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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, February 2, 2022

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2021 Tour de France | 2021 Giro d'Italia

What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or does it explode? - Langston Hughes

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Saudi Tour Stage one team reports

We posted the organizer's report with the results.

Here's the report from stage winner Caleb Ewan's Lotto Soudal team:

Lotto Soudal rider Caleb Ewan could immediately raise his arms in the air during his season debut at the Saudi Tour. The 27-year-old Australian won the bunch sprint in Al Ula, at the end of the opening stage. Lotto Soudal guided its sprinter to the finish line in a perfect way and Ewan rounded off a great team effort with a powerful sprint. Teammate Jasper De Buyst still finished fourth after an impressive lead-out. Martin Laas and Fernando Gaviria finished second and third, respectively. Following his victory, Caleb Ewan will wear the green leader’s jersey during tomorrow’s stage two.

Caleb Ewan takes the first stage. Photo: ASO/Alex Broadway

The opening stage of the five-day Saudi Tour was immediately the longest assignment of the week. Between the start and finish in Al Ula, the peloton covered just under 200 kilometres. With a predominantly flat course, all signs pointed towards a bunch sprint, even a seven-kilometre gravel section at 20 kilometres from the finish couldn’t disrupt the plans of the sprint teams. After an impressive lead-out, Caleb Ewan was delivered to the finish line in perfect position. The fast Australian rewarded his teammates with a win.

“There is no better way to kick off the season”, Caleb Ewan said after taking his first win of the season. “Of course, I am super happy to start the year this way but I am even more impressed by how the team worked for me today. They just did the perfect job. The gravel section at twenty kilometres from the finished caused some chaos and crashes, but my teammates always made sure I was right at the front of the bunch leading into that sector and that way, they kept me out of the danger zone. Afterwards, they delivered me towards the finish line just perfectly. I only had to sprint for a 100 metres. That is why this victory is one of the entire Lotto Soudal team.”

The new lead-out composition including Australian Jarrad Drizners and German Rüdiger Selig immediately proved to be successful.

“Obviously, we wanted to win today. But the first time with a partly new lead-out is always exciting, but all credits to newcomers Rüdiger Selig and Jarrad Drizners. They did a great job immediately integrating into the team and together with the other guys, they brought me to the finish line just perfectly. It is nice to see all the hard work during winter immediately rewarded.”

After two wins on Mallorca, Caleb Ewan makes it three victories so far for Lotto Soudal this season. Tomorrow, a 164-kilometre stage is scheduled with an uphill finish suited to the punchers.

Here's the Saudi Tour report from second-place Martin Laas' Bora-hansgrohe team:

The Saudi Tour kicked off today with a 198 km long route through the Winter Park in Al-'Ula in the northwest region of Saudi Arabia before the peloton reached the finish in front of the Hegra UNESCO World Heritage Site. The smaller climbs in the first half of the race weren't of concern to the fast men, with the stage coming down to a bunch sprint. After his teammates put in a good showing to prepare him for the fast finish, Martin Laas took the rear wheel of C. Ewan, finishing second behind the Australian in a strong field of sprinters.

"It wasn't quite as hard as expected out there today. There were a few nervous moments, particularly on the gravel passage, with Matteo unfortunately being involved in a crash. The team protected me well all day and then brought me into a good position for the finale. I had pretty good legs in the sprint, but Caleb was ultimately just too strong. However, there are still several chances here and we'll definitely be trying again. Hopefully we'll manage to get the win next time." - Martin Laas

"The plan today was to ride for Martin. There were essentially two or three critical points on the course. The team tried to take the lead and split the peloton in the crosswinds. We didn't want to wait for others, instead taking the initiative ourselves, however, in the end there wasn't enough wind to split the peloton. On the 7 km gravel passage we were also at the front. However, Matteo Fabbro was involved in a crash, which cost him his chance in the general classification. Fortunately, he was able to finish the stage and we will now have to see how he feels. The finale was slightly technical, but we knew that Martin is in good shape at the moment. With Danny and Jordi as leadout, we were able to bring him into a good position up front. It has to be said that taking second behind Caleb Ewan, and right ahead of Fernando Gaviria, is a strong performance and a good result for the team." - Rolf Aldag, Sports Director

