Dissecting the Dauphiné – Stage 5

Featured image courtesy of @ASO/Criterium du Dauphine

The 72nd edition of the Critérium du Dauphiné, shortened as it was, will go down as one entertaining showdown before a Tour de France where we have no idea who will win the yellow jersey in Paris.

Despite the pandemic causing mischief, a five stage Dauphiné has brought drama, surprises and individual glory. Every year this race acts as the best indicator of who’s in form before the biggest stage in world cycling.

EF Pro Cycling’s Daniel Martínez wins the 2020 overall after Jumbo-Visma took their 17th victory of the year with Sepp Kuss. A mixed day for the Dutch team after Primož Roglič abandoned after a crash on Stage 4.

The Tour is now two weeks away, lots to dissect from this year’s Dauphiné.

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First up, the stage winner and another win for Team Jumbo-Visma. We saw attacks everywhere across the 157 km stage, the finish on exactly the same terrain as yesterday in Megève.

Julian Alaphilippe and Pavel Sivakov found themselves caught by the main pack before the race came to life with the likes of Miguel Ángel López, Tadej Pogačar and even Sivakov, who suffered from a crash, trying his best for Team Ineos.

After leader of the race Primož Roglič didn’t start this morning, you’d think that Jumbo-Visma might rest up easy and save their legs. Forget it! Tom Dumoulin attacked on the Col de Romme and in Sepp Kuss he now adds a stage victory from the Vuelta last year. The American has not put a foot wrong over the five days – a loyal domestique, got a free hit today and delivered! Should he be off to the Tour? On this evidence absolutely!

One final climb, one final push to finish this Dauphiné on a high after some disappointment along the way – Jumbo-Visma are fully prepared for the Tour. Despite losing Steven Kruijswijk, losing Primož Roglič to rest easy – they should be satisfied.

The big question is what condition will Roglič be in for the Tour? A question that we’ll ask but three stage wins out of five at this Dauphiné – lots to smile about.

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Second, let’s look at the overall winner of the 72nd Dauphiné – Daniel Martínez. Stage winner at Paris-Nice in 2019, he’s a new talent and a worthy win, the best of his career to date. Martínez found himself isolated but that didn’t matter – EF Pro Cycling and Jonathan Vaughters will be delighted!

Credit must go to Thibaut Pinot who finishes second overall. He did look quiet in the first few days of this race but did start to pick it up – climbing quietly not attacking too much before the final two stages not necessarily a bad thing.

Pinot goes into the Tour as the big French hope. After suffering from an unfortunate knee injury last year – now is the time for redemption. He could have taken the overall today, he gave everything by attacking the race – Pinot deserves credit for having a go.

The French wait for a Dauphiné victory let alone a Tour de France goes on. Not since Christophe Moreau in 2007 has their been a French winner of the Dauphiné but there were even moments today where fellow French riders were trying to help Pinot – some might find that annoying but others might have different opinions. To make things more important for the French they’ll be pleased to see not only Pinot make the podium but also Guillaume Martin, who’s ridden consistently too.

We say it every year that not since 1985 have we had a French Tour de France champion. 35 years since Bernard Hinault in yellow – Thibaut Pinot could end the wait.

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Other names who deserve a mention include Miguel Ángel López, who rode better today and also Julian Alaphilippe seems to be getting stronger day after day.

Ride of the day belongs to Pavel Sivakov. An unfortunate crash on a descent (we’ve had a few!) but he kept going. The Russian even attacked on the final climb, great to see while nursing nasty road rash and a ripped jersey.

So what can we take overall from this year’s Dauphiné?

We’ve seen a head-to-head between Jumbo-Visma and Team Ineos where both their riders in form abandoned the race. Jumbo-Visma will come away the slightly happier and Ineos will wonder where they got some things wrong.

Youth shone brightly at this Dauphiné as we saw huge glimpses into who will be riding and targeting future Grand Tours. Lennard Kämna, Tadej Pogačar, Daniel Martínez, Pavel Sivakov and even key domestiques such as Sepp Kuss are the ones to watch in future.

