What's Cool In Road Cycling
Oudenaarde - Belgium - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Niki TERPSTRA (Netherlands / Team Quick - Step Floors) - Vincenzo NIBALI (Italy / Team Bahrain - Merida) pictured during the Ronde Van Vlaanderen 2018 - Elite men - a one day UCI world tour race between Antwerpen and Oudenaarde - photo NV/PN/Cor Vos © 2018

EUROTRASH News Round Up Monday!

The Tour of Flanders lived up to expectations and Niki Terpstra was a worthy winner. Race report, quotes and video from De Ronde and the GP Miguel Indurain. Does the England football team have asthma – Top Story. In other cycling news: The teams preview the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, two Scottish races for the 2018 OVO Energy Tour Series, 20 years of Quick-Step Floors and 100 days to the start of the 2018 Tour de France. Monday EUROTRASH coffee time.

TOP STORY: It’s Not Just Froome with Asthma
It has been reported that the UCI Legal Anti-Doping Service has rejected the initial explanations put forward by Chris Froome and the Sky team over his adverse doping test at the Vuelta a España. The case will now be heard by CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport), but it is unlikely that a verdict will be reached before the Tour de France, thus starting even more legal battles as Tour organizers, ASO, don’t want the problem to interfere with the race.

In a separate report, it appears that the England World Cup football team that will go to Russia have been tested for asthma at a cost of around 50,000 GPB. Whether this is for preventative reasons or to initiate medication is unknown, but the players do all have top class medical care with their clubs. Is this a case of taking excess care of the players or finding out if the asthma card can be used for ‘grey area’ medication use? Or could it all be ‘fake news’ as Chris Froome likes to claim.

When will it all end?
Granada - Spain - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Christopher - Chris FROOME (GBR / Team Sky) illustratie before the start pictured during Vuelta Ciclista a Andalucia (Ruta del Sol) 2018 - stage-1 from Mijas to Granada (197,6 KM) 14-2-2018 - photo Cor Vos © 2018

Tour of Flanders 2018
Niki Terpstra continued the Quick-Step Floors team’s dominance in the Belgian one-day races of the 2018 season, adding a 16th Monument victory to the palmarés of the squad, just two days after Quick-Step celebrated 20 amazing years in cycling (see story at the bottom of EUROTRASH). Victorious this season in Le Samyn and E3 Harelbeke, each time after going solo in the final part of the race, Niki repeated that scenario in the Ronde van Vlaanderen on Sunday, where he took his second career Monument, following Paris-Roubaix in 2014.

Quick-Step Floors rode a perfect and intelligent race from the start, sending the hard-working Tim Declercq, Iljo Keisse and Florian Sénéchal at the front of the peloton minutes after leaving Antwerp, the three policed every move and reeled in all the attackers, allowing eleven men to go clear after 70 kilometers. Marco Haller (Katusha-Alpecin), Pim Ligthart (Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij), Michael Goolaerts (Veranda’s Willems-Crelan), Jimmy Turgis (Cofidis), Filippo Ganna (UAE Team Emirates), Ivan Garcia Cortina (Bahrain-Merida), Pascal Eenkhoorn (LottoNL-Jumbo); Ryan Gibbons (Dimension Data), Aimé De Gendt (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) and WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic’s Dimitri Peyskens didn’t gain more than five minutes before the first hill of the day, the Oude Kwaremont.

Despite a series of accelerations on the climbs of the Muur-Kapelmuur and Koppenberg, the race didn’t split and the favorites stayed together. Quick-Step Floors had the numbers in the group, with Philippe Gilbert, Yves Lampaert, Zdenek Stybar and Niki Terpstra. Stybar, one of the most consistent riders of this spring campaign, with three consecutive top-10 placings, was the one to counter an attack of Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) on the Taaienberg, before trying a move of his own after cresting the Kruisberg.

Soon after they were caught, Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) powered ahead and was joined by Niki Terpstra, who then took the front and dropped the Milano-Sanremo winner as the Oude Kwaremont was looming on the horizon for the third time. At the moment of his attack, the Dutchman was 40 seconds behind a leading trio, but using his time trial skills he reduced the gap by the time he hit the bottom of the climb, while behind his teammates disrupted the rhythm of the chasers.

A two-time podium finisher at Ronde van Vlaanderen (2015 and 2017), Terpstra rode flawlessly on the long Oude Kwaremont, a hill which has been a regular feature on the race since 1974, making contact with the three riders in the front and dispatching them before putting some distance by the top of the berg and continuing his solo action. Terpstra extended his lead on the Paterberg before going into time trial mode for the 12km-run in to Oudenaarde, holding off Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) by 12 seconds and defending champion Philippe Gilbert at 17 seconds for third place.

Both World champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Greg Van Avermaet were very active throughout the day, but they were over powered by the Quick-Step Floors team who by placing three riders in the top 10 – Niki Terpstra, Philippe Gilbert and Zdenek Stybar – extend its lead in the WorldTour standings to nearly 1500 points.

See the PEZ Flanders Race Report HERE.

Oudenaarde - Belgium - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport -  Niki TERPSTRA (Netherlands / Team Quick - Step Floors) pictured during the Ronde Van Vlaanderen 2018 - Elite men - a one day UCI world tour race between Antwerpen and Oudenaarde - photo NV/PN/Cor Vos © 2018

Flanders winner, Niki Terpstra (Quick-Step Floors): “It’s incredible! Winning De Ronde and Paris-Roubaix was a dream I had since I was a kid and watched these two races on television. That’s when I fell in love with them and now, having won both, it gives me huge joy. I can’t tell you how happy I am! To be victorious in these races you need very good legs, but also luck. Today, everything went perfect for me. When I attacked and set in pursuit of the leaders it wasn’t easy due to the wind, but I kept riding hard. Then, when I saw the three, I knew I could catch them, so I kept pushing. In a race like this, you need to make the right attack, and that’s what I did. It’s a great year for me, but it wouldn’t have been possible without the team. The guys were extraordinary, they displayed once again their immense quality and I will repay them for their work and effort, be it in Paris-Roubaix or another race. Being part of such a great team means a lot and makes me very proud!”

