Road – VeloNews.com http://www.velonews.com Competitive Cycling News, Race Results and Bike Reviews Mon, 20 Nov 2017 22:59:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://www.velonews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/cropped-Velonews_favicon-2-32x32.png Road – VeloNews.com http://www.velonews.com 32 32 L’Eroica excitement fuels Filofficina vintage shop http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/feature/leroica-excitement-fuels-filofficina-vintage-shop_452317 http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/feature/leroica-excitement-fuels-filofficina-vintage-shop_452317#respond Mon, 20 Nov 2017 16:15:22 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=452317 Inspired by L'Eroica, a bike shop in Florence, Italy sells fixed-up old bikes from the days of old Campagnolo groupsets and skinny steel

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FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Tucked down a side street in Florence’s artisan quarter, the place where the Torrigiani family calls home, Lorenzo Abruzzo builds dreams. The bicycles he prepares and sells to customers around the world recall a time of Fausto Coppi breaking the hour record at Vigorelli or Eddy Merckx bashing the Flemish cobbles.

Space-age bikes with electronic shifting and $10,000 price tags have their place, but these Colnagos, Cinellis, and Rossins have soul. They were once forgotten to make way for lightweight carbon frames and brake-lever shifters. Now, these steel rigs are highly sought after, and that’s why Abruzzo’s Filofficina bike shop is thriving.

Filofficina
Welcome to Filofficina. Photo: Gregor Brown | VeloNews.com

“These vintage bikes are more valued by foreigners. In Italy, more often than not, we look at them as normal. We take them for granted,” the towering Abruzzo explains.

Abruzzo speaks in his shop on Via del Campuccio among many other artisan boutiques that dot the south side of Florence, what locals call “Oltrarno.” A woman wheels her city bike out into the early morning sun. He says she should replace her worn tires soon.

“Many customers come from the United States, China, Japan, Korea, and in Italy. They find me via word of mouth, via Facebook or eBay,” he says, reaching for a shipping slip for a Bianchi Specialissima order to be delivered to Boulder, Colorado.

Colnago Mexico
A classic Colnago Mexico outfitted with Campagnolo Super Record. Photo: Gregor Brown | VeloNews.com

He turns his attention back to a 1979 Colnago Mexico frame mounted with its original Campagnolo Super Record groupset. The yellow club logo stands out on the blue paint, more so with the yellow bar tape.

The tubulars are not yet glued to the rims. Lorenzo says he lets the buyer do that so the rubber cement odor does not radiate from the shipping box and cause problems with customs officials.

A row of similar gems from the 1960s to the 1980s lines the wall next to the door. And above, Moser, Pinarello, and Tommasini bikes hang. All of them are waiting to be finished or sold.

Vintage bikes
Vintage Eroica bicycles everywhere. Photo: Gregor Brown | VeloNews.com

The cycling gods blessed Abruzzo with Florence. Tourists pour through the cradle of the Renaissance year-round. Here, the heart of cycling beats loudly. The city hosted the 2013 UCI Road World Championships. Gino Bartali grew up over the hills to the south in Ponte a Ema. Further out, the white gravel roads crisscross the Chianti hills.

Bartali rode these roads to deliver falsified papers to Jews trying to escape the Germans in World War II. Now, Tuscany considers these miles and miles of “strade bianche” sacred ground. Professionals race Strade Bianche annually on the roads, the Giro d’Italia often passes through, and the Eroica cyclo-sportive has its roots there.

“I also like working on new bikes but it’s right to give these bikes their due space. These vintage Eroica bikes are part of Italian culture,” Abruzzo continues. “There are not many mechanics that work on these old bikes. I want a buyer to have a safe bike and to have a mechanic behind it who has experience with vintage bikes.”

L’Eroica started in 1997 in Tuscany, with the number of participants growing every year for the October event. Now people race to simply register, and the spots disappear as quickly as tickets to a Rolling Stones concert. The organizer’s success has led to a second event in the spring and sister sportives in California, South Africa, Spain, Japan, and other locations across the world.

In the back of the shop, four or five rental bikes for L’Eroica are hanging and ready to go. Abruzzo keeps them solely as rentals and for the gravel undulating roads with easier gearing, bigger brake cables, and clincher tires. The rest are frames that he found in old bike shops, markets, and private owners from around Italy.

“I look for frames without any dents or cracks. We can repaint it if we have to, but I like to keep it all original,” he says.

“I have to look all over for them, and there are fewer and people want more money for them now. I came across an old man one time next to the seaside who had a Colnago Master with straight city bars mounted on it. I said, ‘I’ll give you 200 [euros] for it.’ He wouldn’t sell. I said, ‘250 and then 300.’ He wouldn’t part with it, not because it was a Colnago, but because he valued it as a lightweight bike that he could easily remove the wheels from and lift it into the back of his Fiat car. I left him to it and did not want to separate him from his bicycle.

“My prized bicycle is this 1986 Bianchi Specialissima X4 in the Moreno Argentin colors. I found it from a Romanian who was asking 700 for it. I always ask the story behind the bikes and in this case, I was asking because I thought maybe it was stolen or something. But then he pulls out jerseys and shoes all matching, explaining how he was paid many years ago with the bicycle and jersey for some work that he had done. It’s too small for me because I am so tall. I will not sell it even if it’s worth around 4,000, so I gifted it to my girlfriend and it hangs here on the wall.”

You likely won’t see Shimano or other foreign brands in Abruzzo’s shop. We spotted just one bike with Shimano parts, a Moser in the backroom. Abruzzo says his niche is Italian frames with Campagnolo Record, Super Record, or C-Record groupsets. The frames and components range from the 1960s up until about 1986, when Shimano introduced brake-lever shifters and when clipless pedals began to take hold.

Campagnolo
NOS Campy parts ready to go. Photo: Gregor Brown | VeloNews.com

The Eroica organizer requires that bikes have exposed cables on the handlebars, down tube shifters, and toe-clip pedals with straps. Steel tubes are a must, but the old aluminum Alan and Vitus frames are allowed as they existed early on.

“Outside of Italy, abroad, they look at these bikes as ‘Made in Italy’, a piece of culture, a gem of our country. In Europe, the trend is to use them more and build them up with modern groupsets,” Abruzzo adds.

“Americans want to have style. They want their Bianchi celeste green. They want a Colnago with bar tape matching the lettering. They want the details.”

He prides himself on details. His father gave him the gift of turning a wrench. He began to disassemble bikes and build them again. Before the shop opened in April 2015, Abruzzo worked steadily for a set of customers out of his home.

Lorenzo Abruzzo
Lorenzo Abruzzo stands behind his refurbished bikes. Photo: Gregor Brown | VeloNews.com

“It’s worth it to have a shop in the center of Florence for people who just happen to pass by but also that someone can come from China or from the United States and see the shop, the tools, and meet the person behind the bike. I had one American who has just happened to pass by on the street come in and made a contact to order a bike. When he was home he sent an email and finalized it,” he says, leaning on the blue Colnago Mexico that still needs a home.

“The big thing I want to get across is that this is not just an ad on the internet but that I am here in Florence and you can come and visit. You can take a flight from Colorado and visit the shop and see the person behind the bike and hear the story. The work will remain for years and it is a quality product. I’m a mechanic and I will stand behind the bike.”

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Olympic rower says Wiggins faces headwinds in switch to rowing http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/news/olympic-rower-says-wiggins-faces-headwinds-in-switch-to-rowing_452308 http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/news/olympic-rower-says-wiggins-faces-headwinds-in-switch-to-rowing_452308#respond Mon, 20 Nov 2017 13:42:23 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=452308 The retired Tour de France champion is undertaking the sport of rowing, so we chatted with a former Olympian about his chances.

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Lost in the headlines last week was confirmation that Bradley Wiggins is getting serious about his bid for another Olympic medal, this time in rowing.

Last week’s decision by UK Anti-Doping to close the investigation into Team Sky’s infamous “Jiffy Bag” without charges drove the news cycle. The 2012 Tour de France winner might have seen his reputation in tatters over his use of corticoids via TUEs, but the 37-year-old and eight-time Olympic medalist Wiggins is now taking more serious steps for another Olympic bid.

Wiggins has posted recent photos on Instagram of himself looking buff after training sessions on a rowing machine. Any doubt about Wiggins’ seriousness in the endeavor was erased when he confirmed he will race in the British indoor national rowing championships on December 9. A strong performance — Wiggins is confirmed to compete in a 2,000-meter race — would bolster his chances for a spot for the 2020 Olympics.

A post shared by Sir Wiggo (@bradwiggins) on

How realistic are Wiggins’ chances of making the switch from one endurance sport to another? Many cyclists transition into triathlon or marathon, two events that share much with cycling. In contrast, rowing is a radically different sport with a very specific skillset.

VeloNews asked Gearoid Towey, a three-time Olympic rower and former world champion, about Wiggins’ chances of making the grade. Towey represented Ireland in three Olympics (2000, 2004, and 2008), and was once rescued with a rowing partner in the high seas after his 23-foot rowboat was capsized by a 35-foot wave 40 days into an attempt to row across the Atlantic Ocean.

Towey also has experience with cyclists, and has worked with many as part of his organization Crossing the Line, which helps professional and Olympic athletes transition into their post-athletic careers.

VeloNews: What do you make of Wiggins’ attempt to go back to the Olympics with rowing?
Gearoid Towey: I’ve never spoken to him, but there are a couple of factors that would make it very difficult for him. First off is the skill acquisition. Rowing is a very skilled sport, and rowing is like a combo of ice-skating and cycling. It’s part brute force and pain, but you also have to be agile and dainty. That skill is hard to pick up in just three or four years.

VN: And the other?
GT: The other aspect is power. I gather he’s doing decent times on a rowing machine, but from what I’ve heard, he’s about 30 seconds off the heavyweight group. That’s a big chunk of time. You can make big gains when you start off, but it’s that last 15 to 30 seconds that’s the hardest.

VN: Britain has a long tradition of rowing, so I imagine he can’t expect to just stroll onto the team?
GT: The British team is a power-based team, and if he doesn’t come under a certain score, that would be his biggest barrier. I’ve seen some scores he’s put out; scores that would decent for a good lightweight rower, at 70kg or under, but he’s still short of the top heavyweight rowers. I could see him getting within reach of it. If he was inside a different system than the British system, in a country like Sweden or Spain, he probably could get on with a national team. It’s not as easy in the UK. These guys are giants, 6-foot-5 and 100kg. They’re like cattle. They’re not going to put someone on their program just to raise their profile or to bring publicity to the team. They’ve won medals in every Olympic cycle for years.

VN: Rowing has a very unique skillset; do you think it’s realistic he could become adept enough in time for 2020?
GT: If you’re on the crew, you have to move in unison, everyone’s movements in exactly the same time, with three or seven other guys. It’s very precise. It’s like swimming, and it’s hours and hours of doing the same thing over and over. With his track background, he’d be used to that. Rowing is a bit like doing team pursuit. You’ve got to be sprinter at the beginning and then at the end, and give that max power at the start and finish. He’ll have the engine.

