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Reports compiled by: Alicia Moyo, Rémi Massart

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June

Race Report – Vollering reigns supreme, whilst CANYON-SRAM enjoys a team victory at the Tour de Suisse Women

Stage 1

Demi Vollering (SDWorx-Protime) won solo on the mountainous stage 1, ahead of Gaia Realini (Lidl-Trek) and Elise Chabbey (CANYON-SRAM).

Riders began to be dropped from the peloton almost as soon as the stage began, as the first climb of the day – the Col de la Croix – provided an early, ‘Category 2’ challenge. No ‘breakaway’ formed for a while, until Chabbey managed to escape solo, with around 51km to go, and began increasing her gap until she held a lead of around two minutes. No one seemed interested in chasing her, until Marie Schreiber (SDWorx-Protime) launched an attack with 20km to go. She too managed to create a gap, but was caught by the peloton just over 10km later.

Meanwhile, more and more riders were dropping back from the peloton as they hit the final, Category 1 climb, with Mischa Bredewold (SDWorx-Protime) setting a blistering pace on the front. With 5km to go, Chabbey still had a lead of just under two minutes, and the peloton began to stretch out into smaller groups after an acceleration from Realini. Only Vollering could follow her, and the two continued on together, in pursuit of Chabbey. Vollering and Realini caught Chabbey just outside the flamme rouge, and soon after, Vollering launched her attack. The others were unable to keep up with her, and so she was able to continue riding to yet another solo victory. Realini then came through to take second place, followed by Chabbey.

Vollering took the lead of the general classification (26 seconds ahead of Realini) and the points classification. Chabbey took the lead of the mountains classification, and Realini took the lead of the youth classification.

Stage 2

Vollering won again on stage 2, this time in a mountainous individual time trial, ahead of Elisa Longo Borghini (Lidl-Trek) and Kim Cadzow (EF Education-Cannondale).

Kristen Faulkner (EF Education-Cannondale) was one of the early starters, and she set a ‘fastest time’ of 43:28, which remained unbeaten for some time. She was eventually ousted by Becky Storrie (DSM-Firmenich PostNL), however, who went 17 seconds faster. Storrie stayed in the hot seat for almost half an hour until Brodie Chapman (Lidl-Trek) set a new fastest time of 41:11 – around two minutes faster. Antonia Niedermaier (CANYON-SRAM) managed to go faster still, and finished with a time of 40:48, but she too was beaten, by Juliette Labous (DSM-Firmenich PostNL) at 40:34. Labous herself was then overtaken by Cadzow, who took the lead by 21 seconds.

Longo Borghini then came in with a time of 40:05, and looked like she might hold onto pole position, however Vollering then hit the course, in the yellow jersey. She ramped up her speed in the final kilometres to take the win with a time of 39:47 minutes – thereby being the only rider to break 40 minutes.

Vollering extended her lead of the general classification (1:26 ahead of Longo Borghini, who had moved up into second place) and the points classification, whilst Chabbey held her lead of the mountains classification. Realini held her lead of the youth classification.

Stage 3

Neve Bradbury won alongside her teammate, Kasia Niewiadoma (both CANYON-SRAM), on stage 3, after they had spent all day in the breakaway. Femke De Vries (Visma Lease-a-Bike) then sprinted to third place.

There were multiple attacks from the peloton as soon as the stage began, however only Bradbury and Elena Pirrone (Roland) managed to successfully escape and begin creating a gap. They were pursued by Niewiadoma, Amanda Spratt (Lidl-Trek) and De Vries, and with 88km to go, this trio succeeded in catching up to them.

The five continued on, building a gap of three minutes, before they hit the final (Category 2) climb, and Pirrone began to slide backwards. Spratt and De Vries were the next to be distanced, and at the same time, riders were dropping off the back of the peloton behind too. At the front of the peloton, Vollering took over with 15km to go, absolutely powering up the climb, and only Longo Borghini, Realini and Cadzow could follow. This group caught and overtook Pirrone with 13km to go, but ultimately they were too far back to catch the rest.

Niewiadoma and Bradbury came through the flamme rouge together, with Niewiadoma leading her teammate through the final kilometre. At first it seemed as though they would sprint it out to see who would take the win, but instead, they rode towards the line side-by-side, throwing their arms up in a joint celebration. Bradbury’s wheel was the first to cross the line, and so she took first, followed by Niewiadoma – and a short while later, De Vries sprinted past Spratt to take third.

Vollering held her lead of the general classification (1:22 ahead of Bradbury, who had moved up into second place) and the points classification. Chabbey held her lead of the mountains classification, and Bradbury moved up into the lead of the youth classification.

Stage 4

Vollering won again on stage 4, in a four-woman sprint, ahead of Longo Borghini and Bradbury.

The first rider to successfully break away from the peloton was Urška Žigart (Liv AlUla Jayco), and she did so with around 99km to go. A few kilometres later, Nienke Vinke (DSM-Firmenich PostNL) set off in pursuit of her, and managed to catch up with 90km to go. The two worked together out in front, and created a gap to the peloton of almost three minutes. With around 76km to go, however, the peloton split in two, as they went up a steep incline. This led to a smaller chasing group forming, that included Niamh Fisher-Black (SDWorx-Protime), Évita Muzic (FDJ-SUEZ), Rosita Reijnhout (Visma Lease-a-Bike), Steffi Haberlin (Swiss Cycling), Chapman, Labous and Niedermaier.

This chasing group soon hoovered up Vinke, followed by Žigart, but as they began to climb the second Category 2 climb of the day, this group then began to splinter. By the time they hit the descent, with 45km to go, only Fisher-Black, Niedermaier, Labous, Žigart and Muzic, remained in the front group. Haberlin had drifted back, but a few kilometres later, she was able to rejoin this group. Meanwhile, riders had been attacking off the front of the peloton, leading to splits there too. The group of attackers from the peloton soon caught up with Vinke and Reijnhout, and later Chapman, and continued on as a group, in pursuit of the group in front.

With 28km to go, Vinke was dropped from the chasing group, and Žigart was dropped from group 1, falling back into that chasing group behind. Then, unfortunately Cazdow crashed out, and whilst she eventually continued riding, she was unable to get back to the groups in front. With 13km to go, the chasing group finally caught up and merged with the front group. Multiple riders in this new front group then began to launch attacks, splitting up the group, and so through the flamme rouge, the front group only consisted of Vollering, Niewiadoma, Longo Borghini and Bradbury. On the final straight, Longo Borghini launched her sprint first, but Vollering was on her wheel, and quickly came around her to sprint to victory. Longo Borghini held on for second place, and then Bradbury kept riding for third.

Vollering won the general classification (1:28 ahead of Bradbury in second place, with Longo Borghini in third) and the points classification. Chabbey won the mountains classification, and Bradbury won the youth classification. CANYON-SRAM won the teams classification.

Written by: Alicia Moyo

18/06/2024

Race Report – UAE Team Emirates dominate in the mountains of the Tour de Suisse

Stage 1

Yves Lampaert (Soudal Quick-Step) powered to victory in the opening stage 4.77km flat individual time trial, ahead of Stefan Bissegger (EF Education-Easy Post) and Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers).

Racing started in the afternoon, and one of the race favourites - Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) - started soon after, and was able to set a new fastest time of 5:12, taking provisional ‘pole position’. He remained there for a while, with no one – not even the TT specialist Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) – being able to oust him, until Lampaert hit the course and beat his time by seven seconds.

Lampaert assumed his position in the hot seat, and no one else was able to dethrone him. Hayter and Bissegger came close, but just missed out in the end. Then, with around an hour’s racing left, the course was set upon by rain, further reducing the chances of his time being beaten. Out of the late starters, only Søren Kragh Andersen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) managed to get into the top ten.

The general classification battle would remain alive, however, as the main favourites’ times were still rather close. Almeida was seven seconds back, Mattias Skjelmose (Lidl-Trek) – last year’s overall winner – was at 11 seconds, Adam Yates (UAE Team Emirates) at 15 seconds, and Egan Bernal (INEOS Grenadiers) at 19 seconds.

Lampaert took the lead of the general classification (three seconds ahead of Bissegger) and the points classification. Finn Fisher-Black (UAE Team Emirates) took the lead of the youth classification.

Stage 2

Bryan Coquard (Cofidis) won in a strung-out bunch sprint on stage 2, ahead of Michael Matthews (Jayco-AlUla) and Arnaud De Lie (Lotto-Dstny).

Attempts to get into the ‘breakaway’ of the day began almost immediately after the official start was given, with Gerben Kuypers (Intermarché-Wanty), Roberto Carlos González (Corratec-Vini Fantini) and Félix Stehli (Swiss Cycling), being the first to successfully escape. They were followed closely by Antoine Debons (Corratec-Vini Fantini) and Luca Jenni (Swiss Cycling), and by the 172km to go mark, a breakaway group of five had been established.

With 100km to go, González was dropped from this front group, and then caught by the peloton with 66km to go. The front group remained intact over the next 40km, until Stehli launched a solo attack with around 27km to go. He was caught shortly after, however, and the whole group – apart from Jenni – slowed with 13km to go, and allowed themselves to be caught by the peloton. Jenni then continued on, around 25 seconds in front of the peloton.

With 11.5km to go, there was an attack from David De la Cruz (Q36.5), and no one was willing to follow, until Alpecin-Deceuninck hit the front of the peloton and succeeded in catching all the riders in front. On the descent, Mauro Schmid (Jayco-AlUla) and Kragh Andersen tried to launch an attack, but the peloton was determined to stop them from escaping. Once they were subdued, Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-Easypost) attacked solo, and was chased by a small group led by Kragh Andersen. This group were unsuccessful in bringing him back, but Lotto-Dstny then hit the front of the peloton and worked hard to catch him just outside the flamme rouge.

None of the full sprint trains had time to assemble, and so inside the flamme rouge it was almost a free-for-all. Coquard launched his sprint first, but De Lie was lurking in third wheel, ready to pounce. He looked set to win, but was suddenly hindered by a mechanical issue that allowed Coquard to slip away and sprint to victory. Matthews rode to second place, and De Lie fought back to claim third.

Lampaert held his lead of the general classification (4 seconds ahead of Hayter) and the points classification. Kuypers took the lead of the mountains classification, and Fisher-Black kept his lead of the youth classification.

Stage 3

Thibau Nys (Lidl-Trek) sprinted to victory on the stage 3 uphill finish, ahead of Stephen Williams (IPT) and Bettiol.

The initial breakaway group formed with around 154km to go, and included González, Jenni, and Johan Jacobs, Christoph Janssen and Fabian Lienhard (all Swiss Cycling). They remained altogether as a group out in front, until inside the final 40km, where Janssen and Lienhard dropped back, followed by Jenni and González around 10km later. Jacobs was the only rider left out in front, and he maintained his lead for a while, until he was caught by the peloton with 18km to go.

Meanwhile, multiple riders had been dropping from the peloton. Once they caught Jacobs, there were multiple accelerations from different riders, however no-one succeded in escaping. Inside the final 4km, Alpecin-Deceuninck and Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale came to the front to pull for their leaders, and prepare for the final climb. Marc Hirschi (UAE Team Emirates) then decided to launch a late solo attack, and it looked like he could win, but he was caught just inside the flamme rouge.

The riders got ready to position themselves perfectly for the uphill sprint, with Wilco Kelderman (Visma Lease-a-Bike) leading through the final 200m. Nys was on his wheel, however, and was able to come around him and launch his sprint. He crossed the line clearly in first, ahead of Williams and Bettiol.

Bettiol moved into the lead of the general classification (6 seconds ahead of Hayter) whilst Lampaert kept his lead of the points classification. Jenni moved into the lead of the mountains classification, and Fisher-Black kept his lead of the youth classification.

Stage 4

Torstein Traeen (Bahrain Victorious) won on the steep finish of stage 4, after an impressive ride in the breakaway all day. Yates rode in for second place, gaining time on his GC rivals, and Skjelmose came in third.

From the outset came a flurry of initial attacks, however none were able to fully escape the peloton. Eventually, the ‘breakaway’ of the day was formed with 156km to go, and included eight riders: Coquard, Kuypers, Matthews, Traeen, Lilian Calmejane (Intermarché-Wanty), Roland Thalmann (Tudor Pro Cycling), Silvan Dillier (Alpecin-Deceuninck) and Jan Sommer (Swiss Cycling).

This group continued on together until Sommer was dropped with around 32km to go, following an acceleration from Calmejane. With 19km to go, Dillier tried an attack, and only Traeen and Thalmann could follow. Calmejane attempted to bridge the gap, as did Coquard, but they were unsuccessful. Then, with 17km to go, Dillier was dropped from the front group.

With 10km to go, Traeen launched his attack to shake off Thalmann, and set off solo towards the finish. Meanwhile, the peloton had been hoovering up the remaining riders that had been dropped from the breakaway group, and Valentin Paret-Peintre (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale) then launched his attack off the front. More and more riders dropped off the back of the peloton, leaving a group of around 20 riders in pursuit of Traeen, until Yates attacked with 4km to go. He powered off into the distance, and no one seemed willing to chase him.

Over the next kilometre, the main chasing group thinned out even more, and then, with 3km to go, Skjelmose launched his attack. Only Almeida could follow him closely for the rest of the stage, as the rest of the group splintered. Ultimately, Traeen came across the line in first, and a few seconds later, Yates followed. Skjelmose then crossed the line around 20 seconds later, taking third.

Yates moved into the lead of the general classification (26 seconds ahead of Almeida) whilst Coquard moved into the lead of the points classification. Traeen moved into the lead of the mountains classification, and Skjelmose took the lead of the youth classification.

Stage 5

Yates won on the mountaintop finish of stage 5, just ahead of his teammate Almeida in second, and Bernal in third, making it a UAE Team Emirates 1-2. 

At the beginning of the stage, there were a number of attacks and attempts to form a breakaway group, but all were unsuccessful, until a small group pulled away with around 98km to go. This group contained Williams, Einer Rubio (Movistar), Nans Peters (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale), and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Qazaqstan Team), and Johannes Staune Mittet (Visma Lease-a-Bike) bridged across a few kilometres later.

This group remained intact until Staune Mittet and Rubio accelerated to contest the bonus sprint, and only Peters and Lutsenko could catch up, leaving Williams behind. Lutsenko and Peters were next to be caught, however, with 12km to go, and a kilometre later, Staune Mittet and Rubio were then caught too. INEOS Grenadiers then hit the front of the peloton, to set a high pace for their leader, Bernal. Soon UAE Team Emirates took over, however – with 6.5km to go – for their leader, Yates. Their strong pace caused more and more riders to drop back, until only ten riders were left in front inside the final 5km.

This ten-man group reduced to five over the next kilometre, thanks to a long stint at the front from Almeida, who kept riding in the wind for his teammate until Yates attacked with 1.7km to go. He was followed by Bernal and Mas, but neither were able to sustain the effort, and so dropped back to Almeida behind. Almeida then overtook them both, and kept going in pursuit of his teammate, allowing them to cross the line for a 1-2. Bernal then rode in for third place.

Yates held his lead of the general classification (35 seconds ahead of Almeida) and took the lead of the points classification and the mountains classification. Matthew Riccitello (IPT) took the lead of the youth classification.

Stage 6

Almeida won on the mountaintop finish of the shortened stage 6, followed by Yates – thereby reversing the UAE Team Emirates 1-2 of the stage before. Skjelmose then came in to take third.

Stage 6 was shortened to just 42.5km, due to the weather conditions. As soon as the official start was given, there were multiple attempts to break away from the peloton, but only three riders were successful: Bissegger, Frank Van den Broek (DSM-Firmenich PostNL) and Anders Foldager (Jayco-AlUla). This group held their lead for most of the stage, until Bissegger accelerated with 6.7km to go, causing Foldager to drop back. Van den Broek then overtook Bisseger with 5km to go, aiming for a solo victory.

Meanwhile, UAE Team Emirates were present – as per usual – at the front of the peloton, pulling for their leader. Yates then launched with 3.5km to go, and overtook Van den Broek. He was pursued by Skjelmose, Almeida and Bernal, with the latter attempting to attack with 1.7km to go. He was caught by Almeida and Skjelmose shortly after, however, and Almeida then accelerated away to bridge across to his teammate. Inside the flamme rouge, Almeida was able to come around Yates and ride to victory. Yates followed shortly after and took second, with Skjelmose riding to third.

Yates held his lead of the general classification (27 seconds ahead of Almeida), the points classification and the mountains classification. Skjelmose regained the lead of the youth classification.

Stage 7

Yates and Almeida rode theatrically across the line together (with Yates slightly in front) on stage 7, cementing yet another 1-2 for UAE Team Emirates. Riccitello crossed the line a short while later in third.

Once the stage began, there were multiple attacks, but the official ‘breakaway’ group included eight riders: Harold Martin López (Astana Qazaqstan Team), Finlay Pickering (Bahrain Victorious), Sylvain Moniquet and Maxim Van Gils (both Lotto-Dstny), Jan Christen (UAE Team Emirates), Paret-Peintre, Staune-Mittet, and Rubio. Raul García Pierna (Arkéa-B&B Hotels) and Harrison Wood (Cofidis) tried to bridge across with 91km to go, but were eventually unsuccessful.

The breakaway stayed intact for most of the stage, until Christen accelerated with 60km to go, and only Paret-Peintre followed. These two were quickly brought back, however, and immediately afterwards, Staune-Mittet went off on his own, with 58km to go. The rest of the group were then caught by the peloton. Staune-Mittet stayed out in front for the rest of the stage, until he was eventually caught with 4km to go, after Felix Gall (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale) accelerated from the front of the peloton to overtake him.

No one pursued Gall, and so he rode out in front alone for a while, until Almeida decided to launch a counter-attack, with 3km to go. He was followed by Riccitello, Yates, and Kelderman, and this group caught Gall with 1.7km to go. Yates immediately overtook him, pursued by Almeida, and the two came through the flamme rouge together. After some discussion, they decided to cross the line together, for the third UAE Team Emirates 1-2 in a row. Riccitello then rode in for third place.

Yates held his lead of the general classification (31 seconds ahead of Almeida), the points classification and the mountains classification. Skjelmose held his lead of the youth classification.

Stage 8

The final stage consisted of a 15.7km mountain individual time trial, and was won by Almeida, ahead of his teammate, Yates, and Skjelmose, giving UAE Team Emirates their final 1-2 of the week.

Watching the hot seat was like watching a game of musical chairs for much of the day, with riders setting new fastest times in quick succession. Cees Bol (Astana Qazaqstan) and Jenni were the first to set the fastest times, of 38:32 and 38:27 respectively, until Oscar Riesebeek (Alpecin-Deceuninck) overtook them with a time of 37:09. Then, Simone Velasco (Astana Qazaqstan) set a new fastest time of time of 36:22, followed by Felix Engelhardt (Jayco-AlUla), and then Williams.

Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) followed, setting a new time of 35:16, and he managed to hold onto pole position until Lenny Martinez (Groupama-FDJ) set out some time later, and smashed Caruso’s effort, with a new time of 34:19. Martinez remained in the hot seat until Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) went 5 seconds faster, however his time was then later beaten by both Riccitello and Skjelmose – who rode for 34:01 and 33:44, respectively.

Then Almeida came in, and set the new fastest time of 33:24, securing the stage win. This time wasn’t quite good enough to dethrone Yates as leader of the general classification, however, as Yates came across the line a short while later, only 8 seconds down on Almeida’s time, to secure his second ever WorldTour stage race win.

Yates won the general classification (22 seconds ahead of Almeida in second place, with Skjelmose in third), the points classification, and the mountains classification. Skjelmose won the youth classification, and UAE Team Emirates won the teams classification.

Written by: Alicia Moyo

16/06/2024

Recap of the week – Herregodts takes ZLM Tour during a calm week outside Dauphiné

ZLM Tour

Stage 1:

A 14.7km long ITT started the week in the Netherlands. Given the road, this first stage could already be decisive for the general classification and the main contenders for the final GC had to shine on this exercise. In the end, it was the Belgian Rune Herregodts (Intermarché-Wanty) who took the win, 11 seconds ahead of the young Tim Van Dijke (Visma-Lease a Bike). Behind them, Gleb Syritsa finished third for Astana-Qazaqstan.

Stage 2:

The second stage was completely flat and saw a very classic scenario, with a breakaway of 7 men opening the road throughout the day. They did an amazing work at the front, only being caught in the last few kilometres, thanks to the work of dsm-firmenich. This work paid off because on the line it was the Dutch Casper Van Uden who took the third win of his season ahead of Syritsa and Gerben Thijssen (Intermarché-Wanty). There were no changes at the top of the general classification except for Syritsa coming back on Tim Van Dijke thanks to the bonifications.

Stage 3:

As the day prior, the scenario of this stage seemed very classic at the start, when 4 Dutch riders escaped from the peloton. However, the leader of the Youth jersey, Wessel Mouris (Metec-SOLARWATT) is among them, despite being in the top 10 of the general classification. With 90 kilometres to go, a big crash took place in the peloton with Tim Van Dijke in it. Unfortunately, the second of the general classification had to abandon the race, along with the Belgian Luca de Meester (Bingoal WB). In the last few kilometres, the sprinter’s team pulled strongly in the peloton, with the goal of coming back on the first group. However, their work wasn’t enough as the three strongest of the breakaway managed to resist and Peter Schulting (Diftar Continental) won one of the biggest victory of his career, ahead of Martijn Rasenberg (Parkhotel Valkenburg) and Wessel Mouris. On GC, the crash of Tim Van Dijke and Syritsa’s loss of time saw Max Walker (Astana-Qazaqstan) and Tom Bohli (Tudor) climbing on the podium.

Stage 4:

Once again, the peloton had big difficulties to caught the break, only catching the last attackers in the last hundred meters. The first half of the race was very fast with several splits in the peloton due to the wind. A big group including some sprinters such as David Dekker (Arkéa-B&B) was opening the race until the five last kilometres when the peloton came back. Just before that, two riders attacked, trying to survive the peloton and go for the win. Unfortunately for them, Jelte Krijnsen (Parkhotel Valkenburg) and Davide Gabburo (VF Group Bardiani) were caught in the last few meters by the sprinters. Like 2 days before, Casper Van Uden was the fastest man in the peloton and he raised his arms again ahead of Alpecin-Deceuninck’s Simon Dehairs and Polti-Kometa’s Giovanni Lonardi.

Stage 5:

Final day in the Netherlands for this ZLM Tour and, despite multiple attacks throughout the day, the sprinters had the opportunity of going for the win. Indeed, there was never any serious breakaway during the day, only some small groups taking a few seconds of advantage. In the last kilometre, as the peloton was complete again, Julien Vermote tried to anticipate the sprint for Visma-Lease a Bike but he was caught before the line and Alexander Salby surprised the main favourites to take his first win of the season. Behind, Gleb Syritsa and Jakub Mareczko completed the podium.

On GC, Rune Herregodts won the first general classification of his career despite a crash during the last stage. The Belgian finished ahead of Max Walker, who usually ride with the Development team of Astana, and Tom Bohli (Tudor). Casper Van Uden, winner of two stages, took the Points jersey home and Wessel Mouris won the Youth classification.

Elmos Dwars door het Hageland

A very interesting race across Belgium took place this week between Aarschot and Diest. 128 kilometres on constant ups, downs and cobblestones saw the Dutch Lucinda Brand take the win, the first of her season on the road. The Lidl-Trek rider won the sprint of a small group composed of 4 Dutchwomen. Indeed, behind her, Thalita De Jong (Lotto Dstny), Karlijn Swinkels (UAE Team ADQ) and Mischa Bredewold (SD Worx-Protime) completed the top 4, while Letizia Borghesi was the first non-Dutch rider for EF Education-Cannondale. It is also important to notice the great result of the young Fleur Moors, who finished 8th for Lidl-Trek at only 18 years of age.

Duracell Dwars door het Hageland

After the Women’s race, the men also raced between Aarschot and Diest. The morning breakaway established quickly, including 5 riders: Warde Vangheluwe (Soudal-Quick Step), Axel Huens (TDT-Unibet), Geoffrey Soupe (TotalEnergies), David Haverdings (Baloise-Trek Lions) and Corné Van Kessel (Team Deschacht). With 75 kilometres to go, the first splits in the peloton took place and a lot of riders accelerated at the front. After a few kilometres of chaos during which the breakaway was caught, another small group escaped with outsiders such as Kaden Groves for Alpecin-Deceuninck and Jonas Abrahamsen (Uno X-Mobility) in it. Unfortunately, this group did not last long as they were caught 30 kilometres from the finish line. However, the Norwegian tried again and escaped in the last 15 kilometres along with Gianni Vermeersch (Alpecin-Deceuninck) and Hartthijs De Vries (TDT-Unibet). These three riders managed to stay at the front until the line, where Gianni Vermeersch took the best over Abrahmasen, De Vries finishing third. Uno X-Mobility was definitely the best team on the race with Rasmus Tiller and Soren Waerenskjold finishing respectively fourth and fifth, scoring big UCI points.

Race Report – Roseman-Gannon ends SDWorx-Protime’s domination at the Tour of Britain Women

Stage 1

In a super-close photo finish, Lotte Kopecky (SDWorx-Protime) came out on top – ahead of Letizia Paternoster (Liv AlUla Jayco) and Pfeiffer Georgi (DSM-Firmenich PostNL) – in a reduced bunch sprint on stage 1.

Despite multiple attacks from the front of the peloton in the early stages of the race, no real ‘breakaway’ formed, until around 65km to go, when Lucy Harris (Pro-Noctis-200º Coffee-Hargreaves Contracting) attacked solo. Then, with around 47km to go, there was an attack from Connie Hayes (Doltcini O-Shea), followed only by a small group of six. This looked like a promising move, however they were caught a few kilometres later, and a few kilometres after that, Harris had been reeled back in too.

Almost immediately afterwards, there was another attack, this time from Georgi. She was followed by a small group, including Kopecky and Anna Henderson (Great Britain), and by the 37km to go mark, this front group had created a gap of over a minute, and included Georgi, Kopecky, Henderson, Christine Majerus (SDWorx-Protime), Paternoster, Ruby Roseman-Gannon (Liv AlUla Jayco), Eline Jansen (VolkerWessels), Victorie Guilman (St Michel-Mavic-Auber93 WE), and Elizabeth Deignan (Great Britain). This group was able to create a sizeable gap, and stayed out in front for the rest of the race. With 8km to go, Lucy Lee (DAS-Hutchinson-Brother-UK) tried to launch a late attack from the peloton, and whilst she was unable to close the three-minute gap to the group in front, it was enough to put her in tenth place overall, allowing her to score valuable UCI points for herself and her team, on her 26th birthday.

Coming into the final three kilometres, there were a number of accelerations from the riders in the front group, and the mind games began. The group remained complete, however, and Majerus hit the front and led through the flamme rouge. She then launched her leadout for Kopecky, with Paternoster hiding in Kopecky's wheel. Kopecky then launched her sprint, with Paternoster behind, and looked as though she would take the win – until Paternoster came around her at the last second, and threw her bike across the line. It seemed as though Paternoster had just clinched it, but the photo finish later confirmed that Kopecky had in fact done enough to cross the line in first. Giorgi then came through in third.

Kopecky took the lead of the general classification (three seconds ahead of Paternoster) and the points classification. Deignan took the lead of the mountains classification, and Jansen the youth classification.

Stage 2

Kopecky won once again on stage 2, in a two-woman breakaway sprint against Henderson.

The stage began with multiple attacks, but none stuck until Franziska Koch (DSM-Firmenich PostNL) managed to create a gap of around 40 seconds. She stayed in front for the majority of the stage, until she was caught with around 36km to go. Within the final 30km, a number of the riders dropped off the back of the peloton up the Horseshoe Pass climb, as Majerus drilled hard at the front. Soon only a reduced group was left out in front.

Then, with 27km to go, Kopecky launched an attack, but this was immediately chased down by Paternoster. Henderson followed too, and she and Kopecky formed a duo, whilst Paternoster fell back a few hundred kilometres later. Despite Georgi’s best efforts to encourage and motivate the chasing group behind, and more and more riders managing to latch back on, this chasing group never managed to reel the front two back in.

The pair stayed out for the rest of the race, working together. Kopecky did try to shake off Henderson with 10km to go, but Henderson was determined to hang on and follow her wheel, and so the two rode to the finish together. Kopecky led through the flamme rouge, as Henderson began to sit on, and started to nervously look back to see when Henderson would launch. Henderson decided to continue calmly in her wheel, however, and so Kopecky launched her sprint inside the final 150m. Henderson couldn’t quite hold on, and Kopecky crossed the line in first place once again, with Henderson just behind her. Soon after, the rest of the group prepared for a bunch sprint for third place, which was won by Lorena Wiebes (SDWorx-Protime), who stormed ahead of the others.

Kopecky held her lead of the general classification (17 seconds ahead of Henderson) and the points classification. Deignan held her lead of the mountains classification, and Jansen the youth classification.

Stage 3

Wiebes took the win on stage 3 in a bunch sprint, after a perfectly-executed leadout from her team. Charlotte Kool (DSM-Firmenich Post NL) was able to follow her to secure second place, and Georgia Baker (Liv AlUla Jayco) came in third.

The stage began, and soon after, Jo Tindley (Pro-Noctis-200º Coffee-Hargreaves Contracting) attacked from the front of the peloton, followed only by Madelaine Leech (Lifeplus-Wahoo). Caoimhe O’Brien (DAS-Hutchinson-Brother-UK) attempted to bridge across to the pair in front – joined by Amelia Tyler (Alba Development Road Team) – but they were unsuccessful, and were caught by the peloton with 96km to go.

Soon after this, Lee was the next rider to attempt to catch up with the front group, and with 59km to go, she was followed by Emma Dimbleby (Alba Development Road Team). Dimbleby caught Lee with 48km to go. Meanwhile, Leech had been dealing with mechanical issues, and so lost contact with Tindley out in front. With 40km to go, Tindley was at the front of the race solo, and Lee, Dimbleby and Leech were altogether in a small group, one and a half minutes back. This trio were caught by the peloton 10km later, however, leaving Tindley alone in front.

Tindley managed to stay in front for a while, but was then caught by the peloton with 12km to go. Valerie Demey (VolkerWessels) immediately launched an attack to overtake her and open up a small gap, but she too was caught with 8.5km to go. The riders from SDWorx-Protime and DSM-Firmenich Post NL then hit the front of the peloton to prepare for a bunch sprint.

Inside the final 5km, many of the different leadout trains were fighting for position, with Great Britain, SDWorx-Protime and Hess taking turns to assume pole position. It was SDWorx-Protime that managed to lead through the flamme rouge, however, and they immediately lined up the perfect leadout for their sprinter. Paternoster tried to pull up on the left as Kopecky launched her leadout for Wiebes, but quickly dropped back. Wiebes then launched with 200m to go, and whilst Kool was right there with her, Wiebes hung on to ride triumphantly past the line in first. Kool took second place, and Baker took third.

Kopecky held her lead of the general classification (17 seconds ahead of Henderson) and the points classification. Deignan held her lead of the mountains classification, and Jansen the youth classification.

Stage 4

On the final stage, Roseman-Gannon took her first ever World Tour victory on the line, in a slightly reduced bunch sprint ahead of Majerus – who had already begun celebrating – and her teammate Wiebes.

The early attacks began soon after the official start was given, but all were caught by the peloton, until Deignan escaped on the summit of Grains Bar, with around 83km to go. The next attack came from Kool, with 68km to go, but unlike Deignan, she didn’t manage to stay out for long, and was caught by the peloton a few kilometres later. By the time the race was approaching the final 50km, there were splits in the peloton, with many riders having dropped back. The riders left in the ‘peloton’, included Kopecky, Wiebes, Majerus, Georgi, Paternoster, Roseman-Gannon and Henderson. This group caught Deignan with 40km to go, and by this point, a few more riders who had dropped back before, managed to catch up too.

With 34km to go, Deignan attacked again, and was followed by a small group, including Majerus, Wiebes, Roseman-Gannon, and Josie Talbot (Cofidis). This group was soon caught by the rest, however, and so the front group grew heading into the final 30km. Henderson then tried to break away from the front group, with 21km to go, but she too was caught, a kilometre later. Shortly after this, another small group succeeded in breaking away from the others – this time it was Kopecky, Georgi, Henderson and Paternoster. Wiebes was determined to pursue them, and successfully bridged across, but soon after, so did the rest of the peloton.

A few more small attacks occurred, but all were brought back, and so the peloton came past the flamme rouge together. DSM-Firmenich PostNL came to the front with their leadout train, but they were quickly overtaken by the train of SDWorx-Protime. Kopecky began her leadout with 500m to go, but in doing so, created a gap between her and her teammates. She then had to sit up to allow them to catch her, and it was Majerus that came past to try to sprint for the win. Unfortunately, she didn’t see Roseman-Gannon creeping up on her left, and so began to celebrate as she crossed the line, without realising that Roseman-Gannon had only just got there first. She had to settle for second, and Wiebes followed in third.

Kopecky won the general classification (17 seconds ahead of Henderson in second place, with Majerus in third) and the points classification. Deignan won the mountains classification, Jansen won the youth classification, and SDWorx-Protime won the teams classification.

Written by: Alicia Moyo

09/06/2024

Race Report – Roglič makes his comeback whilst Jorgenson shows his strength at the Critérium du Dauphiné

Stage 1

Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek) sprinted to victory ahead of Sam Bennett (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale) and Hugo Page (Intermarché-Wanty) on stage 1, in a bunch sprint, following a perfectly-executed leadout from his team.

The stage’s three classified climbs all came within the first 50km, and Mark Donovan (Q36.5) was the first rider to launch an attack in pursuit of King of the Mountains (KOM) points. He was followed by Mathis Le Berre (Arkéa-B&B Hotels), but managed to take the points for the opening two climbs before the latter caught up with him. He then also took the points on the final climb of the day, the Côte de Chouvigny, and the two continued on together out in front for the majority of the stage.

The teams that brought sprinters (such as Lidl-Trek and Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale) were keen to reel them back in, however, and set up a bunch sprint, so they upped the pace at the front of the peloton. The peloton eventually caught the ‘breakaway’ with 16km to go, and not long after, Nils Politt (UAE Team Emirates) went on the attack. He was followed by Marco Haller (Bora-Hansgrohe) and a rider from Uno-X Mobility, however Josh Tarling (INEOS Grenadiers) was at the front of the peloton fighting to bring the riders back. This mini-attack was caught with 10km to go, and an attack from Jonas Rutsch (EF Education-Easypost) immediately followed. Rutsch was caught quickly, however, and the teams began to prepare for a bunch sprint.

In the final 2km, the teams began to assemble their sprint trains, with Lidl-Trek leading through the flamme rouge. They continued on in formation, executing the leadout for Pedersen perfectly. Bennett managed to follow Pedersen’s wheel, however when Pedersen launched his sprint, Bennett didn’t have enough power to come around and pass him, and so had to settle for second place. Page came through in third.