3rd, Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors): “We showed again that amazing team spirit, we showed that we are there for our teammates, ready to give everything so that the win lands in the team. The entire squad knew what they had to do and made a perfect race. The strongest rider won today and I’m happy for Niki, he rode a strong and smart race. Last year, I won and he came third, this time around, we arrived at the finish in reverse order. We are enjoying a fantastic run of success and hopefully we won’t stop here.”

6th, Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe): “It was a very hard and fast Tour of Flanders, right from the outset, with Quick-Step, Sky and BMC setting a strong pace. I’m happy with my performance as well as that of the rest of my teammates, who were there, together with me, whenever it was possible. I gave my best effort to close the gaps, but on my own it was impossible. I’m happy with my condition and I now look forward to Paris-Roubaix, a week from now.”

8th, Tiesj Benoot (Movistar): “I am somewhat disappointed with this eighth place, because I felt like I was one of the best in the race. I had really good legs at the start and that remained the case for the entire race. There were some important teammates missing from our line-up, which made I was all by myself in the finale, but that was something I knew beforehand. When Terpstra attacked, I was a bit boxed in and I couldn’t immediately respond. The way he distanced Nibali uphill was impressive. He is the deserved winner. This eighth place confirms my good condition, but I had hoped for a better result. I hope to be coming back to this race with the same shape in the future, but with a better result at the end. I am really happy to be going to the Sierra Nevada again for another training camp. My next race is the Brabantse Pijl. I am looking forward to the next part of the spring, but first some mental rest in Spain. Afterwards we’ll see what’s possible in the Ardennes races.”

11th, Oliver Naesen (AG2R-La Mondiale): “I am leaving the Ronde feeling very frustrated. During the first half of the race, I was fine and everything was going well. And then that crash ruined everything. I found myself in chasing groups and having to rely on the riders from other teams. This crash cost me dearly. My knee was not completely healed, but it help up at least. Next stop: Roubaix.”

Break rider, Tom Devriendt (Wanty-Groupe Gobert): “It is great that I can achieve this in Tour of Flanders. But I would have liked to be able to survive a little longer. In the beginning of the race I did not feel well, and on Kortekeer I had to change bikes. I came through with about 170 kilometers to go, after De Muur I tried to anticipate. On Kanarieberg I accelerated fully in order to split the group. On Kwaremont Garcia rode a fairly strong pace. It was not a present for only the two of us, there was quite some wind. I hoped they would linger in the peloton. I tried to stay ahead as long as possible and that worked out pretty well. On Koppenberg and Steenbeekdries I could still follow the favorites, but on Taaienberg I lost the connection with that group. My further program is not yet fixed, but I will probably ride Scheldeprijs and Tro Bro Léon.”

19th, Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data): “It was a really hard day. From the start it was really fast and they just kept the pace on all day. I managed to ride in a good position for most of the race but I ran out of power to stay with the front guys right at the end. It was a tough day overall.”

Tour of Flanders Result:
1. Niki Terpstra (Ned) Quick-Step Floors in 6:21:25
2. Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo at 0:12
3. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors at 0:17
4. Michael Valgren (Den) Astana at 0:20
5. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC 0:25
6. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
7. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
8. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal
9. Wout Van Aert (Bel) Veranda’s Willems-Crelan
10. Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Quick-Step Floors.


GP Miguel Indurain 2018
Spaniard wins second career GP Miguel Indurain, following great teamwork by whole Telefónica-backed squad -12 wins in 2018- claims success in only UCI race in Abarca Sports organization’s Navarra.

Alejandro Valverde makes journalists run out of adjectives and earns applause from the fans at every race he takes part in 2018. The Movistar Team leader dedicated a win to one of the men which has supported him the most all over his pro career, former Abarca Sports manager José Miguel Echávarri, by claiming his second career success in the GP Miguel Indurain, dominated again by the Eusebio Unzué-led squad with its seven riders committed to shining at the team’s home race.

Fantastic turns at the front by Jaime Castrillo -leading the bunch through the opening 120km- Winner Anacona -over the climbs to Arradia and Guirguillano (Cat-1)- and Antonio Pedrero -all the way to the Alto de Lezaun (Cat-2)- led to a serious acceleration from Carlos Betancur and Andrey Amador, 40km from the finish, which shrank the group down to only 17 riders with four from the Movistar Team. The attacks by Mitchelton-Scott, Katusha and even some from the Movistar Team itself -Betancur holding a 25″ gap with 15km to go- already into the final loop around the ‘wall’ of Ibarra, anticipated a tremendous attack from Valverde at the Alto de Eraul (Cat-2).

The Spaniard, only contested by youngster Carlos Verona (Mitchelton-Scott), did not leave room to surprise and left his fellow countryman behind at the penultimate climb, the Alto de Muru, to reach the finish line solo in his 117th victory as a pro cyclist, the ninth of his season and the 12th for Movistar Team in 2018. Betancur (5th) and Marc Soler (6th) rounded off the fantastic display by the squad today directed by José Luis Arrieta.

Race winner, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar): “Yes, another one! I’m super happy to win this race because everything that meant for the team, with that tribute to José Miguel Echávarri by the event’s organizers. It’s always a beautiful event, but I was especially willing to come here this season and be present, because of him. It was a fast race, a quite windy one, yet the team kept everything under control all day, pacing themselves brilliantly. There were many teams trying to go on the attack into that final circuit -Mitchelton and Katusha were the ones making things hardest for us- but we make the right moves and at the Eraul climb, I decided to attack and Verona and myself could stay away. Hats off to Carlos, because his performance today against me was excellent.

