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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, February 19, 2023

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2022 Tour de France | 2022 Giro d'Italia

The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions. - Leonardo da Vinci

TDF volume 1

Bill & Carol McGann's book The Story of the Tour de France, Vol 1: 1903 - 1975 is available in print, Kindle eBook & audiobook versions. To get your copy, just click on the Amazon link on the right.

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Tour des Alpes-Maritimes et du Haut Var stage two reports

We posted the race organizer’s report with the results.

Here’s the report from stage winner Mattias Skjelmose’s Team Trek-Segafredo:

After his stage won at Etoile de Bessèges, the Dane left another mark in France with victory on the second stage in the Cote d’Azur.

There’s certainly a connection between Mattias Skjelmose and France. The Danish rider from Trek-Segafredo claimed his second race of the season (in only two races) by winning the reduced sprint on the second stage of Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var. Two weeks ago, at Etoile de Bessèges, he did more or less the same thing, winning the sprint against Powless (EF-EasyPost).

Mattias Skjelmose takes stage two. Sirotti photo

Today (18 February), in Antibes, Skjelmose played his cards perfectly, showing once again that he’s in brilliant condition and keeping a very cool head in the key moment of the race. The win came after a small group sprint that included the best riders present at the race. After, the last attack – by race leader Vauquelin (Arkèa-Samsic) and Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) – was caught at 500 meters to the line, Mattias showed off his strengths choosing the right position and the perfect timing to sprint.

With one stage to go, Skjelmose is now sitting in 5th position in the General Classification at 27” from the leader Vauquelin and 13” from Geniets (Groupama-FDJ) who’s sitting third. Mattias is also the leader of the Points Classification.

For tomorrow (‘the day of the truth’), the menu includes 131kms from Villefranche-sur-Mer to Vence with four KOMs, the last of which comes at 7kms to go). In short: the game for the GC is still wide open!

Skjelmose’s reaction:
"Well, I don’t think I need to say how happy I am about today’s win, I think it’s obvious. It was not really expected so it feels super. In general, I’m really pleased with how I have started the season.

"Yesterday, I was disappointed in the finale. I was sleeping in the key moment of the race when Vauquelin attacked. I had to be there and I wasn’t so today, I was motivated not to do the same and to really make the most out of this opportunity and get the best out of my abilities. That’s what happened.

"It was a very hard day, right from the beginning. It took a while for a breakaway to form and then the peloton kept it under control. The guys in front went really fast, it was stressful all day. We did not have a moment to breathe.

"Vauquelin went really hard in the final and when he attacked, I said to myself to keep calm. I had the feeling that I was the fastest guy in that small group, but if I would have closed the gap immediately, I would have lost my chance to win in favor of the others. It was tricky, it was a risk, but I waited for the move from the other riders to catch him. I found myself in a great position for the sprint and I finished it off.

"It wasn’t really necessary to have someone lead me out on this occasion, it was more a one-to-one challenge. However, I want to say thanks to my teammates for the efforts they all did behind the scenes to support me, helping me save energy for the finale."

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Volta ao Algarve stage four team reports

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

Here's the report from stage winner Tom Pidcock's Team INEOS Grenadiers:

Tom Pidcock powered to an impressive victory on the queen stage of the Volta ao Algarve to move into the overall race lead.

Tom Pidcock takes the stage and the GC lead.

Pidcock timed his uphill sprint atop Alto do Malhão to perfection, first increasing the pace to reduce the GC group before putting in a second, more explosive acceleration in the final kilometre. 

The result means the Yorkshireman heads into the final stage time trial with a five second advantage, with teammates Dani Martinez and Filippo Ganna also within touching distance of the top step of the podium. 

Earlier, the Grenadiers had combined well on the undulating terrain as the early break was caught, causing counter attacks from the bunch.

However, the peloton weren't to be denied a GC showdown, with several teams including the INEOS Grenadiers pushing the pace on the front, with Michal Kwiatkowski and Laurens de Plus ensuring the team were well-positioned and conserving energy.

An untimely puncture for Thymen Arensman with 11 kilometres remaining ruled him out of the final climb, but De Plus and Jonathan Castroviejo worked well to help place the trio of Ganna, Martinez and Pidcock well on the Alto do Malhão.

