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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, February 22, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow men. True nobility lies in being superior to your former self. - Ernest Hemingway

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Abu Dhabi Tour stage one team reports

We'll start with the update from winner Alexander Kristoff's UAE-Team Emirates:

UAE Team Emirates’ Alexander Kristoff produced a sprint masterclass in Madinat Zayed to secure the victory in the opening stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour (photo Bettini). The Norwegian showcased why he is considered one of the world’s top sprinters by battling through a hectic, bunched sprint finish to claim the red jersey for UAE Team Emirates on home soil.

The race, a 190km route through the Abu Dhabi desert, saw riders battle 33 degree heat and tackle strong head-winds throughout. With just 2km of the race complete, the breakaway riders made their move and built up a substantial four minute lead on the peloton. At 150km that group had whittled down to one lone rider and despite leading for over 170km, the peloton timed their chase perfectly and caught up with 13km to go. As the race came to a climax in front of a packed Emirati crowd at Madinat Zayed, the cheering fans spurred on the relentless Kristoff as he crossed the line to pick up his second stage victory for his new team, following his stage victory at the Tour of Oman.

Commenting on his second consecutive stage win for UAE Team Emirates, Alexander Kristoff said; “I was quite lucky as I lost my team mates wheel, but I managed to get in the draft and come around in the head-wind to the line. It’s a great win for me and for the team here on home ground. Now we can put the marker down on our home race and it’s a really nice feeling. I’m really proud to win today and to get my second victory of the season. Thanks to all my team-mates and colleagues who helped us achieve it – it’s a great feeling to start off like this in a new team, and to do so in the year of Zayed gives added value to the win, for both the team and the fans.”

Alexander Kristoff

Alexander Kristoff wins the first Abu Dhabi Tour stage.

Stage two could see Kristoff battle for a podium spot once again, as the route favours the sprinters and will see riders navigate the picturesque Yas Island, passing sites including; Yas Links Golf Course, Yas Mall and the internationally recognisable Yas Marina Circuit. UAE Team Emirates’ fans will also be able to take in stunning views of the team as they ride past Emirates Park Zoo, Khalifa Port and Yas Viceory, before a sprint finish at Yas Beach, in what promises to be another thrilling day of cycling.

UAE Team Emirates’ participation at the Abu Dhabi Tour gives the region’s community the opportunity to come together and support world-class athletes as they aim to become one of the top cycling teams on the tour. To find out more about UAE Team Emirates, visit UAETeamEmirates.com.

2nd-place Andrea Guardini's Bardiani-CSF team sent me this report:

Great World Tour debut for Bardiani-CSF at Abu Dhabi Tour. The leading sprinter of the #GreenTeam Andrea Guardini has taken the second place in Madinat Zaya (189 km) just after the European Champion Kristoff (UAE-Emirates) while third finished Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott) and fourth Viviani (Quick-Step). Seventh place for Michael Bresciani.

"We can be really happy. Being second behind Kristoff and leaving behind a stellar cast of sprinters is a great result" says Guardini. "The first race I did in Colombia left me good impression about my form and today I had the confirmation. I'm happy also for the feeling with my new teammates: today's lead out was almost perfect. I knew the finale and the risk of head wind. We followed other trains until 200 meters, then I found the right way to make my own sprint, thanks also to Ewan's proper behaviour. Now I hope to exploit in the best way the next two chances".

The great day of the #GreenTeam has been completed by the 165 km breakaway of Vincenzo Albanese. The young talent placed second in both the intermediate sprints, getting closed to the dedicated jersey, took by Trusov (11 points vs 10). Thanks to the time bonus of the sprints (total 4") Albanese is the leader of young classification together with Ewan, who takes the jersey thanks to final third place.

Mark Cavendish crashed out of the first stage. Here's the update from his Dimension Data team:

Alexander Kristoff (UAE – Team Emirates) won the opening stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour, sprinting to the stage win ahead of Andrea Gaurdini (Bardiani -CSF) and Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott).

Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka was dealt a massive blow even before racing truly got underway on stage 1 of the Abu Dhabi Tour. Mark Cavendish was involved in a crash in the neutral zone. It seemed the race director’s car slowed suddenly as it led the peloton out of Madinat Zayed, the reaction in the peloton saw 4 riders, including our Manxman, go down.

Unfortunately Cavendish had to abandon the Abu Dhabi Tour as a result of the crash. “Mark sustained a concussion and a whiplash injury after his crash today. Due to the concussion, we were not willing to risk rider safety and the call was made for Mark to stop the race. A serious neck injury has been excluded in hospital. He currently has some concussive symptoms and neck pain, but is otherwise stable. We will monitor Mark’s condition closely going forward.” explains Team Doctor, Dr Adrian Rotunno.

The stage continued without our star rider as 5 riders made the break of the day. The sprint teams were easily able to control the escape, ensuring the 190km stage ended in a mass sprint. Mekseb Debesay and Mark Renshaw tried to implement a plan B of sorts for our African Team, mixing it up in the sprint finale. It was the main sprint teams who would come out on top though, with the European champion taking the win.

Without Cavendish, our African Team’s main focus for the Abu Dhabi Tour will now be down to securing a high overall GC result. The stage 4 time trial and stage 5 summit finish being the key stages for the overall contenders this week.

Here's Bora-hansgrohe's Abu Dhabi report:

The first stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour, which was earmarked for the sprinters saw a hectic finale. For most of the day, a five-rider breakaway led in front of the race but, as expected, the stage came down to a bunch sprint in Madinat Zayed, in which A. Kristoff took the win. Unfortunately, the young BORA – hansgrohe sprinter Pascal Ackermann lost the wheel of his last lead-out man Erik Baska on the last 500m, therefore he finished in 12th place.

