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  1. The 2017 season saw Nathan Haas deliver top 10 performances across multiple WorldTour races, but that only left the 28-year-old Australian wanting more. He left Dimension Data behind this past offseason for Katusha-Alpecin, and he is hoping the change of scenery puts him over the proverbial hump this year. “I was really lucky with the season I had last year. I had quite a lot of teams really interested in moving forward. But I wanted to be on the biggest team I could be and still be a leader,” he told VeloNews this week at the Tour of Oman. “I don’t want to be riding for the guys I’m trying to beat. [Katusha manager José] Azevedo has a lot of faith in what he saw in me as a rider. From the beginning of the conversation, the idea was, ‘You come to these races to try to win. If you don’t that’s okay, but you’re trying.’ “The ethos for myself is that I’m not done trying yet. I’m so hungry to try to win.” Haas debuted in his new kit last month at home in Australia, but he struggled to make an impact at the Tour Down Under and didn’t finish the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. He attributes the rough start to problems dealing with the extreme heat. One month later, it’s a different story – Haas nabbed his first UCI victory, since 2016, on stage 2 of the Tour of Oman. He stayed in the mix throughout the week to finish fifth overall. His biggest objectives await in the next two months. Packing a well-rounded skillset and a healthy finishing kick, Haas loves the lumpy one-days. He’s trying to stay open to opportunities throughout the year, but he’s got high expectations for himself as the classics season gets underway. “I don’t want to have my blinkers on too much for my whole career because you can kind of forget to focus on the other chances around it, but my holy grail in cycling is Amstel [Gold Race]. If I win I could just retire and just be happy,” he joked. Italy also has a few one-day offerings that Haas thinks could be in his punchy wheelhouse. “I also really love Strade Bianche. It suits my skills from all the years’ mountain biking. I’ve done well there in the past, making front groups. I’ve not actually had the best finishing places at Strade Bianche, but I actually know in myself that it’s just a little bit of a difference in the final that could have me in the podium there,” Haas said. “Then Sanremo is one of those funny races where you just have to be in your appropriate place on the Poggio and whether a group comes from behind with faster guys, that’s an unknown, but my plan is to be following the best guys to the top and see if I can’t blast them on the line.” Haas readily admits his palmares may not point to a rider past his due for a big classics victory. That’s not stopping him from aiming high. He’s confident that he’s not far off already, and he plans to do whatever it takes to turn decent results into actual victories. “Some people might say it’s a bit unrealistic because I haven’t won any of those big races yet, but I’m always there,” he said. “I’m always tapping onto the podium or into the top five. I think a big reason I came to this team was to see if I can’t convert some of those into a win.” Indeed, Haas is pleased with the firepower he has at his disposal with Katusha. He had chances here and there with Dimension Data, but feels happier with the support he says his new team has promised him. “The majority of the support on [Dimension Data] was for Cav [Mark Cavendish] and for [Edvald] Boasson Hagen. Not that I didn’t have support, and there were some great riders, but I would say that majority of the resources were for different styles of racing, whether it be the cobbles or these pure sprint races,” he said. “It’s a pretty well-rounded team, Katusha. There’s no bad team that you can take to a race.” Haas says that although a Swiss-German-Russian squad might stereotypically project a rigid exterior, he’s been pleasantly surprised by the very warm welcome he’s received. The talent and structure are there too. Those qualities all have Haas feeling comfortable and ready to make a run at his big season targets. “They stay calm, and they have the maturity of seasoned professionals, which is really lovely to be behind. To me, it sort of says that when I’m really ready and in my best form and we’ve built this cohesion together, we can go into the other races with a lot more confidence, knowing that I will be at the right place at Amstel at the right time. And then it just comes down to what legs I have at that point.” With the Tour of Oman officially in the books, Haas won’t have long to wait to put those legs to the test on the big stage. Strade Bianche kicks off in less than two weeks, with Sanremo and the Ardennes classics looming on the horizon. It hasn’t taken Haas much time to get settled into his new digs, as he proven this week in Oman. Nabbing a victory in a WorldTour one-day would represent a major step-up, but Haas isn’t afraid to make his aspirations known. “I almost think that I’m not going to be the guy that wins 50 races in his career,” he said. “But I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them was just one of the big ones.” The post Haas aiming high after move to Katusha-Alpecin appeared first on VeloNews.com. View the full article
  2. MARCHA REAL (VN) — They left almost as soon as they came. A horde of European journalists parachuted into the unsung, five-day Ruta del Sol. Their cameras and microphones were focused on one man. Their quarry: Chris Froome. The Team Sky captain’s season debut took on an added dimension this week, as he spoke publicly for the first time since his Salbutamol case blew open in December. No one wanted to miss the next chapter is cycling’s biggest story. Was it worth the trip? Froome and Co. didn’t give away much, but for Europe’s major media, it was being there that mattered. “It’s the biggest story in cycling right now. That’s why my editors wanted me here,” said Brian Askvig, a reporter with Denmark’s Ekstra Bladet. “We didn’t come here to cover the race. We came here for the Froome story.” Fear of missing out is what drove journalists from across Europe to make the long trek to sunny southern Spain to the five-day race. Typically, the early season warm-up race might attract a sprinkling of hard-core cycling hacks joined by local journalists. This year, 150 press credentials were granted for a race