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Welcome to your Daily News Digest. Here’s what’s happening today:
Caleb Ewan climbs to victory in the UAE, Remco Evenepoel has a nasty tumble, there’s another contender for the World Hour Record, and Philippe Gilbert is hoping for some Classics success in 2019. Those stories and more in today’s Daily News Digest.
Story of the Day:
Caleb Ewan climbs to UAE stage win
The day’s racing was animated by strong tailwinds and crosswinds, making for a nervous day in the peloton as the bunch split into echelons and regrouped several times. Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) made a gutsy but futile solo foray off the front in the final 10 kilometres, but it all came back together for the 17% climb to Hatta Dam, where the sprinters and the GC contenders alike duked it out.
The steep gradient caught several riders out, and put paid to UAE-Emirates star Alexander Kristoff’s chances – overgeared, he broke his derailleur and chain and was forced to walk across the line.
Caleb Ewan, however, took the final right hander onto the climb in a good position, with the right gear, and was able to open a gap and take the win by several bike lengths over Matteo Moschetti (Trek-Segafredo) and race leader Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma).
“I watched the video of previous years a few times. In the videos, you don’t really see how steep it is. When I started sprinting I could really feel it – had to click down a few gears to keep on top of it, but I felt good and could really keep the power until the end,” Ewan said after the stage.
Watch @Lotto_Soudal rider @CalebEwan's power-to-weight ratio soar well into double figures during his awesome victory on the steep Hatta Dam on stage four of the @uae_tour 🎥 #UAETour pic.twitter.com/FKkm09igCS
— Velon CC (@VelonCC) February 27, 2019
The race continues with an expected sprint stage tomorrow, followed by the queen stage, tackling the 20km climb of Jebel Jais, where the winner of the UAE Tour should be decided.
Beauty of Cycling
Many months in the making, we’re thrilled today to release a major feature on riding in Kyrgyzstan – The price of progress: Riding the Silk Road before it changes forever.
Check out the full feature now.
Remco Evenepoel’s bad day
Belgian prodigy Remco Evenepoel had a day to forget at the UAE Tour, coming down hard at the 85km mark of the day’s stage and crashing out of the race. After being taken away in an ambulance, the team announced after assessment that Evenepoel was – relatively speaking – okay, having suffered abrasions on his elbow, under-arm, hip and fingers, but avoiding fractures or concussion.
In an Instagram post, Evenepoel seemed to point the blame for the crash at a race motorbike:
“I am of course upset and a little bit scared about what happened, as it was my first World Tour race and this is not how I wanted it to end. But apart from some soreness, I’m okay and nothing is broken, which is a relief,” Evenepoel explained afterward. “I hope to heal fast and return as soon as possible to the pack.”
Gilbert ready for classics
After an impressive 2018 where he was a key animator and helper for his Deceuninck-Quickstep squad – although not notching a victory himself – Gilbert is hoping to do a little better in 2019. “Only the victory counts. It’s important to win. The condition is good and I had a good winter with good training blocks,” he said.
Gilbert – a former winner of Giro di Lombardia, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and Tour of Flanders – is targeting Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix, in the hope of completing a sweep of all five monuments, a feat that only three riders have done before him.
Mikkel Bjerg announces World Hour Record attempts
Danish phenomenon Mikkel Bjerg is the latest rider to announce his intention to tackle the World Hour Record. This comes soon after news, as reported yesterday, that Victor Campanaerts will make an attempt on the record in April.
Bjerg, the current U23 World Time Trial Champion, has form – he is the unofficial second-fastest over the hour, having covered 53.730 kilometres at sea level in an attempt in Odense last year which didn’t have UCI officials present and as such doesn’t stand.
After having spent a couple of years trying to develop into a climber, then a classics rider, Bjerg has narrowed his focus for 2019. “I realized that the only thing that matters to me is the world hour record. That is why this year I am going to focus on my total power output in sixty minutes,” Bjerg told WielerFlits.
Avila on the attack in Rwanda
On stage four of the Tour of Rwanda, Edwin Avila (Israel Cycling Academy) rode away with an exciting stage win having attacked from the day’s breakaway at 4km to go, and holding off the pursuit.
Merhawi Kudus (Astana) keeps a solid lead in the GC, by virtue of his impressive back-to-back stage wins on stages 2 and 3.
The Tour of Rwanda – arguably Africa’s most important and prestigious stage race – continues tomorrow with a tough, hilly stage into the north of the central African country.
Anti-doping operation underway in Austria
In a series of tweets, Austrian sporting publication ZDFSports has revealed that a significant anti-doping operation is underway.
Breaking News zur Doping-Razzia in Seefeld: Operation „Aderlass“
Mehrere Hausdurchsuchungen und Festnahmen. Verdacht auf Wigenblutdoping. Einen Sportler hat man auf frischer Tat mit Nadel im Arm aufgegriffen. 120 Beamten im Einsatz. Die Sportler in Haff werden derzeit vernommen. pic.twitter.com/zQSsKjJHlx
— ZDF Sport (@ZDFsport) February 27, 2019
At this stage, two Austrian athletes, two Estonians and a Kazakh are implicated in blood doping, with one athlete apparently caught with a needle in his arm. The raids are related to the Ski World Cup.
Latest reports suggest that one of the doctors arrested in connection to this is Dr. Mark Schmidt, a former doctor at Gerolsteiner and Milram cycling teams.
Watch this space…
‘Gram of the day
Not all of us have access to a custom jig specifically built for removing seized seat posts… but it’s pretty mesmerising.
Meanwhile, some biting satire from Australia, following George Pell’s conviction…
Proposed tariff increases that were set to hit the US cycling industry appear to have been delayed again, according to tweets from President Donald Trump.
China Trade Deal (and more) in advanced stages. Relationship between our two Countries is very strong. I have therefore agreed to delay U.S. tariff hikes. Let’s see what happens?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 25, 2019
The proposed tariff hike on Chinese manufactured goods – which includes $1 billion in cycling-related goods – was set to rise to 25% on March 1, sparking concern within the US cycling industry about a steep rise in product costs affecting sales.
It’s the second delay to the tariff hike, which was originally scheduled for Jan 1.
Happy Birthday to …
Sarah Roy (33). The Mitchelton-Scott rider’s 2019 season is off to a promising start, with a 3rd place at the National Championships and winning the points classification at the Santos Women’s Tour.
Aitor Gonzalez (44), winner of the 2002 Vuelta a Espana.
In case you missed it …