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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, August 21, 2019

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

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Lotto-Soudal sports director Mario Aerts explains Vuelta line-up

The team sent me this:

From Saturday 24 August onwards, Sander Armée, Thomas De Gendt, Carl Fredrik Hagen, Tomasz Marczyński, Tosh Van der Sande, Brian van Goethem, Harm Vanhoucke and Jelle Wallays will represent Lotto Soudal in the three-week Vuelta a España. Last year, Lotto Soudal animated the final Grand Tour of the season with numerous attacks, which were eventually rewarded with a stage victory for Jelle Wallays and the mountains jersey for Thomas De Gendt. Sports director Mario Aerts explains Lotto Soudal’s Vuelta line-up and the ambitions for this year.

Jelle Wallays

Jelle Wallays wins stage 18 of the 2018 Vuelta

Mario Aerts: “With this team of attackers, the goal is again to join breakaways in order to obtain stage victories, something four riders within our line-up already did. Carl Fredrik Hagen will be at the start of his first Grand Tour - which he will ride without any pressure to perform - but races like Tour de Romandie and the Critérium du Dauphiné have proven that Carl is not the kind of rider that  rapidly cracks. In this respect, Carl will be granted all the freedom to see how far he can go in the general classification.”

“It is not always the case that - compared to other Grand Tours - the Vuelta offers more chances for the escapees. The 2017 edition - in which we took home four stage wins - was an excellent Vuelta for attackers. On paper, it looks like there are enough possibilities this year, but a lot depends on the list of participants, how the race unfolds, how long sprinters can hang on during the tough stages,... The course difficulty of this year’s Vuelta is comparable to the one of previous editions. There will already be a lot of clarity, GC-wise, on the second rest day, both stage fifteen and sixteen are relatively short but really hard.”

“Sander Armée took a stage victory in 2017. He never loses heaps of time in the mountain stages and he is the kind of rider that gets better by racing hard, every day. He is able to obtain a nice overall result, but the main goal for Sander will be to aim for another stage win. For Thomas De Gendt, the Vuelta will be his third Grand Tour of the year. After some rest following the Tour de France, he again built up towards the Vuelta , so we will have to wait and see whether Thomas is already in good shape during the first week or if he will get up to speed during the second or third week. A rider like Thomas De Gendt really needs no introduction, if the legs are good and if he sees some opportunities, he will for sure grab them with both hands.”

“Jelle Wallays is again growing towards his best form after bad luck in the beginning of the season. He was already good at the ZLM Tour and he also went for a week of training at altitude after the Tour de Pologne. As a non-sprinter or non-climber, it is never easy to win a stage but Jelle will do everything he can to repeat last year’s exploit. Jelle knows how to win a race and is gradually building a nice palmarès. Tomasz Marczyński will again aim for success in the stages that contain a lot of altitude metres, with the same recipe that proved successful two years ago.”

“This year’s Vuelta includes a couple of finishes which - if they end in a sprint - suit Tosh Van der Sande really well, but he can also join a breakaway. We have to see how far Carl Fredrik Hagen can hang on uphill, but of course, Carl can be part of a break if there will be chances to do so. When Sander Armée went to the Vuelta with slight GC ambitions two years ago, he could eventually win a stage.”

“For climbers like Harm Vanhoucke, there aren’t too many ideal races in this period of the season and that is why Harm will make his Grand Tour debut in the Vuelta. It will be one big discovery and learning process for him. If he would be out of energy after ten days, he can of course quit. For Brian van Goethem, the Vuelta will definitely be a challenge but he is part of our line-up because of a clear goal. Every rider gets stronger by riding a Grand Tour and we hope Brian can reap the benefits during next year’s spring Classics. Brian did not race too much the past months, so he will be quite fresh. Moreover, the stages Jelle Wallays has marked, can also suit Brian.”

Team INEOS announces 2019 Vuelta a España lineup

The team sent me this:

Team INEOS has announced its lineup for the Vuelta a España, which starts in Torrevieja on Saturday (August 24th).

Tao Geoghegan Hart and Wout Poels will be joint leaders of the Team, which is made up of a true blend of youth and experience.

Wout Poels

Wout Poels winning stage seven of this year's Dauphine

After taking our youngest-ever Grand Tour lineup to the Giro d’Italia in May and one of our most experienced to the Tour de France in July, the Vuelta offers an opportunity for our next generation to learn from those around them in Spain.

