2021 Vuelta week 2 and 3 review

We left the Vuelta at the week 1 rest day with Primoz Roglic in the leaders red jersey and a situation that felt pretty similar to the Tour de France.

This Slovenian looked home and dry as the chinks in the armour of Richard Carapaz and Egan Bernal were starting to show.

But our Primoz had been burned a number of times in stage races, especially when it came to conceding the lead in the latter stages of big races (2021 Tour, 2022 Paris Nice etc.) so he reduced the level of pressure on his Jumbo Visma team and allowed a break to go clear containing Odd Christian Eiking who was still far enough away at the finish to take the race lead.

He didn’t win the stage, in-form DSM rider Michael Storer did, but this ensured that there would be a number of riders and teams now interested in keeping order and calm at the head of the race.

And as with the other grand tours of the year, once the peloton had settled, breakaways started to get bigger time gaps and stay away.

There were memorable stage wins for Magnus Cort (multiple), Romain Bardet and Rafal Majka.

Eiking retained the lead thanks to the composition of those breakaways not having a rival for his jersey, but it always felt on loan to Roglic. And so it was.

It took the fearsome climb to Lagos de Covadonga to shake the Norwegian off, but it was definitive.

The best day of the race saw Bernal give it an all or nothing attack which Roglic was equal to. When the time came the Columbian was dispatched and no other riders could get within a minute and a half of the defending champion who took the jersey back, and for good.

Movistar showed their incredible ability to mess something up with two riders in the top three going into the penultimate day of the race.

But as Bernal faded, Miguel Angel Lopez, a stage winner two days before, got stuck in a group with him losing his podium place in the process (on the road).

As the time gap drifted over seven minutes Lopez abandoned with less than 100km of the race to go. A sad end to a Vuelta that had started to look like it would end on a high for him, but ended in a team car.

The stage was won by an opportunist in the breakaway (which is so 2021!!!) Clement Champoussin who bagged a third stage win for France. In contrast Spain won zero.

Roglic secured the final days time trial, although the incredible Cort tried to take that off him, ending up with close to a five minute gap on Enric Mas who was the best of the rest and the best of Spain.

An honourable mention to Jack Haig who came third after coming under intense pressure from Adam Yates on the final mountain of the race. He suffered terribly and was dropped many times but came back each and every one.

I wouldn’t say this Vuelta was that interesting in terms of a GC battle. But that was the case in the Tour and to a lesser extent Giro.

What has made this year so special has been the baroudeur spirit of breakaways and their ability to time their run to the line just right and hang on for valuable stage wins.

It started in Italy with Taco Van der Hoorn and carried on here with Corts stage wins being evolutions of that tactic. It’s made a number of key stages in grand tours like one day classics and that is 100% no bad thing.

For now we move on to the Worlds and the end of season classic campaigns, so there is still plenty to get excited about and enjoy.

See you on the road!

2021 Vuelta Week 1 Review

There is an overused word to describe the feelings riders and fans have towards the Vuelta.

Its ambience.

People often write or speak of the specific relaxed, end of term vibes of the Vuelta. It’s a unique ambience they say.

It certainly works for me.

I spend many a happy hour watching the Vuelta imagining life as a hardened pro cyclist getting to the end of their season and riding round the humid, windy interior of Spain to get a nice tan to take into the winter.

The first week of this year’s race has certainly done nothing to diffuse that stereotype.

There were a couple of flat stages where the organisers prayed for high winds to get the echelons forming. But there was barely a breeze and the riders enjoyed the sun and several sprint finishes.

Where there have been climbs there has been excitement. But Primoz Roglic is in control with rivals such as Egan Bernal clearly going backwards.

Hugh Carthy is sadly at home in Preston by now after abandoning.

Alessandro Valverde suffered a terrible crash before being forced to quit the race. It will be interesting to see how the race develops with his bickering team mates Enric Mas and “Superman” Lopez battling to lead Movistar in his absence.

