Lesser known races thread 2022

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Longer stage on stage 16 in Vietnam, with Igor Frolov's Vinama team recruiting their pseudo-colleagues in HCM-New Group to help control the péloton. Frolov even managed to unexpectedly sneak away with those fighting for the bonus at the first intermediate sprint to gain a second in an opportunistic move, before Quàng Văn Cường recovered from his mistake at the first to pick up three at the second meta volante, but after that breakaways which did not contain GC threats were given plenty of scope to move up through the route, and eventually an eight-man group was given over two minutes.

The most notable name in that group was Huỳnh Thanh Tùng, but his presence more or less guaranteed attacks later on, as nobody in the group fancied going to a sprint with the Quân Khu 7 man, and eventually the decisive selection was made with a trio of Lường Văn Sinh (Hà Nội), Nguyễn Huỳnh Lân (Quân Đội) and Phước Minh Hòa (Kenda Đồng Nai) getting away and finishing just over a minute ahead of the field. From these, Lường proved strongest at the line, outsprinting Nguyễn while Phước sat up, meaning we saw the first win for the nation's capital in the HTV Cup in several years.
 
In the sub-100km 17th stage, Lộc Trời once more took the responsibility of pacing despite Vinama holding the jersey, in their bid to win back time through the intermediate bonuses. This was successful after a fashion, but it meant that late in the stage when Frolov punctured, his domestiques were available and fresh enough to pull him back into the group, negating the benefits of those incremental time gaps. And with Frolov's lead still over a minute and a half, winning that time back in 3 second chunks is not going to suffice. Especially as this time, as on stage 2, Erdenebat Bilguunjargal was able to escape from the clutches of the péloton to take the solo win, and with Quàng Văn Cường and Nguyễn Tấn Hoài both duking out both the GC and the points jersey battle amongst themselves, it's a bit of a quandary for Lộc Trời as the pair are taking bonuses off one another, and with Nguyễn finishing 2nd on the stage, he moves to within 2 seconds of his teammate, with the pair occupying 2nd and 3rd on the GC.

Stage 18 was more typical fare, 130km and with a noteworthy mountain pass early on in the day, the đèo Cả climb. DDT were interested in sending outstanding young rider Phan Hoàng Thái up the road to collect points in the GPM, and he duly escaped to take the maximum, however to their chagrin Frolov seems intent on cannibalising the race, jumping from the péloton to take 2nd place and prevent Phan getting the polka dots back, holding a 2-point lead in the competition as a result.

Once the passes were dispensed with, however, things settled down to the usual fare of break compositions trying to form and Vinama managing the time gaps to keep Frolov safe at the head of proceedings. In the end, Quân Khu 7's Hà Văn Sơn managed to effect a solo breakaway, and, having lost a lot of time in the stage 12 mountain climb, Vinama were once more happy for him to take bonus second opportunities away from their rivals, as well as saving some energy for the stage 19 TTT. Even more to their liking was when Lộc Trời elected not to chase, also thinking about the TTT, and allowed a second rider, Hồ Ngọc Chánh, to ride across to Hà - even more strangely, this escapee rode for Gạo Hạt Ngọc Trời, the sister team of Lộc Trời! In the end, however, he had left it too late, and did not have enough time, once he had caught up with Hà Văn Sơn, to regather his strength for the sprint, and so the Vietnamese military-affiliated team registered its first win of this year's race.
 
The HTV Cup is one of the few races where a Team Time Trial is acceptable. This is because the race is held in a country which is at least nominally Communist. However, stage 19 of a 23 stage race is nevertheless an odd time for it, but today we had a 32km TTT, with two laps of a 16km out-and-back circuit in Nha Trang. TTTs are fairly uncommon in these races nevertheless, and the limited amount of time trial racing in South East Asia of any kind as well as the budget discrepancies led to a real motley mix of specialist TT bikes, road bikes with tri bars and outright road bikes, disc wheels and regular wheels, and so on. But never fear, weird rules are in force meaning only three riders are needed for a time at the end of the stage, which was of great benefit to the stacked Lộc Trời team, who elected to have their domestiques simply ride until they dropped and then leave the lead trio of Quàng Văn Cường, Nguyễn Tấn Hoài and Roman Maikin to complete the job. Which they duly did to finish the stage in 39 minutes and 9 seconds, to take the win on the day and narrow the GC gap. However, DDT were only 13 seconds behind them and Vinama only 19, so the difference made on the GC was nothing like as considerable as in previous years. GSB (formerly BikeLife) losing over a minute, on the other hand, probably spells doom for Vietnam's best climber, Nguyễn Hoàng Sang, with the final climbs further from the finish in the queen stage this year.

