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Valkenburg - Netherlands - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport Michal KWIATKOWSKI (Poland / Team Sky) - Philippe GILBERT (Belgium / Team Quick Step - Floors) pictured during the Amstel Gold Race 2017 - foto NV/PN/Cor Vos © 2017

EUROTRASH News Round Up Monday!

Philippe Gilbert has added a fourth Amstel victory to his growing palmarès. Race report, result, rider quotes and video from Holland in a full EUROTRASH. More trouble for Sky – Top Story. In other cycling news: We preview Flèche Wallonne (no Gilbert), Tour of the Alps and the Tour of Croatia. 2017 Official Tour de Yorkshire jerseys and partners revealed, plus the best of Tom Boonen video.

TOP STORY: Yet More Trouble for Sky!
Just when you though it was safe to bring you Sky jersey out from the bottom of the cupboard, yet another scandal hits the WorldTour team. The hullabaloo over Bradley Wiggins TUE use and the delivery of brown envelopes was becoming old news, and the stories of the team using Tramadol has been all talked out. Now we hear that a team ‘insider’ who worked with the team (and many have their suspicions who that could be!) has accused the team of breaching the UCI no-needle policy. This information has been given to the Select Committee at the House of Commons and UK Anti-Doping are investigating the allegation.

The allegation is that Sky contracted Dr Fabio Bartalucci at the end of 2010 to assist the riders with recovery as he is an expert in using intravenous drips for recovery purposes. The evidence is that some riders had been administered with Tationil (glutathione), which is a potent anti-oxidant, which is said to help muscle recovery and growth. Bartalucci previously worked for the French Bonjour team and Phonak before Sky.

All these accusations seem to add up to a bit more than just the ‘gutter press’ hunting for the slightest of rumors.

Bradley Wiggins helping the Gendarmerie with their inquiries:
Gourette Col d’Aubisque - France  - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Tour de France 16e etappe  - Orthez - Gourette (Col d’Aubisque)  - sfeer - illustratie vertrek wielerploeg COFIDIS - 144 Cristian Moreni (Ita-Cofidis) - foto Marketa Navratilova/Wessel van Keuk/Cor Vos ©2007

Amstel Gold Race 2017
Philippe Gilbert’s fantastic spring season continued on Easter Sunday, as the 34-year-old out-sprinted Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) to win his fourth Amstel Gold Race, following the victories of 2010, 2011 and 2014, an achievement which took him to second in the all-time winners list, behind home rider Jan Raas.

A 261km-course, with 35 climbs packed between Maastricht and Berg en Terblijt, and a new finalé awaited at the start of the 52nd edition, which saw Quick-Step Floors deploy a very strong team, which included, besides Gilbert, also Gianluca Brambilla, Dries Devenyns, Bob Jungels, Daniel Martin, Maximilian Schachmann, Zdenek Stybar and Petr Vakoc.

As always, Amstel Gold Race was a tough and nervous affair, made so by the challenging course and the road furniture which led to several crashes. In one of these, Philippe Gilbert was among the riders to hit the deck, but fortunately he was left unscathed and quickly remounted to continue the race. At the front of the peloton, a strong and concerted chase behind the 12-man original breakaway meant the peloton came back together with around 45 kilometers remaining, signaling the start of a new race.

On Kruisberg, the day’s 29th climb, Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal) attacked and Quick-Step Floors’ Belgian Champion was the first to respond. Six other men followed that move and in the blink of an eye they went clear, opening a small gap on a chasing group which included Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and a remarkable Bob Jungels, who marked his opponents’ attempts.

By the foot of the Cauberg (900 meters, 7%), which was climbed for the last time on the day inside the final 20 kilometers, the leaders – with a very active Philippe Gilbert, who took some long turns at the front and pushed relentlessly to ensure the move would stick – increased their advantage to 40 seconds. On Bemelerberg, which this year had the honor of featuring as the final climb of what proved to be a very exciting edition of Amstel Gold Race, Kwiatkowski went, only to be countered by Philippe.

Things didn’t stop there, as the Ronde van Vlaanderen winner accelerated over the top, taking only the Pole with him. Together, they built a solid gap, which allowed them to play a cat and mouse game in the closing kilometer. With 700 meters to go, Philippe was at the front, soft-pedalling and looking over his shoulder at the Milano-Sanremo champion, who decided to open his sprint at the 300m-to-go mark.

Despite Kwiatkowski putting several bike lengths into him, Gilbert didn’t panic and took full advantage of the headwind to catch his rival and pass him 50 meters from the line, before raising the four fingers of his right hand to show the number of victories he took throughout his career in Amstel Gold Race. The Quick-Step Floors rider gave the team its 24th victory of the year and helping the squad managed by Patrick Lefevere to further extend its lead at the top of the WorldTour standings. Gilbert also became only the third rider in history to win the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Amstel Gold Race in the same season.

Full PEZ Race Report HERE.

Valkenburg - Netherlands - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Philippe GILBERT (Belgium / Team Quick Step - Floors) pictured during the Amstel Gold Race 2017 - foto Davy Rietbergen/Cor Vos © 2017

Race winner, Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors): “We went early, on the Kruisberg, and we worked really well together. All the guys deserved to win, because they did a great job helping the group go. On Bemelerberg, I could see everyone was as their limit, but I attacked and got a gap with Kwiatkowski. He surprised me a little bit in the sprint, but knowing there was a headwind I remained calm and got closer and closer. Today’s race was hard and we rode aggressively, but this is my favorite way of racing. I’m not scared of this and I’m very happy of how things panned out. It was a perfect day! My goal every season is to win a Classic. Now it is already two and this is maybe for the years I didn’t win one.”

2nd, Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky): “It was a great race, but I’m not satisfied with the result. But what can I say? I was beaten by a great champion, congratulations Philippe. I am very happy with the team’s performance, with an effort put by Sergio Henao. We were very motivated to win today. All is not lost, just delayed.”

