Aqua Blue folds; Geraint Thomas enters helmet debate: Daily News Digest

by CyclingTips

Welcome to your Daily News Digest. Here’s what’s happening today:

Irish Pro Continental team Aqua Blue will not return in 2019. Geraint Thomas entered the helmet debate, whether he meant to or not. Italian champion Elia Viviani won the first field sprint of the 2018 Vuelta a España. Dutch star Marianne Vos will not race the world road championships, instead focusing on cyclocross. In transfer news, the Izagirre brothers will leave Bahrain-Merida for Astana, while Colombian phenom Ivan Sosa heads to Trek-Segafredo.

Quote of the day

“I’m not sick. I’m empty. I realized about 20 kilometers from the finish that it would be like that. But really, this is what I expected.”

— Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), speaking with La Gazzetta dello Sport after Stage 2 of the Vuelta a España, where he lost contact on the Caminito del Rey climb and lost 4:04. Nibali has stated he is aiming for a stage win in the final week, and using the Spanish Grand Tour as preparation for the hilly world road championship in Austria in late September.

Story of the day: Aqua Blue folds

Stefan Denifl won stage 17 of the 2017 Vuelta a Espana, Aqua Blue’s first and only Grand Tour.

Aqua Blue Sport will fold at the end of this season, the Irish Pro Continental team announced Monday. The decision came down to its failure to obtain invites to major events and a failed merger with the Veranda Willems Crelan team, and leaves riders and staff suddenly looking for work in the middle of the transfer season.

Riders appear to have been surprised by the announcement, with references to being informed via the team’s Twitter announcement.

Aqua Blue was founded in 2017 on a vision of sustainability afforded by profits from an online cycling retailer, The funds from that venture did not live up to expectations, and initial funding that was intended to keep the team alive for four seasons instead only lasted two.

The team had a promising start. In its first year it won a stage of the Tour de Suisse with Larry Warbasse and was invited to the Vuelta a España, where it won another stage with Stefan Denifl. This year it received no Grand Tour invites and went through an odd back and forth with the management of Wout Van Aert’s Veranda Willems Crelan team. Aqua Blue announced via a press release that it had acquired the Belgian squad, which then responded to say there was no deal.

The negotiations were referenced in Monday’s release. “Aqua Blue Sport cycling team have been negotiating tirelessly with another Pro Continental team regarding an acquisition/partnership. Over the past weeks we had formed the basis of an agreement many times, but unfortunately common sense did not prevail.”

Management acknowledged “fundamental mistakes, and errors of judgement,” but stated that it will continue with its e-commerce site with the hope of bringing the team back at some future date.

The other story of the day

Geraint Thomas enters the helmet debate, receives backlash

In a wide-ranging interview with The Sunday Times, Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas was asked about a proposed law in the UK that would require cyclists to wear helmets.

“I’ve never ridden a bike in London, apart from in a race,” Thomas said. “I’ve watched from a taxi and it does seem a bit crazy.I would certainly make helmets compulsory. I always wear a helmet, I’ve put on a helmet more times than I’ve buckled a seatbelt. Helmets have come on a lot  — well ventilated, not too hot, you don’t look stupid — no reason not to.”

His answer touched a nerve, however, with many, including former British pro Chris Boardman, whose mother was killed in a cycling accident in 2016, as well as Cycling UK, the national cycling charity. Boardman, who also wore the maillot jaune during his career, has attacked the government for raising the issue of compulsory helmet use as part of its cycling safety review, pointing to evidence that cycling use drops where helmets are required by law.

Two nations, Australia and New Zealand, require and enforce universal use of helmets by cyclists. Other countries enforce helmets for children only, or require universal use but do not enforce the law.

Click through to read more at Sky News.

Race Radio

Viviani wins Stage 3 at Vuelta

Italian national road champion Elia Viviani took his fifth Grand Tour stage win of 2018 — and his 16th victory of the season — at the Vuelta a España, springing off a perfect leadout from Quick-Step teammate Michael Morkov to finish ahead of Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe). It was Viviani’s first career stage win at the Vuelta a España. Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) retains the red jersey as leader of the general classification.

