Monthly Archives: August 2020

Tour de France 2020: Julian Alaphilippe wins stage two to take yellow jersey

Julian Alaphilippe
Julian Alaphilippe wore the maillot jaune – the leader’s yellow jersey – for 14 days during the 2019 Tour

Julian Alaphilippe won stage two of the Tour de France in a sprint finish to claim the yellow jersey in Nice.

The Frenchman held off Marc Hirschi to edge home by half a wheel after leaving Britain’s Adam Yates behind in a final dart for the line.

He leads Yates, who finished third, by four seconds in the overall standings.

It was a fifth stage victory at the Tour for the 28-year-old, after the riders faced a 186km mountainous second stage, with two climbs above 1,500m.

The stage had seemed set for Alaphilippe to light up the race on a hilly course around Nice that played to his strengths.

And in typical fashion the French puncheur delivered one of his trademark attacks on Sunday’s final ascent up the Col des Quatre Chemins.

Yates and Switzerland’s Hirschi both worked with the Deceuninck-QuickStep rider to distance the main bunch, before Alaphilippe claimed his first win of 2020.

“I’ve always remained serious with my training despite the difficult moments I went through – I dedicate this victory to my father [who passed away in June],” Alaphilippe said.

“I asked my team to make the race hard.

“There weren’t many riders left in the last climb. I gave it all – I had nothing to lose. It was nerve wracking but Adam Yates cooperated.

“I wanted to maintain the gap until the flamme rouge [which marks the last kilometre]. I’m kind of used to the pressure. To finish it off makes me feel good. This is the victory that I was missing. The yellow jersey is the icing on the cake.”

Alaphilippe, who wore the yellow jersey for 14 stages in the 2019 edition of the Tour, now leads the race by four seconds ahead of Yates because of time bonuses.

Earlier on Sunday the peloton had safely negotiated the steep slopes of the Col de la Colmiane and Col de Turini, in contrast to Saturday’s chaotic opening stage.

However, it was a tough day for the sprinters, with Saturday’s yellow jersey winner Alexander Kristoff among those to finish over 28 minutes down on Alaphilippe.

Stage three on Monday sees the race travel 198km from Nice to Sisteron.

Stage two result

1. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra/Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 4hrs 55mins 27secs

2. Marc Hirschi (Swi/Team Sunweb) same time

3. Adam Yates (GB/Mitchelton-Scott) +1sec

4. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel/CCC Team) +2secs

5. Sergio Higuita (Col/EF Pro Cycling ) same time

6. Bauke Mollema (Ned/Trek-Segafredo)

7. Alexey Lutsenko (KazAstana Pro Team)

8. Tadej Pogacar (Slo/UAE Team Emirates)

9. Maximilian Schachmann (Ger/BORA-hansgrohe)

10. Alberto Bettiol (Ita/EF Pro Cycling)

General classification after stage two

1. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra/Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 8hrs 41mins 35secs

2. Adam Yates (GB/Mitchelton-Scott) +4secs

3. Marc Hirschi (Swi/Team Sunweb) +7secs

4. Sergio Higuita (Col/EF Pro Cycling) +17secs

5. Tadej Pogacar (Slo/UAE Team Emirates) same time

6. Esteban Chaves (Col/Mitchelton-Scott)

7. Davide Formolo (Ita/UAE Team Emirates)

8. Egan Bernal (Col/INEOS Grenadiers)

9. Richard Carapaz (Ecu/INEOS Grenadiers)

10. Tom Dumoulin (Ned/Jumbo-Visma)

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Tour de France 2020: Alexander Kristoff wins stage one

Alexander Kristoff wins the opening stage
Kristoff secured the yellow jersey with a superb sprint finish

Alexander Kristoff timed his sprint finish to perfection to win the opening stage of the Tour de France in Nice.

After a large group crashed inside the final 3km, Norwegian Kristoff, 33, surged home in a sprint also involving Ireland’s Sam Bennett, who was fourth.

Rain made the roads treacherous and led to several crashes, with Pavel Sivakov of Team Ineos twice coming off.

Ineos’ defending champion Egan Bernal largely avoided the trouble and finished safely in the peloton.

Colombia’s Nairo Quintana crashed, while Astana’s decision to up the pace on the final descent from Levens saw Miguel Angel Lopez slide into a road sign and prompted some stern exchanges towards the team from other riders in the peloton.

Ineos’ Luke Rowe called Astana’s move “pretty stupid”.

“I have to say ‘chapeau’ to the whole peloton – minus Astana to hit it down one climb and, as a result, their leader was left on his back,” the British rider said.

France’s Julian Alaphilippe was also caught in a crash, while compatriot Thibaut Pinot – one of the race favourites – fell heavily towards the end and rolled over the line with a ripped jersey.

