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Matthews to make long-awaited Tour of Flanders debut in 2019

Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) will finally make his Tour of Flanders debut in 2019, setting the Belgian Monument as the focal point of a spring campaign that will feature an almost-complete set of cobbled Classics.

Matthews finished second at the under-23 Tour of Flanders in 2010 but, curiously, has yet to tackle the pro race. Despite an appearance at Gent-Wevelgem as a neo-pro in 2011, his springs have largely revolved around Milan-San Remo and then the hillier Ardennes Classics, rather than the cobbles and bergs of northern Belgium.

However, 2017 saw a shift in direction, as the Australian rode Dwars door Vlaanderen and Gent-Wevelgem to test the waters, before lining up a fuller schedule of cobbles, including Flanders, for 2018. That was ultimately derailed by a shoulder injury suffered in a crash at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in late February, but Matthews will have his shot in 2019.


"I'm really interested in Flanders this year. I haven't done the pro one before. I was 2nd in the U23s, so I've got good memories. I know the pro event is totally different, but I'm really excited about it," Matthews told Cyclingnews in Calpe, Spain, where he's currently on a training camp with Sunweb.

"I've had a look at the course, which is a big step forward to know what I'm in for, but I'm actually just super excited to race it. I've been trying to race it for the last few years, but have never been able to with preparation for the Ardennes and the Tour of the Basque Country."

Matthews will still ride all three Ardennes classics – Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège – in 2019, having finished third at Amstel in 2015 and fourth at Liège in 2017. However, the cobbled races have been identified as the races where he has the biggest chance of success.

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Posted on December 13th, 2018, 3:08 am

Peter Sagan and Bora-Hansgrohe train in Spain - Gallery

Bora-Hansgrohe are back in Mallorca for their training camp, spinning around the Spanish island with three-time world champion Peter Sagan back in the Slovakian champion's jersey that brother Juraj had kept warm for him over the past two years.

The German-registered team, which collected 33 victories in 2018, including Peter Sagan's Classics wins at Gent-Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix, will look very similar in 2019, adding just three new riders – Jempy Drucker from BMC, Oscar Gatto from Astana and Maximillian Schachmann from Quick-Step Floors – to replace the exiting Aleksejs Saramotins, Matteo Pelucchi and Michael Kolář, with the latter retiring in June after finishing third to the Sagan brothers at the Slovakian championships.


Click or swipe through the gallery above to see the riders in Mallorca.

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Posted on December 13th, 2018, 1:55 am

Contador: Sky pulling out isn't a surprise

Former Tour de France winner Alberto Contador said it was "no surprise" to him when he learned that Sky would end its sponsorship of Team Sky after the 2019 season, given the length of time the British team has been in cycling and the scale of its achievements.

Viewed as one of the best stage racers of his generation before he retired in 2017, and now a regular TV commentator on racing for Eurosport, Contador was one of Team Sky's most tenacious and unpredictable rivals over the years in the Grand Tours. Contador, among others, provided the team with plenty of challenges at the Vuelta a España, the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia.

He also masterminded the breakaway at the 2016 Vuelta a España on the stage to Formigal – a move that sank Froome's bid to win the Spanish Grand Tour that year and enabled Nairo Quintana (Movistar) to retain his overall lead all the way to Madrid.


Rather than the sponsor quitting being a shock announcement, Contador said, it was only to be expected, given that Team Sky had achieved so much in cycling. He also argued that with more than a year until the team's main backer quits, there was still a lengthy margin for the team to find new financial support.

"It's not like they announced it in August and told the riders to start looking for a new squad for the next season," Contador pointed out.

"It's no surprise, given Sky have been in the peloton since 2010, that they are quitting," Contador told Cyclingnews on Wednesday morning. "Most title sponsors come in, become a familiar part of the peloton and then, after five years or so, they're gone and try another sport. I wish all the sponsors lasted nine or 10 years [like Sky].

Team Sky's domination, finding sponsorship

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Posted on December 13th, 2018, 1:04 am

Bahrain-Merida present team in Croatia - Gallery

Bahrain-Merida revealed their entire 2019 team Wednesday during an official presentation at the historic Arsenal building in the city of Hvar, Croatia. Management announced the new joint venture partner McLaren, and riders wearing black suit jackets lined up in front of a theatre filled with fans and team stakeholders.

Team captain Vincenzo Nibali, who led many rides during this week's training camp in Croatia, spoke at the presentation as part of the first wave of riders on stage. He spoke about his race plans for 2019 and his aim to race at both the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France.

Bahrain-Merida also presented their new riders, including Rohan Dennis, Phil Bauhaus, Damiano Caruso, Marcel Sieberg, Andrea Garosio, Jan Tratnik, Stephen Williams and Dylan Teuns.


Teuns said he wanted to win a Classic, while Dennis, the new time trial world champion, said he hopes to win more time trials and help Nibali in the Grand Tours.

Vladimir Miholjevic, who is sport director and coordinator of the presentation and corresponding team training camp, gave the opening speeches, thanking those in attendance, including the Hvar Tourist Board, The City of Hvar and Sunčani Hvar Hotels, for hosting the team camp once again.

