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Matthews: I'm not where I need to be, but top 10 is good

Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) said that he is not where he would like to be in terms of form, despite finishing eighth at Fleche Wallonne on Wednesday. Matthews looked in trouble on the lower slopes of the Mur de Huy, but clawed his way back up the group to make it into the top 10 – distancing climbers such as Romain Bardet and five-time winner Alejandro Valverde in the process.

It was clear that the effort had taken a lot out of Matthews, and after taking some time to catch his breath, he said that he had still been feeling the impact of a tough Amstel Gold Race at the weekend.

“In the end, I have to be happy with that. I want to win every race that I start, but sometimes you have to be realistic,” Matthews told Cyclingnews as he rode back towards the team’s bus. “I was feeling really tired from Amstel at the start. I tried to see what I could do in the race. The team tried to support me the best that they could, and it was up to me on the last two climbs to do what I do. I’m still not where I need to be but I think that a top 10 finish here with what has been going on with me is a pretty good result.”

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It was a difficult start to the season for Matthews after he crashed out of Paris-Nice on the opening stage, suffering a concussion. It was just his second day of racing, following his debut at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. He told former teammate Damien Howson, who had come over to pat him on the back after the race, that it had been difficult to build back up to racing again.

Originally, doctors thought that Matthews might be out for months due to his concussion, but he was back to racing again before the end of March at Milan-San Remo. With little training in his legs, it was a rough return but there have been some good performances along the way.

“I had a week completely off the bike after the first stage of Paris-Nice after my concussion. I only had three days of training on the road before San Remo that was difficult,” he explained. “Since then, I have had two nice victories in Catalunya and a handful of decent results in the Classics, but my original plan from the doctors was three months off the bike after my crash in Paris-Nice.

You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Posted on April 25th, 2019, 2:00 am

Androni Giocattoli steal the limelight from WorldTour rivals at Tour of the Alps

Androni Giocattoli team manager Gianni Savio was smiling more than usual after the finish of stage 3 at the Tour of the Alps on Wednesday, happy in the role of giant killer after Fausto Masnada broke free of Team Sky's control with a late attack to win alone in Baselga di Pine.

Savio has spent most of his 20-plus years as a team manager in the lower ranks of the sport, driven by his love for the cycling, surviving on a small budget and paying his riders not much more than a living wage. He has carved out a niche thanks to his astute ability to unearth talented young riders from Italy and South America and help them develop and go on to bigger and better things at WorldTour level. Not everyone likes his style, but he is successful at what he does.

He helped Egan Bernal - now one of the biggest stage race talents in the sport - turn professional and race in Europe and then let him move to Team Sky in exchange for what he describes as a 'development bonus.' Savio reportedly obtaining €350,000 from Team Sky when he let Bernal move to the British squad and around €150,000 for Ivan Sosa's move for 2019.

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Savio has never been able to find a major title sponsor for his own team and so loves it when one of his riders beats the far richer WorldTour teams.

"It's an extra special sensation when you win and do so beating some of the biggest WorldTour teams," Savio purred when speaking to Cyclingnews.

"They've got stratospheric budgets compared to ours. But I love being the underdog in the peloton. I compare us to the Italian soccer team Atalanta. Every season they discover good young talent and fight for a place in the Champion's League, but then have to sell their best players to their bigger rivals to balance their books and survive.

The biggest day of Masnada's career

You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Posted on April 25th, 2019, 1:30 am

Pozzovivo suffers concussion in Fleche Wallonne crash

Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida) crashed heavily in the closing stages of La Flèche Wallonne, suffering facial trauma and a concussion, his team Bahrain-Merida announced Wednesday. The Italian was transported to a nearby hospital in Huy, where doctors ruled out fractures to his head or vertebra but confirmed a head injury along with multiple abrasions.

The team will evaluate his condition before making a final decision on his participation at Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday.

