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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, July 4, 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

I've seen a look in dogs' eyes, a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that basically dogs think humans are nuts. - John Steinbeck

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EF Education First names Tour de France team

The squad sent me this:

2017 Tour runner-up Rigoberto Uran headlines a united, motivated team:

Alberto Bettiol. Simon Clarke. Tejay van Garderen. Tanel Kangert. Sebastian Langeveld. Tom Scully. Rigoberto Uran. Mike Woods.

Our Tour de France team is set and ready to roll this weekend in Belgium, with eight riders from eight different countries. The Tour is the sport’s biggest race and one of its most beautiful. Millions of people stand on the roads in July, and millions and millions more turn on their TVs and watch back at home. It’s the race people grow up watching.

And it’s finally here. “Our specific ambitions we will leave to ourselves. As giving it away wouldn’t be any fun,” says team CEO Jonathan Vaughters. “And we’re all about having a bit of fun.”

Rigoberto Urán:
“The route is going to be a good one for me this year. There are some hard stages, like always, with a lot of stages that finish over 2000 meters. Fans can expect a beautiful, challenging route. In the last week, that’s when the gaps will form between the leaders. This year is a good year for Colombians who are from high altitude, the born climbers.”

Rigoberto Uran

Rigoberto Uran racing in stage 12 of the 2017 Tour de France. Sirotti photo

Mike Woods:
“I have been more consistent this season, and I have been consistently present on the attack. That’s something I want to do at this Tour. I want to be visible. I want the fans, particularly the Canadian fans, to turn on the TV and see a Canadian at the front of the best race in the world. I’m not here to be a passenger. I’m here to be active and influence the outcome, so that some Canadian kid back home can watch and say: ‘That’s Mike Woods. I want to grow up and race like Mike Woods.’ That’s what motivates me.”

Tom Scully:
“The group has been coming together really well. Our build-up as been low on stress and high on motivation. Within the team, we’re all satisfied and happy with how we’re progressing on the bike, and that attitude has created a real relaxed and light-hearted environment.”

Sebastian Langeveld:
"I’m one of the key riders for the team time trial, and I’m here to protect our leaders, especially in the first week when things are the most hectic. Depending on how hard that job is, I’d love to have a crack at the individual time trial, but I’m going to the Tour absolutely as a domestique."

Tejay van Garderen:
“The Tour is the one race that transcends cycling. Without the Tour de France, cycling would be an obscure sport. The Tour puts cycling in front of the world. The everyday person knows about this race. As a kid, it was the only race in the US that was ever on TV. [...] Naturally then, we all want to perform at the highest level on the biggest stage, and I think I’m well-positioned to do that, and so is the team.”

Alberto Bettiol:
“Doing the Tour this year is another big opportunity. It’s an honor to be a part of the Tour squad, and it’s also a great responsibility. I’m really looking forward to the start of the race. With the Tour beginning in Brussels, in Belgium, where a few months ago I won the most famous one-day race, the Tour of Flanders, I feel like the first stages in Belgium will be really special for me.” 

Tanel Kangert:
“This year is my fourth year doing the Giro-Tour double. It’s never easy. I’m a little sharper and more punchy in the Giro, but I think the Tour requires more endurance, and doing the Giro gives me an advantage there. I’m more ready for the Tour mountain stages than the Giro stages whenever I do the double. I’m hoping to support our climbers and maybe get into a big breakaway myself in second half of the race.”

Simon Clarke:
“The team has evolved in the last few years, but we haven’t made too many changes to the roster since Rigo got second. That core roster has grown stronger, and I’m confident that we’re bringing a more solid, united team than ever at the Tour. We’re all so motivated to represent the EF colors in July.”

Team Sunweb announces Tour de France squad

Here's the team's release:

Team Sunweb are pleased to announce the riders that will be competing at the 2019 edition of Le Tour de France, bringing a well-balanced squad, aiming for stage success at La Grand Boucle. The race offers various opportunities for the team throughout the three weeks of racing; both in the sprints and from the breakaway.