On a sad note we saw some favourites crash out. Egan Bernal, Emanuel Buchmann, Steven Kruijswijk and Primož Roglič were four big casualties of the race – their prospects before the Tour has begun will be interesting to predict especially as three of the four names above were the fourth placed, third placed and defending champion from last year’s Tour.

Today’s stage also saw a slow ride protest after Kruijswijk himself suffered from a dislocated shoulder on a descent described as having a horrendous road surface. Fabio Jakobsen’s crash in Poland after a downhill sprint, both Remco Evenepoel falling off a bridge and Max Schachmann colliding with a car in Lombardy – rider safety is in an unwelcome spotlight at the moment, something to ponder.

The Tour de France is now so close. All the preparation is complete. We cannot wait until Saturday 29th August in Nice…

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Il Lombardia 2020 – Five talking points

Featured image courtesy of Tim de Weale/getty images

The 114th edition of Il Lombardia certainly provided drama, a race that usually takes place in October but this time in August. A historic day in Lombardy as Jakob Fuglsang takes the win as he prepares for the Giro d’Italia in October.

While we’re happy for Jakob Fuglsang and those who rode well, there is however a tinge of frustration, disappointment and concern in the following piece. One rider horrifically crashed into a wall falling off a bridge and another flew into a car! 

The five talking points below.

1 – Fuglsang goes into the record books

There’s something to smile about for Astana’s Jakob Fuglsang, a rider who’s in top form and preparing himself for the Giro. He now enters the history books as the first Danish rider to win Il Lombardia and joins an elite list alongside John Degenkolb, Alexander Kristoff, Dan Martin, Peter Sagan and Niki Terpstra to have won two career Monuments in the current peloton. 

35-years of age it is fair to say that Jakob Fuglsang is one of the greats. Two overall wins at the Dauphiné, last year’s winner at Liège–Bastogne–Liège and now another Monument to his name in Lombardy. The way he attacked on the Civiglio, rode alongside teammate Aleksandr Vlasov, held off a chasing Trek-Segafredo pair of Ciccone and Mollema as well as putting George Bennett in difficulty on the final climb – that was a legendary ride by the Dane.

Numerous stages have been won at Grand Tours and although he’s had some unlucky times at the Tour de France, Jakob Fuglsang has a terrific opportunity at the Giro this year. Could he possibly win it? Perhaps too early to say but you never know in cycling. 

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2 – George Bennett should be pleased with his second place

Jumbo-Visma are the form team in world cycling right now but sometimes you can’t win everything. In George Bennett, the team should be proud of how well he’s riding right now. After winning Gran Piedmonte in midweek, perhaps was one step too far today as he simply didn’t have the legs to keep up with Fuglsang on the final climb but nevertheless the Kiwi becomes the first man from his country to finish on the Il Lombardia podium.

In fact Jumbo-Visma in their current livery should be happy that Bennett’s second place is also the first time in a long while that they’ve come close to a podium place. Dutchman Michael Boogerd was the last man in 2004 to finish second when Jumbo-Visma were then known as Rabobank.

George Bennett looks set to ride the Tour de France next especially after Steven Kruijswijk suffered from a dislocated shoulder at the Dauphiné today. Bennett is in top form, he’s been a crucial domestique for the team at the Tour de l’Ain, a superb win at Gran Piedmonte and now second in Lombardy – he heads to the Tour full of confidence for sure.

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3 – Trek-Segafredo left frustrated?

Defending champion Bauke Mollema, Giro stage winner Giulio Ciccone and the ‘shark of Messina’ Vincenzo Nibali will look back on today’s race not so much as a disappointment but still some extra mileage into the legs. Nibali was dropped on the Civiglio but Mollema himself alongside Ciccone tried everything they could to claw back the three leading riders. 

Jakob Fuglsang, George Bennett and Aleksandr Vlasov could have so easily been caught if they started to look at each other but it just wasn’t to be for the Trek trio – Mollema and Ciccone even suffering from a mechanical in the finale.

Bauke Mollema should be heading to the Tour next to support Richie Porte, Giulio Ciccone could be doing the same and for Vincenzo Nibali, like Fuglsang, he’ll be heading off to October’s Giro.

