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15 Jun

Nineteen-year-old Remco Evenepoel continued his run of form at the Baloise Belgium Tour on Saturday, placing third on the stage won by Victor Campenaerts (Lotto Soudal) and setting himself up to take his first stage race win for Deceuninck-QuickStep when the five-day race ends Sunday in Beringen.

Evenepoel joined Campenaerts and Andreas Lorentz Kron (Riwal Readynez) in a three-rider move that finished more than a minute ahead of the field on the 151km fourth stage that featured climbs of the La Redoute and Roche-aux-Faucons. Evenepoel took a 52-second lead over Campenaerts in the overall and increased his lead to third-placed Tim Wellens to 2:02. Sunday’s final stage is a flat affair that should favour the young Belgian.

“Today is a day I will always remember,” Evenepoel said in a statement posted on his team’s website. “My team did a tremendous job – Eros [Capecchi], Pieter [Serry], everybody in the squad – they were all superb and I want to thank them for their help. From my part, I gave it my all on this legendary parcours in front of an amazing public and retained the leader’s jersey, which gives me a lot of joy going into the final day.”

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A breakaway of  six riders escaped just 15km into the stage, but QuickStep’s efforts had the escapees back in the fold with less than 20km remaining. Hansen then launched an attack, but Evenepoel relied on his teammates to neutralise his rival’s move, with the young rider bringing Hansen back near the top of the Roche-aux-Faucons.

Evenepoel then jumped away with Campenaerts and Kron, and the chase was on once again. The QuickStep rider pressed the pace in the move, extending the trio’s gap before taking third in the sprint.

“The stage wasn’t easy, as the guys from Lotto applied pressure immediately, but I could rely on a great team and that gave me a lot of confidence” he said. “In the final, when Wellens attacked, I didn’t panic, just tried to control the gap before attacking in the false flat near the top of the climb. We caught him, and when I saw he was losing ground after Campenaerts’ acceleration, I pushed as hard as possible.

You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

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15 Jun

Ahead of the 2019 season, the comeback of Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) was very anticipated. Opinions differed on whether Deignan could return to the highest level after sitting out 2018 due to pregnancy and signing for the new Trek-Segafredo team.

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When she returned to racing at the Ardennes classics, Deignan performed well right away, being at the front end of the races and finishing seventh in Liège-Bastogne-Liège. She continued to show her good form at the Tour de Yorkshire and Tour of California.

At the OVO Energy Women’s Tour, Deignan has truly returned to the very top, winning the mountainous queen stage through Mid Wales on Friday and taking the overall lead before the final stage, one second ahead of Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM). The last time Deignan stood on the top step of the podium was in late August 2017 when she won the GP Plouay one-day race. The victory in Builth Wells was the first after 657 days.

“It was very emotional,” said Deignan after the race. “It’s been a tough comeback. After becoming a mom, finding my feet again in cycling has been difficult. There have always been questions whether I made the right decision, today was massive validation that I did. I can’t quite really describe it; it was probably the nicest win I’ve had in a very long time. I really savoured it and really enjoyed it and I will do for a long time.”

Deignan went on the attack with her teammate Elisa Longo Borghini on the steep Epynt climb 20 km from the finish, and they were joined by Niewiadoma.

“It was instinctive. It wasn’t the plan, but I kept looking over at Elisa and noticed she was looking back at me. I just thought, ‘go on then, we’ll give it a try’. I went and Kasia took over then. Her takeover was much stronger than my initial attack and I kind of survived with them over the top. Then we worked together to the finish.”

Being the best sprinter in the three-woman group and having a teammate there to help, the pressure was on Deignan to deliver. “When you know that you’re faster on paper, you have more to lose. Elisa really worked for me in the final, adding even more pressure, but I perform well under pressure, so it was good. Thank you very much to Elisa, it was down to her that we made it to the finish with such a gap.”

Local knowledge of the stage played a part in the successful attack as well, Deignan told: “We knew there would be another stiff climb, uncategorized, after Epynt, and it was great to have been given that insight and know that was coming. The launch was on the categorized climb, but we really made the difference on that steep section after it.”

