Competitive Cycling News, Race Results and Bike Reviews Mon, 19 Feb 2018 13:28:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 32 32 Haas aiming high after move to Katusha-Alpecin Sun, 18 Feb 2018 22:09:24 +0000 Nathan Haas delivered top 10 performances in multiple WorldTour races in 2017, including fourth at Amstel Gold Race.

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The 2017 season saw Nathan Haas deliver top 10 performances across multiple WorldTour races, but that only left the 28-year-old Australian wanting more.

He left Dimension Data behind this past offseason for Katusha-Alpecin, and he is hoping the change of scenery puts him over the proverbial hump this year.

“I was really lucky with the season I had last year. I had quite a lot of teams really interested in moving forward. But I wanted to be on the biggest team I could be and still be a leader,” he told VeloNews this week at the Tour of Oman. “I don’t want to be riding for the guys I’m trying to beat. [Katusha manager José] Azevedo has a lot of faith in what he saw in me as a rider. From the beginning of the conversation, the idea was, ‘You come to these races to try to win. If you don’t that’s okay, but you’re trying.’

“The ethos for myself is that I’m not done trying yet. I’m so hungry to try to win.”

Haas debuted in his new kit last month at home in Australia, but he struggled to make an impact at the Tour Down Under and didn’t finish the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. He attributes the rough start to problems dealing with the extreme heat.

One month later, it’s a different story – Haas nabbed his first UCI victory, since 2016, on stage 2 of the Tour of Oman. He stayed in the mix throughout the week to finish fifth overall.

His biggest objectives await in the next two months. Packing a well-rounded skillset and a healthy finishing kick, Haas loves the lumpy one-days. He’s trying to stay open to opportunities throughout the year, but he’s got high expectations for himself as the classics season gets underway.

“I don’t want to have my blinkers on too much for my whole career because you can kind of forget to focus on the other chances around it, but my holy grail in cycling is Amstel [Gold Race]. If I win I could just retire and just be happy,” he joked.

Italy also has a few one-day offerings that Haas thinks could be in his punchy wheelhouse.

“I also really love Strade Bianche. It suits my skills from all the years’ mountain biking. I’ve done well there in the past, making front groups. I’ve not actually had the best finishing places at Strade Bianche, but I actually know in myself that it’s just a little bit of a difference in the final that could have me in the podium there,” Haas said.

“Then Sanremo is one of those funny races where you just have to be in your appropriate place on the Poggio and whether a group comes from behind with faster guys, that’s an unknown, but my plan is to be following the best guys to the top and see if I can’t blast them on the line.”

Haas readily admits his palmares may not point to a rider past his due for a big classics victory. That’s not stopping him from aiming high.

He’s confident that he’s not far off already, and he plans to do whatever it takes to turn decent results into actual victories.

“Some people might say it’s a bit unrealistic because I haven’t won any of those big races yet, but I’m always there,” he said. “I’m always tapping onto the podium or into the top five. I think a big reason I came to this team was to see if I can’t convert some of those into a win.”

Indeed, Haas is pleased with the firepower he has at his disposal with Katusha. He had chances here and there with Dimension Data, but feels happier with the support he says his new team has promised him.

“The majority of the support on [Dimension Data] was for Cav [Mark Cavendish] and for [Edvald] Boasson Hagen. Not that I didn’t have support, and there were some great riders, but I would say that majority of the resources were for different styles of racing, whether it be the cobbles or these pure sprint races,” he said. “It’s a pretty well-rounded team, Katusha. There’s no bad team that you can take to a race.”

Haas says that although a Swiss-German-Russian squad might stereotypically project a rigid exterior, he’s been pleasantly surprised by the very warm welcome he’s received. The talent and structure are there too.

Those qualities all have Haas feeling comfortable and ready to make a run at his big season targets.

“They stay calm, and they have the maturity of seasoned professionals, which is really lovely to be behind. To me, it sort of says that when I’m really ready and in my best form and we’ve built this cohesion together, we can go into the other races with a lot more confidence, knowing that I will be at the right place at Amstel at the right time. And then it just comes down to what legs I have at that point.”

With the Tour of Oman officially in the books, Haas won’t have long to wait to put those legs to the test on the big stage. Strade Bianche kicks off in less than two weeks, with Sanremo and the Ardennes classics looming on the horizon.

It hasn’t taken Haas much time to get settled into his new digs, as he proven this week in Oman. Nabbing a victory in a WorldTour one-day would represent a major step-up, but Haas isn’t afraid to make his aspirations known.

“I almost think that I’m not going to be the guy that wins 50 races in his career,” he said. “But I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them was just one of the big ones.”

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Froome didn’t give much away to Ruta’s media swarm Sun, 18 Feb 2018 21:39:37 +0000 Chris Froome's season debut took on an added dimension this week, due to his ongoing Salbutamol case.

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MARCHA REAL (VN) — They left almost as soon as they came. A horde of European journalists parachuted into the unsung, five-day Ruta del Sol. Their cameras and microphones were focused on one man. Their quarry: Chris Froome.

The Team Sky captain’s season debut took on an added dimension this week, as he spoke publicly for the first time since his Salbutamol case blew open in December. No one wanted to miss the next chapter is cycling’s biggest story.

Was it worth the trip? Froome and Co. didn’t give away much, but for Europe’s major media, it was being there that mattered.

“It’s the biggest story in cycling right now. That’s why my editors wanted me here,” said Brian Askvig, a reporter with Denmark’s Ekstra Bladet. “We didn’t come here to cover the race. We came here for the Froome story.”

Fear of missing out is what drove journalists from across Europe to make the long trek to sunny southern Spain to the five-day race. Typically, the early season warm-up race might attract a sprinkling of hard-core cycling hacks joined by local journalists.

This year, 150 press credentials were granted for a race that normally sees a quarter of that. The press room was a bit crowded the first day, but organizers welcomed the spike in attention. They rolled out the red carpet for the unexpected wave of interest. Even if the focus was on Froome, it was a boon for the race.

Scribes from Europe’s biggest sports dailies were on hand, with reporters from L’Equipe and La Gazzetta dello Sport. BBC, Sky Sports, Sporza and Spanish TV also parachuted in. Reporters from London’s biggest mainstream papers, including The Guardian, The Times, and The Daily Mail all descended on the Ruta del Sol.

“We are 100 percent here for the Froome story,” said Jan-Pieter de Vlieger of Belgium’s Het Nieuwsblad. “It’s not that big of a story for us, but we wanted to be here more to see how everyone else reacted to Froome returning.”

Sky officials skillfully handled the media crush. After winning five of the past six Tours de France, the team is expert at handling the press rabble. Journalists seemed to want that “gotcha” moment or at least some detailed answers. In that sense, most went home with little more a few platitudes.

“There are certainly more journalists here than at a race at this time of the year,” said Sky rider Wout Poels. “No one’s asking me any questions, unless it’s about Froome.”

Team Sky is used to this kind of attention, and the crowds around the bus were about as big as a typical day at the Tour de France. The team brought it in its security officer to protect Froome’s flank as well as its PR spokesman to handle the many media requests. So in an organization sense, it was business as usual.

The pressure had been building, especially following calls from many across the sport, including UCI president David Lappartient, for Froome to wait on the sidelines. Few of the questions were about racing. Everyone was pressing Froome on why he decided to race when his peers want him home. Or what his defense might be. Or will there be appeals.

Rather than try to put off the media or refuse to comment, both Froome and Sky manager Dave Brailsford patiently answered question after question. They largely stuck to their talking points: “Chris has done nothing wrong, and we have to respect the process.”

The team did not schedule a press conference with Froome and did not schedule private interviews. Froome’s access was limited to a few questions before the start and end of each stage, hardly giving journalists much time to ask many questions.

Right now, Team Sky seems to be willing to lose the PR battle in the short term with the larger goal of clearing its marquee rider. So in that sense, Sky was discreet about what it could or wanted to give away.

Each journalist came with a different angle. For the Italians, it’s the pressing question that if Froome races and wins the Giro, could he later be disqualified. L’Equipe followed a similar plotline for the defending four-time Tour champion. It’s worth noting that La Gazzetta dello Sport and L’Equipe are both owned by media companies that also own the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France, respectively.

“This is a big story for us, and we are here to speak with Froome,” said Gazzetta’s Luca Gialanella. “This is a very complicated story, and the challenge for journalists is to try to make sense of it all for the public. But what do the fans see? They see that Chris Froome is ‘positive,’ and he is still racing.”

The Guardian’s Martha Kelner was also on hand. As the paper’s chief sports reporter, she broke the Froome scandal into the public eye in December. For the British media, the latest Froome imbroglio is the latest in a series of reeling headlines involving Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky’s credibility issues.

Froome has never been embraced in the same way as Wiggins, who emerged as a national icon following his Tour-Olympic success in 2012. Yet Wiggins’ reputation is now largely in shatters following a string of revelations. Froome’s story is part of a larger narrative about Team Sky.

“People feel like the cracks are starting to show,” Kelner said. “This is as much as about Team Sky as anything, about the team’s zero tolerance, its transparency, and its credibility. It’s bigger than just Froome.”

What did the media learn during the expedition? Not much new. Froome repeated his mantra that he wants to respect the process, and ask others that he get the same in return, but gave little else away. Journalists got their measure of polemics when several riders, including race winner Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal), spoke out against Froome’s presence.

Brailsford staunchly defended his star rider — as would be expected — and confirmed that the team is sticking to its argument that Froome did not surpass the allowed amount of Salbutamol back in September.

So was it worth the trek? For the major European media, they wanted the photo of Froome stepping out of the team bus and the chance to document his first public comments about the case.

By the start of the third stage, most had packed up and gone home. By Sunday, the race was a wrap, with Froome finishing a distant 1:57 back in 10th place.

This story, however, has legs. If the case remains unresolved as the calendar nears the Giro, the pressure will only mount. With Froome’s next scheduled race at Tirreno-Adriatico in mid-March, expect the media scrum to be even bigger.

