What's Cool In Road Cycling
Abu Dhabi - UAE - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Scenery pictured during the 1st UAE Tour (2.UWT) - stage-2 from Yas Island to Abu Dhabi Big Flag (184KM) - photo Dario Belingheri/RB/Cor Vos © 2019

EUROTRASH News Round Up Thursday!

The riders are still in the sun and sand of the UAE Tour, but they will be in Belgium at the weekend. All the results from the Arab Emirates with reports and video. Extra Tour WildCard? – Top Story. We also have team annoucements for Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, and AG2R-La Mondiale to Drôme and Ardèche. Race news from Paris-Nice 2019 and Tour de France 2021, CCC with UNICEF, Tour de Yorkshire art collection and Victor Campenaerts to go for the UCI Hour Record. Lots to get through in EUROTRASH Thursday.

TOP STORY: Jérôme Pineau Wants an Extra Tour WildCard
The WildCards for the Tour de France are very scarce, and there are many contenders for the four extra places in the French Grand Tour. Jérôme Pineau, team boss of Vital Concept-B & B Hotels, suggests there should be an extra WildCard and, of course, he wants it.

In January the Tour organizers, ASO, announced that Cofidis and Wanty-Gobert would be on the start line in Brussels on the 6th of July 2019. This only leaves two places and a long queue of team who want to ride. The most obvious are the French teams; Direct Energy, Arkéa-Samsic and Vital Concept-B & B Hotels, but one of them will be disappointed.

Vital Concept was missing last year and for a French team it is the most important race of the season. Pineau said to l’Equipe: “Not participating would be a big shock for the team.” Of those three, Vital Concept-B & B Hotels looks to have the least to offer. Direct Energie has Niki Terpstra, Rein Taaramäe and a good handful of French riders. Arkéa-Samsic has the German sprinter André Greipel, maybe past his best, but can still top ten, they can also rely on Warren Barguil in the mountains. Vital Concept-B & B Hotels has… Bryan Coquard and some good young riders.

There is one problem, the rules don’t allow for another team unless the UCI gives permission for it. One of the reasons given for reducing Tour teams to eight was for riders safety and, at the time, there were promises of not having more teams with less riders. But this is the Tour de France and ASO, so….

The UCI is busy at the moment changing the rules on throwing bottle away during races. The fines now are 200CHF (€176 or $200) to 500CHF (€440 or $501) and even up to 1000CHF (€880 or $1003).

Bryan Coquard winning stage 1 of the Etoile de Besseges 2019:

UAE Tour 2019
On Monday UAE Team Emirates banked the first stage win of its home tour after sprinter Fernando Gaviria out-powered his rivals in an action packed bunch sprint finish to take a well earned victory in Abu Dhabi. The Colombian got the better of Elia Viviani (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) and Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal), plus some of the best sprinters in the World.

Stage 2 of the UAE Tour was a pan flat affair taking the peloton out of Abu Dhabi’s Yas Mall before looping back in to the city centre to wrap up a 184km route at the Big Flag on the Corniche. A breakaway formed early on and was allowed to stretch its lead to the six minute mark before slowly being reeled back in with 14kms to go – UAE Team Emirates’ Vegard Stake Laengen doing a big turn on the front to ensure that Gaviria was pulled into a prime position for the decisive part of the race.

With 10kms to go the teams started vying for position and the lead-out trains began to find their sprinters. At the 4km mark UAE Team Emirates decided it was time to come to the front of the pack, Alexander Kristoff carefully guiding Fernando Gaviria through the bunch and keeping him safe as the peloton began to surge.

200m before the finish line, the road curved to the left and Gaviria saw his opportunity to put the hammer down – exploding past his lead out man Kristoff. He timed his acceleration to perfection and held off his closest rival, Elia Viviani, to cross the line in first place.

Stage winner, Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates): “It was a very difficult sprint because there are a lot of strong riders here for sprinting. But my teammates did a really good job, notably in the crosswinds when the peloton split. At the end, I got a perfect lead-out from Kristoff. It’s very important for us to win here as a team. The UAE is my new home. This is an important victory, not only for myself but also for my team and all our sponsors. This is a home win. I got a perfect lead out to sprint in optimal conditions. Before Alexander Kristoff, the whole team did a great job all day. I started sprinting with 200 meters to go. I have the legs for more victories before the end of the UAE Tour.”

Overall leader, Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma): “It was quite a windy stage. We had some echelons, but I was in first group, thanks to the help of my teammates, then everything came back together. I’ve learned from my experience at the Tour de France that I cannot miss the first echelons. I expect a lot of riders to attack me tomorrow. The UAE Tour is my first race after a training camp so I still can’t say how my legs will be tomorrow. We showed our strength but we still have to take it day by day. I’ve never ridden tomorrow’s final climb but I’ll give everything.”

5th on the stage, Erik Baska (Bora-Hansgrohe): “Today we worked for Sam [Bennett]. We had planned to bring him into a good position in the finishing straight, but a number of strong sprinters were mixing it up in the finale, and it became very hectic. In the end, our tactics didn’t go according to plan and so we have to make do with fifth and sixth place.”

UAE Tour Stage 2 Result:
1. Fernando Gaviria (Col) UAE Team Emirates in 4:36:32
2. Elia Viviani (Ita) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
3. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Lotto Soudal
4. Kristoffer Halvorsen (Nor) Sky
5. Erik Baska (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
6. Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe
7. Sacha Modolo (Ita) EF Education First
8. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin
9. Marc Sarreau (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
10. Jakub Mareczko (Ita) CCC.

UAE Tour Overall After Stage 2:
1. Primoz Roglic (Slo) Jumbo-Visma in 4:53:21
2. Jos van Emden (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
3. Laurens De Plus (Bel) Jumbo-Visma
4. Koen Bouwman (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
5. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Sunweb at 0:06
6. Maximilian Walscheid (Ger) Sunweb at 0:07
7. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Sunweb
8. Nikias Arndt (Ger) Sunweb
9. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida at 0:09
10. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain-Merida.

Stage 2:

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) won Stage 3 of the UAE Tour on Tuesday and moved into 2nd place overall. The World Champion won the race to Jebel Hafeet, just like he did last year, by taking the sprint ahead of Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) and David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ). Roglič kept his overall lead with 14 seconds over Valverde.

Once again the riders of Team Novo Nordisk and Gazprom-RusVelo made the break of the day. The leading group of the day consisted entirely of riders of the two WildCard teams, just like Monday. This time it was Fabio Calabria and Charles Planet on behalf of the Americans and Igor Boev and Stepan Kurianov on behalf of the Russians. Three of the four were in the escape group of the second stage 2, Calabria was the new man.

In the finalè, after the leading group had been caught, the climb to Jebel Hafeet awaited the GC men. As riders were going out the back, Patrick Bevin (CCC) and Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) attacked on the 10.8km climb. Robert Power (Sunweb) crossed to the two but the three couldn’t stay away.

Louis Meintjes, Richie Porte and Vincenzo Nibali lost hold of the General Classification group. After Laurens De Plus had done his work for Primoz Roglic, the Slovenian attacked. Daniel Martin (UAE Team Emirates) and David Gaudu were the only ones who could follow at first. Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) joined them and then on the steepest stretch, Gaudu and Roglic put in their move.
Alejandro Valverde came back to the front. The winner of the same stage in 2018 chased with 2.5km to go. In the final sprint Valverde was the fastest. Behind Valverde and Roglic, Gaudu took third place. Roglic continues to lead the overall classification, with 14 seconds ahead of the Spanish world champion.

