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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, March 5, 2022

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2021 Tour de France | 2021 Giro d'Italia

I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can't say; I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger. - Harriet Tubman

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 as an audiobook here. For the print and Kindle eBook versions, just click on the Amazon link on the right.

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Pavel Sivakov nationality change request from Russian to French accepted by the UCI

Sivakov’s INEOS Grenadiers team sent me this:

On Wednesday 2nd March 2022, the UCI officially granted Pavel Sivakov change of nationality from Russian to French. Both cycling federations have been notified and this now qualifies Pavel to race under the French flag at national, World Championship and Olympic events.

Pavel Sivakov finishing stage seven of the 2021 Vuelta. Sirotti photo

Pavel Sivakov said: “I was born in Italy and moved to France when I was one year old. France is where I grew up and was educated and where I fell in love with riding my bike which led me to racing. It feels like my home.

“I have wanted to become a French national for some time and had made the request to the UCI, but given what is happening in the Ukraine at the moment, I wanted to fast track this. I want to thank the UCI and the team at INEOS Grenadiers for supporting me with this process and helping make this a reality. To now have the opportunity to race as a French national in international events makes me incredibly happy. It would be a dream to race in Paris at the 2024 Olympics for France and this is something that the team have said they would fully support.

“As I have previously said, I am totally against this war and all my thoughts are with the Ukrainian people. Like most people around the world right now, I hope for peace and a swift end to the suffering happening in the Ukraine.”

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Lennard Kämna to miss Strade Bianche

Kämna’s Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this:

Immediately after arriving in Italy, Lennard Kämna suffered from gastrointestinal problems. His situation did not improve overnight and the team decided, together with Lennard, that he will not take part in Strade Bianche.

Lennard Kämna winning stage five of this year's Ruta del Sol. Sirotti photo

After his symptoms have subsided, Lennard will prepare himself as planned for his next races, the GP Miguel Indurain and the Tour of the Basque Country.

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EF Education-EasyPost to race Strade Bianche

Here’s the team’s post:

When you watch the peloton storm over the white, cypress-lined roads that cross the vineyards and olive groves of rural Tuscany and hear the Italian fans roar when the leaders enter Siena for the steep sprint onto the Piazza del Campo, it can seem like an ancient contest. The race hearkens back to a golden age of cycling, when the likes of Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali captured millions of Italian imaginations with their heroic exploits on heavy steel bikes. That the Strade Bianche was only founded in 2007, when the organisers of L’Eroica retro sportif decided to hold a professional race to complement their event, doesn’t matter. The Strade Bianche has become one of the most sought-after races on the calendar.

Racing on the gravel roads of the Strade Bianche. Sirotti photo

EF Education-EasyPost captain Michael Valgren loves it. He has raced the Strade Bianche three times in the past and always had bad luck. Still, it keeps drawing him back.

“I have always felt really good on the gravel sections,” he says. “To win this race, you have to be such a complete rider. That is what I really like about it. There’s never a surprise winner. It’s going to be a good bike rider who wins this race.”

On Saturday, our team will be able to employ a three-pronged attack.

“Ruben Guerreiro is going really well,” Michael says. “We will be the leaders from the beginning, but I saw during the recon that Jonathan Caceido also looks very, very strong, so we have three dark horses, and then we have a really strong team behind us.”

Neo-pro Marijn van den Berg is excited and a little nervous ahead of the start of his first Strade Bianche. He has had a strong early season, but the twisty dirt roads around Siena will be a lot trickier to navigate than the highways he raced over at the UAE Tour.

“This will be the biggest race that I have done so far, and I hope I can just help the team,” he says. “It will be up and down all day long, with no flat at all. In the pro peloton nobody gives anyone a centimetre, and it can be a little bit stressful. We will make a good race, and I will see how far I can get.”

Classics specialist Tom Scully will be doing the race for the first time too, but he already feels at home in Tuscany.

“It’s just like a postcard, but in real life—the Italians have given us a warm welcome here at our hotel,” he says. “It is going to be a big day for us on Saturday. You mention gravel, and everybody gets a little bit excited, but if you mention gravel to 170-odd professional cyclists, we all get really excited. We’ll enjoy the racing, but it’s not going to be an easy roll.”

