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VN news ticker: Matthew Walls wins 2021 Gran Piemonte, Gorka Izagirre returns to Movistar Team on two-year deal

Here's the news making headlines for Thursday, October 7.

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Matthew Walls wins 2021 Gran Piemonte

Matthew Walls (Bora-Hansgrohe) won the 2021 Gran Piemonte ahead of Giacomo Nizzolo (Qhubeka-NextHash) and Olav Kooij (Jumbo-Visma) in a bunch sprint that saw nearly a dozen riders mob the finish line, with another 20 in a group on their wheels.

The last kilometer was chaotic, but Walls was able to find his way and stay ahead of Nizzolo at the line.

When asked about his experience on the track as confidence-boosting, Wells also noted that he used his skills from racing on the boards, too.

“The track, yes, it helps. It helped me to position myself well in the sprint, to keep the right position,” Wells said. “This victory shows that I can also do good things on the road.”

World under-23 silver medalist, Biniam Ghirmay (Intermarché-Wanty Gobert), notched a top-5 result, finishing on the wheels of the experienced Italian sprinter Matteo Trentin.

Walls was the gold-medalist in the track omnium at the recent Tokyo Olympics. While he won stage 4 of the 2021 Tour of Norway, the win in Northern Italy is the most significant result on his road racing palmarès to date.

After the previous two editions featured hilly routes, the 168-kilometer parcous that raced along the southern edge of the Italian Alps was a gift to the sprinters for the first time since the 2018 edition.

2021 Gran Piemonte Results

  1. Matthew Walls (Bora-Hansgrohe)3:34:47
  2. Giacomo Nizzolo (Qhuebeka-NextHash), at s.t.
  3. Olav Kooij (Jumbo-Visma), at s.t.
  4. Matteo Trentin (UAE-Team Emirates), at s.t.
  5. Biniam Ghirmay (Intermarché-Wanty Gobert)

Gorka Izagirre returns to Movistar Team on two-year deal

Gorka Izagirre will return to Movistar for the 2022-23 seasons. (Photo: Courtesy Movistar)

Gorka Izagirre will join Movistar Team for the 2022-23 seasons.

The Basque rider will return to the Spanish squad, where he raced from 2014 – 2017, after racing with Astana-Premier Tech for the past three seasons.

“I’m so happy to come back to the Movistar Team! The four years I spent with this team were the best of my career, both from a sporting point of view and as a group of teammates who become best friends.

“These last few years for me have been just like when a young kid leaves his home and travels elsewhere: I’ve known other places in the world, other environments, but in the end, I wanted to come back at some point. I hope to bring back all of my experience, everything I’ve been taught, to give everything for this team once again,” Izagirre said.

Izagirre raced with Bahrain-Merida in 2017, and he wore the orange of Euskaltel–Euskadi for the 2010 – 2013 seasons.

His palmarès features nine victories, including a stage win in the Giro d’Italia while racing with Movistar. He was the Spanish national road champion in 2018, and won the Tour de La Provence in 2019, and the Tre Valli Varesine, in 2020.

His brother, Ion, has raced alongside him at Astana.

Joe Dombrowski signs for Astana through 2023

Joe Dombrowski scored his biggest career win on stage 4 of the 2021 Giro d'Italia.
Joe Dombrowski won stage 4 of the 2021 Giro d’Italia. (: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

The American ace Joe Dombrowski will ride for Team Astana for the next two seasons. The Kazakh squad confirmed Thursday that the American would be transferring to the team next year having spent the past two years with UAE-Team Emirates.

Dombrowski, 30, will be part of a newly bolstered Astana next season. Vincenzo Nibali, David de la Cruz, and Gianni Moscon have all inked contracts with the team for 2022, and reports suggest that Miguel Ángel López could be returning to the fold after his high-profile fallout with Movistar at this year’s Vuelta a España.

“First of all, in Joe Dombrowski we see a strong climber and an experienced helper for team leaders at the grand tours,” said team manager Aleksandr Vinokurov. “Our team is going to change a lot in the upcoming season, and we are happy to strengthen our grand tour group with such a reliable and versatile rider like Joe.”

After winning a stage of this year’s Giro d’Italia, and placing second on the Picon Blanco summit of the 2021 Vuelta a España,   Vinokourov also recognized Dombrowski’s ability to race for himself.

“Dombrowski could be a rider we can count on looking for a stage win or going for the general classification in a small stage race,” Vinokourov said. “It is still early to talk about his goals in his first season in our team, but I am quite sure this move can be successful for both sides, our team and the rider.”

Dombrowski was relishing the opportunity to join the likes of Nibali and Jakob Fuglsang next year.

“Astana is a big team with a long history and this team has had great successes in the sport for many years, and I am excited to become a part of that,” he said.

“I am looking forward to meeting the team and to sitting down with the management at the training camps this off-season and to establishing my objectives. Whether that’s to help the team or the opportunity to ride for my own results, it is going to be a great new challenge for me”

Julian Alaphilippe’s new rainbow-theme Specialized

Alaphilippe's 2021 world champs bike
(Photo: Deceuninck-Quick-Step)

Julian Alaphilippe has a new color scheme for 2021-2022, even if he’s wearing the same rainbow jersey.

