The Tour of Flanders didn’t disappoint – Race report, result and video from the men’s and women’s race, plus the GP Miguel Indurain. Bouhanni defends himself again – TOP STORY. Other news: Paris-Roubaix canceled, Patrick Lefevere has new sponsors, Wout van Aert adds Brabantse Pijl and Amstel to his schedule, everything going to plan for Evenepoel, Dan Martin to ride Giro and Tour and no Ronde for Zdenek Stybar. Race news: Teams for the Tour of the Basque Country. MPCC on the Vini Zabù Team – Arkéa-Samsic want their Giro place. Monday EUROTRASH coffee time.
TOP STORY: Bouhanni defends himself again: “I am not a criminal”
Nacer Bouhanni is still defending his actions in a sprint during Cholet-Pays de la Loire, were the French rider moved from his line and pushed Jake Stewart against the barriers. In a post on social media, he repeats that his action was anything but intentional.
Bouhanni wrote to cycling journalist Patrick Chassé, who he felt attacked him on French television. “A thousand watts probably doesn’t mean anything to you. As you said yourself, you are not a sprint specialist, so why are you attacking me like that? Everyone is engaged in their own work. I would never criticise your working method if I didn’t know about it, so I recommend that you let specialists speak from now on.”
The Arkéa-Samsic rider also discussed his way of sprinting. “You can say that I am a sprinter who takes risks, who does not want to give up his place, who is aggressive, who will do anything to win, whatever you want. But that I deliberately throw myself into the barriers to win a bike race is absolute madness. It is nonsense that I am deliberately putting me and my opponent’s lives on the line.”
“I am not a criminal, but a sportsman who became a father a few months ago. So believe that I would never take such risks for my child alone. I just wanted to win the race and unfortunately it ended badly. But in the malheur, there was also a win because a drama was prevented! When I was overtaken by Jake Stewart I reflexively avoided a crash, and surprisingly no one fell in the sprint,” said Bouhanni.
He also wrote about Jake Stewart. “He is young and I hope he will do a lot of sprints for a long time to come. If he really saw his life pass by like he said in an interview, I advise him to stop sprinting. Everyone knows that unfortunately there are risks involved. It’s not a world of pet bears. And I repeat one last time that I never wanted to cause a fall on purpose. I really don’t want to put us in danger.”
UCI is Investigating the Matter
Bouhanni crossed the line third in Cholet-Pays de la Loire last Sunday, but was ‘de-classed’ afterwards due to a dangerous manoeuvre in the final sprint. He moved from his line and pushed Jake Stewart against the barrier. The French sprinter received a lot of criticism and the UCI started an investigation into his action. While Stewart miraculously survived, the incident was not without physical consequences. The young Brit suffered a fracture to his hand and has had to miss the up-and-coming Classics.
Last week Bouhanni apologised for his behaviour in the sprint. He said through his Arkéa-Samsic team: “I want to say to Jake Stewart that I am sorry. I saw Elia Viviani and wanted to follow his wheel. It’s my mistake to change line. I didn’t see Jake Stewart at the time. When we came into contact with each other, I noticed that I was getting out of balance. I tried as best I could not to fall. I really wanted to follow Viviani’s slipstream as the wind was coming from the right. But my action was certainly not deliberate.”
Tour of Flanders 2021
Kasper Asgreen rode straight into the history books on Easter Sunday, powering to an incredible victory in the Ronde van Vlaanderen, which he won after being part of all the major moves during the race. The first Dane in 24 years to triumph in Flanders, Kasper completed a prestigious E3 Harelbeke – De Ronde double and confirmed his status as one of the peloton’s finest Classics riders.
Nineteen climbs and seven cobblestone stretches, this year’s 254.3km Ronde van Vlaanderen witnessed another masterclass from Deceuninck (Elegant) – Quick-Step, who came into the race with several cards to play and once again controlled things with the likes of Davide Ballerini, Tim Declercq and Bert Van Lerberghe, who chased down the breakaway, putting pressure on the peloton in the last 100 kilometres. Racing the Ronde van Vlaanderen for the second time in the rainbow jersey, Julian Alaphilippe was another rider who played a big role in the team’s success, going clear on the ramps of the Koppenberg and forcing the other favourites to show themselves earlier than expected. A regrouping took place on the descent, Kasper Asgreen being among those to join the World Champion, who continued to be the driving force of that leading group. A second jump from Alaphilippe on the Taaienberg distanced some of the riders, paving the way for an attack of his Danish teammate with 27 kilometres to go. Only Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) could follow, and the three worked well together, quickly opening a gap over the chasers. On the Oude Kwaremont, the Dutchman went full gas and put some distance between him and his companions, but Asgreen gritted his teeth and joined him on the descent.
The Paterberg didn’t change anything, and the duo continued to soldier on, extending their lead to more than 30 seconds over a chasing group with 10km to go. Many were expecting Asgreen to gamble everything on an all-or-nothing attack in the closing kilometres of the race, but the 26-year-old Dane had something different in mind and continued to trade turns with the defending champion until the final kilometre. Knowing the advantage they had over the chasers was unbridgeable, Asgreen played his cards perfectly and waited for Van der Poel to show his intentions before opening his sprint. A powerful kick saw him surge past his opponent with 50 metres to go and claimed a historical win, Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s eighth win in 19 years at the iconic Belgian race. Asgreen is the ninth rider in history to complete the E3 Harelbeke – Ronde van Vlaanderen double in the same season.