However, because the crash happened inside the final 3km, he was credited with the same time as the group he was riding with, so ended up losing no time on his rivals for the overall win.

The riders face a 186km mountainous second stage on Sunday, with two climbs above 1,500m.

‘It means a lot for my career’

Veteran Kristoff’s most recent stage win at the Tour came on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on the final stage of the 2018 race.

While few expected him to win on Saturday, the first rain in Nice since June worked in his favour as several of his rivals, including Bennett and Australia’s Caleb Ewan, were caught up in crashes on the 156km route.

Surging off the wheel of Peter Sagan, UAE-Team Emirates rider Kristoff held off Mads Pedersen and Cees Bol to claim another memorable victory – his fourth at the Tour – and one that saw him collect the first yellow jersey of his career.

“I always dreamed about wearing it,” he told ITV4. “Now it is a dream coming true. You cannot dream of a better start.

“We did not expect to win the sprint but I felt really strong and coming to the line I thought I was going to win.

“The boys kept me safe during the stage. I was sitting on Sagan for a long time. At the end I was the strongest and it was an amazing moment for me.

“It means a lot for my career. I am 33, have kids but I can still perform with the best.”

Stage one result

1. Alexander Kristoff (Nor/UAE-Team Emirates) 3hrs 46mins 23seconds

2. Mads Pedersen (Den/Trek-Segafredo) Same time

3. Cees Bol (Ned/Sunweb)

4. Sam Bennett (Ire/Deceuninck-Quick Step)

5. Peter Sagan (Slo/Bora-Hansgrohe)

6. Elia Viviani (Ita/Cofidis)

7. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita/NTT)

8. Bryan Coquard (Fra/BB)

9. Anthony Turgis (Fra/Total Direct Energie)

10. Jasper Stuyen (Bel/Trek-Segafredo)

General classification after stage one

1. Alexander Kristoff (Nor/UAE-Team Emirates) 3hrs 46mins 13seconds

2. Mads Pedersen (Den/Trek-Segafredo) +4secs

3. Cees Bol (Ned/Sunweb) +6secs

4. Sam Bennett (Ire/Deceuninck-Quick Step) +10secs

5. Peter Sagan (Slo/Bora-Hansgrohe)

6. Elia Viviani (Ita/Cofidis)

7. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita/NTT)

8. Bryan Coquard (Fra/BB)

9. Anthony Turgis (Fra/Total Direct Energie)

10. Jasper Stuyen (Bel/Trek-Segafredo)

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La Course 2020: Britain’s Lizzie Deignan claims victory in Nice

Lizzie Deignan alongside Marianne Vos in a sprint finish to the line in La Course
Marianne Vos (left) looked set to win her third La Course title before Lizzie Deignan (right) surged ahead on the line

Britain’s Lizzie Deignan has won La Course with a stunning finish in Nice.

The 2019 champion Marianne Vos had moved into the lead with 400m to go, but Deignan chased down the Dutch rider to claim the victory with a bike throw on the line.

Deignan and Vos were two of six riders who broke away from the main group with 44km to go.

It is the 31-year-old’s second win this week, after victory in GP de Plouay in Brittany on Tuesday.

“I’m really relieved that I won it. What a great overall performance by the team. Every one of my team-mates did a great job today,” said Deignan.

“This is phenomenal because sometimes when you train hard and you don’t win, you get frustrated and then when it comes at last, you’re really relieved.

“It’s really special. I know my husband and my daughter were watching on television and I can’t wait to pick up the phone and speak to them.”

World champion Annemiek van Vleuten led the elite group of six that pulled clear of the pack at the bottom of the Cote de Rimiez, along with Elisa Longo Borghini, Katarzyna Niewiadoma and Demi Vollering.

As the sprint finish developed with 1km to go it seemed as though Vos, who out-sprinted Deignan for gold at the London Olympics in 2012, would come out on top again as she opened up sizeable gap.

However, Deignan anticipated her move and stayed in Vos’ slipstream before making her late dash for the line, with Dutch rider Vollering third.

This year’s event was a 96km road race starting and finishing along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice.

It was originally scheduled to be a circuit race along the the Champs-Elysees in Paris in July, but the Covid-19 pandemic forced a restructuring of the calendar.

La Course results

  1. Elizabeth Deignan (Gbr/Trek-Segafredo) 2hrs 22mins 51secs
  2. Marianne Vos (Ned/CCC-Liv)
  3. Demi Vollering (Ned/Parkhotel Valkenburg)
  4. Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Pol/Canyon-Sram)
  5. Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned/Mitchelton-Scott)
  6. Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita/Trek-Segafredo) +7secs
  7. Emilia Fahlin (Swe/FDJ) +1min50secs
  8. Elisa Balsamo (Ita/Valcar-Travel Service)
  9. Soraya Paladin (Ita/CCC-Liv)
  10. Liane Lippert (Ger/Team Sunweb)

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Tour de France: An unpredictable and brutal race brings back the fans

Peter Sagan
Every stage of the Tour de France is live on the BBC Sport website

Sport just isn’t the same without fans.

