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Thursday April 7, 2022

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2021 Tour de France | 2021 Giro d'Italia

My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness. - Dalai Lama

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Tour of the Basque Country stage three reports

We posted the race organizer's report with the results.

Here's the report from stage winner Pello Bilbao's Bahrain Victorious team:

Pello Bilbao celebrated his first win of the season after sprinting to victory on his home roads on stage 3 of the Itzulia Basque Country (Llodio-Amurrio, 181.7km).

Pello Bilbao wins stage three.

The third day at the 6-day Basque stage race was hilly, featuring a typical Itzulia course with narrow and steep short climbs. The GC team controlled the race, and after the day’s breakaway was brought back, the strongest riders made their move to take the lead. Among them was Pello Bilbao, who also tried to shake the stage, but he couldn’t manage to go solo, especially against the strong duo formed by the World Champion Alaphilippe and his teammate Remco Evenepoel. The reduced group were together to the finish to fight for the win. In a sprint finish, Pello Bilbao beat Julian Alaphilippe (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) and Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-hansgrohe).

With this success, Bilbao moves up to 5th place overall, 19” behind the leader Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma).

Pello Bilbao: “It was a tight one. It’s an incredible feeling. So great to win here in my home place. All the victories are special, but this one at home is something I had been waiting for a long time, especially after I was so close last year. This victory also has a particular value considering the riders behind me. When you take a win in front of the World Champion, better than this is impossible.

"I want to dedicate it to my wife and the baby coming.I knew that Alaphilippe was the strongest at the sprint and the only solution to try to win was to fight for his wheel and try to beat him in the last meters. It was difficult to split the group earlier. I tried to attack in the last 6km to go, and some others tried on the final climb, but no one could jump away. The sprint was slightly uphill, so probably that gave me more chance to beat the World Champion on the line”.

Here's the Basque Country Tour stage three report from GC leader Primoz Roglic's Jumbo-Visma team:

Primoz Roglic and Jonas Vingegaard have come through the third stage of the Itzulia Basque Country well. The riders of Team Jumbo-Visma were alert when there was a shift on the final climb. As a result, Roglic kept his first position in the general classification, and Vingegaard moved up to sixth.

After a rough start, three riders formed the day’s breakaway. The trio quickly increased their lead to four minutes, but the peloton kept the margin within limits. On the second climb of the Ozeka, Adam Yates’ acceleration caused a severe split in the peloton.

Sixteen riders, including Vingegaard and Roglic, survived and rode for the day’s victory. Although several riders tried to prevent a sprint, they stayed together and Pello Bilbao sprinted to victory in the streets of Amurrio. Roglic and Vingegaard finished in the same group as seventh and ninth.

"It was a very tough day with some steep climbs", Roglic said. "Luckily Jonas and I managed to finish in the front group, so it was a good day. It’s nice that the two of us are well-placed in the general classification. We’ll see what the next few days will bring us."

And here's the report from fourth-place David Gaudu's Team Groupama-FDJ:

The real fight for the general classification started on Wednesday in the Tour of the Basque Country. Throughout a challenging course made of steep climbs, David Gaudu managed to be right in the mix in this first major test of the week. The French climber was able to follow a group of a dozen favourites who broke away in the final and could also join in the battle for the stage victory. In the sprint, he eventually placed 4th, and moved up to eleventh place overall.

As the breakaway almost came away with victory yesterday, a lot of riders were interested in the attacking option at the start of the third stage on Wednesday. This therefore led to a big fight over more than forty kilometres. “The first hour and a half was very fast and very intense”, confirmed Philippe Mauduit. “At that point, our goal was just to protect David”.

Only three men eventually managed to get away after this furious start: Jan Polanc (UAE Team Emirates), Hugo Houle (Israel-Premier Tech) and Cristian Rodriguez (TotalEnergies). Everything eased off for some fifty kilometres, but the pace picked up again about 80 kilometres from the line, as the riders approached the demanding circuit around Amurria, the finish city. Several climbs were to be tackled, with the most decisive ones being at Opellora (1.1 km at 13%) and Ozeka (3.6 km at 7.3%). “We had to make sure David was out of danger approaching the climbs,” continued Philippe. “On this kind of road, you are more likely to avoid problems if you stay at the front with the whole team around you. His mates did their part one after the other and did great until the final fight. Ignatas and Anthony did a great job at the start of the race, just like yesterday, and when it started to get very hard, the climbers took over. Antoine managed to hold on well to give them a hand between the first and second loops”.

