Team BikeExchange riders woke up on the morning of stage five at Tour de l'Ardeche to find that 12 of their Bianchi bikes had been stolen overnight, putting their race at risk.
Fortunately though, the peloton helped rescue Team BikeExchange, with Trek Segafredo, Liv Racing, and Movistar all lending the Australian team spare bikes. Team BikeExchange took to the start line in Saint-Jean-en Royans thanks to the act of kindness, after riders and staff rallied around to help continue their general classification battle.
Marta Bastianelli (Alé -BTC-Ljubljana) won the fifth stage, 22 seconds ahead of second-place Emma Langley (Tibco-SVB), while Team BikeExchange rider Ane Santesteban ended as the team's highest finisher in sixth-place. Despite the disruption, Santesteban remains nine seconds behind race leader Leah Thomas in the general classification after stage five, with just two stages remaining.
#TCFIA 🇫🇷Every rider’s worst nightmare - stolen bikes 😞🙏 Thankfully the women’s peloton is full of great people & we would like to share our gratitude to the teams that rallied around to help us get our riders to the start line today after our bikes were stolen overnight.September 12, 2021
The Spaniard was full of gratitude for everyone that helped Team BikeExchange even start the race, which keeps her in contention to win Tour de l’Ardeche.
“I was able to race today’s fifth stage on a Bianchi Specialissima that the mechanic built for me in the last few hours," said Santesteban. "So first of all, I want to thank all the staff and teams for the job in helping to get us to the start line."
"The girls all did really good today, it was so nice to have [Amanda] Spratt in the break and on the last two climbs I was able to get away with Mavi Garcia and Leah Thomas. I was feeling really good and wanted to try on the last climb but I was not able to open a gap.
"In the end we arrived together to the finish line, I am still second on the general classification, just a few seconds from the first position and we still have two more stages to go to fight.”
Team BikeExchange's Sport Director Alejandro Gonzales-Tablas was also extremely grateful for the generosity of the other teams.
“It is not something you ever want to happen," said Gonzales-Tablas, "but we are proud of how the riders handled the situation and would like to thank the teams that helped us get to the start line today so that we could continue in this race.
"Ane was able to have a strong ride to finish in sixth place on the stage despite the disruption and could continue to fight for her strong overall placing where she now sits in second place on the general classification, so we are very grateful to still be in the race and able to participate in today’s stage, given the unfortunate circumstances.”
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Ryan is a staff writer for Cycling Weekly, having joined the team in September 2021. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before making his way to cycling. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer.
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