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Oudenaarde - Belgium - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Philippe GILBERT (Belgium / Team Quick Step - Floors) pictured during the of Flanders Classics UCI WorldTour 101st Ronde van Vlaanderen cycling race with start in Antwerpen and finish in Oudenaarde on April 02, 2017 - foto PdV/PN/Cor Vos © 2017

EUROTRASH News Round Up Monday!

The excitement was ‘Full Gas’ at the weekend in Flanders. We have all the news from De Ronde and Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde, plus the Volta Limburg Classic and Vuelta a La Rioja with reports, results and video. Flanders has to be the Top Story. We preview the Vuelta al Pais Vasco in other cycling news and take a look at the Sagan/Van Avermaet Flanders crash. Monday EUROTRASH coffee time.

TOP STORY: The excitement of the Race
Sunday’s Tour of Flanders encompassed everything we love about the sport. The retiring hero had mechanical problems and couldn’t make a dream come true. The expected winners crashed (in a bizarre way). The National champion won solo and, nearly, everyone went home happy. But there was much more to De Ronde 2017: Excitement and suspense by the bucket load, the tactics of BMC and Bora-Hansgrohe were looking to have Greg Van Avermaet and Peter Sagan at the pointy end of things at the right moment, but Quick-Step have the experience and the force was with them, or luck was on their side. If ever there was a race to tell your non-cycling chums to watch, this was the one.

Could Sagan and Van Avermaet have caught Philippe Gilbert if they had not crashed? We will never know, but I would like to think the man from Verviers had the race in the bag. Also, Philippe Gilbert is one of the nice guys in the peloton and a true champion.

Did the crash decide the race?
Oudenaarde - Belgium - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Crash with SAGAN Peter (SVK) Rider of TINKOFF & VAN AVERMAET Greg (BEL) Rider of BMC RACING TEAM & NAESEN Oliver (BEL) Rider of AG2R LA MONDIALE in the Oude Kwaremont pictured during the of Flanders Classics UCI WorldTour 101st Ronde van Vlaanderen cycling race with start in Antwerpen and finish in Oudenaarde on April 02, 2017 - foto PdV/PN/Cor Vos © 2017

De Ronde Van Vlaanderen 2017
Philippe Gilbert returned to the Ronde van Vlaanderen for the first time in five years and in doing so he forever left his mark on the race which this year celebrated its 101st edition. The Belgian Champion, who joined Quick-Step Floors at the end of last season, attacked with more than 50 kilometers to go, on the long and iconic Oude Kwaremont, leaving behind the group which emerged on another legendary climb, Muur-Kapelmuur, with 95 kilometers remaining, where Tom Boonen upped the tempo as they rode over the hill’s steepest climb, forcing a split which turned out to be decisive.

The newly formed group had three Quick-Step Floors riders – Boonen, Philippe Gilbert and Matteo Trentin – who were joined by eleven other men. The margin was a small one, of around 15 seconds, but the trio quickly moved to the front and did some huge turns, increasing the lead to 40 seconds ahead of Kanarieberg. Behind, the peloton began the chase, but the Quick-Step Floors boys relentlessly continued to pull away, with Tom Boonen – who made his 15th and final outing at De Ronde – prominent at the front, keen on keeping his promise of bowing out in style from Flanders, a race which he conquered three times.

With 55 kilometers left, on the second ascent of Oude Kwaremont, the gap began to come down, and Philippe Gilbert decided it was the right time for him to surge clear on the climb first used by the race in 1974, so without going out of the saddle, he put some daylight between him and the others, pushing ahead solo, while behind, his teammates dutifully marked the rivals who tried to chase him down. Not even the Koppenberg (22% maximum gradient) – one of the route’s toughest ascents – could stand in the way of the Belgian Champion, whose monstrous ride helped him carry a lead of one minute into the last hour of racing.

On the Taaienberg, the day’s 15th ascent, just as the bunch was making contact with the first group, disaster struck for Tom, who needed a bike change because of a mechanical. On the same climb, Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) attacked and started his pursuit of Philippe; the world champion was followed by Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) and Oliver Naesen (AG2R-La Mondiale), with Matteo Trentin joining them after the hill was crested in order to keep an eye on their plans. Despite the firepower that group possessed, all they could do by the bottom of Oude Kwaremont was to take back ten seconds.

As Gilbert continued to stomp on the pedals at the front and get closer and closer to the finish, Naesen, Sagan and Van Avermaet crashed with around 20 kilometers left, but they all remounted and got back in the race. The group reshuffled, so by the time they left Paterberg behind, three men were part of the first chasing group: Dylan Van Baarle (Cannondale-Drapac), Van Avermaet and a very strong Niki Terpstra, who bridged across on the last hill of the day. They too tried to bring the leader of the race back on the long and flat roads to Oudenaarde, but all they managed was to reduce the margin by 20 seconds.

It was only in the final kilometer that Philippe Gilbert took some time to look over his shoulder, and seeing the trio was a long way back, he decided to celebrate in style his fourth career victory in a Monument, by raising his Specialized bike over his head and crossing the line in the applause of thousands of passionate cycling fans, who witnessed the first win of a Belgian Champion in Ronde van Vlaanderen since 2008, one which came at the end of a 55km-long solo move, the longest at the race in nearly five decades.

The first chasers arrived 28 seconds later, and Greg Van Avermaet sprinted to second, whilst Niki Terpstra rounded out the podium (for his second career top 3 at the race), giving Quick-Step Floors another reason to be happy at the end of day.

Read the full PEZ Race Report HERE.

