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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, March 27, 2023

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2022 Tour de France | 2022 Giro d'Italia

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Volta a Catalunya stage seven final team reports

We posted the report from stage winner Remco Evenepoel's Team Soudal Quick-Step with the results.

Here is the report from GC winner Primoz Roglic's Team Jumbo-Visma:

Primoz Roglic has won the Volta a Catalunya. The Jumbo-Visma rider held off several attacks by Remco Evenepoel on the final stage to Barcelona to finish six seconds ahead of the Belgian in the general classification. By winning the Catalan stage race, Roglic added a missing prize to his list of honours.

Just after finishing stage seven. Roglic has won the 2023 Tour of Catalonia. Sirotti photo

Roglic defended a 10-second lead over Evenepoel in the final stage. Evenepoel attacked for the first time during the second climb of Montjuic, which had to be climbed six times. Only Roglic and Marc Soler were able to follow.

After another attack from the world champion, the trio soon had a minute's advantage over the field, and only Roglic remained. The two fought hard, but at the top of the final climb, Roglic knew he had won the stage race. Evenepoel beat Roglic in the sprint for the stage win.

"I am thrilled", Roglic said. "The Volta a Catalunya was missing from my list of honours. To have won it means a lot to me. I feel honoured and happy."

Roglic feels that his teammates have been of great value over the past few days. "The team helped me a lot. My teammates protected me all day and kept me in a good position. Luckily I also had the legs to keep up with Remco. I knew he would try again today."

Roglic can reflect on a successful preparation for the Giro d'Italia, which starts in six weeks. After topping the podium at Tirreno-Adriatico earlier this month, he also won the second stage race of the season in Catalonia. "We had a great week together. I made some excellent steps again, and I hope to keep it up in the weeks to come."

Roglic's performance impressed sports director Merijn Zeeman. "This is unbelievable. He was off the bike for a long time after his shoulder injury. He promptly won two WorldTour races after his return. We didn’t anticipate that."

However, Zeeman is aware that there is still work to be done. "What is good today is not good tomorrow. We have to improve every day to be in top form for the start of the Giro."

The overall victory in his second race of the year meant Roglic’s seventh victory of the season.

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Gent-Wevelgem team reports

We posted the report from winner Christophe Laporte's Team Jumbo-Visma with the results.

Here's the report from third-place Sep Vanmarcke's Team Israel-Premier Tech:

When Sep Vanmarcke crossed the finish line at Gent – Wevelgem having won the sprint for third place, he punched the air with delight. It wasn’t a win but it may as well have been.

For the Belgian racing on home soil, today’s result marked a Classics redemption of sorts after a write off Classics season last year. 13 years after first gracing the podium at Gent-Wevelgem, Vanmarcke was back up there today for the third time in his career, this time, with his daughter alongside him. While the Jumbo-Visma duo of Christophe Laporte and Wout Van Aert proved unbeatable, taking the top two steps of the podium, Vanmarcke used his experience to play his cards to perfection in the finale.

Attacking as part of a trio in the final ten kilometers, and joined by Mads Pedersen in the last kilometer, Vanmarcke waited patiently to launch his sprint and win the four-man battle for the final step.

Sep Vanmarcke finished third. Photo: Sprint Cycling.

“Best of the rest is always nice. I’m super happy. I mean the two guys in front were long gone and I never thought about those two, I was focusing on getting a good result for myself and for the team. I saw the sprinters looked tired and everybody started to gamble, so everything was possible and I started to be really active in the last 15-20 kilometers but I felt like I had to keep on attacking and following moves because at one point, it would split,” explained Vanmarcke.

“Then when Bjerg and Frison went, I went full gas with them and we worked really well together until the last kilometer as we knew that if we didn’t do it, all three of us wouldn’t have a chance to get a good result with all of the sprinters behind us. Pedersen came back but he also had to spend a lot of energy to catch us so that was perfect. He launched from far away and I used him as a lead out and sprinted to a nice third place.”

Van Aert and Laporte’s attack on the Kemmelberg with 50 kilometers to go was the decisive move in the race but behind, Vanmarcke was feeling good. He powered on in the peloton and started to show himself at the front of the group in the business end of the race. Right until the very end.

Stepping onto the podium today was more than just a celebration of a good result, it was the knowledge that Sep is getting back to his best form.

“I had a good winter and I stayed healthy. I didn’t have any injuries and basically the whole season I have felt good and have been racing at a high level. I’m just missing a little bit and I was thinking maybe this is just what I have left in my tank now, this is my best level, but now today proves that if you keep trying for your best, at one point you will get a good result. It’s a big relief for me and for the team. Everybody put a lot of effort into it. The result today gives me confidence for the next races. I also realise Van der Poel, Van Aert, Pogacar, these guys are next level but it gives me confidence that I can get a good result at the Tour of Flanders.”

For Sports Director Dirk Demol, Sep’s third place is nothing but well deserved.

“Third place is an incredible result. I feel so proud of Sep and how he performed today. The day started not so good with only five riders at the start line so Sep being third behind Laporte and Van Aert is like a victory for me. We knew that they were gone. As soon as they had 20 seconds, we knew they would win the race so third place would be the best possible. After the final Kemmelberg, we were in communication with Sep as he said he was feeling really good so we told him to follow his instinct. Top five was going to be a good result but third place is incredible.”

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Here's the Gent-Wevelgem report from 9th-place Danny van Poppel's Team Bora-hansgrohe:

The Classics continued today with Gent-Wevelgem, a race that featured nine hellingen and treacherous cobblestone and gravel sections over nearly 261km. Constant rain, cold temperatures and winds made the race even more difficult. On the first flat 160km, a breakaway went clear, gaining less than a three-minute lead in the first half of the race. Before the Monteberg everything came together again, but it wasn't long before the attacks started to fly, and on the Kemmelberg Van Aert and Laporte attacked. BORA-hansgrohe was represented in the chasing group by Danny van Poppel, Nils Politt and Marco Haller.