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4 – Max Schachmann crashing into a car

Words cannot describe how awful it was to see Max Schachmann colliding with a car that should never have entered the road. We’ve seen so many accidents for riders in training so we don’t need it to happen on an actual race!

Young riders have died in accidents and big questions need to be asked of the race organisers RCS sport – how on earth did the car enter the road?

We’ve seen rider safety put into question after Fabio Jakobsen’s crash at the Tour de Pologne and now more questions of those in charge after Schachmann’s collision with a car that shouldn’t have been on the road.

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5 – Hoping and praying for Remco Evenepoel

Since the start of the year we’ve been saying how brilliant Remco Evenepoel has been. First overall at the Volta ao Algarve, the Vuelta San Juan, Vuelta a Burgos and an incredible solo attack to win the Tour de Pologne – what a fantastic young talent we have on our hands.

We know how dangerous cycling can be and unfortunately you never know what can happen on 231 km’s of road in Lombardy. Remco Evenepoel crashing on a descent by crashing into a wall and falling down a bridge – our hearts we’re in our mouths.

We certainly wish the young man a speedy recovery but why did RAI (the Italian host broadcaster) decide to show numerous replays of the crash and show us pictures of Evenepoel on the stretcher?

It’s never nice to see. We can see the crash once but we don’t need endless repeats of him crashing and falling off the bridge! 

A tough time for Deceuninck-Quick Step after Fabio Jakobsen suffering from a terrible crash in Poland last week and we also sincerely hope that Remco Evenepoel will return sooner rather than later. His Monument debut and sadly for all the wrong reasons he’ll never forget it.

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Don’t forget to check out our latest pieces on the Dauphiné as it reaches its conclusion. The Tour de France is also not far away too!

Dissecting the Dauphiné – Stage 4

Featured image courtesy of @ASO/Criterium du Dauphine

There are moments in sport that can surprise us out of the blue and for today’s stage of the Dauphiné we had surprises in abundance.

Stage 4 from Ugine to Megève with seven categorised climbs including the Montee de Bisanne and right at the start we got a breakaway with Jumbo-Visma doing everything they could to shut it down before letting them have the stage win.

Julian Alaphilippe, Fausto Masnada, Luis León Sánchez, David de la Cruz and other big names were always going to be threats and at one point Primož Roglič was out of the virtual lead.

With Alaphilippe in the break you’d thought it’d be his day but not to be as Lennard Kämna, young German star and one day after he had a go on yesterday’s stage. A bright future ahead and on a difficult day for BORA-Hansgrohe as they lost Emanuel Buchmann to an abandon.

Kämna rightly deserves his day in the spotlight but talking about Julian Alaphilippe, he’ll be pleased to get some more climbing in the legs. It doesn’t look as if he’ll be in the best form going into the Tour and the GC a long way off.

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It is the numerous surprises however that are the big talking points from today’s stage and it came right at the start. Egan Bernal did not start the stage due to a back injury – again throwing up more questions for Team INEOS.

With the defending champion now out of the running, what on earth happens now for the team? Bernal looked out of form yesterday and today Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas were not visible, perhaps saving themselves but in Russian Pavel Sivakov he’ll be the new option. It’s maybe not a lot to read into but Bernal suffering from a back injury two weeks before the Tour – doesn’t look good.

For Jumbo-Visma they’ve also suffered from an unlikely setback after looking so solid. A key climber and last year’s third placed rider at the Tour Steven Kruijswijk crashed dislocating his shoulder, for racer leader Primož Roglič he also suffered from a fall.

Kruijswijk now out of the race, now unlikely to make the Tour – that is a blow for the team. Jumbo-Visma also experienced a bit of a test from today as other teams decided to take it to them. Team Bahrain-McLaren rode well for Mikel Landa by putting Dylan Teuns in the break but also riding on the front up the Bisanne.

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Jumbo-Visma and Ineos have both suffered setbacks today and other teams showed their metal.

Thibaut Pinot once again looked good with Reichenbach his domestique looking better but talk about someone who has ridden like an invisible man almost as if he’s not being taken seriously – Nairo Quintana. We keep on saying that he appears to be a refreshed rider but apart from that he doesn’t seem to be putting a foot wrong. Unless anything disastrous happens, Quintana is a pre-race threat when the Tour begins in Nice.