Oudenaarde - Belgium - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Philippe GILBERT (Belgium / Team Quick Step - Floors) pictured during the of Flanders Classics UCI WorldTour 101st Ronde van Vlaanderen cycling race with start in Antwerpen and finish in Oudenaarde on April 02, 2017 - foto PdV/PN/Cor Vos © 2017

Flanders winner, Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors): “We won as a team today and everyone deserves to be on the podium, so a big thanks goes to all the guys, because they did a huge workload. After Tom initiated that move on the Muur, we continued to push and decided to go full gas on the second ascent of the Oude Kwaremont. Tom did a big pull just ahead of the hill, I took over as the road began to rise and soon noticed I opened a small gap and never looked back again. Many people thought I was crazy to attack 55 kilometers out, myself included, but I didn’t go that hard, because I was aware the final 15 kilometers were very tough, so I kept some energy which I knew would prove very useful for that last part of the race. I felt good since winter, when I trained with the team in Denia. The motivation was also there, as I knew I still had it in me and Quick-Step Floors was the right team to be in. Then, going into Omloop, the form was there, but you couldn’t see that on TV because I was caught behind a crash, and continued to feel stronger with every race I did. When I approached the final kilometer, I looked behind and saw the chasers were still a long way back and thought of a nice way of celebrating my success. That’s why I raised my bike over my head, because it was an important part of my victory. I’m really proud of how I managed today’s race and of what I achieved!”

2nd, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC): “It’s disappointing for me because I was going for the win but it didn’t happen. But that’s how racing is, you have high expectations and you try to achieve them. I did my best and I came second so it is like it is. It was just a little bit of bad luck but there are still more races to come. I think Peter Sagan was close to the barrier or the people and maybe he hit somebody on the side of the road and I was just behind so I couldn’t avoid the crash. That was the moment when maybe we could have still done something with Peter and Olivier Naesen. We could have worked together but then you stop, you crash, and you lose another 30 seconds and then the race is over. If you see how close we still came at the finish I think the race was not over until that point. Gilbert was really strong and he went early. We were a bit behind and it was hard to work together with some guys and then I had to wait until I could get away and try and close the gap. Then it was still one minute so it was a bit too far. But maybe if the crash hadn’t have happened it would have been a different story. Chapeau to Philippe.”

Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe): “The Tour of Flanders lived up to its reputation. It was a complicated race, but I felt I was in good form and in a position that would have allowed me to reach Gilbert in the final stretch. Unfortunately, my crash at the Oude Kwaremont meant it was all over and that was a pity because the team did a tremendous job to help me and keep me safe. I don’t know how I crashed but these things are a part of cycling.”

6th, Sacha Modolo (Bahrain-Merida): “For me it is as if I had won; I am very pleased with my place. After coming in fourth at the Milano-Sanremo in my professional debut, people were expecting great things from me, but for one reason or another I couldn’t continue performing at that level. I had lost some self-confidence and started thinking that perhaps I wasn’t suited to these types of races, even though everyone close to me, starting with my Team and my girlfriend, continued to encourage me to keep the faith. With today’s race I am finally back to achieving good results and I hope to continue along this road.”

14th, Yoann Offredo (Wanty-Groupe Gobert): “The race was very hard. I like racing this way. I tried to anticipate on Oude Kwaremont. On Taaienberg I went into the offensive and thus I could follow Sagan, Van Avermaet and Naesen when they accelerated. On Paterberg I didn’t believe enough in my own chances. I was dropped together with Trentin but we made the wrong choice to wait for the upcoming group with a lot of sprinters. In the sprint everyone was à bloc. I did a good race but I am a bit disappointed of the final result. The condition is good but the end of the classics is near. Anyway I can be proud of my race today.”

16th, Scott Thwaites (Dimension Data): “I had a crash just before the Muur and damaged my front wheel which I needed to change. So, I hit the Muur in pretty much last place and that’s obviously where things kicked off. It was really difficult to come back after that but Tyler was great and helped to bring me back. The race was already up the road by that time so it was just a matter of staying with that group of Van Avermaet who had also missed the move. I started to suffer a bit on the penultimate climb of the Kwaremont, it’s not really my favorite climb as I prefer the shorter steeper ones. So I went through a bad spell here and couldn’t match the other guys when they started to jump away. Towards the end, my legs started to come around for the final 8km. The group I was in, was riding well and I could work with them to come back to the sharp end of the race which I was happy about. There were some strong sprinters in the group so I tried to stay near the front to achieve as high a place as possible. When the sprint started and I got out the saddle, there was just nothing left in the legs so I slipped back quite a few places which was a shame. I finished with a top 20 which is not a bad result when you in a group sprinting for 5th. It shows I am there or thereabouts, I just need a little bit more or just no bad luck rather. The result also shows that I have what it takes, I am progressing well and I have settled into the team nicely. I can see for next year I should work on my sprint so that if I am in a similar situation, I can achieve a better result because a top 10 would have been good today.”

Break rider, Olviero Troia (Bahrain-Merida): “Today I experienced an incredible feeling. To break away for nearly 200 km in the middle of two sides of a continuing tide of cheering crowds was something that had never happened to me before. When I got caught I tried to give what I had left to set up the race final as best I could for Sacha Modolo; then I had to raise the white flag because I was exhausted. I’m sure that in a few years I will come back here to figure as a major player all the way to the end.”

De Ronde Van Vlaanderen Result:
1. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors in 6:23:45
2. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC at 0:28
3. Niki Terpstra (Ned) Quick-Step Floors
4. Dylan Van Baarle (Ned) Cannondale-Drapac
5. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha-Alpecin at 0:52
6. Sacha Modolo (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
7. John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo
8. Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Wilier Triestina
9. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Direct Energie
10. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida.