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Team BikeExchange-Jayco head to Valencia with GC & stage ambitions

The team sent me this:

Team BikeExchange-Jayco head to the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana this Wednesday with Lucas Hamilton targeting a strong GC result, and Kaden Groves eyeing the chances that flatter stages will offer the sprinters.

The UCI ProSeries race always attracts a strong field of riders, as WorldTour teams use the five-day stage race to hone their early-season preparations for a busy schedule ahead.

Hamilton, Groves and Tsgabu Grmay will get their first race days of 2022 under their respective belts, as they join up with Damien Howson, Dion Smith and Chris Juul-Jensen, all of who come into Valencia fresh off the back of Challenge Ciclista Mallorca.

The queen stage of the race will be on the third day, a 155km route which finishes atop Alto de las Antenas del Maigmó Tibi and which also takes in the well-known Coll de Rates, with stages two, four and five offering sprint opportunities as the final day brings the race into Valencia city centre for its finale.

The team has enjoyed stage win success in recent editions of the race, and in its last participation in 2020 finished on the GC podium. Will we see a repeat this year?

Kaden Groves (shown in the 2020 Herald SunTour) is planning on racing in Valencia.

Team BikeExchange-Jayco Line-Up:
Tsgabu Grmay (ETH)
Kaden Groves (AUS)
Lucas Hamilton (AUS)
Damien Howson (AUS)
Chris Juul-Jensen (DEN)
Dion Smith (NZL)

Lucas Hamilton – Team BikeExchange-Jayco rider:
“It’s my first race of the season and I’m looking forward to it. This is probably the longest I’ve gone without racing. Normally I’ve done [Australian] summer by now and am heading into a bit of a break before I start racing in Europe, so it’s a different programme than I’m used to but it’s nice to do something different and change it up a bit.

I think we’ve got a pretty strong team. Some of the boys have been racing in Mallorca already so it’s going to be good to join up with them. The first and third stages are definitely the more climbing heavy days, and I think we’ve got a team who can make the most of the opportunities available.

It’s been a lot of training, so it’s good to get back racing and get a feel of where I am before heading into the other races for the rest of the season. It should be a good week.”

David McPartland (Sport Director):
“Valencia is a really strong race with a high level and a good line-up of riders, and it’s a really important race at this early stage of the year in February as we continue the building phases and preparations for upcoming races such as Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico.

"We’re going there with some key objectives; a high GC result for Lucas, who’ll be our leader, with a focus on the third stage, which will be the queen stage. There are also some sprint opportunities for Kaden and Dion throughout the race, so we’ll be targeting those too as we look for a strong start to the season.”

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Team DSM is also headed to Valencia

Here's the note the team sent me:

Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana: FEB 2-6

Marcel Sieberg - Team DSM coach:
"Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana will be the first race of the season for all of the guys here. We had a good period of training and everyone is very motivated to finally start racing. There is a nice mix of parcours throughout the five stages, with the first three particularly hard with a lot of climbing, although stage two could offer a reduced bunch sprint scenario. In stages one and three we want to be active in the race and show our jersey well, before once again focusing on the bunch sprints in the final two days of racing. Our main goal of the race is to get into the season in a good way and focus on our general development. We also want to race actively and show our Team DSM jersey at the front."

Nikias Arndt (shown at the 2019 Vuelta a España) will be in Valencia racing this week. Sirotti photo

Tobias Lund Andresen (DEN)
Nikias Arndt (GER)
Leon Heinschke (GER)
Jonas Iversby Hvideberg (NOR)
Marius Mayrhofer (GER)
Casper Pedersen (DEN)
Florian Stork (GER)

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