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Thursday, May 12, 2022

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2021 Tour de France | 2021 Giro d'Italia

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Giro d'Italia stage five reports

We posted the report from fourth-place Davide Ballerini's Team Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl with the results.

Here's the race organizer's post:

This was expected to be a day of transition, even a little sleepy if you like, but instead we ended up with a whirlwind of emotions. First of all, because of the stage itself, which turned out to be spectacular thanks, for a change, to Mathieu Van der Poel, who set the race on fire with his team and made it an exciting one all the way to the end. And then for the announcement of Vincenzo Nibali, who made it official that this will be his last Giro d’Italia and that at the end of the season he will hang up his bike.

As we were saying, the stage that emerged between Catania and Messina was of fine workmanship, because the climb of Portella Mandrazzi placed halfway along the route made it surprisingly exciting. The director of the show was Mathieu Van der Poel who decided, with his team, not to make the finish line in Messina an easy prey for the sprinters. So, from the very first kilometres of the long but rideable climb, he ordered his teammates to keep up the pace and see what happened.

Giro stage five start

The peloton leaves from the ancient city of Catania. Sirotti photo

Within a few minutes the fish started to fall into the net; the first athlete to give in was Caleb Ewan, still battered after his fall on the first stage in Visegrad, followed by Mark Cavendish, the two star sprinters of this Giro d’Italia. If the rider from the Isle of Man was immediately escorted and protected by five teammates, the Australian was left alone for more than a few kilometres. However, when Lotto Soudal realised that their sprinter was in danger of finishing out of time, they ordered 4-5 riders to stop and escort him to Messina.

Here's the report from stage winner Arnaud Démare's Team Groupama-FDJ:

He was waiting for it since the start of the season, and it finally came on Wednesday on the roads of the Giro d’Italia, with style. In Messina, Arnaud Démare conquered his very first victory of the year after a lively fifth stage. Dropped halfway through the stage, the former French champion was able to rely on his teammates to get back to the bunch but also to approach the final sprint in the best possible way. He then left no chance to his competitors and stormed to his sixth stage win on the Giro, and the 85th in his career. As a great bonus, he took the cyclamen jersey for the points classification. The first goal of the Groupama-FDJ cycling team has now been fulfilled.

Arnaud Demare

Arnaud Démare takes stage five. Sirotti photo

When they opened the roadbook to the page presenting stage 5, Arnaud Démare and most of his teammates certainly experienced some flashbacks. This Wednesday on the Giro, the riders indeed took a route extremely similar to stage 4 of the 2020 edition, which was precisely won by the former French champion. The only difference was the length, since thirty kilometres were added this year to reach Messina. “We were almost on familiar ground, and we knew the course quite well”, introduced Sébastien Joly. “We also knew the scenario. We knew that some sprinters might not take part in the final sprint, given that the climb located after fifty kilometres was quite long and quite steep at the summit”.

Although the start turned out to be rather classic, with a five-man breakaway controlled early on by Clément Davy and other sprinters’ teams, things fired up with about a hundred kilometres to go. The teammates of the cyclamen jersey Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) clearly increased the tempo in the only climb of the day, the Portella Mandrazzi, and some sprinters had to drop behind. Arnaud Démare himself was forced to let the bunch go about four kilometres from the top, but he was from there able to count on his teammates’ unfailing support. “He dropped, but he didn’t explode”, said Miles Scotson. “He took his pace and he trusted us. We managed to keep the gap just enough to be able to come back to the bunch”. When the downhill finally started, the Frenchman and his six remaining teammates were only a minute or so behind the main group. It was then full gas.

“The climb was hard, and we expected it,” said Arnaud. “We had to do a big chase to get back. I lost a lot of time, but the guys did a great job. We did a crazy descent. I still remember Tobias and Miles taking insane corners. We were sometimes at the limit to follow them”. “I first controlled the breakaway, then paced the group in the climb, but in the downhill, I let the guys do their thing”, smiled Clément Davy. “Miles and Tobias did a mad downhill. Our knees were almost touching the road. We went extremely fast.” “For sure we were in the back on the climb, but it was nice to see everyone chasing on the descent,” added Ramon Sinkeldam.

As a consequence, the gap gradually narrowed with the main peloton, and they eventually managed to come back with seventy kilometres to go, right after this long downhill. “We had mentioned the possibility that we would have to pull, first to get back to the main pack, then to get rid of the sprinters behind”, added Sébastien Joly. “So that’s what we did. Attila and Clément did a lot of work on the flat part, which was important to make our opponents crack in the back, meaning Ewan and Cavendish”.

