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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, March 3, 2023

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2022 Tour de France | 2022 Giro d'Italia

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Tour de France: 2020

Bill & Carol McGann's book The Story of the Tour de France, 2020: The Tour During Covid-19, Better Late Than Never is available in both Kindle eBook and Audiobook versions. To get your copy, just click on the Amazon link on the right.

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Team EF Education-EasyPost headed to Strade Bianche

Here's the team's post:

Strade Bianche is a modern classic that harkens back to cycling’s golden age.

Watch the peloton race through clouds of white dust or mud in the hilly vineyards of Chianti, and you might think the contest is a century old. In truth, Strade Bianche wasn’t founded until 2007 and didn’t become a WorldTour race until 2017, though its home, Tuscany, has long been a heartland of Italian cycling. On the first weekend in March, the region’s white gravel roads return to being one of bike racing’s most beautiful arenas. Before Unbound, before SBT GRVL, before the gravel world champs, Italy’s early bike racing heroes inspired their country people with their feats on Tuscan dirt.

Time to go play on the dirt. Sirotti photo.

This Saturday, Andrey Amador, Alberto Bettiol, Mikkel Honoré, Jens Keukeleire, Sean Quinn, James Shaw, and Julius van den Berg will race to write their names into the great history of Italian bike racing. Victory on Siena’s Piazza del Campo, after climbing the concrete ramps of the Via Santa Caterina, walled by thousands of cheering Italian fans, would mean as much to our riders as a win in the oldest Monuments, especially for our Tuscan, Alberto Bettiol, who grew up with the race.

“I used to go watch this race when I was a kid,” Alberto says. “I saw the first edition. I saw all of the victories of Cancellara. Strade Bianche is like a jump back in the past. Back in the 40s, the 50s, Gino Bartali, Fausto Coppi, Costante Giradengo used to race on gravel roads. That is why people love this race. In the past we had Gino Bartali, Paolo Bettini, Michele Bartoli, Andrea Tafi. The best cyclists in Italy came from Tuscany. I am a little part of this world, this landscape, this territory. Cycling is really common in Tuscany, because it is so beautiful, not only for racing, but just for fun, for travelling.”

Alberto’s closest fans will come out to cheer him on Saturday.

“I want to win for them, for the people who can only see me at Strade Bianche,” Alberto says. “I live close to Siena. I was born in the province. I grew up really close to Strade Bianche. It is my home race. All of my supporters, my fans will be there. I will see my family, my girlfriend, my friends, the people who support me and can only see me here in Siena. It is a unique opportunity for me and for them.”

The enthusiasm of Italian cycling fans isn’t reserved for Italians.

“They are very passionate,” says our Danish sports director Matti Breschel. “And they love their bike riders. They love their legends. If you are a bike rider and you live in Italy, you’re treated specially. That’s kind of the culture. It’s so rooted deep inside of them, ever since the whole Coppi and Bartali era. They really adore their heroes.”

Matti’s fellow Dane Mikkel Honoré found love in Italy. His wife is Italian. Her mom will cover Strade Bianche as a journalist for an Italian newspaper and her dad will be in the race caravan, dictating the events of the day to the sports directors over radio tour, while Mikkel races to the front of the peloton.

“For me, having an Italian wife, and spending so much of my life in Italy, Strade Bianche is a unique race,” Mikkel says. “It is the first big race of the Italian classics and the spring. The atmosphere is just super unique. You already have the feeling when you do the recon that it is just that time of the year. It is always a little bit chilly and there is a special kind of air and just the scenery itself is so beautiful. That makes it unique for me. Every region in Italy is beautiful on its own, but Tuscany especially, with its great olive oil, with its wine, with its food—it is always a nice place to ride your bike.”

It is—next time, you should come ride the gran fondo with us—but come race day, Tuscany’s white gravel roads are ferocious. From the start, there is a huge fight for position, as the first sector of gravel comes just 18 kilometres into the race. If it’s windy, the peloton could split at any moment, so riders take great risks to stay at the front. That means crashes, especially on the first unpaved roads, as riders skid around corners and have to bunny hop gullies that rainwater has riven into the dirt. The climbs are steep and come one after the other. Cypress trees and the odd castle or villa provide little shelter. If they lose traction for half a second on the loose gravel, riders have to fight hard to close the gap to the wheel in front of them.

“It is pretty wild,” says Matti Breschel. “The first sector starts early and the race distance is quite short. It is not more than 186 kilometres, so already from the first sector till the end it is wild, and the climbing is brutal, especially because of the gravel, with gradients up to 20%. The whole run in towards Siena makes you feel a little bit like you are a gladiator.”

Mikkel Honoré loves the intensity of the race.

“Even if you are second or third or fourth wheel, you have to hope that everybody handles their bike and nobody is braking too hard or doing a strange move, because you don’t have much margin of error on the roads,” he says. “It is that technical part which I really like on the bike. You go into gravel sector after gravel sector and it is full-gas racing in between. It just goes so quick and is so hectic and beautiful at the same time."

Mikkel and Alberto will lead our team at Strade Bianche, while Sean Quinn will have a free role.