Wanty-Groupe Gobert goes 1-2 at Schaal Sels
Wanty-Groupe Gobert finished 1-2 at the UCI 1.1 Schaal Sels one-day race in Belgium Sunday, with Timothy Dupont finishing ahead of teammate and compatriot Alfdan De Decker. After a six-man breakaway was reeled in, Wanty-Groupe Gobert rode to ensure a field sprint, and though their leadout train fell apart — or rather, because their leadout train fell apart — they finished first and second.

The UCI 1.1 race is noted for its use of gravel sectors and cobblestoned farm roads. World cyclocross champion Wout Van Aert won the 2016 edition, and finished second last year; he did not compete this year.

Timothy Dupont (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) won the bunch sprint ahead of his teammate Alfdan De Decker in Merksem, Belgium. Photo: Gregory Van Gansen Photonews.

“It was difficult to control the race, but we were able to send a rider in every break. In the final lap everyone was called to prepare the sprint,” said Dupont, who took his first win of the season. “Alfdan rode an excellent sprint. It was a hectic sprint preparation. In the final kilometer he would normally launch the sprint, but we lost each other. So I started the sprint early. For a moment I thought he would even pass me.”

Click through to see our photo gallery highlighting the dust and beauty of the 2017 Schaal Sels.

Rally Cycling’s European trip includes KOM jersey at Deutschland Tour

Rally Cycling’s Robin Carpenter won the King of the Mountains classification at the Deutschland Tour. The 26-year-old American defended his lead in the climber’s competition against WorldTour competition on the final 207 km stage to Stuttgart. The jersey was the first major European classification victory of Carpenter’s flourishing career. Carpenter’s lead in the KOM classification was built on the back of a Stage 3 breakaway where he won all five climbs en route to Merzig.

The German tour brings to a close one of the most successful European campaigns in the team’s history. Top results included Carpenter’s podium finish onStage 3 of the Tour of Denmark and second place at KOGA Slag om Norg in the Netherlands. Colin Joyce won Stage 2 and finished third overall at the Arctic Race of Norway, and finished eighth in the opening sprint at  the Deutschland Tour.

The team now travels home for their final races of the season, the WorldTour GP Quebec on September 7 and GP Montreal on September 9.

Bettiol breaks collarbone at Bretagne Classic-Ouest France

Alberto Bettiol sustained two fractures of his right collarbone and a fractured fifth digit on his right hand in a crash during the one-day Bretagne Classic-Ouest France race. The BMC Racing rider, who will return to the EF Education First-Drapac team in 2019, also broke his collarbone at Liège-Bastogne-Liège in April. He’ll miss the WorldTour races in Quebec and Montreal, which he was targeting.

Click through to read our recent feature on Alberto Bettiol.

Gesink breaks ribs, collarbone while training in USA

Robert Gesink broke two ribs and his collarbone during a training accident in Boulder, Colorado. The LottoNL-Jumbo rider was preparing for the Canadian World Tour races in Quebec and Montréal when he crashed on a bad road surface. Gesink, winner in Montreal in 2010 and Quebec in 2013, will now miss both races.

Marianne Vos ends road season to focus on cyclocross

One day after finishing second at GP de Plouay, Marianne Vos (WaowDeals) has announced she will be ending her road season to focus on a full cyclocross season, meaning she will not be part of the feared Dutch squad at the world road championship in Austria in September. Vos will start her cyclocross season at the World Cup in Waterloo, Wisconsin, on September 23.

After struggling for several seasons with injuries, Vos has returned to form in 2018, though she no longer climbs as she did earlier in her career. This year she’s won a stage of the Giro Rosa, a stage and the overall at the BeNe Ladies Tour, all three stages plus the overall at the Ladies Tour of Norway, and the Crescent Vårgårda, making her the current leader of the UCI Women’s WorldTour.

Marianne Vos (WaowDeals Pro Cycling) won Crescent Vårgårda on August 13.

“I already took the decision to start my cyclocross season in September some time ago,” Vos said. “I think it is good to do something different than previous years. Ever since I turned pro, I have never completed a full cross winter. The last time I have done that was in my junior years. A first important goal is the European championship in early November, which means I need to get the necessary rhythm by having weekly crosses. In addition, I also need to qualify.”

