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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary | Our YouTube page
2019 Tour de France | 2019 Giro d'Italia

Fear is the foundation of most governments. - John Adams

Tour of Flanders, the Inside Story

Current racing:

Important upcoming racing, according to the UCI revised calendar:

Latest completed racing:

Bora-hansgrohe probably victim of Covid-19 false positive

Here's the first email the team sent me:

BORA - hansgrohe withdraws team from the Bretagne Classic due to positive COVID-19 test.

One of the team’s riders received a positive result from the 3-day test after a negative 6-day test. As a result, BORA - hansgrohe has withdrawn the entire team from the race. All necessary measures for contact tracing have been initiated immediately.

"We received the positive result this morning and reacted immediately. The team cannot participate in the race. All team members who have been in direct contact with the rider will go into self-isolation according to official regulations. The affected rider is asymptomatic and displays no signs of illness.” - Jan-Niklas Droste, Medical Team


Bora-hansgrohe (shown racing in the 2019 Vuelta) did not ride the Bretagne Classic. Sirotti photo

This came from the team later in the day:

Following a positive result returned by one rider today after a COVID test, the entire BORA - hansgrohe team was withdrawn ahead of the start of the Bretagne Classic. This rider was since tested again during the day and (as was the case with his 6-day test) it came back negative. All other riders and staff were also immediately tested again, and all results were negative. It is reasonable to conclude that this was a false positive test result.

"It looks like my concerns are being confirmed. It is known that PCR tests have a certain rate of error and thus produce false positive results. This in itself would not be a problem, if there were the possibility to check the results immediately in the case of a positive finding. In the anti-doping regulations, an A Sample and a B Sample are provided, precisely for this reason. If the A Sample is positive, the result is checked with the B Sample. In the UCI’s current testing strategy, this verification is not present. Anti-doping labs are also accredited, which means that certain standards are set and checked. That would be one approach. A central lab or certain certified labs. We are talking about athletes who have prepared for a race for weeks or months and then might not be allowed to start the event due to a false finding.

Today we withdrew our entire team from a WordTour race. It's all about points, but it's also about presence in the media, in other words, the advertising value upon which the commitments of our sponsors are based. Today, these benefits were unable to be gained. Of course, the health of everyone involved should and must always take priority, however, it is still unsatisfactory that consideration is not given to all other aspects. I think adjustments must be immediately made here. We also require certainty regarding testing procedures and strategy. If we don't have this, we will soon have serious issues, because who wants to invest in a lottery game as a serious company?” - Ralph Denk, Team Manager

EF Pro Cycling names its Tour de France roster

The team sent me this:

Rigoberto Urán, Sergio Higuita, Dani Martínez, Jens Keukeleire, Tejay van Garderen, Neilson Powless, Hugh Carthy, and Alberto Bettiol.

The EF Pro Cycling team for the 2020 Tour de France is as dynamic as it is charismatic. We bring a strong group with general classification ambitions as well as riders who can look at stages opportunistically, given race situations. We travel to Nice with seasoned Tour riders and several Tour rookies. We’re a balance of experience and opportunity. And we’re absolutely ready to go.

Hear from each of our Tour riders below.

Rigoberto Urán:
I’m super happy to be in the team for the Tour de France. It gives you a lot of motivation because it’s always a race that has something really special about it, especially when you have stood on the podium before. There’s always a part of you that wants to do your best there, to try and get a good result, to be up there with the best.

To be there with the team also really motivates me, working alongside those guys is something really special, to work hard together. We are all together now, waiting for the race to start, but you know me, it’s all about taking it day-by-day, and hoping that we’re going to have a good one.

Rigoberto Uran

Rigoberto Uran climbing the Tourmalet in the 2019 Tour de France. Sirotti photo

Sergio Higuita, First Tour de France:
This is going to be my first Tour de France and I can honestly say I’ve never been so excited to be racing. To be going to the Tour is a huge goal for many cyclists and for me it’s incredible to think that in a few days I’ll be there achieving one of my biggest life goals, to line up on that startline. Also to be doing it wearing the Colombian national champion jersey makes it all the more special.

To be lining up alongside riders who for many years I’ve watched race on the television also makes it really special. I am really pumped to be going, and want to have the best race possible, going out there fighting every day. There will be great moments and there will be hard moments, but just facing them and enjoying being there — I can’t wait.

Dani Martínez:
For me it’s another proud moment to be chosen for the Tour de France team. It’s one of the most beautiful races that I absolutely love, it’s a race that I’ve always wanted to do. We have a really great team with a high level and to line up alongside them and be a part of it is something really huge for me.

