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EUROTRASH News Round Up Monday!

The Tour of Flanders was everything we wanted – Video and rider quotes from De Ronde. Plus reports from the final stages of the Giro di Sicilia. Denise Betsema doping positive – TOP STORY. Other cycling news: Team announcements for the ITZULIA Vuelta al Pais Vasco, Peter Kennaugh to take a break from cycling, Yoann Offredo wants to ride the Tour de France, Victor Campenaerts Hour Record diary part 7 and Søren Kragh Andersen’s home story video. Another full EUROTRASH Monday.

TOP STORY: Don’t They Ever Learn?
Denise Betsema tested positive for anabolic steroids on the 27th of January after the World Cup cyclo-cross in Hoogerheide, where she finished in 7th place. She was the revelation last season with an impressive series of victories.

CADF, the independent doping agency, carried out the test and suspicious traces were found. Betsema can request the B sample, but meanwhile she has been suspended until further notice. Her initial reaction was to state her innocent: “I am disappointed because I am absolutely innocent, I am going to challenge this and will request an expert counter analysis.”

Betsema’s Marlux-Bingoal team responded to the positive doping test after they were informed by the UCI: “In contacts between management and rider, Denise Betsema meanwhile completely denied the facts. Pending the outcome of the B sample and the further course of the UCI procedure, management decided to place Betsema inactive.”

Dutch website WielerFlits spoke to doping expert Hans Vandeweghe. He is still looking for a logical explanation. “Either this is a contaminated nutritional supplement, or Betsema is very old.”

Hans Vandeweghe is a sports journalist and doping expert. He was communications director at BOIC for many years and built up his expertise as a sports journalist at De Morgen, Sport International and Het Nieuwsblad. Vandeweghe tries to estimate the situation of Betsema, but finds this not the easiest thing.

“Unfortunately, we do not know which product is involved. Only that it concerns anabolic steroids. That doesn’t make it easy. She rode well, achieved her results. Then why grab a product that always catches you during an inspection? Or Betsema hoped that she would not be checked…”

The product is administered exogenously from the outside the body (not naturally produced). “A contaminated food supplement can therefore be an explanation, but that is also unwise. Certainly because the Dutch doping authorities warn their athletes very well about this. The NOC * NSF (The Dutch Olympic Committee * Dutch Sports Federation) has also done a good job here for years. Then you are not smart to use – I am just saying something – some Chinese pill.”

Vandeweghe also points out that there are anabolic steroids that athletes – especially from the Eastern Bloc – thought were hardly or not at all detectable. “But in the meantime the methods are so refined that as an athlete you can’t take that risk anymore. Maybe there is also a third possibility”, Vandeweghe concludes. “Why do I say that? Because I always assume the innocence of the athlete. But that will tell the future.” When it comes to deliberate doping, Betsema is waiting for a four-year suspension.

So, Denise Betsema, innocent or stupid?

Tour of Flanders – Ronde van Vlaanderen 2019
Alberto Bettiol (EF Education First) surprisingly won the Tour of Flanders on Sunday to take his first pro victory. The Italian crossed the finish line after 270 kilometres, after being the strongest on the last time over the Oude Kwaremont. He soloed to the line holding off Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) who came in second at 14 seconds. Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) won the bunch sprint for third ahead of Mathieu van der Poel (Corenden-Circus).

It didn’t take long for the break of the day to form: Jesper Asselman (Roompot-Charles), Damien Touzé (Cofidis), Canadian Hugo Houle (Astana) and Kenneth Van Rooy for Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise.

Deceuninck – Quick-Step and Jumbo-Visma led the peloton at an ‘easy’ pace and the lead went up to over 8 minutes. After the first climb of the Oude Kwaremont did the speed pick up, but there was a crash of defending champion Niki Terpstra (Direct Energie), who had to leave the race in an ambulance. At the top of the Berendries, Groupama-FDJ started to chase to bring the lead a bot closer.

Magnus Cort attacked on Muur de Geraardsbergen, taking Amund Grøndahl Jansen with him. Over the top a group of forty were clear, but nobody wanted to take the lead. At 92 kilometres the front peloton (with many favourites) caught the break. In the second peloton; Lotto Soudal and Katusha-Alpecin started to ride when the gap was more than a minute. A new leading group of four formed, but it wasn’t long before everything came back together at the front. Matej Mohoric had a small lead at the start of the Kanarieberg, where the big peloton also joined the front group.

Before the second time up the Oude Kwaremont, Mathieu van der Poel crashed after he jumped a kerb and broke his wheel. The Dutch champion was able to chase the peloton on the Kwaremont and return to the front on the Koppenberg. Deceuninck – Quick-Step kept the pace high behind two escaped riders: Stijn Vandenbergh and Sep Vanmarcke.

