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Monday, May 2, 2022

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2021 Tour de France | 2021 Giro d'Italia

When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us. - Alexander Graham Bell

Tour of Flanders, the Inside Story

Les Woodland's book Tour of Flanders: The Inside Story - The rocky roads of the Ronde van Vlaanderen is available in print, Kindle eBook and audiobook versions. To get your copy, just click on the Amazon link on the right.

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Tour de Romandie Stage Five team reports

We posted the report from stage and final GC winner Aleskandr Vlasov's Team Bora-hansgrohe with the results.

Here's the report from second-place Gino Mader's Bahrain Victorious team:

A herculean effort from Team Bahrain Victorious’ leaders on the uphill TT that closed the 75th Tour de Romandie saw Swiss Gino Mäder finish 2nd on GC in his homeland, and Damiano Caruso move up 12 places to 6th.

The final GC podium, from left: Gino Mader (2nd), Aleksandr Vlasov (1st) & Simon Geschke (3rd). Sirotti photo

Caruso, starting in 18th overall, had briefly taken the hotseat from more established climbers Thibaut Pinot (GFC) & Steven Kruijswijk (TJV), before Aleksandr Vlasov (BOH), – eventual stage & race winner – went just over a minute quicker on the 15.8km course.

Meanwhile, after finishing with the leaders the previous day, Mäder had gone 3rd fastest on the TT behind Vlasov and Simon Geschke (COF), which put the local favourite on the provisional podium with the overnight green (Rohan Dennis, TJV) and white (Juan Ayuso, UAE) jerseys still on the 7.7km ascent of Saint-Luc to Villars. Both went significantly slower than Mäder & Caruso, and slipped off the podium.

Finishing 2nd in the Team Classification, with a stage win and a rider on the podium, it has been another successful week for the squad.

“I’m really happy with today, because it was a really good performance, and I’m happy for Gino too, finishing 2nd on GC,” said Caruso after the stage. “Without the bad luck yesterday, maybe it could have been even better, but that’s bike racing”

The Italian had been in contention for the overall before a mechanical 300 metres from the line on the summit finish of stage 4 meant he lost 38 seconds. But there can be no doubt that the team has achieved its objectives in the French-speaking part of Switzerland.

Lead Sports Director Neil Stephens was delighted with how the week had played out: “It’s been fantastic racing, and we’ve been involved every single day trying something. It’s a bit disappointing that Damiano had his mechanical yesterday in the final, but to walk away with not only the stage win but Gino 2nd on GC too, is more than what we expected and very very satisfying.”

Mäder, already a stage winner at the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de Suisse,  has been the centre of media attention throughout the week. He confirmed his status as one of the rising stars of the peloton with a best ever overall result in a stage race, following his 5th at last year’s Vuelta a España, but the 25 year old surprised even himself with his achievement on this final day.

“We hoped for a podium, but I didn’t really believe in it until I crossed the finish line! I’m super happy, Damiano performed great, and as a team we rode well together the whole week, pushing each other. Yesterday was a bit of a frustrating day, but I think we bounced back pretty well – we can enjoy what was a good week!”

Here's the report from Rohan Dennis' Team Jumbo-Visma:

Rohan Dennis had to give up his leader’s jersey to Aleksandr Vlasov in the last time trial to Villars. His time of 35:52 at the finish line was not enough to grab the overall victory. The 31-year-old Australian finished eighth in the general classification. Steven Kruijswijk entered the top ten (seventh).

Rohan Dennis giving it all he had. Sirotti photo

The time trial began with five flat kilometres, followed by ten climbing kilometres at an average of eight percent. Kruijswijk finished in a time of 34:45, which meant he was the fastest for a while, but eventually, he became fifth in the day’s results. Sepp Kuss also rode a solid time trial and finished ninth. Dennis was the last rider to start. He was fast in the opening phase of his time trial, but by the time he reached the halfway point, he was already 28 seconds behind Aleksandr Vlasov. Dennis kept fighting until the end, but his time at the finish line was two minutes slower.

“I had nothing left in my legs in the last part of the climb”, Dennis said. “It was just a fight. This week has taken its toll: I had to fight every day. I want to thank the team. My teammates were excellent this week. It was a pleasure to ride for them. They gave me all the possible support. It’s a shame I couldn’t finish it off.”

Kruijswijk was satisfied with his day’s result. “The fifth place in the time trial is okay. I didn’t feel superb, but if you look at the result, I have certainly not done badly. It was a tough time trial because of the flat approach and the bike change. Then another ten climbing kilometres followed. It wasn't easy to get into the rhythm, but I have given everything. It is an excellent way for me to end this tour.”

“We wanted to go for the best and in the end, this was the maximum we could achieve”, sports director Merijn Zeeman said. “Rohan gave everything, and Steven and Sepp rode a good time trial today. A climbing time trial is a fair fight, and Rohan could not go any faster. He was very strong on the flat, but lost time on the climb. That’s a pity because we had hoped he could keep it up. Still, we had a strong week with the team and we finished with two guys in the top ten.”