“I hope to be up there in the finale to be in play for the fun part of the race,” Mikkel says. “I think we have got a really strong team. It is also a race that suits me well, so I hope I can be there in the finale to be ready to make a difference so we can win the race.”

Alberto is excited. He is ready to go all-in in front of his home crowd.

“I know this race really, really well,” he says. “We have a good team. I am ambitious, though I know it is going to be really competitive. All of the best riders want to do Strade Bianche. It's a race that fits pure climbers, classic riders, and Ardennes-type riders. You have to go deep, because the race explodes pretty early. I trained well and am happy with how everything is going. I started the season really well. I went to altitude. I am healthy. I am motivated, so let’s see what happens.”

Sports director Matti Breschel won’t temper our ambitions. He knows how hard Strade Bianche is going to be. To win, we’ll need to race with intelligence and grit and be creative, but Matti believes in our riders.

“The aim is to win it,” Matti says. “That is going to be difficult. We are up against some world-class bike riders, so we need to ride as a team and kind of use the other riders and take advantage of their mistakes. It is going to be super, super difficult, but I don’t want to make a strategy or a tactic around top-ten, because we have quality riders too. Once you hit those gravel sectors, you have to be in the front, but it is always a balance between being up there and saving energy. That is why we need the whole team to ride together. And then, with 80 kilometers to go, it will be up to the leaders. From there on in, it is a matter of legs and using your head. But it is also the desire. You need the desire to win it.”

Alberto and Mikkel have that desire. They want to write their names into the history books at Strade Bianche.

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Here's the Strade Bianche preview from Team Bahrain Victorious:

Following the cobbles season kick-off with the Opening Weekend, the WorldTour calendar resumes this Saturday, 4 March, with the peloton facing another terrain off the tarmac: the gravel roads of the 17th edition of “Strade Bianche”.

The race winks at the Classics, as it is described as the “Europe’s most southern northern classic”: a legendary course featuring 63km of gravel roads, across 11 sectors, punchy climbs, technical descents, and the demanding finale with gradients up to 16%, before entering the stunning Piazza del Campo in Siena, where the finish awaits the riders after 184km.

A glance at its Roll of Honour is also enough to state the prestige of the event: some of the best riders in the World are looking forward to being the successor to last year’s winner, Tadej Pogacar.

Here's Tadej Pogacar winning in 2022. Sirotti photo

Bahrain Victorious will be in the mix, with Pello Bilbao as our leader and Matej Mohorič as co-leader.

“They will both have the same responsibilities”, Sports Director Alberto Volpi explains. “Bilbao is fond of this race, which he tackled two years ago for the first time, showing his skills and taking 10th place. A result that he was able to improve in 2022, when he was 5th. After a year, the Spaniard is at the start with the same great ambitions and some more personal successes to boost his motivation. Mohorič is competing in this race for the sixth time: in the last edition, the Slovenian champion was unfortunately involved in a crash. Otherwise, he may have managed to achieve a good result. He was in good shape, as he is now. In Belgium, he took his first podium of the season, and he will be back in Siena eager to achieve what a rider of his talent deserves on such a race”.

Young Bahrain Victorious riders will be making their Strade Bianche debuts, such as Fran Miholjević, Rainer Kepplinger, and Matevz Govekar. “They will have different tasks according to the different phases of the race and how it will unfold. We must stay attentive since the beginning,” Volpi says, praising the solid squad ready for this challenging and dusty field. “We also have a newcomer in the team with the role of road captain: Andrea Pasqualon, who will contribute to placing our leaders in front, especially in a decisive sector as Monte Sante Marie. If a breakaway forms in the initial part of the race, Hermann Pernsteiner can join it. The Austrian is skilled in riding the bike on this terrain, seeing his former experience as a mountain bike rider. We have a talented group, and I think we will assist in a more open race than last year, due to the absence of Pogacar. But besides the rival, there can be another enemy: the weather. It should not be a rainy day, so we only hope there won’t be too much wind. Crosswinds can be very dangerous in this race”.

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UAE Team Emirates names riders for upcoming races

Here’s the team’s news:

Squads confirmed for big week of World Tour racing: Strade Bianche, Paris-Nice and Tirreno Adriatico next-up

UAE Team Emirates will embark on a packed racing schedule of top-level World Tour events across Italy and France with Strade-Bianche (4 March), Paris-Nice (5-12 March) and Tirreno-Adriatico (6-12 March) all taking place.

The Emirati squad will return to the white roads of Strade Bianche as defending champions, with Tadej Pogačar having taken the crown in 2022.

Pogačar will this year opt for Paris-Nice with the likes of Davide Formolo and Tim Wellens in the squad who have both climbed the podium in previous editions in Siena. Local Tuscan favourite Diego Ulissi will serve as a good captain and source of parcours knowledge.

Diego Ulissi (shown at this year's Tour of Oman) will be on the start line at Paris-Nice.

For Paris-Nice Pogačar will lead the squad while a three pronged GC assault is on the cards at Tirreno-Adriatico with Joao Almeida, Brandon McNulty and Adam Yates all in fine form.

