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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, October 14, 2021

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2020 Tour de France | 2021 Giro d'Italia

I don't believe in astrology; I'm a Sagittarius and we're skeptical. - Arthur C. Clarke

Upcoming racing:

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Les Woodland's book Dirty Feet: How the Great Unwashed Created the Tour de France is available as an audiobook here.

2022 Tour de France Route announced

The 2022 Tour de France route was announced in Paris today. You can find lots of info about the 109th edition of the Tour here.

Tour de France map

Sebastian Henao & Leonardo Basso sign with Astana-Qazaqstan

Here’s the team’s release:

Colombian rider Sebastian Henao (28) and Italian rider Leonardo Basso (27) will join Astana Qazaqstan Team in the upcoming season with Henao signing one-year contract (2022) and Basso signing a two-year deal (2022 and 2023).

Sebastian Henao turned pro in 2014 after a set of notable results in the Colombia racing circuit. In eight years as a professional rider, Henao has proved himself as a strong and loyal team player with a lot of Grand Tour experience, especially at the Giro d’Italia with five participations to his name.

Sebastyian Henao

Sebastian Henao finishes the 2018 Giro del Piemonte. Sirotti photo

Third place at Le Tour de Langkawi (2015), fifth place in the overall standings of Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali (2016), sixth place at the Arctic Race of Norway (2016) and eighth place in the General Classification of the Vuelta a Burgos (2018) and Volta ao Algarve (2021) can be named among his best results.

“Honestly, I am really excited to come to Astana. This is a new step for me, a change which I am really looking for to keep on improving as a professional rider. I would like to thank Alexandr Vinokurov for a chance to become a rider of team Astana. I am looking forward to join the team, to see my new teammates, to wear the new jersey, to ride the new bike. I think Astana is the team which can suit me perfectly and I will try to do my all to reach the best possible results together”, – said Sebastian Henao.

Leonardo Basso turned professional in 2018, choosing classic and one-day races as his main specialization. In the past four years, Basso has ridden 60 one-day races with fifth place at Coppa Bernocchi, seventh at Gran Premio Bruno Beghelli, and ninth at Trofeo Palma and Trofeo Campos amongst his career highlights.

“I am really happy to ride for Astana Qazaqstan Team from the next season. This is one of the biggest and oldest teams in the WorldTour and there were many champions who were competing in the jersey of Astana during its long and great history. So, it is a pleasure for me to join this team for the next two years. I am grateful to Alexandr Vinokurov for trusting in me and I hope to repay this trust on the road with my work and dedication. I will give my best to help the team to reach its biggest goals. I am ready to help the leaders to win as much as possible in the upcoming season”, – said Leonardo Basso.

“We are looking for reinforcement in our team both for the Grand Tours and classics, and I think that these two riders can suit us in the best way. We know Sebastian Henao as a good helper, very experienced in the Grand Tours and stage races, so he can play an important role for our leaders. Also, Leonardo Basso in just a few years has gained some good experience in the Northern Classics, while we are going to work on improvement in this direction. I would like to welcome Sebastian and Leonardo to Astana Qazaqstan Team and I am looking forward to start working with them ahead of the new season”, – said Alexandr Vinokurov.

Israel Start-Up Nation recruits Jakob Fuglsang & Hugo Houle

Here’s the team’s announcement:

Israel Start-Up Nation is strengthening its roster with the signings of Jakob Fuglsang and Hugo Houle who will join the team in 2022. Both riders have signed a three-year contract with ISN.

Jakob Fuglsang

Jakob Fuglsang winning 2019 Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Sirotti photo

“We are constantly looking for ways to strengthen our team, and with these two new riders, we feel we have accomplished that,” ISN’s general manager Kjell Carlstrom says. “For a few years, Jakob Fuglsang has been up there with the best GC riders in the world, and he still is. To add another rider to our GC team with such capacities is definitely broadening our possibilities for great results, especially in week-long stage races. And with Hugo, we have got a strong helper who has shown how valuable he can be for his teammates, getting the team in the correct position at the right time.”

As a renowned stage racer and winner of multiple Monuments, Fuglsang (36) needs no introduction. The versatile Dane has been among the very top riders for over a decade and he’s far from finished. As a vital part of the strong GC group on ISN next year, Fuglsang aims to return to his best level in 2022 to win races and help his teammates succeed.

Jakob Fuglsang: “I’m very happy and excited to join ISN. I believe it’s a good time for me to try something new and I believe that ISN and I can benefit a lot from each other. I think that I can make good use of my experience in the team and help the team to reach some of its future goals. I’m convinced that I still have some big wins left in me and, of course, the Tour de France Grand Depart from Denmark next year will be a big goal.”

