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Saturday, February 19, 2022

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Teams headed to the UAE Tour

Team Lotto-Soudal Sent me this:

The UAE Tour marks the beginning of the 2022 WorldTour calendar. The 7-day stage race kicks off this Sunday and Lotto Soudal will be at the start with a team of attacking riders. Due to several cases of illness that only came to light at the last minute, the team has to start with four riders.

Matthew Holmes (shown at the 2020 Ruta del Sol) is headed to the UAE Tour. Sirotti photo

The Belgian WorldTeam will bring Michael Schwarzmann, Jarrad Drizners, Xandres Vervloesem and Matthew Holmes at the starting line of the UAE Tour. “This race is an excellent opportunity for all of them to show themselves”, says sports director Mario Aerts. “We will start with every rider on the same level. They will help each other and they will all get their chances. Holmes and Vervloesem will aim for a nice spot on the general classification, Schwarzmann will try in the sprint stages and maybe for Drizners there will be opportunities in a breakaway.”

John Lelangue, General Manager of Lotto Soudal: “We can only start with four riders because of several cases of illness that only came to light at the last minute and the busy schedule with, besides the UAE Tour, also the Ruta del Sol, Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Faun-Ardèche Classic, Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne and Drome Classic. We would have preferred differently, but we cannot control this. The wellbeing of our riders always comes first. After consultation with our team doctor, the UCI doctor and according to our internal covid-protocol, we had no choice but to make this decision.”

Of course, UAE Team Emirates will ride the UAE Tour:

UAE Team Emirates have named their 7 riders for the first big goal of the year: the UAE Tour. The Emirati team go into the race eager for strong results after a good showing in 2021 where Tadej Pogačar took home the race title before going on to win his second Tour de France title later that year.

Tadej Pogačar won the UAE Tour last year.

This years race will run from 20-26 February and will feature seven days racing including four flat stages, two mountain stages and an individual time trial.

The team goes into the race with a dynamic squad, with defending champion Tadej Pogačar as leader for the GC and sprinter Fernando Gaviria also hoping to carry over his strong form from the recent Tour of Oman.

Team Manager Joxean Matxin Fernandez (Spa) along with Sports Directors Andrej Hauptman (Slo) and Marco Marzano (Ita) will lead the following riders :

UAE Tour [2.UWT] – 20-Feb-2022 / 26-Feb-2022

Joao Almeida (Por)
George Bennett (NZ)
Mikkel Bjerg (Den)
Pascal Ackermann (GER)
Rafal Majka (Pol)
Tadej Pogačar (Slo)
Maximiliano Richeze (Arg)

Pogačar: “I’m really excited and motivated to start the season. The last few months went almost perfectly. I had a small setback a couple of weeks ago with Covid but luckily it didn’t disrupt my preparation too much and I’m feeling good.

I’m confident to lead the team, but we know how good Joao can be too. We have trained together a lot lately and understand each other well , so if he’s strong enough to win I’m also happy. Rafal Majka is also really flying at the moment. The important thing is we try and defend the title in the home race.

The most obvious key stages will be the time trial and then the two mountain finishes at Jebel Jais and Jebel Hafeet on the final day. But each day will count, as we saw last year with huge crosswinds from the start of Stage 1: so I think from a spectators’ point of view it will be a really nice race and I can’t wait to start.”

Joxean Matxin Fernandez (Team Manager): “ It’s no secret that this race is one of our key objectives of the year. The aim will be quite clear: to try and defend our title from last year.

We’re on home soil and we know that all eyes will be on us but it’s something we’ll use as further motivation in the race. Pogačar will be our leader but the reality is it’s a squad that can adapt to any situation and we will have different cards to play, especially on the climbs.

And here's the UAE Tour update from Team BikeExchange-Jayco:

Dutch sprinter Dylan Groenewegen is back in action in the Middle East as he looks to continue his strong start to the season at the UAE Tour, as Team BikeExchange-Jayco head to the race with all eyes on sprint victories.

The 28-year-old powered to two wins in his debut race for Team BikeExchange-Jayco at the Saudi Tour, and the team will once again be all-in for the Dutch sprinter in the fast finishes in UAE. The sprint train will have added firepower as Campbell Stewart, Kell O’Brien and Kaden Groves come into the line-up, fresh off a successful Tour of Oman that yielded three podium finishes for Groves.

Dylan Groenewegen winning stage three of the Saudi Tour.

Slovenian Luka Mezgec will continue to develop his relationship with Groenewegen as his final lead out man, with Damien Howson and Sam Bewley rounding out a strong and powerful seven-rider squad.     

