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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, January 13, 2019

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. - Khalil Gibran

Tour of Flanders, the Inside Story

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Grace Brown wins Women's Tour Down Under stage three

Brown's Mitchelton-Scott team sent me this report:

Australian time trial champion Grace Brown has continued her dream start to her debut season with Mitchelton-SCOTT, claiming an emphatic victory on stage three at the Santos Women’s Tour Down Under.

Grace Borwn

Grace Brown wins Women's Tour Down Under stage three.

The 26-year-old launched her sprint early, but was too good for the bunch as she motored away to victory. Teammates Gracie Elvin and Amanda Spratt finished fourth and fifth respectively, with Spratt holding her overall 49-second lead heading into tomorrow’s final day.

Windy conditions provided a backdrop for aggressive racing, but the efforts of Mitchelton-SCOTT never allowed any attempted moves to gain too much traction and the race remained together for the majority of the 104.5km stage.

Shouldering a mountain of work on the opening two stages, including playing a crucial role in setting up her team leader Spratt into yesterday’s final climb, Brown continued her selfless role on today’s stage from Nairne to Stirling.

The Australian took over at the front of the race in the final 10kilometres before still having enough in the tank to launch her sprint early, from 700metres to go, to ride her rivals off the wheel and to an impressive victory.

With just one stage remaining, a criterium in the centre of Adelaide, Spratt still leads the overall classification by 49seconds to Mitchelton-SCOTT teammate Lucy Kennedy and 55seconds to Krista Doebel-Hickok (Rally UHC Cycling).

Despite the comfortable lead, Spratt is well aware of the importance of staying safe, having suffered a crash in the same position 12months ago.

Grace Brown – Stage Winner:
“I am pretty happy. It was the team plan for me and Gracie (Elvin) to have a going the final here and it’s really awesome after all the hard work that I get a victory myself.

“It was a really hard day actually, much harder than I was expecting. I think my legs are feeling it from the last two days and there was a little bit of doubt, especially after the neutralisation I felt a bit dead, but I think everyone felt it.

“I have got family and friends here watching so it’s really cool to do that in front of them.”

Amanda Spratt – Current Leader:
“Another great day for the team. Most of the stage they were just controlling it and making sure nothing dangerous got up the road, which was perfect, and then we said in the final we really wanted to work for Grace and Gracie and actually Grace had already done a monster amount of work on the front in that final ten kilometres and just never died in the lead out.

“Grace has just been so strong in all of the races so far and such a great teammate already, so I am really really happy for her.

“There’s just the criterium to go but as we saw last year it doesn’t always go smooth sailing, I had a crash there, so we are still going to have to be looking out for each other and hopefully it’s a bunch sprit and we can support (Sarah) Roy.”

Santos Women’s Tour Down Under – Stage 3 Results:
1. Grace Brown (Mitchelton-SCOTT) 3:01:07
2. Ruth Winder (Trek-Segafredo) +0:02
3. Rachel Neylan (Team UniSA-Australia) +0:02

Santos Women’sTour Down Under – General Classification after Stage 3:
1. Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-SCOTT) 9:24:48
2. Lucy Kennedy (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +0:49
3. Krista Doebel-Hickok (Rally UHC Cycling) +0:55

Lotto-Soudal will target stage wins at Tour Down Under

The team sent me this:

The official start of the 2019 cycling season has arrived! From 15 to 20 January, the Tour Down Under will take place. The Australian stage race means the first official event for some new Lotto Soudal riders such as Adam Blythe, Carl Fredrik Hagen, Roger Kluge and Caleb Ewan. The 24-year-old sprinter is looking forward to his race on home grounds and targets a stage win. The sports director of Lotto Soudal at the Tour Down Under is Mario Aerts. He previews the course and explains the main goal of Lotto Soudal during the first WorldTour race of the season.

Caleb Ewan: “It certainly is a nice feeling to be once again at the start of the Tour Down Under, which is a great event with lots of enthusiastic fans. It is one of my favourite races to be at. I am especially looking forward to starting the race with my new teammates. I had Adam Hansen with me at the Nationals but that’s completely different to racing with a full team. I got a couple of guys who came with me from my previous team so it should work out a little bit easier. The new lead-out train is something that could succeed straightaway or might take a couple of races. We will see once the race starts.”