3rd, Michael Albasini (Orica-Scott): “It was fast but steady for the first part of the race so we knew it was going to kick off at some point. My role was to jump with some of the key guys and once I saw (Sergio) Henao and Gilbert go, I reacted straight away. I didn’t think that we could stay away but in the end it was strong group and we kept riding all the time so we kept away. At the end, I had nothing left. Those two guys just had a little bit more left in the legs so they rode away and the rest of us were actually pretty cooked. Cooked or not cooked a podium at Amstel is really good, actually now I have podiumed on all three Ardennes so I am really happy with that. We didn’t have any of the big favorites for the race today but we have pulled off a podium so that’s really good for us.”

4th, Nathan Haas (Dimension Data): “Today, everybody was just awesome. We have had a lot of bad luck in the past few months and the Classics haven’t been what the guys deserved after all their hard work. Today, we really wanted to put a pin in it. We went in to this race with only one goal in mind; to race it with balls. Win or lose. Johann [Van Zyl] did a great job in the break, representing, and even when it came back, he still went to the front to pull. There really is a lot of conviction in this team. We all believe in what we are doing and we fight to race for a reason. I can’t thank the guys enough. This is a very stressful race but they looked after me all day, eliminating all that stress. I put the pressure on myself because I felt my legs were strong enough to hold it. I haven’t won too many races from a small select group, it’s usually after a reduced group sprint, so this performance really felt like some kind of psychological breakthrough for me. I’m really proud of myself today.”

15th, Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal): “I didn’t want to wait too long to attack. I turned onto the Kruisberg in second position and got in the front group. Perfect so far, until I touched the rear wheel of Rojas. I got out of balance, had to put my foot on the ground and my chain was dropped. I was immediately caught by the bunch. Unfortunately, Tim couldn’t close the gap on the leaders. It was actually a miracle that I was part of the front group, as I had crashed at one hundred kilometers from the end. I have a lot of abrasions on my left side. I was nauseous for a while, but got better. It’s a pity that I was dropped from the break, because they remained ahead till the finish. A podium or top five might have been possible. The course of the Amstel suits me and that’s hopeful for the future.”

17th, Jay McCarthy (Bora-Hansgrohe): “I felt good today but then I hadn’t the legs to go with the other 7 riders. And the crash shortly before the Cauberg brought me totally out of my rhythm.”

31st, Dion Smith (Wanty-Groupe Gobert): “It was a tiring day, filled with a lot of action. I tried to constantly position myself in the front in order to follow the movements in the pack and thus save energy. But in the deep final I had lost a lot of energy. This is only my second race over 260 kilometers. On the last ascent of Cauberg I really had to give it all to keep in touch with the group. I couldn’t feel my legs anymore! It was a beautiful experience with an eye on upcoming editions. Now I hope to recover for Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.”

42nd, Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal): “The plan was that I, Tiesj Beoot or Jelle Vanendert would attack in the finale. It was a perfect situation when Tiesj was part of the front group, but suddenly he was distanced because of a mechanical. I then tried to bridge to the leaders. I came very close, but not close enough. I had already used a lot of energy when I was joined by among others Greg Van Avermaet. It was impossible to follow Michal Kwiatkowski. The first part of the race went perfectly. Just before the finale, BMC had raised the pace and I was on their wheel together with some teammates. Then we got to the decisive moment. I had good legs, but not good enough. Wednesday I ride Flèche Wallonne, we will determine our tactics in the next days: attack before Mur de Huy or not.”

Amstel Gold Race Result:
1. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors in 6:33:55
2. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Sky
3. Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica-Scott at 0:10
4. Nathan Haas (Aus) Dimension Data
5. Jose Rojas (Spa) Movistar
6. Sergio Henao (Col) Sky
7. Ion Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida at 0:14
8. Michael Gogl (Aut) Trek-Segafredo at 1:10
9. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida at 1:11
10. Michael Matthews (Aus) Sunweb.

Amstel ’17:

Flèche Wallonne 2017: Valverde: In the Prime of Life
In spite of a preconceived and slightly incorrect idea, explosiveness is not necessarily one of the assets of youth. Alejandro Valverde is probably the most eloquent personification of this maxim, having last year become the record holder for triumphs at the top of the Mur de Huy climb, the ultimate test when it comes to “punch”. Whilst a page in cycling history was turned last Sunday with the retirement of Tom Boonen, who failed in his bid to gain a fifth victory in Roubaix, Valverde remains one of the few multiple Monument winners still in activity (with 3 titles in Liege). The Spaniard begins the week of the Ardennes classics with a genuine chance of achieving win number five on the Flèche Wallonne, in light of the most fruitful start to a season in his career, with victories on the Tour of Andalusia, Catalonia and the Basque Country. At the age of 36 years, Valverde’s ease with his maturity has never before been so evident and the same can be said for Philippe Gilbert, who recently won the Tour of Flanders at the age of 34 years. The native of Wallonia, who has rediscovered the spark of his youth alongside the Flemish riders of the Quick Step team, approaches the Ardennes week with the same freshness as the year of his Grand Slam, in 2011. However, he will not be the only “old man” in the pack to be competing with Valverde, because Michael Albasini, in his 36th spring, also demonstrated on the Tour of the Basque Country that he is likely to have a significant say in the outcome on the Ardennes Classics. Similarly, we have not heard the last of regular respectable finishers on the Flèche and the Old Lady of the Classics like Samuel Sanchez and Rui Costa, aged respectively 39 and 30 years.

Whilst the winners of the last ten editions of the Flèche Wallonne were all thirty-somethings or thereabouts, the ambitions of the younger riders are no less legitimate, as Valverde’s closest pursuer on the last two editions has demonstrated. Julian Alaphilippe has been forced to forsake participation in his favorite races, but the old hands will not be short of younger rivals. Romain Bardet and Adam Yates, respectively 2nd and 4th on the Tour de France 2016, could be involved in the final struggle on the Mur de Huy, just like Colombian Estaban Chaves, Luxembourger Bob Jungels, Australian Michael Matthews, Poland’s Michal Kwiatkowski or South African Louis Meintjes. Philippe Gilbert will not be the sole standard bearer for the Belgian supporters on the Chemin des Chapelles (Chapel Way), because the emerging generation led by Dylan Teuns or Tim Wellens will also be present and looking for a place on the podium. As for the French riders, such a goal will also be in the sights of Warren Barguil (9th in 2016), Alexis Vuillermoz (6th in 2015) as well as, why not, Lilian Calmejane and Kenny Elissonde, who will both be discovering the joys of the Mur de Huy this year.

