Two strong results in Belgium

After the World championships held in Italy, cycling’s racing calendar was tightly packed. Team Bahrain-McLaren lined up to four races held in Belgium and Italy over the last week. The best result came courtesy of Sonny Colbrelli who finished the demanding conclusive stage of the Binck Bank Tour in 3rd place. One day later, Matej Mohoric showed a great performance at the monument that is Liège-Bastogne-Liège, finishing the iconic race in 4th.

Since pro cycling returned to racing at the beginning of August, the riders are facing a tight schedule. At the road World championships held in Imola, Italy no less than seven riders of Team Bahrain-McLaren were competing in the jerseys of their respective national federations. Yukiya Arashiro was part of the early lead group and only got caught by the group of favorites as third-to-last rider. Luka Pibernik, Domen Novak and Jan Tratnik all worked selfishly for Slovenia’s national team, and once the finale was in full swing, Pello Bilbao and Mikel Landa showed their Spanish colors as well. The best result at the World championships however came from Damiano Caruso: Finishing the race in 10th, he was the best-placed Italian rider in this race for the rainbow jersey. Three days later the riders of Team Bahrain-McLaren missed out on a top10 result at the semi-classic Flèche Wallone: Wout Poels crossed the finish line atop the Mur de Huy in 16th, posting the best result of the team.

Due to measures put in place in the Netherlands to contain the current Covid-19 pandemic, the individual time trial on the second day of the Binck Bank Tour got cancelled. One day earlier, a big pile-up with four kilometers to go had brought a lot of riders down and thrown them out of contention for the overall standings, with Ivan Cortina Garcia as Team Bahrain-McLaren’s designated captain for the overall standings being one of them. Young Englishman Fred Wright even was forced out of the race, having suffered a concussion in this crash. The riders of Team Bahrain-McLaren had to wait for the last day to perform at their best: In the demanding finale with multiple passages of the Kapelmuur in Geraardsbergen, both Sonny Colbrelli and Ivan Garcia Cortina were riding at the sharp end of the race for a long time. On the last couple of kilometers and riding in a four-men group, Colbrelli almost managed to get back to the later solo winner Mathieu van der Poel, finishing the stage in 3rd. Deep into the finale Ivan Cortina Garcia attacked from the main group as well, crossing the finish line in 8th.

Just one day after the Binck Bank Tour had ended, cycling’s third monument of the year was ridden: Leading through the Belgian Ardennes on an undulating course with a series of tough climbs, this year’s edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège measured 257 kilometers in distance. Team Bahrain-McLaren had the winner of 2016 in its ranks with Wout Poels. With Dylan Teuns, Mikel Landa and Damiano Caruso, three more riders of the team started the race with serious ambitions while Matej Mohoric, Kevin Inkelaar and Santiago Buitrago were starting in support of the four riders mentioned earlier. But as the race proceeded the situation changed drastically: Damiano Caruso was involved in a crash on a wet descent and forced to abandon the race as a consequence. And after the Redoute climb, Matej Mohoric was Team Bahrain-McLaren’s last rider at the sharp end of the race. While the athlete from Slovenia could not keep up with the four best climbers on the Roche aux Faucons, he made good use of his bicycle handling skills to close the gap and get back to the leaders on the following descent. This effort had been too much to contest the sprint, but since World champion Julien Alaphilippe got relegated for unfair sprinting, Mohoric moved up to 4th place.

At the Tour de France, Team Bahrain-McLaren had fully focussed on protecting Mikel Landa as its designated captain for the overall standings. At the Giro d’Italia the team is looking for stage wins rather than the overall standings. Do to so the team lines up a selection of experienced riders and talents: Yukiya Arashiro, Eros Capecchi and Jan Tratnik have a lot of precious knowledge that they can share with their younger team mates. Pello Bilbao, Mark Padun and Hermann Pernsteiner have marked the numerous stages in the mountains for attacks, Domen Novak is there to help his team mates and Enrico Battaglin is a contender for stages that end in an uphill sprint. The opening stage was an individual time trial over 15 kilometer, and with large parts of the course leading downhill to the center of Palermo, this stage demanded both raw power and courage. Finishing in 11th place, Jan Tratnik missed out on a top10 result by a few hundredth of a second. One day later Pello Bilbao showed a solid effort on the uphill sprint to Agrigento, crossing the finish line of stage 2 in 9th place.   

1. Primoz Roglic, SLO, in 6:32.02 hours
2. Marc Hirschi, SUI, st
3. Tadej Pgacar, SLO, st
4. Matej Mohoric, SLO/Team Bahrain-McLaren, st

1. Mathieu van der Poel, NED, in 4:07.39 hours
2. Oliver Naesen, BEL, + 0.04
3. Sonny Colbrelli, ITA/Team Bahrain-McLaren, st