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CX Week of February 6, 2020

Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana

Dylan Groenewegen (Team Jumbo-Visma) took Stage 1 of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana with a thrilling sprint victory against Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-Quickstep). The Dutchman came from behind and passed Jakobsen with only a few meters left to take both the stage and leader’s jersey with it. 

Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates) won Stage 2 after a short, sharp climb to the finish, ahead of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-McLaren). The 21 year-old took hold of the Overall leader’s jersey heading into Stage 3. 

Despite crashing with 30 km to go and suffering from mechanical problems, Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) came back in time to win Stage 3 in a bunch sprint. Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and surprise sprinter Matej Mohorič (Bahrain-McLaren) finished second and third, respectively. Still tied on time with Pogačar, Jack Haig (Mitchelton-Scott) finished 12th on the stage and was able to take the leader’s jersey from Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) based on stage placings. 

Stage 4 was set to be the queen stage of the race, with five categorized climbs spread over 156 km. At the top of the steep climb of Sierra de Bernia was the finish, and there it was Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates) who took the race by the scruff of the neck. Attacking with three kilometers to go, the Slovenian immediately opened up a gap over the rest of the favorites. A chase group eventually formed which included Wout Poels (Bahrain-McLaren), Tao Geoghegan Hart (Team Ineos), and Daniel Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation), with overall race leader Jack Haig (Mitchelton-Scott) following closely behind. With the chase group closing, Pogačar hit the finish line just six seconds ahead. Haig fought back to finish fifth on the day, and falling to second in the overall standings ahead of Geoghegan Hart in third. Both were now six seconds behind Pogačar in the overall standings.

Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-Quickstep) came out on top in the final sprint at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana ahead of Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) and John Degenkolb (Lotto Soudal). With the help of his teammate, Davide Ballerini, Jakobsen capped off another top-class leadout from Deceuninck-Quickstep to win by a hair against his countryman, Groenewegen. The GC standings remained unchanged, with Pogačar taking home the yellow jersey ahead of Haig and Geoghegan Hart, respectively. Following his GC win, Pogačar will take on a busy schedule culminating in his Tour de France debut this summer. “I’ll prepare at an altitude training camp and before my race before the Tour will be the Dauphine. I’ve got the UAE Tour towards the end of the month, then I do Paris-Nice, Basque Country and the Ardennes classics,” he said following the final stage.

Dylan Groenewegen (Team Jumbo-Visma) won the Points Classification at this year’s Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, Gonzalo Serrano Rodriguez (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) beat Pogačar to the Mountains Classification, but the Slovenian took home the Best Young Rider Classification along with the Overall, and Bahrain-McLaren won Best Team. 

Herald Sun Tours

Stage 1 of the 2020 men’s Herald Sun Tour came down to a traditional bunch sprint. After the break of the day was caught inside the final five kilometers, Team Sunweb and others took to the front to lead out their sprinters. Sunweb’s early movement was justified, as Alberto Dainese (Team Sunweb) took the win ahead of Kaden Groves (Mitchelton-Scott ), and Moreno Hofland (EF Pro Cycling).

Team Subweb made it two-for-two when Jai Hindley (Team Sunweb) won a three-up sprint on the Stage 2’s summit finish in Falls Creek. American rider Neilson Powless rode aggressively in the final kilometers, attacking the group until it had whittled down to just four. But Powless was feasibly overzealous, and was dropped with about a kilometer to go. Damien Howson (Mitchelton-Scott) and Sebastian Berwick (St George Continental Cycling Team) went to the line with Hindley, but it was the young Sunweb rider who came out on top, taking the lead in the General Classification along with the stage win. 

Kaden Groves (Mitchelton-Scott) won Stage 3 in a reduced bunch sprint ahead of Stage 1 winner Dainese (Team Sunweb) and Mihkel Räim (Israel Start-Up Nation). Just over half the bunch came to the line together after an early KOM had split the field. All of the top GC contenders made it into the front group, and so Hindley held onto the leader’s jersey heading into Stage 4. 

