Lesser known races thread 2021

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With the full results sheet we can see that stage 1's sprint was from a reduced bunch - only around 20 contesting it, which does make things a bit more interesting. Stage 2 saw César Sanabria, a 22yo espoir for Venezuela País del Futuro, hold off the bunch and take the win by 1", however as he came in in the second group on the first stage and was a minute down, Gómez keeps the race lead, and by coming 2nd in the field sprint behind Sanabria, extends his lead to 12" by the magic of bonus seconds. We also find that Team Cartagena, one of the four overseas teams, from the Caribbean port city in northern Colombia, had to DNS en masse - suspect travel related issues, Covid or otherwise, are at fault.

Stage 3 was won by another entry into the veterans' club, Miguel Ubeto. He's a somewhat strange story, a long-time veteran of the Venezuelan cycling scene who also frequently raced in the Caribbean and managed to somehow punch a ticket to get to Europe when Androni Giocattoli got their deal in place with the Venezuelan state for 2012, despite being already 35 years old and with several younger talents available. He then continued to mainly race in South America, but still got a contract with Lampre to make his World Tour level debut at 36, only to test for the then highly controversial GW501516 by April. The UCI then reduced his suspension for reasons unclear, and he has been plugging away back at home ever since, and is now 45 years young and still going strong, taking the win in a sprint ahead of stage 2 winner César Sanabria. There was a large crash in the sprint, and race leader Luís António Gómez was caught up in it - it looks like he did not go down but he was delayed as he is the last person in the péloton to finish on the race winner's time, with several others credited with it but coming in behind straggling riders afterward. However it has cut his lead to just 4" over a group of 12 riders, of whom Ubeto leads on countback.

The parcours is, I'm afraid, even worse than I thought, with the federation having had to struggle with lockdown limitations and restrictions for race locations minimising contact. Today's stage is a rolling out-and-back along a highway section just outside Chivacoa, the Araure stage on Thursday is similar on the bypass, Friday's stage to Cagua is the most significant one, but the toughest climb of the race, La Entrada, is over 75km from home (and isn't that tough anyway). Saturday's tri-star circuit in Valencia looks to be quite bumpy so although it is more out-and-backing, at least the roads look bumpy enough to provide a bit of a platform for attacking and the circuit is short enough to make them flow into each other a bit better and with more corners it might be easier for attackers to get out of sight of the chasers.
 
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Radsport-news always has these series of diaries from "lesser" riders at lesser races, and I usually enjoy reading them very much. At the moment it's Daniel Bichlmann reporting from the Tour du Faso.
I'll let google translate one of the reports which features his team-mate as well (https://www.radsport-news.com/sport/sportnews_127514.htm):

On the 4th stage there were 156km on the program between Laye and Ouahigouya. It went to the northernmost part of the Central African inland. The greatest heat was to be expected here in the dust-dry savannah. Around seven o'clock in the morning, the 76 remaining racing drivers with two bosoms (70 seats in total) set off after a short "trip to Jerusalem" as part of the huge convoy of bosoms, racing cars, officials, ambulances, press, security service and many more Heading north.

After about an hour's drive, we arrived at the starting point of today's fourth section of the day. We notice the dead silence. The sun glows and conjures up heat waves over the land, in which everything seems to vibrate. The peloton and vehicles appear to be jumping in the heat and appear grotesquely distorted. Definitely a seemingly unsuitable environment for a bike race.

A light wind from the west was motivation enough for all Belgians and Dutch to try their luck with a wind edge that opened immediately after the start. It was never actually possible to divide the field, but I found it pleasantly controlled to go through the row with me in order to use the safety factor of looking ahead.

The 50 kilometers of racing between two sprint rankings were a pure mogul slope with only a few "sectors" of better ground. The direction shouldn't change a bit over the entire distance. A very tough final over the last 25 kilometers left everything after the finish Team membership or nationality become irrelevant. Cold drinks and ice cream were literally looted from all cool boxes. At temperatures around 45 degrees all rules are wasted!

Even if it wasn't that easy today, we are still fully in the running and in good spirits, we continue to be active as a perfectly functioning group, to be successful and to spend a special time together.

The fate that can overtake a racing driver at the end of the race is now described in a short guest post by my fellow sufferer Dominik Merseburg, who is plagued by heat:

After three good stages here for me personally, I experienced one of the worst days on the bike today. Almost 90km everything went well: group out, we twice (after a long struggle). Everything under control in the field. Then the previously announced very bad surface of race kilometers 50 to 110 became my undoing. Flat rear wheel and no car behind it, no neutral vehicle, luckily the Embrace The World car stopped and offered me help. First disillusionment: disc brake.

We changed the hose without the appropriate tools. Unfortunately, this burst because the tire was cut open at the side. The second attempt was then successful with a different tire. When clamping the rear wheel, the next problem was revealed. The wheel had a huge figure eight, a spoke was torn, it was dragging against the chain and seat stays of my Stradalli bolide. Doesn't help, I had to go. I knew there was plenty of waiting time, but it felt like I was standing on the side of the road for ages. It went "okay", but I soon noticed a lot of abrasion on the strut. It lasted a surprisingly long time, but the resulting heat burst the hose at some point.