PEZ Fléche Wallonne Preview HERE.

Key points
Ø Alejandro Valverde, the four times winner of the event, will be approaching the week of the Ardennes classics on the outlook for a fifth title on the Flèche Wallonne.
Ø The Spaniard will be doing battle with other riders from his generation, such as Philippe Gilbert or Michael Albasini, who are also in top form coming in to a race that smiles on punchers.
Ø The “old hands” will also be competing with the emerging generation, represented in particular by Dan Martin, Romain Bardet, Michal Kwiatkowski, Esteban Chaves, Tim Wellens, Louis Meintjes, etc.

25 teams: the main participants
South Africa
Team Dimension Data: Anton (Spa), Cummings (GB), Kudus (Eri)
Team Sunweb: Barguil (Fra), Kelderman (NL), Matthews (Aus)
Bora-Hansgrohe: Majka (Pol), McCarthy (Aus)
Orica-Scott: A. Yates (GB), Albasini (Swi), Chaves (Col)
Bahrain-Merida: Gasparotto (Ita), Izaguirre (Spa)
Quick-Step Floors: Gilbert (Bel), D. Martin (Irl), Jungels (Lux)
Lotto-Soudal: Vanendert, Wellens, De Gendt (Bel)
Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise: Van Hecke (Bel)
Wanty-Groupe Gobert: Levarlet, Martin (Fra)
WB Veranclassic Aquality Protect: Delfosse (Bel), Jules (Fra)
United Arab Emirates
UAE Team Emirates: Faria (Por), Meintjes (SA), Ulissi (Ita)
Movistar Team: Valverde, Moreno, Jes. Herrada (Spa), Betancur (Col)
BMC Racing Team: S. Sanchez (Spa), Teuns, Hermans (Bel)
Cannondale Drapac Team: Slagter (NL), Uran (Col)
Trek-Segafredo: Pantano (Col), Hernandez (Spa)
AG2R La Mondiale: Bardet, Latour, Vuillermoz (Fra), Bakelants (Bel)
FDJ : Vichot, Gaudu (Fra), Eiking (Nor)
Cofidis, Solutions Crédits: Edet, Simon (Fra)
Direct Energie: Calmejane, Voeckler (Fra)
Fortuneo-Vital Concept: Jeannesson, B. Feillu (Fra), Sepulveda (Arg)
Great Britain
Team Sky: Kwiatkowski (Pol), Ser. Henao (Col), Elissonde (Fra)
Aqua Blue Sport: Nordhaug (Nor)
Astana Pro Team: Fuglsang, Valgren (Den), L-L. Sanchez (Spa)
Team Lotto NL-Jumbo: Gesink (NL), Lobato (Spa)
Team Katusha Alpecin: Kiserlovski (Cro), Losada (Spa).

2016 Flèche Wallonne:

Philipe Gilbert out of remaining Ardennes Classics
The 2011 winner of Flèche Wallonne and Liège–Bastogne–Liège will not line out for this year’s edition of the two races.

Winner of Amstel Gold Race, where he made history with his victory, Philippe Gilbert will stop his Spring Classics campaign as consequence of his crash on Sunday’s race. Following the victory ceremony and the press conference, the Belgian Champion went to the hospital for medical examinations, as he still felt pain on his right side, consequence of the crash in which he was involved during the race.

At the hospital, where he was joined by the Quick-Step Floors doctor, he was diagnosed with a minor right kidney tear, which requires a week of complete recovery, meaning that Philippe will be forced to skip Flèche Wallonne and Liège–Bastogne–Liège.

“When I crashed, I felt pain, but once I remounted and continued the race things became better and better and the pain disappeared. Unfortunately, after the finish, the lower back pain returned, so together with the team doctor I decided to go to the hospital for a check-up. Fortunately, it’s nothing serious, and if everything goes well, in a week I will start training again”, said the 34-year-old.

The third rider in history to win Ronde van Vlaanderen and Amstel Gold Race in the same season, Philippe made an analysis of his successful Spring Campaign: “It’s one of my best years and looking behind on what I achieved makes me very happy. To be competitive in both the cobbled and the Ardennes Classics and to help the team be the best in the world brings me a lot of satisfaction. It’s sad I won’t be there for the remaining races of this week, because I was in great condition, but our squad is a strong one and I’m confident other good results will follow.”

Philippe Gilbert will remain under observation at the hospital for a further 24 hours, before getting the green light from the doctors to go home.

No Fléche or Liege for Gilbert:
Oudenaarde - Belgium - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Philippe GILBERT (Belgium / Team Quick Step - Floors) pictured during the of Flanders Classics UCI WorldTour 101st Ronde van Vlaanderen cycling race with start in Antwerpen and finish in Oudenaarde on April 02, 2017 - foto PdV/PN/Cor Vos © 2017

Quick-Step Floors Team to Flèche Wallonne
The only Irishman ever to finish in the top three, Daniel Martin will be the team’s leader for the Belgian race.

When you say Flèche Wallonne, you say Mur de Huy. One of cycling’s most steepest and punishing finishes, the 1300m-long climb has welcomed the riders since 1983 and has become the race’s main point of reference, witnessing all kinds of winners, from riders who attacked early on the climb to those who waited for the final 300 meters, just after its famous S-bend, which usually sees the hopes of many contenders take a big blow.

Averaging 9.6%, but ramping up to 25% in some sections, Mur de Huy will come at the end of a 204.5km-long race which will set off from Binche and have the riders take on a total of nine climbs, including Côte de Cherave (1300 meters, 8.1%), which comes just before the Mur and can bring a twist in the race, as it could inspire some riders to throw caution to the wind and surprise the peloton with an attack.

If such a move won’t go all the way to the line and everything will come back together by the foot of the iconic Muur de Huy, positioning in the bunch and a perfectly-timed attack will be paramount for those vying for the win.

In the past four years, Daniel Martin was involved on three occasions in the fight for victory at Flèche Wallonne, finishing fourth (2013), second (2014) and third (2016). A specialist on this type of punchy climbs, the 30-year-old, who so far this season has racked up a stage win at Volta ao Algarve and a top 3 overall at the prestigious Paris-Nice, will look to be once again up there with the very best and try to become the first ever Irishman to claim the victory in the race run for the first time eight decades ago.

