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Wevelgem - Belgium - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Wout VAN AERT (Belgium / Team Verandas Willems - Crelan) - Arnaud DEMARE (France / Team FDJ) - Peter SAGAN (Slowakia / Team Bora - hansgrohe) pictured during Gent-Wevelgem In Flanders Fields (1.WWT) a one day men’s elite race from Gent to Wevelgem 25-03-2018 - photo NV/PN/Cor Vos © 2018

EUROTRASH News Round Up Monday!

Peter Sagan is back to his best with the win in Gent-Wevelgem. Race video and quotes from Wevelgem, E3 Harelbeke and the Volta a Catalonia. Vincenzo Nibali takes a look at the 2018 Worlds course – TOP STORY. Other cycling news: Injury updates from Mark Cavendish and Fabio Aru, race news from the Tour of the Alps and we finish with a video by Jasper Verkuijl from a windy Ronde van Groningen. Get the coffee!

TOP STORY: Nibali First to Recce “A Very Hard” Worlds’ Course
Italian National Team riders are the first in Innsbruck to discover the secrets of the Tirollian route. First impressions: “I’ve never seen a Road World Championship route as difficult as this.”

Vincenzo Nibali, fresh winner of Milano-Sanremo last Saturday, has completed two rounds of the Olympia circuit that the riders will face seven times in September, plus ridden twice up the final climb known as “The Hell”.

After the recce he said: “The final climb looked like a mountain bike endurance race, so hard. It will be a difficult race to manage, from power distribution to food, from the technical choices to the choice of athletes for a complete national team. After seeing it on paper I was expecting a hard route but riding it is quite another thing. Many other riders will be as surprised as I was today.”

Riding with his Italian National Teammates Alessandro De Marchi and Franco Pellizotti, Nibali was followed in the team car by Davide Cassani, Italian National Cycling Team Manager, who said after the recce: “I had already seen the course but today both myself and the boys were impressed. There’s an 8km climb to be repeated seven times, plus a final wall with inclinations that peak at 28%: this says everything about the hardness of the route.”

De Marchi said: “On paper, I think this is one of the most difficult World Championship courses; it was a good idea to come here now – a few months before the race – to see and understand what we’re going to find in September…I think Tirol will host us in the best way because this kind of territory is made for events like this one…I expect a lot of people [to spectate] all the week in this beautiful scenery. It’s going to be a great day.”

Pellizotti said: “These World Championships are very difficult…The course is long and tough. To do well here it will be very important to come out of the Vuelta in good condition, both mentally and physically.”

Nibali’s trainer Paolo Slongo and the Italian Women National Cycling Team Manager, Dino Salvoldi, were part of the group too.

23.03.2018, Rad-WM-Strecke, Innsbruck, AUT, Testbefahrung der Strecke für die UCI Straßenrad WM 2018 in Innsbruck-Tirol mit der italienischen Nationalmannschaft, im Bild v.l.: Alessandro De Marchi, der Manager des italienischen Frauen-Teams, Nibali-Trainer Paolo Slongo, Vincenzo Nibali, Teamkoordinator der italienischen Nationalmannschaft Davide Cassani, Franco Pellizotti und Tomi Rohregger// during a test inspection of the track with the italian cycling team for the UCI 2018 UCI Road World Championships in Innsbruck-Tirol, Austria on 2018/03/23. EXPA Pictures © 2018, PhotoCredit: EXPA/ Jakob Gruber

Gent-Wevelgem 2018
A perfect sprint for Peter Sagan as Bora-Hansgrohe deliver UCI World Champion to a third Gent-Wevelgem victory.

On any normal day, a 250km race over hard Belgian terrain would be brutal, especially with the eleven tough climbs and multiple cobblestone sections to make things difficult, but many of the riders at Gent-Wevelgem would still be feeling the efforts of riding E3-Harelbeke just two days earlier, just to make the going even more difficult. After a fairly flat opening 120km came the climbs, with some of the gradients reaching 14%, before a flat 30km to the finish. Positioning would be the key to winning this race – that and a very healthy dose of luck not to puncture or suffer a mechanical and to be in the right place at the right time when the decisive moves came.

With a similar profile to Friday’s E3-Harelbeke race, the aim would be to concentrate on reading the race and being in the right place at the right time. With the outcome of the one-day classics races being so dependent on simple good luck, the team would be planning on making as much of that luck as possible, by riding to support Peter and delivering him to the key points of the stage in a strong position to contest the win.

The crisp and cold morning saw most of the riders start the day in arm and leg warmers. With 120km to ride before the first climbs of the day, riders would have plenty of time to get warmed up, but this didn’t mean the start was going to be relaxed. The hard pace from the drop of the flag meant a break didn’t go until 35km had been covered, but once the group of six made their move, they really pushed ahead – creating a significant ten-minute gap that spurred the chasing peloton on to reduce their advantage. The peloton started to chase and the pace left some of the peloton dropping off the back, but on the front, a small group, with World Champion, Peter Sagan, in the mix, broke off, first making the catch on the break, before leaving them behind. One of these twenty-three riders, with the group made up of some of the big favorites, would be the race’s winner. In the final 2km the attacks came, but Sagan stayed calm, saving his energy and keeping a cool head. Starting his sprint from a long way out, and once he was out in front, there was no chance of anyone taking his third Gent-Wevelgem win from him. The Quick-Step Floors team were strong all day, much the same as in the E3 Harelbeke, with strong rides from Gilbert and Stybar, but in the end Elia Viviani took 2nd behind Sagan.

