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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, January 10, 2019

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

If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.- Lao Tzu

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David De La Cruz, Luke Rowe and Dylan Van Baarle preview the 2019 season

Team Sky sent me this:

David de la Cruz interview:
David de la Cruz is hoping to continue his progression into 2019 after a season of discovery. The Spanish stage racer joined Team Sky in 2018 and was quickly up to speed, securing stage wins at the Ruta del Sol and Paris-Nice respectively, before helping Chris Froome to victory in May as part of the team’s Giro d’Italia squad.

De La Cruz then headed to his home Grand Tour in a leadership role, eventually finishing 15th at the Vuelta a Espana – a race in which he admitted he learned a lot.

David de la Cruz

David de la Cruz racing in the 2018 Vuelta. Sirotti photo

On targeting general classification on home roads, he said: “It was a good experience. I came to this team with the aim to ride good GCs in stage races and I learned a lot. When you come to Team Sky and you have the opportunity to ride for GC at a race like the Vuelta, on this type of team, there is a pressure which in the moment you don’t appreciate. But then once the race is over you look back, and I think in the moment the pressure was there. I didn’t realise but possibly it’s something which affected me. Sometimes the pressure effects your training or the time when you have to take care with the nutrition. You can go over your limits. I learned a lot about this. It’s good to do things well, but the gap between doing things properly and doing things at the very highest level means sometimes you can end up making things worse.

“It’s been a year that has shown me the way to work better. I didn’t get the results I expected, but I think in the future if I get the results I want to get it will be thanks to this season. In cycling most of the time you learn more from the bad experiences than the good ones. It’s been really interesting in that sense.”

Chasing more stage race success is high up on De La Cruz’s list of objectives for 2019, with a specific focus on one-week races. He added: “If you don’t have goals it’s really difficult to find the motivation to give your best and to train hard. The first thing I always say is that I want to keep improving. It’s something which will forever be a goal, and every year you have to look at areas you can improve. It’s what makes you hungry to pursue your dreams. If there’s one thing I would like to achieve this year it’s to try to win an overall GC in a one-week stage race. In the past I’ve been close several times – fourth, third, second – and so this year I’m looking to do it. It’s the first step towards doing the GC in a big Tour – doing really well in a one-week race, and then once you’ve passed this test you can go into a big Tour with more confidence and have something in the pocket which makes you push to go for it.”

Progression has been evident for De La Cruz, with victory in the final time trial at Ruta del Sol particularly pleasing. On his progress against the clock he explained: “It’s difficult to say in which area I improved the most because I’ve been working on many different aspects. But I’d say looking at the results last year it would probably be in the time trials. That’s thanks to the staff that we have on the team and the bikes that Pinarello provide for us. I think it’s one of the areas where I felt I made a step forward.

“When you change team sometimes it’s not really easy and there can be a lot of changes. But here I felt really comfortable and I found a family. I think I’ve learned a lot of things that will help me going into the new season. It’s important to see where you can improve – what you did well and what you did not so well – and it’s been a year where I learned a lot. Sometimes I got results I didn’t expect, but I’m really looking forward to 2019 and making those improvements.”

Luke Rowe interview:
Luke Rowe insists there is more to come at the Classics as the Welshman takes aim at a fresh cobbles campaign in 2019. Rowe has top-10 finishes at both Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders to his name, as well as a podium appearance at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.

Now, as he enters his peak years, Rowe is determined to make waves across the spring and is hoping for improved luck in 2019, following two tough Classics campaigns. “I definitely want to get more out of the Classics," he explained. "I don’t feel like I’ve reached my full potential and fully shown myself there. The years are ticking by. It’s not like I’m a new kid on the block anymore. I’m entering my eighth year as a pro.

“Last year I finished Roubaix in an ambulance and Flanders with 50km to go, disqualified. It just didn’t really go to plan at all. The year before I crashed heavily in Flanders while in the front group. That’s the Classics for you. You’re getting in crashes, wrong place wrong time, while in previous years I was always right place, right time.

