Merckx avoids corruption trial; Molano steps in for Gaviria: Daily News Digest

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

After a corruption case toiled in Belgian court for 11 years, Eddy Merckx will not face prosecution. Team UAE-Emirates lost a Colombian sprinter to illness at Tour Colombia, but replaced him with another — who went on to win immediately. The individual pursuit world champion took his first road victory at Tour de la Provence.

Story of the day: Merckx will not be prosecuted for corruption

Cycling legend Eddy Merckx will not be prosecuted in a case involving alleged corruption in the supply of a set of bicycles to police in Brussels, according to the Brussels Times, as the case’s statute of limitations has expired.

Merckx was alleged to have supplied a police commissioner and his wife with expensive Eddy Merckx bicycles in return for winning a 15,000-euro contract to supply 46 bikes to South Brussels bike patrols.  According to the prosecution, the police commissioner inspected the bids ahead of the deadline and provided that information to Merckx, allowing Merckx to file a lower bid and win the contract.

The investigation began 11 years ago, and has been dormant for nearly four years “due to various factors,” a spokesperson for Brussels prosecutor’s office told the Brussels Times. This week, in a closed session, a judge ruled that the statute of limitations had passed. Like Merckx, others accused in the case have escaped prosecution, including the police commissioner in question.

Quote of the day

“It is the dream and the hope that we have. The project could cost around $30 million per year, which, with the union of three or four multinational companies, we believe could be viable.”

— Colombian sports ministry director Ernesto Lucena, detailing how Colombian oil and gas company Ecopetrol could head a consortium of sponsors to assume Team Sky’s sponsorship, following reports that Sky manager Dave Brailsford is in discussions with Colombian President Ivan Duque on launching Colombia’s first-ever WorldTour squad.

Race Radio

Molano fills Gavria’s shoes, wins Stage 3 at Tour Colombia

Colombian sprint star Fernando Gaviria (UAE-Team Emirates) was unable to start Stage 3 of the Tour Colombia due to a viral respiratory illness. Gaviria abandoned the race Thursday after a miserable first two stages that saw him dropped during the 14km opening team time trial and dropped again leading into the field sprint on Stage 2, losing over a minute on the day.

Fortunately for UAE-Team Emirates, they had another Colombian sprinter on the squad, 24-year-old Juan Sebastián Molano, who won Stage 3 in Gaviria’s place ahead of Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick Step) and Diego Ochoa (Manzana Postobon).

Another Colombian, Rigoberto Uran, reclaimed the leader’s jersey he took after his EF Education First team won the opening time trial.

Juan Sebastian Molano (UAE-Team Emirates) at the start of Stage 3 of the 2019 Tour Colombia.

It was a disappointing end for Gaviria at his home race; last year, he won the first three stages at the race, then called Colombia Oro y Paz. Already this season, he’s won two stages at the Vuelta a San Juan in Argentina last month.

“I’m sorry to leave the race and go home, but I have to think about my condition and recover my best health,” Gaviria said. “I’m not able to ride at my best so I think the best decision is to stop myself now. Thanks to everyone, all the fans who’ve always supported me and who I know, who are also supporting me in this moment.”

Ganna wins opening time trial at Tour de la Provence

Italian Filippo Ganna (Team Sky) won the 8.9km opening time trial of the Tour de la Provence, nine seconds ahead of Sebastian Langeveld (EF Education First). Remi Cavagna (Deceuninck-Quick Step) was third, 10 seconds behind Ganna.

It was the first road victory for Ganna, a two-time world champion in the individual pursuit, and was taken in front his parents, Daniela and Marco, who represented Italy at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics for rowing. It was also his first win for Team Sky since transferring from UAE Team Emirates.

The four-stage race finishes Sunday at Aix-en-Provence. Among those competing include Tony Gallopin (AG2R-La Mondiale), Gorka Izagirre (Astana), Sep Vanmarcke (EF Education First), Nicolas Roche (Team Sunweb), John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo), Warren Barguil (Arkea-Samsic), Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie), and Pierre Rolland (Vital Concept-B&B Hotels).

Coming up next: Tour of Oman

The six-stage UCI 2.1 Tour of Oman begins on February 16. Greg Van Avermaet (CCC), winner on Stage 3 at Oman last year, will be there looking to hone his classics preparation.

“I always enjoy racing in Oman and I think it’s a really good race for me at this point in the season with nice weather and conditions, and mostly short stages,” Van Avermaet said. “There are a few stages that suit me so that is definitely the main goal in Oman, but it’s also a good opportunity to prepare for the classics. At this time of the year, it’s important to have racing kilometers in the legs after a long off season so the Tour of Oman is the perfect race for that.”

Colorado Classic earns 2.1 designation from UCI

The Colorado Classic was designated as a UCI 2.1 stage race for 2019, making it the only 2.1 category women’s race in the Western Hemisphere for the season. Heading into its third year, the Colorado Classic will only be UCI sanctioned for the women’s stage race, offering significant UCI points for 2020 Olympic qualification. The only women’s race ranked higher in the US is the Amgen Tour of California, which is a Women’s WorldTour event.

Tweet of the day

Celebrating Valentine’s Day, the UCI is posting photos of the stars of the sport from their childhood under the hashtag #FirstBikeLove. How about this one, showing current world road champion Alejandro Valverde?


Industry Nine unveils lightning-quick Hydra freehub design

Industry Nine has long earned a reputation for quick-engaging rear hubs, which were already among the best in the segment at a scant 3°. The new Hydra design, however, drops that figure to a nearly instant 0.52°. Hydra-equipped rear hubs are fitted with a 115-tooth drive ring and six pawls, but since those pawls are arranged out of phase with each other, there are effectively 690 engagement points.

Industry Nine Hydra

Under normal loads, Hydra is intentionally designed to only have one pawl (out of six in total) engaged with the 115-tooth drive ring, but a second — or even third — set engages under progressively heavier loads to help further distribute forces. Industry Nine vice president Jacob McGahey claims this arrangement actually improves, not compromises, axle and bearing durability.

At the other end of the spectrum is Industry Nine’s new 101 hub, a more budget-minded design that uses a more conventional dual phased-pawl driver design and 90 engagement points for a 4° engagement speed.

Hydra-equipped wheelsets from Industry Nine (and other partners, such as Enve) are available now, and 101-equipped wheelsets will become available in about 1-2 months. Standalone 101 hubsets, however, are available now.

On this date…

Today marks the 15-year anniversary of the death of Marco Pantani, the Italian climber who won both the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France in 1998. Pantani died on February 14, 2004, at the age of 34. Cause of death was attributed to a cocaine overdose.

Happy Birthday to …

Cadel Evans, the first Australian to win the Tour de France, in 2011 — as well as the first Australian to win the UCI Road World Championship, in 2009 — turns 42 today.

Italian Gianni Bugno, a two-time world champion, winner of the 1990 Giro d’Italia, and now head of the Cyclistes Professionnels Associés (CPA), turns 55 today.

Belgian Jan Bakelants (Sunweb), who won a stage and spent two days in the maillot jaune at the 2013 Tour de France, turns 33 today.

In case you missed it …

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