"Unfortunately we had again bad luck with the crash of [Grega] Bole and in particular Pozzovivo," Sports Director Rik Verbrugghe said. "Pozzovivo will join us at the team hotel and then we will evaluate his condition ahead of the Liège."

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MEDICAL UPDATE@pozzovivod crashed badly on today's @flechewallonne and he was transported in ambulance to Huy hospital. Luckily he had any skull and vertebral fractures. He suffered facial trauma and concussion. Multiple abrasions on shoulder, elbow, hip, knee and face. pic.twitter.com/liSIvtxD76

— Team Bahrain Merida (@Bahrain_Merida) April 24, 2019

Pozzovivo crashed in the final 35km of the men's 195.5km race between Ans and the finish on the Mur de Huy. He formed part of the final group of contenders but went down just ahead of the penultimate time up the Mur de Huy. The crash also included Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and Roman Kreuziger (Dimension Data).

Yates and Kreuziger got back on their bikes but neither finished the race. Pozzovivo stayed on the ground and had visible injuries to his face as he waited for medical support. Pozzovivo was then transported in ambulance to Huy hospital, according to a team statement.

— La Flèche Wallonne (@flechewallonne) April 24, 2019

You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Posted on April 24th, 2019, 11:20 pm

Peter Sagan withdraws from Liege-Bastogne-Liege

Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) has pulled out of Sunday's Liège-Bastogne-Liège, bringing an early end to a disappointing Classics campaign that has seen him fail to reach a podium.

Sagan abandoned both last Sunday's Amstel Gold Race and today's Flèche Wallonne. A team spokesman told Cyclingnews Sagan made the decision at the team hotel after the race, in concert with the Bora-Hansgrohe and his own staff.

Sagan will now have a few more days to relax and recover at home before flying to the US on May 4 to prepare for the upcoming Tour of California.

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In a statement sent to media, Sagan laid out his reasons for skipping Liège.

"A hard Fleche Wallonne is over," Sagan's statement begins. "I was there to work for the squad and contribute to the effort to achieve the best result possible. Together with the team, we decided that the best for me now would be to take a few days off in order to better prepare myself for the next races, starting with the Amgen Tour of California on May 12."

Sagan extended his spring season into the Ardennes Classics with the intention of making his debut at Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday. Flèche Wallonne, with its brutally steep clim up the Mur de Huy, was not originally on the cards, however. With a lot of wind predicted for Wednesday, the team decided to bring in the Slovakian to use his crosswinds expertise to guide the team's two leaders through.

You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Posted on April 24th, 2019, 10:13 pm

Van der Breggen expresses disappointment over no TV coverage at Fleche Wallonne

Anna van der Breggen (Boels Dolmans) celebrated her fifth consecutive victory in La Flèche Wallonne Féminine, a feat unprecedented in the history of both the men's and the women's races. The reigning world champion joined Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) as five-time winners but expressed her disappointment that organisers ASO did not televise the women's race.

"By now I think we deserve to have live coverage so that people can follow us," Van der Breggen said. "Because many people would like to, and we would like to show it. I think it is time."

Unfortunately, fans could not watch the race live and witness van der Breggen's historic victory – same as with her previous four wins at Flèche Wallonne. There was no live coverage of the women's race. The fixed cameras on the Mur de Huy film the final climb, and the footage is shown on screens at the finish and in the press room, but it was hit-and-miss whether this footage was broadcast on TV.

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The women's finish is sometimes shown during the broadcast of the men's race, but the men's live broadcast did not start until the women's race was already finished this year. 



Nearly all other Women's WorldTour one-day races offer a live broadcast, the only exceptions being La Flèche Wallonne Féminine, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Tour of Guangxi. Van der Breggen spoke out on this and appealed to the organisers to improve on this for future editions.

"We were fighting the whole day, we had echelons on the road, so it is a pity," she said. "This is one of our biggest races, same with Liège. So, please, everybody, write that down, we want the coverage next year. Amstel was a good example of how to do it."

