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Koksijde - Belgium - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Philippe GILBERT (Belgium / Team Quick Step - Floors) pictured during stage 2 of the 41th edition of the Driedaagse De Panne - Koksijde with start in Zottegem and finish in Koksijde on March 29, 2017 - photo JdM/PN/Cor Vos © 2017

EUROTRASH News Round Up Thursday!

With stage wins in Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde; Philippe Gilbert and Alexander Kristoff have thrown their hat in the ring for Sunday’s Tour of Flanders. All the cycling news and video from Belgium. Ban for Savio – Top Story. In other cycling news: Two more years for Bouhanni, teams for Flanders, Fabio Aru for the Tour of the Alps, 2017 Vuelta a España teams, Giro del Belvedere website, Bernard Hinault in the Giro d’Italia Hall of Fame and Philippe Gilbert has a battle. Eurotrash Coffee time.

TOP STORY: Three Month Ban for Savio
Gianni Savio and Angelo Citracca have both been given a three month ban for their part in the ‘pay to race’ case that they were cleared of back in December last year. The Italian Cycling Federation has found the pair of team managers guilty of ‘violating rules of sponsorship and rider contracts’ after an appeal to the first sentence of not-guilty.

The practice of a rider having his own sponsor has been around for years and in some cases would keep a team afloat. Specialized went from Tinkoff to Bora-Hansgrohe because they want to be connected to the star of Peter Sagan, the arrangement suits all concerned and there will be monetary conditions connected to the deal. The Dimension Data team has a few sponsors that have been connected to a certain sprinter on their roster for a few years. The Flandria team of the 70s had lots of lesser know riders who were signed to the team because the local bike shop put their name forward as being a good rider, and the shop would buy a few more bikes to seal the deal. Many teams could not afford to pay the minimum legal wage and the rider would have to give back what they were ‘officially’ paid.

Personally I’m no fan of Mr. Savio, there are many stories concerning his dealings in the past, but he did give riders a chance to see if they were made to be professional cyclists and he gave employment to mechanics and masseurs. Just because something has been going on for years doesn’t make it right, but Italian cycling has never been in such a bad situation with no WorldTour teams and ProConti teams that are struggling to survive. Without money from ‘sponsors’ to help riders there might not be any professional teams in one of the most cycling mad countries in the World.

A necessary evil?

Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde 2017
Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) became the first Belgian Champion to win a stage at Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde since 2005, following an audacious display on the Queen Stage 1 of the race and an equally impressive amount of work from teammate Dries Devenyns, who laid the foundation for the victory on a day that suited Philippe to the ground, with no less than 11 classified climbs packed between De Panne and Zottegem, on a 206km-long route.

In a perfectly executed strategy of Quick-Step Floors, Dries booked a place in a group that got clear 80 kilometers from the finish and patiently waited for Philippe to bridge across, which he did with a vicious attack on the Muur van Geraardsbergen. The newly formed group enjoyed at first a slim lead, of just 20 seconds, but thanks to some huge and relentless turns of Devenyns, the gap went out to 40 seconds inside the final 30 kilometers.

The chasing group was led by four Katusha riders, and despite having the numbers, they couldn’t match Dries’ efforts, who allowed Philippe to start the Muur with a healthy margin of half a minute. On the steep cobbles of the legendary hill which saw many great champions emerge throughout history, Gilbert attacked without even getting out of the saddle and distanced all the riders of the main group, crossing the top with five seconds in hand.

Only 16 kilometers separated him from the finish after Kapelmuur, and on the long and wide roads to Zottegem, which included one last climb (Klemhoutstraat), the Quick-Step Floors rider never looked back and extended his lead on Australian former national time trial champion, Luke Durbridge (Orica-Scott), arriving at the finish line solo and celebrating his first success since conquering the Belgian title last June.

Cycling: 41st 3 Days De Panne 2017 / Stage 1 Arrival / Philippe GILBERT (BEL)/ Celebration / De Panne - Zottegem (205,5Km) / © Tim De Waele

Stage winner and overall leader, Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors): “To finally get a victory in this beautiful jersey, and for Quick-Step Floors, makes me very happy! I want to thank to my team, and especially to Dries, whose hard-work at the front was quintessential. Now I’m at the top of the overall standings, but I know it won’t be easy to defend my position, so we’ll just take it day by day. I know that people will now say that I’m one of the favorites for De Ronde and it’s no secret that I would like to win it. My condition is good, I look forward to the race, but to be frankly, the most important thing is for the team to win there. We have many options and in-form riders, and it will be all about playing the right card in the right moment.”

6th, Frederik Backaert (Wanty-Groupe Gobert): “It was a very fast ride today. It took very long before the breakaway was established. On the second ascent of Berendries the peloton was lined out. On the next climb, Tenbosse, ten riders went into the offensive. With Muur van Geraardsbergen coming up I decided to move to the first rows of the peloton. I followed the wheel of Gilbert on de Muur and we crossed to the leading group. Some guys, like Jasper De Buyst, had the order not to ride in the front group. Because of that I decided to go on the last ascent of Berendries. I hoped some guys would join my move but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. I suffered from my earlier efforts on the last ascent on the Muur. If I didn’t attack on Berendries I would have been in front with Gilbert or Durbridge on the last ascent of the Muur. But I wasn’t in his wheel on the first slopes and had to let him and Durbridge go.”