Wevelgem - Belgium - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Peter SAGAN (Slowakia / Team Bora - hansgrohe) pictured during Gent-Wevelgem In Flanders Fields (1.WWT) a one day men’s elite race from Gent to Wevelgem 25-03-2018 - photo NV/PN/Cor Vos © 2018

Race winner, Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe): “I’m very happy and I’m glad to win this race again. My team did a great job. In the finale, there were two of us remaining in the front group and I’m really happy with our performance. Sprints are always like a lottery and I was wondering what was going to happen. In the end, I started my sprint early and it worked out – I had the legs to keep going. I felt good the second time we climbed the Kemmelberg. It wasn’t too stressful and there wasn’t a lot of wind to make things difficult, which is why we came to the finish in a bigger group. It was a different race today from all of the Gent-Wevelgems I’ve ridden and the lack of stress and the better weather conditions made it easier. It wasn’t anywhere near as crazy as the race has been over the last few years, but it was still really fast.”

2nd, Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors): “We were aggressive, we had four riders in the group and we controlled everything so it came down to a bunch. Philippe did some huge turns and tracked down the attacks, Yves brought me near the front, while Styby put me on Démare’s wheel, of whom I knew I can surpass, but unfortunately I got a bit boxed in and lost two seconds when I came around Vanmarcke, and that turned out to be decisive, because afterwards it became impossible to gain those ten meters I lost. We were confident we could win, the guys were fantastic, and having missed on this opportunity makes me extremely sad. Gent-Wevelgem is one of my career goals, a race I’ve always dreamt of winning, so it was only natural to have that reaction after crossing the line in second. This is the most disappointing loss of my career and I cried at the finish because I knew I could have won. I really wanted the victory and I know it’s a missed opportunity and I’m incredibly sad, but that’s cycling. All I can do is continue working and believing”

5th, Jens Debusschere (Lotto Soudal): “I wanted to aim for victory today, although I knew it wouldn’t be easy with sprinters such as Démare, Groenewegen, Sagan and Viviani. In the sprint I took the wheel of Démare, but he chose a gap that I couldn’t go through anymore. There was a headwind in the last straight line, so you had to make sure no to come to the front too early. When looking back on the sprint, I maybe should have taken more initiative but I missed some confidence. Let this be a lesson for the future. Nonetheless, finishing fifth in Ghent-Wevelgem is a good result. I felt good all day long and was riding attentively at the front on the Plugstreets. I also survived the second ascent of the Kemmelberg very well. I bridged to the front with a nice group of 25 riders. Frison and Wallays had done an excellent job by going in the attack. The rest of us only needed to be attentive on the crucial points. I had told that I wanted to be good from Milan-Sanremo till Dwars door Vlaanderen. We had bad luck in Sanremo, but today I set a good result. If everything had gone perfectly I might have conquered a podium spot. Wednesday I want to achieve another good result in Dwars door Vlaanderen, maybe I can win like in 2016.”

6th, Oliver Naesen (AG2R-La Mondiale): “The race was very nervous. I’m glad I did not crash; the whole pack rubbed shoulders really aggressively. I was definitely looking forward to starting “the war” on the climbs. In the end, we came to the finish in a big pack of thirty vying for the victory. I was blocked 150 meters from the line, and had to scrub my momentum. In the end, given the conditions, I am rather satisfied with my sixth place. I have recovered well from the Record Bank E3 Harelbeke. And now followed that race with another high placing.”

22nd, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Wanty-Groupe Goubert): “After a disappointed day at E3 Harelbeke I feel relieved with my performance today. I felt good and had strong legs. This race did seem to last much shorter than E3 on Friday! In the run-up to the Kemmelberg I was in front. I looked back and I accelerated with Burghardt. We continued to ride and so I could ride my pace at the Kemmel. But I had to push and pull, wow! In the last kilometer I tried to accelerate, but Trentin pulled me back and I had fired my last cartouche. But you never win if you never try! This performance is good after a lesser ride in E3 Harelbeke. On Friday evening an osteopath came to the hotel. After a crash in the beginning of the race, something went wrong in my back and so the power was missing. Those problems are now gone, the power is back!”

Gent-Wevelgem Result:
1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe in 5:07:32
2. Elia Viviani (Ita) Quick-Step Floors
3. Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ
4. Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
5. Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto Soudal
6. Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R-La Mondiale
7. Matteo Trentin (Ita) Mitchelton-Scott
8. Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Quick-Step Floors
9. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
10. Wout Van Aert (Bel) Veranda’s Willems Crelan.


Volta a Catalunya 2018
The Telefónica-backed squad showed strong display of confidence in the Queen Stage 4 in Volta a Catalunya. Alejandro Valverde claimed his seventh win in 2018 with Nairo Quintana (3rd) and Marc Soler (6th on the stage, 7th overall), all in the top ten in GC.

Movistar Team took advantage of their strength in numbers and courageous attitude to strike a hard blow to the overall standings on Thursday, with Alejandro Valverde back in the lead via his second stage victory atop La Molina.

After keeping the day’s two most dangerous breakaways – one by Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott) over the climbs to Jou (Cat-1) and La Creueta (Special); the other, by Matej Mohoric (Bahrain-Merida). A seven-man group midway through the ascent, later reduced to a four-rider move, with Nairo, Valverde, Latour (AG2R-La Mondiale) and Bernal (Sky). The moves by Bernal did not make Valverde nervous, and after some late help from Quintana, Alejandro took a convincing sprint victory on La Molina’s decisive slope. Valverde took back the Volta GC lead by 19 seconds on Bernal and 26 seconds to Quintana (3rd).