Ben Healy got called up to do the race after his stellar performance in Belgium on Opening Weekend, where he made the break both days.

“That was pretty awesome,” the twenty-one-year-old Irishman says. “On the Leberg and the Wolvenberg, the crowds were deafening. To be in that lead group was quite surreal. It was a really good feeling. We’ll see how I’ve recovered from last weekend, but I don’t see why I can’t be going well!”

He and his teammates will have to be going well, because the Strade Bianche is relentless. The race is 184 kilometres long with 63 kilometres on white gravel roads, which buck and pitch through the Tuscan hills. In the finale, the climbs come thick and fast, and there is hardly a moment for the riders to catch their breath, especially if the wind is blowing and they have to watch out for echelons.

“If someone were to kick it off at 110 kilometres, it would just be flat-stick lined out to the finish, because of the parcours,” Ben says.

Michael Valgren agrees. “The last two and a half hours, you really have to be in the front, and maybe take a risk to get in front of the big favourites,” he says. “We will make our move when it makes sense.”

No matter what, the riders will be greeted by a great roar when they return to Siena for the finish.

“Tuscany is the epicentre of world cycling,” says EF Education-EasyPost director Matti Breschel. “There is so much history here, and the organisers were inspired by that when they founded the race. It’s beautiful here, with the food, the culture, the fans, the gravel roads. It’s always a special feeling to finish in Siena on the Piazza del Campo.”

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Team BikeExchange-Jayco to ride Paris-Nice

The team sent me this heads-up:

Team BikeExchange-Jayco head to Paris-Nice this weekend, ready for a hard race, bringing two leaders in the shape of sprinter Dylan Groenewegen and climber Simon Yates.

Simon Yates at the 2022 Ruta del Sol. Sirotti photo

The star riders will lead a seven-rider Team BikeExchange-Jayco squad at the ‘race to the sun,’ with this two-pronged approach, as they eye sprint victories and a strong overall GC showing.

The eight-day race is traditionally a cold, wet and eventful one before the riders draw closer to the South of France, where the climbers will get the chance to test the legs. Supporting the two-time Saudi stage winner Groenewegen, will be well established lead-out man Luka Mezgec along with powerful track specialist Campbell Stewart.

For the climbs, Yates will have a solid support squad around him as well, in the shape of last year’s fourth place finisher Lucas Hamilton, with fellow powerhouse Australian’s Callum Scotson and Luke Durbridge.

The race will feature three flat stages to kick-off proceedings, one individual time trial stage on day four, followed by four mountainous stages including a lengthy 214km stage on day six.

Team BikeExchange-Jayco at Paris-Nice:
Luke Durbridge (AUS)
Dylan Groenewegen (NED)
Lucas Hamilton (AUS)
Luka Mezgec (SLO)
Callum Scotson (AUS)
Campbell Stewart (NZL)
Simon Yates (GBR)

Dylan Groenewegen:
“I think my condition is really good, we didn’t have the results we wanted at the UAE Tour, but the shape is good, and we could see that in the Saudi Tour. Everyone in general is in a good shape, and so we go to Paris-Nice to win. I have won already three stages in Paris-Nice and had the yellow jersey. It is a really good race for me, and I like to race there, especially when it is dry of course.

"The first stages are quite flat, the first one and third are a little bit harder but I think they are still ok for the sprinters, the second is totally flat, so these first three days are really for the sprinters. We go to the race looking for the best result, and that is to take wins. We then head to the climbs, and we have Simon Yates.”

Matt White – Head Sport Director:
The race is really split in two. Three flat sprint stages, a TT day and then four hillier stages. The first days are going to be a battle, we have seen Jakobsen and Philipsen down to race, the two in form sprinters in the spring, and these will be Dylan’s main competition. It is definitely going to be tough, but I think Dylan has got the form and the ability to win a stage in those first three days.

"This race is the first goal of the year for Simon, on the general classification front, and we are aiming high, and we are aiming for a podium here in the GC. Roglic will be Simon's main rival there and Saturday and Sunday will be the key days. Saturday is the longest climbing day of the race and then Sunday is the short intense stage around Nice like always. It is four consecutive days in a row that are tough.

"What can make Paris-Nice tough is the weather. It can be one of the hardest races of the spring just due to the weather but for the moment the forecast is ok, the first weekend it is looking good.”

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