La Vuelta ’22 – Roglic throws it away

One thing I would have been confident in writing last week was that a duel between stage-hunter Fred Wright and Primoz Roglic would not end up deciding the Vuelta’s general classification.

But we saw a bizarre stage 16 end the suspense as to whether or not Remco Evenepoel would win the Tour of Spain 2022.

We left the race in our last review at the final rest day with Remco starting to ship time every time the race went up hill.

Enric Mas but more importantly Roglic were taking time back. 10 seconds here, 25 seconds there and as we headed into the tough final week it looked a matter of time before the Jumbo/Visma man would take back the leaders red jersey.

However. Stage 16 bit back and caused drama in the way that only a Roglic capitulation could see.

The short uphill to the finish wasn’t too much of a gradient. This was shown by Mads Pedersen going on to win the stage.

But Roglic shot out of the pack like a rocket at the exact moment the red jersey was dropping back with a puncture.

It was inside 3km from the finish meaning the race jury would allocate the same time as the main peloton to Remco. But that would still mean a time loss as Rog powered up the finishing straight.

No-one truly knows if Rog had an inkling of the leaders woes when he attacked. But it soon became academic as he crashed into Wright in the final metres. Roglic bolted from one side of the road to the other and the two clashed handle bars before the Slovenian hit the deck.

His Vuelta was over and he has since pointed the finger of blame at Wright. Unfairly for me.

This left Mas the main challenger but over the next mountain stage, won heroically by Rigoberto Uran, he couldn’t get away.

The final true mountain stage ended up being won by Remco who put 2 more seconds into Mas and that was that.

Pedersen, Richard Carapaz and Juan Sebastian Molano won the remaining stages but it was the Belgian who ended his homelands long drought in three week grand tours.

Despite the anticlimactic last few stages it was a really decent race this and sets up next summer’s big races perfectly.

RnkPrev▼▲RiderTeamUCIPntTime
11 EVENEPOEL RemcoQuick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team85040016″80:26:59
22 MAS EnricMovistar Team68029023″2:02
33 AYUSO JuanUAE Team Emirates5752404″4:57
44 LÓPEZ Miguel ÁngelAstana Qazaqstan Team46022010″5:56
55 ALMEIDA JoãoUAE Team Emirates3802007:24
66 ARENSMAN ThymenTeam DSM32019016″7:45
77 RODRÍGUEZ CarlosINEOS Grenadiers2601807:57
88 O’CONNOR BenAG2R Citroën Team22017010:30
99 URÁN RigobertoEF Education-EasyPost18016022″11:04
1010 HINDLEY JaiBORA – hansgrohe14015012:01
from procyclingstats.com

La Vuelta ’22 – Evenepoel starting to show weakness

After a week of dominance in the climbs and time trials, the most recent stages of the Vuelta will have left Belgian fans chewing their finger nails as Remco Evenepoel starts to shed time to the chasing pack.

I say pack. I really mean multiple defending champ Primoz Roglic and Spaniard Enric Mas.

The rest are too far back.

However, in the weekends mountain stages (ahead of the rest day today) both have taken time back from the race leader, something that looked unlikely a few days ago.

We left the race in the last post with a time trial in Alicante. It was dominated by Remco.

The following day was won by Kaden Groves in a sprint before we started to climb again.

Way down on time after a tough first few stages, Richard Caparaz was given free reign to leave the peloton in a breakaway and he took that chance winning in Estepona. The favourites came home together over seven minutes back.

Mads Pedersen had been in a number of breaks trying to build his lead in the points competition and won stage 13 in an uphill reduced bunch sprint.

It was the sort of finish we know the Dane has, but don’t see it often enough in the classics and stage races. This will have done wonders for him though although it was a shame to hear post stage that he wouldn’t be taking this form down to Australian for the upcoming world championships. I would have made him favourite.

Carapaz won again at La Pandera on Saturday with Evenepoel finally showing weakness and being dropped by Roglic and Mas.

The feat was repeated yesterday on a stage won by Thymen Arensman at Sierra Nevada.

The time gap between the leader and Roglic now down to 1m34s.

Its been tough for Remco, losing Julian Alaphillippe to another crash and shoulder injury. The reigning world champ would have been crucial to keeping the red jersey holder in touch on the last mountain stages.

It’s going to be an interesting last few days. I see Roglic as the likely winner though now I have to say. There are three uphill or summit finishes left for him to make the real breakthrough.

Remco looks tired and on the back foot without his team to defend him. It’s painful to watch.

Either way its going to be an exciting last few days of the final big stage race of the 2022 season.

Enjoy it!

RnkPrev▼▲RiderTeamUCITime
11 EVENEPOEL RemcoQuick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team206″56:40:49
22 ROGLIČ PrimožJumbo-Visma17″1:34
33 MAS EnricMovistar Team14″2:01
45▲1 AYUSO JuanUAE Team Emirates4:49
54▼1 RODRÍGUEZ CarlosINEOS Grenadiers5:16
66 LÓPEZ Miguel ÁngelAstana Qazaqstan Team10″5:24
77 ALMEIDA JoãoUAE Team Emirates7:00
811▲3 ARENSMAN ThymenTeam DSM10″7:05
910▲1 O’CONNOR BenAG2R Citroën Team8:57
1013▲3 HINDLEY JaiBORA – hansgrohe11:36
from procyclingstats.com

La Vuelta ’22 – Remco hits the turbo button

“Vuelta mate? completed it!”

