Question What about a fantasy cycling season

So, as there aren't any actual cycling races going on right now, I had the idea that we could just make up our own season. Like, I don't know about you guys, but I often imagine how a race could go, before it actually takes place, and basically make up a story of the race. Now I'm sure I'm not the only person who has ever done that and so I thought it would be kinda funny to create our own cyclingnews forum season, made out of our own made up races, as long as the real races are suspended.

For example, tomorrow Milano Sanremo should have taken place, so I would make up what happened, write a summary of the made up race, post it here and instead of discussing the actual race we could pretend, the race that I wrote about actually happened and discuss that. I just wondered what you people think about that idea, if some of you found that funny and if some of you would also join in writing summaries of imaginary races.

Frankly, I just think it would be an entertaining way to pass some time and also to keep this forum somewhat alive over the next few months.
 
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Sure, sounds like fun. As I'm actually still working (in a not "shelter in place" or locked down area of the US) but no idea for how much longer, so for now will enjoy reading the race and stage summaries.
 
Yeah, I see where you are going, but to be honest, the goal was to keep it realistic so maybe don't exaggerate like that.
I saw you through first!
You think it's not obvious you've found some fulltime cycling unfriendly job, causing the whole season go down the drain?
And now you're opening this "fantasy season" thread to hush it up... You won't fool anybody.
 
I saw you through first!
You think it's not obvious you've found some fulltime cycling unfriendly job, causing the whole season go down the drain?
And now you're opening this "fantasy season" thread to hush it up... You won't fool anybody.
If Gigs had a cycling unfriendly job, that would be the BEST thing for cycling as it would probably mean more races, and better quality ones, because Gigs wouldn't be able to see them.

I suspect Gigs now has to work from home (well, to be fair, most people all over the nations where cycling is popular are having to where possible) and this has caused cycling to cancel races left right and centre, because if Gigs has access to all races, it means all races will be dull. And if with other sport cancelled, cycling is the only game in town, they don't want to alienate that potential audience with a poor spectacle, so they can't start races up again until Gigs cannot watch.
 
If Gigs had a cycling unfriendly job, that would be the BEST thing for cycling as it would probably mean more races, and better quality ones, because Gigs wouldn't be able to see them.

I suspect Gigs now has to work from home (well, to be fair, most people all over the nations where cycling is popular are having to where possible) and this has caused cycling to cancel races left right and centre, because if Gigs has access to all races, it means all races will be dull. And if with other sport cancelled, cycling is the only game in town, they don't want to alienate that potential audience with a poor spectacle, so they can't start races up again until Gigs cannot watch.
Hmmm... Right.
I've, obviously, turned the meaning of "unfriendly" upside down in Gigs' case.

Anyway, who won La Primavera?
Gilbert or Sagan?
 
So, are you going to start, Gigs?
I'll think about one.
Yeah, well, of course as soon as I wrote this I got busy and had to do some stuff for university today, so uhm, I kinda messed this up, right?
If someone else wants to post something feel free to do so, I only got time to write a summary for the race that still totally happened tomorrow.
 
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A new race has been scheduled!!

Rumours about this route have been out for a while, though it was first told to be planned as a stage for the Tour of Germany. But now it's on as a one-day race:
The Race to Harz, 23rd of March.

(Libertine, I've simply taken your route, I very much hope you're okay with that!)

Preview


Okay, everything is turned upside down, nothing is the way it used to be.

Among the things we have to get used to is this new race, the Race to Harz, which doesn't sound nice to begin with, but German races never do, so just ignore that.

It's its first edition, so nobody really knows what to expect, but it looks like a route on which, during a day, a lot might happen. It leads over 219 km as you can see:


It starts in Paderborn and finishes at St. Andreasberg. We can therefore expect an underwhelming crowd, but we wish for nothing else in these parallel-universe-but-nonetheless-world-sensitive-days.

So much for the route, but as they say: the riders make the race. And the startlist for this is simply crème de la crème. With such few races nowadays, riders eager to race and the teams desperate to get attention for their sponsors some weird choices have been made regarding the selection, but as you can see in the post below this is a quality field that even the Grand Boucle will have problems to match.

