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Welcome to your Daily News Digest. Here’s what’s happening today:
A Chinese billionaire, once rumoured to want to buy all three grand tours, is looking to take a partnership with the UCI and the WorldTour a step further. Also, Taylor Phinney extended his contract and Mitchelton-Scott’s suitcases will weigh a little bit more as the riders fly home from the UCI Gala. Those stories and more in today’s Daily News Digest.
Story of the day: Wanda’s money
Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin, who is behind the Wanda Group that owns the Tour of Guangxi, stated his intention to further invest in cycling, and in particular, the UCI’s WorldTour. The Wanda Group has made significant investments in cycling through the last couple of years and rumours of making headline-worthy purchases is nothing new. A few years ago Jianlian and Co. were interested in buying all three grand tours.
A story in Sporza today comes with a rather sensationalist headline about Wanda purchasing the UCI’s WorldTour. An outright purchase seems unlikely, but at the UCI Gala in China after the Tour of Guangxi, Jialin said he hopes to make cycling one of the biggest sports in China. Through a translator, Sporza’s Reporter Renatte Schotte asked Jianlin if he was interested in becoming an owner of the WorldTour, in partnership with the UCI. Jianlin responded: “Yes, of course. Wanda is a strategic, all-around, long-term partner with the UCI, and we’re committed to making [that partnership] even bigger in the long run.”
The “Yes, of course,” appears to be in response to the broader question of Wanda’s ongoing and increasing involvement in cycling. But the point stands: Wanda’s cash is likely to continue to permeate the sport.
Jianlin has made clear he is ambitious regarding the sport of cycling. The UCI has, thus far, opened its arms to the Chinese billionaire. The future of the partnership will be intriguing to watch.
Mitchelton-Scott riders take home hardware at UCI gala
Mitchelton-Scott riders Annemiek Van Vleuten and Simon Yates, who both won a grand tour this year, took home the individual UCI WorldTour classifications at the UCI Gala in China over the weekend. Van Vleuten doubled-up by also ending the season as the number one ranked female rider overall (including non-WorldTour races). Yates was second in the men’s overall category to world road champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). The duo set the season ablaze by claiming 16 WorldTour victories between them.
Van Vleuten’s highlights include the Giro Rosa, La Course, and defending her world time trial title at the world road championships in Innsbruck, Austria. The Dutchwoman finished the season with a remarkable 13 wins and 32 top-ten finishes in a mere 45 race days.
Yates was able to put together a strong second half of the season after the bitter disappointment of losing his lead in the Giro d’Italia a mere two days from the race’s finish in Rome. He bounced back at the Vuelta a Espana to win the Spanish grand tour. It was the first grand tour overall victory in the history of the Australian-based program.
Degenkolb becomes abassador for “Friends of Paris-Roubaix” group
John Degenkolb, who won Paris-Roubaix in 2015 and also won the Tour de France stage into Roubaix this year, has become the first active rider to invest financially into the “Hell of the North.” The non-profit Les Amis de Paris-Roubaix (Friends of Paris-Roubaix) is a group of volunteers that protects and fixes the cobblestone sectors on the Roubaix route. Degenkolb will make financial contributions, as well as donate memorabilia to the group.
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John Degenkolb // Ambassador of Les Amis de Paris Roubaix Cycling. A mondern sport in technical times. Yes. That`s one part of the cycling business. On the other side you have the old races, classics, the history. Legendary routes and names like le Tour de France or Paris Roubaix. Goosebumps for all cycling fans and as well for me. These legendary races. These holy grounds. The history and heroic stories, you can smell that on every kilometer. For me it were the classics that fascinated me immediately. I will never ever forget sitting at home on our couch with my dad and follow these races…I was infected with the „virus”. That’s what i wanted to do as well. I wanted to become a pro cyclist and do these epic courses. l wanted to be part of that history. These memories still motivate and push me till today and so I did’t need to think one single second as I received the request to become as first pro the official ambassador of the „Les Amis de Paris Roubaix“. The non profit association that keeps and protects the Paris Roubaix course as it always was. They protect it from modernisation.. and guarantee that the Paris Roubaix race will be till today as hard, heavy, nice, amazing and lovely brutal, that the course will be exactlly the same as back in 1896 at it’s first edition.. I am very pround to give something back to the race I owe so much. Thank you for this opportunity. In their museum directly in the velodrom you will find on top some original John Degenkolb pics, trikots and caps and if you like to support the Friends of Paris Roubaix as well please find here the directlink for your donation… http://www.lesamisdeparisroubaix.com/adhesion John Degenkolb, October 2018 #dege #dgnklb
Greipel swapping Australia for Africa to begin season
André Greipel has been a consistent presence at the Santos Tour Down Under throughout his career and is the race’s winningest rider. However, due to the German stepping down to the French Pro Continental squad Fortuneo-Samsic in 2019, he will not be enjoying the sun of southern Australia and instead be racing in Africa. Greipel will race the 14th edition of the Tropicale Amissa Bongo from January 21 to 27.
The UCI 2.1 race will see three French Pro Continental squads on the start line as Direct Energie and Vital Concept-B & B Hotels will join Fortuneo-Samsic in Gabon. Organisers will also select 10 African-based teams to complete the 13-squad line-up.
After two years away, Briton Ben Swift will return to Team Sky in 2019. He left the British program at the end of the 2016 season in search of more opportunities to race for himself. He had finished second at Milano-Sanremo that year. However, the results have been few and far between the last two years and after an injury-plagued 2018 season, he’s looking for a reset with Team Sky. The 30-year-old will join Sky looking to fill the role of mentor to the younger riders.
Also, American Taylor Phinney has extended his contract with EF Education First-Drapac through the 2019 season. This comes on the heels of a solid season, which saw him crack the top-10 of Paris-Roubaix for the first time in his career with an eighth-place finish.
EF Education First-Drapac is changing its race schedule somewhat next year, targeting gravel events. This comes along with high-end clothing brand Rapha coming on board as not only a sponsor, but more of a partner to help the team produce more multimedia content around its season. In a press release, Phinney stated he would love to have the opportunity to ride Dirty Kanza.
UCI WWT Tour of Guangxi highlights
Happy Birthday to …
Mark Renshaw (36), the Aussie has made a career out of guiding Mark Cavendish to victory. Renshaw is widely considered the best lead-out man of his generation. For someone that has been present at the end of sprint stages his whole career, it’s interesting to note he only has 12 victories to his name. But that’s the life of a lead-out man, sacrificing yourself in the finale of a race only to see someone else take the flowers.
And, Chantal Blaak (29). The Dutchwoman emphatically won the 2017 world road championship in Bergen, Norway.
In case you missed it …
Fear: Tech Editor James Huang talks about the fear of riding on the open road in his column — JRA with the Angry Asian.
Tech: Want something other than 53/39T, 52/36T, or 50/34T for a high-end road double crankset? Praxis is quickly filling a void and giving options that the big three are not.
Today’s feature image: Taylor Phinney (EF Education First-Drapac) on his way to an eighth-place finish at Paris-Roubaix.