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VN news ticker: Sepp Kuss extends with Jumbo-Visma through 2024; Ineos Grenadiers to bring stacked squad to Volta a Catalunya

Here's the news making headlines for Friday, March 19.

Sepp Kuss extends with Jumbo-Visma through 2024

American Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) has extended with Dutch-based UCI WorldTour cycling team Jumbo-Visma through 2024.

“Sepp is one of the best climbers in the peloton,” said Jumbo-Visma manager sportsman Merijn Zeeman. “He is increasingly becoming a leader himself and we will guide him in discovering his limits in the years to come.”

Kuss, 26, is a significant contributor to the squad, often seen alongside Primož Roglič in grand tours.

Earning a win on stage 15 of the 2019 Vuelta a España, a win on stage 5 of the 2020 Critérium du Dauphiné, Kuss also wore the leader’s jersey for the mountain classification at the 2020 Vuelta a España after stage 1.

The Coloradoan finished in 15th place on the general classification at the 2020 Tour de France, and in 16th place overall at the 2020 Vuelta a España.

Kuss has been with Jumbo-Visma since 2018, when his contract with Rally Cycling ended.

Ineos Grenadiers to bring stacked squad to Volta a Catalunya

Ineos Grenadiers are bringing a stacked lineup to the 2021 Volta a Catalunya: Richard Carapaz, Jonathan Castroviejo, Rohan Dennis, Richie Porte, Luke Rowe, Geraint Thomas, and Adam Yates.

Porte crashed on stage 1 of Paris-Nice, and abandoned before the week-long race really got off to a start. He’s fit, and in good form, and raring to race. Thomas is getting into shape, finishing just outside of the top 10 on the climbing stage 4 of Tirreno-Adriatico. And Yates was second in the GC at the UAE Tour just several weeks ago.

https://twitter.com/INEOSGrenadiers/status/1372891173564645382

Former Ineos Greandiers’ rider Chris Froome recently remarked that riders are now showing up to early-season races in Tour de France level fitness.

“Now, people are hitting the ground running. At those races, the level is at the highest level that I’d imagine for the Tour de France,” said Froome. “So we’re seeing now that races are at a much higher level and a testament to that is that there are people up here at altitude getting ready.”

The Volta a Catalunya kicks off on Monday, March 22, and concludes the following Sunday, March 28.

Question mark over Paris-Roubaix as regions enter COVID lockdown

There is a question mark hanging over next month’s Paris-Roubaix as several regions hosting the race have entered a new COVID lockdown. A new spike in coronavirus cases through northern France has led to officials placing 16 départements into confinement, including those that are homes of both Roubaix and start town Compiègne.

New measures introduced Thursday restrict non-essential trips and travel and impose evening curfews, and are set to last four weeks, which spans through Roubaix’s scheduled date of April 11.

It is currently unclear if the lockdown will impact the men’s and women’s races, which were also canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Philippe Gilbert hoping for ‘Hail Mary’ in chase for fifth monument at Milano-Sanremo

Philippe Gilbert is hoping for a surprise at Milano-Sanremo on Saturday. The Belgian veteran is chasing after victory in Sanremo as he looks to take a clean sweep of the five monuments, but there are three red-hot talents standing in his way.

“[Wout] can Aert, [Mathieu] van der Poel and [Julian] Alaphilippe are the big favorites, but the favorite doesn’t always win,” Gilbert said Thursday. “They will play an important role, but I don’t exclude anyone.”

Gilbert has raced “La Classicissima” 16 times already and says that the unpredictability of the mammoth race may offer him a glimmer of hope.

“There can always be surprises in Sanremo,” he said. “We mainly talk about those three, but there are still a lot of riders who want to shine. It is also the only classic where a large number of riders can still be at the front in the final. It will be an open and exciting race.”

Gilbert will hang up his wheels at the close of next year, and so has just two attempts remaining to complete a monument sweep with Milano-Sanremo victory. The 38-year-old’s mission is one of the key talking points of this weekend’s race, though he’s keen to wash away the hype.

“My career does not stand or fall with this race, but it would make it even better,” he said.

Gilbert is racing as part of a stacked Lotto-Soudal team that includes sprint options with Caleb Ewan and John Degenkolb as well as the punchy Tim Wellens.