Where Geoghegan Hart can look to Poels as a leader and learn from the Dutchman, Grand Tour debutant Owain Doull will benefit from riding alongside the experienced trio of Vasil Kiryienka, Salvatore Puccio and Ian Stannard.

The full Team INEOS lineup is: Owain Doull, Kenny Elissonde, Tao Geoghegan Hart, Sebastian Henao, Vasil Kiryienka, Wout Poels, Salvatore Puccio and Ian Stannard.

Lead Sport Director Nicolas Portal said: “I believe we have a really talented blend of youth and experience in this Team. The opportunity for Tao to learn from Wout as they lead our Team is a special one and we have faith that both of them can leave their mark on this Vuelta.

“We are also delighted for Owain, who is riding his first Grand Tour for the Team. He’s been building up to this moment and it’s a great opportunity for him to ride alongside the likes of Ian and Vasil over the next three weeks as he takes the next step in his career.”

Portal added: “The Vuelta is always a really tough race, but one that we always look forward to. We love racing in front of the Spanish fans and have had some fantastic success over the years. It promises to be a hard-fought edition this year with some very tough climbs as always and we are looking forward to the start on Saturday.”

Team INEOS 2019 Vuelta a España lineup:

Owain Doull – British – age 26
Making his Grand Tour debut in Spain, Owain Doull has enjoyed an impressive season which saw him chalk up his first professional victory at the Herald Sun Tour, followed swiftly by second place at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. The Welshman has proved more than capable in a stage race support role this year, playing a role in four victorious squads. Doull is a strong lead-out man and can provide key help on the flat.

Kenny Elissonde – French – age 28
A Vuelta a Espana stage winner in 2013, Elissonde has been a regular at the Spanish Grand Tour throughout his career. On his day the Frenchman is one of the finest climbers around and supported Chris Froome to his Giro d'Italia win in 2018. Now set to race his eighth Grand Tour, he has enjoyed a consistent 2019 and is fresh off the back of an impressive ride in support of winner Ivan Sosa at Vuelta a Burgos.

Tao Geoghegan Hart – British – age 24
Tao Geoghegan Hart has quickly forged a reputation as one of the most talented up-and-coming stage racers in the peloton. Twelve months after making his Grand Tour debut at the Vuelta, the Brit returns with added experience in a leadership role. A character-building Giro appearance this season, coupled with strong overall results at the Tour of the Alps and Tour de Pologne, should ensure Tao is motivated for another tilt at the Vuelta GC.

Sebastian Henao – Colombian – age 26
Set for his first Vuelta start after tackling five of the last six editions of the Giro d’Italia, Henao will take another step in his career in Spain. No longer the youngster of the team, the Colombian has built a dependable reputation in stage races over the years and will provide valuable assistance in the medium to high mountains.

Vasil Kiryienka – Belarusian – age 38
Few riders enjoying riding hard on the front of the peloton as much as Vasil Kiryienka. A cornerstone in so many successful teams down the years, Kiry is all set for a milestone 20th Grand Tour appearance. The Belarusian won a Vuelta stage for the team in 2013 and two years later took the world time trial title. He is also a superb climber, able to sustain a high tempo in the medium mountains.

Wout Poels – Dutch – age 31
With 13 Grand Tours to his name, Wout Poels has made a name for himself with his heroics in the high mountains. The Dutch climber has played a vital role in six of the Team’s Grand Tour victories and Poels has pedigree in this race too, with a stage win on the iconic Angliru to his name as well as a sixth place overall finish in 2017. He enjoyed a fine win at the Criterium de Dauphine earlier this season, before helping Egan Bernal to Tour de France success in July.

Salvatore Puccio – Italian – age 29
Completing the Giro / Vuelta double for the third year in succession, Salvatore Puccio enjoys the challenge of riding two Grand Tours in a season. The Italian will turn 30 during the race and brings experience to the lineup, in addition to strong all-round attributes. Puccio knows what it takes to win the race, after helping Chris Froome to 2017 success, followed up immediately by helping Froome to his Giro victory in 2018.

Ian Stannard – British – age 32
Lining up for his 10th Grand Tour start, Ian Stannard brings power and experience into the squad. Able to support his leaders on the flat, in the crosswinds and in the medium mountains, the Brit’s versatility makes him a key squad member. No stranger to the Vuelta, Stannard was part of Chris Froome’s successful campaign in 2017, in addition to three Tour de France victories. 