The Stage
The fourth edition of the Abu Dhabi Tour started today with a 189km flat stage entirely in the desert. This stage will be a pure sprinter paradise with two intermediate sprints in Liwa.

The Team Tactics
The team wanted to go for their sprinters Pascal Ackermann and Erik Baska. The goal was to concentrate on the final lead-out, especially to hit the front early enough to secure a good position for Pascal.   

The Race
Right after the start, a group of five riders went up the road as the break of the day, their gap increased to over 5 minutes. BORA – hansgrohe stayed together in the main bunch. Favourite Mark Cavendish abandoned the race after a crash in the neutral zone.

With 105km to go, the gap decreased to two minutes with four riders in front of the race, but 20km before the finish, it was D. Caruso, who led the race. With only 13 km remaining the peloton caught the soloist. Following the catch, the sprinter teams began to get into formation. BORA – hansgrohe was in a good position in the main pack. The race headed into the final km, the riders fought hard for their positions. Pascal and Erik were in the front but after the last roundabout Pascal lost the contact to his last lead-out man Erik and finished in 12th place. Today´s winner was A. Kristoff, ahead of A. Guardini.

From the Finish Line
“It wasn’t the best start for us today. We had a good position in the finale but unfortunately Pascal lost the wheel of Erik after the last roundabout. Therefore, it wasn’t easy for him to go for a good result, it´s a pity, because he felt good today. But we have some sprint stages left and we will try to do our best. “, Enrico Poitschke, sports director 

Lotto-Soudal's line-ups for Belgium's opening weekend of racing

The team sent me this update:

It’s nearly time for the Belgian opening weekend! The renewed Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday immediately is the first Belgian WorldTour race of 2018. Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne (Europe Tour) takes place on Sunday.

Here you find the line-ups of Lotto Soudal for this weekend. Tiesj Benoot, Jasper De Buyst and Jelle Wallays will race both the Omloop and Kuurne.

Jelle Wallys

Jelle Wallays winning a stage earlier this year at the San Juan Vuelta

Line-up Omloop Het Nieuwsblad: Lars Bak, Tiesj Benoot, Jasper De Buyst, Jens Keukeleire, Lawrence Naesen, Jelle Wallays and Tim Wellens.

Line-up Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne: Tiesj Benoot, Jasper De Buyst, Jens Debusschere, Moreno Hofland, Nikolas Maes, Tosh Van der Sande and Jelle Wallays.

Sports directors: Herman Frison and Frederik Willems.

BMC will be at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne

Here's BMC's racing news:

20 February, 2018, Santa Rosa, California (USA): Defending champion Greg Van Avermaet returns to the start line of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad this Saturday, 24 February, confident in his form ahead of the opening weekend.

Greg van Avermaet

Greg van Avermaet winning 2017 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

Sports Director Valerio Piva said the team is motivated for the start of the Classics season after a good start to the year. "With Greg Van Avermaet in the team we have a clear leader and a strong captain for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Greg is coming in with good condition as we saw in Oman and he is definitely motivated to win again. We have a very experienced team around Greg and have multiple cards to play depending on the evolution of the race. Jürgen Roelandts showed he is in good condition at the Volta ao Algarve and he will also be a protected rider. We expect Jürgen to be there with Greg in the finale and riders like Stefan Küng and Jempy Drucker can jump in dangerous moves," Piva explained.

"The course has changed this year and the final part of the race is harder than in previous editions and more suited to Greg. With the Muur and the Bosberg in the final 20km, I think it will be more selective and we will see more attacking. With the defending champion on our team, everyone will be looking at us to control the race and we are not afraid to take responsibility."

On Sunday, the focus turns to Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne which typically favors a bunch sprint Sports Director Klaas Lodewyck said. "Greg will also be our leader for Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and although it is more of a sprinter's race, he has performed well in the past. Alberto Bettiol and Jürgen Roelandts are also lining up and both have showed good form in recent races which gives us different options depending on the situation. Although Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne often finishes in a bunch sprint, the past two years have seen small groups go to the finish so anything can happen and we will be ready to adapt as the race progresses. With the team we have, I think we can finish the weekend with a good result," Lodewyck said.

Van Avermaet, who won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in 2016 and 2017, is ready to begin the Classics season on home soil. "I'm really happy that we are now at my first goal of the season and I'm really well prepared. Everything went well up until now so I'm looking forward to trying to win again. The shape is there so I just have to have some luck with the race situation. If everything goes well then I will be there in the finale and hopefully I can win. It's a nice finish. I also like the one before because I won on it twice but this year it will be harder. It's the old Tour of Flanders final so it will be cool to race there and putting the Muur and the Bosberg back in a Classic is always a good idea," Van Avermaet said.

"First of all, my focus is always on Saturday and then Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne is always the re-match of the day before. It's not as hard as Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and it's more of a sprinter's race but we will see how everything goes first on Saturday. I'm motivated for a good result at both races."

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad - 24 February

Rider Roster: Jempy Drucker (LUX), Stefan Küng (SUI), Jürgen Roelandts (BEL), Michael Schär (SUI), Greg Van Avermaet (BEL), Nathan Van Hooydonck (BEL), Francisco Ventoso (ESP).

Sports Directors: Valerio Piva (ITA), Klaas Lodewyck (BEL).

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne - 25 February

Rider Roster: Alberto Bettiol (ITA), Tom Bohli (SUI), Jempy Drucker (LUX), Jürgen Roelandts (BEL), Greg Van Avermaet (BEL), Francisco Ventoso (ESP), Loïc Vliegen (BEL).

Sports Directors: Klaas Lodewyck (BEL), Valerio Piva (ITA).

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