With only one second separating Deignan in the green jersey and Niewiadoma, Saturday’s final stage will be an interesting affair tactically. There are two intermediate sprints with bonus seconds on offer to the first three riders as well as time bonifications at the stage finish. The second intermediate sprint is situated at the top of a long, but unclassified rise and comes after the hard Black Mountain climb which could play to Niewiadoma’s strengths.

“It will be a big battle,” the Polish climber said. “Lizzie is strong and fast, so it will be extremely hard to beat her, although I still believe that there are some chances. We need to sit down with the team and discuss what we can do. It’s still close. I now regret certain situations on the previous stages where I lost a few seconds. But I just need to focus and see what we can do.”

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15 Jun

Dave Brailsford was cautious not to give away too much at the start of stage 6 of the Critérium du Dauphiné when asked about the shocking news that Juan Jose Cobo would be stripped of his 2011 Vuelta a España title pending an appeal.

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The UCI announced on Thursday that its Anti-Doping Tribunal found Cobo “guilty of an anti-doping rule violation (Use of a prohibited substance) based on abnormalities from 2009 and 2011 detected in his Biological Passport and imposed a three-year period of ineligibility on the rider.”

Finishing second to Cobo was none other than Chris Froome, who burst onto the GC racing scene at the same race with second place overall. Bradley Wiggins finished third. Froome is currently in hospital as he recovers from a serious crash at the Dauphine that left him with several fractures and internal injuries.

Speaking to ITV and Cyclingnews this morning, Team Ineos Principal Brailsford said he was also surprised by the news.

“The first I heard about it was yesterday, towards the end of the day when someone phoned up and said that the UCI were about to make an announcement. That’s the first I knew about it,” he said.

The Cobo investigation dates back to 2015 after the rider retired from professional cycling at the end of 2014. Passport cases have been retrospective in the past and have taken time to put together as they’re not as simple as positive or negative drug tests. They rely on long-term data and samples taken over time. When asked about the length of time it took for the UCI to make the announcement, Brailsford said “it will all come out in the wash”.

“I’m sure the UCI will explain to us all what’s gone on,” he said. “I guess that there are two ways of looking at it. You can immediately question it and be suspicious of it all, and the other is to say,’Well done’. The whole idea of what they do means you have to trust in what they do and that they work in confidentiality.

“I think the whole issue around confidentiality, it’s pretty central to the whole anti-doping process. At times it probably feels frustrating for people when you’re not quite sure what’s going on and etc., and people like to ask questions, but on the other hand, if it brings the right results and it’s done in the right way then you have to trust in what the authorities are doing, which we do. I think you’ve then got to back them in that.”

Brailsford then brought up the 2017 example of when Froome’s salbutamol case was leaked to the press. In that case, Froome was later cleared.

“We’ve been at the wrong end of confidentiality issues when things were meant to be kept confidential and they weren’t kept confidential,” Brailsford said. “So, in that case, I personally trust the UCI to do their work and to tell us when they make a decision.”

In recent times, the UCI Biological Passport has faced criticism for not catching high-profile names and because of the reported holes in the system due to micro-dosing. Although no one would argue that the system is a silver bullet to cure the sport of doping, Brailsford did state that it was still a tool for good.

Team Ineos have been involved with passport stories in the past. Jonathan Tiernan-Locke was given a two-year ban while at Team Sky due to anomalies in his passport before he joined the team. In 2016, the UCI opened a case against then-Team Sky rider Sergio Henao, but the case was later dropped and the Colombian returned to competition without charges.

“I’ve got no information about the case, so I can’t make any conclusions about the case in any way shape or form. But does the biological passport work?It’s part of the armory and tools that the anti-doping authorities have. It contributes. It’s a tool. It’s not black and white, that’s for sure, but I think it’s better that it’s there than if it isn’t. As we understand and evolve a bit more, the more it can play a role. If anything, the anti-doping process should be embraced, really. I guess normally there would be an appeal, but let’s wait and see.”

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15 Jun

In the wake of three formal complaints of abuse levelled against Health Mate Ladies Team manager Patrick Van Gansen at the UCI Ethics Commission, six more former riders have come forward corroborating the accusations that include verbal aggression and sexually inappropriate remarks.