Pidcock was able to follow the early attacks from the lead group, weathered the storm, then tested the legs of his rivals with a short acceleration which created a lead group of five. The Brit was then one of the only riders able to respond to Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates), whose powerful attack split the lead group again.

The Grenadier then bided his time, waited for Almeida to slow slightly, before launching his own decisive sprint, which nobody could follow, to seal a memorable victory and move into the race lead.

Tom Pidcock:
"It feels really good, we’ve had two stages that we could have won, but today I wanted to make sure we got it right.

"I attacked and went all in, it was a little further than I thought it was, so I thought someone might be coming but they weren’t. Tomorrow it’ll just be about going full gas in the final TT."

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Here's the Algarve report from second-place Joao Almeida's UAE Team Emirates:

Joao Almeida showed his strong early season form with second place to Tom Pidcock (Ineos-Grenadiers) on a hilly finish of stage 4 at the Volta Algarve.

Almeida was in prime position on the punchy uphill finish at the Alto do Malhão, having been well placed by his UAE Team Emirates teammates but just saw himself out-sprinted to the line.

Almeida : “I was feeling pretty good. There were just a few of us left in the final kilometre so I knew I had a shot to win but Pidcock was just that bit stronger today. Tomorrow we’ll give it all in the TT to try and keep this podium spot and maybe even more.”

The result now bumps him up to 3rd place in the general classification behind new leader Pidcock ahead of tomorrow’s stage 5 individual time trial in Lagoa.

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And here’s the Algarve report from third-place Ilan Van Wilder’s Team Soudal Quick-Step:

Ilan Van Wilder confirmed his upward trajectory this week by scoring a second podium finish in the space of three days, which helped him strengthen his spot on the overall podium of the race ahead of the decisive individual time trial in Lagoa.

It was a day of full gas racing which had the Soudal Quick-Step riders in the spotlight from the very beginning, when Kasper Asgreen darted away from the peloton and was soon followed by two riders, together with whom he opened a five-minute margin. The Dane was the diesel engine of the group, driving the tempo and picking up points on the first three climbs of the day, Picota, Vermelhos and Alte, which allowed him to move to the top of the KOM classification at the end of the stage.

Stage four had a challenging profile.

“The mountain jersey wasn’t the goal. The other day when I was helping Ilan towards the Foia climb, I went to the front and took a couple of points. Then today, the other guys weren’t so interested in the points so I could grab them quite easily. I thought, why not, and then I would see if the GC guys would take it away from me. The plan was to go in the breakaway and put some pressure on the other teams, to make the race hard and have some fun. I think it worked out well. We did a good race as a team and that’s important for the upcoming period. We showed we can be up there. My form is definitely coming, there’s still some work as I come from far, but this was a good day. On Sunday I will try to get a nice result, but I think the legs will be heavy after today and the course doesn’t really suit me”, Kasper said after his 150km breakaway.

On the first ascent of Alto do Malhão, the breakaway was brought back, and that was the cue for Rémi Cavagna to push clear and ramp up the pressure by opening a 30-second gap over the peloton together with one other rider. They survived in the lead until eight kilometers to go, when the race was again reshuffled the moment a strong chasing group bridged across.

Ilan Van Wilder was present for Soudal Quick-Step, a strong acceleration from his side making a significant selection in the first kilometer of Malhão, that left only four men at the front. On the steepest part of the climb, the Belgian lost contact with his companions, but didn’t throw in the towel, and continued to dig deep, making up ground and coming home in third place, bagging in precious bonus seconds ahead of the 24.2km individual time trial.

“It was the best possible result, one for which I am grateful to the team, because without them I wouldn’t be here after this tough finish. Tim, Michael, Casper and Fabio protected me, while Kasper and Rémi took off the pressure by going on the attack”, a satisfied Ilan explained at the end of the stage. “I did my best on the ascent, but the other guys rode a hard pace in the finale, and there’s no shame I couldn’t follow when they sprinted in the closing kilometer. Anyway, getting a podium and bonifications is a good result, which gives me confidence for the time trial, a hard one, constantly up and down. I am capable of doing a good ITT, so I will give it my all and see where this puts me in the GC when everything is said and done.”

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