The upcoming Giro marks a change in the season

Despite their being much disruption still across Europe and beyond, we have had a cycling season to enjoy and 2021 has delivered.

There have been a number of highlights in the classics and one week stage races to date and before we get into the Giro D’Italia let’s cover our top 3…

3. Mark Cavendish in the Tour of Turkey

“Cav” has come a long way from his tearful farewell to 2020.

After release from Bahrain/McLaren he was late in finding a team, but when he did it was a key move in returning to the Quickstep set up where (Harrogate aside) he had enjoyed constant success.

It took a while to click. There were a couple of Belgian semi-classic near misses and a fall when he was in the mix at Nokere Koerse.

He arrived in Turkey though and finally got the win. And then he won again. And then he kept winning.

The field of sprinters wasn’t deep the whingers cried.

But Jasper Philipsen is a top tier rider who had beaten Cav earlier in the campaign, and Andrei Griepel was still motivated to succeed.

Where the great mans season goes from here who knows.

But as he has said in interviews since getting back from Turkey, he has proved what he wanted to prove and now anything else he gets is a bonus.

2. Paris Nice Last Day

Fendrien covered this a lot at the time. Cycling is full of unwritten rules and rituals. One of which Primoz Roglic broke on the penultimate day of the race when refusing to gift a stage to Gino Mader who had been out in the days breakaway.

There was no need for Roglic to sprint and overtake Mader in the final metres of the stage as he had dropped his rivals and had no need for the win and time bonuses. He had the yellow jersey and the race was all but over.

The final day of the race seemed destined for formality before Roglic managed to crash twice, the second time the peloton decided to take its own retribution for how he’d treated the youngster on the previous day and rode on without waiting.

Two days of racing and two broken rules with race leaders gifting stages and the peloton waiting for race leaders after crashes up in smoke as the riders headed south through France.

Despite a spirited pursuit and a real desire not to give in, Roglic lost the race to Max Schachmann.

He learned his lesson though and later in the spring hauled in Tadej Pogacar and Brandy McNulty on the last day of the Tour of the Basque Country. However as a thanks to David Gaudu for helping his daring escape succeed and win him the race overall, Roglic didn’t sprint for the stage and the Frenchman won.

  1. Mathieu Van de Poel in Italy

You will be groaning to see that I have managed to shoehorn a couple of moments of MvdP magic into one bullet point.

You could also throw in his below par Milan San Remo performance as evidence you shouldn’t generalise.

But… two performances from the man of the season so far cannot be split by this correspondent.

First off was his 1600+ watt attack in Strade Bianche. It was a moment that regular cycling watchers will continue to rewind and replay for decades to come.

The fact he managed two of these accelerations, the second of which on the streest of Siena was enough to win the race should never be forgotten.

He proved that quick sharp attacks weren’t the only thing in his locker by attacking to keep warm on a icy wet day in Tirreno-Adriatico.

Castelfidardo is a town that will be forever immortalised in cycling history after he rode the race off his wheel and despite misjudging the efforts impact on his legs hung on for the win.

So now we moved on to a new phase of the season and the first three week stage race of the season in the Giro. It will be scenic and packed with great stories and stages. But it will need to be good to beat the opening part of 2021, that is for sure!

Stuyven upsets the holy trinity in San Remo

That there was a Belgian winner of the first monument of the season, Milan-San Remo was no surprise.

That it was the under rated Jasper Stuyven was.

The Trek man rode the perfect final remaining hidden all along the Capi before hanging in with the attacks on the Poggio.

As Tom Pidcock tried to force the pace on the downhill Stuyven waited and waited before launching the winning attack as the road flattened out.

He was briefly joined by Soren Kragh before timing his sprint so that the fast finshing Caleb Ewan came up just short.