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Cyclingnews reported on Tuesday that Esther Meisels, Sara Mustonen and Chloë Turblin all left the Health Mate Ladies Team in the past three months.

Meisels and Mustonen, along with Turblin’s father, had separately filed three formal complaints against Van Gansen with the UCI Ethics Commission. Their complaints centre around the UCI Code of Ethics: Appendix 1 that covers protection of physical and mental integrity – sexual harassment and abuse, and specifically point to Article 2.1 concerning psychological abuse and Article 2.3 concerning sexual abuse. Turblin’s father initially filed his complaint citing bad treatment and illegal work.

Five riders have since written an open letter alleging that they had similar experiences while racing on the team managed by Van Gansen. The letter was penned to the Dutch news outlet WielerFlits and published on Wednesday.

In addition, retired professional rider Liz Hatch corroborated the allegations in a post on Twitter and in a detailed story on Het Nieuwsblad, citing similar experiences with the 54-year-old Belgian.

This brings the total number of former riders alleging abuse and inappropriate behaviour by Patrick Van Gansen to nine. Van Gansen has rejected all claims of abuse and has written a statement to Cyclingnews that he intends to take legal action.

Tara Gins writes open letter on behalf of five athletes

Tara Gins, 28, retired from professional cycling last year after competing for one season with Health Mate Ladies Team. She previously raced for teams Lares-Waowdeals in 2016 and 2017. She contacted Wielerflits with the open letter on behalf of herself and four other former riders of Health Mate Ladies Team.

“The other four ladies prefer to remain anonymous,” Gins told WielerFlits. “But we thought we should really do this to better explain things.”

Read the full open letter

“Racing with the Health Mate Team has been an amazing experience. As all the riders got along very well and it really felt like a second family, it was nice to be part of it and we were thankful for the opportunity that was given to us.

“However, we all agree on the fact that Mr. Van Gansen had been making a lot of sexual and inappropriate remarks throughout the time that we have been part of the team.

“There were a lot of times he raised his voice and got verbal aggressive to the point riders got terrified and uncomfortable.
We have all witnessed verbal aggression towards other riders. Riders were scared to speak up, even willing to do anything so they would never see him in that state again. Even if they had to lie or vouch for him.

“It is true that there is no way you can have a discussion with him when he disagrees on your opinion. He has fat & body shamed (young) women and has the ability to mentally abuse women to the point that they break and lose the motivation to enjoy their sport. Mr. Van Gansen has two faces. The person we just discussed, as also a person who looks like the kindest person on earth, a person who will motivate and help you. We got to know both of them but at the end of the day the bad side is what you keep in mind.

“This statement has been written by multiple ex-riders of the Health Mate Cyclelive Team in order to support and back-up the statements coming from Esther Meisels, Sara Mustonen and Chloë Turblin. We fully agree that this man should not be allowed around (young) women who are trying to grow (as athletes) and where he has a position of power. We do not have any other intentions than wanting to speak up and to fight for a professional and safe sport. With this statement we will notify the UCI.”

Cyclingnews reached out to Van Gansen for a comment regarding the open letter written by Gins and four anonymous women. He rejected the allegations and wrote to Cyclingnews that he intends to them to court.

“Now I’m even fighting against shadows,” Van Gansen said. “Four girls who are not in my team anymore and who are afraid of giving their name and saying what I did do wrong to them. Tara Gins could also have said it [are] 6, 7 or 8 girls. It’s so easy! Tara Gins herself was working for one of my companies and got fired in June 2018. I will also take Gins and the unknown girls to court!”

Hatch 

Liz Hatch is an American cyclist who competed for CyclelivePLUS-Zannata Ladies Team in 2013, a team that Van Gansen says he sponsored. After reading Cyclingnews‘ initial report concerning the complaints filed by Miesels, Mustonen and Turblin, Hatch confirmed in a post on Twitter that she faced similar experiences on the team.

“Reading this article makes me sick to my stomach. 6 years ago I had the unfortunate opportunity to experience Mr. Van Gansen’s tactics personally while racing for his team and I can vouch for the validity of Esther Meisels claims. Please, get lost Van Gansen,” Hatch wrote in a post on Twitter.