Hindley doubled up on stages by winning Stage 4’s summit finish to Mount Buller on Saturday. A large group of around 20 riders came into the final two kilometers together, with just James Piccoli (Israel Start-Up Nation) and Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) left dangling a few seconds up the road. On the steep final pitches, second place overall, Sebastian Berwick (St George Continental), attacked and shed everyone but Hindley. The pair stayed together until about 100 meters to go, where Hindley came around Berwick to take his second win in three days, and increase his overall lead to ten seconds heading into Sunday’s final stage. 

Kaden Groves (Mitchelton-Scott) joined Hindley in doubling up as Groves took the sprint win on the final stage in Melbourne. Mitchelton-Scott took over leadout duties in the final kilometers, and Dion Smith (Mitchelton-Scott) delivered Groves to the line with enough power himself to take second. Moreno Hofland (EF Pro Cycling) finished best of the rest in third. American riders Scott McGill and Tyler Stites (Aevolo) had brilliant finishes to the Sun Tour, taking 7th and 10th on the final stage, respectively. 

After five days of racing at this year’s Jayco Herald Sun Tour, Jai Hindley (Team Sunweb) won the Overall Classification ahead of Sebastian Berwick (St George Continental) and Damien Howson (Mitchelton-Scott). Hindley also won the Mountains Classification, Berwick won Best Young Rider, Ben Hill (Team Bridgelane) took home the Sprints Classification, and Team Sunweb won the Best Team prize. 

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Crosswinds wreaked havoc on Stage 1 of this year’s women’s Herald Sun Tour – Tibco-SVB and Mitchelton-Scott helped blow the race apart with around 40 km remaining in the stage. A group of just 25 riders stayed clear to the finish, and Cuban National Champion, Arlenis Sierra Canadilla (Astana), was able to take the stage win ahead of Anna Trevisi (Ale’ BTC Ljubljana), and Ruby Roseman-Gannon (Pro Racing Sunshine Coast).

Ella Harris (New Zealand National Team) won the second and final stage of the women’s Herald Sun Tour ahead of 19 year-old Sarah Gigante (Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank), and Lucy Kennedy (Mitchelton-Scott) who won the Overall title for the second year in a row. Heavy rain caused a major course change for the women, eliminating the descent from Falls Creek, and shortening the stage to just 45 km. Stage 1 winner and GC leader heading into Stage 2, Arlenis Sierra Canadilla (Astana) was only dropped with a few hundred meters to go and ultimately slipped to third in the Overall classification behind Kennedy and Jaime Gunning (Specialized Women’s Racing). 

Canadilla came out on top of a four-way tie to win the Sprints Classification, Harris took home the Mountains Classification, Gunning won Best Young Rider, and Agolico from Mexico won the Team Classification.

Parkcross Maldegem

Annemarie Worst took the top step of the podium at Parkcross Maldegem on the Wednesday after the CX World Championships. It would have been sweet revenge after losing the rainbow stripes to Ceylin Carmen del Alvarado just a few days prior, but Alvarado did not race in Maldegem. Instead, U23 rider Inge van der Heijden, and Denise Betsema rounded out another all-Dutch podium at the C2 race. 

Mathieu van der Poel opted to skip Parkcross Maldegem as well, so it Eli Iserbyt that led a Belgium podium sweep in a race that surely delighted the home crowds. Michael Vanthourenhout and Toon Aerts were the men who finished second and third on the podium, respectively. 

Krawatencross in Lille 

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) took an emotional victory on Saturday at Krawatencross in Lille, Belgium. After taking the lead midway through the race, the Belgian built an unassailable advantage over Quinten Hermans (Wanty-Gobert Tormans) who had held an early lead but then fell on a sandy corner to give up his placing. Toon Aerts won a highly-contested sprint for third, nipping Laurens Sweeck on the line. Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) only finished 11th on the day in Lille, but did more than enough to secure the overall victory in the DVV Trofee series. 

Van Aert thumped his thigh as he coasted down the finishing straight – the same thigh which a barrier tore open in his horrible crash at the 2019 Tour de France. After the race, Van Aert explained what this win means to him, saying, “It might not be my biggest victory, but it certainly feels like it. Especially in front of my home crowd. It went through my mind all week: this race and the dream to win here. It is a nice reward after all I have been through in the past months. This is quite emotional.”