Even the Champions League final didn’t seem to matter as much. A lack of occasion repeated across all major stadia, racing circuits and golf courses this summer.

So the delayed Tour de France this year has an important role to play.

Following the inevitable postponement from its original grand depart on 27 June to this Saturday, the world’s greatest cycling race will be the first major sporting event to take place with fans back in their rightful place. Right by the action. Well, somewhere near to it.

Because even if organisers ASO wanted to divert fans to screening areas near the start and finish of each of the 21 stages, no sport which roams through countryside and over mountain ranges can completely stop those lining much of the 3,000 or so kilometres of roads.

And it is the passion of the fans that elite sport is so badly lacking right now. A passion, in this case, for cycling that means walking up to cold mountain tops, often in fancy dress, and get as close to the riders as you dare.

It could be a gathering even the most determined lockdown party animals would be proud of.

But is it one set to be gatecrashed by the coronavirus?

Uninvited guests

Many think ASO’s determination to hold the event is irresponsible, despite attempts to keep crowds at sensible levels. They think it is too big a risk as France battles an increase in coronavirus infections, with some areas put on high alert.

But, as ever, there’s a flipside – that this is seen as a brave, pioneering step back to normality, and a sporting event that best represents a perceived freedom of movement the western world currently laments.

“We’ll be under greater scrutiny than ever before,” said race director Christian Prudhomme. “This Tour will be a symbol of rebirth and economic recovery.”

Sure, autograph hunters at the team buses will have little or no luck, pushed back by the team bubbles which take riders and staff from their hotels to the buses and away from most of the media.

And the usual podium traditions are gone – no kisses, flowers or jerseys will be handed out.

But there have already been several races, leading up to the Tour, which have reported almost no problems with their bubble structure.

Everybody wants this to work, and believes in the efforts being made. But, as one team boss put it: “You have to have your head in the clouds if you think we’ll cruise though this next three and a half month period scot-free.

“There’s risks races could be cancelled, and the teams and organisers are aware the sport will look different. But already in cycling people are on top of their hygiene.”

Just as well, because if a team reports back two positive tests they could be expelled from the race. An even bigger outbreak could stop the Tour altogether.

And there have been concerns raised by the Bora-Hansgrohe team over the testing with one of their riders returning a positive result at a race earlier this week but a second test was negative.

A Tour de France fan heps a stricken rider
Do not touch: riders are likely to come into contact with others ouside of their ‘bubbles’

What happened to the Brits?

If most weary participants and equally weary fans were dreading all this effort would end in Chris Froome atop the podium wearing an Ineos (nee Sky) jersey for a fifth time, now they sense another compelling reason to risk turning up at the roadside.

This year’s Tour line-up is without a genuine British contender for the first time since Sir Bradley Wiggins called a raffle on the Champs-Elysees after his win in 2012. Four-time Tour winner Froome is not going to be at the opening stage in Nice – he’s not ready to lead a team to victory this year after injuries caused by a horrific crash during the Criterium de Dauphine in 2019.

Froome, at 35, will instead contest the Vuelta a Espana in October – the three-week race where he made his name as a general classification contender 10 years ago.

Missing too is 2018 winner Geraint Thomas, similarly searching for form in recent warm-up races. Only a year younger than Froome, he’ll looking to prove he still has the strength to win a Grand Tour by contesting the rearranged the Giro d’Italia.

In fact the team which has won seven out of the last eight Tours de France, is in a real transitional phase. Ineos now find themselves with new backers trying to balance a chiefly British identity with staying at the very top of the sport.

As of this week they will be known as the Ineos Grenadiers. A new identity for a team still mourning the tragic loss of much-admired sporting director Nico Portal, who died of a heart attack aged 40 in March.


The most unpredictable Tour for years

Ineos undoubtedly have talent and eyes on the top prize though. Last year’s winner Egan Bernal is this year being backed up by a typically strong squad of domestiques who have their own accolades in cycling, headed by last year’s Giro d’Italia winner Richard Carapaz of Ecuador.

That’s Colombia and Ecuador. Welcome to the new Ineos. But Britishness is important to the team, proven by the signing of Adam Yates – the best British talent outside of Ineos alongside twin brother Simon – who will ride with the team from 2021.

