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ET Thursday: Demoitié & Myngheer Remembered

Riders and teams weigh in on the tragic deaths of Daan Myngheer and Antoine Demoitié.  Other cycling news: Tour of Flanders is upon us, Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde with results, reports, quotes and video, Tinkoff leads UCI WorldTour rankings and Giro del Trentino news. Plus video of a young Nairo Quintana.

TOP STORY: Myngheer and Demoitié, RIP
There is not much to be said that has not been said already about the deaths of the two young Belgians; Daan Myngheer and Antoine Demoitié. Both very sad. We don’t know the full details of Myngheer heart attack, but sounds like he had an undiscovered cardiac problem which probably wouldn’t have shown up in a health check-up, so probably couldn’t have been foreseen.

The accident that killed Antoine Demoitié was an fatality waiting to happen. There has been many crashes between riders and vehicles in the last few years, particularly motos. Peter Sagan in the Vuelta a España, Stig Broeckx in Kuurne, Taylor Phinney in the US champs, Greg Van Avermaet in the Clasica San Sebastian and Jakob Fuglsang in the Tour de France, come to mind. Calls have been made for race organizers to take more care of the riders.

Etixx – Quick-Step’s Marcel Kittel wrote: “It’s necessary to set higher and better standards for professional bike races and that’s not up to the riders but to the organizers and the UCI.”

Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) Tweeted: “Regulations on motos in races are needed NOW”.

UCI President Brian Cookson said in a statement: “The Union Cycliste Internationale is extremely saddened to learn about the passing of Belgian rider Antoine Demoitié of Wanty-Groupe Gobert. The UCI will cooperate with all relevant authorities to investigate the circumstances of this tragic incident.”

President of the Professional Cyclists Association, Gianni Bugno said: “At this time of sadness and sorrow for the death of Antoine, we do not want to make controversy, but we have so much frustration inside. We have always stated that the safety of the riders must be in first place in the discussions of the cycling stakeholders and at the last CCP meeting, we have specifically asked to quickly communicate the strategies developed recently to improve security during the races. I do not want to accuse anyone but make everyone reflect on the responsibility we have to ensure that a very high level of attention, awareness, and control over safety standards is always maintained during each race.”

The Wanty-Groupe Gobert team made this statement:
In De Panne sports director Hilaire Van Der Schueren, teammanager Jean-François Bourlart plus some riders and staff of Wanty-Groupe Gobert got together to give further explanations to the press regarding the accident that resulted in the death of Antoine Demoitié.

Hilaire Van Der Schueren – sports director at Gent-Wevelgem: “The day started with the news that Thomas Degand broke his elbow in the Volta a Catalunya, then the news that Simone Antonini sustained a hand fracture in Gent-Wevelgem. After that, this all happened.

Antoine called me on the radio for bottles – his last words. I gave them and was called to a second group. I asked the commissaire to pass the group and then it happened. Our mechanic was the first to see Antoine and he immediately called me. At that moment I thought Antoine was dead but the ambulance was there straight away and he was airlifted to hospital. There was hope until the organization of Gent-Wevelgem asks me for contact details of Antoine’s next of kin. Then you know it’s very serious.

After the race I immediately left for the hospital in Lille. I met Antoine’s father who told me the doctors didn’t have much hope. After midnight we received the news that Antoine had died. We must process this together. This Wednesday we do a recon of Tour of Flanders together and then we eat together. We will talk about Antoine a lot.”

Roy Jans – rider: “We were very shaken on Sunday night. We read Antoine was dead but Hilaire assured us the situation was very serious but that Antoine hadn’t died. This morning the definitive news came.

As riders we decided together that we can’t ride De Panne. It’s too early. We don’t have 100% focus at the moment. We need time to process this but first let it even sink in what happened.”

Jean-François Bourlart – team manager: “Antoine joined Wanty-Groupe Gobert this season and wanted to ride WorldTour races. Every time we spoke with each other, he only spoke about that. Last Friday, he rode his first WorldTour race: E3 Harelbeke. He was part of the day’s breakaway and climbed the Taaienberg with the best. He was very proud of himself and we couldn’t have been more proud of him.

On Sunday, the incredible happened, the inconceivable. We can’t believe it. We are angry. After Rob Goris, Antoine is the second rider we have had to let go. We cry and we think of his wife Astrid and his family.”

The gendarmerie in Hazebrouck, France investigates the accident. Sports director Hilaire Van der Schueren has been called as a witness to the accident.

Next to De Panne, Wanty-Groupe Gobert won’t ride Route Adélie de Vitré and Paris-Camembert this weekend: races where Antoine should have been riding.

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Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde 2016
Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) won Stage 1 into Zottegem ahead of his break-away companions Alexey Lutsenko and Lieuwe Westra (both Astana). They escaped with Luke Rowe (Sky), but he punctured on the final climb of the Muur de Geraardsbergen to finish 5th.

After a moments silence for the loss of Antoine Demoitié and Daan Myngheer, there was a fast start and the peloton split into three groups, the two rear bunches got together as the front rode on. That group was thinned down to thirteen as they passed through the finish for the last lap. Etixx – Quick-Step had missed the move and were chasing behind, again. Rowe, Kristoff, Westra and Lutsenko dropped the others, but when they hit the climb of the Muur de Geraardsbergen Rowe punctured and was eventually beaten by Mads Pedersen (Stölting Service Group) at the finish.

The three leaders worked well together to build up a lead of half a minute. Kristoff managed to keep with the two Astana riders, even though they did try to loose him. At the finish Kristoff was confident enough to lead-out the sprint and win the stage and take the first leaders jersey.

