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EUROTRASH Belgium Thursday!

It has been a terrible week for Belgium with the terrorist attacks in Brussels, but the Classic season will carry on showing that the Belgian people will not be kept down. We have the results and video from the Dwars Door Vlaanderen and preview Gent-Wevelgem, plus the results and video from the Volta a Catalunya. Other cycling news: Critérium International preview, Julien Vermote injury and the Tour de Yorkshire 2016. Coffee and a piece of Belgian tart, chocolate or a Duvel?

TOP STORY: Racing Goes On In Belgium
No one would have been surprised if Wednesday’s Dwars Door Vlaanderen had been cancelled due to the bombing in Brussels, but the organizers, police and most of the teams agreed to race. The Giant-Alpecin team had to withdraw and Movistar only had four riders, but everyone made the effort to be on the start line. Fabian Cancellara has said he will drive to Belgium from Switzerland to race.

Bike racing is a way of life for many Belgians and more particularly in Flanders, the country is at security level four, but life must go on and as we have all seen, terrorist attacks can come anywhere and at anytime. At certain points of next weeks Tour of Flanders spectators will not be allowed to take bags as security can’t guarantee safety. The way things are at the moment we have to put up with some changes in life, but better that than having no cycling to watch.

Bravo Belgium!

Jens Debusschere (Lotto Soudal) saved the day!
71e Dwars door Vlaanderen 2016 - elite

Dwars door Vlaanderen 2016
A peloton of only 161 riders started the Flemish semi-Classic due to travel problems caused by the bombs in Brussels on Tuesday. The Giant-Alpecin team withdrew altogether and other teams were not at full strength. Many riders were wearing black armbands and there was a minutes silence before the race got underway.

After a fast start the first break eventually escaped, it included: Alexis Gougeard (AG2R-La Mondiale), Jesper Asselman (Roompot-Oranje Peloton), Alex Kirsch (Stölting), Phil Bauhaus (Bora-Argon 18), Igor Boev (Gazprom-RusVelo), and Kévin Van Melsen (Wanty-Groupe Gobert). They had a maximum lead of 6 minutes but with 100 kilometers to go they only had 3.

A counter attack by Mike Teunissen (LottoNl-Jumbo), Jonas Rickaert (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEDGE) caused the peloton to split in the chase before the Taaienberg climb as they entered the final 50 kilometers. Van Melsen decided to go solo at this point.

What was left of the peloton got organized and started to pull back the front groups, but the race was split to pieces with new groups forming and splitting. By the cobbles of the Holstraat (15km): Van Melson was with Durbridge, Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo), Nikolas Maes (Etixx – Quick-Step), Scott Thwaites (Bora-Argon 18), Loic Vliegen (BMC) and Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal), but they were not working together and the race came back together with 10 kilometers left to race. Het Nieuwsblad winner, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) made a strong jump and it looked like the winning move that took him to the final meters of the race. If it hadn’t been for Trek-Segafredo and Etixx – Quick-Step, especially Niki Terpstra, Van Avermaet would have won.

The bunch swept up the Belgian as the sprint was started by the young Colombian, Fernando Gaviria (Etixx – Quick-Step), he had gone too early and Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie) came past him and started to raise his arms in victory as the faster moving Jens Debusschere (Lotto Soudal) passed on his left hand side.

71e Dwars door Vlaanderen 2016 - elite

Race winner, Jens Debusschere (Lotto Soudal): “Of course I am happy with this victory. It was a race I had been looking forward to. Because of what happened yesterday in Brussels it wasn’t sure if the race would take place. It was strange yesterday and this morning: should we give in and cancel the race or do we race with respect for the victims and with attention for the safety? The atmosphere at the start in Roeselare was very serene. It was the plan that Tiesj Benoot and Jelle Wallays would ride an aggressive race. I was the card to play if the race would end with a sprint. And it was a sprint, although the attempt of Greg Van Avermaet was really strong. For a long time we didn’t think he would get caught but Trek kept chasing him until the last straight line. In the last turn I was too far behind, I wasn’t part of the first ten riders. In the last straight line I could move up and I aimed for a podium place; at the end I won. Everyone in the team did a good job today. In the finale we were with four in the first group: Jelle Wallays, Pim Ligthart, Tiesj Benoot and I. We had a strong team today with also Lars Bak, Sean De Bie, Jasper De Buyst and Marcel Sieberg who did their part of the work. After Strade Bianche I was afraid that I could forget about my ambitions for the Spring Classics because of the rib injury I incurred. But I could finish Tirreno and helped out Jürgen Roelandts at Milan-Sanremo. And today I win. This is yet again a next step in my career. It’s even more nice that I win in my home region.”

2nd, Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie): “Gaviria went for a very long sprint and he faded a bit, and then I launched my sprint with 150 meters to go. I saw Theuns to my right and I saw myself winning the race. I flung my bike forward, and I was ready to raise my arms, but then at the last minute I saw Debusschere come by.”

