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VN news ticker: Caleb Ewan doubles up at Baloise Belgium Tour, L39ION of Los Angeles sweeps Tulsa Tough

Here's the news making headlines for Saturday, June 12.

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Caleb Ewan doubles up at Baloise Belgium Tour

Caleb Ewan took his second win in two days at the Baloise Belgium Tour.

Ewan won the reduced bunch sprint to take stage 4 in Hamoir after also winning stage 3 Friday.

Bryan Coquard (B&B Hotels) finished second, Davide Ballerini (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) third.

The final kick came after a tough hilly stage through the Ardennes that saw the breakaway last to the final 10km.

Lotto-Soudal and Deceuninck-Quick-Step took the front group of around 40 riders into the town center final before Ewan’s teammates seized control.

Jasper de Buyst shepherded Ewan through the twisting closing kilometers before unleashing the Aussie for a long sprint on the slightly uphill finish line. The 26-year-old blasted up the slope unrivaled as Coquard was left for dust.

https://twitter.com/belgium_tour/status/1403696752746696707

Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) retained the leader’s jersey after finishing in the front group.

The final stage of the race Sunday offers Ewan the opportunity to take a hat-trick with a flat finish in Beringen.

Diego Ulissi, Tadej Pogačar take team one-two in Slovenia

Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) won the tough hilly fourth stage of the Tour of Slovenia on Saturday.

It was the Italian’s first win since last year’s the Giro d’Italia, and his first since suffering myocarditis through the winter, a condition that saw him forced to pause training for several weeks as he recovered.

Tadej Pogačar rode to within 50 meters of the finish line with his teammate before waiting for Ulissi to open his sprint for victory. The Tour champ finished second while Matteo Sobrero (Astana-Premier Tech) took third.

https://twitter.com/TeamEmiratesUAE/status/1403703569161895937

UAE Emirates flooded the front of the bunch ahead of the testing hilltop finish. Matej Mohorič (Bahrain Victorious) attempted a flying attack in the final 10km in a bid to move up from second on GC only for Pogačar’s crew to pull him back.

It seemed inevitable a UAE Emirates rider would win the stage when the bunch hit the fierce 2.4km, 13 percent Nova Gorica climb to the line.

Ulissi, Pogačar and Rafal Majka bossed the four-man group that lasted through the final ascent, with Sobrero the only rider able to break the UAE-Emirates stranglehold.

With his GC lead secure after closest rival Mohorič was dropped at the bottom of the climb, Pogačar waited for Ulissi to open up his sprint to see him take victory after his troubled winter.

Pogačar now holds a commanding lead ahead of a flat final stage Sunday.

L39ION of Los Angeles sweeps Tulsa Tough

L39ION of Los Angeles took a sweep of races on the opening day of the Tulsa Tough. The squad won the men’s pro, women’s pro and men’s 1/2 races.

Ama Nsek was the first to score, winning the men’s 1/2 race. Skyler Schneider and Kendall Ryan took one-three for the team at the women’s race before the Williams brothers went one-two in the men’s. Justin was first across the line, Cory second. Tyler Williams finished fourth.

“Tonight was an amazing ride,” Cory Williams said after the race.

“We had the pressure on us after watching Ama and Skylar win, we just had to get the job done. We came ready to play, we rode the front the entire race and still had the legs to hold everybody off at the end.

“We could not ask for a better ride from the guys.  Super proud of everyone in the staff for taking care of us, and hopefully the legs are just as good tomorrow.”

The team arrived to Tulsa a week early to experience the city and be accessible to the community. The squad’s fans responded in kind.

“It’s really special to be here tonight and see all the L39ION shirts and flags around the course and feel the support from the crowd, that gave us a lot of momentum on the last lap, just hearing everyone screaming for us,” Schneider said.

“We had a plan and everything worked according to the plan. It’s not often that happens like that, just because there are a lot of factors that come into play, but tonight it all worked! It feels really good to finish the job after Kendall put in such a strong leadout. I’m looking forward to the next two days defending the overall leader’s jersey.”

Injury puts Tour de France start in doubt for Sam Bennett

It is still unclear whether Sam Bennett will be able to race the Tour de France.

The Irish sprinter abandoned a planned start at the Baloise Belgium Tour last week due to knee issues. The problem is still yet to clear up, putting doubt on his green jersey defense at this summer’s Tour.

“The problem is that he has an inflammation of the patella tendon and those are persistent injuries … Will Sam make it to the Tour? At the moment we don’t know. He has to rest at least until Monday,” wrote team boss Patrick Lefevere in his column on Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday.

Bennett ripped to two stage wins and the green jersey at last year’s Tour, and looked to be carrying similarly unbeatable form through the 2021 season.

When Bennett withdrew from the Belgium Tour, a resurgent Mark Cavendish was drafted in as a late sprint replacement. After showing hints of his former self through 2021, the 30-time Tour stage winner would make an obvious replacement for Bennett in France.

However, Cavendish has put a stopper on any potential return to the Tour this summer.

“A plan B as a sprinter is not really there. I had dinner with Mark Cavendish on Sunday night and the question came up: ‘Do you want to ride another big tour?’ Mark answered: ‘Not at this salary, no,'” wrote Lefevere.

“That may sound cynical, but I understand his point of view. Mark is 35 years old and joined the team last minute. The Tour was nowhere in sight at the time. He signed for a minimum contract because we had minimal expectations.”