*** See the full ‘Flanders PEZ Race Report’ HERE. ***
Race winner, Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck – Quick-Step): “I can’t believe it! Ronde van Vlaanderen is the most beautiful race in the world for me, the cobbles and steep hills make it awesome, and to win it two years after I podiumed at my debut here feels incredible! It’s three years to the day I raced for the first time with this team and to be on the top spot at Flanders makes it even more special. It was a hard day, but I felt good and I couldn’t be happier with this win that capped off a stellar job of my Elegant – Quick-Step teammates. I am grateful to the entire team. Tim, Davide and Bert did an incredible race to keep us protected and having Julian in that front group helped as well. It wasn’t all smooth today, as I got caught behind a big crash with more than 60 kilometres to go and that took some energy to come back, but I still felt good after that effort and could follow all the attack on the climbs, which gave me a lot of confidence. That’s why I attacked inside the final hour of racing and seeing I made an important selection, I kept going together with Mathieu and Wout until the last time up the Oude Kwaremont. I was briefly distanced just before the top, but gave my best to come back and on the Paterberg me and Mathieu rode full gas, never looking back and determined to increase our lead. I didn’t have enough in the legs for an attack in the final kilometres, so I decided to trust my sprint. I wanted to do my best there, so I decided to start it from the back, as I felt it was the best way to control it. I produced a powerful turn of the legs, but it was only with ten meters to go that I believed I could win. I was confident in my left and I am extremely proud I could finish off my teammates’ incredible work! It’s been an incredible Classics campaign for us and to power to victory on my Specialized bike and add to my palmarès this race which I used to watch on TV as a kid is insane.”
2nd, Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix): “I would have liked to succeed myself. I can accept it because he was just stronger. A sprint after 260 kilometres is not the same as a sprint after 200 kilometres. It was sprinting to my limit. The cobblestone climbs suit me very well. They’re in the saddle, but Asgreen was able to follow my attacks every time. So we realised pretty quickly that we were going to need each other. Asgreen is certainly the deserved winner. He also made a point of riding to the finish together. That says enough. He felt good. I certainly didn’t think it was over. In the sprint I could turn it on for five seconds, then that was it. He is someone who dares to set a race and dares to continue to the finish, I like that.”
3rd, Greg van Avermaet (AG2R Citroën): “Even if I did not have the same legs as in A Travers la Flandre (Dwars door Vlaanderen) on Wednesday, I managed to be at the front in the end. With my experience in this race, I succeeded in getting onto the podium. I know that at a classic like the Ronde Van Vlaanderen after 254 kilometres of racing, I still have resources at the end. The podium was the goal for the day, so I have no regrets today. I am happy to take my first podium at AG2R Citroën team, which has invested a lot in the Flanders classics. The whole team worked well this winter, we are happy to race together, and we work well together.”
6th, Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma): “I had hoped for a better feeling because this was my main goal, but it was no longer possible. I just got off it. I kept on fighting, but at the end it was gone. I thought: let it be over as soon as possible, because I was no longer wholeheartedly in it. On the Paterberg I was even in trouble. After that I tried to stay ahead of that group, but I couldn’t anymore. Whether I am disappointed? Yes and no. There was no more to it and I didn’t drop any stitches, but I had hoped for a better feeling. This was the main goal of my spring. I just need to recover from this.”
Peter Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe): “The Tour of Flanders, as expected, was very hard and fast. We had a strong squad and I’d like to thank them for their work but, unfortunately, when the decisive attacks came, my current form just wasn’t enough to respond and follow them. I need to keep working in order to reach the level I had before being infected with Covid.”
Tour of Flanders Result:
1. Kasper Asgreen (Den) Deceuninck – Quick-Step in 6:02.12
2. Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin-Fenix
3. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) AG2R Citroën at 0:32
4. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo at 0:32
5. Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Israel Start-up Nation at 0:47
6. Wout Van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma
7. Gianni Vermeersch (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
8. Anthony Turgis (Fra) Total Direct Energie
9. Florian Senechal (Fra) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
10. Dylan van Baarle (Ned) INEOS Grenadiers.
Tour of Flanders Women 2021
The 2021 Tour of Flanders for women was won by Annemiek van Vleuten. After 152 kilometres, Movistar’s European champion was the first across the finish-line in Oudenaarde. On the last climb of the Paterberg, Van Vleuten broke away from a leading group of eight to finish solo. This is the second victory in the Ronde for Van Vleuten, after she won in 2011.
A compact peloton started the last hilly 50 kilometres. Annemiek van Vleuten attacked on the Kanarieberg, forming an elite group. From that group escaped Audrey Cordon-Ragot of Trek-Segafredo. The French champion gained a 45-second lead. At the Kruisberg-Hotond, 28 kilometres to go, Soraya Paladin of Liv Racing tried to cross. The thinned peloton with all the big names remained intact towards the finalé with the Oude Kwaremont and the Paterberg. Just before the first climb, Paladin and Cordon-Ragot were caught. Lotte Kopecky had a mechanical at the foot of the Kwaremont, and had to continue on the bike of teammate Paladin. World champion, Anna van der Breggen, put in a strong effort which cased a few riders to be dropped, including Marianne Vos. Seven riders were able to follow: Annemiek van Vleuten, Elisa Longo Borghini, Grace Brown, Lisa Brennaur, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, Demi Vollering and Marta Cavalli.
The eight had a lead at the Paterberg, the last climb of the day, 13 kilometres from the finish. European champion Van Vleuten pulled out all the stops and was 10 seconds ahead of Longo Borghini, Van der Breggen and co. The group with Vos and Kopecky were already at 40 seconds. The difference between Van Vleuten and the chasing group continued to fluctuate around 10 seconds, but Movistar’s time trial specialist held up well. With Dwars door Vlaanderen already in her pocket, Van Vleuten was able to keep taking time. Because it came to a standstill behind, she started the last 2 kilometres with a safe lead. Van Vleuten had plenty of time to celebrate the victory. The sprint for second place was won by Lisa Brennauer. Third place went to Grace Brown. Anna van der Breggen finished eighth in her last Tour of Flanders.