In a report published on Het Nieuwsblad Thursday, Hatch elaborated on her experiences while racing on the team, saying “He only had one goal: getting me into bed.

“We, Texan women, have one rule: unlike New Yorkers, we don’t kiss men we don’t know. I only noticed that Patrick Van Gansen, a man I barely knew, wanted nothing more than to kiss, touch or hug me.”

Regarding the three formal complaints, and the open letter, Hatch told Het Nieuwsbald that said she believes what the other women are alleging and went on to describe Van Gansen as a systematic abuser.

“You will not read an untrue word in his official communication with the riders, let alone a sexual message. He works very systematically: gaining trust, abusing his position of power and then becoming palpable. As a young rider you have to be damn strong in your shoes. And if you refuse, he becomes verbally aggressive. And reproaches follow that you are underperforming in the race. Or that you are too fat.”

Hatch said that she didn’t feel empowered enough to make a complaint at the time, in 2013, and that she wanted to avoid confrontation with Van Gansen.

“I was not looking for confrontation, I was in a subordinate role and I could not go to something like an ethics committee of the UCI. I am so sorry that I wasn’t empowered enough at the time and I didn’t stop the creep myself. I suppressed it and forced it away. That was wrong, I now realize.”

Cyclingnews reached out to Van Gansen for a statement regarding Hatch, and, as he did with the women who wrote the open letter, Van Gansen responded that he intends to take Hatch to court. 

“This is the biggest example of how these people lie,” Van Gansen wrote. “Before 2018, I was never manager or in any way involved in the staff or board of a cycling team. In 2013, I was sponsor of the team of Heidi Van De Vijver. I was not part of the team at all, not as manager, not as owner, not in any form of staff! I was sponsor of the team and I paid a salary to Mrs Hatch as a personal sponsor.

“Liz Hatch was voluntary for 6 weeks (February – March 2013) in my house because she didn’t find an apartment that she liked enough to live in. After 6 weeks she moved to an apartment in Lier which was paid by my company (also as sponsorship). Hatch was showing a very unprofessional attitude and I finished the contract on base of her ‘big professional mistakes’ she made. Hatch could not do anything because my company has the proves of her unprofessional behavior which allowed to finish the sponsor contract on immediate base.

“The story of Hatch is one big lie from the first till the last word. For the second time in her life she failed in having a real UCI level and the reason of that is herself! The only thing in her story that’s true is that in the time she was here in my house, there were also other riders in the house. For more than eight years I’m helping riders to offer them a place when they need it. All this time there was never a complain!

“Why did she not go to court if she is right? Why could I finish the sponsorship from one day to another? Why is she saying it was my UCI team? Why is she coming out with her false story only now while she was famous in women cycling in that time?

“I will go to court to sue Mrs Hatch for what she is doing to my name!”

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14 Jun

After finishing seventh at the Tour of California in 2018, Brandon McNulty went into this year’s race with high ambitions and the backing of his Rally UHC Cycling team, which had helped shepherd him to the overall victory of the Giro di Sicilia just weeks earlier.

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A flu virus McNulty picked up after Fleche Wallonne knocked the 21-year-old American out of the California race, however. Now he’s ready to bounce back at the upcoming Tour de Suisse, looking to prove what he can do against WorldTour competition when his health is intact.

“Tour of California was a bit of a disaster, and I had to take over a week off the bike,” McNulty said in an interview published on the team’s website. “I just had to reset physically and mentally. Sometimes doing nothing is the best training. At this point, I’m happy to be feeling normal again and look forward to racing in Switzerland with my teammates.”

The US-based Pro Continental team will head into the Tour de Suisse with a roster that includes sprinters Colin Joyce and Ryan Anderson, while Robin Carpenter will help in the leadout while also chasing stage wins from the escapes. For the mountains, the team will field a three-pronged attack that includes McNulty, Rob Britton and Gavin Mannion. WorldTour veteran and road captain Svein Tuft will round out the seven-rider roster.