As mentioned we saw Emanuel Buchmann sadly abandon the race. The German rider finished fourth overall at the Tour last year, so we do hope he’ll be back racing for yellow very soon.

Ride of the day of course belongs to Lennard Kämna and team of the goes to Bahrain-McLaren for taking things up on the Montée de Bisanne and doing some decent efforts for Mikel Landa. Credit also to David de la Cruz as he swept up enough KOM mountain points to move into the jersey replacing teammate and yesterday’s stage winner Davide Formolo.

One final stage to go, Primož Roglič on the cusp of taking the Dauphiné overall but knowing that he’s taken a small hit from a crash but also the loss of a key domestique. The Tour isn’t far off now as the Grand Départ gets excitingly closer.

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Il Lombardia 2020 – Preview

Featured image courtesy of gettyimages

Normally it would be a Autumn day on the shores of Lake Como that we’d see the Tour of Lombardy come to its conclusion. The ‘race of the falling leaves’ with its twisting turns, its famous ascents and sketchy descents is always the final Monument of the year – until 2020 came. Coronavirus means a mix up and sad as it is that Il Lombardia cannot take place in its usual slot, at least we’ve got racing going ahead.

Because the calendar serves itself a different purpose as riders prepare for all three Grand Tours jumbled up out of order, this year’s Il Lombardia has a new role to play. Riders expected to take on the Giro d’Italia this year start the race, so hopefully it’ll give us a flavour of what to expect come October 3rd.

The Route

Il Lombardia 2020 Route

In the past, it’s always been the case that Il Lombardia decides to alternate between Bergamo and Como. In the past few editions, a finish on the shores of Lake Como seems to be the set in stone finale with the Civiglio and San Fermo della Battaglia climbs making an interesting conclusion.

The overall route amounts to 231 km, the Madonna dell Ghisallo and the Muro di Sormano are the two famous climbs everyone in world cycling should know about. The Sormano is the toughest with narrow roads and a 27% gradient. To win Il Lombardia you need good climbing legs and a nerve to descend the fastest downhills. After the San Fermo della Battaglia comes a 5.3 km descent into Como, where anything could happen!

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So who are the contenders to take the 114th Il Lombardia? Picking a winner for the ‘Race of the falling leaves’ is like trying to find the prettiest leaf on the side of the road – you just cannot call who will win!

Defending champion Bauke Mollema starts for a Trek-Segafredo team that always includes a former two-times winner in Vincenzo Nibali. An Italian sponsor for the team, expect Mollema and Nibali to try and put on a show for this one!

The big name on everyone’s lips right now is a young Belgian who has won all four of the races he has ridden so far in 2020. Since resuming from shutdown, Remco Evenepoel has won Vuelta a Burgos and the Tour de Pologne, even showing support for fellow teammate Fabio Jakobsen after his awful crash by holding his number in the air – a very classy moment by the young man!

There’s no doubt that Evenepoel with all the talent that he has is a favourite this weekend but also a favourite for this year’s Giro d’Italia. This will be the first opportunity to see how Evenepoel and Nibali fare up against each other – one rider making his Monument debut the other with bags of experience. Despite a lack of experience, no knowledge of Il Lombardia or a significant age gap between the two riders – surely we should expect Evenepoel to perform well this weekend. If he wins the race, it’ll definately he his best career win to date, 20 years old don’t forget!

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One the same roads at the Giro last year we saw how Primož Roglič had a nightmare on the descent of the Civiglio up against Vincenzo Nibali, so could he do the same and add pressure to Evenepoel on the descents? The ‘shark of Messina’ could probably ride the roads of Il Lombardia with his eyes shut as he’s accustomed to winning this race before – 2015 and 2017. With young talent on the scene, lack of experience could hamper their chances and there’s every chance an old head could win this year’s race.

