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Monday, June 19, 2023

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2022 Tour de France | 2023 Giro d'Italia

True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us. - Socrates

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 Suisse stage eight final reports

We posted the report from stage winner Juan Ayuso's UAE Team Emirates with the results.

Here's the report from GC winner Mattias Skjelmose's Team Trek-Segafredo:

Mattias Skjelmose secured overall victory at the Tour de Suisse and had us on the edge of our seat in doing so.

Over 20 seconds down at the first intermediate checkpoint, some might have written him off but the 22-year-old proved that his pacing strategy was perfectly thought out to seal the first WorldTour General Classification win of his career.

He used the short but tough climb to his advantage using the top of that as his virtual finish line, and pulling back time on his closest GC rivals, before the fast descent into the finish.

In the end, the young Dane stopped the clocked nine seconds behind the stage winner, Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) and just one second behind Remco Evenepoel (Soudal – Quick-Step) to secure his place on the top step of the podium.

Mattias Skjelmose and his big trophy. Sirotti photo

Skjelmose’s Reaction:
“The plan was to go out a bit cautious and really go hard on the climb. My TT finished on top of the last climb and I think that was the best pacing plan and I think that put on a show at the end.

"I didn’t have a super feeling in the legs but there was power. It was really difficult for me. I was starving when I started the first 10km and was almost 20” behind Remco, but I found something extra and I could finish really well.

"Of course it’s been an emotional rollercoaster, a big high with my stage win in Villars-sur-Ollon to a much bigger low with Gino’s death. I wanted to win for Gino, I think everyone today raced for him. I wanted to give something back. Everyone I spoke to said he was the most wonderful person you could ever imagine but sadly I didn’t know him personally but I wanted to give something back to him because he gave so much to a lot of other people.

"This win is a breakthrough for me. I had a really good season until now but this is my first step on the really big stage. I’m even more excited for the Tour now, but I also know that the Tour is a whole other level than this: a lot more stress, everybody is in top shape, and I think it’s going to be a really big learning process for me

"I’ve been learning, maturing and have had some really good people around me: directors and riders like Mads Pedersen who has taught me a lot about being a good leader. Everything combined has helped with this. [At the start of the week] I told Kim [Andersen, DS] that I believed I could finish on the podium. I think when you go for the podium you can also fight for the win. A lot of things matched up so that I can stand in yellow now.

"I’m going to try to do GC in the Tour de France. That’s the plan and I believe I can do a good one, still with the knowledge that it’s a bit untouched territory for me so we will go into it with respect and no pressure.”

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Here’s the report from second-place Remco Evenepoel’s Team Soudal Quick-Step:

Remco Evenepoel took advantage of the final day individual time trial, putting in a solid ride on an undulating and demanding course which propelled him into the top three at the end of the stage for his second podium of the season in a World Tour stage race, after the runner-up spot he got at the Volta a Catalunya, in March.

Victorious on the previous stage of the Tour de Suisse after a remarkable 17km solo, Remco had a flying start and put together a really solid TT ride, setting the benchmark at both checkpoints before going straight into the hot seat at the finish with a time of 32:33, but eventually concluded second in Abtwil, after Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) improved his result by just eight seconds.

Remco Evenepoel winning stage seven.

Despite not taking what would have been his eighth victory of the season, Evenepoel found solace in the fact that his quality display in the 25.7km stage against the lock helped him gain one position in the general classification, where he finished third, 45 seconds behind winner Mattias Skjelmose (Trek-Segafredo).

“I rode maybe a little too fast before the climb, which cost me a bit there, as I had some difficulties in finding a good cadence, but on the other hand I moved up in the ranking after this time trial, so I can be content”, said the Belgian Champion.

“Overall, I can be satisfied with my week. I came here knowing that I wasn’t in good shape, but I managed to take a stage win and finish on the podium of this important race, which is good at the end of the day. Now I will travel to Belgium for the Nationals, and from there to Val di Fassa, for our summer camp. There we will see how my second part of the season will look, but what I can already say is that I will ride San Sebastian and the World Championships.”

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Here’s the report from Wilco Kelderman’s Team Jumbo-Visma:

Wilco Kelderman has finished fourth overall at the Tour de Suisse. Wout van Aert finished fifth in the final time trial to take the points jersey for the WorldTour race.

The death of Gino Mäder cast a pall over the race in the final stages.

"I’ve had mixed emotions over the last few days”, Kelderman said. "Because of all the events, you don't feel like going deep. You don't have your mind on it."