EF Education First previews Vuelta

The team sent me this:

Imagine this, refreshing cool beverage to one side of you, a glittering blue Mediterranean, its waves rhythmically rolling over one another onto the shore, to the other side; all of that with the added excitement of a WorldTour peloton passing by. Could it get any better? Welcome to the Vuelta a España.  

“This is the spirit of the Vuelta,” EF Education First Pro Cycling sport director, Juanma Garate says. “It’s such happiness, because the Spanish people are still on their summer holidays in August, so the first eight stages are along the coast of the Mediterranean and there are so many people there. In fact, they make you feel a bit jealous because they are on the beach enjoying themselves, watching the race and everyone is happy,” he says.

This 74th edition of the race will start on August the 24th in Torrevieja, on the Spanish Costa Blanca. It will be the final three week Grand Tour of the year, winding around Spain, Andorra and France over 3,290km, with the final stage once again held in Madrid. Our EF Education First crew heads in with high hopes — a high general classification showing for Uran, and hunting stages with a number of riders.

Rigoberto Uran

Rigoberto Uran (shown climbing the Tourmalet in this year's Tour de France) will be the team leader at the Vuelta.

The front cover of the Vuelta road book is emblazoned with the phrase “La pasión que te toca” — the passion that touches you. Race organisers want everyone, from the fans to the riders to the team staff, to feel that passion, become part of it, and get an insight into their culture. 

“I think in Spain the Vuelta is followed by real cycling aficionados. The Tour de France is like the Champions League in football, it’s a big show. For example, I follow the Champions League but I’m not a football follower,” Garate notes of his home race. “The Vuelta is followed by people who are cyclists themselves. In Spain we have so many people out there cycling on weekends, and they passionately follow the vuelta over three weeks.” 

As always, the race organisers have stages marked out, made to shake things up for the dramatic effect. This year, the Vuelta is set out to be a challenging one, with 57 climbs in total, 16 of which are rated as category one. “I think this year’s race is one of the hardest we’ve had in the last 10 years, because we have so many climbs every day, it’s going to be really tough. There are less big mountain climbs, but we have more climbs in general,” Garate explains.   

For example, in the first week there are three uphill finishes on stages five, six and seven where the GC contenders need to remain alert to last minute attacks, that can leave them losing seconds early in the race. Stage nine will be the first real GC test as the race ventures briefly into the Andorra mountains and finishes atop the Alto Els Cortals d’Encamp, the highest climb of the Vuelta at 2,095m. “This will be a big day out,” Garate says, relieved it won’t be him tackling this beast of a stage.

Alto de Los Machucos on stage 13 is another steep mountain finish, that has the potential to shred the peloton to pieces, and whittle away seconds from those whose form is starting to bear the strain. The Vuelta used to be a place for young riders to ease into a Grand Tour and notch a result. It’s a different story now.

“Ten or more years ago the Vuelta was a nice opportunity for the younger riders to be successful, it was a quieter race, for some it was a preparation for the World Championships. It’s a big Tour but it was considered the most relaxed race out of the three Grand Tours,” Garate says. “But this has changed, over the last few years we have seen more riders coming from the Tour de France, like Contador or Nibali and Froome. They considered the Vuelta a really high goal, and when racers like that start to think that way, a race changes, the way everybody considers the Vuelta has changed too,” Garate says.

Even though this race shows little mercy on its competitors, the Spanish approach to life flows through its veins, making it a great Grand Tour for first timers. This Vuelta a España we are taking Grand Tour rookies Sergio Higuita and Logan Owen. And Dani Martínez will make his Vuelta debut. Hear from each of our riders below.

Rigoberto Urán:
Rigoberto Urán says: “The Vuelta is a beautiful race. I have won stages here but never been on the podium. That’s a huge motivation going into it. This year has been a bit of an unusual year. I’ve had very few days of racing, and I felt good at the Tour, so I see a great opportunity here at the Vuelta, especially with the strong team we have racing.”

Juanma Garate says: “Rigo is really motivated, he’s missing a podium place at the Vuelta, he’s been on the podium at the Tour de France and at the Giro d’Italia, and I know he would really like to be on the podium in Madrid for the Vuelta. He knows that this year is a great opportunity for him, to not only aim for the podium, but to also win a stage in the race, too.”

Dani Martínez:
Dani Martínez says: “It’s going to be emotional racing the Vuelta this year for me, because it’s a race that I’ve always dreamed of doing but have never raced it before. It’s also a great opportunity for me after not being able to ride the Tour because of my accident. I feel a bit nervous because I haven’t raced that much going into it, but I think we’re well prepared.”