Asgreen crossed to the front runners on the Paterberg. Dylan van Baarle was very strong on the Koppenberg and soon joined the leading group. Stuyven took the lead on the Taaienberg, but many of the favourites were on his wheel, they were 30 seconds behind Van Baarle, Vanmarcke and Asgreen. Van Baarle led the attack on the Kruisberg. Jungels jumped the peloton and Van der Poel immediately countered.

Van Baarle and Asgreen remained in the lead on the Hotond. After that, Jungels again attacked with Van Avermaet and Bettiol, but the gap was closed by about twenty riders. EF Education First came to the front on the Oude Kwaremont and Bettiol jumped and crossed to the front riders leaving nine behind. The chase didn’t start and the Italian started to make a good gap.

On the Paterberg, the top riders had to make a move. Van Avermaet went from the front with Naesen and Van Aert, but it was Van der Poel who came through first. Bettiol’s lead was 16-seconds, but again no chase started and the gap was getting close to half a minute.

Attacks from Van Avermaet, Benoot and Sagan on the flat final kilometres to Oudenaarde were all countered. Plus Bettiol had Langeveld in the chasing group to help slow the group. A late attack by Asgreen in the final kilometre came too late. The sprint for third place went to Alexander Kristoff, ahead of Mathieu van der Poel and Michael Matthews. Bettiol is the 11th Italian winner of De Ronde. Alessandro Ballan was the last in 2007.

Read the full PEZ Flanders Race Report HERE and more about Alberto Bettiol HERE.

2019 Ronde van Vlaanderen winner, Alberto Bettiol (EF Education First): “I can’t believe what I did yet. My first win! I do not believe it! I felt really good, I closed my eyes and just went. I had a good gap at the top and I had to keep going. I didn’t lose much on the Paterberg, after that it was the longest fourteen kilometres of my life. I knew Sebastian was helping me and Sep’s work was great. That he does this as a champion … We can win the Ronde here, we are a very good team and you will see pink at the front more often.”

2nd, Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck – Quick-Step): “My job at the beginning of the race was to control the breakaway and get the team into position before the main hills of the day. Then, as the race progressed and the peloton got whittled down, I tried to go into some of the moves and keep an eye on things. When Bettiol passed me, it was impossible to follow, so I just tried to hang in there with the main group. As we approached the finish and I still had something left in the legs, I decided to attack and pressed on seeing that there was some daylight between me and the others. Second is a huge result for my career, one that surprises me, but also a step in the right direction, which feeds my confidence ahead of the next races.”

3rd, Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates): “It could seem that the race was very tactical but, as far as I’m concerned, it was a race that was always run on the limit. I came to the foot of the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg for the last time with very tired legs and I was a bit surprised to see that I was able to stay with the main group, there I realised that they were all very tired. The situation worked better than I could have imagined and I tried to take advantage of it. The result makes me happy, I have a good shape, I have high morale after these races, I can count on a team that is racing well and I hope that these conditions will recur in a week in Paris-Roubaix.”

4th, Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus): “The chase cost me a lot of power. At the worst moment I broke my wheel. So in the end to be fourth, I can be very proud of that. My front wheel broke. I was lucky that it did’t break in half right away. My wheel was half gone and then it breaks completely when I am almost standing still. In the first instance the fall hurts for a while, but then you start to think back that it was still sixty kilometres.”

7th, Oliver Naesen (AG2R-La Mondiale): “With my bronchial problems, I suffered all day. It’s my best result for this race on paper, but in terms of how I felt, it was not my best day on the bike! I got sick ahead of the race, but that’s part of the game. Even if 7th place is not what I came for, I’m happy with this place of honour! Considering what weapons I had to draw on for the day, it’s not bad. I hope now to have better legs next week, and make a little more of an impact on the race.”

8th, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar): “I’m really happy with today’s race. It was a very demanding one with all the nerves, the stress, having to find a good position all the time. But once the group became smaller and smaller, I started to feel great, climbed the hills further ahead into the group, and all in all, I leave really satisfied with my performance. I came way closer to the victory than I expected. As we approached the finish, our rivals were struggling and it was easier to come back, stay near the front – I was feeling really good. I don’t know if I’ll still have a chance to win this in the upcoming years, because knowing these roads well is key, but I did really well. I’m really looking forward to coming back, and finishing inside the favourites’ group today gives me loads of confidence. The team really did well today. They were so willing to keep me in a good position, they followed all dangerous moves, showing confidence. We started off calm but into the final loops near the end, we were always at the right moves, really solid. In my case, I don’t feel like I have really paid with that lack of experience, when it comes to how to react during the race. I’ve been a pro for such a long time, competed at so many different classics – even if not so many on cobblestones – and I knew that those experiences would help me.”

