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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, March 10, 2022

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2021 Tour de France | 2021 Giro d'Italia

History is a pack of lies about events that never happened told by people who weren't there. - George Santayana

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

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Paris-Nice Stage 4 reports

We posted the organizer's stage four report with the results.

Here's the report from stage winner Wout Van Aert's Jumbo-Visa team:

Wout van Aert has won the time trial in Paris-Nice. The Belgian of Team Jumbo-Visma was just too fast for his teammates Primoz Roglic and Rohan Dennis. As a result, Van Aert took over the lead in the general classification from teammate Christophe Laporte. Roglic is second, Laporte third.

Wout Van Aert on his way to winning the stage. Sirotti photo

In the opening stage, Team Jumbo-Visma had already occupied the complete podium; in the time trial the Dutch team did it again.

The time trial, set out over a hilly course, had an uphill finish. The last few hundred metres went uphill to the finish in Montluçon. Dennis, the Australian time trial champion, led for a long time. Only teammates Van Aert and Roglic managed to beat the time of the former world champion.

Dennis was one of the first riders to start, and after his time trial, he concluded that the course would probably suit Van Aert and Roglic very well. "It was a tough time trial with a challenging course - something for guys like Primoz and Wout. After days of work, I am happy with my result. It’s great that we are doing so well as a team."

Van Aert was delighted with his second win of the road season. "Along the way, I didn’t notice much of the time differences, so I just rode full throttle towards the finish. It hurt to be on the pedals all the time on the last climb, but it was necessary." The classification leader was also proud of his team. "We are one of the best teams in the time trial, so perhaps this result is not very surprising. Primoz and Rohan have also won many prizes in this discipline and were on the podium of the Olympic time trial last year. That says it all. This is another victory by and for the team. It’s already been a great week, so hopefully, more great results will come. We are going to do everything we can to win this race."

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Here's the report from fourth-place Stefan Küng's Team Groupama-FDJ:

In the hilly time trial to Montluçon, on stage 4 of Paris-Nice, Stefan Küng was only beaten by one team: Jumbo-Visma. Three of its members indeed preceded the double European time trial champion on the 13.4-kilometre course, and the Swiss rider eventually finished at a very solid fourth place. By the way, he netted his tenth consecutive top-5 for in the discipline, proving one more time his consistency. From Thursday on, Paris-Nice will tackle the climbs and a new race will begin for the Groupama-FDJ cycling team.

Stefan Küng at the 2021 world championships. Sirotti photo

Before entering a completely different terrain, the “Race to the Sun” concluded its first half on Wednesday with a quite short time trial, of just over thirteen kilometres, but on a course that was not the most straightforward between Domérat and Montluçon. “It was a demanding route, with first of all a hill at the start which was quite long even if it was not steep. The middle part of the time trial was rather flat, without real dangers, then we had this last ramp over the last 500 meters (at 8%)”, presented David Han. “Overall, it was a nice time trial, and Stefan liked it. He expected it to be harder when he got there this morning, but he found it good enough during the recon”.

Before the Swiss champion, the team’s other six riders took the start, and Valentin Madouas and David Gaudu were the first ones to get underway around 1.30pm. The French climber tried to save as much as possible ahead of the upcoming stages. “The goal was not to take any risks”, said David Han. “We had agreed to go easy. He may have taken a pace a bit too slow compared to his abilities, but he had to save himself. He now hopes to bounce back and is still motivated for the end of Paris-Nice. We’ll see how it goes day after day”. Almost an hour later, the Luxembourg champion also took the start, without proper ambitions though. “Initially, Kevin was supposed to go full-gas on the time trial, because he is a specialist”, continued David. “However, following his crash yesterday, he felt some pain in his elbow. We didn’t want to push it, and all the guys managed their race pretty well in the end.”

