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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, July 3, 2023

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2022 Tour de France | 2023 Giro d'Italia

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TDF volume 1

Bill & Carol McGann's book The Story of the Tour de France, 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 de France stage two team reports

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

Here's the report from fourth-place Tom Pidcock's Team INEOS Grenadiers:

Tom Pidcock launched a late attack before sprinting to fourth place on the second day of the Tour de France.

The Grenadier was joined by teammates Egan Bernal and Carlos Rodriguez in a reduced lead group on the run into San Sebastian following a flat-out ascent over the Jaizkibel climb.

The peloton races across the Basque country in stage two. Sirotti photo

Pidcock moved to the fore with four kilometres to go, before chancing an acceleration one kilometre later on the run-in. With the move shut down it looked all set for a reduced bunch finish, only for Victor Lafay (Cofidis) to perfectly time an attack to go clear and narrowly hold off the chasing pack.

Pidcock was third in the sprint behind and fourth on the stage, while Bernal and Rodriguez finished safely in the 24-man group.

Adam Yates was also present and retained the yellow jersey by a reduced margin of six seconds over UAE Team Emirates teammate Tadej Pogacar. Rodriguez remains the best-placed Grenadier on the GC in 11th overall, 22 seconds back.

With 70 kilometres to go Rodriguez, Dani Martinez and Michal Kwiatkowski were held up by a crash but were quickly able to continue without issue.

Egan Bernal:
“It was a bit hard the last climb but actually I felt really good. It was a hard finish. Obviously guys like Van Aert and Pidcock they were trying to win the stage. My job was just to be there and not lose time, so I think we did quite well. So far so good.

“Actually it was a hard attack [from Tom]. I was surprised, trying to follow the move and it shows how talented he is. For sure he will be one of the best riders in the future.

“I’m so happy actually. When I went to the Dauphine I was so bad. I was really bad. But between the Dauphine and the Tour I was able to do some proper training. I arrived with much better condition in the Tour. Let’s see how I recover and I hope to do a good Tour.”

Tom Pidcock:
“I knew I had a chance in the sprint. In the end I was a little bit boxed in between Wout and Tiesj. I got a little bit stalled. My sprint was okay but I thought everyone’s legs were falling off there, and if I got a little gap and there was some hesitation, I could have come solo to the line. I was thinking again about trying something in the final kilometre but I was on the right side. Victor went on the left so I was like ‘okay, I missed that’.

“It's nice today to be in the front. Even on that climb I was relatively comfortable. I think each day I can get a bit better and I can certainly take confidence from today in the next days.”

The team were also in action on the opening day at the Tour of Austria. The Grenadiers took on the stage, lining out the peloton on the final run-in, with Jhonatan Narvaez and Kim Heiduk sprinting to second and third. Pascal Ackermann (UAE Team Emirates) edged out the blanket finish to take the early race lead.

Pauline Ferrand-Prevot was also racing in the UCI World Cup mountain bike XCO event in Val di Sole. The world champion was riding in third place when she crashed on the penultimate lap. Despite taking a hard fall she was able to remount and finish in a gutsy eighth place.

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Here's the Tour report from tenth-place Jai Hindley's Team Bora-hansgrohe:

A second difficult stage in the Basque Country awaited the bunch today at the Tour. With the Jaizkibel only 15km out from the finish, another fight for the GC was expected. An early break was again well controlled and in the last climb, Neilson Powless was caught 3km from the KOM. A small bunch of about 25 riders crested the Jaizkibel, with Jai Hindley and Emanuel Buchmann also being part of this group. Buchmann attacked once with 6km remaining, but in the end, it was Victor Lafay who took the stage with a late attack. Both Jai and Emu safely crossed the line in the first group of favourites.

Jai Hindley at the stage one teams presentation. Sirotti photo

“It was another hard and stressful day. The boys did an incredible job yet again. Jordi also brought me back when I had to change shoe. We entered the final climb in a really good position and on the Jaizkibel it was full on again and the noise from the fans was incredible. I felt quite good but rode conservatively. Also in the finale it was all about staying out of trouble. Tomorrow should be a first chance for Jordi and hopefully we can score a result.”  – Jai Hindley

“That’s another stressful day done, and we can be happy. Today was quite technical and the guys worked well for Jai the whole day and we stayed away from all crashes, which is of course important. On the Jaizkibel, we had Bob and Emu with Jai. At the foot of the climb, Bob was important to keep him out of trouble and it was also good to have Emu in that select group in the finale. With Jumbo-Visma controlling, we knew it would be difficult to try something. Emu gave it a go once when Bilbao was caught, but in the end, we rode conservatively to the line. I think we are in a good position after those first two days, now we need to stay out of trouble the next two days with Jai and of course we will support Jordi in the sprints.” – Rolf Aldag, Sports Director

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David Gaudu's Team Groupama-FDJ posted this:

David Gaudu emerged from the inaugural Basque weekend of the Tour de France 2023 in twelfth place overall. He finished in the first group, along with the other main contenders for the final podium, in Donostia after a very fast peloton ascent up the slopes of Jaizkibel. Victory of the day went to a Frenchman: Victor Lafay (Cofidis).

