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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, February 28, 2022

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2021 Tour de France | 2021 Giro d'Italia

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Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne team reports

We posted the report from second-place Caleb Ewan's Lotto Soudal team with the results.

Here's the report from winner Fabio Jakobsen's Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team:

Fabio Jakobsen made sure that Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl took a win on the Opening Weekend for the fourth consecutive year with an out-of-this-world sprint in what goes down as one of the most thrilling finishes in the event’s history. It was the 25-year-old’s fifth success of the 2022 season, adding to the pair of stages he won at both the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and Volta ao Algarve earlier this month.

Fabio Jakobsen wins in Kuurne. Sirotti photo

The second race of the Opening Weekend was expected to end in a bunch sprint, but it was far from straightforward, despite the last hill on the course coming with more than 50 kilometers to go. The main reason for that was several teams deciding to race aggressively in an attempt to put the sprinters to the limit and split the bunch on the climbs that came in quick succession in the last 80 kilometers.  Our team remained attentive at all times, and for good measure posted 2020 Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne winner Kasper Asgreen in a move that took shape on the Côte du Trieu.

That forced a response from the teams that missed the train, and it was only with 16 kilometers remaining, on the outskirts of Kuurne, that most of the men at the front, including Asgreen, were brought back. Three riders counterattacked just before their companions were clawed back and made the bunch work hard in order to reduce the buffer. Sensing the danger, Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl sent Kasper, Yves Lampaert and Florian Sénéchal to the head of the peloton, and they did the bulk of the work, pushing the pedal to the metal and narrowing down the gap to a mere three seconds going into the last corner of the race.

Showing huge confidence in his legs after nearly 200 kilometers and a dozen or so bergs, Jakobsen ignited the sprint with 300 meters to go using the trio’s slipstream, coming around and past them 150 meters from the line, and dashing to take the Wolfpack’s ninth Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne – an all-time record for a team at the Belgian race.

“The entire race was intense, and especially the last hour was fast and furious. But I was confident in my sprint and that’s why I launched at 300 meters to go and dove into their slipstream. Then it was all the way to the line. Winning is never easy, but we always aim for it and give our best in order to achieve the victory at the end of the day. Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne is a race that every sprinter wants to have in the palmares and I am happy I did it today together with the Wolfpack.”

But not only the win was on Fabio’s mind, who expressed solidarity with the people in Ukraine in his post-race speech: “My mind is also in Eastern Europe, with everyone in Ukraine. There’s a war going on there. In Belgium and the Netherlands we are free to do what we want, go out, watch the race, and just enjoy riding our bikes, which puts into perspective. But my mind and my heart are with the people there. I pray for them and hope they will get through this.”

Here's the report from 5th-place Giacomo Nizzolo's Israel-Premier Tech team:

The Israel – Premier Tech riders put on an impressive performance to make sure Giacomo Nizzolo had a chance to sprint for the win in Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne this Sunday.

Knowing that a bunch sprint was the most likely scenario, the team didn’t want to get too involved in the early moves in the race. Instead, the guys focused on keeping Nizzolo out of trouble to save as much energy as possible for the hectic final.

Towards the end, IPT hit the front of the peloton to up the pace and help bring back the remaining breakaway riders out front.

In the sprint, Nizzolo did well to take fifth place on the line after a long sprint in the wind.

Giacomo Nizzolo: “Everyone supported me very well today, so first of all, a big thank you to the team. We all had strong legs. The only thing we missed was a bit of timing in the final. I think we maybe got too excited and hit the front too early so when the others accelerated, we got a bit boxed in. In the last corner, I was too far back. I had to move up in the wind and when the real sprint started, I was already at the limit. That’s my only regret today. For the rest, I must say that the team really supported me well out there!”

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Christophe Laporte's Jumbo-Visma team had this to say about Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne:

Christophe Laporte has finished eighth in his first race in Team Jumbo-Visma’s black and white. The Frenchman rode in the attack for a long time but was caught in the final metres by the oncoming sprinters.

