Archive for the CyclingTips Category

Eritrea’s first ever Road Worlds medal

09/25/2021 0:02

Eritrea’s first ever Road Worlds medal

Biniam Girmay (Eritrea) delivered a historic result on Friday at Flanders Worlds. Crossing the finish line two seconds behind winner Filippo Baroncini (Italy) in the under-23 men’s road race, the 21-year-old became the first Eritrean and the first Black African to secure a medal at the UCI Road World Championships.

“I’m very proud on what I just achieved, this silver medal means a lot to Eritrea, and also for Africa,” Girmay said afterwards. “I’m convinced that the future of my country is bright, because we have a great potential. We’re working hard for several years already to develop it and with some additional experience more results like this will follow.”

At the end of a 160.9 km race from Antwerp to Leuven, Girmay won the sprint for second ahead of Olav Kooij (Netherlands) in a reduced bunch to take runner-up honors.

“It was a nervous race from the start. I was attentive and tried to stay out of trouble as good as possible,” Girmay said. “I could rely on the support of my teammates and I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart. We realized that several nations took control of the peloton to organize a bunch sprint, so we chose to patiently wait for the final. We were confident for a sprint, because I performed well in this exercise the last couple of weeks. There was a tough positioning battle in the final kilometer, but I felt strong enough to keep calm and hide, taking the risk to be blocked.”

Obviously, that strategy worked out, and Girmay has since added a big achievement to his growing palmares.

Girmay has been steadily rising through the ranks as a prospect since making a big splash in 2018, when he won the African Continental junior titles in the road race and time trial and delivered a collection of other strong results in junior races, perhaps most notably besting Remco Evenepoel to win the opening stage of the Aube-Thimister-Stavelot stage race. He won stages at the Tropicale Amissa Bongo and the Tour of Rwanda the following year, and then joined second-division squad Nippo Delko One Provence for 2020, taking more wins at the Tropicale Amissa Bongo, riding to an impressive second at the Trofeo Laigueglia behind Giulio Ciccone, making his first WorldTour race start, and picking up other strong results.

After starting this season with the same team, he joined the WorldTour-level Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux squad in August, and at the start of September, he took a one-day win ahead of some big names at the Classic Grand Besançon Doubs.

In short, Girmay’s U23 silver medal is just the latest in a string of consistently impressive performances over the past few years. It’s also a major result for Eritrean cycling, which has been on the rise in recent years. Daniel Teklehaimanot became the first Eritrean cyclist to race at the Olympics in 2012, and he and Merhawi Kudus were Eritrea’s first Tour de France starters in 2015, when Teklehaimanot became the first African to wear the polka dot jersey. In 2019, Kudus took Eritrea’s first GC podium in a WorldTour race at the Tour of Turkey.

Now, Eritrean fans can celebrate a rising star in Girmay, whose skillset could make him a rider to watch in one-day races, and who has already caught on with a Belgian WorldTour team.

“I’m looking towards the future with hope, it would be a dream to go to Rwanda in 2025 with the ambition of converting this silver medal in a rainbow jersey,” he said. “It is also an honor for me to achieve this result here, in Belgium, the home base of my team Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert. This structure offered me the opportunity to show myself on the highest level in international cycling. The team encouraged me and supported me from the first day. That’s why I also want to thank them.”

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Preview: What you need to know about the elite men’s road race at Flanders Worlds

09/25/2021 0:02

Preview: What you need to know about the elite men’s road race at Flanders Worlds

More than five months after the heart of Classics season, the stars of one-day racing are back in Flanders this week for a shot at a world title. The 2021 UCI Road World Championships will conclude with the elite men’s road race on Sunday.

As ever, most of the biggest names in the sport will be in the mix to vie for the rainbow jersey, and this year, we’ll have a chance to see them battle for that title in the bike racing heartland that is Belgium. The stage is set for a great show.

Here’s what you need to know ahead of the race …

The Route

The elite men’s road race at the World Championships covers 268.3 km, starting in Antwerp and finishing Leuven. The geography of the course is best understood accompanied by a map, because the route jumps between two circuits multiple times.

After leaving Antwerp, the peloton will head south to Leuven. There, the riders will do one and a half laps on a Leuven-area circuit, one lap on a larger circuit to the southwest that organizers have dubbed the Flandrien circuit, four more Leuven circuit laps, one more Flandrien circuit lap, and then two and a half Leuven circuit laps to close things out.

Although “Flanders Worlds” may bring the Tour of Flanders to mind, the event heads more into Brabantse Pijl territory. A steady stream of very short but punchy climbs awaits once the pack arrives in Leuven, and the ascents build up to a total elevation gain of 2,562 meters. None of the climbs is all that hard on its own, but most could be a launching pad for a solo attacker or a small group trying to get clear from a tired pack late in the race.

