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Welcome to your Daily News Digest. Here’s what’s happening today:
Alexey Lutsenko won an emotional queen stage in Oman, Jakobsen and Wellens notched stage wins in Portugal and Andalucia, the Vuelta’s going to the Netherlands, and Froome is skipping the UAE Tour. Those stories and more in today’s Daily News Digest.
Story of the Day:
Tense, emotional queen stage at Tour of Oman
Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) won his third stage of the Tour of Oman, and with it stepped toward his second consecutive overall title at the race. The stage, which concluded on the 5.7km/11% climb of Green Mountain, is the Tour of Oman’s queen stage and usually serves up an exciting finish – and this year was no exception.
Lutsenko caught and passed Fabien Grellier (Direct Energie) in the final moments of the race.
It was an emotional win for Lutsenko, who raised his arms and pointed to the sky as he crossed the line. Talking to press afterwards he explained the significance of the win, revealing that his wife, who was carrying twins, had suffered a miscarriage in December.
“I won this stage for my wife,” Lutsenko said. “For me, this is a really difficult time for us. We lost two kids. The start of the new season is a difficult time for me and my family.
“This win is for my wife. It’s terrible to lose two babies like that. We’ve got a five-year-old girl, too. I wanted to give my absolute best for all my family.”
It was a case of what could have been for Fabien Grellier, meanwhile, who was in the day’s breakaway, and rode most of the final climb alone, desperately trying to hold off the chasing GC riders behind.
“My director was saying ‘don’t look back, don’t look back, you can do it, you can do it’,” Grellier revealed. “I was going full gas, I didn’t calculate anything at all, and I really put everything in.”
Grellier was passed by Lutsenko just 100m from the line, and finished second on the stage, seven seconds back. Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida) was third, 11 seconds back.
Tweet of the Day
Having fallen in love with John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, Australian touring cyclists Charlie Turnbull and Leon Morton set out to recreate the 1,615-mile journey of the novel, following the historic Route 66 from Oklahoma to Southern California – all on a budget of just $420.
Watch an extended trailer for the feature film below:
Fabio Jakobsen takes first stage of Volta ao Algarve
Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-Quickstep) has opened his account for 2019 with victory on the opening stage of the Volta ao Algarve em Bicicleta.
A crash at 7km to go thinned the field, bringing down big-name contenders for stage honours like John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) and Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma). In the finale, Jakobsen outsprinted Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ), with Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) finishing third.
The five-stage Portuguese race will continue today with a stage finishing atop a category two climb, where the likes of Fabio Aru (UAE-Team Emirates) and Wout Poels (Team Sky) are expected to battle it out for stage honours.
Deja vu for Wellens in Andalucia
Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) has won the opening stage of the Vuelta a Andalucia, repeating his 2018 victory and moving closer to a defence of the overall win.
On an aggressively raced stage through constantly rolling terrain, the peloton arrived at the base of the steep, cobbled 1km climb to Alcala de los Gazules together, before the attacks began to fly. Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) unleashed a fierce acceleration, and was followed by Wellens, Jack Haig (Mitchelton-Scott) and team-mate Ion Izagirre. Izagirre tried to go clear, but ran out of legs, allowing Wellens to pass and claim an exciting win.
“I started following wheels at the foot of the climb, but then went for it with 200 metres to go and nobody could come after me,” Wellens said.
Froome to skip UAE Tour
Originally slated for team leadership at next week’s UAE Tour, Chris Froome has announced that he’ll be skipping the race to focus on recovery from Tour Colombia. It’s something of a blow for the race organisers, who were touting Froome’s presence as far back as December when the newly formed event – an amalgamation of the Dubai and Abu Dhabi tours – was announced; indeed, Froome was discussing his attendance as recently as last week.
“I’m disappointed to miss UAE Tour, but I need to recover fully from Colombia, instead of going straight into such a big WorldTour race. I wish the boys all the best for what I’m sure will be a great event,” Froome said in a team statement.
Michal Kwiatkowski and Gianni Moscon will now co-lead the team at the race, with Kenny Elissonde subbing in for Froome.