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Stage winner and overall leader, Alexander Kristoff (Katusha): “This was really hard today. I wasn’t feeling strong at all. Actually, Westra was the strongest in our group. He pulled me and Lutsenko almost all the way to the line. I tried to contribute but I didn’t really have the legs. I had already said through the radio that I was not feeling so well with 2 laps to go. At the end I still managed to survive and be there to win. I’ve been a little bit sick these past few days so I hope I can have better legs tomorrow. Both of them (Astana’s 2nd Alexey Lutsenko & 3rd Lieuwe Westra) were riding for the classification and now they are in a good position. I am not feeling as strong as I did here last year so I’m not sure about doing a good time trial, but I will try and we’ll see how things go. I felt good at the start but then after about 100 km I didn’t feel so well, but I think this was the same for everyone. It was a fast start. We knew it would be hard. My director Torsten Schmidt said we had to be in the front because echelons would be forming and he was right.”

2nd, Alexey Lutsenko (Astana): “I’m getting more and more familiar with the Flemish roads and I’m very happy with second place today. My condition is growing and I think I can do a good time trial on Thursday.”

3rd, Lieuwe Westra (Astana): “My goal is the general classification and I gained about thirty seconds on some rivals for the final victory. The other good news is that I have prepared well for this race and the legs are getting better and better. On Tenbossestraat I attacked, I had previously already been told by Luke Rowe that I should attack here and if he wanted it, he had to choose my wheel. He did and we got away with Kristoff. When I looked back, I saw that both of them were on their limit. I saw my teammate Alexey Lutsenko arriving in the distance and I then waited for him. I thought this was the moment. I would rather attack on asphalt than on the cobblestones of the Muur. In Luke Rowe I had a good companion. Actually, we rode away easily. I had very good legs. Yet we still lost a lot of ground in the last kilometers. I came here for the GC. If we had continued at full gas, we could have gained another 30 seconds. My current form, however, makes me tremendously happy.”

8th Juraj Sagan (Tinkoff): “It was a hard, hard day for everyone out there today, from the start the race was broken in crosswinds, after the first kilometers. Bodnar tried hard up front but I’m not too sure what happened as it was really hectic. I was behind the break with Trusov, and at the end I managed to get third from the bunch. Coming into the finish there were some turns but everyone was really tired so it was hard. I’m happy with my result but we came here looking for a GC result which will be difficult now. We will refocus and look at the coming days – we are in Belgium and anything can happen.”

Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde Stage 1 Result:
1. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha in 4:22:34
2. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana
3. Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Astana
4. Mads Pedersen (Den) Stölting Service Group at 0:29
5. Luke Rowe (GB) Sky
6. Pim Ligthart (Ned) Lotto Soudal at 0:36
7. Manuel Belletti (Ita) Southeast-Venezuela
8. Juraj Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff
9. Sean De Bie (Bel) Lotto Soudal
10. Marco Haller (Aut) Katusha.

Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde Overall After Stage 1:
1. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha in 4:22:24
2. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana at 0:01
3. Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Astana at 0:06
4. Mads Pedersen (Den) Stölting Service Group at 0:39
5. Luke Rowe (GB) Sky
6. Tony Martin (Ger) Etixx – Quick-Step at 0:44
7. Pim Ligthart (Ned) Lotto Soudal at 0:46
8. Manuel Belletti (Ita) Southeast-Venezuela
9. Juraj Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff
10. Sean De Bie (Bel) Lotto Soudal.

Day 1:

Stage 2 went to Elia Viviani (Sky) who infiltrated the Etixx – Quick-Step lead-out train and then shot past Marcel Kittel in the last meters. Overall leader Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) finished third to hold onto his lead going into the final day 3 with its road and time trial stages.

On the 211 kilometer stage 2 from Zottegem to Koksijde there were many crashes, the worst off be ing Nicola Boem (Bardiani-CSF) who taken to hospital.

Pim Ligthart (Lotto Soudal), Julien Morice (Direct Energie), Alessendro Tonelli (Bardiani-CSF), Gianfranco Zilioli (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Ivar Slik (Roompot), Jonas Tenbrock (Stölting Service Group), Bert Van Lerberghe (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise) and Mamyr Stash (Gazprom-RusVelo) made the big break and took a maximum lead of over seven minutes. Katusha, Sky and Etixx – Quick-Step were not interested in letting the break go all the way to the finish and as the speed lifted the escape fell apart. Pim Ligthart was the last man to be caught with around 15 kilometers to go.

At first, Sky was the dominant team, but it was Etixx – Quick-Step who were in control coming into the final. Viviani worked his way on to the Etixx train to come past Kittel with a few meters to spare. Overall leader, Alexander Kristoff finished behind the two sprinters and now has 5 seconds over Alexey Lutsenko and 10 on Lieuwe Westra (both Astana).

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Stage winner, Elia Viviani (Sky): “My teammates helped me a lot today to get on the right wheel today. I got Kittel’s wheel on the last corner. I knew they had a super strong lead out train for him but I also knew that there was a head wind, so I waited for the right moment to go. I’m really happy because it comes after a difficult moment for me. I didn’t get the results I’d hoped for on the track and so it’s good to win today. I’ve raced a lot this season and done the track, so I’m right at the end of a big block now. I’ll take a break after Paris-Roubaix and then start thinking of the Giro d’Italia. It’s a very, very important goal for me.”

2nd, Marcel Kittel (Etixx – Quick-Step): “Maybe what can help us is that Peter Sagan got a million second places so maybe it is not the end of the world. I can tell you I’m really disappointed but it’s not a pity to lose against Viviani. The team worked really hard to make it a sprint and did a great lead out, and then I had to start my sprint early or otherwise I might not have been on the podium and that was a risk. Viviani got a great lead out from my team and also from me. That’s basically it but I think the team is really strong, I’m really strong and I try to see it positively. Both the team and I are very strong and have confidence; that’s very encouraging for my next goal of the season, Scheldeprijs. The self-confidence is there otherwise I wouldn’t have started my sprint so early. I saw in the video just now, when I started my sprint all the other guys immediately had a gap so I think I can be confident. I want to win. I’m not here to be second but that is the way it is. For me, until now the focus was not on this first part of the season. Now Scheldeprijs and the Giro d’Italia is where I’m aiming and I feel that I’m on a very good way.”