Pedersen took the lead of the general classification (four seconds ahead of Bennett) and the points classification. Donovan took the lead of the mountains classification, and Page the youth classification.

Stage 2

Magnus Cort (Uno-X Mobility) won in a very misty late sprint, ahead of Primož Roglič (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Matteo Jorgenson (Visma Lease-a-Bike) on stage 2.

The day’s ‘breakaway’ group set off soon after the official start, and consisted of Le Berre, Bruno Armirail (Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale), Jonas Gregaard (Lotto-Dstny), Xandro Meurisse (Alpecin-Deceuninck) and Filippo Conca (Q.36.5). They managed to create a lead of almost five minutes, and remained in front for the majority of the race, until Armirail launched an attack with 10km to go. None of the other breakaway riders could follow him, and the group was then caught by the peloton a few kilometres later.

Meanwhile, during the peloton’s chase, a number of riders were dropped, including Donovan – the KOM leader – and a few of the other riders that had been prominent on stage 1, such as Page, Bennett and Politt. Soon, the yellow jersey, Pedersen, was heading backwards too. A few riders – including Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) and Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) – took turns coming to the front to drive the pace of the peloton, however none were willing to fully commit to the chase.

Armirail managed to stay away until the final kilometre, but soon after, Uno-X hit the front of the peloton to prepare a leadout for Cort. The peloton caught Armirail with 200m to go, and Cort launched his sprint, coming through the mist to take first place, followed by Roglič and Jorgenson.

Cort moved up into the lead of the general classification (four seconds ahead of Roglič, who moved up into second place) and the points classification. Le Berre moved into the lead of the mountains classification, and Jorgenson the lead of the youth classification.

Stage 3

Derek Gee (IPT) launched a late attack inside the final kilometre to take the win on stage 3, ahead of Romain Grégoire (Groupama-FDJ) and Lukas Nerurkar (EF Education-EasyPost).

The race started in Celles, and there were a few riders that initially tried to get into the ‘breakaway’. After more than 30 kilometres of battling, three men managed to escape from the pack: Harry Sweeny (EF Education-EasyPost), Nicolas Prodhomme (Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale) and Rémy Rochas (Groupama-FDJ). The first part of this stage also saw Roglič crash, but fortunately the Slovenian was able to get back on his bike very quickly.

With 40 kilometres to go, Jayco-AlUla’s Christopher Juul-Jensen attacked in the peloton, in order to bridge across to the first group. He was followed a few seconds after by Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ) but, unlike the Dane, the French Champion was unsuccessful. After losing Rochas, what remained of the breakaway managed to reach the slopes of the last climb of the day, but were then caught 3 kilometres from the line.

The peloton was calm for a moment, and then the first attack came from Krists Neilands (IPT). The Latvian couldn’t escape from the peloton, but he succeeded in stretching it out, allowing his Canadian teammate Gee to accelerate 600m before the finish line. The Canadian ITT champion was followed by Grégoire, who was able to pass him, but he was strong enough to stay in the wheel of the young Frenchman and overtake him in the last meters of the stage. Behind these two, Nerurkar finished third.

Gee moved up into the lead of the general classification (three seconds ahead of Cort) and Giulio Ciccone (Lidl-Trek) took the lead of the points classification. Le Berre remained in the lead of the mountains classification, and Grégoire moved into the lead of the youth classification.

Stage 4

The first and only individual time trial of this week saw the World Champion, Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-Quick Step), take the win over the European Champion, Joshua Tarling (INEOS Grenadiers), by 17 seconds.

Tarling spent over an hour and a half in the hot seat, but he was finally dethroned by the Belgian, Evenepoel, who was one of the last to start.

The other main GC leaders had varying results. Some did great, only losing less than two minutes on Remco on the 34.4km long effort. For example, Carlos Rodríguez (INEOS Grenadiers), Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates), Jorgenson and, of course, Roglič, were solid on this route, which is promising for the upcoming Tour de France. For some others however, the results showed their weakness in the time trial discipline. Among those who finished more than three minutes behind the winner of the stage, were Sepp Kuss for Visma-Lease a Bike (3:35), David Gaudu for Groupama-FDJ (4:07) and Guillaume Martin for Cofidis (4:33).

Evenepoel moved up into the lead of the general classification (33 seconds ahead of Roglič) and the youth classification. Roglič took the lead of the points classification. Le Berre remained in the lead of the mountains classification.

Stage 5

Stage 5 had no winner, after the stage was neutralised following a crash.

The initial attacks began relatively early on into the stage, with Le Berre and Tobias Bayer (Alpecin-Deceuninck) riding away from the peloton with around 165km to go. They were followed by Ådne Holter (Uno-X Mobility), who managed to join them a few kilometres later. Le Berre won the KOM sprints which followed - continuing to increase his lead in the KOM classification - and the trio stayed together out in front for the majority of the race, until Holter began to drop back, and was caught by the peloton with 32km to go.

Unfortunately, soon after this, there was a large crash, involving the majority of the peloton. The race was immediately neutralised whilst the injured riders were attended to and the road was cleared. A while later it was announced that the race would remain neutralised, and the peloton would roll towards the finish altogether.

There were no times taken, and so Evenepoel remained in the lead of the general classification (33 seconds ahead of Roglič in second place) and the youth classification. Roglič remained in the lead of the points classification, and Le Berre the mountains classification.

Stage 6

Roglič won at the finish on stage 6, ahead of Ciccone, after a long and insanely strong leadout by his teammate, Vlasov – who himself managed to hold on for third place.

Soon after the official start, a small group escaped from the peloton, including Cort, Romain Grégoire (Groupama-FDJ), Thibault Guernalec (Arkéa-B&B Hotels), Arjen Livyns (Lotto Dstny), Mason Hollyman (IPT) and Alessandro Fancellu (Q36.5). This group continued on in the lead for the majority of the race, until they were disrupted by the lead cars leading them the wrong way, with 30km to go. This resulted in them losing half a minute of their advantage. Additionally, following a crash slightly earlier, Hollyman had been trying to get back to the front group, but he was caught by the peloton with 26km to go.

With 10km to go, Grégoire attacked, and was followed only by Cort. Then, one kilometre later, he accelerated again and Cort fell back. Cort chased Grégoire for a while, but was caught by the peloton with 5km to go. Immediately after this, Laurens de Plus (INEOS Grenadiers) launched an attack. The other riders at the front of the peloton hesitated, and no one wanted to follow him, until Vlasov took up the chase. They quickly caught up to Grégoire, who had begun to suffer from an extreme nosebleed, and overtook him.

With 3.4km to go, Ciccone launched an attack, followed by a small group including Roglič and Jorgenson. Meanwhile, the race leader, Evenepoel, was nowhere to be seen. With 2km to go, Roglič accelerated, and the small group worked together to bridge across to the front two. As contact was made, Vlasov hit the front to work for his teammate, and only Ciccone could stay with the two Bora-Hansgrohe riders. In the last kilometre, Vlasov continued to lead out his teammate until 300m to go, when Roglič launched. Ciccone followed, but was soon distanced, and Roglič rode on to victory. Vlasov continued riding to secure third.

Roglič moved up into the lead of the general classification (19 seconds ahead of Evenepoel) and held onto his lead of the points classification. Le Berre remained in the lead of the mountains classification, and Evenepoel the youth classification.

Stage 7

Roglič snatched his second last-minute mountain-top victory of the week on stage 7, followed closely by Jorgenson, with Ciccone coming in third.

As soon as the stage began, riders began to fight to get into the day’s ‘breakaway’ group. Initially, a large group of 15 riders managed to create a gap, but this group didn’t stay intact for long, as some riders dropped back, and others managed to bridge across. At the back of the peloton, more and more riders began to fall back as they hit the hard climbs, and even the attacking groups out in front began to splinter.

By the 50km to go mark, the front group was comprised of around 10 riders, including Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates), and sat around four minutes ahead of the peloton. This group started to splinter once again, however, as Soler accelerated with around 46km to go. He was able to escape solo, with a lead of over five minutes to the peloton. Behind him, the rest of the lead group was split into smaller groups, and the peloton was pacing further back.

Inside the final 20km, the Bora-Hansgrohe riders hit the front of the peloton to try to bring back the riders in front, and they eventually managed to catch the rest of the riders from the early breakaway group within the final 5km. More and more riders had slipped back on the final climb, however, including Evenepoel in the white jersey. With 4km to go, only around 11 riders remained from the main peloton, including the yellow jersey, Roglič.

The riders managed to catch Soler with 2km to go, and they carried on towards the finish with Vlasov keeping the pace high on the front. With 600m to go, the accelerations began, with the final, decisive one coming from Roglič, with 300m to go. He was followed by Jorgenson, but the Visma Lease-a-Bike rider didn’t quite have enough to get past him in the end, and so had to settle for second. Ciccone then rode to third place, a couple seconds later.

Roglič held his lead of the general classification (1:02 seconds ahead of Jorgenson, who had moved up into second place) and the points classification. He also took the lead of the mountains classification, and Jorgenson moved back up into the lead of the youth classification.

Stage 8

Rodríguez took the final stage on yet another mountaintop finish, ahead of Jorgenson and Gee.

Once again, the attacks began almost as soon as the stage did, and the resulting initial ‘breakaway’ group consisted of: Soler, Armirail, Martin, Prodhomme, Gaudu, Bart Lemmen (Visma Lease-a-Bike), Tim Wellens (UAE Team Emirates), Omar Fraile (INEOS Grenadiers), Eduardo Sepulveda (Lotto-Dstny), Sean Quinn (EF Education-Easypost) and Lorenzo Fortunato (Astana Qazaqstan Team). As the riders tackled the climbs that followed, however, some began to drop back from this front group, and were swallowed up by the peloton. Riders were dropping from the back of the peloton too, and so by the time they reached the final 50km, the peloton had been significantly reduced.

After a long stint at the front of the peloton for the Bora-Hansgrohe riders, they eventually succeeded in bringing back the remaining breakaway riders inside the final 10km. Ciccone attacked solo with 8km to go, but he was then caught a few kilometres later. Soon after, Rodríguez tried an attack, and he was followed only by Jorgenson, De Plus, Gee and Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain Victorious). Meanwhile, the yellow jersey, Roglič, dropped back.

With 4.5km to go, Gee then launched an attack, which distanced Buitrago and De Plus. Gee couldn’t keep up with Jorgenson and Rodríguez, however, and so he too dropped back, just outside the flamme rouge. Jorgenson and Rodríguez continued on together, with Rodríguez coming around Jorgenson in the final 150m to ride to victory. Gee rode in a short while later to claim third.

Roglič won the general classification (8 seconds ahead of Jorgenson in second place, with Gee in third) and the points classification. Fortunato won the mountains classification, Jorgenson won the youth classification, and Bora-Hansgrohe won the teams classification.

Written by: Alicia Moyo (with the sections for Stage 2 and 3 written by Rémi Massart)

09/06/2024

Recap of the week – Domination for Liv-Jayco in Andalucia, Uno-X Mobility shine in Belgium

Vuelta Ciclista Andalucia Women

Stage 1:

An amazing team race by Liv AlUla Jayco saw them completely dominating their rivals on the first stage of this Vuelta Ciclista Andalucia. Indeed, despite the stage being quite short (115km), they managed to complete an amazing triple on the finish line, while putting the other riders almost 3 minutes behind. In Alcala, it was the Dutch Silke Smulders who took the first win of her professional career ahead of her leader Mavi Garcia. 1 minute and 30 seconds behind, Ella Wyllie completed the podium. With this win, Smulders also took the lead on the general classification.

Stage 2:

On this second stage, the leader’s formation, Liv AlUla Jayco, confirmed their domination by signing another 1-2 finish. At the top of the climb of Otura, the veteran Mavi Garcia won for the first time this season, at the age of 40. She finished 13 seconds ahead of the leader’s jersey, her teammate Silke Smulders, while Mie Bjorndal Ottestad finished third for Uno-X Mobility. On GC, the Spanish rider took the lead ahead of her Dutch teammate.

Stage 3:

Another day in Southern Spain and another incredible domination by Liv AlUla Jayco. Indeed, on this very short stage (77km), the three top three in the general classification managed to escape from the peloton and to finish 2:30 ahead of their main competitors. This time, the win was given to the New Zealand Champion Ella Wyllie, who signed her first win outside of her country. On GC, Mie Bjorndal Ottestad was now relegated at more than 7 minutes behind Mavi Garcia and Silke Smulders!

Stage 4:

The fourth and last stage of this Vuelta Ciclista Andalucia Women saw for the first time a rider from another team than Liv Jayco raising her arms. The Cuban champion Arlenis Sierra (Movistar) prevented another win for the Australian team as Quinty Ton finished second, just ahead of Alena Amialusik (UAE Development team). There were no changes in the general classification and Liv AlUla Jayco came home with an amazing triple. They also won all the other rankings with the Points jersey going to Mavi Garcia and the QOM to the Australian Alexandra Manly.

Mercan’Tour Classic

On this French mountainous classic, the break did not really form until the first difficulty of the day – Baisse de Cabanette. At the summit of this climb, two French riders were opening the road with Valentin Retailleau (Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale) and Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies). Unfortunately, the weakness of the former White jersey on the Tour de France in the downhills is a very big issue and he couldn’t follow his companion. Retailleau arrived alone at the foot on the Colmiane, with a peloton led by Groupama-FDJ chasing him. With 50 kilometres to go, the attacker was caught. On the climb of Couillole, that we will see on the Tour de France this year, the tempo of the peloton was accelerated and several riders were dropped. The first attack in the peloton was from Lenny Martinez (Groupama-FDJ) and Steven Williams (Israel-Premier Tech) but they could not create a sufficient gap with the rest of the peloton. Only 2 kilometres after this acceleration, Martinez suffered from a crash in the peloton and had to make a great effort in order to come back on his rivals. As he joined the group, Ivan Sosa (Movistar) and Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) also fell, which is quite unusual in an uphill portion. At the front of the race, Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale’s Clément Berthet had escaped and was opening the race with 15 kilometres to go. However, he was soon joined by a rocket named Lenny Martinez, who caught all his rivals after his crash. During the last kilometre, the winner of Trofeo Laigueglia attacked and won solo in Valberg for his fifth win of the season. Behind, Clément Berthet managed to keep his gap over Harm Vanhoucke (Lotto-Dstny) and Ivan Sosa (Movistar) as the Austrian Gregor Muhlberger rounded off the top 5.

Heistse Pijl

The first race of this weekend in Belgium saw a five-men breakaway escaping from the peloton in the first kilometres. This group was composed of one Belgian, Mauro Verwilst (Tarteletto-Isorex) and 4 Dutch: Jente Klaver (VolkerWessels), Maxime Duba (Parkhotel), Axel Van der Tuuk (Metec-SOLARWATT) and Daan Van Sintmaartdensdijk (BEAT). The scenario of this race was very classic, with the sprinters team leading the peloton behind. Van der Tuuk, the last survivor of the morning group, was caught 8 kilometres from the finish line, letting the sprinters playing for the win. In this game, Alexander Kristoff (Uno-X Mobility) was the strongest. The former European Champion raised his arms for the fourth time in one month, beating Casper Van Uden (dsm-firmenich) and Amaury Capiot (Arkea-B&B) on the line.

Brussels Cycling Classic

The road of this Brussels Cycling Classic was more difficult than the Heistse Pijl, leading to a more open race with a very pleasant finale for the viewers. Indeed, after a classic start with five men opening the race, Biniam Girmay launched his first attack 60 kilometres from the finish line. The Intermarché-Wanty’s rider’s acceleration created a split in the peloton, with riders such as Alexander Kristoff and Axel Zingle (Cofidis) not being in the first group. From then, a chase between the two pelotons took place and, despite closing the gap to 15 seconds, the second group was never able to come back at the front of the race. As a lot of sprinters were present in the first group, some riders knew that they had to anticipate the sprint if the wanted to win in the Belgian capital city. That is why Jonas Abrahamsen (Uno-X Mobility) accelerated with 15 kilometres to go, joined by the Slovakian Martin Svrcek (Soudal-QuickStep), who was part of the morning breakaway. This duo managed to survive to the peloton until the last five kilometres, when the Norwegian chose to go solo, attacking his companion. Despite an intensive chase by Girmay’s teammates, Abrahamsen managed to survive to the peloton for only 4 little seconds. Uno-X-Mobility’s rider took the first win of his career, rewarding an amazing classics campaign. Behind him, Biniam Girmay won the sprint for second place ahead of Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck).

Written by: Rémi Massart

03/06/2024

May

Preview of the week – Calm week between Giro and Dauphine

Wednesday

Vuelta Andalucia Women (stage 1)

On Wednesday, the third Vuelta Andalucia Women will start in Castellar de la Frontera, in Southern Spain. The road will be hilly on the four stages, creating chances for the puncheurs to play for the win in the general classification. Last year, it was the Norwegian Katrine Aalerund, who then rode under the Movistar colours, who took the win ahead of her compatriot Mie Ottestad. As I am writing these lines, we don’t know yet the roster of her new team, Uno-X Mobility so the participation of the title holder is not confirmed yet. However, the recent 8th of the Itzulia Women Arlenis Sierra will be present for Movistar and she will be one of the main favourites.

The first stage between Castellar de la Frontera and Alcala is a constant succession of ups and downs, with more than 2700 vertical meters to climb in only 115 kilometres. On such a hard race, it will be impossible to hide and the riders who aim a good GC should be at the front of the race. The last kilometres being flat, we could see a little group of strong riders sprinting for the win in Alcala.

Mercan’Tour Classic

On Wednesday, one of the most atypic classic of the calendar will also take place, with the Mercan’Tour classic. The riders will have to climb three climbs in the Southern French Alps, with the Baisse de Cabanet (20.4km, 4.7%), the Colmiane (16km, 5.4%) and the Coulliole (15.8km, 7.3%), before a hard finish in Valberg. Last year, it was the Olympic Champion, Richard Carapaz (EF Education-EasyPost) who took the win ahead of Felix Gall (Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale) and Lennert Van Eetvelt (Lotto-Dstny). This year however, Carapaz will not be at the start in Puget-Théniers and neither will be Gall and Van Eetvelt. The main favourites to succeed to the Ecuadorian are the Groupama-FDJ’s riders Lenny Martinez and David Gaudu along with Clément Champoussin (Arkéa-B&B) and Guillaume Martin (Cofidis).

Circuit Franco-Belge

Between France and Belgium, a hilly road will be the tie-breaker of the Circuit Franco-Belge. 190 kilometres between Tournai and Mont de l’Enclus with 2100m of vertical meters to climb, this race will crown a complete rider. Last year, Arnaud De Lie (Lotto-Dstny) realized an amazing performance and won the race ahead of Rasmus Tiller (Uno-X Mobility) and Corbin Strong (Israel-Premier Tech). The bull of Lescheret will not be at the start in Tournai Wednesday but the startlist remains very interesting and promises a very open race. Indeed, riders such as Axel Zingle (Cofidis), Marc Hirschi (UAE Team Emirates) and Joseph Blackmore (Israel-Premier Tech) should race offensively in order to put the sprinters like Amaury Capiot (Arkea-B&B) and Juan Molano (UAE Team Emirates) behind.

Thursday

Vuelta Andalucia Women (Stage 2)

The second stage in Andalucia should also be for the puncheurs with a summit finish in Otura, after a short but steep climb of approximately 3 kilometres. The 2000 meters of ascent throughout the day will also put the legs of the riders in pain, making the final climb even harder.

Friday

Vuelta Andalucia Women (Stage 3)

Unlike the previous days, this third stage has a flat finish that could suit the few sprinters announced on the race. However, the stage being very short (78km), it could be a chance for the breakaway, who could escape in the first part of the stage, in which there will be a few difficulties to climb.

Saturday

Vuelta Andalucia Women (Stage 4)

The fourth and last stage of this week in Southern Spain also has a particular profile. The finish will be after a long descent, leading to the finish line in Pizarra after 100 kilometres of racing. The very fast finish to the line could allow good descenders to make a difference and go for the win to maybe reverse the general classification.

Heistse Pijl

As often, the weekend will see a Belgian classic take place. This time, the riders will have to race 197km between Vosselaar and Heist-op-den-Berg in the 9th edition of the modern Heistse Pijl. With an almost completely flat road, the sprinters should play for the win like in 2023, when Olav Kooij took the win for Visma-Lease a Bike, beating the Belgians Jordi Meeus (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Robbe Ghys (Alpecin-Deceuninck). This year, the Dutch rider won’t be at the start to defend his title but Meeus will be there. The Bora-hansgrohe’s rider, already winner of a stage on the Tour of Norway last week, will try to add this race to his trophy cabinet. His main concurrents, outside his teammate Sam Welsford, should be Milan Fretin for Cofidis and Casper Van Uden for dsm-firmenich but it will be interesting to see the form of Arnaud Démare (Arkéa-B&B) after a complicated start of the season.

Sunday

Critérium du Dauphiné (Stage 1)

On Sunday, the month of June will have begun which means that the Critérium du Dauphiné will (already) start. Seven days with almost constants climbs and a wonderful start-list looking like the Tour de France’s one, this edition should be a pleasure to watch for the spectators. Last year, the future Tour de France’s winner Jonas Vingegaard (Visma-Lease a Bike) completely dominated the race, finishing with 2:23 of advantage over Adam Yates (UAE Team Emirates) and almost 3 minutes over Ben O’Connor (Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale). This year however, the Danish still hasn’t come back to competition since his big crash on the roads of Itzulia, which lead to a more open race for the GC. The two main favourites are Primoz Roglic (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-Quick Step). The two riders will have some very good teammates around them, with 2022 Giro’s winner Jai Hindley and Aleksandr Vlasov for the Slovenian and the duo Mikel Landa Ilan Van Wilder for the Belgian. In addition of these two big favourites, other riders such as Tao Geoghegan Hart (Lidl-Trek), Carlos Rodriguez (INEOS Grenadiers) and Sepp Kuss (Visma-Lease a Bike) will try to aim for the win on this prestigious race.

The first stage will be one of the easier of the week, around Saint Pourçain sur Sioule. The main difficulties being in the first half of the race, they should help the breakaway to form but they should not have an impact on the finish, where the only climb is only long of 600 meters. The first yellow jersey of this year’s Dauphiné should then come back on the shoulders of a sprinter and Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek) is the main favourite in case of a massive group arriving for the win.

Recap of the week – Bettiol, Brown and Laurance win outside Giro

Boucles de la Mayenne

Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost) won the first stage race of his career in Western France, along with one stage. In the meantime, Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale continued its amazing form.

Prologue

The four days in Mayenne started with a prologue in the streets of the capital city of this department: Laval. The fastest on these 5.4km was a man in an amazing form since the beginning of the season, Benoit Cosnefroy (Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale). With this win, Cosnefroy claimed his 7th success of the season! He finished only one second ahead of the Portuguese Ivo Oliveira for UAE Team Emirates and Groupama-FDJ’s Samuel Watson completed the podium.

Stage 1

The first breakaway of the Boucles de la Mayenne was composed of four riders: the French Jérémy Leveau (Van Rysel-Roubaix) and Antoine Hue (CIC U Nantes), the Spanish David Martin (Polti-Kometa) and the Czech Petr Kelemen (Tudor). With 13 kilometres to go, the gap between the break (now reduced to three after Martin being dropped) and the peloton still was over 1:20, making the the situation uncomfortable for the sprinters. Unfortunately for all the lovers of breakaways, the three brave companions were caught 600 meters from the finish line leaving the sprinters playing for the win. In this game, it was Emilien Jeanniere (TotalEnergies) who came out on top, taking his first victory as a pro. On either side of him on the podium, we could find two other French riders, Paul Penhoet for Groupama-FDJ and Axel Zingle for Cofidis.

Stage 2

The Queen stage of these Boucles de la Mayenne saw 6 men opening the race but they couldn’t go as far as the previous day, due to multiple attacks in the peloton. Indeed, with 50 kilometres to go, riders such as Valentin Ferron (TotalEnergies) and Ivan Romeo (Movistar) attacked and joined the first group, keeping 36 seconds of advantage over the main group with 18 kilometres remaining. On the last ascent of the Côte des Egoutelles however, Alberto Bettiol accelerated, overtaking the last survivors of the leading group. Behind the Italian, the yellow jersey Benoit Cosnefroy along with Marc Hirschi (UAE Team Emirates) and Alexandre Delettre (St Michel-Auber) isolated themselves from the rest of the pack but they were never able to come back on Bettiol. With this win, the former Ronde van Vlaanderen winner took the leader jersey, 23 seconds ahead of Cosnefroy.

Stage 3

Once again, the morning breakaway played a central role in this stage of the Boucles de la Mayenne. This time, it was composed of two Polti-Kometa (Diego Sevilla and Erik Fetter) one Caja Rural (Gorka Sorrarain), one Lotto-Dstny (Tars Poelvoorde), one Movistar (Mathias Norsgaard) and one Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale (Valentin Retailleau). These riders didn’t know while attacking at the start that they were gonna play for the win. Indeed, Sorarrain, Norsgaard, Retailleau and Fetter had only 15 seconds of advantage with 5 kilometres to go but the teammates of sprinters had already given a lot and didn’t want to do the work for the other teams. The pack managed to come back on the escapers in the last 400m but a crash at the front caused a lot of confusion, allowing Retailleau to resist and win the first success of his career, the second for his team on this race. Behind him, Gorka Sorrarain also managed to stay in front of the sprinters and Matteo Moschetti (Q36.5) completed the podium.

On the General classification, there were no changes and Bettiol won the race ahead of Cosnefroy and Zingle. With a fourth place on the GC, Samuel Watson was the best young rider. Jeanniere won the points classification and Alex Martin (Polti-Kometa) took home the KOM jersey.

Bretagne Ladies Tour

Stage 1

We go even Western in France, in Brittany, to speak about the Bretagne Ladies Tour, that began with an ITT. On these almost 19 kilometres around Grand-Champ, the riders from FDJ-Suez showed that they were the strongest on the race. Indeed, they managed an incredible quadruple with Liege-Bastogne-Liege winner Grace Brown taking the win ahead of Amber Kraak, Marie Le Net and Alessia Vigilia. The Australian had almost 1:15 of advantage over her first concurrent, the Dutch Thalita De Jong for Lotto Dstny.

Stage 2

This second stage suited, on paper, the sprinters but a group of 5 riders managed to thwart the plans of the fastest and went for the win in Morlaix. In this group, it was Cofidis’s Sarah Roy who was the fastest and the 38-years-old took her first win since 2021. Behind her, Alessia Vigilia and Sanne Cant (Fenix-Deceuninck) completed the podium as Grace Brown kept comfortably the leader jersey.

Stage 3

To conclude her amazing three days in Brittany, Grace Brown offered herself another stage win, finishing solo ahead of the peloton. The Australian attacked 9 kilometres from the finish line and managed to stay upfront until the line. Behind her, Thalita De Jong won the sprint of the peloton ahead of the Belgian Fien Van Eynde (Fenix-Deceuninck). On the general classification, the ITT was decisive as the 4 FDJ-Suez riders managed to stay at the 4 first places. Thalita De Jong could at least bring home the Points jersey and the QOM, as Alessia Vigilia finished first of the youth classification.

Tour of Norway

Stage 1

While some were in France or in Italy, other riders went North for the Tour of Norway. If all eyes were on Wout Van Aert’s return, it is another Belgian who arrived first on top of Voss Resort for the first stage win: Thibau Nys. After a very classical scenario with a breakaway of 6 men forming at the front and a peloton managing the gap behind, the riders arrived at the bottom of the final climb, Voss Resort (3.9km at 5.7%). First, it was the Tudor’s riders who pulled at the front of the peloton with the Swedish Champion Lucas Eriksson, putting Van Aert in difficulty. Under the red flame, the local Fredrik Dversnes accelerated for Uno-X Mobility but he was too strong for his teammates and it is a Lidl-Trek duo composed of Mathias Vacek and Thibau Nys who benefited from his work. The Czech champion sacrificed himself for his leader and Sven’s son managed to resist from the return of the other favourites to take his fifth win of the season, in 13 racedays. Behind him, Adne Holter (Uno-X Mobility) and Axel Laurance (Alpecin-Deceuninck) arrived only four seconds after the Belgian, first leader of the general classification.

Stage 2

The second stage was once again a summit finish, this time at the top of Gullingen, 5.5km at 8.7%. A few kilometres before the bottom of the final climb, Wout Van Aert pulled at the front of the peloton for his teammate Bart Lemmen, despite having suffering from a crash 45 kilometres from the finish line. When he stopped his effort, Tudor took the lead like the day before, causing the leader Thibau Nys to be dropped. After the great work of his teammates, Marco Brenner (Tudor) attacked but he was not able to create a gap. In the sprint, Axel Laurance came out on top and took his third win of the season, ahead of Ethan Hayter (INEOS Grenadiers) and Bart Lemmen (Visma-Lease a Bike). Due to Thibau Nys being dropped in the last kilometres, Laurance also took the lead in the general classification, 12 seconds ahead of Lemmen.

Stage 3

Unlike the first two stages, the third one was much flatter in the end, resulting in a massive sprint. Indeed, the last survivors of the morning breakaway were caught 2.5 kilometres from the finish line and, from then, the lead-out men had to place their sprinters for the last meters. In the end, it was a win for Bora-Hansgrohe, with Jordi Meeus winning his first of the season. Last year winner on the Champs-Elysées went ahead of the Czech Pavel Bittner (dsm-firmenich) and Alexander Kristoff (Uno-X Mobility). Wout Van Aert finished at a very encouraging fourth place for his return since his crash on the Dwars.

Stage 4

The fourth and last stage of this Tour of Norway saw some sprinters going for the win despite a very intense finish, with an indecisive result until the last few kilometres. Indeed, a group of riders including Wout Van Aert and Lorenzo Rota (Intermarché-Wanty) accelerated with 50 kilometres remaining, leading to a crazy finish. All these attacks led to a massive split in the peloton and INEOS Grenadiers had to do the job for coming back. After everyone grouped back together, Mathias Vacek attacked, with Axel Laurance and Bart Lemmen following him. This trio was only caught under the red flame and a group of approximately 25 riders went for the win. In this confusion, Alexander Kristoff came out on top, signing his third victory this month. The Norwegian veteran was followed on the podium by Jordi Meeus and Wout Van Aert. In the GC, Axel Laurance kept his lead and secured the first GC win of his career. Behind him, Bart Lemmen and Adne Holter finished on the podium. The KOM classification was won by the young Norwegian Eirik Vang Aas and Mathias Vacek was the best young rider.

Race Report – Lorena Wiebes scores a 'hat-trick' at the Ford RideLondon Classique

Stage 1

Lorena Wiebes (SDWorx-Protime) won convincingly in a bunch sprint ahead of Letizia Paternoster (Liv AlUla Jayco) and Clara Copponi (Lidl-Trek), after an incredible leadout from her teammate, Lotte Kopecky.

The day’s ‘breakaway’ formed relatively quickly, with an attack from Rebecca Koerner (Uno-X Mobility), Lea Lin Teutenberg (CERATIZIT-WNT) and April Tacey (Coop-Repsol), with 151km to go. Over the following kilometres, Tacey dropped back and was caught by the peloton, but the remaining two managed to hang on for most of the race – only getting caught with 16.4km to go.

Following this, Alice Towers (CANYON-SRAM) attacked with 14.8km to go, and no one attempted to follow her, until a kilometre later, when Lauretta Hanson (Lidl-Trek) decided to bridge across. The two were caught with 6.9km to go, however, and the peloton prepared for a bunch sprint. Initially, CANYON-SRAM were eager to hit the front, but Lidl-Trek quickly moved up, as did DSM-Firmenich PostNL. There was some disruption to the sprint trains, however, as a big roundabout thinned out the peloton, and caused Lidl-Trek to drift back.

Then, inside the final kilometre, Kopecky began to move up with the rest of the SDWorx-Protime sprint train, and as she launched her leadout for Wiebes, Charlotte Kool (DSM-Firmenich PostNL) found herself isolated in front, with no more teammates to help her. Kool therefore decided to launch her full sprint, but this came miles too far from the line, and so she failed to sustain it. By the time Wiebes came out from the wheel of Kopecky, she was ready to fly off in front, leaving daylight between her and the other sprinters. Paternoster then took second place, with Copponi taking third.

Wiebes took the lead of the general classification (five seconds ahead of Paternoster) and the points classification. Koerner took the lead of the mountains classification, and Eleonora Camilla Gasparrini (UAE Team ADQ) the youth classification.

Stage 2

Wiebes won again in a bunch sprint on stage two, after another incredible leadout from Kopecky, and Kopecky herself managed to hang on for third place, behind Kool.

There was no official ‘breakaway of the day’ in this stage, and for the most part, there was very little action in the earlier sections. Between 41-33km to go, there were multiple attacks, but they were quickly closed down each time. For the rest of the stage, the peloton continued along the route altogether, until Chiara Consonni (UAE Team ADQ) attempted to attack with 13.5km to go – but she was caught less than a kilometre later.

Then, with 12.3km to go, Kopecky picked up the pace at the front of the peloton, and initially only a small group could follow. The riders soon began to look around and sit up, however, and so the peloton quickly caught up. There was then another attack with 6.4km to go, from Maike Van der Duin (CANYON-SRAM) – followed only by Marte Berg Edseth and Hanson – and Kopecky was forced to take up the chase at the front of the peloton. The attackers were soon caught, and Ilse Pluimers (AG Insurance-Soudal) immediately launched another attack, with 5km to go. After that move was brought back, Van der Duin attacked again, but this too was quickly shut down.

A few more attacks ensued, but none were successful, and the peloton came past the flamme rouge altogether, preparing for a bunch sprint. DSM-Firmenich PostNL prepared their leadout for Kool, however Kopecky was lurking in fourth wheel, and attacked as the road rose slightly. She was followed only by Pfeiffer Giorgi (DSM-Firmenich Post NL) and Wiebes, and maintained her sprint right until they were inside the final 100m, at which point Wiebes was able to come out of her wheel and win easily once again. Kool had managed to catch up with those in front and took second place, and Kopecky held on for third.

Wiebes kept her lead of the general classification (20 seconds ahead of Kopecky, who moved up into second place) and the points classification. Koerner kept her lead of the mountains classification, and Gasparrini the lead of the youth classification.

Stage 3

The Kopecky-Wiebes combo prevailed again on stage 3, making it a hat-trick for SDWorx-Protime and their star sprinter. Kool achieved another second place, and Kopecky once again hung on for third.

Despite many attempts to launch attacks, the peloton remained altogether for most of the race, until Kaja Rysz (Lifeplus-Wahoo) launched a solo attack with 45km to go. A few kilometres later, she was joined by Scarlett Souren (VolkerWessels), and with 36km to go, Angela Oro (Bepink-Bongioanni) tried to bridge across too – although she was eventually unsuccessful.