Transfer news

Izagirre brothers head to Astana

Astana has announced a two-year agreement with Spanish riders Ion Izagirre and Gorka Izagirre, who will join the Kazakh team in 2019.

Ion Izagirre, 29, joins the team from Bahrain-Merida. Among his top results are a stage win at the 2016 Tour de France and 2012 Giro d’Italia, the general classification at the 2015 Tour de Pologne in 2015, and Spanish national time trial and road titles. This season, Ion Izagirre was third overall at the Tour of the Basque Country, and fourth overall at Paris-Nice.

Gorka Izagirre, 30, is also a strong GC rider, who can perform well in time trials. The current Spanish road champion, who is also riding for Bahrain-Merida in 2018, has finished third overall at Paris-Nice, and won a stage at the 2017 Giro d’Italia.

Colombian sensation Sosa signs with Trek-Segafredo

Colombian climber Ivan Sosa has signed with Trek-Segafredo for 2019 and 2020, the team announced Monday. Sosa (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec), winner of four stage races in 2018 including the 2.HC Vuelta a Burgos, recently finished sixth overall at the Tour de l’Avenir, winning Stage 7.

Click through to read our recent feature on Ivan Sosa.

Navarro to Katusha-Alpecin

Spaniard Dani Navarro will leave French Pro Continental team Cofidis for the Katusha-Alpecin WorldTour squad in 2019. A top-10 GC rider in weeklong stage races and an occasional stage winner, Navarro rode much of his career in the service of Alberto Contador before heading up his own team in 2013. Top career results include ninth overall at the 2013 Tour de France and 10th overall at the 2014 Vuelta a España, where he won a stage.

Navarro, 35, said it was time to switch teams to give himself a fresh start. “The fact that Katusha-Alpecin was interested in me and that I know many people in that team makes me look forward to this transfer. I am not a winner, but I have proven my value in all my previous teams. I will work with pleasure for Ilnur Zakarin, knowing that I will get my chance, too, from time to time.”

Van Hoecke to bolster BMC/CCC classics team in 2019

The Continuum Sports group behind BMC Racing and CCC in 2019 has signed 26-year-old Belgian Gijs Van Hoecke to ride at the classics in support of Greg Van Avermaet.

The 2012 Madison World Champion, Van Hoecke initially combined track and road racing before solely focusing on road racing and progressing to the WorldTour in 2017 with LottoNL-Jumbo. The opportunity to ride with Van Avermaet is what attracted Van Hoecke to Continuum Sports. “Greg Van Avermaet is my daily training partner and a good friend of mine,” he said, “so it’s needless to say that I want to help Greg and the team to continue their top results in the classics, which are my favorite races.”

Amador, Bennati, Erviti to stay with Movistar Team

The Movistar Team announced Monday that Costa Rican Andrey Amador, Italian Daniele Bennati, and Spaniard Imanol Erviti have all signed contracts that will see them staying with the squad through the end of the 2019 season. All three riders were part of the Tour de France squad in July, and contributed to Sunday’s Vuelta a España stage win by Alejandro Valverde atop Caminito del Rey.

Amador, Bennati, and Erviti at the 2018 Tour de France team presentation. Photo: Luca Bettini/BettiniPhoto.

Amador, who finished fourth overall at the 2015 Giro d’Italia, will starting his 11th season with the team in 2019. Bennati, who has won 54 races as a sprinter, will start his 18th season in 2019 and his third with Movistar. Erviti, who has been with the Spanish team for 15 consecutive years, finished in the top 10 at both the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix in 2016.

USA CRITS finale this weekend in St. Louis

The 10-event USA CRITS Championship series finishes on Sunday, September 2, at the Gateway Cup’s Giro Della Montagna in St. Louis, Missouri. CyclingTips is the official media partner of the 2018 USA CRITS series, as well as sponsor of the Lap Leader competition. Click through to see our full coverage of the USA CRITS series, including profiles of every D1 team and reports from every event.

Thanks to our friends at Bontrager, we’re giving away a Flare RT Rear Light for every stage of the 2018 Vuelta a España. Sign up here. And for more, click through to read our article highlighting what every cyclist needs to know about daytime running lights.

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