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Monday, March 28, 2022

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2021 Tour de France | 2021 Giro d'Italia

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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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Volta a Catalunya stage seven team reports

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

Here's the report from GC winner Sergio Higuita's Bora-hansgrohe team:

As is tradition, the Catalan stage race came to a close in Barcelona, where the peloton had to cross the Montjuïc lap six times on a 138.6km circuit before the overall winner was crowned. Sergio Higuita entered the race 16 seconds ahead of the runner-up in the overall standings and the team went all out today to defend the leader's jersey.

In the decisive last lap, attacks came thick and fast, but Sergio remained alert to all the moves and was able to counter important attacks. In the end, the Colombian road champion sprinted to ninth place from a small leading group and with that took the victory in the overall classification. This is his first GC victory in a WorldTour stage race. At the end of a successful week in Catalunya, BORA - hansgrohe also takes home the young rider and mountain classifications with Sergio.

Andrea Bagioli (left) wins the final stage. Photo: Getty Sports

"This win is very special for me because I have never won a WorldTour stage race. I'm of course very happy. I actually didn't sleep too well the previous night and was a bit tired, but I think the fact that I was leading in the general classification motivated me a lot and that gave me a lot of energy. Today I really raced with my heart. It was a very hard day, but I managed to keep the gap to my competitors. The team did a great job all week and it's great to finish this race with the overall win. I was expecting a lot of attacks especially from Ayuso, Almeida, Carapaz and Quintana and the moves came as expected, but the team had things under control. I managed to not let Carapaz, who was very strong, escape and secure the win at the end of the day. A big thanks to the whole team for their support throughout the week here in Catalunya.” - Sergio Higuita

"As I said yesterday, we were confident before today's stage because we had a very good team here, especially for this course. We distributed the tasks quite clearly. Martin was to control the first flat part of the race and in particular cover the sprint classification to avoid losing time there. Then Jai, Toni and Ben were to take over in the hills, and at the end it was Jai's role to accompany Sergio into the finale. And I have to say that everyone really went above and beyond today and did a fantastic job, so our plan worked 100%. We also had the option to fight for a stage win according to the motto "attack is the best form of defence." We were on a good path for a long time. In the end, unfortunately, nothing came of it, because a group with even faster riders came up from behind. But I think we can be very happy with this superb victory from Sergio and we're looking forward to the Tour of the Basque Country with Sergio, Aleksandr and Emanuel." - Christian Pömer, Sports Director

Here's the report from GC second-place Richard Carapaz's INEOS Grenadiers team:

Richard Carapaz made sure of second place overall at the Volta a Catalunya with an active showing on the final day.

The week-long race concluded with the traditional Montjuic circuits, creating an exciting finale. Carapaz attacked up the main climb on the penultimate lap in a bid to put race leader Sergio Higuita (Bora-Hansgrohe) under pressure.

Yet as the race came back together, it became clear that overturning the 16-second deficit would be almost impossible. In the end the Ecuadorian finished 10th on the stage, ensuring an overall podium and an encouraging week, following Saturday's stage win.

Richard Carapaz (right) and Sergio Higuita finished stage six together. ASO photo

Despite a depleted team, both Jonathan Castroviejo and Carlos Rodriguez rode hard on the final day to help support Richie, as well as keeping the race together at key times.

The team were also in action in Belgium, with Gent-Wevelgem producing an exciting race in the sun.

Ben Turner was the team's top finisher, coming home in the chasing group behind a four-rider breakaway. Biniam Girmay (Intermarche-Wanty) made history as the first African winner of the race.

Turner (28th) was a strong presence in the race, making his way into moves and constantly positioning himself well at the front of the peloton following key climbs. Dylan van Baarle was also present in a number of moves and finished just off the back of the group (41st).

Sadly Jhonatan Narvaez was unable to complete the race following a crash on the entry to the first ascent of the famous Kemmelberg.

The Classics action continues on Wednesday with Dwars door Vlaanderem.

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Gent-Wevelgem team reports

We posted the organizer's report with the results.

Here's the report from second-place Christophe Laporte's Jumbo-Visma team:

Christophe Laporte has finished second in Gent-Wevelgem. After an exciting final, the 29-year-old Frenchman lost in the sprint to Biniam Girmay. Wout van Aert showed his fighting spirit, especially on the Kemmelberg, and finished behind the leading group of four in the peloton.

Biniam Girmay just beats Christophe Laporte for the win. Jumbo-Visma photo

The pace was high straight from the start, and it took seven riders to jump away. They got a maximum lead of five minutes. In the run-up to the hill zone, starting with the Scherpenberg, the peloton's pace increased again. In the descent of the Kemmelberg, a group of twenty riders, including Nathan van Hooydonck and Mike Teunissen, got away. Despite a promising start, this attempt did not last.

On the second passage of the Kemmelberg, the strongest riders had remained in front and Van Aert, Laporte and Benoot showed they were among the best. Van Aert tried to solo away during the third and final ascent of the Kemmelberg, but the reduced peloton did not let him go. Subsequently, Laporte escaped and got three riders with him. In contrast to earlier breakaway attempts, these men worked together until the finish. Laporte had to start the sprint from the first position and came just short of the win.