The duo in front were eventually caught by the peloton with 23km to go, and the riders immediately prepared for the intermediate sprint – which was won by Ally Wollaston (AG Insurance-Soudal), ahead of Paternoster and Copponi. The peloton then stayed together for the rest of the stage, with everyone appearing happy to leave it all down to another bunch sprint.

Multiple teams began to move up towards the front just before the flamme rouge, and notably, once again, it was DSM-Firmenich PostNL and SDWorx-Protime with the strongest sprint trains. Giorgi began her leadout for Kool relatively early, with Kopecky and Wiebes slightly further back, but Kopecky found her way through easily and was able to launch Wiebes with a few hundred metres to go. Kool slotted in behind Wiebes, but still didn’t have enough firepower to be able to hold her wheel, and so had to settle for second once again. Kopecky kept riding, and came in third.

Wiebes won the general classification (25 seconds ahead of Kool in second place, with Kopecky in third) and the points classification. Koerner won the mountains classification, Gasparrini won the youth classification, and CERATIZIT-WNT won the teams classification.

Written by: Alicia Moyo

26/05/2024

Race Report – SDWorx-Protime (and Demi Vollering) dominate again at the Vuelta a Burgos Feminas

Stage 1

Lotta Henttala (EF Education-Cannondale) managed to sprint to victory on stage 1, yards ahead of Carina Schrempf (Fenix-Deceuninck) and Lorena Wiebes (SDWorx-Protime), after a hectic bunch sprint.

Despite many attempts by different riders to break away from the peloton, the peloton stayed mostly together until the 62km to go mark, where there was a split in the peloton. The gap continued to grow between the two sections of the peloton over the next kilometres, and then with 53km to go, Katrine Aalerud (Uno-X Mobility) attacked off the front of the first group.

Many teams – especially SDWorx Protime – were determined to pull at the front of this group, however, and set a high pace. As the peloton rode up the climbs, it began to stretch out, with riders dropping off the back. Inside the final 30km, there were a few attacks from the front of the peloton – from the likes of Floortje Mackaij (Movistar) and Claire Steels (Movistar) – however all were caught by the final 15km. Meanwhile, the gap between the peloton and the lone rider out in front had been decreasing, and Aalerud was eventually caught with around 2km to go.

Schrempf then tried an attack, and managed to come past the flamme rouge first, with a small gap. The peloton continued to advance, however, and after a strong pull from Marlen Reusser (SDWorx-Protime) at the front of the peloton, followed by a powerful chase from Lidl-Trek, the finish line was in sight, and the peloton began to prepare for a bunch sprint. Inside the final few hundred metres, UAE Team ADQ and EF Education-Cannondale prepared their leadouts, as other teams were somewhat impeded by a heavy crash involving Elisa Balsamo (Lidl-Trek). Henttala managed to avoid this, however, and sprinted past Schrempf to take the win, with Wiebes in third.

Henttala took the lead of the general classification (four seconds ahead of Schrempf) and the points classification. Aalerud took the lead of the mountains classification, and Megan Jastrab (DSM-Firmenich PostNL) the youth classification.

Stage 2

Demi Vollering (SDWorx-Protime) won solo on stage 2, after launching a strong late attack inside the final kilometre.

The official ‘breakaway’ of the day didn’t form until around 62km to go, when Antri Chistoforou (Roland), Valentina Basilico (Eneicat-CMTeam), Marta Romeu (Laboral Kuxta-Fundación Euskadi) and Miryam Maritza Nuñez (Primeau Vélo-Groupe Abadie) managed to create a small gap, that kept growing over the following kilometres. This group was caught with 32km to go, however. Then, the rainy conditions unfortunately led to a few crashes – with one including some of the attackers from the day before, Aalerud and Schrempf.

With 27km to go, splits began to form in the peloton, and a small group managed to create a gap. They were quickly caught, however, and the peloton stayed together until the 20km to go mark, where it stretched out once again. This time, around 15 riders managed to form a group in front, but the attack was neutralised shortly after it began by Reusser, driving the front of the peloton.

Surprisingly, no riders attempted to attack over the next ten kilometres, and so the peloton remained intact until they reached the final climb: the Alto de Rozales. On the climb, many riders began to drop back, until only a reduced group remained in front. Then, Vollering accelerated just inside the final kilometre, followed only by Évita Muzic (FDJ-SUEZ) and Karlijn Swinkels (UAE Team ADQ). They soon began to struggle, however, and Vollering continued on solo to win the race.

Vollering moved into the lead of the general classification (8 seconds ahead of Muzic, who moved up into second place). Swinkels moved into the lead of the points classification. Aalerud kept her lead of the mountains classification, and Shirin Van Anrooij (Lidl-Trek) moved into the lead of the youth classification.

Stage 3

Wiebes took the win on stage 3, sprinting to a clear bunch sprint victory ahead of Clara Copponi (Lidl-Trek) and Maike Van der Duin (CANYON-SRAM), following an unfortunate crash behind.

The first small group that managed to break away from the peloton and create a sizeable gap, included Christoforou, Eva Van Agt (Visma Lease-a-Bike) and Sara Martín (Movistar). They were later joined by Neve Bradbury (CANYON-SRAM) and Simone Boilard (Uno-X Mobility), who had bridged across to the group from the peloton behind. Inside the final 40km however, the peloton began to pick up the pace, and as the riders in front attempted to hold on, Christoforou began to drop back. She was eventually caught by the peloton with around 29km to go.

The race situation then remained the same over the next 20km, and the rest of the front group were able to hold their lead until 2.6km to go. Once the breakaway had been caught, the peloton began to prepare for a bunch sprint, with SDWorx-Protime on the front. EF Education-Cannondale then began to move up towards the front too, narrowly escaping a big crash that affected the majority of the peloton, with only 1.5km to go. The unaffected riders continued on, however, and Vollering led the group past the flamme rouge. The SDWorx-Protime riders lined up to give Wiebes an incredible leadout, and once she launched her sprint, she was quickly metres in front of the rest, giving her plenty of time to celebrate as she crossed the line.

Vollering kept her lead of the general classification (8 seconds ahead of Muzic), and Aalerud her lead of the mountains classification. Wiebes then moved into the lead of the points classification, and Ella Wyllie (Liv AlUla Jayco) moved into the lead of the youth classification.

Stage 4

Vollering won her second stage of the week on stage 4, with another impressive solo victory, ahead of Lucinda Brand (Lidl-Trek) and Muzic.

In the initial stages, there were multiple attacks from the peloton – the most significant being a small group including Giorgia Vettorello (Roland), Sylvie Swinkels (Roland), Morgane Coston (Cofidis), Ségolène Thomas and Eyeru Tesfoam (both Komugi-Grand Est), that managed to create a gap of 30 seconds – however all of these attacks were extinguished, and the peloton stayed together until around 43km to go. At this point, Ana Vitória Magalhaes (Bepink-Bongioanni) attacked solo, and quickly created a gap.

Around 10km later, a small group attacked in pursuit of Magalhaes, and with 30km to go, Brand had managed to bridge across to her. She then won the bonus seconds sprint, and continued accelerating, causing Magalhaes to drop back and eventually be caught by the peloton inside the final 20km. Brand didn’t stay out in front for long though, as she too was caught, as Vollering had launched her attack from the peloton. She did manage to hang on, however, and attempted to follow Vollering, alongside Muzic. This paid off, as whilst Vollering held her lead, and crossed the line solo in first place, Brand crossed the line in second, followed by Muzic in third.

Vollering won the general classification (1:28 ahead of Muzic in second place, with K.Swinkels in third), the points classification, and the mountains classification. Van Anrooij won the youth classification, and CANYON-SRAM won the teams classification.

Written by: Alicia Moyo

19/05/2024

Race Report – SDWorx-Protime dominate at the Itzulia Women’s race

Stage 1

Mischa Bredewold (SDWorx-Protime) sprinted to victory on stage 1, after a leadout from her teammate Demi Vollering – who herself managed to take third place behind Arlenis Sierra (Movistar).

Despite a few attempts to create a ‘breakaway’ group, the peloton stayed together for much of the race, until Petra Stiasny (Fenix-Deceuninck), followed by Stine Dale (Team Coop-Repsol), broke away from the peloton, with around 75km to go. Carolina Vargas (Eneicat-CMTeam) attempted to join them, however she was caught by the peloton a few kilometres later. Shortly afterwards, Stiasny was dropped on the Azkarate climb, and eventually caught by the peloton too, leaving Dale alone out in front.

This didn’t last long, however, as Valentina Cavallar (Arkéa-B&B Hotels) joined her with around 48km to go, and the two began to increase their gap to the peloton. Riders in the peloton began to launch attacks, however, and the gap to the front group began to close. Dale started to struggle, and dropped back from the front group, as Vollering pushed the pace at the front of the peloton. She was caught with 19km to go. In the meantime, Cavallar was the first over the third-category Itziar climb, and took the maximum Queen of the Mountains (QOM) points – however on the descent she too was caught by the peloton, with around 18km to go.

The peloton headed towards the intermediate sprint in Deba with Marlen Reusser (SDWorx-Protime) on the front, however shortly after, Movistar brought their riders to the fore to provide a leadout for Olivia Baril, who went on to win the sprint – ahead of her teammate Sheyla Gutiérrez and Juliette Labous (DSM-Firmenich PostNL). A few more attacks followed in the next 10km, but all were brought back relatively quickly. Vollering hit the front with 6km to go, determined to push the pace and reduce the number of riders in front, and with 5km to go, another small group formed. However, DSM-Firmenich PostNL worked hard at the front of the peloton to close the gap, and did so with 3km to go.

The teams began to prepare for a bunch sprint, with Movistar lining up their sprint train at the front through the flamme rouge. SDWorx-Protime soon came past them, however, with Reusser on the front, and Vollering and Bredewold on her wheel. Most of the peloton couldn’t keep up with Reusser’s pace, and when Vollering took over in the final few hundred metres, only a small group of riders remained in front. Bredewold came past her teammate at the very last minute to finish strongly in first, followed by Sierra and Vollering.

Bredewold took the lead of the general classification (four seconds ahead of Sierra) and the points classification. Cavallar took the lead of the mountains classification, and Josie Nelson (DSM-Firmenich PostNL) the youth classification.

Stage 2

Bredewold secured another win on the second stage, in a three-woman sprint ahead of Mavi García (Liv AlUla Jayco) and Labous.

Despite a few attacks from Cavallar, the peloton remained intact, until she finally managed to create a gap with around 62km to go. She stayed out in front for a while, and collected more QOM points, but was eventually caught by the peloton with 54km to go. The peloton stayed together for a while, until SDWorx-Protime began to increase the pace up the Urruztigaina climb, causing many to drop off the back of the peloton.

With 37km to go, only a small group remained at the front, including Labous, Reusser, Vollering, Niamh Fisher-Black (SDWorx-Protime), Elise Chabbey (CANYON-SRAM), García, Pauliena Rooijakkers (Fenix-Deceuninck), Évita Muzic (FDJ-SUEZ) and Ricarda Bauernfeind (CANYON-SRAM). Soon after, Vollering launched an attack, and was followed, and eventually joined, by Chabbey and Reusser. These three were caught by the rest of the front group with around 28km to go, however, and the entire front group was caught by the peloton with 16km to go.

Attacks began almost instantly, but none managed to go clear, until Labous attacked with 12km to go, and created a small gap. She was followed by Garcia and Bredewold, and the trio managed to stay out in front for the rest of the race. Inside the final kilometre, Bredewold laid low at the back – effectively forcing García to give her a leadout – until a few hundred metres before the line, when she launched her sprint, and breezed past the line in first.

Bredewold kept her lead of the general classification (14 seconds ahead of Labous, who moved up into second place) and the points classification. Cavallar kept her lead of the mountains classification, and Shirin Van Amrooij (Lidl-Trek) moved into the lead of the youth classification.

Stage 3

Vollering powered to victory on stage 3, after an impressive 30km solo ride, winning the stage and the overall general classification.

The peloton remained together until the Alto de Jaizkibel climb, where it began to split, and a smaller group went off in front, including Blanka Vas (SDWorx-Protime), Amanda Spratt (Lidl-Trek), Eleonora Ciabocco (DSM-Firmenich PostNL), Urška Žigart (Liv AlUla Jayco), Claire Steels (Movistar), and Elena Pirrone (Roland), amongst others. Usoa Ostolaza (Laboral Kutxa-Fundacion Euskadi) and Carmela Cipriani (Bepink-Bongioanni) attempted to bridge across to this group, but they were caught by the peloton a few kilometres later.

The situation remained the same for much of the race, until Steels attacked off the front of group 1 with 42km to go, and created a small gap. She managed to hold on to win the intermediate sprint, but was caught a few kilometres later. Group 1 continued on, however after SDWorx-Protime began to pull at the front of the peloton, the group was caught with 30km to go, on the Medizorrotz climb.

Vollering hit the front immediately, and picked up the pace so only Labous could follow. This didn’t last for long, however – soon Labous dropped back, and Vollering continued on solo. A small chasing group formed behind her, including Fisher-Black, Rooijakkers, Labous, Reusser, Spratt, Muzic, Isabella Holmgren (Lidl-Trek), Ella Wyllie (Liv AlUla Jayco) and Thalita De Jong (Lotto-Dstny). The group couldn’t catch Vollering, however, who rode 30km solo to victory. Behind her, in the final kilometres, the chasing group prepared for a sprint, with Reusser leading out her teammate Bredewold. She launched first, however De Jong managed to keep up and sustain her sprint for slightly longer, just beating Bredewold to second place.

Vollering won the general classification (34 seconds ahead of Bredewold in second place, with Labous in third), the points classification, and the mountains classification. Wyllie won the youth classification, and SDWorx-Protime won the teams classification.

Written by: Alicia Moyo

12/05/2024

Race Report – Vos makes history, EF Education-Cannondale enjoy stage-win success, and Vollering reigns supreme at La Vuelta España Feminina

Stage 1

Lidl-Trek won the team time trial on the opening stage of the Vuelta Femenina in Valencia, ahead of Visma Lease-a-Bike and SDWorx-Protime.

Team Coop-Repsol started first, setting a time of 20:48. They remained in the hot seat until they were overtaken by Lotto Dstny Ladies - who set a time of 20:30 - but they didn’t stay in pole position for long, as VolkerWessels then set a new best time of 20:21. Following this, EF Education-Cannondale set a new top time of 19:29, and stayed in the hot seat for a while until they were dethroned by Visma Lease-a-Bike.

Lidl-Trek then began riding, and they were performing well until a crash involving Ellen van Dijk and Elynor Bäckstedt in the last corner slowed them down. Luckily for them, however, they just about managed to clinch the win by 0.09 seconds. SD Worx-Protime then came in with a third-place time, 1.8 seconds down on Lidl-Trek.

Gaia Realini crossed the line first for Lidl-Trek to take the lead of the general classification.

Stage 2

Alison Jackson (EF Education-Cannondale) won the second stage, in a bunch sprint ahead of Blanka Vas (SDWorx-Protime) and Karlijn Swinkels (UAE Team ADQ), after an incredible lead-out from her teammate, Kristen Faulkner.

The stage begun, and soon after, so did the attacks. After a small chasing group had caught the first group of attackers, and a few of the riders in front had dropped back to the peloton, by the 90km to go mark, the front group consisted of Audrey De Keersmaeker (Lotto Dstny Ladies), Silvia Zanardi (Human Powered Health), Valerie Demey (VolkerWessels), Marine Allione (Winspace), Angela Oro (Bepink-Bongioanni) and Idoia Eraso (Laboral Kutxa-Fundacion Euskadi).

With 45km to go, Eraso attacked in pursuit of KOM points, as Oro dropped back from the front group. Eraso was caught by the front group shortly after, and Oro was swallowed up by the peloton. The rest of the front group was then eventually caught with 41km to go, and Visma Lease-a-Bike immediately began to pull the peloton. Many riders began to drop off the back due to the high pace, whilst Karlijn Swinkels (UAE Team ADQ) attacked to take the maximum Queen of the Mountains (QOM) classification points.

Lidl-Trek then took over at the front of the peloton on the descent, but once the riders were back on the flat, with 28km to go, Anneke Dijkstra (VolkerWessels) attacked to take the intermediate sprint points. She then tried to keep going solo, but was eventually caught by the peloton. The riders began to prepare for a bunch sprint, as the riders that had dropped back from the peloton worked hard to get back on. Unfortunately, there were then two crashes within the final 3km, which affected a number of riders, including Niamh Fisher-Black (SDWorx-Protime), Lizzie Deignan (Lidl-Trek) and Anna Henderson (Visma Lease-a-Bike) – the latter breaking her collarbone, and having to abandon the race.

Following these crashes, Jelena Erić (Movistar) attacked solo, but was caught by the peloton with 1km to go. Fenix-Deceuninck then began their lead-out for Flora Perkins, followed by Kristen Faulkner (EF Education-Cannondale) who was preparing to lead out her teammate, Jackson. Vas was lurking behind, as was Kasia Niewiadoma (CANYON-SRAM), however Jackson started her sprint first, and held on to take the win ahead of Vas and Swinkels.

After this stage, Vas moved into the lead of the general classification (with Jackson moving up to second place, eight seconds behind). Jackson took the lead of the points classification, and Swinkels the mountains classification.

Stage 3

Marianne Vos (Visma Lease-a-Bike) won stage 3 in a bunch sprint ahead of Charlotte Kool (DSM-Firmenich PostNL) and Olivia Baril (Movistar), after an excellent day’s work from her teammates.

Soon after the stage started, there was a solo attack from Mireia Benito (AG Insurance Soudal). A small group of riders including Kastelijn, and Eva Van Agt (Visma Lease-a-Bike) attempted to follow, as did Teniel Campbell (Liv AlUla Jayco) and another small group, however they were all caught by the peloton with 96km to go – apart from Benito, who stayed out in front and maintained her gap to the peloton.

The situation remained the same until the 43km to go mark, where Grace Brown (FDJ-SUEZ) attacked solo in pursuit of Benito, but she was caught with 39km to go. Benito stayed out in front alone for most of the race – at one point increasing her gap to around five minutes – until she was caught with 7.5km to go and the peloton began to prepare for another bunch sprint.

In the last few kilometres, the peloton began to stretch out, and in order to take full advantage of this, Van Agt began to pull at the front of the peloton. Unfortunately however, there was then a crash with around 2.5km to go, which held up quite a few of the riders, and caused large splits in the peloton. A somewhat reduced group remained out in front, led by a Visma Lease-a-Bike leadout for Marianne Vos. As the riders came into the final few hundred metres, the sprinters began to move up to the front. Vos was still there, however, and launched her sprint first, flying ahead to take the win.

After this stage, Vas kept the lead of the general classification (with Vos moving up to second place, one second behind), and took the lead of the points classification. Swinkels kept her lead of the mountains classification.

Stage 4

On a stage that seemed destined for the sprinters, Faulkner managed to launch a late solo attack, and hold on to her lead to take the win. Behind her, Georgia Baker (Liv AlUla Jayco) came second, and Vos third, in a reduced bunch sprint.

There were a few attacks at the beginning of the stage, however none stuck, until echelons began to form due to the strong winds splitting up the peloton. The first group was relatively large, with around 19 riders, and included the likes of Vos, Jackson, Niewiadoma, Fisher-Black, Vas, Demi Vollering (SDWorx-Protime), and Elisa Longo Borghini (Lidl-Trek). Notably, however, there were no riders from FDJ-SUEZ, and only one each from Movistar and Lidl-Trek. These teams therefore began to work hard to drive the peloton further, and catch up with the group in front.

They never managed to make it back however, and so it became clear that the winner would come from the first group. With 12km to go, there was an intermediate sprint, and Vos, Vas and Longo Borghini all went for it, with Vos coming out on top. Then, with 6.9km to go, Vollering tried to attack, but was immediately chased down by Longo Borghini. As soon as the group had caught Vollering, Faulkner launched her attack. Marlen Reusser (SDWorx-Protime) immediately latched onto her wheel, however she couldn’t follow for long, and soon dropped back.

This attack caused a reduced chasing group to form out in front behind Faulkner, driven by Longo Borghni. Vollering, Vas and Niewiadoma were also present in this group. The chasing group was caught by the rest of the front group, however, with around 1.8km to go, and Reusser then attacked immediately in an attempt to chase down Faulkner. But this wasn’t to be, as Faulkner had managed to create a decent gap, and held on to win solo. The group behind prepared to sprint, and it was Baker that crossed the line in second, followed by Vos.

After this stage, Vos moved up into the lead of the general classification (overtaking Vas, who then sat in second place, five seconds behind). Vas held onto her lead of the points classification, and Swinkels the mountains classification.

Stage 5

Vollering finally took her first win of 2024 on stage 5, riding solo to the summit of the Alto del Fuerte Rapitán, after dropping all of her competitors.

Despite a few attacks from the likes of Stine Dale (Coop-Repsol), Jackson and Stina Kagevi (Coop-Repsol), and Antri Christoforou (Roland), there was no lasting breakaway group, and the peloton stayed altogether until around 57km to go. At this point, Lourdes Oyarbide (Laboral Kutxa-Fundacion Euskadi) attacked solo, and managed to create a small gap. There were then a few crashes – one with 54km to go, and another with 43.5km to go – that slowed down some of the race favourites, but not enough to affect their race. Eventually, Oyarbide was caught by Amber Kraak (FDJ-SUEZ) with 41km to go, and the peloton followed. Over the next few kilometres, the peloton ramped up the speed, which caused a few splits, and many riders to be distanced from the front of the peloton, including Vas.

Then came a few more attacks. Antonia Niedermaier (CANYON-SRAM) accelerated up the climb with 32km to go, followed by Brown, and a kilometre later, Reusser set off in pursuit of the front two. The peloton soon caught up with the riders in front, however, and Swinkels made her way up to the front to take the maximum QOM points. Unfortunately, there was another crash with 28km to go, this time involving Realini. She got back on her bike and continued riding, however after the stage was over, she had to abandon the race.

In the meantime, Vollering was driving the pace at the front of the peloton, and then after a while, a number of riders attempted to attack. Mischa Bredewold (SDWorx-Protime) went first, with 16.7km to go, and once she was caught, Van Agt set off. She was followed by a small group, including Fisher-Black, Swinkels, Niewiadoma, Yara Kastelijn (Fenix-Deceuninck), Thalita De Jong (Lotto Dstny Ladies) and Amanda Spratt (Lidl-Trek). With 12km to go, Swinkels launched solo and quickly created a gap, and the rest of the small group was caught by the rest of the peloton.

Swinkels herself was eventually caught with 3.2km to go, and the group prepared to charge up the final climb, the Alto del Fuerte Rapitán. On this climb, many riders – including the red jersey, Vos – were dropped, and Vollering hit the front. With 1km to go, Vollering, Longo Borghini and Kastelijn were the only riders left in front. Vollering set a blistering pace, and with 700km to go, managed to drop the other two, and ride solo to victory. Kastelijn and Longo Borghini approached the line together, and took second and third, respectively.

After this stage, Vollering moved up into the lead of the general classification (31 seconds ahead of Longo Borghini). Vos moved into the lead of the points classification, and Swinkels kept her lead of the mountains classification.

Stage 6

Évita Muzic (FDJ-SUEZ) managed to follow and outsprint Vollering after a tough uphill finish, to win stage 6.

After a few unsuccessful attacks at the beginning of the stage, the first group that managed to properly escape from the peloton included Lily Williams (Human Powered Health) and Anneke Dijkstra (VolkerWessels). They were later joined by Erić and Benito, and Baril and Liane Lippert (Movistar), with around 100km to go, however, and this group was caught by the peloton with around 87km to go. Laura Molenaar (VolkerWessels) and Claudia San Justo (Eneicat-CMTeam) then launched an attack, and they were joined by Fauve Bastiaenssen (Lotto Dstny Ladies) and then Aurela Nerlo (Winspace), a few kilometres later.

The race situation remained the same for most of the race, until around 20km to go, when San Justo and Nerlo dropped back and were caught by the peloton. A few kilometres later, the rest of the breakaway group was also caught. The riders then began to prepare for the intermediate sprint, which was won by Vos ahead of Elena Cecchini (SDWorx-Protime) and Brodie Chapman (Lidl-Trek). The peloton stayed together up the final climb, where riders began to drop back as Brown led the peloton from the front.

With 3.2km to go, Vollering came to the front to set a high pace, and soon only a small group remained. Pauliena Rooijakkers (Fenix-Deceuninck) then launched an attack, forcing Reusser and Vollering to accelerate to close the gap. Kastelijn then made her way to the front as the riders came past the flamme rouge. After attempting (unsuccessfully) to get some help from the other riders behind, Vollering decided to accelerate with 600m to go in an attempt to drop the others. Only Muzic could follow, and in the final metres before the line, she was able to come around Vollering, and sprint to victory. Behind, Kastelijn attacked from the front of the chasing group to finish third. 

After this stage, Vollering extended her lead of the general classification to 56 seconds ahead of Longo Borghini. Vos kept her lead of the points classification, and Swinkels only just kept her lead of the mountains classification, but was tied at 20 points with Vollering.

Stage 7

Vos won again on stage 7, powering past Faulkner and Longo Borghini up the punchy climb to the finish.

After a number of attempts to form a breakaway group, the official ‘breakaway’ escaped after an attack with around 114km to go from Laura Tomasi (Laboral Kutxa-Fundacion Euskadi), Anna Kiesenhofer (Roland), Yulia Biriukova (Human Powered Health) and Veronica Ewers (EF Education-Cannondale), followed by Oro, Kagevi and Quinty Schoens (VolkerWessels). This group was eventually caught by the peloton, however, with 66km to go.

Kiesenhofer then attacked immediately, and was followed by Ana Vitoria Magalhaes (Bepink-Bongioanni). Magalhaes was joined by Perkins, Molenaar, Anya Louw (AG Insurance-Soudal), Carolina Vargas (Eneicat-CMTeam) and Georgie Howe (Liv AlUla Jayco). With 54km to go, Zanardi and Cristina Tonetti (Laboral Kutxa-Fundacion Euskadi) also attempted to join this chasing group, which managed to catch Kiesenhofer with 50km to go. With around 40km to go, however, Vargas dropped back from the group, as did Magalhaes, and with 38km to go, all those out in front were caught by the peloton.

The peloton then began to split up, with the front group including many of the race favourites. Movistar didn’t have any riders in the front group, and so began pulling at the front of the peloton, but they never managed to make it back to the front of the race. In the final 10km, Bredewold attacked, with Kraak in her wheel, however this attack was closed down quickly. There were then a few more accelerations from riders in the front group, but none got away until 5.7km to go, where Spratt attacked solo - although she was caught 1km later. With 4km to go, Bredewold attacked, followed by Williams, Jackson and Silke Smulders (Liv-AlUla-Jayco), but they too were caught, with 2.4km to go.

The riders began to prepare for a bunch sprint, with Chapman leading the riders past the flamme rouge. Jackson began to move up, and led the group through the final corner, allowing her teammate, Faulkner, to come past and launch up the finishing climb. She was followed by Vos and Longo Borghini, however, and with around 150m to go, Vos powered past the others, and won, several bike lengths ahead of Faulkner and Longo Borghini.

After this stage, Vollering held her lead of the general classification (now 52 seconds ahead of Longo Borghini). Vos kept her lead of the points classification, and Swinkels still only just kept her lead of the mountains classification, tied at 20 points with Vollering.

Stage 8

Vollering claimed another solo victory on stage 8, weaving and celebrating as she came past the line and cemented her first place in the overall general classification.

The official ‘breakaway’ of the day formed with around 70km to go, as a group of thirteen – including Erić, Swinkels, Vos, Perkins, Gigante, Benito, Williams, Chapman, and Smulders, amongst others – escaped from the peloton. A chasing group attempted to follow – which included Tomasi, Dale, Giorgia Vettorello (Roland) and Valerie Demey (VolkerWessels) – however they were caught by the peloton a few kilometres later. The next group that tried to attack included Dale again, along with Christoforou, and Alena Amialiusik (UAE Team ADQ), but they too were caught by the peloton.

In the meantime, a number of riders were dropping back from the front group, with Abi Smith (DSM-Firmenich PostNL), Williams, Cecchini, Erić and Perkins being the first to surrender. With 40km to go, only three riders were left in the front group: Gigante, Chapman and Swinkels. As the peloton rode up the Puerto de la Morcuera, Maud Oudeman (Visma Lease-a-Bike) set a blistering pace for her teammate Riejanne Markus, causing many riders to drop back from the peloton too. Soon the peloton caught those left out in front, and immediately afterwards, with 36km to go, Roijakkers attacked solo. However, she was caught a few kilometres later, and Muzic then accelerated from the front of the peloton to take maximum QOM points.

Within the final 30km, only a small group of riders remained in the front group, and with 19km to go, Swinkels attacked solo. She managed to take maximum points at the intermediate sprint – and behind her, Markus took second – however she was caught by the chasing group with 9km to go, and soon after, dropped back from the front of the race. Many others dropped back too, including Reusser, Gigante and Fisher-Black, as Brown set a high pace on the front.

With 6.5km to go, Vollering attacked, followed immediately by Kastelijn and Muzic. This attack caused Longo Borghini to drop off the back, and even the initial chasers couldn’t follow for long. A small group formed around 30 seconds behind Vollering, including Markus, Muzic, Kastelijn and Ricarda Bauernfeind (CANYON-SRAM), and over the next few kilometres, they were joined by most of the rest of the initial front group. However, within the final two kilometres, Markus and Muzic rode ahead of the others. Vollering kept increasing her gap, and rode solo to the finish, celebrating as she crossed the line. Muzic rode past Markus to take second, but Markus hung on for third place, and second in the overall classification.

Vollering won the general classification (1:49 ahead of Markus in second place, with Longo Borghini in third), and the mountains classification. Vos won the points classification, and SDWorx-Protime won the teams classification.

Written by: Alicia Moyo

05/05/2024

Race Report – Van Gils takes his first World Tour win in Frankfurt

Maxim Van Gils (Lotto-Dstny) was the smartest rider today on the German roads and he took his first World Tour win at Eschborn-Frankfurt.

The morning breakaway escaped only one kilometre after the official start was given in Eschborn. It was composed of three men: Warde Vangheluwe (Soudal-Quick Step), Jacopo Mosca (Lidl-Trek) and John Degenkolb (dsm-firmenich). Unfortunately, Mosca had to change bike after 80 kilometres and was forced to let his companions go. The two survivors were caught on the second ascent of the Feldberg, 90 kilometres from the finish line.

From there, multiple accelerations took place at the front of the peloton with riders such as Roger Adria (Bora-Hansgrohe), Jan Christen (UAE Team Emirates) and Darren Rafferty (EF Education-EasyPost) trying to escape from the peloton. After that, the German and the Irish Champions, Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost) succeeded in taking a few seconds of advantage over what remained of the favourites group, but they were caught with 55 kilometres to go.

On the slopes of the last climb of the day, the Mammolshain, Christen attacked again but this time he managed to escape from the peloton, that was exploding. The Swiss rider realized an amazing performance but was unfortunately caught only 2.4 kilometres from the finish line. Finally, in the sprint, the Belgian Maxim Van Gils came out on top, just in front of Alex Aranburu (Movistar) and Riley Sheehan (Israel-Premier Tech). Lukas Nerurkar (EF Education-EasyPost) and Roger Adria (Bora-Hansgrohe).

Written by: Rémi Massart

01/05/2024

April

Preview of the week – Vuelta and French cup before the Giro

Monday

Vuelta Espana Feminina (Stage 2):

As mentioned in last week’s preview, the 10th Vuelta Espana Femenina actually started last Sunday. However, the main favourites will be presented here, as it is this week that the essential of racing will be made. Last year, Annemiek Van Vleuten (formerly Movistar) came out on top and was crowned Queen of Spain after 7 stages of racing. This year, the Dutch rider has retired so her crown will go to another head. The main favourite seems to be the one who finished only 9 seconds behind Van Vleuten last year, Demi Vollering (SD Worx-Protime). The Dutch Champion has not won a race yet this year and she will want to change that on the Spanish roads. Her main rivals should be last year's third Gaia Realini (Lidl-Trek) and Flèche Wallonne winner Katarzyna Niewiadoma.

The second stage of this Vuelta Femenina should see the sprinters going for the win in Moncofar. Indeed, the only difficulty, Puerto de L’Oronet, is too far from the finish line to allow riders to trick the peloton. However, some teams could try to accelerate the rhythm in the peloton in order to drop some sprinters. The main favourites for this stage are the two Dutchwomen Charlotte Kool (dsm-firmenich) and Marianne Vos (Visma-Lease a Bike), who won the Points jersey last year.

Tuesday

Vuelta Espana Feminina (Stage 3):

Unlike the day before, the third stage shouldn’t finish with a massive sprint. Indeed, the road between Lucena and Teruel is very hilly and it will be hard for the fastest women to pass the 2285 meters of positive ascent. Despite these numbers, there is only one difficulty listed in the QOM classification, Alto Fuente de Rubielos (6km, 6.3%). Nevertheless, there will be almost no flat parts during the 130 kilometres of racing and the race seems very open. It could have suited a breakaway but after only 2 stages, the gaps in general classification should not be big enough to let a big group go. The only thing that is certain is that this stage should be very interesting to watch.

Wednesday

Vuelta Espana Feminina (Stage 4):

The fourth stage of this Vuelta has a quite particular profile. Indeed, the riders will have to ride 140 kilometres between Molina de Aragon and Zaragoza but the route is almost always a downhill. This will make the task of the braves in the breakaway even harder and we should see a sprint in the streets of the capital of Aragon. As for the first day, Kool and Vos will want to shine in what could be their last chance to raise their arms in this edition of La Vuelta Femenina.

Eschborn-Frankfurt

The last World Tour race for the men’s peloton before Il Giro d’Italia will take place this Wednesday in Germany, between Eschborn and Frankfurt. It is usually an open race between the sprinters, advantaged by the last 30 kilometres being completely flat, and the puncheurs, who will try to put them in difficulty on the Feldberg (8km, 6%) or the Mammolshain (2.3km, 8%). Last year, Soren Kragh Andersen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) won the sprint from a small group who escaped from the pack.

This year, the route stays the same so we should have again an open finale between the sprinters and the puncheurs. The start-list is not very dense so it is a big chance for some riders to take a World Tour win. Among them, some sprinters seem to be protected such as Caleb Ewan (Jayco-AlUla), Alexander Kristoff (Uno X-Mobility) and Sam Bennett (Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale). However, riders like Kragh Andersen, Thibau Nys (Lidl-Trek), Marc Hirschi (UAE Team Emirates) and Maxim Van Gils (Lotto-Dstny) will surely try to create breaks in the pack.