Laurenzo Lapage, Orica-Scott DS, said of Luke Durbridge’s 2nd place: “It was a fantastic ride from Luke again today. We have seen in the last few races how he is strong at the moment and today was a great way to open up this tour. He is now 22seconds behind Gilbert overall, it will be close at the end but I think it is still possible for us to win here overall. We see that Alex (Edmondson) is made for these races. He likes to be here and he likes cobble stones and he did a great ride today to help Durbridge. We saw he was good last week in Catalunya but coming into these races for the first time is not easy. We still have two road stages to come before the final time trial which could make a big difference to the overall.”

3rd, Simone Consonni (Team UAE Emirates): “I’m so happy, today is a great day for me: what a feeling to see my name in the stage classification just behind Gilbert and Durbridge. I’m satisfied also because in my career I raced few competitions over 200kms distance and I had good feelings today. Belgian races give me extra-motivations for fighting and trying to achieve a top result. After the second passage on the Muur, when De Buyst and Brandle attacked, I understood it was necessary to exploit my energies and to follow, then in the sprint I was so motivated that I was pretty sure I could achieve the podium. I thank my team mates and the team’s staff members for all the good advices they give me everyday.”

Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde Stage 1 Result:
1. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors in 4:36:18
2. Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica-Scott at 0:17
3. Simone Consonni (Ita) Team UAE Emirates at 0:34
4. Jasper De Buyst (Bel) Lotto Soudal
5. Matthias Brändle (Aut) Trek-Segafredo
6. Frederik Backaert (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert at 0:53
7. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha-Alpecin at 0:58
8. Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
9. Marco Canola (Ita) Nippo-Vini Fantini
10. Sacha Modolo (Ita) Team UAE Emirates.

Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde Overall After Stage 1:
1. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors in 4:36:05
2. Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica-Scott at 0:22
3. Simone Consonni (Ita) Team UAE Emirates at 0:43
4. Matthias Brändle (Aut) Trek-Segafredo at 0:46
5. Jasper De Buyst (Bel) Lotto Soudal at 0:47
6. Frederik Backaert (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert at 1:06
7. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha-Alpecin at 1:11
8. Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
9. Marco Canola (Ita) Nippo-Vini Fantini
10. Sacha Modolo (Ita) Team UAE Emirates.

Day 1:

A strong sprint straight up the left-hand side of the course at the end of Stage 2 in Koksijde gave Team Katusha-Alpecin’s Alexander Kristoff his sixth win of the season and provided a boost of confidence for Sunday’s Tour of Flanders.

The win came from a reduced group of riders, including a hard-working Baptiste Planckaert, who broke away on a windy day for the 192.9k course that began in Zottegem. Second and third places were taken by Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo) and Marcel Kittel of Quick-Step Floors, all on the same time of 4:37:29 (41.711 km/h). The race lead stayed with Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) by 50-second to Matthias Brändle of Trek-Segafredo. Kristoff is third on the classification at 67-seconds with two stages to go.

Stage winner and 3rd overall, Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin): “I sort of led out myself for the sprint. I was afraid with the headwind I would be too slow so I sped up slightly all the way and when I saw the others guys coming I was able to sped up more. It was a hard sprint in the headwind but in these smaller sprints without the trains it is more man-against-man and they usually suit me quite well. It’s nice to win today. The parcours was a little bit easier so the sprinters were better. I was there with Marcel Kittel in the first group so I was not sure I could beat him as he is usually a bit faster than me. But after a hard race and without the big lead outs, we had our chance today and I was happy to see that I could hold them behind me and take the win today. You take what you can in cycling. If I cannot win on Sunday I will still always have this nice victory from today but I hope I have the shape on Sunday and I can fight for something. I don’t look at myself as one of the favorites for Flanders this year because if we look at the results of the largest races so far, I do not have quite the strongest shape. The win here today is good for my confidence, but today is different from Flanders and it’s way harder. Hopefully my condition is coming, but there are many favorites for Flanders, like Gilbert and (Peter) Sagan and (Greg) Van Avermaet. I hope I can be there fighting among them. I hope I will manage to do it on Sunday. My first pro win outside of Norway came from this race (2012) so I always have good memories from this race. I’ve always come out of here feeling strong and in the past years I was top 5 in Flanders after doing this race so for me it has been working very well to improve my shape.”

Overall leader, Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors): “I’ve take out an option on the final victory but Brandle is still close. I haven’t won yet. It was a tough day but we rode constantly in the front as a team. It’s too bad that we couldn’t finish it off and win with Marcel. I wanted to help him in the sprint but I was tired because I had to get Brandle back. Tomorrow, if I remember well, because I’ve only ridden it once, it’s only 90km road stage but it’ll be full gas. We’ve got to take revenge for today’s finish, and Marcel is really motivated. We’re going to ride on the front, protect him and try to win.”

Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde Stage 2 Result:
1. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha-Alpecin in 4:37:29
2. Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
3. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Quick-Step Floors
4. Pascal Ackermanm (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
5. Andrea Guardini (Ita) Team UAE Emirates
6. Maxime Vantomme (Bel) WB Veranclassic-Aqua Protect
7. Adrien Petit (Fra) Direct Energie
8. Coen Vermeltfoort (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij
9. Pierre Luc Perichon (Fra) Fortuneo-Vital Concept
10. Conor Dunne (Irl) Aqua Blue Sport.

Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde Overall After Stage 2:
1. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors in 9:13:28
2. Matthias Brändle (Aut) Trek-Segafredo at 0:50
3. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha-Alpecin at 1:07
4. Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo at 1:11
5. Pim Ligthart (Ned) Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij at 1:15
6. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Direct Energie
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 2:25.