7th, Oscar Gatto (Tinkoff): “Overall I’m satisfied by the work we did today. At the dangerous, key sections of the race I was at the front where I needed to be and stayed out of trouble, always making the lead group. I felt in good form and had the power, but in the final sprint I wasn’t too well positioned and the result was the best I could achieve from the situation. More importantly now, although the victory was the main goal today, another very important goal was to be in good form ahead of Friday and Sunday in order to support Peter Sagan in the best way possible. I’m happy that I’m where I want to be and feel that I will be able to perform at my best at these coming races to support Peter in fighting for the win.”

Break rider, Kévin Van Melsen (Wanty-Groupe-Gobert): “After several attempts I managed to get away at the right moment with six other rides. We got a nice gap immediately. I felt really good tonight and thought: why not have some fun? It’s good publicity for me and for the team as well. That is my only regret today. We had a nice gap on the bunch which meant we could have gone all the way and I would have been able to get a top ten. I wasn’t happy with how I did this weekend in France but today I felt reassured with my form for the upcoming races.”

Dwars door Vlaanderen Result:
1. Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto Soudal in
2. Bryan Coquard (Fra) Direct Energie
3. Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
4. Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Southeast-Venezuela
5. Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica-GreenEDGE
6. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
7. Oscar Gatto (Ita) Tinkoff
8. Scott Thwaites (GB) Bora-Argon 18
9. Mike Teunissen (Ned) LottoNl-Jumbo
10. Fernando Gaviria (Col) Etixx – Quick-Step.

Dwars Door’16:

Volta a Catalunya 2016
Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) won Stage 1 of the Volta a Catalunya, starting and finishing in Calella, 175.8 kilometers, and is the first leader. The French sprinter beat British rider Ben Swift (Sky) and the South African, Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEDGE).

The break of the day went early including: Lluis Mas, (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Boris Dron (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Cameron Meyer (Dimensions Data), they had a maximum lead of 6 minutes, but they were caught on the descent of the Coll Formic, where Meyer took the lead in the KOM competition. Over the Cat. 2 Alto de Monseny; Louis Vervaecke (Lotto Soudal) attacked with a chase group behind him, but Sky pulled the race together for Nicolas Roche to go solo in the final kilometers. The Irishman was caught in the last kilometer as Katusha and Cofidis led-out the sprint where Bouhanni was by far the fastest.

Bouhanni has redeemed himself for his fourth place in Milan-San Remo on Saturday (“Everything was ruined in a second”), due to a problem with his gears. The French sprinter nearly didn’t ride the Volta, but in Calella he raised his arms, his third win of the season after winning a stage in the Tour of Andalucia and Paris-Nice, but was declassified in another stage.

Volta a Catalunya 2016 - stage 1

Stage winner and overall leader, Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis): “It was not an easy day. Especially in the end when Movistar set a fast pace with Sky. I had to really dig deep in order to stay in front. Moreover, I had the fatigue of Milan-Sanremo in the legs. However, my team did a perfect job and in the sprint I believed in my chances. It was a very hard finish as we saw today, but we worked well with Movistar on the last big climb. There are maybe three or four opportunities for me in total, including tomorrow, and we’ll work in all of them as best we can. It’s great to have this win and the Volta is a great race, but it doesn’t make up for the disappointment of San Remo. It’s true I considered not coming and sending my bikes back home. At 150 meters from the line, I couldn’t do my sprint, my chain jumped and it was all over. It was a nightmare. In the last two nights I barely slept, the finale has haunted my head. I lost Milan-Sanremo 200 meters from the finish, I saw my dream getting shattered. Disillusionment and frustration remain, even 48 hours after La Primavera, because I had a huge chance to win a classic. The team worked 110% for me. We had made ​​many sacrifices for Sanremo and then we lost it all. The frustration does not pass so quickly after just 48 hours, but today’s victory is still a good sign. Tomorrow is a second chance for the sprinter . I think that we will have 3 or 4 chances, but meanwhile it is good to be able to win today.”

2nd, Ben Swift (Sky): “It was a great team performance once again. Obviously the sprinting is secondary here and we’re here to try and win the GC. I think we rode really well as a team. We were at the front where we said we wanted to be and I think we had everything under control. I gave it a good go in the sprint but just got beaten by a faster guy. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be back into the swing of things. We had a hard San Remo and not an ideal day yesterday with all the flight delays. So hopefully now with a day out of the way I’ll feel alright tomorrow.”

4th, Enrico Gasparotto (Wanty-Groupe Gobert): “I am happy with how I rode today. I already knew the finish because we had the same stage last year. I felt good the entire day and tried to stay at the front of the climbs with the big guys. At the front there are fewer risks, also because some of the descents were wet. I was well-positioned in the final. There aren’t many sprinters in Catalunya, only Bouhanni, Swift, Impey, and I managed to stay behind them and do my sprint. The most important thing is that Amstel Gold Race is in four weeks and that I feel good. I feel confident that I am on track for my dreams of that week. Tomorrow is my birthday. We also did this stage last year and I came in 11th. I hope to do better tomorrow.”