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Algarve, stage 5: Kwiatkowski takes stage and overall title Sun, 18 Feb 2018 18:15:57 +0000 Michal Kwiatkowski won for the second time at the 2018 Volta ao Algarve on Sunday in Malhão.

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Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) powered through the final three-kilometer climb to the finish to take the stage win and the overall title on the final day of the Volta ao Algarve in Malhão. The Pole, who won the second stage of the race as well, attacked with two kilometers remaining and held off the chasers to take the victory.

Ruben Guerreiro (Trek-Segafredo) finished second on the stage, a few seconds behind Kwiatkowski, with Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data) rounding out the podium.

“I think it’s a little bit unexpected that I’m in such good shape as I didn’t expect that I could climb so well here and I didn’t spend time here beforehand to get used to the country,” Kwiatkowski said. “I won overall, I won this amazing stage on the Malhão, G [ed. Geraint Thomas] finished second and I won the points jersey.

“Volta ao Algarve was always one of my favorite races to prepare yourself for the season and that’s how it was — good weather, good hard racing, and I think everyone enjoyed how Team Sky rode.

Sunday’s final stage at the Volta ao Algarve traveled 173.5 kilometers from Faro to Malhão. The route had five categorized climbs, including the final three-kilometer kicker to the finish. A large group of some 31 riders escaped after 15 kilometers. The breakaway group opened over a five-minute gap to the peloton by the midpoint of the stage, but soon the infighting began.

With 50 kilometers to go, Lukas Postlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe) attacked the first time up the finishing climb and Zdenek Stybar (Quick-Step Floors) joined him on the descent. Stybar would drop Posltberger on the penultimate climb of the stage and enter the finishing climb alone. However, his lead over the charging peloton was a mere 43 seconds.

Kwiatkowski attacked with two kilometers to go, as the group had thinned greatly. He flew past Stybar to take the stage win and the overall victory. He began the stage second in the general classification, 19 seconds down on his teammate, Geraint Thomas. Thomas didn’t have the legs to contend with the leaders on the final climb.

Although, Thomas still finished second overall, 1:31 behind Kwiatkowski. American Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing), who started the day sitting fifth overall, had a great final climb to the finish to move onto the final podium.

Stage 5, Top 10

  • 1. Michal Kwiatkowski, TEAM SKY, in 04:18:02
  • 2. Ruben Guerreiro, TREK – SEGAFREDO, at 0:04
  • 3. Serge Pauwels, DIMENSION DATA, at 0:08
  • 4. Stefan Kung, BMC RACING TEAM, at 0:13
  • 5. Cesare Benedtti, BORA – HANSGROHE, at 0:15
  • 6. Dion Smith, WANTY – GROUPE GOBERT, at 0:17
  • 7. Simon Geshke, TEAM SUNWEB, at 0:17
  • 8. Julen Amezqueta, CAJA RURAL – SEGUROS RGA, at 0:23
  • 9. Ben Swift, UAE-TEAM EMIRATES, at 0:29
  • 10. Frederik Backaert, WANTY – GROUPE GOBERT, at 0:35

Final GC

  • 1. Michal Kwiatkowski, TEAM SKY, in 18:54:11
  • 2. Geraint Thomas, TEAM SKY, at 1:31
  • 3. Tejay Van Garderen, BMC RACING TEAM, at 2:16
  • 4. Bauke Mollema, TREK – SEGAFREDO, at 2:22
  • 5. Bob Jungels, QUICK-STEP FLOORS, at 2:33
  • 6. Jaime Roson, MOVISTAR TEAM, at 2:49
  • 7. Maximilian Schachmann, QUICK-STEP FLOORS, at 2:50
  • 8. Serge Pauwels, DIMENSION DATA, at 2:50
  • 9. Felix Grosschartner, BORA – HANSGROHE, at 2:51
  • 10. Nelson Oliveira, MOVISTAR TEAM, at 2:54

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Ruta de Sol, stage 5: De la Cruz powers to ITT stage win, Wellens secures overall Sun, 18 Feb 2018 15:30:35 +0000 David de la Cruz won the final stage ITT at the Ruta del Sol on Sunday, as Tim Wellens secured the overall title.

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David de la Cruz (Sky) won the final stage 14.2-kilometer individual time trial around Barbate at the Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta Ciclista del Sol, as Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) had enough gas left in the tank to defend his lead in the general classification and walk away with the overall title.

De la Cruz completed the course, which included a long section of compact dirt, in 17:11 to win the day by six seconds over Andrey Amador (Movistar). Stef Clement (LottoNL-Jumbo) finished third, seven seconds back.

“This morning I wanted to do the best I could do and I didn’t know if I could take the victory or not,” de la Cruz said. “I felt good warming up and I said to myself, ‘David, you must go full gas’ and it’s really nice to have my first win in Team Sky colors. You always expect the next rider finishing to record a faster time than you—it was a really nervous situation for an hour.

Wellens, who finished the stage over an hour after de la Cruz, finished eighth on the stage and won the overall title by eight seconds over former race leader Wout Poels (Sky). Poels completed the course three seconds faster than Wellens and finished sixth in the stage standings. However, it wasn’t enough to overhaul the 11-second deficit he began the day with.

Movistar’s Marc Soler started the day sitting sixth overall, but put in a good enough effort to sneak onto the podium. He finished fifth on the stage, nine seconds back of de la Cruz. He ends the race 27 seconds down on Wellens in the general classification. Soler’s teammate, Mikel Landa, had a tough day on the bike, as he finished outside the top 10 on the stage and slipped from second overall down to sixth.

“This was my first stage race after coming back from the Tour Down Under in Australia, and I’m really satisfied with the result,” Soler said. “I knew I was in good form, really willing to do well, but I’m still a bit surprised that I could beat all of my rivals for the GC podium.

“I’ve worked hard to improve on time trials, changing some minor details, and it seems like I’m on the right path. TTs have always suited my conditions — I’m a tall guy with good power for such efforts, even though I’m still lacking some raw technique that I hope to progress on, in order to make this a strong part of my abilities.

Stage 5, Top 10

  • 1. David De La Cruz, TEAM SKY, in 17:11
  • 2. Andrey Amador, MOVISTAR TEAM, at 0:06
  • 3. Stef Clement, TEAM LOTTONL-JUMBO, at 0:07
  • 4. Alexis Gougeard, AG2R LA MONDIALE, at 0:08
  • 5. Marc Soler, MOVISTAR TEAM, at 0:09
  • 6. Wout Poels, TEAM SKY, at 0:11
  • 7. Dylan Van Baarle, TEAM SKY, at 0:12
  • 8. Tim Wellens, LOTTO SOUDAL, at 0:14
  • 9. Jan Tratnik, CCC SPRANDI POLKOWICE, at 0:24
  • 10. Luis Leon Sanchez, ASTANA PRO TEAM, at 0:24

Final GC

  • 1. Tim Wellens, LOTTO SOUDAL, in 17:41:50
  • 2. Wout Poels, TEAM SKY, at 0:08
  • 3. Marc Soler, MOVISTAR TEAM, at 0:27
  • 4. Jakob Fuglsang, ASTANA PRO TEAM, at 0:30
  • 5. Luis Leon Sanchez, ASTANA PRO TEAM, at 0:30
  • 6. Mikel Landa, MOVISTAR TEAM, at 0:42
  • 7. Steven Kruijswijk, TEAM LOTTONL-JUMBO, at 1:19
  • 9. Andrey Amador, MOVISTAR TEAM, at 1:51
  • 10. Christopher Froome, TEAM SKY, at 1:57

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Oman, stage 6: Kristoff wins final stage, Lutsenko takes overall Sun, 18 Feb 2018 13:02:30 +0000 Alexander Kristoff won the final stage of the Tour of Oman, while Alexey Lutsenko took home the overall victory.

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MUSCAT, Oman (AFP) — Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) sprinted to victory along the Muscat Corniche at the Tour of Oman on Sunday, beating France’s Bryan Coquard (Vital Concept) and Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo).

Kazakh Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) clinched the overall victory over his teammate, Miguel Angel Lopez, as the bunch sprint finish meant there was no change in the overall standings.

“I’m very happy to have won my first victory with UAE Team Emirates,” said Kristoff, who will start at next week’s Abu Dhabi Tour. “I feel so much faith from the team and I’ve always had strong men at my side in these first races of the season.

“I enjoy this finish a lot. I won already here in 2016 and 2017, so I knew that today would be an optimum chance to succeed. In the meeting this morning, with the sports directors and teammates, we were very detailed and studied well every move we’d make in the final. That way, we took on the final kilometers perfectly … To win is always great, but to do it with a new team, it’s even better. It’s easy to find success in this team given that everything prepared perfectly.”

The sixth and final stage of the 2018 Tour of Oman traveled 135.5 kilometers from Al Mouj Muscat to Matrah Corniche. It was a fast route with only two climbs on tap for the riders and three finishing circuits in the city center of Muscat. Astana kept the breakaway under control in the early kilometers of the stage before the sprint teams came to the fore to ensure a bunch sprint.

Lopez won the Best Young Rider classification, while Nathan Haas (Katusha-Alpecin) took home the points jersey. Astana also won the Team classification.

“It is so nice to win in your first race of the season,” Lutsenko said of his overall victory. “I did a lot of work this winter, it was my goal to be on form for the start of the season and, finally, I am here at the podium as the winner. It was not a plan to try to win in Oman, but I felt really good the whole week here and also the team was absolutely fantastic.

“So, now I am coming back to Europe and already next weekend I will open my classics season in Belgium. Despite this overall victory, the classics are my biggest goal for the first half of the season, so I am really motivated to do it well.”