Team Sunweb’s Tour de France coach Aike Visbeek discussed the line-up: “This year our focus at the Tour de France will be to go for stage success throughout the race. We have been in this situation before when we have had to change from a GC goal to focusing on stage results and I am confident we can do well again.”
“We’ll have opportunities for good results with Michael in the sprint stages and reduced bunch sprints. Nikias will be our captain and with Giro stage winner Chad, we bring extra power for the both the TTT and TT. With Wilco, Nicholas and Søren we aim for opportunities in the more difficult hilly and mountain stages.”
“We are also happy and proud that we bring two talented debutants to this year’s Tour with Lennard and Cees. Lennard has showed both in lead out work and in the mountains that he is very strong and with him we are aiming to make the next step in his development. Cees has made big steps this spring with several victories, but maybe even more impressive has been his dedication to working in a support role on different occasions. Cees will get the opportunity to gain more experience and develop at what is the highest level.”

Chad Haga

Giro stage winner Chad Haga will be on the Tour de France start line. Sirotti photo

Line-up:
Søren Kragh Andersen (DEN)
Nikias Arndt (GER)
Cees Bol (NED)
Chad Haga (USA)
Lennard Kämna (GER)
Wilco Kelderman (NED)
Michael Matthews (AUS)
Nicholas Roche (IRL)

Coaches:
Luke Roberts (AUS)
Arthur van Dongen (NED)
Aike Visbeek (NED)
Matt Winston (GBR)

Lotto-Soudal riders look ahead to the Tour

The team sent me this:

On Saturday 6 July, the 106th edition of the Tour de France will kick off in Brussels with a sprint stage. After three weeks full of spectacle, the Tour will traditionally end on the Champs-Elysées in Paris. The Lotto Soudal line-up already looks ahead.

Tiesj Benoot: “Despite the injury after Paris-Roubaix, I have reached – by working really hard - a very good shape for the Tour de France and I feel completely ready for the start. I don’t have any feelings of revenge after my crash last year, when I was forced to abandon the Tour early in the race. I rather want to make things right after the spring Classics. I was riding quite well but I do not feel like I obtained that big result, something I do aim for in this Tour. During the presentation of the course last year, I already noticed that there would be a fair amount of chances for the escapees. However, I did not target any specific stages just yet but I will try to seize any opportunity I get. The fact that I climb really well is of course an additional advantage. The young rider classification definitely appeals to me and I would really like to wear the white jersey once, but a stage victory will always prevail. I’m hoping for a Tour like two years ago but with one real highlight.”

Tiesj Benoot

Tiesj Benoot says he's ready for the Tour. Sirotti photo

Jasper De Buyst: “The cliché says that on the one hand you have cycling and that on the other hand the Tour de France is above that. This will be my second participation and I can only confirm that the cliché is right. I’m in better shape than last year, when I still had to go through a period of rehab after my crash in the Quatre Jours de Dunkerque. I had the perfect preparation with the Giro and the ZLM Tour this year. In both races, I got, together with my teammates, the chance to finetune the sprint train for Caleb. The advantage is that Caleb can handle the fast finishes as well as the harder ones. In the meantime we have found each other and the motivation to start that first stage is gigantic. The Tour de France always entails big pressure, but you have to deal with that. We will do anything to win and to conquer the yellow jersey this Saturday. I grew up near Brussels, so the start is like racing in my backyard.”

Thomas De Gendt: “On the one hand we have a sprinter who has a good chance of winning a stage, so in the first place I will ride at the service of Caleb Ewan. On the other hand, wherever I start, my goal is to win a stage and that will be no different in the Tour de France. I will wait for the Vosges to make my move. It is an advantage that we have several riders with a free role within our line-up. If there is a breakaway group of 30 riders and you are in it with one or even two teammates, you will have more chance than being on your own. Tiesj Benoot and Tim Wellens will also often go on the attack and if we manage to be in the right breakaway together, that could be in my favor. As a Belgian, it’s great to experience the start of this Tour de France in Brussels. The hotel where we will be staying is only 55 kilometres from my house, I don’t think you can start a Grand Tour any closer than that.”

