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  1. Alaphilippe: Mathieu van der Poel is a phenomenon

    Everyone is talking about Mathieu van der Poel, and Julian Alaphilippe is the latest to praise the young Dutchman, describing him as "a phenomenon". 

    Alaphilippe has been the outstanding rider this season with eight victories, including Milan-San Remo, but Van der Poel, the 24-year-old cyclo-cross world champion, has stormed onto the road in his first spring classics campaign, with victory at Dwars door Vlaanderen and fourth place at the Tour of Flanders and Gent-Wevelgem.

    The pair went head-to-head at Brabantse Pijl on Wednesday, where Van der Poel left the more experienced Alaphilippe to win the sprint from the select four-man group. They will lock horns again at Amstel Gold Race on Sunday. 

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    "I was happy for him," Alaphilippe said ahead of the Dutch Classic. "I do not know him personally, we have not ridden against one another much, but I have followed him a bit because I like cyclo-cross. It's a pleasure to see him doing well in 'cross and now doing it as well on the road. What he's doing is a good thing for cycling."

    Ahead of the spring, Van der Poel's director at the Corendon-Circus team said the Classics would be a 'playground' for Van der Poel, and indeed he has not been shy to attack and open the race from distance, despite his inexperience. At Brabantse Pijl he but in a couple of big attacks way out, and still had the strength to make the final selection and then win the sprint from it. 

    "I love his way of racing. He is a phenomenon. More than a 'crosser, he's someone who can do everything well. I'm happy he's now also on the road," Alaphilippe said. 

    You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

  2. 'A big loss' - Eddy Merckx pays tribute to Patrick Sercu

    Eddy Merckx has paid tribute to his old six-day partner, Patrick Sercu, who died on Friday, describing him as "a fantastic guy and a good man". 

    Merckx and Sercu formed a legendary partnership on the track, winning 15 six-day events together. 

    Sercu's death was announced by his son, Christophe, on Friday, who explained that his father's health "had been unstable for several years and had deteriorated sharply in recent weeks". Sercu died at the age of 74. 

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    "He was a friend I had known since I was 16 or 17. This is a big loss for me," Merckx told Belgian broadcaster Sporza

    "Our partnership goes back a long way - from the 1960's on the Brussels velodrome. We were rivals at first, then we became teammates. Together, we won 15 six-day races, including the Gent Six in 1965. They are wonderful memories.

    "He was a fantastic guy, a good man. He was honest, did not beat around the bush, and always looked for compromise. I appreciated that in him and that is why I rode with him for so long."

    You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

  3. Dan Martin skips Amstel to focus on Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege

    Dan Martin will skip Amstel Gold Race on Sunday before returning to lead the line for UAE Team Emirates at La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège

    Martin, a former winner of Liège and a multiple podium finisher at Flèche, has never fared quite so well at Amstel. In seven participations, he has finished the race just twice. 

    This year, he will skip the Dutch Classic to focus on the races the following Wednesday and Sunday. After a disappointing Ardennes Classics campaign in his first season with UAE Team Emirates, the Irishman will be out to put that right. 

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    Martin, who won Liège in 2013, has never cracked Flèche, finishing on the podium three times behind Alejandro Valverde, and a further two times in the top six. Prior to his difficult start to life at UAE, he finished runner-up at both Flèche and Liège - after a DNF at Amstel - in his final season with QuickStep. 

    Martin has had a solid start to the season but showcased his growing form with second overall at the recent Tour of the Basque Country. 

    In Martin's absence, UAE Team Emirates will be led at Amstel by former world champion Rui Costa, alongside puncheur Diego Ulissi, new signing Sergio Henao, and young sensation Tadej Pogacar. Costa is a perennial presence in the Ardennes, while Henao adds another dimension with a runner-up and fourth place at Flèche to his name, along with two top 10's apiece at Liège and Amstel. 

    You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

  4. Tour of Turkey queen stage shortened due to snow

    The final climb on the queen stage of the 2019 Tour of Turkey has been shortened due to heavy snowfall in Kartepe, where stage 5 is set to conclude on Saturday. 

    Kartepe literally means 'snowy hill' in Turkish, and there has been significant snowfall in the area in recent days, making it impossible to scale the full 16-kilometre final climb. 

    After doing their best to clear the roads, the organisers have decided to cut the final four kilometres to the top, reducing the climb to 12 kilometres. The steepest gradients, which enter the double digits, will still feature. 

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    The decision was made alongside team and rider representatives under the UCI's Extreme Weather Protocol. Decueninck-QuickStep's Brian Holm and Eros Capecchi were representing the teams and riders, respectively, and had a hand in deciding the best course of action. 

    "The uphill finish to Kartepe today has been cut by 4km due to snowy conditions at the top, following the weather protocol with Brian Holm and Eros Capecchi representing the teams and riders respectively, so the final climb will be 12km long," read a statement from the race organisers on Saturday. 

