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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, April 9, 2022

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2021 Tour de France | 2021 Giro d'Italia

Owners of dogs will have noticed that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they will think you are God. Whereas owners of cats are compelled to realize that, if you provide them with food and water and affection, they draw the conclusion that they are God. - Christopher Hitchens

Story of the Giro d'Italia, volume 1

Bill and Carol McGann's book The Story of the Giro d'Italia, A Year-by-Year History of the Tour of Italy, Vol 1: 1909 - 1970 is available in print, Kindle eBook & audiobook versions. To get your copy, just click on the Amazon link on the right.

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Tour of the Basque Country stage five reports

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

Here's the stage five report from stage winner Carlos Rodriguez's Team INEOS Grenadiers:

Carlos Rodriguez infiltrated the day's early break and played it perfectly, marking the move of GC threat Marc Soler and pushing clear with his fellow countryman midway through the stage.

Behind, the Grenadiers were able to let other teams make the chase, and then on the penultimate climb Rodriguez attacked Soler and pushed clear.

In the bunch Martinez quickly reacted to a Remco Evenepoel attack and a small group formed, distancing race leader Primoz Roglic.

Ahead, Rodriguez maintained his 30-second lead on the early slopes of the final climb to the line, and it was only in the final kilometre that the gap closed. He had enough on the savage slopes to hold off the chasing pack - led by teammate Martinez.

Carlos Rodriguez wins stage five. Photo: Luis Gomez/Sprint Cycling

Martinez distanced Evenepoel by two seconds and closed the GC gap to just two seconds - setting up an incredible final stage in the Basque Country.

Rodriguez, 21, has been in impressive form across 2022, picking up where he left off in 2021. The Spaniard's first pro win has been a long time coming - and that was one hell of a way to do it.

Here's the report from new GC leader Remco Evenepoel's Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team:

Racing with panache and unfettered energy, Remco Evenepoel shook up the Itzulia Basque Country overall standings on the penultimate day, climbing to the top of the general classification in addition to leading the youth ranking after attacking from the distance and surprising many of the other contenders.

A debutant at the Itzulia Basque Country, Remco surged clear two kilometers from the summit of the tough Karabieta ascent and drew out a select group that quickly pulled out a 25-second margin over the yellow jersey. The main force of that move, the 22-year-old Belgian continued to drive the pace on the descent, where the gap went out to more than a minute, ensuring a breathless finale for the tough stage 5, which took in close to 3500 vertical meters.

The final hill was a nasty one, averaging 8.8% over three kilometers, but kicking up to a gruelling 16% in the closing 500 meters. On that section, as lone escapee Carlos Rodriguez (Ineos Grenadiers) nabbed the win, attacks began firing from the elite group. Evenepoel promptly shut them down and took over the reins again, pushing a hard tempo to prevent any other surges and taking a solid third on the line in Mallabia, and with it, bonifications that made him the new custodian of the yellow jersey.

“When I attacked, I just felt it was the right moment, and seeing that many of the GC riders didn’t react gave me an extra boost to keep pushing. The finale was a bit hectic, with the rain making the climb even more complicated. Just 75 meters from the finish, I slid a bit, then the guys in front of me crashed, so it was quite eventful.”

“At the finish, the guys in the staff told me I’m the new leader of the race, which was quite emotional. I am speechless to wear the yellow jersey in the hardest week-long stage race of the season and I will give my best together with the team on the last stage. It will be difficult and I expect many attacks from the distance, but we will try and I hope to have good legs”, said Evenepoel, the first Belgian rider in 33 years to wear the yellow jersey at Itzulia Basque Country.

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Here's the Basque Country Tour report from former GC leader Primoz Roglic's Team Jumbo-Visma:

Primoz Roglic has lost his leader's jersey in the fifth stage of the Itzulia Basque Country. Jonas Vingegaard responded to an attack from a depleted peloton in the final, but could not compete for a place of honour after being delayed in the last metres. Roglic finished in a chasing group.

A challenging stage awaited the riders today. Before the day's breakaway could be formed, there was a crash in the peloton in which Milan Vader was involved. He had to withdraw and was brought to the hospital, where the Dutchman is getting medical care.

Eventually, seven riders escaped from the peloton, including Sepp Kuss. At seventy kilometres from the end, the leading group fell apart and only two leaders remained. They got a four-minute lead on the peloton where Team Jumbo-Visma and other teams kept control. On the Karabieta, Jonas Vingegaard broke away with six others. In the final metres, the Dane was involved in a crash and crossed the line in eighth place, bike in hand.