Rohan Dennis will not be lining up at stage 2 of Volta Ciclista a Catalunya due to illness. BMC Racing Team doctor, Dr Daniele Zaccaria said Dennis has flu-like symptoms and a high fever so is unable to start.

“He was feeling good until halfway through stage 1 yesterday, however he then started to feel unwell. He was dropped in the final 10 kilometers which is unusual for him on such a course and this was an indication of his condition,” Dr Zaccaria said. “He has a fever and didn’t sleep well last night, so it is in his best interests not to start today in order to avoid any further illness and jeopardize his long term plan for this year.”

Dennis is disappointed to not be continuing. “I was feeling good when I arrived in Catalunya on Sunday. It looked like I was 100% but obviously there was something underlying and racing yesterday has flared it up. It’s disappointing not to continue racing here, but I have some big goals for this year which are still to come and my health comes first,” Dennis confirmed.

Volta a Catalunya Stage 1 Result:
1. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis in 4:28:51
2. Ben Swift (GB) Sky
3. Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-GreenEDGE
4. Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
5. Aleksei Tsatevich (Rus) Katusha
6. Carlos Barbero (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
7. Jordi Simon (Spa) Verva ActiveJet
8. Kévin Reza (Fra) FDJ.fr
9. Eduard Prades (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
10. Georg Preidler (Aut) Giant-Alpecin.

Volta a Catalunya Overall After Stage 1:
1. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis in 4:28:41
2. Ben Swift (GB) Sky at 0:04
3. Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-GreenEDGE at 0:06
4. Cameron Meyer (Aus) Dimension Data at 0:09
5. Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Wanty-Groupe Gobert at 0:10
6. Aleksei Tsatevich (Rus) Katusha
7. Carlos Barbero (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
8. Jordi Simon (Spa) Verva ActiveJet
9. Kévin Reza (Fra) FDJ.fr
10. Eduard Prades (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA.

Stage 1:

After a 1 minute silence for the victims of the Brussels terrorist attacks the peloton headed off on the 179 kilometer Stage 2 to Olot and a second stage win for Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis). The Frenchman out-sprinted Etixx – Quick-Step’s Gianni Meersman and Philippe Gilbert (BMC). Bouhanni now leads the overall classification by 14 seconds from Ben Swift (Sky) and breakaway rider Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal).

The break of the day included Kamil Gradek (Verva ActiveJet Pro Cycling Team), Maxime Bouet (Etixx-QuickStep), Boris Dron (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal). With 30 kilometers to go Dron was dropped as De Gendt took the intermediate sprint and the bonus seconds to move him into 3rd overall on the same time as Ben Swift. De Gendt went solo 25km out, but was caught by the Cofidis led peloton in the final 20 kilometers.

Cofidis, Tinkoff, Team Sky, CCC Sprandi, Movistar, Trek-Segafredo and BMC were all in the battle for sprint domination, 5K out. Orica-GreenEDGE, FDJ and Katusha also joined in the fight as the race entered the 3 kilometer to go mark. As expected Cofidis were in control on the last corner for Bouhanni. It was Geoffrey Soupe who positioned Bouhanni on the front with 500 meters to go and from there he unleashed his power for his second win in two days.

Volta a Catalunya 2016 - stage 2

Second stage win in a row and overall leader, Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis): “At the start of the stage, my stomach hurt, and I had to visit the race doctor. Fortunately I got better during the race and I hope that continues in the days to come. There was a big right-hand around a kilometer and a half to go, and that’s where we started to up the effort. From there on I had been on my lead-out man Geoffrey Soupe’s wheel on the ideal position and I could stay with him all the way to the finish. This victory is very important for the team. This is my second win in a row, the fourth of the season. I started the season well and am very happy with that.”

2nd, Gianni Meersman (Etixx – Quick-Step): “Despite having big roads, the last 20 kilometers were pretty nervous, because of the road tunnels. The guys brought me to the front with 4 kilometers to go, and inside the final 1500 meters a right hand corner came up, and that’s where I took Bouhanni’s wheel. When he launched his sprint, I tried to pass him, but he was really strong. I finished second, but there was nothing more I could do, so I am happy with this result and with the great job of the team.”

3rd on the stage and 5th overall, Philippe Gilbert (BMC): “Yesterday I was suffering a bit as it was my first race since Paris-Nice. I’ve been training at home but without race speed so it’s a bit different. Yesterday I was suffering but I was still there, so I was happy to be there in a good position with one kilometer to go today. I was up there a bit too early so at 400m to go I decided to slow down a bit and take the risk, but in the end Bouhanni was just too fast. I knew there would be three of four stages in this race that were good for me. The next two days I’ll be riding in service of my teammates. It’s always a big motivation when you have guys like Richie Porte and Tejay van Garderen in the team. We know they can do well, so we are all motivated to work hard.”

