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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, December 17, 2020

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2020 Tour de France | 2020 Giro d'Italia

The future ain't what it used to be. - Yogi Berra

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NIPPO to join EF Pro Cycling as co-title sponsor

EF Pro Cycling sent me this announcement:

The EF Pro Cycling organization is thrilled to welcome the innovative Japanese construction and asphalt company NIPPO CORPORATION as its co-title partner. The team will race, ride, and explore as EF Education-NIPPO from Jan. 1, 2021.

The NIPPO CORPORATION has long been a sponsor and supporter of racing in Europe — the NIPPO–Vini Fantini–Faizanè team raced the Giro d’Italia on three occasions — but the move marks the company’s first partnership at professional road cycling’s highest level.

EF Education First

The EF Education team being presented at the start of the 2019 Tour de France. Sirotti photo.

“It is the first time for NIPPO CORPORATION to participate in the WorldTour, and we are thrilled and excited. It's a new adventure for us,” said Hiroshi Daimon, director of sport for NIPPO CORPORATION.  “We are excited to contribute as much as possible to furthering the success of the EF Pro Cycling team across the world.”

The NIPPO CORPORATION’s businesses work toward a realization of prosperous societies through reliable craftsmanship. Its approach of earning trust, passing on the art of its techniques and challenging itself to achieve dreams connects with the EF Pro Cycling team, which races across the world with the mission to compete but also to explore and inspire.

“Our team comes from far and wide, and the same is true for our partner family. There is a freedom and freshness on our roster and in our thinking between our partners since we all come from so many different places in the world. I’m very proud of that fact,” said team CEO Jonathan Vaughters. “With NIPPO CORPORATION joining us as a title sponsor next season, we will only add to our global approach to professional cycling and exploration.”

The NIPPO CORPORATION has a particular affinity for cycling given that some of its business involves the construction of velodromes and other race tracks — specifically the highly technical construction of a velodrome’s banked asphalt walls.

The company builds 90 percent of velodromes in Japan and has been a booster of cycling since the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Since then, NIPPO CORPORATION has sponsored assorted Japanese national teams over the years and smaller teams throughout Europe. One of the aims of NIPPO CORPORATION’s investment is to support and empower Japanese cyclists and cycling team staff, thus furthering cycling in Japan.

“We hope that the Japanese athletes and technical staff, from mechanics, to soigneurs who join the team, will gain more experience and contribute to the development of Japanese cycling,” Daimon said. “We can’t wait to race as EF Education-NIPPO in 2021.”

In addition to EF Pro Cycling, NIPPO CORPORATION will also sponsor Nippo-Provence-PTS Conti, a Swiss-based continental team with riders from Switzerland, Ethiopia, France, Japan, Norway, and Poland.

Christian Knees retires from racing, will work in Team INEOS’ racing & performance departments

Here’s the team’s release:

39 year old Christian Knees has enjoyed a long and decorated career, including spending the last decade with the team. With 20 Grand Tour appearances to his name, Knees was part of the team’s first Tour de France victory in 2012, in addition to Chris Froome’s three consecutive Grand Tour wins during 2017 and 2018.

Christian Knees

Christian Knees at the 2019 Tour Down Under. Sirotti photo.

A former German national champion in 2010, Knees is one of the sport’s most loyal support riders and next season will move to a new role, putting his experience to use behind the scenes to help the team’s Racing and Performance departments.

On calling time on his racing career, Knees told “17 years is a long time. To be a professional at 39 years old is not something many people can say. At some point you need to retire and it’s always hard to end a chapter – but I’m really proud of what I achieved. The Grand Tour wins with the team – being there in 2012 with Bradley, and to be alongside Froomey at the start of the Tour in Germany in 2017. There are so many good memories, not to mention spending 10 years in one of the world’s best sports teams.

“On a personal level, being the national champion of Germany in 2010 and wearing that jersey for a year was a big honour. Winning my home race at Rund um Koln and also winning Bayern Rundfahrt – these are some really nice results that I can look back on with my head held high. Now it’s a good time to have some different adventures but will always ride my bike. I love riding and I love training.

“I’m staying with the team next year which I’m really happy with. Initially it’s going to be a year of trying different angles and new things off the bike, looking at how I can best help the team be successful.”

