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EUROTRASH News Round Up Monday!

The Sky team did a one-two in Algarve, Astana did the same in Oman and Lotto Soudal took the Ruta del Sol – A busy EUROTRASH Monday. Adam Blythe disqualified for bike change – Top Story. Extra team for Strade Bianche, teams for Abu Dhabi, Luis Meintjes in the Alps, Wild cards for the Tour de Suisse, Damiano Cunego’s last race, Bianchi new bike Sponsor of Eurotarget women’s team and an Astana love story video.

TOP STORY: When is a bike change not a bike change?
It’s when you need a bike change with disk brakes and you don’t have the bike ready on the roof of your car.

During the final stage of the Tour of Oman on Sunday, 2016 British road champion, Adam Blythe of the Aqua Blue Sport team needed a bike change due to an earlier mechanical problem. The team planned to make the change as the race hit the final laps of the Matrah Corniche to give Blythe the chance of a good result in the finalé, as he has been up in the top 10 in recent sprint finishes.

The team’s first problem was that the team cars supplied by the Tour of Oman were not equipped with roof rack to take a complete bike with the front wheel in. The team asked to go ahead of the race to prepare a bike to give to Blythe. Chief commissaire, Jean-Pierre Coppenolle, allowed the team to do this. Blythe stopped when he reached the team car, changed the bike and was in the process of rejoining the peloton when he was told he was disqualified and would have to stop. Coppenolle explained that the bike change has to be done from the car and not from the side of the road and so Blythe was disqualified for an “irregular bike change”.

It would be interesting to hear how the commissaire expected the team to give Blythe the replacement bike from a car without a proper roof-rack? The Aqua Blue Sport 3T bikes use thru-axles which are not the easiest or quickest method of wheel change and are yet another reason not to use disk brakes in a race. Wait for the Classics and Grand Tours and count how many contenders for victory use disk brakes.

Greg Van Avermaet, Adam Blythe and Mark Cavendish in Oman:
Wadi Dayqah Dam - Oman, Sultanate of Oman - February 15 : BLYTHE Adam of Aqua Blue Sport, VAN AVERMAET Greg  (BEL)  of BMC Racing Team, CAVENDISH Mark  (GBR)  of Team Dimension Data  pictured during stage 3 of the 9th edition of the 2018 Tour of Oman cycling race, a stage of 179.5 kms between German University of Technology and Wadi Dayqah Dam on February 15, 2018 in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman, 15/02/2018 - photo VK/PN/Cor Vos © 20187

Tour of Oman 2018
The eighth try was the good one for BMC’s Greg Van Avermaet! After many participations in the Tour of Oman and a place of second on Wednesday, the Olympic champion finally added a victory in the Sultanate to his stellar collection of wins. The Belgian star made the most of a hilly finish on the way to the Wadi Dayqah Dam to dominate Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates) and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana). With his first win in 2018, he also takes the red leader’s jersey from Nathan Haas (Katusha-Alpecin).

Greg Van Avermaet secured a previously elusive stage win at the Tour of Oman after powering away from the rest of the field to take the honors on Stage 3. Once again, it was a group of four riders that went clear early into stage 3 and, as the race approached the first of three categorized climbs, after 50km, of the 179.5km course, the gap between the breakaway and the main bunch was sitting at over four minutes. Heading into the second half of the day, an increase in pace at the front of the peloton saw the advantage of the leaders begin to fall and, as the road began to rise once again, towards the summit of the Quriyat climb, just two minutes stood between the two groups.

The last riders from the early breakaway were caught with 20km to go as Nathan Haas, race leader at the start of the day, and his Team Katusha-Alpecin teammates set the pace in an attempt to neutralize any late attacks on the approach to the testing final climb and the 8.5km run into the finish on the Wadi Dayqah Dam. With 5km remaining, a select group of just 50 riders remained in the main bunch as BMC Racing Team hit the front to control the final three kilometers of the race and help set the stage for Van Avermaet on the uphill drag to the line. An impressive turn of speed from Van Avermaet in the closing meters of the race saw him jump off the front of the bunch and power away from the rest of the field to take an emphatic stage win and move into the red leader’s jersey.

Wadi Dayqah Dam - Oman, Sultanate of Oman - February 15 : VAN AVERMAET Greg (BEL) of BMC Racing Team during stage 3 of the 9th edition of the 2018 Tour of Oman cycling race, a stage of 179.5 kms between German University of Technology and Wadi Dayqah Dam on February 15, 2018 in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman, 15/02/2018 - photo VK/PN/Cor Vos © 20187

The Winner’s Interview with Greg Van Avermaet.
Congratulations, Greg. Talk us through the final meters of today’s race.

“I am always happy to win and especially in Oman after so many years. I think the team did a perfect job. We came at the right moment on the descent with 3km to go, and they put me in a perfect position so I could wait for the perfect moment. It was at the hardest point of the climb that I went full gas, and I just hoped that no one could follow and that’s what happened so I was really happy that I could cross the line first.”

Did you feel any pressure in the closing stages of the race?
“I was expecting Astana Pro Team to make the race hard for Alexey Lutsenko on a finish like this, but for me, that was good as it got rid of some of the sprinters. I was able to stay there, and I think the team was patient enough today to take the lead at the right moment and I think that was really important for the final climb. It was a hard finish, but I knew it from 2013 when I was second here. I had better legs this time though as I was able to go at the moment that I wanted to and then it was about getting to the finish as fast as possible and hoping that nobody could follow. It was a good finish for me and a really nice win. It was also nice for me to finish off the good work of the team.”

And looking ahead to the rest of week.
“It’s a nice extra to take the leader’s jersey, and we will see what happens, but for the moment, I am really happy with this stage win. That was the most important thing for me. I am not expecting to win the Tour of Oman, but I am in the red jersey now so tomorrow I will try to defend it. I am pretty happy with my condition for the Classics, but overall, for the General Classification, I think Green Mountain is too hard for me. It will be one for the climbers, and I think they can maybe take two minutes on me on a climb like this.”

2nd, Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates): “Today I had good feelings coming in to the final, so on the descent coming into that ramp, I put myself on the wheels of the BMC riders working for Van Avermaet in order to control him. Greg, unfortunately for me, moved well and shot off from behind with a lighting-like attack. He immediately gained enough ground so that he couldn’t be caught. He was truly strong. The showing today was important for me for my morale, it helps me look faithfully to the next races. In fact, the second place is a good result considering that in the last two weeks I wasn’t able to train very well due to a cold. I feel that my form is on the rise, the next days of the race will allow me to find that last spark I need.”

4th on the stage and overall, Gorka Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida): “The race has been turned on in the last 10 kilometers and immediately the speed has increased. It was important to stay in the first positions of the bunch to be able to take the last climb in front. At 800 meters I was around the thirteenth position and I managed to overcome several riders but not the first three. I’m happy with my race; a good sign for the next two stages that will decide this Tour of Oman.”

7th on the stage, 6th overall and best young rider, Odd Eiking (Wanty-Groupe Gobert): “I felt good. The final of the stage was tough, but I was motivated today. The team helped me well in the run-up to the final. On Wadi Dayqah Dam I thought I maybe would finish top 15. But a lot of riders couldn’t hold their pace it in the last 500m. I kept going and was able to finish 7th. Of course I hope to finish top 10 in the final GC. So I hope I will not crack on Saturday on the Green Mountain, a climb I never rode before. I twisted my right foot on the stairs at home two weeks ago. I didn’t think it was going to be so serious. But they took an X-ray and I had Metatarsal fracture in my foot. It is now getting better and better day by day. Luckily my legs feel good.”

Tour of Oman Stage 3 Result:
1. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC in 4:36:04
2. Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates at 0:03
3. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana
4. Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Bahrain-Merida
5. Nathan Haas (Aus) Katusha-Alpecin at 0:07
6. Magnus Nielsen (Den) Astana
7. Odd Christian Eiking (Nor) Wanty-Groupe Gobert at 0:09
8. Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick-Step Floors
9. Moreno Angel Lopez (Col) Astana
10. Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis.

Tour of Oman Overall After Stage 3:
1. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC in 12:56:44
2. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana at 0:11
3. Nathan Haas (Aus) Katusha-Alpecin at 0:13
4. Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Bahrain-Merida at 0:19
5. Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick-Step Floors at 0:25
6. Odd Christian Eiking (Nor) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
7. Moreno Angel Lopez (Col) Astana
8. Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis
9. Daniel Navarro (Spa) Cofidis
10. Merhawi Kudus (Eri) Dimension Data at 0:33.

Oman’18 stage 3:

An explosive Stage 4 of the Tour of Oman saw all of the sprinters get dropped on the way to the Ministry of Tourism… except for Magnus Cort Nielsen (Astana). The Danish youngster proved that he is more than just a fast-man as he hanged on in a 25-man front group before claiming victory ahead of Giovanni Visconti (Bahrain-Merida) and Alberto Bettiol (BMC). Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) finished 4th to retain the leader’s red jersey on the eve of Green Mountain.

