Patxi Vila: Bring Peter Sagan to the finish line and you have a problem
Thu, 17 Jan 2019 18:23:00 +0000

Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) took his second stage in as many years in Uraidla on Thursday at the Tour Down Under. The Slovakian fended off a challenge from Astana's Luis Leon Sanchez and defending champion Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott).

The 146-kilometre course featured one categorised climb and seven hilly laps through the town to the east of Adelaide. It amassed nearly 3,500m of elevation gain over the route and was likened to an Ardennes Classic at the start line in Lobethal.

The stage was expected to be one of the first GC shakeups of the race, and although Sagan won the stage into the same town last season, it was on a very different parcours and the Slovakian wasn’t the top pick of the day. Bora-Hansgrohe coach and directeur sportif, Patxi Vila admitted even the team weren't expecting Sagan to take the stage.


"We're getting used to this sort of result but it's surprising actually," Vila said to reporters after the stage. "We never thought he could be able to win today, I mean we thought the effort would be too hard, so it wasn't something we thought about.

"The race went smoothly until three laps to go, and then the last three laps were one hour of racing at full gas. The temperature was not so high today so at this moment it's OK, whatever you feel. Our goal was to have Jay [McCarthy] in the front group for GC and with Peter, we left it up to him and how the race was looking, and it was a good race for us in terms of pacing. We were one of the first teams to come to Australia, so I think the adaption to the heat we have is a bit better than other teams so that also paid on our side."

Though Vila did not expect Sagan to be in the mix for the victory, as the race began to crescendo in the final two laps of the course it became clear that a number of puncheurs including Impey, Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates), Michael Valgren (Dimension Data) and Sagan could all be in the mix for the stage, alongside the main GC protagonists.

You can

Green Mountain finish to decide 2019 Tour of Oman
Thu, 17 Jan 2019 17:29:00 +0000

The tenth edition of the Tour of Oman will again offer chances for the sprinters and Classics riders, with the 5.7km climb to the finish on the slopes of Green Mountain expected to decide the overall race winner.

The 2019 Tour of Oman will be held between February 16-21. These dates overlap with the Colombia 2.1 stage race, the Volta ao Algarve and other races in Europe, but it could be a perfect way to prepare for the UAE Tour, which begins on February 25 and is part of the WorldTour.

Astana’s Alexey Lutsenko won the 2018 Tour of Oman and he is expected to return this year. Organisers will invite 18 teams to the race, including CCC Team, Dimension Data, UAE Team Emirates, Katusha-Alpecin, Bahrain-Merida, Cofidis and the US Professional Continental team Rally UHC.


Greg Van Avermaet is expected to use the Tour of Oman to fine-tune his form for the spring Classics and especially the Opening Weekend in Belgium on the first weekend of March. Sprint contenders expected in Oman include Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis), Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) and André Greipel with his new Arkea Samsic team.

The sprinters are likely to dominate the opening stage to Suhar Corniche, which features a wide, 1,300m finishing straight.

The rolling stages to Al-Bustan and Qurayyat are more for the rouleurs. Nathan Haas (Katusha-Alpecin) won at Al-Bustan last year, while Søren Kragh Andersen (Sunweb) dominated the 2.8km Qurayyat climb.

You can

Tour Down Under: EF Education First dig deep on stage 3
Thu, 17 Jan 2019 15:40:00 +0000

EF Education First may not have been able to pull off the stage win or open any gaps in the general classification on stage 3 of the Tour Down Under in Uraidla but it certainly wasn't for lack of trying.

First, neo-pro James Whelan and then Alberto Bettiol joined breakaways. Lachlan Morton was then tasked with keeping the pace high heading into the final kilometres of the race before Michael Woods put in a powerful attack with just over two kilometres to go in the hope of winning the stage.

"The guys executed the plan pretty well," directeur sportif Tom Southam told Cyclingnews at the conclusion of the 146.2km stage from Lobethal to Uraidla.


"I think it would have been great if Bettiol's move had just had a few more people interested in going with it," continued Southam. "He got across with Davide Ballerini from Astana, and I understand the other guys who were part of the original break being tired, but a couple more riders from the bunch going across, too, would have been better, just so that the break could have gone a bit deeper."