Gianluca Brambilla, Laurens De Plus, Dries Devenyns, Luxembourg Champion Bob Jungels, Maximilian Schachmann, Brabantse Pijl runner-up Petr Vakoc and Martin Velits will round out Quick-Step Floors’ team for the mid-week classic, the penultimate World Tour one-day race of the month of April.

19.04 La Flèche Wallonne (BEL) 1.UWT

Gianluca Brambilla (ITA), Laurens De Plus (BEL), Dries Devenyns (BEL), Bob Jungels (LUX), Daniel Martin (IRL), Maximilian Schachmann (GER), Petr Vakoc (CZE), Martin Velits (SVK).
Sports Director: Davide Bramati (ITA), Tom Steels (BEL), Geert Van Bondt (BEL).

Wanty-Groupe Gobert rides home race in Flèche Wallonne
Wednesday Wanty Groupe Gobert heads to a home race in the Fleche Wallonne (1.WT, 19/01). The start is in fact given in Binche, the city of our main sponsor Wanty. Our team will want to show its colors on the Ardennes roads leading to the traditional finish on the Mur de Huy. Hilaire Van der Schueren selected following hill specialists and climbers for the race: Jérôme Baugnies, Thomas Degand, Fabien Doubey, Guillaume Martin, Xandro Meurisse, Marco Minnaard, Andrea Pasqualon and Dion Smith.

Lineup & Preview: Flèche Wallonne
After a great performance last Sunday, Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka is now eager to continue on the same path in the next of the Ardennes Classics, Flèche Wallonne this Wednesday.

Starting out in Binche, the riders take on 146.5 km in the lumpy Belgian terrain before they reach the finishing line on top of the infamous Mur de Huy for the first time. The ascent is just 1.3 km long but as its name reveals, it’s extremely steep. The first 900 meters have an average gradient of nearly 12 % with parts over 20 % in the steep corners towards the top.

The finishing circuit is 29 km long and includes the two short climbs, Côte d’Ereffe (2.1 km / 5 % avg.) and Côte de Cherave (1.3 km / 8.1 %) in addition to Mur de Huy. Côte de Cherave has its top just 5.5 km from the finishing line and serves as a good place to attack for those who aren’t explosive enough to follow the favorites on the final ascent.

Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka brings several strong climbers to Flèche Wallonne, aiming to show off the team colors at the front once again. Nathan Haas will lead the team after taking fourth place in Amstel Gold Race last Sunday and he can count on strong support from Johann Van Zyl, Jaco Venter, Igor Antón, Serge Pauwels, Merhawi Kudus, Jacques Janse van Rensburg and Ben O’Connor.

Nathan Haas: “To me, Flèche Wallonne is easily the most dangerous one of the Ardennes races. There is really only one moment in this race that counts and that’s the final 1.3 km. Positioning is paramount, which also makes for a very tactical race. It’s a bit like an ice sculpture with Mur de Huy being that last pick of the ice where you either make something really beautiful at the end or the whole thing collapses. It’s really an amazing race. We hope to play the card of the powerful underdog. We know this is a very hard race but we have a few extra climbers coming in now and I don’t think we are a team that should be dismissed.”

Preview Flèche Wallonne with Herman Frison
Wednesday 20th of April the riders will compete in the penultimate spring classic. The 81st edition of the Flèche Wallonne kicks off at Grand Plance in Binche and finishes two hundred kilometres and nine climbs later in Huy. The race ends with two local laps of 29 kilometres in and around Huy. The first part of the race takes place on an undulating course, the first official climb only turns up after 127.5 kilometres: the Côte d’Amay. Not much further this climb is followed by the Côte de Villers-le-Bouillet. After the first passage on the Mur de Huy the riders attack the first of two local laps. They have to climb the Côte d’Ereffe, Côte de Cherave and the Mur the Huy. The race finishes on top of the Mur the Huy.

Sports director Herman Frison looks ahead to the Flèche Wallonne He hopes for a good result and is looking forward to see the renewed course.

Sports director Herman Frison: “We always start to win. I believe you have to start a race with a winning mentality because otherwise you are not ambitious enough. Last week, we received a lot of positive signals. The Brabantse Pijl was very good with a third and fourth place, but it was the team performance which stood out the most for me. I also saw a good team in the Amstel Gold Race with a strong Tiesj Benoot and Tim Wellens. We were in a good position with Tiesj Benoot and we had forced it by racing aggressively. That’s also our plan for the Flèche Wallonne. Tiesj Benoot doesn’t start Wednesday, but that was already planned from the start of the season so it has nothing to do with his crash from Sunday.”

“The course of the Flèche Wallonne is slightly different than last year. There are three climbs less before the local lap and instead there will be an extra local lap of 29 kilometres in and around Huy. I don’t think that a change in the course will break open the race much sooner if the finish remains on top of the Mur de Huy, but you never know. The riders are the ones who decide how hard the race will be. The competition is very strong, especially the Movistar Team with Valverde. Gilbert and Alaphilippe will not be in the race, but Quick-Step Floors still has Martin under their sleeve. Also Team Sky has with Kwiatkowski an enormous quality rider so the competition is still very big.”

“Jelle Vanendert and Tim Wellens are the leaders in our team. Wellens is in a very good shape and is looking for his first result in the Flèche Wallonne. Vanendert can count on his experience in these races. Tosh Van der Sande and Thomas De Gendt have the qualities to break open the race at one of the nine climbs. Bart De Clercq, Tomasz Marczynski, Sean De Bie and Sander Armée will assist Vanendert and Wellens as good as possible. If there’s a chance to be in a breakaway it’s for example up to Sander Armée to be there.”

“The guys really want a good result and I hope for them that they will succeed, because they deserve it. They have been giving their all for weeks so it’s only logical you hope to get rewarded. The ideal scenario would be that a small group of riders without Valverde, Martin and Kwiatkowski but with Wellens, heads towards the finish. The chance that they will let Wellens go is not big, so we have to wait and see.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal:
Sander Armée, Sean De Bie, Bart De Clercq, Thomas De Gendt, Tomasz Marczynski, Tosh Van der Sande, Jelle Vanendert and Tim Wellens.
Sports directors: Herman Frison and Bart Leysen.

