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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, September 12, 2022

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2021 Tour de France | 2022 Giro d'Italia

If all the economists were laid end to end, they'd never reach a conclusion. - George Bernard Shaw

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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Vuelta a España final reports

We posted the report from the race organizer with the results.

Here's the report from winner Remco Evenepoel's Team Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl:

They say Rome wasn’t built in a day and they are right. The superpower that came to dominate most of Europe, as well as parts of Africa and Asia, needed centuries – sprinkled with defeats and numerous setbacks – to develop into the astonishing civilization that came to leave its mark over the world even now, more than fifteen centuries after its demise.

Keeping the proportions, the same can be said about the Wolfpack. What started out as a team focused on the Classics – which in time have become our bread and butter – has now fully grown into a versatile and mature squad capable of fighting for victory in any type of race and on any type of terrain, including the Grand Tours. From picking up stage wins and distinctive jerseys, our squad found itself attempting what many years ago looked like an improbable attempt of conquering the general classification of such a race.

The 2014 Giro d’Italia and 2018 Vuelta a España (and even the 2019 Tour de France) serve as examples of the team’s ability to morph into a real contender for these races which have mainly remained a dream, until this year, when a 22-year-old Remco Evenepoel turned them into something palpable, delivering a magnificent triumph that captivated an entire nation which had been waiting for a moment like this since 1978.

Demonstrating calmness, a clinical mindset, improved racing acumen as well as a fantastic ability to thrive under pressure, Evenepoel rewrote the cycling history books with each day spent in the lead in Spain, meeting all the hopes people had placed in him since his junior days and showing stage after stage that rare power to astonish that has led to all these expectations in the first place since his junior days.

He did it. Sirotti photo

His dazzling success wouldn’t have been possible without a team, and not any kind of team, but the Wolfpack and the amazing fighting spirit deeply ingrained in our DNA, showcased over the past three weeks by Julian Alaphilippe – a World Champion like none other – Rémi Cavagna, Dries Devenyns, Fausto Masnada, Pieter Serry, Ilan Van Wilder and Louis Vervaeke. His teammates joined him on the podium in Madrid, where Remco collected a historic red jersey – but also the white one for the best young rider of the race.

“I worked hard for this, I made a lot of sacrifices and I’m happy it all paid off here in Spain. I’m proud to see the support of those at home, I’m thankful for that, as I am for the fantastic support I have continuously received the entire time from my team and my family. I’m happy to be part of this superb team and overwhelmed with what I achieved”, said one of the youngest riders in history to triumph in a Grand Tour, who raced the last stage of La Vuelta on a stunning red Specialized bike which matched his prestigious jersey.

“At the moment there’s a lot of joy and lots of emotions, but I think it will be only next week when we’ll realise what we all achieved here. It means a lot, it’s a collective victory. Coming into the race we believed in ourselves and in our chances of getting a good result, but it was after the time trial – when Remco gained so much time on the others – that we began thinking it was possible to keep red and take it to Madrid. It wasn’t an easy race, for half of the time we had to control it with just five guys, but both Remco and the team showed a lot of character and adapted to all the different situations we encountered, and if there’s one thing that makes me super proud, it’s this”, said Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl sports director Klaas Lodewyck.

“Many people weren’t born the last time Belgium had a Grand Tour winner, so it’s quite a special moment. Remco surprised everyone, including us, and showed what a phenomenal rider he is”, Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl CEO Patrick Lefevere explained in Madrid. “I am happy he believed in us when he was 17 and we started our beautiful collaboration. It wasn’t easy for him, especially with that crash in Lombardia which took away maybe a year of his career, but he proved his fantastic character and came back stronger from that. It’s a great moment for him, for our team and for Belgium, one that people will remember forever, and I’m proud of Remco and this incredible team that gave everything and did a great race!”

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Here's the report from stage 21 winner Juan Sebastian Molano's UAE Team Emirates:

After three weeks of high emotion UAE Team Emirates and 19 year-old Juan Ayuso finally were allowed to celebrate as the curtain came down on an intense but successful month of racing.

The final stage to Madrid ended in style with Sebastian Molano proving the strongest of all having being delivered to the line perfectly, with Pascal Ackermann following close in his wheel for 3rd place. The win marks Molano’s first at World Tour level and the 41st victory of the year for UAE Team Emirates.

Ayuso, in his debut Grand Tour, took 3rd place overall on the podium behind his compatriot Enric Mas (Movistar) and overall race winner Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl). In the process he comes the youngest ever podium finisher at La Vuelta España and the second ever youngest podium finisher in the history of any Grand Tour.

The success of Ayuso was complimented by the strength of his team: Joao Almeida fought to 5th place in the final classification, underlining his Grand Tour pedigree.

