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  1. Calmejane considering cobbled classics campaign

    Direct Énergie may have a surprise in store for the cobbled classics, with Lilian Calmejane considering participation in the races for the first time this season.

    In an interview published on the team’s Youtube account, the 26-year-old cited Roubaix and Flanders winner Niki Terpstra joining the team as his inspiration.

    “I think it’s the right moment,” Calmejane said. “We have a team that’s well-suited to those races, and we have a guy in Niki Terpstra who can be a super teacher. That’s one option.

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    “The other option is that I rest up and, if we’re lucky enough to get an invite, do Pais Vasco in favour of preparing optimally for the Ardennes Classics – above all Liège-Bastogne-Liège. That’s the question mark at the moment.”

    Calmejane has never raced the cobbled classics before, so any potential foray would likely be more of a learning experience and supporting Terpstra. The Frenchman raced Tro-Bro Léon in 2016, but the likes of Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders are totally different beasts.

    “The cobbled classics are what cycling is all about – they’re truly mythical. They’re races where a lot can happen – honest races, races for workers. I think that term is very much appropriate.

    You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

  2. Poels: Porte was too strong on Willunga Hill

    Team Sky may have come away from the Tour Down Under without the victory they set out for, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Sunday’s final stage to Willunga Hill saw the team race aggressively, with Wout Poels taking second place at the finish.

    Despite their efforts, it was Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) who took the stage win, his sixth in a row on Willunga, while Poels crossed the line just metres behind, securing third place overall. The Dutchman reflected on his efforts after the stage.

    "It was a good climb but unfortunately Richie [Porte] was too strong," he said. "It was a good ride but unfortunately not a win."

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    Poels’ teammate Kenny Elissonde attacked with him on both ascents of Willunga, a fixture at the Tour Down Under.

    "Kenny? We didn’t really plan it, but sometimes you have to race on feeling. I think it was a good move by Kenny, and it worked pretty well, but yeah – Richie was too strong," Poels said. 

    "I knew it was a really long way [to go when I had a gap]. It was a really hard race again today. I gave it everything for the finish, but then Richie came. I could follow a little, but then I had to drop.

    You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

  3. Frustration for Sanchez after slipping off Tour Down Under podium

    Luis León Sánchez (Astana Pro Team) returned to the 2019 Tour Down Under having previously won the race back in 2005. The Spaniard finished in the top-10 three times - plus an 11th place - over the six stages this week but, despite the consistency, was unable to match the effort up Willunga Hill and fell off the podium on the final day

    Sánchez crossed the line in a respectable fifth place, but, having started the day third overall, ended his week in fourth place, behind winner Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott), Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) and Wout Poels (Team Sky).

    Despite the strong results and respectable overall finish, Sanchez was frustrated with the superior form of Australian riders and named Impey as another rider who has benefitted from missing the European winter.

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    "Before today we had a good feeling but it's always the same, the Australian riders and also Impey are here before Christmas for training and have better form than me," Sánchez said to reporters after the race finish.

    "It's a good result, of course, but a podium would've been better. It was close, it's a good result for me and, more importantly, my teammates did really good work for me. I think it's nice looking forward to Europe that it's a good result.

    "I did some good work at home before here and it's nicer weather here than home. But it's always the same, I have good feelings but other racers are stronger than me. I think it's no coincidence that the others are stronger than me."

    You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

  4. Hayman: I couldn't think of a better way to retire

    Mathew Hayman had to spend another three months training in order to tack one extra week onto the end of his career, but it was more than worth it as he bowed out in style at the Tour Down Under.

    The 40-year-old Australian rode his last full season in 2018 but wanted to bring an end to his 19-year career, which included a famous victory at Paris-Roubaix, on home turf in front of home fans. 

    It couldn't have gone much better, as his Mitchelton-Scott claimed their fifth Tour Down Under title in eight years, with Daryl Impey sealing back-to-back overall victories by keeping Richie Porte at bay up the double ascent of Willunga Hill on the final day.

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    "You don't get to choose, but I couldn't think of a better way to go out," Hayman told Cyclingnews beyond the finish line.

    "Half-way up the climb I was thinking about my career, and ending, and then all of a sudden it was back to thinking about the race again. What a ride from Daryl. It's been a week's worth of work, which it always is for us, and he's a legend for finishing it off like that."

    Hayman was an enormously popular winner at Roubaix in 2016 and, in his final race, the esteem in which he is held by the peloton was clear to see. Roared on by the home crowds on Willunga, it was also notable that he received a fair few pats on the back from his fellow pros ahead of the final ascent. 