VN: So if you were a betting man, do you think he could do it?
GT: It would be kind of cool if he did it. I would like him to surprise me in that regard. It’s a pain sport, just like cycling is. It’s not as exciting as cycling. It doesn’t have the crowds, and it’s a fairly outlying sport. It’s interesting he chose that. I wouldn’t put it past him. He’s a very talented person.

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Video: Col Collective previews short, nasty TDF stage 17 to Portet http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/news/video-col-collective-previews-short-nasty-tdf-stage-17-portet_452300 http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/news/video-col-collective-previews-short-nasty-tdf-stage-17-portet_452300#respond Sun, 19 Nov 2017 16:23:02 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=452300 Mike Cotty of the Col Collective goes for a recon ride to see the short Pyrenean stage and ride the lesser-known Col de Portet.

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Everyone is talking about the 2018 Tour de France‘s stage 17. It is short at 65 kilometers but has a tremendous amount of climbing — over 3,000 meters. Tour organizers believe this stunningly beautiful backdrop and the summit finish at 2,215m will encourage attacks. Pure climbers should thrive in the rarefied air.

Mike Cotty of the Col Collective went out for a recon ride in October to check the Pyrenean route and ride the lesser-known summit finish, Col de Portet.

Tour de France
Stage 17 is exceptionally short at 64km with more than 3,000 meters of climbing.

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Sutton used TUEs for ‘marginal gains’ at Sky http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/news/sutton-used-tues-marginal-gains-sky_452280 http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/news/sutton-used-tues-marginal-gains-sky_452280#respond Sat, 18 Nov 2017 15:22:47 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=452280 Former Team Sky coach Shane Sutton admits using therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) to give the cyclists he worked with an edge.

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LONDON (AFP) — Former Great Britain and Team Sky coach Shane Sutton has admitted using therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) to give the cyclists he worked with an edge.

Former Sky cyclist Bradley Wiggins had previously said the TUEs he received at the 2011 and 2012 Tours de France and the 2013 Giro d’Italia were to treat pollen allergies.

This week, UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) ended an investigation into alleged wrongdoing by British Cycling and Team Sky, which share a Manchester headquarters, without bringing any charges.

“If you’ve got an athlete that’s 95 percent ready and that little five percent injury or niggle that’s troubling them, if you can get that TUE to get them to 100 percent, then of course you would in those days,” Sutton said in a BBC television documentary due to be broadcast on Sunday.

“The business you are in is to give you the edge on your opponent. Ultimately, at the end of the day, it’s about killing them off. But definitely don’t cross the line and that’s something we have never done.”

TUEs permit athletes to use drugs that would otherwise be illegal.

A key tenet of the Team Sky philosophy is the concept of ‘marginal gains,’ which refers to minute improvements that, collectively, can improve performance.

Asked if the use of TUEs was part of that approach, Sutton tells the documentary: “Finding the gains might mean getting a TUE? Yes, because the rules allow you to do that.”

Wiggins, who retired last year, has described UKAD’s investigation into the contents of a jiffy bag delivered to Sky during the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine as a “malicious witch hunt.”

His TUEs were granted for use of the banned corticosteroid triamcinolone.

Sky principal Dave Brailsford tells the documentary the TUEs granted to Wiggins, who became Great Britain’s first Tour de France champion in 2012, were medically necessary.

Sutton is now the head coach of China’s track cycling team, having left British Cycling in April 2016 after allegations of discrimination and bullying.

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Calculations point toward Haga Tour debut in 2018 http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/news/calculations-point-toward-haga-tour-debut-2018_452263 http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/news/calculations-point-toward-haga-tour-debut-2018_452263#respond Fri, 17 Nov 2017 15:25:25 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=452263 After proving himself as a support rider to Tom Dumoulin in Sunweb's first grand tour win, Chad Haga is hoping for a run at the Tour.

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When Chad Haga started racing bikes in college, he calculated, based on his promising early results, that he might be able to turn pro upon graduation.

That calculation proved correct, and he’s been a WorldTour pro since 2014. And now the engineering school graduate is running the numbers once again. He’s hoping it adds up to a Tour de France debut in 2018.

For Haga, calculated progress dates back to high school, when he started racing. He went on to join the Texas A&M team as a freshman in 2006.

“When I was in my freshman year in college, I was a Cat. 4 racer, and I was progressing quickly. In my mathematical mind, I figured by the time I graduate, I can go pro,” he said. “Now it’s about time for the Tour. I definitely want to go there someday. If not this year, maybe the next.”

All eyes are on a possible duel between Sunweb’s Tom Dumoulin and Chris Froome (Sky) in next year’s Tour de France. And if that’s the case, Haga would love to be there.

“If Tom decides to go to the Tour, I’d love to support him,” Haga told VeloNews in a telephone interview. “I’m climbing that ladder pretty quickly in terms of age and time on the team. We have a bunch of young, talented guys, and a few veterans and captain, but only a handful of guys like me.”

At 29, Haga has quietly become one of the most consistent and resilient helpers on Sunweb. He made the jump to the WorldTour in 2014 following two seasons with Optum-Kelly Benefits. After overcoming a potentially career-altering crash with a car during training in early 2016, Haga is stronger than he’s ever been.

Since then, he’s started and finished six grand tours, including back-to-back Giro-Vuelta doubles in 2016 and 2017. This season was a breakthrough, both for Sunweb and Haga. The team won its first grand tour with Dumoulin at the Giro, and Haga emerged as one of his most reliable helpers.

“I’ve done the Vuelta-Giro tour double now two times in a row,” Haga said. “I am a lot stronger than I was two years ago. I have more experience. And it’s funny to say it, but I am becoming one of the more experienced guys on the team for riding grand tours.”

That could be enough for Haga to punch his ticket to his debut Tour de France.

Sunweb has yet to outline its racing calendar for 2018. Team brass is waiting to see what the Giro d’Italia delivers with its route presentation on November 29 before committing to Dumoulin’s racing schedule.

Dumoulin is expected to race the Tour de France with the objective of challenging for the podium. He has not, however, discounted racing the Giro. With growing speculation that Froome might race the Giro next year, the highly anticipated Froome-Dumoulin matchup could come in Italy.

“I’d love to race the Tour de France next year with Tom,” Haga said of Sunweb teammate Tom Dumoulin. “It all depends on what the team wants me to do. I like riding for him. He’s a great team leader.”

 

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Israel Cycling Academy aims to be pro cycling’s most diverse team http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/news/cycling-academy-aims-to-be-pro-cyclings-most-diverse-team_452226 http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/news/cycling-academy-aims-to-be-pro-cyclings-most-diverse-team_452226#respond Thu, 16 Nov 2017 21:55:55 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=452226 The team’s 22-rider line-up includes riders from five continents and 16 countries, representing the world’s three major monotheistic

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Is Israel Cycling Academy the peloton’s most diverse team? It’s selling itself that way.

Cycling went global more than a decade ago. Most WorldTour teams pack nearly a dozen passports on their respective rosters. Yet Israel Cycling Academy is taking it to a new level in 2018. The team’s 22-rider line-up includes riders from five continents and 16 countries, representing the world’s three major monotheistic religions.

How many teams feature riders who are Christian, Jewish, and Muslim all under the same banner? Israel Cycling Academy might be the first.

The Pro Continental team was already unique before unveiling its 2018 lineup Thursday. As Israel’s first professional cycling team, the squad has been breaking ground since its founding in 2015 as it tries to create a toehold for the sport in Israel.

For next season, the team wants to raise the bar even more. It’s targeting a start in the Giro d’Italia — almost a guarantee with the Giro starting in Jerusalem — but it’s also trying to use cycling as a means to break down barriers. Officials confirmed they have signed an 18-year-old Druze rider for its development team. They hope to incorporate more Arab and Palestinian riders in the coming seasons.

In September, the team announced it signed Turkish national time trial champion Ahmet Örken, a practicing Muslim who will race on the Israeli-backed team. There are not many Muslims racing at the elite level. Katusha’s Ilnur Zakarin is one of the few at the WorldTour level. There are even fewer Jewish riders. Having all three major religions under one banner is an important symbolic gesture.

“The fact that a Turkish cyclist is competing side by side with Israeli cyclists and others from around the world, and striving together for victory sends a message of coexistence and peace to all,” Örken said. “The Academy does not see itself as just a cycling team, I don’t see myself just as a cyclist. We have the opportunity to excite and inspire people, and to change the world around us.”

Mixing bikes, religion, and diverse nationalities might appear toxic at first glance, but erasing those barriers via bicycle racing is one of the principal concepts behind the Israel Cycling Academy project.

It was originally built to develop racing in Israel and promote its homegrown talent. The team’s ambitions have since grown with the arrival of new backers to also serve as a chance for Israel to tell a different side of its story often unseen by the wider public.

At the Giro d’Italia presentation last month in Jerusalem, Giro and Israeli officials confirmed the opening stages for the 2018 Giro. Team officials were keen to promote the idea that the racers will also serve as ambassadors of a new Israel.

“Our athletes understand that being on an Israeli team, they are each ambassadors for the team’s home country,” said Sylvan Adams, one of the team’s owners. “The power of our ICA project is to bring this diverse group together to ride under our Israeli colors in pursuit of common goals.”

Marketing campaigns aside, new signings for 2018 give the team a stronger footing across the European calendar.

The team has picked up a few key established pros to help it in its bid to earn a Giro wild-card start. Among 10 new arrivals are Ben Hermans (BMC Racing), Ruben Plaza (Orica-Scott), and Kristian Sbaragli (Dimension Data), all three from WorldTour teams. Five other riders are from Israel.

For riders and staff on the team, however, those labels and slogans don’t mean much when it comes joining together to race bikes.

“We want to be competitive and win races,” said team manager Ran Margaliot in September. “With the riders we have now, our goal is to be competitive in every race we start.”

The team has a scheduled training camp in Spain in December. By the time racing season hits, results are what will count most, not passports.

Israel Cycling Academy roster

Edwin Alvila (Colombia, 27)
Guillaume Boivin (Canada, 28)
Zak Dempster (Australia, 30)
Jose Manuel Diaz (Spain, 22)
Nathan Earle (Australia, 29)
Sondre Holst Enger (Norway, 23)
Omer Goldstein (Israel, 21)
Roy Goldstein (Israel, 24)
Ben Hermans (Belgium, 31)
August Jensen (Norway, 26)
Luis Lemus (Mexico, 25)
Krists Neilands (Latvia, 23)
Guy Niv (Israel, 23)
Ahmet Örken (Turkey, 24)
Ben Perry (Canada, 23)
Ruben Plaza (Spain, 37)
Mihkel Raim (Estonia, 24)
Guy Sagiv (Israel, 22)
Kristian Sbaragli (Italy, 27)
Hamish Schreurs (New Zealand, 23)
Daniel Turek (Czech Republic, 24)
Dennis van Winden (Netherlands, 29)
Tyler Williams (USA, 22)
Aviv Yechezkel (Israel, 23)

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Team CCB returns in 2018 with new nonprofit partner http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/news/team-ccb-returns-in-2018-with-new-nonprofit-partner_452190 http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/news/team-ccb-returns-in-2018-with-new-nonprofit-partner_452190#respond Thu, 16 Nov 2017 21:03:55 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=452190 Team CCB has started a financial alliance with New York City-based cycling nonprofit Foundation Cycling to fund its 2018 racing schedule

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After a debut season fraught with challenges, Boston-based nonprofit cycling club Team CCB will again field a UCI Continental racing team for 2018. And the team has created a financial alliance with another East Coast 501(c)(3) cycling nonprofit, called Foundation Cycling, to help fund its competitive efforts.

