Sky, Summer of Cycling, WADA and Russia: Daily News Digest

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Welcome back to your Daily News Digest, the first of 2019. Here’s what happened in the last week or so:

Team Sky decided where to send its three potential grand tour winners, racing kicked off in Australia, EF picked a few unique races for next year, and new kits abound. Those stories and more in today’s Daily News Digest.

Story of the Day: Sky aims its cannons

Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas will both make a run at the Tour de France, Team Sky has announced, and Egan Bernal will take leadership at the Giro d’Italia, his second ever grand tour.

Froome wants to join the Tour’s five-wins club, a feat achieved by only four riders in history. He’ll be 34 years old in July, near the end of the traditional age range for grand tour champions.

“I’m getting to the point in my career now where I’m starting to think about what kind of legacy I want to leave behind and if I am able to win the Tour de France for a fifth time and join that very elite group of bike riders – only four other people have ever done that – it would just be incredible,” he said.

Thomas, who is focusing on the world championships in Yorkshire in addition to the Tour de France, was a bit more coy: “The main goal for me will be to go back to the Tour de France for the best result I can,” he said.

Bernal finished 15th overall in his first Tour de France and though he’ll be just 22 at the Giro’s start in Bologna, he will clearly find himself on the list of favourites.

Race Radio

EF Education First / Rapha announces partial off-beat calendar
EF announced last summer that it will send its pro riders to events and races that fall outside the typical WorldTour team’s purview, and a few of those events were announced Tuesday:

— Dirty Kanza, the 200-mile gravel race across Kansas.
— Leadville Trail 100, a 100-mile mountain bike race from Leadville, Colorado, which sits at 10,000 feet (3,400m) above sea level.
— Three Peaks, the over-hill-and-dale cyclocross event in the UK.
— Taiwan KOM, which climbs Wuling pass in Taiwan from sea level to over 3,300m.

Summer of Cycling kicks off
The new year is only one day old and already the Australian summer of racing is underway. The Lexus Blackburn Bay Crits kicked off in Geelong on Tuesday with Amanda Spratt (Lexus of Blackburn) and Marco Haller (Katusha Sport) starting the new year in style.

Spratt, the 2018 world championship silver medalist, was clearly strongest in the women’s race. She got away with fellow former Aussie champ Peta Mullens (Roxsolt Attaquer) before riding away to a convincing solo victory. Aussie criterium champ Rebecca Wiasak won the bunch sprint for second ahead of Shannon McCurley.

In the men’s race, Haller was part of a five-rider breakaway that forged clear early in the race and held on to the finish. He took the sprint ahead of Raphael Freienstein (Lexus of Blackburn) and Miles Scotson (Groupama-FDJ) – an encouraging result after 190 days off the bike last year due to a career-threatening knee injury.

The three-day Bay Crits continue in Geelong today, and conclude in Williamstown on Thursday. The Australian National Championships begin this weekend.

Teams show off new colors
New year, new sponsors, new colors. Most sponsor contracts in cycling turn over with the new year, so January 1st is the day to see everyone’s new kit design.

Russia misses deadline to hand over lab data to WADA

In September, some three years after it was discovered that Russia was systematically doping its athletes in the run-up to the Rio Olympics, the World Anti-Doping Agency re-instated Russia as a signatory to its anti-doping code. It did so on the stipulation that WADA could gain access to the Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) at a former anti-doping lab in Moscow. The deadline for the retrieval of that data was December 31.

A WADA team went to Moscow on December 17th but was not granted access to LIMS data. The deadline to hand over the data has thus been missed.

The matter is now handed to WADA’s Compliance Review Committee (CRC). The CRC has the ability to once again declare Russia non-compliant. If it does so, the matter would end up in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

The context behind all of this has been a groundswell of displeasure (to put it mildly) by athletes and national anti-doping bodies toward WADA’s decision to allow Russia back into the good graces of international sport. USADA’s Travis Tygart summed up those feelings in a press release today:

“The situation is a total joke and an embarrassment for WADA and the global anti-doping system. In September, WADA secretly moved the goal posts and reinstated Russia against the wishes of athletes, governments and the public. In doing this WADA guaranteed Russia would turn over the evidence of its state-supported doping scheme by today. No one is surprised this deadline was ignored and it’s time for WADA to stop being played by the Russians and immediately declare them non-compliant for failing yet again to meet the deadline. We hold athletes strictly accountable, so states that intentionally rob clean athletes and corrupt the Olympic values – through the worst doping scandal in sporting history no less – should also be held accountable.”

Moving Pictures

Matthieu van der Poel hit a course marshall in Diegem, was knocked off his bike, and won anyway.

Wonderful Losers documentary

Away from the spotlight, back with the medic’s car. One of the most honest depictions of the brutality of pro bike racing we’ve ever seen. You can watch it here, and watch for free if you’re a VeloClub member

Happy Birthday too …

Oscar Gatto (34), Alex Howes (31), and Chloe Dygert (22).

In case you missed it …

CyclingTips Podcast: Ask Us Anything
James, Neal, and Caley answer questions about gravel bikes, drivetrain upgrades, Mark Cavendish’s future, favourite snacks, road racing tactics, and more.

Feature Image: Egan Bernal at Team Sky’s winter training camp. Photo by Russ Ellis.

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