"We promise you that we will give everything that you can be proud on our success, and believe us, we really want to live up to our slogan – It’s not about me, it’s about US – because we feel that everybody present here it’s part of us," Miiholjevic said.

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Posted on December 12th, 2018, 11:00 pm

UCI to closely follow Team Sky sponsorship search

The UCI has told Cyclingnews it will closely follow the evolution of Team Sky after team owners and sponsors Sky and 21st Century Fox announced they would stop backing the team after the 2019 season.

Sky had been expected to fund Team Sky at least until 2021, but changes in ownership of the broadcaster have apparently led to a change of strategy. Sky was bought by Comcast in September for close to $40 billion after a fierce ownership battle with 21st Century Fox.

Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas and Giro d'Italia winner Chris Froome both have contracts that last until 2021, while Egan Bernal signed a five-year contract that runs until the end of 2023. Cyclingnews sources say that 10 Team Sky riders earn more than €1 million per season.


Team Sky have said they hope the team's future will be secured by the time the Tour de France comes around in July. However, changes in team ownership and major changes in sponsorship and team structure can result in rider contracts being annulled.

Team Sky are managed by the British-registered company Tour Racing Limited, which is 85 per cent owned by Sky, with 21st Century Fox owning the remaining 15 per cent. If they fail to find new owners and new title sponsors, or reach a deal with the riders involved, Tour Racing Limited could be liable for the outstanding rider contracts that go beyond 2019.

Under UCI reforms to the WorldTour, new three-year WorldTour licences will be awarded for 2020-2022, with the application process carried out in the second half of the 2019 season. The UCI will scrutinise all WorldTour applications and is ready to take action via its Licence Commission if needed.

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Posted on December 12th, 2018, 8:50 pm

Brailsford: I'm sure we've got a future beyond Sky

Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford said that he aims to do everything in is power to make sure his team continues, following the announcement that long-time title sponsor Sky would end its financial backing of the team in 2019.

In an interview with ITV Wednesday, Brailsford said he sees no negativity surrounding Sky's sponsorship withdraw, and instead views it as an opportunity for change.

Asked how Team Sky will continue, and in what form, Brailsford told ITV, "Who knows? I can't give any guarantees, but I'd like to think there are opportunities out there.


"Obviously, there's what we've achieved, and that will never be taken away. It's been fantastic, and we've got 12 months ahead of us, and I am sure we will have a future going forward."

The broadcaster, Sky, has sponsored the team since its inception in 2010, and the outfit has gone on to be one of the most successful teams in cycling, winning six Tours de France; Chris Froome won four Tours, the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España, while Bradley Wiggins won the 2012 Tour and Geraint Thomas won the coveted yellow jersey this July.

Brailsford has chosen to remain positive in his communications with the press, telling ITV that he hopes the team will follow through with another successful season in 2019, its last under the Sky brand.

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Posted on December 12th, 2018, 7:15 pm

Freeman skips witness appearance at Varnish employment tribunal

Dr. Richard Freeman, who was due to be a witness for Jess Varnish in her employment tribunal this week, will not appear upon advice from his legal team.

Varnish has argued that British Cycling and UK Sport wrongfully dismissed her in 2016 before the Rio Olympic Games, arguing that she was effectively an employee and should have been awarded the rights as such.

Freeman was expected to help Varnish substantiate claims that the support by British Cycling and UK Sport, which included medical care provided by Freeman and other doctors, as well as other benefits including dentistry, proved that British Cycling treated her as an employee.


According to the BBC, Freeman's legal team advised him to reconsider appearing because of the General Medical Council's investigation into a supposedly mistaken order of banned testosterone patches to British Cycling headquarters under Freeman's watch.

Varnish's lawyer, David Reade QC, told the BBC that the GMC's investigation led Freeman's legal team to reconsider his appearance in the tribunal because his character could be questioned upon cross-examination.

"When we informed him of that, he was advised by his legal team that he should not give evidence," said Reade.

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Posted on December 12th, 2018, 6:00 pm

Nibali to ride Giro d'Italia and Tour de France in 2019

Vincenzo Nibali has announced that he will ride both the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France in 2019.

Speaking at the Bahrain-Merida team presentation in Hvar, Croatia, on Wednesday afternoon, Nibali outlined his plans, noting a third Giro d’Italia victory would be his principal objective of the coming season.

“I’ll try to reach the Giro in top condition. From then, we’ll see what energy I have left for the Tour. But I want to do well there too, and we’ll go there with a very strong team,” Nibali said.

Nibali has ridden the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France in the same season on two previous occasions. As a young rider in 2008, he placed 11th at the Giro d’Italia before finishing his debut Tour de France in 20th overall. In 2016, Nibali claimed overall victory at the Giro d’Italia before placing 30th in the Tour de France, which he rode expressly in preparation for the Rio Olympics.

2019 ought to mark Nibali’s first concerted attempt at winning the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France in the same year, although he stressed that the extent of his ambition in July would depend wholly on how well he recovers from his efforts in May. He is set to race more sparingly in the opening part of the 2019 season with the Giro-Tour double in mind.

