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Dunbar forced to abandon Volta ao Algarve after stage 1 crash

It hardly needs saying, but cycling is a cruel business. Three days ago, Eddie Dunbar animated the final stage of the Tour de la Provence with a determined attack that was only snuffed out in the closing kilometre, a promising harbinger for the season ahead. On Wednesday afternoon, the Irishman was forced to abandon the Volta ao Algarve after crashing heavily in finale of stage 1.

Dunbar was one of many riders to come down in the mass crash that took place a little over seven kilometres from the finish in Lagos. The Banteer native was unable to continue after sustaining a suspected dislocated shoulder and a head injury, and he was taken directly to hospital.

"Eddie went down with all the others in a large crash, he reckoned there could have been up to 80 riders in there, and four of our riders went down," Team Sky doctor Richard Usher said in a statement on the team site.

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"Eddie had a bang on the head, but he's just got a very painful left shoulder and it looks like it may be dislocated. He's gone off to hospital for some X-rays and we'll take it from there."

Dunbar has previously highlighted the need for greater awareness surrounding the treatment of head injuries in cycling, pointing to the lengthy period of convalescence that he required after suffering a concussion at the 2017 GiroBio. The 22-year-old joined Team Sky last September following the demise of Aqua Blue Sport and has impressed in his opening races with the team.

Fellow Sky riders Tao Geoghegan Hart, Ian Stannard and Wout Poels also went down in the same crash as Dunbar, but all three finished the stage and will continue in the race on Thursday.

Degenkolb and Stuyven

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Posted on February 20th, 2019, 10:37 pm

Behind the scenes with Trek-Segafredo – Women's Edition Podcast

Welcome to the second episode of Cyclingnews Podcast Women's Edition, brought to you by Sportful, Pinarello and Floyd's of Leadville.

In this episode, we take a behind the scenes look at the new Trek-Segafredo women's team. We will hear from team manager Luca Guercilena, directeur sportifs Ina Yoko Teutenberg and Giorgia Bronzini and star rider Lizzie Deignan.

Trek-Segafredo are part of a growing trend of WorldTour teams running men's and women's squads under the same umbrella, with Movistar, FDJ, Astana, Mitchelton-Scott, CCC, Sunweb and Lotto Soudal all running concurrent programmes.

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Trek have been involved in women's road cycling with the Trek-Drops team for the past few years, but they announced last July that they would set up their own programme. In the months since the announcement, they have built up a roster of 14 riders, led by former world champion Deignan, with support from former riders Teutenberg and Bronzini. They had their first team camp soon after the conclusion of the 2018 season, at Trek's headquarters in Waterloo, Wisconsin.

They met up again, along with the men's team, a few months later for a training camp in Sicily, in December. This is where we caught up with them, a day after they landed on the Italian island. The training camp was an opportunity for everybody to touch base before the season began at the Tour Down Under just a few weeks later and a chance to get in a final few group rides.

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Posted on February 20th, 2019, 9:35 pm

Jakobsen shows winter work with Volta ao Algarve victory

The evocatively-titled Avenida dos Descobrimentos in Lagos owes its name to the town's past as a shipbuilding hub during the Portuguese Age of Discovery, and the harbourfront boulevard hosted the finish of stage 1 of the Volta ao Algarve, where Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-QuickStep) suggested that his winter preparation has been watertight by winning on his first race day of the new season.

A reduced leading group contested the sprint finish in Lagos after a crash split the peloton with a shade over seven kilometres remaining, but Jakobsen never gave the impression of navigating troubled waters. In the finishing straight, he watched as Simone Consonni (UAE Team Emirates) floundered after opening the sprint from distance, and then cruised past at a considerable rate of knots to claim the honours.

Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) took second on the stage ahead of Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe), but neither man ever looked like overhauling Jakobsen once he hit the front within sight of the line. The Dutchman notched up seven wins as a neo-professional last year, including a breakout win at Scheldeprijs, but he is off the mark almost a full month earlier this time around.

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"This is the best start you can have, I think," Jakobsen said afterwards. "I did a good winter, I trained with the team and that was a lot of fun. I had good support at home from my family and the team. I'm very grateful to start the season with a win.

"After training all the winter, you never really know how good you are, but if you can win a sprint here, I think that shows that you did a good winter. The team also is in good shape and we are very happy with this."

His team clocked up some 73 wins in 2018 and has begun the new campaign in a similar vein, with wins in Australia, Argentina, Colombia and France in recent weeks. Jakobsen, for his part, was on a training camp in the Algarve earlier this month and availed of the opportunity to reconnoitre his first race of the season.