David Gaudu at the teams presentation ceremony before the Tour start. Sirotti photo

On the second day of the race, the Tour de France saw the longest stage of its 2023 route take place: 209 kilometres between Vitoria-Gasteiz and Donostia, the finishing town of the annual eponymous “Clasica”. Despite some early differences in the overall classification on Saturday, only three attackers formed the day’s breakaway: Rémi Cavagna (Soudal – Quick Step), Edvald Boasson Hagen (TotalEnergies) and the holder of the polka-dot best climber jersey, Neilson Powless (EF Education – Easy Post). Their lead reached the five-minute mark, double the maximum gap recorded the day before. “They’re three very strong guys, so they made life hard for the peloton”, said Philippe Mauduit.

Led by UAE Team Emirates, the peloton gradually got closer to the trio that had become a duo on the Côte d’Alkiza, with Cavagna dropping back. The Groupama-FDJ riders never strayed far from the wheels of the riders in the Yellow Jersey team, until they reached the finish in excellent conditions. “The whole team did an excellent job,” says Philippe Mauduit. “Olivier, Quentin and Lars in particular.”

As on the previous day, Act II of the Basque start to the Tour de France 2023 featured five climbs included in the KOM classification. The final difficulty, the ascent of the famous Jaizkibel (8.1km at 5.3%), is longer than the Côte de Pike, but less steep. It was one man alone, Neilson Powless, who took on these decisive slopes, having eliminated Edvald Boasson Hagen on the Côte de Gurutze. However, the high pace of the peloton meant he couldn’t hold out for long. “It was a very fast and difficult climb”, Valentin Madouas commented after the finish.

In the midst of the Basque crowd, which once again turned out in force, the skimming was done progressively, until the acceleration of Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) and Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) for the summit bonuses. “I had yesterday’s stage in mind in particular, and today the main aim was to finish with the favourites”, explained David Gaudu who stayed at his own pace and reached the summit at a controlled distance from the top two finishers in the Tour de France 2022.

David Gaudu swung into the Yellow Jersey group, while Thibaut Pinot and Valentin Madouas were in a group too far behind to come back on the descent. “I wanted to stay with David as much as possible, to hang on as best I could in case of problems on the descent, explained Valentin Madouas. I missed a little something. Maybe I haven’t fully recovered from yesterday’s stage and last Sunday’s Championship.” In the streets of Donostia, it was likely to come down to a sprint to win this second stage… until Victor Lafay (Cofidis) attacked at the Flamme rouge. He managed to hold off the best sprinters in the group for a few metres. “Well done to him, because you had to be able to do it and hold on,” congratulated David Gaudu. I was able to tip over and finish within the winner’s time. The contract has been fulfilled”. “We approached this stage like the one the day before, as if it were a one-day race,” developed Philippe Mauduit, aware that the first big piece of the Tour de France 2023 has now passed with this first weekend, which was not to be neglected.

David Gaudu emerged from the two tricky stages in the Basque country in twelfth place overall, 22 seconds behind race leader Adam Yates and equal in time to the seventh-placed rider. “I’m at the front today, I was at the front yesterday, so it’s a good result”, he summed up. While the start of Monday’s third stage will again be held in the Basque country at Amorebieta-Etxano, the riders will then leave Spain for France at km 134, before a probable grouped finish in Bayonne. “This stage, and also Tuesday’s, will be quieter than this weekend’s,” commented Valentin Madouas. “We’ll need to recover as much as we can,” continued David Gaudu. After that, the focus will be on the Pyrenees, with the finish in Cauterets on Wednesday and the Col de Marie-Blanque on Thursday.“

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And here's the report from Neilson Powless' Team EF Education-EasyPost:

On stage two of the Tour de France, Neilson Powless won the fight to keep his polka dot jersey for another day. He’d secured his lead in the climbers’ competition the day before, on the hardest climb of stage one, but knew that his best chance of keeping the King of the Mountains shirt was to go in the break. The longest stage of this year’s Tour lay ahead of him. Stage two would traverse the green hills of the Basque Country from the region’s capital, Vitoria-Gasteiz to the finish by the seafront in the Belle Epoque resort of San Sebastian.

The final climb was the fearsome Jaizkibel, made famous by the Donostia-Donostia Klasikoa, which Neilson won in 2021. Odds were that the GC favorites would attack there, so Neilson decided to go for the early move. He powered his way into a break of three that half the peloton wanted to be in and made sure he crossed the first four summits of the race first to get the most points. On the last climb before Jaizkibel, Neilson went solo. Although his gap was shrinking, he tucked his in his arms and gave the peloton a run for it. The main group had to chase hard to catch him before the top, but Neilson had already guaranteed that he would spray champagne from the podium in San Sebastian.

Neilson Powless gets to keep the dots for another day. Sirotti photo

Neilson Powless:
"Today’s stage went sort of according to plan. We wanted to be in the breakaway, be it with me or with any of my teammates. In the end it was me who went in a breakaway that was too small and made me spend more energy than I would have liked. When the road got wet, we started to hope and believe it might be possible to make it to the finish. Unfortunately, I lost Rémi [Cavagna] and Edvald [Boasson Hagen] too early. Had we been together until Jaizkibel, we may have made it to the finish line, but we were all on our limit.

"When I hit Jaizkibel, the only thing I could do was riding on my threshold and hoping for the best. But, as things panned out, I would have needed to be one minute faster up the climb to keep the main group at bay. It just wasn’t meant to be my day. As for the KOM classification, it’s still a narrow lead - if I miss one break in the mountains it will be gone, and we are still a long way from reaching Paris. It’s very nice to be in the lead. I’m already in love with this polka-dot jersey. I fell immediately in love with it, indeed. Let’s see how long I can wear it."

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