For 2018 the team will be called Team CCB Foundation-Sicleri, with Italian apparel manufacturer Sicleri jumping on as a co-title sponsor. Foundation Cycling is a New York City-based cycling club that was founded in 2000.

“Foundation had a lot to offer that we did not have, and we had a lot to offer that they did not have,” said CCB manager Tim Mitchell. “It made a lot of sense to combine forces.”

The team will again be comprised predominantly of U23 riders, all of whom are enrolled in some type of college or educational program. The program’s nonprofit aim is to help teach riders about pro cycling while also furthering their studies. And the team will again seek funding from largely tax-exempt donations from club members and cycling fans. Mitchell pegged the overall team budget at under $75,000 for the entire year. The team does not pay its riders a salary; instead focusing its resources on travel, race entries, and housing at the events.

“Yes, we want to get results, but our program is based on acquiring experience and not just getting results,” Mitchell said. “If the riders gain experience and learn to race against the best, then mission accomplished.”

For 2018 the team will again embark on a racing schedule that includes non-WorldTour UCI races in Europe and Asia, as well as regional and UCI races across the East Coast. Mitchell said he hopes to take his team to Ireland’s An Post Ras, the Tour d’Azerbaijan, the Baltic Chain Tour, China’s Tour of Qinghai Lake, and Belgium’s Schaal Sels race, among other events.

The team debuted in 2017 and spent much of the season globetrotting to smaller UCI races. The constant travel created a handful of trying situations for the riders and staff. In July, the team’s trip to the Tour of Qinghai Lake turned into a fiasco when the team’s luggage — bikes and wheels included — were stranded at the Milwaukee airport. The team eventually borrowed neutral service bikes and were cleared to race. Things got worse when three of the team’s five riders abandoned due to illness after the first few stages.

In September, the team’s luck got worse. During the Tour of China, team soigneur Olaksandr Tarasov suffered a heart attack and had to undergo surgery. The Chinese hospital declined to accept the team’s health insurance, and thus the team had to pay approximately $12,000 out of pocket for the operation, which eliminated much of its travel budget for the event.

Despite the hurdles, the team also enjoyed a number of high points throughout the season. Jake Sitler finished second place on the queen stage of the An Post Ras. Noah Granigan finished second in the road race at the U23 U.S. national road championships. Development rider Thomas Revard won the U23 criterium title and then inked a deal to ride with Axeon Hagens Berman for 2018. John Harris rode into a breakaway at Schaal Sels alongside LottoNL-Jumbo rider Lars Boom.

Mitchell said he hopes to build on that success in 2018.

“We raced with no fear — not a lot of Conti teams can do that,” Mitchell said. “That’s something I’m really happy about. The guys embraced that attitude.”

2018 Team CCB Foundation-Sicleri

Conor Schunk, USA (19 years old)
Gabe Mendez, USA (19)
Spencer Petrov, USA (20)
Thomas Humphreys, DEN (20)
Cooper Willsey, USA (21)
Noah Granigan, USA (22)
Jonah Mead VanCort, USA (22)
Wyatt Goral, USA (20)
Patrick Collins, USA (23)
Brendan McCormack, USA (24)
John Harris, USA (25)
Jonathan Sandoval, MEX (25)
Jake Sitler, USA (29)

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Explainer: Sky’s mysterious jiffy bag http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/news/explainer-skys-mysterious-jiffy-bag_452180 http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/news/explainer-skys-mysterious-jiffy-bag_452180#respond Thu, 16 Nov 2017 17:32:03 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=452180 After UKAD inconclusively closes the Sky/Wiggins investigation, fans are left wondering what happened with the mysterious jiffy bag.

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FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — The U.K. Anti-Doping Agency (UKAD) closed the case examining Sky and former Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins on Wednesday, and left everyone wondering about the contents of the jiffy bag that kicked off the entire mess.

British Cycling, the multi-million dollar WorldTour Team Sky, and Wiggins all issued statements in the last 24 hours explaining their relief that the case is closed. The way it was closed, however, left fans as confused as they were when it began 14 months prior.

With so many questions, VeloNews examines the questions surrounding the jiffy bag, the investigation, and cycling’s super-team.

What is a jiffy bag?

The British use the term to refer to a padded shipping envelope. Simon Cope delivered the jiffy bag on June 12, 2011, from London to Geneva, and over the border into France at La Toussuire where Wiggins had just won an important pre-Tour de France tune-up race, the Critérium du Dauphiné. With the UKAD case closed inconclusively, mystery still shrouds the jiffy bag package, its contents, and delivery.

Who is Simon Cope?

Recently he has been managing a women’s team, but at the time he worked for British Cycling. Sky’s doctor David Freeman asked him to deliver the jiffy bag at the last minute to the French Alps. The story emerged October 6, 2016 – six years later – in British newspaper The Daily Mail thanks to journalist Matt Lawton. It came at the worst time, on the heels of a row over sexism within British Cycling and hacking revelations. Russian hacker Fancy Bears released medical files on Olympic athletes that showed Wiggins, citing asthma problems, had requested and received permission to inject triamcinolone, a corticosteroid, ahead of the 2011 and 2012 Tours, and 2013 Giro d’Italia.

What is triamcinolone?

It is a powerful drug for asthma suffers that can also increase performance, which is why the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) requires a certificate or therapeutic use exemption (TUE) to use it in or ahead of competition. Former professional David Millar said, “I took EPO and testosterone patches, Kenacort [triamcinolone] though was the only one you took and three days later you looked different. 1.5-2kgs would drop off in like a week. And not only would the weight drop off I would feel stronger.”

Is that what was in the jiffy bag?

We still do not know. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) was able to lasso Lance Armstrong’s former teammates and get confessions that led to his lifetime ban, but the UKAD failed during its big fishing expedition. Some rumored it was triamcinolone in the package. Had Wiggins taken it from doctor David Freeman before midnight on the final day of the Dauphiné, he could have faced a ban since he did not have a medical certificate.

What was Brailsford’s explanation?

He said many things. He first said that Cope had traveled to visit cyclist Emma Pooley and not Sky, a story quickly proven wrong when Pooley said she was in Spain at the time. He also said that Wiggins and Freeman could not have been together on the bus after the final Dauphiné stage in La Toussuire as claimed since that bus had already left, but post-race video footage emerged to prove him wrong. After weeks passed, Team Sky said decongestant Fluimucil was in the package. But why would Cope travel 700 miles to deliver a product you can buy for €8 in a French pharmacy? Before the Fluimucil explanation, Brailsford tried to persuade The Daily Mail to bury the story while the UKAD confirmed that it met “resistance” along its path.

Surely Freeman would know?

Yes, but he missed the parliamentary sessions because he was unwell. His illness led to nine months of silence. Instead, he sent in written testimony. In its investigation, the UKAD discovered he had not uploaded medical files to a central server and that thieves stole the computer with the files in question while he was on vacation. It is a black hole on a treasure map where X marks the spot.

Why not just take their word for it, that a decongestant was delivered?

Sky began in 2010 by saying it would not operate in the grey areas of doping, instead it would respect a clear line between right and wrong. The Russian hacker Fancy Bears, however, showed a series of dashes and dots instead of a solid and straight line. Wiggins insisted he never used needles, but the files showed otherwise, even if it was for a drug permitted by a medical certificate.

What is wrong with the UKAD closing the investigation with such findings?

It neither cleared nor pardoned Wiggins and those involved. It also sends a troubling message that future cases could never come under investigation or might be closed similarly if evidence disappears. The agency would think twice before it spends a significant chunk its budget on another case. And the agency’s funding requests could be questioned when federal budgets are created, given its lack of effectiveness in the jiffy bag case.

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The beautiful duel: Van Aert and van der Poel light up World Cup ‘cross http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/from-the-mag/the-beautiful-duel-van-aert-and-van-der-poel-light-up-world-cup-cross_452127 http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/from-the-mag/the-beautiful-duel-van-aert-and-van-der-poel-light-up-world-cup-cross_452127#respond Thu, 16 Nov 2017 13:24:13 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=452127 Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert have been fierce foes for much of their young lives. Their rivalry rages on — but for how long?

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Editor’s note: This feature was previously published in the October issue of VeloNews magazine.

The most pivotal moment in cyclocross’s recent history took place during the 2016 UCI world championships, held on a muddy course around Belgium’s Heusden-Zolder auto racetrack. Cyclocross fans know this moment by name: “the tangle.”

Two of the sport’s rising stars, Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert, jostled relentlessly for much of the race. During the fifth lap, on a tricky uphill off-camber left-hand turn, van der Poel’s rear wheel slid out, forcing him to dismount just as van Aert sped up from behind. As van der Poel stepped backward, his foot became hopelessly lodged in van Aert’s front wheel.

In a moment that has been replayed thousands of times on YouTube, the two performed an uncomfortable dance to free the Dutchman’s foot. Other riders passed as the duo fumbled to untangle body parts from bike parts, for what seemed like an eternity. Eventually, they extricated themselves from their tangle, but valuable time had been lost.

The race was far from over. Van Aert produced a Herculean effort to ride back into contention; he chased down Dutchman Lars van der Haar in the last lap to win his first elite world championship title. Van der Poel made a valiant charge, but fell short of his rival’s success, finishing fifth.

After the race, van Aert cheekily complimented van der Poel for the gaffe. “I have to actually thank him, because afterwards I got the extra push to get into a high rhythm.”

Translation: “Thanks, my biggest rival, for helping me win worlds.”

Although the two had raced head-to-head dozens of times before, that awkward moment galvanized the van Aert and van der Poel rivalry as the storyline to take cyclocross into a new era.

For nearly two decades, cyclocross fans fixated on the sport’s biggest celebrity, Belgium’s Sven Nys, and his battles against a cadre of rivals. When Nys retired from the sport in 2016, fans looked deeper into the ranks for new stars. They found a collection of young riders with boyish faces, powerful legs, and impeccable skills. Two super-talents, van Aert and van der Poel, rode at the head of this generation. Nys’s retirement opened the door for the pair to take cyclocross into a bold new future.

Since then, the two have battled relentlessly on the World Cup, in Belgium’s Superprestige series, the DVV Trofee series (formerly the BPost Bank Trophy), and at the world championships. Depending on the week, the course, and the conditions, either man is capable of besting the other.

