Struggling sprinters seek answers; a big win for Simon Clarke: Daily News Digest

by CyclingTips

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

The best sprinters of their generation are struggling. One now knows why, the other doesn’t. Plus, a big win for a team and a rider that needed a bit of redemption.

Two cases of struggling sprinters: one solved, one still a mystery

Two of this generation’s most spectacular sprinters have been all but silent this year. Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel have just three wins between them all season. While the source of Kittel’s lack of form remains a mystery, Cavendish has been diagnosed with Epstein Barr for the second time.

Cavendish will stop racing and take a complete break from training, he said in a press release, on the recommendation of his doctors.

“Having received expert medical advice as a result of the findings I’ve been advised to take a period of total rest in order to fully recover,” he said. “I’m now looking forward to taking the time necessary in order to get back to 100% fitness before then returning to racing again at peak physical condition.”

Cavendish said he’s “not felt physically myself” all season, and had been searching for a source of the issue.

Marcel Kittel just announced that he won’t start the Tour of Britain. The German has struggled with poor form for much of this season and recently pulled out of the BinckBank Tour. He’s waiting on further tests and examinations before returning to racing, he said.

“In my current situation, it makes no sense to race,” he said. “I have to wait for the results of further examinations. The risk would be too high.”

The virtual disappearance of Kittel and Cavendish opened the door to those previously in their shadows. Elia Viviani has 16 wins this season and Dylan Groenewegen has 12, including two victories at the Tour de France.

Kittel has only two victories this season, following a 2017 season in which he often felt unbeatable. The lack of form is clearly frustrating, as is his inability to determine the source of the problem. He’s pushed back on critics on social media, acknowledging his lack of results and explaining that he’s seeking answers:

Race Radio

Simon Clarke wins cagey Vuelta stage
We’ve called the Vuelta the “redemption tour” a few times in recent weeks, and stage 5 was indeed redemptive. It saw the first WorldTour victory for a team that almost folded this time last year and the first grand tour stage win in six years for a rider who’s been close more times than we care to count.

EF Education First’s Simon Clarke was the best of a successful breakaway into Roquetas de Mar, taking his team’s first grand tour stage win since Rigoberto Uran’s win in stage 9 of the 2017 Tour de France. EF Education First has only five victories this year, and this is the first at WorldTour level.

“It’s taken me so long to get back there and have my stars aligned,” Clarke said. “Even today I wasn’t sure it was possible. You’ve got to be willing to lose to win, and I was and I came out on top.”

It was a cagey finale, as Clarke, Bauke Mollema, and Alessandro De Marchi came under the flamme rouge just ahead of a trio of chasers including FDJ’s Rudy Molard, who was pulling his guts out for a chance at the leader’s jersey. The leading three were already looking at each other, refusing to pull, hitting out on small attacks one after another. Mollema had already tried to go solo, but Clarke, the best sprinter of the three, jumped from wheel to wheel and kept the group together. The tactic worked, and the Australian sprinted to his first grand tour stage since the 2012 Vuelta.

Behind, Team Sky’s pace lacked any urgency, clearly unfazed by the prospect of losing its overall lead to Molard. Overnight leader Michal Kwiatkowski came across the line safely, 4’55” behind Clake and 4’47” behind Molard, which handed the FDJ rider the overall lead by 1’01”.

2017 silver-medallist Roglic to miss TT at world championships

Second in last year’s world time trial championships, Primoz Roglic has passed up the chance to chase gold in the event this time around. The LottoNL-Jumbo rider has announced that he will focus on another event in Innsbruck-Tirol, saying that his Tour de France crash had affected his ability to practice his TT.

“I took the decision about ten days ago because I had some problems with my elbow after the Tour,” he said on Wednesday. “I had a stone it in after a crash, which I had removed. A week later it was inflamed so I had to have it opened up again. I still haven’t ridden my TT bike, so I can’t really train to get a good result. I will [only] start when I can fight for a win, so I won’t do it.”

Roglic said that his successes on climbing stages at the Tour and at this year’s Giro gave him a lot of self-belief for what will be a very selective course at Worlds. “I know I can ride hard and be really good. This gives me mental confidence, as well as the training,” he said. “The truth is we are all starting from zero, from the same place, so you have to always prove yourself, again and again.”

Moving pictures
Last weekend’s World Cup in La Bresse was one of the most technical of the season, and it almost caught out Emily Batty.

Our jealousy is unbecoming
Some of our VeloClub members are in Japan for a VeloClub Summit right now. We’re not jealous at all.

Transfer news

Roger Kluge joins Caleb Ewan at Lotto-Soudal

Roger Kluge will follow Mitchelton-Scott teammate Caleb Ewan to Lotto-Soudal for the 2019 season. He will serve as a valuable leadout man for the Aussie, just as he did this year, and noted that the two had a close friendship in a press release sent out by Lotto on Wednesday.

Battaglin heads to Katusha-Alpecin for two years

Punchy climber Enrico Battaglin is heading to Katusha for two years from LottoNL-Jumbo. The Italian has shown good form on short climbs, and worked as a valuable domestique in the Giro d’Italia this year, where he also won a stage.

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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