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Through the opening two months of the cyclocross season, viewership compared to last year in Belgium is in decline. Cyclocross is very much a spectator sport in Europe, unlike in the U.S. where cyclocross is a participatory sport. It seems even cyclocross’ home fans are growing tired of Mathieu van der Poel’s dominance. Also, Thomas De Gendt is looking ride all three grand tours next season. Those stories and more in today’s Daily News Digest.
Story of the Day: Van der Poel’s dominance finally having a negative effect
Cyclocross viewership in Belgium is down 19-percent from a year ago, according to Daam Van Reeth, a professor in the Economics & Business department at KU Leuven and a sports economics researcher. He analyzed the opening eight races of the European cyclocross season and found viewership to have decreased from an average of nearly 500,000 viewers last year to just above 400,000 viewers. Furthermore, two races lost over a third of its viewers from the year before.
Michel Wuyts, a commentator for broadcaster VRT told Het Laatste Nieuws it was too early to tell if the decline was a trend. “A sunny day can make a difference of 150,000 viewers,” Wuyts said. “And it has been a beautiful autumn.”
When asked about Mathieu van der Poel’s dominance, Wuyts referenced how legend Sven Nys was once unstoppable.”I look with pleasure at the flawlessness with which Van der Poel rides around. And complaints about dominance have always been there. You had it with Sven Nys and undoubtedly also in the period of Roland Liboton.” Liboton won four world cyclocross titles between 1980 and 1984.
While the elite men’s races have been lacklustre affairs with van der Poel continuing to win with apparent ease, the elite women’s races have seen many battles. Van Reeth found that on average the elite women’s races get about 70% of the viewers the men’s races do. The elite women’s races have only in the last few years received live television coverage. The races previously were only given a brief highlight before the elite men’s event.
The Beauty of Cycling
Most of the peloton are coming out of their post-season slumber and climbing back aboard their bikes. Offseason seems to be officially over and just as the weather has begun to chill in Europe.
De Gendt eyeing grand tour treble in 2019
Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) is planning on racing the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, and La Vuelta a Espana in 2019. He also doesn’t plan on missing the spring classics either.
“I start the Tour Down Under, then Paris-Nice, Catalonia, the Tour de Romandie, the Giro, the Tour and the Vuelta,” De Gendt told Het Nieuwsblad. “I will recuperate between them. I still have to discuss it with the team, but I can more or less choose my own program.”
The Belgian has made it a career out of being a breakaway specialist. Though his wins are few and far between, when De Gendt is victorious they capture the crowd’s attention. De Gendt’s breakaway ability was evident from his second year in the WorldTour in 2012. He finished third overall at the Giro d’Italia on the heels of winning the penultimate stage atop the Passo dello Stelvio. Besides the 2012 Giro, he’s never finished better than 40th overall at a grand tour.
De Gendt also recently received the Kilometervreter award at the Nieuwsblad Flandrien gala. The award is given to the hardest worker in the peloton. At the gala, Quick-Steps Yves Lampaert won Flandrien of the Year.
Van der Poel won’t cut ‘cross season short for classics
Mathieu van der Poel’s Corendon-Circus squad is expected to be granted Pro Continental status in 2019, meaning the Dutch cyclocross, road and mountain bike national champion will be able to race the WorldTour-level spring classics. However, he will not cut his cyclocross season short to prepare for the road season.
“We are not planning to leave the cross [season] early,” team manager Christoph Roodhooft told Het Laatste Nieuws. “His road program will be limited. We are working hard. Before Mathieu leaves for high-altitude training to Spain on November 28, we hope to have a program [finalized].”
Days prior to his team managers comments, van der Poel said publicly he plans to race Gent-Wevelgem and possibly E3 Harelbeke and Paris-Roubaix as well. Road racing seems to be third in line for the Dutchman. He has made it a goal of going to the Olympics for cross-country mountain biking and is already a favourite for gold should he continue to improve on the trajectory he did this year. He ended his first full cross-country mountain-bike season with third at the world championships.
Keisse and Vivani reveal Quick-Steps 2019 kit at Ghent-Six
Iljo Keisse and Elia Viviani are lining up at the Ghent Six Days track event this week in a new kit. The duo wore a kit branded Deceuninck-Quick Step on the opening night of racing. Deceuninck, a Belgian-based producer of PVC systems for windows and doors, will be a title sponsor for Patrick Lefevere’s team next year. Quick-Step Floors captured 73 victories in 2018, the most in team history. Viviani was the winningest rider in the WorldTour this season with 19 wins. The squad capped off the year by winning the world team time trial championships for the fourth time.
Conor Dunne is the latest Aqua Blue Sport rider to find a team for next season. The Irishman will join Israel Cycling Academy in 2019. Dunne made headlines in September when Larry Warbasse and he created their own mini stage race after the team withdrew from the Tour of Britain.
The #NoGoTour as it was labelled brought the duo much publicity and it most certainly did not hamper either of their chances of finding a team for next season. Warbasse will race for Ag2r-La Mondiale and is the first American to race for the team in program history.
18-year-old William Holowesko signed with Hagens Berman Axeon, completing the team’s roster for the 2019 season. Holowesko is moving to the Pro Continental level from the Hot Tubes Development Cycling Team, which is considered the premier junior development program in the United States. WorldTour pros such as Ian Boswell (Katusha-Alpecin), Lawson Craddock and Nate Brown (EF Education First-Drapac), and Ben King (Dimension Data) rode for the program.
Happy Birthday to …
Bernard Hinault (64), the Badger as he is known as dominated the Tour de France in the late 70s and early 80s. He won five Tour de France titles before retiring in 1986. The 1986 Tour was fraught with controversy as Hinault battled with teammate Greg LeMond for supremacy. LeMond won out, winning his first of three Tours and denying Hinault a record sixth title. Hinault is also the last Frenchman to win the Tour and was an ambassador on the race for many decades.
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Feature Image:Iljo Keisse and Elia Viviani during the opening night of racing at the Ghent Six track event.