Record-equalling five victories

You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Posted on April 24th, 2019, 9:52 pm

Lambrecht close to breakthrough podium finish at Fleche Wallonne

So near and so far. Second-year pro Bjorg Lambrecht (Lotto Soudal) made another big step up the unofficial pro cycling hierarchy on Wednesday as he clinched a fourth place at Fleche Wallonne, hot on the heels of sixth place in Amstel Gold and fifth place in Brabantse Pijl.

And it could have been better if Lambrecht, still only 22, had not run out of legs on the final third of the Mur de Huy. But his fourth place, two seconds behind third-placed Diego Ullissi (UAE) after he began closing the gap - and this despite his ebbing strength - bodes more than well for the future.

A silver medallist in the U23 road race at the UCI World Championships last year in Innsbruck, Lambrecht is not just about Classics either. A winner of a stage of the Tour des Fjords, he already took a second place in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco this spring, and his 'pocket rocket' build - he weighs in at just 56 kilos and is 168cm tall - makes him a natural on most kinds of climbs.

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At Flèche, as he told journalists afterwards, he had attacked on the second assault of the Mur de Huy more as a way of avoiding having to spend more time fighting for position in a ragged, fraught peloton than anything else.

"I didn't like the way the bunch was getting so nervous, and it was really windy, so I opted to give it a try," he explained. "So I attacked to stay safe and save energy.

"Then when I got to the final climb of the Mur, I wanted to go full gas from bottom to top, but after the steepest part [in the middle - ed.] I had to stay in the saddle and recover for the moment.

You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Posted on April 24th, 2019, 9:35 pm

Ulissi left with 'no regrets' after Fleche Wallonne podium

Sometimes a third place feels like first, and for Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) - on a day when two riders were way ahead of the field - claiming his first Ardennes Classics podium at La Fleche Wallonne constituted a kind of victory in itself.

In a now-lengthy career, the Italian allrounder has clinched victories in hilly classics as tough as the GP Montreal, but his best placing in the Ardennes so far was seventh in Amstel Gold back in 2017, as well as eighth in the Fleche Wallonne in the same year. He also placed ninth in the midweek Classic back in 2012.

Albeit six seconds behind the leading duo, Ulissi stayed behind Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) as the Pole opened up the hostilities on the Mur de Huy then faded a little when Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) attacked, followed by winner Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step). But he then came past Kwiatkowski, kept his pace steady on the upper slopes of the Mur and fended off a fast-moving Bjorg Lambrecht (Lotto-Soudal) in the closing metres.

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"I can't say I've got any regrets," Ulissi said afterwards. "This was a great opportunity, and Fuglsang and Alaphlippe were impossible to beat. I did my best, but they were the ones fighting for the victory."

Ulissi started his Fleche Wallonne as a team worker with a special mission to get into breaks. He then found himself promoted to UAE's leader halfway through when Dan Martin, a triple podium finisher, started to suffer.

"Dan was the leader for our team, and I was supposed to get in a big break in the last hour of the race, which I did," Ulissi, part of an attack that formed after the second assault of three on the Mur de Huy, recounted afterwards.

You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Posted on April 24th, 2019, 9:00 pm

Alaphilippe says second Fleche Wallonne win was tougher than 2018

When Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) reminded journalists in his winner's press conference of La Flèche Wallonne that his win last year had been his first big Classics victory, it was hard not to do a double-take.

Such has been Alaphilippe's domination of a hefty chunk of the Classics world since then, that it is hard to remember that prior to April 2018, a breakthrough for the Frenchman in the one-day world was yet to come.

"Last year was my first big victory, ahead of a great champion [Alejandro Valverde - ed.], and it confirmed to me that this course was one that suited me the best," Alaphilippe told reporters afterwards.

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"This year, I had all the pressure, but I've been on the podium of this race ever since I started. So I'm very pleased that I won because it was tougher than last year to get the victory."