Alberto Contador (Tinkoff): “I feel in good form, even if it’s too early to draw conclusions after two flat days. Tomorrow, a different race starts, the mountain race where we will see the first gaps. I’ll have to see how much I have recovered after Paris-Nice and how I feel. My health is getting better, and that is positive. I still feel a bit congested but it is retreating and I hope it won’t cause any problems. La Molina is unpredictable and you never know what will happen. It isn’t an excessively demanding climb and I think the gaps there will be very slim.”

Volta a Catalunya Stage 2 Result:
1. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis in 4:39:10
2. Gianni Meersman (Bel) Etixx – Quick-Step
3. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC
4. Aleksei Tsatevich (Rus) Katusha
5. Carlos Barbera (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
6. Kiel Reijnen (USA) Trek-Segafredo
7. Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
8. Jonas Vangenechten (Bel) IAM Cycling
9. Pawel Franczak (Pol) Verva ActiveJet
10. Kévin Reza (Fra) FDJ.

Volta a Catalunya Overall After Stage 2:
1. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis in 9:07:41
2. Ben Swift (GB) Sky at 0:14
3. Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal
4. Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-GreenEDGE at 0:16
5. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC
6. Maxime Bouet (Fra) Etixx – Quick-Step
7. Louis Vervaeke (Bel) Lotto Soudal at 0:17
8. Javier Moreno (Spa) Movistar at 0:18
9. Ruben Fernandez (Spa) Movistar at 0:19
10. Aleksei Tsatevich (Rus) Katusha at 0:20.

Stage 2:

Stage 3 saw Dan Martin (Etixx – Quick-Step) take the victory and the overall lead with an attack on the final kilometers of La Molina. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff), Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) and Tejay van Garderen (BMC) were 2 seconds behind and Richie Porte (BMC) was at 9 seconds. Martin leads overall by 6 seconds from Contador and 8 on Bardet. The previous overall leader, Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis), abandoned after 90 kilometers, he had lost a lot of time and was said to be ill.

Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx – Quick-Step), Koen Bouwman (LottoNl-Jumbo), Kevin Reza (FDJ.fr), Johann Van Zyl (Dimension Data), Jan Hirt (CCC Sprandi), Huub Duijn (Roompot-Oranje Peloton) and Alex Howes (Cannondale) made up the break of the day. Howes and Duijin eventually dropped the other to head off on their own on the first climb of La Molina to be joined by Pieter Weening (Roompot) who rode with them for a short time before leaving them. Sky started to work and pulled in Howes and Duijn, but Weening had a minute at the summit.

At the start of the last climb: Sky, Tinkoff, Movistar, Katusha, Etixx – Quick-Step and Cannondale all put men on the front for the final push. Weening was caught by Louis Vervaeke (Lotto Soudal) who had jumped away from a group of the top men, but was caught with five kilometers go to. Two kilometers out and Wout Poels (Sky) attacked, but Movistar and Katusha were on him. Richie Porte (BMC) tried to escape, followed by Nairo Quintana (Movistar), but it was Dan Martin who made the move that counted with Contador on his tail.

Cycling: 96th Volta Catalunya 2016 / Stage 3

Stage winner and new overall leader, Dan Martin (Etixx – Quick-Step): “I am so happy for this win. The guys were incredible! Since this morning they said they will ride for me and did a fantastic job. It’s great to see how much confidence they have in me, and this only makes me stronger. I knew this finish, and what helped is that it was similar to the one in Valenciana, Alto de Fredes. In the key moments I stayed at the front and I was relaxed all the time. There was some headwind on the climb, so it was important to time the attack to perfection on that steep part of La Molina.” As to the next stage: “That’s another hard climb, and it will be difficult to defend the jersey. Still, we have a very strong team and will try to keep the lead. The time gaps are always small in this race, so who will come out on top tomorrow will probably win the GC.”

2nd on the stage and 2nd overall, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff): “What is important now is to see how I recover ahead of tomorrow. I came here with a cold from Paris-Nice and in that sense it’s positive. The worst of it is behind me, otherwise I couldn’t have achieved this result. Tomorrow’s stage, in principle, is more suited to my characteristics and we’ll try to perform better. Daniel Martin is a strong rider and knows what it is to win on tomorrow’s climb since he took the GC there in 2013. It isn’t a surprise either, that he won today, and right now he’s the one best placed for the GC. Nevertheless, I think that we can’t draw many conclusions from the climb today. We rode in a group, the wind was blowing strong and the climb, with the exception of the first three kilometers, was quite tolerable. Still, I think Martin has the best chances for the GC right now.”

Mathias Frank (IAM Cycling): “This was a good test of the legs, I am pleased to have finished with the lead group. But I am still missing a little something to feel on top of my game. At Tirreno, the high mountain stage was cancelled. And my last summit finish was at the Ruta del Sol. So I think that my body was not used to the effort. But that is no cause for alarm. To be able to ride like this at this time of the year is quite on target.”