that normally sees a quarter of that. The press room was a bit crowded the first day, but organizers welcomed the spike in attention. They rolled out the red carpet for the unexpected wave of interest. Even if the focus was on Froome, it was a boon for the race. Scribes from Europe’s biggest sports dailies were on hand, with reporters from L’Equipe and La Gazzetta dello Sport. BBC, Sky Sports, Sporza and Spanish TV also parachuted in. Reporters from London’s biggest mainstream papers, including The Guardian, The Times, and The Daily Mail all descended on the Ruta del Sol. “We are 100 percent here for the Froome story,” said Jan-Pieter de Vlieger of Belgium’s Het Nieuwsblad. “It’s not that big of a story for us, but we wanted to be here more to see how everyone else reacted to Froome returning.” Sky officials skillfully handled the media crush. After winning five of the past six Tours de France, the team is expert at handling the press rabble. Journalists seemed to want that “gotcha” moment or at least some detailed answers. In that sense, most went home with little more a few platitudes. “There are certainly more journalists here than at a race at this time of the year,” said Sky rider Wout Poels. “No one’s asking me any questions, unless it’s about Froome.” Team Sky is used to this kind of attention, and the crowds around the bus were about as big as a typical day at the Tour de France. The team brought it in its security officer to protect Froome’s flank as well as its PR spokesman to handle the many media requests. So in an organization sense, it was business as usual. The pressure had been building, especially following calls from many across the sport, including UCI president David Lappartient, for Froome to wait on the sidelines. Few of the questions were about racing. Everyone was pressing Froome on why he decided to race when his peers want him home. Or what his defense might be. Or will there be appeals. Rather than try to put off the media or refuse to comment, both Froome and Sky manager Dave Brailsford patiently answered question after question. They largely stuck to their talking points: “Chris has done nothing wrong, and we have to respect the process.” The team did not schedule a press conference with Froome and did not schedule private interviews. Froome’s access was limited to a few questions before the start and end of each stage, hardly giving journalists much time to ask many questions. Right now, Team Sky seems to be willing to lose the PR battle in the short term with the larger goal of clearing its marquee rider. So in that sense, Sky was discreet about what it could or wanted to give away. Each journalist came with a different angle. For the Italians, it’s the pressing question that if Froome races and wins the Giro, could he later be disqualified. L’Equipe followed a similar plotline for the defending four-time Tour champion. It’s worth noting that La Gazzetta dello Sport and L’Equipe are both owned by media companies that also own the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France, respectively. “This is a big story for us, and we are here to speak with Froome,” said Gazzetta’s Luca Gialanella. “This is a very complicated story, and the challenge for journalists is to try to make sense of it all for the public. But what do the fans see? They see that Chris Froome is ‘positive,’ and he is still racing.” The Guardian’s Martha Kelner was also on hand. As the paper’s chief sports reporter, she broke the Froome scandal into the public eye in December. For the British media, the latest Froome imbroglio is the latest in a series of reeling headlines involving Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky’s credibility issues. Froome has never been embraced in the same way as Wiggins, who emerged as a national icon following his Tour-Olympic success in 2012. Yet Wiggins’ reputation is now largely in shatters following a string of revelations. Froome’s story is part of a larger narrative about Team Sky. “People feel like the cracks are starting to show,” Kelner said. “This is as much as about Team Sky as anything, about the team’s zero tolerance, its transparency, and its credibility. It’s bigger than just Froome.” What did the media learn during the expedition? Not much new. Froome repeated his mantra that he wants to respect the process, and ask others that he get the same in return, but gave little else away. Journalists got their measure of polemics when several riders, including race winner Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal), spoke out against Froome’s presence. Brailsford staunchly defended his star rider — as would be expected — and confirmed that the team is sticking to its argument that Froome did not surpass the allowed amount of Salbutamol back in September. So was it worth the trek? For the major European media, they wanted the photo of Froome stepping out of the team bus and the chance to document his first public comments about the case. By the start of the third stage, most had packed up and gone home. By Sunday, the race was a wrap, with Froome finishing a distant 1:57 back in 10th place. This story, however, has legs. If the case remains unresolved as the calendar nears the Giro, the pressure will only mount. With Froome’s next scheduled race at Tirreno-Adriatico in mid-March, expect the media scrum to be even bigger. The post Froome didn’t give much away to Ruta’s media swarm appeared first on VeloNews.com. View the full article