Entering the last hour of racing, the Briton and the Australian definitely let it go, but Clément Davy and Attila Valter continued to set the pace until the last ten kilometres. “They were both very strong,” underlined Arnaud. As the attackers were swallowed early on, the expected sprint could then take place in Messina, but with a few missing riders. “We just had to readjust the train’s set-up given that Jacopo did not have a good day, which can happen,” continued Sébastien. “We shifted the positions, and all the guys were up to the task”.

“In the final, everything was very smooth with Tobias, Kono, Miles and Ramon”, added Arnaud. “We had seen the final on the bus. Although it looked like a messy sprint on paper, with lots of turns, it went very smoothly for me.” In the last three kilometres, the Frenchman did not lose the wheel of his Dutch mate, as the latter was himself perfectly positioned in that of the Australian. It was then an impeccable launch. “The guys did a very big job, Ramon was right up there with 250 metres to go, I was feeling good, and I managed to be patient before starting my sprint,” said Arnaud.

He eventually hit the front with 200 metres remaining and kept his position all the way. “I really kept pushing until I crossed the line,” he said. “When I cross it, I realize that I have finally won this year”. The scream that followed was one of happiness, but also of liberation. “For sure it’s a relief”, said Arnaud. “I’m super happy to win my first race of the season on the Giro, and in this way! I was feeling good since the beginning of the year, but things were not going my way. It’s cycling. Sometimes you put things in place and you don’t manage to apply them. Yet, we know what we are capable of. You must not give up, and persevere”.

582 two days after winning an identical stage, Arnaud Démare has therefore definitely launched his 2022 season in Sicily. So did his whole group. “It’s really good for everyone, because we’ve been waiting for it for a while,” said Clément, who learned of his leader’s victory when he still had two kilometres to complete. “I had tears in my eyes all the way to the line and I was just looking forward to meeting the team at the finish. We didn’t give up to finally get here. We know that we had a few setbacks at the start of the season, but we kept on going. We worked really well after the first part of the season, and it is paying off now. We were all in good shape and we all did a good job. It is pure happiness”.

“It’s really a nice victory”, added Miles. “We went through a difficult time, there was a lot of pressure, and that victory feels very good. We also won because the whole team was so strong. Everyone worked hard and Arnaud finished it off. We never lost confidence; We know how strong he is. If he’s in the right place at the right time, we know he can win.” “That’s what we expected”, also told Ramon. “Sometimes, everything just has to fall into place for Arnaud to win. It’s really nice to win this stage that we already won in 2020. I also feel a bit sorry for Jacopo today, because the same thing happened to me two years ago, but the most important thing is that we won”.

Sébastien Joly also gave view on this sixth career victory on the Giro for Arnaud Démare. “I really liked the attitude of Miles, who showed all his experience and that he really is in shape,” he said. “I’m very happy for Ramon as well. He managed to make a superb lead-out. There are a lot of satisfactions today. More than anything, it is the first victory of the season for the sprint group. It’s a real turning point. The start of the season was hard, we must confess. A lot of things did not go right. We all worked well, we questioned ourselves, and that allowed us to bring us even closer, as a team in general.

"Today, Arnaud has finished off a great collective work”. He also took advantage of his win to put on the cyclamen jersey for the points classification, which he leads by twenty-two points before joining the “continent” on Wednesday evening. “Before anything else, I want to enjoy this victory which really does me good, and which will do good to the whole group and to the team”, concluded Arnaud. “It’s still something huge to win on a Grand Tour. I have the cyclamen jersey for now, but it is still a long way to Verona”.

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Here's the report from Lennard Kämna's Bora-hansgrohe team:

The final stage in Sicily before the Giro reaches mainland Italy offered a chance for the fast men on its 174km route from Catania to Messina, at least on paper. A breakaway group set off early, but the peloton didn't let them get too far in front. Alpecin-Fenix's increase in pace at the foot of Portella Mandrazzi caused some sprinters difficulty and they were dropped as a result. Lennard Kämna, who took over the blue jersey yesterday, took one more point in the mountains classification behind the five escapees before the leading group was reeled back in the descent and the stage was decided in a sprint. All BORA-hansgrohe riders reached the finish safely. The Raubling-based racing team also retains its lead in the team classification, while Lennard remains in second place overall and will also continue wearing the mountains jersey tomorrow.

