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Sunday, March 20, 2022

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2021 Tour de France | 2021 Giro d'Italia

Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut. - Ernest Hemingway

Tour de France: 2021

Bill & Carol McGann's book The Story of the Tour de France, 2021: The Little Cannibal Dominates is available as an audiobook here. For the Kindle eBook version, just click on the Amazon link on the right.

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Milano-Sanremo team reports

Winner Matej Mohoric's Bahrain Victorious team posted this report:

It’s an unbelievable victory for Bahrain Victorious at the first Monument of the season, the Milano-Sanremo.

Matej Mohorič took a superb solo win in Via Roma after a legendary attack on the descent from Poggio.

Matej Mohoric wins a big one. Sirotti photo

The Classicissima respected the tradition with an initial breakaway whose last two men were caught on the Poggio climb. It was there that the expected attacks and counter attacks happened. But then the unexpected move was made on the following descent towards Sanremo, when Matej put on a thrilling performance with his excellent downhill skills, and the ultimate technical equipment provided by the team’s partner.

The Slovenian Champion took some risks on the fast descent and rode the last kilometers as if it was a lifetime time-trial to take the first Monument of his career.

Matej Mohorič:
“We can’t say it was not a planned and well-prepared victory. Thank you to our partners Merida, Fsa and Vision, with whom we worked on the bike, alongside the hard work of all the team’s staff, that made it possible to put together the bike with the dropper seat post. The teammates also were perfect today, and all together, we took this incredible win. I never stopped believing in it, although I had a crash on Strade Bianche and had to stay some days without riding the bike. It’s incredible. I just want to enjoy this moment, not just for me but for all the team. In the last 3 kms, I was super focused. I didn’t think about anything else, only giving my best. I stayed focused even if I risked crashing twice. I’m so happy to put it off. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, and it will last with the team and me forever”.

Franco Pellizotti, Bahrain Victorious SD:
“I’m super happy. It’s my first Monument as a Sports Director. It’s unexpected, but honestly, we had hoped that Matej could do something extraordinary this morning because I know he’s a solid and unbelievable rider in the downhill. I’m speechless. I’m very happy for the team and for Matej. All the guys were so strong today and did their job perfectly.

"It was a high-speed race. After Cipressa, there were only 30 riders in front, and we were there with 3 riders – Mohorič, Tratnik and Caruso, who then finished in 9th and 15th place.

"When we arrived on the top of the Poggio, and I heard about Matej’s attack, I commented with Volpi that there were two options: he would crash or win the race. In the end, it was the best outcome: a monumental win!”

Michael Matthews' Team BikeExchange-Jayco sent me this report:

Australian Michael Matthews sprinted to fourth place in a thrilling finale to the first Monument of the season at Milan-San Remo.

The 31-year-old showed his consistency once again as he took his third top-five finish and fifth top-10 finish in La Classicissima di primavera, as he narrowly missed out on the third 'San Remo' podium of his career in the dash for the line.

The 293km trek from Milan to the coastline in San Remo built to its typical crescendo with the race bursting into life on the Cipressa. The peloton passed over the climb at a rapid rate, with Matthews constantly sat amongst the top-15 riders as a host of ‘big name’ riders were dropped.

The peloton on the coast, headed to the Cipressa climb. Sirotti photo

The bunch was reduced to just 30 riders by time the race reached the foot of the Poggio, with Tadej Pogacar launching a series of attacks on the ascent. However, nobody could escape, with Matthews responding to each move as he crested the climb still in contention.

Matej Mohoric then launched a daring move on the descent and opened up a gap as the group behind hesitated. As the chasers struggled to organise a substantial chase, Mohoric raced away to take the win while Matthews sprinted to fourth place in the battle for the final podium spot.

Michael Matthews:
“It was definitely much faster on the Cipressa than other years, as we expected, UAE wanted to make it a hard final, I think to eliminate everyone’s teammates so it didn’t come down to a bunch sprint. They seemed to do that, I think they got a group of 30 of us over the Cipressa and on the Poggio, Tadej just continued to attack, but I think the wind didn’t favour him too much and we could all pretty much stay there.

"Mohoric went on the descent and I think whoever was on the wheel, let the wheel go and he got a gap and then the motorbikes dragged him away. For me it was more just about letting the big favourites fight it out and then see what I could do in the final.

"Today the accelerations were easier for me to follow, the high speed on the Cipressa was a bit harder, but the stop – start on the Poggio was actually better for me today. When Mohoric went on the descent I was maybe four wheels behind him, and I couldn’t fit around the guys to follow him unfortunately.

