Category: Tour de France

Wanty and Cofidis receive Tour de France wildcard invites

The Tour de France announced two of its wildcard invitations for 2019 on Thursday. Wanty Groupe-Gobert and Cofidis will join the 18 teams of the WorldTour, July 6-28 at the Tour.

The pair finished 2018 as the two highest ranked teams on the UCI EuropeTour, which earned them their Tour wildcard bids for 2019. That approach is in line with the wildcard invite process the UCI is implementing for 2020, which will grant top-ranked teams automatic bids to the sport’s biggest races.

Two wildcard invites remain open. Race organizer ASO plans to announce those invites “at a later time.” French Pro Continental outfits Arkea-Samsic, Direct Energie, and Vital Concept-B&B Hotels seem the most likely candidates. All three added firepower to their rosters over the offseason. Arkea-Samsic is now home to sprinter André Greipel, an 11-time stage winner at the Tour. Direct Energie brought on Tour of Flanders champion Niki Terpstra for 2019, and French GC hopeful Pierre Rolland rides for Vital Concept.

The three French teams will hope to prove themselves worthy of invites in the next few months. The trio has been invited to Paris-Nice, the ASO’s first WorldTour stage race of the year which takes place in March.

The ASO would not commit to a specific date for the announcement of the final two wildcard invites. Race director Christian Prudhomme said that the organizers are aware of the challenges that come with last-minute invites, but that the ASO is still taking its time evaluating the remaining potential invites.

“It’s very important to allow the teams to organize their season,” Prudhomme told Agence France-Presse. “But this year, we have a unique situation, with very strong competition for the invitations.”

Read the full article at Wanty and Cofidis receive Tour de France wildcard invites on VeloNews.com.

Dumoulin confirms Giro-Tour double bid for 2019


PARIS (AFP) — Dutchman Tom Dumoulin will again race both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France in 2019 after coming second in each last season.

Dumoulin is seen by many as one of the world’s best all-rounders, behind Chris Froome, who won the Giro, and his Sky teammate Geraint Thomas, winner of the Tour. Dumoulin won the Giro in 2017 and is known to have a fondness for the Italian event, which will run May 11-June 2, 2019.

“I was concentrated on the Tour in 2018, as was my team [Sunweb],” Dumoulin told journalists at a press event in Berlin to present the 2019 team and program.

“But this Giro route looks very interesting, while the Tour route this year seems extremely hard,” explained the 2017 world time trial champion.

The 2019 Giro d’Italia includes three time trial stages, which will suit Dumoulin, who won the 2017 Giro on the final-day time trial to Milan, beating Nairo Quintana (Movistar). The next Tour de France, on the other hand, has only one individual time trial, just 27 kilometers in length.

Before the Tour route was announced, Dumoulin hinted that he’d focus strictly on the French grand tour in 2019.

Later, in mid-December, after a climber-friendly Tour route was revealed, he said the Giro was instead his priority, but at that point, he did not confirm he would also start the Tour in July.

“As I totally love the Giro, I’m absolutely delighted with the decision,” said Dumoulin.

Another grand tour star, Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) will also race both the Giro and the Tour. The Italian has won all three grand tours over the course of his career.

Read the full article at Dumoulin confirms Giro-Tour double bid for 2019 on VeloNews.com.

Froome aims to join greats with fifth yellow jersey; Bernal to Giro


LONDON (AFP) — Chris Froome will focus on becoming only the fifth rider to win five Tour de France crowns this year and forgo defending his Giro d’Italia title Team Sky announced on Tuesday. Instead, his young teammate Egan Bernal will challenge for the maglia rosa in May.

The 33-year-old Kenyan-born Brit will aim for the yellow jersey, which his Team Sky teammate Geraint Thomas won in 2018. Thomas will also target the sport’s showpiece event.

If successful Froome would join Spaniard Miguel Indurain, French duo Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault — whose overall victory in 1985 is the last time a Frenchman won — and Belgium’s Eddy Merckx as five-time winners.

American Lance Armstrong finished first seven times, but was stripped of his victories for doping.

The highly-regarded Bernal, 21, will lead Team Sky’s challenge for the Giro. Froome and Thomas hope to deliver a fairytale end to British media company Sky’s nine-year backing. In December, the sponsor confirmed that it would end support after the 2019 season. The team has won six Tours de France since it began racing in 2010.

Froome, who in 2017 achieved the Tour and Vuelta double, said age had been a factor in what had been a “difficult decision.”

“I’ve got some amazing memories from last year, but I think, with the Tour de France as my main objective, it’s probably better that I skip the Giro d’Italia in 2019,” the 33-year-old said in a team statement.

“I’m getting to the point in my career now where I’m starting to think about what kind of legacy I want to leave behind and if I am able to win the Tour de France for a fifth time and join that very elite group of bike riders — only four other people have ever done that — it would just be incredible.”

Thomas, 32, said he might have focused on the Giro/Vuelta double had he not been defending his Tour crown.

“Having won the Tour, I’ll have the number one on my back and it would be sad not to go back and not to go back at 100 percent as well,” said Thomas.

The Colombian Bernal, who showed his promise last year in winning the Tour of California and his home tour, said Italy was like a second home to him.

“I lived in Italy for three years, so I have a lot of friends there and I really like the Italian fans.

“I know the roads, I really like the Giro, and I want to do a good race there.”

Bernal will begin his 2019 campaign by defending his Tour Colombia title which gets underway in Medellin on February 12 and ends in nearby Alto de las Palmas on February 17. Froome will be riding alongside Bernal.

“It will be the first race with Froomey there so we want to do it well!” the Colombian said.

The Giro — the first of the year’s three grand tours — runs from May 11 to June 2, and the Tour from July 6-28.