Sadly, it appears there is no series 3 on their fly on the wall documentary on Netflix. The episode featuring this week’s racing would be a must see.

If this was the Tour de France and if it was Tadej Pogacar in the lead of the race, I would be declaring this one over in terms of a GC battle.

But Roglic has previous (see 2020 Tour, 2021 Paris-Nice) of grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory.

He might be going for a hat-trick of Vuelta wins but in both 2019 and 2020 he was close to losing the race in the closing days. Once through a needless crash when Movistar pushed on and once on the final summit finish when Richard Carapaz went after him.

For those of an English and Ineo bias, the race seems to be slipping away.

Carapaz is fading after his Olympic road race glory and with Bernal losing time on the last summit finish before yesterday’s rest day it might be that Adam Yates gets the responsibility of leading the team now.

However, he is over two minutes behind Roglic and that seems very unlikely a gap that he will cross. Even with two weeks of racing left.

So, let’s enjoy this weeks stages, some sleepy looking towns and wave lashed beaches with the riders swooping past. All mirrored Oakley’s and sun cream as they get through the final grand tour of the 2021 season.

RnkPrev▼▲RiderTeamUCITime
11 ROGLIČ PrimožTeam Jumbo-Visma2034:18:53
23▲1 MAS EnricMovistar Team0:28
34▲1 LÓPEZ Miguel ÁngelMovistar Team1:21
47▲3 HAIG JackBahrain – Victorious1:42
56▲1 BERNAL EganINEOS Grenadiers1:52
610▲4 YATES AdamINEOS Grenadiers2:07
711▲4 CICCONE GiulioTrek – Segafredo2:39
88 KUSS SeppTeam Jumbo-Visma2:40
92▼7 GROßSCHARTNER FelixBORA – hansgrohe3:25
1014▲4 DE LA CRUZ DavidUAE-Team Emirates3:55

Week 3 – Sleepy final week to the Tour

The final week of the Tour was a total non-event in terms of the general classification leaving many to wonder if the course wasn’t quite balanced enough to promote attacking riding.

Although to be fair when there was a summit finish it was generally either won by Tadej Pogacar or he gained time on his increasingly hapless looking rivals.

If it hadn’t been for Ben O’Connor and Jonas Vingegaard emerging from the shadows and taking the race on we would have been subjected to less action.

Pogacar was so far ahead after the final mountains that he and his team were able to let the latter stages play out with chaos on the road and breakaways ruling the roost.

Ineos Grenadiers had such a disaster with the fading of Geraint Thomas and Richie Porte that Richard Carapaz was their only hope.

Despite a couple of attacks he never once looked like dropping the other favourites.

His team also reverted to type after promising enterprising and attacking riding. They formed a train on the climbs and as mentioned in last weeks post, pretty much armchaired the yellow jersey to within a few kms of the finish on key stages.

I have no idea why they chose to ride in that way. Defensive and stifling they should have left more riders from lower down the top 10 to challenge in the way that Guillaume Martin did.

But they knew that if he hung on Carapaz was likely to get on to the podium and for Ineos that looked enough.

Contrast that with Jumbo/Visma who lost Primoz Roglic at the same time as Thomas faltered. They made sure that Vingegaard became a loose cannon, especially on the Mont Ventoux stage. The second prong to their fork was Wout Van Aert who became a stage hunter in the Sean Kelly, Peter Sagan mould.

Their tour will be a success, Ineos a failure.

I am not sure that the management of Jumbo is such that they showed great agility in adapating their planning. I put it down to the riders being strong on the road and mentality tough.

Despite getting boxed in by the Eddy Merckx mafia of Belgians in Paris (!), Mark Cavendish and Quickstep will be looking at this Tour as a real successs. He equalled the record and if thats as far as it goes then I am sure he will still be happy.

Julian Alaphillippe got his stage win and Cav the green jersey. Job done.

