Wout van Aert: 'Tadej Pogačar is not unbeatable'


VeloNews 17 July, 2021 - 12:12pm

Who won the time trial in the Tour de France?

Tour de France: Van Aert storms to victory as Pogacar seals his second overall title. Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) stormed to victory on the penultimate stage of the Tour de France winning the 30.8-kilometre time trial between Liborne and Saint-Emilion on Saturday. cyclingnews.comTour de France: Van Aert storms to victory as Pogacar seals his second overall title

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Those results are even more remarkable considering that only half of the team will arrive to Paris on Sunday.

Jumbo-Visma will celebrate its success, but the Dutch-backed team is already making plans to return to the Tour next year to try to beat Tadej Pogačar.

“I do not believe that Pogačar is unbeatable,” said Wout van Aert, after winning his second stage in this Tour. “We will come back and try it again.”

Also read: Wout van Aert smashes TT in vineyards

Van Aert was part of the team that suffered a crushing defeat in 2020 and a key member of this year’s scrappy performance.

A winner at Mont Ventoux as well as Saturday’s time trial in Saint-Émilion, van Aert said the team could have gone even better if team captain Primož Roglič did not crash out in the first week.

Roglič is viewed by many as the only rider on par with Pogačar in the Tour.

Bam! @WoutvanAert #2 super proud and happy of this @JumboVismaRoad Jonas second in GC @LeTour wauw. #resilience pic.twitter.com/08WERpnX5D

— Richard Plugge (@RichardPlugge) July 17, 2021

So how to beat Pogačar, who is poised to win his second straight yellow jersey? For van Aert, it’s pretty easy.

“Maybe we should start with staying on the bike and having all eight riders in the race,” he said. “It would have made a huge difference this year. We saw how well [Jonas] Vingegaard and Sepp [Kuss] were climbing, so imagine having Primož with them in the final part of the Tour. We could have really made it more of a challenge for Tadej.”

Team boss Richard Plugge echoed those comments, saying that once Roglič is back at a high level, the team will be able to mount a stronger challenge.

“Pogačar was on a high level this year and did not make any mistakes,” Plugge said. “He deserves the victory. We hope to return to the Tour next year with a healthy Primož, along with riders like Jonas, Sepp, and the other team we have built up, and we will see what happens.”

For years, Jumbo-Visma was the team playing catchup to Ineos Grenadiers. Now with the sudden rise of Pogačar, the team finds itself chasing another rival.

Staying healthy and upright is often half the battle. Jumbo-Visma found that out this year.

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After confirming second on GC, Vingegaard says, 'I'm still the same Jonas'

CyclingTips 18 July, 2021 - 05:01am

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by Kit Nicholson

Jonas Vingegaard has been one of the revelations of the 2021 Tour de France. The young Dane stepped into the void left by Jumbo-Visma leader Primož Roglič and seemed only to get stronger as the race progressed into its final week.

“I’m really happy about being second in the Tour. There’s a lot more attention now, but that’s just a part of the game,” Vingegaard said in the press conference after stage 20. “I think there are some who like [the media attention] more than me, but for now I just take it quite easy, I’m no different than I was before, I’m still the same Jonas.” 

With a brilliant third-place finish in the stage 20 time trial, Vingegaard consolidated his hold on second overall, despite having to wear the best young rider’s skinsuit on behalf of race leader Tadej Pogačar. He sits 5:20 behind the yellow jersey, and many have wondered how different things might have been had he been protected from day one.

“I would be closer to him because I waited for Primož when he crashed [on stage 3], but that was only 1:20, and it wouldn’t have made any difference on the GC at all,” Vingegaard explained. “I would still have been second because Pogačar was just so strong in the rainy stages, basically we couldn’t do anything.”

Another major storyline underpinning Vingegaard’s race has been team tactics. On stage 15 to Andorra, for instance, the 24-year-old was left isolated while the team’s three best remaining climbers got into the breakaway.

