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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, April 6, 2019

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had the time to make it shorter. - Blaise Pascal

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Peter Kennaugh to take an indefinite break from professional cycling

Kennaugh's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this:

BORA - hansgrohe and British rider Peter Kennaugh announce today that Peter will be taking an indefinite break from professional cycling due to ongoing mental health issues. The Team supports Peter in his decision and have agreed that this is the best course of action to ensure he can return to full health in the near future.

Peter Kennaugh

Peter Kennaugh at the 2018 Pino Cerami. We wish you all the best, Mr. Kennaugh. Sirotti photo

“I would like to thank everyone at BORA - hansgrohe for their support and understanding to allow me to recover away from the sport. I wish the team the best of luck for the rest of the season.” – Peter Kennaugh

“We thank Peter for his contribution to the team and we wish him well in his recovery process. We look forward to him making a full return to professional cycling in the future.” – Ralph Denk, Team Manager

Tiesj Benoot and Tim Wellens headed to Tour of Flanders

Their Lotto-Soudal team sent me this:

It is almost time for the climax of the Flemish spring Classics. On Sunday 7 April, the Tour of Flanders - the day everyone who cares about cycling has long been waiting for – is scheduled. The start will be given in the city centre of Antwerp at 10h30. The finish, after 267 kilometres, is situated in Oudenaarde for the eighth consecutive year. Only some minor changes have been made to the course in comparison to last year. With three passages on the Oude Kwaremont and two on the Paterberg, these climbs will play a key role yet again. In total, the riders need to cover no less than seventeen hills and five cobbled sections. Afterwards, we will know the successor of the Dutchman Niki Terpstra, who won the Tour of Flanders in 2018.

At Lotto Soudal as well, everyone has been looking forward to the Tour of Flanders for a very long time. With both Tiesj Benoot and Tim Wellens taking the start, the team has two leaders in the race. Benoot finished eighth last year and he took the fifth place during his first participation in 2015. Wellens will make his debut in this cycling monument on Sunday. The past spring Classics did not always meet the expectations, partly due to bad luck. Yet both leaders are clearly in excellent shape. It is time to let them give their preview on the 103rd edition of the Tour of Flanders.

Tiesj Benoot

Tiesj Benoot at the 2019 Strade Bianche. Sirotti photo

Tim Wellens: “I am obviously looking forward to it and I am very motivated. After Tirreno-Adriatico, I asked to take part in the Tour of Flanders. I then took four days of rest, because that was necessary after a somewhat disappointing result. Then I resumed training, including some tough sessions. Sometimes it is essential to schedule a few rest days, as I did, because afterwards I could train more qualitatively. Now I hope to reap the benefits in the races. Most professional cyclists are very dedicated to their profession and therefore they may train a little too much. At that moment, it is vital to have people around you who act as a brake and ensure that the right harmony is kept.”

“For me, two extremes are possible in the Tour of Flanders. The worst-case scenario is that I would not play any significant role, which should not be a disaster though. Of course, I will do my utmost, but the Tour of Flanders is not a main objective for me. In the best case, I am able to compete in the finale. Riders like van Aert and van der Poel have proven that this is possible in a first participation. My limited knowledge about the course and positioning during crucial moments are not really in my favour. That is one of the reasons why Nikolas Maes is a very important rider in our team. Furthermore, it is a pleasure to have sports directors like Herman Frison and Marc Sergeant, who pass on their knowledge from the team car.”

Tiesj Benoot: “For me, the Tour of Flanders is definitely the most wonderful race of the spring. For a Flemish boy who could become a professional rider, that is an easy choice. The enormous public attendance along the entire course makes it a dream race, more than any other. My fifth place in Dwars door Vlaanderen confirmed my good shape. I broke clear with the best riders in the race and that gives me a lot of confidence. However, a fifth place is not what I hoped for beforehand. I was aiming for a better result and that is why I tried to take the initiative on the Knokteberg.”

“On Sunday, I will probably have to do it the same way in order to achieve the best possible result. Then it is also crucial to have a Deceuninck-Quick Step rider as a companion, because they stand out as a team. They are so strong in general that, when necessary, they can sacrifice some leaders to chase. In addition, van Aert and van der Poel are two guys to certainly keep an eye on. They have already showed some major performances this season.”

