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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, August 23, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

The historian will tell you what happened. The novelist will tell you what it felt like. - E. L. Doctorow

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Team Sky announces its lineup for the Vuelta a España

Here's the team's release:

Having enjoyed a period of sustained success – winning the last four Grand Tours, including the Giro d’Italia in May and the Tour de France last month – the team will now be looking to leave its mark on the Vuelta a España.

The squad of Michal Kwiatkowski, David de la Cruz, Tao Geoghegan Hart, Jonathan Castroviejo, Sergio Henao, Salvatore Puccio, Pavel Sivakov and Dylan van Baarle represents an exciting blend of youth and experience – riders making their Grand Tour debuts at the start of their careers; riders who have experience of winning Grand Tours with Team Sky; and riders looking to make the final step in performance as GC riders in their own right.

Fresh from winning his home race, the Tour of Poland, earlier this month, Kwiatkowski is set for a strong Vuelta. Kwiatkowski said: “Vuelta selection is another important step in my career. I’ve never raced two Grand Tours in one season, so I am intrigued to see how my body will react to that challenge. But I don’t feel any pressure – just excitement before a new experience.

“It’s been a busy summer for me. Just six days after the Tour de France I started in the Tour of Poland and was able to stay in top shape, winning my home race. This year I’m trying to finish the season with a slightly different approach. I think that staying in a racing rhythm might just suit me.”

Michal Kwiatkowski

Michal Kwiatkowski at the 2018 Tirreno-Adriatico. Sirotti photo

La Vuelta has been De la Cruz’s main focus for 2018 and he is excited about racing his home Grand Tour in Team Sky colours. De la Cruz said: “It’s so exciting. The Vuelta has been my big goal of the season. I’ve worked really hard in the months following the Giro d’Italia and finally it’s time.

“I felt really comfortable during Vuelta a Burgos and feel really at home in the team. Everyone was working perfectly together there and I’m really looking forward to La Vuelta. It’s my home race and it’s going to be special to do it with Team Sky.”

Twenty three year old Geoghegan Hart will make his Grand Tour debut in Spain after an impressive second season at Team Sky. Geoghegan Hart said: “I am really excited to be lining up for my first Grand Tour. It is something I have been building towards since I first started with Team Sky, and in many ways for years prior to turning pro. I am really looking forward to doing the lap of Spain with such a strong squad, and trying to learn as much as I can along the way.”

Speaking ahead of his first Grand Tour, Sivakov said: “I’m delighted to be starting my first Grand Tour with Team Sky. I never expected to experience a Grand Tour in my first season with the team. The team always believed in me and I know this will be a special experience. I have learnt so much this season and now can’t wait to take the next step in my development by testing myself across three weeks.”

Brailsford said: “We always enjoy racing at La Vuelta and historically we’ve enjoyed great success at this race, finishing on the podium four times before winning in 2017. We’ve had a great season to date, winning both the Giro and the Tour, and we’re determined to finish the season well. Our lineup has a real mix of youth and experience. There are several riders in this team who are looking to make big strides forward in their respective careers – Kwiatkowski, de la Cruz, Geoghegan Hart, Sivakov and van Baarle – who will be supported by an incredible trio of experienced riders in Castroviejo, Henao and Puccio.

“In Michal Kwiatkowski, I believe we have a rider who is capable of one day winning a Grand Tour. He has already showed his ability in one day races and now he is progressing well in his development as a stage racer. He has stepped up and won week-long World Tour stage races this season and for the second year running was a key performer in our recent success at the Tour de France. This Vuelta provides another opportunity for him to further himself and gain valuable experience as a GC rider.

“David de la Cruz is in a similar situation and continues to develop as a GC rider. He comes into the race in great form and has shown real signs of progression in his first season with us. I’m really excited to work with him during this race.