Bardet begins season at Tour du Haut Var
Romain Bardet, known as the Great French Hope, will begin his season at the Tour du Haut Var, which begins near Nice, France on Friday.
Bardet spent much of his offseason and early winter on cross country skis, even jumping into a race. He has never started his season this late, he said in a story on AG2R-La Mondiale’s website.
“It gave me the opportunity to indulge in some other sports and lay a solid foundation of preparation,” he said, “and I’ll be using these races in February as a way to prepare for my first UCI WorldTour goals that come in March. But it’s a real pleasure to start racing in France, especially when it’s a race like the Tour du Haut Var, which promises to be very difficult.”
After initially considering a run at the Giro d’Italia, Bardet once again decided to focus his season on the Tour de France. He was 2nd at the Tour in 2016, 3rd in 2017, and 6th in 2018.
Reports: 2021 Tour de France will start in Copenhagen
According to reports in French and Danish media, the 2021 Tour de France will begin with three stages in Denmark before taking a rest day and making its way to France.
The start will take place in Copenhagen. Denmark has never hosted the Tour de France, though the country did host a Giro d’Italia start in 2012, and Copenhagen hosted the 2011 road world championships.
Danish website dr.dk claims to have an audio file in which Tour director Christian Prudhomme discusses the planned start. French site Europe1, which also posted a story, claims that the race will open with a flat, fast 13km team time trial, followed by a 190km stage from Roskilde and Nyborg that could see nasty winds, and finally a 170km stage from Vejle to Sonderborg.
Brussels, Belgium hosts this year’s Tour start, followed by Nice, France in 2020.
La Vuelta reveal 2020 start details
The 2020 Vuelta a Espana will open with three stages in the Netherlands, race organisers revealed today. The race will get underway with a 23.7km team time trial through the streets of Utrecht, held in the evening, before a challenging road stage from S-Hertegenbosch–Utrecht (183km) and a 194km circuit through West Brabant, starting and finishing in Breda.
Fun fact: with the arrival of the Vuelta, Utrecht becomes the only city to host the official start of all three grand tours.
— La Vuelta (@lavuelta) February 20, 2019
‘Gram of the day
Strava introduces new mobile route-mapping feature
Strava has quietly rolled out a new route-creation feature for mobile app users, allowing subscribers to map routes with a swipe of the finger. The still-in-beta feature is available to Summit members – it appears to work for all levels of paid membership – and on both iOS and Android devices. It’s the first route creator designed for mobile devices from the fitness app giant, and has some pretty exciting potential, even if it’s a little clunky for now.
Find out more, plus our initial impressions, here.
Zabel’s all-in for disc brakes
In an interview with Radsport-News.com, Erik Zabel has spoken about how he believes disc brakes can offer a race-winning advantage. Zabel, who was one of the most successful sprinters of his generation, now works for Katusha-Alpecin as performance director, and was one of the forces pushing the team to make a complete transition to disc brakes for the 2019 season.
“It wasn’t easy to convince everyone to go this way. But I believe that it is an advantage to master the techniques before everyone uses it,” Zabel said. “You don’t have to be a prophet to see that in three to five years only disc brakes will be used.”
“If you can brake later, you can have an advantage of a few hundredths of a second. In the end, that makes the difference.”
Much has been made of the introduction of disc brakes into the professional peloton, and their adoption hasn’t been without a few hiccups along the way. Katusha-Alpecin is all-in, however, and Zabel explained the steps that the team has taken to accommodate the new technology and support riders with mechanical issues in the event of flat tyres.
“In the finale, when things have to go quickly, a complete bike change makes more sense. We have adopted that, in fact we have ordered new roof racks which offer space for eight complete bikes.”
Happy Birthday to …
Lawson Craddock, the EF-Education First rider who in his debut Tour de France last year battled through the entire race with a broken shoulder-blade, was lanterne rouge from first stage to last, and raised over $200,000 for the restoration of his local velodrome in the process. He turns 27.
In case you missed it …
Feature Image: Tim Wellens grits his teeth on his way to the stage win at Vuelta a Andalucia. Photo: Cor Vos.