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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, May 15, 2023

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2022 Tour de France | 2022 Giro d'Italia

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Remco Evenepoel out of Giro after testing positive for Covid-19

Here’s the sad news from Evenepoel’s Team Soudal Quick-Step:

The Belgian was forced to say goodbye to the first Grand Tour of the season after a routine test taken ahead of the first rest day came back positive to Covid-19.

The 23-year-old World Champion, who was making his second Giro d’Italia appearance, had enjoyed prior to this a strong first week, winning two stages and taking four pink jerseys.

“I am really sorry to be leaving the race. As part of the team’s protocol, I took a routine test, which unfortunately was positive. My experience here has been really special and I was looking forward to competing over the next two weeks. I can’t thank enough the staff and the riders who sacrificed so much in preparation for the Giro. I will be cheering them on over the next two weeks”, said Remco, who will travel home on Monday by car.

All the other Soudal Quick-Step riders and staff were tested and are negative.

Giro d'Italia stage nine team race reports

We posted the report from new GC leader Remco Evenepoel's Team Soudal Quick-Step with the results.

Here's the report from Geraint Thomas' & Tao Geoghegan Hart's Team INEOS Grenadiers:

Geraint Thomas and Tao Geoghegan Hart led the Grenadiers on a day of superb time trial performances on stage nine of the Giro.

The British duo placed second and third fastest on the 35-kilometre test, with Thomas a single tantalising second off the stage victory.

Geraint Thomas on his way to finishing just one second behind Remco Evenepoel. Sirotti photo

Remco Evenepoel (Soudal - Quick-Step) narrowly took the win in Cesena after Thomas had clawed back time across the course. Despite narrowly missing out on the stage win, Thomas has now propelled himself up to second overall, 45 seconds off Evenepoel who returned to the maglia rosa.

Geoghegan Hart put in another of the best TT rides of his career on the day, finishing just one second behind Thomas, two seconds off the stage win himself, to climb to fourth overall. Tao sits 50 seconds back on pink, and just three off third placed Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma).

There were brilliant TTs everywhere from the team, with Thymen Arensman setting the seventh fastest time, Laurens De Plus 14th and Pavel Sivakov 17th.

The result sees Sivakov jump up to 10th overall, with Arensman 13th and De Plus 14th on GC - a superb show of collective strength.

The Grenadiers lead the team classification by over six minutes heading into Monday's first rest day.

Tao Geoghegan Hart:
"I felt good which is most important. It was hard to judge all the corners and stuff because you don’t want to take risks, so you always end up a bit wondering which ones you didn’t do great. But that’s kind of normal for a stage race and especially a Grand Tour.

"I’m happy it’s a rest day tomorrow.

"There’s new [time trial] regulations which help to be honest. I feel much more comfortable on the TT bike now. That’s good from the last years. In the end when you have good condition it’s always easier to do a good time trial of course."

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Here's the Giro report from Team Groupama-FDJ:

On Sunday, Stefan Küng and Bruno Armirail just missed a prestigious victory by just four and eight seconds respectively, on stage 9 of the Giro d’Italia. On the second time trial of the “Corsa Rosa”, over thirty-five kilometres towards Cesena, the Swiss man and the Frenchman even led the race for nearly an hour, in the first two positions. In the end, they were only beaten by three men in the last minutes, and for only a handful of seconds. A frustrating outcome for the two specialists, while Thibaut Pinot tried to limit his losses before the first rest day despite some health issues.

Thibaut Pinot on his time trial ride. Sirotti photo

The first – long – week of the Giro was coming to an end this Sunday. “Finally,” probably thought a large part of the bunch. However, before heading to the first rest day, thirty-five kilometres were to be covered between Savignano sul Rubicone and Cesena, against the clock and on a very flat course, which was only made technical due to the pouring rain. “Once again, the whole team committed fully and did a great work”, underlined Sébastien Joly. “We take these days very seriously, as another mechanic and a second trainer join us. The organization is precise. The staff handles these days with great experience and some serenity”. First, Fabian Lienhard, Ignatas Konovalovas, Rudy Molard and Jake Stewart raced the time trial “at their own pace”.

The serious things started when Bruno Armirail and Stefan Küng left the ramp one after the other, at 3:17 p.m. and 3:18 p.m. From the first checkpoint, both of them made things clear. The Swiss set the fastest time, fourteen seconds ahead of the French champion, but the latter took the advantage for 4-5 seconds at the following checkpoints. Eventually, the former double European champion did a better finish and set the best time with a mark of 41’28, just four seconds ahead of the Frenchman. Stefan Küng went on the hot seat, and the two Groupama-FDJ riders held their first two positions for almost an hour. A few riders came close, but many cracked in the final portion.

Among the last starters, Tao Geoghegan Hart, Geraint Thomas and Remco Evenepoel all went faster at the various checkpoints. Their advantage was even superior to ten seconds in the third one, but on the line, the Englishman actually took the best time away from Stefan Küng for just one second! He was himself only beaten by one second by his Welsh teammate and by two seconds by the Belgian rider. At the finish, Stefan Küng therefore fell back to fourth place, but only four seconds from victory. “What can I say? I feel like it’s the story of my life”, said Stefan. “I come so close to victory every time. In addition, the road was drier towards the end for the GC riders. That’s sport, it is how it is, but it’s very frustrating to finish so close again… That’s all I can say”.