Whelan's initial stint as part of a seven-man group was impressive, but he took things up another notch when, with two laps to go, as he let Bettiol latch on to his back wheel and powered away from the remnants of the breakaway.

"The main aim was to get in the break in the first place, and I ticked that off," Whelan told reporters at the finish line. "And then I managed to get to the [finishing] circuit, and we had a bit of time, so the other guys could sit back in the bunch and not have to worry too much.

Turning up the pressure on Corkscrew

You can

UAE Team Emirates confirm Aru will ride Giro d'Italia
Thu, 17 Jan 2019 13:52:00 +0000

UAE Team Emirates have confirmed that Fabio Aru will target the Giro d'Italia in 2019, with his build-up for the corsa rosa including limited racing and a training camp at altitude in Colorado close to the base of the team's new head coach Iñigo San Millan.

Aru had suggested the Tour de France route suited him better but Dan Martin is again expected to lead UAE Team Emirates in France in July, with Fernando Gaviria and Alexander Kristoff targeting the sprints.

Aru struggled during the 2018 season and was unable to fight for the overall classification at the Giro, eventually quitting the race during stage 19. Tests confirmed that he was not suffering with any specific illness but he was unable to get his season back on track at the Vuelta a España.


In recent weeks UAE Team Emirates has undergone a management shake-up, with team manager Giuseppe Saronni stepping back. Allan Peiper and Neil Stephens have been hired as new directeurs sportifs, with Iñigo San Millan leading the new coaching staff and South Africa's Jeroen Swart the new medical director. Former rider Paolo Tiralongo is no longer Aru's coach but remains as a directeur sportif.

"The thought of riding the Giro d'Italia always motivates a climber like me and there’s that extra bit of emotion because I'm Italian," Aru explained.

"You can imagine my desire to do well during this year's corsa rosa after not being able to enjoy the last edition. I really want to repay the sponsors, fans and organisers who have continued to believe in me in these last months.

"The Giro route offers lots of climbing, balanced with the number of time trial kilometres. We line up at the start physically and technically ready so we can do as well as possible.

You can

Skujins: It will be hard to trump 2018
Thu, 17 Jan 2019 12:50:00 +0000

Toms Skujins’ career has been something of a slow burn, but the 27-year-old Latvian has continued to grow in strength and tactical nous with each passing season. That showed in 2018 when he enjoyed his most successful season to date.

Last year saw him win a race at the Challenge Mallorca, a stage of the Tour of California – a win that was perhaps most notable for his dance move celebration as he crossed the line – and the Tre Valli Varesine, no doubt the biggest win of his career. He was also selected for the Trek-Segafredo squad for the Tour de France, where he took the mountains jersey in the opening week and wore it for four days in his debut Tour.

It was a year Skujins says he won’t forget, but he’s not resting on his laurels as he heads into his fourth season at WorldTour level.


“I want to improve in every single aspect of my riding as I do every year,” Skujins told Cyclingnews.

“I aspire to be a rider who can be put into any race and do well and do what the team needs to do, be that mountains, cobbles or whatever. So far, I’ve accomplished that, and I think I’ve proved it several times. I just want to be a reliable rider and keep that progression going. Personally, I’d like to do better in the Ardennes but then again, I’m never good in the early season.

“It will be hard to trump [2018] because there are a lot of special things about it. It felt like it started on a high and it never came down, it just kept getting higher. It was definitely a year that I will not forget anytime soon.”

The Tour de France is huge

Exploring his capabilities

You can

RCS Sport delays Giro d'Italia wildcard announcement until next week
Thu, 17 Jan 2019 12:30:00 +0000

The candidates for the wildcard invitations to the 2019 Giro d’Italia must wait a little longer to discover if their applications have been successful. An announcement was originally slated for this week but race director Mauro Vegni has explained that the decision has been delayed by a few days while RCS Sport assess the application dossiers in further detail.