“It was part of the tactics,” assured Vingegaard. “We wanted to go for stage wins – it also gives us a lot of motivation if we win stages – and also if I would have any problems, they would fall back to help me. Especially on the Andorra stage, I think we did a super super job. Steven [Kruijswijk] fell back at the right moment and then later on Wout [van Aert] came back, so I was actually the only guy who had a helper at the end, and still we won the stage.”

One reason given for Vingegaard being left to his own devices is that he’s struggled with the pressures of leadership in previous years.

“In the past I’ve had a lot of problems with dealing with stress,” Vingegaard explained. “I learned a lot about myself and I’ve learned how to deal with it now. It was also nice to show myself that I can handle the pressure, I can handle the stress that’s in the Tour, because it doesn’t get any worse – if you can say that – than this.”

The third week of the Tour de France always hosts a mountain showdown and this year was no different. Everyone expected Pogačar to climb to the top in the Pyrenees, and he did just that, but Vingegaard and Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) were always close behind. With Carapaz playing games, the first signs of a Pogačar-Vingegaard alliance flared up on the final climb of stage 17, sparking hopes of a friendly rivalry in years to come.

“We really respect each other, Pogačar is a really nice guy,” said Vingegaard. “We also help each other when we have to, but we’re also kind of enemies.

“We battled a lot, at least in the last two weeks. I don’t know about today, he already had five and a half minutes, so I don’t know if he went full for it, but I took a bit of time on him and I guess that’s also a bit of confidence for the future that he’s not unbeatable.”

The first, and perhaps only, sign of weakness from the 22-year-old Slovenian came on stage 11, where Vingegaard distanced Pogačar near the top of the second ascent of Mont Ventoux.

“When I dropped Pogačar, I realised that if I keep at least a high level during the third week, then I can do something really good,” said Vingegaard. “Luckily now I’m here and it’s a dream come true for me.”

On Sunday evening, Vingegaard will stand alongside Pogačar on the final podium of the Tour de France, the first Danish rider to do so since 1996. This is especially noteworthy given that Denmark will host the Tour’s Grand Depart in 2022.

“Next year it’s coming to Copenhagen so that’s going to be really special,” Vingegaard said to finish the press conference. “I really hope to be there with the strongest possible team. It’s going to be special to start the Tour de France in my home country.”

by Kit Nicholson

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Mechanical doping claims resurface at Tour de France

Cyclingnews.com 18 July, 2021 - 05:01am

Three anonymous riders claim to hear 'strange noises' from four team's rear wheels during the race

An article published by Swiss newspaper Le Temps on Thursday alleged that three separate riders at the Tour had heard noises they had never heard before coming from bikes involving four teams at the race. 

According to the report, one rider told the newspaper during the first week of the race that he was hearing odd new noises coming from the rear of several bikes. During the race, the UCI had announced that no forms of mechanical doping had been detected.

"There is a strange noise. I can hear it while riding. It comes from the rear wheels. A strange metallic noise, like a badly adjusted chain. I've never heard that anywhere," the rider said.

Two days later, the same rider reported back pointing out that the four teams that featured the noises coming from their rear wheel. "Four teams have this little sizzle in the rear wheel," he said.

Another rider said that talk in the peloton isn't about a motor in the crankset or seat-tube – the most popular rumour that has been circulated about possible mechanical doping in the past decade or so. Instead, he talked of an energy recovery system similar to the technology used in Formula 1 cars.

"There is no longer talk of a motor in the crankset or an electromagnet system in the wheel rims, but of a device hidden in the hub," he said. "We are also talking about an energy recuperator via the brakes. The inertia is stored like in Formula 1."

A third rider, not quoted in the article, is also reported to have raised concerns about the situation. One of the riders noted the relative strength of the four teams in question, with 13 of the 19 stages so far having been shared among them.