Thursday

Vuelta Espana Feminina (Stage 5):

The first stage where gaps could be made in the general classification is the fifth. Indeed, the riders will start from Huesca and will ride 114 kilometres before arriving to the top of the climb of Jaca, 3.2km at 8.2%. This wall takes place after a long climb of 17 kilometres, not very hard (3%) but that will use the legs of the peloton. On a climb like Jaca, there should not be too many gaps at the summit. However, it will be necessary to be well positioned at the foot of the climb to prevent some useless efforts. On a stage like this one, it is the puncheurs who appear as favourites. The Polish rider Katarzyna Niewadoma (Canyon//SRAM Racing), winner of the last Flèche Wallonne, showed her aptitudes on such an intense effort. Her rivals for the stage should also be the ones who will play the first roles in the general classification with Demi Vollering, Elisa Longo Borghini (Lidl-Trek) and Evita Muzic (FDJ-Suez), all impressive on the slopes of Huy a few weeks ago.

Friday

Vuelta Espana Feminina (Stage 6):

The day after the arrival in Jaca, another top finish will be at the menu for the riders of the Vuelta Feminina. After the start in Tarazona, the route will be all flat until the last 6.5 kilometres. From then, the riders will enter the climb of La Laguna Negra, with average slopes at 6.7%. This climb is longer than the Jaca’s one and could be considered as the first big head-to-head between the best climbers of the peloton. This ascent has never been climbed by the women’s peloton so the winner on Friday afternoon will be a pioneer. With this stage, we should see who is really capable of winning this Vuelta and if Vollering’s rivals will be able to challenge her for the final win.

La Classique Morbihan

On Friday, there will be a lot of women’s cycling to watch with, in addition of the Vuelta, the 10th edition of La Classique Morbihan. This race, taking part in Brittany is a typical French race, with a final circuit including some short but steep climbs. Last year, Gaia Masetti (AG Insurance-Soudal Quick Step) took the first win of her career by winning solo. It was in fact a quadruple for the Italian riders with Alessia Vigilia and Cristina Tonetti (Top Girls Fassa Bortolo) and Sofia Bertizzolo (UAE Development Team) finishing behind her. This year, the main favourites are Silvia Persico (UAE Team ADQ), the former French Champion Jade Wiel (FDJ-Suez) and Victoire Berteau (Cofidis).

Saturday

Vuelta Espana Femenina

This stage right after the first “mountainous” stage and just before the queen stage seems ideal for a breakaway. Indeed, it will surely be too hard for the sprinters with the last 700m being at almost 7% of average gradient. It should be the ideal day for some riders who already lost time in the general classification to try to win a stage.

Grand Prix du Morbihan

The Grand Prix du Morbihan will open the weekend in Brittany for the men’s peloton. This race, a traditional French Cup round with an urban circuit with around one climb. Last year, Arnaud De Lie (Lotto-Dstny) won the race in a massive sprint, ahead of Romain Grégoire (Groupama-FDJ) and Rasmus Tiller (Uno X-Mobility). This year, the Belgian rider should align on the French roads to defend his title. His main rivals will be Bryan Coquard (Cofidis), Benoit Cosnefroy (Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale) and Vincenzo Albanese (Arkéa-B&B Hotels).

Sunday

Vuelta Espana Feminina (Stage 8):

The 8th and final stage of this first Grand Tour of the season will be the Queen stage of this 10th Vuelta Feminina. Only 90 kilometres to ride but two very difficult climbs with the Puerto de la Morcuera (13.2km, 6.3%) and the Puerto de Cotos (10km, 5.8%). On such a short distance, the race should be very intense and could lead to a beautiful spectacle for the viewers. On the slopes of the two difficulties, it will be impossible for a rider to hide herself and it will be the best climber of this Vuelta who will raise her arms in Valdesqui. The battle should be awesome to decide the first Grand Tour winner of the season 2024.

Tro-Bro Léon

Tro-Bro Léon is maybe one of the most atypical races of the season. Indeed, the riders have to pass in the “ribinou”, the name of the path used by the local farmers. This mix of mud and dirt always give sensational images on TV. There is also an unusual tradition at the end of the race: The first rider from Brittany to cross the line is offered a pig! Last year, Giacomo Nizzolo (former Israel-Premier Tech now Q36.5) dominated De Lie and Nils Eekhoff (dsm-firmenich) in a sprint to win this race for the first time. This year, the title holder is not planned to race on the ribinou again but the two riders on either side of him on the podium should be at the start in Le Carpont Plouguin. They will have to face numerous rivals including Luca Mozzato (Arkéa-B&B Hotels), Lewis Askey (Groupama-FDJ) and Riley Sheehan (Israel-Premier Tech).

Recap of the week – dsm-firmenich dominant in Turkiye, UAE Team Emirates in the Asturias.

Tour of Turkiye

Stage 1

The first stage of the Tour of Turkiye 2024 saw a massive peloton arriving for the win in Antalya and it was Fabio Jakobsen (dsm-firmenich) who came out on top.

The scenario was very classical for a flat stage, with a breakaway of eight riders opening the road before being caught in the last kilometres by a peloton led by dsm-firmenich and Bora-Hansgrohe. In the end, it was Fabio Jakobsen who managed to win his first stage since joining his new team. Behind the Dutchman, two Belgians, Sasha Weemaes (Bingoal WB) and Simon Dehairs (Alpecin-Deceuninck) completed the podium whereas the two announced rivals of Jakobsen, Sam Welsford (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Mark Cavendish (Astana-Qazaqstan) finished far from the winner, respectively 12th and 15th.

Stage 2

Max Kanter (Astana-Qazaqstan) dominated what remained of the peloton to take the first win of his professional career in Kas.

As the day before, the breakaway escaped quite easily in the first kilometres and was never a real threat for the peloton. However, the sprinters had to face several difficulties on the road, causing a peloton of only 80 men at the finish. The top two in the general classification, Fabio Jakobsen and Sasha Weemaes were among the dropped riders, along with Cavendish. Nevertheless, Astana-Qazaqstan should be happy of this stage because one of Cavendish’s lead-out took his chance and won the first victory since becoming a pro. Max Kanter was followed by another German, Henri Uhlig (Alpecin-Deceuninck), who took the leader jersey, and by Jakobsen’s lead-out man for dsm-firmenich, Tobias Lund Andresen.

Stage 3

Another stage and another sprinter winning in Turkiye. This time, it was Polti-Kometa’s Giovanni Lonardi who succeeded after the relegation of Danny Van Poppel (Bora-Hansgrohe).

The few hills placed on the last kilometres of this third stage allowed more action in the peloton than the days before. Indeed, with 15 kilometres to go, the last survivor of the morning break, Filippo Conca (Q36.5) still had 25 seconds of advantage over the peloton. As soon as he was caught, some good climbers tried to escape from the peloton, in order to finish solo. Unfortunately for them, the accelerations of Paul Double (Polti-Kometa), Lander Loockx (TDT-Unibet) and Carl Hagen (Q36.5) resulted in nothing except to drop some sprinters such as Cavendish and Welsford. In the sprint, it was the Dutchman Danny Van Poppel who came out on top for Bora-Hansgrohe but he was soon relegated due to not keeping a straight line while sprinting. Giovanni Lonardi was declared winner and took the leader's jersey in the process. Behind him, Enrico Zanoncello (VF Group-Bardiani) and yesterday’s winner Max Kanter completed the podium.

Stage 4

Tobias Lund Andresen (dsm-firmenich) took his chance after his sprinter Fabio Jakobsen was dropped and won the first win of his professional career.

The fourth stage of this Tour of Turkiye was a little bit harder than the previous ones and only 67 riders finished in the peloton. In these conditions, a lot of sprinters were missing and the young Danish Tobias Lund Andresen, usual lead-out man for Jakobsen, took his chance in the sprint and came out on top. The 21-year-old beat Danny Van Poppel and Henri Uhlig and took the lead in the general classification.

Stage 5

Team dsm-firmenich continued its amazing week with a wonderful 1-2 in Kusadasi.

Unlike the other stages, the morning breakaway lasted long into the day gave the peloton a scare. Indeed, they were only caught 5 kilometres from the finish line. Right after that, Luis-Joe Luhrs (Bora-Hansgrohe) tried to anticipate the sprint but his attempt was vain. In the sprint, dsm-firmenich showed their domination with the leader of the general classification Tobias Lund Andresen winning his second in a row, in front of Fabio Jakobsen. Behind the duo, Iuri Leitao completed rounded off the podium for Caja Rural.

Stage 6

The queen stage of this Tour of Turkiye crowned Frank Van den Broek, continuing the amazing week of dsm-firmenich.

It was obvious that the leader's jersey would see change of owner after this stage. It was confirmed after only 2 kilometres of the last climb, Spil Dagi, when Tobias Lund Andresen was dropped from the peloton. Nine kilometres from the summit, Filippo Conca attacked from the peloton and joined his teammate Negasi Abreha in the break. The Ethiopian rider sacrificed himself for his teammate, who was soon caught by Samuele Zoccarato (VF Group-Bardiani). The two Italians opened the road for approximately 2 kilometres before being caught by a peloton from which accelerations were not stopping. These accelerations were too much for one of the main favourites of the race, Burgos BH’s Victor Langelotti, who had to let his rivals go. In the end, three riders sprinted for victory and it was Frank Van den Broek who conquered the Spil Dagi, winning the sprint ahead of Merhawi Kudus (Terengganu) and Double. The Dutchman also took the lead in the general classification, allowing it to stay in dsm-firmenich’s hands.

Stage 7

The seventh stage of this Tour of Turkiye saw once again a massive sprint and once again, it was Tobias Lund Andresen who won it.

With the second half of the route being completely flat, there was no doubts on the issue in Izmir. The peloton arrived almost complete and the Danish Andresen continued the incredible razzia of his team. Behind him, Timothy Dupont (Tarteletto-Isorex) and Manuel Penalver (Polti-Kometa) climbed on the podium.

With the eight and last stage around Istanbul being cancelled due to the weather conditions, the general classification did not change and Van den Broek won the first general classification of his professional career, ahead of Kudus and Double. Tobias Lund Andresen brought the Points jersey home and Vinzent Dorn (BIKE AID) won the KOM classification while Q36.5 was crowned best team.

Vuelta Asturias

Stage 1

UAE Team Emirates was expected to perform on this 66th Vuelta Asturias and the Emirati team did not disappoint. Indeed, the first stage saw the young Mexican Isaac Del Toro win solo with a one minute advantage over his teammate Rafal Majka. He also took a great advantage for the final GC with one minute over Eric Fagundez (Burgos-BH) and 2 minutes over Movistar’s Pelayo Sanchez.

Stage 2

The second stage of Vuelta Asturias was ridden under really bad weather conditions. Indeed, the rain was pouring on the riders, causing a very difficult race. Despite that, a group of approximately 50 riders arrived for the win in Ribadesella and Antonio Morgado (UAE Team Emirates) took the win ahead of Albert Torres (Movistar) and of his leader and teammate Isaac Del Toro.

Stage 3

Third day in the Asturias and third win for UAE Team Emirates, once again with a different rider. This time, it’s Finn Fisher-Black who won a sprint of a small group ahead of Del Toro and Jordan Jegat (TotalEnergies). This win completed three amazing days for his team, with three very young riders winning each a stage. Del Toro also brought home the general classification, the first of his career, along with the Points and the Youth jersey. Ibon Ruiz (Kern Pharma) preventing him also winning the KOM classification.

Lotto Famenne Classic

Arnaud De Lie (Lotto-Dstny) made his come-back to the peloton by retaining his title in Lotto Famenne Classic, after an impressive sprint.

This 6th edition of the Lotto Famenne Classic had the scenario of a typical Belgian classic, with non-stop accelerations and hills. With the morning breakaway being caught 40 kilometres from the finish line, a lot of teams decided to go for an offensive race. However, the offensive riders were never rewarded as, each time, a team was not represented at the front. Indeed, even if riders such as Riley Sheehan (Israel-Premier Tech), Maxim Van Gils (Lotto-Dstny) and Lorenzo Rota (Intermarché-Wanty) were not sparing in their efforts, they never managed to take more than 10 seconds of advantage over the main group. With 4 kilometres to go, Louka Matthys (Bingoal WB) and Mads Wurtz Schmidt (Israel-Premier Tech) were a few seconds ahead of the peloton but Lotto-Dstny trusted Arnaud De Lie and they took over the peloton, catching up with the fugitives. The Belgian team was right to believe in their sprinter because De Lie dominated the sprint and won ahead of Axel Zingle (Cofidis) and Van Gils.

Race Report – Standout performances from Carapaz, Godon and Lipowitz, as Rodríguez takes the overall win at the Tour de Romandie

Prologue

Maikel Zijlaard (Tudor Pro Cycling) powered to his first ever WorldTour victory – and the second WorldTour victory for his team – in the Prologue of the Tour de Romandie.

The course consisted of a 2.3km individual time trial, which was set upon by rain, making the course full of twists and turns even more treacherous.

Zijlaard went relatively early in the day, before the rain began, and set the fastest time. As the day progressed, many riders found themselves slipping and sliding on the course, and ultimately no one was able to dethrone Zijlaard, despite many trying their best to do so.

However, Cameron Scott (Bahrain Victorious), one of the last riders to start, managed to ride to second place, bumping Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal Quick-Step) – who had thus far sat in second place – down to third.

After this opening stage ITT, Zijlaard led the general classification (with a lead of one second over Scott) and the points classification. Tim Van Dijke (Visma Lease-a-Bike) led the youth classification.

Stage 1

A Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale 1-2 was not the scenario we were expecting before the start of the first stage. Nevertheless, Dorian Godon came out on top, winning his first World Tour victory ahead of his teammate Andrea Vendrame.

The morning breakaway escaped easily after only 4 kilometres of racing. It was composed of 6 riders: Juri Hollmann (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Rune Herregodts (Intermarché-Wanty), Patrick Gamper (Bora-Hansgrohe), Raul Garcia (Arkea-B&B Hotels), Fausto Masnada (Soudal Quick-Step) and Joey Rosskopf (Q36.5).

The first half of the race was pretty calm, but it was still too difficult for the yellow jersey, Zijlaard. The runner-up of the day before, Scott, also couldn’t profit from the calmer racing, as he was also dropped with 33km remaining, when Richard Carapaz (EF Education-EasyPost), Jan Christen (UAE Team Emirates) and David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) tried to anticipate, unsuccessfully.

At the top of the last climb, Arconciel, an attack from Alaphilippe allowed the peloton to catch the break, and from then accelerations multiplied, with, for example, Andreas Kron (Lotto-Dstny) trying to finish the day solo. Despite these attempts, it was a peloton of approximately 80 men that arrived at the finish in Fribourg. The Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale riders knew that the last few meters were on a downward slope and Vendrame stayed on Godon’s wheel to secure an amazing 1-2. Behind them, Gianni Vermeersch (Alpecin-Deceuninck) completed the podium.

After this stage, Godon moved into the lead of the general classification (with Vermeersch moving up to second place, six seconds behind), and the points classification. Hollmann took the lead of the mountain classification, and Van Dijke kept the lead of the youth classification.

Stage 2

In stage 2, the peloton played with the morning breakaway, and for once, the peloton lost. This benefited Thibau Nys (Lidl-Trek), who won his first World Tour race, in his first race of the season.

The morning breakaway escaped after 20km of battle at the front of the peloton, and was composed of seven riders, with very different profiles. Some were more categorized as sprinters/puncheurs with Vendrame, Sean Flynn (DSM-Firmenich PostNL), Nikias Arndt (Bahrain Victorious) and Nys, while the others were more known for being good climbers (Xandro Meurisse for Alpecin-Deceuninck, Roger Adria for Bora-Hansgrohe and Xabier Mikel Azparren for Q36.5). The seven riders were reduced to five in the Côte des Mosses, with Arndt and Flynn being dropped, but they still managed to hold an advantage of more than 3 minutes over a panicked peloton with 25km to go.

Even with the efforts of EF Education-EasyPost and Groupama-FDJ, the gap between the two groups was not decreasing, and the riders in the break started to think about a potential victory. In the last climb, Les Marécottes, Azparren and Adria could not follow the rhythm of the first group; meanwhile, the yellow jersey Godon was dropped from the peloton. The accelerations of Simon Yates (Jayco-AlUla) and Lenny Martinez (Groupama-FDJ) only had the effect of disorganizing the favourites group even more, and the three riders remaining in front started to regain some time.

Two kilometres from the finish line, Luke Plapp (Jayco-AlUla) attacked with Florian Lipowitz (Bora-Hansgrohe). The two riders managed to join the first group, but the young German was not able to follow the tempo of the Australian champion for long, as he was dropped with Meurisse a few meters before the flamme rouge. Plapp led the group in order to increase the gap for the GC, and Thibau Nys took advantage of this to win his first World Tour race, ahead of Vendrame, who finished second for the second time in two days. The favourites didn’t lose too much time, however, as the first of them, Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) arrived only 16 seconds after Nys.

After this stage, Nys moved into the lead of the general classification (with Vendrame moving up to second place, four seconds behind). Vendrame took the lead of the points classification, and Hollmann held onto the lead of the mountain classification. Nys moved into the lead of the youth classification.

Stage 3

Stage 3 involved another individual time trial – this time a 15.5km loop that started and finished in Oro – that was won by Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates).

Once again, the event started in dry conditions, but the second half of the day was affected by rain. McNulty started earlier in the day, and so benefitted from the more favourable conditions, and was able to set the fastest time of 20:06.

His teammate Felix Großschartner finished in second place behind him, however he was then bumped down to third by Magnus Sheffield (INEOS Grenadiers), who set the new runner-up time. As the day progressed, however, and the weather got worse, the new times being set got further and further away from McNulty’s time, and it became clear that he wouldn’t be dethroned.

Some of the GC favourites did manage to set decent times, and improve their position in the overall classification, however, as Ayuso set the fourth-fastest time, which allowed him to move up into the overall classification lead. Similarly, Carlos Rodríguez (INEOS Grenadiers) moved up ten spots to fourth overall, Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) moved up to third, and Ilan Van Wilder (Soudal Quick-Step) moved up to second.

After this stage, Ayuso moved into the lead of the general classification (with Van Wilder moving up to second place, seven seconds behind), and the youth classification. Vendrame kept his lead of the points classification, and Hollmann held onto the lead of the mountain classification.

Stage 4

Carapaz won the ‘Queen stage’ of the Tour de Romadie in style, after an incredible attack on the mountaintop finish, just ahead of Lipowitz.

The initial breakaway included García, Nelson Oliveira (Movistar), Godon, Hollmann, and Bart Lemmen (Visma Lease-a-Bike), and Clément Berthet (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale) later bridged across to the group. Hollmann managed to claim four KOM points, but was then distanced from the group, whilst Lemmen managed to come over the top of the first and second climbs in first place each time. As the climbs kept coming, with 60km to go, Godon dropped back from the breakaway group, and the group began to fall apart. Garcia was distanced, then Oliveira, and finally Lemmen started to tire in the next few kilometres, and eventually, Berthet was left alone at the front of the race.

INEOS were driving the peloton for the majority of the stage, but Berthet wasn’t caught until the 5km to go mark. As soon as the breakaway was extinguished, Egan Bernal (INEOS Grenadiers) attacked, and was followed by a small group, which included Pavel Sivakov (UAE Team Emirates), Ayuso, Carapaz, Rodríguez, Lipowitz, Enric Mas (Movistar), Vlasov, Adam Yates (UAE Team Emirates), Christian Rodríguez (Arkéa-B&B Hotels) and Van Wilder. As the climb continued, a few riders dropped back, including all of Ayuso’s teammates, and Van Wilder.

With 3km to go, Lipowitz attacked, and only Carapaz, Rodríguez – and later Mas and Vlasov – could follow. Ayuso, the race leader, was distanced for good. Then, with 2km to go, Carapaz launched an incredibly well-timed and powerful attack that no one could follow. Rodríguez and Lipowitz kept riding some distance behind, and Mas and Vlasov rode a few seconds behind them. The race wasn’t over, however, as in the last 200m, Lipowitz decided to chase down Carapaz. He managed to catch him, but Carapaz stayed in front, and held on for the win.

After this stage, Rodríguez moved into the lead of the general classification (with Vlasov moving up to second place, seven seconds behind) and the youth classification. Vendrame kept his lead of the points classification, and Hollmann held onto the lead of the mountain classification.

Stage 5

Godon won the final stage of the Tour de Romandie after launching a long and dominant sprint, ahead of Simone Consonni (Lidl-Trek) and Dion Smith (Intermarché-Wanty).

The stage began with a few initial attacks and, a number of riders managed to break away from the peloton. By the 70km to go mark, the breakaway group consisted of four men: Rémi Cavagna (Movistar), Darren Rafferty (EF Education-Easypost), Marco Brenner (Tudor Pro Cycling) and Alexandre Balmer (Swiss National Team). Cavagna was keen to ride aggressively, and decided to launch a solo attack with 47km to go, but this only lasted until 32km to go, where he was caught by the rest of the breakaway group – minus Balmer, who had dropped back.

With 30km to go, Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) attacked, and was followed by Bernal, Lipowitz, Mas, Carapaz, and shortly after, the rest of the peloton. He attacked – and was quickly caught – again, and then Lipowitz attacked, but again the peloton was able to immediately follow. Felix Großschartner (UAE Team Emirates) bridged across to the breakaway, followed by a small group, however with around 23km to go, all riders at the front of the race were caught by the peloton.

Even more attacks ensued, however none lasted, and then with 21km to go, a few riders unfortunately slid out on a slippery corner and crashed. Following the crashes, Enzo Paleni (Groupama-FDJ) carried on in front solo. Vendrame attacked with 17km to go, in pursuit of the final intermediate sprint points, and whilst he passed Paleni and claimed the maximum points, he was later caught by the peloton.

With 13km to go, Michael Valgren (EF Education-Easypost) attacked, followed by Michael Hepburn (Jayco-AlUla), but they were caught with 8km to go. Martin then attacked with 4.5km to go, but again, he too was caught relatively quickly. The peloton stayed together until the end, and the riders began to prepare for a bunch sprint. Clément Venturini (Arkéa-B&B Hotels) launched his sprint as soon as he came past the flamme rouge, but Godon was hot on his heels. Godon was then able to overtake him and sprint to victory, followed by Consonni and Smith.

Rodríguez won the general classification (seven seconds ahead of Vlasov in second place, with Lipowitz in third), as well as the youth classification. Godon managed to overtake Vendrame to snatch the lead of the points classification, and Hollmann held onto the lead of the mountain classification. UAE Team Emirates won the teams classification.

Written by: Alicia Moyo and Rémi Massart

28/04/2024

Giro d’Italia Starlist Preview – big names such as Pogačar, Kooij, Merlier and Alaphilippe prepare to start in Italy

The organisers of the Giro d’Italia have just released the official startlist, which is packed with big names, and promises lots of interesting racing action – both for the general classification, and the individual stages.

Teams

All 18 WorldTour teams are set to participate, and the race wild cards have been granted to Tudor Pro Cycling, Team Polti Kometa, and VF Group-Bardiani CSF-Faizanè.

General Classification

Some of the big names competing for the maglia rosa, include: Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), Ben O’Connor (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale), and Romain Bardet (DSM-Firmenich PostNL).

Pogačar appears to be the clear favourite, and will be assisted by a strong UAE Team Emirates team, including Rafal Majka and Domen Novak. However, after his recent performance at Liège-Bastogne-Liège – where he achieved an incredible second place – Bardet is clearly one to watch. Additionally, O’Connor had a brilliant start to the season – winning the Vuelta Ciclista a la Region de Murcia and a stage in the UAE Tour, as well as coming second in the general classification at the UAE Tour and the Tour of the Alps – so he too is expected to perform well.

Visma Lease-a-Bike has declared that they aren’t necessarily aiming to win the general classification this time around – and are instead targeting stage wins – however they have brought their young talent, Cian Uijtdebroeks, who might be in with a chance of a podium place. They have also brought Attila Valter, who could potentially perform well too, given that he has performed well in the general classification of stage races such as the UAE Tour, the Tour of Norway, and the Tour of the Alps, before – and has won the Tour of Hungary.

Geraint Thomas could also be a potential GC contender, and he will be supported by an INEOS Grenadiers team stacked with top riders, including Thymen Arensman, Magnus Sheffield, Jhonatan Narvaez, Ben and Connor Swift, Filippo Ganna and Tobias Foss – the latter two likely planning to take advantage of the two individual time trials.

Sprinters

The Giro is always an exciting race for sprinters, and it looks like this year will give us some spectacular sprinting action. Olav Kooij (Visma Lease-a-Bike) is one of the main favourites, and this will be the first Grand Tour of his career. Initially, the plan was for his team to bring Wout Van Aert to act as his ‘last man’ in their leadout train – a strategy that we have seen work perfectly four times in a row in the 2023 Tour of Britain, and again this year in the Clasica de Almeria – but unfortunately, due to Van Aert sustaining relatively serious injuries earlier this year in Dwars Door Vlaanderen, he had to drop out. It has been announced that Christophe Laporte will join the team in his place, and it is expected that he will fulfil Van Aert’s role as one of the sprint leadout riders – alongside Edoardo Affini – and potentially attempt to win a few stages himself too.

Kooij’s main competition is likely to be Tim Merlier (Soudal Quick-Step), who has already won seven races this year and appears to be in the form of his life. Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty), who has already won a stage in the Giro, will also be present and likely contest the sprints. As will Fabio Jakobsen (DSM-Firmenich Post NL), who very recently won a stage in the Tour of Turkey, and has already won multiple stages in La Vuelta a España and a stage in the Tour de France.

Finally, we may also see top performances from the likes of Jonathan Milan (Lidl-Trek) – who recently won two stages in Tirreno-Adriatico – and Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck), who has already won a stage in the Giro d’Italia, as well as multiple stages in the Vuelta a España. Sam Welsford (Bora-Hansgrohe) will also be there, assisted by his main leadout rider, Danny Van Poppel, as will Caleb Ewan (Jayco-AlUla).

King of the Mountains Classification

It is expected that Pogačar will be a clear contender to win the King of the Mountains classification given his climbing ability, and he has already shown that he is more than capable of winning this classification in the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya earlier this year. However, he might face competition from Bardet, who has already won the classification at the Tour de France.

Additionally, there are many other good climbers on the startlist, such as Daniel Martínez (Bora-Hansgrohe) – who won the mountains classification at the Volta ao Algarve this year – Esteban Chaves (EF Education-Easypost), Koen Bouwman (Visma Lease-a-Bike) – who has already won this classification at the Giro d’Italia – Valter, Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious), Mauri Vansevenant (Soudal Quick-Step), and Majka – Pogačar’s own teammate. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) has also announced his ambitions to target the mountain stages.

Additional riders to watch

Finally, there are a few more riders that are expected to perform well, especially in the individual stages.

Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal Quick-Step) is on the startlist, and whilst he is yet to win a race this season, he has initiated a number of attacks and made things interesting in many of the races that he has participated in so far. Additionally, he was hampered by a fractured knee injury during this time, caused by a fall in Strade Bianche. Hopefully he has made a full recovery, and will be able to go 'full gas' in his debut Giro d’Italia.

Laurence Pithie will also be there, and after his impressive season so far – winning the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, and performing well at Paris-Roubaix, Milano-Sanremo, and Paris-Nice – it is expected that he too could do great things.

The Giro d’Italia begins on 04/05/2024 in Venaria Reale, and lasts until the final stage in Rome on 26/05/2024.

Written by: Alicia Moyo

Preview of the week – Last test before Giro in Romandie, potential history-writing for Monaco and Mexico, and we await the Vuelta Femenina

Monday

Tour of Turkiye (Stage 2)

The 59th Presidential Cycling Tour of Turkiye looks like heaven for the fans of massive sprints. Indeed, of the 8 stages that this race presents, at least 5 should finish with a massive peloton for the win. However, the climb of Manisa on the 6th stage should be the decider for the general classification. Among the riders on the startlist, there are only a few climbers so the race should be quite open. Jefferson Alveiro Cepeda (Caja Rural), Paul Double (Polti-Kometa) and Victor Langelotti (Burgos-BH) could be cited as the main favourites to bring the leader's jersey home. Last year, the race took place on October after the terrible earthquake that happened in Turkiye. The Kazakhstan champion, Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Qazaqstan) won the general classification ahead of Ben Zwiehoff (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Harold Tejada (Astana Qazaqstan).

The Tour of Turkiye 2024 started on Sunday. Fabio Jakobsen (dsm-firmenich) won the first stage ahead of Sasha Weemaes (Bingoal WB) and Simon Dehairs (Alpecin-Deceuninck).

The second stage could suit the sprinters but it is quite unlikely that we will see a grouped peloton arriving for the win in Kas. Indeed, some climbs including a 12km long are placed on the route. In addition, the final kilometre is hilly and could suit a puncheur. Nevertheless, the main sprinters, Fabio Jakobsen (dsm-firmenich), Sam Welsford (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Mark Cavendish (Astana Qazaqstan) have great teams around them and they won’t want to let a potential victory escape.

Tuesday

Tour de Romandie (Prologue)

The Tour de Romandie 2024 is used for some as the last test before the Giro whereas for others it is just part of a longer plan before the Tour de France. This place in the calendar allows us to see big battles on the steep Swiss roads. Without any of the “fantastics”, the race should be open and pleasant to watch for the viewers. Last year, Adam Yates (UAE Team Emirates) won the general classification ahead of Matteo Jorgenson (then Movistar now Visma-Lease a Bike) and Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Victorious).

This year, the defending champion will try to bring home a second Tour de Romandie in a row but the task will not be easy. To win the Tour de Romandie, you need to be, of course, a very good climber, but also a very good time trialist. Adam Yates being a strong time trialist looks good for the objective of retaining his title but, when the climbs begin, he will have to face some World class climbers including his brother Simon (Jayco AlUla), Richard Carapaz (EF Education-EasyPost), Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe), Tao Geoghegan Hart (Lidl-Trek) and Lenny Martinez (Groupama-FDJ). The adversity for the Brit will also be within his own team, with the presence of Juan Ayuso, who is also a serious contender for the final win.

As usual, the Tour de Romandie starts with a prologue. This year, it is even shorter than in 2023 with only 2.3 kilometres to race for the riders. In this kind of exercise, the riders who will want the first leader jersey will need to be very well warmed up. It is hard to sort out favourites for a unusual type of route like this one but Josef Cerny (Soudal-Quick Step), already winner of the prologue last year, Ethan Hayter (INEOS Grenadiers) and Rémi Cavagna (Movistar) shouldn’t be far of the podium at the end.

Tour of Turkiye (Stage 3)

Just as on the previous day, this third stage of the Tour of Turkiye 2024 could be tricky for the sprinters. Indeed, a climb of 1.3km at 7.3% average gradient, whose summit is only 12 kilometres from the finish line could permit accelerations in the peloton, creating difficulty for the fastest riders and their teammates. Nevertheless, a short stage of less than 150 kilometres is an advantage for the sprinters, who will hope having a chance to win in Marmaris.

Wednesday

Tour de Romandie (Stage 1)

The first stage of the Tour de Romandie 2024 should not be the one where the general classification will be decided, though there are more than 2600m of ascent, but the constant ups and downs never last more than 4 kilometres. The final climb’s top being 16 kilometres from the finish line, some fast men could hang on and go sprinting for the win in Fribourg. Among them, Maikel Zijlaard (Tudor), Simone Consonni (Lidl-Trek) and Alex Aranburu (Movistar) are the most likely raise their arms in case of a bunch sprint. However, the last climb could also benefit some good puncheurs not too dangerous for the final general classification like Andreas Kron (Lotto-Dstny) and Dorian Godon (Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale).

Tour of Turkiye (Stage 4)

This stage presents approximately the same profile that the third. Indeed, some serious vertical meters to climb (2500m) but an almost flat finish that could suit the sprinters. This day could also be the good one for a breakaway, benefitting from the slow rhythm in the peloton during the different climbs.

Thursday

Tour de Romandie (Stage 2)

The first summit arrival of this year Tour de Romandie will take place on the climb of Salvan-Les Marecottes (7.6km at 7.5%). The peloton will first have to climb Les Mosses (12.8km, 4.2%) before presenting at the foot of the last climb. This ascent not being very long and coming after only one difficulty, there should not be too many big gaps between the favourites for the general classification. Nevertheless, it will be a way to see the form of the riders aiming for the final victory here. The Tour de Romandie can not be won on the slopes of Salvan but it can be lost.

Tour of Turkiye (Stage 5)

This one will not see a massive peloton arriving for the win. Indeed, with non-stop ups and downs in the last 20 kilometres, including a climb of 1.5km at 8.4%, the riders at ease on such slopes should take an advantage over the sprinters. This stage taking place just before the queen stage, it could be a way for riders doubting of their capacity in long climbs to take a little bit of an advantage over their rivals.

Friday

Tour de Romandie (Stage 3)

Already the second ITT of this week in Switzerland, but this time in a longer format. Indeed, the riders will have to ride 15.5 kilometres around the city of Oron, including a climb of almost 2km at 6.5% of average gradient. This time trial is suited for good climbers, and big differences could be made between the favourites still in the race for the general classification.

Tour of Turkiye (Stage 6)

The queen stage of this week in Turkiye, an arrival at the top of Manisa, a climb of 14 kilometres with 7% of average gradient. The best climbers should make the difference, for the stage win but also for the general classification. Among them, Victor Langelotti (Burgos-BH) could write history. Indeed, the rider from Monaco is a candidate for the overall win and he could become the first Monegasque to do so. He of course faces many rivals but Burgos-BH’s rider showed his great form last week in Eastern France and could be create a story for the history books.

Vuelta Asturias (Stage 1)

Another race, another hilly route. In the Asturias, a region located in Northern Spain, it is the climbers who should come out on top. Reduced of a stage compared to last year, and the victory of Lorenzo Fortunato (then EOLO-Kometa now Astana Qazaqstan), this race could be really nice to watch, with some great climbs on the road.

On the startlist, two World Tour teams are expected with Movistar and UAE Team Emirates. While we don’t yet know the line-up of the former, we know the presence of the young Mexican Isaac Del Toro for the latter. The young rider, impressive since the start of the season is the number one favourite for the general classification. He could then become the first of his country to win a stage race, writing history. Del Toro should bring with him some really good riders with the experienced Rafal Majka, the young Igor Arrieta and the tireless Antonio Morgado. Even if some good climbers from other teams are announced such as Jordan Jegat (TotalEnergies), Fernando Barcelo (Caja Rural) and Mikel Bizkarra (Euskaltel-Euskadi), it will be very hard for them to beat the UAE Team Emirates’s riders.