  3. Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) powered through the final three-kilometer climb to the finish to take the stage win and the overall title on the final day of the Volta ao Algarve in Malhão. The Pole, who won the second stage of the race as well, attacked with two kilometers remaining and held off the chasers to take the victory. Ruben Guerreiro (Trek-Segafredo) finished second on the stage, a few seconds behind Kwiatkowski, with Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data) rounding out the podium. Sunday’s final stage at the Volta ao Algarve traveled 173.5 kilometers from Faro to Malhão. The route had five categorized climbs, including the final three-kilometer kicker to the finish. A large group of some 31 riders escaped after 15 kilometers. The breakaway group opened over a five-minute gap to the peloton by the midpoint of the stage, but soon the infighting began. With 50 kilometers to go, Lukas Postlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe) attacked the first time up the finishing climb and Zdenek Stybar (Quick-Step Floors) joined him on the descent. Stybar would drop Posltberger on the penultimate climb of the stage and enter the finishing climb alone. However, his lead over the charging peloton was a mere 43 seconds. Kwiatkowski attacked with two kilometers to go, as the group had thinned greatly. He flew past Stybar to take the stage win and the overall victory. He began the stage second in the general classification, 19 seconds down on his teammate, Geraint Thomas. Thomas didn’t have the legs to contend with the leaders on the final climb. Although, Thomas still finished second overall, 1:31 behind Kwiatkowski. American Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing), who started the day sitting fifth overall, had a great final climb to the finish to move onto the final podium. Stage 5, Top 10 1. Michal Kwiatkowski, TEAM SKY, in 04:18:02 2. Ruben Guerreiro, TREK – SEGAFREDO, at 0:04 3. Serge Pauwels, DIMENSION DATA, at 0:08 4. Stefan Kung, BMC RACING TEAM, at 0:13 5. Cesare Benedtti, BORA – HANSGROHE, at 0:15 6. Dion Smith, WANTY – GROUPE GOBERT, at 0:17 7. Simon Geshke, TEAM SUNWEB, at 0:17 8. Julen Amezqueta, CAJA RURAL – SEGUROS RGA, at 0:23 9. Ben Swift, UAE-TEAM EMIRATES, at 0:29 10. Frederik Backaert, WANTY – GROUPE GOBERT, at 0:35 Final GC 1. Michal Kwiatkowski, TEAM SKY, in 18:54:11 2. Geraint Thomas, TEAM SKY, at 1:31 3. Tejay Van Garderen, BMC RACING TEAM, at 2:16 4. Bauke Mollema, TREK – SEGAFREDO, at 2:22 5. Bob Jungels, QUICK-STEP FLOORS, at 2:33 6. Jaime Roson, MOVISTAR TEAM, at 2:49 7. Maximilian Schachmann, QUICK-STEP FLOORS, at 2:50 8. Serge Pauwels, DIMENSION DATA, at 2:50 9. Felix Grosschartner, BORA – HANSGROHE, at 2:51 10. Nelson Oliveira, MOVISTAR TEAM, at 2:54 The post Algarve, stage 5: Kwiatkowski takes stage and overall title appeared first on VeloNews.com. View the full article
  4. David de la Cruz (Sky) won the final stage 14.2-kilometer individual time trial around Barbate at the Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta Ciclista del Sol, as Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) had enough gas left in the tank to defend his lead in the general classification and walk away with the overall title. De la Cruz completed the course, which included a long section of compact dirt, in 17:11 to win the day by six seconds over Andrey Amador (Movistar). Stef Clement (LottoNL-Jumbo) finished third, seven seconds back. Wellens finished eighth on the stage and won the overall title by eight seconds over former race leader Wout Poels (Sky). Poels completed the course three seconds faster than Wellens and finished sixth in the stage standings. However, it wasn’t enough to overhaul the 11-second deficit he began the day with. Movistar’s Marc Soler started the day sitting sixth overall, but put in a good enough effort to sneak onto the podium. He finished fifth on the stage, nine seconds back of de la Cruz. He ends the race 27 seconds down on Wellens in the general classification. Soler’s teammate, Mikel Landa, had a tough day on the bike, as he finished outside the top 10 on the stage and slipped from second overall down to sixth. Stage 5, Top 10 1. David De La Cruz, TEAM SKY, in 17:11 2. Andrey Amador, MOVISTAR TEAM, at 0:06 3. Stef Clement, TEAM LOTTONL-JUMBO, at 0:07 4. Alexis Gougeard, AG2R LA MONDIALE, at 0:08 5. Marc Soler, MOVISTAR TEAM, at 0:09 6. Wout Poels, TEAM SKY, at 0:11 7. Dylan Van Baarle, TEAM SKY, at 0:12 8. Tim Wellens, LOTTO SOUDAL, at 0:14 9. Jan Tratnik, CCC SPRANDI POLKOWICE, at 0:24 10. Luis Leon Sanchez, ASTANA PRO TEAM, at 0:24 Final GC 1. Tim Wellens, LOTTO SOUDAL, in 17:41:50 2. Wout Poels, TEAM SKY, at 0:08 3. Marc Soler, MOVISTAR TEAM, at 0:27 4. Jakob Fuglsang, ASTANA PRO TEAM, at 0:30 5. Luis Leon Sanchez, ASTANA PRO TEAM, at 0:30 6. Mikel Landa, MOVISTAR TEAM, at 0:42 7. Steven Kruijswijk, TEAM LOTTONL-JUMBO, at 1:19 8. Simon Clarke, TEAM EF EDUCATION FIRST-DRAPAC P/B CANNONDALE, at 1:41 9. Andrey Amador, MOVISTAR TEAM, at 1:51 10. Christopher Froome, TEAM SKY, at 1:57 More to come… The post Ruta de Sol, stage 5: De la Cruz powers to ITT stage win, Wellens secures overall appeared first on VeloNews.com. View the full article
  5. MUSCAT, Oman (AFP) — Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin) sprinted to victory along the Muscat Corniche at the Tour of Oman on Sunday, beating France’s Bryan Coquard (Vital Concept) and Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo). Kazakh Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) clinched the overall victory over his teammate, Miguel Angel Lopez, as the bunch sprint finish meant there was no change in the overall standings. “It is so nice to win in your first race of the season,” Lutsenko said. “I did a lot of work this winter, it was my goal to be on form for the start of the season and, finally, I am here at the podium as the winner. It was not a plan to try to win in Oman, but I felt really good the whole week here and also the team was absolutely fantastic. “So, now I am coming back to Europe and already next weekend I will open my classics season in Belgium. Despite this overall victory, the classics are my biggest goal for the first half of the season, so I am really motivated to do it well.” The sixth and final stage of the 2018 Tour of Oman traveled 135.5 kilometers from Al Mouj Muscat to Matrah Corniche. It was a fast route with only two climbs on tap for the riders and three finishing circuits in the city center of Muscat. Astana kept the breakaway under control in the early kilometers of the stage before the sprint teams came to the fore to ensure a bunch sprint. Lopez won the Best Young Rider classification, while Nathan Haas (Katusha-Alpecin) took home the points jersey. Astana also won the Team classification. Stage 6, Top 10 1. Alexander Kristoff, (NOR) UAE TEAM EMIRATES,3:11:29 2. Bryan Coquard, (FRA) VITAL CONCEPT CYCLING CLUB, s.t 3. Giacomo Nizzolo, (ITA) TREK – SEGAFREDO,+00 4. Magnus Cort Nielsen, (DEN) ASTANA PRO TEAM, s.t 5. Nathan Haas, (AUS) TEAM KATUSHA ALPECIN, s.t 6. Davide Martinelli, (ITA) QUICK – STEP FLOORS, s.t 7. Amaury Capiot, (BEL) SPORT VLAANDEREN – BALOISE, s.t 8. Greg Van Avermaet, (BEL) BMC RACING TEAM, s.t 9. Benjamin Declercq, (BEL) SPORT VLAANDEREN – BALOISE, s.t 10. Floris Gerts, (NED) ROOMPOT – NEDERLANDSE LOTERIJ, s.t Final GC 1. Alexey Lutsenko, (KAZ) ASTANA PRO TEAM, in 22:49:50 2. Miguel Angel Lopez Moreno, (COL) ASTANA PRO TEAM, at :11 3. Gorka Izagirre Insausti, (ESP) BAHRAIN – MERIDA, at :28 4. Jesus Herrada, (ESP) COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CREDITS, at :30 5. Nathan Haas, (AUS) TEAM KATUSHA ALPECIN, at :32 6. Dries Devenyns, (BEL) QUICK – STEP FLOORS, at 01:05 7. Daniel Garcia Navarro, (ESP) COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CRéDITS, at 01:14 8. Odd Christian Eiking, (NOR) WANTY – GROUPE GOBERT, at 01:24 9. Merhawi Kudus, (ERI) TEAM DIMENSION DATA, at 01:29 10. Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa, (POR) UAE TEAM EMIRATES, at 01:37 The post Oman, stage 6: Kristoff wins final stage, Lutsenko takes overall appeared first on VeloNews.com. View the full article
