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Geelong - Australia - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Christopher - Chris FROOME (GBR / Team Sky) - Johan Esteban CHAVES RUBIO (Columbia / Team Orica Scott) pictured during presseconference Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race 2017 - photo Con Chronis/Cor Vos © 2017***Australia out***

EUROTRASH News Round Up Thursday!

It’s looking like the 2017 Tour de France will see a replay of the Vuelta a España battle between Esteban Chaves and Chris Froome (and others). Chaves to ride Tour, Yates’ brother for the Giro – Top Story. Other cycling news: Volta ao Alentejo, Tour Cycliste International La Provence, teams preview Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and Abu Dhabi Tour, teams for Paris-Roubaix and Ardennes Classics, Tour de Pologne, new sponsor for UAE and Roglic extends with LottoNL-Jumbo. A full EUROTRASH Thursday.

TOP STORY: Chaves for France and Yates’ for Italy!
The Australian Orica-Scott team has the luxury of having three young talents to juggle with this season: The English Yates twins and the Colombian born Chaves. Of course with all this young talent they have to guide it carefully through the Grand Tours. The team has decided on a plan to have the Yates brothers, Simon and Adam, on the start-line of the Giro d’Italia in Alghero, Sardinia in May and Esteban Chaves will run down the time trial ramp in Düsseldorf, Germany on the 1st of July. As a bonus the team plan that all of them will go to Spain for the Vuelta a España.

Esteban Chaves spoke of his impending Tour ride with the Herald Sun newspaper: “It’s always been the dream from the very beginning and now it’s real. It’s really exciting and also a little bit scary as well. But it’s a good feeling. Sometimes I can’t believe it. It’s my first time to get this opportunity and it’s the Tour de France — just to be on the start line is a victory in itself for me. Sometimes I beat Froome, sometimes I beat Quintana, sometimes I beat Richie, but the Tour is the Tour. It’s my first time… not many people in their first Tour de France get an outstanding result.”

Orica-Scott sports director, Matt White, commented on Chaves’ French GT start. “I think it’s pretty unrealistic to expect anyone to win their first Tour de France but physically, Esteban has shown he can ride general classification at Grand Tours and he can handle the stress involved.” As to the prospect of Chaves going from the Tour to the Vuelta, White confirmed: “We don’t know how Esteban will come out of the Tour. He has done two Grand Tours in a year before but not back-to-back so we need to reassess after the Tour.

White explained the reasoning behind sending the Yates twins to the Giro: “The plan for the Giro d’Italia is to go with a two-pronged attack with the Yates brothers riding for the general classification. It’s a very special edition of the Giro and maybe the toughest last week of a Grand Tour I have ever seen. The boys are up to the challenge and it looks to be the best field ever assembled. Their results have been impressive but we aren’t going to see the very best of them for a few years yet. Instead, we decided we will do two Grand Tours with them. The physical maturity and Grand Tour experience will be of great benefit for them both in the years to come.”

And what about having three leaders in Spain? “It will be the only Grand Tour this year that we will see them all race together and this is also an exciting prospect for us,” White concluded.

The 2017 Grand Tour season is shaping up nicely; Froome, Quintana, Contador, Nibali, Aru, Bardet, Kruijswijk, Valverde, Dumoulin and now that the Yates’ brothers and Chaves have thrown their hats in the ring, there should be some big battles. Bring it on!

We’ve not seen the best of Esteban Chaves yet!

Eduard Prades sprints to 2nd place in Volta ao Alentejo
Caja Rural – Seguros RGA started out Volta ao Alentejo on a strong note as Eduard Prades took second place in the opening stage of the Portuguese race.

Prades, who just made Top20 overall in Vuelta a Andalucia last week, was eager to take advantage of his good shape and the team supported him perfectly all day. As the riders took on the final 50 km, which included several categorized climbs, the peloton blew apart leaving only a reduced group to fight for victory. Caja Rural – Seguros RGA’s Nick Schultz, making his debut for the team in the race, was part of one of the late attacks. However, at the end, it all came back together for the uphill sprint in Castelo de Vide.

Rinaldo Nocentini (Sporting Clube de Portugal/Tavira) took the win, while Prades outsprinted his former teammate Carlos Barbero (Movistar) to finish second, which is also his position in the general classification. Nocentini leads both the overall and the points classification, meaning Prades will wear the black points jersey on stage 2 tomorrow.

Eduard Prades: “This was a great stage by the team. They protected me all day and we also took responsibility to chase in the peloton. The finish suited me perfectly and I really wanted to win this one. I knew what I had to do, but with 600 meters to go, an Efapel rider attacked and I had to change my strategy. At the end, I was a little late into the last corner, meaning I could only take second place, which leaves me disappointed knowing how good I felt on the bike”.

Sports director, Josemi Fernández: “The whole team worked perfectly all day. It’s a shame we couldn’t take the win but now we know we are strong and able to fight for a stage win. For now, that is our main focus. We will take the general classification as it comes”.

Thursday’s 171.3 km long stage 2 of Volta ao Alentejo is another undulating one. Despite only one categorized climb, the terrain is far from flat. On the final few hundred meters, the road is slightly uphill, giving the team a new chance to sprint for glory.

Eduard Prades:

Dennis Sprints to Second and Takes the Leader’s Jersey on Stage 2 in Provence
A late attack on the downhill finish into La Ciotat on Stage 2 of the 2ème Tour Cycliste International La Provence saw Rohan Dennis race to second place and into the leader’s jersey with one stage remaining in France.

Attacks started as soon as the flag dropped and after just 15km, a four-rider breakaway had distanced themselves from the peloton. The group’s advantage continued to grow over the first half of the stage, reaching a maximum of six minutes.

Heading into the final 75km of the day, the breakaway had been joined by two chasers, but even with this added power, the peloton was closing the gap kilometer by kilometer.

With the remaining breakaway riders in sight, attacks started to fly off the front of the main bunch and eventually five riders, including Dennis, went clear with 10km to go.

The group was able to extend an advantage of 20 seconds over the peloton, and this would prove to be enough to disrupt the previously predicted bunch sprint on the fast, downhill run into the finish.

Eventually, all that was left was a final battle for the line between the late breakaway riders, with Alexandre Geniez (AG2R La Mondiale) taking the stage win just ahead of Dennis, who now heads into tomorrow’s third and final stage as the leader of the General Classification.

Interview with Race Leader, Rohan Dennis.
Great result today, Rohan! Talk us through the final attack.

“The initial attack was from Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie), and Joey Rosskopf was doing a great job keeping him in check up the climb before Geniez (AG2R La Mondiale) attacked. He was going pretty hard, so it came to a point where I thought it was now or never so I went with the next move to form the breakaway.”