Tim Wellens on the attack in Amstel Gold:
Valkenburg - Netherlands - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - illustration - scenery - carte postal scenic shot - postcard sfeerfoto - sfeer - illustratie Tim WELLENS (Belgium / Team Lotto Soudal) pictured during the Amstel Gold Race 2017 - foto Pool/BC/Cor Vos © 2017

BMC Racing Team Backing a Mix of Youth and Experience at La Flèche Wallonne
Samuel Sánchez will make his return to racing at the second race of the Ardennes Classics series, La Flèche Wallonne, this Wednesday 19 April. BMC Racing Team Sports Director Jackson Stewart said the team will work for Sánchez and Dylan Teuns for the overall win.

“This year’s course is a little easier than previous editions with a few less climbs, but as is tradition at La Flèche Wallonne, it will probably come down to the last climb, the final ascent of the Mur de Huy. It’s a demanding course so it will be the top climbers left at the end,” Stewart explained.

“We will line up with Samuel Sánchez and Dylan Teuns as our main contenders. They have both had decent results here in the past. We saw at De Brabantse Pijl and Amstel Gold Race that Dylan is riding really well and Samuel had great form before his crash in Pais Vasco and he seems to have recovered well. I think with the team we have, we can manage a good result on Wednesday.”

Teuns is confident ahead of La Flèche Wallonne where the course is well-suited to his racing abilities.

“The climbs at La Flèche Wallonne are longer than those at De Brabantse Pijl and Amstel Gold Race so they suit me better. It is my third time racing and I already had a good result where I just missed out on the top ten. I was really happy with this result in 2015 and I think my preparation is even better this year. I feel that my form is really good and I’m coming up to the top level so I hope I can be there on the Mur de Huy,” Teuns said.

Sánchez is looking forward to racing at La Flèche Wallonne following his crash at Pais Vasco in early April.

“My sensations on the bike are good and I would like to use La Flèche Wallonne to check my physical condition, in particular the recovery of my hand. My recovery has been a miracle but very laboured, both physically and mentally. I love the Ardennes and I really wanted to come back for them, so La Flèche Wallonne will be a good opportunity to see where I am at now at this point in the season.”

La Flèche Wallonne (19 April)

Rider Roster:
Alessandro De Marchi (ITA), Silvan Dillier (SUI), Floris Gerts (NED), Ben Hermans (BEL), Amaël Moinard (FRA), Samuel Sánchez (ESP), Michael Schär (SUI), Dylan Teuns (BEL).
Sports Directors: Jackson Stewart (USA), Valerio Piva (ITA).

Samuel Sánchez:

La Fléche Wallonne
The second of the Ardennes classics gets underway on Wednesday with La Flèche Wallonne. Taking in nine short, steep climbs, the day closes with a finish atop one of cycling’s most iconic ascents, the Mur de Huy, 1.3 kilometres with an average gradient of 9.6 percent.

Team Sunweb coach Aike Visbeek (NED) said: “Last year there was more climbing in the earlier stages of the race, but with some changes to the route the hardest sections will come in the last two laps. The run into the final laps will have some difficulty if there is a lot of wind so the team will need to stay alert. Our goal is to position Warren well on the last climb of the Mur de Huy and to deliver him to the finish having saved as much energy as possible. I expect a nervous finale and for the race to be decided on the last climb, as it has in previous editions.”

La Flèche Wallonne (WT)

Warren Barguil (FRA), Johannes Fröhlinger (GER), Simon Geschke (GER), Lennard Hofstede (NED), Wilco Kelderman (NED), Sindre Skjøstad Lunke (NOR), Michael Matthews (AUS), Georg Preidler (AUT).
Coach: Aike Visbeek (NED).

Michael Matthews:
Sarriguren - Spain - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Michael James MATTHEWS (Australia / Team Sunweb) pictured duringstage - 1 of the 57th Vuelta al Pais Vasco (2.UWT) - from Eguesibar to Sarriguren (153.3k) photo Miwa iijima/Cor Vos © 2017

Allez, Pinot! French star aims big at Tour of the Alps
The FDJ leader will be one of the riders to watch on the #TotA big climbs. Another French team at the start in Kufstein: AG2R-La Mondiale.

It is going to be a fascinating and appealing challenge, the most proving test in view of the Giro d’Italia. The Tour of the Alps (April 17th-21st) prepares for the big battle between the Team Sky’s juggernaut, BMC Racing Team’s Australian Rohan Dennis and French climber Thibaut Pinot. The Frenchman will be one of the men to watch on the climbs, particularly after Fabio Aru’s scratch due a nasty crash during a training camp in Spain.

The 26-year-old athlete, overall third in the 2014 Tour de France, has started the 2017 season claiming a stage win at the Vuelta Valenciana and an excellent overall third place at Tirreno-Adriatico, showing brilliance in the climbs and great improvements in the time trials.

Attracted by the demanding course charted by G.S. Alto Garda’s organizers, the FDJ rider will look to test himself in view of the upcoming Giro d’Italia, a race he will start for the first time. Passo delle Erbe, the unknown Alpe di Rodengo, Forcella di Brez and Monte Bondone will be inviting springboards for the French climber, who lived in Italy the first highs of his pro’ career in 2011, finishing third at Tre Valli Varesine and winning the Settimana Ciclistica Lombarda.

After Aru’s scratch for both the Tour of the Alps and the Giro d’Italia, Italy sees its chances decrease, but don’t count out Michele Scarponi, who will pick up the baton from Aru as Astana leader, and the leader of the other French Team in the race, Ag2R-La Mondiale: Domenico Pozzovivo. Giro del Trentino’s king in the 2012 edition after conquering the extreme Punta Veleno, has set a trend of giving the best of his qualities at this time of the year.

The French movement will be in the spotlight at the Tour of the Alps, 20 years after the only success in the Giro del Trentino history, claimed by Luc Leblanc back in 1997, when the race ended up in Lienz. This time, the Tirol region will host the first two stages of the new cycling event, that will be aired in France with a 1h30 daily live coverage and 8 hours overall thanks to Equipe 21, the TV channel of the most important French sports newspaper.

