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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, June 29, 2019

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

Like a welcome summer rain, humor may suddenly cleanse and cool the earth, the air and you. - Langston Hughes

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Mitchelton-Scott names team to support Adam Yates at Tour de France

The team sent me this:

Mitchelton-SCOTT has named its eight-man squad for the upcoming Tour de France, calling on a mix of climbing specialists and ‘big’ men to support leader Adam Yates at the second Grand Tour of the season.

Adam Yates

Andam Yates racing in stage 6 of this year's Dauphiné. Sirotti photo

The 26-year-old finished just shy of the podium to take fourth and the white jersey in 2016 but his reappearance in 2018 didn’t go as planned. This year he will return again with three wins already to his name this season, plus overall podiums at Tirreno-Adriatico and Volta Catalunya.

Mitchelton-SCOTT at the Tour de France (6 – 28 July):

Yates will be supported in the mountains by twin Simon Yates, who will return the favour to his brother after he successfully and crucially guided him to his first Grand Tour victory at the Vuelta a Espana last year.

Joining them will be Australian and Tour de France debutant Jack Haig, who also proved crucial support in the team’s successes at the 2018 Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana as well as finishing fourth overall himself at this year’s Paris-Nice.

Fellow Australian duo Luke Durbridge, Michael Hepburn and Dane Chris Juul-Jensen, all part of Mitchelton-SCOTT’s team time trial victory at Tirreno-Adriatico in March, will guide Yates through the flat stages and bolster the second stage TTT, whilst puncheurs Daryl Impey and Matteo Trentin will prove crucial in hectic finishes.

The Race:
The 2019 Tour de France will cover 3460km across its 21 stages, with five altitude finishes, 30 cat-2 or harder climbs and just 54km of time trialling across two stages, of which one will be a team time trial. The  Grand Depart this year be starting  in Brussels and finish with the traditional stage on the Champs Elysees.

When the course was revealed, the major talking point was the heights in which the Tour de France would tackle in 2019.  There will be three finishes above 2000m - Col du Tourmalet, Tignes and Val Thorens – which is a first in history for the Tour de France.  Alongside the three altitude finishes, the route will pass six other peaks above 2000m.

History:
A disappointing race in 2018 saw Mitchelton-SCOTT leave the Tour de France without a top general classification result or stage victory. The two years prior the team finished in the top ten overall (4th in 2016 and 7th in 2017), both times claiming the best young rider’s white jersey.

Earlier in its existence Mitchelton-SCOTT’s emphasis was on stage victories and in its seven appearances at the French Grand Tour the Australian outfit has claimed three – two in 2013 and one in 2016.

2013 was a major highlight in the team’s history - the two stage victories (Simon Gerrans and Team Time Trial) resulted in four days in the race leader’s yellow jersey – two days for Gerrans before he famously passed it onto teammate Impey.

Adam Yates – Team Leader:
“After Dauphine I’ve managed to come back around pretty quick, back into full training and feeling good so hopefully it was just a minor bump.

“The Tour this year is a tough one, especially towards the end of the race. I checked out stages 18, 19, 20 just before Dauphine and three stages like that back-to-back at the very end of the race will be sure to have some fireworks. Not only that, but there’s some real tricky stages like stage six to Planche des Belles Filles, which I know quite well from when I raced for CC Etupes and lived in France. So overall a very tough route with some challenging terrain.

“A couple years ago I was fourth and not far from the podium, I don’t really want to put a marker on what I want to achieve, I just know I’ll like to go better than previously and with the condition and consistency I’ve had this year I don’t see why not.

“We’re bringing a super strong team for pretty much all terrain. Imps and Trentin will be able to have a go at some of the lumpy sprint stages and then I’ll have the big guys like Durbo, Heppy and Chris to keep me out of trouble and out of the wind on the nervous flat stages.

“Once we hit the mountains Jack and Simon will be there to push the pace if we need to, so I feel we’ve got a really nice balanced team that will help us challenge for the win.”

Matt White – Head Sport Director:
“Our primary goal is to give Adam Yates every chance possible to arrive on the podium come Paris, but our secondary goal is also to win a stage.

“We have a good combination of riders who can help achieve those goals, and to get a result as a key GC rider, you are very much reliant on the strength of the team. If we can continue to support Adam as we did Simon at the Giro then this will only enhance Adam’s chances of a solid result.

“On a climbing front we will have Simon Yates in a super domestic role. His primary goal is to be there for his brother Adam and to return the favour from the Vuelta last year.

“We also have Jack Haig in the same role, one which he has excelled in over the last two seasons. His climbing talents will become even more valuable in the crucial  backend of the race. He has done a few Grand Tours with the team but this will be his first Tour de France and it will be a great opportunity for him to gain experience on the biggest stage there is in our sport.