Knees was key in helping protect Bradley Wiggins during the Tour in 2012 as the team won the yellow jersey for the first time. Unsurprisingly he looks back on not just that race, but the whole season, with immense pride.

“All that year in 2012 was just phenomenal. We moved on from race to race, kind of winning everything. We won Paris-Nice, then the Dauphine. The Dauphine was a great team result with Mick Rogers on the podium, winning team GC and having Froomey also up there. It just went to plan every day in the Tour and I never had a doubt we’d make it. I had this extra motivation from the year before, where we went to the Tour and Bradley crashed out with a broken collarbone. I didn’t want to see him on the floor again – so I knew my job would be to protect him and be in the wind for him. I just tried to give my best every day and I knew we’d have a good chance to win the Tour for the first time.”

Knees also played a key and unique role as an ever-present in Froome’s three consecutive Grand Tour successes across the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

“It was always a goal that I wanted to do three consecutive Grand Tours in a year. I wanted to see how that would feel. In the end with Froomey we didn’t do three in a single year, but we went to consecutive Grand Tours and won all of them. That was something really special. I was the only guy who was with him at all three of those Grand Tours. It wasn’t that much recognised in public, but for me it’s not about that – I love my job and I like that I can look back and tell my grandchildren about this one day.”

The winter of 2010 also proved to be a key crossroads in Knees’ career. Left without a team after the collapse of a new prospective WorldTour squad, the then German champion was able to sign a late deal with Team Sky for 2011.

A decade later Knees admits: “I never look back at what could have been. I was maybe lucky that year, but I would say that the German title helped me a lot to find another team after the Pegasus team broke down. In the end I didn’t just find another team, I found the team. That was really incredible when my management told me they were talking to Sky. I had to call Dave Brailsford on December 24 to give him my word that I’d take the contract. That’s late – really late – but it was a nice Christmas gift! I’m really grateful for that chance. Who would have thought then that it would be a 10-year stint in the team. It’s been amazing. My time in German teams was also something I really enjoyed, and I’m really thankful for all the people I could meet through cycling. It’s never felt like working. It’s my passion and because of that I never felt the pressure too much – I just loved it.”

Cian Uijtdebroeks signs with Team Auto Eder and will start his professional career with BORA - hansgrohe in 2022

Bora-hansgrohe sent me this news release:

The highly sought-after 17-year-old Belgian will take on his final season as a junior with Team Auto Eder. From 2022, Uijtdebroeks will then ride for BORA - hansgrohe for at least three years.

"It's no secret that everyone was interested in Cian. His results are very good, yet his performance data is particularly convincing. I must say that I am personally highly impressed by Cian's demeanour and his very productive cooperation with his stepfather. We all quickly found out that we operated on the same wavelength. That was certainly one reason for him to choose us. The second is that with Team Auto Eder, we will have an international junior team from 2021 onwards, and will thus be able to introduce talent into the BORA - hansgrohe structure at an early stage. I'm already quite excited about where our common journey will take us. But we are not pursuing any particular short-term goals with Cian, instead he will be given time to develop in a less pressurised environment." - Ralph Denk, Team Manager

"After winning Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, I had contact with pretty much all the WorldTour teams. There were different approaches to making the move to the pro ranks and also towards my development. With BORA - hansgrohe, I immediately had a good feeling. They don't just look at young riders physiologically, but they also take a very individual approach to their riders. In the end, I was also convinced by the fact that Team Auto Eder will work towards integrating me into the BORA - hansgrohe structure. I feel that I am in good hands and am very happy with my decision. Now I’ll be able to fully concentrate on the first third of the racing program, with the Classics." - Cian Uijtdebroeks

"We became aware of Cian in our scouting process during Spring, and we then contacted him. He has potential in different areas, as he is a very good climber, but can also ride a strong time trial. In general, his performance data is very impressive for a 17-year-old rider. In the upcoming season, he will firstly be concentrating on the Belgian races, and then increasingly on stage races. I think that with our new international focus, we’ll have a very good race program for him, and if everything goes well, it would certainly be a goal of his to do well at the World Championships in Flanders. But we will also bring Cian together with the pros at some training events this year. I think this is very important, because in twelve months, he will already be in the midst of preparations for his first professional season with BORA - hansgrohe." - Christian Schrot, Sports Director and Talent Scout

Team Auto Eder: Professional talent development:
Team Auto Eder is the official junior team of the UCI WorldTour Team BORA - hansgrohe. Since its founding in 2007 under the then sponsor Quest Immobilen, it has pursued the goal of providing the best possible support for young and ambitious riders, offering them an environment in which they are able to develop without pressure, but nevertheless in a targeted manner, and in the long term, ultimately find their way into professional cycling. The successful professional cyclists of today, such as Michael Schwarzmann, Georg Zimmermann and Marco Brenner, are the result of these years of talent development in the U19 category, which is an excellent basis for commencing a career as a professional athlete.

