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VN news ticker: USA Cycling cancels collegiate spring national championships, Star-studded start list at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

Here's the news making headlines on Friday, February 19.

USA Cycling cancels 2021 collegiate spring national championships

USA Cycling (USAC) announced Friday the cancelation of the 2021 collegiate road national championships due to the ongoing pandemic.

The road national championships had been slated for May 7-9, in Augusta, GA. Also affected is the BMX national championship event.

With many regions, and collegiate conferences already canceling races due to the impact of COVID-19, USAC indicated that the current “circumstances make holding a collegiate road season with a national championship at the finale impossible for many riders.”

USAC also indicated that Augusta will host the 2022 road national championship event.

“With a long and rich history of hosting elite-level events, Augusta and its cycling fans are obviously disappointed that the 2021 USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championship had to be canceled in 2021 due to the ongoing pandemic. We fully support USA Cycling in making this difficult decision and agree that the health and safety of their athletes are of the utmost importance. We are extremely excited to host the event again in 2022 when we look forward to welcoming back USA Cycling and its collegiate athletes to our community,” Brian Graham, CEO of Augusta Sports Council.

At this time, USAC is still planning for the remainder of the national championship events throughout the current year.

Star-studded start list at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) will be the defending champion when he take the start of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and he will be in good company.

Stuyven’s teammates Edward Theuns and Mads Pedersen will be there, as well as the Deceuninck-Quick-Step riders Yves Lampaert, Kasper Asgreen, Zdeněk Štybar, and world champion Julian Alaphilippe. Lotto-Soudal has committed Tim Wellens and Philippe Gilbert among others, while the brothers Naesen and Greg Van Avermaet from AG2R-Citroën. Bahrain-Victorius, Ines-Grenadiers, Team DSM, Qhubeka-Assos, and UAE Team Emirates will also take to the start in Ghent, as well as the UCI ProTeam Total Direct Énergie with Edvald Boasson Hagen.

The 2021 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad will take place on Saturday, February 27th.

Tom Pidcock looking to add spring to Ineos Grenadiers’ classics ambitions

Tom Pidcock is looking to bring his attacking heft to the classics unit of his new Ineos Grenadiers squad. The multi-disciplinary star joins the team for his first WorldTour season in 2021 and is placing the Ardennes classics and Strade Bianche at the center of his season ahead of a grand tour debut at the Vuelta a España.

The attacking 21-year-old is hoping to add a new dimension to Ineos’ challenge for the hilly classics, which formerly relied almost solely on Michal Kwiatkowski.

“A lot of the new riders’ styles are quite aggressive and real racers, so I think there’s a good group. I mean there’s still the grand tour riders in the team, but there’s a good group of racers as well,” Pidcock told The Telegraph. “With me and Ethan [Hayter] at Ineos, there’s a good few guys that can race. I think the classics team at Ineos needs … there could be more success with the riders that Ineos have. Yeah, that’s what I’m gonna say.”

Women’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad steps up a classification, receives television coverage in 2021

The Women’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad will enjoy television coverage and a slot in the UCI Pro Series for the first time in 2021. The one-day race, set for February 27, was formerly part of the lower-ranked 1.1 classification.

“The category raise of the opening classic to UCI ProSeries is one of our goals that has been put into a concrete action,” said Flanders Classics CEO Tomas Van Den Spiegel. “We are doing the same for our second goal of our 3-year ‘Closing the Gap’ plan, namely more media attention. Thanks to Sporza and Proximus, the women’s race will be available via livestream and the final will be broadcasted live on television for the first time, following the men’s race.”

Defending champion Annemiek van Vleuten, Lizzie Deignan, Marta Bastianelli, and world champ Anna van der Breggen are all set to line up for the cobblestone race later this month.

Remco Evenepoel returns to training outdoors

Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) resumed training outdoors Friday for the first time in weeks. The Belgian star saw a setback in his recovery from his crash last year at Il Lombardia, but he’s received the green light to return to training on open roads. There is still not a date set yet for his return to competition.

“I can finally ride outside again,” he said in a video post Friday. “I am super-excited already, and I was looking forward to this moment. I’ve been jumping, and singing, and dancing all morning. It’s not a long ride, only one and a half hours, but hopefully everything feels good, and I can ride outside again every day.”

Jakob Fulgsang puts early target on Ardennes

Jakob Fuglsang (Astana-Premier Tech) clicks back into the pedals for the first time in 2021 with the Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var. The Danish star is turning his back on GC grand tour ambitions and is putting the Olympics, one-day races and stages, and shorter stage races at the center of his calendar.

“Due to the postponement of [Ruta del Sol], we changed the plan and now I’ll make my 2021 debut at Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var,” he said Friday. “I am looking forward to finally kicking off my season after a good altitude camp in Teide. I will use the upcoming three race days to continue to build my form ahead of my first season highlight, the Ardennes Classics. I am feeling good and we are heading to France with an ambitious team trying to start the 2021 season well.”

Thibaut Pinot to take back seat at Tour des Alpes-Maritimes et du Var after tricky winter

Thibaut Pinot makes his season debut at the Tour des Alpes-Maritimes on Friday. The French star will not lead his Groupama-FDJ team at its home race but instead play domestique for rising teammate David Gaudu. Pinot and Gaudu will line up at the three-stage race on a strong team including Rudy Molard, Sébastien Reichenbach, and Bruno Armirail.

“I’m not going to play my hand, I’m here to help the group,” Pinot said.” My preparation has not been ideal with this cold winter – I need to ride and gain kilometers. I hope to be able to help the team at this difficult race.”

Pinot is making a rare pivot away from his customary Tour de France challenge this year, with sprinter Arnaud Démare instead set to lead Groupama-FDJ at this summer’s race.  The 30-year-old will instead lead his team at the Giro d’Italia.