The main blot of the week 3 landscape was the police raid of Bahrain Victorious. This was the culmination of rumours since Rod Ellingworth left the team suddenly and they started winning.

Gino Mader and Mark Padun came from nowhere to win important races before the Tour and during this race Matej Mohoric and Dylan Theuns got wins (although neither was too surprising).

Foul seemed to be being cried over the sudden emergence of Sonny Colbrelli as a mountain climber, which was a little uncomfortable to watch at times.

But until there are charges from the investigation, and that goes for all stage and classification winners, not just Colbrelli, we will take the race and its outcomes at face value.

The good news for those of us who are down in the dumps this week with the race over is that the Tour of Wallonia starts today !

RnkPrev▼▲RiderTeamUCIPntTime
11 POGAČAR TadejUAE-Team Emirates100050082:56:36
22 VINGEGAARD JonasTeam Jumbo-Visma8003805:20
33 CARAPAZ RichardINEOS Grenadiers6753407:03
44 O’CONNOR BenAG2R Citroën Team57530010:02
55 KELDERMAN WilcoBORA – hansgrohe47528010:13
66 MAS EnricMovistar Team40026011:43
77 LUTSENKO AlexeyAstana – Premier Tech32524012:23
88 MARTIN GuillaumeCofidis, Solutions Crédits27522015:33
99 BILBAO PelloBahrain – Victorious22521016:04
1010 URÁN RigobertoEF Education – Nippo17520018:34

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!

Roglic’s “No gifts” approach causes his latest catastraphe

On the final “tough” stage of Paris Nice last weekend we saw a new more ruthless Primoz Roglic snatch a first world tour win off Gino Mader in the final 50 metres of the stage.

Roglic had such a commanding lead in the general classification and was ahead of his rivals at the time.

In the old world of unwritten cycling rules, he would have got to Mader to maximise his time gains on those behind him but not taken the stage from the youngster. Even with a time bonus available.

But he did.

He flew past the Swiss who had been out in the days breakaway before celebrating as his crossed the line. Mader threw his hand to the sky with his final energies to say “why the hell did you do that?“.

In the post race interviews Roglic was clear that there would be “No gifts” anymore. No need to let others win here to get favours and broker deals later in the season. Lance Armstrong used the same phrase and now has as many wins in the Tour de France as me. And Roglic for that matter. That number being zero.

But less than 24 hours later in a final stage that was wild and uncontrolled Roglic was humbled. Really humbled.

He crashed twice and whilst the peloton respected the yellow jersey and the rule of not profiting from a crash for the race leader the first time. The gloves were off the second.

No gifts remember Primoz?

The teams with most to gain drilled it on the front and the erstwhile leader was distanced by minutes. Riding in alone and dropping from race leader to 15th overall on the last day.

Ironically his demise let Gino Mader (remember him?) into the top 10. You couldn’t make it up!

Max Schachmann was the beneficiary to win his second edition of the race. He has now won consecutive years but due to Covid related changes has never actually made it into the finish town of Nice!

The other main statistic being that Roglic has now lost the last 2 major stage races in France from a winning position on the last day.

When does this anomoly become a trend?

We saw him almost lose his maiden Vuelta win by getting caught out by crosswinds with Madrid on the horizon and of course he was totally outclassed by Tadej Pogacar on the final racing stage of the Tour de France in the autumn.

Drama and calamity seems to follow him and despite being totally dominant in this race, he didn’t win.

So if I were Primoz going forward I would be looking to build bridges with other riders rather than trying to be all dominant. You never know when you might need the rest of the peloton to help you out.

