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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, April 3, 2021

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Teams preview Sunday's Tour of Flanders

Team BikeExchange sent me this:

Team BikeExchange head into the Ronde van Vlaanderen on Sunday with Michael Matthews leading the hunt for the team's only missing Monument.

Michael Matthes

Michael Matthews in the leader's jersey at this year's Paris-Nice. Sirotti photo

The squad is armed with options with Luke Durbridge showing his form at Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday and Slovenian Luka Mezgec a threat in reduced bunch sprint scenarios.

A powerful support group will be key, as the experienced Jack Bauer lines-up for his ninth ‘Ronde’ alongside Amund Grøndahl Jansen, Rob Stannard and former U23 Flanders winner Alex Edmondson.

The second Monument of the season will see the peloton tackle a 254km route from Antwerpen to Oudenaarde, taking in 19 bergs and 17 cobbled sectors along the way. The first climb comes at around 100km into the race, but there is barely time rest in the following 150km, as the obstacles come thick and fast before the flatter run to the finish line.

Team BikeExchange at the Ronde van Vlaanderen:
Jack Bauer (NZL)
Luke Durbridge (AUS)
Alex Edmondson (AUS)
Amund Grøndahl Jansen (NOR)
Michael Matthews (AUS)
Luka Mezgec (SLO)
Rob Stannard (AUS)

Michael Matthews:
"I am feeling better and better after every race, I have had a couple of easy days now after Ghent-Wevelgem, so hopefully I can build back up again now towards Flanders. I did a nice recon on Thursday with the guys, so I am really looking forward to Sunday.

"I think every race that we do together we are going to get better and better. We started on Friday in E3 where we all showed we are in good shape, then Sunday we came out and I think we impressed a lot of people with what we did at Ghent-Wevelgem.

"Then on Wednesday at Dwars door Vlaanderen, the guys did an awesome job for Durbo to put him up there in the final and have a good crack. I think Durbo is also in good shape to hopefully be with us there in the final at Flanders.

"It all comes back to getting through phase one, then phase two and three. So you need a good team around you to get through all those phases and hopefully we can have some good luck go our way on Sunday and everything can come together."

Mat Hayman – Sport Director:
“We are in a good spot, these races are always really tricky, and we come into Flanders with a very strong seven-man squad. Each of the riders have shown something in one of the Classics so far and it will be about getting behind Michael Matthews and delivering on Sunday.

"Jack Bauer was exceptionally strong in Gent-Wevelgem, Durbo showed on Wednesday that he’s going really well, and Michael has been there and thereabouts in every race he’s done this year.

"For us it feels like it’s all coming together at the right moment, everyone’s in good shape and moving in the right direction. Amund [Grøndahl Jansen] had been sick but he had a good ride on Wednesday, so I am confident he’s going to be there.

"I couldn’t be happier with the fitness and attitude of the guys heading into the race and now it’s just a case of navigating the 250 plus kilometres that is Flanders, which is not always easy, but we’ll give it our best shot.”

2021 Ronde van Vlaanderen – Race Details:
Sunday, 4th April: Antwerepen – Oudenaarde, 245km

Here's the Flanders update from Team Qhubeka-Assos:

After a strong showing in the Flanders Classics that have led up to "De Ronde", Team Qhubeka ASSOS will take the start on Sunday with confidence and the determination to race from the front.

Giacomo Nizzolo

Giacomo Nizzolo winning the 2021 Clasica Almeria in February.

The Italian & European Champion, Giacomo Nizzolo, who has been in scintillating form of late (4th at Brugge-De Panne, 2nd Gent-Wevelgem and 15th at Dwars Door Vlaanderen) will once again headline our team but it is the strength in depth of our classics squad that will once again define our success on Sunday's race of attrition.

Victor Campenaerts, Dimitri Claeys, Michael Gogl, Emil Vinjebo, Max Walscheid & Lukasz Wisniowski will complete our lineup that takes on the Tour of Flanders.

Michael Gogl:
I am really looking forward to Sunday. It is (Tour of Flanders), in my opinion, the most amazing race on the calendar despite being one of the hardest. After some health trouble during the last few races, I finally feel back to being 100% again and am confident of being able to do a good race. The team also looks really ready, how we have raced in the last classics has been impressive, so we will go out there and do it together.

Dimitri Claeys:
I had a really hard crash on Wednesday at Dwars Door Vlaanderen, but as a Belgian, the opportunity to race De Ronde van Vlaanderen is a very special occasion. Despite the discomfort I have, I will certainly be giving my 100% effort for the team on Sunday, and with some strong guys that are in-form, hopefully we can do a good race and achieve a top result.

Here's the update from Team Decenunck-Quick Step:

Easter Sunday brings one of the most important events of the year, De Ronde van Vlaanderen, which the Wolfpack will race with a slightly different name, Elegant – Quick-Step. Elegant – which is Deceuninck’s spectacular window series – returns across the chest after being sported by our team six months ago at last year’s edition, and the jerseys worn by the riders on Sunday will go after the race on an online auction to support the Kom op tegen Kanker organisation.

