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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, February 19, 2021

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2020 Tour de France | 2020 Giro d'Italia

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Simon Clarke to guide Team Qhubeka-Assos at Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var

The team sent me this:

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, February 18, 2021: Team Qhubeka ASSOS has announced its seven-rider line-up for the Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var, which will see our team lean on the road leadership qualities of Simon Clarke in what promises to be a very tough race.

The 34-year-old Australian recently made a strong debut for the team at Étoile de Bessèges, where Michael Gogl finished sixth overall and Giacomo Nizzolo performed excellently in the sprints, and he now takes to the start line of a race that looks to provide an intense early-season test for all of the competitors.

Simon Clarke

Simon Clarke finishing stage 12 of the 2020 Giro d'Italia. Sirotti photo

Clarke will be joined by 25-year-old compatriot Robert Power; as the highly-rated man from Perth makes his first start since joining the team at the beginning of the season.

Belgian climber Sander Armée together with Italian Grand Tour champion Fabio Aru, who both recently rode at Tour de la Provence, will welcome the opportunity to further test themselves in the early season, as they take to the start-line for the 186.8km opening stage from Biot to Gourdon. While the strong, versatile duo of Lukasz Wisniowski and Emil Vinjebo take to their second races of the season, where they will look to play important supporting roles throughout.

The line-up for the three-day race is completed by Belgian Dimitri Claeys, a rider who will have one eye on the upcoming Classics campaign but will be sure to use the opportunity with the rough racing on offer to sharpen his condition ahead of the racing to come.

As Team Qhubeka ASSOS will be doing throughout the year, we are privileged to have one of our dedicated fans announce the line-up for this race, in their own creative way.

The team for Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var has been put together in a video release by Adam Nunn from South Africa. You can see this video across our team's social media channels. Thank you Adam!

Race line-up:
Simon Clarke
Robert Power
Fabio Aru
Sander Armée
Dimitri Claeys
Lukasz Wisniowski
Emil Vinjebo

Simon Clarke:
"Weather-wise it’s looking pretty good for the race which will be great news! It’s race number two for me for Team Qhubeka ASSOS and so I’m looking forward to getting in amongst it again with a new group of guys. Obviously I’m still getting to know all of the team (from a racing perspective) and it’s a completely different group here compared to Besseges, so I’m looking forward to racing with some new guys.

"It’s a tough little race this so it’s a good chance to check your condition and to see how things are going for the spring season. There will be no hiding at Haute Var, you can’t come there if you haven’t put in the hard work so it will be good to see how it’s all going.

"The race is three tough stages, all uphill finishes and all over 3000m of climbing, everyday. It’s going to be a tough challenge but a good block of racing, that’s for sure."

Alex Sans Vega – Sports Director:
It’s another exciting race to start the season: three stages, all pretty hard and with a quality field; so it’s going be a very high level race.

For us, we want to perform at a good level and also use the race as a final preparation, for some of guys, who will be looking towards the ‘opening weekend’ in Belgium – the first big Classics of the season. Of course as a team we strive to always be successful, and that will be our goal. If we can do that and include a good result then that will be excellent for the team and the strong start we’ve made to the season already.

Israel Start-Up Nation is also headed to Tour des Alpes-Maritimes et du Var

Here's the team's announcement:

Dan Martin and his new teammate, Mike Woods, will lead a strong Israel Start-Up Nation squad in the three-stage climbing fest known as the Tour des Alpes-Maritimes et du Var.

Michael Woods

Michael Woods winning stage 7 of the 2020 Vuelta a España.

In their season debut, the two first-rate climbers will get a chance to test their legs on the mountains overlooking the beautiful Cote d’Azur, against high-quality rivals from ten other WorldTour teams.

“I’m just excited to get racing with these guys; it’s probably one of the strongest teams I’ve ridden on for quite some time,” said Martin, who will race alongside Krists Neilands, Hugo Hofstetter, Sep Vanmarcke, Patrick Bevin, Daryl Impey, and Woods. The latter four are new to the team this season and this is their first chance to race together.

The team came to this beautiful (and sunny) part of France feeling what can only be described as “cautious but ambitious.”

“The first goal,” explains ISN Sports Director Lionel Marie, “is to let all the guys go ‘full gas’ to test their limit and see where they are in terms of shape. We hope that by doing that, we will be able to get some results here.”

More specifically, “We will be happy to come away with a stage win here, and if we find ourselves with a chance to go for the GC – even better,” said Sports Director Rene Andre.

The three days of racing will really test our climber’s legs. The first stage, taking place Friday, ends with three consecutive climbs (on the same mountain). Saturday’s stage finishes with a steep 1 km; and to top it all off on Sunday, the riders will complete three thousand meters of ascent over only 134 km!