  6. MUSCAT, Oman (VN) — For all the hype surrounding Philippe Gilbert’s dreams of Paris-Roubaix glory this season, Quick-Step Floors already has a former winner on the roster. His name is Niki Terpstra, and he’s expecting to be in the classics mix from Omloop Het Nieuwsblad all the way to Roubaix. “In all the classics I’ve been on the podium. They pretty much all suit me,” Terpstra said at the Tour of Oman this week. The Dutchman isn’t exaggerating. In fact, he’s even understating things a bit – Terpstra has won or earned runner-up honors in every cobbled classic on the WorldTour calendar. With those results, Terpstra fits right in on the most complete classics team in the pro peloton. It’s thanks to him and a few others that the team isn’t expecting much of a drop-off in results even after Tom Boonen hung up the wheels last year. Boonen or not, Quick-Step has an option for seemingly any situation. Tersptra says he doesn’t find it hard carving out his own role within the team. The way he and Quick-Step see things, you can never have too much firepower. Terpstra sits toward one end of the team’s spectrum of contenders. His self-described strong suit is in the hard finales and the late solo attacks. Colombian sprinter Fernando Gaviria sits at the other end, ready to sprint to victory in a big bunch kick, with the likes of Gilbert, Zdenek Stybar, and Yves Lampaert falling somewhere in between. In Terpstra’s eyes, Quick-Step has enough strength in the line-up that little will change when the team hits the cobbles this season sans Boonen. Sure, the media and fan frenzy might be just a bit less intense. And of course, the riders will miss having the ever-popular Boonen around as a teammate. But strategically, Terpstra says, Quick-Step isn’t changing their plans. “For me, at the moment, it’s not really different,” he said of the team’s approach to the classics in a post-Boonen world. “We still have a strong team with different riders who can score with their own specialties. It’s different because he’s not around, but the preparation is the same.” The Dutchman also points out that injuries forced Quick-Step to race without Boonen more than once in recent years. Although Boonen was in the mix for all of the team’s recent wins in the very biggest cobbled classics, Quick-Step did have success outside the monuments in the years he was laid low by health problems. Other riders stepped up then, so the team has reason to believe they will again now. With all the cards the team can play, Quick-Step employs the most bona fide classics contenders of any single squad on the WorldTour. Whether that makes them the “strongest” team for the spring, however, is up for debate. Other teams with a sharper focus on a single rider have enjoyed successful spring campaigns of their own. Terpstra is confident about his form and his team for the coming one-day frenzy, but he’s not underestimating the opposition. “We have to prove that,” he says when asked if Quick-Step has the peloton’s strongest classics line-up. “Other teams are also really strong. On the finish line, we will see who has a strong team.” Terpstra says he’s expecting tough competition this spring against “the usual suspects” like Three-time World Champion Peter Sagan and BMC Racing’s Greg Van Avermaet, with maybe a few surprises knocking on the door as well. Of course, Quick-Step must also contend with the hyper-scrutiny of the cycling media every spring. Considering the team’s strength on paper, the Belgian team is a popular target for criticism any time the squad does not win. Terpstra takes it all in stride. “In the end, it’s simple. You have to answer with the pedals,” he said. “You must not take it too much [to heart], the criticism. ‘What if I lose again? Then they’ll be angry.’ That’s the newspapers. Journalists have to write something because they have to do their job. Let them do their job and I focus on my job.” For the past two weeks, Terpstra’s job has been slogging through the desert heat to get in his first block of racing on the year, first at the Dubai Tour and now in Oman. Having won the now-defunct Tour of Qatar back in 2015, Terpstra has enjoyed plenty of success getting his season rolling on the Arabian peninsula. With Elia Viviani sprinting to stage victories and the overall win in Dubai and Dries Devenyns putting in a decent GC showing in Oman, Quick-Step has reason to be optimistic moving forward. The last few successful seasons have left the team with high expectations, but things are getting underway this year about as well as could be hoped with Belgium’s “opening weekend” just around the corner. The post Terpstra: Quick-Step has the firepower to contend in post-Boonen era appeared first on VeloNews.com. View the full article
  7. The saying ‘never go back’ isn’t one that Louis Meintjes dwelled upon when he re-signed with Dimension Data, and all indications so far are that the South African has settled back with his old team after a two-year sabbatical with Lampre and UAE Team Emirates. Starting his season at the Volta ao Algarve, the 25-year-old put in a respectable performance on the first summit finish of the race, and although his ride in the individual time trial on Friday was below his best, Meintjes is relaxed about his form as he builds towards the Giro d’Italia in May. “I’m here to see if I’m on track. If the form is good then you can try and get something for your work but it’s not a major goal, in that we come here looking to start with a bang. It’s not the end of the world if we still see there’s more work to be done,” he told Cyclingnews at the start of stage 1. ADVERTISEMENT Four stages later and Meintjes can be relatively content with his ride so far. He is a notoriously quiet at this point in the year, tending to find form in late spring and summer. Friday's individual test against the clock was his first competitive outing on his Cervelo time trial bike, and although the result didn’t stand out, the climber still took positives from the experience. “The time trial could have gone better," he said. "It wasn’t a disaster, but I need some improving. This is my first time here, and the guys say that Sunday’s climb should be better for me. I’ll give it another go, and I felt good on the climb the other day. If everything goes well, then it could be a good day. “Friday was my first real hit on the new time trial bike, and going full gas. I felt good, I just wasn’t as fast as I would have liked.” You can read more at Cyclingnews.com View the full article