La Molina - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Alejandro VALVERDE (Movistar Team) pictured during 98th Volta Ciclista a Catalunya (2.UWT) stage 4 from Llanars to La Molina (170.8KM) - 22-03-2018 - photo Luis Gomez/Cor Vos © 2018

Stage winner and overall leader, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar): “It was a really tough day, more importantly because of the cold temperatures. I suffered a lot at the late part of La Creueta and its descent. The move by Mitchelton on the Joy climb was a really good one, but didn’t make us become nervous for two reasons: one, it was a very tough stage, and two, it was quite harder for a solo rider to reach the finish. That’s why Chaves cracked near the final climb and couldn’t continue his action. The team was phenomenal, all day – they kept the race always under control and stayed calm. At the descent of La Creueta I went after that move from Mohoric on the downhill, but he took such risks into a couple of turns that I chose not to continue, because I didn’t want to hurt myself. I preferred to eat, complete the rest of the descent in a more relaxed way and wait for my team-mates. I was so happy to see things unfold in such a great way for us into that last climb. With help from our team directors and with some good organization between the three of us, everything went to perfection. Still, it wasn’t really that hard, the strategy for me was simple: should Soler or Nairo attack, I just had to wait and let others go after their moves. Being three into those groups, we had a strong advantage. I just had to stay on their wheels and then go for the stage win. I won’t get tired of saying it: Nairo, Marc and all team-mates were ‘A-plus’ today. Bernal now becomes the most dangerous contender for the GC. He’s a brilliant rider at this moment and he’ll be even better in the future. We should keep an eye on him all the way to Sunday. I trust my team-mates and we’ll fight to keep this jersey until the very end.”

Volta a Catalunya Stage 4 Result:
1. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar in 4:25:54
2. Egan Bernal (Col) Sky
3. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 0:06
4. Pierre Latour (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 0:23
5. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ at 0:53
6. Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar
7. Simon Yates (GB) Mitchelton-Scott
8. Hugh Carthy (GB) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale at 0:59
9. Daniel Martinez (Col) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale at 1:03
10. Ben Hermans (Bel) Israel Cycling Academy.

Volta a Catalunya Overall After Stage 4:
1. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar in 17:00:58
2. Egan Bernal (Col) Sky at 0:19
3. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 0:26
4. Pierre Latour (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 0:48
5. Simon Yates (GB) Mitchelton-Scott at 1:12
6. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ at 1:14
7. Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar at 1:18
8. George Bennett (NZ) LottoNL-Jumbo
9. Hugh Carthy (GB) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale at 1:24
10. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo at 1:28.

Stage 4:

Jarlinson Pantano (Trek-Segafredo) held off the chasing peloton in a nail-biter ending to Stage 5 at the Volta a Catalunya Friday to claim his first win since his Tour de France stage victory in 2016. Pantano and Vegard Stake Laengen (UAE Team Emirates) were the last two standing from the day’s breakaway.

With a two-minute gap and 15 kilometers to go, mathematically the pair looked good. But when Movistar and Team Sky decided to pick up the chase on the gradual climb ahead of a long descent to the finish, the gap fell rapidly. Pantano and Laengen’s lead was down to 1 minute and 25 seconds entering the tunnel with 12 kilometers remaining.

The climb crested in the six-kilometer tunnel where speeds reportedly were over 90km/h. When Alejandro Valverde attacked from the peloton entering the tunnel, it was anyone’s guess who would emerge first.

However, Pantano and Laengen exited still in the lead, but the gap had fallen drastically. With four kilometers to go to the line, they held a precarious 16 seconds. The pair managed to maintain their slight lead, and the daring and savvy Pantano dove through the final turns. He opened up a 10-meter gap to Laengen that he held over the line for a huge win, his first with Trek-Segafredo.

Vielha Val d’Aran - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport -  Jarlinson PANTANO GOMEZ (Columbia / Team Trek Segafredo) pictured during 98th Volta Ciclista a Catalunya (2.UWT) stage 5 from Llívia to Vielha Val d’Aran (212.9KM) - 23-03-2018 - photo Luis Gomez/Cor Vos © 2018

Stage winner, Jarlinsonn Pantano (Trek-Segafredo): “We knew that today would be the day for the breakaway to go until the end and we took the opportunity. I know Laengren, we were teammates at IAM Cycling, so we had a good understanding and worked together quite well. After having some problems after Paris-Nice and feeling a bit sick when I came here, I finally could grab a victory! I had a few rough days indeed, but that’s cycling: you have good days and bad days. The truth is I am very happy with this big result. It has been a quite difficult day where Laurent and I went together in the breakaway. We knew that today was an opportunity for us. The team has put so much trust in me, so I am very happy I could finally give them something in return. So, for now, I hope I can continue in the same way. I want to thank my wife, my son and the whole team for their support. I really feel at home in this team, Trek-Segafredo feels like a real family, so I could not be happier to finally give them a victory!”

Aru won’t take part in the sixth stage
In agreement with the medical staff and the team’s technical staff, Fabio Aru has decided to not take part in the sixth stage of the Volta a Catalunya, preferring to concentrate on recovering his leg that limited him during the race. With Doctor De Grandi, UAE Team Emirates medic, Aru on Saturday morning will have a MRI scan at the Clinica Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

Volta a Catalunya Stage 5 Result:
1. Jarlinson Pantano (Col) Trek-Segafredo in 5:20:53
2. Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
3. Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain-Merida at 0:10
4. Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
5. Danilo Wyss (Swi) BMC
6. Sergei Chernetski (Rus) Astana at 0:12
7. José Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Movistar at 0:14
8. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar
9. Dorian Godon (Fra) Cofidis
10. Bjorg Lambrecht (Bel) Lotto Soudal.