Stage 4 of the Tour of Oman started in Yiti (Al Sifah) and finished near the Ministry of Tourism in Muscat after 117,5 km of racing. The stage was characterized by quite hot weather and some tough climbs, including Bousher Al Amerat passed for three times. At the final climb of the stage the last rider of the break was caught, while later the group has exploded with a few attacks close to the top of the climb. Anyway, Astana riders stayed in front of the pack all together, leading the group and controlling all rivals. Finally, the group of the favorites came together to the finish line in Muscat. It was Alexey Lutsenko, who led the group into the final kilometer, working hard for Magnus Cort.

Magnus did a very nice sprint, taking his first victory in Astana colors. He out-sprinted two Italians, Giovanni Visconti and Alberto Bettiol. Alexey Lutsenko and Miguel Angel Lopez finished in the same leading group (14th and 16th, respectively). Besides, Miguel Angel Lopez became the new leader of the best young rider classification, taking the white jersey.

Muscat - Oman - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport -   CORT NIELSEN Magnusof Astana Pro Team during stage 4 of the 9th edition of the 2018 Tour of Oman cycling race, a stage of 117.5 kms between Yiti (Al Sifah) and Ministry of Tourism on February 16, 2018 in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman, 16/02/2018  - photo VK/PN/Cor Vos © 2018

Stage winner Magnus Cort Nielsen (Astana): “I am so happy with this win! I want to thank all team for a great support today, especially Alexey Lutsenko, who did an amazing job in the last kilometer. He was so strong, pulling in front, keeping the second group far behind and leading me out for the sprint! I felt quite good today and in the sprint I gave my best to take this win. Yeah, finally, I did it! I was close so many times already this season at the Dubai Tour and also here in Oman I was not far from the best riders at the finish. But the win makes the difference. Today everything went absolutely amazing, the team was super strong, and we succeed. I was ok during the whole stage, however, with one kilometer to the top of the final climb I had a tough moment, because there were some attacks in front of the group and our riders tried to control these attacks. So, I am happy with my win, but also with the way I’ve started my debut season for Astana Pro Team. Also, it was so nice to see our general manager Alexandr Vinokurov at the finish line and to share this success with him and the whole team.”

2nd on the stage, Giovanni Visconti (Bahrain-Merida): “When Magnus Cort Nielsen started with 200 meters to go, we all understood that it was his day. However, I’m happy because I beat high-level opponents after a difficult race, conditioned by the heat. At the penultimate corner I got behind the Astana riders but when the Danish attacked he took instantly too much advantage. It was the strongest. I repeat, I’m satisfied with my start of the season and I just have to continue like this.”

Tour of Oman Stage 4 Result:
1. Magnus Cort (Den) Astana in 2:57:36
2. Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
3. Alberto Bettiol (Ita) BMC
4. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC
5. Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates
6. Nathan Haas (Aus) Katusha-Alpecin
7. Mark Christian (GB) Aqua Blue Sport
8. Merhawi Kudus (Eri) Dimension Data
9. Odd Christian Eiking (Nor) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
10. Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis.

Tour of Oman Overall After Stage 4:
1. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC in 15:54:20
2. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana at 0:09
3. Nathan Haas (Aus) Katusha-Alpecin at 0:13
4. Gorka Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida at 0:16
5. Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana at 0:24
6. Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick-Step Floors at 0:25
7. Odd Christian Eiking (Nor) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
8. Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis
9. Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Cofidis
10. Merhawi Kudus (Eri) Dimension Data at 0:33.

Oman’18 stage 4:

Astana Pro Team put on a show on the Queen Stage 5 of the Tour of Oman, with Miguel Angel Lopez claiming victory atop Jabal Al Akhdhar after a strong collective outing on Saturday. His teammate Alexey Lutsenko finished second to take the leader’s jersey from the Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet (BMC). The Kazakh team only has one more stage to face en route to the overall victory in the 2018 Tour of Oman.

Shortly after the start in Samoil a break of 6 riders escaped to open a 5 minute lead. The break worked well together, but was caught somewhere in the first kilometers of the final climb. Astana did a perfect job on the front of the peloton the whole day, taking the race under control. With 3km to go it was Jan Hirt, who went on the front to lead a small group of favorites and only Miguel Angel Lopez, Alexey Lutsenko and Gorka Izagirre were able to follow him. The two Astana riders attacked to come together and ride to the finish line and share the team’s success. The Spaniard Jesus Herrada (Cofidis) finished third.

With only one stage to go Alexey Lutsenko leads the general classification by 11 seconds over Miguel Angel Lopez and 28 seconds to Gorka Izagirre (Astana). Miguel Angel Lopez holds the best young rider jersey, while Astana leads the team’s classification.

Jabal Al Akhdhar - Oman - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Miguel Angel Lopez (COL - Astana Pro Team) - Alexey Lutsenko (KAZ - Astana Pro Team) pictured during Tour of Oman 2018 - stage 5 from Sama’il to Jabal Al Akhdhar 152 km - 17/02/2018 - photo LB/RB/Cor Vos © 2018

Stage winner and 2nd overall, Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana): “A very nice day for us! I am so happy to win today and see next to me this amazing team as Astana is! I felt very strong today, the legs worked perfectly on the climb. Actually, nobody could attack on the final climb, so we just followed our plan and after a great job of our teammates we went away together with Alexey. Of course, the climb was super hard, but we managed to pass it as we wanted and finally, we took the stage. That’s a nice feeling to win here and to start my season in this way!”

2nd on the stage and overall leader, Alexey Lutsenko (Astana): “First of all I want to thank my team. The guys were incredible today! All the team stayed together, focused and motivated, from kilometer 0 to the finish line. What a great job during the stage did Nikita Stalnov! Also, Tanel Kangert and Omar Fraile provided a big support to us. Yesterday winner Magnus Cort also was there in front to help. On the final climb there was Jan Hirt, who did absolutely stunning work in front, providing us a place for attack. Inside the last 2 km of the race there were only three riders of Astana Team in front and that was something special. Miguel Angel was the strongest rider on this climb today and his win is more than well deserved. In the same time, I am enjoying now my red jersey. We still have a stage to do, so in this moment I don’t think about the possible overall victory and want to focus on this last day.”

4th on the stage and 3rd overall, Gorka Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida): “I’m happy, I earned a place in the overall and now I’m third. It is not over, though. Tomorrow will be another battle to defend the podium from the final assault of Jesus Herrada and Nathan Haas, who are behind me 2 and 4 seconds respectively. Today on Green Mountain I defended myself rather well. It was not a climb that suited me and the pace of the two Astana riders was too high for me. I held out and climbed together with Herrada, who preceded me a few meters ahead of the finish line.”

Tour of Oman Stage 5 Result:
1. Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana in 3:43:58
2. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana
3. Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis at 0:12
4. Gorka Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida at 0:15
5. Nathan Haas (Aus) Katusha-Alpecin at 0:22
6. Peter Stetina (USA) Trek-Segafredo at 0:25
7. Daniel Pearson (GB) Aqua Blue Sport at 0:33
8. Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick-Step Floors at 0:43
9. Nicolas Roche (Irl) BMC at 0:47
10. Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates at 0:49.

Tour of Oman Overall After Stage 5:
1. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana in 19:38:21
2. Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana at 0:11
3. Gorka Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida at 0:28
4. Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis at 0:30
5. Nathan Haas (Aus) Katusha-Alpecin at 0:32
6. Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick-Step Floors at 1:05
7. Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Cofidis at 1:14
8. Odd Christian Eiking (Nor) Wanty-Groupe Gobert at 1:24
9. Merhawi Kudus (Eri) Dimension Data at 1:29
10. Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates at 1:37.

Oman stage 5:

The Astana team dominated this edition of the Tour of Oman: the Kazakh leader of the team Alexey Lutsenko won the final general classification and young rising star Miguel Angel Lopez took the second podium place and won the white jersey of the best young rider, while the whole Astana won the overall team classification.

The Final Stage 6 of the Tour of Oman, between Al Mouj Muscat and Matrah Cornich, was a fast 135,5km race with two climbs and three laps in the city center of Muscat. Astana kept the race under control protecting both leaders, Alexey Lutsenko and Miguel Angel Lopez.

In the final sprint Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) took the honors ahead of Brian Coquard (Vital Concept) and Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) in 3rd.

Matrah Corniche - Oman - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Alexander Kristoff (NOR - UAE Team Emirates) - Giacomo Nizzolo (ITA - Trek - Segafredo) pictured during the 2018 Tour of Oman stage - 6 from Al Mouj Muscat to Matrah Corniche (135.5KM) Sultanate of Oman, 18/02/2018 - photo LB/RB/Cor Vos © 2018

Stage winner, Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates): “I’m very happy to have picked up my first victory with UAE Team Emirates. I have faith in the team and I’ve always had strong men at my side in the first few races of the season. I enjoyed this finish a lot. I won here in 2016 and 2017, so I knew that today would be a good chance to succeed. In the meeting this morning with the sports directors and team-mates, we studied every move we were looking to make and we took on the final kilometers perfectly – my team-mates worked impressively and I could not ask for more of them. As for my personal performance, I had great legs, which allowed me to take on the sprint. To win is always great, but to do it with a new team is even better. We’re looking forward to taking this victory back to the UAE and hope to use it as momentum going into the Abu Dhabi Tour. Hopefully it can inspire us to produce more fantastic results in front of our home fans, who are surely celebrating this first victory, dedicating it to the memory of His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nayhan in the 100th year of his birth.”

