EUROTRASH Thursday: Colombia & Cross and All the Latest News!
Everything you need to know
It’s all go…. The first two stages of the Tour Colombia 2.1 and cyclo-cross isn’t finished yet, we also have the Exact Cross in Maldegem – Videos, results, reports and rider quotes.
New developments in the Nairo Quintana doping case: Colombian’s doctor investigated – TOP STORY.
Rider news: New evidence in the Miguel Ángel López doping case, Wout van Aert and Olav Kooij still waiting for Tour of Britain prize money, Chantal van den Broek-Blaak to make her comeback, another setback for Marta Cavalli, Giulio Ciccone postpones his season start after surgery, Antwan Tolhoek suspended after positive doping test and Franck Bonnamour provisionally suspended after discrepancies in biological passport.
Team news: Movistar’s Unzué Suggests: “Why don’t we allow substitutions in Grand Tours?” – Patrick Lefevere says it’s ‘bullshit’, Nice Métropole – Côte d’Azur riders had to look for shoes and pedals in Etoile de Bessèges, Max Walker joins Astana Qazaqstan Development Team, Soudal Quick-Step to Figueira Champions Classic and new sponsor for Astana Qazaqstan – The IT-Italian Trattoria Restaurant chain.
Race news: Saudi investment fund aims for 2026 to start new cycling series, 2024 Arctic Race of Norway rescheduled and the Figueira Champions Classic wants to be the spring Classic of Portugal.
Coffee, coffee, coffee…
TOP STORY: New Developments in the Nairo Quintana Doping Case: The Colombian’s Doctor Investigated
Nairo Quintana will be back in the WorldTour peloton again this season, but his doping case from 2020 continues to drag on. There are new developments. His former doctor Fredy Alexander Gonzáles Torres must now appear in court in connection with his possible involvement in the case.
Gonzáles Torres is suspected of helping Nairo Quintana and his brother and teammate Dayer dope during the 2020 Tour de France, the French news agency AFP reports. “It has been decided to prosecute the Colombian doctor,” authorities said. The doctor is suspected by prosecutors of “possession of a substances or methods prohibited for sporting use without medical justification.”
The doctor risks a prison sentence of five years and a fine of €75,000. French justice started the investigation during the 2020 Tour, after suspicious substances were found among medical supplies of the Arkéa-Samsic team. The riders were then questioned, but were able to stay on the race. Quintana finished 17th in the final overall that year. The case will go to trial on September 2.
This case is separate from his positive test for tramadol in the 2022 Tour. Quintana was removed from the results of the Tour de France in August 2022, in which he finished 6th, after a positive test for tramadol. This painkiller is not yet on the WADA prohibited list, but is banned by the UCI. Quintana appealed against this disqualification, but this was rejected by the CAS. He then had a long search for a new team.
The career of the winner of the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España seemed to be finished, but Movistar decided to give the climber another chance. The now 34 year-old Quintana rode the Colombian championships and started the Tour Colombia this week.
Quintana case rumbles on:
Tour Colombia 2.1 2024
Fernando Gaviria has taken his first victory of 2024. The Movistar rider sprinted to victory in the Opening Stage 1 of the Tour Colombia. Gaviria was too fast for Davide Persico and Mark Cavendish in the sprint finish. Gaviria is also the first overall leader.
The Tour Colombia, a 2.1 race, not the Vuelta a Colombia, started its fourth edition on Tuesday with quite a few big names. Top riders such as Mark Cavendish, Fernando Gaviria, Egan Bernal, Nairo Quintana, Richard Carapaz and Alexey Lutsenko were there for an easy first stage. The opening stage from Paipa to Duitama was at altitude, but there was hardly any climbing.
A bunch sprint was expected, but there was still a lot of attacking. The home riders were well represented in the break: David Santiago Gomez (Team Sistecredito), Diego Antonio Ochoa (Team Saitel), Brayan Sánchez (Team Medellín), Cristian Camilo Muñoz (Nu Colombia) and Ivan Arturo Ojeda (Colombia Potencia de la Vida-Strongman). Brazilian Lauro Cesar Chaman Moro (Swift Carbon Pro Cycling Brasil) made up the break of six. At one point their lead was more than 2 minutes, but the six leaders never really had any chance. In the peloton, Movistar and Astana Qazaqstan, the teams of top favourites Fernando Gaviria and Mark Cavendish, kept a tight grip on the escape. With 30 kilometres to go, the lead was less than 30 seconds.
Moro and Muñoz did their hardest to stay away for as long as possible, but with 9 kilometres to go, the peloton was all together. Fabio Duarte didn’t want to wait for the sprint, but he was quickly pulled back. A last minute jump by one of the Brazilian national team, also proved to be short-lived. In the run-in to the sprint, various teams tried to get their lead-out train going. Astana Qazaqstan had a nice lead-out for Cavendish, while Gaviria had to do work his way to the front on his own. The Colombian started the sprint in a good position and convincingly beat the Italian neo-pro Davide Persico of Bingoal WB, who was not pleased and Cavendish in third.
