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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, April 6, 2023

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2022 Tour de France | 2022 Giro d'Italia

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Vuelta al País Vasco/Tour of the Basque Country stage three team reports

We posted the report from stage winner Jonas Vingegaard's Team Jumbo-Visma with the results.

Here's the report from fifth-place David Gaudu's Team Groupama-FDJ:

The unique finals follow one another on the Tour of the Basque Country, but David Gaudu is still up there. After a downhill finish on Tuesday, the battle took place on extremely high slopes on Wednesday. At the end of stage 3, Jonas Vingegaard took the win atop of Amasa-Villabona while David Gaudu secured a very solid fifth place despite a messy last hour of racing. The Frenchman retains his third place overall and is now sixteen seconds behind the Danish rider, now in the yellow jersey.

Jonas Vingegaard took a solo stage win.

With an Ardennes Classics-type of final on Wednesday, a first real confrontation between the GC contenders was anticipated in stage 3 of the Tour of the Basque Country. Yet, the fight was hard from the start since many wanted to enter the break towards Amasa-Villabona. It therefore took nearly forty kilometres for Georg Zimmermann (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty), Rémi Cavagna (Soudal- Quick Step), Nicolas Prodhomme (AG2R-Citroën), Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies), Thibault Guernalec (Arkéa-Samsic) and Simon Geschke (Cofidis) to establish the good move. The peloton did not really slow down, however, as they only gave this group a two-minute lead, with Groupama-FDJ taking on its share of responsibility through Lars van den Berg.

The race then opened up quite early, both in the breakaway but also in the pack. The selection started in the first steep climbs, about sixty kilometres from the finish, and the pace never dropped from then on. In this context, David Gaudu suffered a puncture a little further on. “It was not the right time”, said Philippe Mauduit. “Because of the “barrages” and the small roads, we were far behind, and we couldn’t help him out right away. David took Romain’s bike for about fifteen kilometres. We then helped Romain out, then as soon as we were able to go back to David, we gave him his bike back. Although he was supported by his teammates, he had to make two solid efforts in intense moments, since the race exploded sixty kilometres from the finish.

Thanks to the help of Bruno Armirail, Quentin Pacher or Michael Storer, the French climber was able to regain his place at the front of the reduced bunch, and he was also perfectly positioned approaching the last four “walls”, very short but closely grouped in the last fifteen kilometres. “The teamwork was again very good today, but we also lost Bruno due to a puncture with sixteen kilometres to go”, added Philippe. “I think he would have been able to finish with David, and he would have helped him start the final climb in a better position. That’s how it is”. At the head of the pack, the Breton proved attentive while several attacks followed one another in the final. He was however unable to get a very good position before the last, one-kilometre wall averaging 9.5% (slopes at 26%), which hosted the finish line.

“We made his teammates work earlier on, but we had no choice”, explained Philippe. “We did what we had to do, but it cost us, and it cost him in the end. He was just a little bit behind in the last climb. It would have been perfect to be alongside Mas and Vingegaard, but it was surely difficult with the energy he left in his two pursuits and by positioning alone for the final climb”. When the Dane accelerated 300 meters from the line in the highest slopes, the Groupama-FDJ leader was therefore slightly in the back. He was also slowed down by a collision in front of him. “He almost stood still on the climb, and then he had to get going again”, added Philippe.

Despite the various hitches, David Gaudu fought well to the line and crossed it in fifth position, eight seconds behind Jonas Vingegaard, and six behind Mikel Landa and Enric Mas. “I think he could have done better, and at least followed Mas and Landa”, said Philippe. “We were a bit less lucky today, but that’s part of the sport. We had a difficult day, a very lively one, but we didn’t lose that much time and we remain in the top 3. We can obviously think this is a pity, but we can also be satisfied with the day given the circumstances”. “It was a special day, where we didn’t get lucky”, confirmed David. “That’s cycling and you have to deal with it. I had to make two small efforts after my puncture, but the most important is that I came back and was able to defend my chances in the final. On the last climb, we were all a little stopped behind Vingegaard and Mas. There isn’t much else to say. Given what happened today, we can be satisfied not to be too far behind and to keep our place on the podium.”

Halfway through the Tour of the Basque Country, the Frenchman, who scored his 8th top-5 of the season, sits in third position overall, sixteen seconds behind the last winner of the Tour de France.

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Here's the Basque Country Race report from sixth-place Mattias Skjelmose's Trek-Segafredo team:

A cool head and determination were the ingredients that Mattias Skjelmose used today to handle the hectic finale of the third stage of Itzulia Basque Country. The young Dane crossed the finish line – at the top of a 500-meter kick with a maximum gradient of 26% – in sixth place, 10 seconds behind winner Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma), but an unfortunate puncture could have cost him a better result.

“I’d say it all happened in the last 200 meters,” explained Skjelmose.

“The whole day was really hard but, in the end, it’s just about the legs when you hit these kind of gradients. I think mine performed well. Finishing sixth with such a small short gap to Vingegaard is quite a good result. I would have liked to have had some more luck and avoided the puncture I had at 9 kilometers to go. Luckily, Bauke [Mollema] was nearby and could give me his bike. It was not optimal, and I was not 100% confident with a different sized bike, but in the end we minimized the losses. I wouldn’t have been with Jonas, but I’m sure I would have been closer”.

Mattias Skjelmose finishes the Faun Ardeche Classic earlier this year.

Skjelmose and Trek-Segafredo have shown they have the right mindset to try to play their chances in the General Classification all the way, especially in a race where the final gaps will be minimal and time bonuses could make all the difference.