The fourth edition of the UAE Tour, the only World Tour race in the Middle East, includes a total of 1081 kilometres divided into seven stages. There will be four stages for sprinters, two mountain stages and an individual time trial of approximately 9km on stage three.

Team BikeExchange-Jayco Line-Up:
Sam Bewley (NZL)
Dylan Groenewegen (NED)
Kaden Groves (AUS)
Damien Howson (AUS)
Luka Mezgec (SLO)
Kelland O’Brien (AUS)
Campbell Stewart (NZL)

Dylan Groenewegen:
“I am happy to return to the UAE Tour, the first World Tour race of this new season. I have good memories, especially of my victory in Dubai two years ago.

"My condition is quite good, and the two-stage wins at the Saudi Tour have confirmed that I am on the right route. In UAE, I will have solid teammates available to help me in the sprints, and we hope to do a really good job.”

Mathew Hayman (Sport Director):
“After a great start to the year in Saudi with two stage wins, we will be looking to continue to refine our lead-out train, and support Dylan in going after stage wins. We will have Luka back working with Dylan, and he was a big part of both of Dylan’s wins in Saudi.

"We will also have Kaden and Campbell coming in who have both shown some great consistency in Oman last week, so our sprint train is looking good.

"We don’t have a GC favourite in the race this year so we will be focused on the sprint stages. But, as we know from years of racing in the Middle East, the wind can play a big role in how the stages play out.”

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Volta ao Algarve stage three team reports

We posted the report from stage winner Fabio Jakobsen's Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl team with the results.

Here's the report from team Jumbo-Visma:

The longest stage in the Volta ao Algarve has gone smoothly for Team Jumbo-Visma. In the 211 kilometre long stage, the team stayed out of trouble and can look ahead to a nice final weekend in Portugal.

From the start, seven riders chose to attack. It turned out to become a textbook sprinters’ race. The leading group got a maximum advantage of six minutes, after which the sprinters’ teams slowly closed the gap.

“This was the most boring stage so far”, team manager Arthur van Dongen said. “It was a long stage with an easy course and the wind was not enough to break up the peloton. The leader’s team and the sprinters’ teams had the race well under control. We made sure Tobias stayed out of danger and that he could finish nicely in the peloton. We are happy that we have now stayed without problems after yesterday’s setback.”

Fabio Jakobsen wins stage three.

According to Van Dongen, there are opportunities for leader Foss during the last two stages. “Tomorrow, there is a long time trial, which should suit Tobias well. He does have some pain in his shoulder and elbow, so we’ll have to wait and see how good he will be on the time trial bike. He didn’t have too many complaints today, so we hope he can show himself tomorrow and Sunday. The race is not over yet, far from it.”

Here's the Algarve report from Team Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert:

This Friday, the third stage of the Tour of Algarve (2.Pro, 16-20/02) offered a new opportunity to the sprinters in Faro at the end of a stage of 211 kilometer. Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux aimed high with sprinter Alexander Kristoff, even though his lead out Andrea Pasqualon did not start after his crash downhill in the second stage.

The former European champion thus benefited from the protection of his five teammates, who then prepared the bunch sprint once all difficulties were behind the back with 20 kilometer to go. Frenchman Adrien Petit brought Kristoff to the front of the peloton underneath the red flag. The Norwegian rider sprinted to fourth place on a slightly uphill road. His compatriot Sven Erik Bystrøm (5th) and German rider Georg Zimmermann (12th) are well positioned in the provisional classification with two decisive stages left: an individual time trial of 32 kilometer on Saturday and a finish on top of Alto de Malhao on Sunday.

“We showed again great teamwork in support of our sprinter Alexander Kristoff today. The wind in the back made the final very fast towards the last 3 kilometer, where we left the highway for smaller streets towards the centre of Faro. We were blocked on the left side in this very long turn, so I had to improvise and bring Alexander to the front on the right side. I started my effort earlier as planned in order to enable him to start the final kilometer in the top ten.

"The final with a roundabout and slight uphill slope towards the finish suited Andrea Pasqualon really well, so it was a huge pity that he was missing in our train today. Nevertheless, Alexander rewarded our work with a nice fourth place. I wish my roommate a good recovery, so we can go full again together in the Belgian opening weekend.” - Adrien Petit

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Vuelta Ciclista Andalucia-Ruta del Sol team reports

We posted the report from stage winner Magnus Sheffield's INEOS Grenadiers team with the results.