Volta a Catalunya Overall After Stage 5:
1. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar in 22:22:05
2. Egan Bernal (Col) Sky at 0:16
3. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 0:26
4. Pierre Latour (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 0:48
5. Simon Yates (GB) Mitchelton-Scott at 1:12
6. Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar at 1:18
7. George Bennett (NZ) LottoNL-Jumbo at 1:20
8. Hugh Carthy (GB) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale at 1:24
9. Daniel Martinez (Col) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale at 1:26
10. Jesper Hansen (Den) Astana at 1:28.

Stage 5:

Maximilian Schachmann was part of a small breakaway group which took off at the start of a short Stage 6 marred by grim weather, between Olimp Nagawczyna and Rzeszow, but both his race and season came to a premature conclusion after sliding into a corner on the wet roads and suffering multiple fractures in his right calcaneus, which led to a long recovery and an even longer absence, with the German making his return to competition only in February.

More than seven months from that setback, the 24-year-old went into a two-man breakaway which nobody gave too many chances of going all the way. After all, the original stage 6 of Volta a Catalunya had been shortened and the profile, despite including a second-category climb, was to the liking of the sprinters. But the escapees somehow survived until the finish and Max Schachmann sprinted to his maiden pro victory and the first of a German rider in the race since 2010, punching the air as he roared over the line.

Schachmann and Diego Rubio (Burgos BH) were the only riders who believed in the chances of a breakaway, attacking after the start, ignoring the pouring rain and establishing a four-minute lead which was reduced to just two inside the final 30 kilometers, when the echelons wreaked havoc and split the bunch into four groups. In the closing ten kilometers, the gap hovered around the 50-second mark and the peloton looked poised to take the stage, but the leading duo rode admirably and fended off the efforts of the chasers

Under the flamme rouge, Max and Rubio were more than 15 seconds clear, making it obvious that the stage will be played between the two of them. Schachmann perfectly judged the final, jumping from the wheel of his Spanish opponent with around 200 meters to go and claiming Quick-Step Floors 19th victory of the year and his first since turning pro, which made him the ninth different rider of the team to taste success this season.

Torrefarrera - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Maximilian SCHACHMANN (Germany / Team Quick - Step Floors) - Diego RUBIO HERNANDEZ (Spain / Team Burgos - BH) pictured during 98th Volta Ciclista a Catalunya (2.UWT) stage 6 from Vielha Val d’Aran to Torrefarrera (194.2KM) - 24-03-2018 - photo Luis Gomez/Cor Vos © 2018

Stage winner, Maximilian Schachmann (Quick-Step Floors): “On the profile, it might have looked like a sprinters’ stage, but in the end it turned out to be a tough one. It was shorter than planned, but the weather made it really tough. Despite that, I went into the breakaway, and even though it was just me and Rubio there, we worked hard and gave everything on the roads to Torrefarrera. When the peloton began the chase, our gap went down and with 20 kilometers to go we had under two minutes, but we continued to do our job and pull hard. I am so happy, you can’t believe it! I have felt good for a long period, but today being able to take my first victory is amazing. I will always remember this day. I had good sensations from the morning, actually already since yesterday. I tried a few times yesterday, but it didn’t work out. Today it was different and worked out perfectly. I was ready from the morning, even opting for my aero bike despite that climb, because I wanted to be in the break to try and get a result. This win is also for Petr Vakoc, my teammate who is out with an injury. Last year it was me, but today I proved it’s possible to come back stronger, and if I can do it, he can too! I felt good and fast today on my Specialized Venge, despite shivering at one point on the descent and suffering from cramps. The two roundabouts in the final five kilometers played into our favor, we took the best line there and didn’t lose any time. Then, after the last corner, I was in the better position and opened the sprint with 150 meters to go. This victory came as a result of a great team spirit, which brings confidence, confidence that we are turning into a lot of victories. So a big thanks to my team for believing in me and giving me the environment and opportunities to grow as a rider.”

3rd, Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe): “It’s a pity we didn’t catch the two leaders, but they rode strong and deserve the win. I felt good today, my legs come better and better. Coming to Catalunya I missed some race kilometers, but now I think my shape is coming good, which is important for the upcoming races.”

Volta a Catalunya Stage 6 Result:
1. Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Quick-Step Floors in 2:34:25
2. Diego Rubio Hernandez (Spa) Burgos-BH
3. Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe at 0:18
4. Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain-Merida
5. Roberto Ferrari (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
6. Enrique Sanz Unzue (Spa) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias
7. Egan Bernal (Col) Sky
8. Danilo Wyss (Swi) BMC
9. José Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Movistar
10. Benoit Jarrier (Fra) Fortuneo-Samsic.

Volta a Catalunya Overall After Stage 6:
1. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar in 24:56:48
2. Egan Bernal (Col) Sky at 0:16
3. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 0:26
4. Pierre Latour (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 0:48
5. Simon Yates (GB) Mitchelton-Scott at 1:12
6. Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar at 1:18
7. George Bennett (NZ) LottoNL-Jumbo at 1:20
8. Hugh Carthy (GB) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale at 1:24
9. Daniel Martinez (Col) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale at 1:26
10. Jesper Hansen (Den) Astana at 1:28.