After the exclusion of another legendary British Tour rider, sprinter Mark Cavendish, the UK’s only hope at this year’s race comes in the form of Yates for his current Michelton Scott team. He is a contender – but more likely for individual stage wins in the mountains rather the overall.

Bernal’s early season form was explosive, but it appeared to plateau a few weeks ago, eventually culminating in a back injury with saw him pull out of his the Criterium de Dauphine “to be cautious”.

He is expected to be fine, but riders who are fine don’t leave races early, and his drop off in intensity will be a concern.

But no rider ahead of this race has shown consistently pure form, perhaps because of the lack of preparation caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

What’s more of a concern for Brailsford and the rest of the peloton, is the Ineos-esque domination of the emerging Jumbo-Visma team.

Jumbo-Visma riders are now several bookies’ favourites to win stages and the race, as they have been hoovering up most of the significant stage and race victories with leader Primoz Roglic and young riders in frightening form such as Wout van Aert and Sepp Kuss.

French hopes of a first home win since Bernard Hinault claimed his fifth Tour title in 1985 appear to again rest on the shoulders of Groupama-FDJ’s Thibaut Pinot and the indefatigable Julian Alaphilippe of the Deceuninck-Quick Step team, while Astana’s Miguel Angel Lopez is another of the promising Colombians.

Thibaut Pinot
French hopes rest with Thibaut Pinot

One of the hardest ever Tours?

A frightening journey awaits.

The route is mountainous from more or less the second stage. And the race takes on a number of punishing climbs across the three weeks, including at the Tour’s highest point at Meribel Col de la Loze, 2,300m up on stage 17.

Stage eight sees the riders tackle the Col de Peyresourde in the Pyrenees – where Froome made his name in 2012 by putting Wiggins in the shade – and stage 15 includes a double ascent of the hors category Grand Colombier. So bad they made them do it twice.

In fact the race includes just one time trial this year – on the final competitive stage before the ride into Paris. And even that is in the mountains; this time finishing on the category one grind up to La Planche des Belles Filles.

As a result, the smart money is on Roglic or Bernal for victory, but not knowing which is the smarter money is exciting enough.

There are many dissenters who feel the Tour should not be going ahead, and who will be proven right if the peloton does not make it to Paris on 20 September.

But the sheer unpredictability of who will be there if the race makes it that far will attract those who really matter anyway. The fans.

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Tour de France: Chris Froome relationship ‘good as ever’

Sir Dave Brailsford and Chris Froome
Egan Bernal (left) will defend his Tour de France title for Sir Dave Brailsford’s (centre) Team Ineos, while Chris Froome (right) misses out

Sir Dave Brailsford says his relationship with Chris Froome is “as good as ever” despite leaving him out of Team Ineos’ Tour de France squad.

Froome, 35, suffered a fracture to his neck in a major crash last year and Brailsford says the Tour had come “a bit early” for the four-time winner.

The rescheduled Tour begins on Saturday in Nice and runs until 20 September.

“We have given Chris a bit longer to continue his recovery,” team principal Brailsford told BBC Breakfast.

Froome, who is leaving Ineos at the end of the current season, will instead lead the team at the Vuelta a Espana in October.

“We looked at everything we can do to support his training programme and our relationship is as good as ever,” added Brailsford.

“We have a professional relationship and a personal relationship, and on both fronts, we are absolutely fine.

“Chris had a horrific accident last year and he has done amazingly well to come back and be able to compete at the highest end of professional cycling.”

Alongside Froome, Welshman and 2018 winner Geraint Thomas also misses out, with the team, which will be known as Ineos Grenadiers for the race.

Brailsford said: “Geraint has already won the Tour de France but we want to get the Tour of Italy under his belt to join up with his yellow jersey, so we have reallocated our resources and we feel like we have all of the big races covered this year.”

He added the team was “all in” for last year’s winner Egan Bernal, while they also have 2019 Giro d’Italia victor Richard Carapaz in their eight-strong squad of riders.

He also reiterated his stance on wanting to develop British riders as Froome and 34-year-old Thomas near the “twilight” of their careers.

Britain’s Adam Yates, 28, will join Ineos from Mitchelton-Scott on a two year deal next season, and Brailsford says his team are “really going to invest in the next generation”.

“We have had a cohort of British riders that we have worked with for 10 years and they have developed at the highest level and given us great success,” said Brailsford.

“It is time to turn back into British cycling and to identify some of the great young talent dotted around in various teams and academy programmes.

“We have signed Adam Yates from another team, who has been fourth in the Tour de France already.”

Mitchelton-Scott rider Yates, who will target stage wins instead of the general classification at this year’s Tour, said the transfer would not affect him for the rest of the season.

“It wasn’t an easy decision but I’m happy with what I chose,” he added.

“I made my mind up a couple of weeks ago and it moved pretty quickly from there.”

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