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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, February 21, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

Genius is the ability to put into effect what is on your mind. - F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Abu Dhabi Tour team previews

Team Sky sent me this:

20th February 2018: Team Sky’s Luke Rowe will return to competitive action at the Abu Dhabi Tour on Wednesday, just six months after suffering a broken leg.

Rowe’s return is a major milestone in a recovery process that began after the accident in August last year, shortly after he had completed the Tour de France as part of the team’s winning lineup.

The accident, which happened while rafting on his brother’s stag party in the Czech Republic, saw Luke require major surgery after breaking his right leg in more than 20 places.

Rowe’s recovery has seen him gradually begin riding again and building up strength, before he was able to join the team camps in Mallorca in December and January. The next step is his return to action in Abu Dhabi, where he will pin on numbers for the first time since he finished on the Champs-Élysées back in July.

Rowe admits that he never envisaged being able to be back racing at this point in the season. He said: “No, definitely not. Even at Christmas and going into the New Year, I still thought that the middle of the season was realistic. When I got back on the bike properly, though, I realised I probably wasn’t as unfit as I thought. I managed to suffer through it a bit at first and I got my head kicked in a few times, but the fitness and strength built up quite quickly.

“On training camp in January I felt good and I went to the team and said that I wanted to do Abu Dhabi. It’s all been a bit of a whirlwind, really.”

Luke Rowe

Luke Rowe winning a stage in last year's Herald Sun Tour

Rowe was also quick to acknowledge the support of those who have helped with his recovery. “100% I wouldn’t be back this soon without the help of a long list of people. The guys I have been working closest with have put as much into this as I have. I just owe them a massive thank you.”

Looking forward to the week ahead in Abu Dhabi, Luke added: “It’s a perfect race for me to come back. The sprints will be hectic for sure, but the roads are bigger and it’s pretty flat so it’s slightly less stressful. I’ve never been here before so in some ways it’s nice to have that change, to experience new races and a new country.”

In terms of the rest of his season, Rowe does not want to look too far ahead but admits making the team’s Classics lineup is a ‘massive goal’.

“First things first, I need to see how this race goes. Training is going well, but training doesn’t tell the full story. I need to race to know where I am. I want to be at a decent level and be of value to the team.

“I had completely ruled it out, but it might be possible to look towards the back end of the Classics and be there in good shape. That would be an absolute dream. Maybe it’s being too optimistic to be there at 100%. It’s still early in the process and obviously I’m still doing my rehab. It’s a massive goal, though, and time will tell. I’ll know a lot more after this week and I’m looking forward to being back.”

The full Team Sky lineup for the Abu Dhabi Tour, which runs from 21-25th February, is:

And here's the Abu Dhabi update Lotto-Soudal sent me:

Tomorrow the Abu Dhabi Tour begins. As of this year, this WorldTour race consists of five stages. Especially the sprinters can be happy about the course.

Mario Aerts, sports director Lotto Soudal: “We really want to win a stage at Abu Dhabi Tour this week and we have most chance on the first three days, all sprint stages. André Greipel will have to face some strong opponents, because the list of top sprinters is long: Mark Cavendish, Caleb Ewan, Marcel Kittel, Alexander Kristoff and Elia Viviani. His two stage wins at Tour Down Under gave André a lot of confidence and he is surrounded by a good team, with experienced riders such as Adam Hansen and Marcel Sieberg.”

“Because of the mutual ambitions, I expect that all sprint teams will take responsibility to control the breakaways the following days. If there would be a lot of wind, echelons could change the expected sprint scenario, but I think we have three nice bunch sprints ahead of us. Today there was not much wind here and it was 25°C.”

“Afterwards it’s up to the GC riders, with a time trial on Saturday and a summit finish on Sunday. There’s not much chance that a break will stand till the end on Sunday. We’ll see where Sander Armée finishes. We don’t put any pressure on neo-pro Bjorg Lambrecht, but we’ll see how he performs.”

Andre Greipel

André Greipel winning a stage in this year's Tour Down Under. Sirotti photo.

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Sander Armée, Frederik Frison, André Greipel, Adam Hansen, Bjorg Lambrecht, Rémy Mertz and Marcel Sieberg.

Sports director: Mario Aerts.

Quick-Step Floors headed to Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne

Here's the team's racing update:

The Opening Weekend is just around the corner and the big news is that the first of these two spectacular races, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (196 kilometers), comes with a new finale, mirroring the old one of Ronde van Vlaanderen, with the legendary combo of the Muur-Kapelmuur and Bosberg. These will be the last two of the day's thirteen hills before the finish in Ninove and should prove decisive in the outcome of the race which this year runs its 73rd edition.

A double winner of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Philippe Gilbert will open his Spring Classics campaign here, knowing that a victory would make him joint record holder, together with four other riders. Niki Terpstra, runner-up three years ago, and Zdenek Stybar will add depth to the seven-man roster and make sure that our squad will not be short of options on Saturday afternoon.

Dries Devenyns, who put on display an impressive form since the start of the season, most recently at the Tour of Oman, Iljo Keisse and Yves Lampaert will also be part of the team, which will be rounded out by Fernando Gaviria; victorious in four races this year, the Colombian will make his first outing at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, after getting a taste of the cobbles in his previous seasons with the team at Dwars door Vlaanderen and Gent-Wevelgem.

Dries Devenyns

Dries Devenyns winning a race in 2016

All the riders selected for the first cobbled classics of the season will be present one day before the start (February 23rd) at the Ring Shopping in Kortrijk, to meet the media (for the pre-race press conference) and fans at the launch of the Quick-Step Floors Pop-up store, our new and exciting project whose goal is to offer cycling aficionados the go-to place during this year's Spring Classics campaign.

On Sunday, Tim Declercq, Fernando Gaviria, Iljo Keisse, Yves Lampaert, Maximiliano Richeze, Florian Sénéchal and Niki Terpstra will ride the 70th edition of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, but the roster that will take on the 200km-long race which includes 12 bergs can change depending on what will happen at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Sports director Tom Steels gave a preview of the two cobbled races: "The opening weekend is an important one for many riders, who will come with big expectations, ready to test their condition after the winter training and the first races of the season. Let's not forget the fans, who too are eager to see the first battles of the year unfold on the cobbles of Omloop. One day later, we'll get another taste of the cobbles at Kuurne; on paper, it's an easier race, but it all depends on the weather, because if we have rain, then it won't come down to a bunch sprint."

"It will be interesting to ride the new Omloop finale, similar with the one Flanders had until 2011. The new finale is a demanding one, and we'll just see if it will lead to an open race or make the riders take a more defensive approach. We will be there with many cards, strong guys who have shown a good form these past few weeks; some of them can go from afar, while others can make use of their speed in case it comes down to a small group sprinting for the win. We are confident and really looking forward to these races", concluded Steels, a winner of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad back in 1996.

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