Stage 6, Top 10

  • 1. Alexander Kristoff, (NOR) UAE TEAM EMIRATES,3:11:29
  • 2. Bryan Coquard, (FRA) VITAL CONCEPT CYCLING CLUB, s.t
  • 3. Giacomo Nizzolo, (ITA) TREK – SEGAFREDO,+00
  • 4. Magnus Cort Nielsen, (DEN) ASTANA PRO TEAM, s.t
  • 5. Nathan Haas, (AUS) TEAM KATUSHA ALPECIN, s.t
  • 6. Davide Martinelli, (ITA) QUICK – STEP FLOORS, s.t
  • 7. Amaury Capiot, (BEL) SPORT VLAANDEREN – BALOISE, s.t
  • 8. Greg Van Avermaet, (BEL) BMC RACING TEAM, s.t
  • 9. Benjamin Declercq, (BEL) SPORT VLAANDEREN – BALOISE, s.t
  • 10. Floris Gerts, (NED) ROOMPOT – NEDERLANDSE LOTERIJ, s.t

Final GC

  • 1. Alexey Lutsenko, (KAZ) ASTANA PRO TEAM, in 22:49:50
  • 2. Miguel Angel Lopez Moreno, (COL) ASTANA PRO TEAM, at :11
  • 3. Gorka Izagirre Insausti, (ESP) BAHRAIN – MERIDA, at :28
  • 4. Jesus Herrada, (ESP) COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CREDITS, at :30
  • 5. Nathan Haas, (AUS) TEAM KATUSHA ALPECIN, at :32
  • 6. Dries Devenyns, (BEL) QUICK – STEP FLOORS, at 01:05
  • 7. Daniel Garcia Navarro, (ESP) COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CRéDITS, at 01:14
  • 8. Odd Christian Eiking, (NOR) WANTY – GROUPE GOBERT, at 01:24
  • 9. Merhawi Kudus, (ERI) TEAM DIMENSION DATA, at 01:29
  • 10. Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa, (POR) UAE TEAM EMIRATES, at 01:37

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Terpstra: Quick-Step has the firepower to contend in post-Boonen era Sat, 17 Feb 2018 23:53:48 +0000 Niki Terpstra won Paris-Roubaix in 2014 with a late attack out of a select group, which included Tom Boonen.

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MUSCAT, Oman (VN) — For all the hype surrounding Philippe Gilbert’s dreams of Paris-Roubaix glory this season, Quick-Step Floors already has a former winner on the roster.

His name is Niki Terpstra, and he’s expecting to be in the classics mix from Omloop Het Nieuwsblad all the way to Roubaix.

“In all the classics I’ve been on the podium. They pretty much all suit me,” Terpstra said at the Tour of Oman this week.

The Dutchman isn’t exaggerating. In fact, he’s even understating things a bit – Terpstra has won or earned runner-up honors in every cobbled classic on the WorldTour calendar.

With those results, Terpstra fits right in on the most complete classics team in the pro peloton. It’s thanks to him and a few others that the team isn’t expecting much of a drop-off in results even after Tom Boonen hung up the wheels last year.

Boonen or not, Quick-Step has an option for seemingly any situation. Tersptra says he doesn’t find it hard carving out his own role within the team. The way he and Quick-Step see things, you can never have too much firepower.

Terpstra sits toward one end of the team’s spectrum of contenders. His self-described strong suit is in the hard finales and the late solo attacks. Colombian sprinter Fernando Gaviria sits at the other end, ready to sprint to victory in a big bunch kick, with the likes of Gilbert, Zdenek Stybar, and Yves Lampaert falling somewhere in between.

In Terpstra’s eyes, Quick-Step has enough strength in the line-up that little will change when the team hits the cobbles this season sans Boonen. Sure, the media and fan frenzy might be just a bit less intense. And of course, the riders will miss having the ever-popular Boonen around as a teammate. But strategically, Terpstra says, Quick-Step isn’t changing their plans.

“For me, at the moment, it’s not really different,” he said of the team’s approach to the classics in a post-Boonen world. “We still have a strong team with different riders who can score with their own specialties. It’s different because he’s not around, but the preparation is the same.”

The Dutchman also points out that injuries forced Quick-Step to race without Boonen more than once in recent years. Although Boonen was in the mix for all of the team’s recent wins in the very biggest cobbled classics, Quick-Step did have success outside the monuments in the years he was laid low by health problems. Other riders stepped up then, so the team has reason to believe they will again now.

With all the cards the team can play, Quick-Step employs the most bona fide classics contenders of any single squad on the WorldTour. Whether that makes them the “strongest” team for the spring, however, is up for debate. Other teams with a sharper focus on a single rider have enjoyed successful spring campaigns of their own.

Terpstra is confident about his form and his team for the coming one-day frenzy, but he’s not underestimating the opposition.

“We have to prove that,” he says when asked if Quick-Step has the peloton’s strongest classics line-up. “Other teams are also really strong. On the finish line, we will see who has a strong team.”

Terpstra says he’s expecting tough competition this spring against “the usual suspects” like three-time World Champion Peter Sagan and BMC Racing’s Greg Van Avermaet, with maybe a few surprises knocking on the door as well.

Of course, Quick-Step must also contend with the hyper-scrutiny of the cycling media every spring. Considering the team’s strength on paper, the Belgian team is a popular target for criticism any time the squad does not win.

Terpstra takes it all in stride.

“In the end, it’s simple. You have to answer with the pedals,” he said. “You must not take it too much [to heart], the criticism. ‘What if I lose again? Then they’ll be angry.’ That’s the newspapers. Journalists have to write something because they have to do their job. Let them do their job and I focus on my job.”

For the past two weeks, Terpstra’s job has been slogging through the desert heat to get in his first block of racing on the year, first at the Dubai Tour and now in Oman. Having won the now-defunct Tour of Qatar back in 2015, Terpstra has enjoyed plenty of success getting his season rolling on the Arabian peninsula.

With Elia Viviani sprinting to stage victories and the overall win in Dubai and Dries Devenyns putting in a decent GC showing in Oman, Quick-Step has reason to be optimistic moving forward. The last few successful seasons have left the team with high expectations, but things are getting underway this year about as well as could be hoped with Belgium’s “opening weekend” just around the corner.

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Algarve, stage 4: Groenewegen wins for second time, Thomas retains GC Sat, 17 Feb 2018 19:26:13 +0000 Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) won his second stage of the 2018 Volta ao Algarve on Saturday in Tavira.

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Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) sprinted to victory on the fourth stage of the Volta ao Algarve in Tavira on Saturday over Bora-Hangrohe’s Matteo Pelucchi and John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo).

LottoNL-Jumbo’s leadout train is dialed, as Groenewegen entered the final 500-meter finishing straight with two teammates in front of him. Many of the other sprinters were alone or had one teammate left. The Dutchman began his sprint from the pole position and easily took the stage win. It is his second victory of the race, after he also won the opening stage on Wednesday.

Geraint Thomas (Sky) kept his lead in the general classification over his teammate Michal Kwiatkowski, who won the second stage of the race. The Pole is 19 seconds back of Thomas. Nelson Oliveira (Movistar) is third in the general classification at 32 seconds.

The final stage of the race on Sunday has five categorized climbs on the route, including a final 3-kilometer ascent to the finish. The final climb includes ramps of up to 10-percent, so the final GC is far from confirmed.

Stage 4, Top 10

  • 1. Dylan Groenewegen, (NED) TEAM LOTTO NL – JUMBO, in 4:33:49
  • 2. Matteo Pelucchi, (ITA) BORA – HANSGROHE, s.t.
  • 3. John Degenkolb, (GER) TREK – SEGAFREDO, s.t./li>
  • 4. Florian Senechal, (FRA) QUICK – STEP FLOORS, s.t.
  • 5. Jurgen Roelandts, (BEL) BMC RACING TEAM, s.t.
  • 6. Timothy Dupont, (BEL) WANTY – GROUPE GOBERT, s.t.
  • 7. Hugo Hofstetter, (FRA) COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CREDITS, s.t.
  • 8. Jasper De Buyst, (BEL) LOTTO SOUDAL, s.t.
  • 9. Loïc Vliegen, (BEL) BMC RACING TEAM, s.t.
  • 10. Michal Kwiatkowski, (POL) TEAM SKY, s.t.

Top-10 overall

  • 1. Geraint Thomas, (GBR) TEAM SKY, in 14:35:50
  • 2. Michal Kwiatkowski, (POL) TEAM SKY, at 00:19
  • 3. Nelson Oliveira, (POR) MOVISTAR TEAM, at 00:32
  • 4. Bob Jungels, (LUX) QUICK – STEP FLOORS, at 00:52
  • 5. Tejay Van Garderen, (USA) BMC RACING TEAM, at 00:53
  • 6. Bauke Mollema, (NED) TREK – SEGAFREDO, at 01:01
  • 7. Jaime Roson Garcia, (ESP) MOVISTAR TEAM, at 01:18
  • 8. Maximilian Schachmann, (GER) QUICK – STEP FLOORS, at 01:19
  • 9. Felix Grossschartner, (AUT) BORA – HANSGROHE, at 01:20
  • 10. Vasil Kiryienka, (BLR) TEAM SKY, at 01:24

The fourth stage of Volta ao Algarve in Portugal traveled 199.2 kilometers from Almodvar to Tavira. The stage was a mostly rolling downhill route with only two cat. 4 climbs for the riders to tackle. However, a small uncategorized climb with 20 kilometers to go, looked to spark up the finale and give riders a chance to disrupt what should be a day for the sprinters.

A breakaway of six riders formed a mere seven kilometers into the stage and included American Ben King (Dimension Data), who began the stage leading the King of the Mountains’ classification. Joining King were Rory Sutherland (UAE Team Emirates), Julen Amezqueta (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Joao Rodrigues (W52-FC Porto), Alexander Grigoryev (Sporting Clube de Portugal-Tavira), and Bruno Silva (Efapel).

