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VN ticker: De Lie gallops to Valenciana victory, Jakobsen ‘stronger, wiser’ in 2023, Boonen hints at gravel future

Here's the news making headlines on Sunday, January 22.

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Arnaud de Lie gallops to victory at the Clàssica Comunitat Valenciana

Arnaud de Lie got the season started the right way for Lotto-Dstny at the Clàssica Comunitat Valenciana 1969.

The young Belgian sprint sensation outkicked Edvald Boasson Hagen (Total Energies) and Jenthe Biermans (Arkéa Samsic) in the first race for the Lotto team since it was relegated out of the WorldTour this winter.

“In the final kilometers, we played it perfectly and countered the various attacks. We were always in control and then it was up to me to sprint. So I am really happy that I can reward my teammates with the first victory of the season,” De Lie said.

“Of course, this win is important after a winter of hard work to be immediately ready for the first race. That I could follow on the long climb showed that I took another step forward. This victory is a nice start, but I’m hungry for more.”

Fabio Jakobsen ‘stronger, wiser’ in 2023

Jakobsen wears the European jersey in 2023.

After scoring a career-best 13 victories in 2022, Fabio Jakobsen rides into the new season a whole different beast from the rider that was victim of a horror crash in 2020.

“I think I’ve become a stronger rider, a bit older and hopefully wiser. If you look at the results, which in the end is what counts, I have won a stage on the Tour and I am European champion. Before the crash I had none of these victories,” Jakobsen told AS.

“Last year I got more than ten victories, something I hadn’t done before either. It is clear that I have become someone stronger.”

Jakobsen kickstarts his new calendar with Soudal Quick-Step at Vuelta a San Juan on Sunday before he tracks through early-season stage racing and a Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne defense.

A return to the Tour de France will make the center of the 26-year-old’s season and offers the opportunity for a face-off against the best bunch sprinters in the world. July’s grand tour will also be the perfect place for Jakobsen to test whether he can achieve his career goal – ultimate dominance.

“When you’re a sprinter you want to be the fastest and win as many races as possible. That is what I want to be, but it consists of going year by year. Cycling is an increasingly specialized sport and my talent lies in mass sprints,” Jakobsen said.

“I have the legs and the speed for it, so my goal is to become one of the best sprinters of my time.”

Tom Boonen hints at gravel future

Tom Boonen, who retired in 2017, is the subject of a new bronze statue. (Photo: Photo by YJ/Getty Images)

The retired “king of the cobbles” and six-time Tour de France stage winner Tom Boonen hinted at a return to competition this week.

Speaking at the Velofollies bike fair while working with the new Classified gear shifting system, the 42-year-old implied he’d gotten the off-road bug.

“I’m considering looking for some competition on the bike again. I’m still a bit hesitant, but it’s starting to tickle again,” Boonen told Sporza. “I’m thinking of something like the Roc du Maroc (MTB race) or some gravel races.”

Boonen retired in 2017 after spending 15 wildly successful seasons with Quick-Step. The Belgian brought the team victories four times at Paris-Roubaix, three times at Tour of Flanders, and at the 2005 road worlds.

Boonen suggested a return to racing via the team director’s chair, possibly for the Belgian national squad, wasn’t out of the question.

“Never say never. When I first retired, I had the chance to do something like that at Quick-Step, but in the end, I said I wanted to do something different, take a breather after all that attention,” Boonen said. “But it’s not that I don’t have that ambition. I’m still young.”

And what else has Boonen been up to recently?

Well, he this week posed for hours while artists immortalized his legs into a bronze statue located atop the Taaienberg climb.

Oman gets new one-day race, the ‘Muscat Classic’

Organizers of the Tour of Oman confirmed a new one-day race for 2023.

The inaugural 1.1.-ranked Muscat Classic will be the first UCI one-dayer organized in Asia, and rolls out one day ahead of the five-stage Oman Tour, on February 10.

The challenging course is expected to be one for the tough-guy sprinters with four classified climbs sprinkled along the route.

The Muscat Classic and partnering Tour of Oman will both see nine WorldTour teams on the startlines, including Astana-Qazaqstan, Bora-Hansgrohe, and Soudal Quick-Step. Mark Cavendish is expected to make his Astana debut in the Oman races.

Lotto-Dstny and Uno X are among six ProTeams to get the invites.

The Muscat Classic debuts in 2023.