Lesser known races thread 2021

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Stage 6 in Vietnam, and we're back to traditional point to point races, with a flat stage of 140km from Hanoi to Thanh Hóa. The bunch stayed together until the first intermediate, with baroudeur Trần Tuấn Kiệt collecting the points at the sprint, before a four man breakaway emerged. The danger man in the group was Nguyễn Trúc Xinh (of TPHCM-NewGroup), just 23" back on the GC, and so after the group's lead extended to 2 minutes, Domesco-Đồng Tháp and BikeLife both set themselves to work on the front, as the NewGroup team is both very strong and also the team of 2nd placed Lê Nguyệt Minh. Nguyễn Trúc Xinh did the lion's share of the work for the last 30km in the pursuit of time and leading to an average pace of 41km/h, not bad considering a fairly pedestrian first hour, but he lost the sprint at the end of the day to Phan Tuấn Vũ of the TP Cần Thơ team, one of the smallest in the race and who did not contest last year's edition so did not benefit from the additional audience.

While the group was successful in taking the stage win, the péloton came in just 16 seconds behind and so Nguyễn Trúc Xinh's quest for a stint in yellow was denied, and, exhausted from his exertions to keep the group away, he was outsprinted and ended up 4th of 4 in the group, dropped in the final straight, so denied both the maximum benefit AND the bonus seconds he needed. As a result, his advance was limited and the biggest change at the top of the GC was Trần Tuấn Kiệt moving into 3rd, vaulting past Javier Sardá Pérez, with the bonus seconds accrued. More significantly, though, a big crash in the finishing straight after the top rwo riders on GC collided left Lê Nguyệt Minh and Quân Khu 7's Nguyễn Văn Nhã sprawled in the road (Nguyễn Tấn Hoài was able to make a save but Nguyễn Văn Nhã was caught in the crosshairs, unable to bunnyhop Lê's bike which cut him off at the barriers). The latter has been assessed and it seems all injuries were soft-tissue and superficial, but Lê's remain under wraps, and he was sent to the hospital to check on a potential collarbone injury, so it is not known yet if he will emerge to take the start for tomorrow's 140km stage to Vinh.

 
Everybody present and correct at the startline this morning, however the left side of Nguyễn Văn Nhã's face had been cut to ribbons by his crash yesterday, thankfully not to the Carlos Betancur or Laurens ten Dam extent. X-rays showed no fracture for Lê Nguyệt Minh so he was here too and hungry for revenge. After a few initial exploratory moves, the main move of the day was a 15-man attack which gained over 2 minutes after two earlier moves merged into a large escape, but this was considered far too dangerous, since the group contained a couple of significant team leaders, Nguyễn Hoàng Giang (Lộc Trời) and Huỳnh Thanh Tùng (Quân Khu 7) - 4th and 3rd in this race respectively in 2018. The coverage seems to suggest it was pretty windy today and a fair few were tailed off the back. With a few riders in the breakaway, Quân Khu 7 really looked to drive the escape, but they had both Đồng Tháp teams (Domesco and Dopagan) and both Hồ Chí Minh City teams providing the chase. Domesco because they had the race leader, Vinama because they did not want to let Nguyễn Hoàng Giang and Huỳnh Thanh Tùng gain time, and Dopagan and NewGroup because they fancied the sprint. BikeLife were happy to let it go because their rivals were doing the work to pull the group back, and because Ynghua, their sister team (the one which Jordan Parrá had been with), were represented well in the break.

With four teams giving chase and the weather dying down, however, what had looked like a busy day in the GC would instead end in another quiet day, and after three hours in the saddle at a frenetic speed, covering the 140km in 3hrs 2 minutes for an average speed of 46,2km/h, they reeled in the remains of the breakaway just a couple of kilometres out. A frenetic final straight, with a long, wide, straight road to the line, saw a few attempts at escaping thwarted before last year's breakaway king Trần Tuấn Kiệt, who has been diligently collecting time bonuses in intermediate sprints so far this year, surprised everybody by breaking the slipstream and staying ahead of the more decorated sprint favourites Lê Nguyệt Minh and Nguyễn Tấn Hoài at the line. This means that going into the first rest day, the top of the GC is very cramped - Nguyễn Tấn Hoài and Lê Nguyệt Minh are tied on time with the former holding yellow due to countback, and Trần Tuấn Kiệt is just 1 second behind despite just the one stage win and no podiums, thanks to his diligent escaping and collecting time bonuses.

 
Stage 8 was a Team Time Trial over 3 laps of a 13km circuit in Cửa Lò, a seaside town in Nghệ An which serves as a retreat for the people of Vinh. In the last couple of years the TTT has been quite late in the race and so including it now - before the only ITT of the race (which there wasn't one of last year) and any mountains - is a good way to use it, even if it massively out-distances the ITT. Nevertheless, as old Eastern Bloc races can tell us, a good Team Time Trial is ideologically important in Communist countries and plus probably easier to organise in terms of time of road closures etc. too.

