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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Tuesday, April 17, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

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La Flèche Wallonne team previews

BMC sent me this:

16 April, 2018, Santa Rosa, California (USA): After securing third place at La Flèche Wallonne in 2017, Dylan Teuns will return to the start line on Wednesday eyeing a second consecutive podium result.

Teuns is backed by a strong team including Damiano Caruso, Alessandro De Marchi and Simon Gerrans, Sports Director Jackson Stewart said.

"The course has changed for La Flèche Wallonne with two new climbs in the first 100km so maybe it is harder from an elevation standpoint but I think it is too early to affect the finale. The circuit is exactly the same so the race is likely to come down to the final ascent of the Mur de Huy as it normally does," Stewart explained.

"Dylan Teuns is confident and is riding even better than this time last year and he has the experience to go back and do another good result. We have a good team there to support him until the finale."

Dy;lan Teuns

Dylan Teuns winning stage 3 of the 2017 Tour de Wallonie

La Flèche Wallonne is one of the biggest goals for Teuns in the first part of the season.

"The classics are always special races. I'm really motivated, I feel that my condition is where it needs to be and I'm confident after some good results this year. La Flèche Wallonne is a race that really suits me, especially with the steep climbs. The final ascent of the Mur de Huy is the key point of the race so it's important to be well positioned there. I'll look to give it my maximum on Wednesday," Teuns said.

Loïc Vliegen will return to racing at La Flèche Wallonne for the first time since sustaining a fractured scaphoid in March.

La Flèche Wallonne (18 April)

Rider roster: Alberto Bettiol (ITA), Damiano Caruso (ITA), Alessandro De Marchi (ITA), Kilian Frankiny (SUI), Simon Gerrans (AUS), Dylan Teuns (BEL), Loïc Vliegen (BEL).

Sports Directors: Jackson Stewart (USA), Valerio Piva (BEL)

Ag2r La Mondiale will be there. Here is their news:

Riders: Ben Gastauer, Mathias Frank, Alexis Vuillermoz, Romain Bardet, Jan Bakelants, Axel Dumont & Benoit Cosnefroy

ALEXIS VUILLERMOZ: “As a way of preparation, I lived through a Tour of the Basque Country that was true to its reputation: difficult both for its course and for the weather. Regarding my form, I remain cautious. I hope to reverse the trend of the last few weeks and rediscover the good legs I had early in the season. The Flèche Wallonne is always an atypical race. On paper it is perhaps the one that suits me the best. But in spite of everything I remain convinced that I can also shine at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, which reminds me a little of Il Lombardia (where he took 4th in 2017).

"How can I describe this event? I would say it is a hell of a rat race in the last kilometers, and then it’s a lottery to find the best position at the foot of the wall. But that’s also a big part of Flèche Wallonne’s charm.”

Alexis Vuillmermoz

Vuillermoz wins stage 2 of the 2017 Tour du Limousin.

THE NUMBER: 1
Following the Amstel Gold Race, Benoit Cosnefroy, current U23 World Champion, will continue his apprenticeship in the races of the UCI WorldTour calendar by taking part in the Flèche Wallonne for the first time.

THE NEWS:
Mathias Frank recently checked out the course for the Tour de Romandie time trial (April 27), which will take place between Ollon and Villars. He made the climb twice. The Swiss rider then took the time to check out Romandie’s 4th stage (April 28) around Sion. Finally, accompanied by his coach Mickaël Bouget, he had a look at the roads that the 5th stage of the Tour de Suisse (from Gstaad to Leukerbad, June 13th) will cover.

Here's the news from Team Quick-Step Floors:

When you say Flèche Wallonne, you say Mur de Huy. One of cycling's most steepest and punishing finishes, the 1300m-long climb has welcomed the riders since 1983 and has become the race's key point, witnessing all kinds of winners, from riders who attacked early on the climb to those who waited for the final 300 meters, just after the famous S-bend, which usually sees the hopes of many contenders take a big blow.

Averaging 9.6% but ramping up to 25% in some sections, Mur de Huy comes this year at the end of a 198.5km-long race which will set off from Seraing, for the first time in history a start venue at the eight-decade old Classic, and see the riders take on a total of eleven climbs, two of which – Côte d'Ereffe and Côte de Cherave – could make things really interesting before the final ascent of the famed Mur de Huy.

Victorious here seven years ago on his way to a rare Ardennes triple, Philippe Gilbert will return at the start for the first time since 2016 and will be joined by Julian Alaphilippe, who rose to prominence at his Flèche Wallonne debut in 2015, when he finished runner-up. The Frenchman, who came close to victory also two seasons ago, was the highest-placed Quick-Step Floors rider in last Sunday's Amstel Gold Race and will look to be again in the mix.

Philippe Gilbert

Philippe Gilbert wins Flèche Wallonne in 2011

Luxembourg Champion Bob Jungels, neo-pro James Knox, Vuelta al Pais Vasco stage winner Enric Mas, Maximilian Schachmann – who got his maiden victory in March, at the Volta a Catalunya – and Pieter Serry will round up our team for the 82nd edition of the Belgian race.

"The ten climbs tackled before the final ascent of the Mur de Huy will make up for a tough race, harder than last year. The presence of Côte de la Vecquée and Côte de la Redoute means things will be more demanding in the first part of the course than at the past editions, when the action did not start until late in the race", said sports director Davide Bramati. "We were aggressive in the first of the Ardennes Classics and we will have the same approach in Flèche Wallonne. The boys are in high spirits and know what they have to do, so we are confident we'll be there when it will come down to crunch time, fighting for another solid result."