Yet both riders, with their preternatural talent, feel the tug of road cycling, with its million-dollar contracts and fame. Both van Aert and van der Poel have already won major races on the road, and appear destined to graduate to the professional peloton in the near future.

Could the 2017-’18 season be the last time the two men square off with regularity on a cyclocross course? This season might prove to be the final opportunity for fans to witness cyclocross’s beautiful duel.

“Cyclocross needed a new duel, like back in the old days — especially after the retirement of Sven Nys,” van der Poel says. “A lot of people said cyclocross would be less popular, but when I see the crowds now that are coming to see the duel between me and Wout, it’s really something special.”

2012 cyclocross world championships
Van der Poel won junior worlds in 2012, beating van Aert and Frenchman Quentin Jauregui, Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
2014 cyclocross world championships
Van Aert won U23 worlds in 2014, beating van der Poel and Belgian Michael Vanthourenhout. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

WITHIN THE ARRAY OF cycling disciplines, perhaps none is better suited to producing individual rivalries than cyclocross. Across the mud and sand, drafting rarely overcomes a rider’s superior handling skill or raw power. The hour-long races are too short for complex team tactics. A rider with top-notch technical skills can mount a formidable challenge against one with stronger legs.

In cyclocross’s epicenter, Belgium and the Netherlands, the fervor surrounding ’cross is akin to America’s love affair with major sports, from the NFL to the NBA to the NHL. Rivalries have brought incalculable energy and excitement to those leagues: Larry Bird versus Magic Johnson; Wayne Gretzky versus Mark Messier; Peyton Manning versus Tom Brady. The same is true on European shores; there, however, ’cross is often the biggest game in town.

Roll those famous American sports rivalries into one and you understand the importance of a high-caliber ’cross rivalry —
heaped with hype, showered with praise, and packed with the pressures of stardom. Not to mention the TV attention and money that comes along with dramatic storylines.

The sport’s history has been defined by great rivalries. Belgians Eric de Vlaeminck and Albert Van Damme battled for the national and world title in the early 1970s. The 1980s saw Belgian Roland Liboton in a fierce duel with Dutchman Hennie Stamsnijder.

No man better understands cyclocross’s need for rivalries than Nys, whose professional career spanned from 1999 to 2016. During that time Nys was pitted against multiple rivals, from Erwin Vervecken and Bart Wellens, to Niels Albert and Zdenek Stybar.

When VeloNews spoke with the retired champion, he was preparing his Telenet-Fidea pro team for the 2017 season.

“In cyclocross, it’s always about two riders going about their duel,” Nys says. “That’s something we’ve seen the last 20, 25 years.”

Among the great rivalries, the battle between van Aert and van der Poel is special because of how different their styles are, both on and off the bike, Nys says. Frequently, the victory is decided by a heroic feat of strength or a risky line choice.

“What I like about this duel is the battle between the two guys, mentally, physically, and especially in the last lap — who is going to do a special move, choose a special line, who is mentally strongest,” Nys says. “People [are attracted] to a certain rider that they like — how they talk, how they react after they lose a race, how they react after they win. And those things are completely different between Wout and Mathieu, and that’s what makes this duel so special.”

It wasn’t always that way. As juniors, van der Poel often had the edge on van Aert. The playing field became more level once the men entered their late teens. Then came a string of great victories by the Belgian, including his first of two consecutive elite world championship titles in early 2016. He was just 21 at the time.

During the 2016-’17 season, the duel raged across the entire season. Van Aert started the season strong, with back-to-back World Cup victories in the U.S. — van der Poel sat out the early rounds while recovering from a knee injury. Van der Poel returned with top form, winning the World Cup stops in Valkenburg and Zeven.

In the 26 races when van der Poel and van Aert went head-to-head, the pair finished one-two on no fewer than 18 occasions. In those races, van der Poel got the best of his Belgian rival 14 times. Van der Poel only finished outside of the top two on three occasions. Van Aert only finished outside the top five on one occasion. The duel lasted until the very last race of the season.

Wout van Aert
Van Aert won Schaal Sels, a UCI 1.1 road race in Belgium in 2016. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

LIKE MANY BELGIAN CHILDREN, van Aert gravitated toward soccer and spent his childhood running around the pitch. He received a mountain bike as a gift for his first communion. When he accompanied a schoolmate to a race in the Netherlands, he finished second and was immediately hooked. By the time he was 13, van Aert turned his full attention to cycling. And he began to win.

After his early success, his peers began to grow faster than him, and winning became more difficult. Van Aert rose among a talented group of kids from Belgium and the Netherlands. The Sweeck brothers, Laurens and Diether, and van der Poel — all of whom are still van Aert’s biggest rivals — routinely got the best of him in the junior ranks.

Still, his speed, perseverance, and talent were readily apparent. In 2012, when van Aert was 17, he finished second at the junior world championships. Two years later he won the under-23 world title, beating Michael Vanthourenhout and van der Poel. He was destined for the elite ranks.

His stardom soared after his first elite world championships in Heusden-Zolder, and flew higher still after he successfully defended that title in Bieles, Luxembourg.

“I never thought I would be a double world champ even a few years ago,” van Aert says. “It’s been like a rollercoaster in the past seasons. My drive is to stay hungry. It’s my personality. I always want to be the best, in every competition, so every year I want to win as much as possible.”

Now just 23 years old, van Aert’s palmarès is already on-par with the sport’s all-time greats: two elite world titles; two World Cup titles; three DVV Trophy titles; two elite Belgian national titles; one Superprestige title.

While van Aert required a few years to discover cycling, van der Poel grew up surrounded by the sport. His father, Adri van der Poel, is one of the most decorated professional cyclists to ever come out of the Netherlands. During his 20-year career, he won the Tour of Flanders, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and Amstel Gold Race, and several other semi-classics. Unlike the sport’s modern heroes of the road, Adri was also a star of cyclocross. So while his two Tour de France stage victories earned him mainstream acclaim, his world championship and World Cup overall title in cyclocross made him a national icon.

Mathieu was born in 1995, the same year Adri won his fifth of six Dutch national cyclocross titles. Mathieu had a natural mentor in his father.

Van der Poel never rose through the sport; rather, he just arrived and started winning. He won dozens of races as a teenager. During his 2012-’13 campaign, van der Poel won all 30 races he entered, including the junior national title. In 2015, at 19, van der Poel stepped into the elite ranks and won the world title.

It has been much of the same since then. With masterful, on-the-limit technical skills and the speed and power to back it up, van der Poel made winning look easy. Maybe it’s too easy?

“It’s never too easy,” laughs van der Poel. “Especially with Wout, it makes it very hard. We challenge each other to search our limits. No, it’s not boring or easy — never.”

In 2017, van der Poel took his impressive engine outside of cyclocross and turned heads with otherworldly results. In May, he outsprinted Tour of Flanders champion Philippe Gilbert from a small bunch to win stage 2 at the Tour of Belgium. He abandoned the race before the next day’s time trial to travel to Germany. There, three days later, he took a few practice laps on the mountain bike and rode to second place in the World Cup cross-country race in Albstadt. Who could beat the wunderkind? Only Olympic and world champion Nino Schurter.

For all the praise that is heaped on him for such panache, he responds with reserved enthusiasm, a nonchalance that comes from having been in the spotlight almost his entire life. Besides having a famous father, his grandfather is Raymond Poulidor, known as “The Eternal Second” for having finished the Tour de France in second place three times and in third place five times.

“Pressure is not something I fear,” van der Poel says. “Ever since I was a kid, I was the ‘son of van der Poel’ and the ‘grandson of Poulidor,’ so the pressure was always there and something that I got used to. It doesn’t really affect me.”
His prodigious talent had been on display for years before his late-May escapade. However, until that point, he hadn’t beaten a multi-time monument winner on the road and nearly bested one of the greatest mountain bikers in history, in the span of four days. Swapping between mountain bike and road is no simple matter. Van der Poel made it look effortless.

“It was a very special week and month for me. I wanted to prove that I could compete with the best guys on the mountain bike as well,” he says. While van der Poel’s exploits outside of ’cross have received more attention, perhaps for their audaciousness, van Aert is quietly building his road racing palmarès. He hasn’t had nearly the success as he’s had in ’cross, but he’s no slouch either. He has a number of wins in UCI 1.1 category races in Belgium.

Naturally — inevitably — it has raised that simple question: What next? Will they continue to dabble in road and mountain biking to build form for ’cross season? Or will they make the jump à la Zdenek Stybar to a WorldTour team full-time, for a shot on the road?

For now, each continues to search for his limits on his own terms.

Matheiu van der Poel
In May, van der Poel out-sprinted Philippe Gilbert to win stage 2 of the Tour of Belgium. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

IN RECENT YEARS, CYCLOCROSS has seen some of its biggest talents graduate to the road ranks and never look back. Lars Boom won six Dutch titles and one elite world title before switching to road racing in 2009. Czech rider Stybar won three world titles, six Czech national titles, and the overall series title in the World Cup and Superprestige each once. Then, in 2011 he joined Quick-Step to forge a career on the road.

Van Aert and van der Poel now face a similar decision. Van Aert has spoken with Stybar about what it would take to race both disciplines at a high level, or even if it can be done.

In the past three seasons, van Aert focused on ’cross beyond the world championships, through the end-of-season races in February. He’d then return to road racing by May. “I think the combination [of ’cross and road races] like I did in previous years is always possible,” van Aert says.

The plan is different in 2018. For the first time, van Aert will attempt to return for the spring classics on the road, after completing a full ’cross season.

“The combo with the spring classics will be very difficult and maybe it’s not possible to do both on a good level,” he says. “But that’s just what makes it interesting. I see this as a huge challenge. The classics are a learning process. It’s not yet about results but about getting experience and getting stronger.”

A complete move to the road is not yet his ambition. It’s what everybody is expecting, he says, but he still loves cyclocross and plans to continue with it for at least a few more years.

It helps that on his Veranda’s Willems-Crelan team, van Aert is given the freedom to balance both ambitions. With its Pro Continental status, it also affords him the opportunity to hit some of the bigger races on the road calendar. The team, run by former Tour of Flanders champion Nick Nuyens, formed in late 2016 as a merger between the Belgian Continental squad Crelan-Vastgoedservice and Veranda’s Willems. Former world ’cross champion Niels Albert oversees the ’cross squad.

For now, van Aert is content where he is. He has two more years on his contract and believes he can explore his limits on the small Belgian squad.

Van der Poel says he has not reached out to his predecessors to ask about splitting time between two, or three, disciplines.

“It’s a big compliment when someone calls you a ‘Sagan’ these days, but I’m just doing my own thing,” van der Poel says of a compliment Nys paid him recently. “I do think I have a bit of the same spirit as [Sagan] — cycling is about having fun and training very hard. And it’s easier if you’re having fun to go to your limits on training rides.”