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Here's the Tour de Romandie report from Thibaut Pinot's Team Groupama-FDJ:

The 2022 Tour de Romandie came to an end on Sunday afternoon after an uphill time trial between Aigle and Villars. Over the fifteen kilometres of the route, including ten of climbing, Thibaut Pinot put on a very good performance to close his week of racing. The French climber thus took sixth place on the stage, moving up to thirteenth place in the general classification that was won by Aleksandr Vlasov. On this last day of racing, Sébastien Reichenbach slipped to fifteenth place overall.

The Tour de Romandie's final stage had a challenging profile.

A second summit finish in a row was on the menu of the Tour de Romandie, this Sunday, as a closing stage. This time, however, the riders had to reach it one after the other, after fifteen kilometres of racing, including ten uphill averaging 8%, towards Villars. This time trial was supposed to establish the final general classification, but it was also a good test to tackle for Thibaut Pinot. After Anthony Roux, Matteo Badilatti, and Quentin Pacher, but before the two best-placed riders overall, namely Rudy Molard and Sébastien Reichenbach, the rider from Melisey therefore started at 2:22 p.m. A bit less than twenty minutes later, he set the fastest time at the intermediate point, located in the initial part of the climb.

At the top, he temporarily got himself in the “hot seat” thanks to a seventeen-second lead. However, his “reign” only lasted a very short time since Steven Kruijswijk beat him for a handful of seconds just a few moments later. In the end, however, only five riders of the field managed to stop the clock faster than the recent stage winner at the Tour of the Alps, who did better than a lot of GC contenders. The stagewin eventually went to Aleksandr Vlasov, who proved 1’07” faster than Thibaut Pinot on Sunday.

“The legs were pretty good, I gave everything, and I have no regrets”, he said at first. “It was also important to get some confidence back in the time trial. Besides, climbing time trialsare quite rare, so it was a good opportunity to see where I stood compared to the others. I’m satisfied with my day. It wasa long time since I performed that well on a time trial. I improved as the race progressed. The beginning of the week was quite long for me, I was really thinking about this weekend. Yesterday, I was quite confident on the mountain stage. I just would have liked it to be harder to see what I would have been able to do. Today, the time trial confirms that I am in good shape.

"It’s great to end this first part of the season like this. It’s positive going forwards, and it gives a lot of motivation to prepare for the rest of the season”. Thanks to his fine performance, Thibaut Pinot climbed to thirteenth place overall. He therefore finished ahead of his teammate Sébastien Reichenbach (15th), who could not match the best on Sunday. “It was a very violent effort, I felt good, and I did what I could”, said the local man. “I’m not disappointed, I did what I planned to do all along. I think I am where I belong, and there are specialists for this kind of effort. Overall, I think I had a good Tour de Romandie, I was able to enjoy it”.

Leader of the team classification on Saturday evening, Groupama-FDJ eventually slipped to third position at the end of the weekend. Unfortunately, they don’t leave Switzerland with a top-10 overall or a stage victory either. “We were hoping for a little better for Seb and Rudy today, but we also know that both of them raced a lot lately,” said Philippe Mauduit. “It was the last race of their first part of the season. Now, it’s time to take some rest. For Thibaut, this is rather promising. More than anything, we can see that he’s consistent in terms of performance level. He is gradually getting closer to his best level. It is a good lesson from this week. His progression keeps on going. Some might say that the Tour des Alpes was not WorldTour, but the Tour de Romandie is. Being able to finish three seconds off the 4thplace in a time trial like this shows a very good level. Not everything translates into great results yet, but we see in what he does things that don’t lie. Overall, it is a mixed week, with some good and less good things. The guys expected a more difficult race, that’s true. So did we, to be honest. They would have done better in that case, but that should not be an excuse. We must do better!”

And here's the report from Mauro Schmid's Team Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl:

Situated at an altitude of 1300 meters, in the heart of the Vaud Alps, Villars-sur-Ollon welcomed the riders for the final stage of the 75th edition – a 15.8km individual time trial featuring a hard 10km climb that promised some big gaps between the overall contenders, and at the end of the day, didn’t disappoint.

It turned out to be the most exciting stage of the race, and 2020 French ITT Champion Rémi Cavagna put in a strong ride to finish as the highest-ranked Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl rider on the day, stopping the clock in 36:29 after averaging over 26km/h.

Mauro Schmid, one of the nine different members to have won a race this year, was the team’s best rider in the general classification, while James Knox finished second in the mountains standings, after his impressive day off front on the tough stage 4 to Zinal.

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2022 Eschborn-Frankfurt team reports

We posted the report from winner Sam Bennett's Team Bora-hansgrohe with the results.