Team Sunweb sent me this extensive race preview:

FLÈCHE WALLONNE (WT)

Team Sunweb coach Aike Visbeek (NED): "At Flèche Wallonne we usually see the attacks coming in thick and fast on the final lap and this year we also expect the race to be decided on the Mur de Huy. Weather conditions could play a big part in the outcome of the race with some warm weather forecasted and with a lot of open sections we need to stay focused at the important parts of the course. Our focus is to bring Sam and Michael in as fresh as possible condition to the final and if the final explodes early, Simon will also be a key guy to control things for us. Laurens and Johannes bring their experience into the race and can use this to guide the younger guys." 

Michael Matthews

Michael Matthews will be at the Flèche Wallonne. Here he is winning stage three of the 2017 Tour of Switzerland

RACE: Flèche Wallonne (WT)

DATE: 18/04/2018

COACH: Aike Visbeek (NED) 

LINE-UP
Laurens ten Dam (NED)
Johannes Fröhlinger (GER)
Simon Geschke (GER)
Chad Haga (USA)
Chris Hamilton (AUS)
Michael Matthews (AUS)
Sam Oomen (NED) 

FLÈCHE WALLONNE (WWT)

Team Sunweb coach Hans Timmermans (NED): "The parcours have changed quite a bit in comparison to last year; of course the final will still be on the Mur de Huy but the climbs in the final 50 kilometres will make it really hard, and we will only see a really select group of riders battling it out towards the finish. With Ellen, Ruth and Liane as our last riders on the day we could see a really interesting final. Not only in terms of result but also in terms of development. Liane will get her first real opportunity to be there in the final of a WorldTour race, which will be a valuable experience for her, especially after some strong performances helping her team mates already this year." 

Coryn Rivera

Coryn Rivera (shown in her old UnitedHealthcare kit) will race Flèche Wallonne

RACE: Flèche Wallonne (WT)

DATE: 18/04/2018

COACH: Hans Timmermans (NED) 

LINE-UP
Ellen van Dijk (NED)
Juliette Labous (FRA)
Liane Lippert (GER)
Floortje Mackaij (NED)
Coryn Rivera (USA)
Ruth Winder (USA) 

ARNO WALLAARD MEMORIAL (UCI 1.2)

Team Sunweb coach Tom Veelers (NED): "Our plan for the day is to go for the breakaway, and support Jarno and Nils throughout the day. We need to focus on positioning through the race so that we aren't caught out if the bunch is to split. If the day comes down to a bunch sprint we have Nils as our sprinter. He will have a strong lead-out with the other guys, who will hopefully bring him into the finale feeling fresh to go for a good result." 

RACE: Arno Wallaard Memorial (UCI 1.2)

DATE: 21/04/2018

COACH: Tom Veelers (NED) 

LINE-UP
Nils Eekhoff (NED)
Niklas Märkl (GER)
Jarno Mobach (NED)
Martin Salmon (GER)
Sergio Tu (TAI)
Jens Vanoverberghe (BEL)

LIÈGE-BASTOGNE-LIÈGE (WT)

Team Sunweb coach Aike Visbeek (NED): "Our goal for Liège is to bring Tom, Sam, Michael and Simon into the final to give us a variety of cards to play. A few changes to the parcours make the final 80 kilometres more demanding than in previous years which means that the final could start earlier and more riders will try their luck by attacking, ultimately making the race harder to control. The positioning in the last 80 kilometres will be important for us to save that little bit of extra energy that we will need to use when the race will be decided. This year, the weather conditions could also play an important role and our focus on nutrition and teamwork will be crucial. This race is close to Limburg and after the announcement of the Keep Challenging Center last week, we are really motivated to perform against the crowd there." 

RACE: Liège-Bastogne-Liège (WT)

DATE: 21/04/2018

COACH: Aike Visbeek (NED) 

LINE-UP
Tom Dumoulin (NED)
Johannes Fröhlinger (GER)
Simon Geschke (GER)
Chad Haga (USA)
Chris Hamilton (AUS)
Michael Matthews (AUS)
Sam Oomen (NED) 

LIÈGE-BASTOGNE-LIÈGE (WWT)

Team Sunweb coach Koen de Haan (NED): "The beginning of the parcours sees a few changes this year, but the final still contains the classic climbs of La Redoute and St Nicolas before the finish in Ans. As the race heads closer to the final, the climbs become more frequent making the race really challenging. Each climb will certainly see a selection made, with only a reduced group of the strongest riders going through to the finish. Last year, Ellen finished in 4th place and this year we would like to search for another top result there. We have an experienced line-up with riders like Lucinda and Leah, and the combination of young talents like Liane, Juliette and Ruth will make for a really exciting race." 

RACE: Liège-Bastogne-Liège (WT)

DATE: 21/04/2018

COACH: Koen de Haan (NED) 

LINE-UP
Lucinda Brand (NED)
Ellen van Dijk (NED)
Leah Kirchmann (CAN)
Juliette Labous (FRA)
Liane Lippert (GER)
Ruth Winder (USA) 

TOUR DE ROMANDIE (WT)

Team Sunweb coach Luke Roberts (AUS): "Tour de Romandie will be held over six stages with a short 4 kilometre prologue, a 9.9 kilometre hilly TT, one high mountain stage and three semi difficult ‘classic’ stages. We can expect some aggressive and unpredictable racing with the profiles not directly suited to pure sprinters or pure climbers. Our main goal will be to pick up stage results, Michael [Matthews] will have some opportunities with strong support from Simon, Lennard, Tom and Michael [Storer]. When the race goes into the high mountains Laurens and Louis will be there to fly the flag for Team Sunweb, once again exploring stage possibilities." 

RACE: Tour de Romandie (WT)

DATE: 24-29/04/2018

COACH: Luke Roberts (AUS) 

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