The French addition to Team Jumbo-Visma was disappointed after failing to win. “It was close. I was surprised by Girmay’s start. He created a gap of a few metres and it wasn't easy to close it. Maybe I made a mistake by not starting my sprint earlier. I am disappointed because I felt strong enough to win. My second place of Friday in Harelbeke can’t be compared to this one because we won the race as a team.”

“I escaped to put the team in an excellent position”, Laporte continued. “We wanted to make the race hard, but we weren’t the only ones. We can’t win every race, but you don’t always get such a great opportunity to win a classic.”

“We rode a good race and can look back with satisfaction”, Van Aert said. “I had hoped for slightly better legs today, but we rode for the victory with the entire team. The Kemmelberg is a tough climb, but not long. That’s why the gaps stayed small. Behind us, there were a lot of teams interested in the sprint and they regrouped quickly, so it was impossible to stay away. In the final, Christophe got away in a small group, which led to a perfect situation. The only blemish is that we just missed out on the victory.”

Here's the report from fifth-place Soren Kragh Andersen's Team DSM:

The Flemish classics continued today at Gent Wevelgem, with a 248 kilometre parcours on the menu for the bunch; featuring dirt road ‘plugstreets’ and several ascensions of the famous Kemmelberg climb. It was a fast start to the day as lots of teams tried to make the breakaway, included our very own Team DSM guys. Eventually the elastic snapped and Nikias Arndt made the seven rider move for the team, with the group quickly building up an advantage north of five minutes.

As the kilometres ticked by their gap slowly reduced before with still over 100 kilometres to go a fall in the bunch completely blocked the road, leaving Cees Bol and Søren Kragh Andersen in chasing groups behind the peloton. Working well together, they managed to make contact before the hills and plugstreets started in earnest and the race stitched back together at the front. Gliding up the ascents, Kragh Andersen followed the best over the climbs and after some good positioning work by Arndt and John Degenkolb, he was in an elite group of eight with 30 kilometres to go.

However, into the block headwind things regrouped before a four rider move jumped clear with around 20 kilometres remaining. Degenkolb and Kragh Andersen hung tight in the peloton, allowing other teams with sprinters to do the work before Kragh Andersen rolled the dice one last time, launching a stinging attack at two kilometres to go. Battling into the headwind, Kragh Andersen dug deep all the way to the finish, just holding off the peloton for a fine fifth place behind the attacking quartet.

“Today was a long day in the end, but we were happy to have Nikias in front in the break. That was the first important part,” explained Kragh Andersen at the finish. “I was caught behind the crash before the hill zone but luckily I had teammates with me to help me come back. From then on I was feeling good in the hills and tried to follow, follow, follow. I was happy to be there with the best on the climbs. In the end, we had to gamble a little bit after the last time up the Kemmelberg and some guys stayed away but I’m really happy to have got a nice top five for the team.”

Team DSM coach Phil West added: “We wanted to focus on how we rode as a team today. We’ve made some good steps in the races so far and we wanted to make that next step today. It was about riding well and tightly as a unit, have good communication and being in the right spots so we could be part of the race. We wanted to be represented in the moves from the start and Nikias did a good job of getting into that break. From there on it was about positioning for the key sections, where the race can be won or lost. As it went, I’m really happy with how the guys performed today; it was a really step up from the guys as a team. We had Søren in the front in the final and unfortunately the group he was in came back and the four riders slid off. We continued with our plan, which was always for Søren to make a late attack, and in the end that brought us fifth today. We can be happy with that, but I’m equally and if not more happy with how we performed and rode as a team today.”

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Here's the Gent-Wevelgem report from Team Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl:

Kasper Asgreen confirmed he is on track one week ahead of Ronde van Vlaanderen, which he won in spectacular fashion last year, despite missing out on a result Sunday afternoon at the 84th edition of Gent-Wevelgem.

A top 10 finisher Friday at E3 Harelbeke, the Dane was part of all the big moves that came in the last 100 kilometers, tracking down several dangerous attacks and launching a bid of his own the second time up the Kemmelberg, a brutal acceleration which shattered the peloton to pieces and left only a handful of riders at the front. After the last climb of the day, Asgreen continued to ride strongly and respond to two vicious attacks as teammate Yves Lampaert was making significant inroads as part of a strong chasing group.

The Belgian ITT Champion showed a lot of determination as he bridged to them just as a quartet got away, building a 25-second advantage despite some stiff headwind, but despite sacrificing himself and putting in several huge turns, the four couldn’t be brought back and Biniam Girmay (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) took the victory. A mechanical 500 meters from the line prevented Asgreen from fighting for a good result at the prestigious cobbled Classic and the 27-year-old concluded well outside the top 10.

“We didn’t have the best day: Florian crashed, Ballerini was slowed down by a flat tire on the Kemmelberg, while Kasper faced that mechanical so close to the line. Luck was not on our side, but we continue to fight and believe it will be again, sooner or later. It’s normal to be disappointed, but you only get stronger if you can handle the disappointments. We still have some important one-day races in the weeks to come and we will tackle them with confidence”, said Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl sports director Tom Steels.