3rd on the stage and overall leader, Alexander Kristoff (Katusha): “I could see many guys were tired from yesterday, including myself. I could tell that I did not have the best legs today. In the sprint we managed to get to the front but we were a little bit behind at the corner so we had to use a lot of energy. Jacopo almost had a crash, so we lost the wheel of Michael Mørkøv. That also ruined the sprint a little bit for us because we had to brake and then go again. So when I hit the 200 meter sign, I passed Jacopo but I had almost nothing left. It was all I could do to get on the wheel and follow. I got four bonus seconds but would have been better off with the ten for winning. I don’t think I have enough time to win the overall even if I win the early stage tomorrow. I think Westra is very strong in the TT and also Lutsenko can be dangerous, so it will be hard to protect the lead but I will try.”

9th, Erik Baška (Tinkoff): “It was a hard day, a steady tempo from the beginning as the break was let go but then the wind started to increase and the race got harder. Then at 110km we started the climbs, up and down on narrow roads and there were some splits in the bunch here, with Michael and I in the second group so we had to ride to get back to the front. Then in the crosswinds there were four of us that got held up in the crash on the cobblestones, so again we had to push to get back up there. Overall I’m satisfied with my shape – it’s getting better and better now, but I would like to be further up in the result today.”

Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde Stage 2 Result:
1. Elia Viviani (Ita) Sky in 5:01:04
2. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Etixx – Quick-Step
3. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha
4. Amaury Capiot (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise
5. Adrien Petit (Fra) Direct Energie
6. Raymond Kreder (Ned) Roompot-Oranje Peloton
7. Paolo Simion (Ita) Bardiani-CSF
8. Marc Sarreau (Fra) FDJ.fr
9. Erik Baska (Svk) Tinkoff
10. Ivan Savitskiy (Rus) Gazprom-RusVelo.

Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde Overall After Stage 2:
1. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha in 9:23:24
2. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana at 0:05
3. Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Astana at 0:10
4. Mads Pedersen (Den) Stölting Service Group at 0:43
5. Bert Van Lerberghe (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise at 0:45
6. Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica-GreenEDGE at 0:46
7. Rick Zabel (Ger) BMC at 0:48
8. Tony Martin (Ger) Etixx – Quick-Step
9. Michael Morkov (Den) Katusha at 0:49
10. Amaury Capiot (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise at 0:50.

Day 2:

And a little tussle betweem Vyacheslav Kuznetsov and Alexandre Pichot:

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Tour of Flanders – De Ronde van Vlaanderen 2016
The Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix are so very important for everyone in Belgium and Northern France. If you win the Ronde you will never have to buy a beer again in Belgium. Flanders is more than a bike race, it’s a way of life for many and the biggest happening of the year in Flanders.

The course takes in many of the iconic climbs of the past, where the top cyclist’s wrote their names in history. This Sunday will be no different, a nobody ever win the Ronde or Roubaix.

Check-out Ed Hood’s Flanders preview HERE.

Race website: www.rondevanvlaanderen.be

The Race:
The first 80km of the Ronde van Vlaanderen offers the riders a chance to work their way into the race, but being in Flanders there’s always the threat of crosswinds and rain affecting the situation on the road. The first technical section comes after 82km, the first cobblestone sector, before the race tackles its first climb in the Oude Kwaremont after 103km – the first of three times up this infamous cobblestone ascent.

In total there are seven cobblestone sections, all falling between 82km and 215km of racing.

The sectors of pavé are:
Huisepontweg, 82km
Ruiterstraat, 125km
Kerkgate, 128km
Jagerij, 131km
Paddestraat, 142km
Haaghoek, 154km
Mariaborrestraat, 215km

The cobblestone sectors mean that positioning and teamwork is important throughout, but the real action arguably comes on the climbs in the race, of which there are 18. The race tackles the Oude Kwaremont three times, as well as the Paterberg twice, the second of which being the final difficulty of the race, with just 13km between the top and the finish line in Oudenaarde. Who will be left at the front as the race crests this final climb?

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The Hellingen:
Oude Kwaremont, 103km
Kortekeer, 114km
Eikenberg, 121km
Wolvenberg, 124km
Molenberg, 137km
Leberg, 157km
Berendries, 161km
Valkenberg, 167km
Kaperij, 177km
Kanarieberg, 185km
Oude Kwaremont, 200km
Paterberg, 204km
Koppenberg, 210km
Steenbeekdries, 216km
Taaienberg, 218km
Kruisberg, 229km
Oude Kwaremont, 238km
Paterberg, 242km

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Jens Debusschere out of Ronde van Vlaanderen
Yesterday it was already clear that Jens Debusschere has a bruise of the lower back muscles, a bruised junction between the collarbone and shoulder blade, a mild concussion and some abrasions. Further examinations have now shown that Jens Debusschere has two broken transverse processes in his back. Debusschere incurred these injuries during a crash in Gent-Wevelgem last Sunday. Rest is the only cure so the 26-year old will not race anymore this Spring.

Jens Debusschere: “This is a huge disappointment of course. I planned to take another big step forward this Spring and I felt really good during the preparations. A crash in the Strade Bianche and a rib injury almost disturbed by Spring, but I had a good feeling in Tirreno-Adriatico, I managed to help Jürgen Roelandts in Milano-Sanremo and I was able to win Dwars Door Vlaanderen. I hoped to maintain that good shape the next few weeks, but unfortunately I crashed in Ghent-Wevelgem.”

“I had really good legs past Sunday, perhaps I could have played a role in the finale. It’s still not clear how I crashed. My head, shoulder and especially my back are injured. I’ll need a few weeks to recover from these injuries. After that I’ll focus on the next part of the season. For me this is painful, but compared to the grief of the families, friends and teammates of Antoine Demoitié and Daan Myngheer my injuries are peanuts.”