Merhawi Kudus (Dimension Data): It was a good stage and quite difficult with a lot of climbing and it was also quite cold. I was feeling comfortable for most of the day and it was good that we had Johann in the break. On the last climb we had some headwind so it was not possible to attack the pace that was being set. I just tried to follow the wheels and finish with the best result possible. There are some good guys here so I am happy for today but will try for more tomorrow.”

Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) has abandoned the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya on today’s third stage of racing after suffering from last week’s illness.

Dumoulin explained: “At the beginning of the week, I wasn’t feeling sick anymore and the plan was to try and get stronger day by day. We were going to use this week to build up my fitness, but it turned out to be different. My condition got worse over the first two stages and today I didn’t have the legs to continue.”

Coach Rudi Kemna (NED) added: “Unfortunately, Tom was not fit to continue today’s stage. We hoped that it would get better over the week, but his condition deteriorated and, as a result, he was unable to keep racing. Tom will travel home tomorrow to fully recover and we expect he will be able to resume his training again in the next few days.”

Volta a Catalunya Stage 3 Result:
1. Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx – Quick-Step in 5:00:27
2. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff at 0:02
3. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale
4. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC
5. Richie Porte (Aus) BMC at 0:09
6. Davide Formolo (Ita) Cannondale at 0:11
7. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha at 0:12
8. Christopher Froome (GB) Sky
9. Hugh Carthy (GB) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA at 0:18
10. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale.

Volta a Catalunya Overall After Stage 3:
1. Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx – Quick-Step in 14:08:18
2. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff at 0:06
3. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 0:08
4. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC at 0:12
5. Richie Porte (Aus) BMC at 0:19
6. Davide Formolo (Ita) Cannondale at 0:21
7. Christopher Froome (GB) Sky at 0:22
8. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha
9. Geraint Thomas (GB) Sky at 0:28
10. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale.

Stage 3:

Critérium International 2016: A Balanced Competition Between Péraud, Pinot & Coppel
This coming March 26 and 27, there will be something for everyone at Porto-Vecchio on the Critérium International, with a sprint finish, a time-trial, and climbs! It will be necessary to stay in contention, even shine in all three formats to win the 85th edition.

The characteristics of the Critérium International, even more so since it was moved to Porto-Vecchio and discovered the col de l’Ospedale ascension, force one to stand out as a complete rider, and find the right balance to be a front-runner on the time-trial then the climb. Of course, specialists will have their chance to excel on individual stages, which should be the case on the flat stage for sprinters Romain Feillu, Yannick Martinez and Matt Goss. The 7km individual time-trial could be the only opportunity for success for the likes of Moreno Moser, Jérémy Roy and Bartosz Huzarski, while the up-hill sections on the final stage could see Pierre Rolland, Alexis Vuillermoz, Romain Sicard or Arnold Jeannesson come up big.

But as for the general classification, there are a handful of multi-skilled riders to watch closely. Two-time victor, Jean-Christophe Péraud has shown a mastering of this format, which has him setting his sights on the hat trick, which only the great Jens Voigt has done on the event. But attention will also be focused on Thibaut Pinot, whose downturn in form on the approach to the Ospedale last year cost him his chance for the overall win. Convincing on the Tirreno-Adriatico (5th) despite the cancelation of the mountain stage, the FDJ leader has also shown clear improvement on the time-trial and will head to Corsica with the top spot in mind. If he has recovered from the flu that kept him from holding on to his position on Paris-Nice, Jérôme Coppel too has the profile and maybe the needed momentum following his medal winning ride in the World Time Trial Championship, to leave Porto-Vecchio victorious. As to who will win the three-stage race is not just limited to French riders. Stefan Denifl and Sébastien Reichenbach (4th ahead of Pinot on the Tirreno!) also have the qualities to finish on the podium… if not better.

16 teams and their leaders:

Bora-Argon 18: Buchmann, Nerz (Deu)
Team Giant-Alpecin: Fairly (Usa), Veelers (Nld)
Stölting Service Group: Gerdemann, Wegmann (Deu), Lemarchand (Fra)

United States
Cannondale: Rolland (Fra), Moser (Ita), Navardauskas (Lit)

AG2R La Mondiale: Péraud, Vuillermoz, Latour (Fra)
Cofidis, Solutions Crédits: Jeannesson, Simon (Fra)
FDJ: Pinot (Fra), Reichenbach (Che), Eiking (Nor)
Direct Energie: Calmejane, Voeckler, Sicard (Fra)
Fortuneo-Vital Concept: Fédrigo, B.Feillu (Fra)
Delko Marseille Provence KTM: Di Gregorio, Martinez (Fra)
HP BTP-Auber 93: R.Feillu (Fra)
Roubaix Metropole Européenne de Lille: Antomarchi, Turgis (Fra)
Armée de Terre: Poulhies, Rostollan (Fra)

United Kingdom
One Pro Cycling: Goss (Aus)

IAM Cycling: Coppel (Fra), Denifl (Aut)
Team Roth: Baldo (Fra), Pires (Prt).


