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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, December 7, 2019

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2019 Tour de France | 2019 Giro d'Italia

Ignoring all prejudices of caste, creed, class, color, sex, or race, a swami follows the precepts of human brotherhood. His goal is absolute unity with Spirit. - Paramahansa Yogananda

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Lars Bak will be assistant sports director at NTT Pro Cycling

Here's the team's update:

One of the peloton’s most experienced professionals, Lars Bak, will make the transition from rider to mentor in 2020 as it’s been confirmed that he will take up a new position as an Assistant Sports Director at NTT Pro Cycling.

Bak (39) rode his 18th and final season in the colours of Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka in 2019 after which he called time on a stellar career that saw him race with distinction for among others Lotto-Soudal, HTC-Highroad and Team CSC.

Lars Bak

Lars Bak racing in 2017. Sirotti photo

The former Danish road race champion and Giro dÍtalia stage-winner capped off his career in some style as he finished seventh at Paris-Tours in October concluding a season in which he raced over 12,000km. 2019 also saw him ride his eighth Tour de France and in the process the 20th Grand Tour of his career.

In a relatively youthful squad for 2020, bolstered by the signing of nine new riders, Bak joins a department led by compatriot Lars Michaelsen, who recently was confirmed as taking up the position of Head Sports Director for next season.

He will link up with the team immediately at its pre-season training camp in Oliva, Spain, in mid-December as we look ahead to the season and our first race as newly rebranded NTT Pro Cycling at the Santos Tour Down Under in late January.

Lars Bak: Assistant Sports Director:
I’m really happy that everything fell into place for me to take on this new challenge in my life but I now have to quickly switch my mindset from being a rider to that of being a sports director.

Of course it’s a big change and everything is going to be new for me, so I will be looking to listen and learn as much as possible from the excellent group of experienced guys already in the group. I’m effectively a trainee all over again as this is all new!

Of course I’ve been in the game for many years and you always presume to know exactly what a director is doing but there’s a lot to learn including all of the planning both on the race itself as well as in the background.

It’s going to be good to be at our training camp in Oliva where we will all be together – riders and staff – as it’s a very important time for us all to come together as a team.

For me I hope to start out in some of the smaller races but before that, next week, will be a learning process to do all of the relevant planning with all of my colleagues and learn the protocol of being a director.

It feels funny to say that now I’m a director, and it will take some time getting used to, but I will try and not speak too much but rather learn first from the others and take it day-by-day, and hopefully we can realise some success early in the year.

Lars Michaelsen: Head Sports Director:
Over the years Lars has collected tons of experience within pro cycling as a rider. Now his challenge will be in executing the job from “the other side” with that same ambition ie. what’s best for the team?

I have both raced with and against him, when he was an amateur as well as when we were both pro riders (2002-2007) and I’ve also had very close interaction with him over a two year period where I was his sports director (2008 and 2009). I was also there to encourage him from the team car via the radio when he won the Danish National TT Championship in 2008.

But crucially, what I strongly remember from those years was a Lars Bak who was always constructive about how to tackle the next day’s race, seen from the team’s perspective; and that is the essence of what the job of a DS is all about.

Writer Les Woodland talks about cycling across the U.S. and his search for sticky buns:

Deceuninck-Quick Step headed to training camp

Here's the team's update:

Our riders and staff are heading to southern Spain next week for the first training camp ahead of next season.

For the third consecutive year, Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s get-together will be held in Calpe, the coastal town which hosted a stage finish at the Vuelta a España just a few months ago. There, the riders and the staff of the Wolfpack will outline their schedule and goals and lay the foundations for what they hope will be another successful season.

The Calpe training camp will be the sole occasion for all the riders to spend some time together ahead of next year, thus creating a strong group cohesion. Next season’s roster comprises 28 riders, including eleven additions: João Almeida, Shane Archbold, Andrea Bagioli, Davide Ballerini, Sam Bennett, Mattia Cattaneo, Ian Garrison, Stijn Steels, Jannik Steimle, Bert Van Lerberghe, and Mauri Vansevenant.

Sam Bennet

Sam Bennett (shown at the 2017 Tour of Turkey) will be wearing Deceuninck-Quick Step colors in 2020.

The riders will be mingling fun activities with sessions on the bike and in the gym, with the team divided into groups, based on their 2020 goals and schedule, as trainer Koen Pelgrim explained: “The first three days will be for photo shootings mainly, but we’ll also throw in some core stability, health screening, cardio, and others tests to see how the riders came out of the off-season. It will be after these three days that the real training will start, with the riders split into groups, according to their objectives.”

“This training camp is very important, as some guys will leave for their first race in Australia a month from now, so it’s vital that they build a good condition in December. It’s good for the whole team to have a solid block of training now and also to spend some time together, especially as this year we have many new riders. They will all have the possibility to know each other and create a strong group while in Calpe, where they will enjoy the great facilities of the Suitopia – Sol y Mar Suites Hotel and the excellent climate and terrain of the Costa Blanca”, Koen Pelgrim concluded.

Jumbo-Visma interviews its new signing, Archie Ryan

Here's the team's post:

Archie Ryan will wear the Jumbo-Visma Development Team shirt from next year onwards. The young Irishman proved his strength last year in the national junior category. Both on the road and in the time trial, he won a silver medal in the Irish championship.

When did you pick up cycling?
“I did my first season with the U12. My father was a member of the local cycling club in my area. The club organised a ride for children. I went to take a look and participated in this ride. Since that moment I knew that I wanted to go cycling myself.”

What do you do when you are not riding a bicycle?
“Relax a bit, talk to friends and listen to music. I also occasionally play a game of Fortnite with my friends. I am currently in my exam year at school. The exams are scheduled for June.”

How did you experience the past two years as a junior?
“As a first-year junior, I rode for the Basque team Gaursa La Tostadora. I lived in the Basque Country with other foreign riders for six months. That year, I learned a lot in the area of independence. The Spanish races were very heavy, but educational. My Spanish has also improved. This period really taught me a lot.”

“I raced for a British team last year. The team had a great competition program with many UCI races. Here I have experienced what it is like to race at the highest junior level. This will help me to properly digest the step to the U23 category.”

What is the biggest difference between races in Ireland and races abroad?
“I noticed that the level abroad is much higher than in Ireland. The distances are longer, the intensity is higher and there are more competitors. It is a completely different experience.”

What are your expectations for the upcoming season?
“Next year I hope to get used to the longer distances and the higher speed in the peloton. I will have to learn a lot, but I still hope to show myself sometimes. During the past training weekends I met my teammates. There is a good atmosphere in the team and everyone is getting along well. I am really looking forward to the upcoming season.”

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