RnkRiderTeamUCIPntTime
1 SCHACHMANN MaximilianBORA – hansgrohe50025028:49:51
2 VLASOV AleksandrAstana – Premier Tech4001900:19
3 IZAGIRRE IonAstana – Premier Tech3251600:23
4 HAMILTON LucasTeam BikeExchange2751400:41
5 BENOOT TiesjTeam DSM2251200:42
6 MARTIN GuillaumeCofidis, Solutions Crédits1751101:14
7 HAIG JackBahrain – Victorious1501001:18
8 JORGENSON MatteoMovistar Team125901:29
9 PARET-PEINTRE AurélienAG2R Citroën Team100801:31
10 MÄDER GinoBahrain – Victorious85701:32
11 VANHOUCKE HarmLotto Soudal70601:41
12 O’CONNOR BenAG2R Citroën Team60551:44
13 VAN BAARLE DylanINEOS Grenadiers50501:49
14 BARGUIL WarrenTeam Arkéa Samsic40451:55
15 ROGLIČ PrimožTeam Jumbo-Visma35402:16
Results reproduced from Procyclingstats.com

Videos released highlighting Grand Tour struggles…

The three grand tours this summer/autumn/winter were very different in a host of ways.

The timing was one thing, the readiness and sharpness of the riders was another. Lots of pundits and experts were even confused by the shadows and lighting with the usual bright yellow sun and fields of sunflower for the Tour de France long since having gone over ahead of the changing colours of the leaves.

Some of the worlds biggest teams have been taking to YouTube to diarise what their experiences were and in the name of research (and to avoid watching Strictly Come Dancing at the weekend) I have studied most of them and come up with a shortlist of one film per race.

First up is the Tour de France through the eyes of the Deceuninck QuickStep team.

This was an interesting film as it covered the fast start of Julian Alaphillippe before moving on to cover the stage and green jersey winning powers of Sam Bennett.

It’s well shot and tells the story in stages, although it does miss out bits and pieces from when Alaphillippe lost a lot of time in the GC battle.

The EF gone racing series by the popular hipsters team in association with kit sponsor Rapha is seen as the benchmark of this type of fly on the wall documentary and this one is no different.

The best one they ever made was Lachlan Morton riding the GB duro gravel race and this isn’t as good. But it is still a decent watch.

The final big race of the year was the Vuelta and it featured a nervous sense that the race might not make Madrid along with some terrible weather.

Like the Tour and the Giro it featured a brilliant battle to see who would win with Primoz Roglic and Richard Carapaz going to the final kilometer of the final climb the day before the finish before we knew for sure.

After his final weekend loss of the Tour de France, the Jumbo/Visma team car is the best place to watch that GC competition play out. It’s safe to say they are nervous, all of which adds to the quality of the film.

All three are a great waste of an evening so make sure you have a watch and enjoy.

La Vuelta 2020 review

This was the grand tour that looked the least likely to run its 2020 course after a surge in COVID cases in Europe and refusals from the French authorities to let the opening weekend stages go ahead across the border.

But run its course it did and in keeping with the Tour and the Giro it was a cracker.

Primoz Roglic won riding for Jumbo/Visma after a ding dong battle with Richard Carapaz of Ineos Grenadiers with the red jersey changing hands a number of times during the race.

In the end it was time bonuses rather than physical gaps on stages that retained the race for the Slovenian ace although one particualar split that Carapaz missed was highlighted as race defining (despite the gap being only 3 seconds).

The truncated opening and full closing weeks featured terrible weather and it was an early race crash that saw Mike Woods of EF Procycling drop out of the reckoning.

That left leadership in the hands of lanky Lancastrian Hugh Carthy and he didn’t disappoint.

He won the queen stage and was still trying to get the race lead on the final Saturday of the race with an all or nothing attack in the mountains above Madrid. Carthy went on to take the final podium spot in third place.

Let’s hope its a sign of more to come!

Sam Bennett and Pascal Ackermann were the sprinters of choice in the race, dividing the scarce flat stages amongst themselves. Aside from Carthy there were memorable stage wins for Woods, who had more freedom after losing time and a brace for David Gaudu of Groupama/FDJ.