“I think we have a nice mix of riders and can do a lot of things at this race,” McNulty said. “Robin is riding super strong and fills a lot of roles. Randy and Colin will contest the sprints, Rob, Gavin, and I will take a run at the GC and daddy Svein will keep both riders and directors in line to make sure we don’t do anything too silly.”

McNulty’s California effort took the first hit on the high-altitude stage 2 slog to South Lake Tahoe, where he finished 57th and lost more than eight minutes to the leaders. McNulty tried to fight through the illness, even making the breakaway on stage 5, but he was forced to abandon the following day on the queen stage to Mt. Baldy. Since then, he’s refocused his energy to get back on track.

“After Cali I took over a week away from the bike, then slowly built up starting with 90-minute rides, so I think the main difference is that I’ve done significantly less than normal. I’m not too stressed, though,” McNulty said of his preparation for the Swiss race.

“This race may be nine days, which on paper is longer than anything I’ve done such as Cali. But really it’s just two time trials longer, which will only be 30-40 minutes worth of racing. Plus, Cali was quite difficult this year with four days in a row of well over 200 kilometres.”

The Tour de Suisse begins Saturday, June 15, and runs through June 23. The race starts with a flat 9.5km time trial in Langnau and continues with six more road stages before the second time trial on the penultimate day. The second race against the clock covers 19.2km of flat ground before the 144.4km queen stage that starts and finishes in Goms. The stage includes three out-of-category climbs. The route is difficult, of course, but McNulty’s biggest challenge will come from the cast of characters he’ll face in the team’s biggest, most prestigious race to date.

“It should be quite a strong field,” he said. “Looks like a lot of the big boys are at the Dauphiné, but I’m sure there will be some very strong competition.”

Rally UHC Cycling for Tour de Suisse: Ryan Anderson, Rob Britton, Robin Carpenter, Colin Joyce, Gavin Mannion, Brandon McNulty, Svein Tuft

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14 Jun

From optimism to despair to hope within just 24 hours: cycling has a cruel way of robbing opportunity from one rider and presenting another with the chance to succeed.

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Yesterday, Chris Froome set out for his recon of the stage 4 time trial at the Critérium du Dauphiné with a smile on his face but within a few hours it was confirmed that he was out of the race, out of the Tour de France, and on his way to the operating theatre having suffered multiple fractures and internal injuries. He is now conscious and setting his sights on rehabilitation but his season is over, and his quest for a fifth Tour de France title shelved.

That loss hit Team Ineos hard. Dave Brailsford was visibly shocked and upset when he met the media hours after the news was declared, and again on Thursday morning, ahead of stage 5 of the Dauphiné.

But time waits for no one, and Brailsford and the rest of the backroom staff will now have to set a new course if they are to win another Tour de France title in 2019. Froome, of course, was never a certainty for victory but his loss punches a hole straight through the squad’s heart. Last year’s winner Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal will surely shoulder the responsibility of leadership, although the team’s directeur sportif Servais Knaven cooled any speculation that the pair’s upcoming outing at the Tour de Suisse would offer a final call in determining leadership come July.

“We’ve not made any final decisions on that. The strongest rider from the past isn’t with us this year. We have Egan and we have Geraint and they’re both getting ready in the Tour de Suisse. Let’s see where they are. We still have two strong leaders in the team. Of course, it’s different, Geraint proved that he can win a Grand Tour. If he’s at the same level as last year then we’ll be in a good place,” Knaven told Cyclingnews.

“Test is the wrong word,” he said when asked about the relevance of Suisse.

“We don’t use the word test. It’s an indicator of how good they are and then you still have a few weeks to train specifically.”

Bernal impressed during his Grand Tour debut last year, yo-yo-ing between being Thomas’ key helper in the mountains and offering Froome valued support whenever the lead group split on the climbs. He is still just 22 years old, however, and has already had to alter his season once having missed the Giro d’Italia after a collarbone break on the eve of the race. Whether Team Ineos would trust such a young rider with sole leadership or even declare such a plan in public remains to be seen.

“He did a really good Tour last year and surprised everyone with how good he was in the mountains but this year is another year and he had some bad luck and had to change goals. It’s hard to say,” Knaven said when asked about the Colombian’s role this July.

