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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, March 28, 2018

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Jasper De Buyst expects an explosive edition of Dwars door Vlaanderen; end of the spring classics for Jens Keukeleire

Lotto-Soudal sent me this update:

Melanoma: It Started with a Freckle

This season Dwars door Vlaanderen (WorldTour) is scheduled four days before the Ronde van Vlaanderen for the very first time. A new date on the calendar, but also a new course!

The race is 180 kilometres long. Between Roeselare and the finish in Waregem twelve hills await the riders, including three times the Knokteberg (Côte de Trieu). Nokereberg is the last hill on the course, nine kilometres from the finish.

Jasper De Buyst is part of the Lotto Soudal line-up, together with among other Tiesj Benoot and Jens Debusschere. De Buyst had bad luck in both the finale of Milan-Sanremo and Ghent-Wevelgem, each time he was riding in an excellent position. When crashing on the descent of the Poggio he hurt his left elbow and hand. On Sunday he had a mechanical at the end of the second ascent of the Kemmelberg.

Jasper De Buyst: “At E3 Harelbeke on Friday I didn’t feel fully recovered from my crash in Sanremo. That’s why I decided to do my job for Tiesj Benoot early on in the race. After some visits to the physiotherapist my elbow and hand didn’t bother me anymore on Sunday. I am actually very happy about my current shape. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to confirm that by setting a good result because bad luck struck twice. Both in Sanremo and Wevelgem I was riding at the front in the deep finale. That proves I am good. If I wouldn’t have had a mechanical on Sunday I would have been part of the large group of 25 that rode to the finish in Wevelgem together.

“We start with a strong team tomorrow. Whose card we’ll play, is to be decided during the race. That will depend on the developments in the race. Because of the new course, the shorter distance and the bad weather it could be an explosive and exhausting race. It will be a matter of being very attentive. The first hill turns up with less than one hundred kilometres to go, which could cause the race to already explode at that point. That would be fine by me. Because it’s a new course there are not yet any points where you know the race will really start, although the Taaienberg is always a decisive moment in a race. We need to climb the Côte de Trieu three times and it’s a hill that shouldn’t be underestimated. The bunch can definitely split there. So there are several options.”

“Dwars door Vlaanderen is now scheduled four days before the Ronde, but because of the rather short distance many favourites for the Ronde will still participate. When I should name favourites for tomorrow I think of the usual names like Jasper Stuyven, Wout Van Aert and Greg Van Avermaet. I hope tomorrow will be a turning point for me and I hope I can fully make use of my potential.”

Unfortunately no more Spring Classics for Jens Keukeleire. The Belgian fell ill after Bruges – De Panne and had to be replaced for E3 Harelbeke and Ghent-Wevelgem. At the moment he hasn’t sufficiently recovered to get back in competition. After consulting the medical staff it has been decided to skip the upcoming Spring Classics, to fully recover first and to work towards new goals afterwards.

Jens Keukeleire

Jens Keukeleire's (shown in in 2016) spring classics season is over.

Servaas Bingé, team doctor Lotto Soudal: “First, Jens crashed in the finale of Milan-Sanremo. He wasn’t hurt much and so it was decided he would ride Bruges – De Panne. Afterwards he incurred a respiratory infection, of which he hasn’t recovered yet. Unfortunately a rider is more fragile when he is in top shape. Now we have to focus on his health and well-being. Of course this is a huge disappointment for Jens. This is a very important time in his first season in a new team and of course he wanted to perform the best as possible.”

Line-up Dwars door Vlaanderen: Lars Bak, Tiesj Benoot, Jasper De Buyst, Jens Debusschere, Nikolas Maes, Lawrence Naesen and Jelle Wallays.

Sports directors: Herman Frison and Frederik Willems.

Alejandro Valverde's Movistar team looks the Dwars door Vlaanderen route

Here's the team's analysis. Valverde is scheduled to ride.

With its new position, just four days before the Tour of Flanders, the Dwars door Vlaanderen classic has become the venue for the final tests from the cobblestone classics’ greats, which has made its route considerably easier. Nevertheless, the 180km route from Roeselare to Waregem still includes several ascents (twelve) and plenty of kasseien, up to five sections.

After a first loop with 2x the Kluisberg and Knokteberg ascents, the race will chain most of its hardest parts into just fifteen kilometers (122 to 138km), including the cobbled sector of Mariaborrestraat and the short, sharp, narrow Taaienberg (128km), where the first real attacks will happen.

Another passage through Kluisberg and Trieu will lead the race to the Varent cobbles (154km) and a series of asphalt hills before the Nokereberg (171km, cobbles), short and not so steep, yet located just 9km from the end and likely to see the final winning moves before the sprint. There will actually be another portion of kasseien before the line, with the Herlegemstraat section just 6km before the end.

EF Education First rider Dani Martinez in hospital after driver confrontation

While EF Education First rider Dani Martinez was training today with a group in Pistoia, Italy, they were buzzed by a car. Martinez was later punched by the driver, along with another cyclist.

"I was working here in Italy and a car practically tried to kill us," said Martinez to Colombian newspaper El Tiempo. "We confronted him and he stopped and got out of the car behaving like a crazy person. He hit me straight away, he punched me in the jaw and I was knocked out. Another rider ended up with a torn lip and then he escaped."

Martinez's team "EF Education First" posted on its Facebook page that he was taken to hospital, where he remains under observation but is in good condition.

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