    You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

  5. Crowdpleaser Bevin vows to return to Tour Down Under

    Although Patrick Bevin (CCC Team) was able to start the final stage of the Tour Down Under on Sunday, despite his injuries from a crash the day before, the testing climb of Willunga Hill proved a bridge too far, and the New Zealander had to surrender his leader's jersey to Mitchelton-Scott's Daryl Impey.

    Bevin nevertheless battled through the stage to come away with the blue points jersey, and will now attempt to sufficiently recover from his injuries in readiness for the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race next Sunday.

    "To take the blue jersey away from this race is a nice result for the week's work," he told reporters after the stage. "Obviously it's tough to have touched down yesterday and watch part of my work evaporate on the GC. But that's bike racing; there are no guarantees."

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    Bevin said that he'd enjoyed huge crowd support as he attempted to defend his race lead on the final stage from McLaren Vale to Willunga Hill, and promised to come back for another attempt next year.

    "I think someone must have told the crowd I was Australian today," joked the New Zealander, "because I had so many fans, who were all the way around the course, so I had a lot of support.

    "I've had a great time here – an absolute blast coming here, racing from 'kilometre 0', and I plan on sticking to that all year. I'm going to go out and scrap for everything all year, and this race really only sets a precedent for what's ahead."

    You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

  6. Richie Porte: I've never had to chase like that

    If you want to beat Trek-Segafredo's Richie Porte on Willunga Hill, you need to give yourself a decent enough head start. However, even that didn't prove to be enough for two of Team Sky's best climbers after Wout Poels and Kenny Elissonde were brought back on the climb and beaten by the now six-time winner on the climb on the final stage of the Tour Down Under on Sunday.

    Porte, who had an outside chance of winning the overall title on the climb, responded when Poels and Elissonde attacked, bridging over to the Dutchman before going clear to take his first win in Trek-Segafredo colours. While Porte celebrated the stage win, it wasn't enough to nudge defending champion Daryl Impey (Mitchelton Scott) off the top step of the podium. The South African claimed back-to-back Tour Down Under crowns with Porte 13 seconds adrift. Poels rounded out the podium.

    "This is a hard race for a rider like me to win. It's a shame that there's not another hill-top finish. But to win six in a row with a new team is a nice way to start. It's a lovely day out there. You pinch yourself riding through the crowds," Porte said at the finish.

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    "You've got to climb better than the sprinters and then sprint better than the climbers. It's not a race that really suits me. It did two years ago with the Paracombe climb, but it's still nice to get a victory. The team were absolutely fantastic today. It's always good to start like this with a new team. They have faith in me. My new boss, Luca Guercilena, didn't put any pressure on me. We were resigned to the fact that it would be a hard race to win when they're going for bonus sprints like that."

    Porte's record in the Tour Down Under is unique. He has won seven stages in total – six of them on Willunga Hill – won the race outright in 2017, and finished second four times. For the second time in a row he was beaten by Impey, who outperformed him in the hunt for bonus seconds and won a stage of his own. That said, Porte chose to look at the positive side: he has won a race in his new Trek-Segafredo colours and was forced to do it the hard way after Team Sky put him under pressure.

    "The stage was possibly easier than it ever has been for me because I was in a good position, but then when Elissonde did a fantastic ride there for Poels, that was hard. I had to take it up myself, and I didn't have any teammates at that point, so I had to go after them at that point. I got a second wind when I heard on the radio that everyone was suffering, but the last 300 metres of Willunga are probably the longest 300. It really hurt. It was a sweet victory," Porte said.

    "I've never had to chase like that. Last year I had Rohan Dennis sacrifice himself for me, but this year I had to chase the two Team Sky riders."

    You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

  7. Woods: I blew up and felt like I was just treading water

    Michael Woods (EF Education First Pro Cycling) returned to the Tour Down Under for the third time in his short professional career this week. Despite a hillier course than previous years, Woods was unable to best his fifth place on general classification from three years ago, finishing seventh on the final stage at Willunga Hill and seventh on GC.

    Going into the final stage, and based on previous editions of the race, a group of climbing specialists including Woods, George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma), Wout Poels (Team Sky) and Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo), were all hoping to be aggressive in the hope of at least taking the stage and with a faint possibility of taking the overall.

    Attacks from Team Sky's Poels and Kenny Elissonde were ultimately fruitless, however, as Richie Porte surged to the line to take a sixth consecutive stage victory on Willunga Hill.

