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Friday, August 26, 2022

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2021 Tour de France | 2022 Giro d'Italia

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Tour de France: the Inside Story

Les Woodland's book Tour de France: The Inside Story - Making the World's Greatest Bicycle Race is available in print, Kindle eBook and audiobook versions. To get your copy, just click on the Amazon link on the right.

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Vuelta a España stage six reports

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

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

Remco Evenepoel became the youngest rider in the last 34 years to top the Vuelta a España general classification, after delivering a jaw-dropping performance in horrendous conditions on the race’s first summit finish.

Remco Evenepoel finishes the stage under miserable conditions. Sirotti photo

Pico Jano, a Cantabrian mountain making its first appearance at the Spanish Grand Tour, not only ignited the GC fight, but will now be forever linked to the 22-year-old Belgian, who took another career-defining moment on its gruelling slopes. The 12.6km climb ended up widening the gaps between the overall contenders and also changing the red jersey wearer for the fifth time in as many days.

But the action began long before the Pico Jano, with the Wolfpack taking the race by the scruff of its neck and producing a stunning ride on the Collada de Brenes climb. Louis Vervaeke did a monster pull that thinned out the field, before Julian Alaphilippe took over the reins and put in an exceptionally strong ride for more than six kilometers all the way over the top, despite the rain that constantly battered the peloton.

On the descent, which was made even more complicated by the rain, the World Champion continued to ride imperiously for Remco, until Fausto Masnada – who had spent most of the stage in the break – linked up with them shortly before the final climb. The Italian then set the tempo in the first kilometers of the ascent, the moment he peeled off the front being the moment Evenepoel decided to make his move.

A powerful seated acceleration reduced the favourites’ group to just six riders, but the Belgian wasn’t content with this, and upped the pace until just one man remained with him. In the last seven kilometers of the stage, it was only Remco who continued to drive a relentless tempo behind the sole leader, and the sheer amount of work and huge show of force he displayed paid dividends at the end of the day, despite missing out on the victory for just a couple of seconds.

Emerging from the mist, Remco finished runner-up atop Pico Jano, a result that brought the Liège–Bastogne–Liège winner his first Grand Tour leader’s jersey, which Evenepoel was quick to acknowledge wouldn’t have been possible without his Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl teammates.

“I’m really happy and proud. The guys kept me safe the entire time, they were great. To have the rainbow jersey work so hard for me it’s a real honour and something for which I am grateful. Julian was fantastic today, I dare to say he was instrumental in this result.”

“This was one of my best days on the bike. We had a plan to send a guy in the break if it was a big one, and Fausto was there, but he still had enough left in the tank to help me on the final climb. We did a perfect race and later I am sure I will realise what this moment means for me and how big it is to lead a Grand Tour for the first time. Keeping the red jersey all the way until the end is just a dream at the moment. The race is still long and hard and we’ll continue taking it day by day”, said Remco – the best young rider of La Vuelta – after becoming the 20th different rider in the history of the team to lead a Grand Tour.

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Here's the report from former GC leader Rudy Molard's Team Groupama-FDJ:

Twenty-one seconds. Rudy Molard just missed twenty-six seconds to keep his red jersey this Thursday on the Vuelta a Espana. Twenty-four hours after taking the lead of the general classification, the Frenchman fought hard to the summit of Pico Jano, where the race’s big favorites started to attack each other. Well protected throughout the day, and even brought back into the bunch by his teammates before the final climb, the Groupama-FDJ puncher then gave everything but was unable to reach the line in time. On Thursday evening, he therefore sits second overall behind Remco Evenepoel. A great chapter came to an end, but many others are yet to come.

Rudy Molard finishes the stage. Sirotti photo

For the fifth time in his career, Rudy Molard woke up as the leader of the Vuelta a Espana this Thursday morning. Four years after last experiencing the red jersey, the Frenchman was therefore the centre of attention in Bilbao at the start of stage 6, the first proper mountains day. “It was awesome,” he said. “As I experienced this before, I knew I had to enjoy it. I really wanted to make the most of this day because I know that these kinds of moments are brief. Moreover, given today’s stage, the elevation gain, and the weather conditions, I was not sure to keep it“.

More than 4,000 meters of climbing were indeed on the menu towards Pico Jano (12.5 km at 6.6%), and the Groupama-FDJ cycling team still approached the day with different options. “We had decided to adapt to the race situation, but unlike the other days, the breakaway went very quickly, after about fifteen kilometres”, explained Philippe Mauduit. “We could have gone for the stage if the fight had been longer and the breakaway had formed in a climb, in which case we could have put Thibaut, Quentin or Seb up front. It didn’t happen that way. We then focused entirely on defending the jersey, and the guys did that very well”. In the lead, ten men were able to make a gap, and the best of themoverall was Jan Bakelants, about five minutes away from the red jersey.

The team then took their responsibilities. “Miles and Fabian pulled for the whole first part of the stage,” said Rudy. “They did a great job. Bruno also pulled, then we got the help of Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl”. “After his big day yesterday, Jakehad to stay slightly behind and keep Rudy safe today”, added Philippe. “Fortunately so, because after the halfway point, he had to give his bike to Rudy. There was a split in the peloton,and we couldn’t help”.