"When you have all the favourites in that big bunch, I sorted of expected them to fight it out and to bring the bunch back to fight for victory, but these days in cycling you never know what each other is going to do and nobody wants to bring each other to the line. In the end it was just a bit of a mess, nobody really wanted to fully commit to bring Mohoric back."

Matt White (Head Sport Director):
“We knew it would be a different Milan-San Remo with Pogacar here, and it worked out as predicted. It was probably the fastest ascent of the Cipressa that I have ever seen, and a very, very select group in the final.

"I think there were only eight riders at the top of the Poggio and Michael has done a good ride to be there. Unfortunately, he’s just missed the podium, but it’s still a very solid ride. There’s always some regrets, it’s a Monument and we would like to win it, but he did his best and it was a tricky final."

Seventh-place Søren Kragh Andersen's Team DSM posted this Milano-Sanremo report:

The first monument of the year proved to be a nail-biting race with a thrilling finale. The riders rolled out of Milan this morning with 293 kilometres still to go. Shortly after the official start was given eight riders attacked and got up the road. The escapees managed to get a maximum advantage over the peloton of seven minutes, with the last of them reeled back in again at the foot of the Poggio.

The day's breakaway on the Turchino Pass. RCS photo

With the Turchino behind them, the riders hit the coast, heading towards the Capi climbs. The pace in the peloton was gruellingly fast and the Capi were quickly behind them. With the Cipressa insight, the peloton upped the pace once more, with the team doing a brilliant job to bring Søren Kragh Andersen in a good position at the bottom of the climb. The tempo on the climb was gruelling and the peloton exploded, leaving a small group, to crest the top, including Kragh Andersen.

Attacks happened immediately when the thinned down group started the Poggio, with Pogacar and Van Aert trying to get away. With the summit in reach, Kragh Andersen put the hammer down, went all in and attacked. He got up the road with three others and went again, going all-in towards the top. The rest of the group covered the move though and in the descent, Mohoric got away.

After his gutsy attack on the Poggio, Kragh Andersen managed to stay with the small chasing group and sprinted to a very strong and well deserved 7th place for the team, after great teamwork and an all-out attack.

Speaking after the finish, Kragh Andersen said: “To be honest I am very happy, I went for the win and I showed I was up there with the best. It is cycling and it is difficult to win, but I am happy with my performance and that of the team. Positioning into the Cipressa was the most important thing today the team showed great commitment in getting me there. It was a bit surprising for me that a team could put the pace this high on the Cipressa and could make a selection in this way. For me, that was ideal as the positioning into the Poggio was easier now.“

Team DSM coach matt Winston said: ”We wanted to bring Søren to the Cipressa and Poggio as fresh as possible. We really looked after him all day and held him in a good position. When the peloton went full gas on the Cipressa it was perfect for us with just 25 guys left in the front. On the Poggio when Søren made a big attack, there were only three guys that could follow; three of the best guys in the world. It came back together and I was proud of the commitment all the guys showed to bring him in that position, it was a team effort. Also, a fantastic effort to keep going all the way to the line and I think we can be really happy with that seventh place!”

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Here's the report from Wout van Aert's Jumbo-Visma team:

Wout van Aert has finished eighth in Milan-Sanremo. The winner of the edition of 2020 looked strong on the Poggio but could not prevent Matej Mohoric from winning the race.

Wout van Aert picks up his bike before the start of the race. Sirotti photo

The leading group consisted of eight riders and got a six-minute lead. Jos van Emden led the pursuit. In the opening phase the Dutchman rode in the front of the peloton for dozens of kilometres. On the climb of the Cipressa, many riders were dropped. When the Poggio came up, the early escapees’ ambitions were also over.

Tadej Pogacar attacked and Van Aert immediately followed him. A little later, the Slovenian tried to get away for a second and third time, but Van Aert also parried those attacks. Subsequently, Primoz Roglic did not manage to get away from the remaining group favourites despite riding attentively at the front. After reaching the top of the last climb of the day, Mohoric went for it. The Slovenian showed his descending abilities and retained his advantage on Van Aert’s group that tried catching the later winner. After all his efforts, the Belgian Team Jumbo-Visma rider’s tank was empty.

“I wasted a lot of energy on Pogacar’s attacks”, Van Aert admitted. “That’s why I didn’t manage to be with him when Mohoric attacked. I knew he was dangerous. You can’t give him ten meters because he’ll be gone. I chased him to win. Maybe others were already busy trying to get a podium place. They have every right to do so, of course. I don’t think we should have handled the race differently. I am pleased with the work the team did today. If I can’t win, I prefer going down fighting. I think that’s what happened”, the Belgian champion concluded.