For the last couple of seasons, the TTT has been won by the TP Ho Chi Minh team, i.e. Vinama-TPHCM, so they were the favourites going into the stage, however, they faced stiff competition. The teams without a strong leader were happy to stay in the time limit and keep their riders for stagehunting, but for other GC teams, out came the TT bikes and disc wheels. In the end, BikeLife-Đồng Nai were the strongest; they went out strong and they held a small advantage all the way to the finish, even despite having only three riders, Loïc Désriac, Nguyễn Hoàng Sang and Quốc Khang, able to take turns for the entirety of the final lap, eventually defeating Vinama by just 6 seconds. The net result of this is that Loïc Désriac will take the maillot jaune, with a six second advantage over Javier Sardá and Nguyễn Dương Hồ Vũ, both of Vinama, as their ten seconds of bonuses (a win for Sardá, a 2nd and a 3rd for his teammate) move them ahead of the other BikeLife riders. Domesco Đồng Tháp were third, at 38" back, meaning with his time bonuses Nguyễn Tấn Hoài is placed 11th and can work his way into the top 10 with some more bonus seconds in the coming days.

His team have already done a lot of work to marshal the breaks in the last few days, however, and tomorrow is the longest stage of the race, a 200km route into Quảng Bình which matches the stage where Võ Thanh An escaped and took the jersey last year. His Vinh Long team finished top 5 today but lost over a minute which he'll be wanting to win back in typically combative style.

 
After the fast pace of the last couple of stages, the bunch was a bit more circumspect on stage 9, knowing that they had a long day in the saddle ahead. At first everything was held together until the first intermediate sprint when some small escapes in the hunt for the points opened up some time on the péloton, and then after that a group of 14 got clear, largely consisting of riders from lesser teams who were out stagehunting. There was not enough collaboration among them, however, and the BikeLife-Đồng Nai troops reeled them back in. Hà Kiều Tấn Đại would not be denied, however, and he went again, creating a new escape of 8 riders and winning the second intermediate sprint. None of the main teams were represented, however, although Dopagan and NewGroup were, and serving as sister teams of DDT and Vinama respectively, they limited the collaboration up front. After the sprint was settled, however, the race settled down and eventually the remains of the escape had opened up some 3 minutes' advantage by the foot of Đèo Ngang, the first categorised climb in several days and a pass with significant Vietnamese history. It's more a puncheur type climb with relatively short length, however, and Nguyễn Văn Dương of the Hanoi Team took the climb and will assume the lead in the GPM.

He and Trương Trường An of the Dopagan team pressed on in the lead, Phạm Lê Xuân Lộc attacked the bunch in the hopes of bridging, but ultimately the presence of Phan Thanh Tấn Tài in the break, just 2'36 back on GC, doomed it, and with the final 40km after the climb being mostly very straight and the wind not creating some of the separation it had done in last year's equivalent stage, sadly it looked likely that despite the break's best intentions we were destined for another sprint. BikeLife did a lot of work on the front to make sure the gains made by the break were minimal, and when it became clear that the péloton was reduced but still comforably numerous enough to be the favourite, bonus seconds could be won, Nguyễn Tấn Hoài's rainbow warriors of Domesco Đồng Tháp got on the front with the kind of organised 3-4km leadout that is usually lacking at this level, and their leader duly delivered despite the colossally wide road (we're talking about six wide car lanes, all open for the sprint finish). With Trần Tuấn Kiệt outmatching Lê Nguyệt Minh for 2nd, he brings himself into a commanding lead in the blue points jersey standings, and moves just 16" back on the GC as well.


Another great race from a smaller scene begins tomorrow too, the Vuelta a Colombia, taking place in an unfamiliar time of the year and at an unprecedentedly abridged 9 days in length. There are two MTFs - at La Línea (from its easier side) and El Vino, as well as a stage over the Alto de Letras, but from the Manizales side, and an MTT as well. Key stages:







Useful startlist too:
Medellín (Sevilla, Duarte, Chalapud, Oyola, Suaza)
Colnago-CM (Jamaica, Hoyos)
CTA-GW Bicicletas (Atapuma, Merchán, Mendoza, Soto)
EPM (Suárez, Reyes, Montaña, Bohórquez)
Orgullo Paísa (Osorio, Jaramillo)
UAE Team Colombia (Gutiérrez Rendón, Sarmiento)
Supergiros (Chaparro, Rincón)
Sundark Arawak (Cala)
Cartagena-Liga Bolivár (Serpa, Barón, Pedraza)
Sonando Colombia (Jordán Parra, Molano, Castelblanco)
EBSA, Strongman, Fundación Esteban Chaves, Gobernación del Tolima, Néctar Cundinamarca (YES!!!), Herrera Sport, Recapi-Llaneros, Liro Alcaldía de Vega, Boyacá Zea el Faro, Depormundo, Alcaldía Santana Irdet

Extranjero teams:
Canel's ZeroUno (Santos, Prado, Heiner Parra)
Panama es Cultura y Valores (Jurado, Archibold, Strah)
PioRico
Movistar Team Ecuador (Toro, Montenegro, Navarrete)

There's also some interesting guest riders and extranjeros entering - I'm particularly interested in Luís Fernando López, a 23-year-old Honduran riding for Alcaldía la Vega. He's been on the podium of the Vuelta a Costa Rica and been top 10 of the Vuelta a Guatemala twice.
 