Stage 6:

Alejandro Valverde becomes new UCI WorldTour ranking leader, wraps up dream Volta for Movistar Team with Nairo Quintana in 2nd overall and the Blues as winners of the team GC. Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) won Stage 7 with an attack in the final laps, behind in the peloton, 2nd overall Egan Bernal (Sky) crashed and ended his Volta a Catalunya in an ambulance. Bernal had an initial x-ray and will undergo further investigations on his shoulder.

Valverde, who becomes the new leader of the 2018 UCI WorldTour individual ranking, equals Miguel Indurain with three Volta triumphs and, thanks to his 116th success as a pro competitor, and three stage-race wins this season out of three, he’s lined up at so far, following the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and the Abu Dhabi Tour.

More photos in PeloPics.

Barcelona - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Simon YATES (GBR / Team Mitchelton - Scott) pictured during 98th Volta Ciclista a Catalunya (2.UWT) stage 7 from Barcelona to Barcelona (154.8KM) - 25-03-2018 - photo Luis Gomez/Cor Vos © 2018

Overall winner, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar): “They always say that a race is not won until the final finish line is crossed, and it was a really nervous, fast stage today, where we had no respite. The roads were always a little bit wet, with some light rain falling over the final circuit – that made for a very dangerous course, worse than usual. We saw two motorbikes from the organizers and TV crashing, and later on, my team-mate José Joaquín Rojas went down together with Bernal at a point where one of those motors might have left some oil from its crash. It’s really sad to see what happened to Egan. He was again really strong on the circuit today, jumping across to the breaks – I really had to dig deep to follow his wheel and neutralize the attempt. Things just happen where you don’t expect them to do. He’s a talented guy, with lots of future and already some big results to his name – I just hope he recovers well and quickly, as well him as my team-mate José Joaquín. It was a difficult race again today, but my team-mates, just like they’ve done all week, were able to keep things under control. When things got the craziest, I just accelerated on the climb to keep neutralizing those moves which were more dangerous, to make things easier for my team-mates. We worked again a little bit after my attack, because Yates was sort of a threat for the overall result. All in all, things turned out really well. It’s been a fantastic week for us, with Nairo’s second place, the fifth by Marc, the two stage wins… The team have worked their hearts out for the seven days, and we really deserve these results. It was awful to see Rojas crashing and not being able to join us on the podium after finishing, though. In my case, there’s no better way to start a season, especially considering where I was coming from. A fourth Volta title in 2019? I don’t know. We’ve got three now, which is fantastic, and above all, it’s three stageraces already for me this season!”

3rd on the stage and overall,Pierre Latour (AG2R-La Mondiale): “The last stage was very hectic. Unfortunately, we lost Clément Chevrier who broke his collarbone. On the final circuit of Montjuic, the guys still put in a huge effort to cut the gap to the break. In the end, with the crash that Bernal suffered, I finish on the final podium, equal in time with Yates. They separated us according to stage places. I am very happy with this first podium for me at a UCI WorldTour stage race. At the beginning, I was aiming for a place in the top ten. Of course, it gives me even more motivation for the future. I will be at the start of the Tour of the Basque Country (April 2-7) to help Alexis Vuillermoz and Romain Bardet, before heading to the Flèche Wallonne (April 18) and the Tour de Romandie (April 24-29) where I hope to be in the front again.”

5th on the stage, Jay McCarthy (Bora-Hansgrohe): “I felt good today, I am happy that I finished fifth place of course it would have been nice to take another podium result today but I feel my form is coming along well for the upcoming races.”

Volta a Catalunya Stage 7 Result:
1. Simon Yates (GB) Mitchelton-Scott in 3:28:04
2. Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar at 0:13
3. Pierre Latour (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 0:18
4. Jarlinson Pantano (Col) Trek-Segafredo
5. Jay McCarthy (Aus) Bora-Hansgrohe
6. Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain-Merida
7. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo
8. Warren Barguil (Fra) Fortuneo-Samsic
9. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar
10. George Bennett (NZ) LottoNL-Jumbo.

Volta a Catalunya Final Overall Result:
1. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar in 28:25:07
2. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 0:29
3. Pierre Latour (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 0:47
4. Simon Yates (GB) Mitchelton-Scott
5. Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar Team at 1:10
6. George Bennett (NZ) LottoNL-Jumbo at 1:23
7. Daniel Martinez (Col) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale at 1:29
8. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo at 1:31
9. Jesper Hansen (Den) Astana
10. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ at 1:34.

Stage 7:

E3 Harelbeke 2018
Quick-Step Floors’ amazing streak in Belgium continued on Friday afternoon, when Niki Terpstra soloed to victory in the prestigious E3 Harelbeke, adding a new trophy to the team’s cabinet in this season’s one-day races, after the ones of Le Samyn, Dwars door West-Vlaanderen, Nokere Koerse, Handzame Classic and Driedaagse. It was a well-deserved and hard-earned win, which came on the back of a brilliant and flawless team strategy, doubled by an amazing strength in depth.

The first key moment of the race surfaced with 100 kilometers to go, when a big crash in the peloton split the field, leaving 30 riders in the front, including the entire Quick-Step Floors squad. Tim Declercq and Iljo Keisse put down the hammer, trading ferocious pulls as they increased the advantage over the chasers to over a minute and brought the gap to the breakaway down to two minutes. On the iconic Taaienberg, a 650m climb on which many of Quick-Step Floors’ previous wins were forged in the past decade, our team put the race in the gutter and forced a massive selection.

