Wout van Aert (BEL/Jumbo-Visma) on his way to winning his 4th Belgian National Cyclocross Championships.

Hirschi to UAE, Belgian CX champs: Daily News Digest

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Hello again, CyclingTips readers,

As we get rolling on a new week in the Wonderful World of Cycling, there’s plenty going on.

A Swiss superstar has signed a long, lucrative contract (and scored a vaccine). The Tour of Poland has won an award (and it’s not for Season’s Sketchiest Sprint Finish!). Two Belgian ‘cross riders have snared their national championships (and yeah, they’re probably the ones you’re thinking of). And a couple of other big names have outlined their goals for the year.

All that and more in today’s Daily News Digest.

Iain Treloar
Senior Editor

What’s news?

Hirschi heads to UAE-Team Emirates

After Marc Hirschi’s surprising departure last week from Team DSM – formerly Sunweb – his destination has finally been announced. The Swiss rider has signed a lengthy contract with UAE-Team Emirates that will see him racing for the squad until the end of 2023. 

Hirschi was one of the revelations of the 2020 season, complete with a Tour de France stage win after numerous spirited attacks, a Fleche Wallone win, and a very fine third place at the Road World Championships behind Julian Alaphilippe and Wout van Aert.

As an additional UAE-Team Emirates signing bonus, he scored a sweet COVID-19 vaccine along with the rest of the squad’s riders and staff. Meanwhile, someone at Sporza had way too much fun with this silly little tweet

Wout van Aert cruises to Belgian CX title

Wout van Aert claimed his fourth national title at the Belgian CX championships on Sunday, leading the race solo for six of nine laps and crossing the line with a 20 second gap over Toon Aerts. In third place was Michael Vanthourenhout, 41 seconds back. 

Van Aert crossed the line sucking on his thumb and dedicated the win to his wife Sarah and his six-day-old son, Georges. “I didn’t want to say it before the race, but I slept in the camper for six nights. That is not very comfortable at all,” he said. “I would like to dedicate my victory to my son Georges and especially my wife Sarah. Nine months taken care of and this week… thank you Sarah.”

Sanne Cant wins 12th consecutive Belgian CX title

In the women’s race, Sanne Cant’s stranglehold of the Belgian title continued, with the three-time world champion notching up an incredible 12th straight Belgian championship.

It was a typically efficient victory for Cant, who led the race from the opening lap, chased by Lotte Kopecky and Alicia Franck. The gap was reasonably tight initially, but after Cant churned through the sand section of the course on the penultimate lap and Kopecky was forced from her bike, things opened up.

“I was in a good rhythm. After a lesser passage in the sand [Kopecky] came back for a moment, but when I looked back, I never saw them,” Cant told Sporza

Tour de Pologne wins Polish Sports Event of 2020

Get your eye rolls ready: the Tour de Pologne was just named the Sports Event of the Year in Poland. 

Citing the event’s “pioneering” effort as a showcase of how to conduct a race with COVID-19 protocols, Tour de Pologne organisers were praised for “set[ting] an example and [giving] hope that there is a place for sports in this new world order.”

Riders have long been critical of the event, particularly the high-speed downhill descent that closes the opening stage into Katowice. In 2020, this resulted in a terrifying crash that saw Fabio Jakobsen plunged into a coma, sparking a nine-month suspension for Dylan Groenewegen and safety reforms from the UCI.

Dumoulin to ride Tour of Flanders

Tom Dumoulin’s 2021 is starting to take shape, with the Dutchman sitting out the Ardennes classics in favour of Tour of Flanders. It will be the first time since 2012 that Dumoulin will tackle de Ronde, with the Dutchman expected to serve in a supporting role for Wout van Aert.

Prior to Flanders, Dumoulin is slated for Strade Bianche, Milan-San Remo and E3 Saxo Bank Classic. His grand tour schedule is as yet undetermined, although Dumoulin is confirmed for Tirreno-Adriatico and Tour of Romandie in the first half of the season.  

Challenge Mallorca postponed

In what could be an ominous sign for the 2021 cycling season, another of its early events has been postponed.

Challenge Mallorca – a four race event comprising Trofeo Ses Salines, Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana, Trofeo Andratx and the Trofeo Playa de Palma – was originally set to take place from January 28-31. However, with coronavirus still running rampant in Europe, organisers have requested a postponement until May 13-16. 

Seven WorldTour teams were scheduled to take part, including a UAE-Team Emirates squad headlined by Tadej Pogacar.

Caleb Ewan has a busy year planned

Caleb Ewan has outlined his plans for the 2021 season. As one of the most prolific and exciting sprinters currently in the peloton, he’s got his sights set on stage wins at all three grand tours in one year. 

 “There haven’t been too many people who’ve done it in the history of cycling, so that’s my big goal,” Ewan explained.

If Ewan can pull it off, he’ll be just the fourth rider to achieve that milestone, along with Miguel Poblet (1956); Pierino Baffi (1958), and Alessandro Petacchi (2003).

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