“Last year he wasn’t riding as one of the leaders and he lost some time when it wasn’t necessary. Racing three weeks full gas and not losing any time is totally different for him.”

The Dauphine continues

In the immediate aftermath of Froome’s horrific crash Team Ineos still have a race to win at the Critérium du Dauphiné. They were highly visible during the finale on stage 5 and Wout Poels – who was with Froome when the British rider crashed – currently sits 11th on GC, 40 seconds down on race leader Adam Yates. As much as Froome’s departure has hurt the team his vacancy provides an opportunity for the man who witnessed the accident. Again, cycling has a cruel way of offering opportunities.

“You don’t need to change a lot because Wout is still up there on GC. Normally Chris would have been the protected rider but now it’s Wout. The others might have more freedom in certain moments but of course, it’s shit what happened. Wout is going well and he proved that on stage 2 and for him this is a really nice opportunity. We’re still here to prepare for the Tour and we’ll see how things are in the mountains.”

“We won’t race like we have the yellow jersey because we don’t have it. Normally if Froome was as strong as we thought then there would have been a good chance of him being in yellow. Now we’re in a different place and it’s always harder to gain time than defend it.”

The feeling in the Team Ineos camp is still one of loss. The squad have faced phases of criticism since their inception but if Brailsford has instilled anything it’s his own brazen regard of keeping the show on the road. When asked about the mood during dinner on Wednesday evening, when Froome was under the knife for six hours, Knaven paused before responding.

“It was strange. It was weird. You go and do a recon and then this happens. For the people who work really close with Froome and the riders who have spent two weeks at training camp in Tenerife, it’s not easy for the head. But we now have to give our best for the coming days. That’s what Froome would say and we’ll keep on fighting. It’s a disaster for him personally and it will take a while before he’s back on the bike. He was so focused and so wanting to win the fifth Tour. What can I say? It’s shit.”

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14 Jun

Wout van Aert continued his spectacular debut stage race for Jumbo-Visma at the Critérium du Dauphiné, outsprinting Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) after a technical stage 5 finale into Voiron. The victory means back-to-back stages for the young Belgian, after winning the individual time trial in Roanne on Wednesday ahead of Tejay van Garderen (EF Education First) and Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb).

The two stage victories follow a third-place finish on stage 1 and a second-place finish on stage 3 and see van Aert lead the sprinter’s green jersey classification, as well as the best young rider’s classification with three tough mountain stages to come.

Van Aert is no stranger to consistency, finishing in the top-20 on five out of the six northern one-day Classics this spring and the Belgian believes getting these results breeds further success down the line.

“I think a good atmosphere and good results bring good results,” Van Aert said in the stage winner’s press conference. “If you feel good and when you have results in the previous days it’s always easier to perform again and harder to come back [from losses].”

After an incredible debut Dauphiné, the Belgian will follow the race with his first Grand Tour at the Tour de France next month, which was announced by Jumbo-Visma just ahead of the race. His performances this week have continued to raise his profile after two impressive Classics campaigns and the question was raised as to whether Van Aert can continue this success and target the green jersey at the Tour de France next month.

“I think this year, no [on targeting the green jersey at the Tour de France]. It’s my first Tour de France, I’m just happy to have a supporting role for the team. It’ll already be extremely difficult just to do the Tour de France, so it’s best to start in that supporting role.

“In the future, I will see. It’s the first time I’ve really been fighting for a points classification at a race here at the Dauphine. Of course, at the Tour de France, you have much more sprinters, here there is Sam Bennett, who is very, very strong but maybe less sprinters overall so I can get more points [here].

“Of course I am [scared at his debut Tour de France]. Obviously, it’s a very long race and all of the riders at the start of the Tour are a little bit scared. Not scared of not finishing the long stages, but it’s extremely hard to focus every day all of the time and stay healthy for three weeks.”

Having won the cyclo-cross elite world championships three times, Van Aert has been making headlines for several years now. Van Aert’s long-time ‘cross rival Mathieu van der Poel has had equal success across disciplines, winning De Brabantse Pijl, Amstel Gold Race, Dwars door Vlaanderen and GP Denain on the road this season, as well as the national, continental and world elite cyclo-cross championships.