The final trip up the Smeysberg on the Flandrien circuit could be an interesting place for a long-range move, while any one of the Sint-Antoniusberg (ascended three times in the finale), or the Keizersberg, Decouxlan, or Wijnpers climbs (ascended twice in the finale) could see attacks fly. Whatever the size of the lead group in the end, the finish is slightly uphill, which will add another element of intrigue in the waning moments of the race.

It will be interesting to see how the weather affects the racing in Flanders. As of Friday, the forecast calls for rain in the morning, with things likely to clear up as the day goes on, but with the wind picking up in the afternoon as well.

The Favorites

While there are plenty of riders worthy of contender status for the elite men’s road race at Flanders Worlds, it should be a pretty open race with no rider enjoying odds-on status ahead of the field. The nature of the course plays a big role there. Two days out, it’s tough to say whether this will come down to a solo attacker, a small group, or even a reduced bunch sprint. What’s more, this is a Worlds race, meaning that national teams of varying sizes will be tasked with keeping things under control, and that can make things unpredictable, as we saw at the Tokyo Olympics. In other words, there are a lot of names in play as potential winners here.

The one that stands out most of all is Wout van Aert, who headlines a strong home team. Van Aert’s big engine, strong climbing legs, and elite finishing kick make him a potential winner in practically any scenario, and he put his strong form on display with an impressive Tour of Britain and a runner-up ride in the individual time trial at Worlds last Sunday. Belgian fans have reason to be optimistic with a rider who has won Milan-San Remo, the Amstel Gold Race, Gent-Wevelgem, and Strade Bianche leading the way on a course like this.

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) sprints to his fourth win of the week on stage 8 of the Tour of Britain, snatching the overall title in the eleventh hour.

What’s more, the Belgians have a bit more team firepower than they did in Tokyo to chase down late moves or even try something of their own. Remco Evenepoel, Jasper Stuyven, and Yves Lampaert will make excellent lieutenants and possibly additional cards to play for the squad.

Van Aert’s longtime rival Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands) is another obvious contender. The course suits him too, with the biggest question mark being his health after he has dealt with back issues for some time now. That said, he won the Antwerp Port Epic earlier this month, and he is Mathieu van der Poel, so it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see him on flying form. While he does have a fast finish of his own, Van der Poel may be best suited to putting in a late attack, so keep an eye out for the Dutchman on the late climbs.

The defending champion, Julian Alaphilippe (France), would probably have preferred a harder course, but if he puts in a big dig on one of the late climbs, he could potentially get clear. He did win Brabante Pijl last year on similar terrain, and strong showings at the Bretagne Classic and the Tour of Britain suggest that he is in fine form.

Julian Alaphilippe en route to victory at Worlds in 2020.

Benoît Cosnefroy will give France a solid second option, with Arnaud Démare also in attendance, hoping to hold on just in case this comes down to a bigger sprint.

Sonny Colbrelli headlines the Italian squad, and he comes into the race on fantastic form after winning the Benelux Tour, the European road title, and the Memorial Marco Pantani. The highest-profile wins have eluded the extremely talented Colbrelli thus far in his career, but this Worlds suits him perfectly. He doesn’t mind a tough day on the bike following by a reduced sprint, and there’s a great chance of that being the way this race plays out. His teammate Matteo Trentin makes for a fine backup option for Italy.

The Danes have perhaps the most interesting squad in this race. The way I see it, there are no fewer than four potential winners in Denmark’s lineup, with Tour of Flanders winner Kasper Asgreen leading the way. Asgreen looked good in the Worlds TT, finishing fourth, only two seconds off the podium. Michael Valgren and Magnus Cort have both put their form on display with recent wins as well, and Mads Pedersen is of course a former world champ who thrives on Classics terrain. If all four are feeling good, Denmark could potentially try make or get into moves with Valgren, Cort, and Asgreen, and look to Pedersen should things end in a bigger sprint. Outside of the Belgians with the top pre-race favorite, the Danes seem like the most likely team to take home the world title, one way or another.

Slovenia also has an intriguing squad with three big names who will all be trying to surge clear of the pack and avoid a sprint. Matej Mohoric, who has a history of thriving on this terrain at the race now known as the Benelux Tour, has enjoyed a great year, taking two Tour de France stages along with a few other big results. And then, of course, there are Tadej Pogačar and Primož Roglič, who are far better one-day racers than we’re used to seeing from Grand Tour champions these days.

Tadej Pogačar and Primož Roglič in action at the Itzulia Basque Country.