Stage winner and overall leader, Fernando Gaviria (Movistar): “When you win, you can always say it’s good… and we’re doing great. A fairly tough stage due to the altitude and the speed of the entire final. In the end, fortunately, we had strength. I think we did a good job as a team and we had to face strong rivals. Everyone wanted to look for options, but I think we did well. From the moment I launched the sprint, I have looked for the direction of the barriers and it is true that both Persico and I have found ourselves there. I have apologised but my path was that, both of us wanted to look for the gap and that gap sometimes does not exist. Happy to start the year like this and thankful to my colleagues for the great work.”
2nd on the stage and overall, Davide Persico (Bingoal WB): “I am very happy to finish second in this first stage between Fernando Gaviria and Mark Cavendish, which shows me that I am already in very good shape at the beginning of the season. The first stage of the Vuelta a Colombia was designed for the sprinters. The team did an excellent job to put me in the ideal position for the finish and I want to thank the whole group. However, I think I could have won. I took the wheels of Gaviria and Cavendish at the finish. Then I tried to pass Gaviria on the left, but the door closed on me and I had to settle for 2nd place. However, I am very happy to be on the podium alongside two of the world’s sprint greats. This result reaffirms my belief in my potential and motivates me enormously for the rest of my program.”
3rd on the stage and overall, Mark Cavendish (Astana Qazaqstan): “Well, the result could have been worse, but it could have been better. This is my best debut race for a few years and the strength of our team was evident, so we can take so many positives from the race and know that we are working towards winning.”
Tour Colombia 2.1 Stage 1 Result:
1. Fernando Gaviria (Col) Movistar in 3:11:39
2. Davide Persico (Ita) Bingoal WB
3. Mark Cavendish (GB) Astana Qazaqstan
4. Nelson Andrés Soto (Col) Petrolike
5. Jhonatan Restrepo (Col) Colombia
6. Juan Diego Hoyos (Col) Team Sistecredito
7. Andrea Piccolo (Ita) EF Education-EasyPost
8. Niccolò Bonifazio (Ita) Corratec-Vini Fantini
9. Christofer Robín Jurado (Pan) Panamá es Cultura y Valores
10. Franklin Archibold (Pan) Panamá es Cultura y Valores.
Tour Colombia 2.1 Overall after Stage 1:
1. Fernando Gaviria (Col) Movistar in 3:11:29
2. Davide Persico (Ita) Bingoal WB at 0:04
3. Mark Cavendish (GB) Astana Qazaqstan at 0:06
4. David Santiago Gomez (Col) Team Sistecredito
5. Lauro Cesar Chaman (Bra) Swift Carbon Pro Cycling Brasil
6. Brayan Sánchez (Col) Team Medellín at 0:09
7. Nelson Andrés Soto (Col) Petrolike at 0:10
8. Jhonatan Restrepo (Col) Colombia
9. Juan Diego Hoyos (Col) Team Sistecredito
10. Andrea Piccolo (Ita) EF Education-EasyPost.
Tour Colombia 2.1’24 stage 1:
Harold Tejada won Stage 2 of the Tour Colombia. After a difficult stage of almost 170 kilometres, the Colombian rider of Astana Qazaqstan was the best of a leading group of eight, which had been part of an even larger group that held the peloton off. Andrea Piccolo (EF Education-EasyPost) finished second ahead of Óscar Sevilla (Medellín-EPM).
After Fernando Gaviria’s sprint victory in stage 1 on Tuesday, a climbing stage of 168 kilometres was next on the menu for the second day of the Tour Colombia. There were more than 2,300 metres of climbing, the most decisive was the Alto Malterias Pinos (2.6km at 5.2%). The finish was 4 kilometres after the top of that climb. The early breakaway included Efrén Santos, Esteban Villarreal, Javier Jamaica, Bernardo Suaza, Daniel Méndez and Freddy Ávila, but that lead disappeared due to the climbing and echelons. The peloton split and a large group of more than fifteen leaders got away. That group took a lead of more than 2 minutes. The chase was mainly led by Movistar, but it wasn’t fast enough. The leading group took a lead of 2:30 with just over 20 kilometres to go. The front group included: Andrea Piccolo (EF Education-EasyPost), Harold Tejada (Astana Qazaqstan), Aaron Van der Beken (Bingoal WB), Óscar Sevilla (Medellín-EPM) and Rodrigo Contreras (Nu Colombia).
At the intermediate sprint at the foot of the Alto Malterias Pinos, the 47 year-old Sevilla sprinted for a few bonus seconds. He then continued with 39 year-old Robinson Chalapud. Behind; they mainly looked at each other, allowing the two leaders to ride away. Sevilla and Chalapud were still together at the summit, but eventually a group caught them. In the last flat 3 kilometres before the finish in Santa Rosa de Viterbo, the battle was on. Eight more riders, including Piccolo and Tejada could also go for the win. Everyone was looking at Piccolo, who kept everything together and started his sprint 200 metres from the finish line. Tejada had been keeping his powder dry and was the smartest and won the sprint, he also took the overall lead.
