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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Tuesday, January 19, 2021

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2020 Tour de France | 2020 Giro d'Italia

The audiobook version of The Story of the Tour de France, Volume 1 is available.

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Zdenek Stybar: “Looking forward to the Classics, Olympics and Worlds”

Stybar’s Deceuninck-Quick Step team posted this:

The experienced Czech rider highlighted his goals for this season, his 11th with the Wolfpack.

"Last year, I had a good start to the season. After so many years in the peloton, I wanted to change my approach and that’s why I tried something different. Usually, I would have started my campaign in Valencia or Algarve, but now I was ready for something else, so I went to Argentina. The race was great, the weather was excellent and the fans created a superb atmosphere. It felt good to win a stage there, especially one where the sprinters were favourites. The entire experience was unforgettable and it’s a pity that the race got cancelled this year, but I want to come back one day

Stybar

Zdenek Stybar wins 2019 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Sirotti photo

"When I returned to Europe, I felt the shape was there and I was growing week by week, which made me confident for Strade Bianche. Unfortunately, the race got cancelled, which led to a change of plans, so I went to Paris-Nice, where I continued to improve, but then the season stopped, which was really frustrating, as the shape was there and I was looking forward to the cobbled Classics, and especially E3 Harelbeke, where I wanted to defend my title.

"At the end of the day, we were in this together, so I just tried to look on the bright side, which was the good weather and the fact I could train outside. When things got underway again, I travelled to Val di Fassa with the team, we had a great training camp and I began believing I would have a very good second part of the season. My top 10 in Strade Bianche and my solid ride in Milano-Sanremo underlined this, but then I had the knee injury which took me out of the Tour de France team and that was quite a bummer.

"The season wasn’t over and I was motivated to keep fighting, but missing Tirreno-Adriatico – a key race in my preparation – and many training days didn’t help with the cobbled Classics on the horizon. I wasn’t in the best condition there and couldn’t get the results I wanted, and on top of that, the races in itself were very strange without the fans. I remember being alone on the Oude Kwaremont and it was all silent, making me feel like I was on a training ride. As a rider, I push myself harder when the fans are there and make an electric atmosphere that gives you goosebumps.

"Then the Vuelta a España came, and riding it gave me a big condition boost going into the winter. I had a strong race with the guys and I hope its impact will be obvious this year. As I enter my 11th season with Deceuninck – Quick-Step, the expectations are the same as in last years: have a good start to the season and continue like that until Paris-Roubaix. I also want to go to the Olympic Games and be part of the team for the World Championships. The parcours in Belgium is nice and much to my liking. Every race I will do is important and I will give everything out there each time I’ll pin a number.

Team Israel Start-Up Nation looks to the 2021 season

Here’s the team’s press release:

At its virtual training camp press conference in Girona, Spain, the team introduced new riders Chris Froome, Michael ‘Rusty’ Woods and Sep Vanmarcke, who joined Dan Martin and Guy Niv in expressing their enthusiasm for the team and the new year.

Four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome is the biggest signing for the team, and he made his feelings clear. “This is very much a long-term commitment for me. I have committed to the end of my career. I’m in to give everything I can to help the team in every way possible as well as improve myself and get back to the top.”

Chris froome

Chris Froome in 2019. Sirotti photo

Wouldn’t it have been easier to simply retire after the crash from two years ago? “That is not the way I wanted to end my cycling career. I have four Tour titles. I’m not done yet – I want number five.”

He does not see his age, 35, working against him. “Age is a state of mind. It is certainly possible to win again, and I would like to prove that.”

Team co-owner Sylvan Adams is “particularly excited for the upcoming season with a team that has been revamped for this year.”

“One of the reasons for all the change is that we were assured of our WorldTour license very late last year, so there wasn’t much time to make changes. We were still a Pro-Conti team and had a Pro-Conti lineup. But we had a good season anyway, and now we have a very good team heading into 2021.”

Guy Niv was the first Israeli rider to finish the Tour de France, and he knows that was simply the beginning. “We have definitely stepped up as a team, and the Israeli riders must step up as well. I am privileged to work with such big names, and I want to be the best rider I can be to help the team achieve its goals.”