Not quite yet Remco. But week two of this years race sees the Belgian boy wonder on the edge of greatness having built a commanding lead during stages 4-10.

We left the race travelling from Breda in the Netherlands to Northern Spain on an early rest day with Jumbo passing the race leaders jersey around their riders, seemingly for fun.

Stage 4 with its medium mountains and reduced bunch sprint saw Primoz Roglic take both stage and jersey and that, we all assumed, was that.

The next day Jumbo let a break take a fair chunk of time and gifted the leaders role to Groupama-FDJ rider Rudy Mollard. He benefited from some selfless team work from Brit Jake Stewart on the road into Bilbao.

The stage was won by fiery Catalan Marc Soler. When he is on it he is unbeatable. When he isn’t he is slower than me*

*maybe

Stage 6 was the first proper mountain summit finish and Jay Vine, as Aussie, was too strong for his breakaway companions emerging from the fog to take a memorable win.

Behind Remco Evenepoel accelerated away from the favourites group and gained enough time to depose Roglic.

Only Enric Mas of Spain was able to stay in contact and they became the riders to watch in this Vuelta.

In a race of breakaways there was an emotion home win for Cofidis rouleur Jesus Herrada into Cistierna the following day. A tearful interview for the home tv channels showing how much this one meant.

Vine then won again on the second mountain top finish keeping up a 100% win rate on summits in this years race! He was benefitting from being far enough behind in the overall classification that none of the big teams were too bothered to chase him. But he was clearly on their radar now and would not be gifted the chance to ride in a breakaway again by the looks of things.

Sunday’s showpiece stage to Nava was one for the ages. Up front big Belgian Jimmy Janssens was toiling up the final climb which was Flemish in its steepness, yet almost alpine in its length.

Louis Meintjes, a much more suitable tiny climber, was reeling him in, and did with just enough space to then drop him on the 24% gradients into the finish.

Behind them the GC battle detonated. Remco sensed weakness in Roglic and dropped him compressively on a corner so steep that the tv motorbikes were stalling.

Mas was next to suffer, dropping off the back wheel of the race leader centimetre by centimetre.

Remco was 3/4 of a minute clear of his rivals by the line despite a late charge by Primoz.

We went into the second rest day on Monday which would have usually been the natural break point in my race review.

However I couldn’t post until today so I am including the time trial of yesterday.

Not much to add on that other than Remco dominated again and added to his lead going into this hilly second phase of the race.

What happens next? I think we will see the likes of Roglic and Mas have to try longer range attacks to get time back. Mas doesn’t have a great reputation as an attacker, more a follower so it will be Jumbo that have to instigate.

Evenepoel looks really strong. But we keep hearing he is unproven over three weeks so it will be interesting to see how his team try and manage the race in the coming days to give him an easier ride.

It’s either going to be really exciting or a dull procession to the finish now! I know which I want to see.

RnkPrev▼▲RiderTeamUCITime
11 EVENEPOEL RemcoQuick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team206″34:35:50
23▲1 ROGLIČ PrimožJumbo-Visma13″2:41
32▼1 MAS EnricMovistar Team8″3:03
44 RODRÍGUEZ CarlosINEOS Grenadiers3:55
56▲1 YATES SimonTeam BikeExchange – Jayco4:50
65▼1 AYUSO JuanUAE Team Emirates4:53
77 ALMEIDA JoãoUAE Team Emirates6:45
88 LÓPEZ Miguel ÁngelAstana Qazaqstan Team6:50
910▲1 SIVAKOV PavelINEOS Grenadiers7:06
from http://www.procyclingstats.com

2021 Worlds a race for the ages

Despite being, what I would call, a cycling buff, there are many instances where I can’t take in all of a race.

I have even written on this very website how the recent trend of tv coverage from flag to flag sometimes can feel like too much cycling.

The first instance of this trend I can remember was the 2015 Paris Roubaix where the first hour of action waiting for the break to form was much more entertaining that what went after it. So the television execs thought they’d hit on a successful formula and it stuck.

But for every race like that, there has been plenty where ‘sleepy’ would still be too active a description for the action.

Its content like that which gives commentators abuse on the internet. They can only call what they see and if nothing is happening the dead air is filled with less quality. Same goes for the racing.

But.

The 2021 world professional men’s road race yesterday was one occasion where if you invested the time at the start of the race, there were massive rewards at the finish.

The French national team rode the perfect race.

Unlike the Belgians who seemed to back both Remco Evenepoel and Wout van Aert before leaving home town rider Jasper Stuyven to content the finale, the raiding team from south of the border had a clear strategy.

They backed the defending champion to the hilt and were rewarded by his retention of the precious rainbow jersey.