Giant-Alpecin for Critérium International
The racing comes thick and fast this week with the team racing in Spain, Belgium and France at the two-day Critérium International. The 85th edition features two stages on Saturday, a road stage in the morning, followed by an individual time trial in the afternoon and then on Sunday a mountain stage. The race offers a tough route and usually, with the mild weather conditions, it will be a challenging race.
Coach Arthur van Dongen (NED) said: “We start Critérium International with the same team as Dwars door Vlaanderen. We have an opportunist line-up for the two-day race that will be looking to take what chances arise.

“The young riders we take to France will get the opportunity to develop themselves and explore their general classification potential with no immediate pressure for results. The race will be decided on the last day with the 14.1km uphill finish to the Col de L’Ospedale.”

Caleb Fairly (USA), Chad Haga (USA), Cheng Ji (CHN), Carter Jones (USA), Fredrik Ludvigsson (SWE), Sam Oomen (NED).
Coach: Arthur van Dongen (NED).

Chad Haga:
Santos Tour Down-Under  2015 - 1

Direct Energie team for the Critérium International
Lilian Calmejane, Jérémy Cornu, Fabien Grellier, Fabrice Jeandesboz, Perrig Quemeneur, Romain Sicard, Guillaume Thevenot, Thomas Voeckler.
Directeur Sportif: Benoit Genauzeau.

Thomas Voeckler:
Paris - Nice stage 4

Critérium International – Pirmin Lang: “I feel good and want to support the team”
THE STATEMENT: The Swiss rider Pirmin Lang is one of the most important helpers on the IAM Cycling team. At the weekend, the 32 year old rider returned home from having spent eight days training on Mallorca in ideally warm conditions, and was able to spend a few days with his family at the same time. “I feel better. My sensations during training were good, and reading the data from my rides indicate that I have made progress and am in good shape,” Lang explained. “For me, I will not be going to the Critérium International looking for amazing personal results, but really want to be on hand to help my teammates as much as possible. We as a team definitely want to come away with a super result.”

THE RACE: Since 2010, the Critérium International has taken place on the island of Corsica, during which two days of racing offer three difficult stages: a short and rolling road race (90.5 km), an individual time trial (7km), and a mountainous full stage (171.5km) complete with a mountain top finish. Because of this intense diversity in terrain and efforts, the race is also known as a “mini Tour de France”.

THE ANALYSIS: “The Critérium is a very short stage race. Our goal for sure is to win a stage,” explained the team’s directeur sportif for the event, Mario Chiesa. “With Jérôme Coppel and Matthias Brändle, we can really have high hopes of taking the time trial. The mountain stage on Sunday will not be easy. Nevertheless, we will look to a place in the top-5 for the overall classification, especially if we can do well in the time trial the day before.

THE NUMBER: 2014. That is the year that IAM Cycling most fondly remembers regarding this race. Two years ago Mathias Frank proved to be very much in form by winning the mountain stage at the top of the Col de l’Ospedale on Sunday, and missed out on the overall victory of this mini-Tour by one second only.

Marcel Aregger (S), Matthias Brändle (Aut), Clément Chevrier (F), Jérôme Coppel (F), Stefan Denifl (Aut), Jonathan Fumeaux (S), Pirmin Lang (S).
Directeur sportif: Mario Chiesa.

Jérôme Coppel:

Gent-Wevelgem 2016
Gent-Wevelgem is a smaller version of the Tour of Flanders, but nearly as important to all Belgians. The race takes in some of the iconic Flemish cobbled climbs including the Kemmelberg twice. The last time up the Kemmelberg comes after 209 kilometers which is 34 kilometers before the finish in Wevelgem, so is maybe not the decisive point of the race. Now that Gent-Wevelgem is on the Sunday before the Ronde van Vlaanderen, it is a good guide to form, but there can be a surprise win which is never usually the case in the Ronde.

See the PEZ full race preview HERE.



Gent-Wevelgem in Flanders Fields
During the 241.3km WorldTour classic, the riders are often tested by wind and rain, including 9 hills along the route such as the Casselberg, the Catsberg and the Baneberg. But the last of the hills is the Kemmelberg, 35km from the finish. Therefore, not many editions of the race, in fact, end in a bunch sprint with often the winner coming from a small group of escapees.

Coach Marc Reef (NED) said: “The objective is to go for a good result with the experienced group of riders we have. The wind can be a factor in the early part of the race so we will have to be vigilant. The Kemmelberg will be a key moment in the race so we need be in a good position before the hill begins.

“If the race comes back together for a bunch sprint we will go for Zico who is showing good form at the moment and we can aim for a top 10 result.”

Søren Kragh Andersen (DEN), Roy Curvers (NED), Bert De Backer (BEL), Koen de Kort (NED), Ramon Sinkeldam (NED), Tom Stamsnijder (NED), Albert Timmer (NED), Zico Waeytens (BEL).
Coach: Marc Reef.