Around noon the riders left for a race of 195 kilometres under a bright Belgian sun. A front group of six riders quickly formed and at sixty kilometres from the finish, Tiesj Benoot accelerated. With this attack, Benoot made sure there was a group of eighteen riders at the front of the race. In addition to Benoot, Nathan Van Hooydonck and Christophe Laporte were also present on behalf of Team Jumbo-Visma.

Jumbo-Visma rider Tiesj Benoot on the attack. Sirotti photo

After the front group riders had stopped cooperating at twenty kilometres from the finish, Laporte decided to accelerate again. The Frenchman had two riders with him and their lead wavered between ten and twenty seconds. The gap was still ten seconds with only one kilometre to go, and a stunt seemed imminent, but at 150 metres from the line the sprinters came alongside.

For Laporte, it was an exciting first day in the yellow-and-black. "I was confident we could pull it off, but we knew the peloton wasn't far away. We gave everything and rode for the win. We kept fighting until the end, but in the last kilometre we lost some speed. It is what it is."

The Frenchman is feeling good at Team Jumbo-Visma. "I am happy to ride for this team. We won yesterday with Wout, and today we rode a strong race as well. I am part of a strong team, with which we can also apply different strategies." Laporte is already looking forward to his subsequent races. "I'm going to Paris-Nice next week to help the team and then I will focus on the classics."

Taco van der Hoorn's Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert team posted this Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne report:

In Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne (1.Pro, 27/02), the second race of the Belgian opening weekend, Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux was represented in the early breakaway with Taco van der Hoorn.

The Dutch rider won three races from the early breakaway in 2021 and was accompanied by six other riders before the Tiegemberg. They rapidly gained an advantage of 2 minutes which stabilized during the succession of climbs in the heart of the Flemish Ardennes.

Taco van der Hoorn was caught by the first group of the peloton on the Côte de Trieu with 60 kilometer to go and then managed to follow this new leading group of around twenty riders. The Dutchman reacted to accelerations on the Kluisberg and the cobbles of the Beerbosstraat and continued to assure the team’s presence in the front of the race.

He spared no effort and accompanied another change of rhythm in the breakaway with 16 kilometer to go. As a part of a new leading trio, van der Hoorn kept pushing with an advantage of 10 seconds over the peloton with Alexander Kristoff, Boy van Poppel and Adrien Petit.

At the end of great suspense, van der Hoorn resisted until de final 50 meter, overtaken by the sprinting peloton. He crossed the line in tenth place after four and a half hours of effort, just ahead of his teammate Alexander Kristoff.

“In November we sat around the table with the sports direction, planning an attack in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, because we believed it was possible to survive the hill zone with an early breakaway. The peloton put pressure on us all day, so we had to accelerate in the breakaway if we wanted to stay ahead until the final climb. In the end we were caught by a group of strong riders a little earlier than I was hoping for, but I managed to follow them well on the last difficulties of the day. That I was still able to react to the attack of Narvaez and Laporte after such a long day in the front was an incredible performance. The victory was within reach and that was what I was aiming for. It was such a bummer when the peloton caught us with 50 meter to go, this was a very good opportunity to win a classic. I want to recover well for the GP Le Samyn now, the next Red Cross in my agenda.” - Taco van der Hoorn

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Drôme Classic team reports

We posted the report from winner Jonas Vingegaard's Jumbo-Visma team with the results.

Here's the report from 4th place Juan Ayuso's UAE Team Emirates:

Juan Ayuso put in an attacking display in France today to take a solid 4th place against strong opposition at the Drôme Classic.

The 19-year old showed his aggressive style, going on the attack with Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma), with the pair going long range from 38km out.

Vingegaard would go on to win the race as Ayuso was absorbed by a small elite chasing group, finishing just off the podium in fourth ahead of World Champion Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) on the 191.5km test.