9th, Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal): “I felt good but not great today. As a team, we did really well. Tim Wellens tried to open the race various times. Maybe he was a bit too eager to do so, but that could only benefit Jens Keukeleire and myself. A big group escaped after the Muur, but as I was the only Lotto Soudal rider at the front, the team did everything to close that gap before the Kanarieberg, which also succeeded. Bettiol had already proven to be in good shape as he got second behind Victor Campenaerts in the time trial of Tirreno-Adriatico. The Italian was the strongest on the Oude Kwaremont and still rode solo atop the Paterberg. The tailwind to Oudenaarde was also to his advantage. We did not take it slow in the chasing group, but it was difficult to cooperate. That way, Bettiol could hold on to his advantage. I tried to attack but Langeveld immediately jumped on my wheel. A lot of riders are on a high level, which makes it difficult to create some gaps. But if you solo away like him, it may seem like a surprise, but he certainly deserves it.”

11th, Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe): “It was a hard and exciting Tour of Flanders and it is always a pleasure racing here as the amazing crowds create an incredible atmosphere. I’d like to thank my teammates for their work today. They all gave 100% of themselves to control the race, protect me, keep me clear of trouble and help me save as much energy as I could. I was able to be in the front when it was needed in the final kilometres but I didn’t have the legs to counter the attack of Bettiol and challenge in the reduced sprint.”

Niki Terpstra (Direct Energie) spoke via Instagram. “I’ll be back”, was his short message from the hospital.

Tour of Flanders – Ronde van Vlaanderen Result:
1. Alberto Bettiol (Ita) EF Education First in 6:18:49
2. Kasper Asgreen (Den) Deceuninck – Quick-Step at 0:14
3. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates at 0:17
4. Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Corendon-Circus
5. Nils Politt (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin
6. Michael Matthews (Aus) Sunweb
7. Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R-La Mondiale
8. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar
9. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal
10. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) CCC.


Giro di Sicilia 2019
After second place on the stage 1 Milazzo finish, Manuel Belletti (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) took his revenge on Stage 2 at the finish line in Palermo, beating yesterday’s winner Riccardo Stacchiotti (Giotti Victoria-Palomar). Third on today’s stage podium was Juan Sebastian Molano. Belletti also wears the Maglia Rossa e Gialla of the GC leader: he has equal times and placements with Stacchiotti, and is the most recent stage winner.

Before the quick finish in the capital of the Sicilian Region, the second section of the stage had been animated by a long five-man escape made up of Viesturs Luksevics (A&V Prodir), Diego Pablo Sevilla (Kometa), Andreas Kron (Riwal Readynez), Andrea Toniatti (Team Colpack) and Antonio Di Sante (Sangemini Trevigiani), who were brought back to the peloton with as little as 7km remaining to the finish line. In the final run-in, a number of teams took to the front to put their sprinters in the best possible position.

The race was temporarily neutralised from km 110 to km 125 along the descent after the GPM of Geraci Siculo, to ensure the riders’ safety, given the adverse weather conditions. The final distance of the stage therefore became 219km compared to the 234km previously reported.

Stage winner and Maglia Rossa e Gialla, Manuel Belletti (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec): “I am very happy today, firstly because I have repaid the team for the great work done, and, secondly because in yesterday’s sprint, taken by the heat, I started too early and lost out. It was a difficult start to the season when I broke three of my ribs in Argentina and I had to sit still for a while. Now the condition improves in view of our great goal of the season: the Giro d’Italia. I will lose the leader’s jersey but I hope that will be worn by one of my teammates who is aiming for the General Classification.”

Giro di Sicilia Stage 2 Result:
1. Manuel Stacchiotti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec in 5:59:16
2. Riccardo Molano Benavides (Ita) Giotti Victoria
3. Juan Sebastian Minali (Col) UAE Team Emirates
4. Riccardo Joyce (Ita) Israel Cycling Academy
5. Colin Shilov (US) Rally UHC Cycling
6. Sergei Totò (Rus) Gazprom-RusVelo
7. Paolo Onesti (Ita) Sangemini-Trevigiani-Mg.K Vis
8. Emanuele Tizza (Ita) Giotti Victoria
9. Marco Bernardinetti (Ita) Amore & Vita-Prodir
10. Marco Nielsen (Ita) Amore & Vita-Prodir.

Giro di Sicilia Overall After Stage 2:
1. Manuel Belletti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec in 9:47:02
2. Riccardo Stacchiotti (Ita) Giotti Victoria
3. Juan Sebastian Molano Benavides (Col) UAE Team Emirates at 0:12
4. Luca Pacioni (Ita) Neri Sottoli-Selle Italia-KTM
5. Krister Hagen (Nor) Riwal Readynez Cycling Team at 0:13
6. Andreas Lorentz Kron (Den) Riwal Readynez Cycling Team
7. Andrea Toniatti (Ita) Team Colpack at 0:14
8. Viesturs Luksevics (Lat) Amore & Vita-Prodir at 0:15
9. Sergei Shilov (Rus) Gazprom-RusVelo at 0:16
10. Colin Joyce (USA) Rally UHC Cycling.