“We are here to try and get a stage win. Whether it’s for myself or one of the other guys,” says Martin, “I’m just out to enjoy the race, get the kilometers in my legs ahead of the WorldTour races in March. Winter has been good despite it being probably the coldest I have endured; I managed to get some good work done at home in Andorra, and then came the great team camp.”

Canadian Mike Woods will undoubtedly find the climbs to his liking, but he insists that the main goal lies in getting the race feel. “I am in good form and want to do well, but I will deem this race a success if I can come out of it feeling like I am back in the groove of racing.”

Woods is looking forward to his debut: “Having signed with ISN back in the late summer, it has been a long wait to finally race for the team. I’m excited to do so!”

Teams headed to UAE Tour

Team BikeExchange sent me this update:

Team BikeExchange will line-up at the UAE Tour as the defending champions with a mix of experienced sprinters and young climbers for the first WorldTour race of the season.

Luka Mexgec

Luka Mezgec (shown at the 2019 Vuelta a España) will be at the UAE Tour.

Newly crowned Australian Criterium champion Kaden Groves and Slovenian sprinter Luka Mezgec will give the squad options for the fast finishes during the seven-day tour, while the experienced Michael Hepburn and Jack Bauer will provide the power on the flat desert roads.

The climbers will also get their opportunities as young Italian Kevin Colleoni makes his debut alongside Herald Sun Tour stage winner Nick Schultz, with Ethiopian Tsgabu Grmay set to provide support as the road begins to climb.

For this year’s edition of the UAE Tour, there will be seven stages including an individual time trial stage for the first time on stage two. Stage three will finish up the steep slopes of the Hatta Dam, before what should be a GC showdown on stage five to Jebel Jais.

Team BikeExchange at the 2021 UAE Tour:
Jack Bauer (NZL, 35)
Kevin Colleoni (ITA, 21)
Tsgabu Grmay (ETH, 29)
Kaden Groves (AUS, 22)
Michael Hepburn (AUS, 29)
Luka Mezgec (SLO, 32)
Nick Schultz (AUS, 26)

Kevin Colleoni:
“I can’t be happier to begin my experience as a Pro rider with Team BikeExchange with a WorldTour race such as UAE Tour. I am really excited, and I have been training a lot for it in the last weeks. I have studied the stages but of course only once we are in the race, we will know how to approach each single day.

“There will not be a selected leader for this race for our Team, for this reason it will be important to see as a team how the first half of the tour will go and then we can adjust our strategy for the second half in order to achieve the best result for our team.

“Everything will be totally new to me, coming to a WorldTour Team for the first time has been already an intense process for me, I still have to grow a lot and to have the opportunity to be part of the line-up in such an important event it will surely be something that will help my development as a rider.”

Andrew Smith – Sport Director:
“We are glad to be back racing after this difficult winter period, and to begin our first WorldTour race it’s really motivating for us at Team BikeExchange. It’s also nice to go in a race where you are defending champion like we are this year at UAE Tour. Last year was a particular race as we all know, but surely our aim is to give our best efforts to obtain a good result.

“We have different objectives this year and options during this year’s event: we will have Kaden Groves and Luka Mezgec for the stages which will most likely finish with sprints, while for the mountain stages and the GC we will give the younger guys, Nick Schultz and Kevin Colleoni the opportunity to show themselves and to experience that side of racing.”

Here's Ag2r-Citroën's UAE Tour update:

Riders participating:

Tony Gallopin:
“The winter has gone well and everything is fine. I trained hard and my return to racing at the Grand Prix la Marseillaise and then the Tour de la Provence went smoothly. Between covid-19 and the injuries (scaphoid fracture of the left hand on February 6, 2020 at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana then a fracture of the wrist on October 10, 2020 during the seventh stage of the Giro d’Italia), 2020 was a blank season for me. I will ramp up to be in good shape in April and May with Paris-Camembert, the Ardennes and then the Giro d´Italia. I’m happy to be participating in the UAE Tour. I competed in this race in 2019, and the Tour of Qatar or the Tour of Oman in the past. This race allows us to ride in the sun and do quality work. This year there are two summit finishes and an individual time trial. So it should be a good race.”

Tony Gallopin

Tony Gallopin getting a little insulation after stage three of this year's Tour de la Provence. Sirotti photo

The number: 3
They are three riders who will all have their first race of the year at the UAE TOUR. Finland's Jaakko Hänninen, the Swiss rider Mathias Frank, and American Larry Warbasse. The latter has just completed an training camp in the Sierra Nevada with Bob Jungels.