Just before the top of the climb, Yves Lampaert and Niki Terpstra powered clear from the group, looked over their shoulders and saw their teammates slowed down the chase of the opponents, which gave them a boost to push on and build a 20-second gap, catching the last two escapees, Damien Gaudin (Direct Energie) and Pim Ligthart (Roompot), in the process. Lampaert, the reigning Dwars door Vlaanderen champion, buried himself for Terpstra at the front and took the gap to almost a minute, as behind Philippe Gilbert and Zdenek Stybar marked the moves of Peter Sagan (bora-hansgrohe) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC).

On the narrow and twisty roads of Flanders, Yves and Niki – both former World TTT Champions – soldiered on and left every hurdle behind, be it the Stationsberg, the Paterberg or the Oude Kwaremont, the longest hill of the race. It was after the latter that a regrouping took place, when a large group caught the chasers, but the Quick-Step Floors duo remained cool as a cucumber and continued to fight hard, until with 23 kilometers to go, when the admirable Lampaert ran out of steam, just before the slopes of Tiegemberg.

Terpstra – who earlier this season soloed to a convincing victory at Le Samyn, where Quick-Step Floors’ strength in numbers again made the difference – still held 30 seconds over the top of the hill as he made use of his time trial skills to pace himself, but the advantage began to drop inside the last ten kilometers, on the long straight roads to Harelbeke, where the chasers made visual contact with him.

As a result, several attacks shaved off half of the deficit, but once again, Philippe Gilbert and Zdenek Stybar played their role to perfection, tracking down every single acceleration, hindering the chasers’ effort and ensuring Niki’s gap didn’t dip below 15 seconds and was still a hefty one in the closing kilometers.

Completely drained, but with his arms high in the air, Terpstra arrived at the finish, where he celebrated Quick-Step Floors’ 33rd victory in a cobbled classic and cementing his reputation as one of the best one-day riders of his generation. Philippe Gilbert made it a spectacular 1-2 for the team, as he easily sprinted from the ten-man group, while Zdenek Stybar concluded in ninth place, capping off one of the best team displays seen in the last years.

More photos in PeloPics.

Harelbeke - Belgium - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Niki TERPSTRA (Netherlands / Team Quick - Step Floors) pictured during Record Bank E3 Harelbeke 2018 (1UWT) a one day men’s elite race from Harelbeke to Harelbeke (206.5KM) 23-03-2018 - photo Cor Vos © 2018

Race winner, Niki Terpstra (Quick-Step Floors): “This is one of the biggest wins of my career and the fact that it came in such an important race gives me even more pleasure. It wouldn’t have been possible without this awesome team, the way they all rode today – from Tim and Iljo who spent a ridiculous amount of energy at the front of the bunch and Philippe, Florian and Zdenek who reeled in every move to Yves’ fantastic effort – this was a perfect display of the Wolfpack spirit. I was disappointed after last year, when I came out of the season winless, but the hard work in the winter paid off today and now I’m very happy. The success in Le Samyn gave me a lot of confidence and showed me I’m on the right track. Many thought we were crazy to attack 74 kilometers out, but we knew we could make something special today. The toughest moment came on the highway, inside the last ten kilometers, but I didn’t crack and rode my heart out there, managing to finish off the team’s brilliant effort with this win. I am very grateful to our sponsors, they’ve been by our side for so many years now and thanks to them we are here today. To repay them with a victory on such a big race made me very glad. Let’s hope we’ll keep the momentum and add many other great results to our palmarés this spring.”

3rd, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC): “The problem was I did a lot of efforts in the middle of the race and then when the big group came back to us it was a bit hard for me to reset my legs and try to find a little bit of freshness again. It was hard to close [the gap]. We all had to work together and while we had three guys in there, the most important thing was that everyone worked together to try and pull Terpstra back but he was super strong. On the big road, we went pretty fast but we didn’t come much closer to him so I think in the end, probably the strongest guy won. I was super happy with my legs and my race. I put in a lot of effort and it was also a good training for me. In the end, I am also pretty happy with my result. I am on the podium and okay, it is not a win but I know how hard it is to win these kinds of races so I am pretty happy with what I did today. Stefan did everything he could to keep it rolling and also Jürgen tried to do his best with a few attacks but it was super hard because if we had really taken the lead with two guys, the others could have saved their legs too and that would also have made them harder to beat. There were some fast guys like Trentin in the group. We had Gilbert who never did one pull and his team were also not pulling so it was a big risk. We tried to do our best and it is sometimes pretty complicated in a race.”

4th Oliver Naesen (AG2R-La Mondiale): “My place at the finish is pretty close to what it was last year, but the scenario was totally different! Halfway through, we were all well placed. Then there was a big crash, and I had to wait to change my bike. It’s all thanks to my teammates that I was able to make it back to the front of the race. I had a crazy good team with me today! In spite of the crash, I was still confident. I know that we have one of the strongest squads racing the classics this year. And the sports directors were always encouraging us to hang on. We were certainly motivated never to give up. This morning, I was not starting with the goal of finishing fourth. But after the day we had,
I can say I am pretty happy.”