  8. Mikel Landa (Movistar) has moved into attack mode in his first race of the season at the Ruta del Sol, moving into second overall behind Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) on brutally steep final ascent during stage 4. Landa was in the thick of the action on stage 2 to the Alto de Allanadas summit finish on Thursday, and after that major confidence boost, on Saturday he decided to try his luck from further out on the climb. "It was very tough. I wanted to start from the bottom because I saw on Allanadas that I had good climbing legs,” he said afterwards. ADVERTISEMENT Although the ascent to Alcala de Gazules hilltop centre was much shorter than the Allanadas climb, its combination of cobbles and gradients of 15 per cent made it a very tough test - and Landa’s result all the more impressive. The peloton of favourites shattered behind as Landa and Wellens went clear, with riders finishing in a broken single line, gasping for breadth and swaying from the effort as they reached the summit. So whilst the Belgian could finally drop the Basque, Landa’s second place, seven seconds clear of Jakob Fugslang (Astana), was ample confirmation that he has started the season in excellent shape. Movistar, in fact, have all three of their leaders in top shape, as Alejandro Valverde showed in the Volta a Valencia and Nairo Quintana in the Oro y Paz stage race in Colombia. Landa’s one regret, and it was not a small one, was that he could not take the victory. But he recognised he had been outgunned by a rider with a greater skill set, too, for the cobbled ascents. You can read more at Cyclingnews.com View the full article
  9. Nelson Oliveira (Movistar) put in a respectable ride in Friday’s 20.3km time trial to enhance his chances of a podium spot at the Volta ao Algarve. The four-time Portuguese time trial champion finished fifth in the individual test, finished safely in the peloton on Saturday and so sits third overall ahead of Sunday’s final stage to the summit of Malhao. Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) leads the race with his teammate, Michal Kwiatkowski, second at 22 seconds. Oliveira lies third at 32 seconds, with Bob Jungels, Tejay van Garderen, Bauke Mollema all within 30 seconds of Oliveira’s third place. Sunday’s final stage is unlikely to see Thomas dislodged from the leader’s jersey, but Movistar will be looking to Oliveira to hold his own on the final climb. “We’ll aim for the podium tomorrow,” the Movistar rider told Cyclingnews ahead of stage 4. “Sunday’s final climb is really steep and really hard. We’ll have to say how it plays out. “The time trial was good for me. The result was unexpected because last week I didn’t train as much as I wanted to. I’m going to try and keep in the top 10, that has to be the first main goal.” With Team Sky in control of the race, the likelihood is that the British team revert to type and set the pace on the final climb in a bid to unsettle any potential attacks. With first and second locked down, it looks as though the only question is over the final place on the podium. For Oliveira, that will mean marking the likes of Mollema and Jungels, should they try to wrestle third place from him. “I’ll do my race, and I’ll do my own climb. In the end we’ll see what happens but I’ll make sure that I suffer until the end,” he said. Oliveira isn’t the only Movistar rider well placed on GC, with new signing Jamie Roson also impressing. The Spaniard is seventh overall and has a string of top-10 GC places from last season. “We have Jamie in the top 10. He’s a good climber, and better than me,” Oliveira modestly said, playing down his own results that include a Vuelta a Espana stage win and fourth in last year’s time trial at the World Championships. As Portugal’s best hope for a top 10 in the race, Oliveira is aware of the support he has received from the home fans. “This is the only real chance in the year when we can come to my country and race with the top teams. The fans come out, and a big thanks to them for cheering me on.” ADVERTISEMENT You can read more at Cyclingnews.com View the full article
  10. With one stage remaining at the Volta ao Algarve, American Tejay van Garderen sits fifth overall with the chance of a final podium still within reach. At the finish of stage 4 in Tavira, the BMC Racing all-rounder admitted that the overall win was now beyond him, with Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) leading the race by a comfortable buffer. However, Sunday's stage to the top of the Malhao - which will be climbed twice - offers a number of riders the opportunity to take a major result. For van Garderen and BMC, the goal is to win the stage. "If I can move up on GC that's great, but we're going to basically get to the bottom of the climb and then go as hard as we can," van Garderen told Cyclingnews as he munched on a post-stage snack. ADVERTISEMENT In terms of the overall, Thomas leads his teammate Michal Kwiatkowski by 19 seconds, with Nelson Oliveira (Movistar) third at 32 seconds. Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors), van Garderen, Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) and Jamie Roson (Movistar) then make up a collective that could determine the final spot on the podium. "The difference between third and fifth in the Vuelta ao Algarve isn't that big a deal," van Garderen said. "If we can get the stage win out of tomorrow, that would be cooler." The American came into the race as BMC's ticket for the overall classification. He lost a handful of seconds on the first summit finish on stage 2 but put in a respectable showing in Friday's individual time trial to solidify his GC chances. BMC teammate Richie Porte, who came into the race as a previous winner, has not been at his best this week and has stated that his top form is being saved for later in the year. You can read more at Cyclingnews.com View the full article