Were you aware of the gap between the breakaway and the peloton?
“We were working well together, and we knew that we were holding onto a slight gap. At 3km to go, I turned around and could see the peloton, so I knew they were coming up fast. We lost some time on the last section, but that is normal with a breakaway that close to the finish.”

This is your first race in Europe this season, how are you feeling with your form here?
“I pretty happy with how I am riding. The last couple of years I have probably been riding average at my first races in Europe so to come here and to be in good shape is a big confidence boost for me.”

And looking ahead to tomorrow’s stage?
“I don’t see why we can’t win the overall with either myself or one of the other guys on the team. The team is super strong, and we have shown that today and yesterday. We are all working hard, and I think it is our race to lose at this point.”

Sports Director, Yvon Ledanois:
“I am happy with today’s results and how everyone performed. We didn’t have to pull too much early on, but I wanted the guys to take responsibility and look out for any opportunities heading into the final section. Tom Bohli did an excellent job pulling at the front, and then we tried two or three times before Rohan followed the final, winning move.”

“The most important thing for Rohan on today’s stage was that he looked strong. Taking the leader’s jersey is a bonus this early in the season. The race is not finished, but we have a strong team and we will certainly try our hardest to defend this jersey tomorrow.”

Race Profile:
2ème Tour Cycliste International La Provence
Stage 2: Miramas > La Ciotat, 169.6km
Top 3: 1. Alexandre Geniez (AG2R La Mondiale) 2. Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing Team) 3. Nicolas Edet (Cofidis)
BMC Racing Team Top 3: 2. Rohan Dennis 18. Brent Bookwalter 35. Danilo Wyss.

Rohan Dennis:

Quick-Step Floors Team to Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne
First classics of the season are due to take place this week-end.

Cobbles. Just say this word and it sends a shiver down your spine and fills you with excitement for cycling’s most spectacular and prized one-day races. Over the next six weeks, from Omloop Het Nieuwsblad to Paris-Roubaix, the riders will enter in this carousel which for just a few privileged ones will bring that career-defining victory or the missing gem from their collection.

Everything will begin at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (198.3 kilometers), one of the most prestigious events on the calendar, a race characterized by its hard course and cold weather, serving also as an appetizer for what’s to come later in the season. Omloop, won by Quick-Step Floors Team twice in the past, will see the peloton take on 13 hills (including the legendary Muur-Kapelmuur, Kruisberg or Taaienberg) and 10 pavé sectors, last of which comes 20 kilometers before the riders arrive in Ghent.

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad will also signal the start of Tom Boonen’s final chapter in pro cycling, as the Quick-Step Floors rider and Classics legend is set to call time on his career on April 9th. The 36-year-old Belgian has already completed two stage races in 2017 and is now looking with optimism and confidence to this week-end.

“I feel good coming back from Oman despite the crash on the first stage, which was actually my only objective for that race. But other than that, I had good days in Oman and was able to do the preparation that I was supposed to do. In that week alone I had 1200 kilometers in the legs, so that’s perfect,” said Tom Boonen. “I’m happy to start racing in Belgium. Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is always a special event, an important moment in Flanders: the first race, the first time people come out to watch the race, the first time we race in Belgium, the first time on the cobbles. I can’t wait!”

Tom Boonen, who throughout his career notched up 19 victories in cobbled classics, will be joined for the 73rd edition of the race by two-time champion Philippe Gilbert, Iljo Keisse, Yves Lampaert, Zdenek Stybar, Niki Terpstra, Matteo Trentin and Julien Vermote. For the 70th Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, Tim Declercq and Dries Devenyns will step in, replacing Keisse and Terpstra, but the team is still subject to change depending on what will happen on Saturday.

Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne (200.7 kilometers), a race in which Tom holds the record for the most victories – three (2007, 2009, 2014) – will feature 12 hills, the most important of which is Oude Kwaremont, one of Flanders’ iconic climbs. 2200m-long and kicking up at 11.6%, Oude Kwaremont comes in the second half and is sure to bring the race to life.

“Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is always an important start of the classics seasons. The guys coming from the desert and from Algarve, where we had nice weather and normal roads, will have to adapt to the different conditions in Belgium. Saturday and Sunday they’ll have to get used to riding on the cobbles again and the rider who finds the easiest way to adjust will get the best results. In both Omloop and Kuurne we start with our typical classics team, who is strong on the Belgian roads, so I guess we just have to be patient and see how things pan out,” said sport director Wilfried Peeters, who’ll lead the team from the car at this week-end’s races, together with Tom Steels.

25.02 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Elite (BEL) 1.UWT

Tom Boonen (BEL), Philippe Gilbert (BEL), Iljo Keisse (BEL), Yves Lampaert (BEL), Zdenek Stybar (CZE), Niki Terpstra (NED), Matteo Trentin (ITA), Julien Vermote (BEL).
Sports Director: Wilfried Peeters (BEL) and Tom Steels (BEL).

26.02 Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne (BEL) 1.HC

Tom Boonen (BEL), Tim Declercq (BEL), Dries Devenyns (BEL), Philippe Gilbert (BEL), Yves Lampaert (BEL), Zdenek Stybar (CZE), Matteo Trentin (ITA), Julien Vermote (BEL).
Sports Director: Wilfried Peeters (BEL) and Tom Steels (BEL).

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne
After exploring the course of Omloop het Nieuwsblad on Wednesday Wanty-Groupe Gobert heads to the Belgian opening weekend with confidence. For Omloop het Nieuwsblad on Saturday Sports director Hilaire Van der Schueren does appeal on the Belgians Frederik Backaert, Jérôme Baugnies, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Kévin Van Melsen and Pieter Vanspeybrouck, Italian Simone Antonini, Dutchman Wesley Kreder and Frenchman Yoann Offredo. In Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on Sunday Antonini, Kreder, Offredo and Van Keirsbulck enter again. They are amplified by Briton Mark McNally, Belgian Robin Stenuit, Italian Andrea Pasqualon and New Zealander Dion Smith.

Hilaire Van der Schueren (Sports director): “On Saturday I want our riders to play their role in the final of the race. We have five riders in excellent shape: Backaert, Baugnies, Offredo, Van Keirsbulck and Vanspeybrouck. They should be able to be present in the final. The reconnaissance on Wednesday was important to test the pressure of the tires on the cobblestones. The reintegration of Molenberg in the final is crucial. At that point you have to be in front if you want to ride for victory.”

“On Sunday we are aiming for a sprint with our Italian Andrea Pasqualon. We hope he can survive the (cobbled) climbs in the first big group. Thus he should be able to compete with the strongest sprinters in the end. I expect a sprint if the weather changes. Otherwise all the wind and rain will make it a very hard race, both on Saturday and Sunday.”

Guillaume Van Keirsbulck: “Above all I want to show myself in the final of Omloop het Nieuwsblad. I think victory will be difficult but I want everyone to see that I can play a role in the final. We will have to be in front of the pack the whole day because of the strong wind and the narrow roads. On Wednesday I had a good feeling on the cobbles during the reconnaissance, although I am still recovering a bit from Algarve.”

“Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne is a strange race. Sometimes it’s a sprint, but a small group also has a chance. It will depend on the wind. Normally Pasqualon has the fastest legs in our team, so we will ride for him if it is a sprint in the end.”

“I amuse myself here in the team. With Wanty-Groupe Gobert things are different from my time over at Etixx. The atmosphere between the riders is superb and Hilaire is a sort of father for the riders. He is closer with us than sports directors I had before.”

Preview Omloop Het Nieuwsblad with Jürgen Roelandts and Tiesj Benoot
Two more days before the Belgian cycling season begins with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. The race has been awarded WorldTour status since this year. The Lotto Soudal riders did a recon of the course a few weeks ago. There lie thirteen hills on the almost 200 kilometres long course. The Molenberg is the last one at 35 kilometres from the finish. There are ten cobblestone sections, the Lange Munte being the last one. From then on 20 kilometres are left towards the finish in the centre of Ghent.

Today Tiesj Benoot and Jürgen Roelandts took time for the press and talked about their expectations for Saturday.

Jürgen Roelandts: “I had a similar preparation as last year. I started the season at Challenge Mallorca and rode Volta ao Algarve afterwards. The Vuelta a la Región de Murcia and Clásica de Almería were added to my programme. It has been the third year that I haven’t raced Down Under. Changing my race programme has proven to be a good choice.”

“I had a good start of the season, now I can’t wait to start in my kind of races. It’s for this period that I trained last winter. This is what I have worked for. The Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, on Belgian soil, is still special for me as a Belgian. I really love this race. It’s WorldTour now, but I would want to win this anyway.”

“The weather is a factor in every race. I have no problems with rain, as everybody knows. In such conditions I feel better than most other riders and that increases my chances.”

Tiesj Benoot: “I am really happy about how I got through the off-season. I suffered from stomach problems last year due to my crash at the Ronde van Vlaanderen. That lasted until the beginning of November. Since these problems have gone, I feel so much better. It really was a burden, especially mentally. My first races went really well. At Mallorca and Algarve I showed myself in the stages I wanted to. My peak still has to come, but I am a rather consistent rider. I want to be ready from day one.”

“Last year, I finishhed third at the Omloop and that means I can win as well. But then all has to fall into place: I can’t crash or have a puncture. It was almost impossible for me to beat Sagan and Van Avermaet last edition, I knew that. Attacking wasn’t an option though because of the headwind and the peloton that was so close behind us. I hope that the circumstances will be different if I get in a similar position this year. It’s nice to hear that someone like Peter Sagan calls me a favourite for the Omloop, but that doesn’t help me in the race.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal:
Tiesj Benoot, Jasper De Buyst, Jens Debusschere, Frederik Frison, Nikolas Maes, Jürgen Roelandts, James Shaw and Jelle Wallays.
Sports directors: Herman Frison and Frederik Willems.

Tiesj Benoot on the wheel of Greg Van Avermaet:
Gent - Belgium - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium / BMC Racing Team) - Tiesj Benoot (Belgium / Team Lotto Soudal) pictured during Omloop Het Nieuwsblad- mannen - men elite / Circuit Het Nieuwsblad- hommel elite 2016 - photo Dion Kerckhoffs/Cor Vos © 2016

Bahrain-Merida Looking Forward to the First Races in Belgium
At the Belgian opening weekend in Vlaanderen we will have a chance to see the fantastic classic style of racing. Tristan Hoffman, sports director of the Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling Team, noted that this race will be a rehearsal for the whole 2017 classic season.

The race start is usually very fast in Belgium and the breakaways tend to happen in the first 40 kilometers. It is extremely important to stay focused since the Vaaderen race will surprise the riders with unforgiving climbs and patches of cobbles.

“Our lead rider will be Sonny Colbrelli, who is feeling great both mentally and physically so we believe he is the ideal choice for classic races like this one. For our riders Ivan Cortina, Antonio Nibali, Domen Novak, Ion Insausti and David Per it will be the first time to ride as professional riders in Belgium. Luka Pibernik and Borut Božič have been racing in Belgium before and we are looking forward to see them on the track again. We believe it will be a good lineup of our team. It is critical to know the course and we don’t have many riders that already rode on this track, so one of the goals for our riders will be to learn and gather experience,” said Tristan Hoffman, team director.

Direct Energie for Belgium
The French team line up for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne for this weekend:

Riders for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad:
Ryan Anderson, Thomas Boudat, Romain Cardis, Sylvain Chavanel, Bryan Coquard, Antoine Duchesne, Julien Morice and Adrien Petit.
Directeur Sportif: Dominique Arnould.

Riders for Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne:
Ryan Anderson, Thomas Boudat, Romain Cardis, Sylvain Chavanel, Bryan Coquard, Antoine Duchesne, Julien Morice and Adrien Petit.
Directeur Sportif: Dominique Arnould.

Sylvain Chavanel:

Sunweb for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
The 72nd edition of the men’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad steps up to WorldTour level for 2017, and is the much-anticipated opener to the Spring Classics season. Starting and finishing in Ghent, Belgium, the one-day race features a 197km course with 13 climbs and 10 cobbled sections, which should be enough to make it an exciting race.

Team Sunweb coach Arthur van Dongen (NED) said: “We are very much looking forward to the opening of the classics season at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad this weekend. The team’s goal is to try to get into the breakaways and mark any serious moves in the second half of the race. Most of our guys are just coming out of a great opener at the Tour of Oman, so we are heading to the race with confidence and for more team efforts and a good result on Saturday.”

Søren Kragh Andersen (DEN), Roy Curvers (NED), Bert De Backer (BEL), Ramon Sinkeldam (NED), Tom Stamsnijder (NED), Mike Teunissen (NED), Zico Waeytens (BEL), Max Walscheid (GER).
Coach. Arthur Van Dongen.

Women’s Omloop Het Nieuwblad
One of the opening races to the season, the women’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, boasts a strong roster of pros to its start line. The race features nine climbs and plenty of cobbled sections with the final 35km of racing being held on the exact same course as the men’s race.

Team Sunweb coach Hans Timmermans (NED) said: “Nieuwsblad is always the first real moment where teams and riders can see how their form is coming out of the winter. I am feeling confident with the team because we have had good camps and the team’s philosophy is really becoming prominent with our new riders. With strong team work we will be there on Saturday and try to be present in the finale. We have a solid plan in place and we are looking forward to getting out there.”

Lucinda Brand (NED), Ellen van Dijk (NED), Leah Kirchmann (CAN), Floortje Mackaij (NED), Rozanne Slik (NED), Julia Soek (NED).
Coach: Hans Timmermans.