“In Tao Geoghegan Hart and Pavel Sivakov, we have two young riders who I’m convinced will experience success in Grand Tour in the future. They’ve both enjoyed strong seasons and we’re especially delighted they’re making their Grand Tour debuts with the team. Both Tao and Pavel’s selection reflects the great attitude both riders have adopted since joining Team Sky. Their willingness to make the sacrifices neccessary to succeed, commitment to hard work, and most importantly their desire to learn, have been exemplary and I couldn’t be more proud of them.

“Dylan van Baarle’s development this season has also been very pleasing and the Vuelta will be key in his progression. After the heartbreak of just missing out on our Tour de France team, I’m so impressed with how he’s kept his focus and he’s more than deserving of this key anchor role in this Team.

“With Jonathan Castroviejo, Sergio Henao and Salvatore Puccio we have an experienced trio that have all been a part of winning Grand Tour teams with us – they are right up there with the world’s best at their specific roles. They’ve got an abundance of experience that will complement the other riders as we look to finish the Grand Tour season strongly in Spain.”

Team Sky 2018 Vuelta a España lineup

Jonathan Castroviejo – Spanish – age 31
Immediately fitted into the Team and made a massive contribution in his first season with Team Sky, Castroviejo demonstrated his world-class versatility at the Tour de France, riding superbly in support of Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome. The Spanish national time trial champion will have his eye on La Vuelta’s opening eight-kilometre TT in Malaga and is sure to be a huge help to the team across the medium and high mountains in his home Grand Tour.

David de la Cruz – Spanish – age 29
Seventh overall at the 2016 Vuelta a Espana, De la Cruz has pedigree at his home Grand Tour, and will be hoping to step up this year. He’s settled in quickly at Team Sky, winning the final stage at Paris-Nice; racing strongly in support of Chris Froome at the Giro d’Italia; and earning his first stage race podium appearance for Team Sky by taking third at the Vuelta a Burgos. ‘DLC’ will look to build on that Burgos form and impress on home roads.

Sergio Henao – Colombian – age 30
Colombian national road champion Sergio Henao is one of the fiercest and most consistent competitors in the peloton. The 29 year old defended his national title in February before riding a strong Ardennes campaign and supporting Chris Froome to victory at the Giro d’Italia. Now the 2017 Paris-Nice winner will add his climbing prowess and experience to a strong Vuelta lineup in what will be his ninth Grand Tour.

Tao Geoghegan Hart – British – age 23
Tao Geoghegan Hart has enjoyed a superb second season at Team Sky, building on the progression he made during his debut year at World Tour level. The Hackney-born climber impressed at the Criterium du Dauphine as Geraint Thomas’ key man in the mountains and has earned two strong individual results in 2018, securing fifth overall at the Tour of California and Vuelta a Burgos. The 23 year old has more than earned his Grand Tour debut.

Michal Kwiatkowski – Polish – age 28
Fresh off a superb team performance at the Tour de France and overall victory on home roads at the Tour of Poland, ‘Kwiato’ has enjoyed another special season in Team Sky colours. One of the strongest and classiest bike riders on the planet, the 2014 world road race champion will have chance to continue his momentum, having also won the Volta ao Algarve and Tirreno-Adriatico earlier this year.

Salvatore Puccio – Italian – age 28
After joining the team in 2012 Salvatore Puccio has established himself as one of the most well-rounded domestiques in the sport. The Italian has been part of winning teams in his last two Grand Tour appearances, having helped Chris Froome to Vuelta a Espana and Giro d’Italia victories. Set to turn 29 during the race, Puccio’s Classics know-how should also prove key in the hustle and bustle of a peloton fighting for position.

Pavel Sivakov – Russian – age 21
Another rider making his Grand Tour debut at the Vuelta, Sivakov has enjoyed an impressive first season as a pro after lighting up the under-23 ranks. An exciting stage race prospect, the Russian, who resides and trains in France, is an accomplished climber who can also time trial at a high level. The Vuelta provides a great opportunity for him to gain experience whilst helping the team in the mountains.