In her first foray in the rainbow stripes, Ceylin Carmen del Alvarado (Alpecin-Fenix) took her second successive sprint victory against Annemarie Worst (777) who settled for second. The Dutch pair rode away from the Elite women’s field on Lap 1, and the duel continued all the way until the final sprint where Alvarado came out on top. Newly crowned Junior World Champion Shirin van Anrooij rounded out the all-Dutch podium. With her win, Alvarado cemented her overall win in the DVV Trofee series. 

Merksplas Superprestige

Organizers were forced to cancel the Merksplas Superprestige which was set for Sunday due to Storm Ciara. Heavy rains and high winds – as high as 100 kph – battered Britain and parts of Europe, with the Merksplas Superprestige among those affected. The race was ultimately cancelled due to safety concerns.  

Upcoming Race Schedule

The Tour Colombia 2.1 begins this week on and runs from February 11th to 16th. 2019 Tour de France champion Egan Bernal will line up for the race, despite suffering a high-speed crash in the Colombian National Championships just a week ago. 

A number of Grand Tour favorites will line up for the four-stage Tour de la Provence in France beginning February 13th. The two-day Vuelta Ciclista a la Región de Murcia takes place on February 14th and 15th in Spain, a race history filled with stars such as Valverde, Gilbert, and Quintana. The sprinters will get their chance for glory on February 16th in Spain at the Clasica de Almeria. 

There are still a few more weeks of cyclocross left, and racing continues this weekend with Noordzeecross on Saturday in Middelkerke, Belgium, and Vestingcross Hulst on Sunday in the Netherlands.

UCI Cyclocross World Championships 

Ceylin Carmen del Alvarado claimed the 2020 Elite women’s World title after a thrilling battle with longtime rival, Annemarie Worst, in Dubendorf, Switzerland. From the first lap, the Dutchwomen were on the front foot, with Alvarado, Worst, Lucinda Brand, and Yara Kastelijn separating themselves from the rest of the field. Kastelijn was soon distanced, and Brand yo-yoed in and out of the front group all race. But in the end, it was Alvarado who came around Brand with a stunning move on a steep run-up to take the race to Worst. The Dutch pair came onto the paved finishing straight with Worst in the lead, but Alvarado had enough to come around Worst in the final hundred meters to take the world title.

Katie Compton was the best-placed American, finishing in fourth. Kastelijn rounded out the Top 5, while defending World Champion, Sanne Cant, had a disappointing race and finished 12th

Ryan Kamp, won the U23 men’s title after a clever tactical battle with his rivals and a strong team effort from the Dutch espoirs. Antoine Benoist led the field through the holeshot into the first turn, while Kamp and Swiss favorite, Kevin Kuhn, slotted in behind. After riding at and about the front for the first few laps, Kamp made his decisive effort on Lap 4. Benoist and Kuhn jumped to close the gap, but never made complete contact, and by the race’s midpoint, Kamp had a six-second lead over Kuhn in second. Kamp was able to extend his advantage all the way to the finish line, ultimately finishing 36 seconds ahead of Kuhn, while Kamp’s Dutch compatriot, Mees Hendrixx, overcome Benoist to finish third. 

The top U23 Americans finished just outside the top ten: Eric Brunner (13th) and US National Champion, Gage Hecht (16th). Collegiate Varsity National Champion, Caleb Swartz (21st) had a great ride, as did Alex Morton (37th), Sam Noel (42nd), and Lane Maher (46th).

Shirin van Anrooij of the Netherlands won the first-ever Junior women’s Cyclocross World Championship ahead of countrywoman, Puck Pieterse, and American rider Madigan Mundro, who is only in her second year of cyclocross racing. After Lizzy Gunsalus of the United States took the holeshot, Van Anrooij quickly moved to the front and opened up an immediate gap. Peiterse and Munro chased, but Van Anrooij’s gap only increased as she rode to her – the – first-ever Junior women’s CX World Championship. 

After a Saturday of Dutch dominance, the Belgians hit back hard early on Sunday morning as Thibau Nys spear-headed a Belgian podium sweep in the Junior men’s race. Lennert Belmens and Emiel Verstrynge rounded out the Top 3, while Junior US and Pan-Am Champion, Andrew Strohmeyer, had a great ride to finish 10th

Marion Norbert Riberolle won the U23 women’s World Championship with an impressive solo ride in torrid conditions. Ever-deepening ruts wreaked havoc on the field, led by American rider Katie Clouse in the race’s early goings. Clouse would ultimately finish fourth, while Kata Blanka Vas of Hungary and Anna Kay of Great Britain took second and third, respectively. Rare is a cyclocross podium lacking of Belgium and the Netherlands. 

