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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, September 4, 2021

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2020 Tour de France | 2021 Giro d'Italia

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Vuelta a España stage 19 reports

We posted the organizer's report with the results.

Here's the report from from stage winner Magnus Cort Nielsen's EF Education-Nippo team:

“It’s a dream and I hope I don’t wake up.” Those were the first words Magnus Cort could muster up after completing his hat trick of stage wins at this year’s Vuelta a España on a thrilling stage 19 finale.

Magnus Cort Nielsen

Magnus Cort Nielsen gets his third stage win this Vuelta. Sirotti photo

The penultimate road stage of this year’s Vuelta was always going to be a hard one, with many teams looking to get the stage victory. Stage 19 also came off the back of a number of challenging mountain stages.

“I feel all right,” said Cort before the stage. “The body and the legs are a bit tired with two mountain stages before. It’s the same for everyone and it should be all right.”

With an uphill start, the peloton got out to a hot start and seemed to quickly forget the efforts from the previous days. A large breakaway formed on the first climb of the day and included Magnus Cort and teammate, Lawson Craddock. The break was never able to build much of a gap on the reduced peloton behind who were keeping them on a tight leash.

“Fortunately, Magnus and I got in the break,” said Craddock. “It was extremely difficult and extremely fast all day. The bunch never gave us much time.”

With 60 kilometers to go in the race, it was touch and go for the break with Team DSM reducing the gap to around one minute. Too big to survive, the break started to whittle down and after over 40 kilometers of fast and furious racing, the final selection was made in the front group. The group included seven strong riders including our two EF Education-NIPPO riders from the original break.

The gap would continue to come down over the ensuing 20 kilometers with Craddock doing a brilliant job not only closing down any gaps that would form in the break but also driving the group ahead once the gaps were bridged. It wasn’t until the closing six kilometers that Magnus Cort said he was starting to trust their chances to make it to the line ahead.

“It was not before the last 5 or 6 kilometers that I started believing we could win,” explained Cort. “It was a really hard day, and we didn’t always work perfectly together in the front. We had a few attacks and then reduced the size of the group. In the end, I think everybody had tired legs and it was hard to work well together on this hilly terrain but somehow we managed to hang onto it.”

Guided by Lawson Craddock around the last couple of turns, Magnus launched a perfectly timed sprint with 150-meters to go and ultimately beat Rui Oliveira (UAE) and Quinn Simmons (TFS) at the line. This is his twenty-first career win and sixth Vuelta stage win, a race that clearly seems to agree with the Dane.

“I have to thank my teammate Lawson Craddock for doing an amazing job. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without him in the breakaway today,” said Cort.

Both hands raised over his head at the line, Craddock was able to soak in the win after a brilliant effort all day.

“I’m so happy Magnus finished it off today. Third stage win. Pretty good Vuelta,” he said at the line. “Have you seen his mustache? With a stache like that, you can’t lose.”

What a stache, what a race, what a Vuelta for our squad.

Here's the report from GC leader Primoz Roglic's Jumbo-Visma team:

Team Jumbo-Visma has had a problem-free day during the nineteenth stage of the Vuelta a España. The squad around classification leader Primoz Roglic rode in the peloton all day.

After twenty kilometres the breakaway of the day emerged. A sizeable group of around twenty riders got away but were unable to get a convincing lead due to the high tempo of the peloton. The breakaway riders were not discouraged and rode at high speed all day long. A group of seven remaining breakaway riders eventually battled for the day’s victory. Twenty seconds behind them, red jersey wearer Roglic crossed the line in the peloton.

Primoz Roglic

Primoz Roglic has two stages to go. Sirotti photo

Roglic, who put on the leader’s jersey in a grand tour for the fiftieth time today, said that it was not a glorified rest day. “From the start to the finish the pace was good. The race was hard right away. For us as a team it was good that a large group got away. The Vuelta is slowly coming to an end. The chances are getting smaller. A lot of teams are still aiming for success, which is why a lot of teams didn’t have it easy. In the end, we didn’t run into any problems. I wasn’t aware of the fact that it was my fiftieth time in the leader’s jersey in a grand tour today. I don’t pay attention to statistics much. Though I think this number is nice to hear and it surprises me in a positive way. Hopefully I can add a few more days.”