The six riders would stay together until they hit the uncategorized climb with 20 kilometers to go. Silva could not hold the pace in the group and would be dropped on the climb. Meanwhile, Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) attacked hard out of the peloton. He was marked by Dylan Teuns (BMC Racing) and Guillaume Bonnafond (Cofidis). Movistar’s Jasha Sutterlin would bridge just after the climb to make it four chasers. The peloton led by the team’s of the sprinters — FDJ, Lotto Soudal, and LottoNL-Jumbo — were around a minute back of the leaders.

Silva would try to stay with Gilbert and company as they rode past, but was unable to hold the pace. His legs were clearly fried from being in the breakaway all day. The junction between the chase group and the leaders was made with nine kilometers remaining, but the peloton was right behind. The lead group would sit just off the front of the peloton for a few kilometers, before it was finally all together with three kilometers to go.

Trek-Segafredo came to the fore with two riders in the final kilometer, but they had lost their main sprinter Degenkolb. The final right-hand turn came with around 500 meters to go and LottoNL-Jumbo was in prime position. Two riders sat in front of Groenewegen. The Dutch fast-man had no trouble at all launching his sprint to the line and won the stage by over a bike length. Pelucchi finished second with Degenkolb, who opted to follow Groenewegen in the run to the line instead of his teammates, rounded out the podium.

There was no change in the general classification with Thomas still holding the yellow leader’s jersey. Sunday’s final stage should create excitement with a final three-kilometer ramp to the finish. Thomas will have to be attentive to the attacks that are sure to come.

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Coquard: We know we have to prove ourselves worthy of wildcard invites Sat, 17 Feb 2018 17:27:30 +0000 Bryan Coquard and his Vital Concept team were overlooked by ASO for a Tour de France bid.

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MUSCAT, Oman (VN) — The newly formed Vital Concept team was always going to have a tough time earning respect from race organizers, but that doesn’t make it sting any less that ASO overlooked the squad for a Tour de France wildcard invite.

French speedster Bryan Coquard can’t sugarcoat the severity of the blow that the snub represents to his new team. At the same time, he accepts the rationale. He and the team hope they have chances to prove themselves worthy of an invite next time around.

“It’s very bad news but when you hear the explanation of ASO, they selected wildcards with the results of the last year,” he told VeloNews at the Tour of Oman on Saturday.

“Last season, this team was not created yet. So, okay, knowing we have no Tour de France [this year], we are looking to next year, because the wildcards then will be the ones that win this year. I think it’s important to work hard on the wins in important races.”

Back in 2015, Coquard sprinted to runner-up honors on the Champs-Élysées while riding for Europcar. He’s hungry to get back to the sport’s biggest stage. However, competition for the four wildcard spots at the Tour de France is fierce. French teams do get a leg up, but there aren’t enough invites for all of them.

Coquard knows the drill for a brand new team without a track record. If Vital Concept can prove capable in the 2.1s, the team will get the invites to the 2.HCs. If they can prove capable there, more WorldTour invites will begin to arrive.

Coquard might have avoided the hassle of setting his sights on smaller races this season by signing with a WorldTour squad last offseason, but he wasn’t interested in playing second fiddle to anyone.

“This team is created around me, to get some wins in good races,” he said. “When Jerome [Pineau, team manager] spoke with me about this project, I had a good feeling about it. I spoke with WorldTour teams, but I was always going to be a second sprinter. In this team, I’m first. I have a good feeling with this project and I’m sure in the future, we’ll be a big team. Step by step. It’s the first years. It’s all about progression.”

Left out of Paris-Nice as well, Coquard and company will have to make do with every chance they get this season. They don’t have the luxury of treating races as training rides.

Perhaps that’s why Coquard has 13 days of racing in his legs as of mid-February, and is already delivering results. He landed a pair of second places in the Sharjah Tour and another runner-up finish at Etoile de Bessèges. He finally broke through with a win on the opening day of Oman, ahead of the likes of Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) and Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates).

With that in mind, Coquard says he’s very happy the way his lead out has performed so far. When he hasn’t won, he says, it’s been purely because of his own legs. He and the team can’t complain about the way this year has started.

Looking past Oman, Coquard has his sights set on the fast-approaching northern classics. Vital Concept will be present at a number of the marquee one-days, and that means Coquard will be raring to go on the cobbles and hellingen in the coming weeks.

Though he generally shines brightest in bunch sprints, Coquard says his chief goal is actually one of the lumpiest classics on the WorldTour calendar.

“For me, it’s the Amstel Gold Race. I finished fourth there two years ago. It’s my big objective for the season,” he said.

“Also Gent-Wevelgem is a good classic for me. Last year I started Tour of Flanders and loved it. It’s the most fun race of the season, with a lot of people around. It’s amazing. I know I won’t win the Tour of Flanders but I think a good result is possible. Last year, I was in the final with the strong riders. But the principal objectives are Brabantse Pijl and Amstel.”

Coquard’s road back to the Tour will be a tough one no matter how this year plays out. A few results in the early goings of the season, however, certainly won’t hurt. Coquard may be a long way from the Champs-Élysées at the moment, but you have to start somewhere.

Getting an early win ahead of Cavendish and Kristoff seems as fine a starting point as any. If Coquard can build on that with one-day success in Belgium and the Netherlands, it won’t be long before Vital Concept’s racing calendar grows bigger and better.

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Ruta del Sol, stage 4: Wellens wins on brutally steep finish, takes GC lead Sat, 17 Feb 2018 17:04:14 +0000 Tim Wellens won the fourth stage of the Ruta del Sol on Saturday over Mikel Landa and took the lead in the GC.

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Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) was victorious on the fourth stage of the Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta Ciclista del Sol on Saturday ahead of Movistar’s Mikel Landa, as the day finished in Alcalá de los Gazules. Wellens also leads the general classification, as former race leader Wout Poels (Sky) finished the stage in fourth, but lost enough time to concede the lead.

The final kilometer was a brutal affair for the riders through the finishing town, as the road tipped skyward. The peloton faced incredibly steep gradients, narrow roads, and rough pavement. The final escapees of the day’s breakaway, Sep Vanmarcke (EF Education Frist-Drapac) and Andrey Amador (Movistar), were caught with the final kilometer banner in sight, as the steep gradient began to suck the energy from their legs.

Wellens came to the fore to increase the pace, as the peloton splintered on the hill. Landa then launched a powerful move that put everyone on the limit. Wellens was the only one able to follow his acceleration, as race leader Poels was seen fighting the steep gradient behind.

The final push to the line was brutal with a double-digit gradient and a rough section of pavement and cobblestones. Wellens proved to be the stronger of the two leaders in the final 100 meters and took the stage win and with it the lead in the general classification.

Landa finished five seconds back of Wellens with Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) in third. Poels finished right after Fuglsang, 13 seconds down on Wellens.

Wellens leads Landa by seven seconds in the general classification with Poels down in third at 11 seconds back.

Stage 4, Top 10

  • 1. Tim Wellens, LOTTO SOUDAL, in 04:36:23
  • 2. Mikel Landa, MOVISTAR TEAM, at 0:05
  • 3. Jakob Fuglsang, ASTANA PRO TEAM, at 0:11
  • 4. Wout Poels, TEAM SKY, at 0:13
  • 5. Floris De Tier, TEAM LOTTONL-JUMBO, at 0:13
  • 6. Marc Soler, MOVISTAR TEAM, at 0:17
  • 7. Steven Kruijswijk, TEAM LOTTONL-JUMBO, at 0:20
  • 8. Luis Leon Sanchez, ASTANA PRO TEAM, at 0:20
  • 10. Andrea Pasqualon, WANTY – GROUPE GOBERT, at 0:24

Top-10 overall

  • 1. Tim Wellens, LOTTO SOUDAL, in 17:24:25
  • 2. Mikel Landa, MOVISTAR TEAM, at 0:07
  • 3. Wout Poels, TEAM SKY, at 0:11
  • 4. Jakob Fuglsang, ASTANA PRO TEAM, at 0:14
  • 5. Luis Leon Sanchez, ASTANA PRO TEAM, at 0:20
  • 6. Marc Soler, MOVISTAR TEAM, at 0:32
  • 7. Steven Kruijswijk, TEAM LOTTONL-JUMBO, at 0:58
  • 9. Mikel Bizkarra, EUSKADI – MURIAS, at 1:14
  • 10. Sergio Pardilla, CAJA RURAL – SEGUROS RGA, at 1:24

The fourth stage of the 2018 Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta Ciclista del Sol traveled 194.7 kilometers from Seville to Alcalá de los Gazules. The route was rolling throughout the day with two categorized climbs coming with 70 kilometers remaining. The climbs were too far from the finish for the general classification riders to attack, thus, putting extra emphasis on the final ascent to the finish. The steep run-in to the finish was sure to cause gaps, making positioning into the final climb key.

The day was dominated by a six-rider breakaway that didn’t escape the peloton’s grasp until after 50 kilometers of racing. The riders covered 49.6 kilometers in the opening hour, making for a very fast start.

The breakaway shattered on the two climbs that came midway through the stage with Vanmarcke attacking multiple times to split the group. When the road flattened out after the climbs only Amador and Vanmarcke were left in the lead. Astana and Team Sky controlled the front of the peloton.

Vanmarcke and Amador entered the final five kilometers of the race with only around 30 seconds over the peloton that was still being driven by Sky and Astana. However, Sky would stop helping to reel back the leading duo, as Chris Froome punctured with four kilometers to go. This proved to be key, as the Briton would be out of position entering the final kick to the line and lose over a minute on the stage.

Movistar came to the fore at the bottom of the final climb to the finish line, as Vanmarcke and Amador were in sight. Wellens kicked off the serious attacks before Landa moved over the top of him.

The final couple hundred meters were brutal with the riders seen sitting and griding out their lightest gears. The gradient was insanely steep and the uneven rough surface made the riding that much harder.

Wellens had the most left in the tank for the final kick to the line to drop Landa and take the stage win. Race leader Poels finished the stage in fourth, but lost enough time to lose the overall lead.

