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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary | Our YouTube page
2019 Tour de France | 2019 Giro d'Italia

Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish. - Euripides

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Team EF Pro Cycling Asks to Pull Out of Races in Italy Amid Coronavirus Concerns

The Wall Street Journal published this news:

An American cycling team on Tuesday became the first to pull out of three major bike races in Italy this month, citing concerns about the novel coronavirus.

In a letter to the sport’s world governing body and the race organizers, Team EF Pro Cycling asked if it could be excused from Strade Bianche, Milan-San Remo, and Tirreno-Adriatico without being penalized to help limit the spread of infection. Two of those events go straight through the Tuscany and Lombardy regions at the heart of the Italian outbreak.

EF said it would follow the Centers for Disease Control’s guidelines urging Americans to avoid all non-essential travel to Italy, where there are more than 1,600 confirmed cases.

Ef Education first

EF Education First racing the team time trial at the 2019 Tour de France. Sirotti photo

“We think it best to follow this advice and make all efforts to keep our staff and riders healthy and to help ensure they are not at risk of transmitting the virus,” said the letter, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Though there had been doubts the three Italian races would go ahead, organizer RCS Sports announced on Monday that it was confident they could be carried out without increasing the risk of contamination for riders, staff or fans.

“We will work closely with you if there is a plan to keep these races safe now, And we are also open to rescheduling the races in the future,” EF wrote. “The team feels a responsibility to the greater public health efforts in place across affected areas, and we feel a responsibility to our fans and to the people of the towns and cities we travel to as part of the World Tour.”

The move by EF made it one of the first outfits in global sports to bow out of a competition that was still scheduled to go ahead. In the slew of other events that have been canceled, postponed or held behind closed doors over the past month, the decision had always come from organizers or governments.

No other teams have announced plans to follow EF’s lead.

You can read the entire story here.

Nicolas Portal, Team INEOs sporting director, dies of heart attack at 40

Here's the short message Team INEOS posted:

It is with the greatest sadness that we announce the passing of our much loved team mate, colleague and friend Nico Portal who died suddenly this afternoon at his home in Andorra.

We are all overcome with grief at this terrible news and would ask everyone to respect the family’s privacy at this difficult time.

RIP Nico - your spirit will always be with us on the road and you will forever be in our hearts.

Nicolas Portal

Nicolas Portal in 2011. Team INEOS photo

Here's the story The Guardian posted about Portal's passing:

Chris Froome has led the tributes to Nicolas Portal after the sporting director at Team Ineos died on Tuesrday aged just 40.

The Frenchman, a former cyclist who rode for Team Sky at the end of his career before remaining with the team after retiring in 2011, was part of the backroom team which has helped Froome win all four of his Tour de France titles.

“My thoughts are with Nico’s wife and children tonight,” tweeted Froome. “He was the kindest, happiest guy I knew and always lived life to the fullest. Rest In Peace Nico.”

A statement from Team Ineos confirmed that Portal had “died suddenly” at his home in Andorra. French sports daily L’Equipe reported that he died of cardiac arrest, with Portal known to have suffered from a history of heart problems that saw him miss most of the 2009 season due to cardiac arrhythmia.

You can read the whole story here.

Le Samyn team reports

We posted the report from 3rd-place David Dekker's SEG Racing Academy with the results.

Here's the Deceuninck-Quick Step report:

What do you get when you have cobbles, hills, and rain on the menu? An aggressive race, with a flurry of attacks, countless twists and a hectic finale. In short, that was the story of the 51st Le Samyn, where Florian Sénéchal came at the start with number 1 pinned on his back after his 2019 victory, finishing again as the highest-ranked Deceuninck – Quick-Step rider.

The Wolfpack put on Tuesday an aggressive all-round display long before entering the local circuit – which was to be covered three times – sending on the attack the likes of Davide Ballerini, Alvaro Hodeg and Jannik Steimle, who piled on the pressure and gradually reduced the peloton to a 30-man group with 80 kilometers to go. The race came back, but only for a brief moment, another strong collective effort of our team, despite the lack of crosswinds, fragmenting the bunch on the cobblestones.

From that group, Tim Declercq emerged in the closing 15 kilometers, a series of spirited accelerations putting many riders into the red and forcing another selection, only a handful of men making the cut this time, including defending champion Sénéchal. The Frenchman, who last weekend finished tenth at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, benefited from his teammate’s superb work at the front and kept his powder dry until the final, when he launched several attacks of his own and even shut down a move of Alex Kirsch (Trek-Segafredo) under the flamme rouge.

Eventually, in the sprint, which played out between eight riders and was won by Hugo Hofstetter (Israel Start-Up Nation), Florian concluded fifth for his fourth top 5 result at Le Samyn, followed shortly over the line by Declercq, who came home in ninth position.

Hugo Hofstetter

Hugo Hofstetter (left) wins 2020 Le Samyn. Bettini photo

“We wanted to make the race hard and that’s why we wore so aggressive, but unfortunately there wasn’t enough wind to give us a hand of really splitting up the bunch. When that 12-man group rode away, we had to play it smart, because it contained some sprinters, and the guys did a great job. When one rider attacked in the final, Florian went after him, but the others came back soon and he lost a few positions, which ended up costing him in the sprint. Overall, the guys did a great race, we were one of the just two teams who really tried something today and I think we can be content with the spirit shown by our wolves out there”, Rik Van Slycke said.

Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s sports director talked also of another moment which had our team in the spotlight. With roughly 90 kilometers remaining at Tuesday’s race, Bert Van Lerberghe crashed and was forced to abandon. Taken to the hospital, the Belgian underwent examinations that revealed he had a broken left collarbone, which requires surgery that will be performed at the Roeselare hospital on Wednesday.

“We were putting pressure on the peloton and there was a small echelon, and Van Lerberghe was in the line on the side of the road when another guy went off and took Bert with him. He crashed into a ditch and picked up this injury, which is a real pity, as he was in a very good condition in this start of the season and was one of the riders we could use in the classics”, Rik Van Slycke concluded.

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