Stage winner and overall leader, Harold Tejada (Astana Qazaqstan): “Finally, I got it! I can’t believe as I was waiting for it for so long. In the last few seasons I was feeling like I am progressing and in 2023 the results, finally, arrived. And now I won. I am so happy with the win and with the way I spent this day. Actually, we had a bit different plan for the stage, but when I saw a big group breaking away, I followed it just to secure team’s presence in this dangerous move. We got a very good group in the break and in the end of the day we could build a nice advantage, something like two minutes and a half, enough to play the stage. After so many kilometers spent in different breakaways, I knew I had to save as much energy as possible for the most decisive moments. It worked out and I still had some power in the legs for the final kilometers and for the sprint. We spent some good weeks here in Colombia together with my team, we worked really hard during the training camp and now I am feeling like the form is growing up. Our main goal was to try to win a stage in this race, maybe with Mark Cavendish in the sprint. But today I was able to do it. And now together with the team we are looking forward to the next stages here at the Tour Colombia.”
Tour Colombia 2.1 Stage 2 Result:
1. Harold Tejada (Col) Astana Qazaqstan in 4:02:31
2. Andrea Piccolo (Ita) EF Education-EasyPost
3. Óscar Sevilla (Spa) Team Medellín
4. Rodrigo Contreras (Col) Nu Colombia
5. Robinson Chalapud (Col) Team Banco Guayaquil-Bianchi
6. Edgar Andres Pinzon (Col) GW Erco Shimano
7. Yeison Sebastian Reyes (Col) Team Sistecredito
8. Cesar David Guavita (Col) Colombia Potencia de la Vida-Strongman
9. Harold Martín López (Ecu) Astana Qazaqstan at 0:23
10. Brandon Smith Rivera (Col) Colombia.
Tour Colombia 2.1 Overall after Stage 2:
1. Harold Tejada (Col) Astana Qazaqstan in 7:13:35
2. Óscar Sevilla (Spa) Team Medellín at 0:01
3. Andrea Piccolo (Ita) EF Education-EasyPost at 0:05
4. Rodrigo Contreras (Col) Nu Colombia at 0:11
5. Cesar David Guavita (Col) Colombia Potencia de la Vida-Strongman
6. Yeison Sebastian Reyes (Col) Team Sistecredito
7. Edgar Andres Pinzon (Col) GW Erco Shimano
8. Robinson Chalapud (Col) Team Banco Guayaquil-Bianchi
9. Javier Ernesto Jamaica (Col) Team Medellín at 0:30
10. Cristian Camilo Muñoz (Col) Nu Colombia at 0:32.
Tour Colombia 2.1’24 stage 2:
Exact Cross Parkcross – Maldegem Men 2024
Eli Iserbyt won an exciting Exact Cross in Maldegem on Wednesday. In the first race after the World championships last weekend, Pim Ronhaar was in the battle for victory, but crashed on the final lap while in the lead. Iserbyt took advantage, together with teammate Michael Vanthourenhout, and then won solo. Niels Vandeputte beat Lars van der Haar for third place.
The fastest start went to Lars van der Haar, but the Dutchman faded when he was hindered by Niels Vandeputte in the first sand section. Eli Iserbyt, who decided to start at the last minute, then took over. Joran Wyseure, Michael Vanthourenhout, Ryan Kamp and Pim Ronhaar followed. However, they were still close.
On the second lap, six rode away, led by Ronhaar, with Iserbyt, Vanthourenhout, Vandeputte, Emiel Verstrynge and Felipe Orts. They stuck together for a long time, although Ronhaar tried to make it a tough race in the mud and sand sections. Halfway through the race, Verstrynge was dropped from the front, but his place was taken by Van der Haar. He was the only one able to cross from the chase group and was able to make contact due to teammate Ronhaar slowing down at the front. Six riders started the finale, but the Crelan-Fristads trio of Verstrynge, Wyseure and Laurens Sweeck caught the back of the group.
Three laps from the finish, Iserbyt put in his first attack, but it had little effect. A serious attack from Ronhaar had the others in trouble. Just before the start of the last lap, the Dutchman broke away and forced Vanthourenhout, Iserbyt and Vandeputte to chase. There were already some gaps behind him. Ronhaar took a lot of risks for the victory and crashed hard in the final lap, losing any chance of the win. Iserbyt just managed to avoid him along with Vanthourenhout. They had a small lead over Vandeputte, Van der Haar and Orts, but it was enough. Iserbyt took the lead and crossed the finish line solo, ahead of Vanthourenhout and Vandeputte.
Race winner, Eli Iserbyt (Bel): “It was a shame that Pim fell, but I was just about to put in my attack. I was behind him and I was in the mood, I wanted to give everything for it. Niels Vandeputte still came back, so I wanted to add an extra attack to be sure. I was just able to avoid his bike, otherwise I would have fallen too. I think he was stuck after his acceleration, and then you can make mistakes. We are still riding a good race, this 1-2 is super nice. So it is a very nice day for our team. I hope to take a few more victories, although it was certainly not easy today. But I think we will still have some good races.”
2nd, Michael Vanthourenhout (Bel): “In the last lap I felt like I was running on empty. I also saw Niels coming, so it was better that Eli passed by. First and second is certainly nice. The first time I couldn’t parry, so I tried to keep the gap as small as possible. That’s how we got along well, then I let Eli go first, because I felt it was over. And after that crash I got my morale back. Other than that it was an exciting cross, it’s great that we were able to finish it.”