Stage 10 in Vietnam, and the péloton continued along flat stages, from Đồng Hới to the ancient capital of Huế. Lê Nguyệt Minh is on last warning from the commissaires for causing crashes and so has to be on best behaviour here - the absurdly wide finishing roads on the HTV Cup should make this safer, but operating with so much space sometimes means a bit more sprinting-on-the-crab than we might see in the European pro péloton. The weather played ball for us today, at least at first, and a high average speed and attacks kept the pace very high. The wind was from the right direction but not strong enough to create real carnage, but nevertheless at first most attacks were hauled in. Eventually a 9 man group got away, and with no real threats to the GC, BikeLife quickly eased up and allowed a gap of three and a half minutes to develop. Cần Thơ and Quân Khu 7 were doubly represented in the break and pushed it hard, as well as Nguyễn Văn Dương out to collect GPMs, but the two Đồng Tháp teams conspired to peg the break - Domesco wanted to pull it back to try to gain more bonus seconds with Nguyễn Tấn Hoài as he attempts to Rik van Looy his way to victory, while Dopagan - who had a rider in the break themselves - wanted to protect the U23 jersey which they hold with Lê Hải Đăng - one of the break was only 2'24 behind him.

With their advantage dwindling the Quân Khu 7 duo made a bid for glory with 15km remaining, but again the bunch won - that annulment of stage 2 has had a really detrimental effect on the race, as far too many teams have something to protect and so the break is being given far less rope than it was last year when several stags would be decided by the baroudeurs. In the end, Nguyễn Tấn Hoài's men were successful once more in giving their man the chance to sprint out the win. This time, however, Vinama's Nguyễn Trường Tài, third in last year's GC, outsmarted the specialists as Vinama set out a second train with pace on the right hand side of the road with just over 500m to go, and with Domesco's troops too spent from hauling back the breakaway, they couldn't launch Nguyễn Tấn Hoài with enough speed to overhaul him. Lê Nguyệt Minh pushed through into 2nd, relegating Tấn Hoài to 3rd and limiting his bonus seconds. Nguyễn Trường Tài, with his 10 seconds' bonus, now moves into 2nd on the GC behind Désriac, ahead of Sardá thanks to an earlier bonus second picked up in an intermediate. Tomorrow is a crit stage, before Sunday should see the belated GC shakeup as the riders climb over Đèo Hải Vân.

 
Another great race from a smaller scene begins tomorrow too, the Vuelta a Colombia, taking place in an unfamiliar time of the year and at an unprecedentedly abridged 9 days in length. There are two MTFs - at La Línea (from its easier side) and El Vino, as well as a stage over the Alto de Letras, but from the Manizales side, and an MTT as well. Key stages:


Useful startlist too:
Medellín (Sevilla, Duarte, Chalapud, Oyola, Suaza)
Colnago-CM (Jamaica, Hoyos)
CTA-GW Bicicletas (Atapuma, Merchán, Mendoza, Soto)
EPM (Suárez, Reyes, Montaña, Bohórquez)
Orgullo Paísa (Osorio, Jaramillo)
UAE Team Colombia (Gutiérrez Rendón, Sarmiento)
Supergiros (Chaparro, Rincón)
Sundark Arawak (Cala)
Cartagena-Liga Bolivár (Serpa, Barón, Pedraza)
Sonando Colombia (Jordán Parra, Molano, Castelblanco)
EBSA, Strongman, Fundación Esteban Chaves, Gobernación del Tolima, Néctar Cundinamarca (YES!!!), Herrera Sport, Recapi-Llaneros, Liro Alcaldía de Vega, Boyacá Zea el Faro, Depormundo, Alcaldía Santana Irdet

Extranjero teams:
Canel's ZeroUno (Santos, Prado, Heiner Parra)
Panama es Cultura y Valores (Jurado, Archibold, Strah)
PioRico
Movistar Team Ecuador (Toro, Montenegro, Navarrete)

There's also some interesting guest riders and extranjeros entering - I'm particularly interested in Luís Fernando López, a 23-year-old Honduran riding for Alcaldía la Vega. He's been on the podium of the Vuelta a Costa Rica and been top 10 of the Vuelta a Guatemala twice.
Oscar Sevilla won the fast prologue in Yopal in departamento Casanare. Eighth place for Franklin Archibold from Panama who was pretty good in Tour de l'Avenir three years ago where he finished 15th as part of the Aigle UCI team.
 
The strange world of the HTV Cup continues; finally the baroudeurs get their chance, and it's, rather unexpectedly, in the 42km Huế crit stage - a classic American-style four-corner crit crossing the river over and over. A comparatively unthreatening 10-man breakaway of riders who were not immediate threats in the GC and, with Nguyễn Trúc Xinh representing NewGroup taking them out of the groups willing to chase for the sprint, and with DDT having done a lot of work to catch escapees during the week, BikeLife were content to hold the breakaway at arm's length and prevent them gaining too much - allowing Võ Thanh An back into the mix may be regrettable, but they also recognise they need the resources for tomorrow's mountain stage, and Võ's 620 Châu Thới-Vĩnh Long team is not strong enough for him to pose a major threat on his own unless the main teams make a mess of things. He also seemed fond of wasting energy on failed attempts to escape before metas volantes in today's stage.