“All in all, I’m happy about this victory, about the spectacle we brought to the fans and even more surprised about the fitness level I’m being able to keep. I remain amazed by how smooth things are going after my injury. I just can’t thank enough all doctors and physiotherapists helping me out on my recovery process, as well as my family and all fans for their incredible support since my crash back in July. Next week I’ll be at the start of the Klasika Primavera in Amorebieta prior to Amstel, Flèche and Liège, which will be my final races before my first rest period this season.”

GP Miguel Indurain Result:
1. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar in 4:41:18
2. Carlos Verona (Spa) Mitchelton-Scott at 0:20
3. Nicholas Schultz (Aus) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA at 1:04
4. Eduard Prades (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country at 1:16
5. Carlos Betancur (Col) Movistar
6. Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar at 1:19
7. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin at 1:30
8. Lilian Calmejane (Fra) Direct Energie at 1:43
9. Simon Pilak (Slo) Katusha-Alpecin
10. Dmitrii Strakhov (Rus) Lokosphinx at 2:03.

GP Indurain’18:

Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco
Team Sunweb coach Aike Visbeek (NED): “Our goal at Pais Vasco is to go for stage results through breakaways and sprints. We are focused on the sprints for Michael [Matthews], who is a three-time stage winner at this race. Laurens and Johannes bring a wealth of experience and we look forward to seeing our young and talented Australians Michael [Storer] and Jai test themselves. The course is challenging with a lot of steep climbing and we’ll likely see the final stage decide the overall standings, however we will take our opportunities day by day, and hunt for some nice results.”

Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco (WT)

Laurens ten Dam (NED), Johannes Fröhlinger (GER), Chad Haga (USA), Jai Hindley (AUS), Michael Matthews (AUS), Michael Storer (AUS), Martijn Tusveld (NED).
Coach: Aike Visbeek (NED).

Laurens ten Dam:

Preview: Vuelta al Pais Vasco
Intro The UCI World Tour continues next week with the Vuelta al Pais Vasco taking place from the 2nd to 7th April. The 6 stage event will include some of the toughest climbs the Basque Country has to offer.
Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka is all set to start the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, or Tour of the Basque Country as it is commonly known, starting this Monday the 2nd April. This year 5 big climbing stages are only separated by a flat 19km individual time trial, which will make up stage 4.

Our African Team will have a number of punchy climbers ready to duke it out with the worlds best, over the course of the week. Our climbing group will consist of Tom-Jelte Slagter, Serge Pauwels, Ben King, Lachlan Morton, Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier and Igor Anton.

Steve Cummings returns to the Basque Country race too, with fond memories of winning a stage in the 2016 edition. Stevo will no doubt be looking for a strong result on the stage 4 time trial and then targeting an attack on any one of the road stages.

While 5 of the 6 stages are all weighted heavily towards the climbers, only the final stage can be considered to be a summit finish. This should ensure an open and exciting race with the time trial playing a key role in deciding the overall GC.

Bingen Fernandez – Sport Director: “Tour of the Basque Country will be a very difficult race and if you look to the startlist, there are many big names here, all close to the top of their form. For us, we will look to take our opportunities and win a stage. If we find ourselves in a smaller group with the likes of Valverde, Landa or the Izaguirre brothers, we really have nothing to lose so can race positively. We will look to guys like Serge Pauwels, Ben King and Tom-Jelte Slagter, if they can get into key moves then maybe we can feature on GC too. The time trial will be important for GC but it is also a stage that Steve Cummings can target, so we have options this week and we will be part of the race every day.”

Tom-Jelte Slagter, Serge Pauwels, Ben King, Lachlan Morton, Igor Anton, Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier, Steve Cummings.

Preview País Vasco with DS Mario Aerts
From Monday 2 April until Saturday 7 April the Tour of the Basque Country (País Vasco) takes place. Sports director Mario Aerts looks ahead to this WorldTour race for Lotto Soudal. As a rider Aerts participated eleven times in this race. In 1999 he finished fourth overall, three years later he was fifth on GC.

Mario Aerts, sports director Lotto Soudal: “The stages are generally rather short, but it’s hardly ever flat. Definitely a challenging course. The riders need to climb the Jaizkibel on the first stage, famous from Clásica San Sebastián, but that’s still early on in the race. It’s a tough finale on Monday and there will only be a small group that fights for victory. The second day is similar: a climb in the deep finale and then a descent towards the finish. Those first two days will determine who’s in the running for a high overall ranking.”

“On the third day a break stands a better chance. On the other hand it’s also the only stage that is possible to finish with a sprint. Although the question needs to be asked: which teams will want to control the race? Michael Matthews is one of the participants, maybe his team will want to do that job.”

“The fourth stage is an individual time trial, on a flat course. On the penultimate day there’s a steep climb in the finale, followed by a descent and some slight uphill kilometers towards the finish. After the last climb there won’t be many riders who will be able to bridge to the front anymore. The final stage is the shortest and the hardest of the week. That will once again be something for the GC riders.”

“We don’t have any GC ambitions, but we want to race aggressively as that’s our only chance of success. We have only Belgians in our line-up. It has been almost thirty years since a Belgian has won a stage (The last Belgian stage win dates back to 1991 when Johan Bruyneel won the closing time trial in the shirt of Lotto – Superclub, LTS). It would be wonderful to change that. I finished second once, in the fifth stage in the edition of 1999.”