Bruno Armirail meanwhile finished just behind his teammate, in fifth position and only eight seconds behind Evenepoel. “I’m satisfied with my effort, but I’m still disappointed to get so close to winning a WorldTour time trial,” said the Frenchman. “Eight seconds is a lot and is nothing at the same time over 35 kilometres. I put myself in Stefan’s shoes, as he came even closer. Fifth was already my position in a Vuelta time trial, so I’m obviously aiming higher. My performance still bodes well for the rest of the Giro where there will be good opportunities. Hopefully, other breakaways will go to the end before the end of the race”.

Despite two men in the top-5 of a Grand Tour time trial, the day still appeared bittersweet. “Bruno achieved a very strong performance”, underlined Julien Pinot. “Being eight seconds from winning at this level means this is a benchmark time trial for him. If we look at the times, he was even the fastest between the first checkpoint and the finish. It’s a very good time trial and it shows that he is in good condition, which we had already seen during the last two stages along Thibaut. For Stefan, it is more about disappointment and frustration, because he is once again very close to a big victory. We learn to put things into perspective, but we will continue to work so that the seconds are finally on our side on the major races. These four seconds can be everywhere and nowhere. It’s like that”.

As for Thibaut Pinot, he completed the course in 44’04, 2’40 behind Remco Evenepoel who returned in pink. “My time was not my first concern today”, said the French climber. “I haven’t been feeling good for three days. I’m just happy to have completed this 45-minute effort and to have some rest tomorrow. I have mixed feelings after this first week. I was fine for five days, and then I got sick. Despite being unlucky, I am lucky that it happens now. I console myself in this way. After the rest day, there are three days for sprinters-breakaways. For me, it will be important to get some good feelings back in order to have fun in the second part of the Giro”.

After nine days of racing, the climber from Melisey is in twentieth place overall, 5’33 behind the race leader.

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

Primoz Roglic has finished sixth in the ninth stage of the Giro d'Italia. The 33-year-old Slovenian rode well in the individual time trial, finishing seventeen seconds behind stage winner Remco Evenepoel. Roglic remains third in the general classification going into the rest day.

Primoz Roglic was sixth in the time trial. Sirotti photo

Edoardo Affini was the first rider to start for Team Jumbo-Visma. The Italian set a solid target time of 42:41 in the rain. As the day progressed, it became a little drier, and the pace picked up. Roglic started his race against the clock conservatively, but his intermediate times got faster and faster. In the final section, the three-time Vuelta winner made up many seconds on his closest rivals, and in the end, his time of 41:41 was good enough for sixth place.

"It was a good time trial”, Roglic said. "Usually, my start is a bit slower, and my finish is better. I would have signed up for this position beforehand. Remco is now slightly ahead of me and the Ineos guys, but we are getting closer. It will be an interesting few weeks. I'm looking forward to it.”

"The differences are minimal”, sports director Arthur van Dongen said. "The rules are entirely different after a week of racing, and this time trial has shown that. Primoz continued his excellent form on a course that was a little less suited to him than his rivals. He was particularly strong in the second part. We are delighted.”

Van Dongen knows that a lot of hard work lies ahead in the second and third weeks. "We're not at the halfway point yet. There is still a lot of climbing to do. The current game of seconds cannot be compared to the expected differences of minutes. Everyone is very close at the moment, and that's good for this race. We have also seen a strong Ineos. They can compete with Soudal-QuickStep and us. In any case, it's going to be a great battle.”

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And here's the Giro report from Aleksandr Vlasov's Team Bora-hansgrohe:

Before the rest day came the second of three individual time trials. The 35 km long route was flat, but had some technical sections around Cesena. The weather conditions also didn't do the riders any favours today. The terrain generally favoured the time trial specialists and so it came as no surprise that Stefan Küng set the first benchmark time.

Both of BORA - hansgrohe's leaders, Aleksandr Vlasov and Lennard Kämna were convincing today, having put in strong rides. The German time trial champion Kämna was in ninth place at the first intermediate time check, with Vlasov doing even better, in fifth place. Both were able to keep up a high pace until the finish line and finished in eighth and 12th place. With a time of 41:24 minutes, R. Evenepoel once again was crowned the day's best time triallist and took the day's win. However, the time gaps at the top end of the race were smaller than expected. After the first week of the Giro, Aleks Vlasov and Lennard Kämna are now both in the top ten of the general classification, in seventh and ninth place respectively.

Aleksandr Vlasov completes his time trial. Sirotti photo

"I'm happy with my time trial. I'm feeling good after the first few stages and my form is where I expected it to be. It was important today not to overdo it and I managed that well. It wasn't easy to find a rhythm on the wet road, but I tried to keep my pace pretty even from the beginning to the end. My time deficit today wasn't big, so it was a good performance from me." - Aleksandr Vlasov

"We knew we couldn't underestimate this time trial. We know Aleks and Lenni are good time trialists, but we also knew that there would inevitably be faster riders today. For us it was all about keeping the time gaps within bounds. We are very pleased with the performance of our guys. If you had asked me before the stage, I would have been happy with clocking 1:30 minutes behind Remco or Primoz, but it ended up being much less. We made up, so to speak, what we lost yesterday, and we're back on track. I think the most difficult part of the Giro is over for us. From now on, the stages will suit us better." - Sylwester Szmyd, Coach

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