Stage winner and 2nd overall, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar): “I wanted to get this first victory so badly. I knew that it would be hard because of the strong field racing here, but I felt well and, above all, measured my efforts well. There was so much wind, more than what’s normal here, and I knew that those who launched their attacks too early could pay in the end. That’s why I knew Roglic’s initial acceleration was a bit too early. You had to be really cautious, remain inside the group and jump closer to the finish, not earlier than the spot where I went for it last year. I waited for that straight, just next to the climb’s hotel, and I went on full steam to catch Daniel Martin. I caught some air and then I went for the rest. I knew Roglic was so strong, and even if I was confident about my chances, felt well during the climb, even better with the attack – I didn’t really know after all if I could make it back to them. If they weren’t cooperating so well, then I stood a chance – and that’s what happened. It’s incredible, I’m so proud to be able to take this first victory in the rainbow jersey, even more so in a WorldTour race like the UAE Tour, against big competitors. And it is mainly because of my team, because they worked so hard during the last three days. This victory is also a tribute to my uncle Diego, who passed away a few days ago – I always held him dear and I hope that, wherever he is, this means something big to him. For the time being, we’ve already got a victory, we’ve fulfilled a big goal here. The GC? It’s difficult. If we end up having a chance, great; if not, it’s not such a big deal. Of course we’ll fight for it, but we must tackle things one day at a time, starting with tomorrow’s uphill finish.”

2nd on the stage and overall leader, Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma): “It’s true that I’ve tried to win the stage as well as defending the jersey. It was my first time here so I didn’t know the finish but most importantly we’ve shown today with the guys that we are a super strong team. It’s easy to say after the stage that I would have raced differently, had I known the climb like Alejandro [Valverde] did but eventually, he was the strongest anyway and he deserves the victory. We have a strong team to defend the jersey. Wa have to stay focused like we did up to now and at the end of the UAE Tour we’ll be happy.”

5th on the stage and 6th overall, Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates): “We wanted to try and win every stage this week as it’s our home tour, but I couldn’t have given any more. It’s not what I wanted, but I am still happy with my performance. My guys did an incredible job for me and it showed the real spirit of the team. Fernando won yesterday and then he’s riding in the wind for us today, which proves that we are all here together and trying to get the best results possible. As for the General Classification, there are still a few complicated stages to go – especially with the wind – so we are going to take it day by day.”

4th on the stage, Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe): “Today I felt like I was in good form. The team brought me into a good position at the base of the climb. The tempo on the ascent was very high, and after Roglic launched an attack, I was able to bridge the gap to him. In the end, I crossed the finish line in fourth place, and now sit in fourth position in the overall standings. We have two hard stages ahead of us yet, however the team that we have here is very strong.”

UAE Tour Stage 3 Result:
1. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar in 4:44:50
2. Primoz Roglic (Slo) Jumbo-Visma
3. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
4. Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe at 0:04
5. Daniel Martin (Ire) UAE Team Emirates at 0:12
6. Davide Formolo (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe at 0:33
7. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin
8. James Knox (GB) Deceuninck – Quick-Step at 0:35
9. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
10. Jan Hirt (Cze) Astana.

UAE Tour Overall After Stage 3:
1. Primoz Roglic (Slo) Jumbo-Visma in 9:38:05
2. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 0:14
3. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ at 0:31
4. Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe at 0:39
5. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Sunweb at 0:47
6. Daniel Martin (Ire) UAE Team Emirates at 0:54
7. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Sunweb at 0:57
8. Victor de la Parte (Spa) CCC at 1:05
9. James Knox (GB) Deceuninck – Quick-Step at 1:07
10. Davide Formolo (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe at 1:08.

Stage 3:

Caleb Ewan took his first official victory for Lotto Soudal on Stage 4 of the UAE Tour on Wednesday! The stage finished on the short but steep Hatta Dam and the Australian launched an impressive sprint to take the win ahead of Italian Moschetti (Trek-Segafredo) and race leader Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma).

Early in the race, six riders escaped the peloton and took a maximum advantage of around 8 minutes before Jumbo-Visma started to chase for the overall leader, Roglič. After a relatively quiet first part of the race, crosswinds caused the peloton to split in different groups. However, it all came back together later. With around 50 kilometers of racing left, the GC teams tried to drop some of the sprinters in the lumpy run-in to the finish but they did not succeed in their attempt as an almost intact peloton that headed for the Hatta Dam. A crash in the finalé marred the sprint preparation, but Caleb Ewan managed to avoid the danger as he reached the foot of the final climb in a perfect position. The Australian Lotto Soudal rider timed his uphill sprint to perfection and beat the Italian Moschetti and Slovenian Roglič to take the glory, his first UCI victory in a Lotto Soudal shirt. Roglic finished 3rd at 2 seconds, but gained 7 seconds overall on second placed Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and all the other GC riders.

Stage winner, Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal): “I knew coming into this stage with all the fast sprinters in this race, today would be my best chance for my first win of the year because of the uphill finish. My team did well protecting me today. It was a pretty tough stage even before the climb. I was where I had to be in the last right hand turn. I started my sprint when I needed to. Luckily I managed to hold on. It’s a relief. It’s always hard to get the first win of the year. Hopefully there’ll be more for the rest of the season. My advantage over the other sprinters today is that their weight is about 80kg and I’m only 67, so my power-to-weight ratio is better for such a climb at 17%. I knew I had to start the climb no further than fifth or sixth position. Kristoff started and once I found the right gear I could pass him. Before that, when the last crash happened, I was already at the front. Today’s win is a good sign ahead of Milan-Sanremo which is my main goal of the first part of the year.”

3rd on the stage and overall leader, Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma): “It’s always better to gain some time in a stage like this than lose some time. Once again, I made it thanks to my team who protected me really well before the uphill finish. That’s how I avoided the crash because I was always at the front. I just heard the noise behind me. It was my first time here. You can watch videos but it’s only once you hit this wall that you realize how hard it is. I felt the heat today but I was always well protected from the wind by my teammates. Caleb Ewan was the strongest today. He won easily. I just wanted to go as fast as possible to the finish. Every day can be decisive, so I’ll work on keeping the jersey with the team tomorrow before I make plans for Friday’s uphill finish”

7th on the stage, Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates): “We had planned to work for Gaviria but the crash changed our strategy and I was given permission to go for the sprint. The final steep section was too short for my characteristics. I was good but I’m not explosive enough for that climb. I entered the last corner in 10th and managed to pass some riders but it wasn’t enough for the win.”

Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) was forced to abandon after being involved in a crash. The Belgian, who finished a fine 15th on the race’s first mountain top finish – Jebel Hafeet – crashed on his right side with 85 kilometers left of Wednesday’s stage 4 to Hatta Dam and suffered abrasions on his elbow, under arm, hip and fingers, but fortunately there were no fractures, or signs of concussion. He will now spend a couple of days recuperating and it is hoped he can start training by the weekend and his program for the next weeks should not be in danger. “I am of course upset and a little bit scared about what happened, as it was my first World Tour race and this is not how I wanted it to end. But apart from some soreness, I’m ok and nothing is broken, which is a relief. I hope to heal fast and return as soon as possible to the pack”.

UAE Tour Stage 4 Result:
1. Caleb Ewan (Aus) Lotto Soudal in 4:27:07
2. Matteo Moschetti (Ita) Trek-Segafredo at 0:02
3. Primoz Roglic (Slo) Jumbo-Visma
4. Quentin Jauregui (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 0:05
5. Luka Mezgec (Slo) Mitchelton-Scott
6. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Sunweb
7. Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
8. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar
9. Marco Haller (Aus) Katusha-Alpecin
10. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo.