Day 2:

Nacer Bouhanni extends for two years with Cofidis
The most prolific rider in the French squad (55 UCI career victories at 26) Nacer Bouhanni is continuing his adventure with the Cofidis team for two more seasons. He is now engaged with the northern formation until the end of 2019.

It was in 2015 that Nacer Bouhanni joined the Cofidis team, obtaining 11 successes in that season, and again 11 the following year. In this first part of the 2017 exercise, he increased his victories in the jersey of the team to a total of 24. Among these, 7 in WorldTour: three stages of the Critérium du Dauphiné, a stage of Paris-Nice, three stages of the Tour de Catalunya.

Nacer Bouhanni: “When I arrived in 2015, I had to take my bearings. I only won my first victory in April. Two years later, 24 races won, 7 in World Tour, a Coupe de France, a Europe Tour ranking. The adaptation is successful and the assessment can only be positive. Stability brings serenity, which is why I chose to extend my contract. It was important for me to finalize this agreement early because I like to know what the future is all about. The Cofidis team and its leaders, Thierry Vittu, Yvon Sanquer and all the staff, trust me. This is the Continental Pro team most often invited on the WorldTour. It allows me to have a calendar that corresponds to my objectives and that sticks to the appointments that are close to my heart.”

Yvon Sanquer, general manager: “Our joint venture with Nacer Bouhanni continues and this is obviously good news for the Cofidis team. The recruitment of one of the world’s best sprinters in 2015 has helped to structure the team’s way of running, which has been a source of learning and progress for the group as a whole. He has confidence in our ability to accompany him for the best years of his career and it demonstrates the quality of each team’s work. Nacer is reaching maturity and I am convinced that his already awarded prize will be enriched with even more beautiful victories.”

Thierry VITTU, President of Cofidis Competition and HR Director of the Cofidis Group:
“It is an honor and a proud one to have one of the best sprinters in the world on our team. Since his arrival, he has won many races at the highest level. We told him of our desire to continue our joint venture, it proved reciprocal. It’s great for everyone: for him, for the team, for Cofidis. We rely on his potential and his desire to win to further strengthen his record and that of the Cofidis team. We count particularly on a stage victory in the Tour de France.”

Nacer Bouhanni 2016:

The biggest day in Belgian cycling is the Tour of Flanders. On Sunday the roadsides and the TVs will have ardent fans clamouring for their heros of the cobbles. PEZ will be there with the Race report and all the follow-up news. More team news will be added as it comes in and you can read the ‘PEZ Flanders Preview’ HERE.

Quick-Step Floors Team to Ronde van Vlaanderen
Three-time winner Tom Boonen and Belgian Champion Philippe Gilbert will headline our squad for the season’s second Monument.

Once again, the Oude Kwaremont – Paterberg combination will be the focal point of the Ronde van Vlaanderen (260.8 kilometers), despite the mythical Muur van Geraardsbergen (1075 meters, 9.2%) returning to the course. For the first time in history, the peloton will roll out from Antwerp, Flanders’ largest city, and will get its first taste of the cobbles 84 kilometers from the start, when they will go over the Lippenhovenstraat sector, followed shortly by the 2.3km-long Paddestraat.

After the riders will leave behind the first 110 kilometers of the race, 18 steep and tough climbs will follow in succession; besides the aforementioned ones, other iconic hills – such as Leberg, Berendries, Tenbosse, Koppenberg or Taaienberg – are set to feature on the route to Oudenaarde, all having the potential to make or break dreams and plans.

In the past 15 years, Quick-Step Floors built an astonishing palmares at Ronde van Vlaanderen, as the team managed by Patrick Lefevere won the prestigious event five times in addition to four other podium places, results which make it one of the most successful outfits in the event’s history. For the 101st running of Flanders, Quick-Step Floors will be again motivated to shape up the race and leave its mark on the result sheet of the Belgian Monument.

This year’s edition of Ronde van Vlaanderen will be Tom Boonen’s final outing at the race which will forever be linked to his first Monument win, back in 2005, following a beautiful solo attack launched inside the final 12 kilometers, when he took all his opponents by surprise. Since then, two other triumphs followed, one in the rainbow jersey (2006) and one at the first edition which used the Oude Kwaremont – Paterberg combination (2012), making Tom one of the only six riders to finish victorious on three occasions at Vlaanderens Mooiste.

Despite not riding Ronde van Vlaanderen since 2012, Philippe Gilbert is no stranger to the roads and cobbles set to feature at Sunday’s race. A two-time podium finisher at De Ronde (2009, 2010), the 34-year-old Belgian Champion showcased his form in the past week, notching runner-up spots at Dwars door Vlaanderen and E3 Harelbeke, before racking up a spectacular confidence-boosting solo win on the opening stage of Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde.

Iljo Keisse, Dwars door Vlaanderen victor Yves Lampaert, Zdenek Stybar, Niki Terpstra – the only Dutchman in the past decade and a half to place on the podium here – Matteo Trentin and Julien Vermote will add depth, experience and firepower to the Quick-Step Floors team lining out in Antwerp this Sunday for one of the toughest one-day events of the calendar.

“We are heading to the race with a strong team. The guys proved over the past weeks that they are ready for this challenge. It’s no secret how important Flanders is to our team, but we are also aware we will face some stiff competition. Sagan and Van Avermaet are the two favourites, but we will try to ride an aggressive race and play a role in the finale. The most important thing will be to stay focused, don’t make any mistakes, give our best and don’t have any regrets at the end of the day”, said Wilfried Peeters, one of the squad’s sport directors at Ronde van Vlaanderen.