If anything, the Slovenians at least have the firepower to make this an interesting race.

Four years ago, Peter Sagan (Slovakia) probably would have been the number one overall favorite for this race, but it’s been some time since he showed the kind of dominance that made him such a strong contender all across the calendar. Still, he’s only 31, and if he’s in form, he certainly has the tools and the experience to be in the mix. Michael Matthews (Australia) is another rider with the versatility and the experience to be a contender. Like Sagan, he would have been more of a favorite a few years ago, but he’s still a rider to watch. Australia also has Caleb Ewan; it’d be a surprise to see him hold on through to the finale, but if he can, he would obviously be a contender in a sprint.

Other outsiders to keep an eye on include Tom Pidcock, Ethan Hayter, and Mark Cavendish (Great Britain), Marc Hirschi (Switzerland), Alexander Kristoff (Norway), and Michal Kwiatkowski (Poland).

We won’t have long to wait now to see how it all plays out. The battle for the elite men’s world road title kicks off on Sunday at 10:25 local time, and by sometime that evening, we’ll know who has earned the right to wear the rainbow bands for the next year.

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Retro Tech: Mario Cipollini’s world champion Specialized E5 bikes

09/25/2021 0:02

Retro Tech: Mario Cipollini’s world champion Specialized E5 bikes

Hands up, who remembers the 2002 Worlds? If you’re Australian (especially a McEwen fan), it would be a heartbreaking day. If you’re a German four-time Milan-San Remo winner, it was a big old kick in the teeth. But if you were a fan of a certain flamboyant Italian, then the day was one big party on a course that could hardly have been any more suited to a rider of his talents.

In the Limburg region of Belgium, Zolder saw Mario Cipollini take the 2002 men’s world champion’s jersey home with him to Italy in not just a pure display of unadulterated grunt but also with a team that was behind one man and one goal.

Cipollini’s Worlds bike.

We managed to get hold of not just one of his bikes from that year, but two. Firstly, the Specialized E5 Italian team edition bike he rode to victory, and secondly, the custom painted E5 that he used for the remainder of the season and into 2003.

Carbon? what carbon. It’s ally all the way for Cipollini in 2002/3.

If you’re a retro-tech geek or just like a bit of bling, this video should be right up your street.

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In photos: Anna van der Breggen’s rise to dominance

09/25/2021 0:02

In photos: Anna van der Breggen’s rise to dominance

As we near the end of 2021, we will start to say goodbye to a handful of incredible women who have made their mark on the sport through years of dedication – and none more so than Anna van der Breggen. Of course, Van der Breggen isn’t going anywhere. The G.O.A.T. will stick around as a director for her former team SD Worx and thank goodness for that. The women’s peloton desperately needs former racers to slot into management roles in the peloton.

Even though the very first Paris-Roubaix is right around the corner, Van der Breggen announced that her final race would be the World Championship road race. And she’s not looking to win it. Prior to the World Championship time trial, Van der Breggen took to her Instagram to say that she would not compete in the timed event but would still start the road race in a support role. What other top rider with a palmares like Van Der Breggen’s would set aside ambition for her teammates?

She’s been an inspiration for years. Soft-spoken, yet vocal about important topics in women’s cycling. Always ready to work for others, even when she’s on the top of her game. Van der Breggen has been an inspiration to women in the peloton and fans of the sport for the last nine years…

Anna van der Breggen was happy to place fifth in the World Championship road race in 2012.
2012 Van der Breggen proves we all have to start our time trialling journey with a less than aero position.

While riding for the UCI Sengers Ladies Cycling Team in 2012, Van der Breggen won three out of the four stages of the Tour de Bretagne Féminin and the overall, youth, and points classifications. She also won the European Championship U23 individual time trial.

In 2013 Van der Breggen went one better in the World Championship road race, she finished fourth just 18 seconds off the podium.

In 2014 Rabobank-Liv swept the general classification podium at the Ladies Tour of Norway with Van der Breggen winning the leader’s jersey, Marianne Vos taking second, and Katarzyna Kasia Niewiadoma third.

Van der Breggen was picked up by the powerhouse Rabobank-Liv team in 2014. Her teammates were the stuff of legends, Kasia Niewiadoma, Pauline Ferrand-Prévot, Iris Slappendel, Lucinda Brand, Annemiek van Vleuten and of course Marianne Vos. They were the truly dominant team before Boels-Dolmans started to challenge them in 2015/2016.

With her new team, Van der Breggen started her winning ways. She took wins at the Ladies Tour of Norway, Festival Luxembourgeois (aka Festival Elsy Jacobs), Dwars door de Westhoek, and the Lotto Belisol Belgium Tour. In 2014 she also finished third overall at the Giro d’Italia Internazionale Femminile, the Giro Rosa.