Van der Poel’s Beobank-Corendon team races at the Continental level, so WorldTour races are not available to him. It’s one reason he jumped at the opportunity to race the mountain bike World Cup. Should the road squad stay at the lower level, van der Poel says, he may focus more on mountain biking.

“I’m having fun right now, for the moment,” van der Poel says. “To be honest, I think a little bit about the Olympics in 2020, to compete on the mountain bike. It’s really something special to go to the Olympics, and maybe mountain bike is my best chance to get a medal.”

At some point, van der Poel and van Aert will need to decide which discipline to follow. Nys had the opportunity to race on the road and chose cyclocross instead. He believed he could maintain a high level in cyclocross for more than a decade; he was right. In road racing, Nys saw a sport where success depended on too many factors that were out of his control. He made the right choice, for him.

“I not only had a great career, but I also helped my sport to be bigger,” Nys says. “For me, that’s what made it so special. But for every rider it’s different. Every rider builds his own career.”

PERHAPS NO RACE BETTER showcased the dramatic excitement of the duel between van Aert and van der Poel than the World Cup round in Namur, Belgium, in December 2016. Neck and neck, shoulder to shoulder, the pair churned through thick mud, flicking globs of sludge into the air as they relentlessly attacked one another. It all came down to the final lap. Across a tattered, off-camber embankment strewn with ruts, van der Poel went low, while van Aert stayed high, kicking at the saturated soil to propel himself forward. Riding the ragged edge, the Dutchman passed van Aert using his outstretched leg to balance, skating between trenches.

Another minute up the course, a steep climb forced both men to dismount and run. Van der Poel’s four-second lead vanished as van Aert powered on foot up the greasy slope. Moments later, they reached another punchy climb, and van der Poel attacked from the front. It was vicious and unrelenting. He was gone.

“In this duel, the key word is respect. If you look at what each of us has accomplished so far, you can only have respect for one another.”
– Wout van Aert

“Wout’s strength is that he’s really strong and he never gives up,” van der Poel says. “It’s very hard to have someone like him chasing you. You know you’re going to have to go full-out to the finish line to win.”

Van Aert also benefits from his ability to power through heavy mud. By contrast, van der Poel has greater technical skill, and his explosive power allows him to dance through loose and fast sections.

While van Aert might be able to power away through a section of slop, there may be one technical descent where van der Poel, with his bravado, can take huge risks and come back to him. That, says Nys, is what people enjoy.

“They are really young but what they show to the people is amazing, and special,” Nys says. “It’s important for our sport that they’re so young, because sponsors, TV, the press already have an interest for the next few years. That’s because of Wout and Mathieu, for sure.”

While van der Poel pushes van Aert to train harder and work more diligently on his weaknesses, the same is true in the opposite direction. Without each other, neither rider would be so damned good.

The two are complete athletes, says Nys. They are always trying to be the best, while always trying to improve. In Belgium, there is a saying: “It’s not something you see every 10 years.” Now, there are two athletes at that extraordinary level.

“In this duel, the key word is respect,” van Aert says. “If you look at what each of us has accomplished so far, you can only have respect for one another.”

“They are both really special athletes; it all comes down to the details now.”
– Sven Nys

Each rider has a distinct style. Van der Poel is more playful — jumping, doing tricks on all types of bikes, having fun. Van Aert is the consummate road racer — meticulous in his preparation, serious in his approach. Now that van der Poel has matured to adulthood, Nys believes he has the edge.

He also believes that because van Aert is the two-time world champion, there is more pressure on him to defend. Van der Poel can use that to his advantage, as an inspiration.

“They are both really special athletes; it all comes down to the details now,” Nys says. “When they come to the final lap together, Mathieu, for the moment, has something more. He has something special, especially mentally — more explosiveness which can help him win more big races.”

At such a young age, van Aert and van der Poel face immense pressure, given their place at the top of the sport and, at least in part, as a replacement for Nys, who was seen by many in Belgium as a cyclocross god. Having been a part of numerous great rivalries, Nys knows the feeling of having to perform weekend after weekend, on and off the bike.

“It’s not easy,” Nys says. “Sometimes you’re banging your head against the wall. The pressure is on every moment you are racing. Maybe you win on Saturday, you lose on Sunday, and the pressure is there again. Sometimes that’s harder than the physical parts of a season.”

In cyclocross, fans cheer or jeer, inches away from the action. The media attention is unrelenting. Crowds gather for their idols at team vans, seeking autographs, jostling to take photos. On and off the bike, there’s no letting up. By season’s end, a rider will be completely empty, mentally and physically. According to Nys, the crucible of pressure and the ability to deal with it are what make a top cyclocross rider so special: every moment you must be prepared to handle the stress.

Thus far, van Aert and van der Poel have met that pressure with one amazing performance after another. And so their beautiful duel rages on.

“Their level is incredibly high. Cyclocross has always lived by duels,” Nys says. “Van der Poel and van Aert both have their own qualities, and I think there are still many beautiful duels to come.”

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Wiggins: Anti-doping probe was a ‘living hell’ http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/news/wiggins-anti-doping-probe-living-hell_452092 http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/news/wiggins-anti-doping-probe-living-hell_452092#respond Wed, 15 Nov 2017 17:34:06 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=452092 Bradley Wiggins considers legal options against UKAD after the investigation led to what he claims was "a malicious witch hunt."

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LONDON (AFP) — British cycling great Bradley Wiggins said he and his family had been subjected to a “living hell” during a 14-month United Kingdom Anti-Doping (UKAD) investigation, which was dropped Wednesday. Wiggins was not charged with wrongdoing over a mystery package he received in 2011.

Wiggins, the first British winner of the Tour de France, also warned he would consider his legal options after UKAD did not issue an “unqualified finding of innocence.”

An inquiry was launched in September 2016 after British newspaper the Daily Mail reported a mystery package meant for now-retired Tour de France winner Wiggins had been delivered to Team Sky during a 2011 race in France.

It was alleged the package in question contained a banned corticosteroid but Wiggins’s then doctor, Richard Freeman, insisted it was the decongestant fluimucil, a legal substance.

Freeman revealed he had lost a lone written record confirming this when his laptop was stolen while he was on holiday.

“This period of time has been a living hell for me and my family,” Wiggins, 37, said on Twitter. “At times it has felt like nothing less than a malicious witch hunt.”

Wiggins, a five-time Olympic gold medallist, Team Sky, and British Cycling were all told they would not face any charges for wrongdoing after UKAD said they had been hampered by a lack of “contemporaneous evidence.”

‘Untrue’

Wiggins, who made history by winning the Tour de France in 2012, said he had been “hounded,” as he gave his reaction to UKAD’s announcement in a lengthy tweeted statement.

“It is the worst possible thing for any professional sportsperson, especially when it is without any solid factual basis and you know the allegation to be categorically untrue,” wrote Wiggins.

He said he had remained silent for so long because he did not want to “undermine” an ongoing investigation.

Wiggins also said he had been subjected to “widespread and unfounded speculation in the press” that saw him “hounded” as pundits and fellow riders “waded in without knowing all the facts.”

As for UKAD’s inconclusive finding, a clearly angry Wiggins said: “To say I am disappointed by some of the comments made by UKAD this morning is an understatement.

“No evidence exists to prove a case against me and in all other circumstances this would be an unqualified finding of innocence.

“The amount of time it has taken to come to today’s conclusion has caused serious personal damage, especially as the investigation seems to be predicated on a news headline rather than real, solid information.”

Wiggins also questioned UKAD over the source of the allegation, why it was considered credible, and why the investigation took so long.

Meanwhile, Wiggins defended the much-criticised Freeman as “a very good physician [who] treated me and others with great care and respect.”

Nevertheless, Wiggins also wrote: “Had the infrastructure for precise record-keeping been in place this investigation would have never started.”

Wiggins, who retired after the Rio Olympics last year, said he was grateful to all those “who have stood by me and my family while this dark cloud has been over us.”

‘Serious concern’

“Our investigation was hampered by a lack of accurate medical records being available at British Cycling,” UKAD chief executive Nicole Sapstead said.

“This is a serious concern … In this case, the matter was further complicated by the crossover between personnel at British Cycling and Team Sky.”

Team Sky, whose star rider Chris Froome won a fourth Tour de France title earlier this year, responded to UKAD’s announcement by saying: “We are pleased that UK Anti-Doping have concluded their investigation and that they will not be taking any further action.

“We have always maintained that there was no wrongdoing and we have co-operated fully with UK Anti-Doping over the last year.”

British Cycling chief executive Julie Harrington accepted there had been a “blurring of the boundaries” between the governing body and Sky which “led to some failings in the way processes and people were managed.”

She said that no one was now simultaneously employed by both organizations and they each had their own procedures for managing medical records.

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VN pod, ep. 59: Gaimon controversy; Svein Tuft is tough http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/podcast/podcast-ep-59-gaimon-controversy-svein-tuft-is-tough_452103 http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/podcast/podcast-ep-59-gaimon-controversy-svein-tuft-is-tough_452103#respond Wed, 15 Nov 2017 16:55:02 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=452103 In this week's episode, we have an impromptu book club after reading Phil Gaimon's new book, "Draft Animals."

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Welcome to the VeloNews cycling podcast, where we discuss the latest trends, news, and controversies in the world of cycling.

In this week’s episode, we have an impromptu book club after reading Phil Gaimon’s new book, “Draft Animals.” His controversial memoir calls out Fabian Cancellara, and now Gaimon is in the hot seat. The book provides a personal, in-depth — and sometimes depressing — look at what it’s like to be a pro cyclist trying to make the WorldTour. We discuss this and other notable cycling autobiographies.

Also, Andrew Hood talks about his interview with the legendary Svein Tuft and we critique Movistar boss Eusebio Unzue’s wacky idea to introduce substitute riders in the Tour de France. And of course, the podcast wraps up with our usual segments: #AskACat3 and the VN Podium.

If you like what you hear, subscribe to the VeloNews podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play. Also, check out the VeloNews Fast Talk training podcast with Trevor Connor.

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Gilbert still dreaming of elusive monument slam http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/news/gilbert-still-dreaming-of-elusive-monument-slam_452066 http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/news/gilbert-still-dreaming-of-elusive-monument-slam_452066#respond Wed, 15 Nov 2017 14:11:10 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=452066 Philippe Gilbert needs victories in Milano-Sanremo and Paris-Roubaix to win all five of cycling's monuments.

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Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) is no longer a spring chicken, but he’s still as ambitious as ever.

Victory in this year’s Tour of Flanders revived the 35-year-old’s dream of winning all five of cycling’s monuments. He’s won three — Flanders, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and Giro di Lombardia (twice) — and believes Milano-Sanremo and Paris-Roubaix are reachable.

“Everyone knows that I dream of winning Sanremo and Roubaix, and completing my palmares with these two monuments,” Gilbert said on the team’s website. “Having them in my sights gives me a fresh motivation.”

