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News Roundup: Valverde skips Flanders; TDF time bonuses; Van Dijk takes Dwars

Here’s your News Roundup for Thursday, March 29. Flanders updates, Tour news, Ellen van Dijk's win at Dwars.

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Here’s your News Roundup for Thursday, March 29. This is our way of keeping you up to speed on all of the stories circulating in the world of pro cycling. Stay tuned for more as the season heats up!

Valverde to skip Tour of Flanders

Spanish star Alejandro Valverde has decided to skip Sunday’s Tour of Flanders, despite turning heads at Wednesday’s Dwars Door Vlaanderen. Valverde, 37, told Spanish radio station El Larguero that he decided to skip Belgium’s largest race, and to instead compete in Spain’s GP Miguel Indurain.

Valverde’s original racing program called for him to compete in the Spanish one-day race, which he won in 2014.

Valverde surprised the peloton at Dwars Door Vlaanderen, surviving the race’s numerous cobblestone sections to emerge near the front of the pack. He finished 11th, just 59 seconds behind winner Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step Floors). Valverde made the front group alongside Classics specialists Niki Terpstra, Jasper Stuyven, and Greg van Avermaet, among others. Valverde even launched several attacks during the race.

After the race, Valverde hinted that he may compete in the Tour of Flanders.

The Dwars Door Vlaanderen race was something an experiment for the Spanish great; he has shied away from cobblestone races for much of his career. He suited up for the Belgian semi-classic alongside teammate Nairo Quintana and French rider Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) as a test for this year’s Tour de France, which includes a stage along the Roubaix cobblestones.

Time bonuses on offer in first nine Tour stages

Tour de France organizers are spicing up the first half of the 2018 race with time bonuses. These aren’t your ordinary finish-line time bonuses, however. Instead, organizers will designate a sprint point somewhere between 30km to go and eight kilometers to go on stages 1-9. The winner gets three seconds, second is a two-second bonus, and third-place will earn a one-second bonus. “We decided to update the time bonuses for stages; it will encourage the attackers,” Thierry Gouvenou told AFP. “These sprints will not necessarily be located on the flat, they will be placed in strategic places.” There will still be a 10-second time bonus on offer for the winner of stage 1, which will presumably be a bunch sprint into Fontenay-le-Comte.

Van Dijk dominant at Dwars

Ellen van Dijk
Photo: Luc Claessen | Getty Images

Dutch rider Ellen van Dijk won Wednesday’s Dwars Door Vlaanderen with a solo move with six kilometers remaining in the race. The 31-year-old Sunweb rider quickly pulled out a 55-second advantage on a small group after surging ahead on a section of cobblestones.

Van Dijk held her advantage to the finish line in Waregem. Amy Pieters of Boels-Dolmans won the sprint for second place, with another Sunweb rider Floortje Mackaij finishing third.

The result shows promise ahead of Sunday’s Ronde van Vlaanderen. Van Dijk won the 2014 version of the race and helped set up teammate Coryn Rivera for the victory last year.

Naesen recovered for Flanders

Belgian national champion Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale) will compete in Sunday’s Tour of Flanders. The 27-year-old Belgian was in doubt for the race after crashing and injuring his knee during Wednesday’s Dwars Door Vlaanderen race. Naesen dropped out of the event after the crash. He underwent a scan at a hospital and Gent which showed no broken bones.

“Normally I will start the Ronde van Vlaanderen,” Naesen said. “I remain very motivated before this event which is the race of the spring.”

“Besides, I did not want to miss the Ronde while I’m wearing the Belgian champion jersey,” he added.

Naesen has shown promise this spring, finishing sixth at Gent-Wevelgem and fourth at E3 Harelbeke.