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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Tuesday, February 13, 2024

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2023 Tour de France | 2023 Giro d'Italia

The oldest, shortest words - 'yes' and 'no' - are those which require the most thought. - Pythagoras

Dirty Feet: Early days of the Tour de France

Les Woodland's book Dirty Feet: How the Great Unwashed Created the Tour de France 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 of Oman stage three reports

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

Here's the report from stage winner Paul Magnier's Team Soudal Quick-Step:

The young wolves aren’t lacking any confidence or opportunities to show themselves in their debut season with the squad. Most recent example came in Oman, where Paul Magnier and Luke Lamperti combined for another devastating sprint display, just like they did a couple of weeks ago at the Challenge Mallorca’s Trofeo Ses Salines-Felanitx – their first race in the Soudal Quick-Step jersey.

The Soudal Quick-Step duo take the stage win and the GC lead.

Stage three was initially set to head to Eastern Mountain, but was changed by the organisers because of the exceptional weather conditions, which meant that instead of having the riders tackle what would have been the first summit finish of this edition, it took them from Naseem Garden to Al Bustan, over just 76 kilometers, which made it the shortest stage in the history of the race.

The route was flat except for the final 500 meters, when the road began going up bringing into contention also some puncheurs and even GC men, who mixed it up with the sprinters. The Soudal Quick-Step duo of Paul Magnier and Luke Lamperti gave them no chance however, dominating the finale. The former was supposed to launch his American teammate, but his high-speed lead-out once he hit the front with 200 meters to go was so powerful that he ended up crossing the line ahead of Lamperti, nabbing his second victory in the space of two weeks.

“It’s unbelievable to take another win. The plan was to lead out Luke, but it turned out differently. I went really deep on the climb, full gas until the finish, and it’s nice now to celebrate a victory with the team, something which we deserved after coming so close the last couple of days. We won’t stop here, as we are still motivated to go for some nice results before the end of the race”, said Paul, the first rider in the pro peloton to make it two wins this year before turning 20.

There were more reasons to celebrate for the team, as Luke became the new leader of the general classification thanks to the six bonus seconds he took on the line. The 21-year-old also tops the points and youth standings, a remarkable feat in what’s his first stage race with the team.

“We came here for a victory, and we are delighted we got it. Paul was very strong and he won today, I came second, and we are happy with the great job of the team. The two of us have a special connection, we came from the same devo team, and to be successful in the pro ranks immediately it’s nice. I am confident you will see us a lot in the future”, added Luke. “I am happy to have the red jersey on my shoulders, it’s a beautiful feeling to lead a stage race. We’ll see what happens with things here and with the weather, but we are determined to do our best.”

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Here's the Tour of Oman report from Team dsm-firmenich-PostNL:

Due to exceptional weather conditions, Monday’s stage at the Tour of Oman was adjusted with a 76 kilometre route from Naseem Park to Al Bustan on the menu, with a punchy kicker to finish. It was a steady and controlled stage with a four rider breakaway escaping early on before they were slowly brought back by the bunch. Biding their time, the Team dsm-firmenich PostNL squad saved energy in the peloton before moving forward en masse in the finale. Bringing punchy finisher Tobias Lund Andresen to the fore well in the final three kilometres, the fight for position under the flamme rouge and Lund Andresen had to drop back in the bunch a little bit to not hit the wind early but it meant he was unable to open up his sprint fully, crossing the line in 12th place.

Lund Andresen said: “Today the stage was shortened, so it ended up being a good final for me. The guys protected me well and kept me safe all the way to the last kilometre. In the end I had to drop back a little bit to not take too much wind and ended up never having an opening to sprint properly. Unfortunately, it meant no top result but we are ready to go for it again tomorrow.”

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Clásica Jaén Paraíso Interior reports

We posted the report from fourth-place Time Wellens' UAE Team Emirates with the results.

Here’s the report from Team Visma | Lease a Bike:

Jan Tratnik has secured a podium finish in his second race of the season. After finishing second in the Vuelta Ciclista a Murcia, the rider from Visma | Lease a Bike took third in the Clásica Jaén. Oier Lazkano won the race.

Oier Lazkano was the winner.

For the third day in a row, a one-day race was held in southern Spain. The rain had forced the organisers to shorten the route by 40 kilometres and remove eight of the twelve gravel sections.

The changes did not prevent Tratnik and Per Strand Hagenes from embarking on an early adventure. The two riders from Visma | Lease a Bike were part of an early breakaway, but the teamwork was not optimal.

Five riders, including Lazkano, broke away from the lead group. Tratnik, Hagenes and the rest were caught by the peloton, with Team Visma | Lease a Bike leading the chase from then on.

On the first gravel section, Wout van Aert suffered a puncture. The Belgian went over a large bolt and had to swap his wheel with Hagenes.