Exact Cross Parkcross – Maldegem Men Result:
1. Eli Iserbyt (Bel) in 59:43
2. Michael Vanthourenhout (Bel) at 0:03
3. Niels Vandeputte (Bel) at 0:05
4. Lars van der Haar (Ned) at 0:08
5. Felipe Orts (Spa) at 0:18
6. Joran Wyseure (Bel) at 0:32
7. Emiel Verstrynge (Bel) at 0:55
8. Laurens Sweeck (Bel) at 1:10
9. Pim Ronhaar (Ned) at 1:38
10. Ryan Kamp (Ned) at 1:46.
Exact Cross Parkcross – Maldegem Women 2024
Laura Verdonschot followed up her 5th place in the cyclo-cross World championships. On Wednesday, the Belgian rider of De Ceuster-Bonache was the best in the Exact Cross in Maldegem, where she finished solo, beating Leonie Bentveld and Manon Bakker.
Only three days after the Cyclo-Cross World Championships in Tábor, a small women’s peloton lined-up in Maldegem, for a very muddy Parkcross in the rain. With no big names at the start, the favourite was Laura Verdonschot, fifth in the last World championships and also the Dutch U23, Leonie Bentveld.
After five minutes, Verdonschot was at the front of the race in a group with Bentveld, Manon Bakker and Aniek van Alphen on her wheel. The Belgian favourite put the pressure on to got away from her Dutch competitors in the second lap, but Bentveld didn’t’ want to let that happen and brought the foursome back together. There was a brief collision between Bentveld and Verdonschot when they came into the pits, but otherwise the battle was fair. In the fifth lap, the leader of De Ceuster-Bonache finally distanced herself from the others. Only bad luck could keep her from victory, but Verdonschot made no more mistakes and crossed the finish line solo. It is the first time since 2019 that the now 27 year-old Verdonschot has won a cross in her own country. She was the best in the Zilvermeercross Mol. After that she only won Spanish cross races, a cyclocross in Portugal and last December the Cyclocross Rucphen in the Netherlands.
Race winner, Laura Verdonschot (Bel): “I’m very happy, but I didn’t feel like I had my best legs. It was also a lot of twisting and turning, and it felt like one of the lesser races. It was also difficult to make a difference here. At one point I had a gap and I rode full speed through the greasy section. After that I never saw them again. You have to make a difference here on the difficult sections. There I rode at the limit, and after that I mainly raced a tight pace. I was especially lucky that Bentveld was in third position during my attack and that Bakker then made a mistake. And once you have ten seconds, it’s time to check and not make any mistakes. That’s what I did. A TV cross is always different from abroad, but winning is winning, so I count it as my eighth victory. This competition is of course higher, the field of participants is also stronger here, so this victory means more. And I hope my best days are yet to come.”
2nd, Leonie Bentveld (Ned): “The legs felt heavy before the race, but it went better than expected. It was hard against hard. A tough race, but I’m happy to finish second. It was a tactical cross, in which we all tried to be first or second. There was a lot of back and forth, but that’s part of it. But Laura was the better one, she took on all the leading work and is the rightful winner. She chose the right moment.”
3rd, Manon Bakker (Ned): “Laura was the strongest and I was the dumbest. I was in the lead far too long. It was a real fight sometimes, overtaking each other to the death. But Laura kept riding through it, that’s when it became clear. I was in the lead too much myself. Only later did I notice that sitting on the wheel was a lot easier. I should have done that more often.”
Exact Cross Parkcross – Maldegem Women Result:
1. Laura Verdonschot (Bel) in 47:50
2. Leonie Bentveld (Ned) at 10
3. Manon Bakker (Ned) at 21
4. Aniek van Alphen (Ned) at 0:34
5. Marion Norbert Riberolle (Bel) at 1:55
6. Alicia Franck (Bel) at 2:08
7. Julie Brouwers (Bel) at 2:28
8. Larissa Hartog (Ned) at 2:47
9. Francesca Baroni (Ita) at 3:24
10. Isa Nomden (Ned) at 3:28.
New Evidence in the Miguel Ángel López Doping Case
In July 2023, the UCI imposed a provisional suspension on Miguel Ángel López. Research by the International Testing Agency pointed to a possible violation of anti-doping rules. The Colombian rider strongly denies this, but according to the Spanish newspaper AS there is now new evidence that he has used the banned substance Menotropin. But it is still unknown what this means for López.
The UCI suspects López of possible possession and use of Menotropin in the weeks leading up to the 2022 Giro d’Italia. AS has obtained a report from the Guardia Civil, which is cooperating with the investigation, that would support this charge. The Spanish newspaper has published parts of the evidence.
The report contains conversations intercepted by the UCO investigation agency between López and doctor Marcos Maynar. The doctor is said to have prescribed the rider Menotropin. The drug is said to have ended up with López in Hungary, where the 2022 Giro started, via masseur Vicente Belda García.
“I’ll send you what you need for the Giro. Please check carefully and if you have any questions, please ask. Vicente has the testis,” Maynar wrote to López on May 1, a week before the Grande Partenza. ‘Testis’ is a code name for Menotropin, claims UCO. This drug would have been administered intravenously to López on May 4 and 6, but may have caused inflammation. The rider eventually dropped out during the fourth stage with an ‘injury to his hip’.
Despite the alleged evidence against López, the prosecutor plans to drop the case and possible acquittal of all involved, according to AS. There would not be sufficient evidence to determine for which athlete the medications were intended, nor whether they were actually consumed.