Team LottoNL-Jumbo Leads with Boom and Groenewegen in Belgium’s Opening Weekend
Team LottoNL-Jumbo is heading into the opening classics weekend in Belgium with Lars Boom and Dylan Groenewegen as its leaders. Both will race the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on Sunday.

72nd Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
This year the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad steps up into the WorldTour and takes on more importance considering the points on offer as well as the usual prestige associated with the classic cobbled race starting and ending in Ghent.

The race, formerly Omloop Het Volk, takes in many of Belgium’s famous cobbled sectors and climbs. It will mark the first battle together for many of the big classic stars.

Boom, back in the team after racing with Astana in past years, hopes to score quickly. If it should come to a good-sized group sprint then Groenewegen will take control. He has shown in the past that he can handle the Flemish roads. In 2014, the sprinter won the under 23 Tour of Flanders.

Saturday 25 February – 72nd Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

Lars Boom, Jos van Emden, Dylan Groenewegen, Gijs Van Hoecke, Tom Leezer, Timo Roosen, Bram Tankink, Maarten Wynants.
Sports Director: Jan Boven and Nico Verhoeven.

The day after, February 26, many of the same cyclists will head to Kuurne for the 200-kilometer Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. It is traditionally one for the sprinters, so Groenewegen will lead the eight-man team.

In 2016, Groenewegen finished fourth behind the breakaway that gobbled up the top spots. This year, he hopes to sprint for the win.

Boom and Groenewegen both start in this UCI 1.HC race. The preliminary selection consists of eleven riders. The final selection will be decided after the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Sunday 26 February – Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne (UCI 1.HC)

Amund Grøndahl Jansen, Robert Wagner, Lars Boom, Twan Castelijns, Jos van Emden, Gijs Van Hoecke, Tom Leezer, Bram Tankink, Maarten Wynants, Dylan Groenewegen, Timo Roosen.
Sports Directors: Jan Boven and Nico Verhoeven.

Dylan Groenewegen will ride both races:

Van Avermaet Set for Opening Weekend in Belgium
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad defending champion, Greg Van Avermaet, will be back at the start line this Saturday, 25 February, looking to repeat his success at the opening weekend in Belgium.

The Belgian lines up at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne after showing solid early season form in Spain and Oman, Sports Director Valerio Piva said. “We’re excited to be racing again at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and this time with the defending champion, Greg Van Avermaet, in our ranks. The opening weekend in Belgium means that the cycling season is well and truly underway, and now that the race is UCI WorldTour we are even more determined to do well. Greg will have a very strong team around him for both races, with more of a focus on the sprinters for Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne on Sunday,” Piva explained. “For Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, we have Tom Bohli, Silvan Dillier and Miles Scotson stepping in to replace Floris Gerts, Michael Schär and Francisco Ventoso. BMC Racing Team has had an excellent start to the year and we hope to build on this in Belgium.”

Van Avermaet is excited to race on home soil for the first time this year. “I’ve had a good start to the season in Spain and Oman, but there is nothing like racing on home soil. Having won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad last year, for sure I want to come back and do well again at both races. It will be a good indication of my form at this time of the year, knowing that my big goals are to come in April,” Van Avermaet said.

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (25 February)
Rider Roster:

Jempy Drucker (LUX), Martin Elmiger (SUI), Floris Gerts (NED), Stefan Küng (SUI), Daniel Oss (ITA), Michael Schär (SUI), Greg Van Avermaet (BEL), Francisco Ventoso (ESP).
Sports Director: Valerio Piva (ITA).

Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne (26 February)
Rider Roster:

Tom Bohli (SUI), Silvan Dillier (SUI), Jempy Drucker (LUX), Martin Elmiger (SUI), Stefan Küng (SUI), Daniel Oss (ITA), Miles Scotson (AUS), Greg Van Avermaet (BEL).
Sports Director: Valerio Piva (ITA).

Greg Van Avermaet:

Vanmarcke Leads New Cannondale-Drapac Classics Group into Opening Weekend
Cobbles, frites, ‘burgs. Finally, classics season draws near. Cannondale-Drapac hopes to add to the excitement and sends a new-look group to Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Sep Vanmarcke, recently returned to Slipstream Sports, leads the squad, which consists of Paddy Bevin, Kristijan Koren, Sebastian Langeveld, Taylor Phinney, Tom Scully, Tom Van Asbroeck, and Dylan Van Baarle. Andreas Klier and Ken Vanmarcke will direct.

Vanmarcke, then riding for Garmin-Barracuda, won the 2012 running, outfoxing Tom Boonen and Juan Antonio Flecha in the last kilometer. Saturday marks Vanmarcke’s first foray with the classics group that is readying itself for an intense spring campaign through Paris-Roubaix.

“I’m not nervous,” Vanmarcke said. “I’m really looking forward. The last weeks in Valencia and Algarve were a nice to start racing with the guys. The next period is very important, so I’m really motivated to do well. I already have experience in these races, so no reason to get nervous anymore. Excited is a better word. I am confident that we will perform well in the next weeks.”

Vanmarcke is understated and calm looking ahead. Omloop, while it serves as the opening weekend, is still far enough removed from the Monuments that it’s not always the indicator race people may think.

“I think I’m not at my top level yet. We plan to have a big month, when the biggest classics are on the menu. But my form should be already pretty good, so I will play my role in the final,” Vanmarcke said. “Which result that can be I don’t know. My teammates are also in a good shape, so everything is possible for us.”

The cycling-mad country of Belgium is set to come alive as its stars toe the line. It’s an exciting time in the sport and fuels conversation from Flanders outward. Who will win Flanders? Who will win Roubaix?

“The fans and the media are just so happy to get their fix. To get a bit of a cobbles ration. There’s advantages to it. But it’s a long way from that core period of April, late March, when the really big races are decided. Form wise I’m not sure if it teaches you anything,” said the team’s head director, Charly Wegelius.

“On the other hand, even for experienced riders, there’s not that many days in a year where they race on cobbles like that,” Wegelius continued. “Getting a chance to do it once, there’s a real benefit in that. It’s important for us this year because it’s a new group around a new leader. We’ve got a mix of experienced riders like Sep, Sebastian, and to a degree even Dylan in terms of riding on the cobblestones, with very green, inexperienced but nevertheless strong riders like Bevin and Mullen and so on. And they’ve never really raced with a super-strong leader before. And that changes the way you ride the race. That weekend for us is an important step toward April.”

Taylor Phinney will make his Cannondale-Drapac debut on the cobbles. He finished seventh in 2014 at Omloop.

“Preparing with a new team is great, actually. It’s refreshing. I’m excited to try out some new equipment. Different wheels, different tires, different bikes. It’s another added layer of stress, but it’s a good level of nervous that’s positive and motivating and not a distraction,” Phinney said. “In all honesty, I’m a little intimidated by our classics team. It’s a strong group of dudes. A motivated group of dudes. I’m not really sure what I was expecting, but these guys are here for business.”