Juanma Garate says: “Dani is going to be an integral part of the support for Rigo, he can be his shadow until the real final of the stages. It’s good to have him as another card to play too, almost like another leader. We have a clear leader, which is Rigo, but at the same time to have one rider like Dani in the final, especially in the second part of the race is going to be crucial.”

Hugh Carthy:
Hugh Carthy says: “The last time I did the Vuelta I didn’t have the greatest of experiences. It was my first Grand Tour and it was a baptism of fire. So coming back now, I’m a different rider to what I was then, more developed, more mature. In some ways it’ll be such a different experience for me, it will be like doing a race I’ve never done before. Last time I just rode around counting the days down. This year it feels good to be going there to actually race it and have a defined role and goals.

Juanma Garate says: “This year is his year! We have been waiting over the last few years for that moment he was going to come out and start to truly show how talented a rider he is, and we’ve seen that this year. He’s showing that he is a top level climber, and I think he’s going to have fun at the Vuelta.”

Lawson Craddock:
Lawson Craddock says: “My feeling going into the Vuelta is good. I enjoyed a little bit of recovery at the beginning of July and then really turned my focus on training and recovery and nutrition over that six week period to make sure I was as fit as possible. The Vuelta is a lot different than the Tour, the pressure is a lot higher at the Tour, and while there is still pressure at the Vuelta, it’s definitely more relaxed. You can see the Spanish lifestyle and culture shine through and influence the race.”

Juanma Garate says: “Lawson is really motivated for the Vuelta, he has been training at altitude, he has great condition and he has a lot of potential. Pair that with his level of motivation to race, and I think he will have a good race. He will be super important for us in the team time trial and in a Vuelta like this one with so many climbs.”

Logan Owen:
Logan Owen says: “It was really cool getting the call saying that I was going to the Vuelta. I have been working hard in training, with a really focused effort from Ken [Vanmarcke], to give myself the opportunity to race a Grand Tour. My selection feels like the culmination of all the work we’ve done together this year to allow me to arrive at a place where I’m ready to race for three weeks straight. This is going to be a huge learning experience for me, especially with the team that we have going. It’s an honor to work with those guys and to be included.

Juanma Garate says: “He has changed a lot this year, not only with his physical condition but also his mindset in training and during races too. He’s turning into a real team rider with a lot of capability. He can be up there helping in the sprints as much as he can help the leader climbing up a mountain. He is a real investment for us for the future to help the team.

Mitch Docker:
I’ve always had something there in my heart about the Vuelta; it’s a special race because it was my first Grand Tour that I raced. I also really like the heat, being Australian and obviously living in Spain. I wouldn’t say it’s a home tour, but it does feel a bit like that. As road captain, my role is about trying to connect this group of people together. We have a climber-heavy team, so it’s going to be vital getting everyone to work well together. If we can do that, then we have the potential to go out there and achieve a great result.

Juanma Garate says: “Mitch is my road captain, he is my eyes, ears and my hands into the peloton. We have a good relationship; there’s a good connection between us. He knows exactly what I want and I have total confidence in him. Also the riders in our team respect him a lot, as do other riders in the peloton, too.”

Sergio Higuita:
Sergio Higuita says: “To race the Vuelta is a childhood dream come true. There have been many years of longing and sweating just so one day I would arrive at this point and be able to race this race. I just want to enjoy it, right up to the finish line of the 21st stage. I want to spend the race fighting for my team and learning with them.”

Juanma Garate says: “Sergio is a young kid, he can climb really well and he is having a good year. He was second in California, fourth in the Tour of Poland. For a young rider like him, it’s really interesting. Obviously it’s going to be his first big Tour, but I’m pretty sure he will surprise people. He is really fast, and in a Vuelta like the one we have this year he is going to have plenty of good opportunities. I’m going to ask him to stay calm, to not push hard every day, to not worry about losing time. I will give him some specific roles but also make sure there isn’t too much pressure on him.”

Tejay van Garderen:
Tejay van Garderen: “I am really excited about the Vuelta. I’m happy the team is giving me a second chance at a Grand Tour after the way the Tour de France ended for me. We are bringing a super strong team, and I’m ready to fill whatever role the team requires from me.”

Juanma Garate says: “Tejay is motivated, he is going well after his crash at the Tour de France, he’s talked to us and said that he’s feeling ready to race again. I would really like to see a solid race for Tejay, him getting from stage one to stage 21 without any trouble, being competitive and at the top of his game. I want to see him get to stage 21, calm and having had a great race.”

