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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, January 4, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. - J. R. R. Tolkien

Latest completed racing:

Three in a row for Caleb Ewan at the Australian Criterium Championships

Here's the press release from Ewan's Mitchelton-Scott team:

Caleb Ewan

Caleb Ewan wins again

Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana stage winner Caleb Ewan has made it three in a row at the Australian Criterium Championships in Ballarat today, taking the victory in a bunch sprint to kick off the 2018 season in winning style.

Cycling's 50 Craziest Stories

The final
The Mitchelton-SCOTT train bossed the front of the peloton in the final laps, streatching out the peloton as Luke Durbridge, Lucas Hamilton and Cameron Meyer each peeled off leaving Ewan with Alex Edmondson as his final lead out man up the final drag to the finish line. Dropped off in perfect position, no one could pass the pint-sized speedster as he kicked off an exciting year, which is set to include a Tour de France debut, in perfect fashion.

The breakaway
Five riders formed the main breakaway of the day – Mitch Docker (EF Education First – Drapac), Michael Freiberg (Bennelong SwissWellness), Neil van der Ploeg, Cameron Ivory (GPM) and Ollie Kent-Spark (Drapac EF p/b Cannondale Holistic Development Team) - but it never caused for serious alarm with the gap never exceeding 15seconds.

All day in control
Mitchelton-SCOTT controlled racing for much of the day with the full five-rider contingent present at the head of the peloton to control any escapees. It was Durbridge, Meyer and Hamilton who shouldered much of the chasing efforts whilst Edmondson stayed as fresh as possible for the lead out on the final lap.

Caleb Ewan – Gold Medal:
“There was a fair bit of pressure going into the race because I had to defend my title and also pressure on myself.  I wasn’t sure how I would feel in the race because usually I have had a few race days by now so I didn’t know exactly how I was going to feel and I always want to get my season off to a good start.”

“During the race I felt quite comfortable and the boys always had it in control so that’s takes some pressure off.”

“It never gets old, I’m super happy to take the win again and the feeling is just as good as the first time. It means a lot and it’s always nice to wear the national champions kit for your country and although I don’t get to wear it much during the year, it’s still nice to have it to your name.”

“It’s one of those things I always want to tick off the list at the start of the year to build my confidence going into some of the bigger races. I think it’s a good start and I’m feeling good so I feel good about going into the next few races.”

Lucas Hamilton - debut race:
“It was a really exciting and humbling experience to put on the jersey and do my first race with the WorldTour team, especially with the quality of riders I was surrounded by in the team.

“We had to be cautious on moves to go up the road but with a guy like Caleb in your team as one of the fastest guys in the world, you have 100% confidence that he will deliver at the end. So, we tried to control the race and I think we did a really good job of that, and as we knew he would, Caleb delivered.”

Returning riders anchor EF Education First–Drapac p/b Cannondale in 2018

Here's the team's press release:

The #ArgyleArmada is 25 men strong in the 2018 season. Tour de France runner-up Rigoberto Uran headlines a team that sees 15 riders return from 2017 with 10 new faces amongst the familiar.

“This is a totally different team but with the same anchor points,” said Slipstream Sports founder and CEO Jonathan Vaughters. “It’s a very different team than the one we had last season. It will be a different look and feel in many ways given the turnover we had with our sponsorship situation. We’re lucky that most of our staff stuck with us, which will provide a lot of stability.”

Rigoberto Uran

EF Education First's new colors

EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale will again focus on the Classics, with a spring squad built around Sep Vanmarcke while Uran will aim one step higher on the Tour de France podium.

“Those are the obvious areas of excitement,” said Vaughters. “Sep wasn’t healthy last year, and I’m eager to see what he can do at full strength in the spring. Rigo is uniquely suited to this Tour. It’s a dynamic parcours with so many different elements. Rigo is an adaptable, Darwinian rider, and we hope he can be very competitive.”

“There’s something new for us in Dan McLay and Sacha Modolo and the support crew we’ve built up around them,” Vaughters added. “For the first time, in a long time, we’ll be competitive in the sprints. I’m excited about that. Then there’s seeing what Mike Woods can do at the Giro. Those are the four things I’m most looking forward to with this group of riders.”

The team’s smaller size is part of an overall trend amongst WorldTour teams and in direct response to recent rule changes.

“Grand Tours are only eight riders and other races are only seven, so we reduced our roster size accordingly,” said Vaughters. “It’s nothing other than that.”

Vaughters’ squad lives to ride another day in part due to the #SaveArgyle movement that saw nearly 5,000 fans contribute more than $500,000 during an Indiegogo campaign last September. While the funds raised did not cover the budget shortfall, EF Education First caught wind of the movement before eventually signing on as both naming partner and majority owner.