Flanders ’17:

Women’s Ronde van Vlaanderen 2017
Team Sunweb have yet another day to add to their memory bank as Coryn Rivera (USA) sprinted to victory in an explosive sprint to the line at the women’s Ronde van Vlaanderen today, taking the team’s second UCI Women’s WorldTour win of the season.

The finale of the race was punctuated with multiple breakaways, forcing Team Sunweb to put in an immense effort in order to bring all moves back. The race looked like it may come down to a battle between a leading group of four, but a terrific chase from the team brought the bunch back together with just one kilometer to the finish. After a brilliant effort from the entire team, Rivera was positioned perfectly to launch yet another explosive, unbeatable sprint. Team Sunweb’s American sprinter propelled the team to victory, taking Team Sunweb’s third victory of the women’s road season and yet another perfectly maneuvered win on her Liv Envie.

Oudenaarde - Belgium - wielrennen - cycling - cyclisme - radsport - Coryn Rivera (USA / Sunweb) - Annemiek Van Vleuten (Netherlands / Orica Scott) pictured during the of Flanders Classics UCI WorldTour 101st Ronde van Vlaanderen cycling race women with start in Antwerpen and finish in Oudenaarde on April 02, 2017 - foto Davy Rietbergen/Cor Vos © 2017

“Just to start the women’s Ronde van Vlaanderen is absolutely incredible, it’s such a beautiful race,” said Rivera after the finish. “The team did a brilliant job keeping the leaders safe and in a good position throughout the race. When the going got tough the team animated the race with Rozanne [Slik] taking a lead before the Kanarieberg. Here we showed our intentions to make it a hard race and when the first bunch of 30 exploded on the Kruisberg, we were up there but we couldn’t follow on the climb. The team gave everything on the Kwaremont to get the group back at the wheel and we almost closed it, but in the end we couldn’t follow the four best climbers. From the moment that Hans [Timmermans] made the call to go full gas for me, Ellen [van Dijk] took charge of the pace. The sprint was absolutely thrilling, but I still feel like I am dreaming.”

“Today is a perfect example of how this team can create a plan and make it work no matter what,” said Team Sunweb coach Hans Timmermans (NED). “We missed the power on the hills which makes it even more impressive that we took the win today. All six of our riders did a perfect job today and you need a complete team effort to win Flanders. We are thrilled to take the win at such a prestigious race.”

5th, Lotte Kopecky (Lotto Soudal): “This is a wonderful feeling. I had never thought to become fifth today. Before the race, I had told that a top ten place would be a brilliant result. The past races my sprints didn’t go smoothly. I often was riding in the wind too long and my sprint was over before it began. Today I waited, I chose to stay on the wheel of the rider in front of me for as long as possible. When there was an opportunity to move up on the left, I grabbed it. It was a close sprint, but I felt that I had just missed out on the podium and that I was fourth or fifth. I am very pleased with how the race unfolded. On the first hills we weren’t riding à bloc. The teammates always took me to the front before the cobbles and hills and kept me out of the wind as much as possible. On the Kanarieberg, a group rode away for the first time and the finale began. On the Kruisberg four riders jumped away. At that moment I was riding in a third group, but I bridged to the second one. Later, the two groups came together. Lucinda Brand was doing most of the chasing. At the bottom of the Oude Kwaremont we had nearly caught the front group, but during the ascent they moved further away again. After the Paterberg, Ellen van Dijk and a rider from Canyon Sram were chasing and they managed to close the gap. At a certain moment, the leaders had forty seconds advantage and I doubted if we would still catch them. When the gap was thirty seconds at ten kilometers from the finish I started believing again that we would sprint for victory. As I said, I was aiming for a place on top ten today after my 33rd place of last year. I realized that it wouldn’t be easy though. Eventually I got fifth. The Ronde is obviously a race that suits me and I really want to win this race later in my career. It was great to hear the crowd cheering for me. I will be back for more!”

De Ronde Van Vlaanderen Women’s Result:
1. Coryn Rivera (USA) Sunweb in 4:02:38
2. Gracie Elvin (Aus) Orica-Scott
3. Chantal Blaak (Ned) Boels-Dolmans
4. Annemiek Van Vleuten (Ned) Orica Scott
5. Lotte Kopecky (Bel) Lotto Soudal
6. Elena Cecchini (Ita) Canyon-SRAM Racing
7. Rasa Leleivyte (Ltu) Aromitalia Vaiano
8. Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Pol) WM3 Pro Cycling
9. Janneke Ensing (Ned) Alé-Cipollini
10. Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Wiggle-High5.

Women’s Flanders:

Vuelta a La Rioja 2017
Aussie rider from Movistar Team wins in La Rioja after jumping off selected lead group – including Rojas (3rd) and Barbero (8th) – into echelons prior to Logroño’s finish.

After spending two-and-a-half seasons committed to his full to working for the team’s leaders, an individual reward was more than deserved for Rory Sutherland (Movistar Team). The Aussie veteran prevailed on Sunday’s Vuelta a La Rioja, six years after his partner-in-crime all over the 2016 Vuelta a España, Imanol Erviti, claimed the Blues’ latest success to date in Logroño’s main boulevard.

Sutherland crowned a big performance from the whole Movistar Team, notably featuring in the two main breakaways of the race. Carlos Barbero, Marc Soler and Jonathan Castroviejo kept the front for about eighty kilometers with a slim margin – never more than 1:30 – over the bunch. That peloton started splitting again as the wind, intense throughout the morning, picked up in the second half ot the race and created the decisive echelons.

Barbero was present again at the decisive, 12-man split, alongside Sutherland and José Joaquín Rojas. The move was reduced to six riders with 15 kilometers from the finish – ‘Rojillas’ and Rory again in – before Sutherland launched the winning move, one that allowed him getting over the line with 20 seconds on Michael Albasini (ORS, 2nd) and his team-mate (3rd).