It was a fitting and excellent end to a season we will review in due course but which did so well to happen in any form.

2021 is looking to have gaps with the Tour Down Under and Tour de Yorkshire gone already. But let’s deal with next year in time.

Vive la Vuelta!

RnkPrev▼▲RiderTeamUCIPntTime
11 ROGLIČ PrimožTeam Jumbo-Visma85040072:46:12
22 CARAPAZ RichardINEOS Grenadiers6802900:24
33 CARTHY HughEF Pro Cycling5752401:15
44 MARTIN DanIsrael Start-Up Nation4602202:43
55 MAS EnricMovistar Team3802003:36
66 POELS WoutBahrain – McLaren3201907:16
77 DE LA CRUZ DavidUAE-Team Emirates2601807:35
88 GAUDU DavidGroupama – FDJ2201707:45
99 GROSSSCHARTNE FelixBORA – hansgrohe1801608:15
1010 VALVERDE AlejandroMovistar Team1401509:34
2020 Vuelta final GC

What a weekend!!! Belgium hits the spot with excitement on both days

Without even touching on the Giro D’Italia starting this weekend saw the best racing of 2020 by far.

Saturday

After a stop start race with a missed day and re-route thanks to the new Netherlands Covid protocol, Mads Pedersen looked to be in a good place to win the Binck-Bank Tour.

However with 2 full and 1 partial ascent of the fearsome Muur to go (see my attempt below!) Mathieu Van der Poel took flight.

The Dutch champion was a bit more rapid over the 17% cobbles than I was and soloed away.

A select group of chasers formed behind but still VdP pressed on getting all of the maximum bonus seconds in the golden kilometer, an innovation that this race has stuck with over the years.

Soren Kragh Andersen got himself in prime position to win the race overall but only if Van der Poel was caught.

As the race headed in Geraardsbergen for the final time and a finish just above the market square it was clear that wasn’t going to happen and the boy wonder hung on for the final metres and took the overall race win along with the stage.

It was a really exciting finish and shows that wind, rain and cobbles makes for the best racing. Full Stop.

Sunday

After Marc Hirschi winning Fleche Walloone in the week the man of the summer (c) was part of the key break in Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

So much happened though that I had to make notes and here they are showing my disbelief as the race unfolded.

  • Not too far after halfway a crash takes out Greg Van Avermaet, he looks badly injured. Maybe no Flanders? The likes of Sep Vanmarkce and GvA won’t ever win it.
  • La Redoute is the big climb of the race but its fairly neutral with Quick Step setting the pace.
  • Julian Alaphillippe crashes.
  • Alaphillippe attacks on the Roche aux Faucons climb. Only Michal Kwiatkowski, Hircshi, Primoz Roglic and Tadej Pogacar can go with him.
  • Van der Poel is leading the chase behind… he couldn’t get across could he?
  • Kwiatkowski is dropped.
  • Into the last KM and they are playing a few games with each other. Matej Mohoric is flying across from the group behind.
  • Mohoric goes past and opens up the sprint. Alaphillippe and Hirschi collide and the Swiss pulls his foot out ending his chances.
  • Alaphillippe throws his hands in the air but Roglic goes past him to win!!!
  • Van der Poel wins the bunch sprint for 5th.

First up, I am sure some of you will be surprised that there are notes written ahead of blog posts!

Secondly, it was a terrible mistake by Alaphillippe in sight of the line but with him relegated for his wonky sprint into Hirschi it didn’t affect the outcome of the race as Roglic would have won anyway.

Thirdly, after the manner of his defeat in the Tour de France, no-one could begrudge Primoz his win in this race and I have to admit that despite having nothing against Alaphillippe I did punch the air and cheer when it was clear the Slovenian had got the win.

Right Flemish semi classics this coming week… beat that!

‘Chasing Rainbows’ – 2020 World Cycling Championships…

The last minute, re-arranged World Cycling Championships were very good considering all of the stress and alterations to the venue in the run up.