“The Volta a Catalunya was successful for us, with the stage win of Thomas De Gendt. He will also race in País Vasco. The way he won was once again typical for him. Few thought he would be able to make it. Neo-pro Bjorg Lambrecht did it very well last week. He finished seventeenth in the last stage in Barcelona. That proves he definitely wasn’t empty at the end of the week. It was a good experience for him on the highest level of cycling, also at País Vasco he will learn a lot. Maxime Monfort joined a breakaway one day in Catalunya, his condition is improving day by day. Jelle Vanendert was good last week, he’s working on his final preparation on the Walloon Classics.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal:
Sander Armée, Thomas De Gendt, Bjorg Lambrecht, Rémy Mertz, Maxime Monfort, Tosh Van der Sande and Jelle Vanendert.
Sports directors: Mario Aerts and Bart Leysen.

Tosh Van der Sande:

Quintana Ready for País Vasco after Belgian Cobbles
Colombian heads into Monday’s Itzulia start -a race he won in 2013- after runner-up finish in Catalunya + last Wednesday’s Dwars.

Nairo Quintana feels calm and confident towards the upcoming 2018 Vuelta al País Vasco. The Colombian climber from the Movistar Team, a former winner of the Spanish race in 2013, will line up in the Itzulia for the fourth time, having claimed top-5 finishes in every edition he’s taken part in (3rd in 2016, 4th in 2015).

Quintana arrives to the Basque stagerace – his final event in Europe before heading back to Colombia – after a 2nd-place finish in last week’s Volta a Catalunya and completing last Wednesday’s Dwars door Vlaanderen classic in Belgium. He’ll be back to the cobblestones of northern Europe for a couple of days after the Itzulia, to inspect the pavé sections that will be tackled come July in the Tour de France, his biggest goal of the season.

“I finished the Volta with a very sweet taste. Not only because of another win by Alejandro, but also for the great work by the whole team, and on a more personal side, feeling myself strong and on the right path. We then left for Belgium. I had not raced on cobblestones since my first time in the region back in 2015. We didn’t really covered that many sections, but I’m satisfied with this experience in Flanders. I wasn’t up there with the main contenders in the decisive part of the race, but the group I made part of in the finale was a good chance to re-learn how to enter the cobbled sections, test some things, find the right tyre pressures… It was really useful for my body, to remember those feelings you need when the big goal comes and you have to do your best at the Tour de France in July. We’ll the back to the cobblestones after País Vasco to inspect the sections we’ll face in the summer, experience the conditions we’ll find there. Riding over those sections with my team-mates will be important to see how we can work together, to tackle them in the best way possible.”

Regarding the Vuelta al País Vasco, Nairo underlines the passion of the local fans; says he feels “like at home” when he’s racing in the Basque Country; and hopes to offer them some fireworks during the six-day event.

“I’d have liked to approach the race a bit more calmly, but it was a week with lots of journeys after the Volta. I hope to get better and better during the race itself. We’ll try to do our best, as we always do. Our initial plan is to go chase the GC with Mikel, who’s determined to do well here. We’ll be there supporting him and keeping an eye on some opportunities for the team’s best interest during the race. My fitness level is good at the moment – we already saw in Catalunya I’m doing well and I feel fine before this race. The approach to this part of the season in terms of training remains similar to previous years. What has changed, though, is the fact that I don’t have that pressure on about having to contest the victory at every single event. However, when you’re in good condition you can’t rule any result out.

“The route will be really demanding, as it’s always the case here. Those short, really steep climbs are the norm here, and we should expect really aggressive racing. We must stay focused at all times. I think, though, that this year’s time trial could be decisive for the end result. It’s one for the real specialists, and the gaps created on Thursday might be key for the GC. It will be an important test for me, and I’ll try to put all energy I’ve got on doing well.

“The Vuelta al País Vasco is always a special race for me. I’ve lived near this region for many years and feel like at home in the Basque Country. The people has always treated me well here. I’ve always tend to compare their lifestyle and culture to the one we have in Colombia. I feel close to them and always liked to do well here. The Basque fans are so passionate and I always try to give them reasons to enjoy what we do. Plus, we’ve got two local riders in our roster – Mikel and Víctor – and that makes the team take an extra level of commitment to get a good result here.”

Costa and Ulissi to Lead UAE Team Emirates’ Charge in the Basque Country
Rui Costa and Diego Ulissi will lead UAE Team Emirates in the upcoming Vuelta al Pais Vasco (2nd – 7th April), as the team step up their preparations ahead of the upcoming Ardennes Classics.

Costa, the 2013 World Champion, was forced to withdraw from Paris-Nice after a crash, but will return to competition after spending time training on the roads of Madeira, whilst Ulissi will be hoping to test his fitness as he prepares for a strong performance in the Ardennes classics. The riders will be joined by teammates including: Jan Polanc, Matteo Bono, Anass Ait El Abdia, Manuele Mori and Alexandr Riabushenko.

Commenting on the upcoming six stage race, Diego Ulissi said: “Each stage is challenging and could be decisive for the General Classification, so it is important to give maximum effort each day. The goal is to put in good, consistent performances, keeping in mind that the Basque competition is an important launch pad for the Ardennes Classics and could give me a good indication as to what shape I’m in ahead of those races.”

Rui Costa added: “After my crash in the Paris-Nice, I took a week off to rest. I’m fine now and I’ve started training again with positive results. I will make it to the Vuelta al Pais Vasco with plenty of room to improve my fitness level and I hope to finish the race on a high note and achieve a good results.”

The Vuelta al Pais Vasco, translating to The Tour of the Basque Country, will see riders tackle rugged hilly terrain that favors the climbers. The first stage features a number of different laps around Zarautz, taking in five climbs on the 162km route. Tuesday’s stage two will task riders with a 167km course from Zarautz to Bermeo, with riders tackling some moderate climbs including the Almika Sollube – a 5.5km climb with an average incline of 6.6%. An Individual Time Trial will greet riders on stage four, whilst stages five and six will be the final tests – the latter of which is just 122km, but features eight climbs, the final one being the Sanctuary of Arrate; a 3.1km climb with an average incline of 12.7%.