Sports director Arthur van Dongen admitted that Team Jumbo-Visma had high ambitions. “Of course we are disappointed. After all, we were riding for victory. In hindsight, I don’t think we can blame ourselves. The team did an excellent job. We made a plan beforehand and all our riders executed it well. Wout is a little disappointed, but he is proud of the work of his teammates. That feeling prevails.”

Tenth-place Arnaud Démare's Team Groupama-FDJ had this to say about the race:

Alongside the race rookie Quentin Pacher, Arnaud Démare brilliantly made his way through the final of the 113th edition of Milan-Sanremo on Saturday. Unfortunately, he just missed a few meters to be able to go for a top result on the Via Roma. The former French Champion reached the finish line in a second chase group, a handful of seconds behind the winner Matej Mohoric, but was still able to come away with tenth place after an extremely selective race. Quentin Pacher placed twentieth for his first appearance in the race.

Arnaud Démare after sprinting to tenth. Sirotti photo

For once, the first “Monument” of the cycling season did not start near the monuments of Milan’s city centre this Saturday morning. For this 2022 edition, the organization had indeed decided to move the start to a mythical place of Italian cycling: the Maspes-Vigorelli velodrome. This is where Arnaud Démare and his teammates had to be shortly before ten o’clock in order to take part in the “Classicissima”, which was a first for Quentin Pacher.

After a few kilometres in Milan, the breakaway formed right at the start with Yevgeniy Gidich, Artyom Zakharov (Astana Qazaqstan), Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè), Samuele Rivi, Diego Pablo Sevilla (Eolo-Kometa), Filippo Tagliani, Ricardo Alejandro Zurita (Androni-Sidermec) and Filippo Conca (Lotto Soudal). They managed to take the lead without properly fighting for it, while the bunch waited a few minutes to set its own tempo. “The goal was clear for us”, said Sébastien Joly. “We had to work for Arnaud, and each guy had a role at some point in the race”.

In the first half of the route leading to Passo del Turchino, the peloton let the day’s fugitives take a seven-minute lead, but the gap then gradually reduced as they reached the seaside. Approaching the Capi, about fifty kilometres from the goal, the tension seriously increased within the pack, and Clément Davy then took the lead to protect his teammates and especially Arnaud Démare. However, the fight really got harder about twenty kilometres further.

“We were expecting the Cipressa to be done very fast, and that’s why positioning at the bottom of the Cipressa was as important as that at the bottom of the Poggio,” insisted Sébastien Joly. It eventually was up to the Luxembourg champion Kevin Geniets to position his leader well at that point. “It was an incredible race, and we knew it was going to be hard in the Cipressa,” continued Arnaud. “When they started pulling strong, I was not surprised but the pace was still crazy. It was impressive. I was at the limit, but I held on, and we were just 30 at the top, which is very little at this stage of the race”.

Due to a very high tempo set by the teammates of Tadej Pogacar and Wout van Aert, the peloton indeed exploded and many sprinters were left behind. Arnaud Démare was still there, and also had the company of Quentin Pacher. “The goal for me was to go over the Cipressa and help Arnaud before the Poggio, or even throughout the whole final”, said the Frenchman. “When we got over the Cipressa, there was only a small group. It was a little easier to find each other and for me to support him.” After the traditional transition to the Poggio, the favourites group tackled the last climb with nine kilometres to go and immediately caught up with the last men from the morning breakaway. Various attacks, in particular from Tadej Pogacar, occurred in this iconic climb, but real gaps could not be made.

At this point, Arnaud Démare was only trying to hang on as much as possible behind the puncher-climbers. He said: “At the bottom of Poggio, I suffered a split after the crash of Cosnefroy, and I had to come across a first time. There was another attack then, and I was in the wheel of Roglic, but he left the gap. I was at the limit, I couldn’t bridge the gap myself. Quentin was there, he made a great effort to limit the damage so that we could tackle the downhill just a few seconds behind the first group”. “While the group was splitting up, I found myself with Arnaud and I paced him in the last part of the climb before he went on the downhill to get back to the leaders”, added the 30-year-old rider. Just a handful of seconds behind at the top, the former French champion actually seemed about to make it across after the first turns. “I went full gas on the downhill, I was starting to come back to the group, but then, Nizzolo crashed”, said Arnaud. “There was another split in the group that finally arrived for second place”.