Overall winner, Alexey Lutsenko (Astana): “Now, after finish in Muscat I can say I am happy with my victory. It is so nice to win in your first race of the season! I did a lot of work this winter, it was my goal to be on form for the start of the season and, finally, I am here, at the podium as the winner. It was not a plan to try to win in Oman, but I felt really good the whole week here and also the team was absolutely fantastic! So, now I am coming back to Europe and already next weekend I will open my Classics season in Belgium. Despite this overall victory, the Classics are my biggest goal for the first half of the season, so I am really motivated to do it well.”

3rd overall, Gorka Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida): “When Nathan Haas tried to attack on the last short ascent with 3 km to go I went behind him. I wanted to avoid surprises and maybe lose my position in the overall. The stage went the way we wanted and I have to thank my teammates for their help. It was important that my direct opponents did not gain seconds at the Bonus Sprints and so it went. After the 7th place at the Tour Down Under in January, this podium means I’m working in the right direction. Next appointment will be the Paris-Nice together with my brother Ion.”

Tour of Oman Stage 6 Result:
1. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates in 3:11:29
2. Bryan Coquard (Fra) Vital Concept Club
3. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
4. Magnus Cort Nielsen (Den) Astana
5. Nathan Haas (Aus) Katusha-Alpecin
6. Davide Martinelli (Ita) Quick-Step Floors
7. Amaury Capiot (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
8. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC
9. Benjamin Declercq (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
10. Floris Gerts (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij.

Tour of Oman Final Overall Result:
1. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana in 22:49:50
2. Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana at 0:11
3. Gorka Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida at 0:28
4. Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis at 0:30
5. Nathan Haas (Aus) Katusha-Alpecin at 0:32
6. Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick-Step Floors at 1:05
7. Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Cofidis at 1:14
8. Odd Christian Eiking (Nor) Wanty-Groupe Gobert at 1:24
9. Merhawi Kudus (Eri) Dimension Data at 1:29
10. Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates at 1:37.

Oman stage 6:

Vuelta a Andalucia – Ruta Ciclista Del Sol 2018
Wout Poels (Sky) executed a perfectly timed late attack to climb to victory on the summit finish of Stage 2 of Ruta del Sol and take the overall lead. Poels was part of an elite lead group which played cat-and-mouse on the final kilometer of the challenging Alto de Allanadas climb, trading attacks and counters until the Dutch rider was able to break free with 300m to go and take victory ahead of Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) and Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal). Chris Froome was also part of the front group and finished seventh, 27 seconds behind Poels, while David De La Cruz and Philip Deignan (both at 48 seconds) both secured top 20 finishes.

Earlier, Team Sky had been one of a number of teams to work hard to bring back a stage-long breakaway that contained Diego Rubio (Burgos-BH), Alvaro Cuadros (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Przemyslaw Kasperkiewicz (Delko Marselle Provence KTM), Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r La Mondiale), Pascal Eenkhoorn (LottoNL-Jumbo), Aaron Verwilst (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Sho Hatsuyama (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Jeroen Meijers (Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij) and Enrique Sanz (Euskadi-Murias).

The numbers in the front group slowly dwindled as the pace of the peloton and gradient of the terrain increased, leaving Rubio the final rider to be caught in the final 3km despite having a one minute lead just a kilometer before. This kicked off a series of attacks from Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Mikel Landa (Movistar) and Wellens, which Poels was able to cover and counter although he was pegged back. However, he bided his time and just under the 300m to go mark attacked again, and none of his rivals were able to follow suit.

Granada - Spain - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Wouter - Wout POELS (Netherlands / Team Sky)  pictured during    stage - 2 of the Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta Ciclista Del Sol  from Otura  :  La Guardia de Jaén (140KM) - 15-2-2018 - photo Luis Gomez/Cor Vos © 2018

Stage winner and overall leader, Wout Poels (via TeamSky.com): “I was waiting for a good moment to attack when I bridged to Tim Wellens, and then everybody came back together. Then with 300m to go I thought I had to go full-on now as it wasn’t that steep, but I had enough speed to win. I was not happy how I started the season in Valencia, but I did some good training afterwards and was happier with my performance here. The next couple of days are flatter so it will be important not to lose any seconds ahead of Sunday’s TT.”

7th on the stage and 7th overall, Chris Froome (Sky): “We’ve got the leader’s jersey now with Wout, so we’ll do everything we can to keep it on his shoulders.”

Ruta del Sol Stage 2 Result:
1. Wout Poels (Ned) Sky in 3:38:04
2. Luis León Sanchez (Spa) Astana at 0:02
3. Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal
4. Mikel Landa (Spa) Movistar at 0:04
5. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana
6. Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar at 0:17
7. Chris Froome (GB) Sky at 0:27
8. Mikel Bizkarra Etxegibel (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias at 0:34
9. Amaro Antunes (Por) CCC Sprandi Polkowice at 0:38
10. Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Soudal.

Ruta del Sol Overall After Stage 2:
1. Wout Poels (Ned) Sky in 8:59:43
2. Luis León Sanchez (Spa) Astana at 0:02
3. Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal
4. Mikel Landa (Spa) Movistar at 0:04
5. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana
6. Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar at 0:17
7. Chris Froome (GB) Sky at 0:27
8. Mikel Bizkarra Etxegibel (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias at 0:34
9. Amaro Antunes (Por) CCC Sprandi Polkowice at 0:38
10. Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Soudal.

Ruta stage 2:

Sacha Modolo took a convincing win on Stage 3 of Ruta del Sol on Friday, exacting his revenge for a near miss on stage one and earning his first victory in the EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale kit.

The Italian wound up his sprint late and distanced Carlos Barbero (Movistar) and Nelson Andres Soto Martinez (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) in order to climb onto the top step of the podium in Herrera. He was full of praise for the team’s newfound sprint train. The 165-kilometer day was a straightforward one. Four riders escaped early on the lumpy run between Mancha Real and Herrera. #PinkArgyle, working for Modolo from the start, assumed control of the chase. The catch was made ten kilometers from the finish.

Herrera - Spain - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Sacha MODOLO (Italy / Team EF Education First - Drapac P/B Cannondale) pictured during stage - 3 of the Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta Ciclista Del Sol from Mancha Real : Herrera (165.1KM) - 15-2-2018 - photo Luis Gomez/Cor Vos © 2018

Stage winner, Sacha Modolo (EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale): “The boys were perfect. At the beginning, there weren’t too many attacks. The breakaway was small with only four riders. Joe Dombrowski kept the escape in check. He did a huge job, like on the first stage, to bring them back. We took control in the last kilometer until the last corner at 400 meters. It was downhill, and other teams tried to anticipate that corner by swinging on the right. I managed to get into third wheel, which was perfect. The first day, having lost the race in the way that I did, I did not sleep at all in the night because of the pain I felt for the team. I’m so happy to give them the win today. The train is perfect. We barely have to say anything to each other. Everyone already knows what to do. It was too bad not to have Tom [Van Asbroeck] today after his crash yesterday. Otherwise it would have been even better. I am proud to be treated so well in this team.”

Overall leader, Wout Poels (Sky): “The stage was fast and the final section was a little bit hectic, but we had it under control. Christian did a really good job today, he was pulling all day and in the final the other boys took over so that was good. It may be an opportunity to go for a stage win again!”

Ruta del Sol Stage 3 Result:
1. Sacha Modolo (Ita) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale in 3:48:17
2. Carlos Barbero (Spa) Movistar
3. Nelson Andres Soto Martinez (Col) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
4. Oscar Gatto (Ita) Astana
5. Moreno Hofland (Ned) Lotto Soudal
6. Jon Aberasturi Izaga (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias
7. Eduard Michael Grosu (Rom) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa Ovini
8. Coen Vermeltfoort (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij
9. Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
10. Colin Joyce (USA) Rally Cycling.

Ruta del Sol Overall After Stage 3:
1. Wout Poels (Ned) Sky in 12:48:00
2. Luis León Sanchez (Spa) Astana at 0:02
3. Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal
4. Mikel Landa (Spa) Movistar at 0:04
5. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana
6. Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar at 0:17
7. Chris Froome (GB) Sky at 0:27
8. Mikel Bizkarra Etxegibel (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias at 0:34
9. Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Soudal at 0:38
10. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo at 0:40.

Ruta stage 3:

Tim Wellens has won the Stage 4 of Ruta del Sol in a very impressive manner. Just before entering the last steep kilometer towards the finish in Alcalá de los Gazules, Amador and Vanmarcke were caught. Wellens and Mikel Landa created a decisive gap together. Wellens succeeded in leaving the Spaniard behind. With only a time trial of 14.2 kilometers to go, the Lotto Soudal rider has 7 seconds lead over Mikel Landa on GC, and eleven seconds over Wout Poels.