Juan Ayuso finishes fourth. Sirotti photo

Ayuso: “The team worked well all day, first to chase the break down and after they put me in a great position when the climbing started. I felt well and I knew I had to try and break the race on the climbs before the final, at the end I suffered on the flat and arrived empty, but I have no regrets of racing offensively. It was a really strong field so to be up there with those guys and take a result gives me a lot confidence for the next races.”

In Belgium, Matteo Trentin signed off his second top-10 of the weekend with 9th place at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.

The Italian took 7th place yesterday in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, showing his form for the spring classic campaign is ever improving.

Trentin: “ I got the best that I could have done today. There were a lot of teams working for their sprinters so it was hard to get a group together in front to stay clear. I tried a few times but we were missing a bit of collaboration always in the group. I’ll look to the next few weeks to build on these first results. All things considered it was a good weekend just a pity about the injury to Fernando, we wish him a speedy recovery.”

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5th-place Julian Alaphilippe's Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team posted this:

The last of the weekend’s French double-whammy, Drôme Classic put on the table a 192.5km course featuring 16 climbs and a sting in the tail favouring the puncheurs – in short, plenty of opportunities for the riders to open up the race early.

Runner-up Saturday at the Ardèche Classic, Mauri Vansevenant launched a move from afar, emerging from the peloton together with seven other riders and establishing a one-minute margin with three hills still left. Then, at the same time two men rode away from that group on the Côte des Roberts, Julian Alaphilippe lifted himself from the saddle and produced a long surge that shattered the bunch to pieces, drawing a response from just two riders. The newly-formed trio began to chew into the leaders’ advantage, the World Champion himself taking some long pulls that brought them within touching distance ahead of the uphill finish.

Julian Alaphilippe finishes fifth. Sirotti photo

That impressive effort eventually took its toll on him and Julian concluded fifth in Etoile-sur-Rhône, but despite the result, he remained upbeat: “We tried, we worked well together, but those in the front were really strong. I already felt that I was a bit on the limit when the chase was on, but I was happy to collaborate with Guillaume and Benoit. I did a big effort and in the final I felt the cramps and that was it. But I have no regrets and I am happy to have raced here these two beautiful events. This weekend served also as preparation for my next goals, and I hope the condition will get better and better.”

Team Bora-hansgrohe posted this Drôme Classic report:

The Drôme Classic traversed almost 192 km around Étoile-sur-Rhône, featuring numerous demanding climbs along the way. After the last of the breakaway were caught at the foot of the Col de la Grand Limite, it came to a series of attacks, with a group of 8 riders including Lennard Kämna eventually managing to distance themselves from the peloton. Shortly after two of the escapees attacked out of this group, several riders from the peloton managed to catch up with Lennard's group. They took on the Mur d'Allex 30 seconds behind the two leaders, but in the end they were unable to catch up with the duo again. Lennard finished the race as the best-placed BORA-hansgrohe rider in 21st place.

Jonas Vingegaard was the winner in Étoile-sur-Rhône. Sirotti photo

"We were at the front when the decisive group went away and I managed to make the jump into the 8-man group. We then tried to extend our lead, but after Vingegaard and Ayuso attacked out of our group, the motivation from the others wasn't really there anymore. We were then caught by the field and I had no legs left to contest the sprint because I really put everything into my earlier attack." - Lennard Kämna

"Like yesterday we had three leaders for this race, Lennard, Wilco and Felix. The team worked well together and the decisive attack went when we had expected. We were attentive to the move and were able to put Lenny in the group that escaped. He eventually was part of a leading 8-man group that worked well together to establish a lead, until two riders broke free from that group, Ayuso and the eventual winner Vingegaard. Back in the peloton, when Alaphilippe, Martin and Cosnefroy attacked, it wasn't possible for Felix or Wilco to go with them, as they didn't have the legs in that moment. Lennard ended up finishing the race in the reduced field, as he didn't have the energy left after his earlier attack. So to summarise, the team worked well and was attentive to the attacks today, but ultimately we didn't reach a result to show that. However, promising signs are still there for the next races."- Sylwester Szmyd, Sports Director

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