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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Tuesday, January 16, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man. - Heraclitus

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Lotto-Soudal previews the Tour Down Under

The team sent me this:

Lotto Soudal’s season starts in Australia where the twentieth edition of Tour Down Under takes place from 16 to 21 January. It’s the first WorldTour race of 2018. The race was preceded by the People’s Choice Classic in Adelaide on Sunday.

During the Tour Down Under the sprinters get three opportunities to win a stage: on the first stage to Lyndoch, on day three when the stage finishes in Victor Harbor and on the last day when the race ends with twenty laps of 4.5 kilometres in Adelaide. André Greipel will be riding the Tour Down Under after three years of absence. He can win a stage for the seventeenth time; in 2008 and 2010 he also became the overall winner.

Punchers will be looking forward to the second stage, which finishes in Stirling. Friday’s stage to Uraidla is tough too. A day later the stage to Willunga Hill is scheduled, a hill the riders need to climb twice. This will probably be decisive for GC. Last year Thomas De Gendt won the KOM classification.

Herman Frison is the Lotto Soudal sports director for this race, leading six riders who animated the Tour Down Under in the past.

Herman Frison: “I think we have one of the most experienced Tour Down Under line-ups in the peloton. André Greipel has won sixteen stages, conquered two overall victories and guys like Hansen, Sieberg, Bak and De Gendt have already participated several times.”

“Our goal is clear. Although the Tour Down Under doesn’t come at a moment of a conditional peak, we do hope to show ourselves in the sprint with André. A stage victory would be very nice considering all those fast men at the start, such as Ewan, Viviani, Sagan and a range of talented young sprinters. Greipel will be assisted by Debusschere, Sieberg and Bak. Hansen and De Gendt can have a go in the stages that suit them.”

Andre Greipel

André Greipel has been in Asutralia for seveal days. Sirotti photo

“Of the six stages it is likely that three will end with a sprint: stages 1, 3 and 6. The three other stages have a tougher profile and suit the adventurers and GC riders. We know all the finales, we did a recon of the ones we didn’t know before.”

“It’s the 20th edition of Tour Down Under. The race has evolved from a touristic event to one of the best organised and valued races in the WorldTour with a balanced stage schedule; an example for other organisations. The organisation does everything to make sure the teams have all the comfort they need.”

“It’s very unfortunate that Bjorg Lambrecht can’t take the start due to a decision of the UCI, for the team but especially for him. He would have been able to cover his first race kilometres in rather short stages without any pressure. All riders and staff members here in Australia try to support him the best as possible, because this is a huge disappointment for such a young rider.”

The finish of the stages is expected between a quarter past five and six o’clock in the morning CET.


Line-up Tour Down Under: Lars Bak, Thomas De Gendt, Jens Debusschere, André Greipel, Adam Hansen and Marcel Sieberg.

Sports director: Herman Frison.

And regarding that mention that Bjorg Lambrecht can't ride the Tour Down Under, here's the press release from Lotto-Soudal:

The UCI has informed Lotto Soudal that neo-pro Bjorg Lambrecht can’t take part in the Tour Down Under. The young Belgian would make his début in the first WorldTour stage race of the season, but the international cycling union prevents that now.

What’s going on exactly?

1. Until last year, neo-pros in WorldTour teams needed to undergo three doping controls for their biological passport ahead of the start of their first WorldTour race. From now on this is no longer the case and the rule is applied that those riders need to have filled in their whereabouts at least six weeks (42 days) before the start of their first WorldTour race.

2. In December the UCI organised three webinars (one in French, English and Spanish) to teach the neo-pros how to use the ADAMS whereabouts system. One day later Bjorg Lambrecht received his login for the ADAMS whereabouts system. However, the English webinar only took place on December 14 (only 33 days before the start of Tour Down Under) and Bjorg received his login on December 15 with the message that he needed to fill in his whereabouts as of December 17 (30 days before the start of Tour Down Under) to be able to start at Tour Down Under. Conflicting with the regulations.

Lotto Soudal informed the UCI not to agree with the decision, explained with an extensive argumentation, but without a written confirmation of the UCI that Bjorg can start, neither the rider nor the team can take any risk. Bjorg Lambrecht won’t be replaced, which means Lotto Soudal will start with six riders on Tuesday instead of seven. On 28 January Bjorg can ride the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, because then the period of six weeks will be passed.

Bjorg Lambrecht: “This is a huge disappointment. We came to Australia a week ago, I felt good in the group, was looking forward to my first pro season and then it’s a huge disappointment when you hear you can’t start. But of course we can’t take any risk. I will stay here to train for a week and then I will head to Melbourne with the team.”

Team Quick-Step Floors report on People's Choice Classic

How about one more look at the race before the Tour Down Under begins?

Elia Viviani's spell in the Quick-Step Floors jersey got off to an auspicious start, as the 28-year-old made use of his impressive speed and track skills to navigate through a hectic peloton and put in a great "remontada", thus concluding fourth the People's Choice Classic, the stand alone race serving as an appetizer for the 20th edition of the Tour Down Under, which is set to start Tuesday.

It was a fast and furious hour of racing on the streets of Adelaide, where seven riders formed a breakaway after the fourth of the 22 laps, contesting three of the day's intermediate sprints, before the peloton reeled them in with about five kilometers remaining, as the average speed of the race was hitting a whooping 49km/h.

In the hotly contested sprint, marred by a late crash, Elia Viviani had to come from behind and although he missed on a podium finish, showed that he can be a factor in next week's Tour Down Under bunch sprints. Fourth behind Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe), Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) and Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott), the Quick-Step Floors sprinter – who is making his first appearance in four years at the season's first World Tour race – was content with his result in the evening criterium.

People's Choice Classic

The rush to the line at the People's Choice Classic. Sirotti photo

"Going into the final corner I was out of position, so to come so close to the podium after at one point I wasn't sure I would be even in the top 10 is a good result. Despite losing a wheel, I managed to come back, saw that the legs were there and this gives me confidence for next week, when I'll try to win a stage."

"The plan was to take the sprint into our own hands with two laps to go, but unfortunately things don't always go as you would like", said sport director Rik Van Slycke right after the finish. "When Sabatini lost the wheel of Michael, our riders got split up and had to fight a bit on their own. With one kilometer to go, we were together again, but a bit too late and far back. Fabio brought Elia in the upper part, but the sprint was already on."

Despite things not going according to the morning plan on Sunday, Van Slycke looks with optimism to the start of the Tour Down Under, which kicks off with a flat stage: "This is the first race of the year, we are still learning and the riders still have to find each other and have confidence in each other. The promising things we take away from this criterium is that everybody showed good form, and as you saw, Elia had the legs. He came very fast in the end, but the other riders had the upper hand as they started the sprint ahead of him. I'm confident he will get a chance or two in Tour Down Under."

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