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VN news ticker: Mathieu van der Poel downplays chances, Tro Bro Léon partners with ASO

Here's the news making headlines for Saturday, September 25.

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Mathieu van der Poel: ‘I’m not the favorite’

Mathieu van der Poel said he didn’t want to miss the “unique championships” in Belgium, and said he’s relishing the chance to race in front of large, rowdy crowds following an easing of health restrictions.

“The favorite? No, it’s not me,” he told Dutch media. “I’m not saying that because I want to be the underdog. I have no problem being the favorite, but I won’t hide myself and then suddenly just be there.

“This is a perfect course for me, and for all the other classics riders,” he continued. “That’s why I wanted to be there so much. You have to wait a few years to get another chance like this.”

Also read: Van der Poel confirmed to start the worlds

Van der Poel only decided Monday that he would race in Leuven, and under normal conditions, he would be a five-star favorite to win.

“I’ll spear head the Dutch team. I am not the absolute leader like Wout Van Aert is on the Belgian team,” he said. “The Belgians will have a few more cards to play.

“The worlds is not entirely like the Tour of Flanders,” he said when asked if he’ll finish with van Aert. “The worlds are different when you can finish the race with a small bunch sprint. What’s normal for me is that the harder the race is, the better my sprint becomes.”

And that nagging back? Van der Poel said he’ll race through Paris-Roubaix, and then give it a rest.

“The back problems are not solved 100 percent,” he said. “I hope that after Roubaix I can have a long rest period, and it will be over. I’ve been able to do some long training rides, so I hope it’s OK.”

Tro Bro Léon partners ASO for future editions

The French one-day race Tro Bro Léon has saddled up with Tour de France organizers ASO. It was confirmed Saturday that the Amaury Sport Organization will assist the ProSeries race with sponsor and media services as well as providing logistical support to help “ensure its long-term survival.”

“As director of the event, it is my duty today to think about the future of the race so it can continue for decades,” said race boss Jean-Paul Mellouët. “For me, this agreement is a guarantee that the Tro Bro Léon, thanks to ASO’s recognized know-how in commercial, media and logistical matters, and while preserving the unique character that has made it a success, will continue to flourish for many years to come.”

The race, set in the heart of Brittany, northwest France, has taken on a cult following thanks to its dirt road stretches and unique atmosphere, including the ceremonial gifting of a pig to the winner.

“It is with joy and pride that A.S.O. will lend its support to one of the greatest success stories of cycling in Brittany. The Bro Léon, a forerunner in terms of the uniqueness of its route, offers a model from which A.S.O. has even drawn inspiration to invigorate the Paris-Tours classic, which now includes vineyard paths,” said Pierre-Yves Thouault, director of cycling at ASO.

“The enjoyment we had in organizing the start of the 2021 Tour de France in Brittany with everyone from the local cycling community adds to our enthusiasm to participate in the future success of the Tro Bro Léon.”

Recent winners of the race include Connor Swift and Christophe Laporte.

Lithuanian team bikes stolen and refound at road worlds

The Lithuanian road world championships team had its bikes stolen only to have them promptly returned by Brussels police Thursday.

Belgian media reports that the team’s van was broken into while parked at a hotel in Brussels, with seven custom team bikes, spare wheels and components all missing. Team staff filed a complaint with local police, which soon identified the perpetrators using CCTV footage.

Two suspects were arrested Thursday afternoon and a house was searched, revealing the stolen goods. The case will now go to court.