“In the Tour of Flanders, often the focus is only on the climbs, but the parts in between are just as hazardous. In any case, it will be a red alert level for all favourites from the Taaienberg zone on. I hope that the team can make sure we stay out of trouble during the first 200 kilometres. After that, we want to have two or three riders in the front, with Wellens, Keukeleire and myself. In Dwars door Vlaanderen we rode a great race as a team. We were in the right position at the right time and everyone is ready to repeat that on Sunday.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Tiesj Benoot, Frederik Frison, Jens Keukeleire, Nikolas Maes, Lawrence Naesen, Brian van Goethem and Tim Wellens.

Sports directors: Herman Frison and Frederik Willems.

The UAE-Team Emirates aiming for results in the Tour of the Basque Country

The team sent me this:

For the Itzulia Basque Country, April 8 to 13, the menu consists of six stages. The UAE Team Emirates selected a high-quality formation to fight for the win in northern Spain.

Sports Director Neil Stephens (Aus), supported by his colleague Aurelio Corral (Esp) and supervision from General Manager Matxin (Spa) will guide the following seven riders:
– Sergio Henao (Col)
– Daniel Martin (Irl)
– Manuele Mori (Ita)
– Tadej Pogačar (Slo)
– Edward Ravasi (Ita)
– Rory Sutherland (Aus)
– Diego Ulissi (Ita)

“We will be racing in the Basque Country with a very balanced team, ready and with the right qualities to try to get a result and be protagonists.“ said Matxin. “We have high-calibre riders to lead the team and for supporting the men doing so. Expect to see Mori, Ravasi and Sutherland doing some serious leg-work for the stars.

Sergio Henao

Sergio Henao (shown at the 2018 Vuelta) will be racing in the Basque country. Sirotti photo.

Henao has always done well in the Itzulia Basque Country, with three career podiums; Martin is always a guarantee and has rode an excellent Volta a Catalunya; Ulissi knows this race perfectly well and Pogačar can make his mark every time he takes the start of a race”.

CCC Team continues to target stage wins at Itzulia Basque Country

Here's the team's update:

5 April 2019: CCC Team will continue to target UCI WorldTour stage wins next week when a strong and motivated seven-rider roster heads to the start line of Itzulia Basque Country (8 - 13 April)

Sports Director Gabriele Missaglia said that CCC Team will take each stage of the six-day race as it comes, looking for opportunities while also keeping an eye on the General Classification. "The goal for us at Itzulia Basque Country will be to race aggressively and go for stage wins with all of our riders, starting on stage one with Patrick Bevin and the time trial. From there, we will look to be present and active on every stage and I believe we have a team strong enough to be challenging for results all week," Missaglia explained.

"We have raced well at our last few stage races and I think we can once again be in the center of the action here. With Alessandro De Marchi, Serge Pauwels and Riccardo Zoidl lining up, we have strong options for the various breakaways and then I think Jonas Koch and Bevin can work well together in any fast finishes. Depending on how they do in the time trial, we will also try to look for a good General Classification result with Amaro Antunes and Víctor de la Parte."

Bevin will be targeting the opening 11.2-kilometer long individual time trial at Itzulia Basque Country, his first as the 2019 New Zealand national champion.

Patrick Bevin

Patrick Bevin (shown at the 2019 Tour Down Under) will target the opening time trial. Sirotti photo.

"The time trial on stage one of Itzulia Basque Country will be my first outing in my Silver Fern skinsuit and that adds something extra special for me. Every time trial is a target but, I feel like a technical, hilly opening time trial like we will have on Monday, is a great goal for my first race against the clock since winning the New Zealand National Championships," said Bevin.

"I'm heading into Itzulia Basque Country after a good week in Catalunya. It was an incredibly hard race but I feel like I came out of it in good condition and I'm looking to be active throughout Itzulia Basque Country just like I was there. Volta a Catalunya came after quite a long period of rebuilding my form following the crash at the Santos Tour Down Under and I felt like my racing legs really started to come around late in the race. The stages in the Basque Country present quite a different challenge to those in Catalunya but I won't let that stop me from giving it a good go."

Itzulia Basque Country (8 - 13 April):
Rider Roster: Amaro Antunes (POR), Patrick Bevin (NZL), Víctor de la Parte (ESP), Alessandro De Marchi (ITA), Jonas Koch (GER), Serge Pauwels (BEL), Riccardo Zoidl (AUS)

Sports Directors: Gabriele Missaglia (ITA), Marco Pinotti (ITA)

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