“Hopefully I can have a year when it all comes together. The form falls right on the day and we can go out there and do something special, either me or as a team. I’ve still got a massive focus on the Classics and I’ve got a lot more to give there. Hopefully I can get a result somewhere along the line - but that's easier said than done, right?”

Luke Rowe

Luke Rowe winning a stage at the 2017 Herald Sun Tour

The road to the Classics starts on the other side of the world for Rowe, with the full Australian block. It's a routine he is used to, and one he relishes. “I think it will be my sixth Tour Down Under and it’s a race that I really enjoyed right from the first time I went. I just want to get the ball rolling as soon as possible - get on the front foot, get fit, get racing, get in the peloton, get amongst it.

“Essentially I’m a racer. I enjoy racing. Obviously I do the training but what I enjoy is racing. Training is your 9-5, Monday-Friday, but racing is your weekend where you let loose. That’s what I enjoy, so why wait? Just get stuck straight into it.

“This year will be no different. If you go right through with the Cadel Evans Road Race and Sun Tour you can be there for around six weeks. It’s a good chance to train day in, day out under the sun. Wherever you are in Europe the weather can influence your training but over there you know what you’re going to get, day in, day out. I think it puts you in pretty good nick going into the Classics.”

Rowe picked up an impressive solo win on stage two of the Herald Sun Tour in 2017 and has his eyes on more success Down Under this time around. With a fourth and fifth place to his name at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, he's excited about getting back in the thick of it.

“I’ve been knocking on the door. It’s a great race actually - it’s quite open and you can’t really predict the winner. One year Pete Kennaugh won it solo from an attack with 15km to go, an epic ride; another year a sprinter won, or someone has gone solo at the end.

“It’s a race we can go into quite relaxed and not have a fully structured plan. It’s quite open and a lot of guys get their opportunity to fire off up the road and get amongst it. It’s a race I'd like to try and get a result in if possible. I think one day racing is great. Turn up, put your balls on the line, one day, get it all out, and go home. Whoever wins on the day is champion and that’s it. It’s a style of racing I enjoy and hopefully I can have a good one this year.”

Rowe, 28, looked like he had never been away last season after he returned to the fold following his broken leg, suffered in late 2017. He was keen to put it to the back of his mind as soon as he started racing again in February, but admits that it's something he is likely to have to manage for the rest of his career.

“It's an ongoing process and it could well be that way for the rest of my life," he explained. "I had another operation this winter where I had a couple of screws taken out. The rod itself is still in and probably will be for the rest of my life. That’s the way it is.

“It’s not necessarily ever gonna get 100% better but we’re pretty much 90% of the way and I think that’s where it’s gonna stay. I’m back riding my bike and that’s all that kind of matters to me - that I could get back to where I was and I’ve achieved that.”

After the Classics Rowe is hopeful or returning to the Tour and then building towards a World Championships on home soil. “At the moment the plan is post-Classics to look towards the Tour. I’ll try and go there and support our leaders. I think it’s a great position to be in to have cards to play and I think that’s how we’ll go into the Tour again this year. Every Tour is different and this year will be different again. It would be great to be a part of that whole puzzle this year and try and bring the yellow jersey to Paris. It’s such a massive achievement. To go there and support those boys again would be a massive goal for me.”

Due to injury Rowe has missed the previous two Worlds, last representing Team GB in the battle for the rainbow jersey in Doha, when Mark Cavendish took home the silver medal. He hopes to be back on the start line in 2019.

“They don’t come round very often, a World Champs on home soil. In the last few years I don’t think we’ve lived up to our expectations and as a nation we really want to put on a performance on home soil and get a result out of the team on the day. It’s a big focus for a lot of us and it’s the first year in a lot of years when, every GB rider you speak to, it is on their radar and they’re already thinking about it. Whether the course necessarily suits them or not, they all want to be there which is great. Every rider is fully committed to it already.”