But will the selections work out? Have choices been made too soon, too emotional? What about the riders that we would not have considered fit yet, who seem to have been pushed (or pushed themselves) into the hastily formed rosters? Who would you have preferred to see at the soon-to-be-famous Race to Harz?

Now let's take a short look at the weather forecast.

In Paderborn the riders are expected to see the sun shining, no clouds, no rain, but it will be pretty cold, around 5°C. The wind will be rather moderate in general, but strong gusts may have an effect.

The finish at St. Andreasberg will favour the strongmen, around zero degrees are expected. Oh there will be many dreaming of other places, let's say Milano or Siena. Get your coats, guys, warm tea, and make sure warm water is available in the bus.

The race is due to start tomorrow at 11.45pm.
So what are you exspecting? Comment below.

(I will write a race summary when it has finished. Sorry for all the mistakes in my English. And thanks Libertine for your amazing reservoir without which this race could not be held.)
 
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Startlist Race to Harz

ALM
Romain Bardet
Benoit Cosnefroy
Tony Gallopin
Aurélien Paret-Peintre
Pierre Latour
Oliver Naesen
Nans Peters

Astana
Fabio Felline
Jakob Fuglsang
Miguel Ángel López
Alexey Lutsenko
Luis León Sánchez
Aleksandr Vlasov
Omar Fraile

BML
Pello Bilbao
Mikel Landa
Wout Poels
Dylan Teuns
Jan Tratnik
Hermann Pernsteiner
Ivan García Cortina

Bora
Lennard Kämna
Felix Großschartner
Peter Sagan
Maximilian Schachmann
Patrick Konrad
Gregor Mühlberger
Rafal Majka

CCC
Simon Geschke
Ilnur Zakarin
Jonas Koch
Alessandro De Marchi
Matteo Trentin
Greg Van Avermaet
Attila Valter

Cofidis
Nicolas Edet
Nathan Haas
Jesús Herrada
José Herrada
Guillaume Martin
Elia Viviani
Anthony Perez

DQS
Julian Alaphilippe
Joao Almeida
Andrea Bagioli
Rémi Cavagna
Remco Evenepoel
Bob Jungels
Kasper Asgreen

EF
Alberto Bettiol
Simon Clarke
Michael Woods
Sergio Higuita
Rigoberto Urán
Stefan Bissegger
Magnus Cort

Groupama
Thibaut Pinot
David Gaudu
Stefan Küng
Arnaud Démare
Valentin Madouas
Rudy Molard
Sébastien Reichenbach

Israel
Matthias Brändle
Nils Politt
Dan Martin
Ben Hermans
Rudy Barbier
Davide Cimolai
Mads Würtz Schmidt

LS
Thomas De Gendt
Caleb Ewan
Carl Fredrik Hagen
Philippe Gilbert
John Degenkolb
Jasper De Buyst
Tim Wellens

MS
Edoardo Affini
Esteban Chaves
Daryl Impey
Adam Yates
Simon Yates
Mikel Nieve
Jack Haig

Movistar
Enric Mas
Marc Soler
Alejandro Valverde
Eduardo Sepúlveda
Einer Augusto Rubio
Carlos Betancur
Nelson Oliveira

NTT
Edvald Boasson Hagen
Victor Campenaerts
Benjamin King
Roman Kreuziger
Domenico Pozzovivo
Michael Valgren
Louis Meintjes

INEOS
Egan Bernal
Rohan Dennis
Chris Froome
Michal Kwiatkowski
Geraint Thomas
Dylan Van Baarle
Pavel Sivakov

TJV
George Bennett
Laurens de Plus
Tom Dumoulin
Steven Kruijswijk
Sepp Kuss
Primoz Roglic
Mike Teunissen

Sunweb
Tiesj Benoot
Wilco Kelderman
Soren Kragh Andersen
Michael Matthews
Marc Hirschi
Sam Oomen
Ilan van Wilder

Trek
Vincenzo Nibali
Giulio Ciccone
Quinn Simmons
Jasper Stuyven
Kenny Elissonde
Bauke Mollema
Richie Porte

UAE
Fabio Aru
Andrés Camilo Ardila
Mikkel Bjerg
Tadej Pogacar
Diego Ulissi
Rui Costa
Brandon Mcnulty
 
Milano Sanremo 2020, official summary
So, after the long wait over the winter it was finally time for the first big cycling event of the season, the first monument, la primavera, Milano-Sanremo. And it was a long and nervous wait until we could finally get started. Let's not forget that for a long time there were question marks about whether this race could even go ahead as planned, due to landslides, destroying the roads this race takes place on. And don't even get me started on when people were panicking over this coronavirus which fortunately turned out to be nothing more than a democratic hoax. You know, basically just a chinese flu, and how could anyone ever have thought it would be anything more severe.

