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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, September 5, 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.

Blessed is the man, who having nothing to say, abstains from giving wordy evidence of the fact. - George Eliot


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Vuelta a España stage 20 reports

We posted the organizer's report with the results.

Here's the report from stage winner Clément Champoussin's Ag2r-Citroën team:

Benoît Cosnefroy: “Winning twice in a week is a dream.”
“It was not an easy race. We had to make the right decisions in the end, I’m really happy. The team work was really there today, we made no mistakes. It was more rhythmic than the scenario we had imagined this morning, but it worked out for us, so it’s perfect. The end of the season is generally going well for me. I have managed to keep the shape from the Tour de France. It’s not easy to win among the pros, so doing it twice in a week is a dream. I take full advantage of it.” - Benoît

Clement Champoussin

Clément Champoussin winning Vuelta stage 21. Sirotti photo

The number: 10
After Ben O’Connor on the 9th stage of the Tour de France, Andrea Vendrame on the 12th stage of the Giro d´Italia and the 1st stage of the Route d´Occitanie,
Aurélien Paret-Peintre at the Grand Prix Cycliste la Marseillaise, Dorian Godon at Paris-Camembert and on the 2nd stage of the Tour du Limousin, Clément Champoussin and Benoît Cosnefroy, winner of the Bretagne Classic – Ouest France and the Tour du Finistère already, bring the AG2R CITROËN TEAM its 9th and 10th road victories this season. Note also Marc Sarreau is the French National Champion on the track in the scratch race and Clément Venturini is French National Champion in cyclocross. This is the 12th professional victory for Benoît Cosnefroy and the first for Clément Champoussin. The two riders both come from the AG2R CITROËN U23 TEAM, the training center for the AG2R CITROËN TEAM.

The news:
A victory in every 2021 Grand Tour, a first since 2006 for the AG2R CITROËN TEAM.
The victory for Ben O’Connor at the Tour de France, that of Andrea Vendrame at the Giro d’Italia, and now that of Clément Champoussin at La Vuelta a Espana, gives the AG2R CITROËN TEAM a stage win in each of the Grand Tours this season. That has not happened for the team since 2006.

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

Primoz Roglic has finished second in the penultimate stage of the Vuelta a Espana. The Slovenian of Team Jumbo-Visma did not give his main competitors any space and ultimately gained a few seconds.

A group of sixteen riders broke away from the peloton early in the stage. Their maximum lead was more than thirteen minutes. In the second part of the stage the racing was hard and the lead of the leaders rapidly increased. Yates was the first of the favourites to cause a stir. Thanks to the strong riding of Steven Kruijswijk, Roglic was immediately in the wheel of the Briton.

A little later, Roglic, Yates, Mas and Haig proved to be the strongest of the favourites. They rode the remaining fifty kilometres together and managed to reach the head of the race. In the final kilometre the red jersey wearer managed to squeeze out a sprint, but it was not enough to catch the breakaway rider Champoussin. Tomorrow the final time trial will take place over 33 kilometres towards Santiago de Compostela.

Primoz Roglic

Primoz Roglic finishing second. Sirotti photo

“I am very satisfied with the course of this stage”, Roglic said. “Second place is a good result today. I was attentive all day. In the beginning of the stage the team took control and everything went according to plan. As expected, the stage exploded in the second part of the stage. Many riders wanted to go for their last chance in this last stage in line. I am really looking forward to tomorrow. It is almost over. Tomorrow at the end we will see if we have achieved our big goal. I am happy that my family is here. They give me extra energy that I can use in the last tough days of this race. Tomorrow I will give everything one more time.”

Here's the report from points classification leader Fabio Jakobsen's Deceuninck-Quick step team:

One of the longest stages of this edition was also one of the hardest, with five ranked climbs all stacked in the second half of the route to Castro de Herville, which travelled close to the border with Portugal and brought more significant changes to the general classification.

Green jersey Fabio Jakobsen, who won three stages in his first Grand Tour appearance in two years, rolled over the line surrounded by all his Deceuninck – Quick-Step teammates, who ensured he would overcome all of the day’s obstacles safely inside the time limit.

Fabio Jakobsen

Fabio Jakobsen finishes the stage with his Deceuninck-Quick Step teammates. Sirotti photo

In what will go down as one of the most emotional and beautiful images of this edition, a metaphor of that fantastic Wolfpack spirit that guides the team in every race, Andrea Bagioli, Josef Cerny, Fabio Jakobsen, James Knox, Florian Sénéchal, Zdenek Stybar, Bert Van Lerberghe and Mauri Vansevenant arrived at the finish together, with a big smile on their faces, all but securing our squad’s second triumph of the year in the points classification of a Grand Tour – which Fabio is poised to take home for the first time in his career.

