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

Tour ’20 – Stages 16&17 – Kamna fulfills the promise whilst Superman flies

After a quiet few days at the start of last week, the Tour de France has been really exciting at the start of this culminating in yesterdays stage finish at the top of a new purpose built cycleway in the sky.

The two alpine stages have been going over new ground and exploring, whilst retaining the tradition of scenary and toughness that makes them the best part of the race (for me at least).

The first of the most recent two stages saw Egan Bernal dropped again before abandoning and Jumbo taking the opportunity to let breakaways go.

In fact the Tour de France 2020 has become the year of the lone winner with the likes of Marc Hirschi, Soren Kragh Andersen, Lennard Kamna and now Miguel Angel Lopez.

Kamna was part of a stage 16 breakaway that included Richard Caparaz and Julian Alaphillippe before he gave the Ecuadorian a fake suffer face and then attacked him.

Villard de Lans will always be about 1989 and Laurent Fignon for me so it was a real trip down memory lane for the race to finish their again.

Kamna was a worthy winner to honour that history pulling away on downhill, flatlands and climbs to make sure he won.

Carapaz and Alaphillippe looked to get over the disappointment by being in the next days breakaway on stage 17 only to be caught by the GC battle.

Meribel put on its finest display for the race arriving and as the Bahrain led peloton sped through the town to get tot the new finish at Col de la Loze it felt like we had the real race back again. For a few minutes there were cheering fans and despite their masks it was a brief moment where covid wasn’t on my mind.

The new bike path looked amazing despite its fluctuating gradient and it had the desired effect on breaking up the GC leaders including Bahrains leader Mikel Landa meaning all their work was not rewarded.

‘Superman’ Lopez got away and behind him the likes of Richie Porte and Rigoberto Uran started to fade.

Then it was the leaders turn with Primoz Roglic putting some daylight between him and Tadej Pogacar as the road got over 20% in steepness.

However Pogacar wasn’t gone for good and he battled back to limit his losses to 15 seconds meaning he is 57 down now against the yellow jersey.

This race is most definitely not done and I am enjoying every minute of it. Let’s see what today brings.

Tour ’20 – Stages 14&15 – Is Pogacar the man most likely?

With defending champion Egan Bernal definitively falling away from contention, Tadej Pogacar looks like the only man who can deny Primoz Roglic Slovenia’s first Tour de France win.

A twist or irony being that in doing so, he would also become the first Slovenian to take home the yellow jersey.

The best of the rest are currently Rigoberto Uran and Richie Porte and whilst both are talented and Tour proven, they are approaching veteran stage and wont get enough time back to get ahead of the two riders topping GC.

Sunday saw a flat stage into Lyon that had plenty of excitement and it was Sunweb who again challenged existing tactical norms by almost attacking as a team near the end. In footballing language, Marc Hirschi threw a dummy before the real attack came from Soren Kragh Andersen.

He held on to win in the ‘grand manner’ crossing the line alone before being mobbed by team mates. There is growing interest in their British coach Matt Winston and with the poor showing of our “national” team at this Tour de France it seems only a matter of time before the Ineos cheque book gets waved at him.

I am all for innovative and exciting, open racing so long may he continue in that style whichever team car he is sat in.

Sunday saw an unusual stage in that it climbed the Grand Colombier three times from different routes up.

Pic from Procyclingstats.

To be fair they could have found another two or three routes up and many of the favourites would have been struggling.

First Nairo Qunitana slowly dropped off the back before Bernal popped out of the line of riders following the Jumbo train before losing contact and ground rapidly.

The way that Wout Van Aert rode for kilometer after kilometer on the front was spectacular and as the spring opened up they had pinned the other riders to the gutter so hard that they still had one rider left.

Chris Froome told ITV that their display reminded him of Sky in their prime.

But they are due a bad day and Roglic does have previous of making what looks like a simple run in more complex by having a crash or mechanical or getting caught in the wind.

You would think that despite not having a strong team Pogacar will be much more alert to any splits that might occur. At the moment the two of them are inseperable and it will be down to the final time trial on Saturday in the Vosges.

But will Jumbo be confident enough in their leader not to have to put Pogacar further behind if they can?

I wonder…

Tour ’20 – Stages 12&13 – Hirschi makes his Marc

I do love a good cliche. Sadly todays headline isn’t one! but we will go with it anyway.

Marc Hirschi has been one of the heroes of the tour so far with his stage 2 breakaway followed up by heartbreak 1.5km from home on the 2nd mountain stage.

But he kept his levels of self belief high and on a cat 2 climb used his Sunweb team to get him placed off the front before he put down the power and rode away from a group of hilly route specialists including Max Schachmann and Julian Alaphillippe.

With his recent 2nd and 3rd placed finishes no doubt playing on his mind, Hirschi didn’t let off the gas until well inside the barrired area at the finish and this time there were tears of joy as he landed his first (of no doubt many) professional wins.

Yesterday saw an Ardennes type stage with the race continuing across the belt of France. Surprisingly, the stats gurus were saying that despite no massive major mountain passes this one had the most VAM of the whole Tour.

There was a decent sized breakaway with good quality riders away for most of the day and this time it was Schachmann who was caught late on in the stage. His team mate Leonard Kamna being dragged across to him by Dauphine champion Dani Martinez.

Despite Bora have two riders in this break, Martinez bided his time before unleashing a great sprint to take the win.

Further down the climb Tadej Pogacar and yellow jersey Primoz Roglic escaped the remaining favourites with Egan Bernal off the pace.

Two great riders of Tours de France past left the race after a crash. Bauke Mollema and Romain Bardet. I wish both a speedy recovery.

Tour ’20 – Stages 3 & 4 – Cousin evokes memories of old

Jerome Cousin of Total/Direct Energie was keen to push on with the stage 3 breakaway to Sisteron. The two other members of the move were more interested in accumilating KOM points and then not contributing so with around 130km to go Cousin pushed on.

His wonderful curly mullet and posh Scott specs make him look every inch the 1980’s retro pro as his long lone breakaway brought back memories of a couple of rides of that era.

Most notably the 1989 breakaway in the first week by Joel Pellier of the BH team. He managed to go the distance and was greeted by his family at the finish. They’d never seen him race as he had a disabled brother who needed constant care and this was the first opportunity for someone else to help out with that and allow his parents to watch the Tour live. It was one of the great stories of any Tour.

Back to 2020 and Cousin managed to stretch his advantage to 4 minutes but the peloton were never feeling generous enough to give him any more of an advantage. Shame.

There were times in his ride where he looked a bit bored riding puppy paws through the lovely scenery. I think he knew from quite a long way out that he would be caught and that didn’t really help his morale.

The catch came in time for Caleb Ewan to fly through the sprinters and take an easy win. It was a great finish to watch from the over head camera and he zig zagged through the group to beat Sam Bennett who left us in no doubt how upset he was by his reaction in crossing the line.

Lot’s had been written about stage 4 and the finish at Orcieres-Merlette. Luis Ocana and Steven Rooks are pretty decent names for a town to have on its palmares of stage winners and in Primoz Roglic 2020 added to that list.

The stage itself wasn’t a classic despite friend of Fendrien Krists Nielands being away until the final climb.

For a mountain stage there were a lot of riders in the group coming into the last 2km. I wonder if this is down to the lack of racing and everyone being at a mostly similar level perhaps?

Jumbo were taking no prisoners and the speed they went into the latter metres of the stage was more than sufficient to deter any attacks. Adam Yates admitted as much in his post race interview.

Sepp Kuss provided the perfect platform for Roglic to outsprint the other favourites and make a real statement of intent for the remainder of the race.