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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, July 3, 2019

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

You can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you. - John Wooden

Story of the Tour de France Volume 2

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Alex Howes takes dream win at US National Road Championships

EF Education First sent me this:

During pre-season training camp every year, the riders are asked a series of questions – one is always about ambitions for the upcoming season. Every year, Alex Howes has named the same goal: to win the US National Road Championships. On Sunday, in Knoxville, Tennessee, Howes achieved his decade-long ambition.

Alex Howes

Alex Howes at the 2018 Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Sirotti photo

“It was absolutely surreal crossing the line,” Howes said. “I’ve dreamt of this for so long, and it was way better than I had ever imagined it could be. Having my wife, my father, my dog there, my mom on Skype, being surrounded by friends…it was amazing. I am so humbled and amazed at how many people seem genuinely happy I won.”

The collective happiness is a product of who Howes is and what he stands for. The 31-year-old grew up in argyle. He’s raced for every iteration of EF Education First Pro Cycling, beginning as a junior cyclist out of Golden, Colorado, and has spent the duration of his career, 13 seasons, with the team – save one year that team boss Jonathan Vaughters farmed him out to a French team to “toughen him up a bit.”

In his tenure with the team, Howes has become known as a thinker, a pragmatist, a do-it-yourself-er, a loyal friend and a generous teammate. He spends off-seasons exploring the Wild West in his pick-up truck, his canoe or (of course) on his bike. He’s embraced mountain living in Nederland, 3,000 feet above Boulder.

“I’ve shown over the years that I’m one of the best one-day racers in the States, and with Nationals being the top one-day race in the US, it has always been my goal,” said Howes. “To be close so many times, the pressure and disappointment grew exponentially with each loss. Waiting this long makes it all the sweeter.”

Howes and his EF Education First Pro Cycling teammates Sean Bennett, Nate Brown, and Logan Owen made their intentions known from kilometer zero of the 190-kilometer circuit race.

“We were aggressive straightaway as a team,” said Howes. “I got the sense that the larger squads out on the road were looking to ride a more traditional race, but with everyone on our team firing on all cylinders early, I thought, ‘You know what? Screw it. If the other teams want to win, they’re going to have to come get me,’ and I went full-send on lap four. That set the tone for the whole day.”

The move by Howes drew out defending champion Jonny Brown (Hagens Berman Axeon), Robin Carpenter (Rally UHC), Gage Hecht (Aevolo) and Oliver Flautt (Dauner Akkon). The quintet spent several laps out front before a reduced bunch bridged across to the leaders.

A flurry of activity followed, with the EF Education First pink always on the front foot of the action. It was a move by Howes with three laps left, an attack up the circuit’s steepest climb, that proved most decisive.

Howes was joined up the road by Stephen Bassett (First Internet Bank) and Nielson Powless (Jumbo-Visma). The trio worked well together, maintaining a 50-second advantage during the penultimate lap and across the start-finish line in downtown Knoxville as they heard the bell signaling a single lap left to race.

“I was cooked in the final,” said Howes. “I had been cramping for the last 70-kilometers, and I wasn’t able to follow the hard accelerations coming from Bassett and Powless. When I was dropped on the highway, I was almost sure it was over. I actually had a nightmare about that very moment last night – one where I was dropped and never came back. But, back to real life, I knew we were all toast, so I told myself to keep digging.”

He dug, countering an attack by Basset inside the final kilometer, gapping Basset with the line in sight. “I didn’t really believe I was going to win until I was 50 meters from the line,” said Howes.

Last July, Howes was sidelined with illness, his career hanging in limbo. “I was in a pretty dark place this time last year,” said Howes. “I was struggling with an undiagnosed thyroid, fighting my body, thinking of hanging it up. I was depressed and scared, wasting away. To come back and win the jersey a year later? This is bliss. Pure satisfaction.”

Howes expects to showcase the stars and stripes in early August.“I think my next race is Tour of Utah,” he said. “It’s only right to debut the jersey on home soil.”