"Tomorrow’s stage is anything but easy”, the Slovenian looked ahead. “Also in Sunday’s time trial we will have to stay alert. We know like no other that the venom of a grand tour is often in the tail. We will have to stay focused and do our utmost to take home the red jersey. Hopefully we’ll have enough energy left to seal the past three weeks with the desired result.”

Here's the report from second-place Rui Oliveira's UAE Team Emirates:

Rui Oliveira took one of the biggest results of his young career with a close second place on stage 19 of the Vuelta España. The 24 year-old went away in a large group on the first climb of the day, before it reduced to a group of seven as the heavy legs of the third week took its toll on he riders.

Magnus Cort Nielsen

It was Magnus Cort Nielsen who took the stage.

The group worked tirelessly to hold off the chasing peloton but the collaboration meant they held the gap well throughout the lumpy stage which went from Tapia to Monforte de Lemos (191.2km).

Stage honours went to Magnus Cort (EF-Nippo) who won the sprint after a leadout from his teammate Lawson Craddock (EF-Nippo).

Oliveira was glued to the wheel of Cort in the final kilometre, just unable to come around the Dane in the closing metres.

Oliveira: “I almost got dropped on the first climb with the high pace but I hung on, and in the last 50km I started to feel stronger again. We didn’t think we could make it to the line because we were hanging on by 30 seconds for a long time but our group was collaborating really well and we stayed away. Second place is disappointing now but I’m sure tomorrow I’ll wake up and feel better about it.”

In the GC, David De La Cruz moves up a place to 10th overall, 9’24’’ behind race leader Primoz Roglic.

Tomorrow stage 20 the riders will head from Sanxenxo to Mos. Castro de Herville (202.2km), a stage marked by many short climbs and the last road stage of this years Vuelta.

Benelux Tour stage five reports

We posted the report from stage winner Caleb Ewan's Lotto Soudal team with the results.

Here's the report from new GC leader Stefan Küng's Groupama-FDJ team:

From Riemst to Bilzen, the Benelux Tour got harder on Friday, and Stefan Küng already made the most of it! After a lively final in stage 5, the Swiss rider crossed the line in 17th position, just behind Jake Stewart (13th), within a small peloton. Above all, he took the lead of the overall standings after his main competitors experienced difficulties along the road. The Groupama-FDJ’s rider will start the decisive weekend with a margin of two seconds over his closest competitor.

Caleb Ewan

Though Caleb Ewan won the stage, Stefan Küng is the new GC leader.

After three completely flat stages and a very fast time trial, the first hills of the Benelux Tour were to be tackled on Friday in stage 5. It was therefore a first test for the GC contenders through the typical Belgian climbs. Among the fifteen featuring on the day’s course, the first one was located after about forty kilometres of racing, and three men started it with a small advantage over the peloton. “There was a big fight for 20 kilometres or so before the break could go,” Jussi said. “We also followed 2-3 moves that were quite dangerous. Eventually, the good move went before the climbs. Most of the peloton wanted the break to establish itself at that point, so everyone was kind of happy to let three guys go.”

Up front, Casper Pedersen (Team DSM), Jack Bauer (BikeExchange) and Hugo Houle (Astana) never enjoyed a big gap however, as the leader’s team tried to keep things under control. When the peloton got to the finish line for the first time, 80 kilometers from the end, the gap was only two minutes. In the big loop around Bilzen, the first few attacks occurred but did not create real damage. Everything was then back in order starting the two laps of the small circuit (20 kilometres) including the Keiberg and Letenberg.