“Opening weekend is always — keyword — stressful. It’s an anxious group of bicycle riders that amass in Belgium and attempt to get their first classic of the year under their belts,” Phinney said. “I think Sep definitely has the capability to win Het Nieuwsblad again. I think Dylan is strong right now. As for me, I’m just coming off my first race, and it’ll be a test. But the beautiful thing about the classics — if you are smart and good with timing, you can kind of just fall into the front group. And it’s a lot of suffering, but it’s just short amounts. Then some respite. You’ve got to be clever.”

DS Andreas Klier knows the cobbled classics inside and out. He’s raced them (victorious at Gent-Wevelgem in ’03 and second at Flanders in ’05) and has directed riders over this terrain since he retired in 2013. He’ll be watching to see how the team moves together.

“The parcours is difficult. You have to have close to 100 percent of your skills sharp to be able to win that bike race. I would say it’s one of the hardest one day races of the year because it’s so early in the season,” Klier said. “I hope we see a good group effort. That’s the first thing I want to see.”

Cannondale-Drapac for 2017 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad:
Paddy Bevin, Kristijan Koren, Sebastian Langeveld, Taylor Phinney, Tom Scully, Sep Vanmarcke, Tom Van Asbroeck, Dylan Van Baarle.

Cannondale-Drapac for Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne:
Alberto Bettiol, Patrick Bevin, Kristijan Koren, Sebastian Langeveld, Ryan Mullen, Tom Scully, Tom Van Asbroeck, Wouter Wippert.

Sep Vanmarcke:
Denia - Spain - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Sep VANMARCKE (Belgium / Cannondale Drapac Professsional Cycling Team) pictured during 68th Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana stage 2- from Alicante to Denia (180 km) - photo Luis Gomez/Cor Vos © 2017 ***Spain out***

Louis Vervaeke aims for top ten in mountain stage Abu Dhabi Tour
The day after tomorrow the Abu Dhabi Tour begins, a four-day stage race that lasts from Thursday 23 February until Sunday 26 February. The race, which was last year scheduled in October, has been upgraded to WorldTour level. It will be a mix of desert, city courses, sprints and an opportunity for climbers.

The opening stage runs through the desert, where echelons could be formed. The riders will need to be attentive. Stage two mainly takes place in the capital Abu Dhabi on wide roads. Saturday a climber’s stage is scheduled, although the main part of the stage is completely flat. The finish lies on the Jebel Hafeet, at 1025 meters of altitude. This climb is eleven kilometers long and has an average gradient of 8.5% with a peak of 11% at three kilometers from the finish. The Yas Marina Formula 1 Circuit is the location for the last stage. The riders need to cover 26 laps of 5.5 kilometers. As it’s expected that the pace will be really high it is very unlikely that escapees can stay ahead of the bunch.

Louis Vervaeke is one of the eight Lotto Soudal riders that arrived in Abu Dhabi yesterday. The Belgian already rode Challenge Mallorca this season where he finished second and fourth in the two stages that Tim Wellens won. That was a proof of his good shape and he is determined to show that in the Middle-East as well.

Louis Vervaeke: “It was great to start the season with two good results at the Challenge Mallorca. It confirmed that I had a good winter. After Mallorca, I went to Girona where I rent a house together with Sean De Bie and Jasper Stuyven. I trained there for two weeks to optimally prepare myself for the rest of the season. Jasper was there as well. It’s always nice if someone else is staying in the house as well, so it’s less lonely. We don’t have a schedule for the chores. We do that spontaneously. There is one rule though: the person who doesn’t cook, has to do the dishes. The second week Jef Van Meirhaeghe joined us in Girona and I have to admit that he did a lot of the cleaning and cooking that week.”

“In the mountain stage in Abu Dhabi I want to show that my performance at Challenge Mallorca wasn’t a coincidence. It will be my first WorldTour race of the season, which makes it extra exciting. The stage to Jabel Hafeet is peculiar, because the route is completely flat until the climb towards the finish. That’s something that should suit me, an explosive end of the race. I am aiming for a place on top ten on Saturday. It will be my first race in the Middle-East. I am curious to see how that goes, racing through the desert. We do have a strong team in case there should be echelons. I am looking forward to helping André Greipel to win a stage.”

“After Abu Dhabi I have no races for three weeks. I will go back to Spain to take my condition to the highest level for my most important goals this spring: Volta a Catalunya, País Vasco and the Walloon Classics. Last year, I was eleventh overall at País Vasco, at only one second of the tenth place. This year I want to finish on top ten.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal:
Sander Armée, Lars Bak, Sean De Bie, André Greipel, Adam Hansen, Maxime Monfort, Rafael Valls and Louis Vervaeke.
Sports director: Mario Aerts.

Louis Vervaeke:

Abu Dhabi WT race hosts Gazprom – RusVelo
Gazprom – RusVelo will compete in Abu Dhabi Tour, a World Tour stage race, which will be held in United Arab Emirates on 23rd – 26th of February. The race rapidly gained popularity from it’s foundation in 2015.

The route remains similar to the previous year edition. However, organizers enlarged the distance to 672 kilometers, due to the upgraded UCI World Tour status. The city of Madinat Zayed will host the first stage of the race. On the second day teams move on to the capital of UAE – Abu Dhabi. Third stage will challenge riders with the Jebel Hafeet climb and then ADT will end up on the Yas Marina Circuit, which hosts the famous Formula One races.

The only summit finish of the race on Jebel Hafeet will be crucial to define the winners of general standings. The distance of closing climb is 10.8 kilometers with an average gradient 6.6%. The other stages culminate in sprint finishes.

Gazprom – RusVelo relies on the sprinter Alexander Porsev on Abu Dhabi Tour. Who shared his expectations: “My physical condition after the first races is quite good. There were both kind of recovery and very intensive days. Abu Dhabi Tour is known for tough climate, fortunately acclimatization has never been an issue for me. The desert stages have its unique wind challenges, which make the race more dynamic and unpredictable. I will have the opportunity to show my best result on the finishing kilometers due to the support of my teammates. I hope it works out.”

Paolo Rosola, Sports Director of Gazprom – RusVelo shared his opinion about Abu Dhabi Tour: “The result in Abu Dhabi strongly depends on the great teamwork: the route includes one steep climb, several sprint finishes and desert stage on which teams have to deal with the side winds. On the sprint stages team’s effort would be for Alexander Porsev, he has it all to succeed. We have a very strong line-up and we are ready for the competition.”

Gazprom – RusVelo line-up:
Pavel Brutt, Ivan Savitskiy, Sergey Firsanov, Ivan Rovny, Artur Ershov, Alexander Porsev, Nikolay Trusov, Kirill Sveshnikov.