Sicilia stage 2:

The 21-year-old American Brandon McNulty (UHC Rally), former junior Time Trial UCI World Champion, won the Caltanissetta – Ragusa Stage 3 with a solo attack in the finale. Odd Christian Eiking and Giovanni Visconti completed the day’s podium, with McNulty becoming the new leader of the General Classification. The third stage of Il Giro di Sicilia was animated by the long breakaway of Marco Maronese (Bardiani-CSF), William Perez (Coldeportes Strongman), Federico Burchio (D’Amico UM Tools), Simone Sterbini (Giotti Victoria), Niccolò Salvietti (Sangemini Trevigiani) and Jalel Duranti (Team Colpack). Once reabsorbed by the peloton, Androni’s pressure gradually reduced the group with Fausto Masnada going solo at the top of today’s KOM. Once neutralised in the descent, different riders attacked looking to escape what was left of the peloton, before McNulty’s winning move around 10km from the finish line.

Stage winner and Maglia Rossa e Gialla, Brandon McNulty (Rally UHC Cycling): “Today was a difficult day given the weather conditions but I felt good and I attacked at the right time. I am in good condition and the team has given me a great help… help that I’ll need tomorrow to try to defend the leader’s jersey.”

Maglia Verde Pistacchio (pistacchio green) and 10th on the stage, Fausto Masnada (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec): “The strategy of the team was to attack on the final climb with Cattaneo and myself, unfortunately the climb was too far away from the finish line. Many attacks followed afterwards and unfortunately we did not manage to win. Tomorrow we will try again and do our best.”

Giro di Sicilia Stage 3 Result:
1. Brandon McNulty (US) Rally UHC Cycling in 4:42:28
2. Odd Christian Eiking (Nor) Wanty-Gobert at 0:55
3. Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Neri Sottoli–Selle Italia–KTM at 0:56
4. Federico Zurlo (Ita) Giotti Victoria
5. Paolo Totò (Ita) Sangemini-Trevigiani-Mg.K Vis
6. Matteo Montaguti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
7. Jan Polanc (Slo) UAE Team Emirates
8. Simone Petilli (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
9. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Wanty-Gobert
10. Fausto Masnada (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec.

Giro di Sicilia Overall After Stage 3:
1. Brandon McNulty (US) Rally UHC Cycling in 14:29:36
2. Odd Christian Eiking (Nor) Wanty-Gobert at 0:59
3. Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Neri Sottoli–Selle Italia–KTM at 1:02
4. Marco Tizza (Ita) Amore & Vita-Prodir at 1:06
5. Paolo Totò (Ita) Sangemini-Trevigiani-Mg.K Vis
6. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Wanty-Gobert
7. Jan Polanc (Slo) UAE Team Emirates
8. Matteo Montaguti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
9. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Gazprom–RusVelo
10. Simone Petilli (Ita) UAE Team Emirates.

Sicilia stage 3:

24 hours after his first pro victory, Brandon McNulty (Rally-UHC) claimed the Final General Classification of Il Giro di Sicilia, ahead of the winner of the final stage, Guillaume Martin (Wanty-Gobert) and Fausto Masnada (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec).

The first part of the day’s Final Stage 4 saw a breakaway of 13 riders, brought back to the peloton 32km from the finish, led by the drive of Gazprom. On the first slopes of the Etna, first Simone Velasco and then Odd Christian Eiking tried to go solo, but with no success. In the final kilometres only five riders remained ahead: Guillaume Martin, Dayer Quintana, Fausto Masnada, Aleksandr Vlasov and the GC leader, McNulty. After an attack by Quintana, Martin launched the decisive move 1,600 meters from the line, winning stage 4 ahead of Masnada and Quintana, who arrived 10 and 13 seconds after the French rider. McNulty, fourth, has kept the jersey.

Stage winner and 2nd overall, Guillaume Martin (Wanty-Gobert): “In the book I wrote there is a chapter on Mount Etna and Rifugio Sapienza, where I imagine the cyclist-philosophers climbing Mount Etna, so it is special for me to win here. Cycling is never easy and winning is even more difficult, I am happy with this success. It would have been better to win the GC too but I don’t have the legs to beat Brandon McNulty. It’s great to race with these fans on the roads, you can feel their warmth, this is the land of cycling, of the history of cycling, and now I’m part of it too.”

Giro di Sicilia winner and 4th on the stage, Brandon McNulty (Rally UHC): “It was a super hard day, I’m quite tired but also super excited. It was a fun race, not always great weather but always great support from the supporters. The next races will be in Portugal, then Flèche Wallonne, I hope to come back here next year, hopefully the weather will be better.”

The Maglia Verde Pistacchio winner 2nd on the stage and 3rd overall, Fausto Masnada (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec): “I am satisfied with my performance at this Giro di Sicilia, we have raced always on the front, and in the end I am second in today’s stage and third overall in GC. Now I look to the next goals, will focus on the preparation for the Giro d’Italia, I want to give my best at the Giro.”