“Daryl will be our captain on the road. He is the oldest and most experienced, and he is no stranger to the Tour de France and how we operate and I have a lot of faith in him and his decision making. Besides being a super teammate, and one that has been part of many of our successes over the years, he is a guy that can be looking for opportunities throughout the month for a stage win.

“Matteo joined the team to win stages at Grand Tours. He is a very versatile character - in mountains, team time trial, and sprints - and he will certainly be  getting his chances during the Tour.

“The trio of Chris, Durbo and Heppy are our engine room. They are guys we’ve used across different Grand Tours with a lot of success. They might not have the most glamourous role, but for our team they are a very valuable asset. They have been key across many of our biggest wins and a lot of the workload does fall on the shoulders of those three, especially on the flatter roads of France."

Team Sunweb announces Tour de France squad

The team sent me this 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.”

Nikias Arndt

Nikias Arndt (shown winning the Cadel Evans Road Race in 2017) will be the Sunweb team captain.

“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.”

Line-up:

Coaches:

Team INEOS announces 2019 Tour de France lineup

The team sent me this news:

Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal will be joint leaders of Team INEOS in the 2019 Tour de France, in what will be the Team’s first race at Le Tour under new ownership.

Geraint Thomas

Geraint Thomas will start the first stage in Brussels wearing number 1. Sirotti photo

Jonathan Castroviejo, Michal Kwiatkowski, Gianni Moscon, Wout Poels, Luke Rowe and Dylan van Baarle complete the Team’s lineup for the 21-stage race, which starts in Brussels on Saturday 6th July.

Reigning Tour de France champion Thomas, who became the first-ever Welshman to win the race in 2018, will co-lead with Bernal, who heads into the race in winning form after triumphing at the Tour de Suisse last weekend.

Thomas is excited about returning to the Tour, commenting: “Winning the Tour de France last year was the highlight of my professional cycling career and racing with the number one on my back is going to be special this year. The memories of 2018 will remain with me forever, but now I’m ready to create more with the Team this year.

"It’s no secret my build-up has been affected by the crash at Tour de Suisse, but I’ve had a good block of training since and I feel ready. Discussing with the Team, we believe it makes sense to go into the race with joint leaders as it gives us more options. Egan and I will work hard for each other and the Team over the three weeks of the race.

“We’ve got a really exciting blend of youth and experience in the Team – and it’s a group of riders who I know will be with me every step of the way and know what it takes to win Grand Tours. I can’t wait to pull on the Team INEOS jersey for the first time at the Tour de France in what is the biggest race of the year.”

Bernal, meanwhile, is excited about competing in only his second Tour de France, having played a leading role in Thomas’ 2018 success.

“I have really good memories from the Tour last year,” he said. “It was my first Tour de France and also my first Grand Tour, so it was special. We enjoyed a great victory with G and it was something really special to be a part of. Of course, our ambition is to win the race again this year.

“Last year’s experience taught me a lot. As a bike rider, whatever you might think about the Tour from the outside you don’t really know it until you have raced it. Now I know what to expect, I can be more relaxed about what lies ahead and even more focused on the racing. The most important thing for my development is to enjoy racing over the next three weeks, give my best, and be happy with my performance. I am looking forward to sharing leadership responsibilities with G and doing everything we can together to help Team INEOS win its first Tour.”

This year’s Tour will feature 30 categorised climbs, five mountain-top finishes and only 54 kilometres of time trialling, split between one team time trial and one individual time trial.

Team Principal Sir Dave Brailsford said: “There is always a strong sense of anticipation before any Tour, but this one is that bit more special for us as it’s our first racing as Team INEOS. And whilst our preparation hasn’t been straightforward following Chris Froome’s recent crash, we will be at the start line with a really strong team that is hungry to win again.

“After the success of last year, we have decided to come into the race with joint leaders. Geraint and Egan are both in great form. They trust each other and we believe that this approach will best suit us as a Team by giving us the greatest flexibility on the road and the best possible chance of success.

“Alongside them, we have five of the riders who supported Geraint in his victory last year. They are all supremely talented in their own right as bike riders and also in great form, but their combined strengths will ensure we are strong on both the flat and in the mountains. We have also brought Dylan van Baarle into the Team. He was in top condition at the Dauphine and is relishing the opportunity ahead.”

Brailsford added: “Once again, it is a fantastic Tour de France route. The first week should see some great racing with the Team Time Trial on stage two and then the summit finish at La Planche des Belles Filles a few days later. There are then some punishing climbs through the Massif Central and into the Pyrenees before one of the longest summit finishes in Tour history at Val Thorens on the final Saturday before Paris.

“It should be fantastic for the fans. These are three very special weeks every year. We always love riding in this race and we can’t wait for the start in Brussels.”

The full Team INEOS lineup for this year’s Tour de France is:

Egan Bernal – Colombian – age 22
One of the brightest young talents in the sport, Egan Bernal’s star has continued to rise since joining the team in 2018. This season has seen the Colombian add overall victories at Paris-Nice and the Tour de Suisse to an already impressive palmarès. A crash on the eve of the Giro d’Italia saw Bernal forced to miss the Italian Grand Tour but he heads into July in great form, and is rightfully considered among the best pure climbers in the world.