In 2015 and 2016 Van der Breggen became one of the best bike racers in the peloton. She won her season opener Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in 2015 and continued to frequent the podium for the rest of the season. She won the Giro Rosa, the Dutch national time trial, La Course by the Tour de France, and was second in the World Championship road race and time trial.

Anna van der Breggen wins her first Giro Rosa in 2015.
La Course by the Tour de France in 2015 was a wet one, and slightly treturous because of the cobbles.
Anna van der Breggen wins the 2015 edition of La Course by the Tour de France on the Champs Elysees.
Richmond World Championship road race won by Lizzie Armitstead with Anna van der Breggen in second and Megan Guarnier third.

One of her career biggest achievements came in 2016 when she won the Olympic road race in Rio de Janeiro. The following year Van der Breggen joined the team that would be her home even after her career comes to a close, Boels-Dolmans.

Van der Breggen wins the 2016 Olympic road race
The win was one of her career-best

In her first year at Boels-Dolmans, the Olympic champion won all three Ardennes events – the Amstel Gold Race, Fleche Wallonne, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège – the overall at the Tour of California and pink at the Giro Rosa. It was the start of four years of dominance.

Amstel Gold Race 2017, with Van der Breggen Boels-Dolmans became the most powerful team in the women’s peloton.
Van der Breggen winning her third straight La Flèche Wallonne. She would go on to win four more.
Van der Breggen won the inaugural Liege-Bastogne-Liege in 2017.

Van der Breggen won the World Championship road race in Innsbruck in 2018, another Tour of California in 2019, with a handful of other victories in those two years. In her penultimate year, she won both the road race and time trial at the World Championships in Imola, the Giro Rosa. She announced in May of 2020 that she would race one more season before stepping off the racing bike.

Van der Breggen on the attack in Innsbruck.
The final winner of the Tour of California before the race went on hiatus
What a difference eight years makes.
Van der Breggen after winning the World Championship road race in 2020.

Even with the light at the end of the tunnel, Van der Breggen didn’t break her stride in her final season. She started off by winning Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, then her seventh consecutive La Flèche Wallonne, the Vuelta a Burgos, and then one last Giro Donne overall title. She went to the Olympics a favorite to double up on the road race but walked away with only a third in the time trial.

Anyone else may have been disappointed, but Van der Breggen is well known for having an upbeat attitude. Teammates will rave about how down to earth she is, how she never changed from that girl with the slightly questionable time trial position, even after all the victories.

Anna van der Breggen with her SD Worx teammates after winning the final stage and overall of the Vuelta a Burgos.
The relationship between Van der Breggen and her young teammate Demi Vollering has been particularly fascinating to watch. Vollering was new to SD Worx at the start of the season but quickly proved she has what it takes to be the next Dutch superstar.
Ashleigh Moolman Pasio, Van der Breggen, and Demi Vollering on the podium of the Giro Donne.

Before she’d even stopped racing, Van der Breggen had already started to shift into a leadership role on SD Worx. Ashleigh Moolman Pasio told Freewheeling earlier this year that she got the chance to room with Van der Breggen at the first team camp. Right away Van der Breggen was talking to Moolman Pasio about how she could improve, giving her tips and examples of ways to up her game.

The fact that Van der Breggen will be staying in the sport, in management, is an undisputed win for women’s cycling. As if SD Worx wasn’t already the top team in the peloton, Van der Breggen’s presence in the car will do great things. She’s shown time and time again she has a level head on her shoulders. Passing on racing and fitness expertise to young riders is a small part of what good she will do. Her approach to being a professional athlete, dealing with success at a young age, and growing as the sport changes is something that everyone should take note of.

As a fan, former athlete, and someone just trying to make women’s cycling a better place, I have to thank Van der Breggen for what she has given to the sport, and what she is still to give.

She has solidified her place in the cycling hall of fame, and we will miss her insanely smooth riding style.

So, this one final time, good luck Anna! And we can’t wait to see you in the car next year!

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Bikes of the Bunch: a two-tone Ritchey Road Logic Disc

09/24/2021 12:02

Bikes of the Bunch: a two-tone Ritchey Road Logic Disc

This Bikes of the Bunch is the creation of New Zealand-based Tristan Thomas, founder of the wheel company WheelWorks. Tristan is a passionate member of the bicycle industry and his personal builds have made it into Bikes of the Bunch on a couple of occasions, including a steel bike he built himself, and more recently a customised Specialized Creo e-commuter. Tristan shares his latest creation below.