“It was a really tough climb, and after realizing that I was one of the strongest on the uphill in Allanadas on Thursday, I didn’t want to wait until the sprint and decided to jump from the foot of the ascent,” Landa said. “The problem for me is that I was joined by such a strong rider on cobblestones as Wellens. As soon as we hit the ‘rocks’, I got stuck and he just flew over. I tried to increase my pace quickly, but I wasn’t able to up my speed on the cobblestones and he was just sitting on his saddle and staying clear.

“I lacked experience on such terrain and also a bit of energy to match his pace. Still, I’m very satisfied with the result. It was a very demanding day and the team was brilliant, especially with that move by Andrey in the finale. We wanted to take this win today, but it wasn’t to be. The GC remains really close and it should be a tight battle in the time trial tomorrow. Everyone around me in the standings should be more of a specialist for tomorrow’s TT, but I’ll keep on fighting until the end.”

Sunday’s final stage is a 14.2-kilometer individual time trial around Barbate. With the general classification so close, the riders will be leaving everything out on the road in hopes of taking the overall win.

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Oman, stage 5: Astana dominant, as Lopez takes stage and Lutsenko leads GC Sat, 17 Feb 2018 14:16:47 +0000 The Astana duo of Miguel Ángel López and Alexey Lutsenko finished 1-2 on stage five on Sunday atop Green Mountain.

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Columbian Miguel Ángel Lópezo (Astana) powered to victory on stage five of the Tour of Oman on Saturday atop Green Mountain, as his teammate Alexey Lutsenko took the lead in the overall standings. Spaniard Jesus Herrada (Cofidis) finished third on the stage, 12 seconds back.

“A very nice day for us! I am so happy to win today and see next to me this amazing team Astana is,” an elated Lopez said after the stage. “I felt very strong today, the legs worked perfectly on the climb.

“Actually, nobody could attack on the final climb, so we just followed our plan and after a great job of our teammates, we went away together with Alexey. Of course, the climb was super hard, but we managed to pace it as we wanted and finally, we took the stage. That’s a nice feeling to win here and to start my season in this way.”

Stage 5, Top 10

  • 1. Miguel Angel Lopez Moreno, (COL) ASTANA PRO TEAM, in 3:43:58
  • 2. Alexey Lutsenko, (KAZ) ASTANA PRO TEAM, at s.t.
  • 3. Jesus Herrada, (ESP) COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CREDITS, at 00:12
  • 4. Gorka Izagirre Insausti, (ESP) BAHRAIN – MERIDA, at 00:15
  • 5. Nathan Haas, (AUS) TEAM KATUSHA ALPECIN, at 00:22
  • 6. Peter Stetina, (USA) TREK – SEGAFREDO, at 00:25
  • 7. Daniel Pearson, (GBR) AQUA BLUE SPORT, at 00:33
  • 8. Dries Devenyns, (BEL) QUICK – STEP FLOORS, at 00:43
  • 9. Nicolas Roche, (IRL) BMC RACING TEAM, at 00:47
  • 10. Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa, (POR) UAE TEAM EMIRATES, at 00:49

Top-10 overall

  • 1. Alexey Lutsenko, (KAZ) ASTANA PRO TEAM, in 19:38:21
  • 2. Miguel Angel Lopez Moreno, (COL) ASTANA PRO TEAM, at 00:11
  • 3. Gorka Izagirre Insausti, (ESP) BAHRAIN – MERIDA, at 00:28
  • 4. Jesus Herrada, (ESP) COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CREDITS, at 00:30
  • 5. Nathan Haas, (AUS) TEAM KATUSHA ALPECIN, at 00:32
  • 6. Dries Devenyns, (BEL) QUICK – STEP FLOORS, at 01:05
  • 7. Daniel Garcia Navarro, (ESP) COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CRéDITS, at 01:14
  • 8. Odd Christian Eiking, (NOR) WANTY – GROUPE GOBERT, at 01:24
  • 9. Merhawi Kudus, (ERI) TEAM DIMENSION DATA, at 01:29
  • 10. Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa, (POR) UAE TEAM EMIRATES, at 01:37

Shortly after the start in Samoil of the 152-kilometer fifth stage of the 2018 Tour of Oman, a break of six riders went away and opened a five-minute gap on the peloton. However, with the summit finish at Green Mountain, it was going to be hard to hold off the teams of the GC contenders. This was the seventh straight year Green Mountain (5.7km at 10.7%) was included in the race.

The break was caught on the lower slopes of Green Mountain, as Astana had taken the race by the horns and done most of the pacemaking in the peloton throughout the stage. Lutsenko started the day in second overall, just nine seconds behind race leader Greg van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team).

With three kilometers to go, the main group had been whittled down to the elite climbers present at the race. Astana’s Jan Hirt then came to the front of the group and shattered it. Only Lopez, Lutsenko and Gorka Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida) were able to follow him.

The Astana duo of Lopez and Lutsenko would drop Izagirre before the finish and cross the line together. Lopez took the stage win, while Lutsenko claimed the overall leader’s jersey.

With only one stage to go, Lutsenko leads the general classification of the Tour of Oman, having an 11-second advantage over Lopez and 28 seconds to Izagirre. Herrada came on strong to snatch third on the stage away from Izagirre, but is fourth in the general classification, two seconds back of Izagirre.

The sixth and final stage of the 2018 Tour of Oman will travel 135.5 kilometers from Al Mouj Muscat to Matrah Corniche.

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Rui Costa will focus on classics and forget about grand tour GC Fri, 16 Feb 2018 22:41:08 +0000 After a few years of trying to ride as a grand tour GC leader, Rui Costa wants to refocus on classics and one-week stage races.

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MUSCAT, Oman (VN) — Rui Costa is going back to his roots.

For a few seasons after his rainbow jersey ride, the 2013 world champion tried to develop into a grand tour contender. He has always been a strong climber with a decent time trial, but the quest for three-week success never worked out.

Over his last few grand tour appearances, he has gradually begun inching away from his GC goals. Now, he is done banging his head against the wall as a GC contender.

“For two to three years, I dedicated myself solely to arriving strong to the Tour. That took away some of the spark I’d had before. I was working on improving on the longer climbs, the mountains, and I missed some opportunities,” the UAE Team Emirates rider told VeloNews this week at the Tour of Oman.

“From now on, I think I’m going to forget a little bit about the grand tours and dedicate myself to being more of the Rui Costa of 2012, 2013, 2014, and therefore get back to the way things were.”

Costa’s well-rounded skillset delivered him to three straight Tour de Suisse overall wins between 2012 and 2014, a pair of Tour de France stage victories, and countless other strong results.

Now, he’s got his eye on rediscovering the success of his early career in the types of races that suit him.

“This year, I’m working on different things. I’m focusing on one-day races and one-week races. I’ve changed my training to give me more possibilities, and more strength, so I think right now, that’s going to help me,” he said.

“I’ll definitely still do the three-week races but always with the aim of helping our GC leader and then thinking about going for a few stages.”

Being open to opportunities is at the heart of Costa’s altered approach. He knows he missed out on chances to add wins to his palmares by narrowing his focus too much these past few years. The new (old) Rui Costa has no use for treating races as “tune-ups.”

“Every race I do is an objective. If I wanted to train, I’d go home,” he said.

Before he can start hunting wins, Costa will first need to recover from illnesses going back almost a year now.

Costa enjoyed a great Middle East campaign last year, riding to second in Oman and then nabbing a WorldTour overall win at the Abu Dhabi Tour, but he fell sick just after the win. Not long after recovering, he got sick again. It’s been more of the same this winter, though Costa has not allowed the health issues to dampen his morale.

“In Australia [at the Tour Down Under], I started out in good shape but then, one day before the race started, I got sick with the flu. So Australia didn’t go so well,” Costa said. “Then I got home and got sick again for a week. But that’s the way it is. I’ve worked hard this winter, and now I am really motivated to recover the good sensations.”

Costa is already looking fit in Oman. He rode to second place on Thursday’s lumpy third stage and fifth at the end of another tough outing Friday. Judging by his performances, Costa appears to be nearing his best, which bodes well for defending his title next week in Abu Dhabi. From there, a number of big objectives are around the corner, such as Paris-Nice and the Vuelta al País Vasco, and then the Ardennes classics.

Costa’s altered focus won’t be the only thing boosting UAE’s chances in those races this year. The team brought several new stars into the fold over the off-season. A team that mostly relied on Costa and Diego Ulissi for results in past seasons now has Fabio Aru and Daniel Martin for grand tour GC, and Alexander Kristoff for sprints.

Martin, in particular, employs much the same skillset to Costa’s. The former world champ is quick to note, however, that added firepower can only help.

“I think in the end, it makes it easier. If you’re alone, you can’t let the race go. If there’s a moment where there are several attacks, it’s just you,” he said.

Plus, the pressure to rack up WorldTour points should dissipate as Costa’s new teammates get results.

“We never have stress on this team, but I think the arrival of Daniel, Kristoff, Fabio, will make the team even more relaxed,” Costa said. “Points are so important to teams these days. Before, it was me and Diego that were getting most of the points. Now, we have five guys. In the end, five makes things a bit better.”

The next few months will give Costa a chance to get comfortable with his new teammates. They’ll turn to rivals, of course, for a few days this fall when Costa dons a Portuguese national team jersey at worlds in Austria.

The last time the road world championships were designed for the climbers, it was Costa who won ahead of bigger favorites Alejandro Valverde and Joaquim Rodríguez.

Costa hopes to be in the mix again this year, though he’s conscious of the challenges that await.

“It’s an even harder parcours than the Florence worlds. But I think there will be chances for 15 or so riders that can win, so it’s important to get there in good shape and then hope that it’s my day,” he said. “You can prepare really well and if it’s not your day, something always happens. Punctures, crashes, whatever. You need it all to go well.”