02.04 Ronde van Vlaanderen – Tour des Flandres (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).

Van Avermaet Full of Confidence Ahead of Tour of Flanders
After winning Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Record Bank E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem – In Flanders Fields this season, Greg Van Avermaet is targeting a fourth win on home soil when he lines up at the Tour of Flanders (Ronde van Vlaanderen) on Sunday.

Van Avermaet is embracing his position as the favorite following his three UCI WorldTour wins this season. “My win on Sunday at Gent-Wevelgem was incredible and as I said then, I don’t think I can pretend that I’m not the favorite anymore for the Tour of Flanders. I’ve had the best start to the season possible and what gives me even more confidence is knowing that my favorite race, the race that suits me the most, is still to come,” Van Avermaet said.

“Lining up on Sunday will be a really special feeling. I know I’m the strongest I’ve ever been in Spring and this year the race passes my house. I say it every year; I know the roads so well, I train every day on the parcours, and this year I feel like it’s my turn. I’m going to race aggressively and I have seven riders completely dedicated to helping me win. There’s nothing more I can do to prepare. I’m ready.”

Sports Director Fabio Baldato said Van Avermaet’s string of victories puts him in the best-possible position.

“Greg has proved time and time again this year that he is strong, he is a champion. We know that every team will be looking at us on Sunday but when you have a leader as strong as Greg that doesn’t matter. Greg knows how to race, when to make a move, and as we have seen at Record Bank E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem, he can sprint against anyone at the end of a long, hard race,” Baldato explained.

“We will do everything possible to put Greg in a good position in the finale and let him do what he does best. I think the whole team is excited to race this Sunday, it’s the most important race for us this Spring.”

Tour of Flanders / Ronde van Vlaanderen (2 April)

Rider Roster:
Silvan Dillier (SUI), Jempy Drucker (LUX), Martin Elmiger (SUI), Stefan Küng (SUI), Daniel Oss (ITA), Manuel Quinziato (ITA), Greg Van Avermaet (BEL), Francisco Ventoso (ESP).
Sports Directors: Fabio Baldato (ITA), Valerio Piva (ITA).

Greg Van Avermaet:
Wevelgem - Belgium - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Greg VAN AVERMAET (Belgium / BMC Racing Team) pictured during Gent - Wevelgem World Tour UCI - photo Davy Rietbergen/Cor Vos © 2017

Selection Wanty-Groupe Gobert Tour of Flanders
After three succesfull preparation days in Driedaagse De Panne (2.HC) Wanty – Groupe Gobert heads to Tour of Flanders (1.WT) with confidence. Under guidance of sports director Hilaire Van der Schueren the team heads to the 101st edition of Tour of Flanders with Guillaume Van Keirsbulck and Frederik Backaert. They are complemented by Dutchman Wesley Kreder, Briton Mark McNally, French Yoann Offredo, Italian Andrea Pasqualon, New Zealandian Dion Smith and Pieter Vanspeybrouck.

New Excitements for Bahrain Merida Team for the Upcoming Classics
The two “cobblestone classics” – Ronde Van Vlaanderen and Scheldeprijs – and the well-known Paris-Roubaix are the three new challenges for the very motivated riders of BAHRAIN MERIDA Team. “With Sonny Colbrelli and Niccolò Bonifazio,” says sports director Tristan Hoffman. “We have two riders who could be in the final. The others will be very important for helping the captain and also for trying to go in the breakaway. After the heavy race at The Dwars we had a 3-day recovery and we did a checking of 90 km of the upcoming races and cobblestone sections in Belgium. We are happy to have Sonny Colbrelli as our leader. Sonny proved that despite not having a lot of experience at cobblestone classics, he can achieve great results. With hard work of the whole team, being in breakaways, our goal is to provide the best possible scenario and prepare the terrain for our leader Sonny to the point where he can grab his chance to finish in his style and in top position.”

Gorazd Štangelj expressed similar thoughts: “All of the BAHRAIN MERIDA riders are ready to support Sonny in Vlaanderen. For Scheldeprijs, Nicollo Bonifazio will take the role of the captain and Wang will replace Sonny Colbrelli in the lineup. We hope to be in the breakaway and give Bonifazio a chance to grab a position among top 5, which he is definitely capable of.”

The BAHRAIN MERIDA Team lineup for Van Vlaanderen is:
Borut Bozic / Niccolò Bonifazio /Ivan Cortina / Chun Kai Feng / David Per / Ion Ander Insausti / Sonny Colbrelli / Luka Pibernik.

The lineup for Scheldeprijs and Paris-Roubaix is:
Borut Bozic / Niccolò Bonifazio /Ivan Cortina / Chun Kai Feng / David Per / Ion Ander Insausti / Luka Pibernik / Meiyin Wang.

Sunweb for De Ronde van Vlaanderen
Sunday sees the 101st edition of the Tour of Flanders take place, marking the second monument of the season. The 259.5km race features a multitude of grueling short, steep climbs and an array of cobbled sections. This year the Muur van Geraardsbergen also returns to the parcours, alongside the traditional climbs of Oude Kwaremont and the Paterberg.

Looking ahead to the race, Team Sunweb coach Marc Reef (NED) said: “Flanders is one of the toughest one day races of the year. We do not necessarily have a favorite for the race, so our approach will be rather offensive. We will aim to be in the right moves early in the race and in the pre-finale and we’ve several strong guys capable of doing so. If the scenario unfolds in our favor we could go for a result from there. Yesterday we had two of our guys in the mix of the action in the finale of Gent-Wevelgem so that gives us confidence for Sunday.”