The monument “grand slam” is one of cycling’s most prestigious and elusive goals. The five one-day races are among cycling’s longest, most difficult, and most prestigious titles. Winning all of them is not easy. Only three riders — Eddy Merckx, Roger De Vlaeminck, and Rik Van Looy — have managed to pull it off.

Perhaps more than any rider in the contemporary peloton, Gilbert has the skillset to seriously make a challenge. Lombardia and Liège, two races he’s already won, require climbing skills, while Sanremo is a sprinter’s race. Flanders and Roubaix are titled more in favor of brawny cobble-bashers.

Of his remaining two monuments, Gilbert has enjoyed more success in Italy’s Sanremo, twice finishing third. He’s only raced Roubaix once, finishing 52nd in 2007.

A few things could stand in his way. The sprint-friendly Sanremo is the most hotly contested race among the monuments, with literally dozens of riders starting each March with realistic possibilities. The rise of Quick-Step teammate Fernando Gaviria might also complicate things for Gilbert at La Primavera.

And to win Roubaix, Gilbert needs to be at the start line. Even after winning Flanders last year, Gilbert skipped Roubaix to recover in time for a run at the Ardennes classics. A fourth victory at Amstel Gold Race in April confirmed he made the right decision to avoid the ravages of Roubaix.

Few riders today race both the cobblestoned northern classics and the hillier Ardennes races in the same calendar year. The retirement of Roubaix king Tom Boonen could open up more room for Gilbert to finally race Roubaix with more leadership responsibilities.

Gilbert signed a two-year contract extension to stay with Quick-Step through 2019.

“I’ve been very successful in the classics over the years, and if I will win another one before bowing out from the sport, I will be happy,” Gilbert said. “If not, I’ll just take things as they come. Even if I don’t win all the monuments, I want to know that I tried and when the time will come, to quit cycling without any regrets.”

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No charges in Sky, Wiggins doping inquiry http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/news/no-charges-in-sky-wiggins-doping-inquiry_452068 http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/news/no-charges-in-sky-wiggins-doping-inquiry_452068#respond Wed, 15 Nov 2017 13:40:04 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=452068 The UK Anti-Doping Agency closes its investigation into the "jiffy bag" matter, which dates back to the 2011 Critérium du Dauphiné.

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The UK’s anti-doping agency won’t file charges surrounding an investigation into Team Sky’s infamous “Jiffy Bag” incident from 2011.

Despite a year-long investigation involving dozens of witnesses, the UK Anti-Doping Agency (UKAD) confirmed Wednesday the inquiry is closed. The UKAD cited a lack hard evidence in its decision to not press further.

“Our investigation was hampered by a lack of accurate medical records being available at British Cycling. This is a serious concern,” said UKAD chief execute Nicole Sapstead in a statement. “I can confirm that UKAD does not intend to issue any anti-doping charges as a result of the investigation into the package.”

Team Sky dodges a major bullet with UKAD’s decision. The squad was under the microscope following reports of an unknown substance transported to the 2011 Critérium du Dauphiné, where team captain Bradley Wiggins was competing. Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford claimed the substance was legal decongestant Fluimucil, but he was unable to prove that claim as well.

There was much speculation of what might have been inside the so-called “Jiffy Bag,” but UKAD inquiries over the course of the past 12 months were unable to accurately determine what was being transported.

With no decisive proof despite interviews with 37 individuals, UKAD officials opted to close the investigation.

“No anti-doping charges will be brought in relation to the package as a result of that investigation and all interested parties have been informed accordingly,” the UKAD statement read. “Put simply, due to the lack of contemporaneous evidence, UKAD has been unable to definitively confirm the contents of the package. The significant likelihood is that it is now impossible to do so.”

The “Jiffy Bag” inquiry and reports of leaked documents that Wiggins used triamcinolone with a therapeutic-use exemption (TUE) ahead of grand tours, including during his 2012 Tour de France victory, raised questions about Team Sky and its legacy.

Team Sky was quick to issue a statement Wednesday following confirmation of the UKAD decision.

“We are pleased that UK Anti-Doping have concluded their investigation and that they will not be taking any further action,” a Team Sky statement read. “We have always maintained that there was no wrongdoing and we have cooperated fully with UK Anti-Doping over the last year.”

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Commentary: What if Sagan hadn’t flatted (twice) in Roubaix? http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/commentary/commentary-sagan-hadnt-flatted-twice-roubaix_451972 http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/commentary/commentary-sagan-hadnt-flatted-twice-roubaix_451972#respond Tue, 14 Nov 2017 15:32:01 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=451972 Let’s indulge in a little revisionist history to construct the Paris-Roubaix that fans were dreaming of in 2017.

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Cycling history is peppered with ‘what if’ moments. What if that French fan didn’t punch Eddy Merckx on the Puy de Dome? What if customs officers never pulled over Willy Voet in his Festina team car? What if Cadel Evans didn’t suffer a puncture at the worst moment of the 2009 Vuelta a España? We are left contemplating alternative scenarios to how races played out.

This past season gave us a handful of new what-if moments to mull over. Today, we’ll take a deeper dive into Paris-Roubaix.

As you may recall, we cycling fans were salivating over a possible slugfest between world champion Peter Sagan and Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet along the Roubaix cobblestones. Coming into the race weekend, Van Avermaet had bested Sagan throughout the classics season, beating him at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, E3 Harelbeke, and Gent-Wevelgem. Sagan needed a result, and with his crash at the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix presented his final opportunity to win a major classic in 2017.

The stage was set for a battle, and then — CRAP! — Sagan flatted with 77km to go. He chased back to the group. Hope was not lost! And then we collectively groaned as he flatted again with 30km to go. That final puncture all but knocked him out of the finale, which Van Avermaet took in a sprint in the Roubaix velodrome.

So now for the what-if conundrum: What if Sagan escaped without a flat? Let’s indulge in a little revisionist history to construct the Roubaix battle that we wanted.

Flat tire #1: The long shot

Gent-Wevelgem
Greg Van Avermaet out-foxed a group that included Peter Sagan in Gent-Wevelgem 2017. Photo: Jim Fryer / BrakeThrough Media | www.brakethroughmedia.com

Had Sagan escaped that first flat tire, what would have happened? Let’s start the what-if game. Remember, he is on the attack with 80km to go when the Roubaix gods smite his tubular. And his breakaway companions are no slouches: Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Daniel Oss (BMC), and Sagan’s teammate Maciej Bodnar.

The move is a long shot, both in terms of distance to race and the composition of the group. On one hand, Stuyven and Oss are good riders to have along. With Van Avermaet in the group behind, BMC is not inclined to immediately chase, instead leaving that to Quick-Step and the other teams that missed the move. Stuyven is similarly advantaged with teammate and former Roubaix champ John Degenkolb watching the peloton behind. But Bodnar’s presence is bad for the breakaway’s chances of success. Everyone knows it’s a bad idea to let the world champion get away with a teammate to aid the cause. To make matters worse, Quick-Step is not in the break. It is Tom Boonen’s farewell race, so at some point, they chase full-gas.

Given the Quick-Step factor and the long distance from the finish, I’d give this break’s chance of survival about 25 percent. Sagan, Bodnar, and Stuyven take monumental pulls to keep the gap going, and at some point, Oss becomes a passenger. In a best-case scenario, the four men survive until the Templeuve. After they are caught by a small peloton, there is a flurry of attacks. Sagan is able to stay with the group after the catch, but just barely. A small group enters the Roubaix velodrome, and the world champion is simply too tired from his huge effort. Van Avermaet finishes him off.

We fans would have gotten our Sagan vs. Van Avermaet showdown, but in this scenario, Sagan would be lucky to finish on the podium. In fact, that first flat tire might be a blessing in disguise.

Flat tire #2: The last straw

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
Van Avermaet out-sprinted Sagan at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Unlike the first flat, Sagan’s second puncture was exceptionally costly. If you remember, Sagan provoked the winning breakaway, bringing Van Avermaet, Sebastian Langeveld (Cannondale-Drapac), Zdenek Stybar (Quick-Step), Gianni Moscon (Sky), and Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Soudal). After he flatted, Van Avermaet handily took the sprint ahead of Stybar.

That was a thriller. Now, back to the what-if game: What if Sagan had made that group with no problems?

With 30km the break is gone. Sagan’s presence in the group alongside Van Avermaet means the breakaway is bound to succeed. Quick Step has representation with Stybar, and the other major favorites are isolated and unable to claw their way back.

The group enters the Carrefour de l’Arbe and splits. Sagan is able to follow Van Avermaet into the front group alongside Stybar and Langeveld.

With Sagan’s added firepower, the group builds a bigger advantage on the chasers. With the added time, the men are able to take turns attacking into the final 15 kilometers, rather than ride in unison. The Roubaix finale turns into a repeat of 2016 when Boonen, Sep Vanmarcke, Edvald Boasson Hagen and Mat Hayman traded haymakers.

Who has the legs to attack out of the (hypothetical) final four in Roubaix 2017? After his petulant — and unsuccessful — ride in Gent-Wevelgem two weeks earlier, Sagan plays it cool. He follows wheels. But so does Van Avermaet, a notoriously cagey rider. Stybar buries himself, but remember, the team’s plan was a grand farewell victory for Boonen. The Czech had spent too many matches earlier in the race. There is a brief lull in the pace after Stybar’s last-gasp attack and Langeveld goes all in. Sagan and Van Avermaet mark each other out and settle for an also-ran sprint. Later, Cannondale-Garmin boss Jonathan Vaughters promises fans his team will focus exclusively on classics in 2018.

In another scenario, Van Avermaet and Sagan come into the velodrome together. Normally Sagan wins in a more conventional sprint. But this sprint comes after 257 kilometers of brutal cobblestones. Neither man has his usual turn of speed. So who has the advantage?

Van Avermaet’s win over Sagan in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad earlier in the spring was a great example his confidence and caginess in the final meters. Throughout the 2017 campaign, in fact, Van Avermaet sprinted to victory with his head as much as with his legs. He never made the first move, instead letting his rivals lead out the sprint. In some occasions, he nearly rode to a standstill in order to provoke a rival. And Sagan? To his credit, he rode an incredibly patient sprint at Bergen world championships to claim his third rainbow jersey. Springtime Sagan, however, was jumpy. Just a month earlier, at Milano-Sanremo, Sagan lost to Michal Kwiatkowski when he led out the sprint. Which Sagan shows up in the Roubaix velodrome? It’s anybody’s guess. Maybe he somehow taps into a Zen state to win a cobblestone trophy.

Unfortunately, fans can only speculate about how this dream duel could have played out. We can speculate and we can wait, because Paris-Roubaix (April 8) is only 146 days away.

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Report: Cancellara demands Gaimon pull book after motor accusation http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/news/report-cancellara-demands-gaimon-pull-book-motor-accusation_451974 http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/news/report-cancellara-demands-gaimon-pull-book-motor-accusation_451974#respond Mon, 13 Nov 2017 18:44:01 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=451974 Fabian Cancellara's lawyers have demanded that Phil Gaimon's publisher stops distribution of "Draft Animals."

