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Monday, January 16, 2023

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Lieuwe Westra dies at 40 after battling depression

Here’s the sad news from AFP:

Former Dutch cyclist Lieuwe Westra, runner-up to Bradley Wiggins in the 2012 Paris-Nice, has died aged 40 after a life-long battle with depression, his biographer and Dutch media announced on Sunday.

Lieuwe Westra after winning the seventh stage of the 2014 Criterium du Dauphine. Sirotti photo

Westra was part of the Astana team that helped lift Vincenzo Nibali to victory in the Tour de France in 2014. That season he picked up stage wins in the Tour of Catalonia and the Criterium du Dauphine.

Nicknamed 'the Beast' for his unrelenting riding style, Westra's body was found at his business premises on Saturday near the northwest Dutch city of Enkhuizen, local broadcaster Omrop Fryslan said, quoting family sources.

"Lieuwe Westra, 40, died on Saturday afternoon," his biographer Thomas Sijtsma tweeted. "Over the last few years the former rider fought a battle with himself and lost," Sijtsma said, adding "Rest softly, Beast".

Born in Friesland in 1982, Westra in 2009 turned professional, joining the Vacansoleil team.

The former road worker in his first year won the Tour de Picardie and was earmarked to have the potential to become one of the great riders from the Netherlands.

He took his first WorldTour victory with a stage win in the 2012 Paris-Nice race, ending second overall behind Olympic gold medallist and Tour de France winner Wiggins.

Westra also won the Tour of Denmark that same year as well as winning the first of two national time-trial titles.

In 2017 he unexpectedly stepped away from his professional cycling career.

"Westra gave personal reasons for his decision. The previous autumn he admitted suffering from depression, partly due to a broken relationship, while he also doubted his existence as a professional cyclist," the ANP national news agency said.

Westra also admitted in a 2018 biography that he used the controversial substance cortisone during his career.

"I injected it into my own body to be able to cycle faster, to win prizes and to get compliments," Westra said in his book.

"You need to seek the boundaries of what is acceptable if you wanted to compete with the big boys," Westra said.

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Women's Tour Down Under stage one reports

We posted the race organizer's report with the results.

Here's the report from stage winner Daria Pikulik's Team Human Powered Health:

Polish speedster Daria Pikulik made program history by sprinting to a phenomenal victory on the opening day of the Santos Tour Down Under. The win is Human Powered Health’s first in the Women’s WorldTour, with Pikulik also topping the standings in the iconic ochre leader’s jersey and sprint jersey after stage one of three.

Daria Pikulik take the first stage. Getty Sport photo

“It feels amazing to win our first Women’s WorldTour tour race today with my new team,” Pikulik said after the finish. “I knew that we could win before the race and everybody believed in me so it’s a really nice feeling and gives me so much motivation.”

In a picture book sprint, using her large arsenal of track cycling skills, Pikulik weaved her way through the final kilometer with the help of Lily Williams and Kaia Schmid. Then having found a clear lane, the Pole put her head down, powering to the line ahead of Clara Coponni (FDJ – SUEZ) and Georgia Baker (Team Jayco AlUla).

20-year-old Schmid held on for seventh, placing her second in the best young rider classification

“The tactic was to be in the front because we know that will be a really strong wind,” Pikulik explained. “But I like conditions like that so for me it was the perfect last kilometer.”

Truly a shared victory, the entire team put in the work to provide Pikulik with the perfect lead-out. By staying in contention throughout the finale and surfing off other teams, the squad was able to keep everyone as fresh as possible for the final dash to the line.

“I knew we had the horsepower within the team to win today and take the leader’s jersey,” team director in Australia, Joanne Kiesanowski, said afterward. “We needed to stay calm and know where the important points of the race were as to save energy for those.”

With a crosswind whipping across the plains of Onkaparinga inside the finale, a split occurred late on with Trek-Segafredo putting the hammer down on the front of the bunch. Mustering all her time trial experience, Williams was able to shepherd Pikulik through the danger.

“I knew we were in for a good result when both Lily and Daria made the split of 12 riders in the crosswinds,” Kiesanowski added. “It then came back together and the whole team rode great together and communicated so well to make sure Daria had the best lead-out to the line.”

This team spirit was certainly on display for all to see. Mere moments after a one-armed victory salute, Pikulik reached for her radio and bellowed words of praise and elation.

“The girls helped me all the race to keep my legs fresh for the finish,” Pikulik said of her teammates. “I want to thank all the girls and staff for today. We made the win together.”

The result caps off an incredible opening weekend for Human Powered Health after Dutch rider Nina Buijsman finished in third place at the opening Schwalbe Classic, a criterium held the day before stage one.

Tomorrow, the stage takes the peloton from Birdwood to Uraidla via an undulating 90km long route. A profile that goes uphill until the main trigger point at Mount Lofty, stage 2 will see general classification contenders come to the fore.

Human Powered Health will be resplendent at the head of the action defending the jersey.


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Team Jumbo-Visma reports on Dutch Women’s Cyclocross Championships

Here’s the team’s report:

Fem van Empel has finished third at the Dutch championships cyclocross. The European champion rode a good first phase on the muddy Zaltbommel course before losing ground in the second. Marianne Vos finished in tenth place.

Van Empel immediately took the lead. Puck Pieterse and Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado joined after the first lap. What followed was a fierce three-way battle in the Zaltbommel mud. At the start of the third lap, Pieterse picked up speed, and Van Empel found it harder and harder to keep up. In the end, after desperate efforts, third place was the highest she could achieve.

New Dutch champion Puck Pieterse winning in Herentals earlier this month.

"I still felt pretty good during the first part of the race”, the 20-year-old Team Jumbo-Visma rider said. "I waited a bit; then I realised that the course's initial section suited me better. It was particularly challenging today because of the difficult weather. In the end, I missed a few percent on the cross bike. Since Val di Sole, I haven't trained on this material. If you want to compete with the top riders, you can't be any less. On top of that, I caught a cold in Koksijde and injured my knee. Maybe the Dutch championship just came too early."


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"We saw a very strong Pieterse today”, sports director Jan Boven said. "The strongest woman won today. Fem struggled to keep up with the pace. We had wanted to be stronger here beforehand so Fem could preserve a bit of energy during the race. Marianne struggled with this course, so it became a tough race for her. We did come here beforehand hoping to win the national championship; it's too bad it didn't work out.”

Results:

  1. Puck Pieterse (Alpecin-Deceuninck) 51min 21sec
  2. Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado (Alpecin-Deceuninck) @ 26sec
  3. Fem van Empel (Jumbo-Visma) @ 38sec
  4. Denise Betsema (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) @ 2min 16sec
  5. Annemarie Worst (777) @ 2min 54sec

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