Søren Kragh Andersen (DEN), Nikias Arndt (GER), Phil Bauhaus (GER), Roy Curvers (NED), Bert De Backer (BEL), Ramon Sinkeldam (NED), Mike Teunissen (NED), Zico Waeytens (BEL).
Coach: Mark Reef (NED).

Søren Kragh Andersen:
Wevelgem - Belgium - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Soren Kragh ANDERSEN (Danmark / Team Sunweb) pictured during Gent - Wevelgem World Tour UCI - photo Tim van Wichelen/Cor Vos © 2017

Direct Energie for Flanders

Ryan Anderson, Sylvain Chavanel, Bryan Coquard, Antoine Duchesne, Yohann Gene, Julien Morice, Adrien Petit, Alexandre Pichot.
Directeurs Sportifs: Dominique Arnould and Lylian Lebreton.

Preview Ronde van Vlaanderen with Tiesj Benoot and Herman Frison
Sunday, the 101st edition of the Ronde van Vlaanderen takes place. There has been an important change to the course. The race doesn’t start in Bruges anymore, but in Antwerp, which means the road towards the hill section is different than previous years.

At half past ten, the peloton leaves the centre of Antwerp and rides to Burcht, where the 260.8 kilometers long WorldTour race officially starts. Then the peloton enters the province of East-Flanders. Via Sint-Niklaas, Hamme, Dendermonde, Aalst and Erpe-Mere the peloton heads to Zottegem where the first cobblestone sections occur after more than eighty kilometers of racing: the Lippenhovestraat and Paddestraat. The first of eighteen hills is the Oude Kwaremont, which lies thirty kilometers further down the course. After the fourth hill, the peloton rides over the cobbles of the Holleweg and Haaghoek towards the Leberg from where the route takes them over the Berendries and Tenbosse to the Muur van Geraardsbergen. From the top of the Muur, 95 kilometers are left to cover. In the next forty kilometers there are only two hills before the peloton gets to the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg. Afterwards, it’s time for the Koppenberg and the cobbles of the Mariaborrestraat, immediately followed by Steenbeekdries and Taaienberg. Then only the Hotond is left, before the riders get back to the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg. After the top of the Paterberg it is still thirteen kilometers to go till the finish in Oudenaarde.

Lotto Soudal has a preselection of nine riders for a team of eight. Tiesj Benoot will definitely ride his third Ronde van Vlaanderen. At his début in 2015, as a 21-year-old, he claimed the fifth place. Last year, he had to abandon the race after a crash. What does he expect of his third Ronde van Vlaanderen?

Tiesj Benoot: “Since I was a neo-pro, the Ronde van Vlaanderen has been the main goal of the spring for me. Of course I would have loved to set a top result beforehand, but I can’t be anything but satisfied with my condition. If I would have been spared from bad luck I could have set better results. Now I got fourth in Kuurne, eighth in Strade Bianche and seventh in Dwars door Vlaanderen. At E3 Harelbeke I got fourteenth after I punctured at a bad moment.”

“I am not the absolute leader of the team, we have different strong riders. Unfortunately, Tony Gallopin crashed at E3, but also he was very good last week. If Tony has fully recovered, he can do very well in the Ronde. We have a strong team for Sunday, I don’t feel any pressure.”

“I want to ride the finale on Sunday and set a top result. It is difficult to put an exact place on it. Gilbert, Sagan and Van Avermaet are the strongest riders at this moment, with Sagan being the top favorite. I hope it will be an aggressive race. That will be necessary to challenge the big three.”

Today, Tiesj did a last recon of the Ronde, together with Nikolas Maes, Jürgen Roelandts and Jelle Wallays. Sports director Herman Frison followed in the team car.

Herman Frison: “The recon went very well. We did the loop around Geraardsbergen, which is new. The finale has stayed the same, but it’s good for the guys to ride over the hills and cobbles. In theory we couldn’t have selected a better team. It is a dream to go to the Ronde with all these big riders. It’s true that we had better times, but it doesn’t put extra pressure on us. I am convinced that Tiesj will ride a good race on Sunday if he is spared from bad luck.”

“Three riders are better than the rest at the moment: Gilbert, Sagan and Van Avermaet. Then there is a large group of riders that are in a good shape and Tiesj is one of them. He can set a very good result. We can’t only rely on Tiesj, but have different riders that can do well in the Ronde. It’s up to them to grab the opportunity. Not everyone can wait until the last ascent of the Paterberg, there are many riders in the peloton who have to attack early in the race.”

Preselection Lotto Soudal:
Tiesj Benoot, Jasper De Buyst, Jens Debusschere, Tony Gallopin, André Greipel, Nikolas Maes, Jürgen Roelandts, Marcel Sieberg and Jelle Wallays.
Sports directors: Herman Frison and Frederik Willems.

Tiesj Benoot:
Siena - Italy - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Tiesj BENOOT (Belgium / Team Lotto Soudal) - Zdenek STYBAR (Czech / Team Quick Step - Floors) pictured during Strade Bianche elite 2017 - photo LB/RB/Cor Vos © 2017

Vanmarcke to lead Cannondale-Drapac squad into Flanders
The last five weeks have been building towards Sunday’s Ronde van Vlaanderen for both racers and fans for good reason: the second Monument of the season in Belgium’s biggest sporting event.

The Tour of Flanders will take the peloton over 260 kilometers that include 18 climbs (called “hellingen” in Flemish). Eleven of these climbs are cobbled. There are also two standalone cobbled sectors mid-race.