  11. Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) sprinted to victory on the fourth stage of the Volta ao Algarve in Tavira on Saturday over Bora-Hangrohe’s Matteo Pelucchi and John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo). LottoNL-Jumbo’s leadout train is dialed, as Groenewegen entered the final 500-meter finishing straight with two teammates in front of him. Many of the other sprinters were alone or had one teammate left. The Dutchman began his sprint from the pole position and easily took the stage win. It is his second victory of the race, after he also won the opening stage on Wednesday. Geraint Thomas (Sky) kept his lead in the general classification over his teammate Michal Kwiatkowski, who won the second stage of the race. The Pole is 19 seconds back of Thomas. Nelson Oliveira (Movistar) is third in the general classification at 32 seconds. The final stage of the race on Sunday has five categorized climbs on the route, including a final 3-kilometer ascent to the finish. The final climb includes ramps of up to 10-percent, so the final GC is far from confirmed. Stage 4, Top 10 1. Dylan Groenewegen, (NED) TEAM LOTTO NL – JUMBO, in 4:33:49 2. Matteo Pelucchi, (ITA) BORA – HANSGROHE, s.t. 3. John Degenkolb, (GER) TREK – SEGAFREDO, s.t./li> 4. Florian Senechal, (FRA) QUICK – STEP FLOORS, s.t. 5. Jurgen Roelandts, (BEL) BMC RACING TEAM, s.t. 6. Timothy Dupont, (BEL) WANTY – GROUPE GOBERT, s.t. 7. Hugo Hofstetter, (FRA) COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CREDITS, s.t. 8. Jasper De Buyst, (BEL) LOTTO SOUDAL, s.t. 9. Loïc Vliegen, (BEL) BMC RACING TEAM, s.t. 10. Michal Kwiatkowski, (POL) TEAM SKY, s.t. Top-10 overall 1. Geraint Thomas, (GBR) TEAM SKY, in 14:35:50 2. Michal Kwiatkowski, (POL) TEAM SKY, at 00:19 3. Nelson Oliveira, (POR) MOVISTAR TEAM, at 00:32 4. Bob Jungels, (LUX) QUICK – STEP FLOORS, at 00:52 5. Tejay Van Garderen, (USA) BMC RACING TEAM, at 00:53 6. Bauke Mollema, (NED) TREK – SEGAFREDO, at 01:01 7. Jaime Roson Garcia, (ESP) MOVISTAR TEAM, at 01:18 8. Maximilian Schachmann, (GER) QUICK – STEP FLOORS, at 01:19 9. Felix Grossschartner, (AUT) BORA – HANSGROHE, at 01:20 10. Vasil Kiryienka, (BLR) TEAM SKY, at 01:24 The fourth stage of Volta ao Algarve in Portugal traveled 199.2 kilometers from Almodvar to Tavira. The stage was a mostly rolling downhill route with only two cat. 4 climbs for the riders to tackle. However, a small uncategorized climb with 20 kilometers to go, looked to spark up the finale and give riders a chance to disrupt what should be a day for the sprinters. A breakaway of six riders formed a mere seven kilometers into the stage and included American Ben King (Dimension Data), who began the stage leading the King of the Mountains’ classification. Joining King were Rory Sutherland (UAE Team Emirates), Julen Amezqueta (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Joao Rodrigues (W52-FC Porto), Alexander Grigoryev (Sporting Clube de Portugal-Tavira), and Bruno Silva (Efapel). The six riders would stay together until they hit the uncategorized climb with 20 kilometers to go. Silva could not hold the pace in the group and would be dropped on the climb. Meanwhile, Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) attacked hard out of the peloton. He was marked by Dylan Teuns (BMC Racing) and Guillaume Bonnafond (Cofidis). Movistar’s Jasha Sutterlin would bridge just after the climb to make it four chasers. The peloton led by the team’s of the sprinters — FDJ, Lotto Soudal, and LottoNL-Jumbo — were around a minute back of the leaders. Silva would try to stay with Gilbert and company as they rode past, but was unable to hold the pace. His legs were clearly fried from being in the breakaway all day. The junction between the chase group and the leaders was made with nine kilometers remaining, but the peloton was right behind. The lead group would sit just off the front of the peloton for a few kilometers, before it was finally all together with three kilometers to go. Trek-Segafredo came to the fore with two riders in the final kilometer, but they had lost their main sprinter Degenkolb. The final right-hand turn came with around 500 meters to go and LottoNL-Jumbo was in prime position. Two riders sat in front of Groenewegen. The Dutch fast-man had no trouble at all launching his sprint to the line and won the stage by over a bike length. Pelucchi finished second with Degenkolb, who opted to follow Groenewegen in the run to the line instead of his teammates, rounded out the podium. There was no change in the general classification with Thomas still holding the yellow leader’s jersey. Sunday’s final stage should create excitement with a final three-kilometer ramp to the finish. Thomas will have to be attentive to the attacks that are sure to come. The post Algarve, stage 4: Groenewegen wins for second time, Thomas retains GC appeared first on VeloNews.com. View the full article
  12. Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) bounced back from his near miss on stage two of the Ruta del Sol to take both the stage and the overall lead on Saturday's steep cobbled climb to Alcalá de los Gazules. Wellens tore out of a severely reduced pack at the foot of the final short but steep climb to take a lone victory by five seconds on Mikel Landa (Movistar), with former leader Wout Poels (Team Sky) crossing the line at 13 seconds. Previously third overall, Wellens is now seven seconds ahead of Landa, with Poels dropping two spots to lie 11 seconds down. The reshuffling of the top positions overall still leaves six riders within 32 seconds of Wellens, whilst Steven Kruiswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) is a minute back, meaning the race is far from decided with a time trial still to come. ADVERTISEMENT As a former winner of the Guangxi Tour, the Eneco Tour and the Tour of Pologne, Wellens has a strong palmares in week-long stage races and as he pointed out "I'm not leading this by accident." "I knew on the second day I had really good legs from the second day. I also knew that the climb today was good for me, I took the chance I had," he said. "Yesterday I did a lot of research on this climb, and that paid off. I had really good legs, I knew the final climb. The fact there were cobbles and you can ride next to the cobbles on the tarmac was really good for me." You can read more at Cyclingnews.com View the full article