Tejay van Garderen:
It’s a huge honour to have been selected for the 2020 Tour de France, it’ll be my 9th start in the Tour, and every time I line up it always brings such huge satisfaction, it’s living the childhood dream from when I used to watch the Tour. Especially with the team we’re bringing this year, we’ve just had such huge success in the Dauphiné with Martínez, and then having a young guy like Higuita who can really shine in his first Tour as well.

There’s another young American, Neilson Powless, who is racing his first Tour, and Hugh Carthy is another young talent who is racing his first Tour. Hopefully I can give a little bit of my experience and help these guys along and just do whatever I can to help the team. Hopefully we can make this 2020 Tour a huge success.

Hugh Carthy, First Tour de France:
I’m really excited to do my first Tour, it’s the biggest cycling event and one of the biggest sporting events in the world so it’s a big, big deal.

Ahead of my first one, I’m feeling nervous and excited in equal measure. I'm going to try and enjoy it, and hopefully get something out of it and help us put in the best team performance we can.

Jens Keukeleire:
This will be my fifth Tour de France, so I think I know a little bit about what I’m in for, but still in this season I think it’s going to feel a little different to other years. It’s the biggest race of the year. It’s something you remember from when you were a little kid, especially for me as we always used to go to the Tour and watch a stage, maybe even multiple stages in the Alps when we were on holiday with the family, so being able to do it one day, that was a dream that already came true, and now I’m here for the fifth one — it’s still something that is really special.

I’m really looking forward to doing it with this team. Though I’m new on the team, I’m super excited to be able to do the biggest race of the year. I’ve had some experience now at the Dauphiné of racing with the Colombians, I hadn’t raced with them before, but I think it all went well, especially if you look at the result, but also for me I think we had a good feeling during the race between us all, and we hope to do something similar at the Tour.

Alberto Bettiol:
The Tour de France of course is the most important race in the whole calendar, and this is going to be my third Tour de France and every time it’s a huge emotion; it’s a goal for every cyclist to be selected for the Tour.

It’s a unique race, it’s one of the biggest events in the world, and for me it means to have reached one goal of the season and it’s a big motivation to help the team to do its best. So to have the opportunity to show this jersey to the whole of the world and to spend a month with my second family is a huge privilege. I’m super happy to have been selected and am looking forward to doing my best to help the team and hopefully celebrate with them.

Neilson Powless, First Tour de France:
Right now I have feelings of excitement and motivation to perform in the Tour, but I think that for every cyclist the Tour de France is their dream and for most people it’s the reason why they get involved in cycling, with the hope to one day race in this race.

I couldn’t be more thankful to the team for this incredible opportunity, that I finally get the chance to realise my dream and race the Tour de France, and racing the Tour de France on an American team is a super special feeling. I think that we’re also bringing a really strong team and that too is really motivating. With Dani just coming off of the Dauphiné win that’s incredibly motivating for me and the rest of the team. I think that everyone is really ready to race for 21 days and I’m certainly prepared to do whatever I can to help the team. It’s a pretty surreal feeling right now to be finally realising my dream. I can’t wait to see what these next 21 days bring.

Luka Mezgec's Mitchelton-Scott team reports on the Bretagne Classic Ouest-France

We posted the report from winner Michael Matthews' Team Sunweb with the results.

In a strong show of form ahead of this weekend’s Tour de France Grand Depart, Slovenian sprinter Luka Mezgec blasted to a solid second place at Bretagne Classic Ouest-France after a lengthy and relentless 247km day in the saddle.

With a split in the peloton, Mezgec took control to catch two riders in the final 600metres and then was forced to open up his sprint earlier than desired.

The Mitchelton-SCOTT rider barrelled towards the finish line but it was his former teammate, Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb), that stole the show, nipping past in the final metres to claim the victory in Plouay.

Michael Matthews

Michael Matthews wins in Plouay

Mezgec now heads to the Nice to join the team, dissapointed not to come away with the victory today but with confidence in his form, for the Tour de France starting this Saturday 29th.

Eight escape
The lengthy one-day WorldTour race began in rainy conditions with a large group of eight riders establishing the early breakaway and quickly riding out to an advantage of over five minutes.

As the peloton headed away from Plouay and towards the coast, the race remained much the same until teams got into formation to gradually draw back the leaders.