As the riders were lining up for the start the mood seemed to be very calm. The weather was relatively pleasent and there was no snow, or strong rain in sight, as it has often been in previous years. It seemed to be all set up for the sprinters who in theory should benefit from the relatively easy conditions. Many people had Caleb Ewan as their favorite after a strong early season and a good showings in this race in previous years. Maybe he could get his first ever monument win. Or maybe a strong puncheur like Alaphilippe could repeat his win from 2019. As always there were too many guys with a shot to win to name them all.

After a short fight to get into the break a rather small group of just 4 riders finally got away. The break consisted of 3 random Italian pro conti riders I'm too lazy to make up names for and Jan Barta, who sued the organizers at the CAS, for his place in the break, claiming that after being part of it for so many years he earns part-ownership of the Milano-Sanremo break. Everything was set up for a nice ride with not much happening until the Poggio...or so they thought.

As on eurosport the commentators, not thinking of anyone in particular, were discussing what chances Matteo Trentin would have in a sprint should he go up against Simon Clarke, the riders were slowly but surely riding up the Passo del Turchino. At the top it first seemed like nothing out of the ordinary would happen until all of a sudden Peter Sagan went to the front of the peloton and started to push it on the descent. To the relief of the worldwide audience, this move stopped the eurosport commentator from finishing the childish world play he just started, as he now instead started praising Sagan for pulling a huge group down a descent, spending unnecessary time in the wind, despite actually being a very good sprinter, but it's Sagan so it's gotta be a good decision. And while the intellect of the attack was questioned it actually showed results as the riders at the back of the peloton were caught napping and the group split in two.

As Sagan led the front group down to the Ligurian coast, the gap between the two groups grew to over half a minute. It still didn't seem as if it was reasonable to keep the pace up, after all with over 140 km to go, it would be absolutely impossible to keep these two groups apart from each other. However all of a sudden a blue jersey appeared at the front. It was one of the QuickStep team, who had noticed that all of their riders had made the split, while many other favorites didn't. The UAE riders Gaviria and Kristoff, Sagan's teammate Pascal Ackermann, Greg Van Avermaet, Caleb Ewan, Philippe Gilbert and many others were caught behind and with valuable allies in the front group such as Michael Matthews, Vincenzo Nibali, Giacomo Nizzolo, Jasper Stuyven, Dylan Groenewegen, and many others such as most of the movistar team, who were bored due to the lack of a leader for this race and would therefore work at the front just to make the time pass a little faster. And so the front group gave it a go and a massive chase was about to start.

At first the advantage of the front runners seemed to grow and it was for some time it had almost looked certain that teir task would be succesful. However after some time the field behind started to get organized. There was a total of 80 riders behind compared to just 50 up front (many others had been dropped by the inferious pace), but it was only after some domestiques from the "Sagan group" dropped back that they started to make up ground. CCC, UAE and Lotto Soudal were the most important teams in the chase together with Jumbo Visma who were riding as hard as they could in both groups to honor their Rabobank tradition. With 55 kilometers to go and the Capi about to start the gap was down to less than a minute and as Tom Dumoulin went to the front on the Capo Mele the gap decreased even more. He dutchman was finally showing signs that he could return to his former shape again. You could see the faces of the riders in front getting nervous as they feared all the hard work would be for nothing, but still, as hard as they went, it seemed like nobody had an answer to the brutal pace Dumoulin set behind. After resting a bit with the rest of the teams doing their work again, he came back to the front on the final of the Capi, the Capo Berta, and once again the time gap decreased second after second. First it went to 30, then to 20, the advantage seemed to shrink even faster the further up they climbed. At the front of the 2nd group riders could start to see the backwheels of the guys in front. And as the tension grew, something happened, that absolutely nobody saw coming...