  13. The newly formed Vital Concept team was always going to have a tough time earning respect from race organizers, but that doesn’t make it sting any less that ASO overlooked the squad for a Tour de France wildcard invite. French speedster Bryan Coquard can’t sugarcoat the severity of the blow that the snub represents to his new team. At the same time, he accepts the rationale. He and the team hope they have chances to prove themselves worthy of an invite next time around. “It’s very bad news but when you hear the explanation of ASO, they selected wildcards with the results of the last year,” he told VeloNews at the Tour of Oman on Saturday. “Last season, this team was not created yet. So, okay, knowing we have no Tour de France [this year], we are looking to next year, because the wildcards then will be the ones that win this year. I think it’s important to work hard on the wins in important races.” Back in 2015, Coquard sprinted to runner-up honors on the Champs-Élysées while riding for Europcar. He’s hungry to get back to the sport’s biggest stage. However, competition for the four wildcard spots at the Tour de France is fierce. French teams do get a leg up, but there aren’t enough invites for all of them. Coquard knows the drill for a brand new team without a track record. If Vital Concept can prove capable in the 2.1s, the team will get the invites to the 2.HCs. If they can prove capable there, more WorldTour invites will begin to arrive. Coquard might have avoided the hassle of setting his sights on smaller races this season by signing with a WorldTour squad last offseason, but he wasn’t interested in playing second fiddle to anyone. “This team is created around me, to get some wins in good races,” he said. “When Jerome [Pineau, team manager] spoke with me about this project, I had a good feeling about it. I spoke with WorldTour teams, but I was always going to be a second sprinter. In this team, I’m first. I have a good feeling with this project and I’m sure in the future, we’ll be a big team. Step by step. It’s the first years. It’s all about progression.” Left out of Paris-Nice as well, Coquard and company will have to make do with every chance they get this season. They don’t have the luxury of treating races as training rides. Perhaps that’s why Coquard has 13 days of racing in his legs as of mid-February, and is already delivering results. He landed a pair of second places in the Sharjah Tour and another runner-up finish at Etoile de Bessèges. He finally broke through with a win on the opening day of Oman, ahead of the likes of Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) and Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates). With that in mind, Coquard says he’s very happy the way his lead out has performed so far. When he hasn’t won, he says, it’s been purely because of his own legs. He and the team can’t complain about the way this year has started. Looking past Oman, Coquard has his sights set on the fast-approaching northern classics. Vital Concept will be present at a number of the marquee one-days, and that means Coquard will be raring to go on the cobbles and hellingen starting next month. Though he generally shines brightest in bunch sprints, Coquard says his chief goal is actually one of the lumpiest classics on the WorldTour calendar. “For me, it’s the Amstel Gold Race. I finished fourth there two years ago. It’s my big objective for the season,” he said. “Also Gent-Wevelgem is a good classic for me. Last year I started Tour of Flanders and loved it. It’s the most fun race of the season, with a lot of people around. It’s amazing. I know I won’t win the Tour of Flanders but I think a good result is possible. Last year, I was in the final with the strong riders. But the principal objectives are Brabantse Pijl and Amstel.” Coquard’s road back to the Tour will be a tough one no matter how this year plays out. A few results in the early goings of the season, however, certainly won’t hurt. Coquard may be a long way from the Champs-Élysées at the moment, but you have to start somewhere. Getting an early win ahead of Cavendish and Kristoff seems as fine a starting point as any. If Coquard can build on that with one-day success in Belgium and the Netherlands, it won’t be long before Vital Concept’s racing calendar grows bigger and better. The post Coquard: ‘We know we have to prove ourselves worthy of wildcard invites’ appeared first on VeloNews.com. View the full article
  14. Miguel Angel Lopez claimed victory on the queen stage of the Tour of Oman atop Green Mountain, helping his teammate Alexey Lutsenko take control of the overall classification as the Astana pair indicated they are ready to fill the gap left in the team following Fabio Aru's departure. Lopez attacked the group with his teammates Lutsenko and Jan Hirt on the final climb with only Gorka Izagirre able to follow. Lopez and Lutsenko then dropped the Spaniard, pushing away to win by 12 seconds on the punishing climb. “I am so happy to win today,” said Lopez after the stage. “I felt very strong today, the legs worked perfectly on the climb. Actually, nobody could attack on the final climb, so we just followed our plan, and after some great work from our teammates, we went away together with Alexey. Of course, the climb was super hard, but we managed to do it as we wanted and finally, we took the stage. It’s a nice feeling to win here and to start my season in this way.” ADVERTISEMENT Lopez comes into 2018 off the back of a strong finish to last year where he won two stages of the Vuelta a Espana and finished eighth overall. It was a massive confidence boost for him after an extremely challenging start to the year. An off-season crash in 2016 left him with a broken tibia and meant that he couldn’t begin racing until June at the GP du Canton d’Argovie in Switzerland. He then headed to the Tour de Suisse to defend his title but had to abandon after stage 5 when he crashed heavily and broke his thumb. “It was a very complicated season because of the fracture that I got at the end of 2016. I think that my comeback went really well with what I was able to do at the Vuelta. I didn’t think that the year would go this way,” Lopez told Cyclingnews. “It was really difficult after the fracture but I managed to return to the level that I had at the Vuelta. There was a very high level there and a lot of strong riders and it finished off the season perfectly. No extra pressure after Aru moves on You can read more at Cyclingnews.com View the full article