The pair’s success, at just 24-years-old, perhaps showcases a successful route into WorldTour road racing but Van Aert and Van der Poel alike, remain equally focused on continuing to perform in both disciplines for the coming season.

“Of course, Mathieu [van der Poel] and myself have had some great results, it’s great, of course, for cyclo-cross but road racing is still extremely difficult. It’s not for all cyclo-cross riders.

“It’s not just preparation [for the road season], it’s still an objective for me this winter and I’ll make the most of the intensity.”

A rider with similar consistency on the road and success in both Classics and stage racing early in his career was compatriot Tom Boonen, who retired in 2017 as one of the great riders of his generation. Although Boonen’s debut Tour de France in 2004 was not his first Grand Tour, he did win the final stage into Paris on his way to six career Tour stage victories, as well as a green jersey.

Emulating even part of Boonen’s career would be a phenomenal achievement for Van Aert and something he admits he could look to in the future. Just how far Van Aert can go remains to be seen.

“Tom Boonen is a great name and he’s won a lot of races. Before achieving a career like his, the road is extremely long and I’m far from it yet. Of course, Boonen took advantage of the speed he had in his younger years and he was amazing in Classics. Maybe that’s objectives for me in the future.

“No [I don’t know my limits] and that’s a good thing.”

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13 Jun

Team Ineos confirmed Wednesday evening that Chris Froome suffered a fractured femur in a crash during reconnaissance of the Criterium du Dauphine time trial. In addition to the broken leg, Froome also fractured his elbow and ribs in the wreck.

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“Chris was taken to Roanne Hospital, where initial examinations confirmed multiple injuries, most notably a fractured right femur and right elbow,” Team Doctor Richard Usher said in a team press release. “He has also suffered fractured ribs. He is now being airlifted to St Etienne University Hospital for further treatment.

“On behalf of the team, I would like to commend the treatment he received from the emergency services and all at Roanne Hospital in assessing and stabilising him. We will now turn our focus towards supporting him in his recovery,” Usher said.

Team Principal Dave Brailsford, who earlier ruled Froome out of the Tour de France before the fracture was confirmed, turned his focus to Froome’s future.

“Our primary focus now is obviously on ensuring Chris gets the very best possible care, which he will do, so he can recover as soon as possible,” Brailsford said. “Even though we all recognise the risks involved in our sport, it’s always traumatic when a rider crashes and sustains serious injuries.”

Froome was previewing the stage 4 time trial course in Roanne on Wednesday with teammate Wout Poels when he apparently took his hands off the bars to clear his nose on a 60kph descent, and a gust of wind took out his front wheel, according to Brailsford.

A femur fracture is notoriously difficult to recover from for professional cyclists, and the timeline for returning to competition can vary wildly.

In 2011, Alexandre Vinokourov broke his femur during the 2011 Tour de France, but returned the next season and won the Olympic Games road race.

In 2017, Kevin Ledanois suffered a non-displaced femur fracture and returned to racing in two months. In 2011, Craig Lewis took three months out after a similar injury. Alessandro Ballan broke his femur in the off-season in 2012, and although he returned six months later, continuing pain hampered his racing. Angel Vicioso won a race 11 months after suffering a compound fracture to his femur in the 2014 Giro d’Italia.

Brailsford said the team will be fully behind Froome’s recovery, however long that takes as he readjusts his goals.

“Chris had worked incredibly hard to get in fantastic shape and was on track for the Tour, which unfortunately he will now miss,” Brailsfrod said. “One of the things which sets Chris apart is his mental strength and resilience – and we will support him totally in his recovery, help him to recalibrate and assist him in pursuing his future goals and ambitions.”

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13 Jun

Wout van Aert’s two podium finishes on the opening three stages of the Critérium du Dauphiné for Jumbo-Visma were bettered on Wednesday with the Belgian’s first WorldTour stage victory on the stage 4 time trial, putting 31 seconds into Tejay van Garderen (EF Education First) and 47 seconds into former time trial world champion Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb).