Albert Timmer & Koen de Kort:
Milano - Sanremo WT 2016

Van Avermaet in Fine Form for Belgian Classics
BMC Racing Team will continue its Classics campaign in Belgium this week with Greg Van Avermaet as captain for the three one-day races; Dwars door Vlaanderen, E3 Harelbeke and Gent Wevelgem.

Van Avermaet is hoping to replicate his Omloop Het Nieuwsblad success. “It’s nice to already have a win on Belgian soil this season. No matter where you line up, you’re racing to win, but racing in Belgium motivates me even more. My legs are really good at the moment and the guys have been doing an incredible job to support me so I’m feeling confident,” Van Avermaet said.

BMC Racing Team Sports Director Fabio Baldato said the team is motivated to win. “We’re well and truly into the season now so it’s no longer about getting race days in the legs. The hard work is paying off and as we’ve seen, Greg and the other riders are in great shape. I think we can see some nice results this week.”

Stefan Küng will make his 2016 debut at Dwars door Vlaanderen after a quiet start to the season recovering from Epstein-barr virus (mononucleosis). “I’m really looking forward to racing again when I line up at Dwars door Vlaanderen. For me, the focus will be on getting some race days in the legs and seeing how my form is,” Küng said.

Rider roster:
Marcus Burghardt (GER), Jempy Drucker (LUX), Daniel Oss (ITA), Manuel Quinziato (ITA), Taylor Phinney (USA), Michael Schär (SUI), Greg Van Avermaet (BEL), Rick Zabel (GER).
Sports Directors: Fabio Baldato (ITA) & Marco Pinotti (ITA).

Taylor Phinney:
Ronde van Vlaanderen  2014

Direct Energie team for Gent-Wevelgem
Romain Cardis, Sylvain Chavanel, Bryan Coquard, Yohann Gene, Tony Hurel, Julien Morice, Adrien Petit, Angélo Tulik.
Directeur Sportif: Dominique Arnould.

Sylvain Chavanel:

Flanders is on the Easter menu for Vicente Reynes and IAM Cycling
THE QUOTE: “To win in Wevelgem on Easter would effectively be the greatest trophy of my career,” a jocular Vicente Reynes said when commenting on his plans for his Easter week. “But I won’t be the only one hoping to raise his arms in victory once we hit the finish line. I could also play a deciding part as a member of a small group at the finish of the race in Waregem. And at Harelbeke, I imagine I will be working for Dries Devenyns. We have a great team for these cobbled classics with many strong assets like Dries Devenyns, Leigh Howard, Heinrich Haussler and Oliver Naesen.”

THE ANALYSIS: “Dwars door Vlaanderen is an appetizer before the monuments of the weekend,” Thierry Marichal, directeur sportif for IAM Cycling explained. “This race seems to be to be more accessible to our riders, and then we will do our best to win some World Tour points at GP E3 and at Gent-Wevelgem.”

THE STORY: One that remains etched in the memory of Thierry Marichal. Having escaped within the first hour of the race with Nico Eeckhout at Dwars door Vlaanderen in 2001, Marichal who is now a sports director for IAM Cycling, fell victim to a hunger knock which cost him the victory against his breakaway partner, Eeckhout. “I wasn’t really able to function properly because I was no longer able to refuel due to the extreme temperatures and my frozen fingers.”

THE WEATHER: Gent-Wevelgem is the race that is most exposed to the climatic conditions. The wind, cold, and rain can completely scatter the peloton, as was the case in 2015. Normally, with good weather a bunch sprint will decide the winner.

THE INFO: For ten days, the Flanders region will be alive with mad celebrations. A fact Thierry Marichal confirmed: “In Flanders, this is the best week of the year for cycling fans. It is essentially a permanent party that starts with the race in Waregem, before continuing onto Harelbeke and Wevelgem, before finishing off in Oudenarde at the Tour of Flanders, which is scheduled for Sunday, April 3rd.

Gent-Wevelgem riders:
Heinrich Haussler (Aus), Sondre Holst Enger (Nor), Leigh Howard (Aus), Roger Kluge (All), Simon Pellaud (S), Vicente Reynes (Esp), Aleksejs Saramotins (Let), Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor).
Manager sportif: Rik Verbrugghe. Directeur sportif: Thierry Marichal & Eddy Seigneur.

Leigh Howard:
Santos Tour Down Under 2016 stage 3

Vanmarcke leads team LottoNL-Jumbo in E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem
Team LottoNL-Jumbo races the E3 Harelbeke on Friday and Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday with Sep Vanmarcke as its front man. For the Belgian hard-man, the upcoming period is about delivering results.

The big cobbled classics start this week, and Vanmarcke planned to be on form for them. “I’m in good shape and these races are my main targets,” the he said. “E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem are always beautiful races. I want to compete with the best. This is the start of the period that’s about delivering results for me, and I will have my first chance to do so on Friday.”

The team will support Vanmarcke fully. “Sep is our front man and we have to cover him,” Sports Director Nico Verhoeven added. “E3 Harelbeke has a very tough final. The decisive part of the race comes in the end.