Caleb Ewan: “Starting in Brussels will be a great way to kick off my first Tour. There are going to be good sprinters and everybody is in their best form but already having six wins this season definitely means that I am going to the Tour with confidence. The opening stage is for sure going to be dangerous. All the general classification riders will want to stay out of trouble and all the sprinters want to be at the front as it is not only a chance to take the stage win but also to earn the first yellow jersey. Depending on how well I will be climbing, I think there are six to eight sprint chances. The rather difficult finales can really benefit my chances but at the Tour, there are some real specialists in the uphill finishes and at the end of the day, I am more of a sprinter for the flats. If I complete the Tour with one stage win, I will be satisfied but I am of course always aiming for as many wins as possible.”

Jens Keukeleire: “With Caleb Ewan, we have a very good chance of winning one or multiple stages. Personally I will already be happy if I can fulfill my role to help Caleb. We only rode Milan – San Remo together this year, so I don’t know yet what my specific role in the sprint train will be. Anyway, I will be very happy if we could win a stage, because winning in the Tour de France remains something really special. Besides, there are lots of transition stages this year. We will see when I will get the freedom of the team to try to break away. This is not my first Tour de France, so I know how hard it is to be in the right breakaway! Because of the start in Belgium, I think there will be a lot of people. Especially because the peloton will face the Muur van Geraardsbergen and the Bosberg already in the first stage. But the more people next to the road, the more nervous the peloton will be.”

Roger Kluge: “The opening stage is a big opportunity for Caleb and Lotto Soudal as a team. We aim for the win and it would be the icing on the cake of what we have achieved so far this season. We have a really strong team and if everything falls into place, we can do it. Like the past races, Jasper De Buyst will be the final guy in the lead-out for Caleb. I will be the penultimate rider and with Jens Keukeleire, we have another strong rider who can be there during the sprint preparation. Of course, it is a dream – after earlier stage success in the Giro – to win a stage in the Tour, but I don’t think about that at all. In the first place, I am there to fully support Caleb. Compared to the Giro, the run-up to the sprints may be a little less chaotic as some pure sprinters like Démare and Ackermann won’t be there.”

Maxime Monfort: “With an altitude training camp and nine days of racing at a really high level in the Tour de Suisse, the preparation for the Tour went perfect. Of course, the start of the Tour in my hometown Liège in 2012 was really emotional but Le Grand Départ in Brussels will be something special as well. Especially during the first ten days, I will fully ride at the service of the team and, if necessary, lead the peloton. In the last week, I can try to go in the break myself or support riders like Benoot, De Gendt or Wellens. The serving role is not really new to me as I have been teammates with riders like Cavendish or the Schleck brothers in the past. I still feel very strong but I can’t obtain a top ten result in a Grand Tour or another stage race anymore. During four years, I could do my own thing within Lotto Soudal but after internal dialogue, I have been working for the team the past few months. When my Tour will be successful? That fully depends on what we perform as a team.”

Tim Wellens: “We go to the Tour de France with a strong team. Caleb Ewan is our leader and we all believe in his abilities. This is my third Tour de France and I have learned from the past. My last two performances in France haven’t been the most successful ones. I will never be a fan of the extreme temperatures, but I’m prepared. I went to Dubai for some tests and hopefully they will pay off. I don’t want to attack impulsively anymore like I did in the past, but I want to be more efficient with my energy. With the Tour of Belgium and a lot of training blocks, I had a different preparation. I also think that I will be at the start with better legs this year. As a Belgian rider, it’s very special to start a Grand Tour in your own country.”

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