke Durbridge:
“You don’t get many opportunities to race for the win, so coming away without the win I am a little disappointed, but I am happy that we were able to stay away, and that we all committed. We had four of us really committing to the breakaway and that is the only way.

"I knew on the technical circuits there would be a chance that the breakaway could stay away. Many times, in this race if the breakaway goes early then it can stay away to the finish as it is super hard to chase the break on the technical finishing laps.

"We played the game with the peloton; we sort of rode easy for most of the day until 40km to go then we fully committed. Without the break fully committing we would have no chance. I was trying to stay away and get the jersey, but they ended up catching us right on the line.

"In the end I tried to go for the sprint and third was the best I could. So, it was another good day to be aggressive and we will give it another good go tomorrow. You always want to race for the victory."

Mat Hayman – Sport Director:
“Today was good, we definitely wanted to be in the break. It wasn’t up to Luke to be in the break, but he is riding really well, he understands this race and we know that a stage which looks like it can be a sprint on paper, that isn’t always the case here.

"He rode really smart in the breakaway; he had some good company with other strong riders. He came very close, picked up some time bonuses and was in the running for taking the stage win so we have to be very happy."

Rohan Dennis signs with Jumbo-Visma for two years

The team sent me this press release:

Rohan Dennis will reinforce Team Jumbo-Visma for the next two years. The 31-year-old Australian and two times time trial world champion will accompany his compatriot Chris Harper at Richard Plugge’s squad. Harper has fully recovered from his eye injury and extended his contract with another year.

Rohan Dennis

Rohan Dennis racing in the 2020 Giro d'Italia. Sirotti photo

"I’m looking forward to the new challenges and I’m excited to be joining arguably one of the leading teams with R&D in the pro peloton. Riding alongside the likes of Primoz Roglic, Wout van Aert and Tom Dumoulin - again - is something I couldn’t refuse. Continuing to contribute to major GT wins with the team and taking some of my own chances at week-long tours is a major goal of mine. It’s a new chapter, but also a return to a part of my early years, being involved with the Rabobank continental team back in 2011. And also being back on Cervélo, the bike I rode as a neo pro back in 2013. I would like to thank Ineos-Grenadiers for the time I spent with them. It has been a great ride with a lot of amazing times and achievements, which I’m looking to continue at Team Jumbo-Visma."

Dennis is the desired reinforcement for sportive director Merijn Zeeman of Team Jumbo-Visma. "I have been talking to him for a few years now. He is a dream asset for me, who will be a great support for our GC riders in particular, but who will also regularly be in a position to chase an overall victory himself", Zeeman says. "There are not many riders in the peloton who have his qualities. He is a real asset, which is very important in today’s top cycling. He is someone with a very big engine who can pull for kilometres and who can reduce the peloton uphill too. He also is capable of a great time trial in which he will often compete for the win."

For Mathieu Heijboer, Head of Performance at Team Jumbo-Visma, Dennis is a familiar face. Heijboer was a performance trainer at the Rabobank continental team. Nowadays he directs Team Jumbo-Visma’s time trial project. "We have a very good reputation in terms of time trialing among riders of other teams. They want to come and ride with us because we are well prepared in this discipline. We came first and second at the Olympics and the number three will also be on the team next year. Soon we will have three riders from the Olympic podium in our team, on a Cervélo. That is fantastic."

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