Denifl admits to doping; Classics season begins: Daily News Digest

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

Stefan Denifl has confessed to blood doping. Deceuninck-QuickStep is already making its mark on the Spring Classics. Primoz Roglic is looking great for the Giro d’Italia. And Australia had a great week at the Track World Championships. Those stories and a whole lot more in today’s Daily News Digest.

Story of the Day: Denifl confesses to blood doping

Recently retired Austrian cyclist Stefan Denifl has admitted to blood doping. Reports in the Austrian media suggest Denifl was taken into police custody following an investigation that saw a handful of athletes arrested at the Nordic Ski World Championships in Austria. The rider was let go after confessing to police.

ORF suggests Denifl is likely to be charged with sporting fraud, a crime which carries a prison sentence of up to three years in Austria.

The biggest win of Denifl’s career came on stage 20 of the 2017 Vuelta.

Denifl is yet to make a public statement and it’s not yet clear when and for how long he was doping. He rode for Cervelo TestTeam, Leopard Trek, Vacansoleil, IAM Cycling and Aqua Blue Sport during his career. He was set to race with CCC in 2019, but the team announced on Christmas Eve that a mutual agreement saw his contract terminated “for personal reasons.”

Speaking to Cyclingnews over the weekend, CCC manager Jim Ochowicz said Denifl’s biological passport showed nothing suspicious: “We wouldn’t have signed him if there were any red flags,” he said. “I met with him at the Worlds in Innsbruck. He wasn’t selected for the Championships and he was free to come over. He had a good resume, and had won a couple of big races. He was a semi-climber, not expensive and someone that fit our selection because Austria is one of the countries that CCC does business in. We were looking for an Austrian actually.

“He never came to camp, never set foot on anything we did.”

Denifl took two notable wins during his career: the overall at the 2017 Tour of Austria and a stage of the Vuelta a Espana the same year.

Beauty of Cycling

In June 2018, 11-time track world champion Kristina Vogel collided with another rider during training, severing her spinal cord and ultimately leaving her in wheelchair. It was a tragic end to a brilliant career, but Vogel’s positive attitude since then has been an inspiration for so many.

And Vogel hasn’t left the sport behind entirely — she was in the commentary booth at the Track World Championships this past week.

And here’s a moving video from BBC Sport that shows how Vogel has adapted to life since her accident:

Race Radio

Bob Jungels wins Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne

Bob Jungels has given Deceuninck-QuickStep an Opening Weekend double by soloing to victory at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. Jungels was part of an elite lead group of five when he attacked solo with 16km to go. The Luxembourg road and time trial champion continued on to the line to win by 12 seconds ahead of Owain Doull (Sky). Niki Terpstra (Direct Energie) was third.

“I was a bit too far away on the [Oude] Kwaremont, but due to the headwind there was a regrouping,” Jungels said. “On the cobblestones of the Varent I wanted to thin the group and the five of us got away. I saw that I was the strongest and a 15km time trial is something I can do.”

Follow the link for results.

Zdenek Stybar wins the men’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

Earlier in the weekend Jungels’ Czech teammate Zdenek Stybar took a similar win at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, also riding away from an elite lead group to win solo. Stybar’s move came later than Jungels’ — just a couple kilometres from the line — but as with Jungels, when he went, no one was able to catch him.

“The real race started on the Molenberg and we worked well together, even on the Muur and Bosberg, believing we could make it to the finish line,” Stybar said of the lead group. “Initially, I was waiting for the sprint, but with two kilometers left I felt it was the right moment to go and thus went full gas.”

Greg Van Avermaet (CCC) was second from the chase group, ahead of Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal), Dylan Teuns (Bahrain Merida) and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana).

Follow the link to read more at CyclingTips.

Chantal Blaak wins women’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

The women’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad had a solo winner on Saturday as well, with Dutch champion Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans) winning by more than a minute.

The former world champion attacked between the Muur and the Bosberg climbs to come into Ninove alone, giving her Boels-Dolmans team its first win of 2019.

Marta Bastianelli (Virtu Cycling) was second from a chase group of 29, ahead of emerging 22-year-old Jip van den Bos (Boels-Dolmans) and Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott).

Follow the link to read more at CyclingTips.

Marta Bastianelli wins the Omloop van het Hageland

A day after taking second at Het Nieuwsblad, Bastianelli went one better at the Omloop van het Hageland. Some 14 riders were left at the front of the race when it came to the final sprint, with European champion Bastianelli taking the win ahead of Lotto Lepisto (Trek-Segafredo) and Leah Kirchmann (Sunweb).

It’s been an impressive start to the year for Bastianelli with the 31-year-old former world champion finishing second and first in what are her only two races so far.

Follow the link for results.

Primoz Roglic wins the inaugural UAE Tour

While Opening Weekend in Belgium attracted most of the attention this past weekend, there was still some exciting racing happening elsewhere around the world. The inaugural UAE Tour came to a close in the Middle East with Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) taking out the overall title.

Roglic won the penultimate stage of the UAE Tour to seal his overall victory.

The Slovenian took the overall lead on the opening day of the seven-stage WorldTour race when Jumbo-Visma won the teams time trial. He then extended his lead on each of the race’s three uphill finishes, including on Friday’s stage 6 which ended at the top of the Jebel Jais climb. Roglic won that stage, beating Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) and David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) from a group of nine. In doing so, Roglic sealed the overall victory.

The final stage ended in a bunch sprint with Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) taking an impressive victory ahead of Fernando Gaviria (UAE-Team Emirates) and Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal).

