Cycling-Pogacar leads young guns’ charge in pandemic-hit season

By Julien Pretot

PARIS (Reuters) – Biking managed to deliver an exhilarating, action-packed season that observed the young era, led by Tour de France winner Tadej Pogacar, consider ability regardless of the period remaining shortened by the new coronavirus pandemic.

There was a 4-1/2 thirty day period hiatus thanks to constraints aimed at containing COVID-19 but 4 of the five ‘Monument’ classics and 18 of 33 World Tour races additionally all three grands excursions were being held.

Paris-Roubaix, the ‘Queen of the Classics’, was the only big a person-day race to be cancelled along with its maiden women’s party as the next wave of the pandemic in Europe also threatened the rescheduled Giro d’Italia.

The Mitchelton Scott and Jumbo Visma groups pulled out of the a few-week race in Italy next beneficial COVID situations in their ranks in October, but the party was at some point concluded with Britain’s Tao Geoghegan Hart prevailing in a nail-biting finale.

It was a extraordinary rebound for Ineos-Grenadiers, who shed the Tour when defending champion Egan Bernal pulled out and saw Geraint Thomas abandon the Giro after a crash early in the race.

Just like on the Tour, the British outfit improved their tactic, turning by themselves into a fewer predictable and more attacking staff, with out 4-time winner Chris Froome.

The 35-calendar year-old, who was not aspect of Ineos-Grenadiers’s Tour roster, was under no circumstances in the mix this 12 months as he unsuccessful to get again to his finest amount just after a horrific crash in June 2019.

The 25-12 months-aged Geoghegan Hart was one particular of various youngsters to shine soon after Pogacar pulled off the biggest coup in current historical past on the Tour, leapfrogging fellow Slovenian Primoz Roglic on the previous competitive day in the remaining individual time demo.

Pogacar, then 21, who was the youngest Tour winner since Frenchman Henri Cornet in 1904, rode carefree in the course of as Roglic crumbled under the tension.

Roglic, however, bounced back again in model by fighting to acquire the time-ending Vuelta and also claimed the Liege-Bastogne-Liege Monument soon after pipping Julian Alaphilippe to the line.

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Alaphilippe, a central determine in the period, was then disqualified for an unlawful dash but experienced already acquired what he preferred by then following a turning out to be the very first Frenchman to earn the environment championships road race due to the fact 1997.

His woman counterpart, Anna van der Breggen of the Netherlands, also had a season to keep in mind, winning the road race and time trial as nicely as a sixth consecutive Fleche Wallonne and the Giro Rosa title.

Women’s cycling, having said that, nonetheless struggles with exposure and dropped a probably big sponsor when the Paule Ka workforce folded before the stop of the period. The women’s Tour even now does not have its have equivalent of the Tour de France.

Alaphilippe could have additional the Tour of Flanders to his title but a fall in aim saw him crash into a race bike in the finale of that Monument race, where by he was contesting victory with Mathieu van der Poel and Wout Van Aert.

Dutchman Van Poel defeat his Belgian opponent in a two-person dash finish in the most recent installment of their rivalry.

Van Aert, who also amazed throughout the Tour as a crew mate of Roglic, did on the other hand acquire the Milan-Sanremo Monument in August.

Another Belgian, 20-calendar year-previous Remco Evenepoel, also burst into the limelight. He has been tipped as the next Eddy Merckx but a freak crash into a ravine in the Giro Di Lombardia ended his period as security turned a rising problem in the peloton.

The incident, which ended Evenepoel’s season, arrived right after Fabio Jakobsen was put in a medically-induced coma right after a collision which the sport’s governing UCI stated was brought on by fellow Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen at the Tour of Poland.

Jakobsen experienced a mind contusion and major facial injuries and the incident noticed riders hit out at race organisers and the Global Cycling Union (UCI) for a phase end they mentioned was far too dangerous.

The riders’ views have been voiced more this year as the peloton also protested from the length of the 19th stage of the Giro due to the fact of bad climate, forcing organisers to shorten the 258-km journey.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot Editing by Ken Ferris)

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