In the last hour, the bunch accelerated again and came back just two minutes behind the breakaway approaching the Collada de Brenes (6.3 km at 8.6%), the penultimate climb. Following crashes and splits, the team had to make an extra effort to bridge across to the first part of the peloton. The selection started right after. “Rudy did not have the best legs after his day up front yesterday”, confided Philippe. “He didn’t feel great in the climbs. He warned us in the penultimate climb, telling us that he was at the limit”. The red jersey still held its place up until one kilometre to the top, when he was eventually distanced. He then benefited from the support of Quentin Pacher as the rain became stronger before the end of the stage. “We kept Seb and Thibaut in front, because with the weather conditions and the downhill, we knew it would be difficult for them to stay with Rudy”, addedPhilippe. “When we got to the bottom of the descent, they waited for Rudy and Quentin”.

A real chase then took place over ten kilometres to close a half-minute gap on the bunch, which was still going strong. Sébastien Reichenbach and Quentin Pacher made big pulls on the flat sections, then Thibaut Pinot made the last effort in the foothills of the final climb to allow Rudy Molard to return his place in the pack. This was done with 14 kilometres to go,meaning 1500 meters from Pico Jano’s bottom. The red jersey immediately tried to reposition, and he benefited from a slight moment of peace on the first slopes.

However, the big fight still initiated quite early, almost ten kilometres from the top. Remco Evenepoel especially crushed his opponents one by one while Jay Vine flew to a superb stage victory. Rudy Molard eventually reached the summit 4 minutes and 51 seconds after the Belgian rider. That was twenty-one seconds too late to keep his red jersey. “Even when Rudy was in trouble, the team continued to work well, as we thought we could still do it”, said Philippe. “It could have worked out if we had not come across a super Evenepoel. We couldn’t do much better. Rudy would have kept his jersey against all the other favourites, but there was Evenepoel…”

“Without my teammates, I think I wouldn’t have lost the jersey for just twenty-one seconds,” Rudy said. “After all the work the team did, I couldn’t give up and I really gave it my all until the end. I had to make two efforts earlier in the race which cost me energy. The rain also made the race harder. These are not conditions that I love. I prefer when it’s 40°C. I also had yesterday’s stage in the legs, but I gave my best. In the end, I don’t miss much… If Remco hadn’t been that strong compared to the rest, it would have been possible to keep the jersey. I was given some gaps in the climb, and I knew it was going to be close. Twenty-one seconds… It’s a shame. I really would have liked to keep the jersey for one more day to thank the team”.

On Thursday evening, Rudy Molard is therefore in second place in the general classification, only preceded by Remco Evenepoel. “We still had a great day”, he said. “I would have preferred a nice sunny day, but I still enjoyed the jersey.” “We are surely disappointed to let the jersey go so quickly, but on the other hand, I am proud of the work that has been done by the riders and the whole team today”,concluded Philippe. “And the Vuelta continues!”

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Primoz Roglic's Jumbo-Visma team posted this report:

Primoz Roglic has finished fifth in the sixth stage of the Vuelta a España. On the Pico Jano, the Slovenian of Team Jumbo-Visma could not prevent several competitors from gaining time in the general classification.

Primoz Roglic finishes the stage. Sirotti photo

In the first stage with an uphill finish, the peloton rode up the Pico Jano in the pouring rain and dense fog. "I didn't have the legs to go with the best in that stage”, Roglic said, referring to the moment Remco Evenepoel and Enric Mas rode away. "I decided to give everything until the finish line. I did a lot of the work in the pursuit. Although we lost some time today, Madrid is still far away. Hopefully we can reclaim some time in the coming days. The competition is strong. We were aware of this going into this stage. I feel good and I am ready to fight. I am looking forward to the coming days", the Slovenian concluded.

Sports director Grischa Niermann had seen a challenging sixth stage of the Vuelta. "We had quite bad weather, especially on top of the climbs. But that is also part of the race. Eight kilometres from the finish line, Primoz was unable to keep up with Evenepoel and Mas. From that point on, it was critical to minimize the damage. Of course we had hoped for a different outcome, but nothing is lost. The Vuelta is still long. We have to conclude that today was a lesser day for us. Hopefully the roles will be reversed in the coming days."

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Wilco Kelderman's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this:

Today's 181km stage ended with the first mountain finish of the Vuelta, where riders faced the tough final climb to Pico Jano. As expected, today saw the first battle between the GC riders. Around 6km from the finish, the last of the escapees were reeled in after Vine, Evenepoel and Mas broke away from the reduced peloton.

The favourites in the GC group, including Jai Hindley, Wilco Kelderman and Sergio Higuita, were unable to counter the decisive attack on the final climb up Pico Jano, ultimately arriving 1:37 minutes behind Vine and 1:22 minutes down on Evenepoel. Jai and Wilco crossed the finish line together in the GC group in 8th and 13th place, respectively, while Sergio took 17th place, 20 seconds behind his teammates.

Wilco Kelderman. Sirotti photo.

"The team did a great job looking after the GC guys. Then it started raining pretty heavily, which made the day very hard. There was a really hard tempo on the penultimate climb, and it didn't stop on the final climb either. We were unfortunately not able to follow the decisive move, they were just too strong today. But in the end, we still had our riders right up there in the GC group. There are still a lot of climbing stages to come, so it's still all to play for, I think." - Jai Hindley

"The adverse weather conditions made the stage much more difficult today. We were in the group that raced for 5th place with Jai, Wilco and Sergio, and in the end, lost essentially no time to the GC favourites, except for Remco. Jai and Wilco finished in the group with Roglič and the other GC competition. That was the goal today, to finish with the other GC riders and in that respect it went okay." - Jens Zemke, Sports Director

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