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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, March 7, 2019

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

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Greg Van Avermaet returns to Strade Bianche

Van Avermaet's CCC Team sent me this:

6 March 2019: Following an aggressive ride and second place at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Greg Van Avermaet is looking to carry his solid form to Italy when he returns to the start line of Strade Bianche on Saturday, 9 March.

Greg van avermaet

Greg Van Avermaet getting second at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Sirotti photo

CCC Team’s core Classics roster will support Van Avermaet at the race, which is famous for the iconic white dirt roads which make up more than 60 kilometers of the 184-kilometer race.

“We saw at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad that Greg Van Avermaet is really strong at the moment. He had a great race and with Strade Bianche suiting his characteristics very well, we are aiming for another good result on Saturday. Michael Schär and Łukasz Wiśniowski have lined up before, whereas Josef Černy, Gijs Van Hoecke, Nathan Van Hooydonck, and Guillaume Van Keirsbulck will all be discovering the race for the first time. Nevertheless, the team is strong and experienced on this kind of terrain, so we are confident in our selection for Strade Bianche,” Piva explained.

“At this stage, no rain is forecast, so it’s better for the riders when it is a dry Strade Bianche. As we saw last year, the conditions can make or break the race so if it stays dry, we should see a more open race.”

Van Avermaet is no stranger to the top ten at Strade Bianche but is yet to stand on the top step.

“I always look forward to Strade Bianche as it’s one of the most beautiful races of the whole season. My performance at Omloop Net Nieuwsblad gave me a lot of confidence and confirmed that my form is good and where it needs to be at this point in the Classics season. I am always up there at Strade Bianche. I’ve finished in the top ten on all but two occasions and finished on the podium twice but never on the top step, so this is a big goal of mine,” Van Avermaet said.

“It will be another chance to race together as a team which is always good and this year, the weather looks a lot better than the conditions we faced last year so we should be in for a really nice race on Saturday.”

Strade Bianche (9 March):
Rider Roster: Josef Černy (CZE), Michael Schär (SUI), Greg Van Avermaet (BEL), Gijs Van Hoecke (BEL), Nathan Van Hooydonck (BEL), Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (BEL), Łukasz Wiśniowski (POL).

Sports Directors: Valerio Piva (ITA), Fabio Baldato (ITA)

Team Deceuninck-Quick Step headed to Paris-Nice

Here's the team's update:

Located in the western suburbs of Paris, some 19 kilometers from the center of France’s capital, Saint-Germain-en-Laye will become the tenth town in the Yvelines department to kick off Paris-Nice, on Sunday, when the riders will head out for a 138.5km-long route which should end in a mass gallop. Over the next two days, in Bellegarde and Moulins, the fast men will get two more opportunities, before the terrain will tilt toward the puncheurs in Pélussin, where four climbs jammed in the last 60 kilometers are guaranteed to make things more interesting.

Barbentane, a town which in the Middle Ages was invaded by a plethora of Germanic tribes, will play host to a 25.5km individual time trial held on lumpy roads which should seriously reshuffle the general classification ahead of the final three days, which include a trek to Brignoles, where the baroudeurs will hope to shine, and two mountain stages.

The first of these will take the peloton atop Col de Turini (14.9km, 7.3%), a climb never before used in Paris-Nice, but tackled on three occasions at the Tour de France, in 1948, 1950 and 1973, when Louison Bobet, Jean Robic and Vicente Lopez-Carril were the first at the top. Turini, known also from the iconic Monte Carlo Rally, will take the riders to 1 607 meters, where precious bonus seconds will await the top three.

Starting and finishing in Nice, on the beautiful Promenade des Anglais, site of a TTT at the 2013 Tour de France, and where the 77th edition will conclude, stage eight will see the bunch go over six classified climbs, including Col d’Èze (1.6km, 8.1%) and Col des Quatre Chemins (5.5km, 5.5%), which tops out with nine kilometres to go, thus giving the GC contenders one last opportunity to tilt the balance in their favour.

Bob Jungels

Bob Jungels winning Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne

For Philippe Gilbert, Paris-Nice will be the first stage race of the season, one which the 2012 World Champion will tackle with a strong morale following a strong showing last weekend at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Luxembourg Champion and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne winner Bob Jungels returns after four years at the French event, where the Deceuninck – Quick-Step team will be rounded out by Tim Declercq, Volta ao Algarve stage victor Fabio Jakobsen, Iljo Keisse, Fabio Sabatini and Florian Sénéchal, who on Tuesday notched up his first ever pro win, at Le Samyn.

“After the first stage, where the wind could end up influencing the outcome, the race will become harder and harder, favouring the puncheurs and the breakaway specialists. We hope to win a stage with Fabio, but he is recovering from sickness, so it remains to be seen how he goes. Paris-Nice is a step-up for him against a quality field, but regardless of how he fares, it is going to be a good experience for him. Philippe can also be in the mix on some of the days, while Bob will look to continue his fine form, do a good time trial and be a factor in the general classification”, said sports director Tom Steels.

Mitchelton-Scott head to the white roads of Tuscany

Hee's the team's update:

Wed 6 Mar 2019: After a difficult opening weekend of classics racing in Belgium, Mitchelton-SCOTT move onto Italy for another one-day classic as they tackle the ‘white roads’ of Strade Bianche.

Australian Luke Durbridge will be looking to build on the form that saw him at the sharp-end of both Omploop Het Nieusblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, while Dane Chris Juul-Jensen is also back in action after a hard couple of days racing in Belgium.