It was indeed a double podium finish – Barbero (8th) confirmed the Blues’ team victory, too – for the telephone squad, which has now 14 victories to its 2017 tally. In turn, the Canberra-born, Girona-based cyclist claimed his maiden Movistar Team success, five years after his last pro win in a stage of the 2012 USA Pro Challenge.

Race winner, Rory Sutherland (Movistar): “I’m really happy because it’s difficult to be given an opportunity as an individual very often – my role into such a strong, talented team is a different one. It was one of those races today, and I couldn’t let this go past. It was thanks to the team’s support that I could succeed. It was a fast race, one with changing weather – some spells of rain, sun shining at the finish – and, above all, a very windy one, which really made the difference. I feel like we rode perfectly today: we covered all the moves and kept focus up to the decisive point, with those crosswinds splitting the peloton for good. That group got reduced in the finale, with Rojillas and myself still in, and it was down to the final attacks, where I was lucky to leave my rivals behind and reach the finish solo. It was my wife Cheynna’s birthday today, and I wanted to bring a present for her – this goes to my family and the whole Movistar Team, for keeping their confidence on me. Now it’s back to work from Monday in the Itzulia – our job is protecting the leaders and even more so when you’ve got such a grateful guy to support as Alejandro. It’s always a pleasure to ride for him.”

Vuelta a La Rioja Result:
1. Rory Sutherland (Aus) Movistar in 3:25:07
2. Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica-Scott at 0:20
3. Jose Rojas (Spa) Movistar
4. Diego Rubio Hernandez (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
5. Albert Torres Barcelo (Spa) Inteja Dominican Cycling Team at 0:48
6. Dylan Page (Swi) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA at 1:09
7. Miguel Ángel Fernández (Spa) Spain
8. Carlos Barbero Cuesta (Spa) Movistar
9. Daniel Lopez Parada (Spa) Burgos-BH
10. Daniel Freitas (Por) W52/FC Porto.

The Rioja podium:

Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde 2017
Marcel Kittel displayed again his incredible sprint skills and mental strength by taking an impressive win Thursday morning in Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde, despite hitting the deck inside the final 15 kilometers. Even though the course was only 118 kilometers in length, Stage 3a was by no means a quiet one, as a strong breakaway and vicious crosswinds didn’t offer the peloton a moment of respite on their loop around De Panne.

Third on the previous day, Marcel was determined to end the Belgian race on a high, but his plans seemed to crumble on the narrow urban circuit in De Panne, where he was caught in a crash and lost more than 40 seconds before remounting and linking up with four teammates, who were waiting to pace him back in the bunch. At the front, Katusha-Alpecin pushed a fierce tempo behind the breakaway, but Quick-Step Floors’ persistence and fantastic team spirit prevailed in the end, as they put in a stunning ride and staged a remarkable comeback, closing the gap with five kilometers to go.

Going under the flamme rouge gantry, Marcel was still making his way to the front of the pack and entered the final bend of this chaotic stage in tenth place. This didn’t stop the powerful German from overtaking several riders before positioning himself in the wheel of Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin); Kittel came around the Norwegian with 150 meters to go and took a convincing win, roaring over the line a bike length ahead of his rival.

Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde overall leader Philippe Gilbert concluded the day in the bunch and will start the final stage – a 14.2km individual time trial – with a 50-second cushion over the next rider in the general classification.

Cycling: 41st 3 Days De Panne 2017 / Stage 3a Arrival / Marcel KITTEL (GER)/ Celebration / Alexander KRISTOFF (RUS)/ Green Points Jersey/ La Panne - La Panne (111,5Km) / © Tim De Waele

Stage winner, Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors): “The moment I crashed, I said to myself ‘It’s not the perfect situation, but it’s not impossible to make it back to the bunch’. Even before going on the circuit we did a great job as a team, and after crashing, Jack, Tim, Davide and Fabio waited and helped me return to the peloton with five kilometers to go, where Max and Saba played an important role in bringing me in the best possible position. It was difficult to make the catch, but I did it thanks to this impressive team. Wednesday I’ll race Scheldeprijs and I’m very motivated to defend my title and get my fifth victory there. I know it won’t be easy, but I am in a good shape, I felt good here in De Panne and our team is very strong, so I’m looking forward to that race.”

Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde Stage 3a Result:
1. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Quick-Step Floors in 2:36:50
2. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha-Alpecin
3. Sacha Modolo (ita) Team UAE Emirates
4. Rudiger Selig (Ger) Bora-hansgrohe
5. Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
6. Matteo Pelucchi (Ita) Bora-hansgrohe
7. Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto Soudal
8. Jelle Mannaerts (Bel) Tarteletto-Isorex
9. Pierre Luc Perichon (Fra) Fortuneo-Vital Concept
10. Jonas Rickaert (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Boise.

Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde Overall After Stage 3a:
1. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors in 11:51:02
2. Matthias Brändle (Aut) Trek-Segafredo at 0:50
3. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha-Alpecin at 0:58
4. Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo at 1:06
5. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Direct Energie at 1:15
6. Pim Ligthart (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse
7. Maxime Vantomme (Bel) WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect at 1:17
8. Pierre Luc Perichon (Fra) Fortuneo-Vital Concept
9. Boy van Poppel (Ned) Trek-Segafredo at 1:22
10. Jasper De Buyst (Bel) Lotto Soudal at 2:20.

Stage 3a:

Philippe Gilbert made it 20 victories for Quick-Step Floors in 2017, after coming out on top at the 41st edition of Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde, his last race before Ronde van Vlaanderen, where he will make his return after a five-year hiatus.