The Maglia Arancione winner, Manuel Belletti (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec): “We rode very well, we were strong but Brandon McNulty was stronger. I’m happy to wear this jersey, and I’m also happy for Fauso, second on today’s finish, wearing also the Maglia Verde Pistacchio.”

Giro di Sicilia Stage 4 Result:
1. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Wanty-Gobert in 3:37:34
2. Fausto Masnada (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec at 0:10
3. Dayer Quintana (Col) Neri Sottoli-Selle Italia-KTM at 0:13
4. Brandon McNulty (US) Rally UHC Cycling at 0:14
5. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Gazprom-RusVelo at 0:22
6. Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Neri Sottoli-Selle Italia-KTM at 0:36
7. Jan Polanc (Slo) UAE Team Emirates at 0:42
8. Matteo Badilatti (Swi) Israel Cycling Academy at 0:44
9. Michel Ries (Lux) Kometa Cycling Team at 0:47
10. Mauro Finetto (Ita) Delko-Marseille Provence at 1:11

Giro di Sicilia Final Overall Result:
1. Brandon McNulty (US) Rally UHC Cycling in 18:07:24
2. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Wanty-Gobert at 0:42
3. Fausto Masnada (Ita) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec at 0:56
4. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Gazprom-RusVelo at 1:11
5. Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Neri Sottoli-Selle Italia-KTM at 1:24
6. Jan Polanc (Slo) UAE Team Emirates at 1:34
7. Dayer Quintana (Col) Neri Sottoli-Selle Italia-KTM at 2:02
8. Mauro Finetto (Ita) Delko-Marseille Provence at 2:03
9. Michel Ries (Lux) Kometa Cycling Team at 2:11
10. Simone Petilli (Ita) UAE Team Emirates at 2:16

Sicilia final stage 4:

TBM Looking Forward to Basque Country Challenges with Dennis, Teuns and Motivated lineup
The 59th ITZULIA Vuelta at the Pais Vasco 2019 – six stages from Monday, 8th. April until Saturday, 13th, April – starting from the traditional, but technically very demanding individual time trial 11.2 km in Zumarraga.

Six stages and 784 km in the Basque Country, a mountainous area, with few flat stages, and thus the event favours those riders who are strong at the climbs. Most ascents in the Tour are not particularly high by professional cycling standards, but are often quite steep and demanding.

TBM Sport director Gorazd Štangelj: “If we look at our lineup, already the first ITT stage is one of our main goals with Rohan Dennis, the time trail UCI World champion and Rohan will try do the best possible result with always present appetite for the victory and highest possible placement.

This race 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 GC leader at this race will be Dylan Teuns. After Paris–Nice race, Dylan had a flu and hopefully he recovered well. He had good trainings lately and I believe he is in good shape and strong and consistent as always.

The configuration of these stages ahead of us might also be suitable to believe in Grega Bole and Luka Pibernik for their good performances and grabbing their chances at some stages and their continuous duty of giving support to Dylan Teuns.

Mark Padun and Stephen Williams are two our two returnee riders after longer absence due to their injuries and we all believe that they will show their uprising shape. We believe that Mark and Stephen will use this race to have an optimal and smooth plug-in back into the competition. Meiyin Wang had a good preparation period, but unluckily had coccyx injury, but we hope he will do his best to give a support to our GC and the whole team.

All in all I expect a very hard and demanding week as Basque Country race always is, but we are here to fight and look for our opportunities.”

TBM line-up for Vuelta al Pais Vasco 2019:
Stephen Williams – Grega Bole – Rohan Dennis – Dylan Teuns – Mark Padun – Luka Pibernik – Meiyin Wang.

Top team headed to the Itzulia Basque Country
The UAE Team Emirates aiming for results in the Basque Country

For the Itzulia Basque Country, April 8 to 13, the menu consists of six stages. The UAE Team Emirates selected a high-quality formation to fight for the win in northern Spain.

Sports Director Neil Stephens (Aus), supported by his colleague Aurelio Corral (Esp) and supervision from General Manager Matxin (Spa) will guide the following seven riders:
– Sergio Henao (Col)
– Daniel Martin (Irl)
– Manuele Mori (Ita)
– Tadej Pogačar (Slo)
– Edward Ravasi (Ita)
– Rory Sutherland (Aus)
– Diego Ulissi (Ita)

“We will be racing in the Basque Country with a very balanced team, ready and with the right qualities to try to get a result and be protagonists.” said Matxin. “We have high-calibre riders to lead the team and for supporting the men doing so. Expect to see Mori, Ravasi and Sutherland doing some serious leg-work for the stars.”

“Henao has always done well in the Itzulia Basque Country, with three career podiums; Martin is always a guarantee and rode an excellent Volta a Catalunya; Ulissi knows this race perfectly well and Pogačar can make his mark every time he takes the start of a race.”