Jens Debusschere crashed out of Gent-Wevelgem:
Gent - Wevelgem 2016

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Preview Ronde van Vlaanderen
In a week marked by several tragic events, the peloton is preparing itself for the Ronde Van Vlaanderen. The 100th edition of the most important Belgian race will take place on Sunday 3 April. What the course is concerned, the organization decided to maintain the same concept as previous years. Who will be the strongest after 255 kilometers, six cobbled sections and eleven hills?

The start takes place on the Market of Bruges, as usual. After eight kilometers in the neutralized zone, the official start will be given in Loppem. The peloton rides in West-Flanders for a while before it goes towards the hill zone. All hills and cobbled sections are situated in the final 150 kilometers and they are divided over three laps. The first lap contains ten hills and five cobbled sections, among those some well-known names such as Oude Kwaremont, Eikenberg, Paddestraat and Haaghoek.

After that the riders will come to the important part of the race. With about 70 kilometers to go, the peloton enters the second lap. This one contains five hills (Oude Kwaremont, Paterberg, Koppenberg, Steenbeekdries and Taaienberg, LTS) and one cobbled section (Mariaborrestraat, LTS). After this lap, it can be expected that the peloton will be seriously reduced and the riders then can prepare themselves for the real finale. The Kruisberg, Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg are the final hills on the course, they will certainly determine the race. After that, thirteen kilometers need to be covered towards the finish line in Oudenaarde.

Lotto Soudal really looks forward to this Spring Classic. The team will start with riders such as Tiesj Benoot, Jürgen Roelandts and André Greipel. They will compete against Fabian Cancellara, Jasper Stuyven, Tom Boonen, Niki Terpstra, Peter Sagan, Greg Van Avermaet, Sep Vanmarcke and last year’s winner Alexander Kristoff to name just a few contenders.

Today Tiesj Benoot and Jürgen Roelandts did a recon of the Ronde van Vlaanderen.

Jürgen Roelandts: “Tiesj and I did a recon of the Ronde van Vlaanderen. It’s always good to take a thorough look at the course a few days before the race, for example to have a better idea of the wind direction. It’s also good to do a recon on Wednesday in between Ghent-Wevelgem and Ronde van Vlaanderen. I felt very well in Milan-Sanremo, but last Friday at E3 Harelbeke I got pain in the back and couldn’t continue the race unfortunately. Saturday I felt sick. On Sunday I still had some problems, but I managed to finish seventh, so the condition hasn’t disappeared. In the meantime I’m feeling much better.”

“The course of the Ronde has slightly changed. Before we get to the Molenberg we have to ride over some narrower roads with lots of turns, so it will be harder to control the race at that point. It’s still early in the race then, but it will make riders tired. For me that’s a good thing. The big favorites are known: Cancellara, Sagan and Van Avermaet. I don’t have any specific allies in mind, but maybe I will get some during the race. I certainly will have Tiesj by my side. It’s a pity Jens Debusschere won’t be able to ride on Sunday because of his injury. He has never been in such a good shape before the Ronde than this season.”

Last year Tiesj Benoot, a neo-pro of 21 years at that time, finished fifth in his first Ronde van Vlaanderen.

Tiesj Benoot: “Last year was the first time I rode such a long race and I liked it. This year I’ll start with a different feeling, but that doesn’t mean I am more nervous. I start with lots of confidence. The past three races (Dwars door Vlaanderen, E3 Harelbeke and Ghent-Wevelgem, LTS) I always rode the finale. That proves the condition is good. The Ronde van Vlaanderen is a race that suits me. Because of the distance and the hard route only the strong survive. You know much can and will happen during the race, although you never know when. It’s all about choosing the right moment, but I won’t tell my plans.”

Herman Frison, sports director: “Due to injuries of among other Jens Debusschere and Jelle Wallays we had to change our team roster for the Ronde. Our leaders Jürgen Roelandts and Tiesj Benoot are in excellent shape, that’s a fact. Today the two of them did a recon of the Ronde. The other guys from the selection for Sunday are all part of the team at the Three Days of De Panne and will be ready, I am convinced of that. Look at Pim Ligthart who attacked today or Sean De Bie.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal:
Lars Bak, Tiesj Benoot, Sean De Bie, Jasper De Buyst, André Greipel, Pim Ligthart, Jürgen Roelandts and Marcel Sieberg.
Sports directors: Herman Frison and Frederik Willems.

Tiesj Benoot will be there:
Training Lotto-Soudal Koppenberg

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Van Avermaet Ready for Ronde van Vlaanderen Battle
After a strong start to the season, Greg Van Avermaet will lead a motivated BMC Racing Team at the 100th edition of Ronde van Vlaanderen this Sunday.

BMC Racing Team Sports Director Fabio Baldato said Ronde van Vlaanderen is one of the biggest goals of the season for Van Avermaet and the team.

“We have a strong Classics team so of course Ronde van Vlaanderen is an important race for us. I think we have shown since the beginning of the season in Qatar and Oman, and then in the early Classics, that we know how to race aggressively and that we can always be up the front, and that’s what we hope to do this Sunday,” Baldato explained.

It’s no secret that for Van Avermaet, Ronde van Vlaanderen is a special race.

“If I could choose to win any Classic this year it would be Ronde van Vlaanderen, especially given it is the 100th edition which makes it even more special for me as a Flandrien. I hope that I can rest and recover well this week from my recent illness and be back at 100% on the start line on Sunday. I’m going to give it everything I’ve got,” Van Avermaet said.

Taylor Phinney will race his first monument in two years when he lines up on Sunday.

“I didn’t expect to race Ronde van Vlaanderen but my performance at Gent-Wevelgem was a pleasant surprise, so I’m really humbled to line up at one of the biggest races of the year with such a stellar team,” Phinney admitted.

Rider roster:
Marcus Burghardt (GER), Jempy Drucker (LUX), Stefan Küng (SUI), Daniel Oss (ITA), Taylor Phinney (USA), Manuel Quinziato (ITA), Michael Schär (SUI), Greg Van Avermaet (BEL).
Sports Directors: Fabio Baldato (ITA) & Valerio Piva (ITA).