From 140kms out Benoit Cosnefroy and Anthony Turgis were a total pain in the Belgians backsides with attacks and counter attacks forcing lots of chasing.

Italy were caught out in the first big split, something that might have contributed to a subdued finale from their main hope Sonny Colbrelli.

Mathieu Van der Poel was very subdued and was content to follow all day without having any impact on the race.

Julian Alaphillippe attacked four or five times to get his win with a number of these digs coming in the last lap and a half around Leuven.

He eventually wore them down with his desire to get clear and with Valentin Madouas working hard to help him establish his lead he was gone and gone for good.

The splinter group chasing him down had neither Van Aert, Tom Pidcock nor Van der Poel within it and didn’t have the power left to make the catch.

You can argue that Alaphillippe is all show and no content, but the wins he is racking up now make that point of view weak.

He is so entertaining to watch and his attack so wonderful to behold that you can’t help but be engaged and excited.

Last year he won with style. This year he won with persistence, style, panache and flair.

It truly was a world for the ages.

RnkRiderTeamUCIPntTime
1 ALAPHILIPPE JulianFrance6003505:56:34
2 VAN BAARLE DylanNetherlands4752600:32
3 VALGREN MichaelDenmark400190,,
4 STUYVEN JasperBelgium325150,,
5 POWLESS NeilsonUnited States275130,,
6 PIDCOCK ThomasGreat Britain2251100:49
7 ŠTYBAR ZdeněkCzech Republic1751001:06
8 VAN DER POEL MathieuNetherlands150901:18
9 SÉNÉCHAL FlorianFrance12580,,
10 COLBRELLI SonnyItaly10070,,
Top 10 from http://www.procyclingstats.com

2021 Giro Retrospective

With a couple of weeks and plenty of racing having passed under our wheels since the Giro, it seems trite to call this piece a review so I have altered the title to reflect this!

The context of the race and its thrilling final days have been put into more perspective over recent days with the news that winner Egan Bernal has posted a positive Covid-19 test.

Its not especially clear as to whether this diagnosis could explain some of his late race trevails but it was certainly a more exciting Giro as a result of him slowing down in the run up to the final weekend.

The Columbian too the race leaders pink jersey on stage 9 and was seemingly cruising through the race with quiet dominance and backed up by a strong Ineos team.

He rode with calmness and composure on what could have been a tricky stage 11 over the Strade Bianche to Montalcino, a stage where Dan Martin unravelled and Remco Evenepoel started to show he was human.

The first week and a half had gone entirely to Sir Dave Brailsfords plan.

But as we got into the back end of the race, Simon Yates started to pick up pace and managed to distance the race leader on a couple of stages.

There was talk of a bad back for Bernal and in Dani Martinez he had a rider nursing him through and keeping him close to the other contenders.

If Bernal was the ultimate winner of the race, Martinez was man of the match, 100%.

The final road stage of the race was a mountainous one but Yates couldn’t take advantage and actually lost time to Bernal who was carefully managing his efforts despite being behind 2nd placed Damiano Caruso who won the stage.

The time trial was a formality and Bernal was able to get home and win his second grand tour.

This was a different beast to his yellow jersey with a vulnerability and reliance on his team that will stand him in good stead going forward.

Aside from the battle for the pink leaders jersey Peter Sagan won the points despite a fine for intimidation in the transitional part of the race.

Geoffrey Bouchard of Ag2R was the mountains winner after featuring in a number of key breakaways across the whole race.

There were notable stage wins from Taco van der Hoorn in week one when he kept the collective might of the peloton at bay in the closing stages to take an unlikely victory by only a handful of seconds.

Stage 13 saw the end of one of cyclings longest streaks of finishing top 3 in grand tour stage without winning with a popular sprint win for Giacomo Nizzolo who left it late to come over the top Edoardo Affini before breaking down in tears in the finishing zone.

This was a brilliant Giro for a whole number of reasons. The less than spring like weather made the racing harder and ensured that even on a “easy” day, it wasnt an easy day.

We had multiple breakaway winners, a trend that has carried on into the post Giro racing. This is great and for the first time since radios for the riders and mathmatical formulas to decide when to start the chase, the advantage is with the brave riders striking out off the front early in the stage.

Chapeau!

So now we get into the build up races for the Tour de France, a race that will have to create some brilliant memories to be better than this one…

Over to you France!

RnkPrev▼▲RiderTeamUCIPntTime
11 BERNAL EganINEOS Grenadiers85040086:17:28
22 CARUSO DamianoBahrain – Victorious6802901:29
33 YATES SimonTeam BikeExchange5752404:15
44 VLASOV AleksandrAstana – Premier Tech4602206:40
56▲1 MARTÍNEZ Daniel FelipeINEOS Grenadiers3802007:24
68▲2 ALMEIDA JoãoDeceuninck – Quick Step320190,,
75▼2 BARDET RomainTeam DSM2601808:05
87▼1 CARTHY HughEF Education – Nippo2201708:56
99 FOSS TobiasTeam Jumbo-Visma18016011:44
1010 MARTIN DanIsrael Start-Up Nation14015018:35