The Muur-Kappelmuur returns for the 101st running of Flanders. It was last included in 2007. The Oude Kwaremont and the Paterberg, back-to-back cobbled climbs, typically decide the race. Oude Kwaremont tops off 13 kilometers from the finish. From the Paterberg, it’s seven exhilarating kilometers to the line.

“Everyone in Belgium knows this race. It’s Super Bowl Sunday for bike racing even more so than the Tour de France,” said Taylor Phinney, lining up for this third Flanders start on Sunday.

“It’s bigger than the Olympic Games for the Belgians,” said sport director Andreas Klier.

“I’m a Flemish guy from here,” said Sep Vanmarcke. “It’s even more important and bigger for me than most people.”

The stature of Tour of Flanders is undeniable, but the allure is difficult to explain to those that haven’t stood roadside (or berg-side). It’s the smell of frites and beer and cigarettes. It’s the sight of fans and flags lining every inch of every cobble and every climb and packed into every bar, crowded around every TV screen.

“The first time I rode Tour of Flanders, I was in the breakaway, which was the coolest thing,” said Phinney. “Last year, we had a crash and it was racing from the back. I saw the other side of Flanders. It’s really nervous, and it can be terrifying at times, but it’s Belgium’s race. It stays true to the heart to the sport. This is where it all started.”

“The way of the race is old style,” said Vanmarcke. “It’s full gas with leaders attacking each other and not waiting for the helpers and not waiting for the last five kilometers. It can be full gas racing with still 100 kilometers to go. I think that attracts the fans. It’s small roads, hectic racing, a lot of crashes. That’s part of cycling, and it’s what makes the racing so special.”

“It’s the atmosphere,” said Klier. “As a rider, you’re already excited when you go to the start. You’re here three days, four days before for the recon. You read the newspaper, and you have the favorites – this guy has three starts, this guy has two. The day of the race itself, it’s on the front page of the newspaper.

“As a director, now, I drive the car through, and it gives the feeling that you’re in the race,” Klier added. “You’re not somewhere in the middle of the field between Point A and Point B with not even a dog standing there. You have all the supporters, and every supporter has the flag of his favorite rider. Everything and everyone is moving, and you see the same person 15 times already because he jumps from one place to the other with his car.”

Klier finished second in Flanders 12 years ago and picked up another two top tens over 13 starts in 14 years. He hopes to guide Sep Vanmarcke to a top result.

Vanmarcke has finished third twice in the last three years. Stomach issues and a crash have hampered his build-up and forced him to sit out Gent Wevelgem. Vanmarcke’s focused on his recovery, and he hopes he can factor into his country’s biggest show on Sunday.

“I’ve done everything I can, together with a medical team, to be ready,” said Vanmarcke. “It’s gotten better and I’m happy with that. We’ll have to wait until Sunday to see if the throwing up will come back or not, if I’m strong enough.”

Vanmarcke’s efforts will be buoyed by a strong contingent of riders motivated to support their leader however they can. There is Alberto Bettiol, who rounded out the Dwars door Vlaanderen top 10 and finished in a select group at Gent Wevelgem. Dylan van Baarle was ninth at E3-Harlebeke and eighth at Dwars. He finished sixth at Flanders last year.

Then there’s Phinney. The American lines up for his first classic in #GreenArgyle on Sunday.

“I haven’t done any classics this year because of my leg, because of a small re-injury,” said Phinney. “It’s nice to go into Flanders completely fresh mentally and not scarred by any of the previous classics. It’s a long stretch when you do the whole thing starting in Omloop, which was right when I had my little incident.

“I’ve been hanging out in Belgium this week,” Phinney added. “I have to do something almost every day to make sure my body responds the way I want it to, that my knee is working properly. Everything is getting better. The whole system is responding.”

The quartet will be joined by road captain Sebastian Langeveld, Ryan Mullen, Tom Scully and Tom Van Asbroeck.

“The whole group is devoted to giving Sep the best chance to succeed,” said Klier. “The plan is to protect Sep, to keep him in the right place and the right time as much as we can.”

Cannondale-Drapac for 2017 Tour of Flanders:
Alberto Bettiol (ITA), Taylor Phinney (USA), Ryan Mullen (IRL), Sebastian Langeveld (NLD), Tom Van Asbroeck (BEL), Dyan van Baarle (NLD), Tom Scully (NZL), Sep Vanmarcke (BEL).

A Developing Group is Ready for the Queen of the Belgian Classics
UAE Team Emirates will be for the first time at the start of the big event of the Tour of Flanders.

On Sunday 2 April, in Antwerp, which is the new start city of the race, on the start line there will be these 8 riders representing the Emirati team: Simone Consonni, Andrea Guardini, Marko Kump, Vegard Stake Laengen, Marco Marcato, Sacha Modolo, Oliviero Troia and Federico Zurlo.

The sports directors will be Mario Scirea and Daniele Righi.

The cyclists will cover 260 km with arrival in Oudenaarde, 18 “muurs” and 5 cobblestones sectors.

Marco Marcato is the rider of the team who will rely on the higher level of experience, having obtained a result in the top 10, the 6th place in 2011: “I raced 7 editions of this beautiful race, which always gives strong feelings thanks to the support of the fans and to the level of the sports challenge: it’s the queen of the Belgian classics.

In my career, I achieved a 6th place and a 13th place, it would be great to repeat those results wearing the kit of my new team”.