Wilco Kelderman finishing stage four. Sirotti photo

After the time trial in Abtwil, the classification rider took stock of a week's racing. "I can be happy with my condition and my performance. Even in today's time trial, I felt good. I was able to find a good rhythm and keep my pace. There are still some points to improve, but I have to say that I am starting to ride better and better”, Kelderman said. "I managed to get a good classification, which was the goal. I was able to compete every day, and towards the end, I even improved a little. As a result, I'm going into the Tour de France with a lot of confidence.”

He will also have Van Aert at his side. "I think I am on the same level, but I can still improve here and there. I could also do my thing in the mountain stages to help Wilco. I don't think I'm at my best yet. With some rest in the next two weeks, I hope to get a bit better. That's why I needed this race incentive”, Van Aert said.

The Belgian was moderately pleased with his race against the clock: "The climbs were challenging. I didn't get through the last part of the climb how I wanted. I was hoping for better. The feeling was okay, but in terms of the result, it could have been a bit better. It was a good time trial, but during the race, I felt that it would not be enough to win.”

The Belgian also reflected on a week full of emotion and sadness. "The last days were difficult. The atmosphere was a bit different, and concentrating wasn't easy. It's nice to be able to go home for a while because you can't keep a positive feeling from this race with all these terrible events. After some rest, I will concentrate on the Belgian championships.”

"Everything is relative after the terrible events”, sports director Marc Reef said. "We put everything in a different light, and everything becomes very relative. So we can be happy with Wilco's fourth place. He has had a long rehabilitation period and has worked hard. It's a boost for him but also for us as a team. Nevertheless, it's good that we can finish this race now. I think we all want to go home to our families.”

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And here’s the Swiss Tour report from Romain Grégoire’s Team Groupama-FDJ:

On Sunday, Romain Grégoire came just a few seconds away from scoring his first top-10 in a time trial at WorldTour level. On the difficult 26-kilometre route set to conclude the 2023 edition of the Tour de Suisse, the young Frenchman made a strong impression towards Abtwil. Better and better over the course, he eventually claimed eleventh place, less than a minute behind the winner Juan Ayuso, and sitting among the specialists and GC favourites. In the overall ranking, won by Mattias Skjelmose, he secured fifteenth place and completed his week in fine style.

Romain Grégoire having a good day at the 2023 4 Days of Dunkirk where he won stage two and the final GC. Getty Sport photo

Before ending a wounded Tour de Suisse, the riders had to complete the second individual time trial of the race on Sunday, over 25.7 kilometres between St. Gallen and Abtwil. “The first part was quite flat and very fast until km 13”, said Anthony Bouillod. “Then, from km 13 to km 22, there were nine hard kilometres where you needed to push really hard on the pedals. Eventually, 3.5 km from the finish, there was the final descent leading to the line. It was a bit technical because it was on a small road”.

Among the four riders from the Groupama-FDJ cycling team still racing, Sam Watson was the first to get underway, at 3:33 p.m. “Everyone, riders and staff, were well committed for this stage”, said Sébastien Joly. “It made it possible for us to get back into the race today.” “The guys did a good time trial, starting with Sam who achieved a good time at the first intermediate, even if he struggled a bit on the final climb,” said Anthony. However, with a mark of 34’02, the British rider remained well positioned in the provisional standings for a while. Later, Quentin Pacher and Michael Storer, with times of 34’16 and 34’15 respectively, put on an almost similar performance.

Last rider of the team on the launch pad, Romain Grégoire started at 4:05 p.m., shortly before the big favorites. “I was behind him, and he was very focused, very careful”, testified Anthony. “The plan was to really focus on speed, managing the effort and handling the aero position in the first part, and then focus on power on the climb. He managed his effort really well as we planned, and that’s why he did a very good time. On a course like this, management is key.”

Once all the riders covered the route, Romain Grégoire was 26th in the first intermediate and 17th in the second one. He also set the eighth provisional time when he finished, before slipping down to eleventh after the last riders’ finish. “We thought it was possible to do top-20 like in the first time trial, or even top-15, but to get close to the top-10 like he did means it’s really a great performance”, said Anthony Bouillod. “He confirms his potential and his versatility, which we already knew, at WorldTour level. He blows us away race after race, but that’s no surprise.”

Thanks to his day’s performance, the 20-year-old Frenchman secured his 15th place overall. “The objective we set at the start was met”, assured Sébastien. “It was a first for him in a WorldTour stage race with high mountains. The stage with passes at 2000 metres of altitude was important for him to see where he stood. It bodes well for the future. We can be satisfied”. “I was not in the mood to think about performance these last three days, but eventually, it’s still been a solid week”, said Romain. “Performance-wise, it’s been a good week of work. Even if I didn’t really play the leading roles, I tried to hang on and make as much effort as possible which will serve me for the future. It can be for the future week-long stage races or very soon on the French championships. I’ll now try to recover well and the shape should be good next week.”

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