Dan Martin, who finished fourth overall in the Vuelta a Espana in 2020, will no longer be the sole team captain in major races. “I am happy to see how the team has been strengthened, it gives me confidence. I know how much I can learn from Chris and the others. We can become a stronger team together. It’s a team effort.”

Team manager Kjell Carlström doesn’t anticipate problems with Chris and Dan as co-leaders in the Grand Tours. “Both are reasonable guys who respect each other and also respect team orders. Chris and Dan can support each other and make the whole team stronger.”

Dan also has his eyes on the Ardennes Classics, having won Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2013. New teammate Rusty Woods has also shown well there, placing second in the race in 2018. Will this be a problem? “It’s exciting to have strong teammates in races. You never know what might happen. And I’d rather have Rusty racing on my team rather than racing against him,” Dan said.

“It’s an honor to be racing with him. He has been so consistent over the years, there’s a lot I can learn from him. I would love to be able to help him win.”

But the team is not just about winning races. “More than just a cycling team, this is a project. There are two sides. On one side, we are promoting cycling in Israel,” Adams said. “And on the other side, we are there to promote our home country of Israel. We are representing our home country around the world with true sportsmanship and determination.”

Unfortunately, the team was not able to hold its traditional training camp in Israel this year, due to the COVID pandemic and prohibitive travel restrictions. “But, when things open-up again in Israel, we will bring the new riders there for a camp. It is important that experience our home country and visit such places as Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Center.”

Chris Froome looks forward to that visit. “My only experience with Israel was at the Giro d’Italia 2018, and that experience blew me away. It was not at all what I expected.”

Adams also emphasized that while Israel has made huge progress in vaccinating its population, there will be no exceptions for his team. “By the end of March, every person in Israel should have received both doses. At that point, it may be possible to consider vaccinating our riders. We won’t jump the queue.”

Richie Porte on the start of the 2021 season

Porte’s Ineos Granadier team posted this:

Porte officially became an INEOS Grenadier on January 1st, returning to the team after five years away. The popular Australian has been welcomed back with open arms.

Richie Porte

Richie Porte winning stage 6 of the 2019 Tour Down Under. Sirotti photo

“It’s all felt like coming home,” explained Porte, from his homeland. “In December I went to the medical screenings in Manchester and saw so many familiar faces and the good people behind the scenes. I’ve ridden with two fantastic teams since I left and have absolutely nothing negative to say about them but Sky was my home and that’s now evolved. It’s the pinnacle of teams. I always wanted to finish my career by coming back here and it’s so exciting, all of it. To be back on a Pinarello as well, it’s a great feeling.”

Richie will race his new Pinarello DOGMA F12 for the first time on Thursday, in the revamped Santos Festival of Cycling for the Australian national team. The four-day race, running in place of the cancelled Tour Down Under, gives Porte the opportunity to stretch his legs competitively on familiar roads - including Willunga Hill - before his planned return to Europe in February.

And he has relished being able to train on his home roads in his native Tasmania ahead of the race, made all the more special by the welcome he has received after finishing on the Tour de France podium in September.

“It’s always nice to come back to Australia, especially this year after having a good Tour de France. People appreciate what happened at the Tour. I pretty much train on the same roads everyday and I do get quite a few thumbs up and people stop on the side of the road to take a photo of me riding past or shout from their car, so it has been well received.

“Australians stay up until 3am to watch the race and then when we go to the local swimming pool with our son and see people who tell us they watched the whole race… it’s an honour, really.”

With very low levels of COVID cases, life has been relatively normal for Porte and his young family back home.

“I had the blessing of the team and my coach Tim [Kerrison] to come back and it’s nice to be back on my home roads, doing a good block of training, plus having a normal life. We did two weeks of pretty hard quarantine and Australia has done a really good job of closing the country down. Life is normal here, so it made sense to come back when we had approval.”

As well as the race, Porte has another reason to be back on home territory. At the end of the month he will receive the keys to the city of his hometown, Launceston, before packing up and coming back to Europe.

“It’s still too early to define my calendar but one of Tirreno or Paris-Nice would be my first race. We will have to see. Hopefully this year is more straightforward. We’re all hoping for that this season.”

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