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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, March 12, 2022

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2021 Tour de France | 2021 Giro d'Italia

Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac? - George Carlin

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Paris-Nice Stage 6 reports

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

Here's the report from GC leader Primoz Roglic's Jumbo-Visma team:

Wout van Aert clinched yet another podium place in the sixth stage of Paris-Nice. The holder of the green jersey came just short of countering a late attack and finished third. Primoz Roglic’s yellow leader’s jersey was not in danger today.

Early in the race, a six-rider leading group formed. They got a maximum lead of about five minutes. When the finish line approached, the six were quickly caught and a depleted peloton seemed to be heading for a sprint in Aubagne.

There were several attack attempts in the last ten kilometres, including one by Christophe Laporte. In the end, Burgaudeau was the only one who succeeded in creating a gap. After an exciting last kilometre, the chasers came too late and Van Aert had to settle for third.

Mathieu Burgaudeau just stays away from the speeding chasers. ASO photo

For Van Aert, this third place meant his fifth podium finish in six stages at Paris-Nice. “We didn’t expect this scenario. We thought we would go to a sprint in a controlled way. The last little climb caused some chaos with the other teams, so there were some gaps. I felt good. It was a tough ride with a lot of wind and altimetres. I don’t think it was the legs today, but it can’t always run perfectly.”

With the final weekend approaching, Team Jumbo-Visma will do everything it can to keep classification leader Roglic in the yellow leader’s jersey. The Slovenian remains level-headed about it. “It’s the start of the season and every day is tough here. Tomorrow a tough stage awaits with a difficult climb. Hopefully, I have the legs to go with the best. I’m confident and will do my best.”

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Here's the update from second-place Mads Pedersen's Trek-Segafredo team:

Mads Pedersen came within meters of capturing his second stage win in Paris-Nice but ran out of real estate to come over Mathieu Burgaudeau (TotalEnergies) and settled for runner-up.

Burgaudeau attacked over the final climb of the longest stage in this year’s race and built a lead of 20 seconds before the bunch pulled him back to 12 seconds in the last kilometers. The chasing bunch had him in sight. It was going to be close.

A downhill gave Burgaudeau a brief respite. Over the twists and turns in the last 500 meters, he still led. Behind, Mads launched and was coming fast. But so was the white line.  It was still anyone’s guess who would win.

In the end, Burgaudeau caught the finish line just as he was consumed by a group of riders. Mads, second, Wout third.  Oh so close for the Team, but the French rider had pulled it off.

This TV screen capture shows how close Mads Pedersen came to winning the stage.

Stage 6 had Mads name all over it, and Trek-Segafredo took responsibility from kilometer zero.  The team used Otto Vergaerde early to help control the day’s breakaway.  With that contained, a large obstacle still remained: the 11-kilometer-long Col de l’Espigoulier.

But the team had a plan for that too. Julien Bernard pulled the entire climb, setting a hard but manageable pace for the Team’s trio of classics specialists. The steepest grades were at the bottom, and then it leveled out to 3-4% gradients.  In the last few kilometers, Mads, Jasper and Alex were close to the front and crested together in the lead. Check that one off the list.

Jasper and Alex then negated the next attack on the descent.  So far, all had played out to the Team’s pre-race plan.

On the final climb with seven kilometers remaining, Trek-Segafredo eased off the accelerator. Immediately attacks flew.

When Mathieu Burgaudeau jumped off the front the bunch let him go. He is a rider who does not raise red flags, which possibly played to his advantage. In the last few kilometers, the road descended, allowing Burgaudeau to catch his breath, turning the tables in his favor.  In the end, the bunch timed it wrong and Burgaudeau took the spoils.

After a day of impressive teamwork, it was heart-wrenching to not take another victory. The hard questions came.  Were mistakes made by your team, asked the journalists?

“There were no mistakes from our side,” answered Mads, who had nothing but praise for his teammates. “In the end, this guy was impressive. That’s how it is. That’s racing. I think we can be proud of the teamwork today.”

Here's what 4th-place Biniam Girmay's Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert team had to say about the stage:

For the third time this week, Eritrean rider Biniam Girmay sprinted for the victory in his first Paris-Nice (2.UWT) and this after strong work of his teammates all day, but finished fourth.

Behind the early breakaway of six riders, the men of the Belgian World Team controlled the gap in the lead of the peloton. Successively, Dimitri Claeys, Rein Taaramäe and Aimé De Gendt worked to decrease the advantage of the leaders and to surround Biniam Girmay on the multiple climbs in this sixth stage at the same time. Aimé De Gendt felt sick and used his last power in service of the team, just like Baptiste Planckaert one day earlier, before leaving the race.

In this way, Biniam Girmay covered the Cols de Murs, de Pointu, du Sambuc, des Portes, de Pas de la Couelle and de l’Espigoulier in a strongly skimmed peloton. He approached the last straight in Aubagne in company of Loïc Vliegen and Georg Zimmermann and sprinted from the middle of the group to fourth position.

Biniam Girmay winning Trofeo Alcudia earlier this year.

“All riders of the team did what they could to create the best conditions for our sprinter Biniam Girmay, by decreasing the gap to the breakaway and by surrounding him all day. The race went exactly as we wished and we were one of the best represented teams in the final. The sprint of Biniam was again phenomenal! But this fourth place brought some mixed emotions, as we are convinced that the victory was possible. Collectively we’ve been perfect until the final three kilometer, where we lost each other in a corner. This enables us to learn, because we were again in the mix for the victory on the highest level.”  - Georg Zimmermann

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Tirreno-Adriatico stage five reports

We posted the report from GC leader Tadej Pogacar's UAE Team Emirates with the results.

