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Thursday, September 7, 2023

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2022 Tour de France | 2023 Giro d'Italia

Laws are spider webs through which the big flies pass and the little ones get caught. - Honore de Balzac

Tour de France: 2020

Bill & Carol McGann's book The Story of the Tour de France, 2020: The Tour During Covid-19, Better Late Than Never is available in both Kindle eBook and Audiobook versions. To get your copy, just click on the Amazon link on the right.

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Vuelta a España stage eleven reports

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

Here's the Vuelta report from second-place Romain Grègoire's Team Groupama-FDJ:

Just as he did on stage 2 of the Vuelta, Romain Grégoire had great ambitions for the eleventh stage leading to Laguna Nera on Wednesday. And like the second day (7th), the French puncher was up there. After a big fight during the first hour of racing, he first managed to get to the front with Rudy Molard and Lewis Askey, in a breakaway of twenty-six riders who went on to fight for victory in the day’s only climb.

Still in contention for the win with 300 metres to go, the former European Juniors champion was only beaten by Jesus Herrada in the final sprint. On the line, he took second place, his first podium on a Grand Tour. Rudy Molard crossed the line in seventh position and Lenny Martinez followed the favorites to the top, thus securing his fifth place overall.

It was Jesus Herrada who took the stage win. Sirotti photo

For Romain Grégoire and the Groupama-FDJ cycling team as a whole, the ambition was clear on Wednesday at the start of Lerma and towards La Laguna Negra (6.5 km 6.7%) in Vinuesa. “We planned to fight for the stage win today, as it suited the break”, explained Benoît Vaugrenard. The first mission was therefore to make it to the front, but a large part of the peloton had a similar goal on Wednesday, which therefore led to a fierce and continuous fight for more than an hour. It took a good number of attacks and fifty kilometres for a group to finally break away.

“We wanted to have Romain, Rudy or Michael in front”, added Benoît. “In the end, we had two out of these three, plus Lewis”. “The fight lasted for a long time, on a rather flat profile, so it was really not easy”, completed Rudy. “We kept on fighting, and we managed to join the break with two good cards. It was a good start.” “Everything was perfect”, also added Romain. “We had Rudy and me for the final climb and Lewis to close the gaps and help us as best he could in the valley”. In the 26-rider breakaway, the Groupama-FDJ trio especially found the company of Geraint Thomas, Filippo Ganna, Jesus Herrada, Andreas Kron, Andrea Piccolo, Luis Leon Sanchez and Jonathan Caicedo.

As nobody in front was a threat for the general classification, the peloton let it go. The gap quickly reached four minutes, and even got close to six minutes in the last hour of racing. The breakaway also maintained quite a good collaboration for a while, on rather flat terrain until the final climb. The first offensives occurred in the final fifteen kilometres, but Lewis Askey made sure to cover the moves for his teammates. Approaching the final climb of Laguna Negra, Paul Ourselin anticipated the big fight, but right from the first slopes, Filippo Ganna took the lead of the group to set a very solid pace and reduce the breakaway.

Halfway through the climb, only eight men could hold his wheel, including Romain Grégoire and Rudy Molard. The Italian kept control until the last 1500 metres, where the gradients got higher, and the first attacks happened. Rudy Molard briefly tried to make his way into the lead before Jonathan Caicedo took a few metres gap when passing under the flamme rouge. “When he went, one of us had to sacrifice and I decided to make the effort,” said Rudy. “The final was explosive, and Romain could go for the win, so I decided to sacrifice myself”. After Rudy Molard’s strong pull, Romain Grégoire followed Geraint Thomas’s wheel and four men came back close to the South American rider with 300 metres to go.

At this very moment, Jesus Herrada decided to launch the final sprint. Romain Grégoire did try to hold his wheel, but unsuccessfully. The Spaniard therefore went to take victory, and the young Frenchman had to settle for second place at the top. “I think I did everything well”, said Romain shortly after the line. “I can’t even be disappointed, because when Herrada passed me, I couldn’t do anything. He was the strongest. We know he is strong in this kind of scenario, and he proved it. I was up there, but just below him. Too bad. You don’t make a record list with second places, but I have no regrets today”. “We came across a more experienced and more resistant rider than us”, also greeted Benoît. “Romain fought very well and Rudy was exemplary once again. Whether with Lenny or Romain, he does a great work on this Vuelta”.

After his seventh place in Barcelona on the second day, Romain Grégoire scored his first podium in a Grand Tour and is hungry for more. “I’m in good shape, and I felt even better today than in the first week,” he said. “We will try again”. The Groupama-FDJ now tallies eight top 10 finishes since the start of the Vuelta. “In general, you always remember your first Grand Tour, but a Grand Tour like this one will leave its mark on the youngsters”, said Rudy. “They can build on this to improve and gain even more confidence. I’m really happy to be with them on this Vuelta.”

On Wednesday, Lenny Martinez finished in the GC group, after the final was controlled by Remco Evenepoel’s team. The French climber therefore remains in fifth place overall but will have to remain careful on Thursday towards Zaragoza, where the sprinters hope to fight again. “If the wind blows in a certain direction, it can be a very tricky stage because it’s exposed all day,” concluded Benoît.