"We’re in the home stretch but there are still some small uncertainties, some small doubts to be resolved," Vegni told Tuttobici. "We’re finishing our assessment of the candidates and we’re planning to announce our decision on between Monday, January 21 and Tuesday, January 22."

It is understood that RCS Sport will also confirm the wildcards for Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo at the same time.


One of the four wildcards for the 2019 Giro is already known, as Gianni Savio’s Androni-Sidermec squad has earned its selection for the Corsa Rosa by finishing the 2018 campaign atop the season-long Ciclismo Cup standings.

Following the implementation of UCI reforms in 2020, RCS Sport will no longer be in a position to select all four wildcards. Instead, two of the four berths will be set aside for the best-ranked Professional Continental teams in the end of season world rankings.

Had the rule been in place for 2019, it would have seen Cofidis and Wanty-Groupe Gobert earn automatic selection for the Giro d'Italia. Last week, ASO announced that it had awarded its first two wildcards for the 2019 Tour de France to Cofidis and Wanty-Groupe Gobert.

You can

Bahrain-Merida train in Catalonia - Gallery
Thu, 17 Jan 2019 09:53:00 +0000

The Bahrain-Merida team have gathered in Cambrils on the Daurada coast of Catalonia for a final pre-season training camp, enjoying the warm temperatures and quiet winter roads of the Spanish holiday resort to complete a final 12-day block of training before the start of the season.

A squad of riders and staff, including Rohan Dennis and Domenico Pozzovivo, are in Australia at the Tour Down Under, with only Gregor Bole and Welsh neo-pro Stevie Williams absent from the Cambrils camp due to injury. Williams has a minor knee injury that has slowed his full debut with Bahrain-Merida, but the team expects him to soon be on the road to recovery.

Bahrain-Merida arrived in Cambrils on January 10 and will head home on January 22. They are sharing the vast Cambrils Park Sport Village with women’s under-17 soccer teams from England, France and Germany, using the gym for early morning stretching and core work and the local roads for their training. Former rider Joaquim ‘Purito’ Rodriguez was on hand to show the riders the best routes.


Vincenzo Nibali joined up with his teammates on Tuesday to step up his training for the 2019 season. He confirmed that he will target the Giro d’Italia and then go on to ride the Tour de France, and so has delayed his season debut until the UAE Tour in late February. He will do another training camp at altitude in early February and in March he will ride Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan-San Remo.

After a first training camp in Croatia in December, Cambrils is another chance for team and staff to work together and prepare for the season ahead. The new head of Performance David Bailey joined Paolo Slongo and Paolo Artuso to check the training and physiological data.

Slongo explained that the riders will do three-day training blocks, separated by a rest day, with the riders divided into two different groups depending on their level of fitness and early-season goals and race programmes. Tuesday was dedicated to individual and team time trial training; Wednesday included more specific workouts, while riders face up to five hours in the saddle on Thursday.

You can

Tour Down Under: Luis Leon Sanchez second to Peter Sagan
Thu, 17 Jan 2019 09:30:00 +0000

Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) held his nerve on stage 3 of the Tour Down Under, waiting patiently and sticking to the wheel of Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) before looking to surge past the three-time world champion in the final metres into Uraidla. Despite the impressive showing, however, he was unable to match Sagan's speed and superior bike throw, losing the sprint by half a wheel length on the line to finish second on the stage.

Speaking after the race, Sanchez understandably had mixed feelings.


"I'm both content and disappointed. Of course, you want to win and I was very close, but when you're sprinting against a guy like Peter Sagan, you know it's almost impossible. He has such finishing speed. The team did a great job to keep me in position,” Sanchez said.

"I knew Sagan was faster than me but it was different in today's sprint. Today's sprint, in the end, is more power and also a good position but the final is always the same with Sagan, it was close but it was not possible, he's just faster."

The Tour Down Under has been a successful hunting ground for Sanchez over the years. The Spaniard won the race overall back in 2005, alongside two other second-place finishes on general classification.

Sanchez was already at the front of the race on Wednesday’s stage 2 with a late attack before Patrick Bevin (CCC Team) jumped on his wheel to win the stage and take the overall lead with Sanchez sitting up and settling for a top ten finish.

