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Hello, Daily News Digesters,
Did you watch the Tour de l’Ain? No? I don’t blame you, it’s not usually on my must-watch list, either. But this year was a bit special.
Thanks to the race-packed COVID calendar devised by the UCI, this minor three-day stage race in the Jura mountains of France suddenly became a crucial tune-up for the Tour de France.
Ineos had Egan Bernal, Geraint Thomas, and Chris Froome there. Jumbo-Visma brought its own heavy hitters – Primoz Roglic, Tom Dumoulin, George Bennett, and Robert Gesink.
Sounds like a good setup for a battle of the titans to me. And it was.
The victor? Jumbo-Visma and Primoz Roglic.
The actual GC times were pretty close – Roglic won over Bernal by just 18 seconds. But that gap isn’t indicative of the absolute smackdown Jumbo put into Ineos.
Bernal was isolated early and often, despite having two former Tour winners on hand as domestiques. In contrast, Jumbo muscled the race into pieces on two successive days. On the upper slopes of the Grand Colombier on Sunday, Bernal was the sole Ineos rider against four Jumbos.
I still think Bernal is the best grand tour rider in the world right now. But, for the first time in almost a decade, it looks likely that Ineos won’t enter the Tour with the best rider AND the best team.
For fans of tight, aggressive racing, that’s fantastic news.
The Tour is less than three weeks away. I can’t wait.
Read on for more,
| Roglic tops Bernal on Grand Colombier
Even an outnumbered Egan Bernal is not to be underestimated, and he countered off a move from Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) in the final kick to the top of the Grand Colombier, the finish of the Tour de l’Ain’s third and last stage. But Primoz Roglic was simply too strong.
The Slovenian, a known former ski jumper, came back around Bernal to take his second stage win in as many days. He won the overall GC by 18 seconds over Bernal and 28 over Nairo Quintana in third.
| Bauke Mollema throws a bit of shade at Chris Froome’s form
Speaking after the second stage of the Tour de l’Ain, Trek-Segafredo’s Bauke Mollema said what many were thinking after watching the four-time Tour winner get dropped on the penultimate climb: “I don’t actually count Froome anymore. You can see that he is not at the level where you will just win the Tour, I think,” Mollema told Dutch broadcaster NOS.
It didn’t seem like it was intended to be an insult, rather a statement of fact. Barely over a year on from his horrific, leg-smashing crash, Froome appears to still be a bit away from full strength.
| Carapaz pulled out of Tour of Poland after crash
Whew, this DND is some heavy reading for Ineos fans. Sorry about that.
Giro d’Italia winner Richard Carapaz, Ineos’ latest climbing ace, was pulled out of the Tour of Poland after a crash on stage four that also saw Ineos’ Ian Stannard drop out with a dislocated shoulder.
Some good news: Carapaz appears to be mostly unhurt, and Ineos described the measure as “precautionary.” And he was leading the race at the time of the crash, so clearly the form is pretty good.
| Remco Evenepoel wins Tour of Poland
Deceuninck-Quick Step’s Evenepoel, still just 20 years old, has won every race he’s entered in 2020. That includes the Tour of Poland, which wrapped up Sunday.
This victory came off the back of a 51-kilometer solo effort on Saturday’s queen stage. Jakub Fuglsang finished second overall, 1’52” back, followed by Simon Yates at 2’08”.
| Howson wins final stage and the overall at the Czech Tour
Australian Damien Howson (Mitchelton-SCOTT) clenched the overall victory at the Czech Tour with a stunning win, his first in Europe as a professional, on the final stage of the race.
The 27-year-old attacked on the final lap of a difficult day of racing and took the win in a two-way sprint for the line, securing back-to-back victories at the race for Mitchelton-SCOTT.
Howson said, “For the last half of the stage we had Jack and Michael there to help me, they did a tremendous ride and kept me calm. I said to them as long as they can get me into the last climb, they’d done more than enough, and I was confident to at least seal the GC at that point.
“I just had to match anyone on the climb on the last lap. When the Uno-X guy rode a super hard tempo there was only us two left and then it was a matter of playing my move right into the final to get my hands in the air.”
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
| Wout van Aert wins duel with Julian Alaphilippe to take Milan-San Remo victory
Did you miss MSR? It was a cracker. Go check out our writeup of the day (with video recap).
| The titanium bike that thinks it’s a carbon aero bike: Bossi’s Strada SS
Sydney-based Bossi Bicycles is looking to take advanced aerodynamic shapes and apply them to a frame made entirely of titanium.