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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, February 8, 2024

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2023 Tour de France | 2023 Giro d'Italia

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat. - Robert A. Heinlein


Tour of Flanders, the Inside Story

Les Woodland's book Tour of Flanders: The Inside Story - The rocky roads of the Ronde van Vlaanderen is available in print, Kindle eBook and audiobook versions. To get your copy, just click on the Amazon link on the right.

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Team Soudal Quick-Step to race Figueira Champions Classic

Here’s the news from Team Soudal Quick-Step:

Remco Evenepoel starts his sixth season in the colors of Soudal Quick-Step this week, at the Portuguese one-day race.

Best Belgian Sportsman of the Year for the third time in his career, an award that came after another incredible campaign, the 24-year-old Remco Evenepoel will lead the team at the Figueira Champions Classic, where Basque climber Mikel Landa will make his debut for the Wolfpack. They will be joined by Mattia Cattaneo, James Knox, Pieter Serry, neo-pro Warre Vangheluwe, and Louis Vervaeke.

Remco Evenepoel winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2023. Sirotti photo

The profile of this weekend’s 220km race is a hilly one, and will consist of two parts, the second of which comprises four leg-sapping circuits over the Rua Parque Forestal and Enforca Cães climbs. The last of these hurdles is set to be tackled inside the final eight kilometers, and its double-digit gradients is where the eventual winner could take off.

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“We have great memories from last year, when we won there with Casper Pedersen. Now we come with a different team, and Remco, of course, will be our leader. It’s going to be his first race of the season, he is eager to race, as always, and we want to do something nice. The route is a bit longer than last year, with a pretty demanding local lap featuring some steep climbing. The weather doesn’t look very promising, and could have an impact on the race, but we’ll just have to wait for Saturday and see how things go. One thing is certain: we are very motivated to do our best”, said Soudal Quick-Step sports director Iljo Keisse.


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Elisa Longo Borghini and Gaia Realini to race UAE Tour

Here’s the news from their Team Lidl-Trek:

In 2023 the Italian duo scored an amazing one-two in the Queen Stage and the general classification. Now they return with the desire to lead Lidl-Trek to another great performance

After the debut in Australia, the Women’s World Tour shifts to the Middle East for the second edition of the UAE Tour, starting tomorrow. A year ago, in Abu Dhabi, Elisa Longo Borghini and Gaia Realini stood on the final podium, first and second respectively. The same result was achieved the previous day on the summit finish in Jebel Hafeet. For Elisa, it was the great start to a season that, unfortunately, turned out to be very unlucky; Gaia, on the other hand, showed everyone her enormous talent as a climber, then replicated it throughout the season.

UAE Tour will be not just be the season debut for the two Italians, but also for Lisa Klein and two of the Lidl-Trek new arrivals, sprinter Clara Copponi and 18-year-old Izzy Sharp, making her professional debut. The lineup is completed by Elynor Bäckstedt, the only team member to have tasted competition this year. At the helm will be DS Jeroen Blijlevens, behind the wheel in the Lidl-Trek team car for the first time.

To know more about the coming UAE Tour, we asked to Elisa and Gaia to tell about their memories and to introduce what we can expect from the new edition.

Elisa Longo Borghini:
"My performance at UAE Tour 2023 was one of the strongest of the whole season. I have a beautiful memory of me and Gaia crossing the finish line in Jebel Hafeet, hand in hand. I won and secured the final classification, but it was all in all a team victory. A year later, I am happy to be back and, most of all, to start the season. This is not just a debut for me, but a return to racing after a very difficult time. I feel competitive again after seven months, practically since the 2023 Tour de France Femmes – that was the last race where I was feeling good and strong.

Elisa Longo Borghini wins Paris-Roubaix in 2022. Sirotti photo

"Compared to 2023, the condition I arrive in UAE is really different condition. Last year I tackled the race after an altitude camp on Teide and an important block of work based on quality and quantity. This year, the goal of the last weeks was to rebuild the form, to lay new foundations. As last year, I feel motivated to perform, but the physical condition is definitely different.

"Teamwork was the key of the success in 2023 and it can be the same also this year, but looking forward to all the stages and not only the queen one. We have a sprinter like Copponi who can play her cards with the best, with the support of two strong lead out riders like Bäckstedt and Klein, as well as myself. For Jebel Hafeet, Realini can repeat the great performance of a year ago.

"I want play my part in this teamwork. I feel good, recovered, but I don't really know what to expect. I just really want to get back to battle in a race. UAE Tour is the first step in a season that I want to live as a protagonist, starting from spring classics."

Gaia Realini:
"This race has a special significance which, I believe, will remain in my heart forever. It was my debut with the Team, my first race as a World Tour rider. I broke the ice in the most beautiful and unexpected way. I found myself at the top of Jebel Hafeet together with my idol Elisa, with the opponents dropped one after each other under the pressure of our acceleration. From that day on, it was like showing myself to the world, everything changed. I was no longer the little girl who always wore a cycling cap in the race, but I had become Gaia Realini ‘the one who goes strong uphill’. The cycling world discovered me and for me it was the way to show what I was capable. From that day on, I looked to my career with a new perspective.

"I face the new edition feeling more calm and with much more confidence. This is the first step in a season full of important events. I’m here with the aim of reigniting the engine, starting to push on the accelerator and getting the first feedback on my condition.

"UAE Tour is a race in the desert, with lots of flat roads, wind and echelons. It's not a race suited to my characteristics, but Jebel Hafeet is a real climb and I’m ready to play my cards. With Elisa there is always great understanding and harmony... so, why not try to repeat last year's script?"


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Astana Qazaqstan Team to race Muscat Classic & Tour of Oman

Here’s the team’s update:

Astana Qazaqstan Team is continuing its Middle East campaign with Muscat Classic (February 9th) and Tour of Oman (February 10th – 14th), both races will be held in the Sultanate of Oman.

Gleb Syritsa (shown winning stage two of the 2023 Tour of Langkawi) will be racing in the Middle East this week. Sirotti photo

Rider roster: Anthon Charmig, Yevgeniy Gidich, Ide Schelling, Gleb Syritsa, Nicolas Vinokurov and two riders of Astana Qazaqstan Development Team – Savelii Laptev and Davide Toneatti.

Sports directors in race: Dmitry Sedun, Alexandr Shushemoin.

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