Victorious on the tough opening stage, which included a double ascension of the famed Muur van Geraardsbergen, the 34-year-old extended his lead on the following day helped by a stunning ride of the Quick-Step Floors squad in the echelons, where the team blew the peloton to pieces, before capping off his impressive week with a composed display in the individual time trial Stage 3b.

The stage won by Luke Durbridge (Orica-Scott) saw two of the team’s riders conclude in the top 10: former Junior World ITT Champion Marcel Kittel, who came fourth after finding early his flowing rhythm in the time trial and scorching the 14.2km-long course in 17:41, and Philippe Gilbert, seventh at the finish, which was more than enough to have him seal the overall win ahead of Matthias Brändle (Trek-Segafredo) and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin).

De Panne - Belgium - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - DURBRIDGE Luke (AUS) Rider of ORICA-SCOTT pictured during stage 3B (ITT) of the 41th edition of the Driedaagse De Panne - Koksijde with start in De Panne and finish in De Panne on March 30, 2017 - photo JdM/PN/Cor Vos © 2017

Final overall winner, Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors): “In a time trial is always a question of remaining focused before and during the race. Before rolling down the ramp, I got news of Marcel’s result and this gave me extra motivation to do well. I was always in control while being out on the course and securing the victory here makes me very happy. Last year, Quick-Step Floors and Patrick Lefevere put their trust in me and I’m glad to bring home this victory and repay them for the confidence showed. Also, I must thank my teammates, because they kept me safe and rode their hearts out to make sure I’ll win this race. I think it was the right choice to prepare Ronde van Vlaanderen here and I’m really satisfied with how I felt and with the outcome. I’m motivated for Sunday and I look forward to this beautiful race. Hopefully, it will turn out to be another good one for our team.

Stage winner, Luke Durbridge (Orica-Scott): “I am really elated to get the win, I have been really consistent lately but a win is totally different. It has been a while since I have had a win so I am really happy with today. Obviously I was disappointed with yesterday, making mistakes and missing the split and that made me more fired up for today. I have done this time trial maybe five times now so I know it well and I went out as hard as I could. It was great to finish off with a win after all the teamwork from the guys, they helped me out a lot each day.”

10th overall, Jasper De Buyst (Lotto Soudal): “I am not a time trial specialist, so I can be very satisfied with today’s result. It’s always nice to finish on top ten, so I gave all I got today to defend my position. I didn’t want to let go of that tenth place. It’s a pity that I lost time yesterday. At the moment the echelon was formed, I was too far behind and then it’s too late. At first, the chase went well, but at a certain moment it stopped. Tuesday, we had planned to attack early. I chose Tenbosse to make a move. We got away with fifteen riders and that was perfect. I had hoped Tony Gallopin would close the gap, but it’s not surprising that he still had to recover from that crash at E3 Harelbeke. When Philippe Gilbert joined our group, I knew it would be very hard to beat him. He is very strong. It were three hard days. This was a good last test for the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Everyone wants to ride that race, so I am really happy the team selected me. With the changed course, the Ronde now almost passes by my house. I know the roads by heart. I am really looking forward to animate the race with the team.”

Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde Stage 3b Result:
1. Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica-Scott in 17:38
2. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Direct Energie
3. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha-Alpecin at 0:02
4. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Quick-Step Floors at 0:03
5. Matthias Brändle (Aut) Trek-Segafredo at 0:05
6. Alexander Edmondson (Aus) Orica-Scott at 0:09
7. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors at 0:17
8. Nils Politt (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin at 0:31
9. Peter Koning (Ned) Aqua Blue Sport at 0:36
10. Olivier Pardini (Bel) WB Veranclassic-Aqua Protect at 0:39.

Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde Final Overall Result:
1. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors in 12:08:57
2. Matthias Brändle (Aut) Trek-Segafredo at 0:38
3. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha-Alpecin at 0:43
4. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Direct Energie at 0:58
5. Pierre Luc Perichon (Fra) Fortuneo-Vital Concept at 1:39
6. Maxime Vantomme (Bel) WB Veranclassic-Aqua Protect at 1:50
7. Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo at 1:54
8. Pim Ligthart (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij at 2:10
9. Boy van Poppel (Ned) Trek-Segafredo at 2:24
10. Jasper De Buyst (Bel) Lotto Soudal at 2:46.

Final stage 3b:

Xandro Meurisse close to Victory
Xandro Meurisse finished close to the victory this Saturday in Volta Limburg Classic (1.1, Netherlands), the “mini Amstel Gold Race”. Our Belgian rider was only beaten in a 3-men sprint on the cobbles of Eijsden by Italian Marco Canola (Nippo). Meurisse (25) rode more than 60 kilometers in the attack after a big work of the whole team with riders in every attacking group.

Xandro Meurisse: “There were a lot of breakaways with 20/30 riders involved. We rode together as a team today and that was important because the race could easily be lost. Jérôme Baugnies and Frederik Veuchelen were part of a big breakaway in the beginning of the race. Sport Vlaanderen closed that gap and later a group of 20 riders, including me, broke away. Unfortunately the cooperation wasn’t very smooth and that is why Van Empel, Van der Lijcke, Canola and me decided to break away.”

“Our advantage rose quickly and we headed to a sprint. There I came close to the victory. Maybe I should have started in third position instead of second position. I felt good and confident, but Canola was strong too. Now I am a little disillusioned but that is normal. Anyway I am happy with my current form. In Volta Catalunya I already felt my condition was improving after a bad season start.”

“Now I am heading to Circuit de la Sarthe. I hope to be in the selection for the Ardennes classics. We are heading to France with a strong team with some more options. Dehaes can go for the sprint and Baugnies for the GC. I hope to achieve a good result, personally or for the team.”