5th, Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal): “I hadn’t participated in any races for ten days, but I was happy with today’s condition and I felt strong. I gave everything I had, all day long, but unfortunately we never had the perfect composition in the chasing group to close the gap. Terpstra was obviously very strong today, otherwise you can’t ride at the front for tens of kilometers and hold off a chasing group. I just escaped the crash. At that moment we were pretty well organized as a team. Together with three teammates I was part of the first group when the bunch split. We immediately took control to stay ahead with that group. I tried several times to bridge to Lampaert and Terpstra. It was a pity the plans of BMC weren’t clear, because that could have been the key to catching Terpstra at the end. Anyway, I am satisfied with this fifth place. It was a hard race and that suits me much better than a race where there’s a lot of speculation and an explosion at the end. Next week it’s the Ronde van Vlaanderen, a race that should suit me even better. I’m ready for it.”

10th, Stefan Küng (BMC): “First of all, I was lucky I didn’t go down in the crash. I was stuck in it and my bike was broken but I got my spare bike pretty quickly and then I could start to chase. It was quite hard to get back there because it was an uphill section with a bit of headwind but together with Moscon we managed to get back in there. I felt like ‘okay this is the first group now’ and then Jürgen told me about the forty guys in front with Greg. To be honest, when they couldn’t get closer, it was always around 1:30, I thought the race could be over. But then we caught group after group, rider after rider. Jürgen and I worked well together and with his experience, he helped to get me into the right position. We were able to stay up there with the best guys before catching Greg’s group. It was then a question of what we did from there. We had the numbers but Quick-Step Floors still had two guys so, if we closed the gap and they sat on then the attacking would start all over again. I tried to make a little selection but it was hard. We did our best and to be honest I don’t know what we could have done differently. We finished with a podium place and we know that we are ready as a team and that’s something that we can take away from the race. Today’s result was my best in a classic. I was feeling good the whole day and even when we hit the Kwaremont, I knew that I had it in my legs to follow the strongest guys. For me, it was definitely a bit of a confidence boost as over the last few years I have always had some issues heading into the classics. I was maybe a little over excited and I was always caught up in crashes or had mechanicals. Now, I know that if everything works well that I have the legs to be in a good position. It is good to be up there as that’s what we live for, to race for the win and I hope to be up there in the final of the next races too.”

Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe): “It was a fast and nervous E3 Harelbeke and until the Taaienberg, everything was going exactly according to the way we had planned. Then when Quick-Step attacked, Daniel and I took the responsibility to go across and close the gaps, bringing the chasing groups together. That required a big effort and when you do that so far from the finish, it’s difficult. At 30km into the race, I was caught in a tumble. I didn’t suffer anything serious, just some road rash on my right thigh. However, that didn’t affect my performance and I now look forward to the next race.”

E3 Harelbeke Result:
1. Niki Terpstra (Ned) Quick-Step Floors in 5:04:18
2. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors at 0:20
3. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC
4. Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R-La Mondiale
5. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal
6. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
7. Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale
8. Gianni Moscon (Ita) Sky
9. Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Quick-Step Floors
10. Stefan Küng (Swi) BMC.

E3 action:

Mark Cavendish Up-Date
Following on from last weekend’s crash at Milan-San Remo, Mark Cavendish has provided a positive update on his condition. After further medical examination this week it’s been confirmed that as expected Cavendish has avoided any serious, long term injury and is now working hard to recover from the broken rib and damaged ankle he suffered as a result of the crash last Saturday.

Cavendish has however been forced into making immediate adjustments to his race schedule as he recovers from his injuries which include the disappointment of having to pull out of this year’s Commonwealth Games. Although there has been no specific time frame pencilled in for a return Cavendish has confirmed he hopes to be back racing within a matter of weeks, rather than months, but will take all the time necessary to allow him to recover to full fitness.

Cavendish said, “Although it’s ultimately positive news that there’s been no serious damage sustained following the crash I am hugely disappointed to have to withdraw from the Commonwealth Games. I am immensely proud to represent the Isle of Man and was looking forward to a successful Games with the team. However, unfortunately it’s just come a little too soon in my recovery. I would like to thank Andrew Roche and the whole team for their amazing support and wish them all the very best, and I’ll be proudly supporting them from home. I’ll now be working tirelessly on my recovery and will be liaising closely with my team at Dimension Data before announcing a return to racing. Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for the huge amount of support and well wishes I’ve received following the crash last weekend. I will be doing everything I can to get back as quickly as possible”.

Mark Cavendish:
Adnoc School - Abu Dhabi - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - crash val sturz fall Mark CAVENDISH (GBR / Team Dimension Data) pictured during the 2018 Abu Dhabi Tour stage 1 from Madinat Zaya to Adnoc School (189KM) - photo LB/RB/Cor Vos © 2018

The MRI Excludes Major Inuries for Aru
A MRI carried out on Fabio Aru today, March 24, at the Sagrada Familia clinic in Barcelona showed “an edema of post-traumatic rectus femoris. Excluding direct injuries.”

Michele de Grandi, team doctor at the Volta a Catalunya, said, “The exam showed an important edema to the rectus femoris that caused major pain, but it luckily excluded significant injuries. Fabio will need to rest for a few days and then he will be able to gradually restart his work.”

Fabio Aru added, “This hematoma caused me pain and to continue riding on it would have been harmful. Yesterday would have been a battle of 210 kilometers. Going on like that did not make sense. The most important thing is that it is not a serious issue and that after a few days of rest, I can leave for home. This inconvenience has negatively affected my performance in Spain, but will not affect my approach to the Giro d’Italia. A few days of rest and then I will put my head down and push on with my schedule.”

Fabio Aru:

Spotlights on Tour of the Alps as Chris Froome joins the field
The four-time Tour de France champion is confirmed at the start of the Euro-Regional event (April 16th-20th) presented in Auer, starting location of stage 3.