Race winner, Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar): “”I still can’t believe it. It’s been so many years seeking for another victory here, and today it finally happened. I was always super prepared heading into this race, but I always came on the verge of success. Our strategy for today was never letting other teams use their strength in numbers against us. That’s why we started working early and that’s why I tried from so far away from the finish. I wanted to just go on the Kanarieberg, but there was a headwind and that made difficult to open any gaps. However, I feel like that attack took its toll on the group and made things more difficult for everybody, which suited me well. After that move, I had to seek for another appropriate moment to try it. At the Paterberg, I knew there were no second chances left, and I had to enter first, exit first. After that attack, it was just doing my maximum and counting the kilometres down. I was so tired, but I could just go ‘full gas’ until the finish. It wasn’t easy at all, but we finally got it again. It’s a really special day for the Movistar Team, which had never won a classic like that, and it’s really beautiful to live these moments with them. Thanks to the whole team, for their fantastic job once again; they all played a part in this success. Also to Telefónica and our sponsors, and everybody who loves and supports us.”
3rd, Grace Brown (BikeExchange): “Flanders is always such a busy day, there’s always so much that happens at this race and you can’t get it all right, but I think we really did well on some of our key points and had a really good race. I had an awesome lead-out into the bottom of the Kwaremont from (Sarah) Roy and (Amanda) Spratt and then I attacked at the top as we had planned. I got a bit of a gap but unfortunately the girls behind me closed that down pretty soon. Annemiek then got away on the Paterberg, it was a small gap and it felt like we should have been able to bring it back but unfortunately it just wasn’t co-ordinated enough in the chase. You can’t be disappointed with a podium at Flanders. Of course I came here wanting to win it, but I am really happy with third and I can have bigger goals for next year I think.”
Tour of Flanders Women Result:
1. Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Movistar in 4:01:11
2. Lisa Brennauer (Ger) Ceratizit-WNT at 0:26
3. Grace Brown (Aus) BikeExchange
4. Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
5. Demi Vollering (Ned) SD Worx
6. Marta Cavalli (Ita) FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope
7. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Den) FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope at 0:28
8. Anna van der Breggen (Ned) SD Worx at 0:35
9. Marlen Reusser (Swi) Alé BTC Ljubljana at 0:51
10. Kristen Faulkner (USA) Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank at 0:55.
GP Miguel Indurain 2021
Alejandro Valverde won for the first time after almost a year and a half in the GP Miguel Indurain on Saturday. The Astana-Premier Tech pair of Alexey Lutsenko and Luis Leon Sanchez took second and third.
Vincenzo Albanese, Jon Irisarri, Mikel Aristi, Emerson Oronte, Antonio Carvalho and Angel Madrazo were part of the early break, but before the finalé they were pulled back by the peloton on the Alto de Lazaun. The next group to escape included Luis Leon Sanchez, Ben Swift, Ben Hermans and Jefferson Cepeda. Movistar were in charge of the peloton, but without Enric Mas after a crash. On the descent of the Alto de Lazaun they increased their lead to 40 seconds. Movistar lost control of the peloton for a while, but Trek-Segafredo for Bauke Mollema took over. They didn’t close the gap, but attacked with Nicola Conci 40 kilometres from the finish. The Italian got within 15 seconds, but that was as close as he could get. Before the Alto de Eraul, the last climb of the day, Conci was caught by the peloton as the four up front held on to their lead.
Once on the Alto de Eraul (3.8 kilometres at 5.5%), Cofidis hit the front for leader Guillaume Martin. The leaders were losing time. No attacks succeeded on the final climb, until Valverde launched himself 900 metres from the top. The Spaniard managed to make a small gap and managed to cross to Sanchez. The two of them pushed on together towards the finish in Estella. From a chasing group, Lutsenko crossed to the two front riders with 6 kilometres to go, but the Kazach was unable to hold them for long. After a jump from Valverde 400 metres later, Lutsenko had to let go, although he did manage to catch them again. A final kick from Valverde was too much for Sanchez and Lutsenko. The 40-year-old soloed to victory in Estella. Lutsenko dropped his teammate, Sanchez for second place with Pello Bilbao finishing fourth at 17 seconds.
Race winner, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar): “This victory gives me joy and confidence. Hopefully we can assert ourselves there (Tour of the Basque Country) again. The legs are good and we have a great team. For today I would like to thank everyone who continued to support me and keep an eye on me, as well as my team who did a fantastic job. They (Astana) controlled from the start. That’s why I was a bit afraid of them. Those two super strong riders didn’t make it easy for me either. Lutsenko even passed me just after Muru, but then I knew that the slope to Ibarra was still coming. I had made up my mind to give everything there to still make a difference.” Valverde dedicated his victory to Gary Baños, the Movistar employee who died in a mountain accident at the beginning of the year. “Wherever he is, I am sure he has received this victory with great affection.”
2nd, Alexey Lutsenko (Astana-Premier Tech): “I recovered pretty well after my crash at Paris-Nice and since then I’ve done a big amount of work to come back in form for this part of the season. I am still on my way towards the Ardennes classics, but so far I feel good and I think I spent a good day on the bike. I suffered a bit in the first half of the race, while later I felt much better, so I was up there in front for the decisive part. When I saw Valverde attacking from our group and catching Luis Leon, I counterattacked to join them. Together with Luis Leon we did our best, I tried to attack on the descent, but it did not work. Well, it was a good chance to win this race and we did all we could for that, but this time Valverde was just stronger. However, I am happy with my performance and now I am looking forward to the next week at Itzulia Basque Country. The main goal is still the same – to build up my form for the Ardennes, but if I see a chance to fight for a stage win I will try to use it.”
3rd, Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana-Premier Tech): “Once again, I was close to a victory, but missed it. Of course, I am a bit disappointed because I did my best today, but it was not enough. The team was perfect, and the guys did an amazing job for me, providing the best moment to attack. Everything went well in our late breakaway and I made my attack on the last big climb, but later Valverde was able to join me. Together with Alexey we tried to play our cards, but it did not work out. I have no regrets about this race as the team and I did all we could. Now I am looking forward to a short rest at home before coming back to racing with the Tour of the Alps and the Giro d’Italia.”