Greg Van Avermaet:
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad men elite 2016

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Giant-Alpecin for Flanders
Team Giant-Alpecin takes part in the 100th edition of Ronde van Vlaanderen this Sunday for the second monument of the season. Ronde van Vlaanderen is one of the toughest one-day classics and requires concentration from start to finish with strong legs, as the riders tackle 18 steep hills as well as 19km of cobblestones sections over the course of 256km of racing.

“The Ronde van Vlaanderen is of the most demanding one-day races of the year,” said coach Marc Reef (NED). “It is considered as of one of the biggest days in the calendar and it is always a very special day for the riders that are involved.

“The objective of the team is to be visible at the front of the race. Next to that, we also want to put Zico and Koen in a good position ahead of the key moments of the race and, in particular, the hill sections. During the second time the riders tackle the Oude Kwaremont, the race usually starts to open up so we need to be attentive. Last year, the team finished seventh in the race and this year we will aim to go for a positive result with either Zico or Koen.”

Line-up:
Søren Kragh Andersen (DEN), Nikias Arndt (GER), Roy Curvers (NED), Bert De Backer (BEL), Koen de Kort (NED), Ramon Sinkeldam (NED), Albert Timmer (NED), Zico Waeytens (BEL).
Coach: Marc Reef.

Albert Timmer and Koen de Kort:
Milano - Sanremo WT 2016

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Peter Sagan looking to pilot Tinkoff to victory at Ronde van Vlaanderen

This Sunday sees the second of cycling’s Monuments – Ronde van Vlaanderen, a race that signifies all that Flanders has to offer, including 18 Hellingen – the cobblestone climbs that characterise this race. Having finished fourth last year, Peter Sagan leads Tinkoff at this infamous one-day race and will be targeting the top step of the podium following a strong classics campaign so far including victory at last Sunday’s Gent – Wevelgem.

Also known as the Tour of Flanders, Sunday’s race will celebrate its 100th edition since its creation in 1913 by the co-founder of sports newspaper Sportwereld, Karel Van Wijnendaele. The 2016 edition will cover no less than 255.9km between the start in Brugge and the finish in Oudenaarde.

Peter spoke of the importance of the race to both himself and the team when looking ahead to Sunday. “The Tour of Flanders is a really important race for me – I confirmed last weekend that I am on the right track and therefore I am satisfied with my current form. This day is also important for the whole team and I know that I can trust my teammates in supporting me.

“I am looking forward to this race, but you also have to stay concentrated. On the road I’ll monitor the progress of the race because this one is unpredictable and every small mistake could be decisive. All of my opponents are strong, but there will only be one winner.”

Lining up alongside Peter Sagan is a core that has ridden alongside him through the classics so far this season including Maciej Bodnar, Adam Blythe and Oscar Gatto. The young duo of Michael Gogl and Juraj Sagan join Nikolay Trusov and Pavel Brutt, who continues his strong return to racing, to complete the roster.

“Peter is of course our absolute leader here and we’ve built a team around him to try and support him as far as possible into the race,” explained Sport Director for Sunday, Tristan Hoffman. “You can split the race into three sections – the first 100km, the second 100km and then the final 50km – and we need riders to be able to support and look after Peter in each section.”

Juraj Sagan will line up alongside his brother at his first Tour of Flanders and, together with all the other riders, he has worked hard to prove his place on the team here. With Oscar Gatto having proved he’s got what it takes to be there late in the day with Peter, the Tinkoff line-up is ready for action.

“From the start on, depending on the wind situation it can be fast and a bigger group can go up the road so we will need to pay attention there. When you look at the classics so far, there are still some of the big teams that are missing a big win and we can expect them to try and dictate the race. As always at Flanders it’s a tough race, but for Peter’s chances we hope that it’s hard and man against man at the end.”

With so many important and key parts of the race it is easier to pick out places where the race is likely not to be decided rather than where it could be. Last year’s decisive move came after the Kruisberg but any of the climbs in the final 50km could see the winning move go clear if it hasn’t already.

Peter’s consistency has been unrelenting so far this season, with podium places at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Tirreno-Adriatico and E3 Harelbeke, followed by a huge win at Gent – Wevelgem. This gives both himself and the team confidence heading into Sunday’s race, one of the most historic in the racing calendar.

Hoffman continued, saying: “The race is often decided on the Kwaremont and the Paterberg but you need to be well positioned ahead of every difficulty and to be ready for anything on this course. The weather is looking good at the moment so that should make things a bit easier to manage, but you need some good luck in the classics and we hope to avoid any crashes or mechanical problems. Then at the end it’s up to Peter having the legs that can make the difference.”

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Team LottoNL-Jumbo Ready for Flanders
Sep Vanmarcke is confidently looking forward to the Tour of Flanders this Sunday in Belgium after his second place in Gent-Wevelgem. The Belgian will lead Team LottoNL-Jumbo in the race of his dreams and be supported by a mix of experience hands and talented youngsters.

“Sep Vanmarcke is our front man and the other seven riders need to help him,” Sports Director Nico Verhoeven said. “Some of them have to make sure that they make it into the final of the race so that they can support him as long as possible.” The final probably starts near the same point as last year because “the final 60 kilometers will be the same. From the second time up the Oude Kwaremont climb, the final starts. The race is tough before that point, as well, but no one will go full gas in that part of the race. You have to be focussed in those kilometers, though, because you can easily lose the race there.”

One of the favorites
Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s front man agrees that the Oude Kwaremont will be the first important point in the race. “After that point, we will ride a loop with all the famous climbs,” Vanmarcke added. “That’s very hard and you need to be in position all the time.”

After Gent-Wevelgem, the Belgian’s status chanced a bit. “Suddenly, I’m one of the big favorites. I wasn’t before this weekend, but it doesn’t change anything in my mind. I’ve been working for these weeks and I showed last weekend that I’m good.”