Prior to April 2018, Alaphilippe had taken podium finishes in Monuments like Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Il Lombardia, wins in stages of Paris-Nice and the Vuelta and the overall of the Tour of California.

There was no question, though, of where he had been most consistent: two runners-up spots in La Fleche Wallonne in 2015 and 2016 - in 2017 he didn't take part - indicated that the midweek Ardennes Classic could become Alaphilippe's talisman race. As it has done in 2018 when victory on the Mur de Huy ushered in a period of one-day success that has seen him conquer the Clásica San Sebastián, Strade Bianche and Milano-Sanremo.

You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Posted on April 24th, 2019, 8:15 pm

Vos equalled by Van der Breggen as queens of Fleche Wallonne

Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv) has been equalled by her Dutch compatriot Anna van der Breggen (Boels Dolmans) as the queens of Flèche Wallonne, both having now won the classic on five occasions. Van der Breggen stormed to her fifth consecutive victory on Wednesday, leaving in her wake runner-up Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott), teammate Annika Langvad in third and Vos in fourth.

Images of Vos laying down on the Mur de Huy, appearing to have crashed or fallen over, circulated online after the race, but CCC-Liv confirmed that she didn't crash and was otherwise in good health. Instead, Vos gave such a big effort on the final climb of the Mur to the finish line that she simply collapsed, breathless, to the pavement after crossing the line in fourth place.

"This is a tempest in a teapot," CCC-Liv's press officer told Cyclingnews after the race. "Marianne Vos didn't crash on the Mur de Huy ... the photo is taken after the final climb of the Mur, after the finish line."

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Indeed, Vos played along with the image, too, after the race posting it on her Instagram account with a caption that read, "Found a good spot for an afternoon sleep today. Mur de Huy asked for it," while also congratulating Van der Breggen on her fifth victory.

CCC-Liv placed two riders in the top 10, with Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio finishing seventh. Even without the victory, the team view the result as a successful edition of Flèche Wallonne. They now look ahead to Sunday's Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

"We just did well," said director Jeroen Blijlevens. "Everyone has given everything. Then you have to be satisfied with today's result: two places in the top 10. We hope to see this team strong again this Sunday in the next classic: Liège-Bastogne-Liège."

You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Posted on April 24th, 2019, 7:50 pm

Tour of the Alps: Nibali enjoys taking on Froome and Team Sky

Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) again went on the attack during stage 3 at the Tour of Alps in search of a morale-boosting victory before the Giro d'Italia but again came up short, finishing fourth, after Grand Tour rival Chris Froome (Team Sky) chased him down on the final climb of the day close to the finish in Baselga di Pine.

Nibali made several accelerations on the five-kilometre climb, even combining forces with Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe), but Froome switched to the role of domestique to help young teammate Pavel Sivakov and lead the chase. Froome carefully gauged his effort instead of jumping after Nibali, letting him hang out front while closing the gap at a pace that suited Sivakov's rouleur style.

For a moment, the Tour of the Alps was like a Tour de France stage, with Nibali going all out in attacks while Froome and Team Sky forced to grind him down. Nibali often frowned at Team Sky's and Froome’s number-based style of racing, but he seemed to enjoy going on the attack and seeing Froome lead the chase after him.

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"He's got the strongest team, that's for sure. They played their card pretty well today," Nibali joked about how Froome had become Sivakov's new super domestique.

"Froome closed down attacks several times and then helped set the pace they wanted. It was high intensity; the numbers were way up there. It was big watts. Majka was there, too, but we soon realised it would be difficult to get away.

"It was a short-but-intense stage, so we knew it would blow up today. I initially didn't want to give it a go because violent efforts aren't really my thing. But I decided to give it a go to see how I felt and to see what happened. It was fun in the end. I enjoyed it."

You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Posted on April 24th, 2019, 7:40 pm

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