“This is amazing. I am so happy I could cross the line together with the guys, because without them I wouldn’t have won the sprints here or the green jersey. They’ve always been by my side, I love my teammates and I love being part of Deceuninck – Quick-Step, just saying it makes me very proud. The last few days have been really hard and the legs are empty, but I am happy with what I achieved these weeks, I couldn’t have asked for more”, Fabio said after concluding stage 20.

Here's the report from Adam Yates' INEOS Grenadiers team:

Adam Yates moved up to fourth place overall at the Vuelta a Espana as the Grenadiers put in a battling performance on stage 20.

The Brit put in a number of accelerations in the closing kilometres in a bid to take a stage win, eventually finishing third and moving up the general classification after a memorable final day in the mountains.

The Grenadiers had pushed hard to pull back the breakaway’s hefty advantage of 12 minutes to bring a stage win back into play. With 60km to go on the Alto de Mougas, Yates and then Bernal took it in turns to attack, helping to rip apart the race.

A split formed between groups, with Yates up ahead alongside race leader Primoz Roglic, while Bernal found himself in the group behind. A lack of momentum saw the gap begin to open. The result saw Yates move up into fourth overall, while Bernal remained in sixth. Despite holding station overall, the Colombian was forced to relinquish the white young rider jersey to Gino Mader.

Adam Yates

Adam Yates finishes third ahead of Enric Mas. Sirotti photo

The team really took it on earlier in the stage, with Salvatore Puccio, Tom Pidcock and Pavel Sivakov setting a searing tempo. The action concludes on Sunday with a final 33.8k time trial to decide the race.

Adam Yates:
"I’m quite far down on GC and that was a stage I really wanted to try and win. I kept getting chased. I tried my best but it just wasn’t enough. If you’re trying to win a stage you need to drop everyone, especially when there are still some fast guys there in the group. I tried a few times. That’s all you can do – I tried my best."

Egan Bernal:
"It was a really hard day actually. We knew the second part of the stage would be really hard so we tried to do our best. We tried to make a big explosion in the race, so we could play our cards with Adam. I think we did that, the team did an amazing job. Adam went to the front with a small group. I was behind but I think for us it’s okay. I’m feeling good because I think I did my best."

Here's the report from Felix Grossschartner's Bora-hansgrohe team:

Today's race took the riders through mountainous region surrounding western Galicia near the Portuguese border. The course started off relatively easy before it traversed five short but tough climbs in quick succession in the second half of the race. For the GC hopefuls, this offered a final chance to gain ground on their rivals before the upcoming individual time trial. The peloton let 16 riders escape early on and as no team was sufficiently willing to chase the leaders, the advantage of the breakaway stretched to 11 minutes. At about 55km to the finish, A. Yates launched an attack, followed in turn by several other GC riders. Felix

Grossschartner was part of a strong group, from which attacks were constantly launched, and ultimately half of the top ten in the overall classification were able to break away. After that, the pace in the chasing group went off and with C. Champoussin winning from the breakaway group, Felix crossed the finish line in 17th place. He thereby improved by two places to 10th overall.

Felix Grossschartner

Felix Grossschartner before the start of stage 19. Sirotti photo

"It was a super tough day but I felt much better today following my crash on stage 17. It was a very chaotic day in terms of the GC and I'm happy to be back in the top 10. Tomorrow is the individual time trial and so I hope to have good legs there to be able to defend my top 10 overall." - Felix Grossschartner

"This difficult mountain stage of the Vuelta was once again not for the faint-hearted. Of course, we wanted to try to claw back into the top 10 with Felix and to ride offensively. We tried to join the escape group first to perhaps make up some time there. But that didn't work out, which, however, wasn't too bad. 16 riders broke free and we concentrated on the finale with the difficult climbs to come. On the third last mountain it was clear that the favourites would really open up the race. Felix had a good day and was able to keep up. He was virtually in the top 10 for a while, with Martin and Kuss being more than a minute behind. Unfortunately, the tactical situation developed in such a way that 5 favourites in the front continued on, and the other favourites surrounding Lopez didn't push as much. As a result, several riders came back, but in the end Felix was able to take time on Eiking on the final climb and made it back into the top 10. It was a good day after the setbacks we've had. So we are quite satisfied with how the day progressed." - Steffen Radochla, Sports Director

Here's the statement from Movistar's Miguel Angel Lopez on his abandonment though he was sitting in third place:

This statement was posted on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Movistar_Team/status/1434251437756895234/photo/1

“As most of you have seen, the moment when the group split was a difficult situation, hard to resolve. We saw ourselves getting into a difficult position when some of the best in the GC went ahead of us: Bahrain played its cards well, and it's hard to close a gap like that, even if it's small, at this point of the Vuelta. Legs are so tired, the level is so high, and obviously, no-one was going to help us out closing that small gap in that moment. It took long for us to react. There were so many factors involved and, in the end, it's sad to see La Vuelta ending for me this way.