Volta Limburg Classic
1. Marco Canola (Ita) Nippo-Vini Fantini in 4:45:26
2. Xandro Meurisse (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
3. Nick Van Der Lijke (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij at 0:04
4. Antoine Warnier (Bel) WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect at 0:51
5. Paul Martens (Ger) Team LottoNl-Jumbo at 0:59
6. Jeroen Meijers (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij
7. Dimitri Peyskens (Bel) WB Veranclassic-Aqua Protect
8. Jérôme Baugnies (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
9. Loïc Vliegen (Bel) BMC
10. Rob Ruijgh (Ned) Tarteletto-Isorex.

Limburg ’17:

Vuelta al País Vasco 2017
Six tough stages in the Basque Country with a lot of climbing and a 27 kilometer time trial to finish things off.

Website: www.itzulia.net

03.04.17 Stage 1 Iruña – Eguesibar 153.3 km
04.04.17 Stage 2 Iruña – Eltziego 173.4 km
05.04.17 Stage 3 Gasteiz – Donostia 160.5 km
06.04.17 Stage 4 Donostia – Bilbao 174.1 km
07.04.17 Stage 5 Bilbao – Eibar 139.8 km
08.04.17 Stage 6 Eibar – Eibar 27.0 km (ITT).

Team news below:

Quick-Step Floors Team to Vuelta al Pais Vasco
April’s first World Tour stage race promises to be once again one of the most spectacular and thrilling of the season.

Since its inception, in 1924, Vuelta al Pais Vasco has attracted on a regular basis a star-studded field at the start, and continues to do so almost a century later, when cycling has changed, but its iconic ascents have remained as brutal as back in the days when the riders still weren’t using the derailleur system, despite it being invented in the early years of the 20th century.

The very same climbs will await the riders at next week’s Vuelta al Pais Vasco, which will start in Pamplona, the city worldwide famous for its San Fermin festival. Between this and Eibar, where the race will draw the curtain on Saturday with a testing individual time trial, the bunch is set to face 19 categorized climbs and visit some of the race’s most iconic locations, including San Sebastian, Bilbao and Santuario de Arrate.

The ever-evolving Julian Alaphilippe, who this season took home the green and white jerseys at Paris-Nice on top of winning a stage and finishing fifth overall, will line up for the 57th edition of the race two weeks after riding to third at his Milano-Sanremo debut. Julian will be joined by an attack-orientated team, capable of being a factor on all types of terrain, a squad which includes Gianluca Brambilla, Eros Capecchi, Paris-Nice stage victor David De La Cruz, Dries Devenyns, neo-pro Enric Mas, double Vuelta a San Juan stage winner Maximiliano Richeze and Martin Velits.

“I’ve had a break after completing Milano-Sanremo, but I continued to train for my April goals, and Pais Vasco will allow me to see where I stand ahead of the Ardennes Classics. It will be my first time here and I’m eager to discover this event, of which I’ve heard only nice things, despite it being one of the toughest stage races out there. I can’t say I start with a specific goal, I’ll just take it one day at a time, and if an opportunity will arise, I will try to grab it”, said Julian Alaphilippe of the race which at its first edition was won by a French rider, Francis Pélissier.

03.04–08.04 Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco (ESP) 2.UWT

Julian Alaphilippe (FRA), Gianluca Brambilla (ITA), Eros Capecchi (ITA), David De La Cruz Melgarejo (ESP), Dries Devenyns (BEL), Enric Mas (ESP), Maximiliano Richeze (ARG), Martin Velits (SVK).
Sports Director: Davide Bramati (ITA) and Brian Holm (DEN).

Preview Vuelta al País Vasco
The 57th edition of the Vuelta al País Vasco will take place from Monday 3 April until Saturday 8 April. There is less climbing than previous years but the climbers are still the big favorites for the GC. The first stage is 153.3 kilometers long and goes to Sarriguren, the second stage goes to Eltziego. Both start in Pamplona. The third stage will cover six climbs and the last climb will be at ten kilometers from the finish.

The fourth stage is 174.1 kilometers long, from San Sébastian to Bilbao. The stage is mostly flat, but contains two hills. The last hill lies at fourteen kilometers from the finish. The fifth stage is the Queen Stage with six climbs and an uphill finish. The next day, the Vuelta al País Vasco will end with an individual time trial. The last two stages will decide the winner of the GC.

Last year, Louis Vervaeke had a great result and became eleventh just one second from a tenth place on the GC. He will participate again this year but the competition is very strong. Last year’s winner Alberto Contador, Paris-Nice winner Sergio Henao and Alejandro Valverde who was the strongest in the Volta a Catalunya are the favorites. Tim Wellens, Sean De Bie, Sander Armée, Maxime Monfort, Rafael Valls, Tosh Van der Sande and Jelle Vanendert complete the Lotto Soudal team.

Sports director Mario Aerts: “We are going to the Vuelta al País Vasco with ambition. A stage win, a good result in the GC for Louis Vervaeke and Rafael Valls and aggressive racing are the goals. Maxime Monfort and Sander Armée will support Louis and Rafael. Louis had to abandon the last stage of the Volta a Catalunya. That was very painful because he stood on a fifteenth place on the GC. He trained too much before the Volta a Catalunya and that took its toll in the tough edition. Louis has a week off so he can rest and fully recover for next week. We have to compete against some world class riders like Henao, Valverde and Contador. So we know it’s going to be tough.”

“The course is less tough than last year which is good for us with the eye on the Walloon classics. Tosh Van der Sande and Sean De Bie are our main contenders for the first two stages because it will probably be a sprint. The competition in the sprint isn’t very big so we definitely have a chance. There are six climbs in the third stage so the climbers will have their first chance. Stage four is mostly flat, but there’s a dangerous hill at around twenty kilometers from the finish. The fifth stage is the Queen Stage and will be crucial for the GC. The time trial on the last day is less difficult than last year but it can still affect the GC.”

