The return of a rivalry: Daily News Digest

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The road season has wound to a close, but that means one thing – the cross season is here. Today’s Daily News Digest has the details of the revival of one of the discipline’s great rivalries, enhanced testing protocols for the Belgian races and the results for the weekend’s Telenet Superprestige.

There’s also heartening news for some riders finding road contracts, thanks to the resurrection of NTT as Team Qhubeka Assos.

Read on for more …

Iain Treloar
Senior Editor

What’s News

| Wout van Aert prepares for CX return

One of modern cycling’s great rivalries is that of Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert. For the length of their careers, the two have been adversaries on both the cyclocross track and the road, and finished their 2020 road seasons in nailbiting fashion at the front of Tour of Flanders.

Now, as the cyclocross season begins, Wout van Aert has revealed that he’s hard at work for a return to form on the CX bike – with his old foe in his sights.

“I’m definitely looking forward to taking on Mathieu in the mud,” Van Aert said in an interview with Red Bull, a sponsor of his. “I hope to get back to my old level and be at my best in January, especially at the World Championships, so I can compete again with Mathieu and the other riders.”

| MPCC concerned about anti-doping stats

Recent anti-doping statistics have raised a red flag for the MPCC (Movement for Credible Cycling), with a similar number of positive cases recorded in 2020 despite a significant reduction in testing due to COVID-19 lockdowns.

“Cycling had to deal with a dozen cases (two within WorldTeams) – a lower figure than last year at the same time, but still very close to the data of the last 5 years,” the MPCC noted. “This last observation is a great source of worry for MPCC, given the lower number of tests in 2020.”

With WADA (the World Anti-Doping Agency) also pointing to “holes” in testing, there is pressure on national anti-doping bodies to ramp up testing in the lead-up to the Tokyo Olympics.

| Qhubeka Assos rebuilding

Since the welcome news of NTT’s fresh lease of life in 2021 as Qhubeka Assos, the team is in the midst of finalising its roster. Hour record holder Victor Campanaerts is the latest to re-sign for 2021, describing it as “a real relief”, having previously spoken about considering options outside of cycling when he was without a contract. Fabio Aru has also been linked to the team as its GC leader, although a formal announcement is still pending.

Many of the team’s top riders have already signed elsewhere – Edvald Boasson Hagen to Total Direct Energie, Michael Valgren to EF Pro Cycling, Louis Meintjes to Circus-Wanty Gobert and Ben O’Connor to AG2R-Citröen.

| Mandatory COVID-testing at Belgian CX races

With Europe battling a harsh second wave of COVID-19, the Belgian Cycling Federation has enhanced its testing protocols for the cyclocross season. As of the coming weekend’s racing, all riders will be required to show that they have tested negative before the race. The rules also apply to team staff, media and officials.

The new measures exceed the standards mandated by the UCI, but do not come without their costs. Telenet Baloise Lions has announced plans to start an internal rapid testing program, at an anticipated expense of €15,000.

| Vanthourenhout wins Telenet Superprestige Merksplas

Michael Vanthourenhout (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) took a strong victory in the Merksplas round of the Telenet Superprestige, taking the lead on the penultimate lap thanks to his mastery in the challenging conditions. It was a podium sweep for the Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal squad, with newly-crowned European champ Eli Iserbyt finishing eight seconds back, and Laurens Sweeck a further five behind that.

| Lucinda Brand triumphs in hard-fought Telenet Superprestige

After a gritty, hard-fought dual against world champ Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado, it was Lucinda Brand (Telenet Baloise Lions) that emerged strongest to claim the win in Merksplas. Brand and Alvarado both spent time at the front, but a fatigued Alvarado crashed while leading on the final lap, allowing Brand to get past. A second crash from Alvarado meant that Denise Betsema (Bingoal) snuck past for second.

“I think I eventually took too many risks, and tiredness also played a role. It was wet and slippery. I crashed twice and that cost me the race,” Alvarado said.

| 2021 La Tropicale Amissa Bongo has been postponed

Before it’s even begun, the 2021 season is looking a little thinner. The latest race to be postponed is the UCI 2.1-rated La Tropicale Amissa Bongo. One of the most important races in Africa, Tropicale Amissa Bongo typically brings a mix of WorldTour and ProTeams to Gabon to compete against leading African riders, and is one of the opening races of the season.

No date has yet been given for a rescheduled edition.

Today’s featured image comes from Kristof Ramon, and shows Wout van Aert preparing for his 2021 CX season. He has had a career-long rivalry with Mathieu van der Poel – but which of these two riders has won the most elite CX World Championships?

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