Cadiz - Spain - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Tim WELLENS (Belgium / Team Lotto Soudal)  pictured during    stage - 4 of the Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta Ciclista Del Sol  fromSevilla-Alcala de los Gazules(Cadiz) (190 KM) - 17-2-2018 - photo Luis Gomez/Cor Vos © 2018

Stage winner and overall leader, Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal): “It was a tough stage today. I realized that this finish would suit me, so I had done the necessary research. I knew the tough parts of the climb and when it was crucial to come to the front. The team took me in the best possible position to the foot of the climb and then Tosh Van der Sande raised the pace. When Mikel Landa took over, I was the only one who could follow him. With 300 meters to go, I left Landa behind and won with a few seconds advantage. It had been my intention to attack on that place, because it went slightly downhill. We were riding on cobbles, but at the left and right the road was smoother, so I wanted to be at the front. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. The distance of the time trial should suit me and we ride partly on off-road sections which I like. A time trial never lies and with this shape I can certainly ride a good time trial, although there are some talented time trialists behind me.”

4th on the stage and 3rd overall, Wout Poels (Sky): “The plan for today was to try and not lose time and to maybe try and win the stage. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to do that, but the guys rode really well. We wanted to try and keep control of the race and I think we managed it really well, especially when the race broke up on the big climb earlier on. We were able to get to the final climb in the position we wanted. Chris punctured on the run in which was really unlucky and I made a little mistake with my positioning in the last corner going into the climb. I was a little bit far back and I had to go through the guys who were falling back but then I think I went really well on the second half of the climb. I still finished 4th and, although I lost the jersey I feel good so I’ll go full gas on the final day.”

Ruta del Sol Stage 4 Result:
1. Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal in 4:36:23
2. Mikel Landa (Spa) Movistar at 0:05
3. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana at 0:12
4. Wout Poels (Ned) Sky at 0:13
5. Floris De Tier (Bel) LottoNL-Jumbo
6. Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar at 0:17
7. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo at 0:20
8. Luis León Sanchez (Spa) Astana
9. Simon Clarke (Aus) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale at 0:21
10. Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Wanty-Groupe Gobert at 0:24.

Ruta del Sol Overall After Stage 4:
1. Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal in 17:24:25
2. Mikel Landa (Spa) Movistar at 0:07
3. Wout Poels (Ned) Sky at 0:11
4. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana at 0:14
5. Luis León Sanchez (Spa) Astana at 0:20
6. Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar at 0:32
7. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo at 0:58
8. Simon Clarke (Aus) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale at 1:05
9. Mikel Bizkarra Etxegibel (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias at 1:14
10. Sergio Pardilla Bellon (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA at 1:24.

Ruta stage 4:

After his stage win on Saturday, Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) could start the closing time trial Stage 5 of fourteen kilometers with seven seconds lead over Mikel Landa (Movistar) and eleven seconds over Wout Poels (Sky). The first part of the time trial mainly took place on off-road sections.

Before the top ten of GC began their time trial, David de la Cruz (Sky) had set a very strong time: 17:11. None of the favorites could beat his time. Amador (at 6 seconds) and Clement (at 7 seconds) came close, but the Spaniard did win.

At the end one thing was at stake: would Tim Wellens maintain his leading position on GC? The young Spaniard Marc Soler (sixth at 32 seconds) set a time of 17:20. Luis León Sánchez, Jakob Fuglsang and Mikel Landa lost too much time to be in the running for the overall win. Wout Poels did set a strong time: 17:22. Wellens could only win the overall classification if he didn’t lose more than ten seconds. The Belgian succeeded in his goal, covering the course in 17:25. He finished eight and conquered the overall victory of the Ruta del Sol, his nineteenth pro victory.

Barbate - Spain - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport -  Tim WELLENS (Belgium / Team Lotto Soudal) pictured during    stage - 5 of the Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta Ciclista Del Sol  from Barbate to Barbate (14.2 KM) - ITT time trial individual on18-2-2018 - photo Luis Gomez/Cor Vos © 2018

Stage winner, David De La Cruz (Sky) told TeamSky.com: “It’s a really special feeling to take my first victory with Team Sky. Yesterday I felt really good during the stage, but in the end it didn’t really work out how we wanted, but we worked really well as a team. This morning I wanted to do the best I could do and I didn’t know if I could take the victory or not. I felt good warming up and I said to myself, ‘David, you must go full gas’ and it’s really nice to have my first win in Team Sky colors. You always expect the next rider finishing to record a faster time than you – it was a really nervous situation for an hour! It was really good to beat some really strong TT riders too. It has been an amazing week, the first time I’ve ridden with Chris and his group, the Tour de France group, and it has been a really nice experience, I’ve learned a lot with this team, he continued. I was quite surprised at how relaxed it is and I’m super happy with how everything is going.”

Overall winner, Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal): “During the recon I had already noticed this was a course that suited me. The first part was special because of the off-road sections and in the second part there was a fast, downhill section. I had come to this race to set a good overall result. Last year I won a stage here. Before the time trial I gave myself 40 to 50 per cent chance. I expected most opposition from Wout Poels, which was the case too, and maybe Sánchez or Fuglsang. I hadn’t spent much time on the time trial bike recently and there were standing some strong time trialists behind me on GC, which made me a bit unsure. Of course this is great, after winning at Challenge Mallorca. But the main goals still have to come. The next days I will take some rest, with a good training on Wednesday, and Thursday I will travel to Belgium to join the team for the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. It will be a nice début, with nothing to lose. The shape is good, so we’ll see what’s possible. After the Omloop I’ll ride Paris-Nice.”

Ruta del Sol Stage 5 Result:
1. David De La Cruz (Spa) Sky in 17:12
2. Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar at 0:06
3. Stef Clement (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo at 0:06
4. Alexis Gougeard (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 0:07
5. Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar at 0:09
6. Wout Poels (Ned) Sky at 0:11
7. Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Sky at 0:11
8. Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal at 0:14
9. Jan Tratnik (Slo) CCC Sprandi Polkowice at 0:24
10. Luis León Sanchez (Spa) Astana at 0:24.

Ruta del Sol Final Overall Result:
1. Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal in 17:41:50
2. Wout Poels (Ned) Team Sky at 0:08
3. Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar at 0:27
4. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana at 0:30
5. Luis León Sanchez (Spa) Astana
6. Mikel Landa (Spa) Movistar at 0:42
7. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo at 1:19
8. Simon Clarke (Aus) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale at 1:41
9. Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar at 1:51
10. Chris Froome (GB) Sky at 1:57.

Ruta stage 5:

Volta ao Algarve em Bicicleta 2018
Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) climbed to victory on Stage 2 of the Volta ao Algarve with Geraint Thomas finishing third to move into the overall lead. Kwiatkowski was able to escape from a small lead group in the final meters of the Alto de Foia climb to seal his first win of the season after good work from Vasil Kiryienka with 9km to go that had stretched the race forcing Team Sky’s rivals to work hard to catch him in the early part of the last climb.

Once Kiryienka was caught with 2km remaining, Kenny Elissonde then paced the lead group allowing Kwiatkowski and Thomas well-placed to sprint for the uphill finish, a battle won by the Polish rider. Kwiatkowski revealed that he was a little surprised by his form and credited his teammates for their fantastic efforts in placing him and Thomas in an excellent position

Foia - Portugal - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Michal KWIATKOWSKI (Polen / Team Sky)  pictured during theVolta ao Algarve em Bicicleta (2.HC) - Stage 2  from  Sagres to Foia (Monchique) (187.9KM) - photo LB/RB/Cor Vos © 2018

Stage winner and overall leader, Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky): “It’s one of my favorite races so I’m really happy today. The 14km climb was difficult – that’s pretty much the first solid summit finish for me [this season] and I’m really happy that we cooperated so well as a team. Geraint, Kenny, Kiry, Owain, Michal, Lukasz, they were all there and we played it perfectly. I have to say it was a little bit unexpected. A week ago I was racing in Valencia with Wout Poels and we had solid form, but we didn’t step up with the results. Then today I heard on the radio that Wout had won at Ruta del Sol – that was good news and gave us a little bit of extra motivation. That’s why we went so hard today. The climb was long but everyone knew it wasn’t so steep. The gradient was around 5% which is difficult to drop riders on and make a big gap. But in the end we’re happy. It’s a win, it’s my first win, and I’m happy with my condition. We will ride strong tomorrow in the time trial and try to do our best.”

10th overall, Louis Meintjes (Dimension Data): “It was a pretty good day, the peloton let the breakaway get a bit of time, so they had to keep the pace pretty high throughout the whole stage. We had a really good position the whole day, and the guys really looked after me. I felt pretty good so I tried my luck a little earlier on the climb, but they brought it back and I just tried to hold on with all the other favorites.”

Volta ao Algarve em Bicicleta Stage 2 Result:
1. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Sky in 4:49:51
2. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
3. Geraint Thomas (GB) Sky
4. Daniel Martin (Irl) UAE Team Emirates
5. Jaime Roson (Spa) Movistar
6. Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe at 0:03
7. Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors
8. Pieter Serry (Bel) Quick-Step Floors
9. Vicente Rubio (Spa) Aviludo-Louletano-Uli
10. Richie Porte (Aus) BMC.