Roglic, meanwhile, looks set to be Jumbo-Visma’s sole leader at a Grand Tour for the first time, with the Slovenian working towards a tilt at the Giro d’Italia in May.

Follow the link for results.

Merhawi Kudus wins the Tour du Rwanda

Over in Africa, Merhawi Kudus (Astana) was able to convert two stage wins into overall success at the Tour du Rwanda. The Eritrean won solo on stage 2, taking the overall lead, then won again the following day to extend his lead. He remained at the top of the GC for the remainder of the eight-stage race, eventually taking the win by 10 seconds ahead of Rein Taaramae (Direct Energie).

Follow the link for results.

Aussie gold rush at the Track World Championships

The Track World Championships were held in Pruszków, Poland this past week and it was the Netherlands and Australia that came away with the most to celebrate. The Dutch topped the table with 11 medals, including six gold. Australia was just behind with 10, also including six gold.

The highlight from an Australia perspective was the men’s team pursuit in which Leigh Howard, Alex Porter, Kelland O’Brien and Sam Welsford won gold and set a new world record. The new mark of 3:48.012 is considerably quicker than their previous mark of 3:49.804.

The Aussie women won their team pursuit as well, with Annette Edmondson, Ashlee Ankudinoff, Georgia Baker and Amy Cure winning gold ahead of Great Britain.

Sam Welsford won the men’s scratch race world title, just half an hour after his team pursuit gold; Steph Morton and Kaarle McCulloch won the women’s sprint; Ashlee Ankudinoff is the new individual pursuit world champion; and Alex Manly won the points race.

Britain’s richest man to sponsor Team Sky?

While Team Sky looks unlikely to get the Colombian backing that was once rumoured, another potential sponsor has emerged. The Times reports that team principal Dave Brailsford has met with Britain’s wealthiest man, Sir Jim Ratcliffe, to discuss the possibility of the billionaire industrialist funding the team.

Ratcliffe is a keen amateur cyclist and with a personal wealth estimated at £21 billion (AU$39 billion; US$28 billion), paying Sky’s annual bill of £35 million (AU$65 million; US$46 million) shouldn’t be too much of a hassle. Ratcliffe reportedly lives in Monaco where Chris Froome and other Sky riders are based, and has a history of supporting various sporting endeavours.

E3 Harelbeke organisers asked to remove controversial poster

The UCI has asked the organiser of E3 Harelbeke to stop using its controversial poster, which features two women in bodypaint, made to look like a frog. The caption on the ad reads “Who shall crown himself prince in Harelbeke?”

The UCI’s statement.

The UCI and the organisers of E3 Harelbeke have clashed before — the governing body called for the removal of a poster for the 2015 edition, which featured a reference to Peter Sagan’s infamous bottom-grabbing incident at the 2013 Tour of Flanders.

Women’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad neutralised

There were strange scenes from the women’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday with the women’s race neutralised due to slow going in the men’s race.

Nicole Hanselmann (Bigla Pro Cycling Team) had attacked solo, and as the men’s peloton sat up allowing a break to go, Hanselmann got within sight of the back of the men’s convoy (the two races started in the same location). The race organisation stopped Hanselmann and then the riders behind, allowing more of a gap to open. And then Hanselmann was set off with the same lead she had before the break. She was later caught.

“It was a bit sad for me because I was in a good mood and when the bunch sees you stopping, they just get a new motivation to catch you,” Hanselmann told Cyclingnews. “The race jury just said we had to neutralise the race because we are getting too close to the men. We could just see the ambulances of the men’s race. I think we stopped for five or seven minutes and then it just kills your chances.”

Tweet of the day

Today’s Tweet of the Day comes from Kiwi Sam Bewley who was impressed with former teammate Roger Kluge’s effort to back up his UAE Tour with a gold medal at the Track World Championships.

Moving Pictures

Highlights from the men’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

Watch how Stybar won his first Omloop.

Highlights from stage 6 of the UAE Tour

Watch as Roglic secures his overall title.

Highlights from the Track Worlds

A highlights package from day 2 of the Track Worlds, including Australia’s two team pursuit gold medals.

Tech News

Pirelli introduces a full range of mountain bike rubber

Pirelli has called on its deep well of resources from its automotive and motorbike divisions to produce its first range of mountain bike tyres. The new Scorpion range consists of four different tread patterns, two casing types and a range of widths, each colour coded for the intended terrain.

The Scorpion name comes from Pirelli’s highly successful motocross tyres. As does much of the testing protocol, with “eight dedicated testers carrying out over 450 tests on different surfaces and 40 data recording sessions, performing checks, measurements and assemblies on more than 800 different tire prototypes and 7 different rim sizes.” Additionally, each width is independently engineered and tested.

For now it’s just 29in sizes available, with a few 27.5in options expected closer to September. Want more? Australian Mountain Bike magazine has all the details from the launch.

Happy Birthday to …

Raul Alcala (55), the first Mexican cyclist to race the Tour de France. Alcala won two stages of the great race — one in 1989 and one in 1990 — and finished top 10 at five different Grand Tours between 1987 and 1992. Alcala raced from 1985 to 1998 before making a comeback in 2008. He won the 2010 Mexican time trial championships at 46 years old — no mean feat.

Alcala in action at the 1992 Tour de France.

Happy birthday too to Dion Smith (26), the Kiwi all-rounder who joined the WorldTour with Mitchelton-Scott this year. Australian multiple-time Paracycling world champion Alistair Donohoe also turns 24.

In case you missed it …

Feature image: Tiesj Benoot leads the bunch up the Molenberg at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Photo by Kristof Ramon.

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