What next for ‘Sooper’ López:
Wout van Aert and Olav Kooij are still waiting for Tour of Britain prize money
The future of the Tour of Britain seems assured now that British Cycling will support the organisation, but Cycling Weekly announced on Monday that the prize money for the 2023 edition has still not been paid.
Final overall winner Wout van Aert and multiple stage winner Olav Kooij are still waiting for their share of the prize money. The website of the Tour of Britain said that there was a prize total of €113,000 in the 2023 edition. The ball is now in the court of the riders’ union CPA to get the money to the riders.
“The CPA is currently trying to get its hands on the money,” said Adam Hansen, president of the CPA. “If after the bankruptcy process (of organiser SweetSpot) it is concluded that there is not enough financial space from the assessor to pay the money, the responsibility will shift to the national federation. He then takes over the debts.”
John Dutton, CEO of British Cycling, confirms Hansen’s story. “The national cycling federation and the UCI must now find a solution. It’s part of some issues that we inherit. It is important to restore trust between all parties.”
After the original organiser of the Tour of Britain and the Women’s Tour, SweetSpot, went bankrupt, there was a lot of uncertainty about the future of those races. The contract with British Cycling was terminated due to financial problems, after which British Cycling indicated that it wanted to take control of the race organisation itself. INEOS Grenadiers was also willing to help.
Now British Cycling has come up with a plan to save both stage races. The UCI has given the green light to organise the Tour of Britain in September. Approval has also been received for the Women’s Tour, but BC’s board would like to indicate that that race is already planned for June and that it is short notice to get it off the ground.
Van Aert still waiting for his prise money:
Chantal van den Broek-Blaak will Make her Comeback Next Week
The 34 year-old rider with the SD Worx-Protime team, Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, didn’t compete in 2023 due to the birth of her daughter Noa Brigitte, will be at the start of the Tour of Valencia next Thursday (15-18 February). It is her first race since September 4, 2022.
“I am going to ride Valencia with the aim of getting back into the peloton, getting used to it, gaining competition toughness and seeing where I stand,” Van den Broek-Blaak said at the SD Worx team presentation to CyclingOnline. “It is really a race to get back into the peloton. We will see how I digest Valencia, but if progress goes as I expect, I will ride the Strade Bianche on March 2.”
The 2017 World champion says that she has slowly started training again. “It has been eight months since Noa was born. I was not yet at my old level during the last training camp in January, but I am already enjoying cycling with the girls. And if you can just train with this team of strong girls, you will be ready for the season.”
Van den Broek-Blaak now really wants to race again, she says. “I am nervous, but I have put in so many hours in the last month that I believe I can reach the top level. Maybe I’m not there yet. It could very well be that I need a little longer time, but that’s fine too. I have the belief that I can reach the top level.”
Chantal van den Broek-Blaak to return next week:
Another Setback for Marta Cavalli
Things have not been going well for Marta Cavalli. The 25 year-old Italian is once again out of action. Cavalli fell during training near Benidorm, Spain and suffered a contusion to her pelvis.
Cavalli, one of the top women’s climbers for several years, hoped to be ready for the start of the road season with a training camp in Benidorm. “Marta is an exceptional athlete and an important rider within our team. We are now mainly thinking about her health and recovery. We fully support Marta, and we will support her in this difficult time,” the FDJ-Suez team said in a press release.
“Although Marta must now observe a period of rest and recovery, she is in close contact with the team’s medical staff and with her coaches to ensure a full return to the highest level,” adds team manager Stephen Delcourt. “The team will support Marta as best as possible. We wish her a speedy and full recovery, and look forward to seeing her back on the bike.”
For Cavalli it is not the first time that she has had to deal with injury. The Italian climber also had a serious crash in the 2022 Tour de France, resulting in several fractures. After that crash where she was hit by the inattentive Nicole Frain, Cavalli had difficulty getting back up to full fitness, as she continued to suffer from the aftereffects of the crash. Not so much physically, but mainly mentally. Cavalli struggled with ‘peloton anxiety’ for a while.
After a difficult start to the season, things went in the right direction for Cavalli in the last months of 2023. She was the strongest in the CIC-Tour Féminin International des Pyrénées in June 2023 and showed well in the Giro d’Italia Donne and Tour de France Femmes, although she wasn’t able to compete for the overall victory . She also won the Tour Cycliste International de l’Ardèche later that year.
Marta Cavalli injured:
Giulio Ciccone Postpones his Season Start after Surgery
Giulio Ciccone will start the 2024 season later than he had planned. The Lidl-Trek Italian had a cyst surgically removed on Monday and can’t ride his bike for a few weeks. Ciccone not be able to go on an altitude training camp to Mount Teide and will also not start in Tirreno-Adriatico.
“Due to a perineal cyst, Giulio Ciccone has to interrupt his preparation for his season,” Lidl-Trek said in a press release. “Due to serious inflammation, the rider had to undergo surgery last Monday to remove a cyst. The doctors have imposed a cycling ban on him for four weeks, although it depends on developments after the operation.”
The 29 year-old rider will now not travel to Mount Teide with his teammates for an altitude training camp, and will also have to cut back on his competition program. Ciccone was supposed to start his season with the Tirreno-Adriatico, but now not. Lidl-Trek will provide further updates on his recovery at a later date. Ciccone is the intended leader of Lidl-Trek in the Giro d’Italia (4-26 May) this season.