-ad break-

After learning that this program was brought to you by "Tel Aviv-Jerusalem, two cities, one break" we went back to the action, just to learn that apparently nothing had happened. The gap was up to nearly a minute again and the race seemed rather calm. After finishing another anecdote about betting that also had something to do with Simon Clarke, the commentator explained the the chase came to an abrupt end, when Tom Dumoulin stopped at a public toilet near the top of the climb, which he apparently wanted to reach as fast as possible for the previous 20 kilometers. Now other teams like Lotto Soudal had to do the chasing again, as right now they seemed like possibly the biggest losers. Once again they clawed back some seconds as the front group had become smaller and smaller over Capi. There weren't many domestiques left, but the same was the case for the chasers.

As the Cipressa started the two Lotto leaders, Gilbert and Ewan, were all on their own, so they had to make a sacrifice. Knowing that if they ever wanted to catch the front group they had to do it here, Gilbert attacked with Ewan on his wheel trying to pull him accross to the front group. Greg Van Avermaet followed, and many others tried to, but nobody could. Even Ewan seemed to suffer a lot on Gilbert's wheel. The big chase behind was now doomed, if anyone would make it accross to the front group it would be these three and it started to look good as Gilbert gave everything for his teammate. But suddenly he slowed down. Gilbert still looked good, but he decreased his pace. And then even more and more. Everyone seemed confused. The chase was looking so well. After the pace had dropped too much Van Avermaet decided to take matters into his own hands and went to the front. And while Gilbert followed his countryman it became visible why he had slowed down. Ewan was cooked and Lotto had to make a decision. The small Australian started the race as their leader but it had become apparent that Gilbert was way stronger and so the two Belgians went on to chase the leaders together. The gap however, was still sizeable and it didn't looke as if they could reach the front group before the top of the cipressa. To make matters worse, once riders were on the descent, Vincenzo Nibali, who knew he had to make the race hard to succeed, had attacked. The whole front group was stretched over hundreds of meters but the elastic didn't snap. For the two chasers however their quest seemed doomed to fail now as their disadvantage was almost half a minute again.

But once again something unexpected happened. Julian Alaphilippe suddenly had to stop at the side of the road with a mechanical. The bike swap went fast and clean but it still took long enough for the two Belgians behind to catch him. And now as Alaphilippes teammates were dropping back it seemed likely again that the groups would come together. It wouldn't be without a fight however as the other teams in front saw the opportunity to distance one of the pre race favorites. The chase continued throughout the flat bit between the climbs and as the riders entered Lorenzo al Mare, the town at the foot of the Poggio, there were only seconds between the two groups. With a last huge push by Yves Lampaert, who had dropped back to Alaphilippe, the gap was closed and the favorites were once again together for the final battle up one of the most iconic climbs in cycling. You know what it was time for...

...it was time for the Juan and Only. As the riders started the final climb of the day Juan Antonio Fletcher is starting to talk to the audience. Beautiful pictures of the scenic landscape are shown as the former classics specialist and now fan favorite eurosport expert grinds up the ascent. He ensures everyone that the brutal 5% gradients are the hardest climb he has ever ridden and, as in the bottom left corner of the screen you can see Michal Kwiatkowski attacking, the attention of the audience is 100% captured by the beautiful Spanish accent in which he slowly but surely explains when to expect attacks.

Once the race was shown on the full screen again, it was completely blown apart. Despite starting the action Kwiatkowski had to drop and it was now Peter Sagan and Greg Van Avermaet at the front, with Julian Alaphilippe barely hanging on and Matthews, Gilbert, after all his heroics, Stuyven, Nibali and many others drifting back. It seemed like most of the favorites were now eliminated and only 3 contenders left. But as they got closer to the top and Sagan flicked his elbow for Alaphilippe to take a turn on the front, the Frenchman refused. Considering his struggle to get to the front duo it seemed likely he simply didn't have anything left, but Sagan and Van Avermaet both sat up, not wanting to pull a rider of Alaphilippe's calibre to the finish line. And so it was Vincenzo Nibali who managed to catch the front three again and then Trentin and finally Philippe Gilbert, but while the other ones were still looking at each other Gilbert didn't waste any time and went on the attack. A gap opened up immediately. The other ones were looking at each other. Then finally Matthews accelerated but once Sagan was on his wheel he stopped again. Could this really work for Gilbert?

