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Welcome to your Daily News Digest. Here’s what’s happening today:
Jakob Fuglsang and Annemiek van Vleuten go solo to take Liège-Bastogne-Liège titles, Valverde swallowed a bee – and it stung him – at La Flèche Wallonne, Rebellin set to retire. Those stories and more in today’s Daily News Digest.
Story of the Day: Fuglsang wins Liège-Bastogne-Liège
Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) finally got his big Classics win. The runner-up at Strade Bianche and La Flèche Wallonne left no doubt at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, soloing away near the top of the Roche-aux-Faucons climb and staying clear through the final kilometers.
Fuglsang took the win with a 27-second advantage over Davide Formolo (Bora-Hansgrohe), whose Bora teammate Maximilian Schachmann came home 57 seconds down to round out the podium in third.
“It was quite a hard one,” Fuglsang said after the victory. “The last climb I had the team leave me in perfect position before the climb. They were a little bit of everywhere most of the day, but in the important moment they were there and did an amazing job.”
Dreary conditions made an already difficult 256-kilometer race in Belgium’s Wallonia region even harder. With a handful of splits and regroupings keeping the pack under pressure over the course of the first few hours, both Dan Martin (UAE-Team Emirates) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) – both on shaky form while dealing with health issues – were among those to abandon before the finale.
After one early break after another was closed down, Fuglsang, Formolo, and Michael Woods (EF Education First) got away from the reduced pack on the Roche-aux-Faucons climb with around 15 kilometers to go. The trio worked well together for a short time, but Woods lost touch near the top of the climb. Moments later, Fuglsang put down the hammer, soloing away from Formolo.
“When Woods started the attack, it was perfect for me to jump with him. I was like, ‘Okay, my finish line is on top,'” he said. “In the moment I looked back and saw that [Woods] was gone, Formolo also left me two or three meters and I knew, ‘Okay, now you have to lay everything out.'”
As Fuglsang powered away, a strong pursuit group formed behind the three riders out front. The chasers managed to sweep up Woods, but Fuglsang’s gap hardly dropped over the final 10 kilometers. His biggest challenge proved to be a wet corner with just under five kilometers to go.
Fortunately, he managed to stay upright despite a close call with the curb.
The 34-year-old Dane crossed the finish line with plenty of time to celebrate taking his first career Classics title – and a big one at that – after coming up short so many times this spring.
1 FUGLSANG Jakob (Astana Pro Team)
2 FORMOLO Davide (BORA – hansgrohe)
3 SCHACHMANN Maximilian (BORA – hansgrohe)
4 YATES Adam (Mitchelton-Scott)
5 WOODS Michael (EF Education First)
6 GAUDU David (Groupama – FDJ)
7 LANDA Mikel (Movistar Team)
8 NIBALI Vincenzo (Bahrain Merida)
9 TEUNS Dylan (Bahrain Merida)
10 POELS Wout (Team Sky)
Another good one from Dan Lloyd …
… who reminds us that’s it’s never a bad time to rewatch the Astana rap video, which features plenty of screen-time for your new Liège winner.
Van Vleuten wins women’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège
Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) soloed to victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, claiming the top step on what would be an all-Dutch podium with Floortje Mackaij (Sunweb) in second and Demi Vollering (Parkhotel Valkenburg) in third.
The win marks van Vleuten’s second WorldTour victory so far in 2019 after another strong solo performance at Strade Bianche.
“To finish my spring campaign with another win, two wins and two second places, I’m super happy,” she said.
Van Vleuten attacked while going up the steep climb of La Redoute with a little over 30 kilometers still to race. She quickly opened up a gap, and then continued to build on it as the kilometers ticked down.
The pack did not come close to catching the world time trial champ. Van Vleuten took the win with a gap of 1:39 to runner-up Mackaij, with Vollering taking third ahead of a small group of chasers that included the likes of two-time winner Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) and an impressive Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) in only her third race back after a yearlong break from racing.
“The weather was hard. I was cold and I just had to focus myself, like, ‘It’s my day. It’s my day. It’s my day.’ And then I had to commit on La Redoute,” van Vleuten said.
“I learned from the last two races, Amstel Gold and Flèche Wallonne, that I have to believe in my own strength. The longer it is, the better it is for me. The harder it is, the better it is for me.”
Valverde swallowed a bee at La Flèche Wallonne
Alejandro Valverde’s DNF at Liège-Bastogne-Liège came at the end of a tough week. Cyclingnews reports that the reigning world road champ swallowed a bee inside the final hour of La Flèche Wallonne.
“I thought it had come out but it stung me here,” Valverde said, pointing to his neck, according to Cyclingnews. “So I was pretty scared, to be honest.”
Valverde, whose career resume in the Ardennes races is unparalleled in today’s peloton, still managed to finish 11th at La Flèche Wallonne and then started Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but he abandoned the rain-soaked race with a hundred kilometers to go.
Rebellin set to retire in June
Speaking of veteran Ardennes stars, Davide Rebellin has decided to finally retire from racing at age 47.
The 2004 Liège champ told La Gazzetta dello Sport that he is switching teams on May 1, from the Algerian Continental squad Sovac to Croatian Continental team Meridiana Kamen, after having some issues with the former. He will race a handful of events with the new team, and then retire at the Italian national championships in June.
Rebellin won several Classics over the course of his career, including taking Ardennes triple in 2004, along with a few stage races and one Giro d’Italia stage. He also served a doping ban after registering a positive test for CERA at the 2008 Summer Olympics, where he initially scored a silver medal that was ultimately stripped.
Chinese town of Wangqingtuo shows effects of bike share boom followed by bust
After a huge but brief boom in the bike share business in China, several start-ups have gone bust. A New York Times article describes the challenges now faced in one of the towns affected by the swift rise and fall of the industry.
Wangqingtuo initially saw massive investment as companies looked to set up bike factories there. Now, “parts of Wangqingtuo look like a ghost town. Many factories are locked tight, and the signs that once showed their names and specialties have been removed,” the New York Times reports.
“Storefronts stand empty on the street where many of the bike factories used to run shops. A stack of bicycle wheels sits beside a storefront. Nearby, someone has piled unwanted bicycle forks in a haphazard row.”
Follow the link for the full story.
Video of the day
Happy Birthday to …
Bradley Wiggins is 39. Britain’s first ever Tour de France winner was also an Olympic and world time trial champion and won several gold medals on the track.
Wiggins retired at the end of 2016. Since then, he has faced some scrutiny for his use of TUEs during his career. He has stayed busy since hanging up the wheels with his WIGGINS Continental team and a Eurosport podcast.
In case you missed it …
Feature Image: Jakob Fuglsang at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Photo: Gruberimages © 2019