Rather than stress too much over any single goal, the Rui Costa of 2018 will be keeping his eyes open for opportunities as they present themselves all season. Whether that’s months from now in Innsbruck, next week in Abu Dhabi, or somewhere along the way, Costa isn’t planning on letting any chances pass him by this year.

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Israel Cycling Academy takes step toward Tour with Giro invite Fri, 16 Feb 2018 20:55:23 +0000 With its first grand tour start at the 2018 Giro, Israel Cycling Academy plans to eventually earn a spot in the Tour de France.

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The Giro d’Italia will take an historic step in May, venturing outside Europe for the first time to start in Jerusalem. And when the race arrives, Israel’s first pro cycling team will line up for its first grand tour — a major milestone team leaders hope will help them eventually reach the Tour de France.

“This is a big, big opportunity that we hope to leverage,” said Israel Cycling Academy (ICA) general manager Ran Margaliot of the move for both the team and the race.

The young team was building toward a Giro bid long before race organizers officially awarded a wild card slot. Margaliot sees it as a key step toward riding the Tour, which he said has been his “number-one goal” since the team’s founding.

“This is the only point where we’re actually going to be able to penetrate into the mindset, into the awareness of the general public” in Israel, he said.

Cycling is a popular hobby there, Margaliot explained, but when it comes to the professional sport, “The Tour de France is the only thing they knew.”

That’s why he’s determined to take Israeli riders on an Israeli team to the Tour. In the meantime, he hopes his countrymen will get behind a team that has a lot in common with Israel itself.

“The underdog story is written on our forehead,” he said. “As a team, as people, as a nation, this is what this country is all about.”

To get Israelis psyched about pro cycling, Margaliot believes, their hometown team can’t just participate in high-profile races. They have to ride well.

“We have to be reliable when we are there. We have to make sure we have [a] legit team, legit riders,” he said, so the team’s efforts aren’t just “a one-year PR campaign.”

The team has been working to build that legitimacy, and grow into an organization that can tackle a grand tour. They’ve expanded the roster and nearly doubled the staff since late 2016; ICA now comprises a 24-rider pro team and eight-rider development team, with 44 staffers.

The team’s backers have stepped up to support the expansion, according to team manager Kjell Carlström. It’s also meant team suppliers and partners have pitched in more. In recent months, ICA has announced new deals with Oakley, Garmin and a trio of Italian gear manufacturers.

With numbers to match the rosters of top-tier WorldTour teams, Carlström said, “we can have a perfect run-in to the Giro. We can have everybody racing so that they are fit and on a good level.”

That run-in includes a series of shorter stage races, like the weeklong Tirreno-Adriatico and Volta a Catalunya, which Carlström said can help the riders and team organization alike prepare for the bigger challenge of the three-week Giro.

Carlström has done this before, as part of the team that took IAM Cycling to its first grand tours — though he noted that, unlike at ICS, “I wasn’t the most experienced guy there.”

He took a major lesson from that experience: “You cannot underestimate how difficult the first grand tour will be for a team,” he said. “You cannot take it lightly.”

No matter the race length, Carlström said, the team has protocols so everyone knows the job they need to do. But the Giro will take more planning.

“When you come to the second week and maybe to the third week, and you start getting a little bit tired from all the work day in and day out,” he said. “That’s where the extra staff and the extra equipment and logistics, vehicles, et cetera will help you out.”

The riders who’ve never raced a grand tour face a similar adjustment. For them, Carlström said, the experience of veterans like Ben Hermans and Ruben Plaza will be an important guide.

Rider Krists Neilands, who’s hoping to make ICA’s Giro squad, agreed.

In other races, “you can go all-in for every day because it’s just five days; you can survive,” he said. But if he makes the Giro, he’ll watch how more experienced riders approach three weeks of racing. “You can just listen and you can figure out what should be the best option for you,” Neilands said.

The Giro’s trip to Israel, and Israel Cycling Academy’s invitation to the race, comes as the country’s always-fraught politics again make headlines globally.

That’s already had an impact. Race organizers sparked a brief controversy in November when they mistakenly said “West Jerusalem” while announcing the race route, stepping into the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian dispute over control of the city. The following month, ICA released Turkish champion Ahmet Orken from his contract, a move he requested because of the heightened Middle East tensions.

Still, Margaliot said he hopes to keep the politics out of the Giro. “I’m not the ambassador of my country,” he said. “I’m the ambassador of our sport and of our team.”

Margaliot said the three Giro stages in Israel can show the world a different side of the country and help introduce its people to cycling.

“I am a big believer in the religion of cycling and its ability to improve society,” he said. “This sport has the power to inspire people, to bring them together.”

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Algarve, stage 3: Thomas wins TT, extends GC lead Fri, 16 Feb 2018 17:16:53 +0000 Geraint Thomas clocks the fastest time in Friday's time trial around Lagoa, Portugal, extending overall lead at Volta ao Algarve.

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Geraint Thomas won Team Sky’s second stage in as many days at Volta ao Algarve, clocking the fastest time in Friday’s time trial around Lagoa, Portugal.

Lotto-Soudal’s Victor Campenaerts was second, 11 seconds slower. BMC Racing’s Stefan Kung was third, 19 seconds adrift on the 20.3km test.

Thomas started the day with the overall lead. It was a tenuous advantage, as Jaime Roson (Movistar) sat second on GC with the same overall time.

However, Roson lost considerable ground in the short time trial, ending the day seventh overall, 1:18 behind. Thomas’s teammate and stage 2 winner Michal Kwiatkowski moved up to second overall, 22 seconds down. Movistar’s Nelson Olivera is now third place on GC, 32 seconds behind.

“Thomas also gained time in the second part and had 22 seconds advantage with six kilometers remaining,” said Campenaerts. “Then I knew he would be close because the last kilometers were mostly downhill.”

Although Thomas ceded 11 seconds on that final downhill, he held on to a healthy margin to win the day.

Saturday’s stage 4 should offer one final chance for the sprinters. It will be long at 199.2km, but the route from Almodôvar to Tavira is mostly flat.

Top-10, stage 3

  • 1. Geraint Thomas, TEAM SKY, in 0:24:09
  • 2. Victor Campenaerts, LOTTO SOUDAL, at :11
  • 3. Stefan KÜng, BMC RACING TEAM, at :19
  • 4. Michal Kwiatkowski, TEAM SKY, at :22
  • 5. Nelson Oliveira, MOVISTAR TEAM, s.t.
  • 6. Tony Martin, TEAM KATUSHA ALPECIN, at :27
  • 7. Tejay Van Garderen, BMC RACING TEAM, at :47
  • 8. Bob Jungels, QUICK – STEP FLOORS, at :49
  • 9. Vasil Kiryienka, TEAM SKY, at :50
  • 10. Lukasz Wisniowski, TEAM SKY, at :51

Top-10 overall

  • 1. Geraint Thomas, TEAM SKY, in 10:01:58
  • 2. Michal Kwiatkowski, TEAM SKY, at 0:22
  • 3. Nelson Oliveira, MOVISTAR TEAM, at 0:32
  • 4. Bob Jungels, QUICK – STEP FLOORS, at 0:52
  • 5. Tejay Van Garderen, BMC RACING TEAM, at 0:53
  • 6. Bauke Mollema, TREK – SEGAFREDO, at 1:01
  • 7. Jaime Roson Garcia, MOVISTAR TEAM, at 1:18
  • 8. Maximilian Schachmann, QUICK – STEP FLOORS, at 1:19
  • 9. Felix Grossschartner, BORA – HANSGROHE, at 1:20
  • 10. Vasil Kiryienka, TEAM SKY, at 1:24

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Ruta del Sol, stage 3: Modolo’s redemption Fri, 16 Feb 2018 15:25:31 +0000 On the first day of Ruta del Sol, Sacha Modolo suffered the worst ignominy imaginable for a sprinter — an early victory salute cost him

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On the first day of Ruta del Sol, Sacha Modolo suffered the worst ignominy imaginable for a sprinter — an early victory salute cost him the win. On Friday, EF Education First-Drapac’s new hire redeemed himself with a win on stage 3 in Herrera, Spain.

Movistar’s Carlos Barbero was second, and Nelson Andres Soto (Caja Rura-Seguros RGA) finished third in the 165.1km stage.

“The breakaway was small with only four riders. Joe Dombrowski kept the escape in check. He did a huge job, like on the first stage, to bring them back,” Modolo said.

After the final 90-degree, left-hand corner, 500 meters before the finish, Direct Energie was at the head of affairs to set up Thomas Boudat, the man who snatched stage 1 from Modolo at the line.

Then, Movistar’s lead-out man went to the front for Barbero.

However, Modolo had positioned himself perfectly in second wheel. When Movistar’s last man swung wide to open up the sprint, the Italian pounced and won convincingly in the straight drag to the line. It was his first victory of the season in his new, pink EF kit.

“The first day, having lost the race in the way that I did, I did not sleep at all in the night because of the pain I felt for the team,” Modolo added. “I’m so happy to give them the win today.”

Sky’s Wout Poels kept his overall lead after Friday’s sprint stage. He’ll have a more difficult challenge on Saturday as stage 4 features a big climb halfway through the 191.2km day, Puerto de las Palomas, which reaches 1,200 meters above sea level. The race could regroup on the long run to Alcalá de los Gazules after the climb, but there is a short kicker to the finish.

Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) trails in second overall, two seconds behind. Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) is also in touch on GC, also two seconds down.

Top 10, stage 3

  • 1. Sacha Modolo, TEAM EF EDUCATION FIRST – DRAPAC P/B CANNONDALE, in 3:48:17
  • 2. Carlos Barbero, MOVISTAR TEAM, s.t.
  • 3. Nelson Andres Soto Martinez, s.t.
  • 4. Oscar Gatto, ASTANA PRO TEAM, s.t.
  • 5. Moreno Hofland, LOTTO SOUDAL, s.t.
  • 6. Jon Aberasturi Izaga, EUSKADI BASQUE COUNTRY – MURIAS, s.t.
  • 7. Eduard Michael Grosu, NIPPO – VINI FANTINI – EUROPA OVINI, s.t.
  • 8. Coen Vermeltfoort, ROOMPOT – NEDERLANDSE LOTERIJ, ats.t.
  • 9. Andrea Pasqualon, WANTY – GROUPE GOBERT, s.t.
  • 10. Colin Joyce, RALLY CYCLING, s.t.