Bora-hansgrohe leads the Team Classification. Sirotti photo

"Yesterday was without question a tough day and I was glad that today's course wasn't as strenuous. It was also really nice to spend my first day in the blue jersey. This is the first classification jersey that I've worn in my career and I'm quite proud of it. We'll see how it goes from here. I'm not sure yet if the jersey will be a concrete goal, but there are a lot of possibilities over the next weeks after all, so we'll take it day by day. Maybe I'll end up pursuing it, or maybe I won't." - Lennard Kämna

"Today was a stage for the sprinters, and our goal was to stay safe and out of danger, and to use the day to recover somewhat from the effort of yesterday. It panned out pretty well and the guys rode well and stayed up front in the finale to make sure our GC contenders stayed out of danger." - Enrico Gasparotto, Sports Director

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Here's the Giro report from Team Jumbo-Visma:

The fifth stage of the Giro d'Italia has ended in a bunch sprint. The day after the first mountain stage, Team Jumbo-Visma kept somewhat in the background and finished in the middle of the pack. Pascal Eenkhoorn rode a creditable final kilometre. In the sprint he crossed the line in fifteenth place.

A 174-kilometre ride took the riders from Catania along the Mediterranean coast towards Messina. The peloton faced one obstacle: a long twenty-kilometre climb at an average gradient of four percent. Five riders saw their chance early in the stage. They jumped away from the peloton and grabbed a 4-minute lead. Shortly after the climb, the peloton caught them back.

Some sprinters had to let go on the climb. Subsequently, the pace in the peloton was kept high by teams with ambitions for the day's victory. In the streets of Messina the stage finally ended in a bunch sprint. Arnaud Démare won. The riders of Team Jumbo-Visma crossed the line unscathed and in the same time as the winner.

"It was important today to finish well", Jos van Emden said. "Those kinds of stages are simply part of a grand tour. There is still a lot to come this Giro. So a day like today is certainly welcome. Although it is sometimes unfortunate that there is a lack of sporting challenges at such a stage. That's not to say that today was an easy day. Several teams kept the pace pretty high. Tomorrow I expect a similar day. From Friday onwards, we'll be entering different terrain."

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Shimano sells Pearl Izumi to sporting goods group

Bicycle Retailer & Industry News posted this:

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif. (BRAIN) — Shimano Inc. has sold off its apparel brand, Pearl Izumi, to United Sports Brands, the parent of Nathan, Cutters, and Shock Doctor, among other brands.

Pearl Izumi will join Nathan, which offers running accessories and apparel, in USB's new outdoor division.

Pearl Izumi managers told employees of the sale Monday morning. A purchase price was not disclosed. Shimano announced the sale as the Tokyo stock exchange opened Friday local time.

Shimano bought Pearl Izumi’s parent company, DashAmerica Inc., in 2008 from Nautilus for about $70 million.

Since then Pearl Izumi has been held as a subsidiary of Shimano’s U.S. business, Shimano North America Holding. Pearl Izumi’s headquarters are in a 55,000-square-foot facility in Louisville, Colorado, shared by a handful of employees from Shimano's component business. The building, which has won awards for its sustainable construction, was included in the sale.

Pearl Izumi's European business is a separate subsidiary of Shimano and was also purchased by USB. The original Japan-based Pearl Izumi operation, which Shimano does not own, was not sold to USB. It operates only in Japan.

“This is an exciting time for Pearl Izumi,” Geoff Shaffer, the president of Pearl Izumi, said in a press statement. “We have tremendous momentum and an amazing team that’s dedicated to continuing to grow the brand to new heights. Shimano has provided significant support and guidance throughout its ownership, and while we will miss being part of Team Shimano, we also know there is great future potential for the brand and look forward to continuing to grow our business with USB.”

In an interview with BRAIN, Shaffer said Pearl Izumi's sales have "grown steadily" since a major re-position of the brand in 2019. The re-positioning included an increased commitment to sustainability and a social purpose mission. Now 90% of Pearl Izumi products are made from sustainable materials and the brands has a goal to become carbon-neutral by 2025.

Sales increased even more during the pandemic, first online through the company's consumer-direct site and then through IBDs as the pandemic waned.

Shaffer said USB has experience with large and small retailers, including specialty team sports retailers who are similar to IBDs. He said Pearl Izumi will be one of the largest of the USB brands.

Shaffer said there will be an extended transition period as Pearl Izumi separates its operations from Shimano. "We are fairly integrated," he said, with shared sales teams and programs and many shared employees in Louisville. He said he was not sure exactly what Pearl Izumi's sales team will look like after the transition, but he said the apparel brand will benefit from having a sales force focused on its products rather than split between Shimano, Pearl Izumi and Lazer helmets, another Shimano-owned brand.

"The one thing that retailers should know is there won't be any interruption of business during the transition, Shimano is committed to that," he said.

Pearl Izumi launched its Spring 2023 apparel line with its European sales team this week, and will present it to its North American team next week, he said. The North American teams will meet in person the following week in Bentonville, Arkansas, the brand's first full in-person meeting since the pandemic began.

You can read the entire story here.

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