If I’m being honest I have no need for this new bike, but it brings back memories. 

I’ve owned a lot of really nice bikes but one of the very best was a steel Ritchey. I think a large part of why I loved that bike is because of where it took me and the adventures we went on together:  I explored tiny villages in Belgium and stopped to order baguettes in my rusty French. I rode up Italy’s highest paved road, the Stelvio pass, before exploring the roads and beaches around Lake Como, the Rocket Espresso factory in Milano, and the Campagnolo factory in Vicenza. I rode through Northern California and visited my friends at White Industries. In Oregon I learned how to build a bike during the day and rode with legendary frame builder Paul Sadoff in the evenings. I took that Ritchey to so many places and I enjoyed each and every adventure with it.

My cycling and fitness ebb and flow as my energy is split between life and cycling. I’m in an ebb at the moment – the past two years of work have been absolutely crazy, meaning I’ve been riding less and my fitness has suffered. The only Strava notifications I get these days are “uh oh, you’ve lost another KOM”, and so rather than striving for fitness and pushing my limits most of my current riding is about relaxing, unwinding, and simply enjoying the freedom of cycling. Riding this new Ritchey reminds me of the old adventures and pulls my mind to the carefree memories of narrow roads of Italy and donut shops in Canada.  

My take on a modern steel road bike

The goal for this new build is a modern ‘steel is real’ bike. I’ve tried 1x road drivetrains in the past and never liked them but with the new SRAM XPLR series I thought the 1x concept was worth another shot. Would the benefits of a lighter, simpler drivetrain finally be realized?

I’ve been riding Shimano Di2 for years now but have really enjoyed the wireless SRAM AXS components on my mountain bike. For this build I ordered a pair of Red AXS shifter / brake units and Blips (remote shifters) for placement near the stem. SRAM’s XPLR 10-44 cassette and derailleur were supposed to arrive months ago but were Covid-delayed so to get the bike rolling I’ve fitted a Shimano XTR 10-45 cassette and XX1 Eagle AXS mountain bike derailleur. The shifting is good but I’m really looking forward to the Red XPLR kit arriving any day now.

A Polish-made Garbaruk chainring is a visually striking addition to the build and I simply love its spiderweb look. It’s bolted to a pair of SRAM crankarms which are designed for a Quarq powermeter and which are the lightest cranks I can find in the long 177.5 mm length I use.

A direct-mount narrow-wide chainring.

The Ritchey Disc Road frame arrived with a lovely gloss black paint but I wasn’t loving the battleship grey decals. Using the vinyl cutter that we use for our custom wheel decals I made some fresh frame decals of the same size and carefully overlaid them onto the frame. I think the resultant chrome decals on the frame and fork look amazing!

In keeping with the monochromatic frame I polished a pair of our Dial hubs to a lustrous silver and our wheelbuilder Gavin built them into a pair of 35mm deep Wheelworks SL rims with silver Aerolite spokes and decals made from the same chrome as my new frame logos. The wheels are set up tubeless (of course) with Continental GP5000 28 mm tyres run at 75 psi front / 80 psi rear.

Wheelworks’ own Dial hubs feature. A Microspline freehub hides under the Shimano cassette.

I finished the build off with a silver Ritchey deep-drop handlebar and a custom-polished Ritchey 4-Axis stem. I machined and polished the silver headset spacers on my lathe to perfectly match the diameter of the Ritchey stem, and machined a custom preload topcap using the super light Cannondale part as a starting point.

An FSA seatpost holds a PRO Stealth saddle in place. The seatpost was stripped and painted gloss black to match the frame. All the frame bolts were swapped out for black ones and the forged steel rear dropout was replaced with a CNC machined black one to further the monochrome.

The total weight is 8.4 kg which I think is pretty respectable for a 58 cm steel bike with all the trimmings. The XPLR cassette, chain and derailleur should save a little more weight, and if I really want to go nuts there are plenty of little items like the saddle, bar, and thru-axles where grams could be shaved. However, the goal wasn’t to build the lightest steel bike but rather to have a bike that rides beautifully. I’ve only put a few hundred kilometres onto it but I think I’ve succeeded.