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    Woods did his best to match the Australian - they were on the same time on GC ahead of the stage - but was unable to hold Porte's wheel in the final few hundred metres.

    "It was hard, disappointing," Woods told reporters after the stage. "I felt really good today and felt like I did a really good job of positioning, when Richie [Porte] went I followed but Richie is so good on this climb, it's tailor made for him.

    "I really struggle on the non-steep climbs, especially if there's headwind and he just tore me apart. I blew up and felt like I was just treading water for the last kilometre, just trying to stay afloat and guys kept on coming past me. That's the disappointing part of racing to win, when you fail you blow up big time."

    You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

  8. Impey takes his second Tour Down Under title in a row

    Daryl Impey's overall victory at the 2019 Tour Down Under on Sunday was the first time that a rider had ever defended their title in 21 editions of the men's event.

    The Mitchelton-Scott rider had begun the final stage with a 19-second buffer to eventual runner-up Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo), and with the day's breakaway hoovering up the bonus seconds available on the stage's two intermediate sprints, it was going to come down to the final climb of Willunga Hill to decide the overall winner.

    While Porte attacked to win on Willunga for the sixth year in a row, in an almost carbon copy of last year's race – when Impey and Porte finished with the same overall time, but Impey won the race overall in 'countback' – the South African was able to keep Porte within sight, and dug deep enough to latch on to second-placed Wout Poels (Team Sky) and finish third on the stage in the same time as a celebrating Porte.

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    The Australian took a 10-second bonus for the stage win, and Impey's third place gave him four seconds, which meant that Impey beat Porte overall by 13 seconds, with Poels third, another four seconds back.

    Overnight race leader Patrick Bevin's injuries from his crash on stage 5 meant that the New Zealander was unable to follow the pace on the first ascent of Willunga Hill, and he fell well out of contention with more than 20 kilometres of the stage left to race.

    "I felt sorry for Paddy," Impey told reporters after receiving the ochre leader's jersey on the podium. "I was looking forward to having a nice battle with him, and it's very sad that he wasn't in his best condition due to his crash.

    You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

  9. Tour Down Under: Watch Richie Porte conquer Willunga Hill - Video

    It was a case of six in a row for Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) on Willunga Hill, with the Australian climber powering clear to win the final stage of this year's Tour Down Under. Porte finished second overall to retain his consistent record in the race and was too good for the opposition for the sixth year in a row on the famous climb.

    Wout Poels (Team Sky) finished second on the stage, while Daryl Impey (Mitchelon-Scott) dug deep to retain his overall title.

    "It's a hard race for someone like me to win, with just one uphill finish but I came here with my new team and the boys were fantastic all week and today. Hats off to Daryl Impey but to win on Willunga for a sixth time is a great feeling. It's a great way to start the year with a new team," Porte said at the finish.

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    Click here for our complete race report from stage 6.

    You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

  10. Southam: No one sought to profit from Bevin's Tour Down Under crash

    Following Patrick Bevin's crash 10km from the end of Saturday's fifth stage from Glenelg to Strathalbyn at the Tour Down Under, there was some uncertainty as to whether the other teams had actually waited for him to come back – and if they didn't, whether they should have.

    With so much at stake – both for the sprinters' teams looking for the stage win and for Bevin trying to retain his race lead – but with the kilometres rapidly ticking down, any lull could only be brief.

    As Bevin chased back to the front of the race thanks to his CCC teammates and some canny use of his team car, the sprinters' teams soon had no choice but to organise themselves for the sprint finish.

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    "Everyone was really nervous, and everyone was trying to hold position," EF Education First directeur sportif Tom Southam told Cyclingnews ahead of the start of Sunday's sixth stage. "That just drives the speed up. It would have been a really difficult job for anyone to actually go to the front of the group that close to the finish and to get everyone to slow down. But I think the teams just held their positions for a little while. No one was really ready yet to step in to do their lead-out because it was still a bit early.

    "Put it this way: no one sought to immediately profit from it [Bevin's crash]," said Southam. "Which I think is as fair as you can be. If someone had hopped on the front, that would have been different. I don't think anybody did anything wrong yesterday, and I think that's all you can expect in that situation.

    "There are these sort of unwritten rules, which are important as well, and don't forget it's only January, so whatever you do here, you've got the whole rest of the season..." he continued, suggesting that a strong sense of "we're all in this together" exists, and that no one wants to rub anyone else up the wrong way – especially not this early in the year.

    You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

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