UAE Tour Overall After Stage 4:
1. Primoz Roglic (Slo) Jumbo-Visma in 14:05:10
2. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 0:21
3. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ at 0:38
4. Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe at 0:46
5. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Sunweb at 0:54
6. Daniel Martin (Ire) UAE Team Emirates at 1:01
7. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Sunweb at 1:04
8. Victor de la Parte (Spa) CCC at 1:12
9. James Knox (GB) Deceuninck – Quick-Step at 1:14
10. Davide Formolo (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe at 1:15.

Stage 4:

Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne 2019
This weekend sees the pro peloton move north for the first of the one-day Classics of 2019. Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne are races for hard riders, and give us a pointer to who will be winning the big Classics like Flanders and Roubaix.

See the full PEZ Preview of the weekend HERE.

More team news added as we receive it. So check back before Saturday.

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
Marc Reef – Team Sunweb coach: “We have Michael as our leader in the opener of the Flemish Spring Classic season at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad this weekend. We expect him to play a role in the final of the race, with the final support of both Casper and Søren, who showed his great shape this last week in the Algarve. Michael will take the experience of last year with him, where unfortunately a crash took him out of the race after being in the first group leading up towards the Muur. Both Jan and Asbjørn make their debut for the team and it will also be the first time the Kragh Andersen brothers ride together for Team Sunweb, so it will be a special weekend for them.”

Asbjørn Kragh Andersen (DEN), Søren Kragh Andersen (DEN), Jan Bakelants (BEL), Roy Curvers (NED), Michael Matthews (AUS), Casper Pedersen (DEN), Martijn Tusveld (NED).

Michael Matthews:

Motivated TBM Arrives to the Belgian Classics Openers
Here comes the Belgian opening and exciting weekend in Vlaanderen where Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling Team is looking forward to compete again at the seasons’ first and fantastic classic style of racing. Tristan Hoffman, sports director of the Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling Team, noted that this race may be a good rehearsal for the whole 2018 classic season, but also with big ambitions of our team.

Omploop Het Nieuwsblad is a race with lots of climbs in Vlaanderen, a very fast start with alert of a bigger groups and we will concentrate on Sonny Colbrelli, Matej Mohorič and Dylan Teuns who will get protection and any time from Ivan Cortina, Grega Bole and Kristijan Koren and also be ready for breakaway jumps. It is always very important to start the climbs and cobbles in a good position and be ready for the last two and famous climbs which are the old parts of the old Tour of Vlaanderen, the Geraardsbergen and Bosberg climbs at the last 18 and 15 km to the finish line. We all believe that we have all rights to expect good results from our riders, who are prepared very good, they are in good shape and healthy. Permanent and good positioning of the team is important and we will fight for it and watch out for Sonny and give all we can for his final solo. On both races, the big fights will be before the climbs and cobblestones.

Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne is a similar race as Het Neuwsblad with Oude Kwaremont, the key point at 115 km as a crucial climb. There are lot of splits to be expected, but at the end there might be again a bigger group for the finish. Sonny Colbrelli will again be our leader with Ivan Cortina as our co-leader at this race as he has strong legs for such a sprint.

Sonny Colbrelli, who is feeling great after a stage victory at Tour of Oman is always the ideal choice for classic races like these are. He proved it in the last two seasons. Sonny feels really comfortable at Belgium Classics and it will be easier for him with a huge support of his Belgian fans.

It is really nice to announce that Matej Mohorič will do all the cobblestones classics, so after the last years’ victory at the Binck Bank Tour, it is the first time for him to be back in Belgium and we are all excited to see him there and see him get hopefully very far at these races.

We are coming to Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne with a stronger, very motivated and more experienced team.

All of TBM lineup have been racing in Belgium last seasons and some before and we are looking forward to see them on the track again and we all hope that we are ready for the great opening weekend in Belgium.

Dylan Teuns, will have his Belgian debut in TBM jersey on the Het Nieuwsblad race and Valerio Agnoli will replace him for the Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne race on Sunday.

Valerio Agnoli / Kristijan Koren / Sonny Colbrelli / Matej Mohorič / Dylan Teuns / Ivan Cortina / Grega Bole / Luka Pibernik

Van Avermaet Looking to Repeat Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Success as Classics Season Gets Underway
Greg Van Avermaet will look to continue his strong start to the season with a good result at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the UCI WorldTour race which officially marks the start of the Classics season.

Van Avermaet, who took the race honors in 2016 and 2017, will have an experienced team behind him Sports Director Valerio Piva said: “Of course, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is an important race for CCC Team as it is the first Classic of the season. We know that Greg is in good shape and is motivated to start the Classics well but there are a lot of riders who can win on Saturday. We will do everything we can to put him in a good position and see how the race plays out.

“Greg will be supported more or less by the same riders who joined him at the Tour of Oman, with the exception of Fransisco Ventoso who replaces Kamil Gradek. We have the local experience from our Belgian riders; Gijs Van Hoecke, Nathan Van Hooydonck, and Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, all of whom train on these roads every day. Michael Schär, who is a valuable road caption, and Łukasz Wiśniowski, who was second at the 2018 edition, complete the squad. We left Oman very happy with the teamwork throughout the week so we are looking forward to seeing these riders race together on the cobbles for the first time this year.”

With a stage win in Valencia and a few near misses in Oman, Greg Van Avermaet is confident ahead of the Classics opener. “I am feeling really good ahead of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and am excited to start the Classics season. During the winter and early season races, this is what I am always thinking about so it is nice to have the first race here. I think my shape is exactly where it needs to be and I was really impressed by my teammates in Valencia and Oman which was a good sign for the Classics. Although this will be the first cobbled race for us, half of us train together every day in Belgium so we are comfortable as a team.

“The Classics season is long and it’s important to maintain good shape right through to April, which isn’t always easy, but it would be really special to get a good result for CCC Team at opening weekend, so this is definitely the goal.”

Van Avermaet will forgo Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, where the riders will have more of an open role, Piva explained.

“Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne is more of a sprinters’ Classic so we have made the decision that Greg won’t race and instead the other riders will have an opportunity to go for a result. Paweł Bernas, Kamil Gradek and Josef Černy will line up on Sunday to replace Greg, Michael, and Łukasz, so between the seven riders, we have good options for all race scenarios.

“As we have seen in recent years, it can be difficult to avoid a bunch sprint at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne so we will aim to race aggressively and be part of a small group that goes to the line.”

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (2 March)
Rider Roster:

Michael Schär (SUI), Greg Van Avermaet (BEL), Gijs Van Hoecke (BEL), Nathan Van Hooydonck (BEL), Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (BEL), Fransisco Ventoso (ESP), Łukasz Wiśniowski (POL).
Sports Directors: Valerio Piva (ITA), Fabio Baldato (ITA).

Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne (3 March)
Rider Roster:

Paweł Bernas (POL), Josef Černy (CZE), Kamil Gradek (POL), Gijs Van Hoecke (BEL), Nathan Van Hooydonck (BEL), Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (BEL), Fransisco Ventoso (ESP).
Sports Directors: Valerio Piva (ITA).

Van Avermaet training on the Muur:

Homogeneous Wanty-Gobert Heads for Belgian Opening Weekend
With the Omloop het Nieuwsblad (1.WT) and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne (1.HC), the Belgian cycling season will kick off this weekend. On Wednesday Wanty-Gobert Cycling Team explored the last 130 kilometers of the Belgian opening classics.

For our first UCI WorldTour race of the season sports directors Hilaire Van der Schueren and Steven De Neef count on Frederik Backaert, Jérôme Baugnies, Aimé De Gendt, Tom Devriendt, Wesley Kreder, Xandro Meurisse and Loïc Vliegen. For Meurisse the Omloop means his debut in the race. Timothy Dupont, Ludwig De Winter, Andrea Pasqualon, Boris Vallée and Pieter Vanspeybrouck will join the team for Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on Sunday.