Operation for Giulio Ciccone delays his season start:
Antwan Tolhoek Suspended by UCI after Positive Doping Test
Antwan Tolhoek has been provisionally suspended by the UCI because the Zeeland cyclist had a positive doping test. Traces of anabolic androgenic steroids were found. The 29-year-old Tolhoek would race for the small Sabgal-Anicolor from Portugal in 2024, after he could not stay with Lidl-Trek.
According to the UCI, this is an Adverse Analytical Finding, where traces of anabolic androgenic steroids were found during the test. These steroids are on the WADA prohibited list. According to the International Cycling Union, the traces came to light during an out-of-competition check on Monday, November 27, 2023. The doping test was carried out by the International Testing Agency, on behalf of the UCI.
Tolhoek has been temporarily suspended. This is done as standard in accordance with the UCI anti-doping regulations. De Zeeuw – who played for Roompot-Oranje Peloton, Jumbo-Visma and Lidl-Trek between 2016 and 2023 – does have the right to request the B sample.
An Adverse Analytical Finding is a report from a WADA-accredited laboratory detecting the presence of a prohibited substance, its metabolites (chemicals produced during metabolism), markers or evidence of the use of a prohibited method.
An AAF does not have to lead to an anti-doping rule violation, because an athlete can also have a therapeutic use exemption. This is also called a certificate or TUE.
Antwan Tolhoek suspended:
Franck Bonnamour Provisionally Suspended after Discrepancies in Biological Passport
The UCI has provisionally suspended Franck Bonnamour. The French rider of Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale has been found to have abnormalities (Adverse Analytical Finding) in his biological passport. The UCI does not wish to elaborate further on details regarding the Bonnamour case at this time.
The 28 year-old Bonnamour is in his second season for Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale. Before that he rode for B&B Hotels-KTM and Arkéa-Samsic. He has one professional victory. In 2022, the French all-rounder was the best in La Polynormande, a French one-day race.
An Adverse Analytical Finding is a report from a WADA-accredited laboratory identifying the presence of a prohibited substance, its metabolites (chemicals produced during metabolism), markers or evidence of the use of a prohibited method. An AAF does not have to lead to a violation of the anti-doping rules, because an athlete can also have an exemption for this substance for therapeutic use, a TUE.
The team issued this press release:
The DECATHLON AG2R LA MONDIALE team takes note of the UCI’s decision to temporarily suspend Franck Bonnamour.
This decision is based on tests carried out before he joined the team on 1 January 2023.
In this context and while the UCI procedure is ongoing, the team provisionally suspends Franck Bonnamour with immediate effect.
The DECATHLON AG2R LA MONDIALE team advocates the practice of cycling in accordance with stringent ethical rules.
Franck Bonnamour suspended:
Movistar’s Unzué Suggests: “Why don’t we allow substitutions in Grand Tours?”
Eusebio Unzué, Movistar’s team manager, suggested the idea of introducing a substitution system in cycling during an interview with L’Équipe. Teams would be able to replace a rider if he is forced to drop out in the first week of a Grand Tour, he suggested.
“Why shouldn’t we allow substitutions in the Grand Tours, if someone is forced to give up in the first week,” Unzué asked. “All teams prepare with ten to eleven riders. So we always leave two or three at home at the last minute. Aren’t you entitled to a solution if someone drops out?”
“Of course you are not allowed to change for technical or tactical reasons,” Unzué continued. “But in football, substitution was not allowed for years… Why not try, test? Let’s take a step forward and see how everyone likes it. We need change.”
It regularly happens that GC favourites crash in the first week of a Grand Tour. as Unzué knows personally. In last year’s Tour de France, his leader Enric Mas crashed in the opening stage and had to abandon with a fractured shoulder blade. Richard Carapaz, now with EF Education-EasyPost, finished the first stage in the Tour of the Basque Country after a crash, but couldn’t start the next day due to a fractured kneecap.
Eusebio Unzué want’s substitutes:
Patrick Lefevere on Unzué’s idea: “Bullshit, I’m already looking forward to VAR”
Eusebio Unzué, Movistar’s team manager, suggested the idea of introducing a substitution system in cycling (see above). His fellow team boss Patrick Lefevere is not so keen.
Patrick Lefevere does not agree and explains why to Het Laatste Nieuws. “I have known Unzué for a long time. He means well, but he is sometimes too sweet. In this case I disagree with him. With this rule you wipe away the entire history of the Grand Tours. The challenge is to keep it up for three weeks. The Tour, Giro and Vuelta last 21 days, not 17 or 15. I also think it’s human, but we’re not going to make a fuss of it, are we?”
“Unfortunately, falling and getting sick are part of it,” the Belgian team boss believes. “A big part of your team’s success is being resilient, being able to switch to a plan B. Those are the moments when the great champions rise up, bounce back from a setback – that’s what people want to see. Racing is boxing: just because you’re hanging in the ropes at a certain moment doesn’t mean you lose the match.”
According to Lefevere, it is also impossible to create a watertight system. “Racing is not football. Who will determine when an injury or illness is real? I’m already looking forward to the VAR. It will be absolutely impartial and will undoubtedly consist of French doctors. No, this is going to give us a headache. I’m not going to stop this, but I’m not going to support it either. It will be for cycling after Lefevere.”
