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Michael Matthews sprints to Catalunya stage 2 win, Froome crashes, EPO AAF for San Juan KOM champ, 2021 Giro to start in Sicily. Those stories and more in today’s Daily News Digest.
Story of the Day: Matthews wins stage 2, Froome crashes at Volta a Catalunya
Michael Matthews sprinted to his first victory of 2019 in convincing fashion, proving fastest in a slightly uphill finish in the Volta a Catalunya’s second stage.
The Sunweb rider topped defending overall champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott) in Sant Feliu de Guixols.
“Coming into the final kilometers I was able to move up to the front on the downhill and flat before the climb to the finish. I positioned myself near Valverde as I thought he was the favorite for the day,” Matthews said. “I timed my sprint really well, starting with 150 meters to go and managed to hold everyone off.”
Lotto Soudal’s Thomas De Gendt retained his overall lead, but elsewhere in the GC picture, Chris Froome dropped out of overall contention after a crash and subsequent time loss.
The 168-kilometer stage set out from Mataró and traversed three categorized climbs and several uncategorized ascents over the course of the afternoon, with a short uphill kick to cap things off in the finale. Josef Cerný (CCC), Jonas Gregaard (Astana), and Marco Minnaard (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) comprised the day’s main breakaway, and the peloton was content to let the trio build a sizable advantage in the early goings. The gap topped out at seven minutes before the combined efforts of Lotto Soudal and Sunweb began to gradually pull the escapees back. It wasn’t smooth sailing for everyone in the peloton, however.
José Herrada went down hard in a crash with around 100 kilometers to go, abandoning the race. His Cofidis team later announced that he suffered a broken collarbone in the fall. Then, with 40 kilometers to go, Chris Froome (Sky) hit the deck in a pileup with Andres Schillinger and Jay McCarthy of Bora-Hansgrohe.
All three remounted, but Froome was unable to reconnect with the pack, ultimately losing more than 13 minutes on the GC. Whether the four-time Tour de France champion sustained any lasting injuries in the crash is as of yet unknown, but Sky was not hitting the panic button for the Volta a Catalunya GC battle, at least, with Egan Bernal still well in contention.
Up the road, the breakaway’s gap was down under a minute with 30 kilometers to go, spurring Cerny to attack his fellow escapees. He managed to drop Gregaard and Minnaard, but all three were mopped up in short order.
Sunweb and Sky pushed the pace over the final 20 kilometers, making short work of a few brief attempts to get clear, and setting up a sprint on an uphill drag in Sant Feliu de Guixols.
Impey was the first big name to go on the finishing straight, but Matthews surged past and never looked back, taking a convincing victory at the line. De Gendt finished safely in the bunch to hold on to his healthy race lead for another day, although the Belgian said that he expects to lose the jersey as the climbers come to the fore: The Volta a Catalunya continues Wednesday with a stage 3 that features a challenging summit finish at Vallter 2000.
Niccolò Bonifazio has taken to social media to ask fans to leave the death-defying descending to the professionals, on a closed course. The Direct Énergie rider – who lives and trains near the Cipressa – put his incredible skills and local know-how on display with a hair-raising descent of the iconic Milano-Sanremo climb on Saturday. Alarmed by reports of amateurs trying to imitate his descending masterwork on open roads, he beseeched people to stop risking their lives in traffic.
Bonifazio published a statement in his Facebook page because some fans are trying to imitate him on Cipressa descent in open traffic. pic.twitter.com/8MxbTD8S9W
— La Flamme Rouge (@laflammerouge16) March 26, 2019
Vuelta a San Juan king of the mountains provisionally suspended for EPO
Daniel Zamora (Agrupación Virgen de Fatima), winner of the king of the mountains classification at this year’s Vuelta a San Juan, has been provisionally suspended after an adverse analytical finding for EPO.
According to the UCI’s list of provisional suspensions, the 32-year-old Argentine delivered a sample that returned an adverse result on January 30, the fourth stage of the Vuelta a San Juan. Should Zamora’s AAF be upheld, it wouldn’t be the first time a protagonist in the Argentine stage race has fallen afoul of anti-doping regulations. Last year’s winner Gonzalo Najar was banned for four years following a positive test for CERA.
2021 Giro d’Italia to start in Sicily
The Giro d’Italia will visit Sicily for three stages in 2020, and the island will host the “Big Start” of the race in 2021 for the first time since 2008. The host town is yet to be announced.
The visits to Sicily will come as part of a three-year deal that organizer RCS has signed with the Sicilian regional government, a deal that also includes the revived Giro di Sicilia. The stage race is returning this season for the first time in 42 years as a UCI 2.1 event, featuring a Mount Etna finale.
Morabito breaks pubis
Veteran pro Steve Morabito sustained a broken pubis in a training crash. The injury will require surgery.
According to his Groupama-FDJ team, the 36-year-old Swiss rider will be sidelined for 20 days, a lengthy stretch of time off the bike in what he had planned to be his final season before retirement.
Tom Boonen links up with Martini Racing Ciclismo
Retired Classics icon Tom Boonen has “signed” with a new “team,” joining Martini Racing Ciclismo.
The organization, an initiative by Italian vermouth brand Martini, “supports and promotes community, a healthy lifestyle, and improved well-being in the hospitality industry through group cycling,” according to a statement. In short, it’s a cycling club for bartenders—who knew?
Boonen hosted a club ride last year and joined a camp earlier this season, and will now serve as “the official coach” of the team.
Classics season is upon us! Wednesday brings the first WorldTour edition of Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne. The erstwhile Three Days of De Panne is now a collection of one-day events for men and women, and plenty of big names will be at the start line for Wednesday’s men’s race.
Deceuninck-Quick-Step will feature defending champion Elia Viviani, who could face tough competition in a potential sprint finish from the likes of Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates), Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma), and Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe).
Happy Birthday to …
Laurent Brochard turns 51. The Frenchman enjoyed a career year in 1997, winning a stage at the Tour de France and a world road title, but had a less enjoyable following season in the rainbow jersey, as he was caught up in the Festina Affair at the Tour de France.
In case you missed it …