Pogačar: “I’m excited to start my first Paris-Nice. The beginning of the season has been really good, both for me personally and also for the whole team with many victories so far. It will be my first time at this race and that’s always a nice prospect and a new challenge. We have a strong group racing here and I think we can do very well as a team.”

The team for Strade Bianche will be guided by Sports Directors Marco Marzano (Ita) and Manuele Mori (Ita).

Strade Bianche [1.UWT] – 04-Mar-2023

Sjoerd Bax (Ned)
George Bennett (NZ)
Alessandro Covi (Ita)
Davide Formolo (Ita)
Brandon McNulty (USA)
Diego Ulissi (Ita)
Tim Wellens (Bel)

For Paris-Nice Sports Directors Andrej Hauptman (Slo) and Simone Pedrazzini (Swi) will guide the team.

Paris-Nice [2.UWT] – 05-Mar-2023 / 12-Mar-2023

Mikkel Bjerg (Den)
Felix Grossschartner (Aus)
Domen Novak (Slo)
Rui Oliveira (Por)
Tadej Pogačar (Slo)
Matteo Trentin (Ita)
Tim Wellens (Bel)

Meanwhile at Tirreno-Adriatico Fabrizio Guidi (Ita) and Tomas Gil (Ven) will take charge.

Tirreno-Adriatico [2.UWT] – 06-Mar-2023 / 12-Mar-2023

Joao Almeida (Por)
George Bennett (NZ)
Alessandro Covi (Ita)
Davide Formolo (Ita)
Brandon McNulty (USA)
Sebastian Molano (Col)
Adam Yates (GB)

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Andreas Kron looks back on last season and looks forward to 2023

Kron's Team Lotto Dstny posted this interview:

He stood out in Lotto Dstny’s Tour de France 2022 team. A fourth place amongst all the big guns in Lausanne. And what if he had not had that flat tire on his way to Mende, when he was in the decisive breakaway? Andreas Kron certainly wants more. Last year, the young Dane extended his contract with Lotto Dstny for two years and he is determined to return to la Grande Boucle for a stage win.

2021 Tour of Switzerland stage 6: Though Rui Costa (on left) was first across the line, he was relegated to second for irregular sprinting, making Lotto Soudal's Andreas Kron the stage winner. Photo: Photo News

Andreas Kron, how do you evaluate 2022?

“I would say: a big rollercoaster. There were injuries and multiple covid infections. But also highlights such as the Tour of Switzerland and the Tour de France. The start in Denmark was incredible. My performance was fine. Of course, we had hoped for more in 2022. But I can say that I learned a lot, maybe more than in 2021, when I won more. I have become mentally stronger. I had a knee injury last winter and that allowed me to enjoy this winter much more. I appreciate life as a professional cyclist much more now. I will take that with me to 2023. The fact that I have now done the Tour also makes me physically and mentally stronger. I know I can handle it and I'm ready to come back and go for stage wins.”

You also renewed your contract for two years. Can you explain?

“Yes, I extended my contract during the Tour. I am very happy in the team. We are a strong team and I feel at home here. That is important when you are on the road together for so many days. The team is moving in the right direction, even though we are now a ProTeam. Both me and the team have gotten to know each other very well in recent years. Together we can develop even more.”

What are your goals for 2023?

“The main goal is to develop. That applies to myself and the team. We must take this opportunity to get back to the top after some difficult years. With Dstny as a new sponsor and the relegation, now is a good time. Personally, I would like to win again. That's the main goal. In addition, I have some races where I would like to perform well. Although, I had to deal with a minor illness, I am really happy to be back at Strade Bianche, a race I really like. We are targeting a nice team performance there. Then comes the Tour of Catalunya. I've won there before and I'd like to do it again. And then come the Ardennes classics. I have a love-hate relationship with those races. I got sick the first time I was supposed to race there. Last year I crashed and got sick afterwards. So at first, I hope to just be at the start in a good shape. If that is the case, I'll see what happens when I'm in the final.”

Besides all the things you already talked about - the relegation and the racing program - there have been some other changes in the team as well. New trainers, a new nutritionist, a new collaboration with the University of Ghent. How do you feel about all of that?

“I am very happy with that. The team had come to a point where we had to change certain things. And we do it. I am very proud of that. We know we have to work hard. The new performance team is very good. The trainers are professional and hardworking. Everyone is committed. The same goes for Britt Lambrecht, the new nutritionist who works together with Gino Devriendt, who was already part of the team. As everyone knows, Britt is Bjorg's sister. For her to be here and follow in his footsteps is something very big. I am very proud to work with her and that she is so passionate. The collaboration with the University of Ghent is also a big step. More and more, cycling is collaborating with scientists. You have to move in that direction as a team and it is very nice that we can work so closely with them. This collaboration will certainly pay off in the long term.”

When do you feel 2023 will have been a success for you?

“The first thing will be to win a race again. But I also want to further develop. If I am going to be in many finals and be up there in big races and be really close to a stage win or a win in a big race, I will also be satisfied because I am still young. But the main objective is to win. And hopefully more than once.”

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