Bardet eyes double; Aru back to school; UAE goes Aussie: Daily News Digest

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

Romain Bardet wants to ride the Giro, but will not go to the Tour as a domestique. So is the infamous double on the cards for the Frenchman in 2019 in a year the Tour seems most suited to his abilities? Fabio Aru is going back to school to take an array of language courses. And, Paris-Roubaix’s most harrowing cobbled sector is in desparate need of repair. Those stories and more in today’s Daily News Digest.

Story of the Day: Bardet contemplates attempting double?

Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) began his preparations for the 2019 season a few days ago and admitted in a recent interview with L’Equipe he is contemplating racing the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France next year. The move is quite surprising considering ASO couldn’t have made a more Bardet-friendly route for the 2019 Grande Boucle.

The Giro d’Italia has 58.5 kilometres of individual time trialling, while the Tour has a single individual time trial of 27 kilometres that takes place over hilly terrain. However, Bardet believes the Giro TTs are not as much of a handicap for him as one may think.

“They look difficult, so it’s a lesser evil for me, and then we know that the Giro runs differently from Tour,” Bardet said of the Giro’s TTs. “We weigh the pros and the cons. It is important that everyone (manager, sports director, coach) gives his point of view and that we decide at the end of November, the Vaujany training camp, or a little later because the training of December will have to be prepared knowingly.”

Bardet, 28, is entering his prime as an athlete and believes his best years are still in front of him. He said he’s able to train harder than ever and still has the drive to perform despite an underwhelming Tour this year.

After finishing second and third at the Tour the past two years, the Frenchman underperformed at the 2018 Tour finishing sixth. While the result is impressive in itself, he was never truly in the hunt for the yellow jersey. Furthermore, after finishing on the podium and having the weight of a nation on his shoulders, the result can be labelled nothing more than a disappointment.

It is hard to imagine Bardet going for the Giro in a year where the Tour most certainly suits his abilities. L’Equipe asked Bardet if he has ambitions to ride the Giro next year for which he responded yes. A follow-up question inquired about the Tour and he explained he would ride it at nothing less than 100% and not go there to simply be a domestique. Don’t bet on Bardet riding the Giro because it seems very unlikely in 2019.

Romain Bardet did not have the Tour he hoped for this year.

Race Radio

Aru goes back to school

Italian Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates) is hitting the books this offseason. In an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport, he said he’s working on his English and studying multiple times a week for a few hours. He also said he plans to take lessons to learn French and Spanish as well. Learning English and French doesn’t come as a surprise as they are the official languages of the UCI.

“I have already studied English for eight years at school, but the real study is now,” Aru said. “French is the language where I have more difficulty. With the Spanish, I believe it is a good thing. From last week I started with English, two or three times a week at least a couple of hours a lesson, which are individual. When there are interviews, if you do not master a language well, you are afraid of making mistakes. So instead, it will be much better because I do not start from a very low level.”

Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates) crashed heavily on stage 17 of La Vuelta, but fought on and still finished the race. Photo: Cor Vos

Arenberg Forest in desperate need of repair

The infamous Arenberg Forest cobbled sector of Paris-Roubaix is set to get a landmark repair this winter. According to French newspaper La Voix du Nord, there is great concern regarding the grass growing between the cobbles over the five-star sector. Interestingly, due to the historic nature of The Forest, chemicals are not allowed to be used to kill the grass between the stones.

“If we do not change anything, there will be a lot more falls at the next edition in which it is raining,” François Soulcier, president of Les Amis de Paris-Roubaix, said. Amis de Paris-Roubaix is a volunteer organisation that has taken it upon themselves to maintain and repair the various cobbled sectors that feature in Paris-Roubaix.

The solution appears to be pouring cement between the stones. A high-pressure washer will be used to remove the grass between the stones. Then cement will be poured in to prevent the grass from growing back. “The strip will not be any less difficult,” Soulcier continued. “We are not trying to change the character of the most iconic piece of the race.”

World Champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) in the infamous Arenberg Forest during the 2018 Paris-Roubaix, which he went on to win. Photo: Kristof Ramon

UAE adds Aussie veteran sports directors Stephens and Peiper

Neil Stephens and Allan Peiper have found new homes with UAE Team Emirates. The duo will bring a wealth of sports directing experience to the squad. The team’s ambitions will most certainly grow next year with the addition of sprinting sensation Fernando Gaviria. The team poached the Colombian fastman from Quick-Step Floors. Gaviria still had a year left on his contract with the Belgian team, but UAE Team Emirates bought out the contract to bring him on-board.

Stephens had previously been with the GreenEdge program for the last eight years, but the two parted ways in September citing differences in philosophy. Peiper will join the team from BMC Racing where he has been a director for the last six years.

Neil Stephens had been a staple of the Australian GreenEdge program since the beginning. Here, he has a laugh with Simon Gerrans at the 2013 Tour de France. Photo: Cor Vos

Tech News

Specialized S-Works Recon, a new premium off-road shoe

Following the recently updated S-Works 7 shoe, the new S-Works Recon provide similar updates for gravel, cyclocross or XC mountain biking. Claimed to be the American company’s stiffest mixed-terrain shoe yet, the S-Works Recon boasts a new Dyneema mesh upper, increased toe protection and alloy Boa S3-Snap dials (same as those used on the S-Works 7). Claimed to weight 602g a pair (EU42), these shoes replace the S-Works 6 XC and come with the same eye-watering US$425 / AU$500 price tag.

Moving Pictures

Van Avermaet wants Flanders world title over Olympic repeat

Flanders Classics, owners of many of the cobbled spring classics including the Tour of Flanders, asked Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet a few questions ahead of the 2019 season.

Behind-the-scenes at Met helmets

Dave Everett takes a tour of Met Helmets HQ, in Talamona, Italy.

Happy Birthday to …

1974 Tour of Flanders winner Cees Bal.

In case you missed it …

Road Safety: Is Australia’s “Safe System” really working as intended? The country’s national road safety strategy is based on the idea that people will always make mistakes and that the system should be forgiving enough that such mistakes don’t result in serious injury or death. However, numerous cyclist deaths have called the Safe System approach into question.

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