One of these jerseys will be the one of Julian Alaphilippe, who will make his second consecutive outing at the Ronde van Vlaanderen with the iconic rainbow jersey on his shoulders, a feat that few riders have achieved throughout history. The 28-year-old Frenchman crashed at his debut here after the powerful attack he launched from the distance shaped what turned out to be the winning move, but going into this edition, he is not thinking of the what and ifs of last season.

Julian Alaphilippe

Julian Alaphilippe racing at this year's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Sirotti photo

“I got a lot of questions about what happened in 2020, but this isn’t on my mind anymore. I turned that page and am fully focused on Sunday. It’s a special feeling, and at the same time, an immense honour to race Flanders in the rainbow jersey again and I want to enjoy every moment of it”, said Julian, who also talked of the team’s tactic for De Ronde. “It’s one of the biggest appointments of the year, an adrenaline-filled race and we want to perform well. We’ll see how it will unfold, but I don’t have a certain scenario in mind. The best scenario is the one that ends with the team winning the race.”

Another rider to return at the start in Antwerp is Kasper Asgreen, who rode to an incredible runner-up spot in 2019, at his very first presence in the race. Since then, the Danish Champion made a name for himself in the cobbled Classics, winning Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and, most recently, E3 Saxo Bank Classic, each time on the back of stinging solo attacks that left the peloton unable to respond.

“I am confident that my shape is where I want it to be and I can play a role for the team on Sunday. Winning E3 felt great, especially as it came after a fantastic display of teamwork, and this makes me confident that if we race the way we did last Friday, we’ll have a good chance of being in the mix again. Flanders is a long race and a lot of things can happen, but one of our biggest strengths is that we have several riders who can do something and that boosts our morale ahead of this race, which has become even more important with the postponement of Paris-Roubaix”, said the 26-year-old Dane.

And here is the Lotto-Soudal preview of the Tour of Flanders:

“The Ronde is one of the most important appointments on the Belgian cycling calendar”, begins Tim Wellens. “Of course there are three big favourites, but especially in a race like De Ronde, there’s so much that can happen along the way and that’s why it is dangerous to indicate a winner beforehand. The Ronde is an open, but very honest race in which the strongest riders always come out on top. Just like in other races, you also need a bit of luck in the Ronde, because crashes or mechanicals are never far away.”

Tim Wellens

Tim Wellens winning stage three of the 2021 Etoile de Bessèges

On Sunday 4 April, the Tour of Flanders forms the traditional apotheosis of the Flemish spring Classics. In the second Monument of the cycling season, the riders will face no less than nineteen hills and seven cobbled sections between the start in Antwerp and the finish in Oudenaarde. The 254-kilometre course has been slightly modified but the iconic hills such as Koppenberg, Oude Kwaremont (three ascents) and Paterberg (two ascents) remain the major obstacles of the 105th Ronde van Vlaanderen.

“If, during the race, you feel you’re not amongst the best riders of the bunch, it’s best to anticipate. In Dwars door Vlaanderen, I felt good and the team showed its aggressive style of racing. That resulted in a nice fifth place for Tosh. I feel that I am still lacking a little bit to be at my best, but hopefully I will have that extra bit of power on Sunday. John Degenkolb is also in good shape, which definitely is an additional asset for the team. We need to show ourselves during the race and hopefully, I will be there in the final together with John and maybe a few teammates”, Tim Wellens concludes.

John Degenkolb: “Yesterday, I did a four-hour training ride on the course, behind the motorcycle. On some of the hills, I did some nice efforts. Not on all of them of course, because that would be a bit too much. But it certainly was a nice day out and the legs felt quite fine. If I can be at the start on Sunday with the same feeling, I will definitely be up there in the Ronde.”

Also sports director Herman Frison told us his pre-race thoughts: “The Ronde truly is a unique race and has no equal in the series of Flemish spring races. Nine times out of ten, the strongest rider in the race also takes the victory. In a final which includes amongst others the Koppenberg, Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg, the best riders always come to the fore.”

“I expect that the teams of the favourites will want to control the race, but there are many other teams that will want to go on the attack early in the race and anticipate the moves of the top contenders. This is also the case for Lotto Soudal. We want to attack and not wait until, let’s say the Koppenberg. From the start in Antwerp – and not only in the hill zone – we need to be attentive.”

“John Degenkolb and Tim Wellens will be our protected riders for Sunday. The five other guys need to attack and grasp the opportunities if they come. If that’s not the case, they will have the task of bringing John and Tim into the best possible position towards the crucial sections”, concludes Herman Frison.

Line-up Lotto Soudal: John Degenkolb, Frederik Frison, Roger Kluge, Tosh Van der Sande, Brent Van Moer, Florian Vermeersch and Tim Wellens.

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