GP Miguel Indurain Result:
1. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar in 5:10:47
2. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech at 0:06
3. Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech at 0:15
4. Pello Bilbao Lopez De Armentia (Spa) Bahrain Victorious at 0:17
5. Elie Gesbert (Fra) Arkea-Samsic at 0:18
6. Krists Neilands (Lat) Israel Start-up Nation at 0:21
7. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
8. Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis
9. Omar Fraile Matarranz (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech
10. Laurens De Plus (Bel) INEOS Grenadiers at 0:30.
Paris-Roubaix is Canceled on April 11
The final decision has been made: Paris-Roubaix will definitely not take place on Sunday 11 April. The current corona measures in Northern France make it impossible for the ‘Hell of the North’ to run at the moment. Organiser ASO reports that cobbled Classic will be postponed until the autumn.
The préfecture of the Hauts-de-France region, Michel Lalande, made all his doubts public last week. His region is in a four-week lockdown, requiring residents to stay within a 10 kilometre radius of their homes. Le Parisien then announced that Paris-Roubaix would definitely not take place, but that was quickly contradicted. The organisation explored the route last week and looked at the possibilities to drastically reduce the amount of spectators, so that the race could still be held on the original date of April 11. The decision whether or not to proceed was therefore postponed to this week.
Last year, Paris-Roubaix was also canceled due to the corona crisis. There seems to be a curse on the women’s edition, which was to be organised for the first time in 2020.
No Paris-Roubaix this spring:
Patrick Lefevere New Sponsorship Contract: “I hope for news within a few days”
Patrick Lefevere hopes to come up with news soon about the future of Deceuninck – Quick-Step, namely that the team will continue and that riders will remain on board. “Within a few weeks, hopefully even days,” the team manager said at a press conference when asked by WielerFlits. His own deadline was March 31, two days ago.
The Belgian team boss joked that he sometimes says just too much, but then continues in a serious tone. “We are on track. I wanted to finish it for the Tour of Flanders. We have a clear plan and project. It is also not about one serious sponsorship proposal that is on the table, I will have to do it with several. Not that I am complaining about that, on the contrary. In terms of budget, we are the sixth or seventh team in the peloton, but we do have the most UCI victories,” Lefevere continued. “I promise you that within a few weeks – hopefully even days – I will come up with news. The first will hopefully be that the future of the team is assured and the second news will hopefully be that I can confirm a number of riders.”
Good news from Patrick:
Wout van Aert adds Brabantse Pijl and Amstel Gold Race to His Race Schedule
Wout van Aert will make his debut in the Brabantse Pijl this year, the Jumbo-Visma rider said in a press conference. After the cancelation of Paris-Roubaix, the Belgian has decided to add the Amstel Gold Race to his program.
Van Aert initially planned to take a short rest after Paris-Roubaix. Now that the cobbled Classic has been moved to the first weekend of October, the Belgian rider has decided to extend his spring a bit more with the Brabantse Pijl on April 14, and the Amstel Gold Race on April 18. The 26-year-old Van Aert has never ridden Brabantse Pijl, but has raced the Amstel Gold Race once. In 2019 Van Aert crossed the line in 58th place in a large group more than four minutes behind winner Mathieu van der Poel.
When it became clear that Paris-Roubaix, a classic that Van Aert has set his sights on, would definitely not take place on Sunday 11 April due to the current corona measures in Northern France. The ‘Hell of the North’ for men and women has been moved to Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 October.
Wout will see those cobbles in October:
Lodewyck: “Everything is going according to plan for Evenepoel”
Remco Evenepoel returned to Spain last Thursday for a three-week altitude training camp in the run-up to the Giro d’Italia. The recovery of the Deceuninck – Quick-Step rider is going well, sports director Klaas Lodewyck told Het Laatste Nieuws.
In the Sierra Nevada, Evenepoel will train with João Almeida, who is also preparing for the Giro. “With this altitude camp, Remco is entering the final phase of his preparation for the Giro,” said Lodewyck. “Pure condition. Get extra climbing rhythm. To then appear at the start in Turin on May 8 with the best possible level of form.”
“Everything is going according to plan,” the sports director indicated. At the beginning of this year, Evenepoel had to stop, because his pubic bone injury had not yet fully recovered. “Remco is no longer bothered by anything, that is the most important thing. A positive signal too. The Sierra is a great base. Hopefully the weather will be a bit nice there in the near future. And he can do what he has to do. In that case he will be pretty good anyway.”
On Wednesday, the day of Dwars door Vlaanderen, Evenepoel trained in the Flemish hills and was spotted on the Oude Kwaremont, among other places.
Back to racing in the Giro for Evenepoel:
Martin to Ride Giro d’Italia and Tour de France
Dan Martin will be at the start of the Giro d’Italia on May 8. The Irish climber is the leader of Israel Start-Up Nation. After the 2010 edition, it will be the second participation in the Italian stage race for 34-year-old Martin. In the summer he will also start the Tour de France.
“After 2010, the Giro simply did not often fit into my program, in addition to the Ardennes classics and the Tour de France,” said Martin. “The race looks good for the team to me. I can’t wait to go for a stage win to complete my series of stage wins in the three Grand Tours. It feels like I’m about to discover a new race, like I’m a neo-pro.”
Team manager Kjell Carlström thinks the Giro course is perfect for Martin. “On paper it fits very well with his style of racing. It will be interesting to watch, as there are clearly a lot of favourites. Dan is surrounded by a team that can support him on the flat and in the hills,” said Carlström. The Irishman also rides the Tour after the Giro. “We believe he can perform well in both Grand Tours.”
