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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, February 24, 2018

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary | Our YouTube page
2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

I hope you love birds too. It is economical. It saves going to heaven. - Emily Dickinson

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Saturday weather forecast for Gent, Belgium (Omloop Het Nieuwsblad): Sunny, low of -4C (24F) and high of 5C (42F). Wind from the ENE @ 25 km/hr (15mph)

Abu Dhabi Tour stage three team reports

Here's what stage winner Phil Bauhaus' Team Sunweb had to say:

On the last opportunity for the sprinters at the Abu Dhabi Tour, Team Sunweb executed their tactical plan to perfection leading German sprinter Phil Bauhaus out to take the stage 3 victory in an incredibly close photo finish.

Speaking of the win, Bauhaus said: "We have a really good team here for the sprint and I've been working well at home. My goal here was to go for a podium or take a win, so it's really nice to be able to achieve that against such a super strong field. It's always hard to get the first win of the season and get the ball rolling, especially after such an unlucky day here yesterday. I hope we can continue like this into tomorrow and Sunday where we have a lot of cards to play."

Team Sunweb coach Aike Visbeek (NED) added: "We can be really proud of what we've achieved today after the bad luck yesterday. Every day we have got better and better with the lead-out and the win is well deserved. We had a plan, stuck to it and it paid off. It was a really strong team performance and a great boost of confidence for the upcoming stages."

Bora-hansgrohe sent me this Abu Dhabi report:

The third stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour saw an early breakaway and again a bunch sprint. On the last kilometres, the BORA - hansgrohe train put once again Pascal Ackermann into a good position in the lead up to the finale, where he took another podium result. He finished third behind M. Kittel and stage winner P. Bauhaus, and is now fourth in the GC.

Phil Bauhaus

Phil Bauhaus just wins the third stage.

The Stage
The third stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour was the last chance for the sprinters to show their talents. A short 133km stage through the city of Abu Dhabi and their sights, like the Nation Tower and Big Flag awaited the peloton.

The Team Tactics
Pascal Ackermann was once again the man for the finale. The young German sprinter wanted to go for another good result.

The Race
A four-man breakaway escaped relatively early into the 133km short stage and built up an advantage of maximum three minutes. The peloton pulled hard and with 53km remaining the escapees were caught. On the last 30km the teams rode together and started slowly to form their sprint trains. The race came alive on the last 5km, as the sprinter teams fought for their positions. On the last metres, BORA – hansgrohe sprinter Pascal Ackermann had to go from the right to the left side and had to start his sprint very early. In a thrilling finish he crossed the line next to P. Bauhaus and M. Kittel. The photo finish had to decide the winner of stage 3 at the Abu Dhabi Tour. It was P. Bauhaus (Team Sunweb), who took the stage win ahead of M. Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin). BORA – hansgrohe sprinter Pascal finished again in third place. With this strong result once again, Pascal moved up fourth in the general classification.

From the Finish Line
“It was again a good effort from our young sprinter. The team worked very well together and brought him in a good position for the finale. I think we can be satisfied with these two podium results so far. “ - Enrico Poitschke, sports director

“I want to say thank my team, they supported and protected me the whole day. The finale was very fast and frantic but I am happy with my result.”– Pascal Ackermann 

Lotto-Soudal previews Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

The team sent me this news:

This Saturday the 73rd edition of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad takes place. The organisation has changed the course of this Belgian WorldTour race. The new finale is a copy of the old Ronde van Vlaanderen. The Omloop will no longer finish in Ghent, but in Meerbeke.

The course of 196.2 kilometres contains thirteen hills and eight cobblestone sections. In the last twenty kilometres of the race, the course runs over the Muur and Bosberg. After the top of the Bosberg the riders still have twelve kilometres to cover towards the finish.

Marc Sergeant, sports manager Lotto Soudal: “The Belgian opening weekend is the real start of the new season. We can’t complain about our preparation. Many of our riders have shown a great shape and we have already won a few races, with different riders. I was often told that it has been a while since our team raced a good opening weekend. Of course we hope we can set a great performance this year. Benoot, Keukeleire and Wellens are the big names in our line-up, but with riders like De Buyst and Wallays we have a strong team in general. I expect that we can show ourselves. Tim was strong at Ruta del Sol and Tiesj Benoot has just returned from a training camp at Sierra Nevada.

Tiesj Benoot: “During my training camp at Sierra Nevada I didn’t see much of my opponents for the opening weekend, so I don’t know where I stand. I can say that I came home with a good feeling. But, a training is no race and I’ll know how my form really is after the Omloop. This is the first important race of the season.”

“I have chosen for a training camp at Sierra Nevada because last year’s altitude training camp in the run-up to the Tour was such a good experience. I felt good about that approach and I wanted to do the same for the Classics.”

“I have trained in Spain, but I won’t be hindered by the difference in temperature. At the top of the Sierra Nevada it was even colder than here in Belgium. The weather won’t influence the race, unless there would be a lot of wind.”

“Tim Wellens has proven to be in a good shape and that can only be an advantage for our team. Our team has also been reinforced with Jens Keukeleire, who has already proven to be able to set good results in the Classics.”