It definitely seemed that the big teams were happy to have a phony war, each saving their forces for tomorrow, so what had been expected to be a straightforward parade for the sprinters turned into a bit of a back and forth battle between the escapees as they tried to manipulate the break to their advantage, and with two laps remaining Nguyễn Trúc Xinh hit for home, and the remainder of the chase dithered over who should chase him. The TPHCM-NewGroup rider put his head down and pushed on, and the chase continued to dither until he was too far up the road to be catchable - and he had time to celebrate down the home straight. 22 seconds later, Võ Thanh An pushed forward for 2nd place and six bonus seconds to make up for those he'd failed to accrue earlier. The bunch came in together at +1'26, so Võ has gained 1'10 on the main GC field, he's not down and out just yet. Tomorrow's stage over three mountain passes, the last of which is Hai Van, will be a major factor in the overall race.

 
Last year the Đèo Hải Vân stage saw the GC battle really take shape, with Javier Sardá Pérez winning the stage solo ahead of a small, select group, and with the mountains being where the Spaniard holds his main advantage, anticipation was that he would look to replicate this on stage 12 of the HTV Cup. A group of 7 hoovered up the first two summits, between which Huỳnh Thanh Tùng set his Quân Khu 7 team to work to help him get across to the leaders, a bold but successful strategy in the short term, however problematic for the group as Huỳnh was far too dangerous for the leaders to allow to start the main climb of the day with any significant advantage.

On Đèo Hải Vân, possibly the most iconic pass in Vietnam and the historical divide between the north and south, the main teams jostled for position before, halfway up, Sardá made his move, and only two BikeLife riders - maillot jaune Loïc Désriac and Nguyễn Hoàng Sang - and the Lộc Trời leader Lê Ngọc Sơn could respond. They worked together to bring back the dangerous Spaniard, catching him 1km from the summit, but then collaboration vanished and the Đồng Tháp team pulled the rest of the relatively small remainder of the bunch back into contact, with the climb being then poached - along with the polka dots - by Nguyễn Phạm Quốc Khang. By the bottom of the descent the group was 20 in number, and then Đặng Văn Bảo Anh attempted a solo in the remaining short flat into Đà Nẵng, but Đồng Tháp continued their aggressive pursuit of sprints in order to secure the points jersey and bonus seconds for Nguyễn Tấn Hoài. After last year, I'm wondering if those Domesco domestques aren't doing way too much work in the first half of the race to leave their man isolated - Đặng Văn Bảo Anh is no GC threat and points jersey rivals Lê Nguyệt Minh and Trần Tuấn Kiệt were long since dropped, so it seemed like 15km of work that was perhaps unnecessary in the long haul. However, so long as Nguyễn Tấn Hoài continues to deliver at the finish, then more wins are never a bad thing, and he did repay them their work with another trip to the winner's circle. Second place went to Nguyễn Trường Tài, and with his bonus seconds he even overhauls Désriac to take the yellow jersey. It may be a short stint - after tomorrow's short flat stage there is an ITT on Tuesday which favours the Frenchman - but nevertheless the jersey is now in Vinama's control. Lê Ngọc Sơn took third, and makes for an interesting wildcard factor after being one of the best climbers on Đèo Hải Vân - he's not in one of the super-teams, so has lost a bit of time in the TTT, but as a result he might not be watched as closely, and also may be able to benefit form the battle that Vinama, BikeLife and Domesco hold between themselves.


Over in Colombia, stage 1 ended with the expected sprint, with Nelson Soto, for Colombia Terra de Atletas, victorious ahead of Luís Carlos Chía and Jordan Parra (who is here instead of Vietnam, since he was with Ynghua, the sister team of BikeLife, until the pandemic).
 
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I have to say that the circuit that they are doing in Bogotá on the final stage of the Vuelta a Colombia would be a really interesting WC circuit.

Only 12.4km per lap, the first climb is 400m at 14.6%, the 2nd one is 400m at 8.5%. That would be an great circuit that would force the lighter guys to attack before the final hill.
 
Short stage in the HTV Cup today, and with a mountain stage yesterday and an ITT tomorrow, for the most part the big teams were happy to let the break have this one, seeing as we finally have a reduced number of riders crowding for space at the head of the GC. The narrow gaps between BikeLife and Vinama in the TTT, the annulment of stage 2 and the reconvening on the descent in yesterday's stage mean there's still a good few riders up there, but there's now plenty of riders who are not threatening enough to chase if they get into the attack. Also a new team in yellow, with Vinama looking after new race leader Nguyễn Trường Tài, who conventional wisdom says would be weaker than Désriac against the clock and therefore needs to conserve energy to give 100% tomorrow. As a result, in a stage that was just 83km in length, the break formed far earlier than in the last few stages, and included no fewer than 16 riders, none of whom were in reasonable GC contention. Since Vinama don't have a bonanza sprinter, they were also keen to ensure no bonus seconds were picked up by rivals so let all of these go to the break.