During the previous Belgian race in which the team participated (Dwars Door Vlaanderen, E3 Harelbeke, Gand-Wevelgem and Three Days of De Panne), good results came from Simone Consonni (photo Bettini) and Sacha Modolo.

The team will rely on them too, as sports director Scirea explained: “Marcato, Consonni, Modolo and all the other members of our team, which demonstrated to be competitive in the previous races and that was characterized by a strong determination to obtain better and better results: there’s a very good team spirit, this is important for trying to improve and to achieve the best possible results for our skills”.

Simone Consonni:

Lineup & Preview: Tour of Flanders
The 2nd monument of the year and the pinnacle of the Belgian classic’s is upon us with the 101st edition of the Tour of Flanders taking place on Sunday, 2nd April. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka are looking forward to being part of this historical race and will aim for a podium placing come Sunday.

Stooped in tradition, being run over 260km through the Flanders fields and incorporating all the famous Belgian cobbled climbs, for many the Tour of Flanders is the peak of the cycling season. The importance of this event is undoubted and Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka will hope to use the Tour of Flanders to create further awareness for Qhubeka by racing aggressively and finishing on the podium in Oudenaarde.

The course, as always, will be unrelenting and will certainly punish any form of weakness and misfortune. The business end of the race will surely start just after the 200km mark has been passed, with still 8 of the 18 climbs to come. The Oude Kwaremont, Paterberg and Koppenberg climbs will be the most talked about climbs as they will each be completed more than once and are the expected climbs for where the race winner will make his move.

The challenge will be to arrive at the 200km mark with strength in numbers for Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka, as it’s rather common to see less than half of the peloton still in contention at this point. Our African Team will rely on Merhawi Kudus, Scott Thwaites, Bernhard Eisel, Tyler Farrar, Jay Thomson, Reinardt Janse van Rensburg, Nic Dougall and Youcef Reguigui to show our colours at the head of affairs and ultimately, with the goal of standing on the podium.

It will be the first time Kudus takes on the steep Belgian cobbled climbs but his impressive power-to-weight ratio will make him a real contender on the likes of the Kwaremont. Thwaites ensures we have two aces to play at De Ronde, by showing at last weeks Gent-Wevelgem that he has the strength and condition to be considered among the broader group of favourites. Our African Team will be rallying around these two for the finale in Oudenaarde.

Merhawi Kudus – Rider
I am really looking forward to starting on Sunday. It is going to be a new experience for me but one I am really excited and motivated for. I remember racing on the cobbles at the Tour de France in 2015 and I surprised myself with my performance there. With some big strong guys like Bernie, Jay and Tyler around me, I will hope to arrive at the Oude Kwaremont with the front group and then it’s all about seeing what the legs can do.

Roger Hammond – Sport Director
Tour of Flanders is one of the big five, it’s stooped in history at over 100 years old. It is a privilege and an honour to be able to race this event, let alone go into it with a real chance to light it up and challenge for the victory at the end. After the weekend at Gent-Wevelgem where we made an error, it cost us any chance of winning the event and we want to put that right. Sunday is an opportunity to do so and what better stage to do it than the narrow cobble streets of Tour of Flanders.

Fabio Aru gets on the Tour of the Alps’ Springboard
After a difficult start of season, Astana’s rider prepares the next appointment on Euregio’ roads (April 17th-21st) to relaunch his ambitions in view of the Giro d’Italia. “Perfect route, I want to be in the spotlights!”

Top-notch cycling lives at the upcoming Tour of the Alps (April 17th-21st): the new Euro-regional cycling event replacing former Giro del Trentino has all the ingredients to be one of the most spectacular stage races of the season. Among the 18 squads to the start in Kufstein (Austria), with 7 UCI World Tour Teams, 7 Professional Teams, 3 Continental Teams and the Italian National Team under the guidance of Davide Cassani, Fabio Aru and the Astana Pro Team will catch the eye of cycling fans, after an unlucky 2016 and a difficult start of the 2017 season.

The 26-year-old Italian rider will try to perform at his best on the Euro-regional roads paving the way for his assault at Giro d’Italia’s pink jersey, after the withdrawal at the Tirreno-Adriatico due to a viral infection. “The Tour of the Alps is a beautiful race, perfect to find a good feeling in view of the Giro d’Italia – Aru explained – I took part at Giro del Trentino twice, this race always gave me good legs and nice memories of wonderful landscapes”.

“I will participate to the Tour of the Alps with ambition, I am not likely to train during the races” – said the Sardinian climber. “I started the pre-seasonal training camp on November 1st with the goal to approach the Giro d’Italia with the best shape. During the first seasonal, Tour of Oman and Abu Dhabi Tour, I had good feelings. Afterwards, I was suffering from a bronchial infection at the Tirreno-Adriatico. As schedule, I restarted the training sessions and the Tour of the Alps will be the toughest step towards the Giro. This year, the pink jersey’s contenders are so many with almost 15 athletes aiming to win or get a podium spot”.

At the Tour of the Alps, Aru will face fierce opponents and very demanding routes, perfect to take stock of his training schedule. The Tyrolean stages in Innsbruck and Innervillgraten will introduce the hardest Sudtirolean one on Funes’ uphill finish, followed by the traditional stage in Cles and the grand finale with the Monte Bondone climb, crucial to assign the overall win in Trento.

“I didn’t have the opportunity to see the stages for myself, but I followed the route’s presentation on Internet. There’s no shortage of climbs, even more than in the past. Every day can be decisive for the overall standing”, Aru concluded.