Tiejs Benoot

Tiesj Benoot

Tim Wellens: “I finished the Ruta with a great feeling. When you’re in a good shape, you can’t say you don’t have a chance at the Omloop. After the race I will be happy if someone of our team has won and if I was able to get the best out of myself. It’s not easy to put an exact place on it. If a good result will influence my programme? I definitely won’t be riding the Ronde this year, but maybe I will return to the Omloop in the future.”

“The shape is great and I don’t need to worry about my technical skills. I’m not less explosive than two-time winner Greg Van Avermaet, but there are many other factors. I did a recon of the course, but that’s not the same as have ridden many races on these roads. That’s a disadvantage.”

“I am looking forward to Saturday. We have a strong team with Tiesj Benoot who knows the area very well and already stood on the podium of the Omloop. Jens Keukeleire set good results in Belgian races last year. And Jasper De Buyst is in top shape. We have a strong team.”

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

Sports directors: Herman Frison and Frederik Willems.

Quick-Step Floors to race Classic de l'Ardeche and Drome Classic

BikeRaceInfo covers both races. Here's the team's race preview:

Bob Jungels will lead the team at the two hilly one-day races scheduled on Saturday and Sunday.

With the cobbles specialists set to cross swords over the weekend at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, the climbers and the puncheurs will have their own battles in south-east France, at Classic de l'Ardèche (200.2km) and Drôme Classic (206km).

Starting and finishing in Guilherand-Granges, Classic de l'Ardèche packs twelve Ardennes-type climbs, the most important being Côte du Val d'Enfer (1000 meters, 6.9%), which will be tackled on four occasions, last time with under ten kilometers to go. On Sunday, Drôme Classic will boast a parcours comprising 14 hills, last of which are Mur d'Allex (800 meters, 7.8%) and Côte de Haut Livron (400 meters, 10.5%), where the attackers will try to make the difference.

Bob Jungels is set to return to racing this weekend, after riding to fifth place overall at Volta ao Algarve, and the Luxembourg Champion is motivated to make the most out of his outing in the two French races, which were won by teammate Petr Vakoč in 2016.

"I remember doing Ardèche back in 2012, before turning pro; it's a nice but hard race, with steep hills and twisting descents, and I am looking forward to riding it. I've had a strong week in the Portugal, I'm happy with my top 5 overall there and my condition, and I hope to take this good form into Ardèche and Drôme, which I'm confident that will turn out to be useful when I'll line out for Tirreno-Adriatico in March."

Bob Jungels

Bob Jungels heading to the start of the 2017 Fleche Wallone

Joining the 25-year-old for the two French races will be Eros Capecchi, Rémi Cavagna, Davide Martinelli, Ecuadorian Champion Jhonatan Narvaez, Maximilian Schachmann and Pieter Serry.

Martin Vesby is the Mitchelton-Scott women’s team new sport director

The team sent me this update

Norwegian sport director Martin Vestby will make his first appearance with Mitchelton-SCOTT this weekend at Omloop het Nieuwsblad having joined the outfit for the 2018 season to work alongside Gene Bates.

With extensive knowledge of women’s cycling, Vestby brings fresh ideas and a new input which Mitchelton-SCOTT believe will lift the team even further in the coming years.

“Certainly I can see this year that this team has a lot more strength and depth now,” Vestby said. “I know a lot of the girls from the start and then they were younger and learning, now they are stepping up and getting the big results themselves. You can expect a lot more from them now compared to just a couple of years ago.”

“The feeling I have is now these riders are developed enough to be able to control races, they don’t have to follow and can now execute tactics they want and are really able to win. What I can hope I can help with and where I see maybe there can be changes, is with this way of racing. It is also a bit of a mentality and something you have to learn so I hope I can play a part in developing that and help the girls to take those steps.

“It is also about knowledge, communication and having clear plans. It is the right time now for these girls, there’s more girls who can win races. This team is so established and settled which is good to step into but I know I will need to learn about everybody well and the systems they use. I have to create and earn my respect from the riders in the way I am working and I am really excited about this year.”

A former rider himself and the husband of former team rider Emma Johansson, Vestby has been a part of many successful performances and knows the team, staff and women´s cycling world well.

“It almost feels like coming home a little bit, those years when Emma was racing for the team I helped out a little bit sometimes with bottles and things, it is a team that is like a big family,” Vestby explained. “So for me it is relaxed but also a step up, it is a really good well organised team and it is bigger than what I am used to.”

“I was working last year with Wiggle-High5, also the Swedish national team combined with a continental team in Sweden, and with the Norwegian U23 and junior boys team. Before that with Hitec-Products for three years at the start, so I have done a little bit of everything really. I have been so close to women’s cycling for a while, you understand it and know a lot of the races and all these things.”

Like everyone, 'opening weekend' is the perfect opportunity for Vestby and Bates to take initial stock ahead of the 2018 European season.

“It is always surprising before the first race of the year, people are always wondering how other riders form is, riders are in new teams so there’s always something different and it makes the first races so special. I’ve seen what the riders did in Australian but coming here to Europe it is always a bit different with the field of riders and the rhythm of the races.”

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