You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Posted on February 20th, 2019, 8:16 pm

Chris Froome skips UAE Tour to recover from Colombia

Chris Froome will not compete in the upcoming UAE Tour as originally planned, citing the need to recover from his recent participation at the Tour Colombia 2.1. Team Sky made the announcement Wednesday.

"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." Froome said in the team statement. "I wish the boys all the best for what I’m sure will be a great event."

Froome's decision to not start the UAE Tour comes as a surprise. Organisers of the race announced in December that he would participate in the newly formed event, which combines the former Dubai and Abu Dhabi tours. In addition, Froome confirmed that he would participate in the UAE Tour in a post last week on Twitter during the Tour Colombia, where he finished 97th overall.

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Team Sky released the final roster that will see Michal Kwiatkowski and Gianni Moscon, who were already on start list, co-lead the team for the UAE Tour held from February 25 to March 2.

"It’s the first race for Gianni and Michal this season and after some good winter training, they will be able to gauge where they are at against the rest of the field," said Team Sky director Dario Cioni, who pointed to the team time trial and the stage 3 summit finish as being decisive parts of the seven-day race.

"The opening team time trial will be very important and will create gaps amongst the GC contenders. The mountain stages will be key for GC, with the Jebel Hafeet climb having been decisive in previous years in the Abu Dhabi Tour."

Kenny Elissonde will take the place of Froome on the seven-rider roster alongside Kwaitkowksi, Moscon, Michal Golas, Kristoffer Halvorsen, Salvatore Puccio and Pavel Sivakov.

You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Posted on February 20th, 2019, 7:42 pm

Stybar: I was never really lucky at the right moment

Sometimes the game just doesn't break your way. On 72 different occasions last year, a Quick-Step Floors rider mounted the podium as a race winner, but somehow the honour evaded Zdenek Stybar.

A clutch of third-place finishes at the tail end of the season were the closest he came to a winner's bouquet, though the Czech's most notable body of work came in two very different supporting roles in April and May, when he helped to tee up Niki Terpstra at the cobbles and then guide Elia Viviani at the Giro d'Italia.

"I really had a lot of pleasure in the wins of my teammates, and I helped a lot of them to win their races, like at the Giro and the Classics," Stybar told Cyclingnews in Portimão ahead of the opening stage of the Volta ao Algarve. "Of course, for me, it was a bit of a pity that I didn't win any race myself, but I was up there in the finals in the one-day races and others. I think it was quite a good season last year, just without the win."

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The statistics bear out Stybar's impressions. Past Classics campaigns have had more obvious highlights – he won Strade Bianche in 2015 and placed second at Paris-Roubaix that year and again in 2017 – but Stybar's 2018 spring was the most consistent of his career to date, as he placed in the top 10 at the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, E3 Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem and Strade Bianche.

At times last spring, Quick-Step's dominance was such the onus seemed to be on their riders to get up the road early and avoid being hemmed in by team duties. It wasn't quite as straightforward as that, of course, but Stybar always seemed to be half a beat too early or too late when it came to going on the offensive.

Such are the vagaries of riding for a team replete with potential winners on the cobbles, and Stybar does not believe that the departure of Niki Terpstra to Direct Energie will alter the lie of the land unduly at Deceuninck-QuickStep. Philippe Gilbert and Yves Lampaert remain in situ, while 2018 Liège-Bastogne-Liège winner Bob Jungels joins the cobbles unit this year as something of a substitute for Terpstra.

Van der Poel and Van Aert

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Posted on February 20th, 2019, 6:58 pm

Tour of Oman: Stage 5 highlights - Video

Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) was the favourite to win the queen stage 5 at the Tour of Oman. He did not disappoint as he climbed the summit finish of Green Mountain to win the stage and all but secure his second consecutive overall victory.

After being in the day's breakaway, Fabien Grellier (Direct Energie), was caught and passed by Lutsenko on the final 5.7km climb, but managed to hang on for second place. Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida) was Lutsenko's nearest rival on the steep slopes and finished third.

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The most decisive stage of the tour offered the peloton 152km between Samayil and Jabal Al Akhdhar (Green Mountain). Watch how the race unfolded in the stage 5 highlight video.

You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Posted on February 20th, 2019, 6:46 pm

Heartbreak on Green Mountain: Grellier falls 100 metres short

Cycling can be a cruel sport, and it's a wonder how Fabien Grellier (Direct Energie) managed to summon the energy for the final pedal strokes on stage 5 of the Tour of Oman. He had ridden pretty much the whole of Green Mountain alone and looked set for huge underdog triumph, only to be unceremoniously passed by race leader Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) just 100 metres from the summit.

It was the second day in a row the Tour of Oman has served up heartbreak for breakaway riders. On Tuesday, Ian Boswell, Darwin Atapuma, and Nathan Van Hooydonck were caught by the peloton 500 metres from the line, and on Green Mountain it was more acute still.