Team Dimension Data annouces Tour de France squad

Here's the team's announcement. Notably, Mark Cavendish, who has had health and fitness difficulties, will not ride the Tour. The announcement, clearly meant to be on a positive note, does not explain the 30-Tour-stage winner's absence.

Team Dimension Data is delighted to announce our eight riders for the 106th edition of the Tour de France which gets underway in Brussels on 6 July.

It’s a squad that carries a huge amount of experience and will look to challenge by way of aggressive racing, while at the same time staying true to our team’s goal of changing lives through bicycles.

Among a host of fast men in our line up Norway’s Edvald Boasson Hagen is one of a handful who has represented us at every one of our appearances at the race since 2015. He’s won three stages of the Tour and comes into the race in good form with three wins under his belt this year, looking to again peak on the biggest stage.

Edvald Boasson hagen

Edvald Boasson Hagen winning the first stage of this year's Dauphiné

There’s a Tour de France debut for sprinter Giacomo Nizzolo who is full of confidence having won the final stage at the recent Tour of Slovenia. The Italian, who has raced seven Giro dÍtalia’s, brings a huge amount of experience into our line-up.

South Africa’s Reinardt Janse van Rensburg will be eyeing a series of stages for the fast men who are keen on tackling the hills as he competes in the race for a fifth time. He made his debut for us in 2015 and has seven top-10 finishes to his name this season.

Stephen Cummings will be looking at repeating his heroics on Mandela Day in 2015 as this year’s parcours is well suited to his style of racing. The former British champion has won two stages and will be looking for more in his sixth appearance at the race.

There are two very exciting “new caps” in Roman Kreuziger and Michael Valgren. The former has four top-10 finishes at Le Grande Boucle and will relish the challenge that this very tough route poses.

While for Valgren, one of the most exciting riders in the world in recent years, he’ll be looking forward to making his debut for the team, targeting a podium spot on a number of stages and going one better than his 4th place on stage 15 in 2018.

Lars Bak joins countryman Valgren in a crucial support role in the team. This will be his eighth time taking on Le Grande Boucle and his versatility over varied terrain will make him a key asset to our team throughout the race.

Concluding our selection is Ben King who joined our team in 2017 and rides the Tour de France for a second time having first ridden it in 2014. Last year was in some ways a breakout year for the American, as he impressed with two stage victories at the Vuelta a Espana.


Doug Ryder – Team Principal:
“Really excited to announce this great group of riders who we feel will be the best suited to meet the team’s objectives we have set out for this years Tour de France. It’s a tough course but one that we’d like to be competitive in every stage, while at the same time continuing with our goal of changing lives through bicycles.”

Ben King:
“I finally got the call that I’ve been waiting for! I have been selected for the Tour de France with Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka. For many Americans the Tour is the only race that they know so it’s a huge deal. I can finally tell everyone who asks every year “Yes, I’ll be there”. It’s a massive honour but also a huge responsibility, there’s really nothing like it.”

Michael Valgren:
“I’m super excited to be part of the Team Dimension Data Tour de France team. We are aiming for some wins and I can’t wait to go there and help a teammate get a stage win or perhaps even myself – that would be quite cool. So, I’ll see that I’ll be having another holiday in France – three weeks! It’s going to be perfect.

Giacomo Nizzolo:
“I’m very excited to be at the Grand Depart for the very first time. So at the moment I’m really looking forward to that opportunity and to enjoy the experience as it will be without a doubt one of my career highlights.

Reinardt Janse van Rensburg:
“I’m really looking forward to starting another Tour de France, it will be my fifth Tour this year. I think that we’ve got a good team to target for stage wins and there are some good stages that suit me. So I’m really looking forward to this year’s tour again, three weeks of racing in the heat so I’m just completing my final preparations for that at the moment.”

Steve Cummings:
“I was pleasantly surprised about the Tour selection, I wasn’t expecting that. I’m very grateful to the team again for the opportunity to go to the Tour and I’m looking forward to the challenge. I think it’s a pretty open Tour, there are a lot of chances to be aggressive and I think it suits the team that we have very well and I hope that we can have a great July and every one can be proud of us.”