It was a cold, wet day in Belgium.

After the last passage of the Kemmelberg, Nils and Danny were still up there and proceeded to parepare the sprint for third place for Danny. With the victory going to Laporte, the Dutchman took BORA-hansgrohe's first top 10 finish this week in Belgium.

"With every crossing of the Kemmelberg I actually felt stronger and today I think I had a good chance of a strong placing. After it became clear that the two Jumbo riders could not be brought back, I definitely wanted to fight for a podium place. So it was a shame that we couldn't counter the last few attacks because a better result was then out of reach. But I'm happy that I was able to get our first top 10 finish of the week." - Danny van Poppel

"It was a very hard day and the weather in particular wasn't great. It was also a big question of morale to be right up there today. As a team we rode relatively well. We got over the Kemmelberg well the first time, as we positioned ourselves well in the lead up there, and on the last ascent of the Kemmelberg we were still represented by Danny and me. Then we decided that Danny would do the sprint because he is the fastest sprinter between us, and with his ninth place, we put in a solid performance and we can be happy with how it went." - Nils Politt

“It was, as we expected, a tough race all day, but nonetheless we were still there in the finale. We fought for a podium and in the end we took a top 10 result. We were always well positioned at important points, such as in the Kemmelberg. So we can't be dissatisfied with our performance. We fought well and will continue to do so here in Belgium" - Jean-Pierre Heynderickx, Sport Director

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And here's the Gent-Wevelgem report from Team Groupama-FDJ:

The third Flanders Classic of the week did not go so well for the Groupama-FDJ team on Sunday. In the 2023 edition of Ghent-Wevelgem, made extremely difficult due to the weather conditions, Stefan Küng and his teammates were unable to fight for the top positions. After an issue at the bottom of the Kemmelberg’s second ascent, the Swiss rider couldn’t join in the final battle. Christophe Laporte eventually won the race ahead of his teammate Wout Van Aert.

With continuous rain and temperatures below ten degrees, one could expect a grueling, attrition race on Sunday, over the 260 kilometres of the 85th Ghent-Wevelgem. In this next round of the “Spring campaign”, Stefan Küng was joined by Arnaud Démare at the start in Ypres, but the Groupama-FDJ team also wanted to take a step ahead on this particular day. Shortly after the start, at 11 a.m., Lewis Askey therefore took part in the fight for the breakaway.

Frédéric Guesdon on wet cobbles.

“With this weather, being in front was not a bad idea”, explained Frédéric Guesdon. “Unfortunately, Lewis first found himself in a group of seven riders who had to fight for a very long time to make a gap. I think they wasted a lot of energy at this point. Still, it was a good plan to have a guy in front, especially since there were fourteen men in the lead”. With riders like Jenthe Biermans (Arkéa-Samsic), Johan Jacobs (Movistar), Mike Teunissen (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty), Greg Van Avermaet (AG2R-Citroën) or Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, the twenty-one-year-old Englishman enjoyed a maximum lead of four minutes. From mid-race, however, this gap began to reduce while crashes multiplied within the peloton. Caught in one of them, Jake Stewart was able to get back a few minutes later, as the riders approached the first “hills” of the day.

The fight intensified at the front of the peloton and many riders were eliminated quite early on. Lewis Askey completed the first ascent of the Kemmelberg, 83 kilometres from the line, a minute ahead of the bunch. In the first positions of the latter at the top, Jake Stewart narrowly missed a chasing group of eight riders. “We had almost everyone after the first time on the Kemmel, only Arnaud was missing”, specified Frédéric. “It was pretty good. We missed the move that went, but we managed to reorganize ahead of the second ascent”.

While Lewis Askey was joined by the chasing group, his teammates started to chase on the “plugstreets” to close a minute gap. Everything eventually came back together with fifty-five kilometres to go, just three kilometres from the second climb of the Kemmelberg. Stefan Küng was perfectly positioned at the foot, in the wheel of Wout Van Aert and Christophe Laporte, but the Swiss man experienced a decisive hitch. “He had frozen fingers and could not change gears when he arrived in the Kemmel”, explained Frédéric. “This is the wrong place for this type of issue because you quickly find yourself behind if you can’t spin the legs. It’s a shame because he was well positioned but it happens, and we can’t control everything. He did change gloves, covered himself well, but it did not prove enough. Fabian hung on, but the others were distanced after working to position Stefan”.

More than fifty kilometres from the finish, the Jumbo-Visma duo above broke away and very quickly took a large lead. As for Fabian Lienhard, he was unfortunately dropped from the chasing group in one of the last climbs of the route. “He got a bit blocked by Caleb Ewan, who left a split in the group”, added Frédéric. “They never came back afterwards. They almost bridged across twenty kilometres from the finish, but then the first chasing group accelerated again. It’s a shame to be eliminated this way”. The Swiss man eventually reached the line in thirty-third position, almost four minutes behind winner Christophe Laporte. “It’s a disappointing result”, concluded Frédéric. “We were hoping for a lot better, but we know it can happen. It was our bad day for the Classics, and we’ll refocus for the upcoming races. We shouldn’t pay too much attention to it. We know that we performed well on Friday, and it’s not always easy to do well in both races, especially with the difficult weather conditions. We were up there for a while, we came short in the end, but there is no reason to panic”.

Two rest days are now on the program before the next battle on Dwars door Vlaanderen, on Wednesday.

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