Luke Durbridge

Luke Durbridge is headed to Tuscany. Sirotti photo.

2019 signing Nick Shultz will make his European racing debut for the team after a strong start to the season that saw him claim a stage at the Herald Sun Tour. The team is completed by four more new signings, with American Brent Bookwalter and neo-pro Callum Scotson both returning from the UAE Tour, while Italian Edoardo Affini and youngster Rob Stannard both line-up for the squad after getting their first taste of classics racing last weekend.

Mitchelton-SCOTT Team:
Edoardo Affini (ITA, 22)
Brent Bookwalter (USA, 35)
Luke Durbridge (AUS, 27)
Chris Juul-Jensen (DEN, 29)
Callum Scotson (AUS, 22)
Nick Schultz (AUS, 22)
Rob Stannard (AUS, 20)

The Course:
The 184km course in the Tuscany hills is littered with gravel roads and short, punchy climbs that make for an action-packed day of racing.

The peloton will tackle 11 sectors of gravel roads, the first of which comes at 17.6km into the day. By that time a breakaway should have already broken clear on the undulating roads out of Siena.

The first major test for the bunch will come after 25 kilometres of racing as the riders face the 5.8km long sector two. The gravel section will dip downhill briefly before the road ramps up and reaches gradients of over 10%.

After passing through the town of Torrenieri the peloton will face sectors five (11.9km) and six (8km) in quick succession. Both are technically demanding, featuring climbs and descents, as well as a number of tricky corners for the pack to negotiate.

The hardest section of gravel road comes after the riders pass through Ponte del Garbo, where sector eight begins. At 11.5km, it’s the longest off-road section of the race and contains several tough hills and in particular, the demanding Monte Sante Marie climb.

The penultimate sector will see the riders climb towards Colle Pinzuto whilst battling gradients of up to 15% and while the final section of white roads is only short at 1.1km, it features a sequence of a demanding descents followed by a steep ramp that maxes out at 18%.

The gravel sectors may be done with, but there are still punishing climbs to deal with in the closing kilometres. As the riders reach the city of Siena the road heads upwards once more for the final climb towards the finish line in the scenic Piazza del Campo.

The Past:
Mitchelton-SCOTT have twice finished sixth at Strade Bianchi, once with former rider Robert Power last season and the other with Durbridge in 2017. Juul-Jensen also had a strong ride in 2017, finishing just behind his teammate in eighth.

Luke Durbridge:
“I’m really looking forward to it, it’s a beautiful race, the Italian ‘white roads’ and you race along the hills of Tuscany and it’s one that I’ve gone well at in the past.”

“It’s a new race that hasn’t been around for very long, but I think it will be one of those big Monuments in many years to come. It’s very hard, it’s quite hilly and very technical, but it’s a race that I really, really do enjoy, so I’m hoping we can do a good performance as a team there.”

“Opening weekend was good even though the team didn’t have the results that we would have liked, but we had some pretty bad luck, Trentin had two crashes over two days and we we’re just a little bit on the back foot when it really mattered."

“But the team showed that we worked really well, and that’s the funny thing about these races, it’s really tricky for everyone to get together and everyone ride in good position and all ride as a team, it’s not as easy as other races.”

Gene Bates – Sports Director:
“We’re not red-hot favourites coming into this race, which I think we can use to our advantage to a certain extent. We’ve got a couple of guys in Durbridge and Juul-Jensen who have both run top 10 here before not that long ago, so they already know what it takes to achieve a good result here.”

“They’ve both had very good build-ups in the pre-season and already last weekend they were prominent at Omloop and Kuurne, so we’re confident we can have a really good ride with those two guys.”

“If it’s wet it’s a very tricky race to handle, the long-term forecast looks dry, but you just never know so we’ll go in prepared for either scenario.”

“It’s a particularly hilly race, so typically you see more climbers at the pointy end of the races as appose to the cobbled classics, but there is an element of crossover where you can get the classics guys going very well and also the climbers being competitive.”

2019 Strade Bianche – Race Details
Saturday, 9th March: Siena – Siena, 184km

UAE-Team Emirates to race the Tuscan weekend

The team sent me this:

The UAE Team Emirates looks ahead to the Tuscan weekend with the WorldTour race Strade Bianche, Saturday, March 9, and the GP Industria e Artigianato, on Sunday. Strade Bianche covers 136 kilometres over the famous white gravel roads, eight sectors totalling 31.5km, and finishes in Siena. The next day, the team lines up in Larciano.

Fernando Gaviria

Fernando Gaviria (shown at the 2018 Tour de France) will ride the Strade Bianche. Sirotti photo

Marco Marzano (Ita) e Bruno Vicino (Ita) will direct the following two teams:

Strade Bianche:
– Rui Costa (Por)
– Roberto Ferrari (Ita)
– Fernando Gaviria (Col)
– Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor)
– Simone Petilli (Ita)
– Jasper Philipsen (Bel)
– Tadej Pogačar (Slo)

GP Industria e Artigianato:
– Kristijan Durasek (Cro)
– Cristian Muñoz (Col)
– Ivo Oliveira (Por)
– Rui Oliveira (Por)
– Tadej Pogačar (Slo)
– Edward Ravasi (Ita)
– Aleksandr Riabushenko (Bel)

“We will line up at Strade Bianche with a team led by Rui Costa and two young talents trying the gravel, Philipsen and Pogačar. Don’t forget that Laengen has always shown well in this race,” said sports director Marzano “In Larciano, Durasek can count on support from a young team. It’ll be good to see how our young talent handles themselves in this race.“

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