Stage 1 – Monday April 17th: Kufstein-Innsbruck, km 142,3
Overall Altitude: 2075m – Difficulty: **
Stage 2 – Tuesday April 18th: Innsbruck-Innervillgraten, km 181,3
Overall Altitude: 2539m – Difficulty: **
Stage 3 – Wednesday April 19th: Villabassa/Niederdorf-Funes/Villnöss, km 143,1
Overall Altitude: 3742m – Difficulty: ****
Stage 4 – Thursday April 20th: Bolzano/Bozen-Cles, km 165,3
Overall Altitude: 3459m – Difficulty: ***
Stage 5 – Friday April 21st: Smarano-Trento, km 192,5
Overall Altitude: 3759m – Difficulty: ****

Thibaut Pinot is one of Tour of the Alps’ top riders:

Tour of the Alps, Kufstein is Ready for the Grand Depart
Monday, April 17th, the new race taking over from Giro del Trentino starts with great expectations. In Austria, the programme has opened with the press conference of Thibaut Pinot, Rohan Dennis and Michele Scarponi, and the teams’ presentation.

TOUR of The Alps conferenza Stampa con a sinistra Michele Scarponi Tibo Pinot , Kufstein 16 Aprile 2017 © foto Daniele Mosna
The top riders at the press conference. From left, Michele Scarponi, Rohan Dennis, Thibaut Pinot

The Tour of the Alps has lived an intense eve in Kufstein (Austria), where the new race that unites three territories and their people in the name of sports will start. The event takes over the baton and the 40 years of prestigious tradition from the Giro del Trentino. The race symbolizes the cooperation between the Euregio territories, Tirol, Südtirol and Trentino, who join forces in a bike race that cancels the borders and any language barrier.

Kufstein has welcomed warmly the 18 teams (including 7 World Team) and the 139 riders who will light up the five stages (one more than the past) on a very tough route. The spectacular parcours (824 kilometers until the finish in Trento) and the variety of climbs (10 categorized climbs, 15600 mt overall altitude) have always been a distinguishing feature of the race. Once again, the Tour of the Alps will be a key dress rehearsal for the Giro d’Italia, a truly significant test to measure the ambitions for the Corsa Rosa.

In the afternoon, the top riders have taken the stage. Attending the classic press conference in the Kufstein University were French Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Australian Rohan Dennis (BMC), both on their debut in the race before their first assault to the Giro d’Italia, and Michele Scarponi (Astana), who already won both Giro del Trentino and Giro d’Italia, and who will once again take his team’s leader ranks after Fabio Aru’s forfeit due to injury.

Then, the public showed all of its enthusiasm to the 18 teams during their parade inside the Kufstein Univerity: even the rain could not hamper the Kufstein’s party, that also featured a very peculiar guest. Didi, the “devil” who became famous for his unmistakable runs in the wake of the Tour de France riders, ha salso arrived in Austria to see the first act of the new Tour of the Alps’ story: Kufstein had never seen an Easter day like this.

The Top Riders’ Quotes

Thibaut Pinot: “This is the first time I take part in this race, and the second race in Italy in the row for me, since I haven’t been racing since Tirreno-Adriatico. My main goal is to find good feelings to star the Giro d’Italia with ambition. I think the choice of the Tour of the Alps to move cross border is a very important and meaningful one. What I like about this race is that it’s one of the few purely dedicated to climbers. I hope the weather will assist us, as I believe this is set to be a beautiful and exciting race. I am coming off a training camp in Spain, and I can count of a strong team, even though we don’t have our top climbing team. I hope to win a stage, and then to see what I can do in the GC”.

Rohan Dennis: “I came here without too much ambitions for the GC, a little less pressure. If the legs are there, then I am. I know Cadel Evans has been the only Australian to win this race, in a BMC jersey. To follow his footsteps is a huge honour, but I’m a different rider, I’m a TT specialist and the Tour of the Alps is going to be a little bit of a challenge for me. With no time trials, I won’t have any bonus. It’s a test for what I need to be a GC rider in the future”.

Michele Scarponi: “We had to change our plans after Aru’s injury during a traning in Sierra Nevada, so now I’m here speaking about what we have to do at the Tour of the Alps and the Giro d’Italia. The answer is: we’ll try to do our best, because we worked a lot to achieve good results here and at the Giro. The riders who aim high at Giro come to race here. I think no one wants to lose, even if everyone says to be here for testing. The third stage with the Passo delle Erbe, is probably the most demanding of them all, but also the last fraction will be tough. There are no easy stages, indeed. In addition, the weather doesn’t look so good and it could play a key role in the race’s outcome”.

The Race Favorites
“I can’t say yet. Astana, BMC, Sky are big teams and I am expecting for a big challenge and a big winner”.

Dennis: “I think there are not individual favorites, but a lot of strong riders here”.

Scarponi: “Thibaut Pinot”.

Pinot: “I don’t know, I’m feeling well, the course suites to my skills and the main goal will be to find a good shape for the Giro d’Italia”.

Mikel Landa:
“This is a race I like so much, and I always race to win, so my hope is to repeat the feat if last year. My conditions are good, though I am coming off some weeks without racing after the Tour of Catalunya. I only happened to race in Austria once in my career, it was at last year’s Giro del Trentino in Anras, and I won. So I hope I can extend the stretch”.

Monday, the first stage will take the riders from Kufstein to Innsbruck through 142,3 km. The start will be given at 12, the finish is expected at about 15.30. Live broadcast on Eurosport, Bike Channel UK, Raisport, L’Equipe, TV2, Econet, Eleven Sports, Cycling TV and on Facebook on the PMG Sport page from 14.30 to 16.

Last year’s winner Mikel Landa interviewed during the team presentation:
TOUR of The Alps presentazione delle squadre  , Kufstein 16 Aprile 2017 © foto Daniele Mosna

Bardiani-CSF Team on the presentation stage:
TOUR of The Alps presentazione delle squadre  , Kufstein 16 Aprile 2017 © foto Natascia Graziola Mosna

Tour of the Alps: A new chapter begins:

BMC Racing Team to Target Stage Wins at Tour of the Alps
BMC Racing Team will be looking for opportunities in Italy next week when the team returns to the Tour of the Alps (April 17 – 21) for the first time since 2014.