Challenge
Vanmarcke will be supported by experienced cyclists Maarten Wynants, Maarten Tjallingii, Robert Wagner, Tom Van Asbroeck and Bram Tankink, and Flanders rookies Mike Teunissen and Timo Roosen.

“Those guys proved to be strong,” Verhoeven said. “They will participate in this race for the first time so they don’t know what is waiting for them. That makes it a big challenge, but I have the feeling that the whole team is ready for it.”

Line-up:
Sep Vanmarcke, Maarten Wynants, Maarten Tjallingii, Bram Tankink, Timo Roosen, Mike Teunissen, Robert Wagner and Tom van Asbroeck.
Sports director: Nico Verhoeven and Jan Boven.

Sep Vanmarcke:
Gent - Wevelgem 2016

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Direct Energie team for Flanders
Riders:
Ryan Anderson, Romain Cardis, Sylvain Chavanel, Antoine Duchesne, Yohann Gene, Julien Morice, Adrien Petit and Alexandre Pichot.
Directeurs Sportifs: Dominique Arnould, Lylian Lebreton.

Antoine Duchesne:
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IAM Cycling opportunistic in Tour of Flanders
THE APPEAL: “We are starting this to do well and aim for the top-10,” Rik Verbrugghe, sports manager for IAM Cycling, explained. “We cannot only be satisfied with a good place. I have asked the guys to be present, on the offensive and opportunistic throughout the day. We have strong riders who can compete with the best and can even play for the win.”

THE QUOTE: “I admit it, even if it’s a bit late, but we made a mistake at Gent-Wevelgem,” commented Heinrich Haussler while at home honing his form in preparation for Flanders. Back to his best as his 7th place at Milan-San Remo proves, the Australian puncheur for the Swiss professional team is dreaming of victory bouquets. “My sensations are good. We have a great team. Everything has been designed to allow us to shine for this second monument of the season.”

THE EXPLANATION: With the support of his directeurs sportifs Thierry Marichal and Eddy Seigneur for the race, Rik Verbrugghe enthused about “De Ronde” whose list of winners includes only the names of great champions. “The beauty of this race is in the concentration of climbs and cobbled sections. It is essential to conserve your energies before throwing all your strength into the finale where the slightest moment of inattention can cost you everything.”

THE CHALLENGER: Dries Devenyns, winner of the GP La Marseillaise this year, and 11th at the GP E3 has been rehearsing for the Tour of Flanders. He, along with Martin Elmiger and Heinrich Haussler, would like to offer Michel Thétaz, CEO of IAM (manager of the IAMFUNDS.CH investment firm), the team’s first victory in a classic on the World Tour calendar.

THE MEMORY: April 5, 2015, when Martin Elmiger took an excellent 10th place, not without regret, in the race that was won convincingly by Alexander Kristoff. Dries Devenyns (21st) and Heinrich Haussler (26th) were also able to join the top-30 for that race.

THE WEATHER: After the gusty winds and rains that accompanied Gent-Wevelgem, the weather should be more forgiving for this “holy week” highlight for the cycling fans in Belgium. The meteorologists have forecasted sun and 19 degrees Celsius for the day.

THE NUMBER: 264. In kilometers, that is the distance of this 100th edition where the riders will also face no fewer than 18 bergs and will cover seven cobbled sections.

Coureurs:
Dries Devenyns (Bel), Martin Elmiger (S), Heinrich Haussler (Aus), Reto Hollenstein (S), Roger Kluge (All), Oliver Naesen (Bel), Aleksejs Saramotins (Let), Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor).
Manager général: Michel Thétaz. Manager sportif: Rik Verbrugghe. Directeur sportif: Thierry Marichal, Eddy Seigneur.

Dries Devenyns:
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Wanty-Groupe Gobert to Tour of Flanders
This Sunday Wanty-Groupe Gobert lines up for the Tour of Flanders. What was supposed to be the pinnacle of the Flemish Spring Classics for the team has become a day with a dark cloud following Antoine Demoitié’s death.

“It was a very hard week. The preparations for the Ronde didn’t go as planned, unfortunately. This Wednesday we did a long training together and I think it was good for the guys. After that I spoke with some riders individually as well because some of them have not only lost their teammate Antoine but also their friend Daan Myngheer,” sports director Hilaire Van Der Schueren explains.

“It was the right decision not to ride in De Panne and the races in France this weekend. But on Sunday we race. The only thing we can do for Antoine and also for Daan is get a result to make them proud.”

Kévin Van Melsen was part of the day’s breakaway in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and Dwars door Vlaanderen. He has only one thing on his mind in the Ronde.

“It is not easy to think about racing but now I know for sure that I will be able to say goodbye to Antoine on Monday (instead of the initially planned Sunday), I am twice as motivated for Sunday’s race. I want to be part of the breakaway with Antoine on my mind. I want him to be proud of me and proud of us up there.”

Team captain Marco Marcato already got some good results in the Spring Classics. During the weekend of E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem he was Antoine’s roommate. Despite everything the Italian feels ready for the Ronde.

“I went home to prepare for this race which was the best thing for me to do. The Ronde is one of the biggest races on the calendar and certainly one of the best. My preparation wasn’t optimal but I feel strong enough to fight with the best. I will try my best like I always do and then we’ll see.”

Team:
Marco Marcato (ITA), Jérôme Baugnies (BEL), Dimitri Claeys (BEL), Björn Thurau (GER), Tom Devriendt (BEL), Frederik Backaert (BEL), Kévin Van Melsen (BEL), Kenny Dehaes (BEL).
Sports directors: Hilaire Van Der Schueren / Steven De Neef.

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Preview: Ronde van Vlaanderen
Edvald Boasson Hagen leads Dimension Data for Qhubeka at Ronde van Vlaanderen
This weekend marks a significant date on the cycling calendar as the 100th edition of the Ronde van Vlaanderen is set to take place on Sunday, 3rd April. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka will be part of this piece of cycling history when our African team lines up at the start in Brugge.