Fausto Masnada to step up to the World Tour with CCC Team

CCC Team sent me this announcement:

20 August 2019: Giro d’Italia stage winner Fausto Masnada is set to add depth to CCC Team’s roster when the Italian graduates to the Polish WorldTour team in 2020.

Masnada, 25, has signed a two-year deal on the back of a breakthrough first half of the 2019 season with two stage wins at the Tour of the Alps and a maiden Grand Tour stage win on stage six of the Giro d’Italia.

Fausto Masnada

Fausto Masnada wins 2019 Giro stage six. Sirotti photo

CCC Team General Manager said Masnada will increase the team’s ability to race well in the mountains and be competitive in stage races and Grand Tours. “We are very excited to welcome Fausto Masnada to CCC Team and see him make his debut with a WorldTour team. We had our eye on Fausto for quite some time and his results this year confirmed that he is an incredibly talented rider. At just 25-years-old, Fausto has a long and bright career ahead of him and we are looking forward to helping him to develop further with us in the next two years,” Ochowicz explained.

“Fausto’s stage win and overall victory at the Tour of Hainan last year and two stage wins at the Tour of the Alps this year showed how well he can climb and his ability to win in a variety of situations. I think Fausto’s performance at the Giro d’Italia, with his win on stage six and another two top-five results, as well as numerous aggressive displays in breakaways, was a sign of what we can expect from him next year against some of the best riders in the world. We are looking ahead to the 2020 season with a lot of excitement knowing that our roster has been strengthened with the addition of Fausto and the other riders we have already announced.”

Masnada is ready to make the move to the WorldTour after three years at the Professional Continental level. “Moving up to a WorldTour team was my goal since the beginning of the season, so I am really happy to join CCC Team next year. The years I have spent in Andiron Giocattoli-Sidermec helped me to grow professionally and obtain the necessary results to be noticed by a big team. To join CCC Team is my opportunity to reach the top level of cycling and I am ready and really excited for the new challenges that lie ahead,” Masnada said.

“I think CCC Team is a good fit for me because I already know some of the team members like Marco Pinotti, Gabrielle Missaglia, and the Italian riders like Jakub Mareczko and Alessandro De Marchi. All of the details and the organization of the team are really impressive, including the material like the Giant bikes. I am really looking forward to joining the team, racing at the WorldTour level, and continuing to grow as a rider.”

Masnada’s consistency this year has seen the Italian place in the top ten in the General Classification at Tour de la Provence, Giro di Sicilia, where he claimed the KOM classification, Tour of the Alps, and Tour of Slovenia, as well as second overall at the Giro dell’Appennino.

Accell Group sells more brands for damage limitation of US operation divestment

Bike Europe sent me this news:

ZURICH, Switzerland – The latest news about Accell Group suggest that the company is doing everything it can to limit the damage that the recent sale of the heavily loss-making US operations has caused. The Dutch holding of numerous European bike companies has sold its Protanium company that markets (among other activities) Diavelo e-bikes. It is also said that Accell sold its rights on the, especially in the Benelux market well-known, Fongers brand.

With the sale of the Protanium company with its Diavelo brand as well as the Fongers brand and with the earlier sale of Accell’s Canadian brand registrations of Raleigh, Diamondback, Redline and IZIP to the Canadian Tire Corporation for USD 16 million, the Dutch bike holding looks to be on a trajectory of damage control due to the August 6 costly divestment involving Accell North America. As it looks now, this deal wipes out much of the company’s 2019 gross profit. In particular as it has a negative impact on Accell’s gross profit of 46 million euro.

In addition, it costs the company another 10 million euro in cash. Accell Group’s 2018 gross profit for its core business (excluding Accell North America) stood at 54 million euro.

Accell has sold, already last July, its Protanium company assets to the Swiss distributor. After eleven years under the umbrella of Europe’s leading e-bike maker Diavelo Switzerland AG has taken over Protanium as well as the related Diavelo brand. Protanium GmbH based in Zurich has been founded for this take-over and is headed by CEO Karin Vogelsanger. Next to the “Tangible assets and intellectual property of the development office,” also a license for Accell Group’s ‘Inframe battery technology’ is included in the deal. Patents for this integration technology of e-bike batteries in frames remains to be owned by Accell Group. Both parties have agreed not to disclose details of the acquisition and the purchase price.

You can read the entire story here.

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