Deceuninck-Quick-Step revealed Alaphilippe’s new Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7 on Wednesday, complete with a dark rainbow-themed paint job to mark the Frenchman’s second season as world champion. The muted colors of the new-season bike contrast Alaphilippe’s 2020-2021 machine, which was predominantly white.

“The [bike was] inspired by the swirling storm of competition. That moment when all of the rider’s effort is being put into the pedals. Their vision starts to blur and their eyes cross,” said Specialized senior graphic concept designer, Tom Briggs.

“If you look at the World Champ top tube logo it’s offset as though their vision was starting to see double … The silver granite represents the swirling of thoughts, emotions, training, and everything else that goes into that one singular moment of glory as they become the world champion.”

The deep grey and rainbow scheme is being rolled out across Specialized’s world champions’ bikes for the coming season. Short-track cross-country MTB champions Christopher Blevins and Sina Frei also have similar livery on their mountain bikes.

Alaphilippe debuted his new Tarmac SL7 at Milano Torino on Wednesday, where he placed 25th. He will be back in action at Il Lombardia this weekend.

COVID-19 forces Bora-Hansgrohe to reconfigure weekend Paris-Bourges and Paris-Tours rosters

Bora-Hansgrohe reconfigured its rosters for Paris-Bourges and Paris-Tours rosters after Pascal Ackermann and Michael Schwarzmann presented with signs of COVID-19 infection.

A PCR test was carried out on short notice ahead of their trip to France. Results from the first test came back positive for the coronavirus; and a second test was performed, which also came back positive.

Ackermann and Schwarzmann did not join the team, and followed protocols and guidelines as set by local health officials.

Maciej Bodnar was substituted on the start list for one of the two riders, but the German-backed squad will compete in the two races with only six riders.

Cherie Pridham becomes sport director at Lotto-Soudal

Cherie Pridham will swap her director’s seat at Israel Start-Up Nation for a role at Lotto-Soudal next season.

The Belgian squad confirmed Thursday that Pridham would join their director’s group after leading ISN through 2021.

“I only heard good things about her,” said Lotto Soudal general manager John Lelangue. “I spoke with some five other candidates for this job, but then some riders suggested me Cherie. After our first interview, I was immediately convinced. She was by far the best sports director.”

Pridham made waves when she joined Israel Start-Up Nation this winter as she became the first female sport director in the modern male WorldTour.

“She is strong in organization and works well with people, riders, and staff,” Lelangue said. “Whether you’re male or female doesn’t matter at all to do this job. First and foremost, she’s a director, not a female director. Cherie is just the person we need.”

Pridham has a long background in pro cycling. She raced eight editions of the Tour de France Féminin and two of the Giro Rosa during her time as a rider before spending many years managing teams in the UK.

“If you can’t beat the Belgians, join them,” she said in a statement released by the team Thursday.

“It was absolutely not on my radar to direct a Belgian team, but when the Lotto Soudal project was presented to me, I was immediately charmed by it. I raced a lot in Belgium. I know how much cycling means for Belgian people. I am not afraid, I am ready to make a positive contribution to the team’s future.

“I really want to thank the owners of Israel Start-Up Nation. They gave me the chance to develop my skills. That was an invaluable experience which I can use to help making Lotto Soudal a more exciting team. If I just can bring some small touches, some more modern things into the organization, that could make already a big difference.”

Annemiek van Vleuten back on trainer after Roubaix crash

Annemiek van Vleuten is already back turning her legs again this week, just days after twice fracturing her hip and breaking her shoulder at the inaugural Paris-Roubaix Femmes.

Van Vleuten posted a video of herself on a static trainer on Instagram on Tuesday as she took the first pedal strokes of what could be a long recovery process from her injuries.

“40 hours after the crash … Surprised me also I could do this without pain! Walking is super-painful. Guess I choose the right sport,” she wrote.

“I need to sit upright because my shoulder is broken and also a wide saddle, but with this, it is possible to sit on a home trainer without too much pain!”

Van Vleuten was one of the many DNFs of a slippery race across the cobbles Saturday. She recounted on her personal blog that she had made it as far as the final 15 kilometers of the race, some way behind race leader Lizzie Deignan, when the crash occurred.

“Bye-bye holiday. Bye-bye recharging. I have done this more often but energy is running out,” van Vleuten wrote soon after the incident, dejected that her off-season plans had been torpedoed.

However, it seems the recovery process has been accelerated from the timescales first forecast. Van Vleuten also posted a short video of her tentatively walking on crutches in the Arnhem hospital earlier this week.

“From the advice in Roubaix hospital to stay three weeks in bed completely horizontal… to motivate me to start to walk again within 24 hours of the crash,” she wrote. “I can’t go on holiday but I can make a plan for my revalidation and look forward and this is making a big difference.”