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Here's the Vuelta report from third-place Andreas Kron's Team Lotto Dstny

Andreas Kron has again shown himself at La Vuelta. After winning stage two in Barcelona, the Dane finished third at the end of stage eleven, which was contested between a large breakaway.

Stage eleven was predicted as a stage for the attackers, which was eventually the case. In a fast start to the stage, a big breakaway of 26 riders formed. Also Lotto Dstny rider Andreas Kron was part of the move, which would eventually battle for the stage honours on the summit finish of La Laguna Negra, the only ascent of the day with steep slopes towards the end. Due to an infernal pace, set by Italian Ganna, the head of the race was gradually thinned out until a select group would eventually battle for the win. It was the Spaniard Herrada who had the fastest acceleration at the end. Kron did everything he could to bridge but had to settle for third place in the end.

Andreas Kron wins 2023 Vuelta stage two.

“It was a really hectic start and it took a long time until the breakaway formed, but luckily I got help from my teammates and I managed to get in there”, says Andreas Kron. “Then it was about saving as much energy as possible until the climb. I really believed I could win the stage and I tried everything. In the end, Herrada was just a little stronger. I still tried to close the gap but with around 75 metres to go, my legs exploded and I had to settle for 3rd. I’m satisfied with my performance and I’m especially looking forward to Sunday, which should be another good opportunity. I’m enjoying this Vuelta and the shape is there to go for it again.”

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Here's the Vuelta report from GC leader Sepp Kuss's Team Jumbo-Visma:

Team Jumbo-Visma had a relatively quiet eleventh stage in the Vuelta a España. Sepp Kuss, Primoz Roglic and Jonas Vingegaard crossed the line in the group of favourites after the final climb. Jesus Herrada won the stage.

The eleventh stage of the Vuelta a España was decided on the summit of La Laguna Negra after a flat run-up. A breakaway of 26 riders gained space to fight for the stage win. The GC riders did not attack on the final climb.

"I was expecting the opposition to try something today, but it didn't happen”, Vingegaard said. "We agreed with the team beforehand not to do anything today. We are in a good position. So, for us, every stage that passes is a good thing. We will see what happens on Friday's stage when we reach the Tourmalet. This stage will be crucial.”

Sepp Kuss on his way to the stage 11 start line. Sirotti photo

"All in all, I had a quiet day”, said general classification leader Kuss. "We could afford to give the lead group some space today. None of the escapees threatened the classification. Then, it was a matter of staying focused on the final climb."

"The GC teams took a wait-and-see approach, so we rode together towards the final kilometre. In a grand tour, every effort counts, so you have to try to save energy. That was the case today. I still have the red leader's jersey, which is a great motivation for the next stages”, the American concluded.

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And here's the Vuelta report from Team INEOS Grenadiers:

Geraint Thomas climbed to fifth on stage 11 of La Vuelta, aided by some superb teamwork from Filippo Ganna.

After a ferocious start that saw the bunch cover 50 kilometres in the first hour, the duo made it into the 26-rider break of the day.

In the run into the deciding climb, the duo put in some strong turns to ensure they’d be fighting for the stage win.

Onto the slopes of the Laguna Negra, and Ganna, fresh from his time trial success on stage 10, set a tremendous pace up the mountain, dropping many of the pair’s breakaway companions.

Thomas then put in an effort under the one kilometre to go banner, where he would distance yet more of his rivals.

In the final run to the line, ‘G’ dug deep, but was unable to sprint for the win. He would cross the line fifth, with Ganna in 10th after a selfless ride.

Filppo Ganna finishing stage 11. Sirotti photo

The result elevated Thomas three places on the general classification to 18th overall.

Wednesday also saw stage four of the Tour of Britain taking place, as fantastic weather and great crowds continued to follow the race.

Once again the Grenadiers helped control the stage, before upping the tempo late on, hitting the front to keep Tom Pidcock out of trouble heading into the final kilometres.

Luke Rowe, Connor Swift and Ben Turner pushed the pace, with Turner holding on well in the bunch sprint to take eighth place. Olav Kooij (Jumbo-Visma) once again won the sprint to make it four wins from four.

Geraint Thomas:
“We got in the break. Ideally we wanted two of us and me and Pippo was a good combination. I said to him halfway round that ‘I’m not feeling great’. The team tried geeing me up and Pippo really wanted to commit to me and I really appreciated that. I’m just disappointed that I couldn’t finish it off. I just felt I had no real gas at the end and a bit limited. But we gave it everything and that’s what we had on the day."

“Seeing [Ganna] at the start remind me of (Wout) Van Aert at the Tour last year, when he could just make a break happen. He was going and the bunch was just splitting in the crosswinds. He had Egan in the wheel and everyone was getting dropped. He was making the break. He’s got so much gas and he’s going so well. It’s great to have him there, but like I say, it was probably a bit too steep for him here so he committed full for me. Unfortunately I couldn’t quite finish it off – but we’ll keep trying.”

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