ISN’s Co-Owner, Sylvan Adams, expressed his enthusiasm about the additions of Fuglsang and Houle, and his confidence that they will bolster the team roster: “Jakob is a proven winner, with wins in Monuments, stage races and Grand Tour stages. On ISN, he will essentially be replacing a rider with quite similar qualities, the great Dan Martin, who is retiring after this year.”

Adams also welcomed fellow Canadian, Houle: “We go way back, as I personally raced against Hugo when he was a Junior (he was super strong). Later, Hugo raced for the Canadian SpiderTech Pro Conti team, which I supported. Hugo has developed into a fine pro, and, as I expressed to him after he signed with us, he’s come home and will race with his fellow Canadian buddies, Mike Woods and Guillaume Boivin. Welcome to ISN Jacob and Hugo!”

Houle (31) is known as a strong rouleur, able to shine in most terrains, as well as an invaluable teammate for his designated leaders. He is also the reigning Canadian time trial champion, meaning that ISN will have both Canadian champion jerseys on the team next year as Guillaume Boivin won the road race last month.

The 2022 campaign will be Houle’s 12th season in the professional peloton after starting his career on the Canadian SpiderTech team in 2011, thereby coming full circle as SpiderTech is also an import partner for Israel Start-Up Nation.

Hugo Houle: “After four years at team Astana-Premier Tech, this new challenge brought me a new motivation for the coming season. I am really excited to join ISN. I want to thank Sylvan Adams for this opportunity to come home. It’s natural to join him, as he contributed to developing Canadian cycling with the SpiderTech team and support in the World Championships. I’m sure the team will provide me with the best environment to keep progressing as a rider in the coming season and contribute to ISN’s success.”

Movistar signs Ivan Sosa

Here’s the team’s post:

The Movistar Team confirmed Wednesday it has reached an agreement for the next two seasons (2022-23) with Iván Sosa (Pasca, Cundinamarca, COL; 1997), a current member of the INEOS Grenadiers squad.

Iván thus becomes the sixth addition to Eusebio Unzué’s men’s outfit for next year, after the previous announcements of Óscar Rodríguez, Max Kanter, Alex Aranburu, Oier Lazkano and Gorka Izagirre.

Ivan Sosa

Ivan Sosa winning the third stage of this year's Tour of Provence. Sirotti photo

Sosa, a really talented climber, has got, despite being just 23 years of age, a good five years of pro experience on his shoulders. His palmarès features more than a dozen UCI victories, including two overall titles in the Vuelta a Burgos (2018-19), with three consecutive victories atop the Lagunas de Neila; the 2021 Tour de La Provence -with a mountain-top finish win at the Chalet Reynard / Mont Ventoux-; the Queen stage of the 2019 Route d’Occitanie, ahead of Alejandro Valverde; and GC victories in one-week stageraces like the Adriatica Ionica Race or Romania’s Tours or Sibiu and Bihor.

“I’m so proud to be joining the Movistar Team. I’m really excited to join my new team-mates and start getting things done with these great group of people. I’m joining with all the willingness to show the kind of rider I am, support my team-mates and keep some good consistency. I hope to bring them joy and satisfaction with my work, and hopefully our years together are full of happiness and success, which is what everyone wants.”

Baharain Victorious renews six contracts

Here’s the team’s news:

Bahrain Victorious is pleased to announce that Yukiya Arashiro, Pello Bilbao, Mikel Landa, Hermann Pernsteiner, Rafa Valls, and Fred Wright have renewed their contracts.

Yukiya Arashiro

Yukiya Arashiro at the 2020 Tour Down Under. Sirotti photo

Yukiya Arashiro has been a formidable domestique in Grand Tours, completing Giro d’Italia and Vuelta: “I’m delighted to continue to work with this year’s highly successful team for the next season. I want to make use of my experience and contribute to the team. I am excited about a bright 2022 season!”

Pello Bilbao managed a top ten finish this season and is looking forward to more results next year: “For me, it’s a great experience to be part of this team, especially this year. Maybe for me personally, this year it wasn’t the best with super results. But being involved with the team is what I’ve enjoyed a lot, and be involved with the amazing results. Behind all these great results is one of the best atmospheres between the riders and the super nice staff. So I’m proud to be part of this team for another two years and continue to grow as a cyclist together with Bahrain.”