And here's the Gent-Wevelgem report from Team Groupama-FDJ:

One week before the Tour of Flanders, and two days after Stefan Küng’s splendid podium in the E3 Classic, the Groupama-FDJ made another good impression on Sunday in Ghent-Wevelgem. Arnaud Démare and his teammates were in the mix the whole day, even if they missed the right group of four riders that went on to fight for victory. The Eritrean Biniam Girmay took the win while the French sprinter grabbed a frustrating tenth place on the line.

A windless edition of Ghent-Wevelgem was on the menu for the riders on Sunday. In these conditions, the start was less nervous than in other years, and a breakaway of seven men was able to establish itself easily. Jelle Wallays (Cofidis), Alexander Konychev (BikeExchange-Jayco), Nikias Arndt (DSM), Johan Jacobs (Movistar), Ludovic Robeet (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB), Lindsay De Vylder (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) and Lars Saugstad (Uno- X) therefore got a five-minute lead and the peloton then started to control the gap.

The first half of the day was rather calm, but the tension appeared approaching the last hundred kilometres and the first bergs of the race. A crash even split the peloton for a moment and the Groupama-FDJ riders were forced to make a small effort to get back in time. The first climbs did not bring action, but Olivier Le Gac and Fabian Lienhard then perfectly positioned their leaders as they approached the first ascent of Kemmelberg, located 80 kilometres from the line. Arnaud Démare was in the first positions at the top, Stefan Küng not far away, and the former French champion took advantage of the situation a few moments later to head up front, together with Olivier Le Gac. “I worked to position our leaders as well as possible at the foot of the Kemmelberg. That allowed me to be positioned as well, and to get over the top not too far away”, later said the rider from Brittany.

In a group of around twenty riders, the Groupama-FDJ duo got a thirty-second lead over the rest of the peloton at one point, but everything was back to normal sixty-eight kilometres from the finish after the gravel sectors. In the second time up the Kemmelberg, Arnaud Démare was once again able to follow the favourites, as was Kevin Geniets, while Stefan Küng and others bridged across a few minutes later. It was therefore a peloton, although very small, which tackled the third and last ascent of the Kemmelberg with 40k to go. “I was always in a good position on the Kemmelberg”, said Arnaud. “We had the perfect race until the last time up that berg. Some riders managed to go away at that point, we weren’t up there, but it came back together quickly”. After a fierce chase against a handful of favourites, Arnaud Démare and Stefan Küng managed to get back to the front with twenty-five kilometres to go. The race then became more difficult to approach.

“Then, it was just attacking and attacking”, said Arnaud. “There was a moment of hesitation where three groups came together, it was a bit messy. We followed the first moves with Stefan, but not the one of four guys who managed to get away. It took a bit of time to get organized in the peloton, they quickly got a gap in the front, and everyone was tired to lead the chase”. “We missed a bit of luck”, added Frédéric. “The four riders went at the right time. It was tactical. We were part of the fight before, but today things did not go our way. We were in the mix, and apart from the last move, we were always up there”.

Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty Gobert), Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Christophe Laporte (Jumbo-Visma) and Dries Van Gestel (TotalEnergies) collaborated in the last twenty-five kilometres to maintain a lead of thirty seconds. With Kevin Geniets and Olivier Le Gac returning in the bunch, Groupama-FDJ was the most enterprising team in the chase. “We knew it was going to be tight, but still hoped for a final sprint”, said Frédéric. “We thought that the four leading guys were going to look at each other a little and that we were going to get a bit of help. However, when Stefan gave his last pull with one kilometre to go, we understood that it was over”.

The winning break would not be caught.

The gap with the leading group was reduced to twenty seconds under the flamme rouge, but it was not enough to get across. Biniam Girmay then conquered a historic victory while Arnaud Démare crossed the line in tenth position. “Let’s remember that we had a good race as a team”, remarked Frédéric. “It is true that we did a good job”, agreed Arnaud, “but I was looking for a result. I’m always there, but I want more”. Olivier Le Gac concluded: “Unfortunately, we couldn’t get back for the win. It’s disappointing, but we fought well. We need to continue to ride up there, and it will pay off. We have a good group, everyone rides in the front, is motivated, and it’s nice to race in these conditions. Our leaders are in good shape, it also helps to give our best”. Next appointment for the Classicmen: Dwars door Vlaanderen, on Wednesday.

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Sonny Colbrelli health update

Colbrelli’s Bahrain Victorious team posted this:

Sonny Colbrelli returned to Italy after being transferred from the Hospital Universitari de Girona yesterday.

Given the stable clinical conditions, Sonny Colbrelli was given clearance to travel to Italy.

The athlete, who collapsed shortly after finishing stage 1 of the Volta a Catalunya, was given immediate emergency care and then transported to the hospital to undergo examinations and investigate the cause of the unstable cardiac arrhythmia that required defibrillation.

Further examinations will be carried out in the upcoming days in an Italian center of excellence for the diagnosis and therapy of cardiovascular diseases. Until then, everybody at Team Bahrain Victorious wishes Sonny a quick recovery surrounded by the love of his family.

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