The Belgian gave absolutely everything he had. Nobody on the start today wanted this win as badly as he did. Milano Sanremo would of course be the final monument missing on his palmares and winning here would put him in the pantheon of the absolute biggest cycling legends. It's an achievement nobody has achieved since Roger de Vlaeminck back in the 70's. An achievement that was thought of impossible to get in today's era of specialization. Yet here he was. Behind a few attacks were started but nobody could get away and while whenever someone accelerated the gap decreased a bit, all in all Gilbert was gaining. He had reached the end of the descent and looked back but there was nobody in sight. In disbelief he shook his head. Then after almost 20 seconds the first chasers appeared. He knew they wouldn't be able to catch him and they didn't. Everyone who was behind him at that point, stayed behind him. Everyone behind him...

Still in disbelief he turned his view to the front again. At first he wasn't quite sure what it was in front of him. Was it a moto? Did some hobby cyclist get around the barrier to cycle next to the pros? Then it struck him. When did they catch the break again? He remembered passing someone from Bardiani and someone from other italian cycling teams as well. How many were those? One, two and three, yeah, he clearly remembered catching three Italians from the break. But there was another one.

A few hundred meters in front of Gilbert, hardly able to move his legs due to cramps after spending 300 kilometers in a break, Jan Barta, who isn't actually riding for a pro conti, let alone a world tour team anymore, a man who nobody really understands how he even started, was leading the race. When he looked back, for the first time in around 100 kilometers, he could see another cyclist. The only thing keeping him going was his sheer will and a hope that all of the suffering wasn't worthless. That for once going into a break, that seemed to be doomed, would paid off. But although Gilbert was also hurting, he was still going faster than Barta. A lot faster. They went under the final kilometer mark, with Barta's advantage barley over 5 seconds. It looked bad for him, he had hardly anything left in the tank. But Gilbert was getting slower too. He also started to cramp, he also started to suffer. 500 meters to go and he could almost start to feel the slipstream of the rider in front. Barta knew that and he kept fighting. He could feel his chaser getting closer and closer. Only 200 meters to go. Gilbert now got the slipstream, he could feel how he got faster again, how he started to gain ground again. 100 meters. Barta gave it one last push, this was his final chance for glory. Gilbert moved to the left, out of his slipstream, gaining ground, but only 30 meters, 20 meters, 10 meters, the Belgian made one last pedal stroke, a bike throw and crossed the finishline, but only a splitsecond after Barta had already done that. The czech threw up his arms and started to celebrate the win of what had been the most incredible bikerace every spectator had ever wittnessed. Gilbert still celebrated his 2nd place knowing his ride would still go down in history, while behind Peter Sagan got 3rd a sprint out of a small group.

Let's just be thankful we were able to witness a race like that and that nothing stopped us from doing so. I for once, cannot even imagine what missing such a great race must feel like. Hope you enjoyed my summary ;)
 
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Wow, Gigs! That was a crazy race and an amazing write-up! Too bad I missed it, it sounds like an absolutely epic edition. Hopefully I can find the replay somewhere.
Congratulations, Jan Barta!
(I'm just afraid most riders will have given their all and won't be very fresh for tomorrow's race, but then it's MSR, that's worth it!) So glad they did not have to cancel it in the end.
 
Wow, Gigs! That was a crazy race and an amazing write-up! Too bad I missed it, it sounds like an absolutely epic edition. Hopefully I can find the replay somewhere.
Congratulations, Jan Barta!
(I'm just afraid most riders will have given their all and won't be very fresh for tomorrow's race, but then it's MSR, that's worth it!) So glad they did not have to cancel it in the end.
Absolutely agree. Now the big question is, as LBL isn't a proper monument, the vuelta not a proper grand tour and the world championship only prestigious if it's on a proper route, does this win put Barta ahead of Valverde in the all time greatest discussions? I think I'll need @El Pistolero to answer that.
 
