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Hello CyclingTips readers,
The weekend’s headlines featured more racing than we’re used to seeing lately, with both a marquee virtual competition as well as a return to actual outdoor racing for some, but that return was also marred by tragedy.
Virtually, Saturday saw the start of the Virtual Tour de France, which has drawn some of cycling’s biggest names to ride on Zwift across the next few weekends. After two days of racing, NTT leads the men’s race, while Tibco-SVB leads the women’s race.
The weekend also saw the return of domestic racing in Belgium. At the Wortegem-Petegem practice race on Saturday in Flanders, many riders took to the start line for the first time since competition was halted months ago amid coronavirus concerns, but the afternoon ended in tragedy when up-and-comer Niels De Vriendt passed away. The 20-year-old suffered heart failure during the race, and resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful.
Our thoughts are with his family and friends, as well as the entire Belgian cycling world.
| Belgian up-and-comer Niels De Vriendt dies of heart failure
Belgian prospect Niels De Vriendt died on Saturday during the Wortegem-Petegem practice race as the Belgian cycling world returned to racing for the first time in months.
The 20-year-old suffered heart failure during the event, and efforts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful. The race was called off.
“The entire VDM family wishes strength to the affected family, riders, and Niels’s many friends. Rest in peace Niels,” his VDM-Trawobo Cycling Team wrote on Facebook. “We will miss you.”
On Sunday, riders held a minute of silence in remembrance of De Vriendt at the start of the GP Vermarc Sport.
| NTT and Tibco-SVB lead after two days of racing at the Virtual Tour
Two days into the race, NTT and Tibco-SVB sit atop the general classification standings at the Virtual Tour de France after stage 2.
On the men’s side, Ryan Gibbons topped Pier-André Coté and Nick Schultz to nab victory on stage 1, with Julien Bernard taking stage 2 ahead of Freddy Ovett and Nicolas Edet. NTT leads Rally in the points-based overall standings, with Alpecin-Fenix in third.
On the women’s side, April Tacey topped Kristen Faulkner and Chantal Van den Broek-Blaak on stage 1, with Lauren Stephens besting Joss Lowden and Enrica Magnaldi to win stage 2. Tibco-SVB leads Drops and Canyon-SRAM in the GC.
Egan Bernal addressed the leadership situation at Ineos in an interview with El Tiempo, dispelling any notion that there was a rift between himself and Chris Froome over their shared ambitions of winning a Tour title.
“What happened is that when it was being talked about, at that time, we talked, Chris, [Geraint] Thomas, and I,” Bernal told El Tiempo. “Froome’s statements came out. The people took it as if he was angry with me, but it was not like that. He was never upset with me for what I said. We are friends and we all want to move forward, we want to win and here the important thing is that the team wins, we are Ineos and the one that has to win is Ineos.”
| Sunweb coach Reef after Matthews not selected for Tour: ‘The Giro is also very important to us.’
Following the emergence of news that Michael Matthews was not in Sunweb’s team for the Tour de France, Sunweb coach Marc Reef has emphasized the importance of the objectives that Matthews will be focusing on.
“The riders provide input when putting together the program, but it is up to the team to make the choice,” Reef said, according to Wielerflits. “We go with Michael for stage wins in the Giro d’Italia and he also rides Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Lombardy, the GP Plouay, and Tirreno-Adriatico. It may be a different program than he had in mind, but it is a very nice series of events. The Giro is also very important to us.”
While Matthews is one of Sunweb’s marquee riders, Reef noted that “we are responsible for the entire team, we are a team and we take everything with us. With this distribution of the program, I think we have the best chance of achieving our goals.”
| Van der Haar recovered after coronavirus
Cyclocross and road racer Lars van der Haar has told NOS that he battled coronavirus in March, saying that he did not ride for six weeks.
The Dutchman has since recovered, taking part in Sunday’s GP Vermarc Sport in Belgium.
In case you missed it
| Breaking barriers: How Belgium is getting more girls on bikes
José Been has the story on how Belgium is working to get more girls racing.
Today’s featured image of riders at the GP Vermarc Sport holding a minute of silence in remembrance of Niels De Vriendt comes from Cor Vos.