“There is a bigger chance of a bunch sprint in Gent-Wevelgem two days later, but the group that will sprint for the victory is not going to be a group of 130 riders. If we have an easy Gent-Wevelgem, a maximum of 70 riders will have the chance to sprint. In that case, Sep still will be our front man. He can deliver a good result in a sprint, as well.”

Line-up E3 Harelbeke:
Twan Castelijns, Jos van Emden, Tom Leezer, Timo Roosen, Bram Tankink, Maarten Tjallingii, Sep Vanmarcke and Maarten Wynants.

Line-up Gent-Wevelgem:
To be confirmed.
Sports directors: Nico Verhoeven and Jan Boven.

Sep Vanmarcke:

Lampre Merida Team f_chiari
Lampre-Merida in Belgium
Despite the logistic problems concerning the situation which involves the Brussels airport, Lampre-Merida will participate in the next Belgian races, which are the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke (Friday 25th March), the Gent-Wevelgem (Saturday 27th March) and the VDK-Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde (from 29th to 31st March).

In the three races (the first two are part of the WorldTour), the sports director Mario Scirea will rely on Cattaneo, Feng, Ferrari, Kump, Modolo, Pibernik, Xu Gang and Zurlo.

In the technical staff there will be physician Pollastri, the masseurs Capelli, Gallivanone and Redaelli, the mechanics Bacchion, Baron and Chiodini and the driver Bozzolo.

“The main requisite for having a good approach to the race is to start with a high level of determination,” sports director Scirea explained. “In the Gp Harelbeke, we must focus the attention on the key part of the course, in order to anticipate the difficulties and to be in the best possible positions when the key sector are approached. Modolo and Kump will be our key riders in Gent-Wevelgem, which is traditionally suitable for fast riders. Moreover, Modolo will try to live again the good moment he lived in 2014 in the VDK-Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde, when he won two stages. It will be interesting to evaluate the approach of the Asian duo of Feng and Xu Gang to the Belgian races. We are aware of the fact that we are not among the top teams for these kind of competitions, but at least we’d like to honor our participation with performances full of competitiveness.”

Sacha Modolo:

Vermote Forced to Skip the Classics
The doctors have confirmed that the nature of Julien’s injury will not allow him to race the cobbled one-day races.

After undergoing surgery on Sunday in order to close the wound he had on his left knee after crashing in Milan-Sanremo, Julien Vermote went this morning to the H.-Hartziekenhuis clinic in Roeselare together with the team’s doctor Toon Cruyt for further medical examination, which revealed that he also has a small muscle tear on the vastus lateralis of his left quadriceps. Because of these injuries, he has to rest for up to 8-9 days before returning on the bike to resume his training, and as a result, he will miss the upcoming cobblestones Classics.

“It’s a tough moment for me. Everybody knows how much I love the Classics, which this year I am forced to watch on TV. After riding E3 Harelbeke and Driedaagse van De Panne last season, this year I was on the list for E3 Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem and Tour of Flanders, which came as a reward for the hard work of the past months. It’s a pity that I won’t have the possibility to ride them, but the situation is as it is. Still, Etixx – Quick-Step has a strong squad for these races and I will support my teammates. The positive thing is that the recovery is going into the right direction. After I will return to training, I will discuss with the staff to see how’s my schedule going to change and in what races I’ll go.”

Julien Vermote:

Tour de Yorkshire 2016: Teams Selection
Eighteen cycling teams have been selected to take part to the 2nd edition of the Tour de Yorkshire which will take place from April 29th to May 1st.

Australia: ORICA GreeeEDGE.
Belgium: Topsport Vlaanderen – Baloise.
France: Cofidis, Solutions Crédits, Direct Energie.
Germany: Team Giant – Alpecin.
Great-Britain: JLT Condor, Madison Genesis, NFTO, One Pro Cycling, Team GB, Team Raleigh GAC, Team Sky, Team Wiggins.
Russia: Team Katusha.
Netherlands: Roompot – Oranje Peloton, Team Lotto NL – Jumbo.
South Africa: Team Dimension Data.
USA: BMC Racing Team.

Stage 1: Friday 29 April 2016: Beverley to Settle (184km).
Stage 2: Saturday 30 April 2016: Otley to Doncaster (135km).
Stage 3: Sunday 1 May 2016: Middlesbrough to Scarborough (196km).


World Champion Lizzie Armitstead to Ride the ASDA Tour de Yorkshire Woman’s Race
Yorkshire’s own World Champion Lizzie Armitstead is the first rider to announce she will compete in the Asda Women’s Tour de Yorkshire on Saturday 30 April. The race has secured title sponsorship with Asda supermarkets and will take place on exactly the same course as the men’s race being held later that day, on a 135km route from Otley to Doncaster.

Fourteen cycling teams have been selected:

Lizzie Armitstead:
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad women elite 2016

2016 Tour de Yorkshire
You know the teams and now here is the course in this Tour de Yorkshire ProMo video:

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