Once the break recognised that they would be able to go all the way, the tactics begin, and the most masterful tactics came from Quân Khu 7. Ynghua Đồng Nai, Dopagan Đồng Tháp and Gạo Hạt Ngọc Trời all managed to get two riders into the 16, but Quân Khu 7 were best represented with three, and subsequently managed to put two riders to the front for the intermediate sprints, winning them with Phạm Lê Xuân Lộc. The TPHCM-NewGroup team - sister team of Vinama - got on the front, though whether this was just out of a sense of kinship with the Vinama riders or out of genuine feeling they had enough time to bring the escapees back for Lê Nguyệt Minh, I'm not sure. Either way, their attempt was soon aborted and the break duked it out, with the break splitting and a group of four getting a gap, including two from the Quân Khu 7 team - one of whom was Phạm. This proved decisive as the military squad executed the old 1-2 trick, with Phạm's acceleration briefly dropping Trần Thanh Quang, leaving Phước Minh Hòa isolated with the two Quân Khu 7 riders, and fear of Phạm's sprint and the return of Trần to the group led to hesitation when Nguyễn Văn Nhã attacked with a kilometre to go, eventually winning by a few seconds. The remainder of the escape was caught by the péloton which came in en masse 3 minutes down.


Luís Carlos Chía won stage 2 of the Vuelta a Colombia, once more in a sprint, but it looks like Team Medellín are taking back control in stage 3 with good old Cara de Niño back to his old tricks.
 
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Today was the final day before the second rest day, a short ITT around the city of Tam Kỳ which meant péloton time would no longer be a thing that could be relied on in the HTV Cup. It was only 7km in length, but the significant variation in abilities and equipment in the race - teams like BikeLife and Vinama have full aero kit, disc wheels in team colours and so on while some of the smaller teams were on road bikes with clip-on tri bars, or aero gear was open market stuff. Huỳnh Thanh Tùng and Trịnh Đức Tâm set the main times to beat for much of the day, but Nguyễn Tuấn Vũ was the first to get a time in below 9 minutes when he completed the course in 8'47. Nguyễn Hoàng Sang being outside the 9 minute mark was a surprise, and probably means he is subsumed as a challenger on BikeLife to Loïc Désriac once and for all. Javier Sardá Pérez scored an 8'55, a reasonably strong time given climbing is his main bread and butter, while Désriac set the best time of the day to win the stage and take the maillot jaune back with a time of 8'26, almost catching his minute man Nguyễn Tấn Hoài.

The GC going into the rest day sees Désriac leading with Sardá at +34", Nguyễn Tuấn Vũ at +37", Nguyễn Trường Tài at +41" (all three riding for Vinama), Nguyễn Hoàng Sang at +47" and then Nguyễn Tấn Hoài at +59".


Meanwhile, in Colombia, we were climbing the Alto de La Línea, albeit from its easier side. After yesterday's punchy finish where Medellin established control of the race with Brayan Stíven Sánchez winning the stage and Óscar Sevilla acquiring the leader's jersey, it was time for the first real mountain test of the race. The leader's team sent Robinson Chalapud up to the break to play monitor when they got to the lower slopes and the break of Germán Chaves and Diego Benavides was within catchable distance, also giving themselves a bit of a break from péloton-pulling duty. After the initial break were broken, Chalapud was joined by teammate José Tito Hernández, who marked a move by EPM's veteran climber Freddy Montaña (I best remember him for coming 2nd in the Subida a Urkiola and being the best rider not called José Rujano back in 2009, while wearing the AWESOME Boyacá es Para Vivirla jerseys), and they collaborated until the Peaje (toll) for the Alto de la Línea 9,5km from home, soon after which Chalapud was dropped.

A few counter moves began, led by Danny Osorio. Hernández stopped collaborating at the head of the field as Óscar Sevilla tried to ride across, but this was all an elaborate bluff, as it quickly became clear the veteran Spaniard did not have the legs; he would eventually lose more than two minutes. 21-year-old prospect Yecid Pira suddenly made an aggressive move that took the commentators by surprise, just as the group was starting to reel Montaña and Hernández in, and the two tried to go with him, re-establishing an advantage but being unable to stick with the younger man. The group was splintered over the road in fragments, with Juan Pablo Suárez of EPM and Ángel Gil of Orgullo Paísa joining the former break, and Didier Chaparro and Danny Osorio catching the now-ailing Montaña. Pira pressed home his advantage and eventually beat Suárez, Hernández and Gil by a minute, with Chaparro and Osorio coming in just inside 90 seconds, Montaña trailing behind them ahead of the next duo, Hernán Aguirre and 2017 GC winner Aristobulo Cala, and everybody else was at over 2 minutes.