The first stage is probably the hardest, with an arrival right after the descent of the Alto de Cordal (8.3km, 5.8%), where the difference should be made. This climb is not the only one on the road and let’s hope that no one will be sick at the start, because he will spend a very hard day.

Saturday

Tour of Romandie (Stage 4)

The fourth stage is probably the queen stage of this week in Switzerland. Indeed, even if the last climb of Leysin is not very steep (6%), it is long (13.8km) and it takes place after some hard difficulties. The climbers who lost some time on the time trial of the day prior will need to attack far from the top if they want to have a chance to turn the tables. It’s a shame that the very hard climb of Ovronnaz (9km, 9.5%) is very far from the finish line because it could have been a very good ramp for riders wanting to anticipate and to create chaos.

Tour of Turkiye (Stage 7)

The few difficulties taking place on the route of this 7th stage are all in the first half of the race. With 50 completely flat kilometres to end the stage before the finish line in Izmir, it is hard to expect something different than a bunch sprint for the win, where the sprinters who fought the day prior the hillier stages could have a chance to raise their arms.

Vuelta a Asturias (Stage 2)

At the opposite of the first stage, the second and last one of the two-day Vuelta a Asturias is unlikely to see a solo man arriving for the win in Ribadesella. Indeed, the finish line is placed after more than 40 kilometres of flat so it could be risky for a rider to isolate himself. However, with the amount of very steep climbs before, we could witness a very tactical end of the race, that could be deciding for the general classification.

Sunday

Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta (Stage 1)

The main favourites for the first Grand Tour of the season will be more developed in the preview of next week, as it is when the main of the action will take place.

The first stage is, like last year, an all flat TTT where the first differences in the general classification will be made. Last year, Team Jumbo Visma (now Visma-Lease a Bike) came on top only one second ahead of Canyon//SRAM Racing. This victory allowed Anna Henderson to take the first red jersey of the race. This time, the 16 kilometres on the roads of Valencia could already make some differences, in a race that can be tight at the end.

Tour de Romandie (Stage 5)

The final stage of the 77th Tour de Romandie should not be the one where the general classification can be changed. Indeed, even if the circuit around Vernier presents some little climbs (Dardagny: 1.5km, 4.3%), they are not steep enough to make differences among the GC contenders. It could be the opportunity for the sprinters who survived the past days in altitude to compete for the win but a breakaway could also have its chance on a stage not very long and not all flat.

Tour of Turkiye (Stage 8)

The eighth and final stage of this Tour of Turkiye is really short, with only a little more than 100 kilometres to ride. However, despite a flat profile, the last 600 meters being at 6% of average gradient could provide the sprinters from winning in Istanbul. The general classification shouldn’t be changed but it could be the opportunity for some good puncheurs who did not have the chance of shining yet to win. In such a short race, the team of leaders will also have to control the breakaway if they want to end their week with a win.

Written by: Rémi Massart

23/04/2024

Recap of the week – Impressive Juan Pedro Lopez in the Alps

Tour of the Alps

Juan Pedro Lopez (Lidl-Trek) was the strongest on the Alpine roads and won his first pro win along with his first general classification. The Spanish rider was the strongest in the race and proved to the world that he will be a serious underdog for the Giro d'Italia.

Stage 1

Tobias Foss (INEOS Grenadiers) won for the first time since joining his new team and took the first leader's jersey of the race.

The last climb, Pennone, allowed to the best climbers of the race to make the first difference over the rest of the peloton. Indeed, with 8 kilometres to go, a group of 11 riders escaped from the pack. 5 kilometres from the finish line, Chris Harper (Jayco AlUla) attacked with 3 riders on his wheel: Tobias Foss, Esteban Chaves (EF Education EasyPost) and Ben O’Connor (Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale). These four riders managed to keep a gap of only three seconds in Cortina and Foss won the sprint ahead of Harper and Chaves. The former time trial World Champion also took the leader jersey.

Stage 2

Alessandro De Marchi (Jayco AlUla) concluded a beautiful breakaway with an 18 solo raid to take the first win of his season.

The Italian veteran took the morning breakaway of the day along with Simon Pellaud (Tudor), Yuma Koishi (JCL Ukyo) and Lukas Postlberger (riding for team Austria). With a little more than 30 kilometres remaining, Patrick Gamper (Bora-Hansgrohe) accelerated in the peloton, at the exact time when his compatriot Postlberger was caught. The Austrian rider managed to come back on the duo De Marchi/Pellaud but was dropped with the Swiss rider when De Marchi attacked on the last climb. The rider from Bora managed to finish in second place, ahead of Pellaud and 20 seconds ahead of the peloton, where Tobias Foss kept his leader's jersey.

Stage 3:

Juan Pedro Lopez took the first win of his professional career after a splendid performance in the last climbs.

It was a grouped peloton that arrived in the final circuit for the win in Schwaz. The first to accelerate was Romain Bardet (Team dsm-firmenich PostNL), who profited from really good work of his teammate Gijs Leemreize. The Frenchman was not able to make a big difference and was countered by two riders: Giulio Pelizzari (VF Group-Bardiani) and Juan Pedro Lopez (Lidl-Trek). This duo opened the road for a long time, taking advantage of the observation between the main favourites.

The multiple accelerations of Tobias Foss, Romain Bardet and Wout Poels (Bahrain-Victorious) resulted in nothing and, when Lopez attacked Pelizzari with 6 kilometres to go, he was never caught again. It was the first win of the professional career of the Spanish rider, who also took the leader jersey from Foss. The Norwegian finished in the group of favourites, 38 seconds behind the winner. In this group, big names were missing such as Chris Harper and Geraint Thomas (INEOS Grenadiers), who both lost more than two minutes.

Stage 4

An amazing 45 kilometres solo raid saw Simon Carr (EF Education-EasyPost) take his second win of the season.

The morning breakaway was a lot larger than the days before. Indeed, this stage was the one with the most ascent so good climbers who already lost some time on the general classification took their chance and escaped from the peloton. Among them, some very interesting names such as Sergio Higuita (Bora-Hansgrohe), Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost) and Davide Piganzoli (Polti-Kometa). These riders, along with the 8 others who opened the race, knew that they had to have a good gap to provide the return of the favourites for the GC. That’s why Higuita and Carr isolated themselves with 60 kilometres to go.

15 kilometres later, as the rain started to pour on the riders, the Colombian couldn’t follow the rhythm of the EF’s riders and he had to let him go. Behind him, the favourites attacked themselves constantly and it was Chris Harper who succeeded in escaping on a descent. Unfortunately, the Australian rider crashed and hit a pole. He had to quit the race but didn’t suffer from any fractures. The big crash of Harper, along with the one of Ben O’Connor (Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale) calmed the favourites and Carr was able to win solo. Behind him, an Australian duo composed of Michael Storer (Tudor Pro Cycling) and O’Connor completed the podium of the stage. Juan Pedro Lopez was still in the lead of the general classification after this queen stage, ahead of O’Connor.

Stage 5:

Aurélien Paret-Peintre (Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale) came on top of the favourites group and took the win in Levico Terme.

This fifth and final stage of the Tour of the Alps was the last chance for the riders wanting the GC win to overcome Juan Pedro Lopez. However, the Spaniard demonstrated that he was the strongest in the race and brought the leader's jersey home.

The finale of this stage was very intense with 14 riders attacking one after another with the objective of going for the win solo. However, not one of them was successful and the group disputed the victory in a sprint. In this exercise, Aurélien Paret-Peintre showed his speed and took his first win of the season. It was a very good day for the Paret-Peintre’s family younger brother Valentin finished third, just behind Antonio Tiberi (Bahrain-Victorious). The bonifications taken in the finish allowed him to finish 4th in the general classification, just ahead of Bardet. The top 3 did not change and O’Connor and Tiberi were the ones on the final podium with Lopez. The points jersey was brought home by Foss, winner of the first stage, the KOM jersey was for Carr and the youth jersey for Tiberi, whose team Bahrain-Victorious won the team prize.

Giro della Romagna

Antonio Morgado (UAE Team Emirates) was the main favourite for the 87th Giro della Romagna and he did not hide. The Portuguese rider won his first professional win and, given the talent shown since the beginning of the year, it is surely not the last.

The UAE Team Emirates riders were seen as the favourites on the Italian roads and they took the race in hand. They caught the morning breakaway before attacking with one Morgado, who escaped with 6 other riders. Behind, Morgado’s teammates Isaac Del Toro and Igor Arrieta controlled perfectly the race, making sure that the peloton could never come back at the front of the race. Morgado concluded the race perfectly for UAE Team Emirates by winning the sprint ahead of Joan Bou (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Mattia Bais (Polti-Kometa).

Written by Rémi Massart

22/04/2024

Race Report – Pogačar rides solo to victory and Grace Brown wins a reduced sprint after a day in the breakaway at Liège-Bastogne-Liège

Men’s Race

Tadej Pogačar won his sixth monument at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, after attacking solo with 35km to go, and with a gap of almost two minutes.

Once the race began, four riders attempted to get away almost immediately: Lilian Calmejane (Intermarché-Wanty), Rémy Rochas (Groupama-FDJ), Gil Gelders (Soudal Quick-Step) and Paul Ourselin (DSM-Firmenich PostNL). They were then joined by a group of five – Christian Scaroni (Astana-Qazaqstan), Loic Vliegen (Bingoal WB), Iván Romeo (Movistar), Fabian Doubey and Enzo Leijnse (both TotalEnergies) – and Danny Van der Tuuk (Equipo Kern Pharma) also attempted to join, but was unsuccessful. They rode together out in front until the Côte de Mont-le-Soie, when a few of the breakaway riders dropped back, leaving Scaroni, Gelders, Rochas, Doubey and Ourselin at the front.

The peloton began working to close the gap, but after a crash held up the riders that were towards the back of the peloton, the peloton split in two. The rest of the breakaway was eventually caught by the front half of the peloton on the Côte de Wanne, but the latter half of the peloton was still stuck over a minute behind. With 79km to go, Tom Pidcock (INEOS Grenadiers) – who was in this latter half – decided to attack from the second group to bridge across to the front group, and only a small group of riders could follow. Notably, the World Champion, Mathieu Van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) failed to join this move, raising doubts about his chances in the race. Pidcock’s group caught up with around 73km to go, and – with some help from a team car – the rest of the peloton including Van der Poel, finally latched back on.

The race was uneventful for the following 40km, but the fast pace of the peloton resulted in many riders dropping back. Then, with 35km to go, Pogačar attacked, and only Carapaz could follow. This didn’t last long, however, as Carapaz quickly fell back, leaving Pogačar solo. Carapaz joined a relatively large chasing group, including Egan Bernal (INEOS Grenadiers), Ben Healy (EF Education-Easypost) and Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-Victorious), as well as some of Pogačar’s teammates. The World Champion was dropped once again, and sat within the group at the back of the race.

With 29km to go, Healy attacked from the second group, but this was quickly closed down. He attacked again, however, followed by Romain Bardet (DSM-Firmenich PostNL). Those two were then pursued, and later joined, by Romain Grégoire (Groupama-FDJ) and Benoit Cosnefroy (Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale). With 13km to go, Bardet decided to attack from this group, leaving the others to be caught by another small chasing group behind, and eventually, the group at the back including Van der Poel made it back to join this chasing group too.

Meanwhile, Pogačar had been extending his lead, and won with a gap of almost two minutes. Bardet held his lead ahead of the main chasing group behind, and crossed the line in second. The rest then came into the final kilometres in a bunch, and Van der Poel just managed to position himself well enough to cross the line in third. Maxim Van Gils (Lotto-Dstny), Aurélien Paret-Peintre (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale), Mauri Vansevenant (Soudal Quick-Step), Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ), Alexey Lutesenko (Astana Qazaqstan), Bilbao and Pidcock, rounded out the top ten.

Women’s Race

Grace Brown (FDJ-SUEZ) won Liège-Bastogne-Liège in a reduced-bunch sprint, ahead of Elisa Longo Borghini (Lidl-Trek), and Demi Vollering (SDWorx-Protime).

At the beginning of the race, the first successful attack from the peloton came from Sarah Gigante (AG Insurance-Soudal), and she was able to create a gap of around a minute. Anne Knijnenburg (Volkerwessels) then attacked to try to bridge the gap to Gigante, but after a while, she was caught by the peloton. Stina Kagevi (Coop-Repsol) was the next rider to try to get across, and inside the final 100km, Kim Cadzow (EF Education-Cannondale) and Sara Martin (Movistar) attempted to follow and chase her down. They eventually caught her on the Côte de Mont-le-Soie, and the three continued in pursuit of Gigante.

On the Côte de Wanne, Kagevi dropped back from the group, and was eventually caught by the peloton, and Martin and Cadzow were also caught a short while later, on the Côte de la Haute-Levée. Meanwhile, Gigante was still out in front.

With around 75km to go, Elise Chabbey (CANYON-SRAM) attacked from the peloton, however she was caught by a small chasing group including Brown, Cadzow, Mischa Bredewold (SDWorx-Protime), Lucinda Brand (Lidl-Trek), Eva Van Agt (Visma Lease-a-Bike), Mikayla Harvey (UAE Team ADQ) and Flora Perkins (Fenix-Deceuninck). This group then managed to catch Gigante on the Col du Rosier, whilst Julie Bego (Cofidis) was the next rider to attack off the front of the peloton, in pursuit of this group in front.

The front group reached the Côte de la Redoute, and Harvey and Van Agt quickly dropped back. Chabbey began to drive the pace on the front, causing a few more to drop, and eventually, only Chabbey, Cadzow and Brown remained in front. Meanwhile, the peloton began to separate as SDWorx-Protime worked hard to keep the pace high. With 25km to go, Gigante and Perkins left Brand, Van Agt and Bredewold behind, to try to bridge across to the front three, and Bego was caught by the peloton after her long solo effort, with 23km to go.

Then, with 13km to go, Longo Borghini attacked in pursuit of the trio in front, but Vollering immediately followed, along with Kasia Niewiadoma (CANYON-SRAM). Longo Borghini managed to catch the front group with 9km to go, and almost immediately attacked off the front, followed by Chabbey and Brown. Vollering and Niewiadoma then caught Cadzow, and this new group of three carried on in pursuit of Longo Borghini’s front group. Vollering worked hard to get back on, and with 5km to go, she and Niewiadoma finally made it across. Cadzow and Brown dropped back, but quickly recovered to bring the group of six altogether at the front.

Then Chabbey attacked, followed by Niewiadoma, in a series of 1-2 attacks to attempt to tire out the other riders. Niewiadoma came past the flamme rouge in first, but wasn’t able to hold her lead for long, as Longo Borghini was in her wheel. Niewiadoma was the first to launch her sprint, but Brown came around the outside of the front two to cross the line in first, followed by Longo Borghini. Vollering managed to launch a long sprint from towards the back of the group to grab third place, and Chabbey, Niewiadoma, Cadzow, Marianne Vos (Visma Lease-a-Bike) Juliette Labous (DSM-Firmenich PostNL), Ricarda Bauernfeind (CANYON-SRAM) and Niamh Fisher-Black (SDWorx-Protime), rounded out the top ten.

Written by: Alicia Moyo

21/04/2024

Race report – Williams and Niewadoma tame the weather and the Mur de Huy

Men’s Race

Apocalyptic. It is surely the best word to describe the men’s edition of the Flèche Wallonne. 175 riders at the start in Charleroi, only 44 at the finish at the summit of the Mur de Huy, almost 200 kilometres later. When the riders started this morning, the thermometer read 5 degrees. In addition, they had to face the rain, the wind, and even the hail causing some incredible scenes of riders having to stop, due to hypothermia. With these horrendous conditions, only a warrior could come out on top. Stephen Williams (Israel-Premier Tech) was undeniably the best of all warriors today and his win is fully deserved.

The morning breakaway escaped almost immediately after the official start, under a sunny sky. It was composed of seven men: Lilian Calmejane (Intermarché-Wanty), Alan Jousseaume (TotalEnergies), James Whelan (Q36.5), Txomin Juaristi (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Igor Chzhan (Astana-Qazaqstan) and Johan Meens (Bingoal WB). They had approximately 3 minutes of advantage when the rain started to pour down heavily and UAE Team Emirates decided to pull in the peloton. The first passage in Mur de Huy saw the poor Jousseaume having to let his companions go, due to the cold that saw him completely seize up.

The French rider was only the first victim of the horrific rain. Indeed, with 75 kilometres to go, some big outsiders were surprisingly incapable of following the rhythm of the peloton. Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-Victorious), Dylan Teuns (Israel-Premier Tech), Andrea Bagioli (Lidl-Trek) and David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) lost the race just as the last survivors of the morning breakaway were caught. 10 kilometres later, the peloton, led by the riders of Groupama-FDJ climbed the Mur de Huy for the second time. The hail pouring down on the poor riders marked the end of the race for Mauri Vansevenant (Soudal-Quick Step), Marc Hirschi (UAE Team Emirates), Mattias Skjelmose (Lidl-Trek) and Tom Pidcock (INEOS Grenadiers), among many others. At the top of Huy, Alpecin-Deceuninck’s Soren Kragh Andersen took advantage of the confusion of what remained of the peloton and attacked. The Danish rider went on an amazing solo raid, having at some point 1’20” of advantage over the group of favourites.

The third ascent of the Mur allowed to a group of 5 riders to escape behind the man in lead. Stephen Williams, Kévin Vauquelin (Arkéa-B&B Hotels), Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain-Victorious), Richard Carapaz (EF Education-EasyPost) and Maxim Van Gils (Lotto-Dstny) were hoping to fight for victory but behind them, Uno X-Mobility had some strength in reserve and their amazing collective resulted in a general grouping on the Côte d’Ereffe. With no more breakaway at the front, the Scandinavian team tried to anticipate with the attacks of Andreas Leknessund and Tobias Johannessen but it was vain because of the great attention of Tim Van Dijke (Visma-Lease a Bike).

It was a packed group of around 30 riders who arrived on the slopes of Huy for a final time. Bruno Armirail was the first to enter the terrible climb, working for his leader Benoît Cosnefroy (Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale). The favourites were marking each other when Stephen Williams came from behind and surprised everyone. The attack from the British rider was sharp and no one was able to follow his wheel. Behind, Vauquelin took a long time to react and wasn’t able to exceed the winner of Tour Down Under in the final metres. Behind this duo, Van Gils managed to overtake Cosnefroy and Buitrago to take the last place on the podium. Johannessen, Romain Grégoire (Groupama-FDJ), Dorian Godon (Décathlon-AG2R La Mondiale), Tiesj Benoot (Visma-Lease a Bike) and Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) completed the top 10.

Women’s Race

Finally, after almost 5 years of waiting, Katarzyna Niewadoma (Canyon//SRAM Racing) returned to winning ways in the Flèche Wallonne. A perfectly managed final climb allowed the Polish rider to raise her arms for the first time since the Tour of Britain 2019.

Having to start in the afternoon was a real advantage for the riders of this 27th Flèche Wallonne Femmes. Indeed, even if they had to endure the capricious Belgian weather in the first part of the race, it had stopped raining when the riders entered the second half of the race. This led to a quite calm race until the last climbs with a breakaway of three riders who escaped in the first kilometres. Sara Martin (Movistar), Julie Van de Velde (AG Insurance-Soudal) and Elena Hartmann (Roland) opened the road for the majority of the day.

The first attacks in the peloton happened 40 kilometres from the finish line, with Grace Brown (FDJ-Suez) and Pauliena Rooijakkers (Fenix-Deceuninck) anticipating the first ascent of the Mur de Huy. Among the favourites, no movement was made on the Mur but the World Champion Lotte Kopecky tried to accelerate the pace at the summit. The SD Worx-Protime’s rider was immediately followed by Elisa Longo Borghini (Lidl-Trek) and she didn’t persist. With 16 kilometres to go, all the escapees were caught and some riders tried to trick the strongest riders. Katarzyna Niewadoma along with Riejanne Markus (Visma-Lease a Bike) had a small gap but the main favourite Demi Vollering (SD-Worx-Protime) closed the gap and once again it was Rooijakkers who went on a solo raid.

At the moment when the Dutch rider came back on the opening group, Vollering’s teammate Niamh Fisher-Black crashed, preventing her from helping her leader in the last kilometres. As soon as Rooijakkers was caught, Elise Chabbey attacked for Canyon//SRAM but she was countered by Riejanne Markus, who escaped solo and presented herself under the flamme rouge with 15 seconds of advantage over the peloton. During the climb, reigning champion Demi Vollering set the pace, eliminating riders one by one, but she was not able to follow the attack of Niewiadoma 200m from the line.

The Polish rider won one of the biggest victories of her career, the first one since 2019, rewarding her good start of the season. Behind her, Vollering and Longo Borghini finished on the podium, just ahead of Evita Muzic (FDJ-Suez) and Ashleigh Moolman (AG Insurance-Soudal). An impressive race from Pauliena Rooijakkers led her to 6th place while Juliette Labous (dsm-firmenich), Fem Van Empel (Visma-Lease a Bike), Marta Cavalli (FDJ-Suez) and Ane Santesteban (Laboral Kutxa-Fondacion Euskadi) rounded out the top 10.

Preview of the week – Mountains in Italy and hills in Belgium

Monday

Tour of the Alps (Stage 1)

Traditionally, the Tour of the Alps is one of the main races of preparation for the Giro. Five stages across the Italian Alps and more than 14,000 metres of positive ascent, this race is promised to the climbers, to riders who will compete for the maglia rosa in May. Last year, former Giro d’Italia winner, Tao Geoghegan Hart (former INEOS Grenadiers, now Lidl-Trek) won the general classification ahead of Hugh Carthy (EF Education EasyPost) and Jack Haig (Bahrain-Victorious). This race is one of the hardest and maybe the most prestigious outside of World Tour, with big names among its former winners. This year, the start list is not as impressive as it was last year but there are still some very good climbers such as the former Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas (INEOS Grenadiers) but also Romain Bardet (dsm-firmenich), Ben O’Connor (Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale) and Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost).

The first stage of this Tour of the Alps only has three difficulties but it’s unlikely that we will see a bunch sprint in Cortina. Indeed, the riders will begin with a very long climb, the Andalo (15.5km, 5.1%). After that, they will enter the final circuit with the Penone (4.4km, 9.4%) to climb twice. This climb is not very long but its very steep slopes could be the theatre of attacks from the best climbers. After the descent of this climb, the riders will have to ride 13 flat kilometres to reach the finish line, which could lead to an unpredictable finale.

Tuesday

Tour of the Alps (Stage 2)

The second stage of this Tour of the Alps presents a very hilly route, with very few flat roads. The race will be exhausting for the riders and the last difficulty, the Ghadenwald should be the decider. This climb is not as long as some others in the Alps (4.6km) but it’s quite steep with 7.4% of positive gradient. This climb happening after more than 170km of racing could see some favourites for the general classification lose time, even if the summit is placed 16 kilometres from the finish line.

Wednesday

La Flèche Wallonne Féminine

The 27th Flèche Wallonne Féminine will take place on Wednesday, opening the Ardennes classic in Belgium. 146 kilometres around Huy and the traditional finish at the summit of the Mur de Huy will decide the successor of Demi Vollering (SD Worx-Protime), who won her first Flèche Wallonne ahead of Liane Lippert (Movistar) and Gaia Realini (Lidl-Trek) in 2023.

This year, the title holder will be here to try to make the double. Her main rivals should be the riders from Lidl-Trek with Gaia Realini but also the Italian champion Elisa Longo Borghini. However they are not alone with riders such as Juliette Labous (dsm-firmenich), Katarzyna Niewadoma (Canyon//SRAM Racing) and former winner Marta Cavalli (FDJ-Suez) who should also be one’s to watch on the Belgian roads.

La Flèche Wallonne

Like the women’s race, the Flèche Wallonne men’s edition will finish, as usual, on the slopes of the Mur de Huy. Even if there are some difficulties to climb during the 195 kilometres of the race, the decision should, as it is every year, be made on the Mur de Huy, 1.3 kilometres at around 10% of average gradient, Last year, Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) won the race ahead of Mattias Skjelmose (Lidl-Trek) and Mikel Landa (former Bahrain-Victorious now Soudal-Quick Step). This year, Pogačar is not here, neither is Van der Poel, and it could be the chance for several riders to take their first Flèche Wallonne. Indeed, only two former winners will be at the start in Charleroi on Wednesday, Marc Hirschi (UAE Team Emirates) and Dylan Teuns (Israel-Premier Tech).

It is a very open race so it is very hard to sort out one or two main favourites. Mattias Skjelmose, second last year, will want to upgrade this result but he will have to face Tom Pidcock (INEOS Grenadiers) who is in very good shape as demonstrated by his win on Amstel Gold Race. Tiesj Benoot (Visma-Lease a Bike), Maxim Van Gils (Lotto-Dstny), Benoît Cosnefroy (Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale) and Romain Grégoire (Groupama-FDJ) are also riders capable of winning on the slopes of the Mur de Huy.

Tour of the Alps (Stage 3)

The third stage of the Tour of the Alps takes place around the Austrian city of Schwaz. The first half of the race is approximately flat but it’s 38 kilometres from the finish line that things should start to be interesting. Indeed, the riders will have to climb twice the Weerberg (3.2km, 9.5%) and the Pillberg (3.2km, 9.9%). These two difficulties are not long but they are extremely steep and hard with horrendous percentages. The best climbers should be able to make great differences here, before the queen stage on Thursday. The finish line being after a descent, some riders at ease with this exercise such as Romain Bardet could also make a difference or close a gap here.

Thursday

Tour of the Alps (Stage 4)

The queen stage of the 47th Tour of the Alps should be very interesting to watch on Thursday. Only 141 kilometres to ride but more than 4200m of ascent to climb for the riders. They will start the day on the Passo di San Lugano (15.2km, 5.3%) where the climbers who lost some time in the general classification should form a breakaway. After that, a little bit of valley before passing by the very steep Sveseri (2.9km, 9.2%) and Passo del Redebus (4.5km, 8.9%). After the descent, the two main climbs of the day will follow one another with the Passo del Compet (10.2km, 8.1%) and the Passo del Vetriolo (9.3km, 8.7%) at the top of which the peloton should be reduced to only the leaders. The long descent that will follow will lead the riders to the final difficulty of the day: Colle de San Marco (5.3km, 7.1%) where the decision between the best riders of the day should be made.

Friday

Tour of the Alps (Stage 5)

The final stage of the Tour of the Alps 2024 is also the shortest, with only 118 kilometres to ride around Levico Terme. Despite this stage being very short, it is also very hard with the Palu del Fersina (12.5km, 6.1%) to climb twice. This last day in the Italian Alps is definitely not the hardest but it could make the difference if the gaps in the general classification are small.

Sunday

Liège-Bastogne-Liège

Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the doyenne of classics, the fourth Monument of the season, the race to conclude the classics season. The first edition was held in 1892, 11 years before the first Tour de France and ever since, it has a particular place in the hearts of all cycling fans. 254 kilometres, more than 4000 metres of positive ascent, some well-known hills such as Côte de la Redoute and Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons. The rider who raises his arms in Liège is often the strongest, due to the hardness of this race. The first half of the race should be quite calm, excepted from the battle for the breakaway. The race will really start with 80 kilometres to go, on the Côte de Wanne. From then, the route will be a succession of ups and downs, never stopping. The hills on the road of LBL never exceed 3 kilometres but they are very steep and you have to be a really good puncheur to dream of a win on the streets of Liege.

Last year, Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-Quick Step) did an incredible show going solo with 30 kilometres remaining and never being seen again. The Belgian rider will not be able to defend his title this year due to his crash on the roads of the Basque Country but his fellow companions on the podium Tom Pidcock (INEOS Grenadiers) and Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain-Victorious) will have to face a great adversity. Indeed, the World Champion Mathieu Van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck), already winner of two Monuments this season, and Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), the 2021 winner, will aim to succeed the Belgian. Despite some other very good puncheurs such as Mattias Skjelmose (Lidl-Trek), Tiesj Benoot (Visma-Lease a Bike) and Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost) being on the start list, it seems very hard to beat the two previously mentioned, so great is their dominance.

Liege-Bastogne-Liege Femmes

As with the men, Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes will conclude the season of the classics 2024 in women’s peloton. This race, whose first edition took place in 2017, has seen 6 Dutch winners in 7 editions. The most recent one is the title holder, the national champion Demi Vollering (SD Worx-Protime) who won the two-woman sprint against Elisa Longo Borghini (Lidl-Trek) to win her second LBL. This year, the reigning champion will try to keep her title and raise her arms once again after the 153 kilometres between Bastogne and Liège. The Italian champion and last year's second place Elisa Longo Borghini is also one of the favourites, even more after her win on De Brabantse Pijl. The World Champion Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx-Protime) will participate for the first time and could be an additional weapon for her team. Silvia Persico (UAE Team ADQ) and Katarzyna Niewadoma (Canyon//SRAM Racing) can also be named among the biggest outsiders.

Written by: Rémi Massart

15/04/2024

Recap of the week – Lutsenko wins in Abruzzo, impressive weekend for Groupama-FDJ

Giro d’Abruzzo

Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Qazaqstan) managed the race perfectly and took the GC win ahead of Pavel Sivakov (UAE Team Emirates) and George Bennett (Israel-Premier Tech).

Stage 1

Enrico Zanoncello (VF Group-Bardiani) dominated a bunch sprint to take the first European win of his career in Pescara.

The first stage of these four days in central Italy was the flattest and the only one to finish in a bunch sprint. Nevertheless, there were some difficulties for the riders to overcome which cost some of the favourites their place in the peloton. Indeed, Itamar Einhorn (Israel-Premier Tech), Niccolo Bonifazio (Corratec-Vini Fantini) and Daniel Skerl (CTF Victorious) were among those who couldn’t keep up with the first group. Despite some attackers in the last kilometres including Jan Christen (UAE Team Emirates) and George Bennett, it was a group of approximately 80 men that arrived for the win in Pescara. Enrico Zanoncello came out on top, only a few centimetres ahead of Matteo Malucelli (JCL Ukyo). Manuel Penalver (Polti-Kometa) rounded out the podium.

Stage 2

Jan Christen (UAE Team Emirates) won the first of his professional career after attacking on the last descent.

This second stage had just over 250m more ascent compared to the previous day’s route but with the summit of the last climb being only 15 kilometres from the finish line, the sprinters couldn’t compete for the win in Magliano de Marsi. The last survivor of the morning breakaway Alessandro Tonelli (VF Group-Bardiani) was caught on the last climb, with 19 kilometres to go. At the same time, his teammate and leader of the race Enrico Zanoncello was dropped from the peloton along with the others sprinters.

Jan Christen launched his first attack with 16 kilometres remaining, causing reactions from Lutsenko and Bennett. With the multiplication of accelerations, splits appeared in the peloton and 12 men took the lead. 6 kilometres from the finish line, Christen attacked once more but this time he created a gap, leading him to victory. Behind the Swiss rider, Alexey Lutsenko won the sprint for second place ahead of Thomas Pesenti (JCL Ukyo). Christen took the leader's jersey, with 20 seconds of advantage on Lutsenko.

Stage 3

The third stage of this Giro d’Abruzzo was the queen stage and Alexey Lutsenko succeeded in tricking the riders from UAE Team Emirates to win solo at the summit of Prati di Tivo.

Marco Tizza (Bingoal WB) and Filippo Fiorelli (VF Group-Bardiani), the last riders riders of the morning breakaway, were caught just before the beginning of the last climb, Prati di Tivo. Since the beginning of the stage, Astana Qazaqstan and UAE Team Emirates were the two teams pulling in peloton. An elimination from the back in the first kilometres of the climb cost several outsiders their place such as Sébastien Reichenbach (Tudor) and Matthew Riccitello (Israel-Premier Tech). The leader of the general classification, Jan Christen, was also dropped from the first group 7 kilometres from the summit.

The rhythm set by Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) reduced the favourites group to only 8 riders before the first attacks started. The first one to try escaping from this group was Pavel Sivakov, immediately countered by Lutsenko. The battle between the strongest of the day resulted in riders dropping one after another, leaving only Lutsenko and Adam Yates (UAE Team Emirates) at the front with 2 kilometres to go. Even though Ulissi managed to come back to the duo, creating a two versus one situation, Lutsenko was the strongest of the day and he took the win ahead of the two UAE Team Emirates riders. Along with the win, the Kazakhstan’s champion took the leader jersey from Christen, who lost 2’30” on the climb.

Stage 4

Pavel Sivakov took his first win of the season while Lutsenko ensured his success in the general classification.

The fourth and last stage was a succession of non-stop ups and downs, resulting in a very hard race. The morning breakaway included some very good climbers and puncheurs with the likes of Jan Christen, Sébastien Reichenbach and Matthw Riccitello. However, Lutsenko’s team, Astana Qazaqstan, was very vigilant and this group never got more than 2 minutes' lead. They were caught with 60 kilometres to go and not long after Lutsenko decided that the best way to defend his jersey was to attack and he escaped from the main group along with Sivakov and Bennett. This group managed to complete the 50 remaining kilometres without being caught and arrived for the win in L’Aquila. Sivakov came out on top of a sprint in which Lutsenko did not take part.

The Kazakh rider won not only the GC but also the mountains and the points jersey. The youth classification was won by Marco Brenner (Tudor). Pavel Sivakov and George Bennett were on either side of the podium thanks to their breakaway on the last stage, whereas Adam Yates and Yannis Voisard (Tudor) rounded out the top 5.

De Brabantse Pijl (Men)

Benoit Cosnefroy (Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale) took the win in a magnificent race full of suspense.

The first breakaway of the day was composed of 6 riders: Alan Riou (Arkéa-B&B Hotels), Nicolas Debeaumarché (Cofidis), Jens Reynders (Bingoal WB), Dylan Vandenstorme (Flanders-Baloise), Lorrenzo Manzin (TotaleEnergies) and Anders Johannessen (Uno X-Mobility). Unfortunately for them, these riders never stood a chance against the peloton and they did not have the chance to go far in this Brabantse Pijl. The attacks from outsiders started 60 kilometres from the finish line with Antoine Huby (Soudal-QuickStep) and Andreas Leknessund (Uno X-Mobility) creating a small gap.

From then, attacks multiplied with a lot of riders going at the front but not with much success. With 31 kilometres to go, a Belgian duo, Dylan Teuns (Israel-Premier Tech) and Tim Wellens (UAE Team Emirates) opened a gap at the front. Despite all the accelerations in the peloton, they succeeded in keeping an advantage until the last 10 kilometres, when 5 riders managed to join them. Benoit Cosnefroy, Joseph Blackmore (Israel-Premier Tech), Jefferson Alveiro Cepeda (Caja Rural), Quinten Hermans (Alpecin-Deceuninck) and Marijn Van den Berg (EF Education EasyPost) along with Wellens and Teuns formed a group destined to go for the win in Overijse. Van den Berg tried escape the group 2 kilometres before the line but he was caught in the last metres by the rest of the group.