After it was reduced by half following the first climbs, the peloton calmed things down a bit. It enabled the sole break’s survivor, Oscar Rodriguez, to get a four-minute lead. However, this gap quickly narrowed when the peloton got going again approaching the climbs for the second time. The yellow jersey group was further reduced in the “wall” of Opellora, but the final cut took place on the slopes of Ozeka. David Gaudu dug deep to follow the various attacks but did manage to reach the top with the main favourites, about twenty kilometres from the line. All of them caught the last fugitive, and although a few attempts occurred in the final, no one proved able to go away.

It all came down to a sprint, and Pello Bilbao took the win as David Gaudu obtained a fine fourth place. “It was a tough race”, said the Frenchman. “I felt that I still lacked a lot of race rhythm. I was not in a very good day, but in the end, I made it. I had to. I felt better in the last 5-6 kilometres, and it is anyway positive ahead of the coming days”. “It’s a good day”, claimed Philippe. “There is a high level of climbers here, so being able to finish in this group and net a nice placing is reassuring. Especially since it really came down to legs”.

Sébastien Reichenbach, Rudy Molard and Bruno Armirail finished about two minutes later in a chasing group. “Sébastien was not far from David’s group at the top of the last climb, he only missed about fifteen seconds”, noted Philippe. “However, the descent was very fast. Once he was caught by another group, it was no longer up to him to pull. He just followed until the line, then Rudy and Bruno got back. Anyway, it shows that we have a homogenous team”. In the general classification, David Gaudu climbed to eleventh place on Wednesday, thirty-two seconds behind the leader Primoz Roglic. Tomorrow, the terrain will be once again quite hilly in the Basque Country. “The final is not easy at all”, warned Philippe. “In the last thirty kilometres, there are two hard climbs. Even if the top of the last one is located twenty kilometres from the finish, there could still be a fight between the big guys”.

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Scheldeprijs reports

We posted the race organizer's report with the results.

Here's the report from third-place Sam Welsford's Team DSM:

Sam Welsford and Casper van Uden helped light up the finale of Scheldeprijs from the lead group to eventually cross the line third and fourth after an impressive fight right to the finish.

The first half of the race set the tone and layout for what was to come with crosswinds early in the day splitting the race. Team DSM were always well represented at the front of affairs with initially Welsford, van Uden and Cees Bol in the front split with around 100 kilometres to go before Bol unfortunately punctured out of the front group.

The leaders, 13 in total, pressed on ahead working well and held their advantage on a similar sized chase group containing Tobias Lund Andresen. However the advantage went to the leaders as the chase faltered behind, seeing the gap grow to over two minutes inside the final 20 kilometres. It wasn’t soon after that the attacks started to fly in the lead group with Welsford and van Uden taking it in turns to both cover moves and attack.

With Kristoff going clear and staying away in the final few kilometres, Welsford fought hard to the line to take third with van Uden putting in a strong effort right to the finish to take fourth rounding out a strong day from the team at Scheldeprijs following Lorena Wiebes victory earlier in the day.

It was Alexender Kristoff who went clear and stayed clear.

Team DSM Coach Roy Curvers said of the performance: “It was a hard race right from the gun until the finish. We had three guys in the first echelon of 17 riders, but unfortunately we lost Cees there with a puncture – otherwise we would be have been in an even better position for the final. Sam and Casper were doing a really good at the front though and with a lot of fast guys in the first group we had to be sharp and gamble a bit to who we reacted to and who we didn’t. But we raced for the win until the end and if we come home with third and fourth after such a hard race we have to be satisfied.”

“It was a pretty hard day out today and tough conditions with the rain and the wind,” explained Sam Welsford. “We were well represented in the front split until unfortunately Cees punctured but Casper and I worked well and made sure not to miss any moves. Into the last local lap the attacks started coming and we were making sure we didn’t miss any moves and were attacking ourselves too. We worked really well together and played the game. I was lucky enough to go long and hold on to take third. It’s a really good result for the team and we’re getting really close to the top step if we keep progressing the way we are and racing the way we are.”