Fabio Aru will take part at the Tour of the Alps to relaunch his ambitions:

Teams Selection for la Vuelta 2017
The organizers of La Vuelta have chosen the teams that will take part in the 72nd edition of the Spanish Grand Tour. La Vuelta 2017 will start on Saturday the 19th of August and finish on Sunday the 10th of September, from the French City of Nîmes to Madrid.

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 (ESP), Orica – Scott (AUS), Quick-Step Floors (BEL), Team Dimension Data (RSA), Team Katusha – Alpecin (SUI), Team Lotto NL – Jumbo (HOL), 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), Caja Rural-Seguros RGA (ESP), Aqua Blue Sport (IRL), Manzana Postobon Team (COL).

Vuelta 2017:

Recorrido 3D – La Vuelta a España 2017 por la_vuelta

Giro del Belvedere launches new website
The renewed version of U23 Easter Monday classic’s website is online.

90 years of history but forever young: the Giro del Belvedere refreshes its look for the 79th edition with the launch of the new website. The goal of the Pro Belvedere organizers was to make it easier for the visitors to browse through all the contents and information on the event taking place on Monday, April 17th in Villa di Cordignano (Treviso, Northern Italy), with the best cycling prospects in the World at the start.

Home and in-read pages have been developed with “responsive” technology, to make the contents fully readable and enjoyable also through smartphone and tablet. There are two language options for the whole navigation – English and Italian – whilst the race information will also be uploaded in French.

The restyling of www.girodelbelvedere.it represents another step forward for the Easter Monday Classic, once again promising an exciting challenge between International prospects such as Adrien Costa and Junior World Champion Jakob Egholm.

All the media wishing to cover the 2017 Giro del Belvedere can now apply for media accreditation via the online form. Please click here to open the accreditation form or visit the event’s website: www.girodelbelvedere.it.

The peloton in action at 2016 Giro del Belvedere:

Bernard Hinault Inducted into the Giro d’Italia Hall of Fame
The French champion receives his entry into the Giro d’Italia Hall of Fame. With his three successes in 1980, 1982 and 1985, Hinault joins the roll of honor alongside Merckx, Gimondi, Roche, Moser and Baldini.

He was one of the strongest riders of all time, one of only six men ever to have won all three Grand Tours in their career. Nicknamed le Blaireau (the Badger), Bernard Hinault won the Giro d’Italia in 1980, 1982 and 1985.

The Corsa Rosa wanted to celebrate him today with his induction into the Giro d’Italia Hall of Fame – in the stunning scenery of the Teatro Gerolamo (Gerolamo Theater) in Milan, just a stone’s throw from the Duomo of Milan.

Bernard Hinault proudly accepted the acknowledgment: “It is an honor to receive my induction into the Giro d’Italia Hall of Fame. The Giro is one of the races I have loved the most in my career and I continue to love this race, its passion and its fans. All the foreign riders who have come to Italy for the Giro always respected the race and give everything to win it. The Giro d’Italia was, and always will be, a very high level international race that everyone wants to win.

The Maglia Rosa is symbolic, a history in itself. It has a value and it is fantastic to try to earn it on every race day. For me the Maglia Rosa has the same value as the other important jerseys that I have worn, such as the Rainbow Jersey or the Yellow Jersey of the Tour de France.

My successor in the Giro d’Italia Hall of Fame? My two suggestions are: Miguel Indurain and Giuseppe Saronni,” said Hinault. “Having seen the route of the Giro100, it seems beautiful and very interesting. It has everything to make it exciting until the end: climbs, Time Trials and many challenging stages. It is really tough and complete. I believe the favorites could be Quintana and Nibali.”

Bernard Hinault with Andrea Monti, La Gazzetta dello Sport Director and Mauro Vegni, Giro d’Italia Director

Across his career Hinault participated in 13 Grand Tours, winning ten and collecting two second places. An impressive percentage of triumphs, with the truly extraordinary achievement coming at the Giro d’Italia: three General Classification victories from three starts.

In 1980, at the age of 25, Hinault competed in his first Giro. Roccaraso witnessed his first stage victory, with Wladimiro “Miro” Panizza, second on the finish line, who took the Maglia Rosa. But the Breton was a giant who dominated the mountains, like the Stelvio, when with three stages remaining to the finish of the Giro, the Badger broke the pink dream of Panizza and won his first Giro.

1982 was the year of Hinault’s first legendary Giro-Tour double, equalling Coppi, Anquetil and Merckx. It was a Giro dominated by the Badger, with just one difficult day on the Passo Crocedomini, when he was attacked by the three Piaggio Bianchi riders Prim, Contini and Baronchelli who made him suffer. The next day in Montecampione the music changed, and the Piaggio Bianchi orchestra could not follow the pace of the Breton’s solo, whose rosa symphony was irresistible.

1985: a Giro d’Italia with few mountains seemed suited to the time-trialists such as Moser. But on the road the 30-year-old Hinault, in his full maturity, won the Individual Time Trial at Maddaloni and, after 12 stages, conquered the leadership of the Giro. Moser’s victory on the stage in Lucca could not stop Hinault from winning his third Giro. In the same year he won also the Tour de France, for another Giro-Tour double.

Six stage wins, 31 days wearing the Maglia Rosa, three victories out of three starts: the perfect statistics. Hinault is rightly considered one of the three giants of all time, alongside Coppi and Merckx.

Bernard Hinault wins stage 18 – Giro d’Italia 1982:

Has Philippe Gilbert met his match?
Well, he did for about 10 meters in stage 1 of the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde. This young lad will be living on this for many a year.

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