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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, September 28, 2019

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

Never say there is nothing beautiful in the world anymore. There is always something to make you wonder in the shape of a tree, the trembling of a leaf. - Albert Schweitzer

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Tim Wellens ready for World Championship road race

Wellens' Lotto-Soudal team sent me this:

This Sunday, the men elite will battle for the world title in Yorkshire. Tim Wellens is the only Lotto Soudal rider who is part of a very strong Belgian selection that will have a shot at the iconic rainbow jersey. Between the start in Leeds and the finish in Harrogate, no less than 285 kilometres of racing awaits, the longest World Championship since 1976. Wellens previews the course, his personal ambitions and the different race scenarios.

Time Wellens

Tim Wellens at the start of stage 18 of this year's Tour de France. Sirotti photo

Tim Wellens: “Both the run-up and the local laps are quite technical, with several narrow passages and difficult corners. There are a couple of technical descents, which can become dangerous in rainy conditions. But it certainly is an attractive course.”

“My shape is always good during this time of the season and I have a healthy amount of ambition for Sunday. I do not spearhead the team, contrary to my role at Lotto Soudal. Within the Belgian selection, there are two leaders and a lot of riders with a free role, which is something I feel comfortable with. It is clear that everybody, except for the leaders, will try to anticipate and I think the course is perfect for that.”

“A lot will depend on the weather conditions, but quite some teams could benefit from not waiting too long to open the race. However, I doubt if it would be useful to already light the race on fire before the local laps. The predicted rain is not only to my advantage, but it could also play into the hands of the entire Belgian team.”

“The parcours definitely is hard enough to get rid of the pure sprinters, but such a technical course is tailor-made for riders like Sagan and Van der Poel, who also have that strong sprint. But if it would be a really hard race, it will also become a tactical game and riders will look at each other during the finale. Of course, it is always better to finish solo, but I don’t have to be afraid in a possible sprint. I can’t beat guys like Matthews, Trentin or Van der Poel, but I am definitely not slow at the finish. Also, it won’t be a normal sprint, the slightly uphill finish reminds me of the one in Houffalize, where I won a stage in the BinckBank Tour this year.”

Organizer's commentary on the Men Under 23 and Jr. Women's World Championship Road Races

This came to me from the World Championships organizer:

Every race of the 2019 UCI Road World Championships has provided drama so far, and Friday was no exception as Yorkshireman Tom Pidcock became Britain’s third medallist in the Under-23 Men’s Road Race.

Pidcock – who hails from Leeds – had crossed the line in fourth position but rose into the podium places after Dutchman Nils Eekhoff, who was initially declared the winner, was disqualified after a UCI commissaire’s review decided he had ‘sheltered behind or taken advantage of the slipstream of a vehicle(for some time)’ earlier in the race.

Pidcock had been reduced to tears before that decision, but was beaming as he received his medal in the Harrogate Fan Zone just moments before Italian Samuele Battistella was awarded the rainbow jersey after proving the fastest finisher initially behind Eekhoff.

A busy day of action had also featured the Junior Women’s Road Race which was won earlier on by American Megan Jastrab.

Megan Jastrab

Megan Jastrab wins the Junior Women's race.

Both races started on the Doncaster Cycle Track, the first major cycling facility to benefit from the £15 million of Government funding that has been allocated to develop entry-level cycling facilities across England as a direct legacy of the Championships.

Yet again, large crowds came out in force to cheer the riders off and huge support followed the male and female riders as they wound their way on different routes into Harrogate.

Both races saw the peloton fracture as the challenging roads, changeable weather and fierce competition provided a real war of attrition. Only a handful of riders survived to battle it out for victory in both races and it was Battistella and Jastrab who emerged to take home the spoils.

Great Britain rider Tom Pidcock said: “This isn’t how I wanted to win a medal and I feel really sorry for Eekhoff but rules are rules. Maybe his group wouldn’t have caught us if he hadn’t had been drafting, so that did affect the race. I’m still disappointed that I didn’t win but at least I got to enjoy the crowd on the podium, and I got a medal in my home World Championships. The fans were amazing today and this was one of the greatest experiences of my life.”

Italy rider Samuele Battistella said: “I didn’t understand what had happened at first, and when I was told, I can’t describe how it felt to become the world champion and to receive the jersey. I am very, very happy. I’m sorry for Eekhoff because he was the winner of the sprint but this is cycling and we have to abide by the commissaire’s decision. I am looking forward to becoming a professional rider now and this win will give me confidence.”

USA rider Megan Jastrab said: “I’ve wanted to win this race for several years now so to have everything come together today is just amazing. It’s incredible how well the USA is doing in these Championships and I am so happy for all the team. We love riding here and I wish I could take two more weeks to enjoy these roads even more, but on Sunday I have to go back to reality, and back to college.”

Great Britain rider Abi Smith said: “It was amazing riding on my home roads today and the crowds were unbelievable. The schoolkids were screaming really loudly and I heard so many people shout my name, which was lovely. It gave me more adrenalin and kept me motivated. There were so many Yorkshire flags on the route as well and I just wanted to grab one of them and wave it whilst I was riding and give the supporters a wave back. Things didn’t go quite as we’d planned today but I’ve loved the whole experience and hope to have more chances in the future.”

Yorkshire 2019 CEO Andy Hindley said: “There’s never a dull moment at these Championships and it’s been an incredible day. The commissaires deliberated for a long time after the men’s race and they wouldn’t have taken that decision to disqualify the initial winner lightly. It was great news for Samuele, and great news for Tom, but obviously not for Nils. You have to feel for the poor guy, but rules need to be obeyed and sport wouldn’t work without them.

“Tom crashed hard onto his knee today so that was a really brave performance by him to even to get into contention.

“I have to mention the supporters. I was in Doncaster for the roll out of the women’s race and the riders were blown away by the reception they received, especially from the hundreds of schoolchildren. You have to remember, those athletes are not long out of school themselves and they’d never seen anything like that before. Their race was fantastic as well, and we’re looking forward to a big weekend now. We had a Yorkshire medal today and hopefully we’ll get another one tomorrow with Lizzie Deignan taking part in the Elite Women’s Road Race.”

Welcome to Yorkshire Commercial Director Peter Dodd said: “Doncaster did itself proud as a host location today, just as they always have done at the Tour de Yorkshire. I don’t know who was more excited at the start; the riders for the incredible reception they received, or the 1,000+ schoolchildren who went wild to welcome them. It’s been a similar buzz during the entire Championships and we’re gearing up for a massive weekend. These next two days are the pinnacle of the entire cycling season there’s thousands of people arriving into Yorkshire every hour now and the atmosphere will be electric.”

Team Jumbo-Visma signs Australian Chris Harper

Jumbo-Visma sent me this release:

Team Jumbo-Visma has signed climber Chris Harper for the coming two years. The 24-year-old rider from Australia comes over from the Australian Team BridgeLane and will make his debut as a professional for the Dutch World Tour-team in 2020.

Harper is regarded a talented climber and time trial specialist. He became fourth in the Herald Sun Tour, grabbed the victory in the Tour of Japan and won all the classifications and mountain stages in the Tour de Savoie-Mont Blanc.

The vice-champion of Australia is over the moon about his transfer to Team Jumbo-Visma. “I am very excited and grateful to have the opportunity to join Team Jumbo-Visma. It is the perfect environment for me to continue and develop as a rider as well as contribute to achieving the team goals.”

Team Jumbo-Visma's sportive director Merijn Zeeman: “Chris has excelled in the continental circuit. We think that he can show more of himself and that is why we give him a chance on World Tour level.”

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