“Tim Wellens and Jelle Vanendert will have an ideal preparation for the Walloon classics. They have the qualities to try something but that’s something we will decide after the first two stages. It all depends on how they feel.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal:
Sander Armée, Sean De Bie, Maxime Monfort, Rafael Valls, Tosh Van der Sande, Jelle Vanendert, Louis Vervaeke and Tim Wellens.
Sports directors: Mario Aerts and Marc Wauters.

Jelle Vanendert:
Huy - Belgium - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Jelle Vanendert (Belgium / Team Lotto Soudal) pictured during Fleche Wallonne 2016 - photo VK/PN/Cor Vos © 2016

BAHRAIN MERIDA lineup for the Tour of the Basque Country – Itzulia

The 57th edition of the Tour of the Basque Country, Itzulia, will take place from 3rd to 8th April. The race will link four Basque capitals —Pamplona, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Donostia-San Sebastian and Bilbao, along with Eibar, as start cities of the six stages of this edition.

The race will start from Pamplona and finish in Eibar with a 27 km individual time trial, which is 11 km longer than previous year. 160 cyclists will ride 828,06 km, including ascents to 19 climbs. However, there are 3 relatively flat stages.

Philippe Mauduit, sports director announced before the race: “Vuelta al Pais Vasco is one of the hardest one week stage races, with a lot of narrow roads and steep climbs which make the race fast and nervous. It’s also the last preparation race for most of the riders having a goal in the historic Ardennes Classics, which gives the race one of the strongest start lists of the year.

Key goal of BAHRAIN MERIDA Team is to help Ion Izaguirre in achieving highest possible place in general classification and also, like in Paris-Nice, to win a stage, which is never easy on such high level of competition. First 2 stages will be more suited for sprinters and the other stages will be more for all-rounders and GC contenders.”

Leader of the race Ion Izaguirre said before the race: “My expectation about this race is to be high in general classification and try to win one stage. I’m even more motivated to ride in front of my fans this year because I couldn’t participate due to the illness in this tour last year and for that reason I’m even more excited and I will do my best to get a good result.”

For me the Basque country tour is very especial one, it’s my home country tour in front of my fans and my family, that means I’m very motivated also due to that reason and I hardly wait for the start.”

BAHRAIN MERIDA Team lineup for Tour of the Basque Country is:
Arashiro Yukiya, Bole Grega, Brajkovič Janez, Cink Ondrej, Grmay Tsgabu, Izaguirre Ion, Nibali Antonio and Visconti Giovanni.

BMC Racing Team Looking for Opportunities at Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco
BMC Racing Team will be targeting stage wins at the demanding six-day Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco, the next UCI WorldTour stage race of the season.

Sports Director Yvon Ledanois said the eight-rider team is lining up with multiple options and a wealth of experience.

“We will be looking to carry the strong team dynamic that we saw at Volta Ciclista a Catalunya into this race. While we are not going in with a specific team leader, I am looking forward to seeing how Samuel Sánchez, who won a stage last year, will perform. I have already seen that he is riding at a similar level to last year.”

“We have a good group of riders lining up, and I trust in the abilities of everyone to ride aggressively and challenge for stage wins over the six days. This will be our first priority, and then we will see how the General Classification develops from there.”

Samuel Sánchez is looking for further success at the UCI WorldTour race. “Following a tough edition of Volta Ciclista a Catalunya comes one of the main objectives of the year, Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco. On paper, this year’s parcours seems less demanding than previous editions of the race, however, judging by the list of strong riders heading to the start line I feel this won’t be the case.”

“I will definitely be hoping to repeat last year’s performance and try and get as far up the General Classification as possible while at the same time, as a team, we will be looking for opportunities and fighting for stage wins,” Sánchez explained.

Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco (April 3 – 8)

Rider Roster:
Damiano Caruso (ITA), Alessandro De Marchi (ITA), Amaël Moinard (FRA), Nicolas Roche (IRL), Samuel Sánchez (ESP), Dylan Teuns (BEL), Loïc Vliegen (BEL), Danilo Wyss (SUI)
Sports Directors: Yvon Ledanois (FRA), Max Sciandri (ITA).

Nico Roche:

Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco
The WorldTour stage racing action continues next week with the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco, starting on April 3. The team returns to the Spanish mountains to once again race against some of the world’s best climbers. The six stages that make up the 2017 edition will maintain a similar format from previous seasons. Over its six stages race will cover a total distance of 828.8km, with an individual time trial on the final day to shake up the overall victory.

“Pais Vasco is a really difficult race with lots of climbing kilometers,” explained Team Sunweb coach Morten Bennekou (DEN). “We start with a strong line-up, which is built around stage results and exploring GC possibilities. With Michael, we are aiming to further progress the dynamics in our lead-out and we hope that it will lead to some good sprints. Our goal with Warren is to see how much he can do in the GC, as he approaches the last step before reaching his top form. For uphill support we’ll have guys as Laurens, Simon and Georg, as well as youngsters Chris and Sam.”

Warren Barguil (FRA), Laurens ten Dam (NED), Johannes Fröhlinger (GER), Simon Geschke (GER), Chris Hamilton (AUS), Michael Matthews (AUS), Sam Oomen (NED), Georg Preidler (AUT).
Coach: Morten Bennekou.

Warren Barguil:

Riders set to attack Home Races
This weekend the Caja-Rural Seguros RGA team will turn their attention to races on their own doorstep.