Fourth overall at Paris-Nice before cycling’s temporary shutdown, Nibali goes into Il Lombardia as a contender alongside defending champion Bauke Mollema. The Dutchman does seem to riding consistently in recent weeks at the Route d’Occitanie (where he finished fifth overall) and the Tour de l’Ain (finishing sixth overall). Mollema is due to ride at the Tour de France in support of Richie Porte, so he could ride in support of Nibali this weekend instead of going for it himself. Trek have their options too as last year’s stage winner and KOM jersey at the Giro, Giulio Ciccone also starts.

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Is Mathieu van der Poel a contender this weekend? He has yet to win a race this season but in all fairness he only has nine days of racing in the legs so far this year. Third place at Gran Piedmonte this week could be an indicator that he’s starting to find his mojo again. Just like Remco Evenepoel, we maybe put too much pressure on young shoulders, both making their Monument debuts. For Mathieu van der Poel, he’ll expect himself to perform but from a fans point of view perhaps we don’t expect too much just yet.

We should expect Jumbo-Visma’s George Bennett to go well this Saturday though. The Kiwi could put a stop to all the talk of youth by winning Il Lombardia and show an experienced head and surprise us all. An excellent ride to take Gran Piedmonte this week, Bennett is also expected to be in Jumbo-Visma’s Tour de France squad later this month and they’d be pretty stupid if they didn’t include him. He’s in form, he’s got the ability, he has the experience – wouldn’t it be something for George Bennett to add another one-day race to his palmarès.

One rider to keep an eye on is the winner of last year’s Giro – Richard Carapaz. 27-years-old, lots more to come, riding now for Ineos after transferring from Movistar, the big question for Carapaz is what form will he bring before the Giro starts in October? The Ecuadorian won a stage but crashed the following day at the Tour de Pologne, so the question mark is how’s the recovery going? He’s never ridden a Monument since starting out as a pro four years ago, so maybe not a contender but Richard Carapaz is one to watch.

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Astana arrive in Lombardy with two names to watch out for. Jakob Fuglsang continues his preparation for the Giro after finishing fifth at Strade Bianche and second overall in Poland last week. Similar to Vincenzo Nibali could the 35-year-old show his experience of riding Monuments and take the race to the young contenders? Fuglsang has Liège–Bastogne–Liège in the bag from last year – could he add a second Monument?

In Fuglsang Astana have experience but they also have a second option up their sleeve in Russia Aleksandr Vlasov. Third overall at the Route d’Occitanie, victory at the Mont Ventoux Dénivelé Challenge and fourth at the Gran Piemonte in the last two weeks – Vlasov looks a good talent. Only 24-years-of-age, he’s another rider with youth on his side and alongside Fuglsang they could be a threat this Saturday.

Other names to keep a watch for include Italian Diego Ulissi who was left in the wake of George Bennett at Gran Piedmonte on Wednesday. A few more metres and Ulissi might have taken the win to catch Bennett at the line so could he carry that frustration and make amends in Como?

Canada’s Michael Woods continues to recover from a broken femur he suffered at Paris-Nice pre shutdown and in current Tour of Flanders champion Alberto Bettiol, EF Pro Cycling have their cards to play.

You’d also have to include BORA-Hansgrohe’s German road champion Maximilian Schachmann as a favourite for the win too. He finished third at Strade Bianche, he’s won Paris-Nice and on a good day he can seriously climb. Schachmann starts as an outside bet to win Il Lombardia.

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Lots of contenders, loads to talk about, Il Lombardia usually takes place in October. 2020 is a year like no other and as the second Monument instead of the fifth, who will claim victory this weekend?

Strade Bianche 2020 “one of the hardest days of my career” – Van Avermaet.

Team CCCs Greg Van Avermaet has described the return to racing at Strade Bianche as “one of the hardest days of my career”

The Belgian who has ridden the race more times than any other professional rider, finished eighth in Siena, over four minutes behind winner Wout Van Aert.

Temperatures were in excess of 35°C throughout the race, with many riders struggling to stay hydrated.

The reigning Olympic champion said: “The heat and the first big effort of it took something out of me.

“I was quite sick after the finish, so you also notice how deep you went.”

Photo: Chris Auld

Van Avermaet will now likely turn his focus to Milan-San Remo, the first monument of the year, where he’ll join up with teammate Matteo Trentin .