Sports Director Max Sciandri said BMC Racing Team will be taking the race day by day.

“Tour of the Alps is a tough race with around 3000 meters of climbing on the so-called easier days and then 4000 meters on the final stage to Trento. It will be a demanding race with five full-on stages, so we will be taking every day as it comes and looking for opportunities as they arise.”

“While our priority is not the General Classification specifically, this is a good testing ground ahead of the Giro d’Italia, so we expect Rohan Dennis to be up there.”

For Rohan Dennis, Tour of the Alps will be the final test before the Giro d’Italia.

“I am coming into Tour of the Alps with the Giro d’Italia at the front of my mind. I have been working hard following Tirreno – Adriatico and Volta Ciclista a Catalunya so, I’m looking forward to testing myself here.”

“Tour of the Alps will be part of my final preparation ahead of May. My main priority will be to test myself throughout the race and whatever happens on the General Classification happens,” Dennis explained.

Tour of the Alps (April 17 – 21)

Rider Roster:
Tom Bohli (SUI), Brent Bookwalter (USA), Damiano Caruso (ITA), Rohan Dennis (AUS), Kilian Frankiny (SUI), Joseph Rosskopf (USA), Miles Scotson (AUS), Manuel Senni (ITA)
Sports Directors: Max Sciandri (ITA), Yvon Ledanois (FRA).

Rohan Dennis:
San Benedetto del Tronto - Italy - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Rohan Dennis (AUS - BMC) pictured during Tirreno Adriatico 2017 - 52th Edition - stage 7 San Benedetto del Tronto - San Benedetto del Tronto 10,5 km- photo Cor Vos © 2017

Gazprom – RusVelo riders are to test themselves for Giro d’Italia on Tour of the Alps
The season is in high gear and Tour of the Alps on 17-21 of April is coming next for Gazprom – RusVelo. Not only the race has the highest UCI category, it is also considered as the crucial prep race for Giro d’Italia.

This year the event has seen several important changes. Previously known as Giro del Trentino, the race got its new name – Tour of the Alps. Moreover, organizers has extended the race to five days that gives riders an opportunity to fight for an additional stage-win. Over the last years the geography was expanded to include new territories. In order to reach new audiences in 2017 the route is peeking on Austrian turf.

The course of 825 kilometers is a true feast of mountains with practically no flat stages. In total over five racing days riders are to climb more than 15000 meters. Altimetry of the first two Austrian stages will have mercy on riders to set them up for the crucial third stage with the 9 kilometers long uphill finish. The remaining stages are of the great challenge for the riders as well with plenty of steep climbs.

Last year Gazprom – RusVelo rider Sergey Firsanov managed to be second on one of the Trentino stages and fourth in GC. Sergey shared his opinion on the upcoming start: “I was in a good shape on Giro dell’Appennino, but due to unfortunate fall, I finished just 15th. Now I have good legs and I am doing everything to shape up for Giro d’Italia. Tour of the Alps has a tremendous list of contenders, some of them are favorites for Giro. However, it just stimulates us for a fierce competition. We understand that it is a crucial part of the season and nobody is going to sit behind one’s back, we are going to compete for the top places.”

Gazprom – RusVelo line-up:
Ildar Arslanov, Igor Boev, Pavel Brutt, Sergey Firsanov, Alexander Foliforov, Sergey Nikolaev, Ivan Rovny, Dmitry Kozonchuk.

Caja-Rural Seguros RGA head for the Alps and Croatia
After a brief rest period following several weeks of intense competition, the Caja-Rural Seguros RGA team will be back in action next week with two important dates for the team. First up will be the Tour of the Alps (formerly Giro del Trentino) starting on Monday with the six-stage Tour of Croatia beginning on Tuesday.

After tasting success on home soil in previous weeks at the Vuelta Pais Vasco, the team will be keen to press-on and look to claim their first victory of the 2017 campaign. In the Tour of the Alps the team will face fierce competition with some of the World Tour’s finest teams aiming to accumulate form ahead of next months Giro d’italia. The race, which has traditionally been a battlefield for the climbers will suit and our neo-pro Nick Schultz and Eduard Prades who both claimed top ten results in last weeks Klasika Amorebieta (1.1).

David Arroyo: “Returning to competition has been great for me. I really missed being at the races with the other riders and all the staff at Caja Rural-Seguros RGA. The recovery has gone well, everything is in place again. Now patience will be the key to get back up to speed. The objectives for this race are to help the team and to build form. These are races where we can be competitive and fight for the win. We usually go well in this race, so hopefully this years Tour of the Alps will be a good one”.

Tour of the Alps line Up:
Sergio Pardilla, Eduard Prades, David Arroyo, Antonio Molina, Nick Schultz, Josu Zabala, Héctor Sáez and Fabricio Ferrari.

Team set to debut at Tour of Croatia
The team will also be turning its attention east, to compete in the Tour of Croatia (2.1) for the first time.

Several riders who animated the Vuelta Pais Vasco will be in the strong eight-man line-up, with Lluis Mas hoping to build on the growing form which earned him both the overall intermediate sprints jersey and the combativity award. The team will go here with general classification ambitions also, with mountainous tests on both stage 2 and 5 set to suit the likes of Jaime Roson.

Eugenio Goikoetxea (Director Sportif): “This is a new race for us, which we are riding instead of the Tour of Turkey. It’s a tough riders with plenty of riders who are coming here to tune-up for the Giro d’italia. We are going to Croatia to be competitive and hunting for results. We are slowly recuperating as a team after several injuries in the past months. We are aiming to improve, that is certain. In the Vuelta Pais Vasco we were constantly on the attack and were animating the races which was positive. In the Alps and Croatia we are going in with high hopes and expectations to do good things”.

Tour of Croatia line-up:
Jaime Rosón, Dylan Page, Lluis Mas, Justin Oien, Álex Aranburu, Diego Rubio, Rafael Reis and Jonathan Lastra.

Giro rehearsal at Tour of Croatia
The 3rd edition of Tour of Croatia starts on April 18th in Osijek and finishes on April 23 in Zagreb. This years demanding route will take us through 6 stages and more then 1000km all around Croatia. Osijek is again a starting point just like last year and first stage is completely flat to Koprivnica. This will be sprinter’s stage and we hope Manuele Boaro will be in the mix for the win.

