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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, October 29, 2021

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2021 Tour de France | 2021 Giro d'Italia

If you don’t know where you’re going, you might end up someplace else. – Yogi Berra


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Les Woodland's book Sticky Buns Across America - Back-road biking from sea to shining sea is available as an audiobook here.

Steff Cras and Matthew Holmes stay with Lotto Soudal

Lotto Soudal sent me this:

Climbers Steff Cras and Matthew Holmes will stay at Lotto Soudal next year. The 25-year-old Belgian and 27-year-old Brit both signed a contract extension of one season. This way, Cras and Holmes will start their third season at the Belgian cycling team.

Matthew Holmes

Matthew Holmes wins the sixth stage of the 2020 Tour Down Under.

The 25-year-old Belgian Steff Cras has been with the team for two seasons. In that period, the talented climber was at the start line of the Tour, Vuelta and the cycling Monument Il Lombardia. After several setbacks, Cras is determined to perform at full strength next year.

“I really felt at home with the team the past two seasons”, says Steff Cras. “The future is looking bright with this young and talented group. Personally, my contract extension is a mental boost after two seasons, which were marked by bad luck. In 2020, I was forced to abandon at the Tour due to back problems, which jeopardized the rest of my year. Also this year, the first part of the season went up in smoke due to a Covid infection. That is why I am really looking forward to a year in which I can ride at full strength. I want to focus again on riding a good GC in short stage races and winning a Grand Tour stage. Besides, I want to assist the team the best I can. And the second part of this season gave me confidence for what’s to come.”

Also for Matthew Holmes, 2020 marked his first season at the Belgian cycling team. The Brit immediately impressed at the Tour Down Under, where he won the queen stage to Willunga Hill. In the 2020 Giro d’Italia as well as the past Vuelta a España, Holmes again showed his fine climbing legs.

Matthew Holmes: “It feels really nice to go into my third year with Lotto Soudal. I can’t wait for next year, especially after the recent team days, where we worked at everything else involved around the bike such as new equipment and training methods. After two seasons of getting to know everyone and making friends, Lotto Soudal really feels like ‘my’ team. It’s a professional environment and it feels like I’m fully part of the team now.”

“Overall, I look back on the past two seasons with great pleasure. Maybe this year has not fully gone to plan, but I still won a WorldTour race during my first pro contract. It’s an achievement which I’m still really proud of. On a couple of occasions, I’ve also been close to a Grand Tour stage win, which really gave me confidence to go and try to win one next year. In my head, I know it’s doable. Now that I know what I can and can’t do in the WorldTour, I’ve got a much clearer view of which races I’ll go for. The main focus will be to target different kinds of breakaway opportunities in Grand Tours and other stage races”, concludes Holmes.

Tim Declercq: “After 14 years, I finally graduated”

Declercq's Deceuninck-Quick Step team posted this lovely news:

The 32-year-old ‘El Tractor’ on how he managed to combine studying with a pro cycling career and what he’ll remember of the 2021 season.

“My life’s work. At some point my parents and I thought my graduation would stay a dream, but then suddenly I could almost reach the finish line. After fourteen years I finally graduated with a master’s degree in physical education, option training and coaching. It was definitely time I did, as I also have my daughter Marilou now and that made studying a bit harder. I started this master already before I even knew I would become a professional cyclist, so I really wanted to finish it.”

“During training camps, I mostly had one hour per day to focus on school, it also made it a bit easier as I didn’t really need to be present physically for the lectures. During the past years I still had some free time, so it wasn’t the case I was only studying and racing. The theoretical part was quite easy for me as I went to do the exam and that was it, but now I also needed to do some tasks and group work. Luckily, I could finish this within the team, as I did a study about the different roles of the high-performance team and I made the comparison with how it’s in practice. I never thought of becoming a teacher in physical education, but later on when my professional career would end, I would definitely like to be a trainer or coach and still work in cycling.”

Time Declercq

Tim Declercq leading Mark Cavendish in stage nine of the 2021 Tour de France. Sirotti photo

Unforgettable moments:
“It was a really long, but also super beautiful season. Also because of the short winter period we had with covid. The second part of this season was really good for me, especially the Tour. But then I maybe had my lowest point with the crash. Still, I managed to hold on and to help bring Cav to Paris safely in his green jersey. That was a really beautiful moment. Also this year’s Ronde van Vlaanderen year is unforgettable. It’s so satisfying to know you also have a part in that victory and then feeling how much appreciation you get here within the team just makes that you can give that bit extra.”

“My season ended with the wet Paris-Roubaix. I was in a really good condition, but I had some troubles being on the saddle. Everyone was nervous or had a bit of fear before the start, which was perfectly normal. We had the ideal scenario with Ballerini and myself in the front, then on the road everything was fine, but on the cobbles I just wasn’t feeling great and I never had a steady feeling on the saddle. Next year for me personally we can have a normal dry Paris-Roubaix again in the spring, but of course it all depends on what the weather gods will decide.”

“Now I will take some rest, together with my daughter and wife. I want to come back strongly again next spring for the classics. Long-endurance training is part of that, but you also need some variety otherwise your body doesn’t respond anymore if you only do endurance training. But first some time to relax mentally and physically and then we’ll head towards the new season again.”

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