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VN news ticker: Tour of Flanders to go on ‘behind closed doors,’ Elia Viviani set to start UAE Tour

Here's the news making headlines for Wednesday, February 17.

2021 Tour of Flanders, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad to go on “behind closed doors”

This year’s edition of the 2021 Tour of Flanders, scheduled for April 4, will go on without spectators for a second consecutive year.

The 2020 event won by Mathieu van der Poel for the men, and Chantal van den Broek-Blaak for the women, took place with similar restrictions last October 18.

Additionally, the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, set for February 27, will also take place with a ban enforced that prohibits spectators near the starting and finishing areas.

“Last year, many organizers had to cancel their event at the last minute. With this measure, we want to prevent them from making unnecessary preparations,” a representative from the Flemish Ardennes police told Wielerflits.

Dutch news sources have also indicated that the U23 and juniors categories for these races will not be run, as Flemish Ardennes law enforcement has banned all non-professional cycling races until April 18.

Elia Viviani set to start UAE Tour

Elia Viviani (Cofidis) has passed physical exams and is set to start the season at the UAE Tour, February 21-27.

Viviani had been flagged for observation at a Cofidis training camp in Benidorm, Spain, a month ago when he experienced an irregular heartbeat. The Italian sprinter contacted Dr. Roberto Corsetti, the physician who attended to him when he was on Team Liquigas.

Viviani underwent atrial ablation surgery to address cardiac arrhythmia, and then a period of observation and monitoring off the bike.

Since recovering from surgery, Viviani has spent more than 30 hours on the bike. He will be joined by Kenneth Vanbilsen, Nathan Haas, Fabio Sabatini, and his brother Attilio Vivani when the UAE Tour rolls on February 21.

Romain Bardet eyes DSM debut at the classics, grand tour plans unconfirmed

Frenchman Romain Bardet is looking to the spring one-dayers to make his first outing in Team DSM colors.

“I think I’ll start the season racing the classics,” Bardet told Le Montagne. “To have a support role in the team but also to make my place in the group. We will decide after that which grand tour I will start.”

After spending his whole nine-year pro life at Ag2r-La Mondiale, the 30-year-old has pivoted his ambitions and priorities away from the bloody-minded quest for Tour de France glory. Bardet is hoping to blow fresh wind into his career after two fallow seasons with his former team, with the “all-for-one” approach of Team DSM and a classics leaning offering him the hope of revitalizing his mojo.

“In this second part of my career, it was important for me to breathe new life,” he said Tuesday.

Richie Porte named Australian cyclist of the year

Richie Porte (Ineos-Grenadiers) was named the 2020 Australian cyclist of the year, and awarded the Sir Hubert “Oppy” Opperman medal for his victory at the 2020 Santos Tour Down Under, and his third-place finish at the Tour de France.

“This is a massive privilege and an honor,” Porte said in a statement on Wednesday. “It has been something I have always wanted to do so to take it out finally, it is of great satisfaction.”

Porte’s tour podium came on his tenth start at the Tour. He is just one of two Australians to ever make a podium at the Grande Boucle; Cadel Evans won the 2011 edition of the race.

Grace Brown was named Australian female road cyclist of the year.

Diego Ulissi clears health checks, OK’d to resume training

Diego Ulissi (UAE-Team Emirates) got the green light to resume training, team officials confirmed Wednesday.

The Italian veteran underwent a battery of tests this winter following a diagnosis of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle. A cardiac biopsy carried out at an Italian hospital excluded congenital cardiomyopathies and confirmed an older myocarditis, likely of viral origin, whose etiological agent has not been identified, official said.

“The biopsy found the absence of risky arrhythmias for the athlete during the electrophysiological study, which will allow for the progressive resumption of training,” team officials said Wednesday. “In any case, a periodic monitoring period will follow before confirming any definitive return to racing.”

UAE-Team Emirates debut the 2021 season this week, with teams at Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var and the UAE Tour, where Tour de France champion Tadej Pogačar will start his 2021 campaign.

Caja Rural-Seguros RGA thankful for 10th straight Vuelta a España

Spanish ProTeam Caja Rural-Seguros RGA is thankful it will be back for its 10th consecutive edition of the Vuelta a España following Tuesday’s confirmation of a wildcard bid for 2021.

The Spanish team made its Vuelta debut in 2012, and the Spanish grand tour remains the center of gravity for what many consider Spain’s second most-important team behind Movistar. The team will pursue its annual goal of trying to win a stage during the three-week Vuelta, and team officials thanked Vuelta organizers supporting Spanish cycling. Spanish teams Burgos-BH and Euskaltel-Euskadi also received invitations.

“To complete 10 years in a row attending the Vuelta is a point of pride and motivation for the entire team,” said manager Juan Manuel Hernández. “It’s our most important race of the season … and thanks to the Vuelta, our team has steadily grown over the past decade. We’ve had several riders come out of our organization who are now racing at the highest levels of the sport. Without the Vuelta, this would not have been possible.”