With three stages to go, Mattias is seventh, 22 seconds behind compatriot Vingegaard, and he also leads the best young rider’s ranking.

“At the end, I think we can be happy on how we rode today. The team did a great job supporting me. They did everything they could, especially our road captain Tony [Gallopin]. I was really impressed with the power he showed today, he deserves praise for the way he kept fighting on every climb,”

“The position I have now in the GC is good. I have some very top class riders ahead of me, but there’s a still a long way to the end of the race on Saturday. With the legs I had today, I’m confident I have the chance to go further.”

And here's the Tour of the Basque Country report from Sergio Higuita's Team Bora-hansgrohe:

The third stage of the Tour of the Basque Country went from Errenteria along the coast near San Sebastian, before it took the riders over many short yet hard ramps after 55 km. The last kilometre then took on a steep climb with gradients of up to 26 percent to the Hika Bodega winery in Amasa-Villabona where the race ended after 162 km.

A reduced peloton containing Sergio Higuita and Emanuel Buchmann reached the last climb of the day, where Sergio launched an attack 300m before the finish. However, the Colombian collided with the barriers and lost his position in the group. He ended up crossing the finish line in 16th place, 20 seconds behind the day's winner Vingegaard. Emanuel Buchmann finished the stage, at 26 seconds behind.

Sergio Higuita finishing the 8th stage of the 2022 Tour of Switzerland. Sirotti photo

"It was a tough and technical parcours, and we knew we had a good chance to win the stage. The finale was explosive and particularly hard, but Emu positioned me very well. I wanted to set the pace over the final 300 metres, which had a gradient of 23 percent. So I tried to attack then and moved on the right side of the road to pass Lopez. But he moved when I was trying to go around him, and then I lost my stability and hit the barriers. It was bad luck, and leaves a bittersweet taste because it was a really good opportunity for us. But we're keeping our focus on the next stages and not losing motivation." - Sergio Higuita

"We wanted to honour the yellow jersey today, so we set out to control the race. We rode in front, had support from EF and particularly from Jumbo Visma, and it all worked out quite well. In the final, Emu's job was to counter the early attacks. Unfortunately, we didn't manage that so well because he just didn't have the legs today. Then we wanted to give Sergio our full support in the uphill sprint, and Emu put himself completely at his teammate's service there. When Sergio wanted to launch his sprint at 300 metres remaining, he tried to overtake Lopez, but unfortunately he moved to the right and Sergio crashed. In the end, we were unfortunately robbed of an absolute top result by this incident." - Christian Pömer, Sports Director

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Scheldeprijs team reports

We posted the report from second-place Sam Welsford's Team DSM with the results.

Here's the report from third-place Mark Cavendish's Team Astana Qazaqstan:

Astana Qazaqstan’s Mark Cavendish finished third in the 111th Scheldeprijs, the oldest race in Flanders. The British champion took the lead in sight of the line but was passed in the end by winner Jasper Philipsen and Sam Welsford.

“I went to follow Edward Theuns, but I had to fight with Dylan Groenewegen a bit, so I was in the wind already at 450 meters to go. So, I had to go very long from where I normally wanted to go – at 250 meters to go if you are well sheltered. And then Jasper came, with such a speed…” – said Mark Cavendish.

The pack crosses the finish line

It’s Mark Cavendish’s second podium spot for Astana Qazaqstan Team.

“Especially after our let’s say so far difficult classics season, this result makes me happy. I am especially happy for Mark as this will give him a boost after his sickness of the last weeks. The teamwork was excellent as well. Everybody did his part of the job”, – said Sports Director Stefano Zanini.

“The guys knew they had to stay in front today, also in the final as it could become very dangerous there when a big bunch is coming in. The boys took control and were really incredible. They always kept me in front. I’m very happy with that”, – added Mark Cavendish.

“I always love to come back to the Scheldeprijs. The sprint here is always a bit chaotic. You really need to look you don’t crash but I have great memories here. Can you imagine, my teammate Gleb (Syritsa) was six when I won my first Scheldeprijs (16 years ago)”, – concluded Mark Cavendish, three-time winner here in the Scheldeprijs.

The next race for Mark Cavendish will be the Giro di Sicilia, which starts on April 11th.

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And here's the Scheldeprijs report from Team Israel-Premier Tech:

Scheldeprijs is regarded by some as the “World Championships for sprinters” and this year was no different. With all the best sprinters in the world taking to the start line, getting a good result was always going to be tough. But despite the chaotic finish, Itamar Einhorn and Giacomo Nizzolo managed to sprint to ninth and tenth respectively.

Jasper Philipsen wins the race.

Talking about his experience in the race, Itamar was pleased to be at the sharp end with so many top riders:

“It was quite an easy race with good weather, compared to last year. There weren’t too many surprises as all the teams had planned for a sprint finish. There was a little stress in the last few kilometers with everyone fighting for position, but nothing unusual. In the final kilometers the team lost our position, and trying to get that back I was mostly alone, but I found good wheels, and with the field that’s here a top ten is not so bad. I was also happy Giacomo was there, and we can count on our legs for good results.”

Coming back from illness after Tirreno-Adriatico, Giacomo was happy to be back sprinting and fighting for results.

“Today was a bit of a comeback after a while off the bike having been sick after Tirreno, and it’s been tough as I couldn’t train for a while. Today I didn’t feel super, but I gave it a go in the final and though it was a bit chaotic, and the level of the sprinters was pretty high, I managed to sprint to a top 10. I’m happy with my comeback, it was a good finish. I’m looking forward to stepping up in the next weeks.”

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