According to sports director Marc Reef, Vingegaard seemed to be on the way to a good result. "We were in a good situation in which we took our responsibility. In the final we were able to work together with several teams. Then Jonas got in front because he reacted alertly to an attack. The gap increased quickly and Jonas was ready to launch his final sprint. He felt he was on the way to a good result until the incident with Vlasov. A real shame because otherwise he would have been better placed in the GC."

Reef already looked ahead to tomorrow. "The toughest stage. Jonas has shown that he can compete uphill. Primoz is still among the first ten of the general classification, but he has already fallen behind. Yet nothing is lost. We'll go for it tomorrow."

In addition to Vader, Chris Harper on behalf of Team Jumbo-Visma did not make it to the finish line. The Australian dropped out of the race halfway through the stage.

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Circuit de la Sarthe final team reports

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

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

It should have been one last hurrah for the fast men at the of 68th Circuit de la Sarthe, but the heavy rain and wind that made an appearance in the closing stages of the day changed the expected narrative.

Before that happened, the organisers decided to cut the route by 20 kilometers, but the bunch remained nervous and the fight for positioning was intense on the last lap of the stage. This and the slippery roads meant that just four kilometers from the finish in La Chapelle-Saint-Aubin, a huge crash took place and fragmented the peloton, leaving small groups scattered all over the road.

Olav Kooij takes the stage and the GC win.

Among the many riders who hit the deck were also Tour de France green jersey winner Mark Cavendish and lead-out man Bert Van Lerberghe. Fortunately, they both got up on their bikes and completed the race – which was won by Olav Kooij (Jumbo-Visma) from a two-man group that got away following that incident – without any major consequences.

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BikeExchange-Jayco’s Michael Matthews to ride Amstel Gold Race

The team sent me this:

Former podium finisher Michael Matthews lines-up for Amstel Gold Race more motivated than ever after taking confidence from getting a win under his belt already this season. The 31-year-old has come close to winning Amstel Gold Race on multiple occasions and is vying for that top step of the podium in this year’s edition of the hilly Dutch classic.

Michael Matthews winning stage one of this year's Tour of Catalonia. Getty photo.

After finishing in third, fourth and fifth place previously, plus multiple other top-15 results, the Australian knows the race well and it is one that suits his strengths, as demonstrated by his consistent results. With this string of near misses, it leaves Matthews with a sense of unfinished business as he returns to the race, leading a strong but mixed, Team BikeExchange-Jayco outfit.

The Volta a Catalunya stage winner will have fellow Australian’s Luke Durbridge and Alex Edmondson alongside him, coming straight from a big block of racing at the Flemish Classics, along with local rider Jan Maas, plus fast finishers over relentless terrain, Luka Mezgec and Dion Smith. 21-year-old Alex Balmer will make his debut appearance at the race, lining up for his second event of the season after a delayed start to 2022.

The lengthy 249.7km race follows a fairly traditional route, featuring a total of 33 short and steep climbs with the majority of the race taking place on laps around Valkenburg, cresting the famous Cauberg three times, with the final ascent a common launch pad for the last chance launch to victory.

Team BikeExchange-Jayco Line-up:
Alexandre Balmer (SUI)
Luke Durbridge (AUS)
Alex Edmondson (AUS)
Jan Maas (NED)
Michael Matthews (AUS)
Luka Mezgec (SLO)
Dion Smith (NZL)

Michael Matthews:
"I feel like my form is good this season and after getting a victory in Catalunya it has given me more confidence and motivation. The Belgian classics were also good and I had good sensations there but I’m really looking forward to putting on a number and racing Amstel on Sunday.

"It’s a race I really like, I think it suits my characteristics and I’ve had some good consistent results there in the past. It’s a race I really want to win, last year I was fourth, which is always a hard position to finish in, so I have that extra motivation for this year’s race. The racing all season has been super fast and aggressive and I think looking at how the peloton raced in the cobble classics, Amstel will be no different, so we all need to be alert, ready to suffer and I’m ready to try and get the victory."

Mat Hayman – Sport Director:
“It’s been since 2019 that we’ve ridden the full, traditional Amstel Gold Race course, so it’s a bit different to be going back to that after a few years. One year the race was cancelled and then last year we raced around the laps, so it’s good to be back on the traditional course and with the new final not finishing up the Cauberg, it makes it an exciting race.

"We were fourth last year and Michael has always been around the mark in this race. It’s one of his favourite races, so we’re definitely very motivated for this race, he’s shown great form last weekend and he showed great form at Milan-San Remo.

"When you’re that close to the best riders, you’re always hoping that you can win the race and that will be our goal on Sunday. We’re coming in with a strong team and we’ve got a bit more of a crossover with where this race now sits with it changing with Paris-Roubaix, we have more of the ‘classics riders’ in the team as well.”

2022 Amstel Gold Race details:
Sunday, 10th April: Maastricht to Valkenburg, 249.5km

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