Mikel Landa joined the team in 2020 and secured the team’s highest finish at Tour de France: “I’m really happy to continue racing with Bahrain Victorious for the next two seasons. For me, I was never in doubt as I feel at home in this team. I have great support from all the riders and staff, who are committed to achieving the best possible results. I want to thank all the staff and my teammates for everything over the past two seasons, and I’m looking forward to the next two seasons.”

Pernsteiner is looking forward to further experience on the road since his transition from MTB: “The team got like a second family for me. Since I changed from MTB, I am in the team now. I got the chance to develop as a rider, so I am happy to extend my contract. Due to my late change to road cycling, I can still improve physically and tactically. I will continue to work hard to achieve great things with the team.”

Fred Wright completed his first Tour de France this year is excited about the future:” It’s been an unforgettable two years. I feel like I’ve really found my place in the team. This year has been such a successful year, and we can definitely continue that momentum in the next two years. I can’t wait to be part of it!

After a first year with the team affected by the crash out from the Tour de France, the experienced Spanish climber Rafa Valls came back this season hugely contributing to the successful Giro d’Italia: “I am delighted to renew another year with Bahrain Victorious, mainly because I feel like a family. We have created a group of friends, who believe and work for the same objective, and in the races, we translate that into results. Secondly, I’m pleased to be part of this project that, over the years, has been growing very fast and achieving great results. I hope that 2022 can further increase my experience, and I’m looking forward to helping the team grow even more.”

Marijn van den Berg signs with EF Education-Nippo

The team sent me this announcement:

Marijn van den Berg, a double stage winner at the 2021 Tour de l’Avenir, will be joining EF Education-NIPPO in 2022.

This season has been a time of change and growth for van den Berg. Not only did he change teams, he started working with a new trainer and moved from his native Holland to France. “This year I made a big step moving to France. That was pretty big for me. It helped me grow up having to live on my own, cook for myself, do everything for myself. I think that’s a good thing.”

Despite all of these changes, 2021 has been van den Berg’s strongest season yet. He claimed a pair of stage wins at both the Tour de l’Avenir and Orlen Nations Grand Prix, as well as the overall wins at Orlen Nations Grand Prix and GP Adria Mobil, placed third at Paris-Tour Espoirs, and took a stage victory at Alpes Isère Tour. Given these results, he could certainly continue to race at the continental level with aplomb, yet he has decided this is the time to transition to the WorldTour. “I think this is the right moment for me to make the step to the pros and not really before. Now I’m a little bit more mature, not only in the races but also personally. I’m ready for the WorldTour.”

The Dutch rider considers himself to be an all–rounder with a dangerous kick. “When it’s a harder stage, a little bit hilly or when it’s a smaller group and then a sprint finish, I think that’s the best. I hope next year to improve my sprint a bit more and I also hope to get stronger for the more difficult stages with more hills.”

Team CEO Jonathan Vaughters believes it’s van den Berg’s sprint that makes him so lethal and appealing. “He’s a sprinter but he’s actually a very strong sprinter,” Vaughters says. “He’s really good at team time trials – his team won the team time trial at the Tour de l’Avenir – and he climbs very well. He’s not limited to being just a sprinter so he fits into that model of winning races in a non-sequitur way. He can win the sprint out of the breakaway, he can win the sprint out of a group of 40 or 50 that gets selected on a medium mountain day. That’s much more attractive to me than a pure sprinter. Especially with the way cycling is moving, which is more and more of the courses are becoming hillier and harder and race promoters are increasing the number of vertical meters climbed in every race, I think he’s the new type of sprinter that we’re looking for on this team, productive even when the race is hard all day long.”

Van den Berg aims to continue this growth in the upcoming season. “I hope to get stronger like I’ve done every year. Every year, I’ve taken a step and gotten a little bit better, so if I can take another step next year, I hope that will get me to the right level for the WorldTour.”

The 22-year-old says that seeing his progress only encourages him to push a little harder to see what else he can achieve. “When you see that you can do better and then you race and you see that you are one of the best at your level, that feeling of ‘I am doing well’ really motivates me. I think next year I will already be really motivated just because I’m on EF Education-NIPPO.”

He explains why signing with EF is the right move for him. “The trust that they gave me that I may get a chance for myself in some races and getting to develop as a good rider is super exciting. That’s why EF is the best option for me.”

Van den Berg is approaching 2022 with optimism and humility. “I don’t expect that I will win a stage in every race that I do. I can be happy if I have a few good results like a top ten or top five somewhere. I’m really curious where I stand in the WorldTour peloton.

“I can’t wait to be on the team for next year,” van den Berg says. “I’m super happy that I found a team like EF for the coming season. I’m really happy about it!”

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