Volta ao Algarve em Bicicleta Overall After Stage 2:
1. Geraint Thomas (GB) Sky in 9:37:49
2. Jaime Roson (Spa) Movistar
3. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Sky
4. Daniel Martin (Irl) UAE Team Emirates
5. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
6. Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe at 0:03
7. Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors
8. Pieter Serry (Bel) Quick-Step Floors
9. Vicente Rubio (Spa) Aviludo-Louletano-Uli
10. Louis Meintjes (RSA) Dimension Data.

Algarve stage 2:

Geraint Thomas (Sky) extended his overall lead at Volta ao Algarve with a superb time trial performance that saw him win Stage 3 by 11 seconds from Victor Campenaerts (Lotto Soudal). Thomas rounded off a tremendous team display which saw four Team Sky riders in the top 10, with Michal Kwiatkowski moving up to second overall after finishing fourth on the 22km stage. Thomas now leads from Kwiatkowski by 22 seconds and Nelson Oliveira (Movistar) by 32 seconds on GC.

Foia - Portugal - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Geraint Thomas (GBR - Team Sky)  pictured during theVolta ao Algarve em Bicicleta (2.HC) - Stage 3  from  Lagoa to Lagoa (20,3KM) time trial individual ITT  - photo LB/RB/Cor Vos © 2018

Stage winner and overall leader, Geraint Thomas (Sky): “It was nice to get a win and like I said yesterday I didn’t expect it. With the first race of the year you’re always a bit unsure but I’ve done some decent work and it’s all seemed to come together today. I tried to start strong and hold on and luckily I was able to. After just five days of racing you never know how your body will react, especially at this time of year and there’s a lot of strong riders here so I’m not taking anything for granted. Victories are few and far between so I’ll enjoy this.”

2nd on the stage, Victor Campenaerts (Lotto Soudal): “I had set my mind on winning today. My time trial went great, but Geraint Thomas was just stronger. I got beaten at my best and I can cope with that. I couldn’t have done anything differently. Dividing my energy during a time trial is my strongest point and I succeeded in doing so today. At the first intermediate point several riders were faster, but they all lost time in the second and third part, in which I was at my best. Thomas also gained time in the second part and had 22 seconds advantage with six kilometers remaining. Then I knew he would be close, because the last kilometers were mostly downhill. He lost time, but had enough lead. It’s no shame to lose from him though. My performance is promising for the upcoming weeks and months. I could prepare for this time trial in the best possible conditions and the team supported me enormously. I really want to give my team a victory. I am not yet riding at my highest level, which I not have to reach until the start of the Giro, but I am satisfied with my current shape. My next goal is the individual time trial at Tirreno-Adriatico, where I aim for victory. I want to win a WorldTour time trial this season. Today was a Europe Tour race, but with strong time trialists at the start. To win a time trial at WorldTour level, you need to be world class and I am getting there, but I need a super day and everything needs to fall into place to be able to win.”

Volta ao Algarve em Bicicleta Stage 3 Result:
1. Geraint Thomas (GB) Sky in 24:09
2. Victor Campenaerts (Bel) Lotto Soudal at 0:11
3. Stefan Küng (Swi) BMC at 0:19
4. Nelson Oliveira (Por) Movistar at 0:22
5. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Sky
6. Tony Martin (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin at 0:27
7. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC at 0:47
8. Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors at 0:49
9. Vasil Kiryienka (Blr) Sky at 0:50
10. Lukasz Wisniowski (Pol) Sky at 0:51.

Volta ao Algarve em Bicicleta Overall After Stage 3:
1. Geraint Thomas (GB) Sky in 10:01:58
2. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Sky at 0:22
3. Nelson Oliveira (Por) Movistar at 0:32
4. Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors at 0:52
5. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC at 0:53
6. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo at 1:01
7. Jaime Roson (Spa) Movistar at 1:18
8. Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Quick-Step Floors at 1:19
9. Felix Grossschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe at 1:20
10. Vasil Kiryienka (Blr) Sky at 1:24.

Algarve stage 3:

Dylan Groenewegen has won his third race of the season. In Stage 4 of the Volta ao Algarve, the resident of Amsterdam sovereignly sprinted to his second success in Portugal. It meant the fourth victory for Team LottoNL-Jumbo this season. A perfect lead-out by Amund Grondahl Jansen and Timo Roosen preceded the victory. By then, the hard work of Bram Tankink, Bert-Jan Lindeman, Sepp Kuss and Paul Martens was done. They had worked hard to control and chase down the breakaway in the final.

Geraint Thomas now has a lead of 19 seconds over his Sky teammate, Michal Kwiatkowski and 32 seconds on Nelson Oliveira (Movistar).

Tavira - Portugal - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Dylan Groenewegen (NED - Team LottoNL - Jumbo) - Matteo Pelucchi (ITA - Bora - Hansgrohe)  pictured during theVolta ao Algarve em Bicicleta (2.HC) - Stage 4  from  Almodovar -Tavira, 199,2 km - 17/02/2018 - photo LB/RB/Cor Vos © 2018

Stage winner, Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo): “This is a very beautiful day, the team did a great job today. Not only with the lead-out but also with controlling the race all day. It was a fast stage with a few short climbs and a very hectic final, but we didn’t panic. Not even when Philippe Gilbert and Dylan Teuns attacked on the last hill. The boys led me out perfectly and I finished it off. Everything worked out as we had hoped.”

2nd on the stage, Matteo Pelucchi (Bora-Hansgrohe): “The team rode together the whole day in the main field and concentrated on the expected bunch sprint in Tavira. The course had a couple of tricky sections and so it was important that we rode attentively at the front. The final was particularly hectic. I ended up losing Pösti’s wheel, but managed to sit on the wheel of Groenewegen, and ended up producing a good sprint. Today, Groenewegen was just too strong, but I am very satisfied with my result and also the teamwork of the BORA-hansgrohe boys today.”

Volta ao Algarve em Bicicleta Stage 4 Result:
1. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo in 4:33:49
2. Matteo Pelucchi (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe
3. John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo
4. Florian Senechal (Fra) Quick-Step Floors
5. Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) BMC
6. Timothy Dupont (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
7. Hugo Hofstetter (Fra) Cofidis
8. Jasper De Buyst (Bel) Lotto Soudal
9. Loïc Vliegen (Bel) BMC
10. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Sky.

Volta ao Algarve em Bicicleta Overall After Stage 4:
1. Geraint Thomas (GB) Sky in 14:35:50
2. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Sky at 0:19
3. Nelson Oliveira (Por) Movistar at 0:32
4. Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors at 0:52
5. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC at 0:53
6. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo at 1:01
7. Jaime Roson (Spa) Movistar at 1:18
8. Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Quick-Step Floors at 1:19
9. Felix Grossschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgroh at 1:20
10. Vasil Kiryienka (Blr) Sky at 1:24.

Algarve stage 4:

Michael Kwiatkowski timed a late attack to perfection to win Stage 5 of Volta ao Algarve and seal the overall victory, with his Sky teammate Geraint Thomas second on the podium. Kwiatkowski emerged from a small elite group on the final climb to attack solo leader Zdenek Stybar (Quick-Step Floors) with two kilometers to go and pass him to secure a dramatic win.

The stage was animated by a large breakaway of 31 riders, including top men: Kwiatkowski, Küng, Roelandts, Gilbert, Stuyven, Démare, Wallays and Naesen. They got up to five minutes advantage. The finish line was drawn on the steep Alto do Malhao, which already had to be climbed with 45 kilometers to go. Lukas Pöstlberger attacked on the climb, accompanied by Stybar who dropped him later. During the three kilometers long last ascent Kwiatkoswki caught Stybar. The former world champion took the stage win and took over the leader’s jersey from teammate Geraint Thomas, who finished in the bunch.

Stage and overall winner, Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky): “We had our eyes open at the start and we felt that was the best way to defend yellow and to defend second place and even go for the stage win. I’m very thankful for the team and especially to G for that opportunity. Nobody expected the race was going to go that way, it was not a typical way to defend a yellow jersey. Massive thanks to Michal Golas – he was amazing today, protecting me in the breakaway and he made this win possible. It was very difficult situation out there [in the break], there were so many guys close in the GC and they were putting us under pressure, trying to split the group. I really felt under pressure as I thought that the chance of taking the lead from G was a strange situation, but I thought that I have to do the perfect race. The only way I was going to be able to look G in the eyes after the race was going to be if I won the stage and did everything perfectly. I think it’s a little bit unexpected that I’m in such good shape as I didn’t expect that I could climb so well here and I didn’t spend time here beforehand to get used to the country. I won overall, I won this amazing stage on the Malhao, G finished second and I won the points jersey. Volta ao Algarve was always one of my favorite races to prepare yourself for the season and that’s how it was – good weather, good, hard racing and I think everyone enjoyed how Team Sky rode. It was a crazy day, we have to be really happy with the team performance, the team won three stages in the end!”

3rd overall, Tejay van Garderen (BMC): “I feel good. Team Sky was obviously really strong taking first and second, and three stage victories so they were a notch above us. To be third in the first race of the season shows that my form is processing nicely and I’m where I need to be heading into the big goals.”