Naturally it was a shame not to see U23 competitions and the team time trial (especially seeing as how controversial it was when it came in). But the events we did get to see where entertaining and with deserving winners.

RnkRiderTeamUCIPntAvgTime
1 VAN DER BREGGEN AnnaNetherlands35010047.15740:20
2 REUSSER MarlenSwitzerland2507046.8670:15
3 VAN DIJK EllenNetherlands2004046.5610:31
4 BRENNAUER LisaGermany1503046.2960:45
5 BROWN GraceAustralia1252545.9981:01
6 NEBEN AmberUnited States1002045.6481:20
7 NORSGAARD Emma CecilieDenmark851545.6121:22
8 KRÖGER MiekeGermany701045.4481:31
9 STEPHENS LaurenUnited States60945.2321:43
10 BUSSI VittoriaItaly50845.1781:46

Anna Van Der Breggen was a narrow winner of the Womens TT with Marlen Reusser at only 15 seconds and Ellen Van Dyke only a second away from a 30 second blanket being able to be thrown over the podium.

RnkRiderTeamUCIPntTime
1 VAN DER BREGGEN AnnaNetherlands6002004:09:57
2 VAN VLEUTEN AnnemiekNetherlands4751701:20
3 LONGO BORGHINI ElisaItaly400140,,
4 VOS MarianneNetherlands3251302:01
5 LIPPERT LianeGermany275120,,
6 DEIGNAN ElizabethGreat Britain225110,,
7 NIEWIADOMA KatarzynaPoland175100,,
8 LUDWIG Cecilie UttrupDenmark150902:41
9 BRENNAUER LisaGermany125803:08
10 REUSSER MarlenSwitzerland10070,

The road race was less close with Van Der Breggen doing the double. Special mention must go to her team mate and rival Annamiek Van Vleuten who came home for a silver medal despite recently suffering a fracture of her wrist.

As with the womens events, the mens were dominated by the big names of the sport with Fillipo Ganna winning the time trial ahead of Wout Van Aert (who bagged a pair of silver medals) and Stefan Kung who had left the Tour de France early to prepare for this event.

The weather was unpredictable with howling wind and cloud closing in and pulling out all through the event. At one point a cloud burst looked inevitable and this would have given an advantage to the early starters. But it didn’t materialise.

It was interesting to see that despite a pretty bland circuit and shortened distance the riders made the event and that was exactly what the championships needed to be successful.

RnkRiderTeamUCIPntAvgTime
1 GANNA FilippoItaly35025052.98135:54
2 VAN AERT WoutBelgium25019052.3490:26
3 KÜNG StefanSwitzerland20014052.2770:29
4 THOMAS GeraintGreat Britain15011052.0860:37
5 DENNIS RohanAustralia12510052.0380:39
6 ASGREEN KasperDenmark1009051.8490:47
7 CAVAGNA RémiFrance858051.8260:48
8 CAMPENAERTS VictorBelgium707051.7320:52
9 DOWSETT AlexGreat Britain606051.4051:06
10 DUMOULIN TomNetherlands505051.2211:14

The final event of the weekend was the mens road race which I settled down to watch with a beer after 80km of hard, windy riding of my own Sunday morning.

The breakaway were kept at a suitable arms length going into the latter stages of the race before Tadej Pogacar rocketed out of the front of the pack with a lap and a half to go.

He managed to get a good distance before fading, but it was a clear plan to soften the race up for his team mate Primoz Roglic.

Whether Roglic didn’t feel too great I don’t know. But he didn’t seem capable of getting out of the wheels when the likes of Tom Dumoulin and Greg Van Avermaet went off up the road.

The attack that did stick came from Julian Alaphillippe who went clear on the penultimate climb before following the Pogacar blueprint from previous laps and digging in on the plateau and rolling section of road.