"Who will dare to speak out? We're not doing anything, and the situation is serious," one of the riders said. "Usually, we have a team that dominates. Or a team that is weaker than the others. That's sport... This year, four teams are far above the rest. The smallest rider who signs with them becomes very strong. If he changes team, he becomes average again. How can you explain that?"

Following Friday's stage 18, race leader Tadej Pogačar, who rides for UAE Team Emirates, denied that his bike was in any way illegal.

"I don't know. We don't hear any noise," Pogačar said in the post-stage press conference. "We don't use anything illegal. It's all Campagnolo materials, Bora. I don't know what to say."

On Monday's rest day, the UCI announced technological testing figures for the first 15 stages of the Tour, with nothing suspicious found after 720 tests had been carried out, including testing with magnetic scanning tablets and X-ray technology.

"A total of 720 tests have been conducted before and after every stage. All tests have come back negative," read the UCI statement.

"Of the tests carried out, 606 were conducted on bikes before the start of each stage using magnetic scanning tablets.  Meanwhile, X-ray technology was used to test another 114 bikes at the end of each stage.

"The UCI underlines that the post-stage testing pool always includes the bike ridden by the winner of that day's stage as well as the leader of the general classification. The remainder of the post-stage testing pool is decided on a two-pronged approach: bikes selected by the UCI based on its information and intelligence, and bikes ridden by athletes selected for targeted anti-doping controls by the International Testing Agency (ITA), the independent body in charge of the UCI's anti-doping activities." 

The statement continued with an announcement that a new form of testing will debut at the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games, with mobile technology able to scan bikes on the move, rather than just before or after races.

"After the introduction of magnetic tablets in 2016 and mobile X-ray technology in 2018, a new backscatter technology will be used to test bikes at the Tokyo Olympic Games. This relatively compact and light hand-held device provides instant images of the interior of the bike that can be shared in real-time to anywhere in the world via a secure platform.  It will be used in Tokyo at the road, mountain bike and track cycling events."

So far, only one rider has ever been caught and banned for mechanical doping. Cyclo-cross rider Femke Van den Driessche was banned for six years in 2016 after a motor was discovered in a bike with her pit crew at the Cyclo-cross World Championships that year.

In 2020, the French National Financial Prosecutor's Office (PNF) ended a multi-year investigation into mechanical doping at the sport's top level earlier this year without finding any further evidence of the practice.

Cyclingnews tech writer Josh Croxton gives his thoughts on the allegations:

Having not heard the noise that these anonymous riders are claiming to have heard, it's impossible to say what it's likely to be.

With that said, chains interacting with cassettes and derailleurs all make a noise, some are louder than others, and each setup will likely have a different pitch to the noise.

All four of the mentioned teams use groupsets that have been around for years already. Three of the teams use Shimano Dura-Ace R9170, while the fourth team use Campagnolo SuperRecord EPS 12-speed, and they all use stock components – there are no aftermarket pulley wheel systems attached to derailleurs.

They have all likely swapped out the stock bearings for oiled ceramic bearings, but even so, the noise of the chain interacting with the pulleys and the cassette shouldn't be anything that riders haven't heard before.

One thing that has changed in recent times is the use of waxed chains. It's not a new technology by any means – certainly not new to the 2021 Tour de France – and it's impossible to know for sure which teams are using waxed chains instead of a typical oil-based lubricant, but with the promise of a more efficient drivetrain, it's possible that more teams have made the switch.

One of the named teams, for example, are sponsored by CeramicSpeed and are running the brand's pre-treated UFO race chains. However, for any teams treating chains themselves, these chains need time to 'break in', since the wax dries and hardens. During that initial 10 kilometres or so, chains are considerably noisier than average.

That aside, unfortunately, there's no common denominator between the components used by the four mentioned teams. One team have used Vision wheels, another team has used both Vision and Shimano, while one are on Roval and the fourth team use Campagnolo wheels.

Ultimately, while these claims are very intriguing, there's very little to substantiate them at this stage.

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