Grellier had been in the day's early break and they reached the foot of Green Mountain – a 5.7km climb with an average gradient of 10.5 per cent – with a lead of three minutes over the peloton. There was faint hope.

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As the breakaway group fragmented, Grellier had company in teammate Romain Cardis and told him to lead the way, on the lower slopes, setting tempo even if the slipstream counted for little on a road that steep. Soon Grellier was alone, making his way up the mountain and stalked by the GC riders in a dramatic pursuit match that could be seen played out in full panorama – albeit in miniscule – from the summit.

"My director was saying 'don't look back, don't look back, you can do it, you can do it'," Grellier revealed.

"I wasn't looking behind much. I didn't really have any way to judge it properly because they can seem very close, but it's so steep that it can take minutes to cover 500 metres.

You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Posted on February 20th, 2019, 5:19 pm

Pozzovivo: It was impossible to beat Lutsenko on Green Mountain

Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) had looked so good on the early stages of the Tour of Oman that there was almost an air of resignation among his rivals ahead of the decisive summit finish on Green Mountain. Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida) was one of the few clinging onto a sense of optimism, but the last vestige evaporated as he watched the Kazakh champion surge away from him in the last 150 metres.

Pozzovivo had started the day fifth overall, 27 seconds down on Lutsenko, and quickly emerged as the closest challenger on the double-digit climb to the finish.

After the field had been blown into small fragments, Lutsenko attacked with just over 1.5km to go, and Pozzovivo was the only rider who could stay with him. Third-placed Jesús Herrada (Cofidis) did for 200 metres or so but Lutsenko kicked again and it was down to two. Pozzovivo didn't manage to overhaul Grellier and so settled for third on the stage and second place overall, with the standings unlikely to change on Thursday's final stage on the Mattrah Corniche.

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"Lutsenko has been very strong, and today it was not possible for me to beat him," Pozzovivo told Cyclingnews after riding back down the mountain.

"I tried to stay with him, and maybe in the finale, if he didn't want to win all the stages here then I could try to win, but there was also Grellier from the break, so that changed my plan a little.

"It was a very hard climb. It started fast, with CCC setting a good pace, and that was important because the breakaway was still far away. After that there was a bit of tactics, where I think the breakaway didn't lose anything. Then Lutsenko started accelerating and we went as two. It was so hard towards the end, we did our best not to blow up but to arrive close to the man out front, but the final bit it was very hard to keep a good speed."

Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a Espana

You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Posted on February 20th, 2019, 3:39 pm

2021 Tour de France to start in Copenhagen

The 2021 Tour de France will start in Copenhagen, according to reports in the Danish and French press. It will be the first time that the Tour de France has visited Denmark and only the second time that one of the three Grand Tours has started in the country.

It will also be the most northerly start for the Tour de France in its history. Copenhagen is no stranger to major road cycling events, having hosted the 2011 World Championships. 

There was some confusion around the news after the initial reports were subsequently deleted and republished, while Denmark's financial minister Kristian Jensen posted to Twitter about the news before deleting it.

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French publication Europe 1 reported that Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme had confirmed to them that Copenhagen would play host to the 2021 race – Brussels will host this year's start while Nice will be the start location for 2020.

"It will be Copenhagen for the first time in 2021. They are the meeting between the world's largest cycling race and the world's largest bicycle city," Prudhomme is reported as saying.

Danish website dr.dk says that it has a copy of the audio file with Prudhomme confirming the news that Copenhagen would host the 2021 Grand Depart. However, 10 minutes after the initial Europe 1 report was published online, it was taken down. Europe 1 has since republished the story.

You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Posted on February 20th, 2019, 3:30 pm

Lutsenko dedicates Green Mountain win to his wife, who had miscarriage in December

After each of his three stage wins at the Tour of Oman, Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) has climbed onto the podium, raised his arms, looked up, and pointed to the sky. On the first two occasions, he declined to explain what lay behind the salute but after conquering Green Mountain on Wednesday he revealed that it was for his family and his wife, who suffered a miscarriage in December. 

Lutsenko had clearly been emotional on the podiums earlier in the race but Astana’s press officer explained he wanted to wait until Green Mountain, which effectively sealed his second consecutive overall title, before opening up about what he has been through.

Elena Lutsenko was two months pregnant with twins when tragedy struck.

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"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."

Lutsenko touched on how he’d won, how he’d attacked three times in the final two kilometres of the brutally steep climb and dropped all his rivals before passing the last survivor of the breakaway to complete his hat trick of stage victories. However, the details faded into insignificance as he grappled with what this meant to him.

"This victory is just for my wife… just for my wife," he said, voice cracking. "Thank you to my wife."

You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Posted on February 20th, 2019, 2:30 pm

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