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Welcome to your Daily News Digest. Here’s what’s happening today:
Almost a year to the day since being hit by a truck, Petr Vakoc will make his return to racing; Andre Greipel has an early-season gorilla on his back; and the gravel tyre market just got even more competitive. Those stories and more in today’s Daily News Digest.
Story of the Day: Vakoc to return to racing
After a lengthy period away from the sport, Petr Vakoc (Deceuninck – Quickstep) will make a long-awaited return to racing this weekend. The Czech rider, along with teammate Laurens de Plus, was hit by a truck whilst on a training camp in South Africa at the end of January 2018. While de Plus escaped with relatively minor injuries, Vakoc wasn’t so lucky, suffering multiple broken vertebrae.
A long and arduous rehabilitation followed, including several months spent riding lying on his back with the front of the bike suspended. Vakoc was able to begin riding on the road again in June last year, working steadily to recover from his severe injuries.
Now in a triumph of grit and determination, almost a year to the day since a near-career-ending collision and 16 months since his last race, Vakoc will line up at the Vuelta San Juan this weekend.
Greipel thwarted in Gabon
Andre Greipel’s season has begun in Africa at La Tropicale Amissa Bongo, where the German veteran was hoping to open his account for new team Arkea-Samsic and build some confidence for the 2019 season.
Three stages in, he’s yet to hit his stride, losing out to Niccolo Bonifazio (Direct Energie) on the first two stages and finishing fifth behind 18-year-old Eritrean sprinter Biniam Girmay on today’s outing.
Greipel has been clear that his team is not to blame, noting his appreciation for their support following each stage, and is obviously frustrated that things are yet to go his way.
Van der Sande acquitted
Following a positive test for the anti-inflammatory prednisolone late last year, Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto-Soudal) has received word that he’s free to resume racing.
“My sample contained prednisolone, from the nasal spray Sofrasolone. This nasal spray is freely available, was delivered to me via the team doctor and is permitted within competition [when] stated on the doping control form,” Van der Sande explained. Mometasone – which offers similar therapeutic benefits – was mistakenly written on the form instead of Sofrasolone, leading to the positive test.
The defence offered by Van der Sande was accepted by the UCI, with the rider now free to start his 2019 season.
Victorian Summer of Cycling continues
In Australia, the Victorian Summer of Cycling continues with Towards Zero Race Melbourne to be held this evening on the Albert Park Formula One circuit in inner-Melbourne.
The men’s field will cover 74.2km of the flat, fast circuit and the women’s peloton lining up in the heat of the day for a 63.6km race.
It’s a chance for the sprinters of the peloton to fine-tune their finish ahead of this weekend’s Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, where the likes of Elia Viviani (Deceuninck Quickstep) and Chloe Hosking (Alé Cipollini) will fancy their chances.
Tweet of the day
Following a crash in the closing metres of the second stage of the La Tropicale Amissa Bongo, one of the riders crossed the finish line with a little extra baggage…
ASE’s long and winding road goes on
Head Sports’ purchase of the bankrupt Advanced Sports Enterprises – owner of the Performance Bike shop chain and brands Fuji, Breezer and Kestrel – has hit a snag, just a day after the proposed deal was announced.
The latest hiccup for ASE comes following the insistence of Head’s attorneys that $9 million in cash assets should be included as part of the sale – money earmarked to pay back ASE’s creditors. The bankruptcy judge presiding over the case was not convinced, sending the purchase back for re-auction and closing by saying “this is a gosh awful mess that has been created here.”
Read more at Bicycle Retailer.
Mavic Cosmic Pro Carbon SL Disc wheelset
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Mavic has been stuck in the past, as up until recently, that’s been the case. However, the longstanding French company has thoroughly revamped its product range in recent years, and the new Cosmic Pro Carbon SL UST Disc wheelset is a strong testament to just how far things have progressed.
The 45mm-deep all-carbon aero rims are tubeless-compatible (using Mavic’s excellent Road UST system) and measure a healthy 19mm between the bead hooks; the new ID360 rear hub engages faster and requires far less maintenance than the ancient FTS-L design, and the straight-pull stainless steel spokes feature an elliptical profile that — at least in theory — are more aerodynamic than standard bladed ones.
Actual weight for the pair is a highly respectable 1,558g (708g front, 870g rear, pre-taped, with valve stems), and retail price is US$2,100 / AU$TBC / £1,900 / €2,100, including tires.
See more at www.mavic.com.
Bontrager GR1 Team Issue gravel tires
Bontrager clearly has Schwalbe in its sights with its new GR1 Team Issue gravel bike tires, which sport a similarly compact and low-profile array of tiny knobs across a supple, high-volume tubeless-ready casing. The knobs on the GR1 Team Issues are more polygonal instead of round, though, and Bontrager also alters the knob spacing across the crown. Dual-compound rubber should help with rolling resistance, wear, and traction, too.
The GR1 Team Issue is available solely in a 700x40mm size (at least for now), and retail price is US$65 / AU$70 / £50 / €50. Actual weight is 418g.
For more, see here.
Specialized Pathfinder Pro 2Bliss gravel tires
Specialized’s latest entry into the red-hot gravel tire market features a solid center tread, a low-profile dashed intermediate pattern, and tall shoulder blocks that the company claims to provide a fast roll when upright, but extra security when cornering on loose ground. The Pro 2Bliss version is built with a reinforced 120tpi casing and tubeless beads, plus Specialized’s trademark Gripton rubber compound.
The Pathfinder Pro 2Bliss is offered in 700x38mm, 700x42mm, and 650x47mm sizes, and all of them retail for US$45 / AU$75 / £42 / €46. Actual weight for the 700x38mm size is 485g.
Happy Birthday to …
Stefano Zanini (50), who over his lengthy career won Amstel Gold (’96), finished second at Flanders (’98) and took three Grand Tour stages. Zanini retired in 2007.
Merhawi Kudus turns 25. A promising stage race prospect, Kudus was – together with compatriot Daniel Teklehaimanot – one of the first two black Africans to compete in the Tour de France. The young Eritrean has just signed with Astana for 2019 after a five year stint with the Dimension Data setup.
In case you missed it …
An ode to the humble hex key
For some, fixing bikes can be just as therapeutic as riding them. Tech writer Dave Rome shares his passion for the mechanical side of our sport.
The weekly spin: The intersection of American football and international cyclocross
On February 3, international cyclocross and American football will hold the biggest events of their respective seasons on the same day. In his latest column, editor-at-large Neal Rogers explains that while they’re very different in many ways, in other ways they’re not so different at all.
Feature Image: The mountains of Norway, as shot by the Grubers.