Here's the stage five report from GC second-place Remco Evenepoel's Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team:

Another day, another Remco Evenepoel attack at Tirreno-Adriatico. Staying true to his nature, the 22-year-old went on the offensive for the second straight day, putting down the hammer on one of the short but brutally steep hills of the 155km stage to Fermo, inside the closing ten kilometers as the gradients hit double digits. So powerful was his attack that only two riders could follow him over the top of the hill.

The trio worked well together and by the time they completed the descent they had a promising ten-second gap over a peloton that had troubles in organising the chase, but in a shocking twist they went off course due to the poor signalling of the road marshals. All of the sudden, Remco found himself twenty seconds adrift, but he summoned the remaining energy he had, and with some valuable help from Davide Ballerini – a member of the original breakaway – he bridged across just in time for the final ascent of the stage and concluded this nervous day together with the blue jersey.

Escapee Warren Barguil won stage five. Sirotti photo

Ahead of the race’s queen stage – which is set to include a double ascent of the tough Carpegna climb, Evenepoel remains second on the general classification, only a couple of seconds off the top of the table.

“I felt good today and had a fantastic team around me, who worked hard to keep me protected. Then when UAE took over the pace-making, the speed increased and I knew that the right moment to attack had come. I was joined only by Pogacar and Vingegaard, and we went full gas on the descent and had a good gap, but then there was almost nothing and no one to show us that we should go right, so instead of this we continued to ride straight ahead and our promising move ended there. Fortunately, I had the legs to make up the gap, and also with some help of Ballero, I managed to return in the pack, but it’s a pity how things turned out at a moment when they were looking so good”, said Remco after the stage.

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Here's the report from 3rd-place Simone Velasco's Astana Qazaqstan team:

Simone Velasco spent a very solid day in the saddle, taking a strong third place on Stage 5 of the Tirreno-Adriatico.

The Astana Qazaqstan Team rider broke away clear from the peloton in a big group of riders somewhere after 70 km of racing. The riders in the breakaway worked well together, creating a good gap, while Velasco became one of the most active riders there, always staying in front.

On the penultimate climb the French rider Warren Barguil launched an attack, at the end of the day taking a solo win. Simone Velasco immediately started chasing, but, finally, finished third, 14 seconds behind the stage winner.

“Well, it took an hour and a half for a group to break away clear after a lot of attacks. We always stayed in front, trying to escape, and in a moment I saw my chance and I joined the right group. Before the start together with the Sports Directors and trainers we were discussing our strategy and it was decided that we have to send our rider in a breakaway which on this stage could be a successful one. Once we got a gap, all together we started working well, keeping a good advantage. After a tough day yesterday, today I felt much better and on the climbs I felt like I have good legs, always staying at the front and keeping a good pace. Well, in a moment Barguil attacked and I missed this move, I tried to follow him a bit later, but it did not work. It was a good chance for a stage win, but I finished third. However, I am happy with the legs and my feeling during the stage. I feel like I am improving day by day and I hope I will get a really good form to the next races”, – said Simone Velasco.

There was another battle of the GC contenders behind the shoulders of the break. Astana’s team leader Miguel Angel Lopez always stayed in the race leader group, supported by Harold Tejada, and finished this stage on 19th position.

After Stage 5 Lopez moved up to fifth place in the General Classification, 1 minute behind the race leader Tadej Pogacar.

And here's the Tirreno-Adriatico report from Team Bora-hansgrohe:

The shortest stage of the Italian stage race may have traversed only 155 km from Sefro to Fermo with shorter, steeper climbs, however, it was a parcours that demanded climbing prowess. At the conclusion of the stage, the riders were met with a steep finish to Fermo where the classification riders tried to gain time on their rivals. Towards the end of this difficult stage, Jai Hindley and Wilco Kelderman found themselves in a reduced group of favourites, behind a small leading group. The two BORA-hansgrohe teammates tried to keep up with the pace and in the end Jai managed to cross the finish line within the GC group. His tenth place on the stage means that he moves up three places in the GC to 8th overall. Wilco crossed the line 10 seconds behind, and remains unchanged in 10th place overall.

From the Finish Line:
"It was another tough day in the saddle. The guys did a good job to bring Emu, Wilco and me into a good position ahead of the lap. From then on it was a battle of attrition, so to speak. Wilco and I then found ourselves in a reduced group and we tried to keep up with key attacks. At the end of the day, I'm happy to have improved my GC standing by three positions before tomorrow's queen stage." - Jai Hindley

"We had a very fast start today, characterised by several attacks. We had to make sure that we didn't let any key GC riders slip away, and that worked out quite well. Of course it's to have one in the group as well, we tried to do that but they just didn't let us get away. With Jai, Wilco and Emu, we also have three riders who are well placed in the overall classification, and so today it was a matter of our fast guys holding the position down on the coast and making sure that we got into the mountain at the front, because from there on it was quite technical and super steep. I think Jai did quite well. So our goal was to get through the stage without crashes and injuries. Tomorrow we have some longer climbs and we just have to see if we can test where our limits are." - Rolf Aldag, Sports Director

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