He then made good on the decent into the Formula 1 circuit before stretching his narrow lead in the final kilometer as the chasers started to disfunction and settle for the lower places.

RnkRiderTeamUCIPntTime
1 ALAPHILIPPE JulianFrance6003506:38:34
2 VAN AERT WoutBelgium4752600:24
3 HIRSCHI MarcSwitzerland400190,,
4 KWIATKOWSKI MichałPoland325150,,
5 FUGLSANG JakobDenmark275130,,
6 ROGLIČ PrimožSlovenia225110,,
7 MATTHEWS MichaelAustralia1751000:53
8 VALVERDE AlejandroSpain15090,,
9 SCHACHMANN MaximilianGermany12580,,
10 CARUSO DamianoItaly10070,,

Van Aert came home second as previously mentioned with man of the month Marc Hirschi finishing off the podium places.

We now have a really short break before the Eneco Tour this week, Ardennes Classics on Wednesday and Sunday and the Giro starting Saturday.

Bring it on!

Tour ’20 – Stages 20 and 21 – Roglic folds under pressure from Pogacar

Regular readers of this website will remember that my preview of this years race was based around my memories of 1989. Something that hindsight has proved to be good punditry!

There was little sign of what happened on stage 20 coming to pass, even as the two main protagonists, Tadej Pogacar and yellow jersey Primoz Roglic warmed up ahead of the start of their time trials.

But Pogacar was gaining time from the start and at the first unofficial GPS tracking check was already 12 seconds closer to his Slovenian counterpart.

This fast start from his opponent seemed to freak Roglic out and he was starting to fold before our very eyes.

As they both started to climb the Planch des Belles Filles and swapped bikes there was very little to choose between them on GC time. This was pheomenal as Pogacar had had to go a minute quicker to that point to get back level.

Once the guy in 2nd had overhauled the erstwhile yellow jersey to take the race lead he kept that pace up and stretched out almost another minute which was enough to leave him a comfortable winner in GC.

Maybe it wasn’t as close as the 1989 finish as I led you to believe then!

The pictures of Roglic struggling up the 20% gradient to the finish line with his face all sunken in and his crash helmet wonky to the point of looking comical was sad to see.

He rolled alone over the finish line before Tom Dumoulin and Wout Van Aert tried to comfort him. Just along the road from this sad sight Pogacar also has his head in his hands, but in disbelief and joy.

I feel a mighty amount of sympathy for Roglic to lose in this way and for him to go to bed without his yellow jersey, but with a broken heart. It was wretched for him and I wonder where he goes from here.

It says a lot about him as a man though, that he congratulated the man who beat him so soundly and that he was front and centre riding into Paris on Sunday. A much lesser man would have hid.

The final stage was less about drinking booze on the run in to Paris, another feature of this Covid world. Sam Bennett was the winner proving that his green jersey was thoroughly deserved (as if we doubted him!) and that he was the fastest man of the race.

Sorry Caleb and Wout!

So that’s it for the 2020 Tour de France, thanks very much for sticking with my coverage of the race. I really hoped you enjoyed reading how I saw it, please tell your friends and buy a Beers of Belgium CC jersey (using the store password of “FENDRIEN” ahead of the classics !

Here is the final top 10 on GC from www.procyclingstats.com

RnkRiderTeamTime
1 POGAČAR TadejUAE-Team Emirates87:20:05
2 ROGLIČ PrimožTeam Jumbo-Visma0:59
3 DOOR RichieTrek – Segafredo3:30
4 LANDA MikelBahrain – McLaren5:58
5 MAS EnricMovistar Team6:07
6 LÓPEZ Miguel ÁngelAstana Pro Team6:47
7 DUMOULIN TomTeam Jumbo-Visma7:48
8 URÁN RigobertoEF Pro Cycling8:02
9 YATES AdamMitchelton-Scott9:25
10 CARUSO DamianoBahrain – McLaren14:03