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Welcome to your Daily News Digest. Here’s what’s happening today:
Mark Renshaw announces that 2019 will be his last season as a pro racer, Richie Porte tips Geraint Thomas as a ‘clear favorite’ for the Tour de France, Nacer Bouhanni vents his frustration with Cofidis. Those stories and more in today’s Daily News Digest.
Story of the Day: Renshaw set to retire
Longtime pro Mark Renshaw is retiring at the end of the 2019 season. The 36-year-old Australian announced the decision in a statement on his Dimension Data team’s website.
“After 16 years, I’m proud to announce that 2019 will be my final year as a professional road cyclist,” he said in the statement. “Looking back on my career it’s very gratifying to note the individual successes, as well as being a major component in victories for my team mates.”
A fast-finisher with a nose for sprints, Renshaw started his career as a featured rider in bunch kicks before transitioning to the role of lead out man, where he helped Mark Cavendish achieve many of his greatest career successes. They formed a potent duo during their shared time at HTC-HighRoad, went to separate teams for a few years, and linked up again at Omega Pharma-Quick-Step and then Dimension Data.
“Finishing second on the Champs-Élysées to my team mate Mark Cavendish in the 2009 Tour de France was unforgettable,” Renshaw said.
Neither Cavendish nor Renshaw will start the upcoming Tour. Renshaw said in the statement that his absence from the Tour was planned from earlier in the season.
Upon retirement, Renshaw says he plans to stay in the sport in one way or another. For now, he is looking forward to spending time with family.
“I know it’s the right time to step away from racing, my body and mind won’t allow me to perform and compete to the level that’s required for a race like the Tour de France,” he said. “I am very fortunate to be able to make the decision to finish this chapter of my life on my terms, and I’m hugely excited about my future ventures.
It’s new kit day for a few riders around the pro peloton. Ruth Winder is showing off her new U.S. national champion’s jersey …
… and Bora-Hansgrohe has a new look too, ahead of the Tour de France. Peter Sagan may be out of the Slovakian national champ’s jeresy, but he is back in white!
Thomas: ‘If I end up a one-hit wonder, it’s a pretty good hit to have’
Geraint Thomas has not had an ideal build-up to his Tour de France title defense, and he’ll head into the race with a co-leader at Ineos in the form of up-and-comer Egan Bernal.
At least in the media, he’s taking that in stride. In an interview with the Guardian, he expressed his content at having taken one Tour victory already.
“If I end up as a one-hit wonder, it’s still a pretty good hit to have,” he told the Guardian. “A lot of guys just dream of riding the Tour de France. I have won it.”
Thomas remains one of the top favorites for the race, which starts on Saturday in Brussels. He continues to say he is ready to contend. Just the same, he has made a point of emphasizing that the outcome won’t haunt him, whatever it is.
“I’ve always wanted to do as best I can and win as much as I can but at the same time if I don’t win this year it’s not like I’m going to retire and be like: ‘I should have won that stuffing Tour in 2019,'” he said. “I’m not saying I don’t care. I am certainly going to give everything I’ve got. But I want to get the chance to soak this Tour up, not in too much of a way that it throws me off but just to appreciate it more.”
Porte: Thomas is the Tour favorite
Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) says Geraint Thomas is the top contender for the yellow jersey at the Tour de France. The 34-year-old Australian weighed in on his rivals and the route in a pre-Tour press conference.
Even with Egan Bernal in the picture at Ineos, Porte sees the defending champion as the rider to beat.
“Geraint Thomas is a clear favorite,” Porte said.
“He’s probably in better shape this year too. It’s a shame that Chris Froome is not here, but it does change everything. Now [Thomas] has to be the out-and-out favorite at Ineos and I expect them to back him 100 per cent.”
Porte also touched on his own Tour campaign, noting that he has not had the year he had hoped for, but at least he feels less pre-race stress than in recent seasons in which he started the Tour among the very top favorites.
“I must admit, I haven’t had the season I wanted to have so far, so to go into the Tour under a lot less pressure than the last few years is not a bad thing,” he said.
With most of the big mountains in the final week, Porte said he is hoping to be ready for the GC battle by the time the racing heats up.
Passo Gavia removed from Giro Rosa route
The Passo Gavia is out of the Giro Rosa.
Landslides and inclement weather have compelled organizers of the race to reroute stage 5, which was set to finish on the famed Gavia. The iconic climb has seen precipitation at some inconvenient times already this year, having been removed from the Giro d’Italia route at the last minute in May due to heavy snowfall.
The fifth stage of the Giro Rosa was set to be one of the toughest stages in the race. Organizers have yet to reveal how the altered route will look.
Bouhanni: I’ve been living a nightmare
Nacer Bouhanni’s last few seasons at Cofidis have not gone the way he or the team had hoped. Results have been hard to come by for the 29-year-old Frenchman, and so too have race starts as his relationship with team management has become strained. Team manager Cédric Vasseur, who came aboard at the end of 2017, has been vocal in the media about his frustrations with Bouhanni.
Bouhanni has now aired his own displeasure with Cofidis team brass in an interview with Cyclism’Actu.
“For two years, I’ve been living a nightmare, a hell,” Bouhanni said. “I do not wish anyone, even my worst enemy, to live what I have lived.”
Bouhanni clarified that his biggest source of frustration is that Vasseur has taken his criticism public rather than approaching Bouhanni directly, which has led to plenty of negative coverage in France and in the world of cycling for the sprinter.
“Talking through the press, it does not seem right to me. I am even sorry to have to explain myself in the press since there is no communication between us,” he said. “He has my number, he has my address, I am contactable. It is unfortunate to come to this point.”
Rider and team are both likely happy that Bouhanni’s contract runs out at the end of 2019, with rumors pointing to a transfer to the Arkéa-Samsic squad for 2020.
Lotto-Soudal sponsorship extended through 2022
The Belgian lottery and Belgian chemical company Soudal have renewed their sponsorship of the Lotto-Soudal squad through the 2022 season. The team announced the news on Thursday in a press release, noting that Soudal would be increasing its investment and as a result, receiving a more equal share of visibility.
The team will ride international races sporting “Soudal Lotto” on its jerseys, while wearing “Lotto Soudal” in Belgium.
In case you missed it …
Feature Image: Geraint Thomas on stage 17 of the 2018 Tour de France. Photo: Dion Kerckhoffs/Cor Vos © 2018