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Het Nieuwsblad reports that Fabian Cancellara’s lawyers have demanded that Phil Gaimon’s publisher stops distribution of “Draft Animals” after controversy arose over motor cheating allegations. Cancellara’s manager Armin Meier says he is also expecting a public apology from the American.

In his new autobiography, former pro racer Gaimon wrote, “When you watch the footage, [Cancellara’s] accelerations don’t look natural at all, like he’s having trouble staying on the top of the pedals. That f—ker probably did have a motor.” He was referring to the 2010 Tour of Flanders, which some fans have pointed to as proof of motor cheating in the peloton.

The allegation caught the UCI’s attention last Thursday.

“We can’t rule out opening an investigation if new elements come into our possession,” a UCI spokesman said, confirming comments also made by UCI president David Lappartient to Cyclingnews.

“We need to know exactly what is behind this. Of course, I heard all the rumors, like everybody, and I just want to know exactly. So we will investigate, that is our job,” Lappartient said.

Cancellara retired from pro racing in 2016 and has always denied accusations of motor cheating.

Gaimon declined to comment when contacted by VeloNews about this story.

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King of the watts Sagan passes winter between court and California http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/news/king-watts-sagan-passes-winter-court-california_451957 http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/news/king-watts-sagan-passes-winter-court-california_451957#respond Mon, 13 Nov 2017 15:17:28 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=451957 The Slovakian will swing by the CAS to discuss his Tour de France expulsion and California for a charity ride ahead of 2018.

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FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Peter Sagan — the three-time world champion and “most powerful cyclist” — rests only briefly before the 2018 season begins with the Tour Down Under. Trips to the tattoo parlor, court, and California are on Sagan’s agenda this winter.

The Slovakian on team Bora-Hansgrohe rolled to a stop after becoming the first cyclist ever to win three world titles in a row. He sprinted to the road race victory in Bergen, Norway, to cap off a nearly perfect 2017 season.

Next season is nearing quickly, with team camps beginning in December and Sagan’s first race scheduled to begin January 16.

“I’m excited to be starting the 2018 season with the rainbow stripes across my back again in Australia at the Santos Tour Down Under,” he told the Adelaide Advertiser.

The Australian WorldTour race was the start of Sagan’s successful 2017 run, which included 12 wins. He won in Belgium at the Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, in the Amgen Tour of California, in the Tour de France, and in Canada’s GP Québec.

“His power numbers are even better than last year,” his coach and Bora-Hansgrohe sport director Patxi Vila told VeloNews.

“We committed more to 2017 than last year. Peter put in the training to make the classics work and did the same for the Tour.”

Velon, a group set up by the teams to look after their interests, collected data through the year and named Sagan the most powerful sprinter of 2017. The data confirmed what Vila said. Sagan, during an 18-second period of the Tour of Suisse’s stage 5, produced an average of 1,220 watts. Over that time, he reached 76.2 kilometers an hour and peaked at 1,417 watts — enough to power a small space heater or an espresso machine.

Michael Albasini (Orica-Scott), second on that day at the Tour de Suisse, averaged 847 watts during that same period. Velon stacked up the sprinters and found only Colombian Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) came close. In stage 13 of the Giro d’Italia, he averaged 1,098 watts and peaked at 1,478 in a 21-second dash to the win.

Fans, however, missed seeing Sagan’s massive power-surge sprints in the Tour de France. He won once, but failed to get far out of the gates or contend for a sixth green jersey due to an “irregular sprint” in stage 4 on July 4 that saw him get disqualified and Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) crash with a broken shoulder blade.

Bora-Hansgrohe pleaded with the UCI jury and appealed to the CAS, the highest court in sports, but the team was ultimately forced to continue in the Tour without its multi-million-dollar star. Sagan’s right elbow popped out as Cavendish darted up the right side, but he said he “didn’t do something wrong in the sprint.”

The CAS listed about 20 cases last week that it plans to hear over the next month, including one on December 5: Sagan and Bora-Hansgrohe vs. the UCI. The team will argue that its star never had a say in the decision and that it lost precious publicity with what it says was the wrong call.

The hearing will take place in Lausanne, Switzerland, and could see Sagan testify to the panel on the incident. It would slot into a busy rest period that saw him and his wife welcome the birth of their baby boy Marlon last month.

Sunday night, Sagan posted a video on Twitter of him putting needle to a tattoo artist’s right thigh. He wrote the caption, “I hope the tattoo my friend will do on me will be better than the one I’m doing on him…”

Sagan will also travel from his base in Monaco to California later in November to join the #SonomaPride ride through the areas affected by recent wildfires.

Sagan and his team will ride with the big goals of 2018 in mind. He wants to win one of the monuments again, either Milano-Sanremo, the Tour of Flanders, or Paris-Roubaix. This year, he said teams rode against him. Making it worse, he crashed in Flanders and punctured at less-than-ideal moments during Roubaix.

“We all get used to the success of Peter, but it’s not fair because it’s so hard to win,” Vila added. “With all the lights on you, you have to do everything perfectly, otherwise you don’t win. The best we can do is be 100 percent and see how the race goes.”

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Ewan looking for hot start Down Under http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/news/ewan-looking-for-hot-start-down-under_451942 http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/news/ewan-looking-for-hot-start-down-under_451942#respond Mon, 13 Nov 2017 14:31:55 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=451942 The 23-year-old will kick off his 2018 season at the Australian nationals and a pair of international races in his home country.

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Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott) is looking for a hot start to 2018 to pick up where he left off following another year of progression in the sprints.

The 23-year-old confirmed he will race a solid Australian schedule to open 2018 on home roads. Ewan picked up 13 victories in 2017, his best since turning pro, and is hoping to win the Australian national pro road title for the first time.

The Aussie road race title is complicated because the course is typically quite heavy, with plenty of attacks, and it rarely comes down to a bunch sprint. Ewan has a better chance of defending his national criterium title.

“I’m hoping the [road] race is a little bit easier, with a headwind up the climb to slow the race down, so I can get to the finish for some sort of sprint,” Ewan said. “Wearing the green and gold [national champion jersey] at any point is an honor, and since we don’t do a lot of crits, I haven’t been able to wear the green and gold a lot. It would really be a dream to wear it on the road.”

In what’s no surprise, Ewan will have a busy racing schedule in January on home roads. His first major targets are the Australian national championships (January 3, criterium; January 7, road race) before the WorldTour season opener at the Santos Tour Down Under (January 16-24) and Race Melbourne (January 25).

Orica-Scott has not yet outlined Ewan’s European racing schedule. After winning stages in the Vuelta a España (2015) and the Giro d’Italia (2017), there will be growing expectations for Ewan to make his Tour de France debut.

It will be interesting to see if management decides to take Ewan to the Tour. With the team focusing more on GC via the Yates brothers and Esteban Chaves, the team has progressively shifted its power base toward grand tours. That doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be room for Ewan at the Tour, but it’s obvious he would not have the full support of a sprint train like Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) and Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin) will see.

In three grand tour starts, Ewan has won two stages and has taken early exits as planned. For 2018, Ewan will be looking to further consolidate his position in sprint stages and sprint-friendly, one-day races across the WorldTour calendar.

At the Tour Down Under, Ewan will face a deeper sprinter field than last year, when he won four stages and the points jersey. Three-time world champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) have already confirmed.

“The sprint field is a lot better than it’s been in the past two years, so it’s definitely going to be challenging,” Ewan said. “There are probably only three stages that really suit the sprinters in the 2018 Tour Down Under.”

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Q&A: Parsing truth from fiction in Svein Tuft’s legendary ‘hobo’ adventures http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/news/qa-parsing-truth-from-fiction-in-svein-tufts-legendary-hobo-adventures_451864 http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/news/qa-parsing-truth-from-fiction-in-svein-tufts-legendary-hobo-adventures_451864#respond Mon, 13 Nov 2017 13:52:17 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=451864 We caught up with the Canadian to discuss some of his legendary adventures in the woods of Canada.

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Svein Tuft’s life has been full of adventures. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Long before Svein Tuft was a pro bike racer known for his toughness and grit, he was honing a unique skillset in the outback of Canada.

Nearly a decade before he became an elite international cyclist, Tuft was living a self-described “hobo lifestyle.” The free-wheeling Tuft spent as much time as he could camping, climbing, skiing, snowboarding, and exploring the mountains of western Canada.

The 40-year-old road captain on Orica-Scott never dreamed of becoming a professional racer, but it was on those long solitary journeys when he forged his passion for cycling.

Tuft would roam the Canadian backcountry, taking months-long bike trips on the lonely roads across the Yukon and British Columbia on an old, beat-up mountain bike. He’d pick up odd jobs, like mowing lawns or bailing hay, to save up enough money before the next adventure. He twice rode from Alaska to the Lower 48, bivouacking under the stars and hauling around an 80-pound dog on a makeshift trailer.

Along the way, he had enough adventures to fill a Jack London book. Some of those stories have shown up in The New York Times and other news outlets. And like a legend of the Old West, it’s sometimes been difficult to separate truth from fiction.

We recently caught up with Tuft at his European home base in Andorra — where he and his wife recently celebrated the birth of their first son Gunnar — to get the real story from some of Tuft’s more exuberant adventures in his pre-racing days.

Photo: Courtesy of Svein Tuft

VeloNews: OK, Svein, there are many interesting “origin stories” behind some of your adventures before you became a professional cyclist, so we’d like to go through a few of them. To parse fact from fiction, sound good?
Svein Tuft: OK, this could be fun.

VN: First off, was it true that you once beat back a wolf with a knife when you were camping alone in the woods out in the middle of the Yukon?
ST: Well, I didn’t have a knife. It was an aluminum hockey stick.

VN: Oh, even better! Do tell …
ST: Yeah, it was an aluminum hockey stick without a blade. I had picked it up on the side of the road, and it came in handy to use as a kickstand for my bike. I had a big trailer on the back of my old touring bike and I couldn’t lay it down. So I would use the hockey stick to prop up the bike.

VN: So you were doing these epic, months-long bike touring rides solo across Canada. And that hockey stick came in handy in more ways than one?
ST: It also made for a good whacking stick. Or to beat back a wolf. I was camping up near the Yukon close to a place called Jade City. They say they have the world’s biggest wolves up there, but this one that attacked us was sick and on its own. Wolves would never confront a human, and if a wolf pack did attack us, I wouldn’t be talking to you right now.

VN: Who was “us?”
ST: I had a big ol’ mutt, a mix of chow, German Shepherd, and Rottweiler. I’d tow that 80-pound dog around in a trailer I had on the back of my bike. He was named Bear. Sometimes he’d just jump off the trailer and chase a moose. Sometimes he’d be gone an hour, but he’d always come back, all wet and sometimes a little bit bloodied up. He was a real nutcase of a dog, but he could come in handy up there in the woods.