Hilaire Van der Schueren (sports director): “I think we have a very homogeneous team taking on this weekend, without a real leader. Loïc Vliegen is not yet in top shape. It was our intention for Loïc to be our leader, but he struggled a little bit over the past few weeks and is still bearing the consequences. He will start Omloop in order to grow further in the preseason. But in terms of team depth we should be able to score.”

“It is our intention to certainly send someone in the breakaway. Jérôme Baugnies is one of the those riders who could do that. If he has a good day he could play a role deep into the final. He already showed that in Liège-Bastogne-Liège last year.”

“Frederik Backaert had a difficult start into the season. But I see him improving from day to day and he is also very hungry for the Omloop. Tom Devriendt gave a good impression on the recon and our newcomer Aimé De Gendt rode a very consistent preseason.”

“On Sunday they predict bad weather for Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, but I count on Timothy Dupont in the sprint. Last year he already rode top 10. Maybe our fast Italian Andrea Pasqualon could surprise in Kuurne.”

Frederik Backaert: “I expect the race to really start on the Katteberg. Before that it is mainly broad road towards Oudenaarde. From the Katteberg I expect the race to never slow down no more. After that, there are actually no more recuperation sections in the race. The slopes and cobblestones succeed one another at a high pace.”

“There are a number of places where we could anticipate. Anticipating also seems to be the best motto for our team on Saturday. In the final I do not expect that many riders will remain in the front.”

“My shape is improving. In Tour de la Provence I suffered hard. But in Volta Algarve I already felt a lot better, especially uphill. On the recon I felt that my condition is good. I kinda like these weather conditions. If I can still recuperate for two more days, I should be fully fit and competitive for the Omloop.”

Omloop het Nieuwsblad (1.WT):
Frederik Backaert, Jérôme Baugnies, Aimé De Gendt, Tom Devriendt, Wesley Kreder, Xandro Meurisse, Loïc Vliegen

Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne (1.HC):
Tom Devriendt, Ludwig De Winter, Timothy Dupont, Wesley Kreder, Andrea Pasqualon, Boris Vallée, Pieter Vanspeybrouck

Benoot and Wellens about the Omloop
The Flemish Spring Classics start this Saturday 2 March. The Belgian opening weekend, with the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne once again promises to be really exciting. The 74th edition of the Omloop will be 200 kilometres long, this year with a new finish in the city centre of Ninove. Tim Wellens and Tiesj Benoot, the two Lotto Soudal leaders for Saturday, look ahead.

Tim Wellens: “I can look back on an excellent Ruta del Sol, topped off with two stage wins. My legs felt really good and that feeling won’t change much in one week time. Because of that, the confidence towards the Classics – for me starting with the Omloop – is great. Contrary to last year, I want to save some energy going into the finale. I will try to wait as long as possible to attack. Of course, choosing the right moment is always difficult in the Flemish races, as each climb can be decisive. Besides, I read that there is going to be a tailwind during the finale, which could play a role as well. Maybe it will cause the race to be more open.”

“The preparation is over now. The races which I am aiming for – the Omloop, Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico and the Walloon Classics – are right behind the corner. This is my second time participating in the Omloop and this year, I will be leading the team together with Tiesj Benoot. I consider Greg Van Avermaet – who may win for the third time – as the biggest favourite on Saturday. I also reckon that Michael Matthews will be amongst the possible winners, although his name has not been mentioned a lot so far. The Omloop marks his first race of the season, but he will certainly be in good shape.”

Tiesj Benoot: “Wednesday evening, I arrived in Belgium after an altitude training in the Sierra Nevada with Jens Keukeleire. I feel very good and I look forward to the first Belgian races. Feeling great on training is always nice, but it is still something else to put that in practice. The tailwind will constitute a major difference compared to last year. This will be an advantage for the offensive riders, including myself. I think we have a really strong team in general. We can go for the victory in the Omloop with these seven riders.”

“The competition will be tough, because everyone is very eager to begin the spring season. There will be a lot of candidates for the victory. We all had a different preparation, so it is hard to evaluate the opponents. In December, we have done a recon of the course and we also tested the equipment. Soon, we will brush up on everything together and go through it profoundly. An additional recon wasn’t really necessary. I also know the surroundings very well. The Muur van Geraardsbergen is undoubtedly a crucial climb on the course. Also the Molenberg will be an important point in the race. I think the finale could start early this year. My other goals are every upcoming one-day race and Tirreno-Adriatico as well. If I can take a win in one of those race, my spring campaign would be successful.”

Line-up Omloop Het Nieuwsblad:
Tiesj Benoot, Jasper De Buyst, Frederik Frison, Jens Keukeleire, Nikolas Maes, Brian van Goethem and Tim Wellens.

Line-up Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne:
Tiesj Benoot, Jasper De Buyst, Stan Dewulf, Nikolas Maes, Rémy Mertz, Lawrence Naesen and Brian van Goethem.

Tim Wellens:

AG2R-La Mondiale to the First Classics
Stijn Vandenbergh has not missed an Omloop Het Nieuwsblad since 2008. The Belgian giant (1m99) will be starting the race for the twelfth time this year. “My best memory is from the 2013 edition where I took 2nd place,” he said.

Oliver Naesen: “All my winter preparation has gone well. And I am very satisfied with the form that I had during my first two races of the season (Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and Tour of Oman). Since the beginning of the week, Silvan Dillier and Gediminas Bagdonas have been with me in Belgium. They came directly after Oman. This has allowed us to ride together and in particular to reconnoiter the important passages of E3 and Dwars door Vlaanderen. These days none of us get to spend much time at home, so I really appreciate their willingness to come here a few days early ahead of the opening of the classics season. Everyone is ready to go, and it will pay dividends. Personally, I would love to win a real classic. I am calm and focused now that this period is beginning.”

A Warrior’s Weekend Awaits as UAE Team Emirates head to Belgium for the Early Season Classics
For cycling traditionalists, this weekend signals the start of the racing season proper as the WorldTour teams head to the north of Europe to brave the ‘Northern Classics’ – a series of hard fought races played out on exposed roads, steep hills and cobbled lanes in front of passionate fans who come out in their thousands to cheer on the peloton as it passes through the towns and villages of Belgium and the Netherlands.

The first two of the 2019 calendar are Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (2nd March) and Kuurne Brussel Kuurne (3rd March), where UAE Team Emirates will send a seven man squad consisting of Jasper Philipsen, the young Belgium talent who has already taken a stage in the Tour Down Under this season, Swiss time trialist Tom Bohli, Norwegian strongman, Sven Erik Bystrom, the experienced Italian duo of Marco Marcato and Roberto Ferrari, along with Columbian sprinter Juan Sebastian Molano and Australian Super Domestique, Rory Sutherland.

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad features a 199.8km route from Gent to Ninove with 13 agonising climbs along the way- three of which are cobbled and seven have cobbled sections. The final run to the line are reminiscent of previous Tour of Flanders races with the two final ascents taking place on the cobbled Muur van Geraardsbergen and Bosberg before a flat and fast 12km into Ninove.

Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne is another 200km one day spectacle that leaves the town of Kuurne and loops back via the outskirts of Brussels. It takes in 12 Flemish ‘hellingen’ (climbs) before culminating with a flat run in to the line, setting the race up perfectly for a sprint finish to be contested by the toughest of the fast men in the pack.

Jasper Philipsen Said: “I can’t wait to get to this weekend to open the season of Belgian races. I have always liked this period since I fought in the youth ranks, so it’s easy to imagine the enthusiasm I have now wearing a WorldTour jersey. It’s hard to think of a personal goal, above all in these types of races, but I can assure you I’ll be working hard and open to learning everything that these races offer. Every section of the race will help me gain experience that will be useful for me in the future when I fight for the big goals”.