Giro and Tour for Martin:
No Ronde for Zdenek Stybar
Following his appearance at last week’s Gent-Wevelgem, Zdenek Stybar reported to the Deceuninck – Quick-Step medical team that he was feeling unwell. After an investigation by the medical team, it was revealed that the rider from the Czech Republic was suffering from a heart rhythm problem, for which it was recommended that he would undergo an ablation procedure. This procedure was successfully carried out by Professor Pedro Brugada, on Wednesday, at a Brussels Hospital.
Zdenek has now been cleared to return to training, but it was felt that Sunday’s Ronde van Vlaanderen would be too early for him to return to competitive racing, so instead he will take some days off to spend time together with his family. Giving his thoughts before Flanders, Zdenek said: “I am obviously disappointed to miss De Ronde on Sunday. I have been watching the build-up and excitement on the television and the feel and the passion for this period of racing, with E3, Gent-Wevelgem, Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, is my favourite part of the season. I had been training well and felt that my form going into this weekend was the best that I have had for some time. But I am lucky that this is a minor surgery, and I am grateful that it happened and has been fixed, not only with the perspective of the rest of my season, but also my overall health. After a huge check-up it was nice to know that it was nothing more serious. I will take some days off now to relax with my son and my wife and then look forward to starting training again. I would like to thank the team’s doctors, professor Brugada, and the staff at the Uccle Hospital for the great care that they afforded me, and at the same time, wish my teammates all the best for Sunday.”
Get well soon:
Pogačar leads the squad at Basque Country
After an impressive start to the season where he has claimed victories in both the UAE Tour and Tirreno-Adriatico, Tadej Pogačar will now turn his attention to his next objective: the Tour of the Basque Country (5-10 April).
The Slovenian heads to ‘La Itzulia’ for the second time, having won the young riders classification and placing 6th overall in the 2019 edition. It’s a race he is keen on and will be hoping to be in the mix to wear his first ‘Txapela’.
Pogačar: “I’m feeling pretty good. I got to have a bit of a break after Tirreno, then I did some wind tunnel testing and a few media and sponsor engagements. I’m excited for Basque Country. I did this race a couple of years ago and the fans there are really passionate about cycling, I love it there. There will be a lot of hard racing for sure and the level will be high as always, but I hope to be up there fighting to win the ‘Txapela’.”
Diego Ulissi will make his long-waited return to competition after spending many months on the sidelines while undergoing cardiac checks. The Italian has been back in full training and has now been given the all clear to race again.
Ulissi: “It’s been a tough few months but I’m delighted to say that I am finally coming back to competition. Training has gone well and my condition is good. Obviously it’s always hard to say exactly where you stand until you race but I’m confident I’ll be in good shape. At the moment, racing again already feels like a victory.”
The team for Vuelta Pais Vasco will be lead by Team Manager Joxean Matxin Fernandez (Spa) with Sports Directors Andrej Hauptman (Slo) and Aurelio Corral (Spa):
-Valerio Conti (Ita)
-Marc Hirschi (Swi)
-Rafal Majka (Pol)
-Brandon McNulty (USA)
-Tadej Pogačar (Slo)
-Jan Polanc (Slo)
-Diego Ulissi (Ita).
Chaves Motivated for a Strong Overall Showing as he Leads Team BikeExchange at Vuelta al Pais Vasco
Colombian climber Esteban Chaves will lead Team BikeExchange’s GC ambitions at next week’s Vuelta al Pais Vasco, coming straight from a strong performance at the recent Volta a Catalunya, where he picked up an impressive solo victory on the Queen stage before finishing in sixth place overall.
The 30-year-old will have top support squad alongside him with local Basque hero Mikel Nieve lining-up for his first stage race of the 2021 season, whilst Australian climber Damien Howson and Ethiopian Tsgabu Grmay provide additional climbing support for the race over relentless terrain.
With half of the stages including first category climbs, positioning will be crucial as the riders navigate through the rolling hills of the Basque Country, and for this, the team recruit super domestiques Chris Juul-Jensen and Amund Grøndahl-Jansen, with Dion Smith giving a solid option for the faster stages after his strong showing in Catalunya.
Team BikeExchange at Vuelta al Pais Vasco 2021:
Esteban Chaves (COL)
Amund Grøndahl-Jansen (NOR)
Tsgabu Grmay (ETH)
Damien Howson (AUS)
Chris Juul-Jensen (DEN)
Mikel Nieve (SPA)
Dion Smith (NZL)
Esteban Chaves: “Pais Vasco is a different type of race to Catalunya, it is a race I love but it is a different style race and there will also be other riders like Roglic and Pogačar. There are shorter climbs and steeper climbers compared to Catalunya and it also depends how it is with the weather. I think it will be a tricky one with the time trial on day one, we will see but we need to go step-by-step. If we had three riders in the top-10 overall in Catalunya then why not in Basque Country too and we will fight for a stage win. We saw Dion was really good last week so I am sure he will also have a good opportunity again which is also is exciting for us.”
Julian Dean – Sport Director: “We have seen Esteban’s performance recently at Catalunya and that has indicated to us that he deserves our full support for Pais Vasco. We have a pretty good team for that and so we will be going there with that approach.The time trial is first up so that will set the precedent for the race and then we will be able to decide our tactics from there. Already by stage three, it is a pretty hard finish with a short steep climb, we will have a good idea then how it is really looking for the overall. One of the other things that Basque is good for, is for a rider like Dion Smith who can sprint and climb. There should be some opportunities for him and he showed in Catalunya that his form is good and he can take a lot of confidence from that race coming into Pais Vasco.”
Esteban Chaves stage win in Catalunya:
Ion Izagirre to Defend 2019 Title at the Itzulia Basque Country
Ion Izagirre returns to the Itzulia Basque Country as the defending champion as winner of the last edition of the race in 2019, after the 2020 race was canceled due to COVID-19 pandemic.