The build

  • Frame: Ritchey Disc Logic Road, size Large, custom chrome decals, cablestops removed
  • Fork: Ritchey, custom chrome decals
  • Headset: Ritchey with custom machined and polished headset spacers and topcaps
  • Wheelset: Wheelworks SL 35mm on custom polished Dial hubs with polished DT Swiss Aerolite spokes
  • Shifters: SRAM Red AXS with Blips
  • Crankset: SRAM Quarq D1
  • Chainring: Garbaruk 44t
  • Bottom bracket: SRAM DUB, English thread
  • Rear derailleur: SRAM Eagle XX1, AXS
  • Cassette: Shimano XTR 10-45t, 12-speed
  • Chain: Shimano XTR 12-speed
  • Disc brake calipers: SRAM Red
  • Disc rotors: Campagnolo 160 mm (front), 140 mm (rear)
  • Tyres: Continental GP5000 tubeless 28 mm
  • Handlebar: Ritchey Classic
  • Stem: Ritchey 4-Axis, custom polished
  • Seatpost: FSA, painted to match frame
  • Cages: BTP (ed. one of the original weight weenie cages)
  • Bar tape: Fizik
  • Saddle: Pro Stealth
  • Pedals: Shimano Dura-Ace SPD-SL


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There could be an under-23 women’s world road champion in 2022

09/24/2021 0:02

There could be an under-23 women’s world road champion in 2022

As Cyclingnews reports, the 2022 UCI Road World Championships could see an under-23 women’s road race title awarded for the first time – albeit without a separate event for the category.

Although though there are junior, U23, and elite races on the men’s side, Worlds currently features only junior and elite events for the women, with no U23 women’s champion. In the short term, the number of events appears set to remain the same, but according to Cyclingnews, UCI President Davide Lappartient said that a U23 winner could be named at 2022 Worlds in Wollongong, Australia, with the best-placed under-23 rider in the elite race taking the title.

“That’s clearly something that’s possible. That could be our first step,” Lappartient said, according to Cyclingnews, at a launch event for Wollongong Worlds held on Thursday at Flanders Worlds.

“That would give the opportunity to have two official podiums, two official world champions, and that’s clearly something we can do, at least for next year. Definitely the goal next year is to create this U23 category within one race, with two world titles. That will be the first step before having a dedicated race, and we can be ready because at one moment you have to go.”

The UCI is apparently mulling the potential of a standalone race for the U23 category down the road, with UCI director of sports Peter Van den Abeele reportedly saying that the governing body is looking into it, but for now it remains unclear when that might happen.

“The Road Worlds programme is already quite busy,” Van den Abeele said. “It’s not an easy task. I’m not saying this should prevent us from installing the category, but it’s something we need to look into. But there are always solutions to be found.”

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Eurobike 2021: The gravel goodies

09/24/2021 0:02

Eurobike 2021: The gravel goodies

If you caught my previous video from Eurobike 2021, you’d be well aware that the show was cargo bike central, with a healthy dose of e-bikes scattered in. And we loved it – but that wasn’t what we had initially attended for. No, we’d embarked on our annual pilgrimage to Friedrichshafen on a quest to unearth everything road and gravel.

This year, though, it took a keen eye to spot the skinny (and not-so-skinny) tyres amongst the cargo boxes and child carriers. But there were a few standout items. There were some bikes from a few big players but many more from the mid-sized and smaller builders. Brands you may or may not have heard of, depending on how hardcore cycling geek you are, I guess.

Niner, Wilier, Cipollini, Nicolai, Portus, Aeroe, SKS and DMT all had some delights on show.

Did this year’s expo show us that gravel is on the decline? No, not at all – just that the cargo bike scene was very much what the show was about this year and that brands that usually deal in gravel stayed away. But trust us, this gravel thing isn’t going anywhere fast.

Hopefully, this video whets your appetite for a bit more gravel – in fact, a lot more gravel. In the coming weeks, we’ve got some good things heading your way, both here and on the CyclingTips YouTube channel. So stay tuned.

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Preview: What you need to know about the elite women’s road race at Flanders Worlds

09/24/2021 0:02

Preview: What you need to know about the elite women’s road race at Flanders Worlds

The leaves are finally changing color and the temperatures are dropping in the northern hemisphere, which means it’s time for one of the best one-day events of the cycling season: The World Championship road race. 2021 has been a weird year, with some crazy aggressive races to kick off the season, a lull ahead of the Olympic Games in July, and then a slew of unpredictable events that left us all on the edge of our seats.

Flanders is definitely a fitting location for the 100th anniversary Road World Championships (for the men, at least, because the women’s road race was only added in 1958). The elite women’s road race on Saturday will be a combination of unpredictable and “we should have seen this coming”. With a technical course that leads into a demanding finale, the race will either come down to the fast women, or to one of them.

So let’s dive into it. Here is everything you need to know about the 2021 Women’s World Championship road race.

The course

The course starts in Antwerp and follows a 56 km long run-in to a series of different circuits. There is a loop in Leuven where the race will finish and a Flandrien loop where the majority of the climbing is. Before the women take on the Flandrien loop, which hits at about 78 km into the race, they’ll do one and half of the finishing loops. They will then complete one Flandrien loop with six climbs, before finishing the race with two of the final Leuven circuit again.