The team’s participation on the UCI World Tour gives the local community the opportunity to come together and support world-class athletes as they aim to become one of the top cycling teams on the tour. To find out more about UAE Team Emirates, visit UAETeamEmirates.com.

AG2R-La Mondiale for Pais Vasco
This will be Hubert Dupont’s eleventh participation at the Tour of the Basque Country. He raced it for the first time in 2006.

Hubert Dupont: “I am starting the Tour of the Basque Country with two Coupes de France in my legs (Cholet-Pays de Loire and Classic Loire Atlantique), which has not been the case in previous years when I would take a break after the Strade Bianche. This should help me not miss the rhythm of racing at the beginning, so that I will be ready to support Romain Bardet as well as possible from the get-go.

It is a very difficult race, not only because of the challenging course, but the roads and weather conditions as well. It requires a lot of concentration and energy. This year, the time trial is very flat and takes place on Thursday. It should change the situation compared to other years where the race concluded with the time trial. So this may spare a little of the suspense. On the last day, we climb Arrate twice, from two different sides. It’s a very difficult pass where we typically use the 39×32.

Last year, Romain was very successful finishing second there. For me, the Tour of the Basque Country is an ideal preparation to power up to the Giro (May 4-27). It’s an intense UCI WorldTour race, with difficult climbs and descents. After that, there will be the Tour des Alpes (April 16-20) to see where my form is before I begin to refine my preparation in those last fifteen days ahead of the Giro.”

EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale targets Pais Vasco general classification
The 58th edition of Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco is one of the toughest one-day races on the 2018 WorldTour calendar with “not a single a meter of flat”, according to #PinkArgyle sport director Juan Manual Garate. Garate hails from Basque Country and is delighted to bring a strong team to contend for the general classification over his home roads.

“The first stage passes in front of my house,” said Garate. “If my family is at home watching the race, I can see them. You can imagine how special this is for me. I know 90 percent of the roads blind.”

Alongside Tom Southam, Garate will direct an EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale squad that includes Rigoberto Uran, Mike Woods, Hugh Carthy, Nate Brown, Brendan Canty, Lawson Craddock and Alex Howes.

“With this group, we are going to the race to try to win the general classification,” said Garate. “For sure other teams have the same goal, so it will not be easy. We need to pay attention to every single meter.”

The six-day race includes four climbing days, a stage that could suit the sprinters and a 19-kilometer individual time trial.

“This year’s Pais Vasco is like old times from three, four years ago – not like the last two years,” Garate noted. “It has super narrow, twisty and steep final climbs, especially on the first, second and last stages. The flat time trial on stage four is something new.

“There’s one stage that they say is for the sprinters, but with really narrow and open roads in the last kilometer, there can be high tension in the bunch, so maybe the bunch is broken at the end,” Garate noted. “There’s not one single day that is easy, It’s going to be a high intensity race mentally and physically.”

The parcours combines with the quality of the competition to create a particularly challenging week of racing.

“The guys that are racing the Ardennes, sometimes they use Pais Vasco to prepare themselves,” said Garate. “The guys that are finishing the first part of their season, they come to Pais Vasco to race. And the guys that are growing towards the Giro, they come here, too. This means the race has a really high level with 80-90 percent of the bunch in really good condition. You have that and then you have the roads – not a single meter of flat here in Pais Vasco. That’s why this week is so hard.

“I hope the weather is good, but, in Basque Country, it changes fast and a few times every day, so we’ll see,” said Garate. “If the weather isn’t good, that’s another thing to consider.”

Carthy will race in support of Uran. The Briton is coming off a stellar performance at Volta Catalunya.

“I’m feeling good again going into Pais Vasco,” he said. “I took some good rest this week to recover from a hard week in Catalunya.

“Pais Vasco is a beautiful race for strong, gutsy riders,” Carthy added. “The fans in Northern Spain adore the race and the smaller roads, steep climbs and bad weather always provide a spectacle.

“The last stage to Arrate has become iconic over the years,” he noted. “The final stage is always exciting at the end of a tough week, so to climb over such hard terrain on the final day will really showcase a true winner.”

EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale

Nate Brown (USA), Brendan Canty (AUS), Hugh Carthy (GBR), Lawson Craddock (USA), Alex Howes (USA), Rigoberto Uran (COL), Mike Woods (CAN).
Sport Directors: Juan Manual Garate (ESP) and Tom Southam (GBR).

Manizales - Colombia  - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Rigoberto URAN (Columbia / Team EF Education First - Drapac P/B Cannondale) pictured during the 2018 1st Colombia Oro y Paz stage 6 - from Armenia to Manizales (Torre de Chipre) (184.3KM) - photo Brian Hodes/Cor Vos © 2018 photo credit: Cor Vos photo credit: Cor Vos

Eighth Tour of the Basque Country in a row for Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
A new World Tour race for Caja Rural-Seguros RGA after the recent Volta Catalunya, where the team completed a good week and reached nice results. Seven cyclists will seek to repeat or improve this performance from Monday in the Tour of the Basque Country, one of the most important competitions of the season for the green squad.

The Spanish team will line up a homogeneous block with three Basque riders who repeat like last year: Jonathan Lastra, Álex Aranburu and Jon Irisarri. Furthermore, we must add the Navarrese Julen Amezqueta in his debut in the Itzulia. Two of the Caja Rural-Seguros RGA’s flagships, Sergio Pardilla and Lluís Mas, will put the experience in a group that completes the speedy Nelson Soto.

Eugenio Goikoetxea (sport director): We are always motivated in all the races, but it is true that the Itzulia is special for us, it gives us more motivation and pressure to have a good performance in front of our people. The stages do not change much compared to previous years, it is a nervous route with many climbs and only one important change: the time trial in the fourth day. For this reason, the last two stages will be opener.