Casper van Uden added: “We knew we had to be very alert from the gun today and looked out for each other all the time. Thanks to this we were well represented in the first group when it split. In the final Sam tried to stay fresh as I followed attacks and attacked myself. It was a super job from the team and really fun to race like this!”

Here's the report from Team Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl:

Crosswinds shattered the peloton in the opening kilometers, only 17 riders making it into the first group. Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl missed the split, but once things settled down, Michael Mørkøv, Stijn Steels and Zdenek Stybar rallied around Fabio Jakobsen and began setting the tempo through the lashing rain to reduce the deficit and bridge across.

The Wolfpack erased more than a minute in the space of just 20 kilometers, bringing the chasing group within just 24 seconds of the leaders, but with the other members of the group not willing to share the workload, the gap quickly ballooned again to over a minute. Our riders didn’t give up and rode strongly, but the inclement weather and reduced numbers made it almost impossible to pull back any more time.

Eventually, they came at the finish some three minutes down on winner Alexander Kristoff (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert), and Fabio Jakobsen concluded as the team’s highest-ranked rider, in 15th place.

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Circuit de la Sarthe stage two team reports

We posted the report from stage winner Olav Kooij's Jumbo-Visma team with the results.

Here's the report from GC leader Mads Pedersen's Trek-Segafredo team:

Mads Pedersen capitalized on a full Trek-Segafredo team effort in Stage 2 of Circuit Cyclist Sarthe, sprinting to second place and increasing his lead in the overall classification to 13 seconds.

“The boys were really good today; they controlled the race, keeping me out of trouble and putting me in a good position for the sprint,” said Mads. “Just super teamwork from everyone today; it was a pretty nice day, just a bit sad that I couldn’t finish it off.”

There was a two-tiered plan for the Team coming into day two: first, defend yellow, and second, win the stage.

The team went to work early and controlled the 5-man breakaway, and everything was back to one bunch for the final 14 kilometers – check that box.

Then, on the tricky narrow roads for the final run-in, they positioned Mads right at the front. Alex Kirsch put in one last significant effort and pulled off with two kilometers remaining, leaving Mads to finish the impeccable teamwork.

However, Olav Kooij (Jumbo Visma) spoiled the Team from achieving a perfect day as he came over Mads in the final meters.

Olav Kooij is first across the line.

“It was a pretty hectic sprint,” Mads explained. “We had small roads in the last local lap. The first time I saw the final, I actually didn’t want to sprint because I didn’t want to take any risks, but the race got harder and harder so it made sense to sprint in the end.

“I was in the wheel of AG2R in the last kilometers, and then in the last right corner, some people came up on the right side – I would have done the same. So, I had to open the sprint a bit early, earlier than I wanted to. [Olav Kooij] was just faster in a sprint like this today, and that’s how it is.”

With two stages remaining – also likely to end in sprints – the Trek-Segafredo team is sitting in a good position, but with only a squad of five, they have their work cut out for them.

“Second place gave me a few more seconds, and that is nice. It looks good for the last two days,” continued Mads. “The boys were great today; we just need to do the same for the next days.”

With a stage win and a second-place already in his pocket, an on-form Mads with a motivated team behind him is poised for more.

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Max Schachmann to miss the Ardennes classics

Schachmann's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this:

The German champion and last year's third-place finisher at Amstel Gold Race must take a longer break than initially expected after leaving Paris-Nice. A comeback is planned for May.

Max Schachmann at the 2021 Paris-Nice. Sirotti photo

"After Max had Covid-19 at the end of January and was forced to drop out of Paris-Nice due to an infection, his return has unfortunately taken longer than expected. He hasn’t been able to train adequately for a longer period of time and accordingly we’ve had to postpone his return to regular preparation as well. He is currently feeling better from day to day, which gives us hope that he will be able to start again in May. However, this date depends on his development over the next few weeks in training. We will certainly not use Max in races again until he is suitably ready to participate." - Dan Lorang, Head of Performance

"What can I say. Of course, it's very frustrating and completely not what I had imagined this spring. But you have to face the facts and it just doesn't make sense to race right now. After my Covid-19 infection in January, I was performing at a good level before Paris-Nice, but then the next setback followed. I’ve been back doing regular training for a few days now. It would be nice if I could get back into the racing action soon, but one can't have too high expectations there either. It will certainly take some more weeks to reach my top form." - Maximilian Schachmann

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