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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, November 25, 2020

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2020 Tour de France | 2019 Giro d'Italia

The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread. - Anatole France

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Simon Clarke, Dimitri Claeys and Kilian Frankiny join Qhubeka ASSOS

The team sent me this release:

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, November 24, 2020/ -- Australia’s Simon Clarke will bring excellent leadership and boost the performance goals in our team for the coming season. The 34-year-old Australian has an impressive palmares, mixing excellent ability as a road captain while also able to challenge for his own opportunities for success.

The double Vuelta a Espana stage-winner, who also won the Herald Sun Tour in 2014, raced to an impressive victory at the Royal Bernard Drome Classic in 2020, while also taking two top-5 stage finishes at the Giro d’Italia. He joins the team looking to build yet further on that success in 2021.

His signing will be complemented by the experience of Belgian Dimitri Claeys, who will look to operate as significant player in our team’s Classics aspirations. The multi-talented man from Ghent was an impressive sixth at the Tour of Flanders in 2020 and will form a key part of a group that includes Giacomo Nizzolo and Max Walscheid, among others, as we fight for results.

The exciting Swiss talent Kilian Frankiny had a very strong 2020 highlighted by two top-5 stage finishes at the Giro d’Italia. The 26-year-old has excellent climbing abilities and will be looking to take the next step up in his career, while also riding in support of our team’s general classification aspirations in the biggest races.

Simon Clarke

Simon Clarke climbing in the 12th stage of the 2020 Giro d'Italia. Sirotti photo

Simon Clarke:
I’m really thrilled to be taking on a new challenge with Team Qhubeka ASSOS. In one way, this is a sort of homecoming in that my father is South African and I’ve always felt some sort of deeper interest and pull towards the team.

The opportunity to find out more and contribute to the amazing work that the Qhubeka Charity does is truly unique, and the South African side of my family is already pushing me to ensure that I get the pronunciation correct – so I have some work to do!

2020 has been a strange and difficult year for everyone but a highlight without doubt was my victory at Royal Bernard Drome on a day in really tough conditions.

I really look forward to bringing those capabilities, as well as my leadership qualities, into the team and look forward to making it a very special year for us all. There’s already a strong core group in place and no doubt with further additions to come we’ll be competitive wherever we race.

Finally, my wife is from the area very close to where ASSOS are based and so I’ve come to know some of the people involved over the years. They are a fantastic product and to have them as a key role player is going to be great.

Dimitri Claeys:
I am very honoured to ride for Team Qhubeka ASSOS next season. 2020 was a strange season for all of us but my performance at Flanders, in particular, was very pleasing for me and I look forward to reproducing more performances like that next season.

This team has a very special history, over a relatively short period of time, which I now look forward to not only add to but to play a part in creating the next chapter of that journey.

Kilian Frankiny:
I’m very excited to start 2021 with my new team, Team Qhubeka ASSOS. I can’t wait to find out more about the Charity as I think it’s a great thing to distribute bicycles to help.

I’m really looking forward to racing; a new challenge and adventures with a team that has set itself some lofty goals for the season ahead.

It’s also very nice to have two Swiss brands on board in ASSOS and BMC. I know these brands already and they are exceptional, and with me being Swiss I’m really excited to go back to these two brands.

I hope to, and will, give my absolute very best to fulfill the goals of the team to achieve good results and to perform at my very best in order for us to be a great team in 2021.

Lars Michaelsen – Head Sports Director:
We are delighted to have Simon join us. He is an experienced rider who has a very strong ability in how to "read" a race. We expect Simon both to be an important team player and to fight for top results when at his best.

Moreover, having a background as a track rider Simon will also be able to contribute when lead-outs are required to set up in races where he will ride in support of our sprinter Giacomo Nizzolo. He’s a great acquisition and one that we are very pleased with.

Kilian will have the opportunity with our team to showcase his climbing skills as well as being a strong support to our designated leader in our general classification aspirations. This means that he will give us Team Qhubeka ASSOS a card to play in the medium and high mountains which will be very important.

