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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, February 10, 2024

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2023 Tour de France | 2023 Giro d'Italia

I don't try to describe the future. I try to prevent it. - Ray Bradbury

TDF volume 1

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 la Provence stage one reports

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

Here's the report from stage winner Mads Pedersen's Team Lidl-Trek:

Mads Pedersen continued his stunning early-season success run with another win in France, notching his fourth victory of the year from just six days of racing. Due to strong rain forecast throughout the day and a technical finish, the decision was taken by the jury to move the 3km rule to 5km, as well as removing the time bonifications for the first three riders at the finish.

The stage and the GC lead are Mads Pedersen's

Shortly after the start six riders broke clear from the peloton, and with the GC leader in the team, the Lidl-Trek boys got to work to control the gap.

“The strategy was to let a small breakaway of five to seven riders go and then put Tim [Declercq] to pull straight away, and then to do a good sprint in the end. I think we managed to do really well at executing that plan.” - Pedersen

The peloton had to endure day long drizzle, but Tim Declercq and Julien Bernard knuckled down, knowing that with the top two riders on GC in the team, as well as the big stage favorite, that it was their responsibility. With some assistance from other sprint teams, the breakaway was finally reeled in with 5km to go, but not without strong resistance. From there, it was down to Pedersen’s leadout train to expertly guide him through the technical final kilometers, dropping him off after the final bend with the finish line in view. The Dane launched his sprint, drew level with Riley Pickrell (Israel) before shifting up a gear and surging ahead to victory.

It’s only when you cross the line that you realise that you’ve won. Of course, you’re dreaming to win every time you’re on the start line, but it’s only something you can only believe in the last minutes. Especially today, with a hectic final, I only knew in the last meters. The plan will be similar tomorrow, we’ll have to control again, and I think the rain plays a bit in our favor so we will try to copy/paste today.

The boys did a perfect job. In the last kilometer Alex [Kirsch] and Otto [Vergaerde] kept the peloton in one line and Ryan [Gibbons] kept me out of problems to make sure I could do a good sprint. In the end it was quite a long sprint because we opened a bit of a gap in the last corner but we managed it well and we have to get used to each other with the new sprint train.

All in for Mads
Pedersen is often asked about his love for the rain, but his answer is usually along the lines of ‘I don’t love the rain, I just put up with it better than most guys.’

“It was a tough day,” admits Pedersen. “I think you’ll see some guys that had a hard time, and the rain and the cold doesn’t make it easier for anyone. Also there was a strong breakaway out there and they played the game really smart. Tim and Julien [Bernard] had to use some bullets today to pull the break back. In general the Team did a super amazing job today and I’m really proud of them. We’ll try again tomorrow. We’re here to try and keep the jersey and that’s for sure our plan again tomorrow.

"I like to come to races like Bessèges and Provence for a few reasons. It’s nice to get the leadout train dialled in and do a good job with the boys, but winning is also good for the self-confidence, plus they are well-organized races and I enjoy racing here.”

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Here's the Tour of Provence report from third-place Riley Pickrell's Team Israel-Premier Tech:

Israel – Premier Tech’s Riley Pickrell did well to make podium on the wet stage 1 of Tour de la Provence after crossing the line in third place in a hectic sprint.

“The team was great today. We were in the right place at the end and I decided to follow Kirsch [Lidl-Trek] as he got a gap after the penultimate corner. I wasn’t sure if it was the right call but I think Kirsch would have won the stage if I hadn’t closed him down”, Pickrell reflects after the stage.

“I then tried to hold Kirsch at about three-four meters, to use him as a little bit of a leadout, but unfortunately, by holding him there, I burned a lot of watts. By the time I went to sprint, I was just done and Pedersen [Lidl-Trek] passed me to win the stage. Overall, I’m happy with today though. I may have made some mistakes but I’m really thankful for the team to ride for me as a neo-pro and to trust me like that. I think we can be happy with third today.”

Without any bonus seconds on the line, as the time for the general classification was taken with five kilometers left to go, Riley Sheehan put in a sneaky attack to gain four seconds on his rivals at the 5k banner, before setting up to finish with the peloton. Sheehan is now fifth in the GC, just 12 seconds off the leading rider, Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek).

“With 6 km to go, I saw that the breakaway was within distance and that gave me the perfect launch pad to bridge across and then attack to take some sneaky seconds”, Sheehan explains.

“Every second counts in this race and I think we made a really smart tactical decision today. I’m really excited for tomorrow’s stage and everybody is super motivated after today.”

On Saturday, Tour de Provence continues with an undulating stage. Rain is expected once again and with an uphill sprint to the line, this will be an important day for the GC riders.

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Muscat Classic reports

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

Here's the report from race winner Finn Fisher-Black's UAE Team Emirates:

Finn Fisher-Black took his second professional victory of his young career with the 22 year old Kiwi rider winning solo at the Muscat Classic in Oman today.

Finn Fisher-Black enjoys his win. Photo: ASO/Pauline Baller

The UAE youngster put in a vicious attack on the final climb of Al Jissah at -5km from the line and held off the reduced bunch to the end. On the lumpy and exposed parcours from Al Mouj Muscat to Al Bustan (174.3km) UAE Team Emirates had several cards to play with the likes of Diego Ulissi and Adam Yates in their ranks.

Some superb teamwork from Yates on the final climb softened up the field and set up the attack of Fisher-Black which had no response from the rest of the rivals.

Fisher-Black: “To get a win already today on our first day racing in Oman was really special.I had good form at the Tour Down Under and last week I felt good at Saudi Tour so I was hoping I could carry that form through to this week. On the last climb I started close to the front and Adam set a good pace and I just attacked over the top and pressed on to the line. We have a really strong team here for Oman with Yates, Ulissi and myself so we’ll aim to get some good results this week. It’s already started perfectly and I couldn’t be happier.”

The racing continues tomorrow for stage 1 of the Tour of Oman.

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And here's the Muscat Classic report from second-place Luke Lamperti's Team Soudal Quick-Step:

Just like last year, our team finished on the podium of the Muscat Classic, the hilly one-day race serving as appetizer for the Tour of Oman. After Jordi Warlop finished runner-up in 2023, this time it was neo-pro Luke Lamperti who took silver, following a nail-biting finale in Al Bustan, where the 174.3km race concluded.

Racing in Oman. Photo: ASO/Pauline Ballet

Unlike last year though, it didn’t come down to a reduced bunch sprint, a late attack of Finn Fisher-Black (UAE Team Emirates) on the final ramps of the Al Jissah climb proving to be decisive in the outcome. Our team was among the most active of the day, chasing the original breakaway and later shutting down a dangerous move courtesy of a great effort of Fausto Masnada and Mauri Vansevenant.

The Soudal Quick-Step boys pulled hard also on descent and reduced the gap, but in the end, they ran out of road and the Kiwi took the win. Luke Lamperti was the best of the rest, showcasing his speed on the slight uphill finish and taking second place for what was our team’s eighth podium since the start of the season.

“The team did a good race, was really strong the entire day and made sure we were in a good position going into the key sections of the climbs. In the end, one guy got away and it was difficult to bring him back, as it was downhill all the way to the finish. On the other hand, second is a solid result and it shows we can be confident for the Tour of Oman”, Lamperti explained.

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