For many, the Ronde van Vlaanderen is the pinnacle of the Spring Classic’s season and for Belgian cycling fans, it certainly is the pinnacle of the sport. With over 100 years of tradition, the Ronde has become one of the most sought after victories in cycling and images from the race can be found posted on many a young cycling fans bedroom wall.

Once again, the parcours which includes the fabled Hellingen climbs and cobbled roads of Oudenaarde have set the stage for another classic. Oude-Kwaremont, Paterberg, Koppenberg and Taaienberg are just a few of the 18 hellingen which will be completed during this year’s 256km Tour of Flanders.

Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka will start the Ronde after a strong performance at last week’s Gent-Wevelgem, with a similar team making up our roster as that in Gent-Wevelgem. Edvald Boasson Hagen will headline our squad with Tyler Farrar, Nic Dougall, Reinardt Janse van Rensburg, Jay Thomson, Matt Brammeier, Mark Renshaw and Bernhard Eisel completing our 8-man team.

All the strongest classic’s riders in the world will be present on Sunday, hoping to add this cycling monument’s title to their palmares. Our African Team look forward to being strong contenders come the finish in Oudenaarde on Sunday afternoon.

Jean Pierre Heynderickx – Sport Director
Sunday is one of the big goals for the team. The Tour Flanders is a big race so we hope Edvald will be on that same high level he has been at during the beginning of the year and at Sanremo. He had a cold after Sanremo so he wasn’t quite on his top level at Gent-Wevelgem, but now a week a later, he should be at that high level again. Our team will ride in order to prepare Edvald for the final.

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Tinkoff leads UCI WorldTour rankings, highlighting hard work and consistency so far in 2016
This weekend was not only a successful one for Tinkoff with results on the road, including a maiden win as UCI World Champion for Peter Sagan and a second place overall at the Volta a Catalunya for Alberto Contador. The team also moved onto the top step of the podium in the UCI WorldTour rankings. Further to this, Peter and Alberto also sit first and third overall in the individual rankings, highlighting their consistency so far this season.

The UCI WorldTour rankings are based on results in the races ranked as WorldTour in the UCI calendar, arguably the biggest and best races on the international calendar. To lead the rankings, results are needed in depth rather than just through one leader in a selection of races – results that are a just reward for the hard work and dedication put in by the team in the build up to this season and over the opening months of the race calendar.

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Peter Sagan winning Gent – Wevelgem, his first win as UCI World Champion.

“Compared to last year we have definitely had a good start to the season, with two strong leaders in Peter and Alberto scoring well on two fronts,” explained Sport Director Steven De Jongh, returning from the week-long Catalunya race. “Of course the team’s strategy is to support these riders in their respective target races, but it is a nice demonstration that the teamwork is paying off.

“We had a really good winter, coming together first to build bonds and work on the base, before moving to more specific camps and separate altitude camps with Alberto and Peter, together with other guys. We also spent time working on some changes in the race program and this has started to pay off. So it’s a real bonus to the results we’ve been achieving, and it shows the momentum we have as a team now.”

The team started to gather points right from the start of the season, with the first win going to young Jay McCarthy, claiming stage 2 of the Tour Down Under, before finishing fourth overall. Although not a WorldTour race, the results kept coming at the Ruta del Sol with Daniele Bennati and Oscar Gatto winning stages, as Rafal Majka and Roman Kreuziger finished third and fifth overall respectively.

Peter Sagan was consistently passing close to victory, with several top four finishes at Tirreno-Adriatico, eventually taking second overall. This provided the springboard for a strong start to his classics campaign with second place at E3 Harelbeke before a big win at Gent – Wevelgem.

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Alberto Contador took his first win of 2016 at the Volta ao Algarve.

Alberto Contador’s campaign has also been a consistent one, getting his arms in the air early on the final stage of the Volta ao Algarve before starting to score WorldTour points at Paris-Nice and the Volta a Catalunya. Alberto finished second overall in both, with second places on stages and strong showings throughout. Little separates the Tinkoff leader and his first big victory of 2016.

“It’s a well-earned reward for all the hard work that everyone has put in, not only the riders on and off the bike but also all of the staff behind the scenes that make the whole team work. There’s still a long way to go, but hopefully we can continue and still be ranked highly come the end of the season.”

Other strong results of note include young Erik Baška’s win at the Handzame Classic, a fifth place overall for Jesper Hansen at the Tour de Langkawi, as well as strong domestique rides across the board. Next up on the WorldTour calendar for the team is this Sunday’s Ronde van Vlaanderen and Vuelta al Pais Vasco.

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Giro del Trentino Melinda live on TV and Looking Cross Borders
In the year of its 40th anniversary, the #GdTM will be broadcast live, and sends a message to the territorial neighbors: “We are thinking of the Euregio Tour”. Eighteen teams at the start: Nibali the main favorite, with Mikel Landa and Romain Bardet among top oppenents.

The greatest thing of successful events is making the best of their years of history without ever being affected by them. Giro del Trentino Melinda certainly went a long way from the one-day first edition run in Trento in 1963, won by Enzo Moser, up to the last two years of Australian domination, with Cadel Evans (2014) and Richie Porte (2015) going back to back. And still, the GS Alto Garda’s race presents an even fresher face at the official presentation of its 40th edition, held in Trento, at the Cassa Centrale delle Casse Rurali Trentine, on Tuesday March 29th.

The 40th Giro del Trentino Melinda will be the first without Nerino Ioppi, the long-time secretary of GS Alto Garda, and among the founders of the race along with his wife, Lina, and Guido Amistadi, and who was awarded the “Ciclismo Vita Mia Award” in memoriam on the day. Even after that blow, Giro del Trentino Melinda did not stop, but accelerated: a new image, a new website (live from today, www.girodeltrentino.com) and a new management to revitalize a winning formula: “A mix of passion for cycling and the mountains that light it up, an amazing territory like Trentino, organizational quality and deep cooperation at every level,” recalled GS Alto Garda President Giacomo Santini.