Joxean Fernández Matxin, the sports manager of UAE Emirates, does not reject Unzué’s idea. “It is complicated. Who will evaluate whether a crash is big enough? How serious does an injury have to be? Should you break your kneecap or is pain in your knee sufficient? And what about fatigue? After two weeks of racing, exhaustion is very similar to being ill. Still, I think the idea itself is absolutely very good. I am in favour of a simple variant, without medical criteria: I would give each team the right to change one rider in the last week.”
‘It will be for cycling after Lefevere’:
Riders Had to Look for Shoes and Pedals in Etoile de Bessèges
Before the second stage of the Etoile de Besseges last week, riders of the Continental Nice Métropole – Côte d’Azur team had to change pedals and shoes at the last minute. The UCI had banned the team’s Ekoï pedals just before the start, reported Matos Velo.
The riders of the French Conti team were ready to start the stage using a prototype of the Ekoï PW8, a new pedal and shoe combination by Ekoï. These pedals are expected to be on sale to the public in September. The pedals are obviously different with a large platform area and a unique shape. The system requires special shoes.
It was because of the different shoes that caused the biggest problems. The UCI officials told the team about an hour before the start the second stage, the first stage had been canceled due to a farmers’ protests, that they were not allowed to use the pedals. The riders had to look for new pedals, but also for different shoes. Shoes that were compatible with Shimano or Look pedals were still in the hotel, a 30 minute drive from the start.
The riders of Nice Métropole Côte d’Azur then borrowed pedals from other teams. Some lucky riders were also able to borrow shoes from other riders, others had to buy shoes from a stall at the start. All seven riders of the team were at the start and they all finished the stage.
Ekoi pedals are not totally banned. An application for permission to use the pedals has been submitted to the UCI, but this application is still being processed. So it should be possible to use the pedals in the future.
Too early to use the Ekoi pedals:
Max Walker Joins Astana Qazaqstan Development Team
The British rider Max Walker (22) is going to join the Astana Project in 2024, completing the roster of Astana Qazaqstan Development Team. It is planned that alongside the Development team calendar Max Walker will be racing in several races together with the UCI WorldTeam.
“I’m thrilled to be joining the Astana Project for the 2024 season. It’s an honour to join such a prestigious and well-established group. The Development team has a really solid racing program and the support I need to help me reach my full potential. At the same time, I can’t wait to get a chance to race with the WorldTour team, gain experience and learn from some of the most talented riders in the world. I’ll be giving it my absolute all to help the team achieve some wins. An incredible bonus and privilege for me about joining the Astana Project is to be given the chance to train and race alongside a fellow Manxman and someone I have admired all of my cycling career, Mark Cavendish. I’ve grown up riding bikes and aspired to be part of such a world class set up since I first started cycling on the Isle of Man. When I started out aged 8 the very first cycling outfit bought for me by parents was the Astana team kit! It’s just amazing to think that I’m now part of the Astana family. I spent several wonderful years in Trinity Racing team and was set to continue with Saint Piran in 2024, so I’d like to thank this team for letting me use this opportunity and make a step ahead in my career with Astana Project”, – said Max Walker.
“Max impressed us a lot during our January training camp and now I am pleased to see him as a rider of the Development team. Here we can test him in the races, to discover his full potential. Also, it would be nice to see him on a higher level so why not to try the rider in some bigger races together with Astana Qazaqstan Team. I am really looking forward to follow Max Walker throughout the season in the Development but also the WorldTour team”, – said Alexandr Vinokurov, Astana Qazaqstan Team General Manager.
Soudal Quick-Step to Figueira Champions Classic
Remco Evenepoel starts his sixth season in the colours of Soudal Quick-Step this week, at the Portuguese one-day race
Best Belgian Sportsman of the Year for the third time in his career, an award that came after another incredible campaign, the 24-year-old Remco Evenepoel will lead the team at the Figueira Champions Classic, where Basque climber Mikel Landa will make his debut for the Wolfpack. They will be joined by Mattia Cattaneo, James Knox, Pieter Serry, neo-pro Warre Vangheluwe, and Louis Vervaeke.
The profile of this weekend’s 220km race is a hilly one, and will consist of two parts, the second of which comprises four leg-sapping circuits over the Rua Parque Forestal and Enforca Cães climbs. The last of these hurdles is set to be tackled inside the final eight kilometres, and its double-digit gradients is where the eventual winner could take off.
“We have great memories from last year, when we won there with Casper Pedersen. Now we come with a different team, and Remco, of course, will be our leader. It’s going to be his first race of the season, he is eager to race, as always, and we want to do something nice. The route is a bit longer than last year, with a pretty demanding local lap featuring some steep climbing. The weather doesn’t look very promising, and could have an impact on the race, but we’ll just have to wait for Saturday and see how things go. One thing is certain: we are very motivated to do our best”, said Soudal Quick-Step sports director Iljo Keisse.
10.02 Figueira Champions Classic (POR) 1.Pro
Mattia Cattaneo (ITA)
Remco Evenepoel (BEL)
James Knox (GBR)
Mikel Landa (ESP)
Pieter Serry (BEL)
Warre Vangheluwe (BEL)
Louis Vervaeke (BEL).
Sports Director: Iljo Keisse (BEL) and Tom Steels (BEL).