The team arrives well, full of enthusiasm to fight after a good calendar in the first part of the year. We have a young team, with Basque riders who know all the route, which has to be a plus. We hope they can give the maximum, take advantage of the opportunities and in this way, in a week, we can say that Caja Rural-Seguros RGA was present.

Álex Aranburu: The truth is that I’ve been waiting for this race from the beginning of the season. It’s a race that I ran for the first time last year and I liked it a lot. I think I am in a good moment, in Oman I still felt so-so, but I have been training well at home and preparing these races so I hope to be able to perform well. I felt good at Coppi Bartali and I hope that next week it will be better. I think that the placement in the last climbs will be very important, cause they will be very narrow. There will be a lot of level, but we will try to be with the best and try to get something.

The Itzulia (April 2nd – 7th) will have a stellar participation and a complicated and full of alternatives route, as usual in the Basque races. The event will depart from Zarautz following a route close to the coast with the ascents to Jaizkibel (2nd), Maddiola (3rd), Aia (3rd) and the Elkano climb (2nd), with some steepest ramps that reach the 20% of gradient that will mark the outcome of the first stage. The way to Bermeo in the second stage won’t be easier, with Sollube (1st) and San Pelaio (2nd) as the key points of the day. On the other hand, the arrival to Valdegovía on Wednesday seems the most favorable for the sprinters.

Unlike other editions, the time trial is in the fourth day of competition, the main novelty together with the time bonuses in the intermediate sprints and the finish line. Two more stages will remain ahead: the first one finishes in Eibar and has three mountain ascents (Elosua, Endoia and Azorki), and the other one is the arrival to Arrate with eight climbs in a short route of just 122 km.

Porte to Return to Racing at Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco
Richie Porte will head to the start line for the first time since Volta ao Algarve next week when he joins a strong and motivated BMC Racing Team line-up at Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco (2 – 7 April).

BMC Racing Team will be looking to target both stage wins and the General Classification in Spain, Sports Director Valerio Piva said.

“This will be Richie’s first race back and although he feels good, we don’t want to give him the immediate responsibility of going for the GC. Of course, we know Richie and maybe he can do something during the week but we will take it day by day. Instead, Damiano Caruso will be our leader for the General Classification. We know that his condition is there especially after he finished second at Tirreno-Adriatico and I think that if we take the right opportunities, he can do another good job here.”

“Overall, we have a strong team with the majority of our riders going onto the Ardennes Classics. This will be a good opportunity for them and everyone will get the chance to try and go for a stage win. We want to see the riders try to take opportunities and jump in the breakaway or be there in the final. I think we have the right team to try to do that and then following on from there we will look to put Damiano in the right position to come out with a good GC,” Piva explained.

Richie Porte is looking forward to getting back into the swing of racing at the six-day UCI WorldTour stage race.

“I am not going in with any expectations or putting too much pressure on myself. For me, this race will be more about testing my form and getting back into the race rhythm than anything else,” Porte explained.

After finishing second overall at Tirreno-Adriatico, Caruso is looking forward to testing his form in the General Classification battle at Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco.

“This is one of the hardest stage races of the season, so it is going to be really difficult. However, I think my condition is good and after my result at Tirreno-Adriatico, I would like to keep this trend going and try to go for the GC. The philosophy will be the same as it was in Italy. I am going into the race without any stress and we will take it day by day and see what opportunities come up. Tirreno-Adriatico was confirmation of what I can do, so I’m feeling confident and I think I can do another good performance here,” Caruso said.

Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco (2 – 7 April)
Rider Roster:

Patrick Bevin (NZL), Damiano Caruso (ITA), Alessandro De Marchi (ITA), Simon Gerrans (AUS), Richie Porte (AUS), Dylan Teuns (BEL), Danilo Wyss (SUI)
Sports Directors: Valerio Piva (ITA), Jackson Stewart (USA).

Richie Porte:
Willunga Hill - Australia - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Richie Porte (AUS - BMC) pictured during 20th Santos Tour Down Under (2.UWT) stage -5 from McLaren Vale to Willunga Hill (151.5KM) - photo LB/RB//Cor Vos © 2018

Quick-Step Floors Cycling Team to Vuelta al Pais Vasco
A flat time trial and 23 classified ascents will shape the overall standings at next week’s race.

One of the oldest races in Spain, won by some of the biggest riders in history, mentioned in Ernest Hemingway’s closing chapters of “The Sun Also Rises” and a real feast for the puncheurs, Vuelta al Pais Vasco returns for the 58th edition (2-7 April), with its stunning landscape and brutal climbs.

The first two stages, rolling out from Zarautz, a coastal town located in the province of Gipuzkoa contain a total of nine classified climbs, with the last hurdle of the day (Elkano Gaina and San Pelaio, respectively) coming each time in the final ten kilometers. Stage 3 presents a rare opportunity for a bunch sprint, before the time trial specialists will take on a 19.4km-long race against the clock, held over a flat and technical course, something unusual for the Vuelta al Pais Vasco. Eibar, on the penultimate day, shouldn’t shake up too much the general classification, which will be set in stone by the Arrate stage and its eight punishing climbs.

Quick-Step Floors will be one of the youngest teams in the race, for which it will line up a seven-man roster consisting of Julian Alaphilippe, Eros Capecchi, Rémi Cavagna, James Knox, Enric Mas, Jhonatan Narvaez and Pieter Serry. Brian Holm, who’ll guide the team from the car together with Davide Bramati, is confident the squad can continue the impressive run of results on Spanish soil, which began two weeks ago, at the Volta a Catalunya.

“We know from previous years how tough a race it is, and lining up with a very young team this year, we can afford to race it as underdogs. It will be up and down almost every day with many short steep climbs tackled on small, narrow roads. It is like a one-week edition of Flèche Wallonne, basically. Despite the smaller roads, the peloton is rarely very nervous, making for a nice race, especially for the young riders. No doubt it is a tough one and it won’t be any easier if we have rain and cold temperatures, which is not uncommon for the race.”