Stannard takes his chance
One-by-one over the undulating terrain the leaders gradually came back to the bunch with Mitchelton-SCOTT putting Callum Scotson on the front to assist with the chase.

Just one-rider remained at the head of the race inside 50km to go, but it was soon all back together with 44km to go. Shortly after, 21-year-old Rob Stannard jumped away with two other riders and the trio opened up a small lead and continued to hover around 40seconds ahead for the following 15km.

Final fireworks
As the peloton approached the final finishing lap around Plouay, Stannard’s group was reeled back in and the group had whittled down to around 40riders.

Mitchelton-SCOTT were well represented with numbers at the front as more moves came on the short punchy climbs.

Two riders crept away into the final kilometre, dangling closely in front and as the peloton split behind, Mezgec found himself on the front foot with six-riders going clear heading down the final finishing straight.

Launching early in order to catch the dangling duo, Mezgec was then forced to open up his sprint early. However, Matthews was able to pass the Mitchelton-SCOTT rider in the closing metres to deny Mezgec of the WorldTour win.

Luka Mezgec:
“I am a bit disappointed with this second place to be honest. I was good at the front on the top of climb with two kilometres to go, and everything split behind us. Two guys stayed away and one of those was a Sunweb guy so Matthews wasn’t doing any work.

"When I saw there was four of five of us guys together with 600metres to go, I had to make a move to catch the Sunweb guy. Once I was there with the split, I had to open the sprint with 350metres plus and then I took second. It is what it is.

“Anyway I am really happy with the feelings and with the legs, so it is all good and especially heading into the Tour de France later this week.

"As a team we worked fantastically together. When riders started attacking we always had someone represented in the move, so it was really good from everyone."

Sam Oomen moves to Team Jumbo-Visma

Jumbo-Visma sent me this:

Team Jumbo-Visma has contracted Sam Oomen for three seasons. The 25-year-old stage race talent was ready for the next step in his career and from both sides there is the conviction that he can reach his full potential at Team Jumbo-Visma.

Sam oomen

Sam Oomen wins the third stage of the 2016 Tour de l'Ain

“I had five good and joyful years at Team Sunweb. Thinking about my future, it feels like the right moment to move on. It’s great that I can take this new step at Team Jumbo-Visma. The knowledge, the philosophy, the love for the sport and the trust I feel in this team have convinced me that Team Jumbo-Visma is the right team for me. I am really looking forward to working in a new environment, with many new faces but also with some old acquaintances. I’m really happy with that”, Oomen explains.

That joy is mutual, confirms Merijn Zeeman, sportive director at Team Jumbo-Visma. “Sam is the biggest young Dutch stage race talent. We followed him for several years with great interest. We are very happy that he has now chosen us. We are convinced that, with the right guidance, Sam can become even better. We want to gradually guide him towards the world top”, Zeeman says.

Deceuninck-Quick Step to ride Tour Poitou-Charentes

Here's the team's update:

Five stages in four days, including two uphill finishes, will make for some exciting racing in France.

Tour Poitou-Charentes, a race won by our team in 2015, will run this year between 27-30 August, and will have at the start the presence of a strong and versatile Deceuninck – Quick-Step squad, consisting of Shane Archbold, Rémi Cavagna, Ian Garrison, Alvaro Hodeg, Iljo Keisse, Stijn Steels, and Bert Van Lerberghe.

Alvaro Hodeg

Alvaro Hodeg (shown at the 2018 Tour of Turkey) will be looking for sprint wins at the Tour Poitou-Charentes

The race will get underway Thursday with what should be a sprinters’ stage; the trek from Montmoreau to Royan contains some short hills, but these aren’t expected to have any significant impact on the peloton, given that they feature with more than 30 kilometers to go. One day later, another mass gallop will be on the cards, this time in Echiré, before the race shifts its attention to the general classification contenders for the weekend.

An uphill finish in Jaunay-Marigny early in the morning, followed by a 22.5km individual time trial taking place on some lumpy, twisty and undulating roads late in the afternoon promise to open up some gaps in the overall standings, ahead of the final showdown in Poitiers, just twenty-four hours later, when another punchy finale will await the riders.

“We have a very solid team, a team that can take on a circuit race like Poitou-Charentes, with some sprints and short climbs. Alvaro will rely on a powerful lead-out train, comprising many experienced riders, while our National ITT Champions Rémi and Ian have a nice shot of coming out of the time trial with a good result. We are confident we can be protagonists and do a strong race, so we look forward to it”, said Deceuninck – Quick-Step sports director Geert Van Bondt.

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