The team will be guided across both races by Sports Directors Simone Pedrazzini and Allan Peiper.

The Belgian Pilgrimage Begins
The opening weekend of the Spring Classics is upon us as we start racing the Belgian cobbles at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Cobbles biting at tires slowly drain most of the peloton of its energy. Riders, sports directors and mechanics tick off each cobble sector and climb as it passes. They are all attentively listening to the race radio, poised and alert, ready to help any of their riders with mechanicals, punctures or crashes.

There will be many. The cobbles are far less forgiving than the roads we race on during the rest of the season.

The Spring Classics require equipment adjustments, a fair bit of luck and a huge uptick in resources from a professional cycling team.

“I think on paper we currently have 21 bikes ready and 55 or 56 wheel sets, which is ridiculous, right?” says EF Education First sport director Andreas Klier says ahead of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the official spring season opener.

We enlist locals, who have become friends, to disperse throughout the route with the spare equipment.

Despite the added challenges and drama that come with these races, the Classics are heartily embraced. With them come mud, beer and the glorious enthusiasm that Belgians bring to bike races. Omloop Het Nieuwsblad lifts the country out of its winter slumber, signaling the build-up to two of the biggest one-day races on the calendar: Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

“These races are a big party for the spectators,” Klier explains. “It’s like the World Championships and the Olympic Games from now until Paris-Roubaix.”

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad not only marks the start of the Classics season, it’s also the first European WorldTour race of the year. The race begins in Ghent, as it did last year. The 199.8km course weaves through the Flandrien countryside over seven cobble sectors and 13 climbs, known to the Flandriens as ‘bergs’. A 12km flat section will lead the peloton down into the finish at Ninove after the cobbles and hills have wrung them out to dry.

The infamous cobbled climb of the Muur de Geraardsbergen, with ramps up to 20 percent, followed shortly after by the Bosberg, serve as the finale. Expect attacks to come thick and fast.

“The tactics are you can’t really have tactics in this type of race!” says Sep Vanmarcke. “Basically in all these Classics the first half of the race is to mainly make the riders a bit tired and then from half-way the hills and the cobbles start, as do the attacks.

Vanmarcke is a seasoned Classics racer. The Belgian won Omloop het Nieuswblad in 2012 and has finished third in the spring season opener for the last two seasons (2017-2018). A born and bred Flandrien, Vanmarcke currently lives in Anzegem, only 40 kilometers from the start of Saturday’s race.

“Anything can happen,” says Vanmarcke. “It’s so nervous that people crash a lot. You need to fight a lot for your position, and I need to be with my teammates and trust that they will bring me to the right position. Then in the final it’s man-to-man and it’s just very different and hard to choose the tactic.”

After winning the opening stage of Tour du Haut Var this year, Vanmarcke goes into the Classics’ season with renewed self-belief.

“This win gives me a lot of confidence, you just think ‘Okay, I am in good shape.’ whereas other years you think ‘Am I good enough?’ and now I know I should be good enough,” Vanmarcke says.

A win like this means a lot to Vanmarcke, who over previous years has felt the pressure that naturally comes with being Belgian, leading the team at the biggest one-day races on the calendar and following in the footsteps of cycling’s greats. He admits that there have been times when this pressure has been too much for him, and he’s struggled. His recent win has sparked a response that counter-balances that sense of stress.

“Every Belgian rider wants to be on this top level. But also I’ve started to feel it over the last few days when I’m training or in the supermarket, to feel people are awake again because the Classics are coming. People are super happy I won that stage and on my training days, they’ve been stopping their cars to shout ‘Congratulations’, ‘Good job’, ‘Keep going’ and ‘Good luck this weekend,’” Vanmarcke says, trying to convey just how much the momentum is beginning to build.

“If you are Belgian and you sit at breakfast and open the local newspapers you can read the pressure,” Klier laughs.

Thousands of people make the pilgrimage to this sacred cycling ground to celebrate the men and women who tackle these fabled roads. Riders are expected to maintain peak form for six weeks, from opening weekend until mid-April when the Spring Classics come to a close with Paris-Roubaix.

“It’s not always easy to find an even balance, to be in the best ever shape now but then to keep that form up to Flanders, Roubaix it’s not easy,” Klier explains. “Sep has been training with the intention of building his form to peak around Flanders and Paris-Roubaix as opposed to previous years coming into this opening weekend in peak form and then trying to hold it all the way through.”

“The team asked me this year just to focus from E3 Harelbeke through to Paris-Roubaix,” notes Vanmarcke.

It’s a shift for Vanmarcke from previous years, and there’s also a bit of a shift in the team. Vanmarcke isn’t the only one coming in with a win. The team has garnered five victories in the first eight week of the year.

“All the riders just love racing at the moment,” Klier says. “There is the fun factor on top of the motivation. I saw a lot of smiling faces when I looked around at the training camp. I hope we’re also going to have smiling faces on Saturday or Sunday.”

EF Education First for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad:
Sep Vanmarcke, Sebastian Langeveld, Tom Scully, Matti Breschel, Taylor Phinney, Alex Howes, Mitch Docker.

Sep Vanmarcke won stage 1 of the Tour de Haut Var:

Opening Weekend: Lineup
The first weekend of March will, in the cycling world, be known as Opening Weekend. Opening Weekend marks the “opening” of the Spring Classics season, with the UCI World Tour Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday and the UCI 1.HC Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on Sunday.

Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka will be lining up with the defending Omloop champion, Michael Valgren, on Saturday and he will have a strong team around him.

The beautiful European weather we have been experiencing up until now is also set to take a turn just in time for Opening Weekend. So, with the expected rain and wind, the 200km routes of both Saturday & Sunday are set to provide the stage for some epic classics racing.

Our riders to watch
Michael Valgren
– The defending champion of a Spring Classic will always be a marked man, but in the end, it is often the legs that decide who is the strongest on the tough Belgian roads.

Edvald Boasson Hagen – With an early win under his belt this season and qualities made for the Spring Classic’s, “Eddy the Boss” will be give us a double-edged Vikings sword going into Opening Weekend.

“It is great to be heading into opening weekend as the defending champion of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Having the number 1 race bib will be special and it will bring back some good memories from last year, but now this weekend is also a new race. I know I have done the work and prepared well for this year’s classics season. It’s so difficult to win any of these classics but we are going to try and getting off to a good start this weekend will be great, for me and our team.”Michael Valgren.

Key Moments
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
– The final 2 climbs will be in the minds of every rider wanting to win on Saturday, Muur-Kapelmuur and the Bosberg.

Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne – More than the parcours, the elements are what could decide which riders are in contention for the race victory and which are not.

Women’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
Hans Timmermans – Team Sunweb coach: “We’re looking forward to the opener of the Classics season this weekend at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad with our Women’s program. We’ve had a good preparation period on training camp and our first race in Valencia was another good step for us, so we’re feeling confident that we can compete for a top result. Floortje showed good shape in Spain and this will be her first real test in Belgium. We also have a former winner with Lucinda who is motivated to start her season here and Coryn, who was strong on the climbs in Spain and is also a card to play if it comes to a sprint.”

Lucinda Brand (NED), Janneke Ensing (NED), Juliette Labous (FRA), Floortje Mackaij (NED), Coryn Rivera (USA), Julia Soek (NED).

Coryn Rivera:

Mitchelton-SCOTT Women Ready for a Strong Start to their Classics Campaign at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
Mitchelton-SCOTT women begin racing in Europe this weekend in Belgium and after an incredible start to the season Down Under, the team are hoping to continue their successful run into Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday and Omloop van het Hageland on Sunday.

With the one-day Belgium classics a big focus for the Australian outfit, these first two races are important to get back into the swing of things in the nervous, chaotic classic style races.