Jonathan Castroviejo – Spanish – age 32
Set for his 10th Grand Tour appearance this July, Jonathan Castroviejo is one of the most trusted all-rounders in the peloton. A decorated time trialist, with multiple national championships and a European title to his name, Castroviejo is also a key member of the team in the medium mountains. Comfortable setting a tempo on the climbs, he will hope to replicate his part in a winning 2018 Tour de France.

Michal Kwiatkowski – Polish – age 29
One of the classiest bike riders in the professional peloton, Michal Kwiatkowski has played a pivotal role in the team’s recent Grand Tour success with a series of selfless performances. The 2014 world champion has tasted success at Milan-San Remo and Tirreno-Adriatico more recently, with a blend of all-round talent and experience making him an incredibly important member of the team.

Gianni Moscon – Italian – age 25
Making his second Tour de France appearance, Gianni Moscon has developed into a superb all-round talent. Able to compete in and win one-week stage races in his own right, the Italian’s climbing capabilities continue to develop, making him a key addition to the squad. Moscon supported Chris Froome to Vuelta a Espana victory in his Grand Tour debut and will hope to be part of yet more success in July.

Wout Poels – Dutch – age 31
With 12 Grand Tours under his belt to date, Wout Poels has made a name for himself with his heroics in the high mountains. The Dutch climber has played a vital role in four of Chris Froome’s Grand Tour victories and was part of the 2018 winning Tour lineup for good measure. A fun presence on the bus and around the team, Poels is also a fierce competitor and arrives fresh off fourth place overall at the Criterium du Dauphine.

Luke Rowe – British – age 29
Luke Rowe has proved to be a lucky charm down the years, contributing to a team victory in all four of his previous Tour de France appearances. Now set to make his fifth consecutive start, the Welshman has grown with the team over the years and has developed into a respected road captain. An invaluable presence on the flat and the wind, Rowe is also adept at setting a tempo at the head of the race for kilometre after kilometre.

Geraint Thomas – British – age 33
Starting the race in Brussels with the number one on his back, Geraint Thomas returns to the Tour 12 months after a dream race which saw him clinch the biggest result of his career. As comfortable in the mountains as he is on the time trial bike, Thomas’ all-round capabilities make him an ideal Grand Tour rider. Despite recently crashing out of the Tour de Suisse the Welshman has been training hard and heads into the race is strong form.

Dylan van Baarle – Dutch – age 27
Making his fourth Tour start but first for the team, Dylan van Baarle has been impressing with his climbing performances in the medium mountains. Building on a strong base that has seen him excel in both time trials and the Classics, the Dutchman claimed a stage victory at the recent Criterium du Dauphine in addition to overall success at Herald Sun Tour this season.

Sports director Herman Frison wants to see an offensive Lotto-Soudal at the Belgian championship

Lotto-Soudal sent me this:

On Sunday 30 June, the battle for the Belgian tricolour jersey will take place in Ghent. On a relatively flat course with some cobbles in the first part of the race, the peloton will be hunting for the national jersey from defending champion Yves Lampaert. Sports director Herman Frison expects an unpredictable race.

Herman Frison: “The Belgian road race championship is always a strange race. Especially the cobbles and the narrow ways could be a decisive factor this year. Maybe the winner will be someone who attacks right from the start, like Preben Van Hecke did in 2015.”

“Personally I think that the Belgian road race championship is the hardest race of the year to predict because only the first place matters. The fact that we are starting with a lot of Lotto Soudal riders, can be both a benefit and a disadvantage. We need to make sure that we ride offensively and that we always have someone up front, preferably someone who is able to win the race.”

“There are a lot of favourites for the tricolour jersey. Everybody can win on this parcours. If the race took place in the Ardennes, you could already cross out more than half of the riders, but that’s not the case. The race is more suited to the Classics specialists, but maybe the winner will be the one who can best adapt to the heat.”

“I don’t want to pick out a leader in our team. This Saturday we have a meeting and we do know who is in good shape at the moment but still, the Belgian road race championship is something special to our riders. It is a  kind of pride everybody wants to fight for.”

Participants Lotto Soudal: Sander Armée, Tiesj Benoot, Victor Campenaerts, Jasper De Buyst, Thomas De Gendt, Stan Dewulf, Frederik Frison, Jens Keukeleire, Bjorg Lambrecht, Nikolas Maes, Rémy Mertz, Maxime Monfort, Lawrence Naesen, Tosh Van der Sande, Jelle Vanendert, Harm Vanhoucke, Jelle Wallays, Tim Wellens and Enzo Wouters.

Brent Van Moer suffers from stomach flu and will not be at the start of the Belgian championship on Sunday.

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