In the sprint, Cosnefroy came out on top ahead of Teuns and Wellens. It’s already the fourth win this season for the Frenchman, who is showing great form before the Ardennes classics. It's also important to notice the amazing race of Joseph Blackmore who sacrificed himself for Teuns in the last kilometre and still managed to finish fourth. The British rider is only 21 and ride usually with the Devo team of Israel-Premier Tech. Since the beginning of the season, he won three general classifications, in Tour of Rwanda, Tour of Taiwan and Circuit des Ardennes. In addition, he also won Liege-Bastogne-Liege U23 last weekend, showing once again that he is a great talent to follow in the future.

De Brabantse Pijl (Women)

Elisa Longo Borghini (Lidl-Trek) won her first De Brabantse Pijl after an 8 kilometres solo raid.

Unlike the men’s race, the morning breakaway of the women’s edition of De Brabantse Pijl went a long way and had the opportunity to fight with the peloton. This group was composed of 4 riders: Laura Molenaar (VolkerWessels), Karin Soderqvist (Lifeplus Wahoo), Coryn Labecki (EF Education-Cannondale) and Emily Watts (Chevalmeire). Behind them, the first attacks in the peloton came during and after the Holstheide, 65 kilometres from the finish line. SD Worx-Protime tried to create a race of movements with the attacks of Femke Gerritse and Demi Vollering but this didn’t affect the race and the peloton remained complete.

With 40 kilometres to go, an Italian duo composed of Sofia Bertzzolo (UAE Team ADQ) and Alessia Vigilia (FDJ-Suez) managed to come back on the first group, at the same time as Emily Watts was dropped. 10 kilometres later, Longo Borghini and Vollering escaped from the peloton and joined the first group, where Karin Soderqvist had been outpaced. The Dutch and the Italian imposed a great rhythm at the front, dropping their escape companions one after another. Finally, with 8 kilometres to go, Elisa Longo Borghini managed to drop the Tour de France’s winner and finished the race solo, winning with 40 seconds of advantage on Vollering. In the peloton, Alexandra Manly (Liv Jayco AlUla) won the sprint for third place ahead of Femke Gerritse and Shirin Van Anrooij (Lidl-Trek).

Classic Grand Besançon Doubs

Lenny Martinez (Groupama-FDJ) won his third race of the season at the summit of the Côte de la Malate.

The first attacks from the peloton happened with 40 kilometres to go, with Marco Frigo (Israel-Premier Tech) and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Dstny) trying to escape the pack. Their attacks were in vain and it was a lone rider, the last of the morning breakaway, Adne Holter (Uno X-Mobility) who began the last climb of the day at the front. Even if some riders such as Jonathan Couanon (Nice Métropole Côte d’Azur) attacked with the objective to join the man in lead, it became an elimination from the rear until the acceleration of Lenny Martinez, with 3 kilometres to go.

The young Frenchman came back and immediately dropped Holter, increasing the gap with his chasers to almost 10 seconds. However, behind, Victor Langelotti (Burgos-BH) attacked with Martinez’s teammate, David Gaudu on his wheel. The rider from Monaco was very strong and he managed to drop Gaudu and to come back on the leader 400m from the finish line. Unfortunately for him, the winner of Trofeo Laigueglia had kept some strength for the sprint and won his third of the season, starting a beautiful weekend for his team.

Tour du Jura

David Gaudu was the strongest on the slopes of the Mont Poupet and took his first win since 2022.

The two riders opening the road for the longest time on the Jura’s roads were Marco Frigo (Israel-Premier Tech) and Adne Holter (Uno X-Mobility). They had one minute of advantage over a reduced peloton of approximately 25 riders when the last climb began. Just as the previous day, Groupama-FDJ took the race into their own hands and put Reuben Thompson at the front of the peloton, causing the reduction of the gap between the peloton and the first group.

The first attacker was Kenny Elissonde (Cofidis), immediately countered by Gaudu. However, the first rider who came back on the breakaway was Felix Gall (Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale), one of the better climbers of the race on paper. The Austrian was soon joined by Gaudu, Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) and Jefferson Cepeda (Caja Rural). The last two kilometers saw riders going one by one due to the very steep slopes and Gaudu attacked under the flamme rouge. Despite Cepeda trying to follow him, the rider from Brittany was never seen again and won for the first time since the Critérium du Dauphiné 2022. Behind him, Jordan Jegat (TotalEnergies) finished the climb wonderfully and managed to beat Guillaume Martin in a sprint for second place.

Tour du Doubs

Lenny Martinez won his second in three days in Le Larmont, the third consecutive win for his team.

The morning breakaway, composed of 9 riders, saw its last representative, Samuel Leroux (Van Rysel-Roubaix) being caught only 3.6 kilometres from the finish line, on the slopes of the last difficulty of the day. As with the days before, Groupama-FDJ assumed the chase behind the first group, until the first attack from José Manuel Diaz (Burgos-BH), immediately chased by Lenny Martinez and Clément Berthet (Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale). This French duo isolated again just before the flamme rouge and Martinez won the two-up sprint, securing his fourth win of the season and the third in three days for his team. The young French climber who is rumoured to ride for Bahrain-Victorious next year showed once again that he is one of the greatest young riders in the world.

Written by : Rémi Massart

15/04/2024

Race Report – At the Amstel Gold Race, Vos snatches the win from Wiebes, and Pidcock finally takes the victory after an action-packed race

Men’s Race

Tom Pidcock (INEOS Grenadiers) finally won his first Amstel Gold Race – after coming close twice before – in a small-group sprint after an exciting and unpredictable race, ahead of Marc Hirschi (UAE Team Emirates) and Tiesj Benoot (Visma Lease-a-Bike).

The first breakaway group of the day formed with around 210km to go, and included Tosh Van der Sande (Visma Lease-a-Bike), Enzo Leijnse (DSM-Firmenich PostNL), Alexander Hajek (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Zeb Kiffin (TDT-Unibet). They managed to stay out in front for most of the day, but with 76km to go, Van der Sande dropped back, and two kilometres later, the rest of the group was caught.

With 62km to go, there was an attack from Louis Vervaecke (Soudal Quick-Step). He was followed by riders from Intermarché-Wanty and Groupama-FDJ, before the move was closed down by the peloton. This didn’t stop him for long, however, as Vervaeke attacked again with 59km to go. This time, he was followed by Mikkel Honoré (EF Education-EasyPost) and Paul Lapeira (Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale), and the group got away from the peloton, and began to build a gap.

The World Champion, Mathieu Van der Poel, then moved up to the front of the peloton alongside Pidcock and Matteo Jorgenson (Visma Lease-a-Bike), and with his Alpecin-Deceuninck teammates, started to pull the peloton forward. Vervaecke’s day was done with 36km to go, as he dropped back and left the other two riders out in front, with the peloton in hot pursuit. Hirschi then decided to attack, and he was followed by Bauke Mollema (Lidl-Trek), Roger Adrià (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ). Quentin Pacher (Groupama-FDJ) and Mauri Vansevenant (Soudal Quick-Step) then joined this chasing group, as did Pidcock and Benoot. Notably, Van der Poel failed to join the move, and made no attempt to chase.

The chasing group caught the two riders in front with 28km to go, and Hirschi and Benoot began to pull at the front of the group, to increase their gap to the peloton. A few riders in the peloton recognised that they had missed the decisive move of the day, and so attempted to bridge across, but all were eventually unsuccessful. They kept trying to reduce the gap – with Mattias Skjelmose (Lidl-Trek) taking a huge turn on the front to pull the peloton up the Cauberg – however the peloton just wasn’t strong enough, and neither was Van der Poel, who, with only one teammate left, wasn’t keen to help, so the gap to the front group remained steady.

With around 12km to go, Hirschi accelerated, followed only by Benoot, Pidcock and Vansevenant. Bilbao, and later Lapeira, each tried to bridge across, but both were unsuccessful. The front four worked together flawlessly until they reached the flamme rouge. Benoot led them through, and they began to nervously look at eachother. In the end, it was Vansevanant who began his sprint first, leading out the others with 300m to go. Benoot and Pidcock then launched, with Hirschi following.

Pidcock managed to hang on for first place, Hirschi came through for second, and Benoot took third. Vansevenant, Lapeira, Madouas, Mollema, Pacher, Bilbao and Michael Matthews (Jayco-AlUla), rounded out the top ten.

Women’s Race

The Amstel Gold Race Ladies Edition was clinched by Marianne Vos (Visma Lease-a-Bike) in a bunch sprint, just ahead of Lorena Wiebes (SDWorx-Protime), who was unfortunately already prematurely celebrating the win.

In the early stages of the race, there were a few attacks off the front of the peloton, but around an hour in, the race was neutralised, due to a road traffic accident. When the race started again, the peloton was altogether, and the route had been altered so that the riders would only race the final three laps of the finishing circuit.

The peloton continued to ride as one for a while, until Elisa Longo Borghini (Lidl-Trek) attacked with 39km to go. She was followed by Elise Chabbey and Kasia Niewiadoma (both CANYON-SRAM), Amber Kraak (FDJ-SUEZ) and Anna Henderson (Visma Lease-a-Bike), and a few moments later, Demi Vollering (SDWorx-Protime) latched onto the back. This group was caught shortly afterwards, however, on the Geulhemmerberg, with 35km to go.

Soon after, there came another attack from Eva Van Agt (Visma Lease-a-Bike), who was followed by Yara Kastelijn (Fenix-Deceuninck) and Ricarda Bauernfeind (CANYON-SRAM), and they managed to create a decent gap to the peloton. With 31km to go, Anouska Koster (Uno-X Mobility) then tried to bridge across to this front group. There were a few more attacks from the front of the peloton, from the likes of Amanda Spratt (Lidl-Trek) and Henrietta Christie (Human Powered Health), however they were immediately closed down by the rest of the peloton.

With 21km to go, Longo Borghini attacked, followed by a small group including Fem Van Empel (Visma Lease-a-Bike), Demi Vollering, Kasia Niewiadoma (CANYON-SRAM) and Shirin van Amrooij (Lidl-Trek), amongst others. They managed to catch Koster as they crossed the finish line and heard the bell indicating the start of the final lap, however the peloton then caught this group soon after, before they could catch the trio in front.

Ellen van Dijk (Lidl-Trek) came to the front of the peloton to help drive the pursuit of the three riders, however the front group kept increasing their gap. Kastelijn eventually couldn’t keep up with the high pace of the other two, and so dropped back with 11km to go. A few more Lidl-Trek riders then hit the front with around 4km to go, and by 1.9km to go, the front group was caught, and the peloton was back together again.

Niewiadoma tried a few attacks, but each time she was followed by the peloton, and they began to prepare for a bunch sprint. Inside the flamme rouge, Vollering led out the peloton. Longo Borghini then launched first, and Wiebes followed, coming around her on the right-hand side. Vos, however, was coming up behind, and whilst Wiebes celebrated, Vos kept sprinting and threw her bike, taking the win.

Ingvild Gåskjenn (Liv-AlUla-Jayco) took the third and final podium spot, and Pfeiffer Georgi (DSM-Firmenich PostNL), Longo Borghini, Eleonora Gasparrini (UAE Team ADQ), Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (AG Insurance-Soudal), Kraak, Kastelijn and Soraya Paladin (CANYON-SRAM), rounded out the top ten.

Written by: Alicia Moyo

14/04/2024

Preview of the week – Time for the Ardennes

Tuesday

Giro d’Abruzzo (Stage 1)

On Tuesday, the 6th Giro d’Abruzzo begins. This race makes its return in the calendar for the first time since 2007, when the Italian Luca Ascani won it. The general classification should be decided at the end of the week with two mountainous stages that should make difference between the leaders. There are only two World Tour teams engaged and the main favourites for GC are in their ranks. Indeed, Adam Yates (UAE Team Emirates) and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Qazaqstan) seem to be the two strongest climbers on the startlist. Nevertheless, they will have to be careful about other riders such as George Bennett (Israel-Premier Tech) and Sébastien Reichenbach (Tudor).

The first stage between Vasto and Pescara is 161 kilometres long and is, on paper, the easiest. However, the riders will have to climb 2048 metres of ascent, making it difficult for the few sprinters on the start list to compete for the win and the first leader's jersey. In case of a bunch sprint, Niccolo Bonifazio (Corratec-Vini Fantini) and Manuel Penalver (Polti-Kometa) are supposed to be the fastest but, even if they pass the main difficulties among the peloton, their teams will have to face a lot of attacks from puncheurs, trying to foil their plans.

Wednesday

De Brabantse Pijl (Women)

De Brabantse Pijl marks the beginning of the Ardennes classics, leaving the cobbles for constant ups and downs across Belgium. Last year, Silvia Persico (UAE Team ADQ) beat Demi Vollering (SD Worx-Protime) and Liane Lippert (Movistar) in a three-women sprint in Overijse. With an uphill last kilometre, a rider must have a good punch in order to compete for the win in this race.

This year, Persico is here to defend her title but will have to face great adversity including the 2022 winner and last year's second place Demi Vollering. As always in the Belgian races, the weather will be an important factor for the race scenario by creating echelons or crashes. It could be important to notice that 2021 and 2020 winners (Ruth Edwards for Human Powered Health and Grace Brown for FDJ-SUEZ) will be at the start on Wednesday, along with Elisa Longo Borghini (Lidl-Trek) who will aim for a first success here.

De Brabantse Pijl (Men)

Like the women’s race, De Brabantse Pijl men’s race is the transition between the Flanders and the Ardennes classics. This race, composed of 195 kilometres, includes 22 hills, 8 of which are cobbled. The finish in Overijse being hilly, could allow some riders to come back to the front if the first group’s members look at each other too much. Last year, Dorian Godon (Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale) and Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost) resisted to the pack by only a few seconds after a fantastic breakaway of more than 35 kilometres. The Frenchman won the sprint of two and took the biggest win of his career, concluding a beautiful race for his team, with his teammate Benoit Cosnefroy finishing 3rd.

This year, Godon will aim to defend his title with Cosnefroy on his side. However, it will not be easy with some others teams very well armed that will try to go for the win on the Belgian roads. Among them, Israel-Premier Tech (Stephen Williams and Dylan Teuns), Alpecin-Deceuninck (Quinten Hermans and Axel Laurance) and UAE Team Emirates (Marc Hirschi and Antonio Morgado) seems to have the weapons to raise their arms in Overijse.

Giro d’Abruzzo (Stage 2)

The second stage of the Giro d’Abruzzo has a quite unusual profile with two first difficulties 60 kilometres after the start in Alanno, including Monte Urano (4.5km, 9.3%). After these climbs however, the riders will have almost 60 kilometres of flat, allowing a little rest before a last climb of 8 kilometres with approximately 4% of average gradient. The riders will then dive in the downhill before arriving in Magliano de Marsi. The stage is quite difficult to predict as it can suit a lot of different riders, going from sprinters comfortable over climbs to puncheurs who could make the difference at the top of the climb before speeding off in the descent to victory.

Thursday

Giro d’Abruzzo (Stage 3)

The third stage of the Giro d’Abruzzo is the queen stage. The arrival is situated on the top of the infamous Prati di Tivo (14.7km, 7%) where no one will have the possibility to hide. Before this last climb, the route is not flat at all with a lot of difficulties that will tire the bodies. The pure climbers will be favoured on Thursday and we should see the men aiming for the general classification compete for the win. Adam Yates is the biggest favourite but he will have to watch riders like Lutsenko and Bennett. This stage will also be the opportunity to see Domenico Pozzovivo (VF Group-Bardiani) who will be determined to shine with his new team.

Friday

Classic Grand Besançon Doubs

The fourth edition of the Classic Grand Besançon Doubs kicks off a triptych in Eastern France. The race can be classified as medium mountain with a finish in Montfaucon, after a 3.8km climb at 9.1%. Last year, Victor Lafay, who rode for Cofidis at the time, took the best over Lenny Martinez (Groupama-FDJ) in a two-man sprint.

This year, Lafay, now racing for Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale, has not taken part in any races due to injury at his knee. For now, he is planned for the race but it could change. The main favourites for the race are from the French teams with David Gaudu and Lenny Martinez for Groupama-FDJ, Clément Champoussin and Cristian Rodriguez for Arkéa-B&B Hotels and Guillaume Martin for Cofidis.

Giro d’Abruzzo (Stage 4)

The fourth and final stage of this Giro d’Abruzzo is not a summit finish but presents more than 3400m of ascent. From the beginning in Montorio al Vomano to the finish in L’Aquila, the road will only be composed of ups and downs, with not a single kilometre of flat. After the queen stage the day before, this last stage will be the last opportunity for riders aiming for general classification to try to shake up the rankings. With such a difficult route, the riders who have not recovered well from the previous day’s efforts will struggle to hold and could lose precious time.

Saturday

Tour du Jura

Second leg of the three days in Eastern France with the Tour du Jura. Like for Classic Besançon Doubs, the finish is at the summit of a climb, this time the Mont Poupet. In 2023, Kévin Vauquelin (Arkéa-B&B Hotels) arrived solo and won ahead of Thibaut Pinot and Guillaume Martin (Cofidis). This year, Vauquelin is not expected at the start in Domblans and, of course, neither is Pinot. The provisional startlist is almost the same as for the day before but one favourite is added: Michael Woods (Israel-Premier Tech). The Canadian likes to race in France and should be a man to watch along with those already mentioned for Classic Besançon Doubs.

Sunday

Amstel Gold Race Ladies

The tenth edition of Amstel Gold Race Ladies will officially open the week of the Ardennes classics. The riders will have to ride 158km between Maastricht and Berg en Terblijt, in a succession of ups and downs with no flat in the last 100 kilometres. Last year, SD Worx-Protime realised an amazing one-two with the solo win of Demi Vollering and Lotte Kopecky winning the sprint of the peloton. The winner of the Tour de France Femmes had countered an attack from Liane Lippert (Movistar) and had isolated herself 1.8km from the finish line, never to be seen again.

This year, the formidable duo of the Dutch team is of course present to try to make the same performance again. However, their rivals are ready and determined to beat them. Among them, the Lidl-Trek team, very strong since the start of the season, may be the most well-armed with the likes of Elisa Longo Borghini and Shirin Van Anrooij. The other teams are not to be outdone with serious outsiders such as Silvia Persico (UAE Team ADQ), Pfeiffer Georgi (dsm-firmenich) and former winners Marianne Vos (Visma-Lease a Bike) and Katarzyna Niewadoma (Canton//SRAM Racing).

Amstel Gold Race

Exactly like the women, the men’s peloton starts the Ardennes classics in the Netherlands with Amstel Gold Race. 33 listed climbs and a never flat route, this is perfectly the definition of what makes these races so particular. Last year, Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) completely dominated the race by winning solo with 38 seconds over a surprising Ben Healy (EF Education EasyPost) and more than 2 minutes ahead of a group from which Tom Pidcock (INEOS Grenadiers) sprinted his way to the podium.

This year, things will be different as Pogačar is absent, preserving himself for Liege-Bastogne-Liege. However, World champion Mathieu Van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) has announced his participation. If the Dutchman has the same shape as during the Flanders classics, it will be very hard for his opponents to beat him. Nevertheless, cycling can often be surprising so maybe some outsiders can succeed to defeat Van der Poel. Among those riders who will have to try and trick the World champion, we can find the likes of Tom Pidcock, Ben Healy, Benoit Cosnefroy (Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale) and Mattias Skjelmose (Lidl-Trek). If their task will be extremely difficult, they will have to make things move if they want to have a chance to succeed to Pogačar.

Tour du Doubs

The third and final race day in Eastern France looks like its two predecessors: a hilly route with a finish on top of a climb. This last climb is not very steep with 6.4km at 5.4% but the accumulation of the ascents will make the legs heavy for the majority of the peloton. In 2023, a group of 9 riders sprinted for the win in Le Larmont and it was Jesus Herrada (Cofidis) who came out on top, ahead of Thibaut Pinot and Nans Peters (Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale).

For now, some of the favourites of the days before (Gaudu, Woods) are not planned to start on Tour du Doubs but Jesus Herrada should be here to defend his title and try to bring to his team their first win of the season. Against him, Lenny Martinez and Clément Champoussin are the two main favourites but there are some other very good climbers on the provisional startlist who could take advantage of the hard finish to compete for the win. Jordan Jegat (TotalEnergies) and Sylvain Moniquet (Lotto-Dstny) could be one of them.

Written by : Rémi Massart

08/04/2024

Recap of the week – Impressive Marijn Van den Berg, Wiebes and Merlier dominant in Belgium.

Ronde de Mouscron

Daria Pikulik (Human Powered Health) won her first of the season in Ronde de Mouscron.

This traditional Belgian race, with constant ups and downs, saw a group of seven riders competing for the win in Mouscron. The Polish rider Daria Pikulik was the strongest of the day and took the win ahead of Aniina Ahtolaso (Uno-X Mobility) and Martina Fidanza (CERATIZIT-WNT). Marthe Truyen (Fenix-Deceuninck) and Maggie Coles-Lyster (Roland) rounded out the top 5.

Région Pays de la Loire Tour

Marijn Van den Berg (EF Education-Easypost) delivered an incredible performance in the region of the medieval castles and won the first GC win of his professional career, along with 2 stages.

Stage 1

Marijn Van den Berg started perfectly his week by winning a bunch sprint in Saint Jean de Monts.

This first stage was almost perfectly flat and the scenario turned out to be very classic. Indeed, the morning breakaway never stood a chance against the peloton and almost every team seemed to agree with the idea of a bunch sprint. The few who tried to escape from the peloton were caught with 7 kilometres to go and Van den Berg took the win ahead of Jon Aberasturi (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and David Dekker (Arkéa-B&B Hotels).

Stage 2

The second stage was much more open that the first and Ewen Costiou (Arkéa-B&B Hotels) escaped from the first group and took the first win of his career, confirming his excellent start to the season.

The finale of this stage took place in Saumur and included a little hill of only 400m but with 12.2% of average gradient. With 40 kilometres remaining, Mathis Le Berre (Arkéa-B&B Hotels) attacked but never succeeded to come back on the morning breakaway. As soon as he was caught, 20 kilometres from the finish line, attacks multiplied in the peloton. Benoit Cosnefroy (Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale) created a small gap along with 7 riders with 12 kilometres to go. Collaboration in this group was not perfect and some riders such as Samuel Watson (Groupama-FDJ), Cosnefroy and Van den Berg, tried to isolate themselves, in vain. Right under the last kilometre banner, Costiou attacked and no one was able to follow him. Behind, Sam Bennett (Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale) won the sprint of the peloton ahead of Emilien Jeannière (TotalEnergies). Costiou took the lead in the general classification, 8 seconds ahead of Van den Berg.

Stage 3

Alberto Dainese (Tudor Pro Cycling) took his first win of the season in a bunch sprint ahead of Van den Berg and Sam Bennett.

 The morning breakaway once again never stood a chance against the peloton and was caught 17 kilometres from the finish line. As soon as the peloton was compact again, Groupama-FDJ tried to make a race of movement with the attacks of Samuel Watson and Ronan Augé. Unfortunately for them, the sprinters' teams were too strong and it was a complete peloton who arrived for the win in Château-Gontier. Dainese was the fastest of the day ahead of Van den Berg and Bennett. Jérémy Lecroq (St Michel-Mavic-Auber 93) and Bryan Coquard (Cofidis) rounded up the top 5. Costiou kept the leader's jersey but only 1 second ahead of Van den Berg.

Stage 4

Van den Berg raced perfectly to take the stage win and the general classification in Le Mans.

This last stage of the Region Pays de la Loire Tour was decisive with only one second between Costiou and Van den Berg at the start. In the final circuit, Watson, Coquard and Cosnefroy took their chance but EF Education-Easypost controlled the race perfectly, allowing Van den Berg to win the stage ahead of Cosnefroy and Clément Venturini (Arkéa-B&B Hotels).

In the overall classification, Marijn Van den Berg took the win ahead of Costiou and Fredrik Dversnes (Uno-X Mobility). Van den Berg also took home the points jersey whereas Matisse Julien (CIC U Nantes Atlantique) won the KOM jersey and Ewen Costiou won the young classification. EF Education-Easypost finished first in the teams classification.

Scheldeprijs

Women’s race:

Lorena Wiebes (SD Worx-Protime) continued her incredible domination at Scheldeprijs and won the race for the fourth time in four editions.

One rider alone escaped from the peloton and formed the morning breakaway, the Dutchwoman Anneke Dijkstra (VolkerWessels). She was joined by Wilma Aintila (Lotto-Dstny Ladies and the duo still had a minute of advantage on the peloton with 10 kilometres to go. The spectacular chase ended 1700m from the finish line and an almost complete peloton entered the final stretch for the win in Schoten. The best sprinter in the world, Lorena Wiebes, confirmed her status by dominating the sprint ahead of Charlotte Kool (dsm-firmenich) and Martina Fidanza (CERATIZIT-WNT). Sofie Van Rooijen (VolkerWessels) and Mirre Knaven (AG Insurance-Soudal NXTG) rounded up the top 5.

Men’s race:

Tim Merlier (Soudal-Quick Step) won a royal sprint in Schoten to win his first Scheldeprijs.

The morning breakaway was composed of 5 riders, Liam Slock (Lotto-Dstny), Tord Gudmestad (Uno-X Mobility), Mirko Bozzola (Q36.5), Bram Dissel (BEAT) and Peder Dahl Strand (Tarteletto-Isorex). Unfortunately, with only 15 kilometres ridden, the two sprinters of Intermarché-Wanty, Gerben Thijssen and Arne Marit crashed and had to abandon the race. With 15 kilometres remaining, one of the biggest favourites had to change his bike and had to inflict a chase on himself to come back and contest the sprint. In the same time, Liam Slock, the last survivor of the morning breakaway was caught by the peloton. In the last kilometres, Szymon Sajnok (Q36.5) suffered from a crash and couldn’t defend his chance in the sprint. At the end, Merlier, who managed to come back at the front, took the win ahead of Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Dylan Groenewegen (Jayco AlUla), Cees Bol (Astana Qazaqstan) and Hugo Hofstetter (Israel-Premier Tech).

Race Report – Yet another solo victory for the Men’s World Champion, as he picks up his second Paris-Roubaix win

Mathieu Van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) wins Paris-Roubaix for the second year in a row, with another solo attack – this time with 60km to go.

The race began with a few unsuccessful attacks, but by around 230km to go, a breakaway group had formed, which included Kasper Asgreen (Soudal Quick-Step), Per Strand Hagenes (Visma Lease-a-Bike), Marco Haller (Bora-Hansgrohe), Rasmus Tiller (Uno-X Mobility), Kamil Małecki (Q36.5), Liam Slock (Lotto-Dstny), and Gleb Syritsa (Astana Qazaqstan). Dusan Rajović (Bahrain-Victorious) then attacked off the front of the peloton in order to join the breakaway, followed by Dries De Bondt (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale).

Unfortunately, not long after, there was a large crash, which involved Tim Merlier (Soudal Quick-Step), Laurenz Rex (Intermarché-Wanty), Jonathan Milan (Lidl-Trek), and Elia Viviani (INEOS Grenadiers) among others – and resulted in the latter two abandoning the race. With 178km to go, De Bondt and Rajović managed to join the breakaway, but 10km later, Van der Poel and his team decided to hit the front and drive the peloton forward. It was at this point that Christophe Laporte (Visma Lease-a-Bike) picked up a rear wheel puncture. He had to drop back from the peloton, and after that, never made it back to the front groups. He wasn’t alone, however, as lots of riders dropped off the back of the peloton as Alpecin-Deceuninck kept upping the pace.

By 150km to go, the ‘peloton’ had really reduced, and a clear chasing group had formed – notably, without Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek). With 144km to go, Rex fell again – this time due to a traffic island in the middle of the road – and he abandoned the race shortly after. The breakaway was then caught by the chasing group with 140km to go, and Pedersen managed to get back to this front group after putting in a huge effort. At this point in the race, the front group included many major players, such as Van der Poel, Mick and Tim Van Dijke (both Visma Lease-a-Bike), John Degenkolb (DSM-Firmenich PostNL), Stefan Küng and Laurence Pithie (both Groupama-FDJ), Nils Politt (UAE Team Emirates), Tom Pidcock (INEOS Grenadiers), and Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck).

Meanwhile, Joshua Tarling (INEOS Grenadiers) was disqualified from the race, for allowing himself to be pulled along by his team car whilst taking too long to take his bottle. The race was then relatively peaceful for a while, with no major moves occurring, and the riders moved safely through the controversial ‘chicane’ that had been added to the route. There were, however, several punctures, with riders such as Politt, Tim Van Dijke, Philipsen, and Degenkolb, suffering mechanical issues and having to drop back.

Van der Poel tried a mini-attack with 94km to go, but he was followed by Pedersen, Mick van Dijke, and Philipsen, and they were caught by the rest of the front group with 90km to go. Then it was Pedersen’s turn to pick up a puncture, and following this, Gianni Vermeersch (Alpecin-Deceuninck) attacked, pursued only by Politt and Küng. These three managed to create a 30-second gap, but Pedersen was determined to chase, after having resolved his puncture issue. With 69km to go, the three front riders were caught. A few more attacks followed, but all were unsuccessful, as Vermeersch refused to let any riders escape from the group, in preparation for his team leader’s incoming attack.

With 60km to go, Van der Poel attacked on the Orchies cobbled sector. Pedersen tried to chase, but without any assistance, couldn’t follow. Finally, with 46km to go, a chasing group formed with Pedersen, Philipsen, Pithie, Küng, and Politt – however Pithie later crashed with around 28km to go, and was distanced from the group. Vermeersch then decided to try to join the chasing group, with around 23km to go, and bridged across to Pithie. A short time later, Küng found himself dropping back from the chasing group, as Philipsen set a hard pace at the front.

Things stayed the same over the final kilometres of the race, with Van der Poel increasing his lead, and riding away to an easy victory. Then Pedersen entered the velodrome with Philipsen and Politt in his wheel, and the trio passed the ringing bell altogether. Politt launched his sprint first, and Pedersen followed, but Philipsen stayed behind, and came out late to sprint to second place behind his teammate. Pedersen took third place, and Politt, Küng, Vermeersch, Pithie, Tim Van Dijke*, Jordi Meeus (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Søren Waerenskjold (Uno-X Mobility), rounded out the top ten.

*Van Dijke was later relegated for drifting off the track in the sprint for the final top ten places.

Written by: Alicia Moyo

07/04/2024

Race Report – The World Champion charges to her first victory at Paris-Roubaix Femmes avec Zwift

Lotte Kopecky (SDWorx-Protime) won Paris-Roubaix Femmes Avec Zwift for the first time, ahead of Elisa Balsamo (Lidl-Trek) and Pfeiffer Giorgi (DSM-Firmenich Post NL).

In the early stages of the race, a few riders attempted to break away from the peloton, but most of the attacks were unsuccessful, until around 130km to go, when Victoire Joncheray (Komugi-Grand Est) attacked off the front of the peloton, and was able to create a gap. No one else could follow her, and she stayed alone in front, until she was caught by the peloton with 111km to go. The peloton stayed together for the next 40km, but as the pace picked up, splits began to form as more and more riders began to drop off the back of the peloton.

With 70km to go, Kopecky hit the front, and only a small group could follow, including Giorgi, Balsamo, and Lorena Wiebes (SDWorx-Protime), among others. A few more attacks ensued, but they were all closed down fairly quickly, and the front group grew bigger again, as some of the riders who were distanced on the cobbles were able to come back on the flat. With 54km to go, Kopecky drove the peloton forward again, and was followed by Marianne Vos (Visma Lease-a-Bike), Christina Schweinberger (Fenix-Deceuninck), Giorgi and Wiebes – although the latter was quickly dropped, and the group was eventually caught with 48km to go.

Between 45-34km to go, there were a series of attacks, many of which were initiated by Ellen Van Dijk (Lidl-Trek), however each one was closed down quickly. Then, Jade Wiel (FDJ-SUEZ) attacked solo with around 33km to go. Despite Kopecky attempting to chase, followed by a small group, Wiel increased her gap to 30 seconds from the chasers. Van Dijk then took to the front with 25km to go, and caught Wiel two kilometres later. She then attacked with Amber Kraak (FDJ-SUEZ), and both riders went off in front.

With 19.4km to go, Kopecky attacked on the cobbles, followed by Balsamo and Vos, and the trio caught the duo out in front with 18.3km to go, whilst Giorgi attempted to bridge across to the group on her own. With 16km to go, Balsamo dropped back behind Giorgi, but the two managed to make it back to the front group with 11km to go.

The front group stayed intact for the rest of the race, and Van Dijk led the group as they entered the iconic velodrome and heard the bell ring, with Giorgi on her wheel. The group began to gear up for a sprint, and Kopecky was momentarily ‘boxed-in’ as Balsamo attacked first, followed by Vos. She wasn’t held up for long, however, as she quickly came around the outside and charged to victory, ahead of Balsamo and Giorgi – with the latter just managing to squeeze ahead of Vos, and take the final podium place on the bike throw. Kraak, Van Dijk, Wiebes, Victoire Berteau (Cofidis), Marie Le Net (FDJ-SUEZ) and Kimberley Le Court (AG Insurance-Soudal), rounded out the top ten.

Written by: Alicia Moyo

06/04/2024

Race Report – After a race filled with many ups and downs, Ayuso comes through to win Itzulia Basque Country

Stage 1

Primož Roglič (Bora-Hansgrohe) showed the cycling world that he was back in top form on Stage 1 of Itzulia Basque Country, winning the individual time trial ahead of all the other race favourites, including Jonas Vingegaard (Visma-Lease-a-Bike) and Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step).

The opening stage ITT was 10km long, with a few small, steep inclines, and a category 3 climb, and for much of the race, the conditions were sunny and dry. However, unfortunately for the final few riders, rain began to fall towards the end of the day, resulting in slippery cobbles and corners, and a few errors from the riders affected.

Roglič was one of the earlier riders, and – despite taking the wrong turn at one point, and losing time turning around – he put in a dominant performance, and took the hot seat from Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates). He remained in the hot seat for the rest of the afternoon, as none of the other riders succeeded in dethroning him. The other favourites performed well, but weren’t strong enough to beat his time. His former teammate Vingegaard, finished in fifth, with a time of 12:49, and – after crashing on the second corner – Evenepoel finished fourth, with a time of 12:45. Mattias Skjelmose (Lidl-Trek) put in a particularly impressive performance, taking third place, with a time of 12:44. As did Jay Vine (UAE Team Emirates), who took second, with a time of 12:41.

After this stage, Roglič led the general classification (with a lead of 7 seconds over Vine), points classification, and mountain classification (after scoring the three mountain classification points on the category 3 climb, ahead of Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers) and Vine). Ayuso led the youth classification.