Milan-San Remo takes place on the 8th August 2020, be sure to check the website for our previews and more!

Strade Bianche 2020 – Five talking points

Featured images courtesy of gettyimages

We’ve missed cycling alright!

What a day’s racing in Tuscany as Annemiek van Vleuten and Wout Van Aert ride to victory in their respective races at Strade Bianche. Impressive performances from both, the perfect race to kick-off a new rescheduled season and hopefully much more to come.

Here are five talking points from the 14th Strade Bianche and the 6th Strade Bianche Donne.

1 A welcome return to racing for Wout Van Aert

Victory doesn’t get much sweeter than this for Wout Van Aert. After an awful injury at his Tour de France debut last year it was fantastic to see him back performing to his absolute best! Cyclocross skills were used to great effect and to be fair he played the perfect tactical game by attacking on the final gravel sector.

Third place in 2018, third place in 2019 and now the top step for the Jumbo-Visma man. Lots of expectation has been put on Van Aert’s shoulders, he’s a superb talent and he’s delivered. As each and every pre-race favourite was spat out the back, Van Aert made it look easy, so what more can he achieve during this new revamped season?

As we’ve seen last year, Wout Van Aert certainly has the ability to ride on all forms of terrain. He will certainly win a Monument sometime soon, he can time trial and already has a Tour de France stage win in the bag.

More to come, more stage wins at Grand Tours – Wout Van Aert is the man to watch right now!

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2 Some unexpected surprises

Three individual riders flew under the radar and finished in decent positions. Italians Davide Formolo and Alberto Bettiol plus German road champion Max Schachmann certainly sprung a surprise.

After winning the Tour of Flanders last year, perhaps the time has come to take Alberto Bettiol seriously as a contender for numerous Classics. There were times on the climbs where he looked strong but just couldn’t quite make the cut to finish on the podium.

We know so much about Max Schachmann after winning Paris-Nice before lockdown and in previous years he’s taken some impressive wins at the Giro d’Italia and Tour of Catalunya. He’s a classics man, a decent climber and just like Wout Van Aert, a Monument will come his way sooner than you think.

Italian fans haven’t seen a home winner of Strade Bianche since Moreno Moser in 2013, so they’ll be left wondering how Davide Formolo finished second.  Chasing Wout Van Aert was always going to be tough but fair play to the Italian road champ for surprising the pre-race bookies by coming close.

Bettiol, Schachmann and Formolo deserve huge amounts of praise.

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3 Jakob Fuglsang’s pleasing performance

35-years of age, time is running out in search of a Grand Tour podium place for Jakob Fuglsang but he should be smiling after finishing fifth overall. The Dane attacked with around 40 km to go before being caught alongside six other favourites. He paid for his efforts earlier in the race and that showed as he was dropped on the final gravel section.

Fuglsang is likely to head to the Giro d’Italia this year and could skip the Tour de France. He’s had a lot of misfortune at the Tour in recent years so maybe a new target to aim for in Italy could be a good thing.

Winner of Liege-Bastogne-Liege last year, there should be more to come from Jakob Fuglsang this season.

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4 Some riders left with no luck and no form

Pre-race favourite Mathieu van der Poel unfortunately went down in a crash, former winner Tiesj Benoot abandoned, last year’s champion Julian Alaphilippe suffered a puncture and in the final 20 km the Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet found himself distanced.

It isn’t the end of the world for lots of riders who’ve suffered from bad luck and for van der Poel in particular he’s still got plenty of racing to come. Julian Alaphilippe was probably not the main man as Zdenek Stybar performed well to finish in sixth.

For Greg Van Avermaet indeed so many it just wasn’t meant to be. Peter Sagan was barely involved and for Michal Kwiatkowski he’ll be left disappointed finishing 12th. We can’t be too harsh on the riders though. Conditions were tough and motorbikes raising dust in the face probably wasn’t pleasant either!

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5 Van Vleuten continues her winning streak

Last but by no means least, the women’s race offered some superb racing. A second consecutive Strade Bianche title for Annemiek van Vleuten and she did in fine style. Bridging across to the lead chasing group from the peloton, it was another vintage performance by the current world champion. Chasing Alé BTC Ljubljana’s Margarita Victoria García it didn’t look as though van Vleuten would make the catch but in the end she breezed past on the Via Santa Caterina to take the win.