Mathieu van der Poel utterly dominated the Elite men’s race in Dubendorf, finishing nearly two minutes ahead of second place, Tom Pidcock of Great Britain. Van der Poel had time to switch bikes for his sponsor, Canyon, and come to a stop before the line and walk across as World Champion. “I think I rode a perfect race,” said Van der Poel after the finish. “I felt really strong and when I managed to get away on the first lap, that gave me wings.”

Taking the lead from the gun, Van der Poel immediately opened up his advantage on the rest of the field. By the end of Lap 1, he was 15 seconds clear of the chase group, and the gap only kept growing from there. In a tight, all-Belgian battle for the final spot on the podium, Toon Aerts came out on top, while Wout van Aert finished an impressive fourth after only recently returning from serious injury and racing a few weeks ago. 

Vuelta a San Juan

Big names descended upon Argentina for the 2020 Vuelta a San Juan – Julian Alaphilippe, Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates), and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) were among those making their season debuts in the seven-stage race. 

Alaphilippe was on lead-out duties for Stage 1, but in the end it was Rudy Barbier (Israel Start-Up Nation) who shot around the final bend first to take the stage win. This is the first win of the season for Israel Start-Up Nation, a team which is making their WorldTour in 2020. Manuel Belletti (Androni Giocattoli – Sidermec) finished second, while Argentine rider Tomas Connte (Equipo Continental Municipalidad de Pocito) finished in third. A massive crash caused by a spectator took down half the peloton at 3.3 km to go, although the race jury decided to extend the “3 km rule,” giving every rider involved the same time in the general classification. 

A pan-flat stage in Pocito provided another opportunity to the sprinters on Stage 2. The WorldTour leadout trains battled their way into the last few hundred meters, but when Fernando Gaviria jumped, no one could hardly grab the Colombian’s wheel. Gaviria won the stage ahead of Nicolás Javier Naranjo (Agrupacion Virgen De Fatima) and Marco Benfatto (Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè). 

Stage 3 was a 15.2 km, Merckx-style individual time trial finishing in Punta Negra. Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep) absolutely destroyed the field, winning by 32 seconds over individual pursuit world record holder, Filippo Ganna (Italy), and 1:08 clear of Óscar Sevilla (Team Medellin). The Americans enjoyed a good day out, with Brandon McNulty (UAE-Team Emirates) finishing sixth on the stage, Colin Joyce (Rally Cycling) finishing eighth, and Gavin Mannion (Rally Cycling) in tenth. 

On Stage 4, Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) won his second stage of the Vuelta a San Juan with a brilliant sprint that beat the likes of Rudy Barbier (Israel Start-Up Nation), Alvaro Hodeg (Deceuninck-QuickStep), and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe). Evenepoel finished in the bunch and kept the leader’s jersey heading into the rest day. 

Stage 5, the Queen stage of the race, finished on the slopes of the Alto Colorado at 2,565 meters above sea level. But the story of the day was not in large part the final climb – instead, it was the race-splitting echelons that hit with some 40 km to go. Evenepoel, in the race leader’s jersey, missed out on the first split which contained GC challengers, Brandon McNulty and Filippo Ganna, among others. With 20 km remaining, Evenepoel was still over a minute down, but over the next few kilometers, the young Belgian clawed his way back. Evenepoel’s jersey would be untouched, and jumping out of the final group to take the stage win was 23 year-old Miguel Eduardo Florez (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec).

Zdenek Stybar (Deceuninck-QuickStep) surprised the sprinters on Stage 6 by launching an attack inside 600 meters to go on the motor racing circuit in El Villicum. Juan Sebastian Molano Benavides (UAE Team Emirates) and Rudy Barbier (Israel Start-Up Nation) caught the Czech rider’s wheel on the line, but couldn’t come around Stybar in time and had to settle for the second and third spots on the podium, respectively. 