“We have the best fans in cycling and maybe the best fans in all of sport,” said Vaughters. “They showed us that through their support. It’s incredibly flattering and humbling. We’re looking forward to making it a special season for them and for all our fans.”

Newcomer Mitch Docker will be the first to race in the new EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale colors. He’ll line-up for the criterium at the Australian National Road Championships on Wednesday evening in Ballarat, Victoria.

2018 EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale team:

Matti Breschel (Denmark)
Nate Brown (USA)
Brendan Canty (Australia)
Julian Cardona (Colombia)
Hugh Carthy (Great Britain)
Simon Clarke (Australia)
Will Clarke (Australia)
Lawson Craddock (USA)
Alex Howes (USA)
Sebastian Langeveld (Netherlands)
Kim Magnusson (Sweden)
Daniel Martinez (Colombia)
Dan McLay (Great Britain)
Sacha Modolo (Italy)
Daniel Moreno (Spain)
Logan Owen (USA)
Taylor Phinney (USA)
Pierre Rolland (France)
Tom Scully (New Zealand)
Rigoberto Uran (Colombia)
Tom Van Asbroeck (Belgium)
Sep Vanmarcke (Belgium)
Mike Woods (Canada)

BMC Racing Team looking to defend Australian titles

The team sent me this:

4 January, 2018, Ballarat (AUS): 2017 Australian time trial and road race champions Rohan Dennis and Miles Scotson return to the start line this week to defend their titles, joined by Richie Porte, and Simon Gerrans who will make his BMC Racing Team debut.

Rohan Dennis

Rohan Dennis will try to earn yet another Australian time trial title

The race returns to Buninyong and while the time trial course remains unchanged, the road race will feature a slight variation with one lap less and the introduction of a technical section running through Federation University.

Race Against the Clock: Having won the past two time trial titles and four in his career, Dennis will aim to make it three in a row when he tackles the 40.9km course on Friday, 5 January.

"It will be interesting because I have only just returned back to Australia after spending winter in Europe, so it will depend on how my body copes in the heat. My form is as good as any other year. It's all about not going out too hard especially on the final climb on the way back as there are still ten kilometers to go. Those last ten kilometers take longer than you think they should and it's always mentally tough," Dennis said.

After taking the win in 2015 and coming second to Dennis in 2016, Porte will return after a year off looking to repeat his podium result in what will be his first individual time trial since stage 1 of the 2017 Tour de France.

"To be honest it's hard to know how my form is when I haven't raced properly in so long. For both the time trial and the road race, my goal is to get some good racing kilometers in my legs in the lead up to the Santos Tour Down Under. Anything more than that is a bonus at this stage. I hope to produce a decent time trial result and in the road race, I think we have a strong team to give it a good shot," Porte explained.

Scotson rounds out the BMC Racing Team field for the time trial and is hoping to improve on his fifth place in 2017. "I haven't done an individual time trial since August so it has been a while. I'm looking forward to giving it another go and improving on my result last year," Scotson said.

Keeping the Green and Gold: Scotson, the defending road race champion, won his first race as a professional when he claimed the title in 2017 with a surprise attack. "This year there is probably more expectation on me as last year there was no pressure. It was my first race as a professional and I was the only rider from BMC Racing Team competing. That being said, I don't feel a lot of pressure this year as I have already won an Australian title. The road race is always a lottery and you can't predict who will win. But, we have a really strong team and we'd love to have the jersey again," Scotson admitted.

Scotson will be joined on the start line by 2017 runner up and two-time road race champion Simon Gerrans who is set to make his debut in BMC Racing Team colors.

"Being an Australian national champion is something I am really proud of. I see it as one of the big achievements in my career and it was a huge honor to wear the green and gold jersey in the year to follow. I think we have a team to keep a lot of the bases covered for the road race. We have strong guys who can win the race from a long way out and I'll be confident going into a small group finish. I'd like to think that between Rohan, Richie, Miles and myself, we have riders for all scenarios come Sunday," Gerrans said.

Dennis and Porte round out the quartet for Sunday's 185.6km road race. "Initially I wasn't planning on doing the road race but when I thought about doing the Nationals after a European winter, I figured it was a good idea to have a long hit out before the Santos Tour Down Under so I decided to sign up. We have a strong team with Miles and Simon as past winners, and Richie and myself, but we do only have four riders. It's hard for people to say that we have to do all of the work when we have half the riders of other teams. We have the quality but not the quantity so anything can happen on Sunday," Dennis explained. 

Australian National Road Race Championships (5 + 7 January)

Rider roster:  Rohan Dennis, Simon Gerrans (road race only), Richie Porte, Miles Scotson.

Sports Director: Klaas Lodewyck (BEL)

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