“Obviously, we are going for a few stage wins but at least one. It won’t be a great result if I haven’t won a stage by the end of the race. There are definitely three stages suited for a sprint finish, maybe four. The other three stages will probably be too hard for the sprinters but that obviously depends on how the race unfolds. The main guys I’ll be looking out for are Peter Sagan and Elia Viviani, who are both quick and strong riders. Moreover, there is a really strong sprint field here so there may be some other riders to keep an eye on as well.”

Caleb Ewan

Caleb Ewan, seen here at the 2018 Tour Down Under, will be racing in his new Lotto-Soudal kit at the 2019 Tour Down Under. Sirotti photo.

Mario Aerts: “We’ve been staying here since a week before the start of the Tour Down Under. The first three days were all about some really easy training rides and trying to get enough sleep. Later on, we could increase both the intensity and length of the training rides. We also had the time to recon almost all of the stages, except for the one that includes the ascent of Willunga Hill. But we saw at least the finales of all the other stages. This makes things a lot easier once the race takes off. I expect three sprint stages, two stages suited to breakaway riders or where the GC can already take shape and then there is the stage to Willunga Hill, which will decide who wins the Tour Down Under.”

“We are here with a really diverse line-up, it’s a very international mix of riders but there is one clear leader. Our main goal during the Tour Down Under is to take a stage win with Caleb Ewan, the whole team is in fact here to support him in getting that win. The GC is more of a side topic but if some guys are feeling good, they will get a free role.”

Stage schedule:

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Adam Blythe, Thomas De Gendt, Caleb Ewan, Carl Fredrik Hagen, Adam Hansen, Roger Kluge and Tomasz Marczyński.

Fabio Jakobsen will start his 2019 campaign in Portugal, at the 45th edition of Volta ao Algarve

Here's the update from Jakobsen's Deceuninck-Quick-Step team:

2018 was a perfect season for rookie Fabio Jakobsen, who found plenty of opportunities to shine and picked up seven victories between March and October – Nokere Koerse, Scheldeprijs (Flanders’ oldest race, where he became the youngest rider this century to surge to victory), two stages at the Tour of Guangxi, and one apiece at the Tour des Fjords, Eneco Tour and Tour of Slovakia – as well as wrapping up the points classification in China, at the last World Tour event of the year, all in all an amazing roll of achievements which made him the best neo-pro of last year.

Fabio Jakobsen

Fabio Jakobsen wins the 2018 Scheldeprjs

“Last year in Calpe things were a bit quieter for me at the press conference, but things have changed in the meantime after the season I had. It’s true that I trained a lot and was confident, but it wouldn’t have been possible without a great team, the best in the world. That’s what made the difference”, a smiling Fabio said to the half a dozen journalists gathered around him during this week’s team presentation in Calpe.

The 22-year-old isn’t just a sprinter, but also a rider who has shown a lot of promise in the one-day races, as underlined by his two victories and three other top 10 placings in these events last season: “My first big moment of 2018 was Scheldeprijs, which was a hard race held in brutal weather conditions. That’s what made the win even more special and really boosted my morale. It was really cool to have so many experienced pros congratulate me afterwards.”

Having signed off the team’s final World Tour victory of the year, which capped off a brilliant season for Deceuninck – Quick-Step, Fabio is determined to show last year’s results weren’t a fluke, as he will target other races while continuing his rise through the ranks.

“The results I got last year only motivate me even more for this season, where I hope to continue my development, become faster and get more victories for the team in bigger races, against top-level sprinters. Is there any pressure on my shoulders? Yes, I feel some pressure, but it’s more or less the same with every sprinter when you’re the last man in the train and things become hectic. I am aware it won’t be a stroll in the park, but the determination, focus and hunger for victories are there”, concluded Fabio, who will make his first appearance of the season at Volta ao Algarve (20-24 February), from where he’ll travel to Belgium for Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and Le Samyn.

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