“I was confused when the breakaway went away. That whole tactic was quite strange. Kwiatkowski was second overall and he made the break. Team Sky could either chase for Thomas or be happy with Kwiatkowski winning the race and other teams were confused. It was pretty chaotic at that point but we had two guys up there so we could play off that and not do too much work. It was obvious that Kwiatkowski would be hard to catch on the General Classification anyway so the fact that he was up ahead didn’t really make a big difference to me. It was Bob Jungles (Quickstep-Floors) and Nelson Oliveira (Movistar) that I needed to watch out for.”

“Dylan Teuns did an amazing lead into the climb and he had everyone on the limit on the short steel ramp with about 10km to go. He was still able to pull the first 700m of the final climb and from there, Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) put in an attack and I countered him with about 600 to go and was able to put in some good distance. It was only Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) who was able to stay with me. I knew that the stage win was gone so i wanted to get the most of it which was the podium.”

“It’s a steep climb and it’s a climb that has featured in the race around five times. It was my sixth time here so I knew what I was up against and knowing the climb was an advantage, but it didn’t make it any easier. Paris-nice has a similar layout, just a couple of days longer. There is one long gradual summit finish and a steep punchy stage so this was almost a trial run. The racing will be a higher level and probably worse weather but this was perfect preparation.”

8th on the stage, Julen Amézqueta (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA): “When I saw that such a large leak was made, I knew I was going to reach the finish line. In the first step for Malhao it was not going very well, in fact I stayed behind, but then I was able to link again. The final climb I took it as a last effort and I did my best. Maybe I paid the effort of yesterday breakaway, but I’m happy and I’m leaving with a good taste. The preparation is on the right track, the sensations are good and now I only think about reaching the next goals well.”

Volta ao Algarve em Bicicleta Stage 5 Result:
1. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Sky in 4:18:02
2. Ruben Guerreiro (Por) Trek-Segafredo at 0:04
3. Serge Pauwels (Bel) Dimension Data at 0:08
4. Stefan Kung (Sui) BMC at 0:13
5. Cesare Benedetti (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe at 0:15
6. Dion Smith (NZ) Wanty-Groupe Gobert at 0:17
7. Simon Geschke (Ger) Sunweb
8. Julen Amezqueta (Spa) Cajar Rural-Seguros RGS at 0:23
9. Ben Swift (GB) (UAE Team Emirates at 0:29
10. Frederik Backaert (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert at 0:35.

Volta ao Algarve em Bicicleta Final Overall Result:
1. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Sky at 18:54:11
2. Geraint Thomas (GB) Sky at 1:31
3. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC at 2:16
4. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo at 2:22
5. Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors at 2:33
6. Jaime Roson (Spa) Movistar at 2:49
7. Maximillian Schachmann (Ger) Quick-Step Floors at 2:50
8. Serge Pauwels (Bel) Dimension Data
9. Felix Grosschartner (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe at 2:51
10. Nelson Oliveira (Por) Movistar at 2:54.

Algarve stage 5:

Extra Wild Card Team Added to Men’s Race – Including Three-Times Cross World Champion, Wout Van Aert
The Men’s and Women’s provisional entry lists are announced – 21 men’s teams will start, with the addition of Belgium’s Veranda’s Willems – Crelan.

Wout Van Aert has been recently crowned UCI Cyclocross World Champion for the third consecutive time, the same number of consecutive victories as the UCI Road World Champion, Peter Sagan. A great duel is expected between them on the course of Strade Bianche, on Saturday 3 March, with many other champions also announced at the start, including last year’s winner, Michał Kwiatkowski. Race organizer RCS Sport has added an extra wild card for the race, increasing the number of teams at the start to 21, each with seven riders for a total of 147. In the women’s race there will be 24 teams at the start, each with six, totaling riders 144 riders. Dossard No. 1 will be worn by last year’s winner, Elisa Longo Borghini.

12th STRADE BIANCHE NAMEDSPORT – 184km, 11 sectors and 63km on gravel roads (34.2% of the course)

UCI WORLDTEAMS – 18 (eligible) – total of 21 teams of 7 riders:

AG2R LA MONDIALE – Bardet, Latour
ASTANA PRO TEAM – Moser, Grivko
BAHRAIN – MERIDA – Nibali, Colbrelli
BMC RACING TEAM – Van Avermaet, Küng
FDJ – Roux, Roy
LOTTO SOUDAL – Benoot, Marczynski
MITCHELTON – SCOTT – Durbridge, Juul Jensen
MOVISTAR TEAM – Amador, Bennati
QUICK – STEP FLOORS – Gilbert, Stybar
TEAM DIMENSION DATA – Boasson Hagen, Eisel
TEAM LOTTO NL – JUMBO – Kruijswijk, Roglic
TEAM SKY – Kwiatkowski, Moscon
TEAM SUNWEB – Dumoulin, Matthews
TREK – SEGAFREDO – Brambilla, Stuyven

UCI Professional Continental Teams – 3 wild cards:
VERANDA’S WILLEMS – CRELAN – Van Aert, Devolder.

World Championships Cyclocross Valkenburg 2018 - Men Elite - 04/02/2018 - Wout Van Aert (Belgium / Team Verandas Willems - Crelan) - photo Davy Rietberge/Cor Vos©BettiniPhoto2018

4th STRADE BIANCHE WOMEN ELITE NAMEDSPORT – 136km, 8 sectors and 31.4km on gravel roads (23.1% of the course)

UCI Women’s Teams – 24 teams of 6 riders:
ALÉ CIPOLLINI – Bastianelli, Hosking
AROMITALIA VAIANO – Leleivyte, Balducci
ASTANA WOMEN’S TEAM – Beggin, Sierra
BEPINK – Borghesi, Nosková
CANYON // SRAM RACING – Ferrand Prevot, Niewiadoma
MITCHELTON SCOTT – Spratt, Kennedy
S.C. MICHELA FANINI – Balducci, Chacon Garcia
TEAM SUNWEB – Brand, Rivera
TEAM VIRTU CYCLING – Aalerud, Schweizer
TREK – DROPS – Buurman, Wiles
VALCAR PBM – Persico, Sanguineti
WIGGLE HIGH5 – Longo Borghini, Ritter.

Elisa Longo Borghini wins in 2017:
Foto  LaPresse/  Gian Mattia D'Alberto 04-02-2017, Siena sport Strade Bianche gara donne nella foto:   la vincitrice Elisa Longo Borghini  Photo LaPresse/ Gian Mattia D'Alberto 04-02-2017, Siena Strade Bianche women's race In the picture:   Elisa Longo Borghini, the winner

Dennis Set to Lead BMC Racing Team at Abu Dhabi Tour
BMC Racing Team is heading to the Abu Dhabi Tour next week (21 – 25 February) with Rohan Dennis set to spearhead the team’s General Classification ambitions.

Dennis will be joined at the start line by a strong and well-rounded team, BMC Racing Team Sports Director Maximilian Sciandri said.

“Abu Dhabi Tour will be more decisive this year with the addition of the individual time trial. With this in mind and our strength across the team in this discipline, we will go to the race with Rohan Dennis as our leader for the General Classification. He is coming out of some strong performances during the Australian season, and we believe he will be able to carry that momentum into a successful ride at this race. We have a strong roster as we look towards the start of the race, with riders like Miles Scotson, Joey Rosskopf, and Patrick Bevin. Plus we have seen some good signs from Brent Bookwalter already this season as well as Damiano Caruso and Kilian Frankiny, who I think will play a crucial support role and can be up there to help guide Dennis on the summit finish. So, overall I think we can go to Abu Dhabi with strong expectations,” Sciandri explained.

For Dennis, the Abu Dhabi Tour is a key building block as he looks ahead to the rest of the season.

“My main goals for the Abu Dhabi Tour are to win the time trial but also to test myself on the mountain-top finish. This race will be a good opportunity to see where I am compared to other GC guys at this stage of the year and what I need to work on looking ahead to the Giro d’Italia in a couple of months,” Dennis said.

Abu Dhabi Tour (21 – 25 February)

Rider Roster:
Patrick Bevin (NZL), Brent Bookwalter (USA), Damiano Caruso (ITA), Rohan Dennis (AUS), Kilian Frankiny (SUI), Joey Rosskopf (USA), Miles Scotson (AUS)
Sports Directors: Maximilian Sciandri (ITA), Noël Dejonckheere (BEL).

Rohan Dennis:

Costa Looks to Retain Abu Dhabi Tour Title as UAE Team Emirates Confirm Star-Studded Line Up
UAE Team Emirates’ Rui Costa will return to the UAE this week as the former World Champion attempts to defend his title at the Abu Dhabi Tour (21-25 February) alongside a first-class rider line up. Competing alongside the Portuguese legend will be Italian Champion Fabio Aru, who makes his team debut and reigning European Champion Alexander Kristoff, who returns to the UAE following his top 10 performance at the Dubai Tour.

The three superstars will be supported in their quest for the General Classification title by Italian trio Roberto Ferrari, Manuele Mori and Diego Ulissi and Kristoff’s fellow Norwegian, Sven Erik Bystrøm. Guiding the team will be the experienced Sports Director duo, Matxin Joxean Fernández and Marco Marzano, both of whom led team at the Dubai Tour.