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I feel gutted for Gilbert and Sagan. Another opportunity has gone to add this monument to their list.
Actually I don't feel very bad about that. I did not expect them to win it anyway. I mean, just because I'm a high profile rider and entering the autumn of my career I cannot expect wins to come to me like cake on my birthday. They have already got a crazy bunch of wins under their belt. It's not like the opportunity passed them by without a chance to do something about a win, like if it had been cancelled. (Of course it was not just individual failure. A lot of teams screwed up in this race, I think.) Something that I feel a little uncomfortable about is Bartas win after he practically went to court to compete. I'm not sure his claim was really substantial. Of course no one would have talked about that had he not won the race.

Also, after watching the highlights of the race, I am still asking myself what's going on with Kwiatkowski. Has he simply lost his abilities? Or is this still Ineos screwing up his season because all they care about is the tour? I had really hoped for him to be able to contend, but he hardly showed anything today.
Well, but then my bet was Oliver Naesen, and where was he? Nowhere to be seen.
I was surprised to see Alaphilippe there, as he said he would not race it, but I suppose with such few scheduled races he just took the opportunity.
What do you think about Ewan in this race? I thought he looked pretty strong, despite not being able to hold on to Gilbert. I did not see him as a pre-race favourite, but I must admit, just like his team I would have regarded his chances higher than Gilberts to win this. I guess, after all these years I'm still underestimating Gilbert. Or the power that the will to win has.
 
Actually I don't feel very bad about that. I did not expect them to win it anyway. I mean, just because I'm a high profile rider and entering the autumn of my career I cannot expect wins to come to me like cake on my birthday. They have already got a crazy bunch of wins under their belt. It's not like the opportunity passed them by without a chance to do something about a win, like if it had been cancelled. (Of course it was not just individual failure. A lot of teams screwed up in this race, I think.) Something that I feel a little uncomfortable about is Bartas win after he practically went to court to compete. I'm not sure his claim was really substantial. Of course no one would have talked about that had he not won the race.

Also, after watching the highlights of the race, I am still asking myself what's going on with Kwiatkowski. Has he simply lost his abilities? Or is this still Ineos screwing up his season because all they care about is the tour? I had really hoped for him to be able to contend, but he hardly showed anything today.
Well, but then my bet was Oliver Naesen, and where was he? Nowhere to be seen.
I was surprised to see Alaphilippe there, as he said he would not race it, but I suppose with such few scheduled races he just took the opportunity.
What do you think about Ewan in this race? I thought he looked pretty strong, despite not being able to hold on to Gilbert. I did not see him as a pre-race favourite, but I must admit, just like his team I would have regarded his chances higher than Gilberts to win this. I guess, after all these years I'm still underestimating Gilbert. Or the power that the will to win has.
Yeah, it's weird. Many guys who were strong this year were absolutely nowhere in this race while guys who had a horrible start to the season were really strong. The "Power structure" between the favorites was like someone who had missed most of the early season would have imagined it.
 
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Okay, maybe I got carried away a little...
Anyway, this is it:

Summary of the
Race to Harz (pronounced ~ Race to Hearts)

In the morning rumours had come out, some insiders whispering that the race organizers BR had not only invited, but in fact begged Alpecin-Fenix to take part, but when they heard Mathieu van der Poel had politely said this race was „not the kind of race where I shine“ (meaning: „not the kind of race I could be bothered with“), they very soon withdrew the invitation and told everyone to hush up.

At the start around lunch time there was a weird feeling to everything, as the riders, looking at each other, thought about what every one of them was doing there on this cold, dry day. Of course pro cyclists are used to find themselves in the middle of nowhere. It's part of their lifestyle to have a very clear idea where they are heading and at the same time wonder what brought them to this godforsaken place. But this felt different. Something was... different. They just could not define what it was exactly. „It's almost“, Daryl Impey said to George Bennett who was randomly placed next to him, „as if somebody just hologrammed me here.“

But George Bennett was busy with a nail he had not cut right in the morning and that had hooked itself into his glove. He just gave a smile that did not fit the situation.

Right after the départ réel there was a small incident which almost brought Jakob Fuglsang off his bike. A black cat seemed to cross the street right before the Dane. But at a second glance it was just a very small, very dark rabbit and not a bad sign at all.