Here's the report from third-place Alexander Kristoff's Team Intermarché-Wanty Gobert:

Alexander Kristoff obtained his seventh consecutive podium in the classic Eschborn-Frankfurt (1.UWT) this Sunday, by taking third in the bunch sprint at the end of the first German race of the season.

All day, Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux took its responsibilities in the lead of the peloton, united around the four time winner of the event. The teammates of Kristoff controlled the accelerations in the Taunus mountains, closed the gap to the early breakaway before preparing the final kilometers on the local circuit in the heart of the Metropolis.

Kristoff was launched by Biniam Girmay in the final hectometers and sprinted to third, his seventh podium in eight participations. It is his seventh podium of the season and the 21st of the Belgian World Team.

Sam Bennett takes the race.

“It's a pity that I couldn't reward the team with a victory today, because my teammates did a fantastic job. We were prepared for several different scenarios, because our strong roster had opportunities in both a hard race on the climbs and in the sprint. I was well surrounded all day, I felt good and was never in trouble on the hills. So after the last climb we decided together that we would work for a sprint. Biniam Girmay helped me in the final hectometers and by launching the sprint, but it was difficult to beat Bennett today and I finished third in the slipstream of a deserved winner. I am happy to return to competition with a podium after a rest period of ten days.” - Alexander Kristoff

Here's the Eschborn-Frankfurt report from Fernando Gaviria's UAE Team Emirates:

Fernando Gaviria continued to show his growing form ahead of the Giro d’Italia by taking 2nd place at Eschborn-Frankfurt in Germany.

The German classic is generally regarded as a race for the sprinters and Gaviria was in good company, with ex-teammate Alexander Kristoff (Wanty-Intermarche) behind in third, while Sam Bennett ( (Bora-Hansgrohe) took the victory.

Gaviria: “It was a hard day out there. The circuits were hard but I’m happy for this result given the high level competition and to finish behind a great rider like Bennett. I’m heading into the Giro where I want to be : I’ve opened the legs up a bit this week and I’m feeling good again after the clavicle fracture I had. I’m back in form with some good results and I hope for more in the Giro.”

Juan Ayuso finished off a good week at the Tour de Romandie with 4th place overall and the white jersey as best young rider. Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) took both the stage win and the overall victory.

The final 15km uphill time trial proved hugely challenging, though Ayuso held his nerve to place in 9th and take a promising result in his young career.

Ayuso: “It was a brutal stage and I really suffered at the end. If I look at the race overall I’m quite happy. A week and a half ago I was still recovering from illness so to be back at a level where I can compete at a good level is something to be happy about and gives me confidence for the future. In general it’s been a good year and I keep improving so the goal is to go to every race and keep learning and getting better.”

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Vuelta a Asturias final reports

We posted the report from final stage winner Simon Yates' Team BikeExchange-Jayco with the results.

Here's the report from GC winner Ivan Sosa's Team Movistar:

Solid work from Telefónica-backed squad at short, intense final stage over Violeo leads Colombian Ivan Sosa into overall success, Blues up 10 wins in 2022.

With the serenity and authority one can expect from a rider and team like them, Iván Sosa and Movistar Team sealed on Sunday their overall success in the 2022 Vuelta a Asturias with no chance left for the rivals at the Alto del Violeo (Cat-2), decisive point of the short (120km), intense stage three between Cangas del Narcea and Oviedo.

Ivan Sosa on the attack in stage two.

As Simon Yates (BEX) left his rivals behind en route to a second stage win, the squad managed by Chente García Acosta and Pablo Lastras focused its efforts over the final climb on taking care of the Colombian against any GC threat. The early work from Rangel and Elosegui and an excellent leadout from García Cortina and Rojas to the bottom of the ascent were continued by the work, up to the very finish line, by Sergio Samitier and Antonio Pedrero, who jumped across all moves after the climb and kept the group together until the finish at Uría street.

Thanks to this success, the Movistar Team’s ninth in Asturias in its illustrious history, Sosa claims his 19th pro win -sixth overall victory- and takes the Abarca Sports organisation up to ten victories in 2022 (five for their men’s team), bringing them hope for the Giro d’Italia, where the Colombian has set most of his hopes for this season.
Iván Sosa:

“So happy about this victory! The team has helped me a lot over the last three days, also today. It was a fast race all day, with that tough finish — I think we managed our efforts well, keeping in mind that positioning and the leadout into the last climb were key to achieve the goal we had in mind with the GC. All team-mates reacted well after the big effort from yesterday, even if today was an ‘easier’ one, just about controlling, following the moves. We were calm as Yates attacked, we could let him go as he wasn’t a threat to the overall result, so we just kept our own pace at the Violeo, kept the other rivals under control and finished this off. This victory gives us some joy and motivation heading into the Giro, where we hope to do well. We’re confident we can do well over the next three weeks.”

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