RnkRiderTeamUCIPntTime
1 STUYVEN JasperTrek – Segafredo5002756:38:06
2 EWAN CalebLotto Soudal400200,,
3 VAN AERT WoutTeam Jumbo-Visma325150,,
4 SAGAN PeterBORA – hansgrohe275120,,
5 VAN DER POEL MathieuAlpecin-Fenix225100,,
6 MATTHEWS MichaelTeam BikeExchange17590,,
7 ARANBURU AlexAstana – Premier Tech15080,,
8 COLBRELLI SonnyBahrain – Victorious12570,,
9 KRAGH ANDERSEN SørenTeam DSM10060,,
10 TURGIS AnthonyTeam Total Direct Energie8550,,
From http://www.procyclingstats.com

The so-called “Holy Trinity” of Mathieu Van der Poel, Wout Van Aert and Julian Alaphillippe were outwitted by the winner after their attempts to attack were nullified on the final climb.

To be fair Van der Poel had looked slightly off the pace all day and was a way back on the Poggio.

Van Aert was able to follow the attack of Alaphillippe but the Frenchman certainly didn’t have the kick of previous years when he went.

More questions than answers from this race?

I would say yes. The coming weeks will be really interesting and could we have all be premature in calling those three amigos as unbeatable and miles ahead of the rest of the peloton?

Van Aert a class apart as season “commences”

Wout Van Aert has proved to be the main man in one day racing so far in this recommenced 2020 season.

The Dutchman dispatched the remnants of a classy group in Strade Bianche last weekend before playing the perfect game of chicken with Julian Alaphillippe on the way into San Remo to win the seasons first monument.

With all eyes on his major rival Mathieu Van der Poel, the Jumbo man kept his cool on two blisteringly hot Saturday afternoons in Italy and delivered two wins.

In Strade he used his natural cyclo cross skills to out pace his rivals on an down then up sector on the way back into Siena before holding on in the run in despite the chasers getting within 10 seconds of his back wheel at one point.

There was devastation on the white roads with many minutes separating the top 10.

https://www.procyclingstats.com/widgets/result.php?h=90e0446ab8297c077564e27a892708ed133a87bd

Last Saturday though it was all about the ability to keep cool in the final KM when the chasing bunch looked like getting back to Alaphillippe and Van Aert after the French rider stopped collaborating in the last 1.5km.

They gave the reduced bunch behind a real chance of catching them before the man from Deceuninck blinked first and went for the line and the chance of a back to back win.

Van Aert didn’t panic though and held on by just over half a wheel to win.

https://www.procyclingstats.com/widgets/result.php?h=b503f5897eb7707dd02a492270db33b8785a8161

There has been plenty of Jumbo/Visma domination elsewhere in the pre Tour de France stage racing and we will cover than in an upcoming post.

In the meantime enjoy the sun and the return of racing 🙂 .

James

Italian race postponements could be a sign of things to come.

Of course the first and foremost thing to say on Covid-19 is that the health and safety of everyone should be absolutely paramount and in the grand scheme of things cycle racing is not the most important thing at this time.

But this is a cycling website so that is the area of focus that we have.

We reported last week that Strade Bianchi was postponed and this week we have no Tirreno Adriatico before the cancellation of Milan-San Remo at the end of the week.

Naturally as a lover of the sport and someone with a bit of an understanding of the financial delicacy it faces, I worry about the longer team ramifications.

It is slightly better in France as Paris-Nice is at least off and running, but when you read quotes from the riders that 90% of them will be surprised if they reach the Mediterranean at the weekend you know that this is something that wont be going away soon.

Cyclingnews has already reported that the mens and womens Giro D’Italia’s are in doubt and that there are likely to be issues in France by the time the Tour comes round.

At the moment the UK has no barriers to sports or gatherings but it feels like a matter of time and that 2020 will be a year we remember for one thing.

Milan – San Remo finale in doubt

A landslide has recently hit the Poggio climb leaving over €10m of work needed to get the road repaired.

There are rumours that the organisers of the race might be tapped up by the local council to foot the bill.

Whether the work will be done ahead of the race arriving in March is a moot point.

It might affect Phillippe Gilbert’s chances of completing his 5 monument hand so we will be watching with interest.