During the first twenty minutes of the event the riders seemed reluctant to race properly. Instead of trying to get into the break everyone seemed to wait for the others to act. Maybe that was the result of a star studded field, in which everyone thought to high of themselves to get wasted for nothing. Too many leaders with to much too loose, it seemed. The pace was really slow. Even after the second smaller hump of the day no serious attempt to get away had been made. Then suddenly Deceuninck-Quickstep decided to jump to the front of the race, out of pure habit probably, and Rémi Cavagna tried to get into some kind of break, and tough the DQS rider himself for once did not seem fully committed to his acting, some others immediately took that as a sign the race had actually started. There was some hustle and bustle, Kwiatkowski, Cosnefroy and Affini among those trying to get ahead, but after 35kms suddenly there was a clear break consisting of Simon Clarke, Simon Geschke and Simon Yates. Now, they had not let Cavagna go, but how could they let Yates go into the break? He had escaped and when the DSs realized the break had already gained around 55 seconds. The peloton soon started to work hard to not let the gap grow too big, or, better, catch Yates. The chase was an eager one, but also disorganised. Again the lack of domestiques showed. Even the Steppers seemed a little out of their game, with Alaphilippe seemingly telling Evenepoel to do the chase and Evenepoel telling Alaphilippe to „man up“, or at least that's what some Spanish lip readers found on his lips. It might also have been “my french is better than your dutch”.

Though the mood was not great nobody seemed to actually panic. After all, is not Adam the better rider nowadays? In one-day races at least? So they told themselves.

So everything relaxed. Jumbo-Visma was seen at the front of the peloton most often, but in general the teams began working together rather smoothly, in a relaxed way though, with De Gendt and Wellens joking and doing boy-stuff on their bikes. The camera caught Sagan looking at them in envy, then having a severe mechanical. For whatever reason it was Majka who switched bikes with him. The two were left a little behind while their German and Austrian teammates moved ahead. Gilbert joined the fun of Thomas and Tim, Sagan caught the Peloton, while Majka could be seen arguing with his DS, throwing his arm in the air, soon afterwards abandoning.

The first hour of racing was done, the second leisurely passed under the cold but blue sky. No strong efforts to make use of the strong gusts of wind were made.

The break worked together really well. It has so be said though that Geschke and Yates did more than their share while Clarke seemed to save himself a little (pretending to not be the main contender in this small group?). Geschke took the intermediate sprint at Einbeck without effort, probably glad he doesn't drink anyway and will not be considered a possible marketing icon for the Einbecker beer, that is, despite being sold in lovely little bottles, actually disgusting.

Soon afterwards they approached the first climb of the day, the 3rd category Hopfenberg (hops mountain): 6,8%, 1,6km. The Bible break took one breath, then jumped over it. The peloton had a few more problems and after the hops a gruppetto formed. Again, Geschke went over the line first, uncontended, while Yates and Clarke were waiting for the more juicy parts of the race. The pace was getting higher as the riders were obviously hungry and ready to do something for their lunch which came at Seesen.

The bags and bottles must have been filled with great stuff! After the feeding the race really started! Just as Primoz Roglic had nibbled on his last grain, Tom Dumoulin came to the front, ready to show everyone he's back. Chris Froome joined him, for a few seconds, before realizing he's not back, or rather, at the back, quickly paying for his effort and barely able to hang on to the gruppetto. Poor Chris, but this is not the Tour yet. Mikel Landa, freed, started something like a small battle for attention with Dumoulin which came to nothing but an almost crash. At this point everyone waited for Movistar to show up and do something crazy but Valverde and Mas were just in the right place, close to the front, but not to close. Instead it was Israel who took over this role, happy to still be around and seizing the opportunity! Nils Politt, so far never known as a mountain goat, started to gain a few seconds uphill when they were climbing towards the Sternplatz (star place, they really have an ability to name around there). Ambition must have taken the better of him. He looked totally done before he reached the top, slithering from one side to the other, gripping his handlebar so tight as if never letting go, but eventually he had to and he also had to get off his bike for half a minute or so, before he was able to get up again. He later reached the mountain top in the company of Froome and others. But that wasn't everything that Israel had to show! Matthias Brändle had started to think he was Quintana, getting out of his saddle, poker face on, smoothly spinning.

