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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, August 28, 2020

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2019 Tour de France | 2019 Giro d'Italia

Nothing is worth more than this day. - Goethe

Current racing:

Important upcoming racing, according to the UCI revised calendar:

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Groupama-FDJ reports on the first stage of the Tour du Poitou-Charentes en Nouvelle-Aquitaine

We posted Deceuninck-Quick Step's report with the results.

Here's the team's report:

“You can’t win every time,” said Arnaud Démare after his silver medal at the European Championship on Wednesday. Maybe not every time, but still quite often. Currently enjoying a super condition, the Groupama-FDJ’s sprinter took his sixth win since the season restart on Thursday in the opening stage of the Tour du Poitou-Charentes en Nouvelle-Aquitaine. Icing on the cake, he got it in his first race back with the French Champion’s jersey. However, he will provisionally put it away on Friday since he is now also wearing the leader’s white jersey.

Arnaud Demare

Arnaud Demare take the first stage.

Four days after his title at Grand-Champ, Arnaud Démare put on his new French champion’s jersey for the first time in competition on Thursday, as he was starting Tour du Poitou-Charentes en Nouvelle-Aquitaine’s first stage. Few hours after his silver medal at the European Championship in Plouay, the French sprinter could first enjoy a quiet start to the stage that saw two men breaking away. Straight away, his teammates took position at the front of the bunch and the first breakaway was even caught fifty kilometers into the race before another trio took the lead. “We mostly pulled with our young Hugo Page, from the Conti,” explained Frédéric Guesdon. “He got some help towards the end from Kono in order to catch the breakaway. We kept the other five for the sprint”. In control of the bunch throughout the day, Groupama-FDJ therefore let the trio take a five-minute advantage around the mid-race before gradually reducing the gap and bringing it all together with ten kilometers to go. It was then down to the final sprint.

“I don’t think we did a great sprint today, but it can happen,” said Fred Guesdon. “It was a bit lively at the end. It was tense, it was windy, with small roads, so we had to be careful with the echelons. We accepted our favourite role and got almost no help. So it wasn’t easy for us in the finale and we may have missed a little something. It’s also possible that one of the guys did not have the best legs today, but the most important is that we got the victory.” Although the lead-out train was not as efficient as it was in the previous races, Arnaud Démare nevertheless managed to secure the victory by a few centimetres against Alvaro Hodeg. “It was close, really close,” said the Frenchman at the finish. “Yesterday the photo-finish failed me, today it’s on my side, so it’s good. However, we will have to be careful over the next few days because we did not do the perfect sprint today. We wanted to make the race harder with the side wind, but we suddenly ran out of numbers in the finale. We then used Deceuninck-Quick Step for the finish. In the end, there is the victory anyway, and this is the sixth! It’s great and everything is worth taking! “

“Arnaud keeps winning, and he deserves it,” claimed Fred. “He worked a lot in the early season and also after his crash during quarantine. His lead-out train is also doing very well, but the whole team around him is performing well. During the last stage of the Tour de Wallonie, it wasn’t especially the train that made the difference. It’s easier when the guys are in good shape anyway”. A winner in the Tour du Poitou-Charentes en Nouvelle-Aquitaine’s first sprint, Arnaud Démare should have three another opportunities to raise his hands over the next few days. Let’s also remember he took it all two years ago, storming the time trial and the GC as well. “Everyone tells us about this grand slam”, concluded Fred. “But we won’t get carried away. We’re going to take it day after day, especially since you never know how it can go. Today, the photo finish was on our side but it could have been the other way around. This victory is a good omen, even if we will not content ourselves with that. What’s interesting is that we took charge of the race and we were rewarded at the end. In the past it wasn’t always that way, so obviously everyone is happy”.

Annemiek van Vleuten claims European title with victory in Plouay

Van Vleuten's Mitchelton-Scott sent me this report:

World champion Annemiek van Vleuten has added a European title to her growing trophy cabinet with a stunning victory in the European Road Race Championships in Plouay.

