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Saturday, March 26, 2022

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Volta a Catalunya stage five team reports

We posted the report from stage winner Ethan Vernon's Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team with the race results.

Here’s the report from new GC leader Joao Almeida’s UAE Team Emirates:

Joao Almeida continued his strong run of form by winning crucial time at an intermediate sprint point inside -20km to go to take the race lead by 1” on stage 5 of the Volta Catalunya.

Coming into the day from La Pobla de Segur to Vilanova i la Geltrú (206.3km) Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic) held the leaders jersey though clever tactics from UAE Team Emirates would see the jersey switch shoulders by the end of the day as Almeida and Rui Costa mopped up bonus seconds.

Joao Almeida winning stage four.

In the final sprint it was Ethon Vernon (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) who proved quickest with Ivo Oliveira to the fore in 7th place.

After taking the 21st win of the season for UAE Team Emirates yesterday, Almeida will now wear the white leaders jersey for stage 6 tomorrow for the hilly day Salou to Cambrils (167.6km).

Young Juan Ayuso moves up to 4th place on GC, while UAE Team Emirates also lead the team classification.

Joao Almeida: “ It feels good to be leading the race. It was a bit tight in the bonus sprint, but I managed to take the second I needed. Now I’m the GC leader and it’s really nice. I think the final day will see bigger gaps for sure so it’s far from over. We had a plan in case the break was caught early today so we made a train and made a sprint for it. We made a couple of mistakes but in the end it went well. Our approach is going to be the same for the next days, tomorrow is not an easy day but the last stage on the circuit in Barcelona will be most decisive.”

At Coppi & Bartali Jan Polanc was first home for UAE Team Emirates taking 7th place from a large group won by Matthieu Van Der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) on stage 4 based in and around Montecatini (158.7km).

Marc Hirschi finished safely in the leading group to hold his third place overall heading into the final stage tomorrow from Casalguidi to Cantagrillo (160km).

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Here's the report from second-place Phil Bauhaus' Bahrain Victorious team:

Phil Bauhaus took the points jersey after finishing second on the final opportunity for the sprinters at this year’s Volta a Catalunya. While in Belgium, Matej Mohoric just missed out on the podium finishing 4th at the E3 Saxo Classic.

Ethan Vernon takes the stage ahead of Phil Bauhaus.

Stage 5 of Catalunya was 202.6km, from La Pobla de Segur to Vilanova i la Geltrú, and the longest of this edition of the race. A small breakaway was allowed to go up the road with a gap of 5 minutes, but the peloton controlled the gap, with Pernsteiner helping the other sprint teams in contention.

A technical final 3 km with headwinds and roundabouts required excellent positioning from Bauhaus. Bauhaus found a gap, but it was too late, as Vernon (Quick-Step) found the gap earlier and pipped Phil to the line.

Phil Bauhaus:” Today was an expected bunch sprint, and we took control with Hermann at the start and later with Santi. Our climber team did more than I could expect for a sprint day.

It was a technical run-in with many roundabouts and a crash in the last km with a headwind. I tried to stay calm, and it was hard to decide whether to spend energy moving up or staying at the back and finding a gap. In the end, I found a gap, which was a bit too late. My sprint was still pretty good, but unfortunately, it was only enough for second again.”

In Belgium, big champions were lining up at the start of the WorldTour one-day race E3 Saxo Bank Classic, also known as the “mini Flanders”, looking for a prestigious win after battling on the twisting, narrow, and cobbled route, featuring 17 hellingen (hills).

It was not easy for the breakaway to form, with several attempts since the beginning. A 7-man group eventually managed to get away but did not have an easy time with the race-favourite riders teams pushing behind. After the Taaienberg climbs, an acceleration from the favourites, including Matej Mohorič, split the peloton and closed the gap to the breakaway.

The decisive move happened on the Paterberg when Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) attacked, and only his teammate Laporte could follow him. The duo steadily increased the gap to the chasers, including Matej Mohorič, finishing in triumph with a 1-2 in Harelbeke.

Behind them, the reduced chasing group sprinted for third place on the podium, and Mohorič managed to finish in 4th place.

Matej Mohorič: “I was feeling well, and the aim was to try to take a victory today, but the attackers were too strong. We gave the maximum in chasing, and it was not enough to close the gap as the duo in front kept on pushing. This race suited me more than the upcoming Gent-Wevelgem, but I’m also looking forward to another good result there”.

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Coppi-Bartali Week stage four team reports

We posted the report from GC leader Edward Dunbar's INEOS Grenadiers team with the results.

Here's the report from Team Bora-hansgrohe:

On paper the flattest stage, also today, the riders animated the race in Italy. M. van der Poel surprised with an attack with 70km to go to bridge across to an early six men break. When he joined the leaders, the front group did split with 25km remaining. The bunch reacted and was able to close the gap on the final 10 kilometers, still it was Van der Poel who won the sprint finish. BORA – hansgrohe was focused on protecting Cian Uijtdebroeks who retains his top ten overall spot before the last stage tomorrow.

Mathieu van der Poel takes the stage. Sirotti photo

“Today was the first easier stage. The race was well controlled, and the boys protected me really well. I simply concentrated on following the group in the end and was able to keep my position in GC while also saving some energy. So far so good, but tomorrow will be hard again and then we’ll see where we end up.“ – Cian Uijtdebroeks

“Even the course was quite technical on small roads it was kind of an easy day. The boys did a great job to keep Cian out of trouble and Gampi and Matt did all the positioning. In the end Frederik tried a late move but was caught right before the sprint. He and Cian finished safe in the bunch then, so it was a good day for us.” – Rolf Aldag, sports director

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E3 Saxo Bank Classic team reports

We psoted the report from winner Wout van Aert's Jumbo-Visma team with the results.