On Monday the team will be in World Tour action again when they tackle the Vuelta Pais Vasco. The race has added importance for the team this year as the opening stage will depart from the Caja-Rural Seguros RGA base in Pamplona. The event which runs from 3-8th April will be run over a less undulating course than previous years and will provide lots of attacking racing in the opening days. The race for the overall classification is set to be decided on the final day with a lumpy 27km time-trial starting and finishing in the city of Eibar. The race will also see stage finishes in the cities of Bilbao, San Sebastián and Vitoria.

Jaime Rosón: “On Monday we begin the Tour of the Basque Country, which should be a great race for us to go on the attack as it´s often nervous and difficult for the bigger teams to control. This year the route doesn’t suit be as well as other years because there are not so many long climbs, but I will still be giving it a go to get on the attack. Everyday at Pais Vasco will be a new opportunity to do something and myself and my team mates want to make the most of it”.

Eugenio Goikoetxea (Director Sportif): “The Vuelta Pais Vasco will be our second World Tour race of the season. This year the race is starting from our team HQ in Pamplona which gives us extra motivation. We will be going there to put in good performances and give the Caja-Rural Seguros RGA fans something to be proud of. We are going there with a balanced team of climbers and attacking riders to give us different options throughout the race.It´s a young team with a lot of motivation for will be a beautiful race.”

Line-up País Vasco:
Jaime Rosón, Sergio Pardilla, Jonathan Lastra, Lluis Mas, Álex Aranburu, Fabricio Ferrari, Jon Irisarri y Rafael Reis.

High quality level for the line-up of the UAE Team Emirates
UAE Team Emirates announce the names of the 8 riders who’ll participate in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco: Darwin Atapuma, Valerio Conti, Kristijan Durasek, Louis Meintjes, Matej Mohoric, Manuele Mori, Ben Swift and Diego Ulissi.

In the team cars there will be the sports directors Orlando Maini and Bruno Vicino.

Orlando Maini, sports directors, explained: “We could consider the Vuelta al Pais Vasco as a natural continuation of the Volta a Catalunya, because of the presence of the same poker of climbers Atapuma-Conti-Durasek-Meintjes. The climbs of the Pais Vasco will be suitable for Atapuma, who was in the final top 15 in the Volta a Catalunya, his goal is to improve this result. In addition, we’ll rely on the skills of Ulissi, at his fifth participation in this race: the courses of the stages will be suitable for him for trying to compete for a stage victory and for improving his form in view of the next appointments. Our rider with the best list of results in this race is Ben Swift, who won the Markina-Xemein stage in the 2014 edition and who obtained other 6 top 5 in his career in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco: he’ll try to add new good results to this list.”

Diego Ulissi’s comment: “Two goals for the Vuelta al Pais Vasco: competing for a stage victory and improving my form in view of the Ardenne Classics. There are no easy stages, so it’s difficult to select which could be the best stage for me. I hope we’ll race in good weather conditions, often the bad weather influenced this race.”

Ben Swift explained his goals: “I’m looking forward to Pais Vasco, I have good memories from the race and I have enjoyed success there in the past. I’m a little unsure of my condition because I have been sick for some days since Milano-Sanremo: I know my condition was great before the Classicissima, so hopefully this sickness won’t have affected me too much. The profile for the race this year looks good with roughly four stages that could end in some form of bunch sprint.”

Facts and figures:
– in 3 participations in the race, Swift was 7 times in the top 5 of a stage, obtaining 1 victory, 2 second places, 2 third places and 2 fourth places.
– Ulissi and Mori are the team’s riders with more participations, 4
– Mori’s debut in the race is dated 2006
– all the riders in UAE Team Emirates’ line-up already participated in the race

Ben Swift:
Abu Dhabi 2017 - 3rd stage Al Maryah Island Stage Al Ain - Jabel Hafeet 186 km - 25/02/2017 - Ben Swift (GBR - UAE Team Emirates) - photo Luca Bettini/BettiniPhoto©2017

Lineup & Preview: Vuelta al Pais Vasco
The Vuelta al Pais Vasco, also known as the Tour of the Basque Country, gets underway today and Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka are looking forward to this tough 6-stage World Tour race.

As a race that has traditionally suited the climbers, this year’s edition of the Tour of the Basque country will once again include numerous climbs each day but this year the race will end with a 27km individual time trial on Saturday 8th of April. The addition of the race against the clock will ensure the race is suited to more of an outright GC rider as opposed to spcialised climbers like in the past. Stage 5 will see the only summit finish of this year’s race so we can expect the real GC shake up to happen over these last two stages.

Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka will start the Basque Country Tour with our two local Basque riders, Omar Fraile and Igor Anton eager to impress on their home roads. Our African Team is then littered with climbing talent as Merhawi Kudus, Lachlan Morton and Serge Pauwels also take on the Vuelta al Pais Vasco. Completing our African Team is Adrien Niyonshuti, Ben King and Steve Cummings.

Last year Cummings won stage 3 of the race with a crafty late attack. Our British star will once again be on the lookout for a stage opportunity while the final stage time trial could also suit his abilities. Our host of climbers though will focus on being in contention daily, as a stage win will be the primary objective this week.

Bingen Fernandez – Sport Director
This year the Tour of the Basque Country starts with a few less aggressive stages than in the past but that does not mean they will be easy. The addition of the time trial as the last stage means some GC riders who are not as good in the time trial will take every stage as an opportunity to gain time. As it is every year, the Tour of the Basque country is going to be an exciting race and we have an equally exciting team who have all the tools to stand on the podium.

Bad luck for Sagan
Bad luck or unaccustomed bad bike handling by Peter Sagan? If you look closely; one of the barriers seems to stick out a bit further than the others, but no one else hit it.

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