Dylan van Baarle – Dutch – age 26
Starting his fifth Grand Tour but first as a Team Sky rider, the Dutchman will make his Vuelta debut in 2018 and brings added firepower to the lineup. A former overall winner at the Tour of Britain and the current Dutch national time trial champion, Van Baarle is an established Classics rider who can also climb at a high level. His all-round capabilities make him a superb team player across three weeks.

Tiesj Benoot headed to Vuelta

Benoot's Lotto-Soudal sent me this:

After his crash in the Tour de France which forced him to abandon the race, Tiesj Benoot prepared himself for the second part of the season. The 24-year-old hopes to be back in shape and to compete for a stage victory in what will be his first Vuelta ever.

A dislocation of the AC joint in his right shoulder, bruised ribs and left wrist put an end to Benoot’s Tour de France - a big seasonal goal for the young Belgian. After a short period of recovery, a high altitude training camp and regained motivation, the winner of the Strade Bianche feels ready to show his talent once again.

Tiesj Bennot

Tiesj Bennot winning the 2018 Strade Bianche. Sirotti photo

Tiesj Benoot: “After my crash in the Tour de France, I didn’t ride my bike for five days. After these rest days, I started to ride again at home and had regular sessions with my physician and osteopath to loosen up my muscles and joints. As soon as I started to feel better, I left for the training camp in Livigno, where I trained well and prepared myself properly for the upcoming races - with the Vuelta and World Championships as main goals. I do feel my shoulder from time to time, but it doesn’t bother me when I race. It will definitely not slow me down.”

“Last Sunday, I rode the Cyclassics Hamburg, which was my first race since I abandoned the Tour, and my legs felt good. Of course, we’ll have to wait and see how well I can perform in a three-week stage race, but it will soon become clear as the second stage already features a difficult finish and the fourth one concludes with a first-category climb. I’ll quickly know where I’m at, but I’m feeling well and believe to be in shape again.”

“Taking a look at the roadbook, I noticed that there are many opportunities for the breakaway -one of the main differences with the Tour the France, I’d say. Though, the escapees in this year’s Tour were also given more space from the peloton, making my withdrawal even more painful. Yet, it’s good to know that the Vuelta always offers several opportunities as well. Another difference with the Tour de France will probably be the heat in Spain. I prepared myself well for high temperatures so that the heat may not cause any problems. And, apparently, there’s also less stress in the Vuelta than there is in the Tour. Especially in the first week, a reassuring thought.”

“I’m not targeting any specific stage yet, but there are certainly several stages that suit me. I know that the second and fourth stage offer possibilities, but I’ll be taking it one day at a time. There are several uphill finishes or finishes after a descent in the somewhat more difficult stages that will suit me. Of course, you can’t predict the race situation, but I’m feeling well and I definitely am looking forward to be racing in Spain!”

Laurens De Plus signs with LottoNL-Jumbo

The Dutch team sent me this:

Laurens De Plus will be racing for Team LottoNL-Jumbo for the next two seasons. According to the nearly 23-year-old Fleming, the formation of manager Richard Plugge offers him the best prospect for the future. “I think this is a ideal team for me”, he explains his choice to ride for the Dutch squad. “Team LottoNL-Jumbo has proven to work well with young riders and to be able to develop them further. Seeing how the team rode in the Tour motivated me. This is a unique opportunity for me to develop further and hopefully to be able to perform well later on in grand tours. The good atmosphere at Team LottoNL-Jumbo is also very important to me.”

According to sports director Merijn Zeeman of Team LottoNL-Jumbo, the ambition of De Plus fits in well with the development that the team is currently going through. “Thanks to Jumbo’s long-term commitment, we are able to look to the long term. We would like to have the greatest talents in our team and therefore we scout intensively in the age category 22 to 25 years. That is the new generation of leaders. We will gradually guide guys like Laurens in this process: from support for our current leaders to opportunities to take the lead themselves.”

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