Top-10 overall

  • 1. Wout Poels, TEAM SKY, in 12:48:00
  • 2. Luis León Sanchez, ASTANA PRO TEAM, at :02
  • 3. Tim Wellens, LOTTO SOUDAL, s.t.
  • 4. Mikel Landa Meana, MOVISTAR TEAM, at :04
  • 5. Jakob Fuglsang, ASTANA PRO TEAM, s.t.
  • 6. Marc Soler, MOVISTAR TEAM, at :17
  • 7. Chris Froome, TEAM SKY, at :27
  • 8. Mikel Bizkarra Etxegibel, EUSKADI BASQUE COUNTRY – MURIAS, at :34
  • 9. Jelle Vanendert, LOTTO SOUDAL, at :38
  • 10. Steven Kruijswijk, TEAM LOTTO NL – JUMBO, at :40

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Tirreno-Adriatico up next as Froome defends decision to race Fri, 16 Feb 2018 14:50:06 +0000 MANCHA REAL, Spain (VN) — Chris Froome (Sky) defended his decision to return to competition despite calls by some for him to stay home.

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MANCHA REAL, Spain (VN) — Chris Froome (Sky) defended his decision to return to competition despite calls by some for him to stay home.

Froome is three days into his controversial start to his 2018 season, and though rules allow him to compete during his ongoing Salbutamol case, his presence at the five-day Ruta del Sol continues to roil the peloton.

Ahead of the start of Friday’s third stage, Froome defended his right to pin a race number on his back.

“It’s great to be racing — it’s not about tension or relief. I am starting my season,” Froome said. “It’s been hyped up in the media, anyone can see that.”

Media packed in around the Team Sky bus yet again Wednesday morning to try to get a few words from Froome. His ongoing Salbutamol case continues to divide the peloton. This week, echoing comments since the case was leaked in December, some riders have chimed in that Froome would be better off sitting on the sidelines until it is resolved.

Sky officials have countered that Froome has every right to race, and reminded media and fans that the case should have been handled confidentially. A leak to French and English media in December altered the narrative permanently.

At the start of Ruta, Froome mentioned his frustration with what he characterized as “misinformation” and a lack of clarity about the process spelled out by anti-doping authorities. He also said he hopes the case is resolved as quickly as possible.

In the meantime, he has every intention to continue racing.

“On balance, I think it’s the right thing to do; for Chris to continue,” said Sky principal Dave Brailsford. “And for us to work in the background, to support him, and demonstrate there’s been no wrongdoing.”

Also Wednesday, Sky officials confirmed to VeloNews that Froome will race Tirreno-Adriatico in March ahead of his planned start at the Giro d’Italia in May.

Froome has raced Tirreno-Adriatico only once, in 2013 when he was second, 23 seconds behind winner Vincenzo Nibali.

Froome’s start in the Italian one-week WorldTour race could change at the last minute due to illness or injury, but the “Race of Two Seas” is his next planned step toward the Giro-Tour double attempt. Sky officials did not say if Froome would race again before the Giro’s start in Israel on May 4.

On Tuesday’s uphill finale at Ruta del Sol, Froome struggled a bit against the top riders and ceded 27 seconds to teammate and race leader Wout Poels.

With racing continuing over the weekend, including a decisive, 14.2km time trial Sunday at Barbate, Froome is intent on using the Ruta del Sol as the starting point of his racing season.

“This is a good starting block in terms of looking forward to the larger goals I have this season,” Froome said. “I will empty the tank [in the time trial]. It’s another test of where I am at, and how much work I have to do on the time trial.”

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Oman, stage 4: Cort wins; Van Avermaet keeps lead Fri, 16 Feb 2018 14:21:46 +0000 BMC Racing's Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet keeps overall lead in Oman while youngster Magnus Cort wins stage 4.

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MUSCAT, Oman (AFP) — Danish sprinter Magnus Cort Nielsen won stage 4 of the Tour of Oman on Friday as Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) retained the overall lead.

“I was OK during the whole stage, however, with one kilometer to the top of the final climb I had a tough moment because there were some attacks in front of the group and our riders tried to control these attacks,” Astana’s Cort said.

Stage 3, top 10

1. Magnus Cort (Astana), in 2:57:36
2. Giovanni Visconti (Bahrain-Meridia), s.t.
3. Alberto Bettiol (BMC Racing), s.t.
4. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), s.t.
5. Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates), s.t.
6. Nathan Haas (Katusha-Alpecin), s.t.
7. Mark Christian (Aqua Blue Sport), s.t.
8. Merhawi Ghebremedhin (Dimension Data), s.t.
9. Odd Eiking (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), s.t.
10. Jesus Herrada (Cofidis), s.t.

Top-10 overall

1. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), in 15:54:20
2. Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), at :09
3. Nathan Haas (Katusha-Alpecin), at :13
4. Gorka Insausti (Bahrain-Merida), at :16
5. Miguel Moreno (Astana), at :24
6. Dries Devenyns (Quick-Step Floors), at :25
7. Odd Eiking (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), s.t.
8. Jesus Lopez (Cofidis), s.t.
9. Daniel Garcia (Cofidis), s.t.
10. Merhawi Ghebremedhin (Dimension Data), at :33

Coming into the final kilometer, Quick-Step’s Niki Terpstra was off the front.

Caja Rural-Seguros RGA’s Alex Aranburu tried to bridge up to the Dutch leader. this only served to whip up the pace in the reduced peloton.

Astana put Alexey Lutsenko on the front and with about 500 meters remaining, the Spaniard and Terpstra had been caught.

Cort, 25, sprinted clear with about 200 meters remaining, winning with room to spare ahead of Italians Giovanni Visconti (Bahrain-Merida) and Alberto Bettiol (BMC Racing), who were second and third, respectively.

The 117.5-kilometer stage from the northeastern coastal village of Yiti to the capital Muscat lasted just under three hours.

Belgian Van Avermaet, who won Thursday’s stage 3, leads by nine seconds from Cort’s Kazakh teammate Lutsenko.

“I want to thank all team for a great support today, especially Alexey Lutsenko, who did an amazing job in the last kilometer,” said Cort. “He was so strong, pulling in front, keeping the second group far behind and leading me out for the sprint.”

Stage 5 on Saturday involves a rugged 152km route, involving a final dramatic climb to the top of Jabal al-Akhdhar (Green Mountain).

Cort’s Colombian teammate Miguel Ángel López hopes to be a factor in the race’s decisive penultimate stage. “My legs were OK and after four stages I am where I wanted to be,” he said. “I am happy for Magnus and this nice victory. Also, it is a pleasant bonus to get the white jersey [best young rider].”

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The Week in Tech: Silca pouch grande, affordable State Bicycle, Zwift nationals Fri, 16 Feb 2018 13:49:17 +0000 Here's the Week in Tech — all the gear news, tips, and announcements you need and none of the marketing gibberish you don't.

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Here’s the Week in Tech — all the gear news, tips, and announcements you need and none of the marketing gibberish you don’t.

Silca launches bigger seat roll and latex tubes

Silca’s Seat Roll Grande Americano, a larger version of its Seat Roll Premio, has the ability to carry a 700x62mm (29×2.5) tubes or two inner tubes up to 700x30mm. Three internal pockets keep things organized. The roll is made out of water-repellent 1000D ballistic nylon, and the BOA Closure System snugs up tightly around seat rails to keep the roll compact. The Grande Americano costs $58. Silca has also collaborated with tire manufacturer Vittoria to create a latex inner tube. Latex is more elastic, so as the material is stretched or flexed, it returns to shape much faster and with less energy loss. Silca believes this results in a savings of up to 5 Watts. The latex tube weighs 85 grams and costs $15.


State Bicycle Co. grows its line

State Bicycle Company has expanded its popular Core-Line of bikes. The Ghoul, Ashford, Hunter, and Pigeon are built around a steel frame, which comes in three sizes (50cm, 54cm, and 58cm). 40-millimeter deep v-style wheels are equipped with a flip-flop hub so you can change from fixed gear to singlespeed. The riser bars are outfitted with Vans grips. Each model includes front and rear brakes and platform pedals. The bikes cost $299 each.


Become a virtual national champion with Zwift

On February 24, Zwift is hosting a virtual national championship race in 15 countries with the most registered Swift users. There will be a men’s and women’s race, and Zwifters should only join their country’s race on the day of competition. Rider’s will compete over the Watopia Volcano Climb course, which is 14.2 miles and climbs 669 feet per lap. The men’s race will be three laps and the women’s race will be two laps. Riders are required to wear a heart rate monitor to be eligible for the win and riders producing over a 5 watts per kilo average for the race will be automatically disqualified. These riders can be reinstated after providing similar real-life matching performances verified by ZADA. Furthermore, Strava data for the Zwift national championship races must also be open and not private or hidden. Riders can register here before the race.


Let Lennard Zinn maintain your mountain bike

VeloPress has released the sixth edition of Lennard Zinn’s best-selling guide, “Zinn & the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance.” The book offers simple step-by-step instructions for maintenance of everything ranging from vintage components to the newest technologies. The sixth edition includes a chapter on electronic shifting, which covers maintenance, service, repair, and troubleshooting of all Shimano electronic shifting groups. Another chapter covers maintenance, service, and repair of all hydraulic and mechanical disc-brake systems. The book also includes complete info on the new 11-speed and SRAM 12-speed drivetrains. Zinn offers new guidelines on wheel size selection based on your frame size, suspension settings, travel, and much more. The book is now available in bookstores, bike shops, and online.


Stolen bike alert!