Since winning the world championships last September, Annemiek van Vleuten has won every race that she has started. First at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and first at all three of the recent one-day classics in the Basque Country – chapeau!

Margarita Victoria García produced the ride of the day attacking with 46km to go. She had the gap but just couldn’t contain van Vleuten as she caught up with 7km.

American rider Leah Thomas for Equipe Paule took third place and former champion Anna van der Breggen finished in fouth, two minutes and five seconds behind van Vleuten. 

The women’s World Tour is back and the big question ahead – how many can Annemiek van Vleuten win?

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Greg Van Avermaet ready for the restart

Image courtesy of Tim de Waele/Getty Images

By now Greg Van Avermaet would have completed his seventh Tour de France, flown to Tokyo to try and defend his Olympic title before preparing for the World Championships in Switzerland. Little did he and other riders expect that they’d be riding Strade Bianche in August, the Tour de France in September, the 2020 games delayed by a year on top of a Paris Roubaix in October.

And here we are, a season that’s not normal and will go down as unusual. We’re all anxious that a new rescheduled calendar can go as far as November but for now it’s good to see cycling back. 

For Greg Van Avermaet himself indeed every rider and fan, it’s a welcome sight to see cycling back despite new protocols, wearing face masks and socially distanced interviews. The Olympic champion’s last race before the pandemic was Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne and five months later he will be at the restart tomorrow for Strade Bianche. 

“I’m really excited. I think everyone has been looking forward to this moment for a long time. We’re finally racing again which is why we have been training and preparing. The calendar is really challenging because it’s so busy so it’s really important to keep a good condition the whole time. I’m definitely aiming to win a big classic, a Monument, but all of the races I’m doing are really important so I would like to win any of them.”

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The Belgian has had a relatively decent start to 2020. 20th overall at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana back in February, 13th place overall at the Volta ao Algarve later that month and then he managed to complete two Belgian one-day races in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne.

Tomorrow will see his tenth career appearance at a race he’s as runner-up twice in 2015 and 2017. There’s every chance with every rider’s form unknown that Van Avermaet could go one better and win the 14th edition.

“A race like Strade Bianche is really special and for me, it’s one of the nicest races of the year so I’m really looking forward to it. I always want to do well here but, of course, it’s a bit of a different situation now than in March. Without having any races leading into it, you don’t know where you stand. But everyone is in the same situation.”

On top of coronavirus safety measures, this weekend’s race has an added challenge in hot Tuscan weather in August. Blazing heat and stonier gravel is one concern and problem each rider will have to face.

“It’s going to be really hot so that’s going to be a shock for everyone I think. I have been in Livigno at altitude so it was much cooler there but normally, I prefer to race in warmer weather than the cold so hopefully it will suit me more. The strade looks a little different now than it does in March. It’s more stoney than what we are used to so we’re going to ride 28mm tires with lower pressure which should allow us to go a bit faster. But it’s a great race to do and I think everyone will be excited to be at the start line.”

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With the season halted, riders involved in virtual racing and only training to get race miles in the tank, the form of each and every rider might be hard to tell. Everybody arrives at Strade Bianche without a clue as to who will perform the strongest. Current cyclocross sensation Mathieu van der Poel starts as favourite even though it’s his debut and defending champion Julian Alaphilippe is ready to restart his season.

Since starting his first Strade Bianche back in 2010, Greg Van Avermaet has only finished outside the top twenty once – 34th in 2018. Winning races is a lottery and there are so many individual stars to pick out.

“I think it is the same guys who are always good here who will be the favorites; Kwiatowski, Fulgsang, Alaphilippe, van der Poel, Van Aert. Those guys are really good on the gravel so they’re the guys who will probably be up there again tomorrow”.

A compressed calendar means priorities for some riders might chop and change. Peter Sagan has kept to his word by committing to riding the Giro d’Italia, Romain Bardet has yet to decide the same and a new rescheduled Olympic date for Tokyo, gives Greg Van Avermaet and others more time to prepare.