Said queen stage takes place after the rest day tomorrow, so Lộc Trời will be all in to try to challenge Cosmonaut Frolov by power of numbers, since the Russian still retains a lead of 1'18 over Quàng Văn Cường and 1'20 over Nguyễn Tấn Hoài, and has shown himself the better climber earlier in the race, so they will need to do something to try to break him. Roman Maikin at +1'48 may be a better bet, or defending champion Désriac in 5th at +2'07. Nekrasov in 12th at +3'13 and Hoàng Sang a place behind him at the same time are the best placed riders not in a top 3 TTT team, and they will likely also be where outsider attacks come from, unless somebody decides to pull a Ronald Lomotos.
 
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The HTV Cup is one of the few races where a Team Time Trial is acceptable. This is because the race is held in a country which is at least nominally Communist. However, stage 19 of a 23 stage race is nevertheless an odd time for it, but today we had a 32km TTT, with two laps of a 16km out-and-back circuit in Nha Trang. TTTs are fairly uncommon in these races nevertheless, and the limited amount of time trial racing in South East Asia of any kind as well as the budget discrepancies led to a real motley mix of specialist TT bikes, road bikes with tri bars and outright road bikes, disc wheels and regular wheels, and so on. But never fear, weird rules are in force meaning only three riders are needed for a time at the end of the stage, which was of great benefit to the stacked Lộc Trời team, who elected to have their domestiques simply ride until they dropped and then leave the lead trio of Quàng Văn Cường, Nguyễn Tấn Hoài and Roman Maikin to complete the job. Which they duly did to finish the stage in 39 minutes and 9 seconds, to take the win on the day and narrow the GC gap. However, DDT were only 13 seconds behind them and Vinama only 19, so the difference made on the GC was nothing like as considerable as in previous years. GSB (formerly BikeLife) losing over a minute, on the other hand, probably spells doom for Vietnam's best climber, Nguyễn Hoàng Sang, with the final climbs further from the finish in the queen stage this year.

Said queen stage takes place after the rest day tomorrow, so Lộc Trời will be all in to try to challenge Cosmonaut Frolov by power of numbers, since the Russian still retains a lead of 1'18 over Quàng Văn Cường and 1'20 over Nguyễn Tấn Hoài, and has shown himself the better climber earlier in the race, so they will need to do something to try to break him. Roman Maikin at +1'48 may be a better bet, or defending champion Désriac in 5th at +2'07. Nekrasov in 12th at +3'13 and Hoàng Sang a place behind him at the same time are the best placed riders not in a top 3 TTT team, and they will likely also be where outsider attacks come from, unless somebody decides to pull a Ronald Lomotos.
Is there a profile of the Queenstage and/or the climbs used in it?
 
Is there a profile of the Queenstage and/or the climbs used in it?
No official profile (outside of the digital one shown in the broadcast) but it can be approximated fairly easily using a mapping tool because the distance from Nha Trang to the finish closely meets the stage distance.

In fairness, the Đèo Khánh Lê pass is a tougher climb than the Đèo Ngoạn Mục pass used in the last couple of editions - it's about 30km in length and climbs just under 1500m so it's pretty legit, mostly climbing in the 5-6% range with a couple of false flat stretches, whereas Ngoạn Mục is about 19km at 5%. However, it crests at about 55km from the finish, and while in 2020 and 2021 they then travelled across to take the summit of Đèo Prenn just 2km from the line (a cat.2 type ascent of around 7km at 5,5%), that they've already climbed all the way up onto the high plateau on Khánh Lê means there's not so much by the way of further climbing in the stage, with Giang Ly being the other summit, around 30km from home.

There is another route they occasionally take from the south via a shorter and much steeper climb as the first one of the day before Prenn, but I haven't seen it raced yet. They also took the Khánh Lê / Giang Ly approach in 2019, when Javier Sardá, Gong Hyo-Suk and Mirsamad Pourseyedi rode time into the field.
 
The Tour of Hellas is being run for the first time since 2012 and started today on Crete. The peloton lost control of the breakaway and Aaron Gate survived the final climb with almost two minutes to spare over an eight-rider group that formed as the peloton fractured, led home by Eduard Prades ahead of a finally-recovered Filippo Baroncini. After a big transfer to the mainland, tomorrow features another descent finish, ahead of two flatter stages and the queen stage to close out the race on Sunday.
 
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No official profile (outside of the digital one shown in the broadcast) but it can be approximated fairly easily using a mapping tool because the distance from Nha Trang to the finish closely meets the stage distance.

In fairness, the Đèo Khánh Lê pass is a tougher climb than the Đèo Ngoạn Mục pass used in the last couple of editions - it's about 30km in length and climbs just under 1500m so it's pretty legit, mostly climbing in the 5-6% range with a couple of false flat stretches, whereas Ngoạn Mục is about 19km at 5%. However, it crests at about 55km from the finish, and while in 2020 and 2021 they then travelled across to take the summit of Đèo Prenn just 2km from the line (a cat.2 type ascent of around 7km at 5,5%), that they've already climbed all the way up onto the high plateau on Khánh Lê means there's not so much by the way of further climbing in the stage, with Giang Ly being the other summit, around 30km from home.