The team line-up boast strength and depth with world TT champion Annemiek van Vleuten making her return to racing after injury, plus multiple riders who have already picked up wins this season – Australian TT and TDU stage winner Grace Brown, SunTour winner Lucy Kennedy and New Zealand TT champion Georgia Williams.

The Courses
Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is the main classic race of the weekend, 123km in length, starting in Gent and finishing in Ninove with 10climbs to take in including the famous Molenberg and the Muur. There’s also long stretches of cobble sections such as the 2.3km Paddestraat and 800m Rutterstraat, where good positioning as always will be crucial.

Sunday’s one-day race is another chance for the riders to test the legs in a Belgium classic. The race begins with an opening 57km loop before six finish laps of 15.4km which contains a short but steep climb and narrow roads that usually act as a launch pad for the race winning move, if it doesn’t all return back together for a bunch sprint which has happened in the past.

The Competition
As the first Classic race of the 2019 season and the first race in Europe for many riders, the competition will be fierce with all the top teams and many big named riders taking to the start line. Last year’s winner Christine Siggard (Team Virtu) is on the start list, and the team expect a very anxious bunch.

The Past
The team has won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad two times before with former riders Loes Gungewijk in the team’s first European race back in 2012 and with Tiffany Cromwell in 2013. The squad has never managed to get things right for Omloop van het Hageland, with the best result being second place back in 2014 with former rider Emma Johansson.

Sarah Roy: “We are excited to continue on from our strong summer in Australia. We’ve done a lot of work since then so with the momentum and some new form in all of us, we will be lining up strong and ready for aggressive racing over both days of the opening weekend. Bring on some cobble action!”

Annemiek van Vleuten: “I have never missed one time Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, I have raced every edition since 2008 onwards. So it will be my 11th time and I am excited to go and support my teammates.

“For me personally being back in the bunch and doing my job for the team will be the most important thing and a success for me and to feel that my shape is coming back.

“It is a good opportunity for me to help my teammates, I don’t have or feel any pressure from the team so it is a good opportunity to race for the team, they all raced so hard for me last year so it is nice to give something back to them. They had an awesome Australian summer so I am excited to see how they will be at this race.”

Martin Vestby – Sport Director: “It is finally the start of the cobble classics and the season in Europea, I think it is going to be exciting with new teams on the start line and riders changing teams. I think this gives the races some new dynamics and can benefit us as a team as well.

“We are starting with a really good team, the girls have been training well and if we can continue the momentum from Australian then it looks pretty good. I think our strength is we have more riders now who can win the races and so we have more cards to play. This will be our strength going into these first races and then we can see how the races develop and who is having a good day or not.

“It is also really cool to see Annemiek coming back from her injury very quickly and a lot sooner than expected, she’s been training really well so I am sure she can support the team very well. She’s not coming to the race to get a result for herself but more to see how she stands with the racing so we are looking forward to the classics now.”

Saturday, 2nd March: Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, 123km.
Sunday, 3rd March: Omloop van het Hageland, 132km.
Mitchelton-SCOTT team:

Jessica Allen – (AUS 25), Grace Brown – (26), Gracie Elvin – (AUS 30), Lucy Kennedy (AUS 30) * Hageland only, Sarah Roy – (AUS 33), Annemiek van Vleuten – (NED 36) * Nieuwsblad only, Georgia Williams – (NZL 25).

Sarah Roy:
Royal Leamington Spa - England - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Roy Sarah (Australia / Mitchelton Scott) pictured during Women’s Tour of Great Britain stage- 3 from Atherstone to Royal Leamington Spa - photo Anton Vos/Cor Vos © 2018

AG2R-La Mondiale to Boucles Drôme Ardèche
Romain Bardet has won each of these two races before. He won the Ardèche Classic in 2018 and the Drôme Classic in 2014, which was the first edition. Samuel Dumoulin won the Drôme Classic in 2015.

Alexis Vuillermoz: “These are two great races. The Ardèche Classic is a fantastic race that suits me well, and where I hope to be very present in the front. And I always love to start the Drôme Classic because it is a physically difficult event. It’s not really in my register because it is a little flatter, but it gives me the chance to advance my form a lot. In fact, by racing this event last year, I was able to improve my condition, which helped me get a very good overall placing at Paris-Nice (8th). It was a race that was very difficult and helped me gain the strength and power I needed for Paris-Nice. I am satisfied with my return to racing at the Tour du Haut Var (4th overall). With Romain, we tried our luck, and the result was encouraging.”

Paris-Nice 2019: The Big Moves
This is the start of the season for everyone. Whether they are a sprinter, rouleur, climber or team mate, the serious business gets underway with Paris-Nice, the first WorldTour stage race of the year contested on European soil. For this race that sparks the conversations among the prognosticators, the roles seem straight forward where it will be the sprinters in the spotlight for the first day of action in the affluent Parisian suburb of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. And even though a similar scenario will be expected the following day in Bellegarde and then the day after that in Moulins, there will not be enough flower bouquets to go around for all the world-class sprinters that will line up at the start. In addition to Arnaud Démare, Dylan Groenewegen, John Degenkolb, Michael Matthews, Sam Bennett, Sonny Colbrelli, André Greipel and Alexander Kristoff who have all enjoyed success on Paris-Nice, the aforementioned sprint finals have peaked the interest of Mark Cavendish, who will make his debut in the race as will Caleb Ewan, and French riders Christophe Laporte and Bryan Coquard who will all pose a serious threat in these sprints. Only the strongest among them will be concerned about the finish at Pélussin whose surroundings could inspire attackers at the half-distance point of the race but also create a first selection among the favorites. Whoever is the big winner in this series of races, these riders will have a small chance to battle again at Brignoles if they manage to spoil the illusions of the breakaway specialists, but more surely, they will battle again a few days later in San Remo. And an entirely different strategy will take over after the Barbentane individual time-trial.

If Paris-Nice had to be raced in a national team format, Columbia would have the strongest line-up with six of its ten representatives on the provisional entry list from Nairo Quintana, to Esteban Chaves, Miguel Ángel López, Egan Bernal, Sergio Henao and Rigoberto Urán all are credible candidates for the overall victory. They will not necessarily be the fastest on the 25km time-trial on the outskirts of Avignon, where Richie Porte, Michal Kwiatkowski and Bob Jungels should feel right at home. However, they will be expected to star on the marquee stage, and its mountain finish on the Col de Turini, where it will be a nearly 15km long battle royal among the climbers that will include defending Paris-Nice champion Marc Soler, as well as Simon Yates, Romain Bardet, Domenico Pozzovivo, Ilnur Zakarin, Pierre Rolland, Warren Barguil or Lilian Calmejane. It will be when they reach the summit that they will know if they still have a chance for the win at the conclusion of the Nice stage on Sunday. Every one of them knows it is going to be a nail biter!

Key points:
From this coming 10 to 17 March, edition 77 of Paris-Nice will kick-off the major European stage race season. Sticking to tradition from the Yvelines Department to the French Riviera, the opening stages promise high-intensity sprints with a battle of generations between Mark Cavendish, Caleb Ewan, André Greipel and Alexander Kristoff.
Ø Excluding an unforeseen surprise, the decisive stages begin on day six, with a 25-kilometer time trial, followed by a weekend reserved for the climbers. The battle to come on top on the Col de Turini pass will be between a Columbian armada, led most notably by Nairo Quintana as well as Egan Bernal, and Richie Porte, Simon Yates, defending Paris-Nice champion Marc Soler and Romain Bardet.