“There were no particular dangers regarding the wind,” said Jussi Veikkanen. “There was a little acceleration before the golden kilometre but the breakaway managed to stay away and took all the bonus seconds, which was pretty good for us. We also knew the final circuit, as we often came in the area. The goal was to be well positioned in the last two laps, especially starting the last one. The guys made a good effort together to be there at the key moment. It was essential today, because the race was mostly decided this way. On the last lap, the climb located ten kilometres from the finish made some damage. Benjamin and the others did a good work to put Stefan and Jake in the best possible conditions, and then there were splits everywhere”.

A few other attacks happened again in the last few kilometres, but it did not prove enough to create a breakaway. However, many riders dropped from the back and that also included the leader himself Stefan Bissegger. In the opposite, Stefan Küng was in the front group while Kasper Asgreen suffered a mechanical problem. The Swiss rider eventually finished in the first bunch, in 17th position, and thus went on the podium this Friday evening to collect the leader’s jersey.

“I wasn’t expecting it,” he said. “I thought the GC would likely change on the stages of Saturday and Sunday, but when we did the briefing today, we knew that we always had to stay in front on this circuit, with these climbs and the corners. This is what I tried to do, as well as avoiding trouble as much as possible. I was calm all day, I put myself in a good position with the help of the guys on the last lap. Then I just held on. Bissegger was not in a good day, Asgreen had a mechanical problem, but I was focused on my race only. The goal was not to lose time, to stay in front and I took the jersey only by doing that”. “It was not planned,” confirmed Jussi Veikkanen. “We thought the race would be slightly more packed”. Caleb Ewan took the stage win in a slightly uphill finish while Jake Stewart, a bit too far back in the last kilometres, had to settle for thirteenth on Friday. “The major goal for the day was the overall with Stefan, so the job has been done, even though Jake unfortunately couldn’t do his sprint as he wanted,” added the Finnish sports director.

Ahead of the final weekend, Stefan Küng then lead the general classification for two seconds ahead of his runner-up and six over the third. “We will see how to proceed from now on,” commented Jussi. “We will know tomorrow night whether it was an advantage or a disadvantage to have taken the jersey today. Anyway, we know the circuit and the guys are definitely motivated to defend the jersey”. Stefan Küng won’t say the opposite. “It won’t be easy to enter the stage as the GC leader because everyone will try to attack me, but I will do my best to keep the jersey and I know the whole team is behind me,” he said. “I know all the climbs around Houffalize. This is already my seventh participation in this race. I’ve done this stage a few times so I know what to expect and it’s going to be really tough! I was up there two years ago, so I’m pretty confident and I feel good. Tomorrow, it will be really difficult against the pure punchers but I will be more on my terrain on Sunday”.

Here's the report from Peter Sagan's Bora-hansgrohe team:

After four days of flat roads, stage 5 of the Benelux Tour gave the peloton some climbs to contend with. At 192km, the parcours was the second-longest of the race and, with many of the day’s eight climbs repeated as the stage went on, the total of fifteen short and steep ascents would drain the riders’ energy reserves. The tough terrain made it difficult to predict how the race would end, and multiple attempts to escape from the start made it clear the breakaway would be aiming to claim the victory. Three riders eventually managed to make it into the day’s move and soon set about building an advantage that grew from two minutes to 3:30 before reaching the harder climbs and slowing the pace, but still keeping the main bunch at a distance.

As the race entered the final 50km, this lead was starting to fall, the lead trio clearly tiring, with Maciej Bodnar taking to the front of the peloton to help drive the pace on the narrow Belgian roads. Making their way onto the three local laps in Bilzen, Maciej worked to shut down some attacks, before Daniel Oss took over on the front with Peter Sagan on his wheel. After an increase in pace for the Golden Kilometre around 30km from the finish, the trio became a duo and the gap soon began to fall dramatically, the catch being made with 10km to go.

