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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, April 7, 2019

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. - Bertrand Russell

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Deceuninck-Quick Step on the Ronde van Vlaanderen

Here's the team's update:

One of the biggest races of the year, Ronde van Vlaanderen will run its 103rd edition this Sunday, when 25 teams will line out in Antwerp, all hoping to taste glory later in the day, when after more than six tough and nerve-wracking hours, the winner of the season’s second Monument will be crowned in Oudenaarde.

Deceuninck – Quick-Step will go into the 267km-long World Tour event having won a total of twenty races so far this season, including Milano-Sanremo, Strade Bianche, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and E3 Harelbeke, the latter being always an indicator for what could come at De Ronde, as it packs a similar course, albeit shorter. Having won E3 Harelbeke last week, Zdenek Sybar is naturally one of the main favourites for victory, a status he thoroughly enjoys.

Zdenek Stybar

Zdenek Stybar tests himself on the Koppenberg ascent

“I did everything to be ready for Sunday, I’m happy to be regarded as one of the big contenders and I hope the race will go well and luck will be on our side. It’s not just one of the most important races of the season, but also a personal favourite for our team and we are confident and motivated to keep it rolling for the Wolfpack”, said the first Czech rider to triumph in a cobbled Classic at the press conference hosted by the Deceuninck Headquarters in Hooglede-Gits.

Two years ago, Philippe Gilbert soloed to an unforgettable victory in Flanders, after attacking 57 kilometers out and holding off the chasers for his fourth career Monument win. The Belgian will look to be again there in the final hour of racing, although he admits that having to stop Wednesday’s Dwars door Vlaanderen due to stomach problems won’t make it an easy task.

“Of course, it’s not the best preparation to get sick ahead of a big goal, but I hope it will still be possible to do something. As you can see, our roster is a strong one, comprising many talented riders who can make the difference. We have to ride smart again and count on several riders in the final, because having the numbers is always the best situation you can find yourself in.”

Bob Jungels was one of the cobbled Classics’ strongest and most impressive performers, riding to a great win at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and finishing third at Dwars door Vlaanderen, as well as setting up teammate Zdenek Stybar for victory in E3 Harelbeke.

“Being at this level before Flanders gives me a lot of satisfaction, because it means I’ve had a very good winter and a nice preparation in Colombia. It will be my first time in the Ronde and I’m proud to be here with these guys and really honoured to be named among the favourites, but what really matters in the end is what we’ll do during the race, for which we are prepared”, said Bob, who’ll make his final appearance at the Classics before going on an altitude training camp for the Giro d’Italia.

Also on Deceuninck – Quick-Step team’s for Sunday will be Kasper Asgreen, Tim Declercq, Iljo Keisse and Yves Lampaert, for whom riding Ronde van Vlaanderen with the Belgian Champion jersey on his shoulders “will be a special feeling and I’m ready to enjoy every single moment of the race”.

Peter Sagan: Not being the top favourite for once also has its advantages

Sagan's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this:

At today’s BORA – hansgrohe press conference, Peter Sagan appeared confident. Looking towards De Ronde, although the absence of Jempy Drucker and Oscar Gatto will be felt, Sagan will still have a strong team in attendance to support him.

“I was able to recover over the last week and I trained well. I did everything that I felt was necessary. Now we will see how it goes. It is of course a real shame that Oscar and Jempy will not be lining up to race. They have worked very hard and would have deserved to be there, but despite their absence, we will still have a good team heading into the race. This year, there are several favourites. Perhaps this time, I won’t be the one who is being watched by everyone, and that can also have its advantages. In any case, we have to concentrate on ourselves, and ride our own race.” – Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan checking out the Tour of Flanders course. Sirotti photo

“We can be very happy with our season so far, in which we have already claimed 11 victories. At the moment, a Monument is still missing from this collection, however, there will still be opportunities over the coming weeks. The crashes and injuries that have occurred over the last weeks have, without doubt, been felt within the team. Peter’s illness was also hardly an optimal situation, but sometimes there’s just not much one can do about these things. The team is working very diligently to ensure that everyone who is affected will return to fitness as soon as possible. Reflecting on the last few results, I think that we have a good team for Flanders and Roubaix, and also a very strong squad for the Ardennes this year. I think the team will be a force to be reckoned with over the next few weeks, and if we hit our targets, to get one of the big wins, then I will definitely be very satisfied.” – Ralph Denk, Team Manager

Lotto-Soudal sports director Mario Aerts dissects the Tour of the Basque Country

The team sent me this:

The Tour of the Basque Country, a six-day stage race in northern Spain, takes place from Monday 8 April until Saturday 13 April included. An individual time trial, three hilly stages and two stages through the mountains will determine who succeeds Primož Roglič. The 59th edition promises to be spectacular. Sports director Mario Aerts talks about the ambitions and the distribution of the roles within Lotto Soudal.

Mario Aerts, sports director at Lotto Soudal: “This year, the race starts with a tough time trial. The chrono test includes an 800 metres long climb with an average gradient of 14%. The second day includes some gravel roads which makes it a mini version of Strade Bianche.

Although it is merely five kilometres, it will cause some nervousness. The small roads are always risky, especially for riders who aim for the general classification. The third and fourth stage are not so difficult but the Basque Country remains an undulating region. The last two stages will be decisive for the overall because the riders head into the high mountains. Except for one, the distances of the stages are rather short but therefore not less spectacular. They often cause extra activity and are therefore as tough as the longer stages.”

“The Tour of the Basque Country is one of the main objectives for Bjorg Lambrecht. During the Volta a Catalunya I saw him getting beter every day. His condition is comparable to last year when got eighteenth, a nice result. The steep and irregular hills in that region suit him well. We thus hope that he can get a nice result in the general classification again. Hopefully he can do better than last year but it is also important that he shows himself during the different stages. Tosh Van der Sande will help Bjorg on the short climbs towards the finish. We do not have a real sprinter in our team but Tosh and Bjorg can handle this type of course.”

Bjorg Lambrecht

Bjorg Lambrech at the 2018 Tour of the Fjords.

“The other riders can take their chances in the breakaway. Sander Armée and Maxime Monfort have already done it in 2016 but then they were caught on the final climb. Jelle Vanendert is also an important rider to assist Bjorg. Tomasz Marczyński, is working on his condition towards the Walloon Classics, just as Jelle. Adam Hansen is omni employable but he can also take his chances. Lotto Soudal is thus fully aiming for a stage win which is especially possible in the second, third and fourth stage. This is our main objective, more than the general classification.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Sander Armée, Adam Hansen, Bjorg Lambrecht, Tomasz Marczyński, Maxime Monfort, Tosh Van der Sande and Jelle Vanendert.

Sports directors: Mario Aerts and Marc Wauters.

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