Annemiek van Vleuten

Annemiek van Vleuten (shown winning the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad earlier this year) shows again that she is an incredible athlete by becoming European Road Champion

The 37-year-old claimed her sixth victory of the season by holding off Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy) in a duel for the gold medal.

Dominant Dutch:
Van Vleuten’s Dutch team dominated an attacking race from start to finish, forcing numerous splits in the peloton until a select group of around 40 riders remained at the head of the race.

A crash then caused some confusion in the bunch as riders checked to see who was involved, but as an attack was launched, Van Vleuten reacted quickly. The move saw the world champion form part of a strong leading trio with 30km remaining, while the group behind failed to organise a chase.

Eventually Chantal van den Broek-Blaak (NED) bridged across to the leaders to give the Dutch the numerical advantage with less than 20km remaining. But sensing the danger, Longo Borghini soon went on the offensive, with only Van Vleuten able to respond to the Italian's acceleration.

Tactical Game:
With her teammate still chasing on behind, Van Vleuten was in an ideal position and she sprang an attack of her own with nine kilometres left to race. It looked like the double Strade Bianche winner was set for another solo victory, but Longo Borghini managed to claw her way back.

The leading pair then began to play cat and mouse, allowing Van den Broek-Blaak and Katarzyna Niewiadoma (POL) to come back into contention with four kilometres remaining. Once again, the odds favoured the Dutch, but Longo Borghini wasn’t content to wait for a sprint finish as she attacked again.

Van Vleuten was the only rider able to follow and the race was set for a duel for the win as the duo passed under the flamme rouge. As the line approached Van Vleuten opened up the sprint, swinging across the road and powering away from her rival to make it six wins from eight starts in 2020.

Annemiek van Vleuten:
"Thanks to the Dutch squad because we lined up with a dream team. We had eight super-strong girls and we decided that it was in our advantage to make the race really hard.

"Between myself and Anna van der Breggen, it was both our jobs to make the race super hard to set something up for the other girls. I was so proud to race together with my team and I am so proud to do this together."

"Longo Borghini was very strong today, so I really didn't get it for free. But I knew I would be stronger than her in the sprint. I started the sprint a bit too early, that was a bit stupid."

“I felt really busy today and wanted the others to get chances too. It was a very nice game, in which we were very strong as a team. I really enjoyed it."

2020 European Road Race Championships – Results:
1. Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands) 2:50:46
2. Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy) ST
3. Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Poland) +0:05

Lotto Soudal extends bike-maker Ridley's contract

Here's the team's news release:

Never change a winning team. With that in mind, the Belgian bicycle manufacturer Ridley and Lotto Soudal headed for the negotiations. Given the - on both sides - great satisfaction with the current partnership, the result followed swiftly: a contract up to and including 2022.

“Both Ridley and us share the same vision of cycling,” said Lotto Soudal General Manager John Lelangue. “Performance, quality and continuous research and development. In short, we aim for the best there is on the market.”

Lotto Soudal

Lotto-Soudal riders time-trialing on their Ridley bikes at the 2019 Tour de France. Sirotti photo.

“We have been sponsoring Lotto Soudal for 13 years,” says Jochim Aerts, CEO of Belgian Cycling Factory, the parent company of Ridley. “In 2005 they gave us a chance at the highest level. Together we immediately won three stages in the Giro and the Tour that first season, thanks to Robbie McEwen. A year later our first Green Jersey was a fact, the start of a fantastic and long-term partnership.”

Ridley and Lotto Soudal collected 319 victories over those years, more than half of them on their flagship, the Ridley Noah Fast. The sprinters bike was therefore manned by top sprinters such as Robbie McEwen, Andre Greipel and, since last year, Caleb Ewan.

“Sponsoring a WorldTour team is not only important for brand awareness,” says Jochim Aerts, “but Lotto Soudal is also essential for the development of our racing bikes. That is why we are extremely proud that we can extend our contract for a further two years.”