There is another route they occasionally take from the south via a shorter and much steeper climb as the first one of the day before Prenn, but I haven't seen it raced yet. They also took the Khánh Lê / Giang Ly approach in 2019, when Javier Sardá, Gong Hyo-Suk and Mirsamad Pourseyedi rode time into the field.
Ok, so from what I've been able to find out Frolov just crushed all life on earth on today's stage.
 
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Ok, so from what I've been able to find out Frolov just crushed all life on earth on today's stage.
Indeed I think we have a Rojas Brothers-esque demolition job going on here, with Cosmonaut Frolov departing for the International Space Station and blasting off from Nha Trang rather than Baikonur.

With Đèo Khánh Lê being a near-30km climb - mostly fairly steady at 5-6% as mentioned but still absolutely sapping for a péloton that doesn't have too many climbing stages in its calendar - the Đồng Nai teams (GSB and Kenda) got on the front and tried to drill things to bring Nguyễn Hoàng Sang, Vietnam's most competitive all rounder and climber on the international scene, back into the business end of proceedings, putting four riders on the front and shelling riders left right and centre. Lộc Trời were left to rue what might have been from their strategy of trying to win on time bonuses à la Rik van Looy in the Vuelta, as both their home talents, Quàng Văn Cường and Nguyễn Tấn Hoài, 2nd and 3rd on GC, were put in difficulty by the Đồng Nai assault. About 5km from the summit, and about 60km from the line, however, Igor Frolov decided that following tragic events in Portugal meaning that W52-FC Porto's reign of terror over the Volta might be over, he would enact a sombre tribute to fallen comrades by undertaking a solo replication of Raúl Alarcón and Amaro Antunes' epic day out to Guarda, dropping everybody and riding solo over the summit of Khánh Lê, and consolidating his advantage over a shattered field over Giang Ly and the rolling terrain into Đà Lạt.

Behind him, Konstantin Nekrasov, as he did on the previous mountain stage when Frolov took the lead, escaped to gain on the rest of the field and finish 2nd over four and a half minutes behind Cosmonaut Frolov, while Lộc Trời's last remaining soldier, Roman Maikin, made it a Russian 1-2-3 by winning the three-up sprint of the remaining GC men at 5'14 over Nguyễn Hoàng Sang and Loïc Désriac. Having survived the last two seasons' queen stages, with the action saved for the final climb of Đèo Prenn when the only overseas racers were Sardá and Désriac, Nguyễn Tấn Hoài will have had designs on a GC podium, but he shipped a full 24 minutes today, while teammate Quàng Văn Cường dropped half an hour; they tumble to 17th and 24th respectively on the GC.

All riders from 44th down missed the time cut, due to the HTV Cup being a non-UCI race they operate with a rule where riders missing the time cut are allowed to remain in the race and can compete for the primes at intermediates and stage wins, but they are ineligible for the GC, points or GPM competitions. This results in Nguyễn Văn Bình losing the white jersey that he has held ever since the stage 1 ITT, and being eliminated from the competition entirely, with Phạm Lê Xuân Lộc of Quân Khu 7 inheriting the lead after his creditable 11th place, over 10 minutes behind Frolov but bearing in mind he's only 16 years old that's kind of excusable, you know? It also means that Trần Tuấn Kiệt is eliminated from the blue points jersey race, as is Lê Nguyệt Minh.

Frolov cannot mathematically be caught in the polka dots, and now the battle for the blue jersey is only between the two Lộc Trời teammates who no longer have the GC to consider. The yellow jersey race is now all but dead as Frolov has 7 minutes' lead over Maikin, but Maikin being at +7'11 with Désriac at +7'33 and Nekrasov at +7'57 means there is still the chance for the latter to make it an all-Russian podium, probably on Friday's stage as the last hilly one remaining.
 
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Looking at Frolov's watts on Strava he's actually not going all out, compared to some of his performances it's all rather tame...
I wanna see him at the Tour of Japan, at Quinghai Lake and similar races. Bring him to the Volta, bring him to the Vuelta a Colombia!
 
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Tour of Hellas is broadcasted by Eurosport? I am curious about this race, never watched a pro race in Greece.

Happy for Gate, it's a shame he was never picked up by Orica / Mitchelton or EF, I think he could have had a decent pro career.
 
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Happy for Gate, it's a shame he was never picked up by Orica / Mitchelton or EF, I think he could have had a decent pro career.
He had a pretty good run at getting a WT contract. It wasn’t as if he was tucked away in NZ far from team’s awareness. He was with An Post for years when they had one of the best European CT calendars. He also had a couple of years at PCT. If there’d been an appropriate anglophone PCT team after Aquablue died he’d probably have continued at that level,
 
Dear Tour of Hellas organisers, please develop some common sense. This makes that Tour de Suisse sprint with a 90° curve 100 metres from the line a couple of years back look reasonable.
The riders could also not go through a 110 degree curve with 70 kmh...

But sure, not the best stage design. I would hope it wasn't kept a secret for the riders, though.
 

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