“As always Itzulia Basque Country provides us with a very tough route. So, we have to be ready for an explosive start right from the beginning. In the first stage, we will face a very technical and difficult time trial where the first battle between the GC favourites will play out. Also, the second and the third stages are very hard with many short, but super steep climbs as, for example, the wall of Ermualde in the final of stage three. The last day to Arrate will be a short one, but at the same time, super intense with a lot of climbs and 3500 metres of elevation. There is no doubt that anything could happen there. I think I am ready for the race, coming here after a very productive training camp at altitude. I’d like to fight for the General Classification and I want to try to defend my 2019 title. Of course, it won’t be easy at all as many big names are lining up, but we also have a very strong team,” says Ion Izagirre.
Itzulia Basque Country is famous for its traditional hard route featuring many steep climbs. The 60th edition of the race begins with a challenging individual time trial in Bilbao with two ramps up to 19% and a long technical descent. The sixth and final stage of the race will see the peloton face a tough parcours with seven categorised climbs, including the final ascent to the iconic Arrate climb near Eibar.
Astana – Premier Tech is coming to the Basque Country with a strong rider roster including four riders set to race on home soil, with Alex Aranburu, Omar Fraile, and Oscar Rodriquez joining fellow Basque teammate Izagirre at the start line.
The team will target both the General Classification and stage wins, explains Sport Director, Giuseppe Martinelli.
“Itzulia Basque Country is one of the most beautiful races in the calendar and it was always an important point for our team as we were always aiming good result at this race. This year, we also are coming to Basque Country with a very strong and ambitious team. Ion Izagirre is the defending champion and for sure he will try to do his best to repeat his success. We also have Jakob Fuglsang and Alexey Lutsenko who are coming here to prepare for the Ardennes week and, there is no doubt, they will try to do something good here. Alex Aranburu and Omar Fraile are our riders, who will fight for a stage win, and they have good chances to succeed. I am looking forward to the next week at the Itzulia Basque Country as I think we are ready to show ourselves in a good way,” says Giuseppe Martinelli.
Itzulia Basque Country, 6 stages. 5 – 10 April 2021
Alex Aranburu (ESP), Stefan De Bod (RSA), Omar Fraile (ESP), Jakob Fuglsang (DEN), Ion Izagirre (ESP), Alexey Lutsenko (KAZ), Oscar Rodriguez (ESP).
Sports directors: Giuseppe Martinelli (ITA), Bruno Cenghialta (ITA).
Deceuninck – Quick-Step to Vuelta al Pais Vasco
The 13th World Tour race of the season takes place between 5-10 April
One of the numerous races to be cancelled last year, the Vuelta al Pais Vasco returns this spring with its 60th edition, one which will start with a 13.9km individual time trial in Bilbao featuring some brutal 19% gradients in the last kilometre, enough to set the pecking order ahead of the hilly stage to Sestao. Ermualde, just outside Laudio, promises plenty of fireworks on Wednesday, when the yellow jersey contenders will have another big opportunity to gain time on the slopes of this short but excruciating climb (3.1km, 11.1%).
Packing four classified climbs, stage 4 to Hondarribia will be the longest of the race and should be an excellent opportunity for the breakaway specialists to shine before a visit to Ondarroa, where the fast men should hit the spotlight. The last stage promises to deliver full gas racing right from the off, as the riders will take in six classified ascents before the finish on the mythical Arrate (6.4km, 6.4%), which will include a 14.9% stretch not far from the top.
UCI World Team Classification leader Deceuninck – Quick-Step will travel to the Basque Country with a strong squad consisting of Mattia Cattaneo, National ITT Champions Josef Cerny and Ian Garrison, Mikkel Honoré – who at last week’s Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali sailed to his first pro win – James Knox, Pieter Serry and Mauri Vansevenant.
“Pais Vasco is one of the toughest races of the year, with steep and tough climbs that make it very hard to control. The weather is another factor which can play a big role, with the rain and wind usually having the potential to be decisive in the outcome, and it doesn’t look like this year it will be any different. Our team is a mixture of youth and experience, the riders are all motivated and will go to the start having shown a strong form in their previous races, so we’re confident we can get some nice results next week,” explained Deceuninck – Quick-Step sports director Geert Van Bondt.
05.04–10.04 Itzulia Basque Country (ESP) 2.UWT
Mattia Cattaneo (ITA)
Josef Cerny (CZE)
Ian Garrison (USA)
Mikkel Honoré (DEN)
James Knox (GBR)
Pieter Serry (BEL)
Mauri Vansevenant (BEL).
Sports Director: Davide Bramati (ITA) and Geert Van Bondt (BEL).
Landa Leads Bahrain Victorious at Itzulia Basque Country
In the Itzulia Basque Country starting on Monday, April 5, Mikel Landa joins the team to compete for the GC at Itzulia.
The Basque Country’s six-stage race begins with an ITT that starts with a 2.6km climb and finishes with a brutal 600m climb with a 19% gradient. Stage 2 takes on La Asturiana, a 7.6-kilometre climb with an average 6.2% gradient before descending towards the finish. The third stage has a similar profile, but the last 3.1 kilometres take on a challenging 11% climb to the finish. Stage 4 brings us elements of the Clásica de San Sebastián with the riders climbing the Alto de Jaizkibel and Puerto de Erlaitz in the last 50 kilometres. The Jaizkibel is a 6.9-kilometre climb at 6.2%, while Puerto de Erlaitz is a 7.4-kilometre ascent with a mid-section of 3.8 kilometres at 10.6%. The last 10-kilometres to the finish will be a test of the riders’ descending skills and may determine the stage’s outcome.
The term ‘flat’ is not often used in races in the Basque Country, but Stage 5 is as close as it gets. This will be one of the stages that the sprinters will be looking for at the finish line in Ondorroa. The final stage is also the Queen Stage, with seven challenging climbs compressed into 111.9-kilometres of racing. The stage finishes near the Arrate Sanctuary with a final climb of 4.5-kilometre 8.9% climb.