Dimitri shares his passion with a style of racing that I loved so much and will be hugely important in our ambitions in the Classics. A tough customer who showed this year at the Tour of Flanders that he was able to be among the lead group in the finale, we look forward to him bringing those sorts of performances to our team together with his experience to share among our group of riders.

Broken collarbone and ribs for Mikaël Chérel

Chérel's Ag2r La Mondiale team sent me this bad news:

Mikaël Chérel was the victim of a fall caused by a dog that had escaped its owner during a training outing in the South of France.

He suffers from a major trauma to the right shoulder with a fracture of both ends of the collarbone as well as three ribs. He also suffers from a pneumothorax which requires him to stay overnight for observation, said Dr. Eric Bouvat, medical manager of the Ag2r La Mondiale team.

Mikael Cherel

Chérel finishes the 3rd stage of the 2016 Mediterranean Tour. Sirotti photo

It is not known how long he will be off the bike.

Will Barta to join EF Pro Cycling

Here’s the team’s press release:

EF Pro Cycling announced that Will Barta will be joining the team for the 2021 season. Barta joins his former Hagens Berman Axeon teammates Ruben Guerreiro, Neilson Powless, and Logan Owen.

Will Barta

Will Barta racing in the 13th stage of the 2020 Vuelta a España

“EF seems like a group that has a passion for the sport and performance, so I’m looking forward to being a part of that,” said Barta.

Barta is already a few steps ahead when it comes to getting familiar with his new teammates. “I’ve known Neilson and Logan for a long time as we grew up racing on the US National Team together. I also know Ruben Guerreiro from Axel Merckx’s team Hagens Berman-Axeon. It will be really fun to reconnect with those guys as teammates,” said Barta.

It’s been three years since Logan Owen and Will raced on the same team together, so these two are looking forward to picking up where they left off. “I’ve done quite a bit of racing with him since we were juniors and one thing that stuck out about Will is how hard he works,” said Owen.

When asked about other riders on the team, the 24-year-old pro said he’s long admired Tejay van Garderen’s career. “He’s a rider I’ve always looked up to. I’m really looking forward to learning from him,” said Barta. Van Garderen also hopes to learn a thing or two from Barta in return — noting his particularly sound time trialing skills.

“He has lots of talent and I hope I can help him reach his full potential. He will make an awesome addition to the team,” said van Garderen.

Barta started racing at age 11 with a youth club in Boise, Idaho called BYRDS where he raced until he was 18. He later gained notoriety with team CCC, especially at the AMGEN Tour of California where he was the second youngest rider at the race in 2016. Throughout his professional career, Barta has particularly excelled in the time trial events. He earned a seventh place at the Tour de Poitou-Charente and an eleventh place in the Tirreno Adriatico time trials. He no doubt has serious skills in that regard, but he’s also proved to be an all-rounder — especially after placing fourth at Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2017. The one day classic also happens to be his favorite cycling race. 

“It always favored tough riders and I found that exciting. It really lived up to my expectations as a race,” said Barta.

However, most cycling fans will recognize Barta from his recent success at the 2020 Vuelta a España. Barta finished right outside of the top 20 for the general classification in the 18 stage event. Anyone watching the time trials during stage 13 saw Barta’s raw talent after he put on an incredible performance. He was inches away from winning his first ever stage in a Grand Tour, but two-time Vuelta winner Primoz Roglic was the only rider to beat him. And he did so by only one second. “It would have been super to win, but I’m still happy with my performance,” said Barta.

Outside of cycling, some of his main hobbies include both alpine and nordic skiing. “Unfortunately with cycling I am unable to downhill ski these days, but I still enjoy incorporating some nordic skiing into my winter training,” said Barta. During the offseason, Barta is looking forward to spending time on the slopes, and of course, training for the 2021 season. “I still feel that I am finding where my talents lie, but I am excited to keep developing with EF in various roles.”

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