Sports Director Mario Aerts Dissects the Tour of the Basque Country
The Tour of the Basque Country, a six-day stage race in northern Spain, takes place from Monday 8 April until Saturday 13 April included. An individual time trial, three hilly stages and two stages through the mountains will determine who succeeds Primož Roglič. The 59th edition promises to be spectacular. Sports director Mario Aerts talks about the ambitions and the distribution of the roles within Lotto Soudal.

Mario Aerts, sports director at Lotto Soudal: “This year, the race starts with a tough time trial. The chrono test includes an 800 metres long climb with an average gradient of 14%. The second day includes some gravel roads which makes it a mini version of Strade Bianche. Although it is merely five kilometres, it will cause some nervousness. The small roads are always risky, especially for riders who aim for the general classification. The third and fourth stage are not so difficult but the Basque Country remains an undulating region. The last two stages will be decisive for the overall because the riders head into the high mountains. Except for one, the distances of the stages are rather short but therefore not less spectacular. They often cause extra activity and are therefore as tough as the longer stages.”

“The Tour of the Basque Country is one of the main objectives for Bjorg Lambrecht. During the Volta a Catalunya I saw him getting better every day. His condition is comparable to last year when got eighteenth, a nice result. The steep and irregular hills in that region suit him well. We thus hope that he can get a nice result in the general classification again. Hopefully he can do better than last year but it is also important that he shows himself during the different stages. Tosh Van der Sande will help Bjorg on the short climbs towards the finish. We do not have a real sprinter in our team but Tosh and Bjorg can handle this type of course.”

“The other riders can take their chances in the breakaway. Sander Armée and Maxime Monfort have already done it in 2016 but then they were caught on the final climb. Jelle Vanendert is also an important rider to assist Bjorg. Tomasz Marczyński, is working on his condition towards the Walloon Classics, just as Jelle. Adam Hansen is omni employable but he can also take his chances. Lotto Soudal is thus fully aiming for a stage win which is especially possible in the second, third and fourth stage. This is our main objective, more than the general classification.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal:
Sander Armée, Adam Hansen, Bjorg Lambrecht, Tomasz Marczyński, Maxime Monfort, Tosh Van der Sande and Jelle Vanendert.
Sports directors: Mario Aerts and Marc Wauters.

Bjorg Lambrecht:

AG2R-La Mondiale in the Basque Country
Third in 2014, Jean-Christophe Péraud is the only AG2R-La Mondiale rider to have stood on the podium at this Spanish race.

Mikaël Cherel: “After Paris-Nice, I took some time to recover. I then put in two good weeks of training to be ready for the month of April. Two years after my last participation, I am happy to return to this special and difficult event where the best climbers of the peloton will be at the start. Alex Geniez will be the team leader with the goal of winning a stage. For myself, I hope I have opportunities to have a little fun of my own. In the Basque Country, the climb gradients play an important role, and with the narrow roads, it is necessary to be constantly well placed. I like this kind of race profile, though. After The Basque Country, I will then head to the week of racing in the Ardennes with the Amstel Gold race, the Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.”

Deceuninck – Quick-Step to Vuelta al Pais Vasco
Julian Alaphilippe returns to action following a short break he took after his memorable Milano-Sanremo success.

A rolling 11.2km-long individual time trial in Zummaraga will kick off proceedings at the 59th edition of the race won in the past by the likes of Gino Bartali, Jacques Anquetil or Luis Ocaña, before Gorraiz and Estibaliz will get to host two uphill finishes suited to the puncheurs. From there, the peloton will travel north to Arrigorriaga, a small town located not far from Bilbao, for a stage that packs in four classified climbs, last of which tops out with less than six kilometres to go.

The big test of the race comes on the next day, on the traditional Santuario de Arrate stage, when after six testing ascents, the riders will arrive at the base of the Usartza, which averages 8.2% over 5.4 kilometres. A short but intense loop around Eibar will bring to a conclusion the 15th World Tour event of the season, giving the GC contenders one more chance of reshaping the overall standings.

In 2018, Julian Alaphilippe became the first Frenchman in more than nine decades to take back-to-back stage victories at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, and the 26-year-old returns this season hoping to be again in the mix as he continues what’s been an outstanding spring, with seven wins, including Milano-Sanremo and Strade Bianche.

The leader of the UCI Individual Ranking will be joined on the start line by countryman Rémi Cavagna, Dries Devenyns, Mikkel Honoré, last year’s Arrate victor and best young rider Enric Mas, Pieter Serry and Petr Vakoc, a strong squad which Deceuninck – Quick-Step sports director Klaas Lodewyck is confident can be a protagonist on the up-and-down roads of the Basque Country.

“We are looking forward to a good week of racing. Pais Vasco is always a tough race, but we head there with a well-balanced team, containing both Enric, a real GC guy, and Julian”, said Klaas. “With Enric we will take it day by day, while Alaphilippe, who has had a great season so far, can look for stage wins, which gives the team a dynamic that we can play with throughout the race. We hope to get some good results next week and take some confidence into the Ardennes.”