GC leader Alessandro Covi's UAE Team Emirates posted this stage three report:

Alessandro Covi put in a brave display to defend his race lead on Stage 3 of the Vuelta Andalucia, sprinting to 7th place from a heavily reduced group on the hilly day from Lucena to Otura (153.2km).

Covi, who claimed his second victory of the season already on Stage 2, measured his effort well against the top climbers in mature fashion on what is proving to be a breakthrough season for the 23-yeard old.

Alessandro Covi winning stage two. Sirotti photo

The victory went to Magnus Sheffield (Ineos Grenadiers) who broke clear in the closing kilometre with Covi in the bunch just 3’’ behind.

Tomorrow will be a tough test for the team to defend the lead on Stage 4 from Cúllar Vega to Baza (167.4km).

Covi: “The team was on the front all day and did a great job, we are only 5 guys here so it’s not easy to control the race, but the effort they made was amazing. Personally I am very happy to continue in the yellow jersey. It’s the first time in my professional career that I wear the leaders jersey and it’s something really special, it’s a dream you have when you are small and to do it is really nice.
I don’t know if I can keep it the whole race but for sure we will fight to have it as long as possible.”

Meanwhile at the Volta Algarve, Brandon McNulty remains in a strong position heading into the decisive time trial on Stage 4 tomorrow. The American sits in 2nd place just 1’’ down on race leader David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ).

Fabio Jakobsen (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) sprinted to the stage win, with 11th place finish for Troia.

Tomorrow is a 32.2km individual time trial from Vila Real do Santo Antonio to Tavira.

Here's the stage three report from Bora-Hansgrohe:

The third and 153.2-kilometre long stage of the Ruta del Sol took the peloton from Lucena to Otura and the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. On a hilly day, it was once more an early breakaway that escaped from the peloton but was caught 34 kilometres from the finish line. After an attack by Lennard Kämna, a new leading group surrounding the GC riders was formed. Another attack by Lennard Kämna within the last kilometres was ultimately not rewarded and it was M. Sheffield who took the win. Emanuel Buchmann crossed the line with the first group and moved up to 13th in the GC.

“That was an interesting day of racing here today. Our plan was to show an active way of racing and so on the penultimate climb of the day I’ve seen a good to chance to launch an attack. From that point on the race was on and a new leading group was shaped. In the end I tried again, didn’t succeed ultimately but felt pretty good. Seems like my shape is on a good way. I really enjoy racing at the moment.”  - Lennard Kämna

“For quite a long time we’ve seen a pretty controlled race today. But as soon as the gap of the breakaway dropped down to less than a minute, the boys started pulling in the peloton and eventually closed the gap. Lennard Kämna launched the decisive attack for a new leading group. Another attack of Lennard within the last kilometer was ultimately not rewarded but definitely shows the great shape of Lennard and his intelligent style of racing. Overall a good day for us.” - Christian Pömer, Sports Director

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Jack Haig's Team Bahrain Victorious posted this Ruta del Sol report:

A brilliant effort by Jack Haig in the Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta Ciclista del Sol sees him collect fourth place in both Stage Two and the general classification as we move into Lucena on day three.

The 150km journey from Archidona to the city of Alcalá la Real was an exciting one with lots of twists and turns towards the tail end of the race. In the early stages, a small group created a breakaway around the four minute mark – something which the peloton behind were comfortable with. So much so, it continued well after the five categorised climbs and sprints until the riders approached Alto de Las Grajeras.

From there, a large bunch of riders including many of Bahrain Victorious continued to attack and eventually their patience told as they caught up with the leaders on the Puerto del Castillo section. As the pace quickened and the riders descended to the foot of the final climb, Wout Poels was determined to attack on the uphill but frustratingly he was kept in check with the other co-leaders and heeded position.

However with Poels dropping back, Jack Haig was able to push on and make his way up into fourth position. It perhaps could have been even more if not for an unfortunate coming together in the final moments, but fourth is still an impressive result heading into the last three days of the Ruta del Sol.

Jack spoke to us shortly after to give his thoughts:
“Today went relatively good. The breakaway went somewhat easier in the start but we all stayed together until 25km to go when there was a short crash. I came down but not too badly – I needed to change the bike. With the help of my teammates, I was able to come back to the final group and then the last 10km was pretty tricky with position and fast downhill into the finish. Me and Wout were in the final steep 900m with a great position, got a small gap, and I tried to follow his wheels until the last 200 metres where I was a bit unlucky to collide with another rider but it’s racing – I’m happy to finish where I was!”

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