Deceuninck-Quick Step will be at the UAE Tour. Here's their news:

One of the best sprinters of last season, during which he claimed a total of seven wins and the prestigious Tour de France green jersey, Sam Bennett is ready to return to action, more than three months since his last outing at the Vuelta a España. Supported by a strong cast, including Shane Archbold, Iljo Keisse and Michael Mørkøv, the 30-year-old Irishman will look to be in the mix on the flat, with four of the race’s seven stages expected to come down to a bunch sprint.

Sam BEnnett

Sam Bennett wins stage four of the 2020 Vuelta a España.

“It’s been a good winter and I am looking forward to starting the season. You always wait for the first race to see where the condition is, so Sunday can’t come soon enough. There will be plenty of sprint opportunities and I hope to do good, although I expect some stiff competition. The team had a great start to the season in France and it would be nice if we could continue that – it’s what we want”, said Sam.

João Almeida will be another rider to kick off his campaign in the Middle East. A revelation of the complicated 2020 season, when he made his debut at World Tour level and impressed with a series of spectacular results, including fourth overall and a 15-day spell in the famed Giro d’Italia maglia rosa, João can’t wait to pin a number again.

“It feels good to finally start the season. I’m excited about going to the UAE and discovering this race. I don’t know exactly where my form is, you never know after the winter, but I will take it day by day and see how things go”, Almeida explained.

The young Portuguese, together with Mattia Cattaneo and Fausto Masnada, is set to lead Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s ambitions on the Jebel Hafeet and Jebel Jais summit finishes.

“We have a strong team for the first World Tour race of the year, an event which will be made even more interesting by the presence of an individual time trial, something rare in the UAE. In Sam – who had a great first season with the Wolfpack – we have a guy who can fight for results on four stages, with Michael and Shane there for him and Iljo as team captain, a very strong rider capable of controlling the race. For the mountains, we have three riders – João, Mattia and Fausto – all strong guys, so overall we are excited to go there”, explained Deceuninck – Quick-Step sports director Geert Van Bondt.

Olav Kooij moves up from Team Jumbo-Visma Development Team to World Tour Team

Here’s the team’s announcement

Olav Kooij makes an immediate move from the Development Team of Team Jumbo-Visma to the World Tour team. The 19-year old Dutchman is a promising rider who can stand his ground in both the sprint and classic races. In the decimated previous season he was successful no less than six times. Initially, the idea was to transfer him to the main team in the middle of this season. Within all ranks of Team Jumbo-Visma there was the conviction that it was wise to speed up that process with a few months.

Merijn Zeeman, sportive director at Team Jumbo-Visma, explains why the talented rider will strengthen the pro ranks earlier: “With Olav we propose a balanced talent development programme. Not only do we look at his race programme, but also, for example, at his preparation and his specific role in a race. Unfortunately more and more races are dropped from our development team programme and at the same time more space is created in the pro programme by the temporary loss of riders. This creates a situation for Olav in which a transfer is the best contribution to his training and development.”

Kooij is happy with the opportunity offered to him and sees his programme being supplemented with professional races in the near future. “In the professional races I can learn a lot. I take all that experience with me. By taking this step now I am more assured of riding races and that is an important part of my development. I won't see my teammates from the Development Team as much now, but I will still see them at training camps and races with the mixed team. I also hope to see them again in the World Tour team soon.”

According to Head of Development Robbert de Groot, Kooij is ready for the switch. “Olav has developed in a stormy way in recent months. Therefore this is a responsible and logical next step. As a development team, we are very proud and happy about that.”

Kooij will make his debut for the World Tour team in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Bardiani CSF Faizanè will spend the weekend racing in Turkey

The team sent me this:

GP Velo Manavgat and GP Velo Alanya will close the Turkish training camp of Bardiani CSF Faizanè. After Davide Gabburo's victory and Alessandro Tonelli's podium, the team riders will try to close the 15 days of training camp with another great performance.

A Saturday for sprinters and a Sunday open to different scenarios. It will be a weekend of races in Turkey for Bardiani CSF Faizanè team. In fact, the Velo Manavgat GP will be held on Saturday, a race designed to be suitable for sprinters. The team will be at the start with two young neo-pros Enrico Zanoncello and Tomas Trainini, without forgetting the more experienced but fast Mirco Maestri. On Sunday the Velo Alanya GP will be held, a race open to different scenarios and more similar in conformation to the race that led Davide Gabburo to success, Alessandro Tonelli to the podium and Luca Covili to the top 10. Luca Covili will race on Sunday instead of place of the young sprinter Tomas Trainini.

In the team’s teamcar will be Sports Director Alessandro Donati. These are his line-up choices for the weekend races.


Saturday 20.02.2021 - Gran Prix Velo Manavgat

Sunday 21.02.2021 - Gran Prix Velo Alanya

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