Riders are also unsure as to where they’ll be in 2021. Sponsorship and season transfers are up in the air, nobody knows what the future holds for cycling because of Covid-19. For Van Avermaet, the departure of CCC as sponsor for his team, the future looks unpredictable.

“For now, I am leaving all my options open. I’m still confident in the team to find a new sponsor but, of course, I’m also looking to other teams to go to if it doesn’t work out. I’m waiting on some news from Jim Ochowicz to see if we can find something and if it’s not possible, of course I will go somewhere else. But for now, I’m concentrating on racing again and then we’ll see.”

CCC Team for the 2020 Strade Bianche: Alessandro De Marchi, Simon Geschke, Jonas Koch, Michael Schär, Greg Van Avermaet, Gijs Van Hoecke, Nathan Van Hooydonck

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European Road Championships Postponed Until 2021

The UEC have announced there will be no European Road Championships held in 2020 due to the Coronavirus outbreak.

The championships were due to be held in Trentino in Italy in early September but will now take place in early September 2020

There has been no confirmation as yet as to if reigning champion Elia Viviani will continue to wear his jersey until the next championship or if there will simply be no European jersey worn.

With the current ongoing situation, the UEC have announced they are working hard on a resolution with the UCI in an attempt to ensure all other disciplines get to keep their 2020 European Championships.

A Lesson Cycling Needs To Learn…

Cycling is a sport loved the world over, and if you’re reading this, likely by you too. So why is it we see so many issues with the sport and why do we never learn.

The first thing I’ve always noticed about cycling is the blind arrogance we can see when it comes to younger riders and the equipment and training facilities now deemed “normal”. Anyone who tell you cycling is a free sport, doesn’t understand the true nature of racing in the sport, and the immense social pressure within the cycling community to have all the best gear.

To start, a race license will set you back a fair amount of money, but as a fair defence this is no more than a registration fee for plenty of other sports. If this was all it cost to race, cycling wouldn’t have the issues, but this isn’t all.

Beyond this, you then have: the cost of bikes, the cost of wheels, the need for multiple bikes for multiple disciplines, a smart trainer, a zwift subscription, winter kit, summer kit, rollers and the list goes on and on. Within cycling, particularly from the ages of 14-23, the vast majority of cyclists get all this on a plate from their parents and accept it to be the norm.

This is what creates such a drastic social pressure on people from lesser financially stable backgrounds to work harder just be on a level playing field.

In my experience, most riders with all this in front of them are so drastically spoilt they don’t even realise how lucky they are, and it truly is incredible to see.

Having spoken to one rider in particular, I know it actually really upsets those less well off to see the constant bragging of new kit and training software, particularly amongst those who work part-time jobs to pay for every last aspect of their career.

So please, cyclists, let’s open our eyes and look out for all those around us, and actually realise just how spoilt the vast majority of us are.

It’s not nice for everyone else, let’s stop being arrogant and make cycling a happier place for everyone.

INEOS begin delivery of hand sanitiser to NHS

INEOS have begun delivering hand sanitiser to hospitals across the UK in a move which will see up to a million bottles manufactured.

The decision to create and distribute the range of products has been supported by Dave Brailsford and Team INEOS.

Brailsford said: “Team INEOS is used to moving at speed but ten days from starrt to finish for three plants already was incredibly tight.

“We are all in this together and I am grateful to everyone in the entire INEOS family for their hands-on approach to getting the job done.”

Using the manufacturing and enterprise of Jim Ratcliffe’s INEOS in compination with the racing team logistics lead by Brailsford, the group are hoping to make an important impact on the fight against the Coronavirus.

INEOS brought their production plant at Newton Aycliffe online within just ten days and will now begin deliveries nationwide.

The company have also set up plants in Germany and France and have announced plans for a second facility in the latter.

INEOS founder Jim Ratcliffe said: “We are not only planning to produce a million bottles of hand sanitiser a month in the UK but the same again at similar facilities in Germany and France.

“If we can find other ways to help in the Coronavirus battle, we will remain absolutely committed to playing our part.”

INEOS are set to increase distribution as soon as the facility reaches full capacity