Rui Costa, who made history in 2017 by picking up UAE Team Emirates’ first ever UCI World Tour win, said; “I have good memories from last year’s Abu Dhabi Tour. It was very important to win, especially in front of our new sponsors, managers and fans – it was a huge satisfaction! This year I hope to be as competitive as I was in 2017. We will be a strong team and we will try to put on a good show and get the best possible results.”

Commenting on his debut race, Fabio Aru, who joined UAE Team Emirates on a three-year deal in January said; “I’m honored and at the same time, very motivated to start my new professional adventure at the Abu Dhabi Tour. It’s the team’s home race, the home race for our sponsors, and I can’t hide my desire to get off on the right foot. We are going to be there with a very strong team and I’m sure that we will help inspire the local community and acquire some new fans.”

The five-stage race will be a sprinting masterclass for onlooking fans, as the flat nature of the tour will likely result in thrilling, bunched sprint finishes on all but one of the week’s stages. The opening stage, a 189km route, will see riders set off from the Madinat Complex, heading out on a long desert straight, past Liwa Oasis, before looping back towards Abu Dhabi and a finish in front of a packed crowd at ADNOC Schools. Stage two will see riders take in the picturesque Yas Island, with breakaway riders looking to pick up valuable sprint points at Al Rahba and Khalifa Port before finishing the day at Yas Beach. Stage three begins from the iconic Nation’s Tower and sees riders navigate the Abu Dhabi Corniche before turning to cross Yas Island and take part in what could be one of the most exciting sprint finishes of the tour at the Big Flag. New to the Abu Dhabi Tour for 2018 will be the inclusion of an Individual Time trial stage – an 11km route across Al Maryah Island. The fifth and final stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour is traditionally the most unpredictable. Riders, used to the flat terrain on the previous four stages, will have to tackle a gruelling ascent finish atop Jebel Hafeet. This stage played a fundamental role in Rui Costa’s 2017 victory.

Team roster:
Aru Fabio (Italy), Bystrøm Sven Erik (Norway), Costa Rui (Portugal), Ferrari Roberto (Italy), Mori Manuele (Italy), Ulissi Diego (Italy), Kristoff Alexander (Norway).
Sports Directors: Matxin Joxean Fernández (Spain), Marzano Marco (Italy).

Quick-Step Floors Cycling Team to Abu Dhabi Tour
The Middle East race – the season’s third World Tour event – will take place between 21-25 February.

Held annually since 2015, the Abu Dhabi Tour puts on the table this year, for the first time since its inception, a route comprising five stages, three of which – Madinat Zayed, Yas Beach and Big Flag – are likely to go to the sprinters. The other two will be the race’s first ever individual time trial, covering a 11.8km-long course with no technical difficulties on the Al Maryah Island, and the mountain top finish of Jebel Hafeet (10.8 kilometers, 6.6%)

Quick-Step Floors – who so far this season has amassed ten UCI victories – will come to the start with Julian Alaphilippe, neo-pros Alvaro Hodeg and James Knox, Enric Mas, Michael Mørkøv, Fabio Sabatini and Elia Viviani. Our squad will not be short of options at the Middle East race, where we took a stage victory and the best young rider jersey last year, as sports director Rik van Slycke pointed out.

“Elia has shown great form coming into the first season with the team, scoring several wins and notching up a few podium spots. Fabio and Michael, who played important roles in his early success for the team, will join him in Abu Dhabi alongside Alvaro, who is coming in from a solid start to the season in South America. With these guys around Elia, we hope he can be a contender for the first three stages. For the final one, we’ll have two cards in Julian and Enric, while James will make his pro debut and ease into the team after a small knee injury prevented him from racing in Spain, at Murcia and Almeria.”

Winner of four races in 2018 and one of the most in-form riders of the peloton in this start of the season, Elia Viviani hopes to continue his impressive run at the Abu Dhabi Tour, a race where he took two stage victories in the past: “After the Dubai Tour I spent a nice week at home, recovered and continued with my training. I came out of that race in a good shape, with confidence and a super feeling with my teammates, and now I’ll look to take all these factors into the Abu Dhabi Tour. Unlike Dubai, I’ll not race for the GC, but the goal is to fight for a stage win and help the climbers on our team as much as I can on the final day.”

After rolling out his season in South America with a beautiful stage victory at the inaugural Colombia Oro y Paz, Julian Alaphilippe will return to the race which he finished in fifth place overall last year, when he also conquered the best young rider jersey: “I am happy to go there for the second time. We have a strong team and will try to get some solid results. I did a good GC last year and it would be nice to repeat that, although it will be different now with the ITT. But I am motivated and will do my best.”

Rik van Slycke had the final word on the five-day event: “It is the only World Tour race in the Middle East and a target for many of the big sprinters, so nothing will come easy for our team. We have a tough mountain finish on stage five, but also the first three days could turn out to be tricky, because we are heading into the desert and if we have wind there, as in the past, things will become very interesting. The individual time trial on stage four is long enough to be decisive for the race too, because as we saw last year, the time gaps on the climb – despite being steep in the beginning – were minimal, so if you have an advantage of 20 seconds from the time trial, that can make the difference at the end.”

21.02–25.02 Abu Dhabi Tour (UAE) 2.UWT

Julian Alaphilippe (FRA), Alvaro Jose Hodeg Chagui (COL), James Knox (GBR), Enric Mas (ESP), Michael Mørkøv (DEN), Fabio Sabatini (ITA), Elia Viviani (ITA).
Sports Director: Geert Van Bondt (BEL) and Rik van Slycke (BEL).

Julian Alaphilippe:
Cycling: 1st Colombia Oro y Paz 2018 / Stage 4 Arrival / Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) Celebration / Sergio Henao Montoya (COL)/ Buga - El Tambo 1770m (149,5km)/ © Maximiliano Blanco

Cosnefroy’s debut at the UCI WorldTour
With the Tour of Abu Dhabi, Benoit Cosnefroy will be competing in the first UCI WorldTour race of his professional career, which began on August 1, 2017.

Benoit Cosnefoy: “I have been satisfied with my start to the season. Actually, I have no benchmark by which to go, since this is my first time starting the year with the pros. I did not really know how I was going to digest the winter activities that followed my world title, and the appearance requests that I had. I am very pleased that I have had the chance to enjoy my teammates’ victories twice already this season (note: Tony Gallopin’s at the Etoile de Béssèges and Alexandre Geniez’s Tour de Provence). I did my job, I helped defend the jersey, which was something I had never had the chance to do, and I feel very good physically. In Abu Dhabi, I will continue to do my job for my leaders to the best of my abilities, and continue to accumulate experience.”

Abu Dhadi Tour
Team Sunweb coach Aike Visbeek (NED) said: “The Abu Dhabi Tour will see Wilco and Tom make their season debut. We line up with a strong team to support our GC ambitions with Tom, as well as our goal for stage results with Phil. The first three stages typically end with a sprint; on these stages we need to stay sharp on the crosswind sections and keep both Tom and Phil in a good position going into the final. The decisive stages for the GC will be stage 4; the 15 kilometre time trial and stage 5 with the final climb up Jebel Hefeet. With the hard stages coming at the end of the race and to avoid unnecessary time loss on the flat stages, we need to remain completely focused from start to finish.”

Nikias Arndt (GER), Phil Bauhaus (GER), Tom Dumoulin (NED), Johannes Fröhlinger (GER), Lennard Hofstede (NED), Wilco Kelderman (NED), Mike Teunissen (NED).
Coach: Aike Visbeek.

Tom Dumoulin:

Double Punch with Ion Izagirre and Domenico Pozzovivo as Leaders for Abu Dhabi Tour
In the 4th edition of Abu Dhabi Tour we will see 5 stages, one more then previous 3 years. Apart for opening 3 flat stages, and one mountain finish for the last stage, this year offers us an individual time trial on the penultimate stage. With such a variety of stages, many teams are sending GC riders to compete for the overall win. Same is the case with us.

“Our GC leaders will be Ion Izagirre and Domenico Pozzovivo. Domenico just came from the 15 day high altitude training, so we’ll see how he adapts. Also we’ll be ambitious to go for the win in all the stages, with Bonifazio going for sprints, Izagirre and Navardauskas challenging ITT and our GC riders aiming to be up front in the mountain stage. All other riders should be offensive and helping our leader for the day.” – our Sports Director Rik Verbrugghe was straight forward.

Our leaders will be challenged by Tom Dumoulin and Fabio Aru who are starting in Abu Dhabi preparation for Giro d’Italia. Fabio Aru will be highly motivated as he recently joined the home team of this race – UAE Team Emirates. Alejandro Valverde should be considered favourite in any race, specially coming from the win of Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana earlier this month, and Rui Costa comes back as last year’s winner. The list of favourites doesn’t stop here, we should mention the likes of Wilco Kalderman, Ilnur Zakarin, Miguel Angel Lopez and Rafal Majka.

From Africa to the Alps: Meintjes looks to impress
The Dimension Data’s captain heads back to the race that put him in the spotlights in 2015, with two goals in mind: the final podiums at Tour of the Alps and Giro d’Italia

32 years ago, in 1986, Greg Lemond won his first Tour de France, symbolically giving the start to the cycling’s “globalization”. From Europe, the cycling progressively spread over to America, Oceania, Asia and Africa, and changed accordingly.