Evenepoel starts his season:
New Sponsor for Astana Qazaqstan – The IT-Italian Trattoria Restaurant Chain
Astana Qazaqstan has secured an additional sponsor with restaurant chain IT-Italian Trattoria. IT-Italian Trattoria will financially support the Kazakh formation throughout the year, according to a press release.
Team manager Alexander Vinokourov is delighted now that the new sponsor has been presented. “We are pleased to welcome IT-Italian Trattoria as a new sponsor, as a new member of our family. It is a very nice moment for us, because we think we can enter into a very nice collaboration.”
“During our training internship in the winter months, we were already visited by the management of IT-Italian Trattoria. It was a really great time. It is always good for a team to welcome a new sponsor. I believe that we not only have a new sponsor on board, but also a new friend,” Vinokourov is enthusiastic.
Astana eating Italian in 2024:
Saudi Investment Fund aims for 2026 to Start New Cycling Series, Flanders Classic Included
Since last week, a rumour has been circulating that SRJ Sports Investments, a subsidiary of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), wants to invest approximately €250 million in a new cycling series. Het Laatste Nieuws now writes that the initiators hope to start with the new formula in 2026. The Flemish newspaper also reports that race organiser Flanders Classics is participating in the project.
According to HLN, the choice to start the competition in 2026 is because the current WorldTour licenses expire at the end of 2025, which means that they can start with a clean slate. This could also mean that ProTeams that score enough points during the current cycle for a spot in the WorldTour will still be left out. Lotto Dstny is mentioned as a possible victim.
There would be new discussions in London on Wednesday and Thursday about the so-called ONE Cycling project. Reuters previously reported that Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO), the organiser of the Tour de France, and RCS Sports, the organiser of the Giro d’Italia, among others, are not involved in the negotiations. HLN now writes that Flanders Classic is participating. Flanders Classic is responsible for the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Gent-Wevelgem, Tour of Flanders, Amstel Gold Race and the Tour of Switzerland.
As for the WorldTour teams, according to HLN, Visma | Lease a Bike, EF Education-EasyPost, Soudal Quick-Step, Alpecin-Deceuninck, Intermarché-Wanty, INEOS Grenadiers, Lidl-Trek and BORA-hansgrohe are present at the meetings. UAE Team Emirates is not participating, but are watching developments.
According to HLN, eight teams are not on board: Astana Qazaqstan, Movistar, Jayco AlUla, dsm-firmenich PostNL and the French teams Groupama-FDJ, Arkéa-B&B Hotels, Cofidis and Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale. However, Movistar’s team boss, Eusebio Unzué, said to L’Équipe that he would participate in discussions. The position of Bahrain Victorious is not mentioned.
The Saudi backed ONE Cycling taking shape:
2024 Arctic Race of Norway Rescheduled
Due to a dense summer cycling season and a desire to harmonise the calendar, the Arctic Race of Norway has been rescheduled for 4 to 7 August 2024. This change of a few days places the world’s most northern race after the road race of the Paris Olympic Games.
The request to change the dates was submitted to and approved by the International Cycling Union.
Stages of the 2024 Arctic Race of Norway:
Thursday, 4 August — stage 1: Bodø–Rognan (157km)
Friday, 5 August — stage 2: Beiarn–Fauske (175km)
Saturday, 6 August — stage 3: Tverlandet–Jakobsbakken (Sulitjelma) (155km)
Sunday, 7 August — stage 4: Glomfjord (Meløy) – Bodø (156km)
The Figueira Champions Classic Wants to be the Spring Classic of Portugal
Since 1960, the Volta ao Algarve has been an early season Portuguese race. In 2023, another race was added in the spring: the Figueira Champions Classic. This one-day race, which is held just before the start of the Volta ao Algarve, is based in the Coimbren city of Figueira da Foz.
The race was held in 2023 as it was the jubilee year for the residents of Figueira da Foz. The city, located in the Coimbra district, celebrated its 250th anniversary. The coastal city thought a cycle race was a perfect opportunity to put the city on the map and so the Figueira Champions Classic was born. The name of the city translates as ‘Fig tree at the estuary’. Figueira da Foz was founded a quarter of a century ago on the spot where the Mondego River flows into the Atlantic Ocean. The name of the city is a combination of this estuary (Foz) and the rich amount of fig trees (Figueira) around the Portuguese town.
Many years later, the city has become a popular tourist destination. Figueira da Foz has beaches hundreds of metres wide, which also offer an excellent climate for water sports. The Casino Figueira is one of the largest casinos in Europe. A tourist gem surrounded by fig trees. Nowadays these fig trees are also the namesake of the cycle race in the area. The Figueira Champions Classic debuted in 2023 as a 1.1 race on the UCI calendar. Teams such as Soudal Quick-Step and Alpecin-Deceuninck rode the race in combination with the Algarve race. The Volta ao Algarve was held a few days after the one-day race.
The Figueira Champions Classic was a 1.1 race, now the UCI has upgraded the Portuguese one-day race to 1.Pro status after the first edition. This brings the race to the same level as Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne or Paris-Tours. The organisers of the ‘Fig Tree Race’ want the race to grow into a real spring Classic in Portugal in the coming years.
The Figueira Champions Classic will be held on Saturday February 10, 2024.
Casper Pedersen – 2023 Figueira Champions Classic winner:
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