Here's the report from Team Groupama-FDJ:

The “Tour of Flanders’ rehearsal” gave very good signals to the Groupama-FDJ cycling team on Friday. In Harelbeke, Stefan Küng and Valentin Madouas proved to be among the strongest on the E3 Saxo Bank Classic. Although they could not prevent Wout Van Aert from taking the win, the two men finished in the first chasing group and the Swiss rider even managed to cross the line in third position, thus clinching his first podium in a Flemish Classic. Valentin Madouas completed the team’s great day with a seventh place on the line.

Wout van Aert and his teammate Christophe Laporte riding away from the peloton.

Seventeen bergs, five cobblestones’ sectors and two hundred and three kilometres. This was the menu in Flanders today in order to begin the “Belgian holy week”, with the E3 Saxo Bank Classic. Just nine days from the “Ronde”, the best specialists were therefore set to fight for a first time around Harelbeke. However, it all started with a fierce battle for the breakaway, which lasted for seventy kilometres before seven men were finally able to take the lead.

It was not long, though, before the peloton started to increase its pace as the first bergs’ sequences approached, which therefore left no room for rest. Halfway through the race, the tension was already all over the place while the fugitives only had a two-minute lead. Then came the most anticipated Taaienberg, 80 kilometers from the finish.

“It was the first really important point of the race”, said Frédéric Guesdon. “We knew that we absolutely had to be in front because it often opens up there”. “We were already in a good position before the Taaienberg, but I know from experience that you have to be in the top ten or even the top five at the bottom,” added Stefan Küng. “I told Kevin to push, and he did a great job bringing me back up. I tackled the Taaienberg in perfect position”. The former Swiss champion was thus at the forefront to see Wout Van Aert make the first big attack of the day, and he was able to follow it just as six other riders. No more. “We were seven up front, but there were three Jumbo-Visma, so there was not a good collaboration”, he said.

The morning breakaway was caught soon after, and despite a thirty-second gap was initially created, the peloton managed to organize itself in order to come back just behind the leading group at the bottom of the Eikenberg, sixty kilometres from the line. Valentin Madouas then took advantage of it to jump across, like a few others. A few kilometres further, after some other attacks, only sixteen men were still featuring in the front, including the two Groupama-FDJ’s riders. “Then, we had to follow the moves a bit without wasting all our energy,” explained Stefan. “We knew it was going to be played out on the Paterberg, and I was well positioned, in 5th-6th place.

Unfortunately, when there is the gutter on the side, it is very difficult to overtake the guys on the cobbles. The two Jumbo-Visma’s guys went strong, and I didn’t even see them break away”. Following a powerful attack, Wout Van Aert only had Christophe Laporte in his wheel and the duo quickly gained a thirty-second lead. “I accelerated again in Oude Kwaremont, and I was the first from the chasing group at the top”, said Stefan. “I saw them ahead, but they were too strong. There was nothing to do to come back.” On the other hand, the Swiss man could still see his teammate Valentin Madouas alongside him, as the Frenchman also impressed in Oude Kwaremont. At this point, the chasing group was down to just eight men. “It’s also nice to see that the team is competitive and can have numbers in these races”, added Stefan. “It’s important because something can always happen: a puncture, a bad moment. When we’re many, there are more cards to play”.

On the other hand, the victory did not seem an option anymore with 25 kilometres remaining when the gap reached one minute. “When we realized that we couldn’t win anymore, I told the guys to try to keep the group going until the last three kilometres, and then attack one after the other, talk to each other and help each other”, said Frédéric Guesdon. The fight for the podium finally got underway with a first attack from Stefan Küng. “It was good to have several cards, especially in the final”, he told. “I made the first attack, and having a teammate, I did not have to jump on every move. Val followed the attacks, and that’s also what allowed me to gamble. I wanted to be in the last position. I had to play a bit, and when we turned left towards the finish line, I thought it was a good time to go. I attacked from behind and put everything until the line”.

More than a minute after Wout Van Aert, Stefan Küng eventually managed to get a step ahead of his competitors to take third place. “I’m very happy to get this podium, it’s the maximum I could do today,” he added. “Today, I think that having often raced these finals lately helped me. It brings more peace and serenity. I told myself that it was useless to finish seventh or eighth. It was all or nothing, and it also takes a bit of luck. It’s nice when it works out. In addition, I felt good in the hills, and I was there when it came to the legs. It gives me confidence for the upcoming races”.

Valentin Madouas also gained confidence on Friday as he eventually placed seventh following a good sprint among the chasers. “I think we had a very good race as a team”, said the man from Brest. “We showed great things together. For us, it is for sure a benchmark race in the Classics. I personally enjoy these races, and I have felt much better in the last three days. I will now try to recover well and keep energy for Wednesday (Dwars door Vlaanderen) and then to achieve the best possible performance on the Tour of Flanders. I think we can really have a good day there. Physically, we are in the mix, and I think we can even improve. We will try to turn this third place into a better result”. “Stefan managed to get on the podium, but it could also have been Valentin, who had very good legs”, concluded Frédéric. “We are very happy. This group was already performing in the Omloop and in Kuurne, even if the results did not show it. We knew we had a motivated group for these races. Today was the first of the four Flanders Classics. We came here in Belgium hoping to make at least one podium out of the four. We did it already on the first one, and it bodes well for the next ones”. To follow: Ghent-Wevelgem, on Sunday. “It’s a race that suits me well, especially when there’s a lot of wind,” concluded Stefan. “For now, the forecast looks quite calm. It’s good that Arnaud will be there, it will give us another card to play.”

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