08.04–13.04 Itzulia Basque Country (ESP) 2.UWT

Julian Alaphilippe (FRA), Rémi Cavagna (FRA), Dries Devenyns (BEL), Mikkel Honoré (DEN), Enric Mas (ESP), Pieter Serry (BEL), Petr Vakoc (CZE).
Sports Director: Davide Bramati (ITA) and Klaas Lodewyck (BEL).

Julian Alaphilippe:

CCC Team Continues to Target Stages Wins at Itzulia Basque Country
CCC Team will continue to target UCI WorldTour stage wins next week when a strong and motivated seven-rider roster heads to the start line of Itzulia Basque Country (8 – 13 April)

Sports Director Gabriele Missaglia said that CCC Team will take each stage of the six-day race as it comes, looking for opportunities while also keeping an eye on the General Classification.

“The goal for us at Itzulia Basque Country will be to race aggressively and go for stage wins with all of our riders, starting on stage one with Patrick Bevin and the time trial. From there, we will look to be present and active on every stage and I believe we have a team strong enough to be challenging for results all week,” Missaglia explained.

“We have raced well at our last few stage races and I think we can once again be in the center of the action here. With Alessandro De Marchi, Serge Pauwels and Riccardo Zoidl lining up, we have strong options for the various breakaways and then I think Jonas Koch and Bevin can work well together in any fast finishes. Depending on how they do in the time trial, we will also try to look for a good General Classification result with Amaro Antunes and Víctor de la Parte.”

Patrick Bevin will be targeting the opening 11.2-kilometre long individual time trial at Itzulia Basque Country, his first as the 2019 New Zealand national champion.

“The time trial on stage one of Itzulia Basque Country will be my first outing in my Silver Fern skinsuit and that adds something extra special for me. Every time trial is a target but, I feel like a technical, hilly opening time trial like we will have on Monday, is a great goal for my first race against the clock since winning the New Zealand National Championships,” said Bevin.

“I’m heading into Itzulia Basque Country after a good week in Catalunya. It was an incredibly hard race but I feel like I came out of it in good condition and I’m looking to be active throughout Itzulia Basque Country just like I was there. Volta a Catalunya came after quite a long period of rebuilding my form following the crash at the Santos Tour Down Under and I felt like my racing legs really started to come around late in the race. The stages in the Basque Country present quite a different challenge to those in Catalunya but I won’t let that stop me from giving it a good go.”

Itzulia Basque Country (8 – 13 April)
Rider Roster:

Amaro Antunes (POR), Patrick Bevin (NZL), Víctor de la Parte (ESP), Alessandro De Marchi (ITA), Jonas Koch (GER), Serge Pauwels (BEL), Riccardo Zoidl (AUS)
Sports Directors: Gabriele Missaglia (ITA), Marco Pinotti (ITA).

Patrick Bevin in the TDU’19:

Five Local Riders for the Itzulia Basque Country
One more year, Caja Rural-Seguros RGA starts April with the mind set on one of its main objectives of each season: the Itzulia / Vuelta al País Vasco (8 – 13 April). The Navarrese team faces one of the most important races of the year, with a stellar participation and a spectacular route.

The green squad goes with its five local riders: Jonathan Lastra, Jon Irisarri, Julen Amezqueta, Alex Aranburu and Jon Aberasturi. Along with them, led by José Miguel Fernández, Cristian Rodríguez and David González. The same team participate this Saturday in the GP Miguel Indurain, which repeats the finish line in Estella and a very demanding final with the climbs to Guirguillano, Lezaun, Eraul and the double ascent to Muru and Ibarra.

Regarding the Itzulia, as a novelty, the organisers have placed the individual time trial on the first day of the race, a route of 11 km in Zumárraga with the climb to La Antigua. The arrival to Gorraiz (Pamplona) of the second day will be especial for the team, after crossing stretches of sterrato and cement in the final 60 kilometres. The last two stages (Arrate and Eibar) and the time bonuses will decide a general classification surely exciting.

Álex Aranburu: “I know that my form is far from the best one for a race like the Itzulia, but I still do not want to miss the opportunity to participate in the home race. I know that I will suffer a lot, but I will be at the disposal of all my teammates from Caja Rural-Seguros RGA to help them in everything they need and to give my best in these roads.”

José Miguel Fernández (sports director): “Without a doubt, Itzulia and Indurain are two very special dates for us. Maybe we got conditioned by the injury list, but we did not try to make excuses, we had planned to compete with our five Basque riders and that’s how it will be. They reach this week 100% except Aranburu, who has just recovered from an injury, although he did not want to miss this race. They are demanding routes that suit very well to cyclists like Cristian, Julen or Jony. We want to highlight the arrival to Pamplona, ​​a very complicated stage where we will try to take Aberasturi as high as possible. “e will go day by day, aware of the very high level, but also aware of the good work that has been done to get here.”