The victory is the icing on the cake for the three-time cycle-cross world champion in his debut stage race for a WorldTour team, where a third-place finish on stage 1 and a second place finish on stage 3 saw van Aert in both the green sprinter’s jersey and the white best young rider’s jersey at the halfway point of the race.

Van Aert has previously won a prologue time trial at the Baloise Belgium Tour in 2016, beating another former time trial world champion in Tony Martin. At only six kilometres in length, the prologue was a very different beast to today’s 26.1-kilometre time trial, which featured a climb with around 200 metres of ascent at the midway point of the course.

“I think it was a prologue that I won in Belgium a few years ago but this is a longer TT and at WorldTour level so of course, it’s a bigger result,” van Aert said in the stage winner’s press conference in Roanne.

“Obviously it’s a surprise because I don’t have too much WorldTour level time trials before and actually, we trained quite a bit over the last few weeks and worked on my position but not longer than a month so I didn’t think that would be enough to compete on this level. It worked though, so I’m very happy.”

Van Aert’s stellar week comes off the back of the Jumbo-Visma team announcement that van Aert will also be riding the Tour de France next month. The Belgian’s consistent results during the past two Classics campaign have marked him as a serious contender during the spring but whether the performances could be replicated in a serious stage race was an unknown.

This week, however, van Aert has put any of those questions to bed showcasing his ability in sprints, as a valuable assistant for team leader Steven Kruijswijk in the GC battle and, now, his time trialling talent.

“The Tour de France selection was a surprise but it was actually a dream come true. Especially with the start in Belgium, it’s going to be very, very special. Now, I’m in good shape and I’m hoping to keep that shape through to the Tour de France and help the team where possible in the weeks to come.

“The ambitions for the Tour will be to help the team and help our leaders, [Steven] Kruijswijk and [Dylan] Groenewegen for the sprints of course and the GC for Steven, I hope to help with the team time trial in the beginning and the sprint train for Dylan [Groenewegen].”

Cyclo-cross star to time trialling talent

Van Aert has previously mixed his cyclo-cross ambitions with Belgian Pro Continental squad Verandas Willems-Crelan on the road, but following the team’s merger with Dutch squad Roompot-Charles in the off-season, contract talks fell apart and the 24-year-old signed a three-year contract with Jumbo-Visma who will allow him to still race ‘cross in the winter.

The Belgian’s abilities in one-day races saw top-ten finishes at Strade Bianche, E3 BinckBank Classic and Gent-Wevelgem this season and the technical nature of racing ‘cross can often be replicated in tough one-day races on dirt, cobbles and often muddy surfaces.

The high intensity of ‘cross, albeit for just an hour, also perhaps replicates the short and similarly intense efforts of a time trialling, with today’s result potentially offering long term targets for van Aert’s future on the road.

“Maybe it will be a good objective to focus on time trialling, I wasn’t as good at time trials before but certainly this season I have more experience, better equipment and the team behind me. This result is very sudden but very positive to be able to do it on a stage race like this one.

“I think [cyclo-cross] has been a big topic the last few months, especially with [Mathieu] van der Poel also being very strong on every bike. I think in Classics, I definitely feel I have an advantage with the high intensity of cyclo-cross and that’s what you need on the steep climbs of Flanders. I don’t know, maybe you can compare with time trials a little bit too because they’re both full gas from start to finish and you have to fight with yourself so maybe that’s a good comparison. On the other hand, they are still different so it’s hard to say.”

While van Aert has showcased his ability in the first half of the Critérium du Dauphiné, after a relatively flat stage 5 on Thursday, the race heads to the mountains. It will be there that van Aert will not be able to continue competing alongside new GC leader Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), plus the likes of Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) and former winner Jakob Fuglsang (Astana Pro Team) when the road goes upwards.

“The real mountains are going to come this weekend and it’ll be just too tough. I weigh 78kg, which is not ideal. I would need to be 10kg lighter to be able to compete with the best. Maybe now, I just want to focus on the green jersey but whatever happens, it has been a positive week with a third, second and now first place.

“I have won a lot in cyclo-cross and it’s obviously nicer to win rather than finishing third or second. I was happy with my Classics campaign but now it’s even better.”

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