Erik Nohlin, lead designer at Specialized Bicycles, had all six of his custom bikes stolen from his garage in San Francisco. The stolen bikes include an Allez Track, Allez 74 40th anniversary edition, AWOL Transcontinental, Turbo e-bike, Sequoia Expert, and an S-Works Diverge. More information on the details of the bikes and pictures of the bikes can be found on Nohlin’s Instagram page. Nohlin is offering a reward and anyone with leads or tips can contact Nohlin at

Let’s all help Erik get his bikes back!

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The best is yet to come for young Astana leader López Thu, 15 Feb 2018 23:02:23 +0000 We have yet to see the best that Miguel Ángel López has to offer. His 2017 Vuelta was impressive, and more is in store for the Giro.

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MUSCAT, Oman (VN) — We have yet to see the best that Miguel Ángel López (Astana) has to offer.

Sure, he capped off the 2017 season with a terrific Vuelta a España. That came after he spent half the year off the bike, however. His first goal for 2018 is the Giro d’Italia, and rivals should consider this fair warning: He’s planning to be much better prepared for this grand tour.

“I wasn’t able to put in the necessary work to be at my best or work on things for the Vuelta.” López told VeloNews this week at the Dubai Tour. “I raced it with very few days of competition in the legs, 15 or 20 days. And also with few days of training. I trained very little because the fracture was in November [of 2016] and I didn’t start competing until June.”

He has additional motivation now that he’s Astana’s outright leader for the Giro. After Vincenzo Nibali’s departure for Bahrain-Merida at the end of 2016 and Fabio Aru’s jump to UAE Team Emirates this past offseason, López is suddenly the most talented climber on one of cycling’s most recognizable squads.

“Astana is a great team with great riders, as we’ve shown for a few years now. Now it’s up to us,” the 24-year-old Colombian said. “I’m young but every year it gets a bit easier.”

Hailing from Boyacá, also home to Movistar’s Nairo Quintana, López surged to hot prospect status in 2014 when he won the Tour de l’Avenir. With an overall victory at the 2016 Tour de Suisse, his stock rose even higher, but he crashed out of his grand tour debut at the Vuelta that August. A subsequent training crash delayed the start of his 2017 campaign, but when he finally did pin a number on, the results came quickly.

López put on the most impressive show of his career last fall in Spain. In his second grand tour appearance, he charged to two victories on stages 11 and 15 and rode to eighth overall. As pleased as he is with those exploits, López is already hungry for the next opportunity.

“I was still lacking a bit in the last Vuelta. Two good results, two good stages on the GC days. But there’s still a lot of work to be done because I was coming off a fractured leg that left me off the bike for eight months,” he said.

Flashes of brilliance interrupted by injury layoffs have been a recurring theme in the early years of López’s career. He’s hoping those days are behind him now. For 2018, it’s full steam ahead for the Giro d’Italia, with a possible second peak later in the season at the Vuelta.

López will make the Giro start in Jerusalem with much better preparation than he had for last year’s Vuelta. That prep involves more than just base miles.

He is an uber-talented climber but has work to do if he wants to battle for GC glory in any race with a time trial. He has been busy improving his position on the TT bike this offseason.

This winter wasn’t all work either — he spent time with family, went fishing in the rivers and lakes back home in Colombia, making it a point to come into 2018 as relaxed as possible.

Come springtime, the pressure will be on, particularly with the way this year’s Giro d’Italia is structured.

“In the first week, there’s a pair of uphill finishes. So we have to arrive in good shape because we can’t wait and expect to get better over the first week to then be ready for the rest,” he noted.

After Tour of Oman, López’s road to the Giro will take him through Abu Dhabi and then likely Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour of the Alps. If he can stay healthy, he’ll arrive at the Italian grand tour with high hopes, and his expectations will remain high through August and into the Vuelta. Still, he’s not limiting himself to a specific objective.

He’s more interested in putting his legs to the test when the road goes up. He says he hopes his rivals go in with the same plan. That way, the fans get what they came for.

“It makes for a beautiful spectacle when we all battle in the races,” he said. “Like you saw in the [UCI] 2.1 in Colombia [Oro y Paz]. In the last stage, all five of the GC favorites were there on less than five seconds. That made for more excitement for the people. They enjoyed it more. That’s how it should be.”

López is hoping to join forces with a number of the riders that battled at Oro y Paz toward the end of this year in Innsbruck. The climber-friendly worlds will be an excellent opportunity for Colombia to nab a rainbow jersey.

“It’s a chance we can’t miss because it’s been a while since we had a world champion. Just [Santiago] Botero in the time trial,” López noted. “I think we’ll have to work and try to keep it on our minds to arrive to the race in good shape.”

Worlds is still a long ways off, of course, and arriving in good shape will require López to stay healthy through a long season. If he can pull off that elusive feat, however, the rider Colombian fans call “Superman” should have plenty of opportunities to put his powers on display in 2018.

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Tour of Alberta cancelled due to financial woes Thu, 15 Feb 2018 19:06:23 +0000 After five years, Canada's top pro stage race, the Tour of Alberta, will not carry on due to a lack of funding.

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After five years of operation, Canada’s top pro stage race, the Tour of Alberta, will not carry on due to a lack of funding.

“This decision did not come easily, however with the current economic conditions and decreases in traditional funding sources, we had no other option,” said Alberta Peloton Association board chair Jeffrey Hansen-Carlson.

The race began as a six-stage event in 2013 when Rohan Dennis won the overall. That year, the race attracted six WorldTour teams and stars such as Peter Sagan, Ryder Hesjedal, Cadel Evans, and Dave Zabriskie.

In the ensuing editions, the race contracted to just four stages in 2017, mostly based around Edmonton, with only one WorldTour team, Cannondale-Drapac, in attendance.

Rally Cycling’s Evan Huffman won the overall in the final edition of Tour of Alberta in 2017.

Over five years, 29 Alberta communities hosted over 525 professional cyclists representing 33 countries.

Tour of Alberta is not the first North American stage race to struggle in recent years. The USA Pro Challenge was canceled in 2016 after five years of operation. Another Colorado stage race took its August timeslot in 2017, the Colorado Classic. However, this new race was smaller scale than its predecessor in its first running — just four stages.

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Top riders contradict Froome’s claims of peloton camaraderie Thu, 15 Feb 2018 18:45:01 +0000 Some top riders, like Tim Wellens and Tony Martin disagree with Froome's contention that the peloton welcomes his return.

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LA GUARDIA DE JAEN, Spain (VN) — Chris Froome was quick to thank fellow riders for their support Wednesday when he made his controversial return to racing in this week’s Ruta del Sol.

Yet it appears that not everyone is tickled to see the four-time Tour de France winner back in the bunch with his Salbutamol case remaining unresolved.

Droves of journalists have descended on this small five-day race in southern Spain to gauge reactions to Froome’s presence.

Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) was among the most outspoken. He told Belgian journalists Wednesday that the reaction inside the peloton to Froome’s presence is not as rosy as the Sky captain would paint it.

“Froome said he has seen incredible support inside the peloton,” Wellens said. “That’s not what I’ve experienced.”

Wellens has been among the most critical voices about the Froome case since it blew open via a leak in December. Over the winter, Wellens even equated taking puffs on asthma medication with cheating. Last year, Wellens abandoned the 2017 Tour de France after refusing to use a TUE to treat an allergic reaction to heat and pollen.

“If you did a poll, nine out of 10 riders would say it’s better that he’s not here,” Wellens said Wednesday. “On camera, a lot of riders are afraid to say what they think. Behind the cameras, they are not so happy about it.”

Speaking to Cycling Pro Net at the Volta ao Algarve in nearby Portugal, Katusha-Alpecin rider Tony Martin also had harsh words: “It’s super-bad for cycling. I absolutely don’t understand Team Sky and Froome that he comes back before this case is clear. It’s a shame.”

That’s in sharp contrast to the feel-good scene Froome portrayed at the end of Wednesday’s first stage at the Ruta del Sol. Froome said he chatted with several riders during the nearly 200km stage and said he was “amazed” by what he said was a positive reaction.

“What was really touching was that so many riders from so many teams came to offer their support,” Froome said. “It’s the first time since I’ve seen a lot of guys since this all happened, and it’s amazing to see how much there is out there in the peloton.”

Riders across the peloton are reacting in different ways to Froome’s return. Some seemed resigned to his presence and others say they’re not wasting energy over something they cannot control.

“He’s met all the requirements to race, so he’s welcome to be here,” said former teammate Mikel Landa (Movistar) with a shrug. “Those are the rules.”

Astana’s Jakob Fuglsang echoed the thoughts of many when he said it would be better for cycling if the Froome case was resolved before he returned to the races.

“I would have preferred that it was resolved before he came back, especially in the instance that he gets a suspension and the results could be disqualified,” Fulgsang said Tuesday. “It would be good for cycling if the case had been cleared before Froome comes back to racing.”

After speaking with VeloNews on Tuesday, Fuglsang was spotted chatting to Froome as the came into the finish line together. He later told a Danish journalist that he softened his opinion about Froome, adding, “He told me some things I did not know about his case.”

That ambivalence is typical across the peloton here in Spain. No one welcomes the bad publicity that might come with the Salbutamol case unresolved, but the rules allow Froome to race.

Team Sky has resisted calls for Froome to stand down while his case is adjudicated. Instead, Froome defiantly lined up Wednesday to race with a phalanx of cameras and TV crews documenting his every move.

Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale) said he’s been so exasperated by the frequent press inquiries about Froome that he rode up to Froome during Wednesday’s stage to ask him to put out a Twitter message to request journalists “to stop asking other riders about me.”

“It’s such a complicated case,” Naesen said. “It’s not so easy to speak about it when Froome might even not serve a ban.”

On Thursday, Wout Poels won the stage to take the overall lead. The inevitable Froome question didn’t take long in coming.

“There is nothing I can do about it,” Poels said. “I just do my work and keep focused on the job.”

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