"It's always difficult. This is the third race of the season and today was really hard and also warm. I think it's more difficult because we were only here one week before the start of the race, I got to the final because of the different temperature but for me, it's a really good feeling. Day after day I get better, today it was close and maybe I'll be luckier,” he said.

"I know I'm close to a win but it's still no win, it's different. Ok, I think it's good work from my team today, it was really nice. [Manuele] Boaro was out in the front and [Laurens] De Vreese was working. Davide Ballerini was also out in the front on the attack and the other guys working for me in the peloton, it's good. It's better to win but we were very close to Sagan. Hey, yeah Astana is a good team."

Sanchez's second-place finish and the related time bonus moves him up the general classification to third place overall, nine seconds behind Bevin, who retains his overall lead at the mid-point of the race. With three stages to come and fourteen years after his Tour Down Under victory, Sanchez could well be in contention for the overall at Willunga Hill on Sunday.

"It's encouraging because I missed part of last season with injury and I finished off the year strong, so I am coming into the Tour in good shape. The overall? We'll see how it goes tomorrow."

You can

Bevin: My Tour Down Under rivals missed an opportunity
Thu, 17 Jan 2019 09:20:00 +0000

Patrick Bevin (CCC Team) may have lost time to stage winner Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and last year's overall winner Daryl Impey (Mitchelton Scott) on stage 3 of the Tour Down Under but the race leader insisted that the stage had been a missed opportunity for his key rivals.

Bevin and his CCC Team began the day with the race leader's ochre jersey after the New Zealand rider won the previous stage. This was the first time that the Polish squad had been required to defend a race lead, and with a punishingly difficult stage ahead through the Adelaide Hills, questions over their capability and depth were raised when the peloton rolled from the start town of Lobethal.

The stage consisted of over 3,000m of climbing and with temperatures once again nudging 40 degrees, the men in orange were put into action almost immediately with two intermediate sprints in the first 19km of action. Bevin's teammates, however, controlled the tempo almost throughout the stage, and even when the race leader became isolated in the finale, he had enough in reserve to match several late attacks.


While Sagan won the stage and cut his deficit to a single second, Impey finished third on the stage and now sits 10 seconds off the race lead. A gaggle of other GC rivals, including Richie Porte, Michael Woods and Rohan Dennis sit a further five seconds down.

"Today was the nervous one. To get through that, still in the lead is a big step forward to the goal of having the jersey on Sunday," Bevin said after the third day of podium obligations.

"From here on out, I feel like it's about the legs. Today was a day that could have really blown up, but as I said at the start of the day, if we came in for a sprint then we'd have done our job. To give back a bit of time on the sprinters isn't the end of the world. We wanted to keep it together and tomorrow it will be the opposite."

A missed opportunity

You can

Peter Sagan sneaks home for stage 3 victory at Tour Down Under
Thu, 17 Jan 2019 07:01:00 +0000

He may have only won it thanks to a bike-throw on the line, but a win's a win, as they say, and Bora-Hansgrohe's Peter Sagan was delighted to open his account on stage 3 of this year's Tour Down Under, winning again in the town of Uraidla – just like he did last year.

"I'm very happy to win, and very grateful to my teammates," Sagan told the media after stepping down off the podium. "They did a great job and took care of me, keeping me at the front, which meant that I was able to save a lot of energy for the final lap.

"So I won – only by a little bit – but I won, and I'm very happy about that," he said.


Look up 'keeping your powder dry' in the dictionary, and you'll find a picture of Peter Sagan. The three-time world champion rode the perfect race to leave it until the very last moment before showing himself, bursting from the reduced peloton – whittled down over the final seven laps of a 146.2km third stage from Lobethal to Uraidla – to go head-to-head with Astana's Luis Leon Sanchez in the sprint for victory.

And while Sagan won for the second year in a row in Uraidla, pity poor Sanchez who, for the second day in a row, powered off the front of the race in the dying metres of the race only to be beaten at the last moment.

So close was it on Thursday, in fact, that there was a short wait until Sagan was given the nod. Sanchez, it seems, will simply have to keep trying.

You can