Sports Director Gorazd Štangelj shared his thoughts ahead of the race: “We are coming to race at Tour of Basque Country on a very high level and to accomplish the fine-tuning for the upcoming Giro d’Italia to build up everything around Mikel Landa, our GC, and see if anything is missing that we can improve on time before Giro.
We would also like to see how Rafa Valls recovered after last year’s injury at Tour de France. We believe he came back in good shape as he worked really hard in the past period. We raised our quality of racing at the past Tirreno-Adriatico, making us positive for the upcoming races. The first Itzulia stage is an individual time trial, and it’s not going to be easy. Neither one stage is easy at the Basque Country, but the last one, the Queen’s Stage is definitely the hardest, but also the biggest challenge for Mikel Landa. Pello Bilbao is in good shape. Our riders, young guys like Gino Mader and Mark Padun, and experienced Rafa Valls, Eros Capecchi and Yukiya Arashiro will give their all for Mikel, who is one of the favourites in GC, together with Primož Roglic and Tadej Pogačar. Well, there could always appear some other rider for the big result there. I believe that every member of our team, every rider, every staff member will give his best, uprise the performance to the maximum to have a peaceful road to Giro d’Italia”.
Mikel Landa is feeling good ahead of the race: “The tour of Basque Country is going to be very special for me as always. I think that racing at home gives you a special sensation and I am feeling very good. I feel I’m in very good shape after Tirreno-Adriatico. I’m focused on the Giro d’Italia, and all my preparations are focused on being 100% there. I feel competitive at the moment, and I think it’s going to be a very hard Basque Country like always. The first stage we have is the ITT. I hope not to lose too much time. If I lose some, I will use the other stages for a stage win and reach the best possible position in the GC”.
Pello Bilbao is motivated ahead of the race: “I can say that I have a special motivation now for this race every year. We didn’t have the opportunity to be in our home race last year. We missed it a lot, so this year, it is great to turn back and have a chance to race on our home roads, and I’m especially motivated for the first TT day in Bilbao. It’s a very special moment for me to have the opportunity to start the race with an ITT, which is my favourite and my specialty. I was working hard in the last few years and had to improve myself for every second possible. I’ve got the opportunity to perform an ITT that suites me quite well in our capital, Bilbao. It’s going to be a great day for sure, but just a pity that we’re not going to be cheered by the Basque fans along the parcour. I think we’re going to miss them a lot because I think all our fans make this race so special. Despite this, we will have a great race, a great spectacle with all the big names there and us. Mikel and I are very motivated, and we will try to go for the podium or try to win this race. I will have the opportunity at Indurain race to see where I am. Do a good test and get to the real racing mode for the Tour of Basque Country”.
Team Bahrain Victorious lineup:
Yukiya Arashiro / Pello Bilbao / Eros Capecchi / Mikel Landa / Gino Mäder / Mark Padun / Rafa Valls
Itzulia Basque Country (April 5-10)
Having returned to competition at Cholet Pays de Loire, Benoît Cosnefroy will be at the start of the Itzulia Basque Country with only one day of competition so far this season. A professional since January 1, Nicolas Prodhomme will participate in his first UCI WorldTour race at the Itzulia Basque Country.
Larry Warbasse: “I feel that the form is getting closer to where I want it. The sensations were not that great when I returned to racing. Then after Tirreno-Adriatico, I was able to do a good block of training at home and I feel that I have been improving. We have a great team at this Tour of the Basque Country (Itzulia Basque Country) and I am happy to be at the start. It’s always a difficult race; it will also help me to work towards the rest of the season, and especially for the Giro d’Italia which is my big goal.”
Preview Itzulia – Hermans: “We will show ourselves, as always”
The 60th edition of Itzulia Basque Country (2.UWT, 05-10/04) will kick-off next Monday. The race comprises of six stages. As tradition goes, the many riders use this competition as a critical stop for Amstel Gold Race and the Walloon classics, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, which will come later in the month.
And this shows in the rough stage profiles. First test is a time trial of about 14 kilometres around the city iconic city of Bilbao. It finishes on top of a short climb of more than 2 kilometres with ramps up to 19% within the last 1000 meters! The second stage seem a perfect fit for the punchers with a few climbs of 2nd and 3rd category with, once again, a tough uphill finish. Stage 3 is very serious business: the finishing point is in Ermualde, at the end of a 1st category climb with an average percentage of 10% and peaks of 20%. Also stages 4 and 5 are stuffed with hills but end up on flat roads. The stage race closes in style with the queen stage to Arrate. There are no less than seven categorised climbs: three of 1st category, one of 2nd and three of 3rd category. That makes more than 30 kilometres uphill in total. Then, we will know the successor of Ion Iazgirre, who won the last edition of Itzulia Basque Country in 2019.
Under the guidance of sports directors Valerio Piva and Jean-Marc Rossignon, Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux will make its debut in the Spanish stage race. The selection consists of our Norwegian Odd Christian Eiking, youngsters Theo Delacroix and Alexander Evans, the latter lining-up for his second Spanish stage race after Volta Ciclista a Catalunya. We also look forward to the first road race for Belgian cyclocrossman Quinten Hermans, the first stage race of the season for Maurits Lammertink, another great performance of Lorenzo Rota and the second appearance of our new rider Georg Zimmermann.
Multitalent Quinten Hermans divides his time between cyclocross and road racing. He is totally ready to kick off his 2021 road season in the Basque Country.