“I want to apologize to my teammates. We are a reduced group, only five left in La Vuelta, with only three of them focused on team duties, and they rode their hearts out for us, they give their 100 per cent. It's been a tough situation, but it ended up happening like that. I decided to stop fighting a battle which was all but lost. Now I just want to say to the fans, the sponsors, the La Vuelta organisers – I'm sorry for what happened and for how things went today."

Miguel Angel Lopez

Lopez just after winning stage 18. Sirotti photo

Benelux Tour stage six reports

We posted the report from stage winner Sonny Colbrelli's Bahrain Victorious team with the race results.

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

The day after taking the lead of the Benelux Tour, Stefan Küng was really put under pressure on Saturday on Houffalize’s punchy circuit. On stage 6, the Swiss first benefited from his teammates’ precious help. In the last lap, however, he was unable to follow the main attacks, including the one of Sonny Colbrelli who soloed to the victory and the leader’s jersey. The time trial specialist still limited his losses in the back and is now fourth overall, 1’07 behind the leader and sixteen seconds behind the runner-up. Tomorrow, a “Flandrian” stage will conclude the event.

Groupama-FDJ

Groupama-FDJ did what they could to protect Stefan Küng.

On Friday morning, Stefan Küng was indeed covered in blue at the start of Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve, as the new leader of the Benelux Tour. However, he had to face some 207 very hilly kilometres to try to defend it. Also, the very first minutes were not the easiest to handle. “We suffered two punctures, with Miles and Stefan, while the breakaway was not gone yet,” explained Jussi Veikkanen.

“It was not the easiest situation to control the start of the race. There was also a light side wind, a few riders were dropped, and that briefly put us in trouble. However, once the breakaway was away, the bunch stopped and there were no additional issues.” After ten kilometers of racing, only Jonas Rickaert (Alpecin-Fenix) and Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) actually found themselves up front.

“We wanted to give them the largest gap possible, and they quickly got a 7-8 minute lead,” added Jussi. “We then controlled a bit, but Lotto-Soudal came to pull later and Bahrain-Victorious also made the race harder midway through the stage. The race was on and it never paused again”. As it entered the first of two laps on the final circuit, the breakaway was even about to be caught. Soon after, in the côte du Bois des Moines, everything exploded.

Matej Mohoric, Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Victorious) and Marc Hirschi (UAE Team Emirates) made a gap while Stefan Küng found himself in a chasing group with ten riders or so. Less than ten kilometers later, he got the support of Benjamin Thomas, Attila Valter and Jake Stewart, who made a big effort to come back on the blue jersey group. “The three of them were distanced, but fought hard to get into Stefan’s group about fifteen kilometres from the start of the second circuit,” Jussi said. “They started pulling with Deceuninck-Quick Step to reduce the gap with the leading trio. We actually got back just behind them at the bottom of the côte de Saint-Roch, the first hill of the circuit”.

However, the attacks resumed immediately, and Stefan’s three teammates could not keep up anymore after their solid effort. Sonny Colbrelli then took the lead solo as five riders bridged across to Mohoric and Hirschi. Unfortunately, Stefan Küng was unable to go with them on the 10% slopes. “The team rode well, they did a good job,” said the Swiss rider. “Even though I had the leader’s jersey on, I knew other riders would be more comfortable today because the course was very hard. I did my best and fought as hard as I could. Unfortunately, when they attacked, I couldn’t keep up. In the back, there was no cooperation at all. I had to pull with other riders but I was on my limit”.

In the last lap, Stefan Küng did everything he could not to lose too much time on Sonny Colbrelli and the seven chasers. “We didn’t have any more teammates to help Stefan,” Jussi said. “We tried to chase and limit the losses, but it was certainly not easy. Somehow we still managed to do so, but it was hard to fight against the others and in particular against Bahrain”.

The Italian champion eventually took the stage victory and the leader’s jersey, while Stefan Küng crossed the line one minute and two seconds later, meaning twenty seconds behind the chasing group. On Saturday evening, he moved back to fourth place overall, 1’07 away from the Italian but only a handful of seconds away from the podium places. On Sunday, the final stage of the Benelux Tour will take place on a “Flandrian” kind of profile. “We knew the terrain did not suit us today,” added Jussi. “It was more for real punchers. We’re surely disappointed to lose the jersey but we will fight until the end. We will try to turn things around on our side, do a good stage and we will see the final result”. “It will be another tough day tomorrow, but it suits me better,” Stefan concluded. “We will give everything to get a good result in the general classification”.

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