“The ITT is not anything like we have seen in previous years, being pancake flat, however, on paper it looks like it has some technical parts with a few sharp corners. We will take the days as they come, grabbing our chances like we did in Catalunya, where we surprised everybody with offensive racing and two wins”, Brian Holm continued. “Jhonatan was one of the youngsters who impressed there along with his teammates James and Enric, all three lining up on Monday again. Without pressure, we look forward to see what they can make out of it. Pieter is one of our more experienced riders and on his best days he is a strong climber. The same goes for Julian, who has not been in action since Milano-Sanremo and is eager to get back to racing.”

02.04–07.04 Itzulia Basque Country (ESP) 2.UWT

Julian Alaphilippe (FRA), Eros Capecchi (ITA), Rémi Cavagna (FRA), James Knox (GBR), Enric Mas (ESP), Jhonnatan Narvaez (ECU), Pieter Serry (BEL).
Sports Director: Davide Bramati (ITA) and Brian Holm (DEN).

Julian Alaphilippe:

The Izagirre brothers ready for the home race

The 58th Vuelta at the Pais Vasco – six stages from next Monday to Saturday – presents this year several innovations starting from the traditional individual time trial which will be on the 4th stage and no on the last one as before, while the grand finale will be on the ascent of the Arrate Sanctuary which has a gradient, from the first to the third kilometer, close to 15%.

Great expectations also for the second stage from Zarautz to Bermeo: in the final stage will be tackled the ascent of Sollube with a stretch of about a kilometer and a half with gradients to 15% but with a peak even up to 20%. Very few kilometers will divide the mountain grand prize from the final Bermeo finish line.

For Sport director Gorazd Štangelj: “the Vuelta is one of the toughest races on the international calendar and also this year’s edition presents many very challenging climbs. Starting from the first stage that could already be decisive in delineating the possible winners. Our two leaders will be Ion and Gorka Izagirre: the route adapts very well to their characteristics.”

In the past edition Ion arrived 3rd (as well as in 2015) and this year he hopes to climb higher: “It’s a special race, it’s the home race! I trained well and I feel good. The path I like with so many climbs that I know well: there is also the 19km time trial that is completely flat. I tried the route a month ago and I found it not very technical but very fast.”

Even his brother Gorka feels the “Pais Vasco” in a special way: “It’s the race that every young Basque dreams to win. Up to now, I am happy with my season and with the results I achieved in the Tour of Oman and Paris-Nice. I expect a very hard race with the last two stages where everything can happen.”

TBM line-up for Vuelta al Pais Vasco:
Vincenzo Nibali, Ion Izagirre, Gorka Izagirre, Franco Pellizotti, Mark Padun, Yukiya Arashiro and Herman Pernsteiner.

Scottish Doubleheader Confirmed for 2018 OVO Energy Tour Series
Two rounds of this year’s OVO Energy Tour Series will once again take place in Scotland, with Motherwell and Aberdeen welcoming Britain’s leading televised cycle race series this May.

Britain’s best riders will head North of the Border for the second and third rounds of this year’s Series; Motherwell is their first stop on Tuesday 15 May, before Aberdeen welcomes Olympic, Paralympic and National Champions aplenty 48 hours later (Thursday 17 May).

Following on from three successful women’s races in Motherwell to date, 2018 will see Aberdeen add an elite women’s round to its program for the first time.

The OVO Energy Tour Series is unique, as the focus in both the men and women’s competition is on the teams, who battle for overall title based on the performance of all five of their riders in each event.

The Series’ return Motherwell is the fourth time in the event’s 10 editions to date that riders will have raced around the streets of the North Lanarkshire town. Britain’s leading domestic professionals will tackle an unchanged 1.2-kilometer circuit, one that ends with the grueling climb of Hamilton Road. All three previous men’s round winners in the town have gone on to claim the coveted overall Series title.

Councillor Allan Graham, Convener of the Enterprise and Housing Committee, said: “North Lanarkshire is delighted to welcome The OVO Energy Tour Series back to Motherwell for the fourth year in a row.

“It is an excellent opportunity to see world class cycling up close, with the top teams in Britain competing around our street circuit. During the day local school children can also enjoy a lap of the circuit, which we hope will inspire them to be active and get on their bikes. We look forward to an exciting day of racing and fun on 15 May!”

Aberdeen will welcome the Series two days later, almost exactly a year after the city hosted a thoroughly successful round for the first time. The challenging circuit, which takes in the city’s Central Library, His Majesty’s Theatre and Aberdeen Art Gallery, culminates with a dead turn on the approach to the Union Street finish line.

Aberdeen City Council Co-Leader Councillor Jenny Laing said: “We are delighted that the OVO Energy Tour Series is set to return to Aberdeen. The inaugural Aberdeen event in 2017 was outstanding with people lining the streets to support both the community races and the amazing professional athletes.

“Aberdeen is a dynamic city which offers a great deal for both residents and visitors. We are making a concerted effort to raise the city’s profile through our ambitious events program and bringing The OVO Energy Tour Series to Aberdeen, in conjunction with EventScotland, will strengthen Aberdeen’s position as a must-visit destination for high-profile cultural and sporting events.

“This leading cycling race is one of the first events in our ambitious summer program and is part of our wider Aberdeen 365 Events Strategy, a City Centre Masterplan initiative, which will see events such as The OVO Energy Tour Series and Great Aberdeen Run bring the streets of the Granite City to life”.

JLT Condor and Drops – the 2017 men’s and women’s Series champions respectively – both triumphed in Motherwell last year and will look to repeat their feats this time around. However, a one-three-four in the individual result saw the Canyon Eisberg men’s team claim their maiden Series round victory in Aberdeen.