The last man to set off for Groupama-FDJ, Stefan Küng left the ramp at 2:46 p.m. and immediately showed he was competing for the win as he crossed the checkpoint just one second behind Rohan Dennis’ best time. A few kilometres later, after a steep finish, he eventually conceded four seconds to the Australian. Later, Primoz Roglic and Wout van Aert beat their teammate, which therefore made the Swiss drop down to fourth place on the day, ten seconds behind the Belgian winner. “I knew it was a difficult course for me, but I felt good and there is no secret in the time trial”, said Stefan. ”I did a solid performance but other guys were just stronger today. I did what I could, I tried to gain time in the sections that suited me, but with a little bit more punch in the final climb, I could have gained a few seconds. I may be fifteen kilos heavier than someone like Roglic, but I gave it my all”. “It’s a good performance, he doesn’t have any regrets,” added David Han. “In terms of power, he was around his maximum data. He felt that he had strength throughout the time trial, he was clean in the trajectories and technically speaking. It was not maybe the ideal profile for Stefan, but in terms of performance, we don’t have regrets tonight. No matter the adversity and no matter the course, he’s always there. He ends up behind the three Jumbo-Visma’s riders today, but there are not many people missing on the startlist”. With this fourth place, the double European champion achieved his tenth consecutive top-5s in the time trial. After the race against the clock this Wednesday, the race will take on the mountains starting tomorrow on Paris-Nice.

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Tirreno-Adriatico stage three reports

We posted the report from stage winner Caleb Ewan's Lotto Soudal team with the results.

Here's the report from third-place Olav Kooij's Jumbo-Visma team:

Olav Kooij has achieved another podium spot in the Tirreno-Adriatico. His teammates positioned the twenty-year-old sprinter of Team Jumbo-Visma well in the final kilometres, but in the end, he came up short behind Caleb Ewan and Arnaud Démare.

Caleb Ewan and Arnaud Démare finish ahead of Olav Kooij. Sirotti photo.

The third stage of the Race of the Two Seas offered little spectacle. Six riders formed the day's escape and got a six-minute lead. With 45 kilometres to go, the group got caught and it seemed to indicate that a bunch sprint would decide the winner.

However, Tadej Pogacar, Marc Soler, Julian Alaphillipe and Tao Geoghegan Hart tried to prevent this scenario, but with ten kilometres to go, they were reeled in by a hungry peloton. Jos van Emden, Edoardo Affini and Tosh van der Sande guided Kooij to the front and put the youngster in a good position.
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Although Kooij did his utmost to reward his team's hard work, he couldn't keep up with Caleb Ewan and Arnaud Démare. "When they attacked, I already felt that I would come up short for the victory," Kooij said. "It's nice to see how we approached the final. The fact that I've achieved another podium finish is certainly not bad."

Being labeled one of the favourites didn't bother him too much. "It's a good sign that the top riders take you seriously. It means you are very close to them. During the UAE Tour and the past two days, I showed that I'm not far off, so I don't have to be afraid of those guys."

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Here's the report from 6th-place Pascal Ackermann's UAE Team Emirates:

Pascal Ackermann showed a good pair of sprinting legs, taking 6th place on stage 3 of Tirreno-Adriatico from Murlo to Terni (170km).

The stage was lit-up with 27km to go when Pogačar and Soler moved away after an intermediate sprint point along with World Champion Julian Alaphilippe (Quick Step Alpha Vinyl) and Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos-Grenadiers) quickly building up a gap of 25 seconds.

The sprinters teams were forced to pull the bunch hard to bring them back inside the final kilometres, before Ackermann placed himself in the head of the bunch, finishing in 6th place and he searches for his first win in UAE colours.

In the overall standings Pogačar remains 3rd at 14’’ from race leader Filippo Ganna (Ineos-Grenadiers).

At Paris-Nice, Brandon McNulty was the best placed in the time trial on stage 4 between Domérat to Montluçon (13.4km), finishing in 14th spot at 36’’ from stage winner and new race leader Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma).

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