Stage 2

On stage 2, Paul Lapeira (Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale) took his first win at World Tour level in a bunch sprint, ahead of Samuele Battistella (Astana-Qazaqstan) and Louis Vervaeke (Soudal-QuickStep).

The breakaway of the day escaped from the peloton only 6km after the start in Irun. It was composed of five riders: the two Azparren brothers (Enekoitz for Euskaltel-Euskadi and Xabier Mikel for Q36.5), Ivan Cobo (Kern-Pharma), Jeste Bol (Burgos-BH) and Alexis Vuillermoz (TotalEnergies). However the breakaway was caught with 12km to go, by a peloton driven by Movistar and Alpecin-Deceuninck.

The finale took place under heavy rain, which caused a few crashes. Among the riders involved were some of the team leaders, who fell and lost time – such as Tao Geoghegan Hart (Lidl-Trek), Oscar Onley (Dsm-Firmenich Post NL) and David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) – and some of the others who didn’t fall lost a few seconds, due to splits in the peloton following these crashes.

2.5km from the finish line, Lorenzo Germani (Groupama-FDJ) took the lead of the group, to position his leader, Romain Grégoire. Unfortunately, the latter slipped and crashed, losing his chance to win the stage. By the last kilometre, 40 riders were in the front group for a bunch sprint, and it was Lapeira who took the win ahead of Battistella and Vervaeke.

Roglič kept his lead of the general classification (with Skjelmose moving up to second place, ten seconds behind), points classification, and mountain classification. Ayuso kept the lead of the youth classification.

Stage 3

Quinten Hermans (Alpecin-Deceuninck) won the uphill sprint on stage 3 – his first win with the team – ahead of Edoardo Zambanini (Bahrain Victorious) and Alex Aranburu (Movistar).

In the early stages of the race, a few riders – including Louis Meintjes (Intermarché-Wanty) and Davide Formolo (UAE Team Emirates) – attempted to break away from the peloton, however it wasn’t until 137km to go, that the ‘official’ breakaway group formed. This group included Alan Jousseaume (TotalEnergies), Antonio Eric Fagundez (Burgos-BH) and Tom Paquot (Intermarché-Wanty), and James Fouché (Euskaltel-Euskadi) joined around 50km later, after he bridged across solo.

It was an interesting day for those going for the King of the Mountains classification, as the breakaway attackers fought tirelessly for points over the first few climbs. However, the majority of the breakaway group was then caught by the peloton with 47km to go, and the final breakaway rider, Paquot, was caught soon after, with 42km to go.

Unfortunately, then, with 39km to go, Roglič, the race leader, crashed. Despite looking dazed, he was cleared by medical staff to continue, and he was eventually brought back to the peloton by his Bora-Hansgrohe teammates, as the peloton slowed to wait for him.

The battle for King of the Mountain points continued, as Meintjes attacked on the final, second category climb, claiming six points, and the overall lead. Then, with 9km to go, came the final intermediate sprint of the stage. Evenepoel crossed the line first, followed by Isaac Del Toro (UAE Team Emirates), and Vingegaard.

Shortly after this, Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates), Gorka Izagirre (Cofidis), and Nelson Oliveira (Movistar) tried to attack, but they were brought back with 3.2km to go. As the peloton approached the flamme rouge, Ayuso and Carlos Rodríguez (Ineos Grenadiers) were amongst a group of riders who crashed, but despite the chaos, the peloton kept moving, and Hermans sprinted to his first win since the 2022 Baloise Belgium Tour.

Roglič managed to hold on to his lead of the general classification (with Evenepoel moving up to second place, seven seconds behind). Hermans took the lead of the points classification, and Meintjes the mountain classification. Ayuso kept the lead of the youth classification.

Stage 4

Meintjes won stage 4, after the race was neutralised.

Unfortunately, with 36km to go, there was a large crash, involving all three of the race favourites – Roglič (the race leader), Evenepoel, and Vingegaard – who all abandoned the race, as well as several others. All riders involved were announced to be conscious and moving, however Vine, Evenepoel, and Vingegaard, were amongst those who were escorted to hospital.

After this incident, the race was neutralised, and general classification times were not taken, however the six riders who formed the ‘official’ breakaway group of the day – Meintjes, Reuben Thompson (Groupama-FDJ), Mathieu Burgaudeau (TotalEnergies), Mikel Retegi (Equipo Kern Pharma), Joseba Lopez (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) and Karel Vacek (Burgos-BH) – were allowed to continue racing the last 20km. Burgaudeau, López and Retegi dropped back on the final climb, with 11.6km to go, after Meintjes, Thompson and Vacek attacked. By 10km to go, Meintjes was attacking solo, and crossed the line in first, followed by Thompson and Vacek.

Stage 5

Romain Grégoire (Groupama-FDJ) took his first WorldTour victory on stage 5, in a reduced bunch sprint ahead of Orluis Aular (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) and Max Schachmann (BORA-hansgrohe).

Within the first 45 km of the race, riders attempted to break away from the peloton, however most of the attacks were brought back easily. Then, unfortunately, there was another crash, as the peloton approached the first category 1 climb of the race, which led to Mikel Landa and Gil Gelders (Soudal-QuickStep), and Gonzalo Serrano (Movistar), abandoning the race.

Just after the 90km to go mark, Sepp Kuss (Visma Lease-a-Bike) and Del Toro attacked, and were able to create a gap, until they were eventually caught a short while later. A larger group then went on the attack, with around 60km to go including Ivan Cobo (Kern Pharma) Jimmy Janssens (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Martijn Tusveld (DSM-Firmenich PostNL), Johannes Staune-Mittet (Visma Lease-a-Bike), Mauro Schmid (Jayco-Alula), Harrison Wood (Cofidis), Burgaudeau, Enekoitz Azparren and José Manuel Diaz (Burgos-BH). This group was eventually caught on the Muniketagaina climb.

On the descent, a few riders managed to distance themselves from the peloton, and a small group formed with 34km to go, including Staune-Mittet, Michał Kwiatkowski (INEOS Grenadiers), Remy Rochas (Groupama-FDJ), Mark Donovan (Q36.5), and Ibon Ruiz (Kern Pharma). However, this group was eventually caught. Many attacks ensued in the final stages of the race, but all were unsuccessful, and the peloton was altogether at the flamme rouge. Del Toro tried to go again, but was followed by Rodríguez, and subsequently Schachmann and Gregoire. The stage ended in a bunch sprint, and Gregoire just about managed to clinch it ahead of Aular and Schachmann.

After the abandons of the day before, Skjelmose moved into the lead of the general classification (two seconds ahead of Schachmann). Aranburu moved up to lead the points classification, and Meintjes and Ayuso kept their leads of the mountain classification and the youth classification, respectively.

Stage 6

Carlos Rodriguez won stage 6 of Itzulia Basque Country ahead of Ayuso, who took the overall win.

In the early stages of the race, around 21 riders escaped from the peloton. This front group included Janssens, Kuss, Stephen Kruijswijk and Milan Vader (Visma Lease-a-Bike), Oscar Onley (Team DSM-Firmenich PostNL) and Brandon Rivera (Ineos Grenadiers), to name a few – but, notably did not include Skjelmose, the race leader – and they managed to create a gap of around 3 minutes.

However, by the Krabelin climb, only eight riders – Kuss, Kruijswijk, Onley, Gregor Muhlberger (Movistar), Esteban Chaves and James Shaw (EF Education Easypost), Bauke Mollema (Lidl-Trek), and Igor Arrieta (UAE Team Emirates) – were left in front. Then, William Junior Lecerf (Soudal Quick-Step) attacked off the front of the peloton, in an attempt to bridge across to the groups in front. He was soon followed by Soler, and the two drove forward together, until Lecerf dropped back with 69km to go.

Soler managed to catch up with Group 2, which included his teammate Sjoerd Bax, and stayed with the group for a while to rest his legs, before attacking again with 48km to go. Only Lucas Hamilton (Jayco-AIUIa) could really follow as they went up the Trabakua ascent, and Soler’s teammate Arrieta then dropped back from the front group, to work with the duo, and bring his teammate to the fore.

Soler kept driving forwards, whilst Lidl-Trek at the front of the peloton tried to play catch-up. The gap between the peloton and the front group began to decrease slightly, and with around 30km to go, Skjelmose then realised that he needed to attack. He was followed by Rodriguez, however, who rode past and away from him, and Ayuso followed. The two distanced Skjelmose on the Izua climb, and joined up with a few riders that had dropped back from the front group.

Onley was the only rider left out in front, but he was eventually caught by Ayuso, Soler, Chaves, Skjelmose and Rodriguez, with around 20km to go – forming a group of six. Ayuso then attacked with 17km to go, only followed by Rodriguez. The two worked together, and created a gap of around 30 seconds. As they rode towards the finish, it was clear that it had already been decided: Rodriguez would take the stage win, and Ayuso the overall race victory.

Ayuso moved up to win the general classification (42 seconds ahead of Rodriguez in second place, with Skjelmose dropping down to third place), as well as the youth classification. Aranburu kept his lead of the points classification, and Kuss moved up to win the mountain classification. UAE Team Emirates won the team competition.

Written by: Alicia Moyo (with the Stage 2 section written by Rémi Massart)

06/04/2024

Preview of the week – Hills in Basque Country to wait for Roubaix

Monday

Itzulia Basque Country (Stage 1)

The second Spanish World Tour race of the year starts on Monday. As usual, the puncheurs and the climbers will be waited for as the course is perfectly suited to them. The start list is very attractive with some of the best riders in the world and former Grand Tours winners. Indeed, Jonas Vingegaard (Visma-Lease a Bike), Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-Quick Step) and Primoz Roglič (Bora-Hansgrohe) are the favourites for the general classification, along with Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates). Last year, Vingegaard dominated the race whereas Mikel Landa finished second and Ion Izagirre finished third. The two Basque riders are also present this year.

All these riders should have a chance to express themselves from the first day, with a time trial in the streets of Irun. The goal for them all will be to avoid losing time on their rivals and maybe even gain some before the first difficulties of the week.

Ronde de Mouscron

This typical Belgian race will also take place on Monday, around the city of Mouscron. Some hills placed all around the course make hard to predict the scenario of the race. Last year, Martina Fidanza (CERATIZIT-WNT) won the sprint of a small group, ahead of Anniina Ahtolaso (Uno-X Mobility) and Valentine Fortin (Cofidis). This year, the Italian rider is present to defend her title but will face competition with riders such as Daria Pikulik (Human Powered Health) and Marthe Truyen (Fenix-Deceuninck).

Tuesday

Itzulia Basque Country (Stage 2)

The second stage of Itzulia Basque Country does not include one metre of flat for 160 kilometres. The riders will start in Irun and will have to climb a total of more than 2312 vertical meters before crossing the finish line in Kanbo. Despite all this elevation, there is no climb longer than 2.7km on the road, it’s an accumulation of ups and downs that will tire the riders. The finish is a false flat uphill that can suit fast riders in the case of a large group arriving for the win. For example, Ethan Hayter (INEOS Grenadiers) and Orluis Aular (Caja Rural) could compete for a great result on Kanbo.

Région Pays de la Loire Tour (Stage 1) 

Another stage race takes place this week, Région Pays de la Loire Tour, in Western France, the region of medieval castles. The general classification should be for puncheurs with some hilly finishes. Last year, Alexander Kamp (Tudor) won it ahead of Fredrik Dversnes (Uno-X Mobility) and Valentin Ferron (TotalEnergies). This year, Kamp won’t defend his title and the main favourites to succeed him are Benoît Cosnefroy (Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale), Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost) and Ewen Costiou (Arkéa-B&B Hotels).

The first stage is completely flat and should go to the sprinters. There is a lot of fast men on the race and those who stand out are Sam Bennett (Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale), Alberto Dainese (Tudor) and Bryan Coquard (Cofidis), already winner of the first stage last year.

Wednesday

Itzulia Basque Country (Stage 3)

Despite the last 20 kilometres being flat, the third stage of Itzulia Basque Country is far from an easy one. The riders will start the day with the climb of Otxindo and this is where the breakaway should form. After that, they will have to overcome five difficulties and more than 3000 vertical metres before arriving in Altsasu. The finish does not feature any difficulties, which could make it possible to group together and to see a small group sprinting for the win on Wednesday.

Région Pays de la Loire Tour (Stage 2) 

The second stage of Région Pays de la Loire Tour is already more difficult than the day before. Indeed, in the final 30 kilometres, the riders will have to climb four times the Côte de Rue Chevre, only 400m but with 12.2% of average gradient. This could allow the strongest puncheurs to escape from the peloton and to take the win in the streets of Saumur.

Scheldeprijs (Men)

This one-day race between the Netherlands and Belgium does not present any hills but only 5 cobbled sections in the last 60 kilometres. Unless some very strong riders succeed in making a difference on these sectors, the victory should be for the sprinters, as it was last year. However, wind is predicted in Belgium for Wednesday so the fastest of the peloton will have to be cautious about potential echelons. In 2023, Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) won a bunch sprint ahead of Sam Welsford (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Mark Cavendish (Astana Qazaqstan). This year, Philipsen is present but Alpecin-Deceuninck also bring Kaden Groves. As their main rivals, Welsford, Dylan Groenewegen (Jayco-AlUla) and Arvid De Kleijn (Tudor), will be serious outsiders for the win.

Scheldeprijs (Women)

As for the men’s race, Scheldeprijs women seems promised to the sprinters. Only 4 cobbled sections are on the menu and only the wind seems able to prevent a bunch sprint from happening. The first three editions were won by the same rider: former European champion Lorena Wiebes (SD Worx-Protime). This year, the Dutchwoman will be aiming for the quadruple with a team dedicated to her cause. Her main rivals will be last year 2nd and 3rd Charlotte Kool (Team dsm-firmenich-Post NL) and Chiara Consonni (UAE Team ADQ) but also Martina Fidanza (CERATIZIT-WNT).

Thursday

Itzulia Basque Country (Stage 4)

The fourth stage of Itzulia Basque Country is maybe the easiest of the week with “only” 2146 verticals metres to climb. Nevertheless, it will be hard for the few sprinters present on the race with the climb Leintz-Gatzaga, 3km with 8.5% average gradient, whose top is only 9 kilometres from the finish line. The general classification contenders should fight on the slopes of this very difficult climb, in order to gain time on the other favourites.

Région Pays de la Loire Tour (Stage 3) 

The third stage of Région Pays de la Loire Tour is the one with the most positive gradient. Indeed, if the riders won’t gain any elevation between Segré and Chateau-Gontier, they will face a succession of ups and downs all the way to the finish line. However, the last climb is not very hard and could allow some sprinters who handle the hills well to pass and to go sprinting for victory. An urban circuit is always tricky and the riders will have to be very cautious in order to avoid falling.

Friday

Itzulia Basque Country (Stage 5)

Another day in the Basque Country and another hilly stage. This time, the start will be easier with the first and main difficulty of the day, the Urkolia, taking place after 67 kilometres. After the downhill, what will remain of the peloton will enter the final circuit and will have to climb Muniketagaina (3.4km at 7.3%) twice before crossing the finish line. This typical Basque climb, not long but very steep, should make the difference between the best climbers of the race.

Région Pays de la Loire Tour (Stage 4) 

The fourth and final stage of Région Pays de la Loire Tour is the one where the general classification will be decided. Indeed, the peloton will arrive in the city of Le Mans and climb for the first time the Cote de Gazonfier with 55 kilometres to go. They will repeat this circuit five times before crossing the finish line. The previous stages not being too hard, the gaps in the general classification should not be significant, offering us a very interesting last stage to crown the winner.

Saturday

Itzulia Basque Country (Stage 6)

The final stage of this week in Basque Country is as usual the hardest. The riders will only have to do 138 kilometres around Eibar but will have to climb almost 3500 vertical metres. There is no Arrate this year but some difficulties are just as hard. For example, the Krabelin (5km at 9.5%) should sort out the pack, leaving the strongest climbers between on their own. The decisive climb should be the Izua, whose top is 27 kilometres from the finish line. The 4.1 kilometres with 9.1% of average gradient will allow the strongest to put an attack, and maybe decisive for the general classification. The last climb of the day, Urkaregi, is much less difficult and there should not be too many differences here. It’s important to notice that the finish line is not at the top of a difficulty but after a downhill and a little less than 10 kilometres of flat. A group of riders could benefit from this situation by reducing the gaps made on the ascents.

Paris-Roubaix Femmes

The fourth edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes will open the weekend in the North of France. The riders will start from Denain and will have to go through 149 kilometres and 17 cobbled sectors before arriving in the Velodrome in Roubaix. The meteorologists predict rain in Roubaix the entire week but the weekend should be sunny. The cobbles will be very muddy with the rain and it will be even harder for the riders. The difference should be made on the most difficult sector of the race – Carrefour de l’Arbre. This cobbled section takes place 16 kilometres from the finish line and is situated between Camphin-en-Pévèle and Gruson, two difficult sectors.

Last year, the race had an amazing scenario with the victory of Alison Jackson (EF Education-Cannondale) from the breakaway. She, along with five other riders made the impossible possible and resisted the best riders in the world. With the group of favourites finishing only 12 seconds behind, the suspense was incredible and the race will stay in the memory for years.

This year, the bigger teams in the peloton should have learnt their lesson and it would be a surprise to see the breakaway going for the win again. The biggest favourite is the World champion, Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx-Protime) who has never won the race and will want to correct that. For Canyon//SRAM Racing, the duo of Soraya Paladin and Elise Chabbey, along with cyclocross specialist Zoe Backstedt could also have a chance to figure. Finally, the Lidl-Trek team seems also very strong, even if the presence of Ronde van Vlaanderen winner Elisa Longo Borghini isn’t announced yet, with riders like Ellen Van Dijk and Elisa Balsamo.

Sunday

Paris-Roubaix

The last Flandrian classic, the Hell of the North, 260 kilometres of suffering for the riders, 260 kilometres of an amazing show for the viewers. Paris-Roubaix, one of the best races in the calendar, even the best for some, and one of the five Monuments of cycling. The riders will race between Compiègne and Roubaix and will have to pass by 30 cobbled sections. The first one, Troisville isn’t very hard but from then, there will be no pause, one sector will follow another until the very end, in the Velodrome of Roubaix.

The main points of the race will be the two most difficult sectors. The first one is Trouée d’Arenberg, 90 kilometres from the finish line but the race can already be lost here. Indeed, last year, Christophe Laporte (Visma-Lease a Bike) suffered a puncture in Arenberg and never had the opportunity to come back to the front after that. The second one is the Carrefour de l’Arbre. Tradition says that the rider who comes out in first place after Carrefour de l’Arbre wins in Roubaix 15 kilometres later. The riders are so tired arriving here and the cobbles are so horrible that a fall could happen easily, by lack of lucidity.

Last year, Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) won ahead of his teammate Jasper Philipsen. The Dutchman attacked with Wout van Aert (Visma-Lease a Bike) in the Carrefour de l’Arbre but, unfortunately, the Belgian had a mechanical problem and had to change his bike, causing him to lose the race. In Paris-Roubaix, in order to win, being the strongest is sometimes not enough. Indeed, the number of crashes and mechanical problems is astonishing due to the cobbles, the dust and sometimes even the mud everywhere on the course.

This year, Wout van Aert is absent after his terrible crash in Dwars door Vlaanderen. Van der Poel is considered the biggest favourite, even more after his impressive win on the Ronde van Vlaanderen. However, Paris-Roubaix is known for always having surprises. Taking the breakaway on the Hell of the North is often a very good way to anticipate the battle behind and it’s not rare to see some riders at the front since the morning finishing in the top 10 on the Velodrome. The main rivals of van der Poel will be Visma-Lease a Bike, with Matteo Jorgenson, Dylan van Baarle or maybe Christophe Laporte if he is back from sickness, and Lidl-Trek with Mads Pedersen and Jonathan Milan. Nevertheless, some riders such as Stefan Kung (Groupama-FDJ), Oier Lazkano (Movistar) and Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost) could be tempted to anticipate to trick the bigger teams.

Written by: Rémi Massart

01/04/2024

Summary of the week – McNulty and Cosnefroy confirm their good form

Paris-Camembert

Benoît Cosnefroy (Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale) took his third win of the season and continued his team's good momentum in Coupe de France rounds.

In a race marked by the rain and the wind, things started to become interesting with 50 kilometres to go, where the attacks from outsiders started. Ewen Costiou (Arkéa-B&B Hotels) emerged from the pack, taking advantage of the climb Cavée de Crouttes. The rider from Brittany did a wonderful solo raid, only being caught on the last climb of the day, the Butte des Fondits, with 9 kilometres remaining. A group of 8 riders arrived first at the summit and Cosnefroy won the sprint ahead of Clément Venturini (Arkéa-B&B Hotels) and Alexandre Delettre (St Michel-Mavic-Auber 93), taking his second win on his native roads after 2019. Martin Marcellusi (VF Group-Bardiani) and Fredrik Dversnes (Uno-X Mobility) rounded off the top 5.

Route Adélie de Vitré

Jenthe Biermans (Arkéa-B&B Hotels) won his first of the season in a race full of suspense.

French Cup rounds often offer us very interesting races to follow, with hilly routes and dense start lists. Route Adélie de Vitré was the perfect example of this kind of race, with an uncertain result until the very last metres. With 50 kilometres to go, things began to unravel with the first attackers coming out of the peloton. Unfortunately, Benoît Cosnefroy, the winner 2 days previously, suffered a fall and was unable to come back to the front of the race.

35 kilometres from the finish line, a group of 23 riders took the lead, relegating the main peloton 30 seconds behind. With all the top teams represented at the front, no one was chasing behind and the group flew away. With 15 kilometres to go, attacks started to multiply at the front with Jordan Labrosse (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale) and David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) trying to escape. The two of them succeeded in creating a gap along with Alexandre Delettre and Xaber Berasetegi (Eustaltel-Euskadi) and had an advantage until the very last meters. They were caught on the line by a group including Jenthe Biermans who took the win ahead of Sandy Dujardin (TotalEnergies) and Delettre.

Volta NXT Classic

Men’s race

Timo Kielich (Alpecin-Deceuninck) emerged victorious from a two-men sprint again Pascal Eenkhoorn (Lotto-Dstny) in Eijsden.

The race was very intense from the beginning with a first breakaway including outsiders such as Gianluca Brambilla (Q36.5), Francesco Busatto (Intermarché-Wanty) and Frank Van den Broek (dsm-firmenich). The peloton never came back entirely and only small groups of riders were able to close the gap. The Dutchman Huub Artz (Intermarché-Wanty) tried to profit from the disorganisation of the race and attacked with 45 kilometres to go. He continued solo for approximately 15 kilometres before being caught. From then, every rider tried to escape the group and attacks multiplied. When Pascal Eenkhoorn took his chance, 20km from the finish line, only one man was able to follow him, Timo Kielich. The two riders worked together until the finish line, where the Belgian got the better of the Dutchman. Behind them, Kielich’s teammate Henri Uhlig won the sprint for third place ahead of Busatto and Johan Meens (Bingoal WB).

Women’s race

Femke Markus (SD Worx-Protime) benefited from a good team strategy to take her first win of the season.

SD Worx-Protime’s riders were the favourites for Volta NXT and they assumed this status by having 4 riders in the first 6 to cross the line. Femke Markus escaped from the peloton along with her teammate Niamh Fisher-Black and Julia Kopecky (AG Insurance-Soudal NXTG). The two SD Worx-Protime riders couldn’t outrun the Czech rider but Markus was the fastest and won the sprint ahead of Kopecky and Fisher-Black. Behind them, Sofie Van Rooijen (VolkerWessels) won the sprint of the peloton.

Gran Premio Miguel Indurain

Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) got the better of Maxim Van Gils (Lotto-Dstny) and won Gran Premio Miguel Indurain amidst horrible weather.

The first half of the race was pretty calm with an early breakaway of 7 riders leading. It was when the rain started to pour down that the action really started. A lot of splits appeared in the peloton as one climb followed another. Some crashes happened on the downhills with Mike Woods (Israel-Premier Tech) and Frederik Wandahl (Bora-Hansgrohe) among those to fall.

Finn Fisher-Black (UAE Team Emirates) was the first favourite to attack, followed by Jon Barrenetxea (Movistar). Even if this movement was vain, UAE Team Emirates was decided to take the race in hand with the accelerations of Pavel Sivakov and Brandon McNulty. The American began the last challenge of the day, Alto Ibarra, alone, but was then caught and dropped by Maxim Van Gils. However, the winner of the Volta Comunitat Valenciana earlier in the season managed to come back on the downhill and won the two-man sprint to add another success to his trophy cabinet. Behind the two leaders, Oscar Onley (dsm-firmenich), Ion Izagirre (Cofidis) and Archie Ryan (EF Education-Easypost) completed the top 5.

Written by : Rémi Massart

01/04/2024

March

Race Report – A three-woman sprint and another Van der Poel solo win at the Ronde van Vlaanderen

Men’s Race

In this year’s edition of the Ronde van Vlaanderen, Mathieu Van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) raced to victory solo for the second time this season, ahead of Luca Mozzato (Arkéa - B&B Hotels) and Michael Matthews (Jayco-AlUla), who sprinted to second and third place.

There were a few attacks early on in the race, but the ‘official’ breakaway group – including Bert Van Lerberghe (Soudal Quick-Step), Luke Durbridge (Jayco AlUla), Elmar Reinders (Jayco AlUla), Stanisław Aniołkowski (Cofidis), David Dekker (Arkéa-B&B Hotels), Damien Touzé (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale), Lionel Taminiaux (Lotto-Dstny) and Jelle Vermoote (Bingoal WB) – began to form with 266km to go, and eventually created a four-minute gap.

The peloton followed behind at a high pace, and shortly before the Wolvenberg, Jonas Abrahamsen (Uno-X) attacked, with Van der Poel’s teammate Axel Laurance sticking to his wheel. However over the Wolvenberg, Matteo Jorgenson (Visma-Lease-a-Bike) took up the chase at the front of the peloton, and the two were brought back with 112km to go. Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek) then began to push the pace further, along with Jorgenson and Van der Poel.

The next big attack came with 96km to go, and included Tiesj Benoot and Dylan van Baarle (both Visma-Lease-a-Bike), Pedersen, Ben Turner (Ineos), Oliver Naesen (Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale), Brent Van Moer (Lotto-Dstny), Nils Politt (UAE Team Emirates) and Gianni Vermeersch (Alpecin-Deceuninck). This group managed to catch the breakaway group with 92km to go and created a gap to the peloton, however with 87km to go, Van der Poel made sure to bridge across. Pedersen then attacked again, and was only followed by Vermeersch. The two managed to maintain a small lead, until 55km to go, where they were caught by Van der Poel and Oier Lazkano (Movistar).

Van der Poel decided to attack immediately over the top of the front group, and was joined by Lazkano, Tim Wellens (UAE Team Emirates), Pedersen, Laurence Pithie (Groupama-FDJ) and Dylan Teuns (Israel Premier Tech). A few more riders joined them, and Ivan Garcia Cortina (Movistar) then attempted to attack, but he soon slowed, and Van der Poel took his opportunity to try a final, decisive solo attack, with 44km to go. Jorgenson tried to pursue him, as did Pedersen and Teuns, however most of the peloton weren’t able to ride up the slippery Koppenberg – instead having to get off and walk – and so the gap to Van der Poel grew.

The ‘Flying Dutchman’ was never caught by the others, and so was able to ride across the line solo, and celebrate with his bicycle in the air. Jorgenson, however, was caught - by a group including Teuns, Wellens, Garcia Cortina, Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost), Pedersen and Laurenz Rex (Intermarché-Wanty). With around 28km to go, Bettiol and Teuns tried to race ahead for the podium places, but they were caught by a small chasing group right before the line, and Mozzato and Matthews were able to sprint for second and third (however Matthews was later relegated, and so Politt was upgraded to third place).

Mikkel Bjerg (UAE Team Emirates), Antonio Morgado (UAE Team Emirates), Magnus Sheffield (Ineos Grenadiers), Naesen, Teuns, Bettiol and Toms Skujins (Lidl-Trek), rounded out the top ten.

Women’s Race

Elisa Longo Borghini (Lidl-Trek) won the Ronde van Vlaanderen for the second time in her career, in a sprint against Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) and Shirin van Anrooij (Lidl-Trek).

The race unfortunately began with a crash on the first cobblestone sector, the Lange Munte, which forced Marlen Reusser (SD Worx-Protime), Lizzie Deignan (Lidl-Trek), and Monica Greenwood (Team Coop-Repsol) to abandon the race. A breakaway group then formed with around 150km to go – including Justine Ghekiere (AG Insurance-Soudal), Gladys Verhulst-Wild (FDJ-SUEZ), Elena Pirrone (Roland), Josie Talbot (Cofidis), and Mieke Docx (Lotto Dstny Ladies) – and they created a gap of over three minutes. Camilla Rånes Bye (Team Coop-Repsol) tried to follow, but was ultimately unsuccessful.

A few riders from the peloton attempted to attack, however none of these attacks lasted. As the peloton was about to catch the breakaway group, Ghekiere attacked off the front of the breakaway group, but she too was eventually caught. On the Koppenberg, with 44km to go, Puck Pieterse (Fenix-Deceuninck), Marianne Vos (Visma-Lease-a-Bike), Silvia Persico (UAE Team ADQ), Lorena Wiebes (SD Worx-Protime), Longo Borghini, and Letizia Paternoster (Liv-AlUla-Jayco) were in the lead, with Niewiadoma and Karlijn Swinkels (UAE Team ADQ) following close behind.

With 28km to go, Longo Borghini tried an attack, but was quickly caught by the rest of Group 1. In the chasing group, Vollering and Van Anrooij dropped Fem van Empel (Visma-Lease a Bike), Pfeiffer Georgi (DSM-Firmenich PostNL), and Kopecky. With 24km to go, Vollering bridged to the front group, and Van Anrooij followed a few kilometres later. Van Anrooij immediately attacked off the front of the group, and was followed by Swinkels. Pieterse also attempted to join, and bridged to Swinkels. Pieterse dropped Swinkels, but was eventually caught a few moments after Swinkels by the chasing group, with Van Anrooij still at the front of the race, pedalling off into the distance.

Niewiadoma then attacked with Longo Borghini, and both managed to bridge across to Van Anrooij, with 12km to go. By the flamme rouge, they had built a healthy lead over the chasing group, and so it seemed as though the race would come down to a three-woman sprint. Van Anrooij launched her sprint first, but Longo Borghini quickly took the lead, and came over the line clearly in first.

Niewiadoma and Van Anrooij came in second and third, and Vos, Kopecky, Pieterse, Persico, Vollering, Paternoster, and Swinkels, rounded out the top ten.

Written by Alicia Moyo

31/03/2024

Race Report - A contrasting day for Visma-Lease a Bike in Dwars door Vlaanderen

Women’s Race

Marianne Vos (Visma-Lease a Bike) rode to victory in the Dwars Door Vlaanderen women’s race, in a reduced sprint ahead of Shirin van Anrooij (Lidl-Trek).

Despite a few attempts in the beginning of the race to form an initial breakaway group, there was no clear ‘lead group’ of the day until around 90km to go, when the peloton began to split up into smaller groups. The first group eventually managed to create a gap of almost a minute to the riders behind, after the Volkegemberg, with around 70km to go.

Then came an attack from Puck Pieterse (Fenix-Deceuninck) with 66km to go. This move was followed by Vos, Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx-Protime), Niamh Fisher-Black and Mischa Bredewold (both SD Worx-Protime), Elisa Longo Borghini and Lizzie Deignan (both Lidl-Trek), Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Human Powered Health), Arlenis Sierra (Movistar) and Thalita de Jong (Lotto Dstny Ladies), and they managed to distance themselves from the chasing group, which was around 17 seconds behind.

However, the race was then neutralised with 62km to go, due to an incident that had occurred on the route ahead, which led to a pause in racing. When the race was restarted, the route was shortened, and no longer included Knokteberg-Trieu and Hotond.

Soon after the riders started up again, Yara Kastelijn (Fenix-Deceuninck) attacked over the Ladeuze, followed by Lizzie Deignan (Lidl-Trek), Fem van Empel (Visma-Lease a Bike) and Pieterse. A few more riders joined the move, however, and by 30km to go, the first two groups were together again. A new move then drove forward, thanks to the high pace set by the Lidl-Trek riders, with six riders – Vos, Longo Borghini, Van Anrooij, Emma Norsgaard (Movistar), Letizia Paternoster (Liv Jayco AlUla) and Pieterse. However Norsgaard began to drop back as Kopecky worked to bridge the gap – the latter eventually joining the front group with 25km to go. Gradually, the group increased the gap between them and the group behind to over 30 seconds.

Van Anrooij then launched an attack, and Vos immediately followed. With 12km to go, they led by 15 seconds. Kopecky tried and failed to close the gap to the two riders in front, as Longo Borghini, and Paternoster refused to work with her, and Pieterse ran out of steam. While Van Anrooij and Vos extended their lead, Longo Borghini attacked with just under 5km to go, however Paternoster, followed by Kopecky and Pieterse, managed to close the gap. Kopecky then tried to attack, and Paternoster followed, however the two were caught relatively quickly.

A few seconds up the road, Vos rode past the flamme rouge with Van Anrooij in her wheel, and launched her sprint with just under 200m to go. Van Anrooij came in second, and Paternoster won the sprint behind to take third place, ahead of Kopecky, Pieterse, and Longo Borghini. Chiara Consonni (UAE Team ADQ), Sierra, Lucinda Brand (Lidl-Trek), and Julie de Wilde (Fenix-Deceuninck), rounded out the top ten.

Written by: Alicia Moyo 

Men’s race

Matteo Jorgenson (Visma-Lease a Bike) took his first win in a World Tour one-day race by winning Dwars door Vlaanderen. However, the race was marked by a massive crash, including Wout Van Aert (Visma-Lease a Bike), Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek) among others.

The breakaway formed 50 kilometres after the start of the race in Roseleare. It was composed of eleven riders: Casper Pedersen (Soudal-Quick Step), Dries De Pooter (Intermarché-Wanty), Mathias Norsgaard (Movistar), Donavan Grondin (Arkéa-B&B Hotels), Dries De Bondt (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale), Niklas Markl (dsm-firmenich), Amund Grondahl Jansen (Jayco-Alula), Pascal Eenkhoorn (Lotto-Dstny), Jonas Abrahamsen (Uno-X Mobility), Thomas Gachignard (TotalEnergies) and Victor Vercouillie (Flanders-Baloise).