The Leuven circuit runs 15.5 km on length while the Flandrien circuit is 50 km long.

In total, the race is 157.7 km, one of the longer one-days the women do all year. Despite what looks to be a hilly course, there is actually less elevation gain than the last two World Championships had. Each of the climbs in Belgium, short and steep, will narrow down the field but probably not eliminate some of the top sprinters all together.

Despite being in the iconic region the course doesn’t hit any of the climbs from the Ronde van Vlaanderen – but the climbs aren’t nothing. The climbs on the Flandrien circuit are especially steep.

Who to watch

Keeping in mind that the course favors a rouleur/sprinter/opportunist and the variety of outcomes we’ve seen at the latest women’s WorldTour events it’s safe to safe the World Championships this year is wide open. The list of favourites will still be the usual cast of characters, but the way in which the race will be won could be surprising.

Lotte Kopecky of Belgium attacks the breakaway during stage 4 of the Internationale LOTTO Thüringen Ladies Tour.

At the top of the list is hometown hero Lotte Kopecky. After Kopecky’s last two seasons, where she put herself on the international map and proceeded to impress time after time, she will have a lot of eyes on her. Kopecky is one of the fastest sprinters in the game but can also expertly gauge her efforts over these short steep climbs. Plus, she’s headed to SD Worx in 2022, the home of so many world champions.

To win, Kopecky will have to outsmart the Dutch, and per usual they are showing up in Antwerp with an incredible team. Former world champion Anna van der Breggen has already made it clear she is not on the hunt for a final rainbow jersey but is there to give back to her teammates. Oh what it must be like to have Van der Breggen as your domestique for the World Championships!

Apart from Van der Breggen, the Dutch have 2019 road world champion Annemiek van Vleuten, 2017 road world champion Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, 2020 cyclocross world champion Lucinda Brand, the new world time trial national champion Ellen van Dijk, 12-time world champion (across road, track and cyclocross) Marianne Vos, Amy Pieters, and Demi Vollering.

Chantal Blaak wins the 2017 World Championship in Norway.

In all honesty, every single Dutch woman on the start line could win the road race, in a variety of different styles. Van den Broek-Blaak is a master tactician and has managed some incredible wins on courses just like the Worlds course. Vollering and Vos are both strong sprinters, and have Pieters for an expert lead out if it comes to that. Van Vletuen, queen of the long range attacks, is flying right now. Just like the Olympic road race, it’s the Dutch who will run the show. Let’s just hope they don’t play a negative game like in Tokyo.

Speaking of tactics, there are a handful of outside favorites who we can count on to be aggressive, especially in the Flandrien circuit. One of the is Kasia Niewiadoma. The Polish rider has a team of six to make sure the race is easy for her until it’s her time to shine. Those short punchy climbs are her bread and butter so even though she’s not an out-and-out favorite to win, seeing her go for it is a given.

Elise Chabbey of Switzerland.

The same can be said for Marlen Reusser and Elise Chabbey of Switzerland. The two are both aggressive riders with nothing to lose, especially Reusser, who missed out on the rainbow jersey in the time trial by only ten seconds. The peloton has made the mistake of letting Reusser get away in the past, and it’s up in the air if they’ve learned from their mistakes.

Another rider who will have to be aggressive if she wants that top step is Elisa Longo Borghini. Borghini and her Italian teammate Marta Cavalli have both had strong seasons, but if there’s a sprint at the end of the race they will miss out, so their opportunities will all be on that Flandrien circuit.

Coryn Rivera on the start line of the Women’s road race in Tokyo.

Then there’s Coryn Rivera. There is no question of her getting over the climbs, she’s shown that since the Giro Donne in July. She has always been a top sprinter, but just needs to be in the right place. Rivera has openly expressed a desire to get the rainbow bands back on American shoulders. The last American rider to win the Worlds was Beth Heiden in 1980. Rivera’s team is strong but the USA does not have a track record of good tactics which could be a detriment to the sprinter.

Given the way she’s been riding recently, and if the race does come down to a reduced sprint, Chloe Hosking might claim the rainbow jersey. The Australian has a very strong team to back her with riders to cover moves on the harder parts of the course and help her get where she needs to be if things go sideways.

Germany has a strong team overall and is coming in strong after winning the Mixed Relay TTT on Wednesday. Lisa Brennauer is a favorite for a fast finish but if it is a select move that goes watch for Liane Lippert. She’s been coming into form in the latter half of the season.

Emma Norsgaard of Denmark.