Team Jumbo-Visma signs Tobias Foss for two years

The team sent me this release:

Team Jumbo-Visma has signed the Norwegian Tobias Foss for the coming two years. The 22-year-old talent is next season’s first new asset to the Dutch World Tour team of manager Richard Plugge. Foss comes from development team Uno-X from Norway. Team Jumbo-Visma considers Foss an all-round reinforcement who can stand his ground both uphill and in time trials.

“We scouted Tobias extensively. He also went on a training camp with us twice. Subsequently, we kept in touch, even when he was going through a difficult period as a rider. He has shown that he can overcome difficulties”, sportive director Merijn Zeeman explains the transfer of the young Norwegian.

Foss is eager to make the switch next season. “I’m really looking forward to joining the team. For my kind of rider, Team Jumbo-Visma is the perfect team to develop further. Of all the World Tour teams, this team has the best talent development”, he says. “My ambition for the coming years is to help the team and the leaders to get good results and for myself to grow and take steps as a rider and as a person. I know the way of working at Team Jumbo-Visma and I feel privileged and happy to be part of it.”

CCC Team lining up at Tour of Austria/Österreich-Rundfahrt with two former winners  

The team sent me this update:

02 July 2019: CCC Team will be lining up with two former winners of the Int. Österreich-Rundfahrt-Tour of Austria, Riccardo Zoidl and Víctor de la Parte, when racing gets underway with a 2.5-kilometer long prologue on Saturday (6 July).

Victor de la Parte

Victor de la Parte wins stage 3 of the 2015 Tour of Austria

Sports Director Gabriele Missaglia said that Zoidl, who took the overall title in 2013, will lead CCC Team's General Classification ambitions at the 2019 edition of the race.

"Zoidl will be our leader for the General Classification in Austria and I think we have a good team behind him. This is his home race and, after a solid block of altitude training following the Critérium du Dauphiné, I think his condition is good heading into it. De la Parte has also won this race in the past but, after taking some time off to recover following the Giro d'Italia, the Int. Österreich-Rundfahrt-Tour of Austria will be about getting back into the swing of racing for him. However, saying that, I think if his condition is there, which I think it will be, he will be an important teammate for Zoidl. Overall, I think that we can try to be competitive and race aggressively with the riders we have lining up and then, if Zoidl is strong, I hope we can do something nice at the end of the week," Missaglia explained.

Zoidl is looking forward to leading CCC Team on home soil and is motivated about racing for a place on the final podium. "My feelings ahead of the Int. Österreich-Rundfahrt-Tour of Austria are good. I spent the two weeks before the National Championships at altitude in Austria to prepare and I hope that I feel the benefits and effects of that during the race. This race is special to me, and I am really looking forward to it. My professional career really started with my overall victory here and so, I am always motivated to do well. My overall goal is to finish on the podium and, if possible, to win. I have proved that I race well here, finishing in the top five three times, and this year's parcours looks good for me so I hope I can do well," Zoidl said.

De la Parte, who took the overall title in 2015, will make a return to racing after the Giro d’Italia at the seven-day stage race.

"For me, this race will be about finding my form after a period of rest and recovery post-Giro d'Italia. While I think it will be difficult for me, it will also be good to be back in action and to find my race rhythm again. Of course, this is a special race for me as I have won it in the past but, it is also a race that I like a lot especially as it has nice long climbs which suit me. I am happy to be heading back this year and for me, the goal when I get there will be to help Zoidl, who is from Austria and who is motivated, so I think he can do something, and I will try to help him as much as possible," de la Parte added.

Int. Österreich-Rundfahrt-Tour of Austria (6 - 12 July)

Rider Roster: Will Barta (USA), Josef Černý (CZE), Víctor de la Parte (ESP), Jonas Koch (GER), Łukasz Owsian (POL), Laurens ten Dam (NED), Riccardo Zoidl (AUT)

Sports Directors: Gabriele Missaglia (ITA), Jackson Stewart (USA)

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