Dylan van Baarle interview:
Dylan van Baarle hopes to deliver at the race which has a special place in his heart in 2019 - the Tour of Flanders. Sixth in 2016, fourth in 2017 and 12th in 2018, the Dutchman is eyeing an improvement in 2019 after a season to settle in at Team Sky.

Van Baarle’s 2018 was cut short after an unfortunate injury at La Vuelta a Espana but, now completely recovered and training hard ahead of the Tour Down Under, the 26 year old has started his work towards the Classics. He said: “I’m really looking forward to the Classics, of course. That’s what I think about at the beginning of the winter. It’s something special and it has a place in my heart - especially Flanders. The Ronde van Vlaanderen is one of my favourite races and one I always think about. I want to get a result.

“My main goal is of course the Classics and my second goal will be trying to make Tour selection. They will be my two key goals. The injury is totally healed now. We worked really hard to come back and I’m really happy that I’m able to ride again. I was in a lot of pain after La Vuelta but now we look forward to the coming season.”

Van Baarle is honest in his assessment of last year and felt he improved as it went on. “The spring season was not my best last year,” he added, “but I came around after an altitude camp in Tenerife and I was going well, especially at the Dutch Time Trial Championship, which was really special for me. The end of the season was much better than the beginning… So I’ll give it a six and a half!”

Winning the Dutch time trial title was a season highlight for Van Baarle, particularly after putting in so much work on the discipline. “Becoming Dutch champion is something special, especially with a lot of good time triallists in Holland. If you can wear the red, white and blue once in your career it’s really special.

“I worked a lot in the season on my TT position, went to the wind tunnel, plus all of the material we have here helps. The bike is one of the best TT bikes in the peloton and that really helped me to become Dutch champion.”

Ag2r-La Mondiale headed to Tour Down Under and Cadel Evans Great Ocean Race

The team sent me this:

From Team Director General Vincent Lavenu: “There is always a lot of impatience and excitement when starting a new season. We have a quality team; solid, experienced, with leaders able to excel on many terrains. After weeks of work for the riders and the staff, it’s time to get back on the road and that’s a good thing. The Santos Tour Down Under is a very beautiful race. It’s perfectly organized and we have won it four times. The weather conditions are great, the stages are short and nervous, and you have to be in good shape to shine, especially against the racers from Australia and New Zealand, since they are in the heart of their season. We kick off right a way with a UCI WorldTour race, and it is necessary to be in great shape to do well there. It’s always important to win the first race of the year to put the team on track.

Winning there would be a morale boost for the entire team and staff. We are coming with a good leader in Pierre Latour, even if he has suffered from back problems, and then notably we also have Benoît Cosnefroy. Our seven riders are extremely motivated.”

Pierre Latour

Pierre Latour at the 2018 Tour de France, descending the Aubisque. Sirotti photo

THE NUMBER: 2
Quentin Jaurégui and Clément Venturini (winner in 2017) will be at the start of the French Cyclocross Championship on Sunday in Besançon (Doubs). The start will be at 14:45.”Before starting the road season at the Étoile de Bessèges, the team gave me the chance to do some cyclocross races, which is my first discipline. This last Sunday, I took the second place at the Mezière race. I just want to have some fun without any pressure. I am happy to be starting with Quentin Jaurégui; it will remind us of our years racing as juniors”, said Venturini.

THE NEWS: Pierre Latour to be leader
Thirteenth overall last year, Pierre Latour will be the leader of the AG2R LA MONDIALE team at the Santos Tour Down Under : “In spite of the back problems I had over the winter, I am satisfied with my form. Last year was the first time I took part in this race, and I had a quite successful rest of the season. It’s an ideal way to start the year.”

Like Latour, Nico Denz, Nans Peters and Clément Chevrier will participate in the event for the second time. The most experienced of the group is Gediminas Bagdonas who will line up for this the first UCI WorldTour stage race of the season for the third time. Two of our riders will be novices at the event, and are getting ready for the Australian heat: Hubert Dupont (15th season as a professional) and Benoît Cosnefroy.

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