Giro del Trentino Melinda becomes even more international in 2016, as no less than 18 team from four different Continents will reach Trentino from April 19th to 22nd, and gets strengthened by the arrival of new strategic partners: after joining forces with the Melinda Consortium from the 2015 edition, and along with the support by the Province of Trento, several important local organization like Casse Rurali Trentine, Phoenix Informatica Bancaria, Coop Trentino, Monti Trentini will run along Giro del Trentino Melinda, as well as established technical companies like Selle Italia and Giessegi.

After Giro del Trentino Melinda will visit Austria for the eighth time in its history, cycling might put together Trentino, Alto Adige and Tirol on a permanent base in a foreseeable future. The idea was launched by Trentino’s Sports Assessor Tiziano Mellarini: “To seal our territories’ vicinity and cooperation, we could create a new Euregio Tour, that should follow the steps of Giro del Trentino Melinda to grow even bigger and create greater opportunities for everybody involved.” And President Santini did not back down: “We are thinking about it”.

THE STAGES
According to tradition, Giro del Trentino Melinda will start on Tuesday, April 19th with the “Garda Trentino Opening”, a team time trial from Riva del Garda to Torbole. It will be a 12,1 km speed effort, with a few technical corner to handle carefully before relaunching the pace.

Under the coordination of local tourism office Ingarda, the #GdTM finalized a multi-year deal with the Garda Trentino municipalities. In fact, on Wednesday April 20th, the race will restart from Arco to move across the border to Austria after three years, with an unseen finish in Anras, Tirol, after 220 km, the last four of which on a demanding uphill: for the Austrian fans, it will be a tasty preview to the 2018 World Championships in Innsbruck. The stage also remarks the very valuable cooperation between Giro del Trentino Melinda and Osttirol.

On Thursday, April 21st, Sillian will open the high-mountain 3rd stage of Giro del Trentino Melinda, finishing in Mezzolombardo after 204,5 km and two long and tough climbs: Nova Ponente and, above all, Fai della Paganella, peaking with about 15 km to go: it will be a stage for strong climbers with sound descending skills.

Completing the program will be the roads of the former Trofeo Melinda, that once again will proclaim the winner in this 40th edition with the 160,9 km 4th stage from Malè to Cles. Compared to the classic circuit, providing very few breathers to the riders, the addition of a new climb could really make a big difference in the race’s economy. It’s the Forcella di Brez, a 6 km ascent almost constantly beyond the 9% gradient, with peaks up to 20%. It will be a very severe test, and one that will keep everybody breathless until the final kilometers of the Giro del Trentino Melinda.

THE TOP RIDERS AT THE START
Eighteen teams will take part in the 40th Giro del Trentino Melinda: three World Tour (Ag2R-La Mondiale, Astana and Team Sky), eight Pro Continental (Androni-Sidermec, Bardiani-CSF, Bora-Argon 18, Caja Rural-Seguros RGA, Drapac, Gazprom-Rusvelo, Nippo-Fantini, Southeast-Venezuela), five Continental (SkyDive Dubai, Tirol, Amore&Vita-SMP, Norda-MG KVis and D’Amico-Bottecchia) and two national teams, Italy and Brazil.

He already won it twice, he would not regret making it three: Vincenzo Nibali will arguably be the top favorite of the 40th Giro del Trentino Melinda. The 31-year-old from Sicily will have the opportunity to tie Damiano Cunego for the most overall wins in Trentino, but there’s more than that. As a matter of fact, every of Vincenzo Nibali’s grand tour successes have been preceded by a title won in Trentino – either at Giro del Trentino (2013) or Trofeo Melinda (2009 and 2014, the latter valid as Italian National Championship): in what he hopes to be a rebound year, Nibali’s fate could pass by Trentino again.

But the Astana’s Italian won’t be the only big name going for the title. In Trentino, Nibali will meet who is poised to be his greatest rival for the Giro d’Italia: his former teammate Mikel Landa, third at the Corsa Rosa last year and second at Giro del Trentino Melinda. Now sporting the Team Sky colors, the Spaniard is looking the claim the highest step of the podium.

Nor can the AG2R-La Mondiale leaders be overlooked: Domenico Pozzovivo already has a #GdTM trophy on his shelf, and always gives his best on the Trentino climbs, and will be joined by Jean-Christophe Peraud and Romain Bardet, who once again chose to put Trentino in his program to later aim for Liege.

The strong field of outsiders features last year’s green jersey Rodolfo Torres, Stefano Pirazzi, Coppi e Bartali winner Sergey Firsanov, three-time overall winner Damiano Cunego, Brit Hugh Carthy and Aussie Brendan Canty.

Worth mentioning are also two absolute novelties: the debut of a team from the Arab Emirates, Skydive Dubai, guided by Italian Sports Director Alberto Volpi and led by Ivan Santaromita, who in 2013 won a Giro del Trentino stage and the Tricolore jersey at Trofeo Melinda.

Also up for a long journey is the Brazilian National Team, eager to test itself in Trentino in the view of the Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic Games: no overall ambitions, but plenty of determination to shine and surprise.

#GDTM LIVE ON TV
2016 brings more good news for the cycling fans. Thanks to the support of Lega del Ciclismo Professionistico, guided by President Enzo Ghigo, the Giro del Trentino Melinda will be covered live on TV. The race will be aired live for 1.30 hour a day on Italian Raisport and eight more broadcasters (Eleven Sports, Bike Channel UK, TV2, Fox Sports, L’Equipe 21, ESPN, Laola and EBU) that will bring the Giro del Trentino Melinda action all over the World.

The final moment of 40th Giro del Trentino Melinda’s official presentation with the winner’s trophy designed by Mastro 7:
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Young Nairo Quintana
A great little video by Movistar on the school life of Nairo Quintana in Colombia:

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And it goes on!
This happened in the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde on Monday, has no one learnt anything?


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