Cycling’s other triple threat; Quintana wants yellow: Daily News Digest

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

There’s been much discussed about Movistar’s triple threat — Quintana, Valverde, Landa — but LottoNL-Jumbo has a big three of their own. The Dutch team’s stars — Bennett, Roglic, and Kruijswijk — have come on strong in the last few seasons. They may not have the firepower or panache Movistar’s big three has, but could they capture grand tour in 2019? Should LottoNL-Jumbo send all three to the big show in July? Also, after having a lacklustre run in grand tours this season, Nairo Quintana is switching coaches. And there’s a further development in the Wout Van Aert saga. Those stories and more in today’s Daily News Digest.

Story of the Day: Should LottoNL-Jumbo bring its big three to the Tour?

George Bennett, Primož Roglic, and Steven Kruijswijk have collectively stood on zero grand tour podiums, so why should we consider them a threat to capture one of the three-week races in 2019?

Roglic and Kruijswijk were the revelations of this year’s Tour. Their one-two punch lit up the race and infused drama into the Team Sky-dominated affair. Roglic finished fourth overall. The duo appeared to attack on instinct, nothing more evident than Roglic giving it a go on the stage to the airstrip just above the town of Mende. If the squad threw Bennett into the mix, the team’s options expand even further. Bennett and Roglic are 28 and 29 years old, respectively, which is considered just the beginning of the prime age for a pro cyclist.

Roglic and Kruijswijk livened up the Tour with their audacious attacks in the mountains. Photo: Cor Vos

Bennett has stated he wants another crack at the Tour next year. The Kiwi finished eighth at this season’s Giro, showing progress after a stellar Tour in 2017. The result’s sheet from the ‘17 Tour lists Bennett as a DNF, but he was sitting comfortably in the top 10 before illness forced him out in the final week.

Since none of the three has stood on a grand podium it may be easier for team management to keep egos in check. Two of Movistar’s big three have grand tour trophies in their closet and one is the current world champion. Landa, the one without a grand tour overall title, has shown he’s not afraid to strike out on his own, which can cause problems.

A climb-heavy route with limited TT kilometres will see teams bring a multitude of climbers to France. A three-pronged attack is risky and Movistar failed to live up to expectations at this year’s Tour, but don’t be surprised if Bennett, Roglic, and Kruijswijk are all there. Also, if LottoNL-Jumbo throws young sensation Sepp Kuss into the mix, the team’s climbing talent could be nearly as strong as Sky or Movistar. Kuss lives at altitude in Boulder, Colorado, so he could prove to be a vital domestique over the high-mountain passes that dot the final week.

Sepp Kuss helped guide Steven Kruijswijk to a fourth-place finish at La Vuelta. Photo: Cor Vos

Let us know in the comments below whether you think LottoNL-Jumbo should bring all three of its grand tour contenders to the Tour de France.

Race Radio

Quintana hires new coach, looks to bounce back in 2019
Nairo Quintana (Movistar) last stood on a grand tour podium at the Giro d’Italia in 2017 when he finished second to Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb). Since then, the Colombian’s grand tour prowess has been in free fall. He finished a dismal eighth at the Tour de France this season and looked even worse off at the Vuelta where he finished 10th. In the second half of the Vuelta, he was forced to resort to second fiddle and helping teammate Alejandro Valverde.

Quintana told Ciclismo Internacional he will work with incoming director sportif Max Sciandri for the upcoming 2019 season. Sciandri spent the last eight seasons with the BMC Racing program, but switched to Movistar for 2019. Quintana formerly was coached by Movistar’s Mikel Zabala.

“This year I have changed coaches, to see if we are doing much better and we can come to the Tour de France to do better,” Quintana said.

Nairo Quintana finished 15th at the world road championships on a climber-friendly course. Photo: Kristof Ramon

Quintana took the cycling scene by storm at the 2013 Tour de France, finishing second overall behind Chris Froome (Sky) and taking home the white and polka dot jerseys. Since then, he’s won a Giro and Vuelta title, but has yet to add a maillot jaune to his closet. The lack of time trial kilometres at this year’s Tour and high-altitude mountains definitely suit Quintana’s skillset. It remains if he will be able to capitalize in July.

Van Aert’s teammate calls Nuyens ‘pamper’ claim false

In the ongoing legal battle between cyclocross star Wout Van Aert and Sniper Cycling, the owners of the Verandas Williems-Crelan Pro Continental team, team manager Nick Nuyens said he had to treat Van Aert differently from the rest of the team. Tim Merlier, a former teammate of Van Aert’s who raced on the road and in cyclocross alongside the world champion, has contradicted Nuyens’ statements.

“Nick had to pamper Wout, that never happened,” Merlier told Het Nieuwsblad. “…Wout was the man of the more professional approach. His ideas led to improvement, while the team kept on [doing things the same way]. If you can choose between a BMW or a Renault, you choose the BMW. Nuyens was the Renault.”

Three-time and current cyclocross world champion Wout Van Aert (Veranda’s Willems-Crelan) finished in 13th place at his first Paris-Roubaix in the spring.

Van Aert abruptly ended his contract with Sniper Cycling in September, citing extenuating circumstances. The team is seeking damages from Van Aert. The team claims he unlawfully terminated his contract and cost the team financially because current and potential sponsors have pulled out. The UCI is currently looking over the case and its decision could prove vital in setting a precedent on how riders are capable of terminating contracts early.

Moving Pictures

Chris Akrigg shreds

Pro mountain biker Chris Akrigg took Moongoose’s new Tyax Pro 29er out for a little spin.

Happy Birthday to …

Romain Bardet (28), the baby-faced Frenchman has the weight of a nation on his shoulders. He stood on the podium of the Tour de France in back-to-back years in 2016 and 2017, but could only manage sixth overall this past July. His overall podium finishes have given France hope that they can one day win their home race again. A French rider hasn’t taken home the Grand Boucle since Bernard Hinault won the last of his five titles in 1985. Race organiser ASO made what could only be described as a Bardet-friendly route for 2019, so expectations will only rise even higher.

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Feature Image: A flashback to a muddy edition of Strade-Bianche

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