On the final stage held in the outskirts of San Juan, Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) completed a hat trick of stage wins by beating Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Alvaro Hodeg (Deceuninck-QuickStep) in the final bunch kick. 

Remco Evenepoel sealed up the overall by finishing with the main group, although GC times were taken at 15 km to go instead of the finish. “Some teams came to talk with us, and asked what we thought about it,” Evenepoel said after the race. “We were in the front, but it seemed that in the middle of the bunch there were some problems with the crowds on the road. Safety is the priority in a bike race, so for me it was a great decision.”

Completing the top five in the General Classification were: Filippo Ganna (Italy), Oscar Sevilla (Team Medellin), Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates), and Miguel Eduardo Florez Lopez (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec). Daniel Juarez (Agrupacion Virgin de Fatima-Saddledrunk) won the Sprints Classification, Guillaume Martin (Cofidis Solutions Credits) the Mountains, Evenepoel as Best Young Rider, and Movistar took home the Team Classification.  

Race Torquay

The Tour Down Under’s best lined up on Thursday for the inaugural Race Torquay, a one-day prelude to the weekend’s Cade Evans Great Ocean Road Race. Brodie Chapman (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) bested a four-rider breakaway with a solo attack in the final kilometers. Having gone away on her own midway through the race, Chapman was eventually joined by Lauren Stephens (Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank), and then Emily Herfoss (Roxsolt Attaquer) and Tayler Wiles (Trek-Segafredo). With still half a minute’s lead with a few kilometers to go, Chapman – almost unwillingly – powered away from her breakaway companions to take a solo victory.

“I didn’t plan my attack at the end; I sort of rolled out of a corner a bit ahead and thought, ‘I’ll just hit it now, and who knows?’” Chapman said.

The men’s race was a much tighter affair, with the sprinters’ teams keeping the bunch together, and breakaway attempts on a very tight leash. Australian favorite, Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) was dropped midway through the race, and from there, the teams of NTT, Israel Start-Up Nation, Cofidis, and Deceuninck-QuickStep only increased the pace. Small breakaway attempts were reeled in, and the bunch was altogether with a kilometer to go. Michael Mørkøv gave an excellent leadout for teammate, Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-QuickStep), who took a clear sprint victory ahead of Italian duo, Giacomo Nizzolo (NTT Pro Cycling Team) and Alberto Dainese (Team Sunweb). 

Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race

Liane Lippert (Team Sunweb) won the Deakin Women’s Race – the women’s edition of the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race – with a solo attack solidified on Melville Avenue with just under six kilometers to go. In her first WorldTour race ever, and the first race of the 2020 UCI Women’s WorldTour, Lippert took advantage of heavy rain and wind to drop all of her rivals. Fifteen seconds after Lippert crossed the line, Arlenis Sierra (Astana) beat Australian road race champion Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) in the sprint for second. 

Dries Devenyns (Deceuninck-QuickStep) took somewhat of a surprise victory in the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. A large breakaway group of 17 riders ended up being the winning move of the day, having gone clear over the top of the Challambra Crescent climb with about 25 km to go. Mitchelton-Scott would be bitterly disappointed with their result – Daryl Impey rounded out the podium in third – because they had five of the 17 riders in the leading group: Nick Schultz, Damien Howson and Dion Smith pulled for their team’s leaders, Simon Yates and Impey, but it wasn’t enough. Pavel Sivakov (Team INEOS) got away on the final climb up Melville Avenue, and after Devenyns bridged across, the duo held their slim advantage to the line where the 36 year-old Belgian took home the sprint. “It was aggressive all day,” Devenyns said in a post-race interview. “Mitchelton had five riders in that group at the end, and INEOS had two riders, so I was on my own, but I had good legs, and I played my card.”

Upcoming Race Schedule

Road season is now in full swing, and racing continues this week with the 71st Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana in Spain, men’s and women’s Herald Sun Tours in Australia, Etoile de Bessèges in France, and Le Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia. 

The World Championships may be over, but Cyclocross racing continues all the way through February, with Parkcross Maldegem in Belgium the first race for new and returning World Champions to show off their rainbow stripes. UCI C1 races, Krawatencross in Lille and Hoogstraten, round out a full weekend of Belgian cyclocross racing. 

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