    After four sprint stages, the Tour of Turkey shifts gears with the Kartepe summit finish, which, despite its curtailment, will still be decisive in the battle for the overall title. Despite an early category-3 climb, Kartepe is the only major difficulty on the 160-kilometre stage, which starts in Bursa. The Tour of Turkey will conclude in Istanbul on Sunday. 

    — Ahmet Örken (@ahmetorkenn) April 20, 2019

    You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

  5. Deceuninck-QuickStep take flush hand into Amstel Gold Race

    Deceuninck-QuickStep will once again head into a weekend Classic with a stacked hand on Sunday at Amstel Gold Race, where the Belgian team will ride in support of Julian Alaphilippe and four-time winner Philippe Gilbert in search of the team's 10th one-day race win this year.

    Alaphilippe has had a phenomenal season so far with eight wins, including Strade Bianche and Milan-San Remo. Gilbert, who won Amstel previously in 2010, 2011, 2014 and 2017, has two wins so far this year, including Paris-Roubaix last week.

    “We come here with two leaders," said Deceuninck-QuickStep director Geert Van Bondt, "Julian, who tested his legs on Wednesday at Brabantse, and Philippe, who skipped the race to recover after Paris-Roubaix and feels good, so we can look to Amstel with confidence."

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    Alaphilippe and Gilbert will be backed in the 265.7km race by a proven Classics roster that includes Rémi Cavagna, Dries Devenyns, Mikkel Honoré, Pieter Serry and Petr Vakoc.

    The Dutch Amstel Gold Course course, which features a day of narrow and twisting roads, is peppered with 35 climbs, including the Cauberg, Kruisberg and Bemelerberg. The last climb of the day tops out 7.3km from the finish line.

    "Dries and Pieter have a deep knowledge of the parcours and will play an important role supporting our two guys, together with Rémi, Mikkel and Petr," Van Bondt said. “There won’t be too much wind on Sunday, and the temperatures will be nice, and that will make for a very fast race, which means we have to stay focused at all times.”

    You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

  6. Van Avermaet: Amstel Gold Race is my last chance to get a good result this spring

    Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team) has ridden consistently well so far through the Spring Classics, but the two-time winner at Omloop Het Niewsblad, 2017 Paris-Roubaix, Gent-Wevelgem and E3 Harelbeke has come up empty so far in 2019 with just one chance remaining to put a check in the win column at a Classic.

    The 33-year-old Belgian will line up Sunday for Amstel Gold Race with a strong squad backing him and a high motivation to improve on his Amstel-best of fifth in 2015.

    "Amstel Gold Race is my last chance to get a good result this spring," he said. "I was really disappointed after Paris-Roubaix, knowing that I had the legs for a better result so, I am motivated to line up at Amstel Gold Race and turn things around. I have had good legs throughout the classics, and although I am missing a big result, I think I have consistency showed that my form is good. It would be nice to end this first part of the season with a good result on Sunday."

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    Van Avermaet has been at the head of nearly every Spring Classic when things counted, but he's just missed the podium's top step. He finished second in Omloop after Zdenek Stybar (Deceuninck-QuickStep) slipped away from a select group near the end of the 200km race. Van Avermaet was sixth in Strade Bianche after eventual winner Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep), escaped near the end of the Italian Classic with Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) and Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma).

    At the newly minted E3 BinckBank Classic, Van Avermaet was third in a five-up sprint behind Stybar and Van Aert. He finished 20th in the reduced-bunch sprint won by Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) at the end of Gent-Wevelgem, and he was 10th in a large group that finished 17 seconds behind Tour of Flanders winner Alberto Bettiol.

    Van Avermaet was once again an animator at Paris-Roubaix, but he missed the move that saw first-time winner Philippe Gilbert (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Nils Politt (Katuasha-Alpecin) ride into the velodrome for a two-up sprint.

    You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

  7. Alexis Ryan: Back for the podium at Amstel Gold Race

    Alexis Ryan (Canyon-SRAM) put forth a valiant performance at last year's Amstel Gold Race, after joining the day's decisive breakaway and then placing fifth in Valkenburg. The American rider wants more this time around, aiming for the podium in a race that she says embodies everything she loves about cycling.

    "I had a great race at Amstel last year. I was in the break for 70km and crossed the line in 5th place, completely spent. I’ve been aiming for this race since I crossed the line last year," Ryan said in a team press release.

    Ryan will line up with a strong team that includes Alena Amialiusik, Elena Cecchini, Tiffany Cromwell, Lisa Klein, Kasia Niewiadoma. Cecchini noted the challenges of the hilly route and what riders are best suited to it.

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    "Amstel is an open race that demands a strong, powerful rider from start to finish," Cecchini said. " Last year, a good breakaway went early and stayed away until the finish line. With the evenness amongst teams at the moment, I wouldn't be surprised if the same situation happened."

    The women will race 126.8km beginning in Maastricht. There is a 73km loop through the Limburg region that includes the first seven climbs: Slingerberg, Adsteeg, Lang Raaberg, Eyserbowsweg, Fromberg and Keutenberg.