Van Aert would not return to the front. The rest of the peloton, including Tratnik and Kuss, chased Lazkano. The Slovenian and the American made a strong impression, but Lazkano eventually stayed in front of the chasers. Tratnik sprinted to third.

"Sepp and I were at the front when Wout got a puncture. We hoped he would come back, but when he didn't, we were told to take our chances. Today, we didn't quite make it, but Sepp and I were there. We can be happy with that."

Kuss was also pleased with the result. "I did everything I could to help Jan get the best possible result. Oier was super strong and deserved to win. I liked riding a gravel race like this. I often ride my gravel bike at home, but this is different."

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2024 is Rigoberto Uran’s last racing season

Here’s the announcement from Uran’s Team EF Education-EasyPost:

Today, Rigoberto Urán officially announced he will retire by the end of the 2024 season. For the past nine years, Rigo has been our leader and inspiration. The captain’s chair at the head of our team bus was his.

Rigo’s immense achievements on the bike, which include an Olympic medal, GC podiums at the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia, plus stage wins in all three grand tours, remain unforgettable souvenirs of his time as a racer. During his 19-year professional career, Rigo opened roads for South American cyclists and made millions of fans, as he rode away from the hardships of his youth in Urrao, Colombia to the heights of international superstardom.

Rigoberto Uran after winning 2022 Vuelta a España stage 17. Sirotti photo

Now, it’s time for Rigo’s next act.

“As a cyclist, I believe the time has come to say: we have reached the end,” Rigo said in an interview with the team before the Tour Colombia. “It has taken me a long time to come to this decision. It is something I have thought long and hard about. The truth is that it is scary. Cycling has given me everything in life. For almost 23 years, my aim was to get up, eat breakfast, and ride my bike. I was a part of a team that took me to the major races around the world. Now that is going to end.”

Rigo won’t rest on his laurels. In his home country, he is now a national hero, with an 80-episode TV series about his life, his own clothing brand, gran fondos, restaurants, and millions of Instagram followers. He will soon focus his boundless energy on his businesses and his family. First, he will race this season out.

“I'm going to try to enjoy it, give my best in the races, and race every one like it is my last,” Rigo said. “This season will be a thank you, a thank you very much. I only have gratitude for the team, for all the people, all the many coaches and many teammates who were always there to help me over the past 20-plus years.”

Our gratitude to Rigo is vast. For those who know him, Rigo’s real heroism has always glowed away from the cameras. In the bus, he is an aura of calm before the most stressful races, pinning on his numbers and polishing his shoes with the same fastidious care he learned as a junior, always ready to break the tension with a joke or reggaeton track. When it’s time, he’ll share a brisk word about tactics, and then the whole team will focus on the road ahead.

“I’m going to miss Rigo,” says EF Pro Cycling founder and CEO Jonathan Vaughters. “The team is going to miss Rigo. He is the foundation of what we have built. Of course, he will thrive in retirement, and I’m sure he will find ways to express his passion and personality away from racing. But we will miss his charisma and leadership. Rigo is a great cyclist, no doubt. But what made him special in our team is that he’s also a great person.”

When Rigo speaks, riders listen, because he has always backed up his words with deeds. When our team almost folded the year he’d finished second at the Tour de France, he honored his contract, despite being released to seek other teams, and helped usher in a new era with EF Education First.

“What do we want for our children? That they do sports and that they study,” Rigo said. “During these wonderful years with EF Education First we have created a team that people love, that cheers up the broadcasts. Maybe we don’t win the most races, but we are a very competitive team, a very nice team that gives a lot of happiness to the peloton.”

Time after time, Rigo has taken young athletes under his wing, hosting dozens of fast young Colombians when they were first setting out in Europe, and showing them the kindness that was shown to him.

When Rigo was 14 years old, his father was killed by paramilitaries. At once, he had to support his family. Instead of seeking revenge, he broke the cycle of violence, selling lottery tickets to make ends meet and pouring all of his energy into the sport he had shared with his dad. The local cycling club saw his determination and helped him on his way. Later, when he first went to Europe to race, an Italian family adopted him, caring for him when he was down and cheering for his early successes. Throughout his career, he has forged great relationships with his generation of racers and the next and always shown respect for his colleagues, from soigneurs to mechanics to race-winning superstars.

Rigoberto Urán is an exemplar to everyone.

“To meet a five-year-old boy who says, ‘Rigo, you inspire me to be a better person,’ for me that has all the weight,” Urán said. “Who was going to know that that boy, in Urrao, with that story, that hard-working boy thrown into adulthood could be an inspiration to so many people. Really, if one is able to help someone to change a habit, to improve their life, I think he has done a great job.”

Great job, Rigo. Your seat in the bus will seem empty next year, but you will inspire us forever.

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