A bit unlucky in the final, the French sprinter was therefore unable to return to the “main” group. However, the latter did not catch Matej Mohoric either, as the Slovenian flew away in the downhill and got a solo win.  Arnaud Démare crossed the line eleven seconds later, in tenth position. “It was possible to fight for the podium, even if I don’t know what the result would have been,” said Arnaud. “Physically, I was great, but I knew it. Today, there was not much more to do.”

“Arnaud didn’t miss much,” added Sébastien. “In my opinion, he’s improved again physically when you see how the Cipressa was done. He shows that he’s up there when it comes to the legs. The goal was obviously to win, but they did, and he did, a great race. Sometimes you also have to be satisfied with great days like this one. It’s still a very important top-10 when you see those ahead of him. It’s frustrating because with a bit of luck, we could have played a better place than tenth, but sports-wise, he showed that he was there”.

For his first try at the event, Quentin Pacher did not disappoint either. He even got a noteworthy top-20 on the Via Roma. “It’s a good surprise,” added Sébastien. “Quentin came at short notice, but he was extremely motivated to take part in this race. He showed that with desire, passion, in addition to his condition, he could be very helpful in the final for Arnaud, even without experience in the race”. The Frenchman concluded: “I am really satisfied with this first Milano-Sanremo. It was very satisfying to be in the final and to be alongside Arnaud. In general, being in the final of a Monument is a step forward for me. I think we did a good race as a team and that obviously makes me want to come back another time, with more experience”.

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Florian Sénéchal's Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team posted this report:

The 113th edition of Milano-Sanremo turned out to be one of the most brutal of this century and gave further indication of how this event will be raced in the years to come. Already since 2017 it became clear that gone are the days the sprinters used to fight for victory, and Saturday brought more proof in this regard, as a searing pace on the Cipressa, with more than 20 kilometers to go, distanced the sprinters for good.

The peloton strung out in Tortona. Sirotti photo

Florian Sénéchal was the only Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl to make the cut, putting in a strong effort to remain in the select front group that contained both Classics and Grand Tour specialists. That small group arrived on the slopes of Poggio, where attacks came in waves, putting more and more men in difficulty. Florian was among those to lose contact as they crested the top, but gave everything on the technical descent to Sanremo to rejoin the main group.

Despite an all-out effort, he missed out on that for just a handful of seconds – partly because a crash of another rider slowed him down with five kilometers to go, and concluded the race in 14th place – his best result in three Milano-Sanremo starts, which the 28-year-old Frenchman talked about at the finish on the Via Roma.

“I rode well the whole race. Always in the front on the key points, I tried to follow the best, but on the Poggio descent Nizzolo crashed in front of me, that slowed me down a bit, and with everyone going à bloc there was no chance of returning to the front. I’m happy with the legs, not yet at 100% as I was a bit sick at Paris-Nice, but I think the legs are there for the next weeks”, said Sénéchal after the first Monument of the year.

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Team Bora-hansgrohe sent me this Milano-Sanremo report:

The first Monument of the season, Milan-Sanremo, was on the program today.  After the start of La Primavera in the Milan Velodrome, the almost 300 km long route took the riders south, over the Turchino Pass and then along the coast to Sanremo. Unfortunately, due to illness, Sam Bennett was unable to take part in the race, and the team also lost Ide Schelling, and so BORA - hansgrohe lacked two strong riders today, which made the team's goal to achieve a top result much more difficult.

The peloton is about to start from the Vigorelli velodrome in Milan. Sirotti photo

After a breakaway group dominated the race for most of the day, their hopes were ultimately dashed, as with less than 50km remaining, the leading group slowly began to fall apart. The foot of the Cipressa heralded the finale and the fight for position began in the reduced field, where unfortunately no BORA-hansgrohe rider was present. On the ascent of the Poggio, the expected attacks came thick and fast from a reduced group of favourites and in the end M. Mohorič launched a successful attack on the descent of the climb and took the win.

"Our plan was to ride for Danny van Poppel, and also have the option to have Giovanni Aleotti up front in the finale. We ended up then trying for a good result with Marco Haller today. Marco fought well on the finale before the Cipressa, but he had just returned from illness and this was one of his first races back. The guys fought well all day and showed real commitment to the team today, bringing our leading riders into a good position at the crucial points of the race. That's a lot harder to do than it looks, and the guys executed this well, so that is a good sign.

"Unluckily our leaders were not on their best day, as they struggled somewhat on the Cipressa when Team UAE Emirates upped the pace to drop the sprinters. In the end, only the strongest riders were left, but we didn't have anyone in the first group. In this moment, we are struggling a little bit with illness. Sam didn't ride, as was originally planned, and we also lost Ide. But we're trying to move forward now and think about the upcoming races." - Enrico Gasparotto, Sports Director

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