    The peloton will then hit the Cauberg for the first time, signifying the start of the 18km final circuits in Valkenburg. They will race three circuits that include the triple climbs: Cauberg (800m/6.5%), Geulhemmerberg (1,000m/5%) and Bemelerberg (900m/4.5%). They will circle the route once more and climb the Cauberg for a fourth and final time, and once over the top, there are 1.6km to the finish.

    You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

  8. Nibali comes down from altitude for Tour of the Alps test

    Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) has come down from altitude training and will continue his Giro d'Italia preparation at the Tour of the Alps next week.

    The 34-year-old Italian, who most recently raced to eighth place at Milan-San Remo, has been training on the Teide volcano in Spain with trainer Paolo Slongo before jumping into the hilly five-day race that starts April 22 in Kufstein and concludes April 26 in Bolzano.

    "The work has been intense, and I will need to find race rhythm, but there's still time before the Giro begins Nibali said in a statement released by the race. "I feel confident." 

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    Nibali has won the race twice under its previous name of Giro del Trentino, but he missed the race last year as he was skipping the Giro and aiming for the Tour de France. With he Giro and the Tour on his menu this year, the Italian is returning to the race.

    "I feel connected to this race," Nibali said. "I won my first Giro del Trentino in 2008, repeating the success in 2013, the season of my first Giro d'Italia success. I still remember the emotions of the win in Folgaria, winning ahead of Franco Pellizotti, who will be in my team car as sports director in this year's Tour of the Alps."

    The 2019 Tour of the Alps will offer a typically rigorous warm-up ahead of the Giro, with almost 14,000 metres of total climbing to feature across five stages. Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) beat Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida) and Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) to win the 2018 edition of the race.

    You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

  9. USA Cycling names long list for Tour of California team

    USA Cycling has released the list of riders under consideration for the national team that will compete at the Amgen Tour of California May 12-18. This year marks the first time since the inaugural race in 2006 that Tour of California organisers have invited a US national team, which is allowed under UCI regulations that provide host countries of WorldTour races the opportunity to give a spot to the home team.

    The national team will join 13 WorldTour and five Pro Continental squads in the 2019 edition.

    At 29, sprinters Travis McCabe (Floyd's Pro Cycling) and Justin Williams (Legion of Los Angeles) are the oldest riders on the relatively young roster, while Aevolo 21-year-olds Tyler Stites, Alex Hoehn and Michael Hernandez are the youngest riders on the long list for the final composite squad that will line up at the start in Sacramento.

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    Also on the list released Friday are Keegan Swirbul (Floyd's Pro Cycling), Sam Boardman (Wildlife Generation-Maxxis) and Brendan Rhim (Arapahoe-Hincapie) all 23, as well Arapahoe-Hincapie's Miguel Bryon, 24, and Tanner Putt, 26. The initial list of 10 riders will be whittled down to seven for the race.

    "As we move towards the 2020 Olympics, we will be looking for more opportunities like the Amgen Tour of California to showcase the US national team and the amazing depth of talent we have in our riders," USA Cycling President and CEO Rob DeMartini said in a statement released with today's announcement. "There is nothing more inspiring than seeing our riders on the attack in their red, white and blue kits."

    Riders whose WorldTour trade teams or Pro Continental trade teams are competing in the race are not eligible for the national team, limiting the USA Cycling roster options to riders from the Continental and amateur domestic elite ranks.

    You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

  10. Track legend Patrick Sercu dies at 74

    Belgian cycling legend Patrick Sercu has died at the age of 74, VTM reported on Friday. Sercu is considered the greatest track cyclist of the past century, racking up 1,206 victories, including 168 on the road. He won Olympic gold in the flying-start kilometre at the 1964 Tokyo Games.

    Sercu's son Christophe explained, "His health had been unstable for several years and had deteriorated sharply in recent weeks. The funeral will take place in a very limited circle."

    Sercu is an icon in Belgium, where he has been a director of the Six Days of Gent, a race he won eleven times. He was a patron of track cycling, having won 83 different Six Day races, pairing with the likes of Eddy Merckx, with whom he won 15, Peter Post, Roger de Vlaeminck, and Francesco Moser, among others.

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    In addition to three track world titles, Sercu won the green jersey in the 1974 Tour de France and a stage in the 1976 Giro d'Italia.

    In an interview with Rouleur magazine earlier this year, Sercu recalled his lengthy career on the track and the road, racing non-stop year-round. In the winters, he initiated a number of road riders into the Six Day scene, including Roger De Vlaeminck.

    "This happened – an outstanding road rider who had had recent success would be brought in by a promoter as a draw. It was good for the event. I did the same for Francesco Moser and Freddy Martens but it was very hard work for me – teaching them, coaching them through. I was the number one of the team so they arrived, learned the track a little bit and then straight into the race," Sercu said.

    You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

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