It was here the attacks started, with Peter responding well and working hard to protect Lukas Pöstlberger and keep him in the mix for the GC standings as part of a select group around twenty-five seconds ahead of the chasing bunch. The sprint started early, and the Slovak national champion kicked hard on the uphill sprint to the line. Searching for space and taking every opportunity that presented itself, Peter fought to the last metre, just being beaten to a podium spot by the slimmest of margins, closing the day in fourth, with Lukas staying safe here to finish with the lead group.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan (shown at the 2021 Tour de France) was in the hunt for a stage win today. Sirotti photo

From the Finish Line:
"It was a long stage that played out as expected. Once more, we worked well as a team and I was at the front of the peloton in the final circuit in order to control and close the attacks. It served as a good indicator of my form after my knee injury and my altitude training. In the sprint finish, I gave my best." – Peter Sagan

"It was a really hard stage with a finish you would typically expect in a classics race. The squad did a great job today, we were brought into a good position in all critical points. Peter helped me a lot to keep the GC together, he followed several attacks when I wasn't able to do it on my own or I wasn't there when they happened. Because of that I think he missed a bit of energy in the finale, so finishing fourth in the sprint was really impressive." – Lukas Pöstlberger

"It was a long stage and the first one so far with a lot of short climbs and a very technical parcours. Our strategy was to go for a bunch sprint and a win by Peter but also have Lukas ready in the final laps to respond to any attacks. The guys worked very well from the start, Erik and Juraj closed all early attacks and we had a small breakaway with three riders. When we reached the final local circuit it became an open race, full-on all the time. Peter and Lukas gave their best to close several attacks. In the sprint finish, Peter took fourth. I think it was a good day, Lukas moved up in the GC while Peter was solid at the front." – Jan Valach, Sports Director

And here's the report from Luke Durbridge's Team BikeExchange:

Stage three's third place finisher Luke Durbridge moved up to second place at the Benelux Tour after finishing in the reduced front group on a hilly stage five, which saw teammate Jack Bauer animate the day, going into the main breakaway.

The 192km hilly stage began with a flurry of riders trying to get into various moves, with Bauer able to get away with two other riders for company. The trio quickly opened a gap of over two minutes and hovered out front for most of the stage.

Once the sprint teams got themselves organised, the trio were eventually reeled back in with just 11km to go. On a twisty run-in to the uphill finish line, the peloton split, with Durbridge the highest placed finisher for Team BikeExchange, coming home in the front group in 33rd place.

Durbridge’s jump up in the classification comes after some misfortune from his competitor Kasper Asgreen, who suffered from a mechanical problem and began the day in second place overall. Race leader Stefan Bissiger dropped off the pace and was unable to make the front split in the final, allowing Durbridge to climb the classification.

The Australian now starts tomorrow’s penultimate stage in second place overall, just two seconds behind the new race leader.

Luke Durbridge

Luke Durbridge (shown at the 2017 Tour de France) is now in second place in the Benelux Tour. Sirotti photo

Luke Durbridge – 2nd overall
“I’m now second on the general classification which is good. Unfortunately, Kasper Asgreen had a mechanical issue but that can happen and he is still not so far away.

"The boys rode fantastically; from the start they tried to get into the breakaway and Jack did an amazing job to get in the break and rode super strong. We were riding really hard from behind in the peloton and couldn’t catch Jack until the end so it was a very big ride for him today.

"Everyone else did a really fantastic job, putting me in the right position during the stage which was like a semi-classic with a lot of positioning and a lot of big efforts from the boys to get me up there.

I feel good and managed to stay up there in the front group and move up on GC. One-day at a time and we are going at it again tomorrow so we will see how it goes."

Jack Bauer
“It was a strong breakaway but ultimately too small, already with 40km to go we were down to just two of us working so it was a big ask to stay away from the bunch on that final lap.

"I picked today as a good stage to gamble for a good win for the breakaway, but once we got onto the circuit it was a little too hard out the back into the headwind to hold off a chasing bunch.

"We tried; we gave it everything. Once I was caught the whole team was working for Durbridge and they did a really good job positioning him into the final two climbs."

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