23 teams, the main participants (as of 26/02):

Michelton-Scott: Chaves (Col), S.Yates (Gbr), Trentin (Ita)

Bahrain-Merida: Pozzovivo, Colbrelli (Ita), Teuns (Bel)

Deuceninck – Quick-Step: Jungels (Lux), Gilbert (Bel), Jakobsen (Nld)
Lotto-Soudal: Ewan (Aus), De Gendt (Bel)

AG2R La Mondiale: Bardet, Gallopin (Fra), Naesen (Bel)
Groupama-FDJ: Démare, Molard (Fra)
Cofidis, Solutions Crédits: Laporte, Edet (Fra)
Direct Energie: Calmejane (Fra), Terpstra (Nld)
Team Arkea-Samsic: Barguil (Fra), Greipel (Deu)
Delko Marseille Provence: Navardauskas, Siskevicius (Ltu)
Vital Concept-B&B Hotels: Rolland, Coquard, Gautier, Vichot (Fra)

Team Sunweb: Matthews (Aus), Kelderman (Nld)
Bora-Hansgrohe: S.Bennett (Irl), Grossschartner (Aut)

Great Britain
Team Sky: Bernal (Col), Kwiatkowski (Pol)

Astana Pro Team: Lopez (Col), I.Izagirre, G.Izagirre, LL.Sánchez (Esp), Cort Nielsen (Dnk)

Team Jumbo-Visma: Groenewegen (Nld), G.Bennett (Nzl)

CCC Team: De Marchi (Ita), Ten Dam (Nld)

South Africa
Team Dimension Data: Cavendish (Gbr), Boasson Hagen (Nor)

Movistar Team: Soler (Esp), Quintana, Anacona (Col)

Team Katusha Alpecin: Zakarin (Rus)

United Arab Emirates
UAE Team Emirates: Henao (Col), Kristoff (Nor)

Trek-Segafredo: Porte (Aus), Degenkolb (Ger), Pantano (Col)
EF Education First: Urán, Martínez (Col), Van Garderen (Usa)

2D ride video of 2019 Paris-Nice:

Grand Départ 2021: To Jump on the Saddle in Copenhagen
Copenhagen is home to more bicycles than people. The city that has integrated cycling into its daily life better than any other place in the world is a natural fit for the biggest cycling race on Earth. The Tour de France will head to Denmark in 2021 for the northernmost Grand Départ yet. A time trial through the heart of the Danish capital will kick off the race’s Nordic adventure. The next stage will give riders and viewers alike the opportunity to discover the island of Zealand and take the 18 km Great Belt Bridge that will take them to Nyborg on the island of Funen. The visit to Denmark will come to an end on the Jutland peninsula on the mainland with a sprinter-friendly romp between Vejle and Sønderborg. A generation of riders such as Michael Valgren, Søren Kragh Andersen, Mads Pedersen and Magnus Cort Nielsen will fight for their chance on home turf.

Danish stages of the 2021 Tour de France:
Stage 1: Copenhagen (ITT), 13 km
Stage 2: Roskilde > Nyborg, 190 km
Stage 3: Vejle > Sønderborg, 170 km

Lars Løkke Rasmussen – Prime minister of Denmark: “I am both very happy and very proud that the Tour de France is coming to Denmark. Denmark is one of the greatest cycling nations in the world, so to be able to welcome the best bike riders in the world and host the world’s most iconic cycling race is an honor and a privilege. The Danes are more than ready to host one of the greatest sporting events in the world. I really look forward to the summer of 2021.”

Franck Jensen – Lord Mayor of Copenhagen: “It is a tremendous honor for Copenhagen to host the Grand Départ of the Tour de France in 2021: the best cycling city in the world welcomes the greatest cycling race in the world. The Grand Départ in 2021 will be the biggest sport event in Denmark ever. We will use this unique opportunity to celebrate the Tour de France and our unique bicycle culture with the rest of the world.”

Christian Prudhomme – Director of Tour de France: “The Tour de France is the biggest cycling race on Earth, but we still have much to learn! The Danes set an outstanding example by making bicycles their leading means of transport in urban areas. In Copenhagen, we will meet fans who acclaim the champions of world cycling. The energy that supporters and curious locals will channel to riders, followers and viewers of the Tour will most assuredly be a great source of inspiration to succeed in our greatest challenge: seeing the future on a bike.”

Key points:
Denmark will become the tenth country to host the Grand Départ of the Tour de France in 2021. The first three stages of the 108th edition of the race will take place in Copenhagen and the southern part of the country.

Ø A hundred years after the inaugural edition of the (amateur) World Cycling Championships and a decade after hosting the Worlds for the sixth time, the Danish capital and most bicycle-friendly city in the world will set the scene for the most famous cycling race on Earth.

CCC Team Will Ride for More with UNICEF to Make a Bigger Difference with Every Kilometer
During a press conference held in the CCC Group headquarters in Warsaw, the “CCC TEAM FOR UNICEF” partnership, formally established in November 2018, was officially inaugurated. With this new announcement, the CCC Group will be the first Polish company to become a UNICEF global partner. The partnership will run for four years, and CCC’s support will help children around the world reach their full potential, through education and other holistic programs.

As part of the partnership, CCC Team riders will proudly display the UNICEF logo on the front of the CCC Team jersey and “CCC Team rides for more with UNICEF” on the back.

“The CCC S.A. Group’s involvement in cooperation with UNICEF naturally fits into our sustainable development strategy. CCC has been supporting the people most at in need for years, and a partnership with a global organization, such as UNICEF, perfectly corresponds with the dynamic and international development of the company. As a footwear company, we are already one of the European leaders, but this year my other dream is being fulfilled – CCC Team is the first Polish cycling team to compete at the prestigious UCI WorldTour level. I’m really keeping my fingers crossed for the successes of our riders who will bike to get something more than fame and titles in races around the world. Thanks to the “CCC TEAM FOR UNICEF” partnership, they will be additionally motivated by how UNICEF is driving change for children every day, across the globe,” said Dariusz Miłek, President of the Management Board of CCC S.A.

If each kilometer cycled by CCC Team riders in races and in training would be converted to USD 1 this would illustrate how the partnership could help children reach their full potential: For example, USD 1 could be equivalent to six days of a child’s education in developing countries.

As a sign of solidarity with the partnership, CCC Team riders and staff will also wear cyan blue “CCC Team for UNICEF” wristbands.

“We are proud that the CCC Group has decided to become a partner of UNICEF and get involved in helping children around the world. The cooperation with CCC Team is unique because it is the first sports partnership with a cycling group in the history of UNICEF. If we converted the number of kilometers cycled by the CCC Team cyclists during the Tour de France, it would be equal to USD 27,680 as the support for UNICEF. Thanks to such funds, the organization could provide school backpacks, textbooks and one year of education for 800 children. We are extremely delighted that the CCC Group’s support will help drive real change for children all around the world, where, and when it is needed the most. Thank you very much for your commitment! I am convinced that together we will be able to help thousands of children,” said Marek Krupiński, Executive Director of UNICEF Poland.

It is an honor to represent UNICEF on the international cycling stage, CCC Team General Manager Jim Ochowicz said. “We are proud to represent UNICEF at the WorldTour level. It is incredibly humbling to support a global charity of UNICEF’s calibre and raise awareness of their work, both through partnership activations and by displaying the UNICEF logo on our jerseys and team vehicles throughout the season. We look forward to supporting UNICEF and doing our part to help improve the lives of children around the world,” said Ochowicz.

Every racing and training kilometer recorded by CCC Team riders from March 9, 2019 onwards, when CCC Team takes to the start line of Strade Bianche, will be uploaded to rider profiles on the Endomondo application and fans will be encouraged to track the team’s progress.

UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Find more information at unicef.pl. UNICEF does not promote any company, brand, product nor service.