Peter Kennaugh to Take an Indefinite Break from Professional Cycling
BORA – hansgrohe and British rider Peter Kennaugh announce today that Peter will be taking an indefinite break from professional cycling due to ongoing mental health issues. The Team supports Peter in his decision and have agreed that this is the best course of action to ensure he can return to full health in the near future.

“I would like to thank everyone at BORA – hansgrohe for their support and understanding to allow me to recover away from the sport. I wish the team the best of luck for the rest of the season.”Peter Kennaugh.

“We thank Peter for his contribution to the team and we wish him well in his recovery process. We look forward to him making a full return to professional cycling in the future.”Ralph Denk, Team Manager

Yoann Offredo: “I Want to be at the Start of the Tour de France”
Yesterday Yoann Offredo could ride his bike for the first time since his crash in GP de Denain (1.HC, 24/03). The Frenchman went back home last Tuesday (26/03) and recovered well. He enjoyed some days home to read the many support messages following his crash, which provoked a temporary tetraplegia. Our Wanty Gobert rider do not suffer any lesion nor fracture, and could train again on Wednesday. The 32 years-old rider wants to be back in race soon and to be at the start of the next Tour de France in Brussels.

Yoann Offredo: “It took a while to get a good feeling, but the evolution was promising and the doctors allowed me to recover home. I recovered bit by bit and now I am able to use my limb and to speak quite normally. I want to thank the Emergency unit, our team doctor Jelle Van Nieuwenhuyze and our sports director Steven De Neef who supported me in CHRU Lille.”

“The many support messages I received were heart-warming. I crashed a few times in my career but I always picked myself again. It will not be different, whenever the mental and physical recovery will not be easy. Yesterday (Wednesday), I was able to ride my bike again and it went quite well.”

“I want to show what I am able to do on the bike more than ever. Last year, I broke my ribs at the end of April. This year, I am one month in advance (smile). An athlete must be able to bounce back. My team Wanty-Gobert helps me perfectly to achieve my goal. The first medical was very alarming because they were speaking about tetraplegia. My life could have changed dramatically so I want to enjoy the capacities I still have. I want to keep riding my bike and I want to be at the Grand Départ of the next Tour de France. Cycling is more than a sport. I became aware of it when Loïc Vliegen and David Boucher stopped after my crash to support me.”

Yoann Offredo:

Diary Victor Campenaerts part 7 – Six Men Under One Roof
In the run-up to the Hour Record attempt, Lotto Soudal will give twice a week an inside look into the preparation of Victor Campenaerts. On the one hand, Victor will talk about the run-up, on the other hand we will each time highlight a specific topic.

Part 7: 10 days left – Six men under one roof

Victor Campenaerts: “Sleeping at 20h, getting up at 4h30”

“Performance manager Kevin De Weert and mechanic Simon De Wolf have arrived on Thursday, which made us complete; six men who live together under one roof. To date, that went without any troubles. Our opinions only differ in terms of music style. Both my trainer Kurt Lobbestael and I like timeless music, while Kevin De Weert and Toon Hens prefer techno and house. But of course, the rider has the final say 😉.”

“My contribution to household chores is limited; I mainly have to be a rider. Doctor Ruud Van Thienen cooks the meals, as he is very dedicated to that in daily life and he does it really well. In addition to being a physiotherapist and masseur, Toon Hens is also working on all practical preparations for the training sessions. Being a trainer, Kurt Lobbestael is responsible for the day schedule, he assists the cook and he does the dishes. And mechanic Simon De Wolf is working neurotically with my bike; completely the way I like it.”

“About going bald: Ruud, Toon and I have already had our turn. It will be difficult for Kurt, Kevin seems to be fine, but Simon probably won’t be convinced. For the maintenance of our house, we count on the Mexican wife of a Belgian in Aguascalientes. She is a podologist herself, but it is fantastic that people like her contribute to our project.”

“Meanwhile, we largely adapted our rhythm to the starting time of the record attempt (see below). I go to bed around 19 o’clock, to fall asleep around 20 o’clock and I get up at 4h30 in the morning. Hormonally, a body performs at its best in the afternoon, so we make my body believe that the hour of the record attempt will feel like afternoon. Therefore, I also use glasses with a blue light filter, which I put on from 17 o’clock, to make my brain receive the signal that it is about time to go to sleep.”

Record attempt at 11h local Mexican time = 18h local time in Belgium, live on Sporza

After a ten-day stay in Mexico, it has become clear that the temperature is the most favourable for the hour record attempt between 11 and 12 o’clock in the morning. Because of that, the starting time has been adjusted. This means that the attempt will take place at 18 o’clock Belgian time.

VRT will provide the broadcast on Canvas and on the various Sporza channels. In addition, the record attempt can be watched via the Lotto Soudal channels. More details will follow in the run-up to the hour record attempt.

Home Story with Søren Kragh Andersen in the Midst of the Classics Season
For the second #InsideOut home series for 2019, we joined Søren Kragh Andersen on a fishing trip at home in Luxembourg.

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