Pira had lost a bit of time yesterday and in the TT at the start of the race, and as a result his GC lead is 27" from Suárez, 37" from Gil, 38" from José Tito Hernández, Chaparro +59", Osorio +1'15, Sevilla +1'34, Reyes +1'40, Montaña +1'44 and Cala +1'50. Perhaps more crucially, the youngster is riding for the comparatively small and underfunded Liro Alcaldía de la Vega team, and he is similarly inexperienced to the team when it comes to leading a race of this nature. The second best placed LAdlV rider today was the Honduran, Luís Fernando López, and he lost 14 minutes, so Pira is there to be shot at by the stronger teams like Medellín, EPM and CTA, although it looks like Orgullo Paísa might be in their strongest position since they had Sevilla and Henao eleven years ago.

Video deleted as not from copyright holder
 
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Today was the final day before the second rest day, a short ITT around the city of Tam Kỳ which meant péloton time would no longer be a thing that could be relied on in the HTV Cup. It was only 7km in length, but the significant variation in abilities and equipment in the race - teams like BikeLife and Vinama have full aero kit, disc wheels in team colours and so on while some of the smaller teams were on road bikes with clip-on tri bars, or aero gear was open market stuff. Huỳnh Thanh Tùng and Trịnh Đức Tâm set the main times to beat for much of the day, but Nguyễn Tuấn Vũ was the first to get a time in below 9 minutes when he completed the course in 8'47. Nguyễn Hoàng Sang being outside the 9 minute mark was a surprise, and probably means he is subsumed as a challenger on BikeLife to Loïc Désriac once and for all. Javier Sardá Pérez scored an 8'55, a reasonably strong time given climbing is his main bread and butter, while Désriac set the best time of the day to win the stage and take the maillot jaune back with a time of 8'26, almost catching his minute man Nguyễn Tấn Hoài.

The GC going into the rest day sees Désriac leading with Sardá at +34", Nguyễn Tuấn Vũ at +37", Nguyễn Trường Tài at +41" (all three riding for Vinama), Nguyễn Hoàng Sang at +47" and then Nguyễn Tấn Hoài at +59".


Meanwhile, in Colombia, we were climbing the Alto de La Línea, albeit from its easier side. After yesterday's punchy finish where Medellin established control of the race with Brayan Stíven Sánchez winning the stage and Óscar Sevilla acquiring the leader's jersey, it was time for the first real mountain test of the race. The leader's team sent Robinson Chalapud up to the break to play monitor when they got to the lower slopes and the break of Germán Chaves and Diego Benavides was within catchable distance, also giving themselves a bit of a break from péloton-pulling duty. After the initial break were broken, Chalapud was joined by teammate José Tito Hernández, who marked a move by EPM's veteran climber Freddy Montaña (I best remember him for coming 2nd in the Subida a Urkiola and being the best rider not called José Rujano back in 2009, while wearing the AWESOME Boyacá es Para Vivirla jerseys), and they collaborated until the Peaje (toll) for the Alto de la Línea 9,5km from home, soon after which Chalapud was dropped.

A few counter moves began, led by Danny Osorio. Hernández stopped collaborating at the head of the field as Óscar Sevilla tried to ride across, but this was all an elaborate bluff, as it quickly became clear the veteran Spaniard did not have the legs; he would eventually lose more than two minutes. 21-year-old prospect Yecid Pira suddenly made an aggressive move that took the commentators by surprise, just as the group was starting to reel Montaña and Hernández in, and the two tried to go with him, re-establishing an advantage but being unable to stick with the younger man. The group was splintered over the road in fragments, with Juan Pablo Suárez of EPM and Ángel Gil of Orgullo Paísa joining the former break, and Didier Chaparro and Danny Osorio catching the now-ailing Montaña. Pira pressed home his advantage and eventually beat Suárez, Hernández and Gil by a minute, with Chaparro and Osorio coming in just inside 90 seconds, Montaña trailing behind them ahead of the next duo, Hernán Aguirre and 2017 GC winner Aristobulo Cala, and everybody else was at over 2 minutes.

Pira had lost a bit of time yesterday and in the TT at the start of the race, and as a result his GC lead is 27" from Suárez, 37" from Gil, 38" from José Tito Hernández, Chaparro +59", Osorio +1'15, Sevilla +1'34, Reyes +1'40, Montaña +1'44 and Cala +1'50. Perhaps more crucially, the youngster is riding for the comparatively small and underfunded Liro Alcaldía de la Vega team, and he is similarly inexperienced to the team when it comes to leading a race of this nature. The second best placed LAdlV rider today was the Honduran, Luís Fernando López, and he lost 14 minutes, so Pira is there to be shot at by the stronger teams like Medellín, EPM and CTA, although it looks like Orgullo Paísa might be in their strongest position since they had Sevilla and Henao eleven years ago.

Really impressive performance by Pira. According to Strav he climbed the Alto de la Linea in 1:01:16, that's a super impressive climbing performane at that altitude.
 
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He's goinig to have a hard job holding on with such a weak team around him, however. Teams like Orgullo Paísa and Team Medellín are not going to let this become a simple battle of wattage. Today with the finish to Belalcázar Ángel Gil was already on the attack from the base of the climb and Aldemar Reyes, a former Manzana-Postobón rider who came over to Europe and was one of their more promising riders, was also out there with him. Orgullo Paísa were already throwing caution to the wind with Sebastián Castaño attacking up the road, and riders like Aristóbulo Cala and José Tito Hernández were also looking keen to test out the newcomer in the leaders' jersey.