Mackenzie Thorpe’s 2019 Tour de Yorkshire Art Collection Unveiled
Four stunning pieces of art have been unveiled by world-renowned Yorkshire artist Mackenzie Thorpe to celebrate the 2019 Tour de Yorkshire.

Mackenzie, who hails from Middlesbrough, is one of the biggest-selling British artists of the last 30 years. He was confirmed as the official Tour de Yorkshire artist for 2019 when the full route for the fifth edition – which takes place between 2-5 May – was announced in December.

Famed for his atmospheric and poignant creations, Mackenzie’s work is true to his working-class roots and packed with emotional expression which speaks of hope, love, struggle and challenge – values which align perfectly with the spirit of the Tour de Yorkshire.

The four works, entitled Yorkshire Coast, Over Moor and Dale, Riding with Grandad and The Boy Without a Bike, have been exclusively revealed today at Arthaus Gallery in Richmond, North Yorkshire which was established by Mackenzie in 1989.

Speaking at the launch of the artworks, Mackenzie Thorpe said: “I’m absolutely thrilled and honored to be the official artist for the Tour de Yorkshire. For me the whole county is a never-ending inspiration; the dramatic skies, the dales and the moors are like nowhere I have ever been.

“When I was thinking about the images, I knew I wanted to create a collection which also reflected the broader impact the race has on people. So, alongside images of peak fitness cyclists speeding through our glorious hills, dales and coast, there is (for instance) ‘Riding with Grandad’ which shows a child in a Yorkshire town, learning to ride a bicycle, aided by their grandfather. Or ‘The Boy Without a Bike’; a lone child standing watching the racers speed past and dreaming of the day that he too might ride like the wind on a bicycle all of his own. This is what the race is all about for me, who couldn’t fail to be moved by the sheer spectacle and impact the race has on anyone who comes into contact with it.”

Sir Gary Verity DL, Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire said: “Mackenzie has a global following. As well as the UK, his work adorns galleries throughout America, Japan and Australia, and celebrity collectors include HM Queen Elizabeth II, JK Rowling, and Tom Hardy. This new and stunning collection will promote the beauty of Yorkshire and the spirit of the Tour de Yorkshire to a massive audience.”

Yorkshire has been a major inspiration for Mackenzie’s art over the last 30 years and he has described his inspiration behind each of the Tour de Yorkshire official pieces. With a short poem also accompanying each artwork.

Yorkshire Coast

“The sheer beauty of our Yorkshire coastline takes my breath away and the light is like nowhere else I have ever been. Whenever I put down on paper that mix of cliff, sea and sky, a wash of pride and nostalgia sweeps over me; I just had to include a piece which captured some of this splendor as a backdrop to the race.”

Hotter than the sun in summer
along the coast
sky and sea merge
The race is on!

Over Moor and Dale

“I really do think of the moors and dales as God’s Own Country, such is the beauty of its dramatic landscape. How lucky we are to have this on our doorstep; the vast lushness of the rolling green hills of the dales, and then to the east the gorgeous lilac heather of the moors, so amazing the color can be seen from the moon (apparently!).”

They ride against the sky
down into the vale
through a land of so much beauty
and like a steam train
they pass us by.

Riding with Grandad

“Families, friends and whole communities come together to watch and enjoy the Tour de Yorkshire, and inspired by the excitement and spectacle, somewhere a child will be learning to ride, guided by a parent or grandparent. Wherever you are it’s the same, there is that point where the supporting hand has to let go and the child is off on their own.”

With his hand on my shoulder
and a word in my ear
I felt no fear
as his hand slipped away.

The Boy Without a Bike

“We want all our children to have their dreams realized. Somewhere there is this child
and I love the fact that through the race, his dreams may just come true.”

In my dreams
I ride
Faster than light
Quicker than the wind
Over hill and dale.

Mackenzie Thorpe’s official website can be found at www.mackenziethorpe.com

Victor Campenaerts to Take On the UCI Hour Record Timed by Tissot
The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) is delighted to announce that Belgian rider Victor Campenaerts, of UCI WorldTeam Lotto Soudal, will attempt to set a new UCI Hour Record timed by Tissot on 16 or 17 April this year at the Velodromo Bicentenario in Aguascalientes, Mexico.
Campenaerts is aiming to beat the 54.526 kilometers covered by Great Britain’s Bradley Wiggins at the Lee Valley VeloPark in London (UK) on 7 June 2015.

The 27-year-old Flemish rider has established himself as one of the world’s leading specialists in timed events. A bronze medallist in the Men Elite individual time trial – behind Rohan Dennis (AUS) and Tom Dumoulin (NED) – at the 2018 UCI Road World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria, Campenaerts won back-to-back European titles in the event in 2017 and 2018.

Following the 2018 Worlds, the reigning Belgian champion completed an encouraging trial run at the Vélodrome Suisse in Granges and then travelled to Namibia for two months of altitude training. Campenaerts is due to ride at the Tirreno-Adriatico (13-19 March), a UCI WorldTour event comprising a team time trial on the opening day and an individual time trial on the last. The Lotto Soudal rider will then make the trip to Mexico, three weeks before his record attempt, for which his team is partnering with Golazo – specialist in sports marketing and organizer of hundredths of sports events in Europe – who will bring their expertise and the funding to bear in helping to set the event up.

An indoor arena situated 1,800 meters above sea level, the Velodromo Bicentenario has hosted several previous attempts, the most recent of them coming last year, when Martin Toft Madsen (Denmark) and Dion Beukeboom (Netherlands) took on the men’s record and Italy’s Vittoria Bussi set the existing women’s world best of 48.007 km. Aguascalientes also hosted major events on the UCI International Track Cycling Calendar, including several rounds of the UCI Track World Cup and the 2014 UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships.

Discussing his attempt, Victor Campenaerts said: “The world hour record is a unique part of cycling and beating the record would be a way for me to write a little piece of cycling history. In our sport, we are battling for victories but – contrary to for example swimming or athletics – there is no hour record culture, except in this specific event.”

“I respect Bradley Wiggins – the current owner of the world hour record – a lot and I do not consider myself as a better athlete than the former Tour de France winner and five-time Olympic champion. However, by making progress and taking into account every possible detail, I hope to have a chance to take over the hour record. Personally, the world hour record, the world time trial title and the Olympic time trial title are the three dreams I want to pursue the coming years, starting with the world hour record.”

“I am currently on a training camp in Namibia, where I am able to prepare for the world hour record attempt in the best possible conditions. I am very happy that the attempt can take place, that my team Lotto Soudal gave me the chance to take on this project and I want to thank Bob Verbeeck from Golazo for making this possible.”

UCI President David Lappartient said: “I am delighted to see that the UCI Hour Record timed by Tissot continues to generate so much enthusiasm among riders, even if Bradley Wiggins raised the bar very high. Victor is a superb specialist who showed what he is capable of by climbing on to the podium at the last UCI Road World Championships. I cannot wait to see how he fares in Mexico in April, knowing the part that altitude can play in outstanding performances.”

The UCI Hour Record timed by Tissot has attracted fresh interest among riders since the regulations were updated in 2014 to permit the use of the latest pursuit bikes. Since then a total of ten men and six women have attempted to make history in the fabled event.

The PEZ INSTAGRAM Take a look at our Instagram page for a live feed and giveaways straight from your phone: https://www.instagram.com/pezcyclingnews

Don’t forget to check the “NEWSWIRE” section, you can find it on the homepage, just above the EuroTrash section. The bits of news that missed the EuroTrash deadline are in there, plus any news as-it-happens will be added there too.

Any comments drop me a line, email address: [email protected] or Twitter. And check the PezCyclingNews Twitter and Facebook Page.

Like PEZ? Why not subscribe to our weekly newsletter to receive updates and reminders on what's cool in road cycling?

Comments are closed.