Once these riders were gone, the race was pretty calm, the only noticeable incident being the DNF of Jan Tratnik (Visma-Lease a Bike) whose sickness added to his team's already full infirmary. Everything started to accelerate when the peloton arrived in the Cote de Trieu. At the top of this climb, Groupama-FDJ decided to increase the rhythm at the front. Unfortunately for them, one of their best cards for today, Laurence Pithie, suffered a puncture right at that very moment. The Kiwi never came back to the front of the race, ruining his hopes of victory. In the Berg den Houte, 15 kilometres later, the first attacks from outsiders took place with riders like Magnus Sheffield (INEOS-Grenadiers), Victor Campenaerts (Lotto-Dstny) and Marc Hirschi (UAE Team Emirates) trying to break away from the pack. The only effect of these accelerations was to blow up the peloton into a lot of small groups, causing the loss of Yves Lampaert (Soudal-Quick Step) and Alexander Kristoff (Uno-X Mobility).

The turning point of the race happened with 67 kilometres to go, just before the Kanarieberg. In a straight line, the approximately fifty riders who composed what remained of the peloton were travelling at a high tempo. First, two riders, Laurenz Rex (Intermarché-Wanty) and Cédric Beullens (Lotto-Dstny) hung on and fell, without too much damage. However, only a few meters further, a more massive crash sent ten riders to the ground. Among them were some favourites for the Dwars but also for the Ronde on Sunday: Wout Van Aert seemed to be the first one to fall, bringing with him Mads Pedersen, Jasper Stuyven (Lidl-Trek), Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty) and Anthony Turgis (TotalEnergies) among others. Unfortunately, Van Aert had to withdraw along with Girmay, Stuyven and Michele Gazzoli (Astana-Qazaqstan). After the fall, five men took advantage of the confusion to escape in the Kanarieberg. Alberto Bettiol and Michael Valgren (EF Education-Easypost), Matteo Jorgenson and Tiesj Benoot (Visma-Lease a Bike) and Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), later joined by Joshua Tarling (INEOS-Grenadiers) took a nice gap from the others favourites and came back on the riders distanced from the breakaway. The junction between the counter-attack and the last survivors of the morning group took place during the climb of Ladeuze.

With 27 kilometres remaining, Stefan Küng attacked, dropping Gachignard, De Pooter, Eenkhoorn, Pedersen and Valgren. Tarling and Benoot also faced difficulties but managed to came back at the front. The next climb and the last one with cobbles was the Nokereberg, where Bettiol placed his attack. Küng and Jorgenson, who seemed the stronger of the race, jumped in his wheel immediately along with Abrahamsen and De Bondt. Only 5 kilometres later, as Benoot and Tarling made their return, Bettiol suffered possible cramp and had to let the lead group go.

From there, a tactical game was played between the Visma-Lease a Bike pair and the other riders. Benoot multiplied the attacks, with the objective of tiring his rivals and in particular Küng, who continued to close the gaps each time. When Jorgenson attacked 7 kilometres from the finish line, no-one was able to hold his wheel and the American flew to victory. Behind him, Abrahamsen concluded a beautiful race by winning the sprint for second place ahead of Küng, Benoot and De Bondt. Tarling finished 6th while Jonathan Milan (Lidl-Trek), Valgren, Norsgaard and Gachignard rounded out the top 10.

Written by Rémi Massart

27/03/2024

Preview of the week - Ronde Van Vlaanderen we’re coming!

Wednesday

Dwars door Vlaanderen (Women)

The first race of the week will take place on Wednesday and will be the 7th Dwars door Vlaanderen Ladies. 130 kilometres around Waregem and some cobbles to crown a successor to Demi Vollering (SD Worx). Last year, the Dutchwoman won it by escaping alone during the last cobbles sections. This year, the defending champion is once more among the favorites with her teammate Lotte Kopecky, the reigning world champion but also Marianne Vos (Visma-Lease a Bike) and Chiara Consonni (UAE Team ADQ) who have both already performed here in the past. Elisa Balsamo (Lidl-Trek), the winner of Gent-Wevelgem and Classic Brugge-De Panne is absent but her compatriot Elisa Longo Borghini could be a solid outsider for Lidl-Trek.

Dwars door Vlaanderen (Men)

The last race before the Ronde, not as hard of course but still a very good Flandrian classic, often with an unexpected outcome. The riders will start from Roeselare and will cover 189km in the Belgian hills and cobbles before the finish line in Waregem. There is no Oude Kwaremont or Paterberg but some really tough hills are on the programme, for example the Knoteberg and the Kanarieberg. Last year, Christophe Laporte (Visma-Lease a Bike) won solo after attacking in the finale. Unfortunately, the Frenchman is sick and won’t be able to defend his title. Given Mathieu Van der Poel’s absence, Wout Van Aert (Visma-Lease a Bike) seems to be the biggest favourite for the win. Nevertheless, he will have much to do to escape from Lidl-Trek's excellent team, boosted by Mads Pedersen’s victory at Gent-Wevelgem. After his impressive performance of last year, Oier Lazkano (Movistar) should be a man to watch along with Laurence Pithie (Groupama-FDJ), one of the strongest on last Sunday's race.

Paris-Camembert

Wednesday will definitely be a busy day for all cycling fans. In addition to Dwars, Paris-Camembert, a race taking place in Normandy, in western France will be on the menu. This race is very hilly in the final circuit and often allows puncheurs to win. Indeed, with 2000m of ascent, it’s very rare to see a big group sprinting for victory. Last year, Valentin Ferron (TotalEnergies) took the win over Ewen Costiou (Arkéa-B&B Hotels) in a two-man sprint. This year, the title holder is aiming for a new win here but will have competition. Benoît Cosnefroy (Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale) will want a second title after 2019 and Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) will chase his first win since August 2022. Ewen Costiou and Fredrik Dversnes (Uno-X Mobility), both on the podium last year, will try to compete for the win during this French Cup round.

Friday

Route Adélie de Vitré

On Friday, another round of the French Cup will take place, this time in Brittany, around the city of Vitré. This race is much less hilly than Paris-Camembert but still not flat with an accumulation of ups and downs that could put pure sprinters into difficulty. Last year, Fredrik Dversnes won solo ahead of two riders from Arkea B&B-Hotels (then Arkea-Samsic): Kévin Vauquelin and Louis Barré. This year, Dversnes is aiming to keep his title but will have to compete with riders like Bryan Coquard (Cofidis), Benoît Cosnefroy or Arne Marit (Intermarché-Wanty).

Saturday

Gran Premio Miguel Indurain

Grand Premio Miguel Indurain is the classic type of Spanish race with ascent and few flat roads. This race, taking place in northern Spain, is for good climbers or puncheurs and the race is likely to be decided on the last climb, Alto de Eraul. This climb is not very long or particularly hard (4km at 5.4%) but arrives after almost 200 kilometres of non-stop climbing so the strongest of the day could make a difference here. Last year, Ion Izagirre (Cofidis) attacked on Alto de Eraul with Sergio Higuita (Bora-Hansgrohe) and went to win the race. We could guess at a similar scenario in this year’s edition. Even if the start list isn’t complete yet, the names of Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe), Maxim Van Gils (Lotto-Dstny) and Stephen Williams (Israel-Premier Tech) are announced to race on the Spanish roads next Saturday.

Volta NXT Classic

Another race happening this Saturday is Volta NXT Classic, formerly known as Volta Limburg Classic. This Dutch classic could turn for the sprinters but the climbs all over the road make a wonderful playground for attackers. Last year, in extreme weather conditions, Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck) defeated Maxim Van Gils (Lotto-Dstny) in a two-man sprint. The Australian sprinter is not planning to defend his title but his teammate Axel Laurance could be one of the favourites. With him, Rune Herregodts (Intermarché-Wanty) and Paul Magnier (Soudal-Quick Step) should be ones to watch on the Dutch roads.

Sunday

Ronde Van Vlaanderen (Women)

Finally, the moment every cycling fan around the world is waiting for, Ronde Van Vlaanderen. The women’s edition will be 163 kilometres long around Oudenaarde. The serious business will start with 90km remaining and the Wolvenberg. From here, the race will never slow down and one hill will follow another. The Koppenberg and the Taaienberg will make what’s remaining of the peloton explode and the final decision should be made in the last two hills: Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg, at the top of which only 14 kilometres will remain, all flat, to return to Oudenaarde and crown the winner. Last year, we witnessed an SD-Worx one-two with Lotte Kopecky winning ahead of Demi Vollering, with Elisa Longo Borghini completing the podium. This year, the three riders are of course here and have arguably the two best teams in the startlist. Apart from them, Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon//SRAM Racing), Silvia Persico (UAE Team ADQ) or Arlenis Sierra (Movistar) could be named as outsiders.

Ronde Van Vlaanderen (Men)

One of the best races in the world, one of the five Monuments of cycling, Ronde van Vlaanderen always meets expectations. As a rider, it’s one of the hardest, as a spectator, one of the greatest. Ronde van Vlaanderen is this Sunday and promises us an incredible show. The riders will leave from Antwerp in the morning and will ride 270km around the region of Flanders, to arrive in Oudenaarde.

The true start of the race will be the first Oude Kwaremont passage, with 140 kilometres to go. From here, the road will only be ups and downs, across the cobbles. Wolvenberg, Berendries, Valkenberg… are places where the Ronde can be lost. A puncture, a fall, a split in the peloton combined with bad timing and the dreams of victory in Oudenaarde could be over already. The second ascent of the Oude Kwaremont is where the Ronde can be won. Indeed, from here, all the hardest climbs are one after another. If a group of riders is strong enough to make a difference here, they could never be seen again. Paterberg, Taaienberg, Oude Kruisberg and then again Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg. After that, 17 kilometres to join Oudenaarde and win one of the greatest success possible in cycling.

Last year, Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) showed that he was one of the most complete riders in the world. His attack on the final ascent of the Oude Kwaremont allowed him to get rid of Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Wout van Aert (Visma-Lease a Bike) and Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek). Unfortunately, Pogacar chose not to race in this year’s edition, focusing on the Giro. Nevertheless, the race seems open, with van der Poel, van Aert and Pedersen standing out as favourites to win the Ronde. In addition, they seem to have the better teams on the races with teammates such as Jorgenson and Benoot for van Aert, Stuyven and Skujiņš for Pedersen and Kragh Andersen and Philipsen for van der Poel. Apart from them, some outsiders can have their chance if race conditions are favourable. For example, Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty), Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), Tim Wellens (UAE Team Emirates) or Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-Easypost) could take advantage of a marker between the three big favourites.

Written by: Rémi Massart

26/03/2024

Recap of the week - Philipsen and Balsamo king and queen of De Panne, Bouwman wins in Italy…

Classic Brugge De Panne Men’s race

Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) won his second consecutive Classic Brugge-De Panne, dominating a bunch sprint.

After only three kilometers, a breakaway of three riders escaped from the peloton. Luca De Meester (Bingoal WB), Victor Vercouillie (Team Flanders-Baloise) and Thomas Gachignard (TotalEnergies). Unlike last year, the weather was fine and the race was calm. Gachignard, the last survivor of the morning attack was caught with 10 kilometres to go and the sprinters were ready to fight for victory. Philipsen took the win ahead of his compatriot Tim Merlier (Soudal Quick-Step) and Danny Van Poppel (BORA- Hansgrohe). Behind them, TotalEnergies managed to score big UCI points with both Jason Tesson (4th) and Emilien Jeanniere (9th), Stian Fredheim (Uno-X Mobility) repeated his good performance of last season by finishing 6th and Consonni (Lidl-Trek), Molano (UAE Team Emirates), Bauhaus (Bahrain-Victorious) and Mozzato (Arkea – B&B Hotels) also finished among the ten fastest of the day.

Classic Brugge-De Panne Women’s race

Same as for the men, Classic Brugge-De Panne Women ended with a massive sprint, in which Elisa Balsamo (Lidl-Trek) succeeded for the second time on this race, after 2022.

The flat race was destined for the sprinters but that did not stop the breakaway contenders trying to escape the peloton. The first breakaway formed after more than 45 kilometres and was composed of only one rider: the Belgian Nathalie Bex (Chevalmeire). Unfortunately for her, her attempt did not last long and she was caught with 96 kilometres remaining. From here, we witnessed a festival of attacks. First, Alessia Vigilia (FDJ-Suez) and Lisa Van Helvoirt (VolkerWessels) opened up a small gap but not for long. As soon as they were caught, attacks multiplied with the likes of Alison Jackson (EF Education-Cannondale), Christina Schweinberger (Fenix-Deceuninck) or Gladys Verhulst-Wild (FDJ-Suez) going at the front. The attackers never took more than half a minute’s lead and it was a complete peloton that arrived in De Panne for victory. The former world champion Elisa Balsamo was the fastest and she took the win ahead of Charlotte Kool (dsm-firmenich), Daria Pikulik (Human Powered Health), Chiara Consonni (UAE Team ADQ) and Georgia Baker (Liv AlUla Jayco).

Settimana Inter Coppi e Bartali

While all eyes were on Catalunya, Koen Bouwman (Visma-Lease a Bike) took the first GC win of his career in Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali.

The first stage around Pesaro saw a finale full of attacks with Jefferson Alexander Cepeda (EF Education-EasyPost) and Paul Double (Polti Kometa) taking their chance in the last kilometres. If these two were unsuccessful, Marco Brenner (Tudor) was not as his attack with 4 kilometres to go allowed him to take the first win of his young career, depriving the sprinters of a chance for success. He took the lead in the general classification with 5 seconds of advantage over Matteo Malucelli (JCL Team Ukyo) and 7 over Jenno Berckmoes (Lotto-Dstny).

The second stage was raced on a more demanding profile, with the finish at Sogliano al Rubicone. With the breakaway being caught with 29 kilometres remaining, a very tactical race took place. After the vain attempt of Johannes Staune-Mittet (Visma-Lease a Bike), a group of 10 riders went out, including Hartthijs De Vries (TDT-Unibet) who ended up isolating himself with 14 kilometres to go, only to be caught by what was left of the peloton 4 kilometres from the finish line. Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) took the best of this group, winning his first of the season and continuing his incredible series of winning at least a race every year since 2010. With this performance, he also took the lead of general classification from Brenner, who lost 11 minutes.

The third stage was another hilly day where Koen Bouwman came out on top. The Dutchman followed Louka Mathis (Bingoal WB) in an attack which turned out to be the winning one. Behind them, the attempts to come back from Archie Ryan (EF Education-Easypost) and Johannes Staune-Mittet were ineffective and Bouwman got the best of Mathis to win his first of the season and to take the leader's jersey from Ulissi.

The fourth stage consisted of a circuit around Brisighella, with a hard to guess outcome on paper. The breakaway believed in their chance to win it but the last two survivors, Brenner and Alec Segaert (Lotto-Dstny) were finally caught in the last ten kilometres. The young Archie Ryan took his chance and took the first win of his career, in his first year as a pro, resisting the return of Berckmoes and Toupalik (TDT-Unibet). Bouwman kept the lead in GC but with only 9 seconds over of Ryan before the last stage.

The last stage around the town of Forli saw the victory of the Belgian Jenno Berckmoes, who confirmed his good form. Despite a hilly route, no one could escape from the peloton long enough to go for the win and the Belgian took the win on the velodrome of Forli. No changes were seen in the top 10 of the general classification and Bouwman brought the trophy home, Ryan and Ulissi on either side of him on the podium. The Irishman won the youth classification, Berckmoes took the points jersey and Manuele Tarozzi (VF Group-Bardiani) the KOM jersey.

Roue Tourangelle

La Roue Tourangelle, French Cup round, also took place last Sunday. The route could suit the attackers but it’s the sprinters who had the last word in the streets of Tours. Unfortunately, the first part of the race was marked by a massive fall, which caused the neutralization of the race for a few minutes. After that, the riders entered the final circuit and attacks were launched by some riders such as Thibaud Gruel (Groupama-FDJ), Valentin Retailleau (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale) or Alexandre Delettre (St Michel-Mavic-Auber 93). All these attempts were unsuccessful and the sprinters had the chance to fight for the win. At the end, it was Jason Tesson (TotalEnergies) who confirmed his good result in De Panne by beating Gerben Thijssen (Intermarché-Wanty) and Jenthe Biermans (Arkéa-B&B Hotels). Rory Townsend (Q36.5) and Clément Venturini (Arkéa-B&B Hotels) completed the top 5.

Written by: Rémi Massart

25/03/2024

Race Report - Pogačar destroys the competition, Laurance takes his first WorldTour win, and Bernal makes a comeback, at the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya

Stage 1

Nick Schultz (Israel-Premier Tech) sprinted to victory on the first stage of the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, ahead of Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and Stephen Williams (Israel-Premier Tech).

The initial breakaway formed with 160km to go, just before the stage’s first categorised climb: the Alt de la Ganga. The five riders – Kenny Elissonde (Cofidis), Simone Petilli (Intermarché-Wanty), Alex Baudin (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale), Adne Holter (Uno-X Mobility), and Mikel Bizkarra (Euskaltel-Euskadi) – opened up a gap of three minutes to the peloton behind. Elissonde managed to take eight bonus points from being the first to ride over the Alt de la Ganga and the Alt dels Angels, however the peloton eventually caught the breakaway group with 32km to go.

Just before the final climb of the day – the Alt de Sant Grau – Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) sprinted for three bonus seconds, ahead of Pogačar and Laurens De Plus (Ineos Grenadiers). Riding up the climb, the pace was high, and Pogačar was well-placed near the front. However Schultz launched a surprise attack 500m from the finish line – which Pogačar was unable to catch – and took the first WorldTour win of his career.

Shultz took the lead of the points classification and the general classification, holding a lead of two seconds on Pogačar. Kenny Elissonde (Cofidis) took the lead of the mountain classification, and Axel Laurance (Alpecin-Deceuninck) led the youth classification.

Stage 2

Pogačar took the win on stage two of the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, as well as the overall race lead, on the Vallter 2000 mountaintop finish.

The initial breakaway formed with 180km to go, including Jimmy Janssens (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Kevin Colleoni (Intermarché-Wanty), Samuel Fernández (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Alex Jaime (Kern Pharma), Jambaljamts Sainbayar (Burgos-BH), and Xabier Isasa (Euskaltel-Euskadi), and managed to create a gap of 5:30. Pogačar tried a few attacks from the front of the peloton, however he was caught both times. Some of the breakaway riders also attempted attacks – Fernández went solo, followed by Janssens, and the two held a gap of 40 seconds from the rest of the breakaway group behind. Janssens then attacked solo, with 20km to go, and held a 50-second gap.

However, by the time the race reached the base of Vallter 2000, the teams aiming for GC success pushed hard at the front of the peloton, in an attempt to close the gap. Pogačar attacked with 6.5km to go, passing Janssens, and taking the lead. A chasing group formed – including Bernal, João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates), Cian Uijtdebroeks (Visma-Lease a Bike), Mikel Landa (Soudal-QuickStep), Lenny Martinez (Groupama FDJ), Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe), Chris Harper (Jayco AlUla) and Harold Tejada (Astana Qazaqstan) – following around 35 seconds behind Pogačar. Uijtdebroeks and Tejada were eventually dropped, and Pogačar increased his lead to 1:23, as he crossed the line in first, with Landa in second, and Vlasov in third.

Pogačar took the lead of the points classification, mountain classification and the general classification, holding a lead of 1:35 over Landa. Martinez led the youth classification.

Stage 3

Pogačar won again on stage three with another solo finish, this time atop Port Ainé.

After a few unsuccessful attempts to form a breakaway group within the early kilometres of the stage, at the Port de Toses, Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious) and Andreas Leknessund (Uno-X Mobility) were joined by Tejada, Mauri Vansevenant (Soudal-QuickStep), Juan Pedro López (Lidl-Trek), Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost), Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers), Iván Sosa (Movistar), and Andreas Kron (Lotto-Dstny). However, the group was brought back with 65km to go, ahead of the second climb of the day. On the climb, Tejada raced to the front to gain 26 points in the mountain classification, and at the intermediate sprint following the descent off the Port de Cantó, Vlasov took three bonus seconds to level his time with Landa.

UAE Team Emirates and Soudal Quick-Step set a hard pace on the final climb, which caused many riders to drop back. With 7.5km to go, Landa attacked, and Pogačar immediately followed, quickly passing him. Sepp Kuss (Visma-Lease-a-Bike) managed to bridge across to Landa, and they were later joined by Harper inside the final 4km, however Landa attacked once more at 3km to go solo in pursuit of second place, and so the other two dropped back to the group behind.

Inside the final kilometre, Enric Mas (Movistar) attacked for third, but was followed by Kuss and Antonio Tiberi and Wout Poels (both Bahrain Victorious). Pogačar finished first, 48 seconds ahead of Landa, who came in second. Tiberi finished in third, ahead of Poels and Kuss.

Pogačar kept the lead of the points classification, mountain classification and the general classification, holding a lead of 2:27 over Landa. Martinez kept the lead of the youth classification.

Stage 4

Marijn Van den Berg (EF Education-EasyPost) sprinted to victory on stage 4, ahead of Emils Liepins (DSM-Firmenich-PostNL) and Arne Marit (Intermarché-Wanty).

A small group broke away from the peloton at the start of the race, including Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Dstny), Urko Berrade (Equipo Kern Pharma) and Idar Andersen (Uno-X Mobility), and created a gap of over three minutes to the peloton. However, the peloton began to close the gap after the Port d'Àger summit. Berrade dropped back from the group with 60km to go, and De Gendt and Andersen were then caught with 30km to go.

A few more attacks followed – Poels claimed three bonus seconds at the intermediate sprint, ahead of Kuss, and when they were brought back, Luis Ángel Maté (Euskaltel-Euskadi) then launched his attack – however he was caught with around 8.5km to go. It therefore all came down to a bunch sprint. Brian Coquard (Cofidis) opened up his sprint first, but Van den Berg was faster, and came past for the win. In the end, Coquard had to settle for fourth.

There was little change in the leaders classifications: Pogačar kept his lead of the points classification, mountain classification and the general classification, holding a lead of 2:27 over Landa. Martinez kept the lead of the youth classification.

Stage 5

On stage 5, Laurance managed to outsprint Van den Berg to take his first ever WorldTour level victory, in his debut season in the WorldTour.

Many different groups attempted to break away from the peloton in the first 40km of the race, but all were unsuccessful – although at the intermediate sprint, Iván Garcia Cortina (Movistar) claimed three bonus seconds, followed by Mas who took two seconds, and Kuss who secured one. A five-man breakaway finally formed on the descent, with 85km to go, consisting of Oscar Rodríguez (Ineos Grenadiers), Jacopo Mosca (Lidl-Trek), Enzo Paleni (Groupama-FDJ), Georg Steinhauser (EF Education-EasyPost) and Christopher Juul-Jensen (Jayco-AlUla).

However, the breakaway’s lead decreased to one minute by the final climb – the Alt de la Creu d'Aragall – and was caught shortly afterwards. With 14km to go, a few riders tried some attacks, but by 5km to go, the peloton was intact at the front. Laurance narrowly managed to sprint to first place, ahead of Van den Berg and Coquard.

Once again, there was little change in the leaders classifications: Pogačar kept his lead of the points classification, mountain classification and the general classification, holding a lead of 2:27 over Landa. Martinez kept the lead of the youth classification.

Stage 6

On stage 6, Pogačar won solo on the hardest stage of the race after attacking with 30km to go, taking his third victory of the week.

The initial breakaway formed within the first two kilometres of racing – including Bauke Mollema (Lidl-Trek) and Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost) – however the peloton began to close in after the Collet de Cal Ros. Mollema was caught first, and then Carthy, and that was the end for the breakaway with 72km to go.

The pace was high at the front of the peloton, which caused more and more riders to drop back, including Kuss – one of the main favourites for this stage. By two kilometres from the top of the Coll de Pradell, fewer than 20 riders remained at the front, including Pogačar, Bernal, Martínez, Landa and Harper. On the descent, these riders managed to open a gap to the chasing group behind, but they were eventually caught with just over 30km to go.

However, as they reached the Collada de Sant Isidre, the pace increased again, and soon after, Pogačar began his attack. By the time he reached the top, he was leading Landa (who was attempting to chase solo) by 30 seconds, and Bernal followed another 30 seconds behind. Landa and Bernal began to work together with 15k to go, but they remained 50 seconds behind Pogačar. Pogačar crossed the line solo, with a lead of 57 seconds, Bernal claimed second place – which allowed him to move up to third place in the general classification – and Landa came third.

Whilst this stage led to a few switch-ups in the general classification positions, overall there was little change as to who led each classification: Pogačar kept his lead of the points classification, mountain classification and the general classification, holding a lead of 3:31 over Landa. Martinez kept the lead of the youth classification.

Stage 7

Tadej Pogačar took his fourth win of the week, and cemented his position as the winner of the overall race, in a bunch sprint on stage 7 of the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya.

A group of five men – including Jimmy Janssens (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Georg Steinhauser (EF Education-Easypost), Harrison Ward (Cofidis), Idar Andersen (Uno-X Mobility), and Ander Okamika (Burgos-BH) – broke away from the peloton at the start of the race, with Janssens winning the two intermediate sprints after the de la Creu de l’Ordal. With 40km to go, Steinhauser and Andersen raced ahead of the rest of the breakaway group for several kilometres, and Soler then attacked from the front of the peloton with Valentin Paret-Peintre (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale) and Louis Barré (Arkea-B&B Hotels), catching the left-behind breakaway riders.

With 28km to go, Steinhauser attacked, and dropped Andersen, carrying on solo. Soler’s group were then caught by the peloton just before 20km to go, and by 14km to go, Steinhauser too was caught, and the bunch was back together. Pogačar launched an attack on the penultimate climb, followed by a small group of riders, however on the descent, the majority of the peloton managed to catch up. De Gendt attempted to attack with 7.8km to go, however he too was caught. In the end, Pogačar sprinted to first place, followed by Dorian Godon (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale) and Guillaume Martin (Cofidis).

Pogačar kept his lead to win the points classification, mountain classification and the general classification, holding a lead of 3:41 over Landa, with Bernal in third. Martinez won the youth classification, and Bahrain-Victorious won the team competition.

Written by: Alicia Moyo

24/03/2024

Race Report - A Lidl-Trek masterclass, and a bunch sprint photo finish at Gent-Wevelgem

Men’s Race

Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek) won Gent-Wevelgem for a second time, ahead of Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck), in a sprint to the line.

At the beginning of the race, a group of riders – including Michael Mørkøv (Astana Qazaqstan), Johan Jacobs (Movistar), Kelland O'Brien (Jayco AlUla), Hugo Houle (Israel-Premier Tech), William Blume Levy (Uno-X Mobility), and Cyrus Monk (Q36.5) – broke away from the peloton after 30km, and over the next 20km, Dries De Bondt (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale) and Mathis Le Berre (Arkéa-B&B Hotels) bridged over to join the group with 210km to go.

Unfortunately, with 160km to go, there was a crash, which took Jan Tratnik (Visma-Lease-a-Bike) out of the race, and by 148km to go, the strong winds resulted in echelons forming. The first echelon included many race favourites – including Van der Poel and Pedersen – however the peloton was determined to chase, as teams such as Lotto Dstny, Bahrain-Victorious and Jayco AlUla aimed to get their main riders – Arnaud de Lie, Matej Mohorič and Michael Matthews – into the front group. The leading group caught up with the breakaway with 120km to go, and Johan Jacobs (Movistar) and Max Walscheid (Jayco-AlULa) both attempted attacks off the front, but were unsuccessful. With 94km to go, the peloton closed in on the front group, and then extinguished the attacks in front.

Van der Poel attacked on the Kemmelberg with Pedersen and Jonathan Milan (Lidl-Trek) following. Jasper Stuyven (Lidl-Trek) also managed to join the group, as did Tim Van Dijke (Visma-Lease a Bike), Laurence Pithie (Groupama-FDJ) and Rasmus Tiller (Uno-X Mobility). A series of attacks then ensued. Milan attacked off the front, and after he managed to create a sizeable gap, Van der Poel had to chase. Stuyven then dropped back, due to a puncture. Once Milan was caught, his teammate Pedersen attacked, and by 60km to go, only Van der Poel, and Pithie could follow.

However on the final pass of the Kemmelberg, Pithie dropped back to a small group behind – including Ben Turner (Ineos Grenadiers), Hugo Page (Intermarché-Wanty) and Anthony Turgis (TotalEnergies) – and so the two world champions were left alone with around 34km to go. The aforementioned small group was soon swallowed up by the peloton with 13km to go.

At the flamme rouge, Pedersen was in the lead. Van der Poel tried to come around him, but wasn’t strong enough, and Pedersen crossed the line triumphant in first. The chasing group followed behind, with Jordi Meeus (Bora-Hansgrohe) taking third place, followed by Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Jonathan Milan (Lidl-Trek), and Olav Kooij (Visma-Lease a Bike). Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty), Tim Merlier (Soudal Quick-Step), Dylan Groenewegen (Jayco AlUla) and Matteo Trentin (Tudor Pro Cycling), rounded out the top 10.

Women’s Race

Lorena Wiebes (SD Worx-Protime) won Gent-Wevelgem Women ahead of Elisa Balsamo (Lidl-Trek) in a photo finish, with Chiara Consonni (UAE Team ADQ) taking third place.

The initial breakaway group had formed and gained a two-minute lead by around 150km to go, and included Julie Van de Velde (AG Insurance-Soudal), Giorgia Vettorello (Roland), Lieke Nooijen (Visma-Lease a Bike), Anniina Ahtosalo (Uno-X Mobility), Amandine Fouquenet (Arkéa-B&B Hotels) and Laura Molenaar (VolkerWessels). Yet despite holding a relatively large gap to the peloton behind for a long time, the group was caught with 76km to go.

On De Moeren, the strong winds separated the peloton, but it soon came back together again. Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx-Protime) then launched an attack on the Baneberg, and Christina Schweinberger (Fenix-Deceuninck), Elisa Longo Borghini (Lidl-Trek), Pfeiffer Georgi (DSM-Firmenich PostNL), Emma Norsgaard (Movistar), Puck Pieterse (Fenix-Deceuninck), Consonni, and Wiebes, Marlen Reusser and Christine Majerus from SD Worx-Protime, followed – however after a few kilometres, the peloton caught up. Kopecky attacked again on the first Kemmelberg ascent, with seven riders following, including Pieterse, Wiebes, Reusser, Georgi, Silvia Persico (UAE Team ADQ), Balsamo and Elisa Longo Borghini (Lidl-Trek). The leading group didn’t stay intact for long, however, with some riders dropping back, and others joining, after a few more attacks. With 26km to go, the group was eventually caught.

The Movistar duo of Norsgaard and Floortje Mackaij then took turns attacking a few times, but they were caught each time. Grace Brown (FDJ-Suez) attacked with 2.5km to go, but was unfortunately caught 500m from the finish.

As the sprint began, Kopecky followed the wheel of Georgi, and then came out with around 300m to go, to drop off her sprinter, Wiebes, 200m from the line. Balsamo came out of Wiebes’ wheel and was leading in the last 100 metres, however Wiebes kept pushing, and took the win with a perfect bike throw.

Written by: Alicia Moyo

24/03/2024

Race Report - A dominant solo victory for Van der Poel at the E3 Saxo Classic

Mathieu Van der Poel (Alpecin Deceuninck) wins this year’s action-packed edition of the E3 Saxo Classic, and is now finally able to add the race to his already impressive palmarès.

Race Start and Break Formation

The race began with a handful of unsuccessful early moves, and then unfortunately, a crash involving quite a few riders - including Per Strand Hagenes (Visma-Lease-a-Bike), Łukasz Owsian (Arkéa-B&B-Hotels), Clement Russo (Groupama-FDJ), Timo Roosen (DSM-Firmenich-PostNL), Christophe Noppe (Cofidis), Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost) and Dimitri Peyskens (Bingoal-WB) – which resulted in some of the riders abandoning the race.

The race itself was incredibly fast-paced, with the average speed in the first quarter reaching 51.3kph, and with 150km to go, no solid breakaway had been able to form. Eventually a group of 10 riders formed at the front of the race: Jannik Steimle (Q36.5), Emil Herzog (Bora-Hansgrohe), Lorenzo Milesi (Movistar), Mathis Le Berre (Arkéa-B&B-Hotels), Niklas Märkl (DSM-Firmenich-PostNL), Rémi Cavagna (Movistar), Sander De Pestel (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale), Ivo Oliveira (UAE Emirates), Jonas Abrahamsen (Uno-X Mobility), and Jelle Vermoote (Bingoal WB).

The Attacks Begin

With around 90km to go, the peloton split, with Van der Poel and his main rival, Wout Van Aert (Visma-Lease-a-Bike), making it to the front. Then within that front chasing group, a series of attacks ensued. Van der Poel attempted an attack on the Taaienberg, which was caught by Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek). Then came attacks from Alex Kirsch (Lidl-Trek) and Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal Quick-Step) in quick succession, the latter being chased down fairly quickly by Mads Pedersen, who then went on to attack solo himself.

The group eventually came together again after a small group led by Van der Poel – with Van Aert and Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty) chasing – successfully closed the gap. Yet the attacks within Group Two continued over the next 20km, with many involving Van der Poel and the riders from Lidl-Trek. Just as the breakaway was about to be caught, with 47.5km to go, Oier Lazkano (Movistar) launched an attack off the front, and held a gap for a few kilometres until he was eventually caught by Van der Poel, who was leading the front group.

Van der Poel’s Solo Attack

It was at this moment that disaster struck for Van Aert, as he fell at the beginning of the Paterberg after Van der Poel launched yet another attack with 43km to go. Van Aert found himself held up at the back of the group whilst Van der Poel sped off into the distance, creating a gap. It wasn’t over just yet, however, as Van Aert quickly rode back to the front of the chasing group, and went solo in pursuit of his rival, as a small group – including Girmay and Matteo Jorgenson (Visma-Lease-a-Bike) – followed a short distance behind.

Van Aert’s Chase

Over the next 10km, Van Aert managed to reduce the gap to Van der Poel to around 11 seconds, before the latter launched another acceleration on the Karnemelkbeekstraat that proved too much for the Visma-Lease-a-Bike rider. After this, Van Aert began to lose time on Van der Poel, and a chasing group consisting of Jorgenson, Girmay, Jasper Stuyven (Lidl-Trek), Tim Wellens (UAE Emirates) and Jhonatan Narváez (Ineos Grenadiers) began to close in.

Van Aert Caught by the Chasing Group

With 6.5km to go, Girmay was dropped from the chasing group, and Stuyven launched a solo attack to chase Van Aert. He managed to catch Van Aert with 4.8km to go, and the two continued to ride together towards the line.

Race Finish

Van der Poel crossed the line emphatically in first, taking his first ever victory at the E3 Saxo Classic. Jasper Stuyven kept riding to second place, and Van Aert took third. In the last two kilometres, Jorgenson attempted to attack Wellens and Narváez, but in the end, Wellens finished fourth, ahead of Jorgenson, followed by Narváez.

Nils Politt (UAE Emirates), Toms Skujins (Lidl-Trek), Vincenzo Albanese (Arkéa-B&B Hotels) and Kirsch rounded out the top 10.

Written by: Alicia Moyo

22/03/2024