Team Sunweb for Abu Dhabi Tour
The 2017 edition of the Abu Dhabi Tour takes place from February 23 to 26. It is a race for the sprinters with three out of four stages being relatively flat. Stage three is considered to be the most decisive.

However a summit finish at Jebel Hafeet is sure to create some solid time gaps in the general classification. The race in its third edition, boasts an impressive line-up and has this year been added to the UCI WorldTour. Viewers will also be treated to onboard footage and live rider data throughout the race, offered by Velon – providing great extra input to engage fans.

Team Sunweb coach Luke Roberts (AUS) said: “On Thursday we start our next WorldTour stage race with the Abu Dhabi Tour. The race sees three sprinter-friendly stages and one hilltop-finish, which will see the climbers fight out the GC. Our line-up will be a mix of partly guys that start their season, whereas the other part already have done the Australian campaign or coming from Ruta del Sol last week.”

“After some solid racing in Australia, Phil is our guy for the sprint stages and he is keen to show his capabilities in Abu Dhabi. For Tom it will be his first race of the season, and we’ll see where his legs are at after the climb of stage three.”

Phil Bauhaus (GER), Laurens ten Dam (NED), Tom Dumoulin (NED), Chris Hamilton (AUS), Lennard Hofstede (NED), Lennard Kämna (GER), Sindre Skjøstad Lunke (NOR), Albert Timmer (NED).
Coach: Luke Roberts.

Tom Dumoulin:

Teams Selection for Paris-Roubaix 2017
The organizers of Paris-Roubaix have chosen the teams that will take part in the 115th edition of Paris-Roubaix which will take place on April 9th.

In accordance with Union Cycliste Internationale rules, the following eighteen UCI WorldTeams are automatically invited to the race:
AG2R La Mondiale (Fra), Astana Pro Team (Kaz), Bahrain – Merida (Brn), BMC Racing Team (USA), Bora – Hansgrohe (Ger), Cannondale Drapac Professional Cycling Team (USA), FDJ (Fra), Lotto Soudal (Bel), Movistar Team (Spa), Orica – Scott (Aus), Quick-Step Floors (Bel), Team Dimension Data (RSA), Team Katusha – Alpecin (Sui), Team Lotto NL – Jumbo (Nld), Team Sky (GBR), Team Sunweb (Ger), Trek – Segafredo (USA), UAE Abu Dhabi (UAE).

In addition to these eighteen teams, the organizers have awarded the following wildcards:
Cofidis, Solutions Crédits (Fra), Direct Energie (Fra), Fortuneo – Vital Concept (Fra), Delko Marseille Provence KTM (Fra), Wanty – Groupe Gobert (Bel), Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise (Bel), Roompot Nederlandse Loterij (Nld).

Paris-Roubaix 2016:

2017 Ardennes Classics: The Teams Selection
The following teams have been chosen to take part in the 81st Flèche Wallonne (Wednesday, April 19) and the 103rd Liège-Bastogne-Liège (Sunday, April 23).

In accordance with Union Cycliste Internationale rules, the following eighteen UCI WorldTeams are automatically invited to those two races:
AG2R La Mondiale (Fra), Astana Pro Team (Kaz), Bahrain Merida (Brn), BMC Racing Team (USA), Bora Hansgrohe (Ger), Cannondale Drapac Pro Cycling Team (USA), FDJ (Fra), Lotto Soudal (Bel), Movistar Team (Spa), Orica Scott (Aus), Quick-Step Floors (Bel), Team Dimension Data (RSA), Team Katusha – Alpecin (Sui), Team Lotto NL – Jumbo (Nld), Team Sky (Gbr), Team Sunweb (Ger), Trek – Segafredo (USA), UAE Abu Dhabi (UAE).

In addition to these eighteen teams, the organizers have awarded the following wildcards:
La Flèche Wallonne 2017:

Aqua Blue Sport (Ir), Cofidis, Solutions Crédits (Fra), Direct Energie (Fra), Fortuneo – Vital Concept (Fra), Sport Vlaanderen – Baloise (Bel), Wanty – Groupe Gobert (Bel), WB Veranclassic Aqua Project (Bel).

Liège-Bastonge-Liège 2017:
Aqua Blue Sport (Irl), Cofidis, Solutions Crédits (Fra), Direct Energie (Fra), Roompot – Nederlandse Loterij (Nld), Sport Vlaanderen – Baloise (Bel), Wanty – Groupe Gobert (Bel), WB Veranclassic Aqua Project (Bel).

Liège 2016:

2017 Ardennes Classics: Pride of Place for the Women’s Pack

Pauline Ferrand-Prevot wins Flèche Wallonne

Key points:
· A.S.O. is proud to officially present the very first edition of the Women’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège race which will take place, just like the “Old Lady of the Classics”, on 23rd April, over a 135.5-km route setting off from Bastogne.

· For its 91st edition, the Flèche Wallonne will finish at the summit of the Mur de Huy climb, as is customary since 1984, after 200.5 km of racing and a slightly rearranged finish.

· The route of Liège-Bastogne-Liège has also been changed before the final reckoning and will lead the riders over a new trio of slopes in the Walloon countryside.

· The long-standing supporters of Belgian cycling Boels Rental and Lotto are continuing their partnerships with the Ardennes Classics.

The Ardennes Classics week signals both the start of spring and the culmination of a first major sequence in the cycling season, during which the classics specialists come into their own. Indeed, the most explosive riders in the pack are those who express themselves best on the Flèche Wallonne, with a tough battle on the slopes of the Mur de Huy climb. This year, the loop has been slightly rearranged in order to provide more opportunities and precipitate the cull between the pretenders to the crown: there will be an interval of only 58 kilometers between the first and third climb up the Chemin des Chapelles! Following this world cup final for punchers, an entry into history on the Oldest of the Classics will be won through attrition, all along the demanding 258-km route. As they attack the last third of the race, the riders will acquaint themselves with a new trio of climbs made up of the Côte de Pont (after 168 km), Côte de Bellevaux (after 172 km) and especially the Côte de la Ferme Libert slopes (after 180 km), the last of which boasts an average gradient of 12.1%, which will no doubt heat up the race scenario and the riders’ calf muscles as they get ready for the final battle.

However, the 2017 Ardennes Classics campaign is already destined to go down in history thanks to the welcome reserved for the women’s pack, which will also be tackling the famous Amstel-Flèche-Liège racing sequence! The rebirth of the Ladies’ Amstel Gold Race will provide some valuable pointers and probably desire for revenge for the pretenders to the crown taking part in the 20th edition of the Women’s Flèche Wallonne. More importantly, for the very first time, they will have the opportunity to discover the prestige of La Doyenne which now boasts a younger sister. For the first edition of the Women’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the ladies have been spared the full return journey, with starter’s orders given in Bastogne. Over the 135.5-km route that they will tackle, they will be battling over the same last 45 kilometers as in the men’s race, which becomes especially tough from the Côte de la Redoute slope onwards, providing a testing welcome to the women’s pack.

