Valverde and Van der Breggen win elite world titles: Daily News Digest

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

Over the weekend two riders claimed the one thing missing from their respective illustrious palmares — the rainbow bands. Also, the UCI has moved to ban tramadol from professional cycling without the help of the World Anti-Doping Agency. Those stories and more in today’s Daily News Digest.

Story of the day: Valverde finally captures rainbow bands

After six podium finishes over the last 15 years, Spaniard Alejandro Valverde finally claimed the world road championship he had long strived for. Valverde sprinted to victory from a select group of four that had formed on the run into the finish off the Höll climb. The Spaniard, clearly the quickest finisher out of the leading quartet of Romain Bardet (France), Michael Woods (Canada), and Tom Dumoulin (Netherlands), and himself, was forced to lead the entirety of the final kilometre, but that didn’t stop him from claiming the world title.

“It’s incredible,” an emotional Valverde said at the finish. “Fighting, fighting, it’s a dream. I have to thank the team because they were a 10 [out of 10]. I was saving for the sprint and the truth is it’s just something incredible. This has been a dream of mine to be world champion.

Heading into the Höll climb Michael Valgren (Denmark) held a 30-second advantage over a over a small peloton that included a plethora of Dutch and French riders. Valgren’s legs would give out on the climb and the heavy pre-race favourites came to the fore.

The climb splintered the group with Bardet, Valverde, and Woods going over the top together. Dumoulin made the junction to the group in the final kilometres after a dare-devil descent. Surprisingly, nobody tried to attack Valverde in the finale despite his impressive palmares as a fast finisher. The Green Bullet handily won the sprint to bring the world title back to Spain for the first time since Oscar Freire won the last of his three world titles in Verona, Italy in 2004.

Valverde is the second oldest rider to claim the elite men’s world road title at 38 years and 158 days old. Dutchman Joop Zoetemelk was 38 years and 252 days old when he won the world title in 1985.

A soigneur for the Spanish National Team carried Alejandro Valverde in celebration of his victory. Photo: Cor Vos

For Valverde, the win marks an ending to a comeback season after a harrowing crash on the opening stage of the 2017 Tour de France, which saw him break his kneecap. The horrific injury had the chance to end his career as a professional, but he fought back and claimed 13 wins this season prior to the world championships.

Van der Breggen captures elusive rainbow bands

Dutch rider Anna van der Breggen has added the previously elusive rainbow stripes to her impressive results list with a powerful 40-kilometre solo break.

“I was doubting if it was too early or not to attack by myself when I did it, but since I took this opportunity, I had to go,” said van der Breggen after her win. “I know how difficult it is to win the World Championship, so I’m really happy.”

The Dutch were clear favourites coming into the elite women’s road race, but they certainly had their challenges in the early stages of the 156-kilometre event. Annemiek van Vleuten was involved in a crash and hurt her knee, but managed to make her way back into the field. She would finish seventh and later finding out she was riding with an eminence fracture.

It also seemed that every other nation would stop at nothing to try and disrupt the Dutch dominance, most notably Australia. The Aussies set an incredibly high pace up the climb during the first lap of the finishing circuit to blow the field apart with more than 60 kilometres to go. Then the nation’s most dangerous rider, Amanda Spratt, leapt off the front.

Van der Breggen then attacked and rapidly joined the front group. She soon found herself alone, as her high pace on the climb dropped everyone off her wheel. She opted to keep the pressure on with still 40 kilometres to go, which proved to be the right decision. By the finish, she had pulled out a huge winning margin of 3:42.

Spratt held firmly onto the silver medal position, as she was the last one to lose contact with van der Breggen. Italy’s Tatiana Guderzo (who won Worlds in 2009) claimed the bronze medal.

Beauty of Cycling

The elite men’s world championship road race in Innsbruck, Austria showed us many examples of why cycling is such a beautiful sport.

From the huge crowds that lined nearly the entire 24-kilometre circuit…

…to Peter Sagan, the winner of the world title for the previous three years, awarding Alejandro Valverde with the gold medal on the podium.

Race Radio

Keough gets maiden CX World Cup win

Kaitlin Keough (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld) took her first career UCI Cyclocross World Cup victory at in Iowa City. She attacked the field on the second lap and soloed the rest of the way to the win. The win is a bit of redemption for Keough, as she finished second at both of the U.S. World Cups last year.

Evie Richards (Trek Factory Racing CX) finished second, 31 seconds down and Marianne Vos (Waowdeals), who won the opening round of the World Cup series in Waterloo a week ago, rounded out the podium. Vos was out of contention for most of the race, but came on strong in the end to pass Sophie De Boer (Breepark-Rapha) and finish on the podium.

Vos leads the overall World Cup standings after two rounds, having amassed 145 points. Richards is second at 130 points and Katerina Nash (Clif Pro Team) is third on 113 points.

Top 5 results:
1. Kaitlin Keough (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld) in 40:55
2. Evie Richards (Trek Factory Racing CX) at +00:31
3. Marianne Vos (WaowDeals) at +00:37
4. Sophie de Boer (Breepark-Rapha) at +00:40
5. Sanne Cant (IKO-Beobank) at +00:53

Aerts wins back-to-back CX World Cups

Toon Aerts (Telenet Fidea) completed the U.S. sweep of the opening two rounds of the UCI Cyclocross World Cup, defeating world champion Wout van Aert in Iowa City over the weekend. Aerts capitalized on a late mistake by the Belgian to cross the line alone for the second consecutive weekend.

Van Aert crossed the line 51 seconds down on Aerts and Michael Vanthourenhout (Marlux-Bingoal) rounded out the podium after a race-long battle against Quinten Hermans (Telenet Fidea Lions).

Aerts and Van Aert, both 24 years old, separated themselves from the rest of the pack on the opening lap and remained locked in battle with neither able to gain an advantage. It appeared the race would come down to the final lap, but Van Aert bobbled in a heavy mud section with two laps to go and Aerts accelerated away. The slight advantage was all the gap the former European champion needed to take his second straight world cup win.

Top 5 results
1. Toon Aerts (Telenet Fidea) in 1:02:28
2. Wout Van Aert (Belgium) +00:52
3. Michael Vanthourenhout (Marlux-Bingoal) at +01:16
4. Quinten Hermans (Telenet Fidea) at +01:32
5. Corne van Kessel (Telenet Fidea) at +02:06

UCI to start testing and banning for tramadol in 2019

The UCI will start testing for the synthetic opioid painkiller tramadol beginning in January of next year with positive tests for the substance resulting in a ban, according to a report in AFP.

Tramadol is not banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), even though it has long been considered a performance enhancer due to its powerful painkilling ability. WADA put the drug on its Monitoring Programme list is 2012, but has yet to act beyond that.

Tramadol tablets. Photo by Shane Stokes

The UCI said it has devised a finger-prick test that has the ability to detect the presence of tramadol and its concentration. “It turns out that globally, roughly 2/3 of the tramadol detected is in samples of cyclists,” UCI President David Lappartient said. “5% of cyclists’ samples show traces of tramadol.”

Moving Pictures

Elite Women’s RR highlights

Elite Men’s RR highlights

Cyclocross World Cup Iowa City – Elite Women

Cyclocorss World Cup Iowa City – Elite Men

Today’s feature image: Romain Bardet and Alejandro Valverde share a handshake prior to the post-race race press conference.

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