Virtual Tour, real national championships: Daily News Digest

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Hello CyclingTips readers,

The return to the racing season continues to roll on in its haphazard fashion.

The Virtual Tour de France, back for a second weekend, saw riders race on the virtual roads of France, with wins from some names you’ve probably heard of and some that you may not have. There was also the withdrawal of an entire team, with an excuse that probably hasn’t been used before in the history of the sport, but may be used again.

Meanwhile, in Switzerland, there was actual real life bike racing (!!) in the form of the national time trial championships.

All that news – virtual and otherwise – in today’s Daily News Digest.

Until next time, readers.

What’s news

| A flat, fast stage three at the Virtual Tour

After the commencement of the first Virtual Tour de France a week ago, the race continued on Zwift over the weekend. Stage three of the race, held on Saturday, saw the virtual men and women’s pelotons ride 48 largely flat kilometres through the new France map on Zwift.

In the men’s race, Canadian rider Matteo Dal-Cin (Rally Cycling) won a sprint finish ahead of Jake Stewart (Groupama-FDJ) and Callum Scotson (Mitchelton-Scott).

In the women’s race, Tanja Erath (Canyon-SRAM) – who broke into the professional peloton as the winner of the Zwift Academy in 2017 – put that experience to good use by winning the women’s race in a sprint ahead of Chloe Dygert (Twenty20) and April Tacey (Drops).

| Virtual Tour de France hits the hills on stage four

On Sunday, it was a hilly 45.8km route through virtual France. In the men’s race Freddy Ovett (Israel Cycling Academy) sprinted to the win from a group of eight riders, ahead of Nick Schultz (Mitchelton-Scott) and Michael Valgren (NTT), with NTT defending the yellow jersey.

In the women’s race, April Tacey (Drops) won her second stage of the Virtual Tour ahead of Anna Henderson (Sunweb) and Lauren Stephens (Tibco-SVB). Tibco retain the yellow jersey heading into the final weekend of the race.

| Astana drops out of Virtual Tour

Citing poor internet connectivity at its altitude training camps in Sierra Nevada and Livigna, the Astana team has pulled the plug on the Virtual Tour de France.

“During the third stage of the race we have faced serious trouble with the internet connection in our hotel in Sierra Nevada,” said the team’s sports director Dmitriy Fofonov. “The technical possibilities of the connection we have here in the mountains cannot support all the specifications required by the virtual race.”

The team will now continue training for what Fofonov notes is “the real Tour de France”.

| Switzerland holds National Time Trial Championships

Meanwhile, in Switzerland, there was actual racing on actual roads, with the Swiss National Championships currently underway.

The women’s race, which covered a 20km course in Belp, was won by Marlen Reusser of the newly-titled Equipe Paule Ka (ex Bigla-Katusha). The team had plenty to celebrate, sweeping the podium with Elise Chabbey and Kathrin Sternemann in second and third place.

In the men’s race, Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) made it four in a row, covering 33km in a time fo 37:36 to take a comfortable win over Silvan Dillier (AG2R la Mondiale) and Stefan Bissegger.

| British cyclists involved in secret ketone program for 2012 Olympics

An investigation by the Mail on Sunday has revealed that, in preparation for the London Olympics, British cyclists were involved in a secretive ketones trial and warned that it may cause anti-doping complications.

91 athletes from eight sports were reportedly involved in the experimental project, and required to sign non-disclosure-agreements and a waiver acknowledging that “UK Sport does not guarantee, promise, assure or represent that use of ketone esters is absolutely World Anti-Doping Code compliant and therefore excludes all responsibility for use of the ketone ester.”

British Cycling has confirmed that “some cyclists” of undefined disciplines were involved in the trial. 40% of the test cohort withdrew having suffered side effects, including vomiting.

UK Sport maintains that the trial was carried out to high ethical standards and in consultation with WADA.

For more, read our extended piece here.

| La Course gets a little Nice-r

La Course 2020, the one day women’s race run concurrently with the Tour de France, will now be held in Nice, on the same day as stage one of the men’s Tour. It was originally slated for a return to the Champs Elysees.

The new course is 96km long, taking in two laps of a big looped circuit that includes the third category Cote de Rimiez climb. It seems likely to end with a bunch sprint, with Rally Cycling’s Chloe Hosking – the winner in 2016 in Paris – saying that “the course looks really fast, which is to my liking. I can’t wait to give it another go.”

15 of the originally scheduled 22 Women’s WorldTour races have survived the COVID-19 calendar shuffle, with La Course among them.

In case you missed it

| Last Tour, Today: The Audacity of Julian Alaphilippe

In the absence of any Tour to talk about, we thought we’d reminisce by posting some of our favourite stories from last year’s Tour, a year on. Here’s Caley Fretz’s story of Julian Alaphilippe’s bold play for the yellow jersey.

Prefer getting your news via a quick podcast? Subscribe to our new 5 minute News Cycle podcast on iTunes, SpotifyGoogle Play or wherever you get your podcasts.

Today’s featured image of Erik Zabel winning stage eight of the 1997 Tour de France comes from Cor Vos. It was his third stage win of that year’s race, with Zabel going on to win the green jersey.

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