We ended up with an elite group of 14, and what was most interesting was who wasn't there. Not one CTA rider, so no Atapuma, Merchán or Hernán Aguirre. No Chalapud, Duarte or Oyola, leaving Medellín with only two bullets in their gun. And not one teammate for Yecid Pira. Again López was his best teammate, around the 60-70 point in the results sheet. So the 21-year-old was fending alone, and both EPM (Aldemar Reyes, Freddy Montaña and Juan Pablo Suárez) and Orgullo Paísa (Ángel Gil, Danny Osorio and Sebastián Castaño) had three weapons to use. Orgullo Paísa's were less potent, with Castaño having been in the break, and they eventually broke the group with Aldemar Reyes the one who was off the front when it happened. Helpfully for Pira, however, the teams' squabbles over who should attack him most did help as other teams wanted to bring Reyes back; it was only after José Tito Hernández and Ángel Gil joined him at the head of the field, so that Orgullo Paísa, EPM and Medellín were all represented up front, that the need to do the work for himself afflicted Pira, and even then some internal rivalries helped, as Reyes was over a minute behind his breakmates and both were a threat to Reyes' teammate Juan Pablo Suárez. Therefore, Aldemar stopped working after they crested the cat.2 Alto de Alemana and rested on the back of the trio through the rolling terrain before the uncategorised final repechos up into the finishing town. Óscar Sevilla tried to attack the remainder of the leader's group and, seeing him coming, Reyes attacked, opening up a gap on Hernández and Gil, and taking EPM's first stage of the race. But it was a close-run thing, as José Tito Hernández timed his move and reeled in his younger rival as it got steep in the last 500m once more and Reyes hit the wall, but just ran out of road to close that gap. Gil lost 5 seconds at the line, while Sevilla stole a second on the rest of the GC group which came in at +12".

Video deleted due to not being from copyright holder

Tomorrow, an MTT of gradual gradients, up to Manizales at the Plaza de Toros end. It's a Vuelta a Colombia classic, not the toughest climb the race would ever have - by far - but finishes in Manizales are classic and frequently this is the route of choice, unless the Alto de Letras is on the route. This year Letras is on the route, but by the easier west to east side. That 'easier' side, however, is still over 30km at 5,7% and topping out at nearly 3700m. So, yea.
 
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That might also explain why he's right up there against the very best, yet on a team so small that its second best rider is a mercenary Honduran prospect, which is very uncommon in Colombian cycling.

In order to hold on to win this he would need to no joke be more impressive than José Rujano in 2009 with the Gobernación del Zulia team, half of which had withdrawn or HDed by the halfway point of the race - the race was 15 stages back then, but Rujano was a known commodity and 27 years old so in something close to peak shape.
 
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So apparently Pira ony started racing at the end of 2019.
Before that he was working as a delivery guy on a bike for a Butcher's shop and training at 04:00 am before going to work.
Source: https://www.infobae.com/america/colombia/2021/04/21/yesid-pira-de-repartidor-de-domicilios-a-lider-de-la-vuelta-a-colombia/
Lol, these stories get wilder and wilder each year. I’m not questioning the truth to it but it’s remarkable how many of these super talents, who just picks up a bike for a few weeks and then start winning races already, there have been the past few years. One story crazier than the other.
 
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Lol, these stories get wilder and wilder each year. I’m not questioning the truth to it but it’s remarkable how many of these super talents, who just picks up a bike for a few weeks and then start winning races already, there have been the past few years. One story crazier than the other.
Did you know that Chris Froome was signed by Sky only 3 months before the 2011 Vuelta. Prior to that, he was working at a National Park in Kenya, tracking down poachers while equipped with nothing but a 50-year old single speed bike and a flashlight.
 
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Lol, these stories get wilder and wilder each year. I’m not questioning the truth to it but it’s remarkable how many of these super talents, who just picks up a bike for a few weeks and then start winning races already, there have been the past few years. One story crazier than the other.
Back in the day Cunego was actually a XC runner (top 3 at the Italian NC in his age group), who only started cycling the year he was going to turn 16. He won 14 races that year and finished 2nd at the Italian NC (in his age group) behind Pippo. Cunego won the Junior WC 2.5 years after he started cycling.
 
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That might also explain why he's right up there against the very best, yet on a team so small that its second best rider is a mercenary Honduran prospect, which is very uncommon in Colombian cycling.

In order to hold on to win this he would need to no joke be more impressive than José Rujano in 2009 with the Gobernación del Zulia team, half of which had withdrawn or HDed by the halfway point of the race - the race was 15 stages back then, but Rujano was a known commodity and 27 years old so in something close to peak shape.
Speaking of Rujano, these races make me wish we still had Ryo on the forum, he could probably tell us a ton of stuff about everyone in the top 10. One would have to take his words with a grain of salt, but the guy knew his stuff when it came to the domestic scenes in South America.
 