Boels Rental and Lotto sign up again
There could not have been a better opportunity for Boels Rental to confirm its loyalty to the Ardennes Classics than in the year in which the Women’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège is created. The equipment hire company, present as a major partner since 2013, is also one of the brands most heavily invested in the development of women’s cycling. In particular, the Boels Dolmans team, which has been at the top level of its sport since the 2012 season, boasts Anna van der Breggen among its ranks. Anna van der Breggen is no less than the two times winner of the Women’s Flèche Wallonne and also Olympic Champion at the Rio Olympic Games. On the Flèche, like in Liège, Boels Rental will be the partner for the climbs and slopes classification.

Another long-standing supporter of all categories of cycling in Belgium, Lotto, the organizers of the national lottery, will be continuing a partnership with the Ardennes Classics that has been in place since 2005.

The following teams have been chosen to take part in the 20th Flèche Wallonne Femmes (Wednesday, April 19) and the 1st Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes (Sunday, April 23):
Alé Cipollini (Ita), Astana Women’s Team (Kaz), Bepink Cogeas (Ita), Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam (Nld), BTC City Ljubljana (Slov), Canyon Sram Racing (Ger), Cervélo – Bigla Pro Cycling Team (Ger), Cylance Pro Cycling (USA), FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope (Fra), Hitec Products (Nor), Lares Waowdeals Women Cycling Team (Bel), Lensworld Kuota (Bel), Lotto Soudal Ladies (Bel), Orica Scott (Aus), Servetto Giusta (Ita), Team Sunweb (Nld), Team Veloconcept Women (Dan), Wiggle High5 (Gbr), WM3 Pro Cycling Team (Nld).

In addition to these teams, the organizers have awarded the following wildcards:
La Flèche Wallonne 2017:

Bizkaia Durango (Spa), Drops (Gbr), France (Fra), S.C Michela Fanini (Ita), Sport Vlaanderen Etixx (Bel).

Liège-Bastogne-Liège 2017:
Bizkaia Durango (Spa), Drops (Gbr), SAS Macogep (Can), S.C Michela Fanini (Ita), Sport Vlaanderen Etixx (Bel).

2016 UCI Women’s WorldTour – Flèche Wallonne – Highlights:

Tour de Pologne UCI World Tour: Preparations for the 2017 Edition Going Smoothly
This year we celebrate the 10th year of the Nutella Mini Tour de Pologne.

After a brief parenthesis during the last Olympic year, when we changed the dates, this year the Tour de Pologne UCI World Tour has returned to its usual spot on the international cycling calendar. The 74th edition will take place from July 29th to August 4th, with 7 stages. The Polish race has thus become one of the most highly anticipated mid-summer events, coming right after the Grande Boucle and serving as a lead up to the season finales at the Vuelta and the World Championships. The Tour de Pologne has claimed its place as the most important race in all of Eastern Europe. It’s the only event in this part of the continent that is part of the UCI World Tour calendar.

Czeslaw Lang, TDP General Director:
Tour de Pologne 2016 - 4a tappa  Nowy Sacz - Rzeszow/Podkarpackie 218 km 15/07/2015 -  - foto Ilario Biondi/BettiniPhoto©2016

“We’re working out the final details of the route. In the next several weeks we will be revealing previews of the stages, before the major presentation which will be held presumably in the beginning of May. We’re working hard to set up a fantastic edition. The geographic locations and the towns featured in the 7 stages will be more or less the same as the last editions, but there will be plenty of new frills. I can tell you right now that there won’t be any time trials; the Grand Départ will be from Krakow and the final stages will be the toughest in terms of altimetry. Everything has been considered with an eye to making the race even more unpredictable, exciting and hard-fought, right up until the last day,” explains Czeslaw Lang, General Director for the TDP.

As always, the Tour de Pologne UCI World Tour will concurrently feature the Nutella Mini Tour de Pologne and Tour de Pologne Amatorów. “These two events represent the true values of the Tour de Pologne and of cycling. One is aimed at attracting young people, who are our future, to cycling. The other event, the granfondo, is for all enthusiasts who live and breathe a love of cycling. We are preparing some fantastic things in particular for the Mini Tour de Pologne, which will see us in our 10th consecutive year of collaborating with the Nutella brand on this project, which was developed specifically for the youngest of cycling fans,” concludes Czeslaw Lang.

Nutella Mini Tour de Pologne:

UAE Pro Cycling Team – UAE Team Emirates – Sets Sights on Future Glory as it Unveils New Name, Identity and Major New Partners
UCI World Tour team will line-up at the Abu Dhabi Tour with new co-title sponsor Emirates, and partners ADS Securities and International Golden Group.

On the eve of the biggest cycling race in the Middle East, the UAE’s first-ever professional cycling team today unveiled a new name, logo, team kit, and three new sponsors that includes a new co-title sponsor – the iconic international airline, Emirates.

The team, which last December was awarded the final license to compete on the UCI World Tour – the premier annual male elite road cycling tour, has undergone a transformation in recent months, and will now be known as UAE Team Emirates. It will ride under that banner for the first time at this week’s Abu Dhabi Tour.

The announcement that one of the most iconic sponsor brands in world sports is to extend its international sponsorship strategy into a professional cycling team for the first time, represents one of the most significant sponsorship deals in cycling’s recent history. The iconic Emirates logo will feature on the UAE Team Emirates team jersey as part of a new team logo that incorporates the UAE and the colors of the national flag.

The support of the globally-renowned airline brand is a huge fillip for both the team and professional cycling more broadly. Emirates is the largest airline in the Middle East, operating over 3,600 flights per week from its hub at Dubai International Airport, to more than 154 cities in 81 countries across six continents. The brand is known worldwide as one of the leading supporters of world-class sports events, teams and other rights holders, and has enjoyed long-term, highly successful sponsorships in football, rugby union, tennis, motorsports, horse racing, golf and cricket among others.

Sheikh Majid Al Mualla, Divisional Senior Vice President, Commercial Operations Centre for Emirates, said: “This is our first foray into supporting a professional international cycling team, and there is no better place to do it than our home of the UAE. We believe that through our support of UAE Team Emirates over the next four years we will help bring the UAE to the world stage of cycling. Emirates aims to create more meaningful connections with cycling fans around the world, and we hope that the pro-cycling team will inspire continued development of the sport in the UAE.”

The announcement was made at a specially convened media event in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi, which also saw the team confirm two further new sponsors – ADS Securities and International Golden Group (IGG).