Two final riders to watch are Emma Norsgaard of Denmark and Lizzie Deignan of Great Britain. Norsgaard has impressed all season, especially in reduced bunch sprints. She’s used to riding into the finales solo so a select move without any Danish teammates is not going to slow her down.

Deignan last won the World Championships in 2015 and has quite a ride since then. After having a baby in 2018 and coming back to racing in 2019 Deignan quickly found her way back to the top. 2021 hasn’t been the season she wanted, but it’s not over yet, and with her history in one-day racing she’s still a good pick on Saturday.

There’s so many different ways the race could play out. The three most likely are a select group of less than 10, a reduced bunch of around 30, or a solo rider. Probably Van Vleuten.

How to watch

Most of Europe can watch the women’s road race from start to finish on GCN+ or Eurosport. Candians will find coverage on FloBikes, while American viewers should look to NBC Sports. In Australia the race will be on SBS.

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In deleted tweet, Rwanda Cycling Federation says Rwanda will host Worlds in 2025

09/24/2021 0:02

In deleted tweet, Rwanda Cycling Federation says Rwanda will host Worlds in 2025

The 2025 Road World Championships have been awarded to Rwanda, according to a Tweet sent out by the Rwanda Cycling Federation that was quickly deleted. The UCI has not yet confirmed the news and did not respond to a request for comment.

The news is not unexpected.

The President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, was in Flanders this week to meet with UCI President David Lappartient and Director General Amina Lanaya. The three met Thursday morning, shortly before the Tweet was sent out. The East African nation had made its hosting intentions known before.

Both Rwanda and Morocco put in bids to host the 2025 worlds.

The location, should it be confirmed, presents both opportunity and cause for concern. Rwanda loves its cycling and is the host of one of the largest and most prestigious road events on the African continent, the Tour of Rwanda. It is a hub of cycling passion in East Africa and would present an opportunity to bring Road Worlds outside its traditional European confines. The terrain is tough and local support would be phenomenal.

Yet there are serious concerns about the country’s government and potential sportswashing. Kagame has been in power in some form or another since 1994, becoming president in 2000. According to human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch, elections are largely staged, dissent is quashed, and there have been more than a dozen alleged assassinations of Rwandan dissidents at home and abroad since 1995. This year, Paul Rusesabagina, inspiration for the movie Hotel Rwanda, was sentenced to 25 years in jail on terrorism charges that have been deemed questionable by international observers. More than 30 U.S. Senators have called upon Kagame for Rusesabagina’s release.

The UCI has historically shown few qualms in handing major events to questionable governments, most recently with world championships awarded (and then removed) from Belarus and Turkmeninstan.

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Vincenzo Nibali is headed back to Astana

09/24/2021 0:02

Vincenzo Nibali is headed back to Astana

After two seasons at Trek-Segafredo, Vincenzo Nibali is headed back to Astana, where he spent some of most successful seasons of his career between 2013 and 2016.

The team currently known as Astana-Premier Tech – though the latter sponsor is leaving at the end of the year – announced on Thursday that it had signed the 36-year-old Italian to a one-year contract.

“It is difficult to talk right now about any specific expectations for my return to the team, as well as about the plans for next season. But first of all, for me it will be an enjoyable reunion with the team, and I would like to enjoy the new season to the fullest,” Nibali said via an Astana press release. “Of course, I would like to prove myself, to achieve certain results, but at the same time I am interested in providing my experience to young riders.”

During his previous stint with Astana, Nibali stormed to the 2014 Tour de France title and two Giro d’Italia wins to go with his first Monument win at Il Lombardia and a sizable collection of other strong results. He left the squad for Bahrain-Merida in 2017, and then joined Trek-Segafredo in 2020.

“We are happy that this return is coming true. Vincenzo Nibali doesn’t need any introduction – he is a true champion and leader,” said team manager Alexandre Vinokourov, who has returned to Astana leadership following a suspension, a move that reportedly caused the rift with Premier Tech.

“Probably, he spent the best years of his career in our team, and I think it is symbolic that he will finish such a great cycling career in Team Astana,” Vinokourov said. “For us, the arrival of Nibali is an opportunity to get and to use all the rich experience a rider of his calibre can offer, to transform and improve the team, which will undergo some great changes in the new season. We would like to pay more attention to young riders and the presence of a champion like Nibali could play a very important role in their growth and development. However, I believe that Vincenzo has not said yet his last word in cycling, so in some races we can still rely on him as the leader of the team to achieve new successes together again.”

In what could be the final season of his illustrious career, Nibali may be linking up with Miguel Ángel López, who is reportedly also set to return to Astana after spending most of 2021 with Movistar.

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