Quinten Hermans: “After my last cross of the season in Oostmalle, around one-and-half months ago, I rested a few days until I started my training again on the following Friday. The first training sessions were rather easy-going, afterwards the intensity and the duration got higher and higher. Now I just got back from Tenerife, where I did a training camp on El Teide. So I feel ready for the start of my road campaign in the Basque Country. Here, I would like to test myself a bit. I don’t have a specific goal for this race but I’m aiming for a good result. I have to. Otherwise I could have just stayed at Tenerife and kept on training. A lot of good riders participate in this WorldTour race but that doesn’t worry me. After a training camp in altitude it’s hard to know how high my level is compared to the peloton’s but we’ll know soon enough. For now I can only say I really look forward to racing again! The general classification is not something that is significantly important to me at this moment. I think we have to be in the spotlights as a team, like we always try to do. That’s parts of the team’s DNA. Maybe, if I lose some time in the first stages, I may get some freedom to go in a breakaway. That seems like a key to success. Itazulia is an important part of my program, under to compete for my main goals this spring. I want to be in great shape for Brabantse Pijl. I know this race very well because I often train in the area of the finish in Overijse. But there’s more than this. I’ll also ride the Walloon classics and I also dream of riding a grand tour this year!”
Odd Christian Eiking
Sports directors: Valerio Piva and Jean-Marc Rossignon.
MPCC on the Vini Zabù Team
The Italian team holds the record for the greatest number of doping cases over the last decade. Despite a new scandal – The second in the last 12 months, the team expects to attend the next Giro. MPCC condemns the serious damage this affair causes to the image of cycling.
Whatever the amount of resources allocated to the fight against doping, some riders will still choose to cheat. Though, this simple observation is not a thread for the credibility of cycling. However, when these events occur multiple times, year after year, within the same team, and when the institutions fail to break the cycle, it represents a terrible blow to the credibility of cycling.
Team Vini-Zabù gave us a striking example this week, as one of their riders was provisionally suspended by the UCI for assumed doping (EPO). Of course, as the process is still ongoing, we should remain cautious while we wait for the results of the second sample. Though, the previous cases are not cause for optimism. The latest cases happened less than a year ago.
This Italian team, which appeared within the peloton in 2009, has been subject to 9 doping cases in the last twelve years. The incriminated substances are always the same heavy well-known products (5 EPO cases, 2 growth hormones cases, 1 Clenbuterol case, 1 Ostarine case).
MPCC recalls that team Vini-Zabù belonged to the movement for a short time in 2014. Shortly after, despite two doping cases in less than a year, the team decided it was not relevant to commit to the rules of the movement, the same ones that all our members abide by. We immediately suspended the team and decided to exclude it from the movement during the General Assembly of October 2015.
Since its creation in 2007, MPCC set up a principle that we called today “the voluntary introspection” when a team faces several doping cases in a short period of time. Fourteen years later, this principle remains the same: team members commit to stop the activity of all their riders for 8 days or a whole month, depending on whether it faces a second doping case in 12 months, or a third case in 24 months.
In 2016, this MPCC precept even ended up convincing UCI to tighten its own rules as its anti-doping rules now include the opening of a proceeding that could lead to a 15-day or 45-day suspension of a team when two doping cases occur in a period of 12 months.
If UCI deems so, there is a genuine risk for Vini-Zabù to miss out on the Giro, a race for which it received a wild car again. Since 2009, the team is managed by the same people, Angelo Citracca and Luca Scinto. They were already in charge when each of the 9 proceedings were opened against the Italian team. Yet, some organisers still trust them.
This new case is another element to support our statement given during our General Assembly of last March 2nd ; our movement was surprised that the Giro d’Italia awarded a Wild Card to a team that suffered a positive test during the last edition. Out of the nine cases involving Vini-Zabù riders, four of them were directly related to the Giro, which seems to not hold any grudge as it still granted 11 Wild Cards to the team in the last 13 years.
MPCC reacts strongly today as the members of it Board deem relevant to defend the integrity of its members (teams and riders) and support their voluntary choice to restore the image of cycling by committing to stricter rules. Our movement deeply regrets that RCS group still does not seem important to react nor give any explanation regarding its choices. As they face yet another doping proceeding, we hope that RCS will take responsibility for the future, even though the Italian organisers already held all the cards to do so after the Giro 2020.
For all these reasons, MPCC calls for all the teams, riders and organisers to join our movement.
Arkéa-Samsic and Nairo Quintana Thinking of Giro d’Italia Again
Arkéa-Samsic, Nairo Quintana’s squad, missed out on a wildcard for the Giro d’Italia earlier this year. The tickets went to Bardiani CSF Faizanè, EOLO-Kometa and Vini Zabù, but the latter team risks a suspension after two positive doping tests within twelve months.
The UCI can impose a suspension of 15 to 45 days on Vini Zabù, after the doping violations of Matteo Spreafico (15 and 16 October 2020) and Matteo De Bonis (16 February 2021). With a maximum suspension, the team would miss the Giro d’Italia and that means that a wild card could be up for grabs. Arkéa-Samsic was previously in the race for a place in the Tour of Italy and leader Nairo Quintana would like to participate in the first Grand Tour of the season this year. “We are currently waiting for more information,” said the Colombian climber in conversation with Ciclismo En Grande.
“The team is certainly interested in a wildcard and then there is a possibility that I will be at the start. However, it is important to emphasise that I am based on the latest rumours.” Should a wildcard become available, Arkéa-Samsic will have to compete against Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec and Gazprom-RusVelo.
The Italian team of manager Gianni Savio took two big prizes in the last edition. Simon Pellaud was honoured as the winner of the intermediate sprint classification, while his teammate Mattia Bais won the Fuga Bianchi for the best breakaway. Gazprom-RusVelo also has several Italian riders.
Quintana in the pink:
The PEZ INSTAGRAM
See our Instagram page for a quick fix on your phone: https://www.instagram.com/pezcyclingnews
The PEZ NEWSWIRE!
Don’t forget to check the “NEWSWIRE” section, you can find it on the homepage, just above the PEZ Shop section. The bits of news that missed the EuroTrash deadline are in there, plus any news as-it-happens will be added there too.