First day after the second rest day in Vietnam, and the riders are on the hit for home, with a long (180km) stage from Tam Kỳ to Quy Nhơn. The pace was extremely high with BikeLife trying to let escapees settle the intermediiate sprints and take bonus seconds out of the equation, but Domesco and Vinama were keen to prevent this happening and drove a hard tempo. As a result it was not until after the second intermediate sprint that an escape group was formed, with both Vinama and Lộc Trời represented by two riders apiece. Vinama's interest in the move was double - they were only 10 seconds behind BikeLife in the teams classification, and they enlisted the help of Trần Thanh Nhanh of their sister team, TPHCM-NewGroup, to help push the pace. They also had Nguyễn Minh Việt in the group, just 1'14 down on the GC, so the BikeLife team were forced into action. Several riders tried to get into the gap during a brief period of crosswind racing whch splintered the péloton, leading to a second group in a chasse-patate 30 seconds behind the leaders and 15 seconds ahead of the péloton, and a brutal splinitering of the gront group as the wind played havoc with cohesion (though providing some blessed relief from the 40º heat at least).

Once the group had come back together, however, cohesion led to them extending their lead and they held an advantage of 1'30 - enough to put Nguyễn Minh Việt in yellow - with just 10km to go. Tăng Quý Trọng of Lộc Trời was also placed well to take the white jersey as well as 3rd place in the teams classification, so Domesco, who stood to lose out on both fronts as well as having the best sprinter of the GC contenders, swiftly joined BikeLife in controlling the race. The exhausted break started to flag and the gap came down rapidly when 18-year-old Võ Minh Gia Bảo of the Quân Khu 7 team made a hit for home just over a kilometre out. Unable to respond, much of the remainder of the break sat up and were swallowed up at 500m to go, but a couple tried to hold on for the podium. However, while the stragglers could be caught, this time the hard work of the DDT team had cost them their strongest riders, so after Võ held on for the stage win in impressive fashion, Huỳnh Thanh Tùng was able to press ahead and make it a 1-2 for the military squad, ahead of a trio of Vinama riders led by Trịnh Đức Tâm - possibly a tactical error in not allowing one of their top GC names to pick up those bonus seconds.


Over in Colombia, we had an MTT on the Alto de la Plaza de Toros in Manizales, from an easyish side - 19,8km at 4,5%. The amount of work needed to be done alone by Yecid Pira to defend his lead yesterday came back to bite him, finishing just outside the top 10 and losing almost a minute to stage winner Brayan Stíven Sánchez, as Team Medellín worked to put their stamp of authority back over the race, with three riders in the top 5; after Sánchez, Óscar Sevilla was 2nd, while Fabio Duarte, somewhat quiet thus far, was 5th. José Tito Hernández, their best placed rider on GC, was 7th, losing exactly the same amount - 7 seconds - to Juan Pablo Suárez as he held over the EPM-UNE rider on the GC; with Pira falling to 3rd overall, Suárez holds the lead of the race on countback. Aldemar Reyes followed up his win yesterday with 3rd today and moves into the top 5, while Aristóbulo Cala moves up 3 places to 7th. The loss of the leader's jersey could be a good thing for Pira, though (although his Honduran colleague, again his best placed teammate, was a bit better today), due to not having the responsibility of chasing on tomorrow's stage which consists of climbing the western side of the Alto de Letras and then an 80km descent to the finish.
 
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I guess Pira has to go all out on the Alto del Vino MTF.
I'm still surprised that a talented, rather young rider like Reyes moved back to racing in Colombia after MP folded. One coul say similar things about his former teammate Hernan Aguirre, who is now sitting 13th on the gc, him signing with a Japanese CT team before moving back to Colombia was also rather random, even if the Japanese teams have a rep for paying good money.
 
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Well, they could also have potentially done the mid-season signing to race in China as well had the pandemic not hit. A lot of Colombians and Venezuelans do that - I guess one problem was Manzana-Postobon collapsing mid-season so some of those guys will have returned home or have taken short term contracts further afield like out on the Asia Tour or in smaller scenes (like Jordan Parrá turning up in Vietnam) and been a bit out of sight out of mind, or scored their best results in races in October-November over there by which time most of the big European and North American teams have set their rosters. Gansu Sports Lottery and Ningxia in particular sign a lot of South American talent as mercenaries.

Of the Manzana-Postobon guys, you had Juan Felipe Osorio staying in Spain in the amateur scene, he got a Portuguese contract for the remainder of 2019 which got him a deal with Burgos-BH, Nicolás Saenz went to Caja Rural, but then he'd already been in the Spanish amateur scene, Jordan Parra went to Vietnam and Yecid Sierra and Carlos Quintero went to China. Everybody else returned to Colombia, which is fine but you'd have thought a fair few others could have made it back to a higher level somewhere else, like Daniel Jaramillo going back to North America. Jhoján García went to Medellín for the rest of 2019 but came back to Europe with Caja Rural. I think the problem for Reyes was missing most of 2018 so he didn't capitalise on his good 2017, otherwise he'd have been a more sought after commodity in the 2019-20 offseason.
 
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