With no alternatives, I finished the race on the rim well behind, but the main thing was still somehow. Tomorrow can only get better. Thanks again to the ETW team, without whom everything would have been lost today. Greetings to Central Europe! So now we have already mastered the longest, the "most mountainous" and (hopefully) the hottest stage.

Let's see what's to come ...
 
Xavier Quevedo, who has somehow managed to turn 30 without me noticing, won stage 5 from a three-man sprint, with him, Davirson Molina and stage 2 escapee Cesar Sanabria managing to take 13" on the field. Having lost several minutes earlier in the race he is no threat, but Sanabria moved up within a minute despite having missed the stage 1 selection. It was all change in stage 6, however, as with the longest climb of the day enabling a strong break to form, a lack of cohesion behind meant that the 11 men that got up the road on the climb were able to extend an advantage to five minutes by the time they arrived in Cagua, and race leader Luís António Gómez was not in the selection, nor were any of his Gobernación de Carabobo teammates, while most of the other strong teams were represented. Especially Venezuela País del Futuro and Pegaso La Guaira, who each had 3 riders, and drove a lot of the pace. In the end despite a number of attempts at a move to escape the clutches of the group, a sprint of the group ensued and it was won by Cesar Sanabria after once more making the important selection. Gómez dropped out of the top 10 and the new leader would be José Wladimir García, with five competitors within 20 seconds of the lead then a severe drop off to Manuel Medina at +1'20 and wider gaps to the remainder of the escapees.

Stage 7 being a hilly and relentlessly undulating circuit made for a much more interesting outcome with riders strewn all over the road and, with many teams no longer harbouring any GC ambitions, no help for the yellow jersey's relatively small team. Hell hath no fury like a rider scorned, however, and Luís António Gómez came straight back to prominence, with he and Venezuela País del Futuro's Jorge Abreu - who had made the selection in the previous stage and was therefore making a bid for the GC - settling it in a two-up sprint which the former race leader won. They came in about 30" ahead of a five man group featuring two fellow sandbagging VPF riders, both of whom then led the group home to prevent Pedro Sequerra or Carlos Alberto Torres taking bonus seconds. After a couple of stragglers caught in a chasse-patate, the rest of the field wound up a couple of minutes down and the yellow jersey was nowhere to be seen, handing Abreu the lead of the race with a healthy lead of around 30 seconds going into the final flat circuit race.
 
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Xavi Nieves, Manuel Medina and Edwin Sandoval escaped to settle the final, flat stage back in La Guaira, with the Venezuela País del Futuro team rather less than bothered about chasing them given the several minutes they had in hand, and only a handful of riders close enough in time to be a threat to Jorge Abreu. With Nieves and Medina both riding for the local team, Pegaso La Guaira, it was inevitable that they would do the 1-2 trick on Sandoval to win, and that they did, with Nieves taking the stage. The rest of the bunch came in together at 35" deficit to mean that both PLG riders gained a position on the GC but no real changes otherwise.

Final GC:
1 Jorge Abreu (Venezuela País del Futuro-Fina Arroz)
2 Carlos Alberto Torres (Universitário de Trujillo) +24"
3 Pedro Gutiérrez (Venezuela País del Futuro-Fina Arroz) +29"
4 Pedro Sequerra (Pegaso La Guaira) +st
5 César Sanabria (Venezuela País del Futuro-Fina Arroz) +38"
6 Junior Romero (Selección Nueva Esparta) +2'04"
7 José García (Gobernación Bolivariana de La Guaira-Alcaldía Bolivariana de Vargas) +3'28"
8 Manuel Medina (Pegaso La Guaira) +4'09"
9 Luís António Gómez (Gobernación del Carabobo) +4'35"
10 Xavier Nieves (Pegaso La Guaira) +5'20"
 
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Xavi Nieves, Manuel Medina and Edwin Sandoval escaped to settle the final, flat stage back in La Guaira, with the Venezuela País del Futuro team rather less than bothered about chasing them given the several minutes they had in hand, and only a handful of riders close enough in time to be a threat to Jorge Abreu. With Nieves and Medina both riding for the local team, Pegaso La Guaira, it was inevitable that they would do the 1-2 trick on Sandoval to win, and that they did, with Nieves taking the stage. The rest of the bunch came in together at 35" deficit to mean that both PLG riders gained a position on the GC but no real changes otherwise.

Final GC:
1 Jorge Abreu (Venezuela País del Futuro-Fina Arroz)
2 Carlos Alberto Torres (Universitário de Trujillo) +24"
3 Pedro Gutiérrez (Venezuela País del Futuro-Fina Arroz) +29"
4 Pedro Sequerra (Pegaso La Guaira) +st
5 César Sanabria (Venezuela País del Futuro-Fina Arroz) +38"
6 Junior Romero (Selección Nueva Esparta) +2'04"
7 José García (Gobernación Bolivariana de La Guaira-Alcaldía Bolivariana de Vargas) +3'28"
8 Manuel Medina (Pegaso La Guaira) +4'09"
9 Luís António Gómez (Gobernación del Carabobo) +4'35"
10 Xavier Nieves (Pegaso La Guaira) +5'20"
How can you make a Vuelta a Venezuela that is pretty much all sprint stages?
I don't expect it to be as hard as the Vuelta al Tachira, but at least a few hilly stages and an ITT should be on the cards...
 

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