Marc Soler revived the good times for Spanish cycling with an unforgettable solo victory on Stage 5 into Bilbao. The ever-present Catalan stood on the podium in Madrid for the most combative rider prize.

The whole team would then make the journey to the podium as the winners of the Team Classification: a welcome celebration for the work done throughout the race.

UAE Team Emirates won the teams classification. Sirotti photo

Sebastian Molano : “I’m still processing this victory, I’m so happy. The goal was to go for the sprint with Ackermann. I had really goos legs today. I jumped with 300m and I saw that Pedersen was coming so I knew I had to keep the speed up to stay in front or so that Pascal could come around the other side. I had to keep pushing. It’s the end of a beautiful Vuelta for all of us in the team. I’d like to dedicate this victory to my mother and my family.”

Juan Ayuso: “It’s a dream to be on the podium in this my first Vuelta España. I came in at the start taking it day by day and gaining experience, not really knowing what my limits were and I’m thrilled I could do this result with this great group of guys. We raced really well for the whole three weeks and finished it off well today with Molano was the icing on the cake. It was perfect. ”

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Here's the report from Green Jersey Winner Mads Pedersen's Team Trek-Segafredo:

It’s been a good run. Still, Mads Pedersen wanted one more. Winning is the name of the game after all, and when you’re this hot you don’t stop until the final white line is crossed.

In the end it was close, but Team UAE catapulted Juan Sebastián Molano to the Stage 21 win and handed the Danish Dynamite his fourth second place instead of a fourth win.

Mads Pedersen is going home with the Green Jersey. Sirotti photo

“Again today my team did really, really good work, “praised Mads. “We had a really good position in the last corner, and we hoped the bunch would kind of stop and go so we could come from a bit behind, but UAE played it really perfect.

“They managed to have almost the whole team in the last corner, they did like a pro cycling manager’s sprint, so huge congrats to them. In the end, I just didn’t have the legs to pass them. We played a perfect finale, but Molano was just faster than me and that’s how it is.”

When Mads crossed the finish line in Madrid, winning the green jersey was finally certified. Mads took over the lead in the points competition in Stage 8 and never looked back, amassing an incredible 409 points by the end.

“I am just super super happy for this Vuelta. To have the green jersey here and three wins, it’s really special. I am really thankful to the whole team, fighting, and I think we showed that a team with different types of riders can survive for sprints, what I am good at. All our climbers were digging so deep every day to perform in the sprints, and that shows that if everyone has the commitment, and the teamwork is there, we can fight for wins no matter terrain.”

The final race in Madrid is always a festive occasion, three grueling weeks of racing coming to an electrifying end in the center of town, and Trek-Segafredo painted its party green.

From Trek presenting Mads with a custom-painted Madone, to the entire staff donning supportive t-shirts, the Team enjoyed its final day of a Vuelta to remember.

“We would have loved to win today, but I am super happy with these three weeks, it was way better than we expected,” continued Mads.

“It’s been a long season and I am looking forward to going home now and almost call it a season and close the book. I am happy with this Vuelta; it’s a nice feeling right now. I still have some races in October, but first I go home and take a week off.”

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And here’s the report from Mountains Classification winner Richard Carapaz’s Team INEOS Grenadiers:

The Vuelta a Espana concluded on Sunday in Madrid as Richard Carapaz secured the polka dot jersey and Carlos Rodriguez wrapped up seventh place overall.

For Carapaz it was the end to a memorable race that produced three stage victories and the mountains classification in his final Grand Tour for the team.

Richard Carapaz is the King of the Mountains. Sirotti photo

The Ecuadorian’s performance on Saturday’s penultimate stage personified the team’s never give up attitude, as did the brave battling ride of Rodriguez. The Spanish champion crashed hard earlier this week and has been forced to battle through the remainder of his debut Grand Tour. Riding as high as fourth throughout the second week, the young Grenadier demonstrated what an incredible talent he is.

With just one second separating him from sixth place, and despite being battered and bruised, Rodriguez and the team still attempted to sprint for bonus seconds as the race arrived on the streets of Madrid.

Fellow Grand Tour rookie Luke Plapp used the following lull as a chance to launch clear, linking up with Julius Johansen (Intermarche-Wanty) to great effect as the laps ticked off. The two powerful youngsters opened out a gap and made the sprinters work hard for their bunch sprint, finally caught with just 800 metres to go. Ben Turner, also completing his debut Grand Tour, sprinted to ninth at the line.

Carapaz (14th) and Tao Geoghegan Hart (19th) both came home inside the top 10 on GC. Dylan van Baarle crossed the line alongside Rodriguez in Madrid, with Turner and Plapp happy to finish their first Grand Tour. Ethan Hayter and Pavel Sivakov were sadly unable to complete the race after registering positive lateral flow tests.

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