European debut in 2019

Bahrain-Merida confirmed that Nibali would make his season debut at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana on February 6. He will then ride the new UAE Tour (Feb 25-March 2) that is part of the WorldTour and Tirreno-Adriatico (March 13-19). He will defend his Milan-San Remo title on Saturday March 23. The Grand Tour training will begin in early April at altitude with Nibali riding the Tour of the Alps (April 22-26) and liege-Bastogne-Liege before the Giro d’Italia. He is unlikely to race any other stage races between the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France.


“It will depend on my condition and how I come out of the Giro. The Giro uses up a lot of strength. I have tried to do two Grand Tours in recent years and it’s difficult, especially when you do the Giro and Tour together,” said Nibali.

“I’ve had the experience of riding the Giro and Tour, and it’s the most difficult combination. I’ve found it a lot more straightforward to ride the Giro and Vuelta or the Tour and the Vuelta.
We’ll try to learn from past experience to get there as best we can, but a lot will depend on how much energy we expend at the Giro.”

No rider has succeeded in winning the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France in the same year since the late Marco Pantani achieved the double in 1998. In 2018, the football World Cup meant that there was an extra week between the end of the Giro d’Italia and the start of the Tour de France, which encouraged Tom Dumoulin and Chris Froome to attempt the double. Froome won the Giro d’Italia and placed third at the Tour de France, while Dumoulin took second overall in each race.

Nibali has won the Giro d’Italia on two previous occasions, in 2013 and 2016, and placed third overall on his last appearance in 2017. Fabio Aru and Simon Yates are also expected to tackle the Corsa Rosa, though it remains what other Grand Tour contenders will be tempted to line out in the race, which starts in Bologna on May 11.

Team Sky have yet to announce their leader for the Giro Italia, though the team nonetheless dominated headlines on Wednesday following the announcement that Sky would cease its backing of the squad at the end of the 2019 season.

“I’ve heard the news but I haven’t read anything about it. The sponsor is leaving but the group is still there,” Nibali said.

“This certainly isn’t a decision that was made overnight, Sky is an important sponsor that has invested a lot. But it might be a marketing decision. This is a sponsor that is leaving after a long time, but they might take a few years out and come back into the sport later.”

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Posted on December 12th, 2018, 5:30 pm

Chris Froome: We are not finished by any means

Chris Froome has reacted to news that Sky will end its backing of Team Sky after the 2019 season, suggesting the team is "not finished by any means."

"I can't predict the future but I can say this with absolute certainty, this is a really special team," Froome said in a message on Twitter. "We plan to be together in 2020 if at all possible and we will all be doing everything we can to help make that happen – in different colours with a new partner but with the same values, focus and desire to win."

Froome is preparing for the 2019 season with his Team Sky teammates in Mallorca. They and team staff apparently heard that Sky was ending its support of the team late on Tuesday night.


Froome has been with Team Sky since the British WorldTour team was created in 2010, emerging as a team leader after finishing second in the 2011 Vuelta a España.

He has won the Tour de France four times in Team Sky colours, adding a victory at the Vuelta a España in 2017 and at the Giro d'Italia in 2018. He is the team's leader but had to fight to save his name after returning an adverse analytical finding for asthma drug salbutamol during the 2017 Vuelta a España. He was eventually cleared before this year's Tour de France.

Like many of his teammates, Froome has a contract with Team Sky that extends beyond 2019. He signed a new contract in 2017 that runs until the end of 2021. He is expected to target a fifth Tour de France victory in 2019.

— Chris Froome (@chrisfroome) December 12, 2018

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Posted on December 12th, 2018, 3:16 pm

2020 Vuelta a Espana to begin in the Netherlands with team time trial

The 2020 Vuelta a España Salida Oficial will begin in the city of Utrecht and province of Noord-Brabant in the Netherlands, the race director Javier Guillén has confirmed.

Ahead of the race start, the teams' presentation, as well as an opening stage team time trial, will be held in the city of Utrecht, with the second stage beginning in 's-Hertogenbosch before also finishing in Utrecht. The third stage will start and finish further south in the town of Breda and will be a loop within the province of Noord-Brabant, before the Grand Tour returns to Spain.

It will be the second time the Salida Oficial has begun in the Netherlands after Assen in 2009, and a fourth time abroad after Lisbon in 1987, Assen in 2009 and Nîmes in 2017.


The 2020 race start will be funded as a joint enterprise between the private industry group Business Peloton Utrecht alongside the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and sports and five municipal and provincial state bodies.

Vuelta race director Javier Guillén said in a press release: "There is a great passion for cycling in both Utrecht and Noord-Brabant. Both provinces have experience in hosting cycling events. In addition, the cultural-historical ties between Spain and the Netherlands and the topic of sustainability are to serve as the central theme.

"This was one of the major criteria influencing the management's decision to award the start of La Vuelta 2020 to Utrecht and North Brabant."

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Posted on December 12th, 2018, 3:04 pm


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