VN: So how did the wolf attack your camp?
ST: Up there in the north — this was late May going into June — the days are getting pretty long, so it stays light late. My dog just started growling. Then there was a rustling in the bush, and the dog just darts into the woods. Then it was this horrible sound of dogs fighting. If it was a normal wolf, my dog wouldn’t have made it. But the thing was emaciated, and that’s why it came at us. I jumped out of my bivy sack and I was yelling at my dog to come back. Then they came into the opening, and they were really going at it. I grabbed my aluminum hockey stick, and beat this thing to get it to go away. I started to connect some good blows, and it freaked out and just ran away. It was so intense. It was not a good night. You’re up there on your own. There’s nothing around you. The nearest town was 300km away, and that’s really nothing more than a gas station and a few shacks.

VN: Whoa, what a story. OK, so moving on to “Svein myth” No. 2: you spent a night trapped on the side of a cliff?
ST: Ha, where do you get these stories? Well, a buddy and I were climbing a peak called Yak Peak up in [British Columbia]. We were hitting this nice, new route on a granite wall. We started out super early in the morning and it was August and [there were] no signs of bad weather, so we were just wearing T-shirts to keep things as minimal as possible. We were up there and got caught out under this overhanging roof at the final bit of the climb. You’re pretty tired, and then the winds started picking up, the clouds are pushing in, and what was a beautiful day turned into a bit of a disaster.

VN: So what happened next?
ST: It got windier and colder, and we got a bit of precipitation. Granite in the wet is OK, because you can still get a grip. We were on these 5.10 pitches, trying to rappel the hell out of there. We were coming down, but being the poor bastards that we were, part of our rope got stuck. And we were not about to leave it up there on the face. One of those anchors cost $40, and when you’re a hobo like I was then, $40 was two weeks of good living. It was pouring down rain at this point, and only one of us had a headlamp. It was one of those worst-case scenarios. It was 3 a.m., and we were both just f—ed. We had been up on the face for nearly 24 hours. We had been out in the hot sun, with all the exposure, not a lot of food, and now were near hypothermic. You’re so over it, but you have to keep on going. We were pulling down the rope, and it gets jammed up there. So there was nothing you could do but free-climb up there, and pull it out of the jam. I will never forget that feeling when we got back down to solid ground. We were kissing the earth. I was never so happy in my life to be back on flat earth.

VN: I can imagine after having survived some of these misadventures that professional bike racing might seem easy?
ST: When I got to Europe and I heard these pros complain about a shitty bus or some dumpy hotel, I would just laugh. I never complain about the weather in a bike race. That’s just life. Weather is life. OK, there is nothing easy about pro bike racing, but experiencing some of this other stuff sure helped me when I came to Europe.

VN: OK, urban legend number three: you were once a cage-fighter?
ST: Ha! OK, that one is not true. That one gets blown way out of proportion. It’s true that I enjoy martial arts, and I practice Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. But as far as being a cage-fighter, that one is a legend.

VN: So what is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for the uninitiated?
ST: If you’re going to spar, you need to take care of your brain. You need to wear headgear and gloves. There’s no way I would ever do extreme fighting. That’s why I love Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It’s more about grappling and wrestling down your opponent. It’s a great way to train 100 percent of your body. It’s one of the most complete martial arts.

VN: When you were doing all these crazy things, did you ever imagine being a Tour de France racer?
ST: Not at all. My dad would watch the Tour, but I didn’t understand what was going on. To me, it was just a bunch of guys in tight outfits rolling around. It didn’t really interest me. It wasn’t until I started racing locally that I thought about turning pro.

VN: Now that you are a professional, we hear you like to walk barefoot in the woods to do some meditation and yoga before the start of a race. True or false?
ST: Yep, that’s true. It’s about being grounded on the Earth. About being in the sunshine, feeling the air fill your lungs, the movement of the sky. Sometimes it might by for 20 minutes, or maybe up to an hour. It’s about taking a small part of your day and doing something that’s beneficial to your body and your soul. For me, being out in the mountains has been my obsession for a long time.

VN: Svein, these are great stories, you should write a book …
ST: I’ve thought about that. Maybe someday after I finish racing. I already have a title: “How the F—k Did I End Up Here?”

To read the rest of the interview with Tuft, pick up the next print issue of VeloNews at your local newsstands. Or click here to subscribe.

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Moreno bolsters EF-Drapac across classics http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/news/moreno-bolsters-ef-drapac-across-classics_451891 http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/news/moreno-bolsters-ef-drapac-across-classics_451891#respond Sat, 11 Nov 2017 20:26:27 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=451891 Spanish climber Dani Moreno is the latest addition to EF Education First-Drapac for 2018. He joins the team after spending two seasons at

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Team officials confirmed news Saturday that veteran Spanish climber Dani Moreno is the latest addition to EF Education First-Drapac for 2018.

The Spanish daily MARCA reported that Moreno, 36, has already signed a contract with the U.S.-registered team for 2018. EF-Drapac has yet to publicly reveal the signing, but officials confirmed the report is correct.

A former winner at Flèche Wallonne, and a three-time stage winner at the Vuelta a España, Moreno will bolster the team’s presence in the grand tours and the Ardennes classics.

With superb seasons from Michael Woods and Rigoberto Urán, with a stage-win and second overall at the Tour de France, the team is looking to add some key support. Moreno will fit the bill perfectly as a rider who can perform in grand tours and in the hilly classics both as a support rider and as a captain.

Moreno moves across after two seasons with Movistar. A pro since 2004, his best seasons came in a run from 2011 to 2015, when he won Flèche Wallonne in 2013, the Vuelta a Burgos in 2012, second at the Giro di Lombardia in 2015, and stage wins at the Vuelta in 2011 and 2013.

Moreno’s arrival is the top new name going into 2018 under new title sponsor Education First, which saved the team from disaster when it stepped in.

Five other signings for next season include Dan McLay, Sacha Modolo, Logan Owen, Matti Breschel and Kim Magnusson. Ten riders are leaving the team, among them including the retired Andrew Talansky, Alberto Bettiol and Patrick Bevin (to BMC Racing), Davide Formolo (to Bora-Hansgrohe), Dylan Van Baarle (Sky), Davide Villella (Astana), Tom-Jelte Slagter (Dimension Data) and Ryan Mullen and Tom Skujins (to Trek-Segafredo).

A few more riders are expected to join EF-Drapac before the next season clicks into gear.

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Froome and the Giro-Tour double: Opportunity or peril http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/news/froome-and-the-giro-tour-double-opportunity-or-peril_451814 http://www.velonews.com/2017/11/news/froome-and-the-giro-tour-double-opportunity-or-peril_451814#respond Fri, 10 Nov 2017 15:14:56 +0000 http://www.velonews.com/?p=451814 Rumor has it that Chris Froome will attempt the Giro-Tour double in 2018. Will it confirm him among cycling's greats or be too risky?

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FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Chris Froome’s participation in the Giro d’Italia would be a make-or-break gamble for him. It could cement him as one of cycling’s greats or signal the end of his Tour de France domination.

Team Sky’s British star is toying with the idea of attempting a unique triple crown on the heels of his Tour de France and Vuelta a España wins in 2017. No cyclist has ever won all three grand tours in the same season or the two at the end of the year with the Giro, the first of the grand tours, in succession the following season.

This week, The Times reported that Team Sky and Froome are seriously weighing the possibilities. Froome has ridden key climbs expected to be in the 2018 Giro in the last months, including the steep Monte Zoncolan pitches and the gravel road over the Colle delle Finestre pass.

Racing the demanding Giro north up the famous Italian boot to the Alps will consume energy needed for the Tour, a race where Froome has made his mark. Regardless of his Giro result, he would be expected to return on July 7 and race the Tour. If he won the Giro, he would be lining up in Vendée, France, for a rare Giro-Tour double.

Only seven cyclists have won the double. Others have tried the double recently including Alberto Contador in 2015 and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) in 2017. Neither they nor any other cyclist has been able to win the double since Marco Pantani did in 1998. Success would tip him as one of cycling’s greats along with Bernard Hinault, Eddy Merckx, and Fausto Coppi.

Froome’s elbows-out and head-cocked style is far removed Coppi’s graceful pedal strokes. Aficionados might be convinced to put aesthetics aside if Froome succeeds in adding the Giro d’Italia to his palmarès.

“He should try that [the Giro],” Hinault told the Guardian newspaper in September. “He has proved that you can win the Tour and the Vuelta in the same year, so why not the Giro?”

Organizer RCS Sport is pushing to have Chris Froome on the start line when the race begins in Jerusalem on May 4. Director Mauro Vegni says he is talking with the team and Froome. Also, though RCS Sport will not say directly, the organizer may include design touches in the 2018 route to further entice Froome.

The Giro starts in Jerusalem with a time trial and remains in Israel for three days. The organizer will unveil the rest of the route on November 29. It is due to finish in Rome on May 27 and one rumor is that, like this year, it may end with a time trial. That would make for three time trials, including the expected one through the wine vineyards of Vallagarina or Franciacorta on May 22.

The Giro is “the last big challenge for him,” Vegni said when he presented the opening stages in Jerusalem. “He’s won the Tour and Vuelta, now it remains the Giro. We hope that this will help push Froome to come to the Giro. We are hoping that he can confirm this challenge.”

Much is at stake for Froome and Sky given the Tour de France’s global attention and marketing value. It is not only the biggest race in the world for cyclists like Froome to prove themselves but a major business opportunity for Sky and sponsors 21st Century Fox and Ford. They need Froome to be there and to be ready to win.

With a Giro hangover, Froome will not ride the same in France. It will take its toll on Froome, but how much depends on how he manages the race and rebounds for July. In August, after dominating the Tour, he showed that he could recover well for the Vuelta win. In his favor, an extra week falls between the races with the Tour pushed back in 2018 to allow more space for the FIFA World Cup.

“I would not say it’s impossible,” Froome said in September of racing the Giro and the Tour in 2018. “Nothing is impossible, but it will be difficult.”

The attempt would bode well for fans because a slightly fatigued Froome could produce an exciting 2018 edition of the Tour. An exhausted Froome, however, could risk seeing an early end to his Tour reign.

Contador, after winning the 2015 Giro and placing fifth in the Tour, said, “I came out of the Giro tired. I was fresh mentally, very motivated, but my body was still tired.”

The 32-year-old Brit realized his grand tour potential in the 2011 Vuelta a España. He helped Bradley Wiggins win the 2012 Tour and then returned to do so himself in 2013. Now, he counts four titles.

Chris Froome only raced Giro twice before in 2009 and 2010. Since discovering his grand tour capacity he has not returned. Team Sky instead has sent the other leaders to try to capture the Italian title, including Richie Porte, Wiggins, Mikel Landa, and Geraint Thomas. The team has yet to succeed.

He knows that other young cyclists are knocking at his door. Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), the winner of the 2017 Giro, is due to race the Tour for the overall in 2018. Others including Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Mikel Landa, who leaves Sky for Movistar in 2018, are improving, as well. If Froome fails to get his fifth title in 2018, then he may never achieve it at all.

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