Abu Dhabi based international financial services company, ADS Securities, is a leading forex, bullion and online trading firm, and its Chairman, His Excellency Mahmood Ebraheem Al Mahmood, is delighted to be partnering with UAE Team Emirates:

“Cycling’s popularity has grown immensely in the last several years and while cyclists may not necessarily know a lot about finance, they have an innate understanding of risk. We are confident that this is the beginning of a great partnership and are thrilled to be one of the first organizations to formally support a UAE-based team competing at the very highest level in professional road racing.”

Mr Fadel Saif Al-Kaabi, CEO of defense and security services provider, IGG, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for IGG; supporting UAE’s top athletes is a habit that we are immensely proud of, and something which we have done in an abundance in the past. This latest partnership with UAE Team Emirates is particularly exciting given the massive developments having been made to unveil the new team to the world.”

UAE Team Emirates President, Matar Al Dhaheri, was thrilled to have been able to announce three major new sponsors in such a short period of time since the team’s own unveiling just over a month ago.

“The commercial interest in this team has been so exciting, and it is a huge honor to have attracted three such impressive organizations as Emirates, ADS Securities and IGG to join our new family,” said Al Dhaheri.

“My thanks go to the management teams at all three companies, but of course I’d like to thank in particular our new co-title sponsor Emirates. To announce a partnership with such an iconic and experienced brand in world sports is a major milestone for the team and I believe it is one of the best partnerships in the history of cycling.”

“These new partners, together with our fantastic roster of current sponsors – lead sponsor Kopaonik Property Investment, Colnago, Champion System, Met, Samsung and Mitsubishi Motors – offer us the stability needed to establish a world-class team that will help us take great strides over the coming years,” he concluded.

UAE Team Emirates was born out of a former Italian UCI World Tour team, and is operated by Swiss-based company CGS Cycling. In early January the new team was unveiled as Team UAE Abu Dhabi together with a new lead sponsor – the UAE-based company Kopaonik Property Investment LLC. Now, almost two months down the line, and having attracted the additional support of Emirates, ADS Properties and IGG, the team has evolved to become known as UAE Team Emirates.

Continuing in his previous role is UAE Team Emirates General Manager – Italian cycling legend Giuseppe Saronni. Saronni has been managing professional cycling teams since 1991, only one year after having ended a glittering career as a cyclist in which he collected 205 victories, including twice winning the iconic Maglia Rosa (Pink Jersey) at the Giro d’Italia and beating Greg LeMond to win the World Cycling Championship in 1982.

Known affectionately within the cycling world as Beppe, Saronni has steered successive professional teams to glory on the road, including four World Champions who have raced for his teams wearing the famous Rainbow Jersey, and wins at many of the most prestigious races in the world including the Giro d’Italia, Milan-San Remo, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, the Amstel Gold Race, and the Giro di Lombardia.

Well-known cyclists to have raced in Saronni’s teams include Maurizio Fondriest, Ján Svorada, Pavel Tonkov, Gilberto Simoni, Michele Scarponi, and Damiano Cunego. Now under the new UAE Team Emirates banner, Saronni is hoping to steer a new generation to success over the coming years

“My passion is for building a true family of riders who come together, work hard as a team, and strive towards a common goal. Over the years we have built a great tradition and with UAE Team Emirates I believe we have a great opportunity to do that once again,” said Saronni.

“We have an exciting squad that includes a number of really promising young riders. Our 26 riders will compete in all forms of racing this year, with a strong mix of GC specialists, some exciting Classics riders, good climbers and fast sprinters. We have a really exciting future, and I couldn’t be more happy for this season and beyond.”

UAE Team Emirates’ first race under the new team banner is the Abu Dhabi Tour from 23 – 26 February. A UCI World Tour race, it features four stages taking place across the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, three of which are likely to suit the sprinters and one which takes in the mountains around the city of Al Ain, finishing at the 1025m summit of Jebel Hafeet.

The UAE Team Emirates’ team of eight for the race is Diego Ulissi, Ben Swift, Manuele Mori, Louis Meintjes, Andrea Guardini, Kristijan Durasek, Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa and Simone Consonni.

One man not competing in Abu Dhabi this week, but who has a particular interest in the new roster of team sponsors, is UAE Team Emirates’ Emirati rider Yousif Mirza. The 28 year old, who hails from Ras Al Khaimah, represented his country at the Rio Olympics in 2016, and has been given the chance to ride with a UCI World Tour team for the first time this season.

“I have seen at first hand the impact that the arrival of professional cycling in the UAE is having on participation and active lifestyle in my country,” says Mirza. “The Dubai and Abu Dhabi Tours have done a great job in giving a profile to this sport, and now I’m sure that this new team, with the support of great local partners, can take cycling to the next level in the UAE and inspire many more people to take to two wheels in the next few years.”

The new sponsor and jersey:
The announcement that one of the most iconic sponsor brands in world sports is to extend its international sponsorship strategy into a professional cycling team for the first time, represents one of the most significant sponsorship deals in cycling’s recent history. The iconic Emirates logo will feature on the UAE Team Emirates team jersey as part of a new team logo that incorporates the UAE and the colors of the national flag. Pic:UAE Team Emirates.

Algarve winner Roglic extends with LottoNL-Jumbo
Slovenian star Primoz Roglic extended his contract with team LottoNL-Jumbo for the 2018 season. Fresh of the Volta ao Algarve win, General Manager Richard Plugge was happy to confirm the deal.

Roglic slotted in immediately with the Dutch WorldTour team after ending his ski jumping career. Last year, he placed second to Tom Dumoulin in the opening Giro d’Italia time trial in the Netherlands and won the long time trial through the famous Chianti hills. The debut season was backed up quickly in 2017 with the overall win on Sunday in Portugal’s Vuelta ao Algarve.

“We signed him as an inexperienced talent,” Plugge said. “Under our guidance, he has made some beautiful steps.”

“He is a true athlete who diligently works on his development. He trained as a ski jumper, but in cycling, he is still improving. We put in a lot of energy and Primoz takes it on board. He is very coachable.”

“I like it in team LottoNL-Jumbo,” Roglic added. “We were each satisfied with how it was going, so I’m glad we agreed so quickly on the contract extension.”

“This will allow me to have more chances to score and to develop. There was interest from several other teams, but proper supervision is still very important to me. Moreover, I get along with everyone in the team and that counts.”

The 27-year-old wants to develop his climbing skills to improve as a classification rider. Doing so, he wants to keep his time trialling sharp. “He has huge potential,” continued Plugge. “We want to show this exponent of his talent and development. Despite his age, he has not been cycling long and so he is still young in that sense.”

Roglic’s palmarès also includes overall victory in the Tour of Azerbaijan and at home in the Tour of Slovenia in 2015.

Primoz Roglic:
Sagres - Portugal - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Primoz Roglic (SLO - LottoNL - Jumbo) pictured during the Volta ao Algarve em Bicicleta 2017 stage 3 from Sagres - to Sagres - ITT, 18.00 km - photo LB/RB/Cor Vos © 2017

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