Attila Valter and Jakub Mareczko to Lead CCC Team at Tour de Hongrie

Here's the team's update:

27 August 2020: CCC Team will target both stage wins and the General Classification at the Tour de Hongrie (29 August - 2 September) with Attila Valter and Jakub Mareczko leading the six-rider roster.

Jakob Mareczko

Jakob Mareczko (shown at the 2018 Tour of Hainan) will be a CCC Team leader at the Tour of Hungary.

Sports Director Gabriele Missaglia said that Valter and Mareczko will be joined by a strong group of riders who can both support their leaders while also looking for their own opportunities.

“We are starting Tour de Hongrie with a strong rider roster that will be racing for both stage wins and the General Classification in Hungary. In the first instance, Attila Valter, who I know is motivated to race at home, and Jakub Mareczko will be our two main leaders and I am confident that they are capable of making a good result at the race. The first stage is short with three laps of a course that includes a climb and while it is not too long I think it will be harder for the bunch to arrive all together so, this will be more open for everyone to try something. Mareczko is in good shape so we will look to work for him on stages two to four where a bunch sprint is likely before the crucial day for the General Classification on the final stage, which features three big climbs including a summit finish. Overall, all of the guys already have some good racing in their legs, so I think where possible, we can also look to give everyone the chance to try something and take opportunities,” Missaglia explained.

Valter is excited about racing on home soil at the five-day stage race, which starts on Saturday.

“I am really looking forward to this race and to be racing in my home country, I think it will be a great race and my main goal is to fight for the General Classification. I finished third overall here last year and, although the competition is going to be tougher this time, I am feeling confident that I can try to do better than that with the first and last stages of the race being the most important. I am feeling recovered and in good shape after my first big block of racing in Spain, Poland, and Italy and I have had some time to train on part of this year’s parcours. I think this year’s race will be a good one and although it’s not the hardest or longest I think with WordTour teams racing, the level will be much higher and it will be more demanding than ever,” Valter said.

Mareczko is motivated ahead of the potential bunch sprint finishes on the opening stages of Tour de Hongrie

“I am looking forward to racing at Tour de Hongrie because there are some good opportunities for bunch sprints at the race. After my first two races back in Italy, I have continued to work hard and I think that my legs are good and my form is where I want it to be at this point. Hopefully, I will see that reflected in the race and I can get some good results over the five days”, Mareczko said.

Tour de Hongrie (29 August - 2 September)

Rider Roster: Kamil Gradek (POL), Kamil Malecki (POL), Jakub Mareczko (ITA), Michal Paluta (POL), Attila Valter (HUN), Łukasz Wiśniowski (POL)

Sports Director: Gabriele Missaglia (ITA)

Olav Kooij will transfer to professional squad Team Jumbo-Visma mid-2021

The team sent me this:

Olav Kooij will race for the professional team of Team Jumbo-Visma from 1 July 2021. The 18-year-old rider will signs a contract with the Dutch World Tour team until 2023.

Kooij has been wearing the Jumbo-Visma Development Team jersey from the beginning of this year. In his first season with the U23 riders he managed to win three races so far. The rider from Numansdorp, The Netherlands is the second talent after Gijs Leemreize to make the switch from the Development Team to the World Tour team of Team Jumbo-Visma.

“It went faster than I ever dreamed possible”, Kooij says. “Last year I was super happy to sign with the Development Team. That was already a very nice step. The fact that I can sign a professional contract so quickly is very special and really is a dream come true. I feel at home with this team. In the coming years I hope to develop myself further in sprinting. That is going very well at the moment and it is my weapon in my attempts to win races. I will continue to focus on that.”

“Olav is a very big talent”, sportive director Merijn Zeeman says. “In the few races he raced this year, he showed that he is incredibly fast and that he can win. That’s great for a first-year U23 rider. It is good for his development that he will compete at a higher level from next season on. This is also a great transfer for our Academy. This step confirms that Robbert de Groot and his staff are doing a good job.”

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