Such was the resemblance that guys like Roglic, Evenepoel and Nibali reacted with resoluteness. Such was the pace of the peloton going up the mountain-called-hill that the break's advantage had suddenly dropped to 40 seconds. Way too early! everyone thought, but what can we do? Everyone seemed to feel good, everyone seemed to have the legs. Well, except for Bardet, who started to feel it just wasn't his day. So now no one was willing to hold back anymore. The guys in the cars might be shouting and crying, but this was a question of ego, of too much testerone, at least for endurance athletes. By the way Geschke took the most points at Sternplatz, but who cared.

Going up to Hahnenklee (***'s clover), Nibali was on the front. Then Roglic was. Evenepoel steadily held Roglic's wheel, while Pogacar jumped ahead. Roglic caught him, Nibali had to let go a little. Fuglsang came to them, looking a little weaker, but Lutsenko passed all of them! And passing Roglipoel, he also caught the break. Simon Clarke could not have been more surprised, Geschke resigned and Yates clung to Lutsenko.

In times before the climate change Hahnenklee had build a reputation for some nice small sized wintersport and a really great toboggan run. But as winter sports have started to gain a bad reputation for several reasons it might now be remembered for the first big battle of Roglic, the ex-ski jumper, and Evenepoel, the ex-footballer, because Roglic really tried to get Evenepoel of his wheel, but just wasn't able to. The only ones remotely able to keep up with them were Lu-Yates. Roglipoel first over Hahnenklee, first over Auerhahn (mountain ***). Lu-Yates always behind, but never more than 20 seconds. The others had been left to... whatever.

The descend to Goslar (really nice town, by the way, passed too fast), the sprint there, the climb up Torfhaus (peat house), nothing changed. The few spectators who where able to receive this on their tellies were bored as the tv coverage had set in only after Hahnenklee.

On the descend a lovely looking girl with blue hair seemed to scream “Jakob”, irritating Roglic, as he thought there was no Jakob around (and there wasn't, who knows whom she meant), and he pulled his bike to the right – and that was the end of Roglipoel, because Evenepoel crashed hard!

So it was three ahead now and as Roglic let himself catch by Lu-Yates they formed a trio. Together they crested the Stieglitzecke (goldfinch's corner). Evenepoel was okay, by the way, his jersey in tatters, but he got up on his bike again. When the trio got the info on the radio, they looked scared for a second, but Evenepoel, totally human and normal as he is, was no longer at his best and did not stand a chance to catch them again.

Lutsenko first at the Stieglitzecke! All three of them grimly staring over their handlebars now. Now for the descend and then the St. Andreasberg, twice! A climb of two km, at 7,5%. The trio behaving like a proper break. A nice clear pre-sunset sky above them. The air cold as ice. Pedalling. Pushing. Three great riders, who will win this race? Right at the beginning of the last climb of the day Lutsenko attacks! Yates goes with him! Roglic can't follow! Lutsenko seems to fly, but so does Yates. Lutsenko fights, looks left when the road takes a little turn, and Yates passes him on the right! Wow, Yates looked so strong here. Who would have thought he's the best of this elite? But then it's still early season. Quintana's not there. Valverde isn't – Valverde's there! He's right behind the three, Alaphilippe fighting for his live on his wheel. But they won't be in for the win today. This is either Lutsenko or Yates. Lutsenko – no, Yates! Yates wins the first edition of the Race to Harz. Oh, he looks so happy as he crosses the line, hand on his heart, grin on his face.
  1. Simon Yates
  2. Alexey Lutsenko
  3. Primoz Roglic
  4. Balaphilippe
  5. Tadej Pogacar
  6. Jakob Fuglsang
  7. Elia Viviani
  8. Remco Evenepoel
  9. Tiesj Benoot
  10. Maximilian Schachmann


Correction. It wasn't Simon Yates. It was his brother, there was a mess with the starting numbers and the tracking. Not that anyone would have noticed, but in the winner's interview Yates thanked “Simon, because he wanted to get into the break today, but then he said >just go, bro<”. So it all came out. Adam Yates won this bike race.

EDIT: I translated the German names, and they made * of it! Okay, everywhere you see a * imagine a male chicken.
 
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