Three years ago, the first African squad has entered the World Tour circuit: it was Team Dimension Data, now on the verge of returning to the Tour of the Alps (April 16th-20th) for the first time since accessing the closed circle of World cycling. In the recent seasons, the South African team brought several African athletes to the pro debut, claiming prestigious wins thanks to the experience of established international names such as Mark Cavendish, Stephen Cummings and Edvald Boasson Hagen.

The next goal of Dimension Data, led by Team Principal Douglas Ryder, is claiming their first Grand Tour, and they are pursuing it with a South African Louis Meintjes, now back to the team where he debuted among the pros after two seasons between Lampre-Merida and Team UAE Emirates. Overall eighth in the last two editions of the Tour de France, in 2018 Meintjes will focus on the Giro d’Italia, identifying the Tour of the Alps as the perfect springboard in view of the big goal of the season.

A strong climber with good skills as rouleur, Meintjes had already showed off in the G.S. Alto Garda race in the past. In fact, the South African rider conquered the youth jersey at the 2015 Giro del Trentino, finishing overall eighth with the Team MTN-Qhubeka – the previous naming of Team Dimension Data. Meintjes was in the spotlight in the stages finishing in Brentonico and Fierozzo, revealing the skills he later showed at the Tour de France and Vuelta a España.

Africa has never stepped on the final podium of Tour of the Alps and Giro d’Italia but Meintjes will try to make history, supported by a good climbing team, featuring Spaniard Igor Anton among others. Anton spoke about Meintjes’ ambitions: “Louis is a young athlete with three GT top-10 to his name already. As ambitious as the goal can be, Louis can achieve it.”

Meantime, another famous Africa-born rider (but competing under a different nationality) has just returned to the competitions in Spain, starting a setup route to the Giro d’Italia that is supposed to pass through the Tour of the Alps roads. From Africa to the conquest of the Alps: the big time could be coming.

Louis Meintjes in action at 2015 Giro dl Trentino:

Tour de Suisse Assigns Three Wild cards
This year, the three teams receiving the sought-after wild cards are the Irish team Aqua Blue Sport (ABS), the French team Direct Energie (DEN) and the Italian team Nippo-Vini Fantini Europa Ovini (NIP).

InfrontRingier, organizer of the Tour de Suisse, is assigning a total of three wild cards to professional continental teams for this year’s tour. When added to the 18 teams on the UCI World Tour, a total of 21 teams with seven riders each will compete in the Tour de Suisse 2018. Two wild card teams made successful débuts at the Tour de Suisse last year.

Aqua Blue Sport
The young Irish team entered the Tour de Suisse last year during their maiden season, as one of the four wild card teams. The team, in their dark-blue team color, gave an impressive performance, even managing to claim a stage win – the current American champion, Larry Warbasse, claimed a solo victory in the mountain stage to Villars-sur-Ollon. With the Austrian Stefan Denifl, the Irish team also has a gifted mountain specialist in its ranks. Denifl won the Tour de Suisse mountains classification in 2015, when he was still riding for IAM Cycling, and claimed a solo victory at the Vuelta 2017 with a mountain finish.

Direct Energie
The French team, which went by the name Europcar until three years ago, is competing in its 18th season since its founding in 2000. The French pro continental team is once again starting with a Tour de Suisse wild card, as they did last year. The jersey colors are black and yellow; the naming sponsor is a power company. With Sylvain Chavanel (38), the French team boasts an old favorite – Chavanel rode for two years for the Swiss team IAM Cycling, which has since been disbanded. Direct Energie consists exclusively of French riders; the sole exception is the Estonian Rein Taaramäe.

Nippo-Vini Fantini Europa Ovini
The 19 riders in the Italian-Japanese professional continental team include the Japan Cup winner Marco Canola, as well as the 2004 Giro d’Italia winner Damiano Cunego, who is the team’s leader. This will be the final season for the three-time winner of the Giro di Lombardia. At the Tour de Suisse, Damiano Cunego will compete in his last major tour and bid farewell to the WorldTour. For the Nippo-Vini Fantini team, however, this will be their first time participating in the Tour de Suisse.

Tour de Suisse 2017 stage 8:

Damiano Cunego: Last WorldTour Race Will be the Tour of Switzerland
Announced this morning by Gazzetta dello Sport, the NIPPO Vini Fantini Europa Ovini team received a prestigious Wild Card: the Tour de Suisse. The important tour, part of the World Tour calendar, will be the last WT race of Damiano Cunego’s career. A very important competition for him, where he reached a final second overall in 2011 and the final top10 for 4 times.

The last big tour and World Tour race of Damiano Cunego’s career is now official. The Little Prince will be at the start of the Tour de Suisse. The news has been announced this morning by the Gazzetta dello Sport and the organizers today published the news of all the wild cards for the race that every year involves the big names of the cycling world.

A race that has a big story with Damiano Cunego’s career. He reached the second place overall in 2011, loosing the leadership only on the last time trial stage. In that period his sport director was Valerio Tebaldi and in 2018 they will find again the race in their calendar with the #OrangeBlue jersey. Not only a second place, Damiano Cunego was a main protagonist of the general ranking of the tour many times. 4th place in 2008, 5th place in 2007, 6th place in 2009.

The Declaration of Cunego
Damiano Cunego is strongly motivated looking forward to a race with whom he has a long story: “The Tour de Suisse for me is always something important. Some seasons I did good things after the Giro d’Italia coming with a strong condition, but my best results is the one of 2011 when I started to prepare the Tour de France and in that year I reached the 6th place in Tour de France and the 2nd place in Tour de Suisse. In 2018 I will be strongly motivated because is my last big World Tour race of the career and with the team we will study all the climbs to race in the best way as possible. For sure we will look for some possible stage victories.”

Tour de Suisse
Tour de Suisse is a very important race of the World Tour calendar. Every year all the most important teams and riders worldwide gives a big show and battle. The 2018 race is divided in 9 stages that starting from Frauenfeld, cross the Switzerland in the month of June, closing in Bellinzona. Damiano Cunego, second in the general ranking in the season 2011 and 4 times in the top10 from 2008 to 2011, is strictly linked to this competition and for this reason together with his NIPPO Vini Fantini Europa Ovini team, together with the Wild Card of the Organizers chose this Tour as final World Tour race of his career.

The WorldTour Races of the #ORANGEBLUE Spring
A big race of the European Cycling and of the World Tour calendar as the Tour de Suisse completes a big calendar of the team. In the upcoming months the team will race many World Tour races, such as Strade Bianche, Milano Sanremo, Tirreno Adriatico, Amstel Gold Race and the Tour de Suisse.

Bianchi New Bike Sponsor of Eurotarget Women’s Pro Team
Italian Elite team to ride with Oltre XR3 aero road racing model.

Bianchi enhances its presence in women professional cycling by announcing a new deal with Team Eurotarget Bianchi Vitasana, starting from the 2018 racing season, as second name sponsor and official bike supplier. Based in Bergamo, close to Bianchi’s headquarter, the team managed by former pro rider Giovanni Fidanza has stepped up from the Junior to the Elite series, and is ready to tackle the new adventure in the UCI international calendar with ambitions.

“It’s a great satisfaction to rely on Bianchi as main sponsor, a historical and at the same time innovative brand in performance cycling,” Giovanni Fidanza says. “They will help us to grow in all respects. I’d like to thank Bianchi for the decision to support our team equipping our athletes with their high-end bikes and providing Bianchi’s experience and professionalism proven at WorldTour level.”

Bianchi will supply the Italian pro team with Oltre XR3 engineered with Bianchi’s CV system, with the use of Countervail® vibration cancelling technology. As part of Bianchis’ Oltre family, the new Oltre XR3 delivers the perfect combination of control, and the competitive advantage of advanced aerodynamics.

Team Bianchi Eurotarget Vitasana, made of ten riders, includes 23 year-old Arianna Fidanza, Track World and European champion among Junior Women in 2013 and five-time Italian champion. Five-time Italian champion, her sister Martina, 18, clinched two Track Junior Worlds’ titles and as many European champion’s titles in 2017, clocking the World Record with the Italian quartet. Romanian Ana Maria Covrig (23) was three times ITT National champion and as many times Road National champion from 2015 to 2017. Belgian National CX champion Suzanne Verhoeven, 21, also stands out in the roster.

The team will compete in the full Italian calendar and in some of the most prestigious UCI WorldTour events, including Giro d’Italia, Strade Bianche and Cittiglio.

Full team’s line-up:
Beatrice Bartelloni (ITA), Ana Maria Covrig (ROM), Nicole D’Agostin (ITA), Arianna Fidanza (ITA), Martina Fidanza (ITA), Alice Gasparini (ITA), Gloria Manzoni (ITA), Anna Pedroni (ITA), Debora Silvestri (ITA), Suzanne Verhoeven (BEL).

Arianna and Martina Fidanza, daughters of the former pro’ rider Giovanni Fidanza and Team Eurotarget Bianchi’s riders:

Astana Love Story: rider and his bike.

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