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

The Südtirol city of Auer, starting location of the 3rd stage of the upcoming Tour of the Alps, welcomed today – Wednesday, March 21st – a prestigious preview of the Euro-regional stage race to be held from 16th to 20th of April throughout the Tirol, Südtirol and Trentino regions with a star-packed field that bodes for big five-day show to be aired live all over the World.

Attending the press conference were the Sports Assessor of the Province of Bozen, Martha Stocker – representing Province of Bozen’s President and current Euregio’s President Arno Kompatscher – the Secretary General of Euregio for Südtirol, Christof von Ach, the Mayor of Auer, Roland Pichler, the Marketing Director of IDM Südtirol, Thomas Aichner, and Snowboard Olympic athlete Roland Fischnaller.

Born in 2017 as an ambitious Euro-regional project gathering three different territories, the Tour of the Alps has quickly found a spot among the top-class international pro races, following in the prestigious tradition of the former Giro del Trentino. As a matter of fact, the Tour of the Alps looks destined to a resounding 2018 edition, in the wake of last year’s prominent debut.

With the confirmation of Chris Froome’s participation to the race taking off from Arco on next April 16th, the Euro-regional stage added another gem to an impressive field made of high-class teams and riders. The four-time Tour de France winner, who has set his sight on the Tour of the Alps as final dress rehearsal ahead of his Giro d’Italia bid, aims to lead Team Sky to an unprecedented record of claiming the same stage race four times in a row with four different riders.

Back in time, Brit Geraint Thomas opened the brand-new Tour of the Alps’ golden book by winning in 2017, while the last two editions of former Giro del Trentino celebrated two other Team Sky on the top of the podium, Spaniard Mikel Landa in 2016 and Aussie Richie Porte in 2015.

Despite an uneasy start up to his season, Froome will go looking for his first win in 2018 facing many top contenders, first and foremost Italian Fabio Aru and French Thibaut Pinot, the latter having been already in the spotlights last year on the Euregio roads.

The 2018 Tour of the Alps boasts nine World Team out of 20 overall at the start (each one fielding seven riders) as follows:

World Teams
AG2R-La Mondiale (France)
Astana Pro Team (Kazakhstan)
Bahrain-Merida Pro Cycling Team (Bahrain)
BORA-hansgrohe (Germany)
Dimension Data (South Africa)
Groupama-FDJ (France)
Lotto.NL-Jumbo (Netherlands)
Team Sky (Great Britain)
UAE-Emirates (United Arab Emirates)

Pro Continental Teams
Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec (Italy)
Bardiani-CSF (Italy)
CCC-Sprandi (Poland)
Euskadi-Murias (Spain)
Gazprom-Rusvelo (Russia)
Israel Cycling Academy (Israel)
Nippo-Vini Fantini (Italy)
Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia (Italy)

Continental Teams
Tirol Cycling Team (Austria)
Team Felbermayr-Simplon (Austria)

National Teams

Unlike the last edition, that had moved from Kufstein to finish in Trento, Tour of the Alps rides northwards this time, taking off from the upper banks of the Lake Garda. On Sunday, April 15th, the eve day will unfold with the teams’ official presentation. The day after, April 16th, the race will take in a first testing finish in Folgaria, while stage 2 from Lavarone to Alpe di Pampeago/Fiemme will present the only uphill finish. After a third stage all within the Südtirol region from Auer to Meran, stage 4 starts from Klausen to cross the Austrian borders and end up to Lienz.

The last Tour of the Alps stage, from Rattenberg to Innsbruck, display an exciting finale with two laps over the circuit where the UCI Road World Championships will stage their final showdown among the contenders for the rainbow jerseys. A 90-minute daily coverage of the Tour of the Alps will be aired live all over the World, produced by PMG Sport, as Tour of the Alps is part of the “Ciclismo Cup” circuit powered by the Lega Ciclismo Professionistico.

The 2018 Tour of the Alps Route

Stage 1 – Monday April 16th
Arco – Folgaria, km 134,6
Altitude: 2530m. Difficulty: ***

Stage 2 – Tuesday April 17th
Lavarone – Fiemme/Alpe di Pampeago km 145,5
Altitude: 2900m. Difficulty: ****

Stage 3 – Wednesday April 18th
Ora/Auer – Merano/Meran km 138,3
Altitude: 2600m. Difficulty: **

Stage 4 – Thursday April 19th
Chiusa/Klausen – Lienz km 134,3
Altitude: 2300m. Difficulty: ***

Stage 5 – Friday April 20th
Rattenberg – Innsbruck km 164,2
Altitude: 2770m. Difficulty: ***

Five racing days, 716,9 km overall distance, 13.100 mt overall altitude, 10 categorized climbs: the Tour of the Alps features all the elements of a modern race, that after the 2017 success confirms a spectacular formula made of short and intense routes.

The speakers of the Tour of the Alps Press Conference in Auer. From left: the Secretary General of Euregio for Südtirol, Christof von Ach, Snowboard Olympic athlete Roland Fischnaller, the Sports Assessor of the Province of Bozen. Martha Stocker, GS Alto Garda President Giacomo Santini, Tour of the Alps General Manager Maurizio Evangelista, the Mayor of Auer, Roland Pichler, and the Marketing Director of IDM Südtirol, Thomas Aichner:

Race Ended by Police!… Ronde van Groningen 2018 – #cycling Holland
The Ronde van Groningen 2018 got ended short for Jasper Verkuijl. He made a mistake in the first 10 minutes of the race that really cost him this race. The conditions were extreme with a 80-90kmph wind gusts.

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