  15. Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) was victorious on the fourth stage of the Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta Ciclista del Sol on Saturday ahead of Movistar’s Mikel Landa, as the day finished in Alcalá de los Gazules. Wellens also leads the general classification, as former race leader Wout Poels (Sky) finished the stage in fourth, but lost enough time to concede the lead. The final kilometer was a brutal affair for the riders through the finishing town, as the road tipped skyward. The peloton faced incredibly steep gradients, narrow roads, and rough pavement. The final escapees of the day’s breakaway, Sep Vanmarcke (EF Education Frist-Drapac) and Andrey Amador (Movistar), were caught with the final kilometer banner in sight, as the steep gradient began to suck the energy from their legs. Wellens came to the fore to increase the pace, as the peloton splintered on the hill. Landa then launched a powerful move that put everyone on the limit. Wellens was the only one able to follow his acceleration, as race leader Poels was seen fighting the steep gradient behind. The final push to the line was brutal with a double-digit gradient and a rough section of pavement/cobblestones. Wellens proved to be the stronger of the two leaders in the final 100 meters and took the stage win and with it the lead in the general classification. Landa finished five seconds back of Wellens with Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) in third. Poels finished right after Fuglsang, 13 seconds down on Wellens. Wellens leads Landa by seven seconds in the general classification with Poels down in third at 11 seconds back. Stage 4, Top 10 1. Tim Wellens, LOTTO SOUDAL, in 04:36:23 2. Mikel Landa, MOVISTAR TEAM, at 0:05 3. Jakob Fuglsang, ASTANA PRO TEAM, at 0:12 4. Wout Poels, TEAM SKY, at 0:13 5. Floris De Tier, TEAM LOTTONL-JUMBO, at 0:13 6. Marc Soler, MOVISTAR TEAM, at 0:17 7. Steven Kruijswijk, TEAM LOTTONL-JUMBO, at 0:20 8. Luis Leon Sanchez, ASTANA PRO TEAM, at 0:20 9. Simon Clarke, TEAM EF EDUCATION FIRST-DRAPAC P/B CANNONDALE, at 0:21 10. Andrea Pasqualon, WANTY – GROUPE GOBERT, at 0:24 Top-10 overall 1. Tim Wellens, LOTTO SOUDAL, in 17:24:25 2. Mikel Landa, MOVISTAR TEAM, at 0:07 3. Wout Poels, TEAM SKY, at 0:11 4. Jakob Fuglsang, ASTANA PRO TEAM, at 0:14 5. Luis Leon Sanchez, ASTANA PRO TEAM, at 0:20 6. Marc Soler, MOVISTAR TEAM, at 0:32 7. Steven Kruijswijk, TEAM LOTTONL-JUMBO, at 0:58 8. Simon Clarke, TEAM EF EDUCATION FIRST-DRAPAC P/B CANNONDALE, at 1:05 9. Mikel Bizkarra, EUSKADI – MURIAS, at 1:14 10. Sergio Pardilla, CAJA RURAL – SEGUROS RGA, at 1:24 The fourth stage of the 2018 Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta Ciclista del Sol traveled 194.7 kilometers from Seville to Alcalá de los Gazules. The route was rolling throughout the day with two main climbs coming with 70 kilometers remaining. The climbs were too far from the finish for the general classification riders, putting extra emphasis on the final kilometer. The steep run-in to the finish was sure to cause gaps, making positioning into the final climb key. The day was dominated by a six-rider breakaway that didn’t escape the peloton’s grasp until after 50 kilometers of racing. The riders covered 49.6 kilometers in the opening hour, making for a very fast start. The breakaway shattered on the two climbs that came midway through the stage with Vanmarcke attacking multiple times to split the group. When the road flattened out after the climbs only Amador and Vanmarcke were left in the lead. Astana and Team Sky controlled the front of the peloton. Vanmarcke and Amador entered the final five kilometers of the race with only around 30 seconds over the peloton that was still being driven by Sky and Astana. However, Sky would stop helping to reel back the leading duo, as Chris Froome punctured with four kilometers to go. This proved to be key, as the Briton would be out of position entering the final kick to the line and lose over a minute on the stage. Movistar came to the fore at the bottom of the final climb to the finish line, as Vanmarcke and Amador were in sight. Wellens kicked off the serious attacks before Landa moved over the top of him. The final couple hundred meters were brutal with the riders seen sitting and griding out their lightest gears. The gradient was insanely steep and the uneven rough surface made the riding that much harder. Wellens had the most left in the tank for the final kick to the line to drop Landa and take the stage win. Race leader Poels finished the stage in fourth, but lost enough time to lose the overall lead. “It was a really tough climb, and after realizing that I was one of the strongest on the uphill in Allanadas on Thursday, I didn’t want to wait until the sprint and decided to jump from the foot of the ascent,” Landa said. “The ‘problem’ for me is that I was joined by such a strong rider on cobblestones as Wellens. As soon as we hit the ‘rocks’, I got stuck and he just flew over. I tried to increase my pace quickly, but I wasn’t able to up my speed on the cobblestones and he was just sitting on his saddle and staying clear. “I lacked experience on such terrain and also a bit of energy to match his pace. Still, I’m very satisfied with the result. It was a very demanding day and the team was brilliant, especially with that move by Andrey in the finale. We wanted to take this win today, but it wasn’t to be. The GC remains really close and it should be a tight battle in the time trial tomorrow. Everyone around me in the standings should be more of a specialist for tomorrow’s TT, but I’ll keep on fighting until the end.” Sunday’s final stage is a 14.2-kilometer individual time trial around Barbate. With the general classification so close, the riders will be leaving everything out on the road in hopes of taking the overall win. The post Ruta del Sol, stage 4: Wellens wins on brutally steep finish, takes GC lead appeared first on VeloNews.com. View the full article
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