Commenting on the Series’ doubleheader in Scotland, Race Director Mick Bennett said: “Motherwell has quickly become a favorite among both riders and fans, so we’re looking forward to bringing the OVO Energy Tour Series back for a fourth year this May. The challenging nature of the circuit means it’s a good barometer of each team’s form.

“We were treated to a beautiful spring day and really exciting racing when we visited Aberdeen last year, so it makes perfect sense for the OVO Energy Tour Series to return to the city once again on 17 May. The way everybody in Aberdeen has got behind the Series’ visit was fantastic and I have no doubt that the local support will once again be brilliant, especially with the addition of an elite women’s race.”

Both races are being supported by EventScotland, part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate.

Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland’s Director of Events, added: “The OVO Energy Tour Series is a fantastic event and we are delighted the organizers have once again chosen to bring two of the rounds to Scotland. Motherwell and Aberdeen both provide the perfect stage for this highly charged event and EventScotland is delighted to be supporting them to showcase to their regions to a national TV audience of cycling enthusiasts.”

Further details of both rounds, including full timetables of the support race schedules and children’s events, will be published in the coming weeks.

Highlights of every round of the OVO Energy Tour Series will once again be shown on ITV4, with programs also being made available on demand via the ITV Hub.

Follow the OVO Energy Tour Series on Twitter @TourSeries #OVOTourSeries or Facebook or via the official website at www.tourseries.co.uk.

Quick-Step Celebrates 20 years in Cycling
Paul De Cock and Patrick Lefevere reflect on one of the most successful partnerships in the history of the sport.

The past two decades witnessed many changes in cycling, but one thing remained the same: the long-term commitment of Quick-Step to professional cycling and to the teams of Patrick Lefevere, who have produced numerous champions and left an indelible mark over the most prestigious races in the world. Fifteen of these years have been with our current team, founded by Frans De Cock and Patrick Lefevere, who with time has grown into one of the most established and respected outfits in the sport.

The ethos and the winning mentality, always driven by a culture of continuous improvement, were two of the factors behind the remarkable performances and results of both parties, as Paul De Cock, President UNILIN, division flooring, underlined Friday at the Quick-Step headquarters in Wielsbeke, where current and former riders – from Philippe Gilbert and Niki Terpstra to Paolo Bettini and Peter Van Petegem – came to celebrate the historic milestone.

“We had our ups and downs, but our value system is what kept us together. We believe in respect, excellence, entrepreneurship and passion, and we always push our employees to make our flooring company the best in the world, just as Patrick pushes his riders to have the best team in the world. We have character, our desire is to stand out and that’s why together we make a perfect match. Our relationship is a strong and successful one and makes us extremely happy.”

And a fruitful relationship it was so far, with over 600 victories since 2003, when the Quick-Step Floors team began its adventure. More than one hundred of these wins came on cycling’s biggest stages – Monuments, Grand Tours and World Championships – where our riders thrived and the squad reached new heights, cementing its superb legacy, to the joy of Quick-Step Floors Cycling Team CEO Patrick Lefevere.

“A lot of things have happened in these 20 years. We couldn’t have imagined all this success in 1999, but we clicked immediately thanks to our values and identity, which connect the brand to the team. It is really amazing how one sponsor stayed for so long with one team. We have always been ambitious and hard-working, just as the company itself, and that is what propelled us to the top. They never stopped progressing and we never stopped winning.”

Quick-Step Floors 2003-2017 Highlights:
1 Olympic Title
2 World Cups
13 World Championships
15 Monuments
43 National Titles
75 Grand Tour stages
612 UCI Victories.

Tour de France 2018 – 100 Days Before the Start
100 days before hosting the Grand Départ of the Tour de France, a yellow wave is flooding the French department of Vendée. Between the reconnaissance of the first two stages, preparation for the Dictée du Tour and the activities at the Vendéspace complex (cycling initiations, exhibition, etc.), the Tour de France has never been so accessible.

Quote Christian Prudhomme
“With 100 days to go before the start of the 2018 Tour de France I am delighted with the week of cycling organized in the Vendée that saw nearly 2,000 students participate and the big party in the Vendéspace. We can sense the enthusiasm in the region, where cycling is part of daily life, where Thomas Voeckler is a fantastic ambassador and where Yves Auvinet, who chairs the Vendée Department Board, will officially launch the 105th Tour de France. The week will finish in style tomorrow with the 2nd edition of the Dictée du Tour.”

The Vendespace Centre-Stage at D-100
Before the Tour de France organization moves in, the Vendéspace has become a genuine centre dedicated to cycling in all its forms. Expositions, riding lessons for the kids and a visit inside the bus of the local Direct Energie team, the Vendée region is pulling out all the stops. All the schools from the department were invited to take part in various activities. And this weekend, the public at large gets an amuse-bouche of what awaits them in July…

Quote Thomas Voeckler
“It is important to recognize 100 days to the start of the Tour de France marks a genuine turn in preparations. We know the fervor is on the rise. We have to remember how lucky we are in the Vendée to have hosted as many Grands Départs. The region is known for its passion for cycling. I have no doubt that this event will be a tremendous success.”

The Dictee du Tour: Ready, Steady, Write!
For its second edition, this program as fun as it is serious will be brought to the towns and communities that will host the Tour de France in 2018. Each time, an article picked from the regional press about the corresponding stage route or the prospects of the riders who grew up in the same department will give students the opportunity to look forward to the month of July. The hardest working will even have the chance to experience a day behind the scenes of the Tour de France when the race visits their region.

On Friday, 30 March, the students from Mouilleron-Saint-Germain will have Christian Prudhomme and Yves Auvinet (Vendée Department Council President) as their school masters for a few hours for the dictation contest. Thomas Voeckler will read the texts to the keenly-focused kids of Roche-sur-Yon.

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