The whole tour moves to Trogir for the start of the 123 km long second stage with a mountain finish at 1762m high Saint Jure peak on Biokovo mountain. This stage will definitely split the peloton and strong climber will control the race from this point.

Stage 3 connects Imotski and Zadar with 237km to be raced, while stage 4 starts from Crikvenica, goes through mountain Ucka for a flat finish in Umag after 171 km.

Stage 5 is queen stage of this years Tour of Croatia. The start is in Porec with Ucka mountain finish, but riders will have to climb it first from Istrian side before finishing the stage climbing it from Kvarner side.

The last 145km starts from Samobor and finishes with few loops around St. Mark’s Square in Craotian’s capital, where award ceremony will be held.

Team Bahrain Merida is one of the 4 World Tour teams competing. With two flat stages, two medium stages, and two mountain stages this will be great rehearsal before Giro d’Italia. Vincenzo Nibali will build his form for the race of the year, while the team will again have assignment to protect our captain.

Gorazd Stangelj, one of our Sports Directors for this race: “Our team will try to protect our leader Vincenzo Nibali on mountain as well as on flat stages, while he’ll test himself on mountain stages. As a team we are favorites to win this race, and therefore we’ll ride that way, without many breakaways and without any individual interests. It will be hard to expect that we will challenge any sprint (flat) stages.”

Sergey Lagutin is back for Tour of Croatia
On 18-23 of April Gazprom – RusVelo is to compete on the Tour of Croatia. The race has 2.1 UCI category and is a part of Europe Tour. The young race paves its way from 2015 and Gazprom – RusVelo never missed none of its editions, so this year is not an exception.

Even though the vast majority of riders are shaping up for Giro d’Italia on Tour of the Alps, some of the Giro-candidates headed to the Tour of Croatia. The altimetry is quite diverse and appeals for all styles of riders. While climbers are to prevail on the mountainous second and fifth stages, sprinters and breakawayers will have their chances on remaining flatter stages. For six racing days riders are to roll 1000 kilometers in different picturesque parts of the country. The crown stage will traditionally end up in the capital of Croatia – Zagreb.

Gazprom – RusVelo set the goals for the race: the top man for flat stages will be Ivan Savitsky, whereas the youngest riders Artem Nych and Alexey Rybalkin are to test themselves on the climbing stages.

We are happy to announce Sergey Lagutin to be back in business after a surgery on a fractured scapula. He is to cross the start line this Tuesday!

“So far I wasn’t lucky this season, but I hope injuries are in the past. It’s so great to start racing again. After missing one month now I need to work hard to come back stronger. Tour of Croatia plays an important role, as it will define my physical condition and set me up for Giro d’Italia. I am looking forward to compete and hope to see that I am on the right way of building-up my physics.” – said Sergey Lagutin before Tour of Croatia.

Gazprom – RusVelo line-up:
Artem Nych, Ivan Savitsky, Sergey Lagutin, Alexey Rybalkin, Evgeny Shalunov, Artur Ershov, Anton Vorobyev, Nikolay Trusov.

2017 Official Tour de Yorkshire Jerseys and Partners Revealed
With just over two weeks to go until the start of the 2017 Tour de Yorkshire, race organizers Welcome to Yorkshire and A.S.O have revealed the jerseys and full list of official partners.

The jerseys for the men’s race (which runs between 28-30 April) are being produced by sportswear brand Le Coq Sportif and four new designs have been created to honor the General, King of the Mountains and Sprint Classifications as well as the Most Aggressive Rider on each stage.

Welcome to Yorkshire will sponsor the blue General Classification (overall race leader’s) jersey with Virgin Trains being unveiled as new sponsors of the pink King and Queen of the Mountains Classification jerseys for both the men’s race and Asda Women’s Tour de Yorkshire.

Yorkshire Bank return for a third successive year to sponsor the green Sprint Classification jersey and Yorkshire Bank Bike Libraries are also the official naming partner for the brutal final stage which will take the riders from Bradford to Fox Valley, Sheffield on Sunday 30 April.

Dimension Data also make a welcome return for a third straight season to sponsor the grey Most Aggressive Rider jersey – a prize which is decided in a truly unique way at the Tour de Yorkshire with the public voting to reward the rider who they feel most animates each day’s stage.

As the race goes from strength to strength, Doncaster Sheffield Airport and Flybe are joining forces once again to sponsor the Team Classification in both races. The leading team (selected by taking the lowest cumulative time of the three highest-ranked riders from each team on the General Classification) will be awarded special race numbers on stages two and three which will be worn on the backs of all members of the winning team. As the women’s race is a one-day event, no race numbers will be awarded to the winners of that classification, but their riders will be presented with a special gift in recognition of their achievement.

Asda remain the official naming partner of the Asda Women’s Tour de Yorkshire, which takes place on Saturday 29 April, following a hugely successful sponsorship in 2016 which has made it one of the most lucrative events in the sport. Asda will present the blue jersey awarded to the winner of the women’s race.

Aunt Bessie’s are back to support the women’s sprint jersey and Mug Shot return to sponsor a brand-new initiative which will actively support the youngest British rider in the women’s race.

JCT600, in association with Mercedes, continue as the official vehicle provider for both races and will be showcasing their brand at the Harrogate fan zone across the race weekend. All the riders in this year’s race will also sign one of their Mercedes fleet and fans will be able to pose alongside it near the finish line in Fox Valley on Sunday 30 April. Tissot also make a welcome return as official timekeepers, and Mavic as official neutral race support partners.

Welcome to Yorkshire Chief Executive Sir Gary Verity is thrilled that the jerseys for the third edition have been revealed and took time to thank all partners for their continued support.

He said: “The designs of this year’s jerseys look fantastic and we’re hugely grateful to all our partners for the great work they do in supporting the Tour de Yorkshire. I’m delighted to welcome all of our tremendous partners who are offering their continued support. The race would not take place without their backing and I’d like to thank them and all the other people that help us make it such a success.”

The Best of Tom Boonen
Yes, we know Tommeke has retired, but there is some great footage of him at full speed on the cobbles. If you missed our photo tribute, you can see it HERE.

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