At the turn of the year, Team Auto Eder will open a new chapter in its team history. Up until the 2020 season, only Bavarian athletes were permitted to race for the official junior team of BORA - hansgrohe. From the 2021 season onwards, however, new ground will be broken, with this concept being opened up to the whole of Germany as well as neighbouring countries. The background: with a larger talent pool, Auto Eder aims to create even greater synergy with BORA – hansgrohe, while simultaneously increasing its level of performance.

The sportive goals are also higher than before. To give young riders the opportunity to gather international experience, the program will include more participation in high-class international one-day races as well as stage races. In terms of its operation, the goal is to run a junior cycling team on a highly professional level. As in previous years, the team will be led by Christian Schrot, who is also responsible for scouting for the WorldTour Team BORA - hansgrohe. In addition, Team Auto Eder will also rely on BORA – hansgrohe’s resources in terms of material and organisation.

"The realignment of Team Auto Eder serves as the next step in our team history. For us, soccer and the other ball sports have provided a model for this path, where it is quite normal to work with international talents already in the junior categories. In cycling, however, such a strategy is still quite new - so I am very much looking forward to this task. But I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Auto Eder company and in particular its managing director Willi Bonke. We have already worked together very successfully for 20 years, and he has always been open to new ideas and ways of doing things. We would also like to thank the Bund Deutscher Radfahrer (BDR) and its subordinate associations. Because such a path is also new for the federations, and we are pleased that they support our idea of an even more professional approach to talent development." - Ralph Denk, Team Manager

"We have achieved everything there was to achieve with Team Auto Eder at a national level over the past few years. Therefore, we now want to become increasingly successful on the international stage as well. This is particularly the case, because it has been so great to see how the synergies created in recent years between Team Auto Eder and BORA - hansgrohe are now being taken to a new level. The new team concept also brings with it the next step in our external presentation: because now we will be able to gain more of an international image. Other companies take the route of TV advertising, yet we remain committed to cycling. Finally, I would like to emphasise that we are very proud of this extremely successful cooperation over the past 20 years, and are now looking forward to a new chapter in the upcoming season." - Willi Bonke, Managing Director, Auto Eder

Team Auto Eder 2021

Investment group and government program help Louis Garneau relaunch

Bicycle Retailer & Industry News posted this update:

SAINT-AUGUSTIN-de-DESMAURES, Québec (BRAIN) — Louis Garneau Sports Group, which requested creditor protection in March, plans to relaunch following an investment from a Montréal investment firm and support from a program created to help attract and retain businesses in Québec. Company founder Louis Garneau remains the majority shareholder.

Champlain Financial Corporation's other major investments include Kanuk (a Montréal apparel manufacturer and retailer), La Canadienne (a footwear brand), and G2MC (a high-end furniture retailer). Louis Garneau Sports and Champlain have been working for several months on a new strategic plan to relaunch the Garneau, Sugoi and Sombrio brands, the company said.

According to Le Journal de Québec, the relaunch program has a price tag of CA$25 million ($19.5 million), including a CA$5 million loan from Investissement Quebec. When it filed for protection, Louis Garneau Sports listed debts of CA$28.1 million and Sugoi, which filed separately, had debt of CA$8 million.

"We sincerely believe that Louis and his team of seasoned leaders have all the assets required to reinforce the positioning of the Louis Garneau Sports Group as a world leader of cycling apparel, accessories and bikes," said Pierre Simard, the president of Champlain Financial Corporation.

The company's head office remains in St-Augustin-de-Desmaures. "'Never Give Up' has been my motto during my whole cycling career," said Garneau, a former top cyclist. "Even if this race has been the most difficult one of my life, I never gave up. Champlain Financial Corporation believed in our team from the very beginning. I want to thank them for trusting and believing in us."

You can read the entire story here.

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