Bahrain-McLaren excels as a team
At the end of the Tour de France, Team Bahrain-McLaren could celebrate a 3rd place in the team classification and Mikel Landa's 4th place in the overall standings. A good record really seen the eventful three weeks preceding these results.
After the two demanding stages in the Alps, Team Bahrain-McLaren was placed in 3rd in the team classification and its captain Mikel Landa had moved up to 5th place in the overall standings. The 19th stage from Bourg-en-Bresse to Champagnol was unlikely to lead to any change. Since the intermediate sprint was only contested after more than 100 kilometers, the decisive attacks only came in the finale of the stage. In the end 15 riders were in the mix for the stage win while the riders of Team Bahrain-McLaren stayed in the peloton and reached the finish more than 7.30 minutes after the stage winner. But this was exactly what the team management and Rod Ellingworth had lined out as priorities for this stage: Keep all riders out of crashes and avoid wasting any energies on the day before the demanding individual time trial up to the Planche des Belles Filles.
With a slightly ascending approach over about 30 kilometers and a 6.5 kilometer-long, brutally steep climb to the finish line, this time trial posed one last, but formidable challenge for the team. Mikel Landa had to defend his 5th place in the overall standings. Apart from that, the team management was looking for a top10 result in the stage, and if possible Damiano Caruso should go all-in to finish the Tour de France in the top10 of the overall standings. As for the equipment used on the day nothing was left to chance: Before the season and during the race-free period caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the position of each athlete aboard MERIDA BIKES’ TIME-WARP TT had been optimized both in the wind tunnel and on the track. And as a one-off for this demanding time trial, MERIDA had produced a version of its time trial bike without any paint for Mikel Landa, shaving off some more crucial grams.
At one-week stage races back in February and March, both Dylan Teuns and Pello Bilbao had already scored strong results in time trials, proving that the TIME-WARP TT is on par with some of the best time trial bikes in the World Tour. This also showed on the penultimate day of the Tour de France. Mikel Landa skillfully paced his effort, did not lose too much time on the relatively flat approach and then made good use of his climbing abilities to finish the stage in 14th. Wearing the skinsuit of the reigning Spanish national champion, Pello Bilbao posted the 12th-fastest time of the day. The fastest rider in red, papaya and black however was Damiano Caruso: Despite all his efforts in the Alps, the experienced super domestique rode a strong race against the clock, finishing the stage in 7th and pushing Alejandro Valverde from 10th place in the overall standings. And since Miguel Angel Lopez lost a lot of time, Mikel Landa even managed to move up to 4th in the overall standings.
Thus Team Bahrain-McLaren got to start the conclusive stage into Paris in good spirits - quite a contrast to that evening after the opening stage around Nice, when Rafael Valls stayed in the hospital an nobody knew if Wout Poels would be able to continue the race. To make matters worse, Mikel Landa had taken a hit in that huge pile-up as well, but luckily he managed to recover within a few days. As usual the conclusive stage of the Tour de France offered plenty of opportunities to take photos of the jersey winners and their team mates before the speed went up considerably. A lead group with a handful of strong riders challenged the peloton one last time but got caught well in time for the much expected bunch sprint on the Champs Elysées. Having put himself at the service of the team for the last three weeks, Sonny Colbrelli got one last shot to chase his own ambitions. Crossing the finish line in 11th, the sprinter narrowly missed out on another top10 result. With the 3rd place in the team classification and one rider in 4th and 10th respectively, there still were some reasons to celebrate.
While the team reached most of its goals at the Tour de France, Team Bahrain-McLaren was less successful at the Skoda Tour in Luxembourg. The best stage result came at the end of the first stage when Eros Capecchi sprinted to an 8th place. The conclusive stage saw a rider of Team Bahrain-McLaren cross the finish line in celebration with Santiago Buitrago - but unfortunately the young Colombian celebrated one lap too early and finished the stage in 15th - the same position that took in the overall standings. As for the young riders’ classification, Buitrago finished the race in 6th. A third selection of Team Bahrain-McLaren riders was competing at three one-day races in Italy throughout the last week. Finishing the Coppa Sabatini in 7th and the Giro dell'Appennino in 8th, Enrico Battaglin added two more top10 results to his and the team's tally.
107TH TOUR DE FRANCE, TEAM CLASSIFICATION
1. Movistar Team, in 262:14.58 hours
2. Team Jumbo-Visma, + 18.31
3. Bahrain-McLaren, + 57.10