Read the full article at Froome aims to join greats with fifth yellow jersey; Bernal to Giro on VeloNews.com.

Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas to lead Team Sky at Tour de France

• Both riders will skip Giro to put focus on the Tour de France
• Froome wants fifth Tour title and Thomas wants ‘best result’

Team Sky are set to go into what could be their final Tour de France with two leaders as four-times winner Chris Froome and defending champion Geraint Thomas both confirmed they will target the race in 2019.

Froome will not defend his Giro d’Italia title as he seeks a record-equalling fifth Tour crown, but will face a challenge from within as Thomas also plans to be in France having won the race for the first time in July.

Related: Sir Bradley Wiggins warns cycling will suffer if Team Sky breaks up

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A return to parity? Sky’s loss could be the peloton’s gain


For years, rivals and haters alike have bemoaned Team Sky’s dominance.

Its controlling, almost oppressive racing style not only stymied rivals, but demoralized them. Just to get to Chris Froome, rivals had to breach “Fortress Froome,” cycling’s most formidable wall of domestiques.

Now that Team Sky could disappear at the end of 2019, many are wondering what the peloton would look like without the domineering presence of the team that’s marked the Tour de France for nearly a decade.

“It would definitely mean a less controlled Tour de France,” said Mitchelton-Scott’s Matt White. “Regardless of what happens, it would level the playing field.”

Welcome to 2020, the year that that suspense is once again part of July.

If Sky boss Dave Brailsford cannot pull a $30-million-plus cat out of the hat by June, the Tour’s dominator will likely disappear.

A Tour de France without Sky controlling the pace and tempo would result in a very different kind of race.

“This will flatten out the competition from the top down, which is unusual,” said CCC Team’s Jim Ochowicz. “It’s a good thing. I think it will open up opportunities for other teams to compete head to head in the bigger grand tours.”

Of course, it’s too early to say if Brailsford won’t be able to save his team.

His riders are fiercely loyal to Brailsford, and marquee riders such as Froome and Geraint Thomas have already stated they hope he can find new backers to keep the party going. After all, riders under Brailsford’s watch reached unimaginable heights, made lots of money and were protected inside one of the most efficient and merciless winning machines modern cycling has ever seen.

If all that disappears at the end of 2019, the 2020 season will look very different.

“Sky has been putting the hammer down since we last won with Cadel [Evans in 2011],” said Ochowicz, who returns to the WorldTour with CCC Team this year. “If Sky doesn’t continue — and I hope they can find a sponsor because they deserve it — it would see a leveling out of the peloton.”

If Sky did dissolve at the end of 2019, the team’s DNA would spread around the larger mass of the peloton, it’s just that it won’t be bottled up inside one team. Instead of it being Geraint Thomas, Chris Froome and Egan Bernal versus the rest of the peloton, it could be Thomas vs. Froome vs. Bernal.

“They’ve set the mark and there’s been a lot of jealousy in the peloton because of the budget they have,” said White, whose Mitchelton-Scott team won its first grand tour in team history with Simon Yates at the Vuelta a España. “If Brailsford can’t keep the team together, there would be a big leveling off within the WorldTour.”

The dismantling of Sky’s block would open cracks for others to try to exploit.

A Sky-less peloton would dramatically raise the odds on South America’s first Tour winner with Nairo Quintana (Movistar) or France’s first winner since ‘the Badger’ Bernard Hinault with Roman Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale).

“Team Sky is expert when it comes to racing with power and speed,” said world champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). “To even to try to attack Froome, you have to get past everyone else. It’s never been easy.”

Many cite money as a deciding factor in Sky’s unparalleled Tour success. The team’s seemingly unlimited budget — public filings reveal the team’s budget was 37 million pounds in 2017, about $43 million — dwarfed the rest of the WorldTour.

Flush with a budget that is two to three times larger than its rivals, Brailsford’s troops have won six of the past seven editions of the Tour with three different riders. Not only did Brailsford arguably have the best grand tour rider of his generation in Froome, but he surrounded him with a fleet of helpers who made Froome all but untouchable behind a fortress of legs and Lycra.

Teams were trying to compete against Sky with a budget at half or even a third of what Brailsford had at his disposal. With such largesse, he could pay domestiques salaries at a million euros per season and above, equal to what other teams could offer their top GC contenders.

If that money pipeline runs dry at the end of 2019, the talent would disperse and there would no longer be one top team with such riches setting the tune of the race.

Ochowicz said other teams will be quick to pick off the top jewels of the Sky crown, but said he doesn’t expect the Sky void to be filled immediately by another team.

“Sky just didn’t open the door in 2010 and do what they’re doing today,” Ochowicz said. “That just doesn’t happen overnight. I don’t see anybody else doing that right now.”

The way Mitchelton-Scott’s White sees it, depending on which teams might have deep enough pockets, a well-funded team could try to fill the Sky void by simply buying the best of Sky.

“There are some good teams already, so if you add Chris Froome and a few key guys, then you can become the best team,” White said. “That takes a lot of money. There are only one or two teams who could afford Froome’s asking price. But if you go and purchase a block of Sky, then you become the next Sky.”

Of course, Brailsford could very well secure new funding to keep the party going. He has little more than six months to find a new partner. With contracts already in place with Froome, Thomas and Bernal, a newly branded Team Sky might not even skip a beat.

In that case, nothing might change at all, except the name on the jersey.

Read the full article at A return to parity? Sky’s loss could be the peloton’s gain on VeloNews.com.

Paul Sherwen obituary

Cyclist, television commentator and broadcaster who became one of the defining voices of his sport

Paul Sherwen, who has died of a heart attack aged 62, was a pioneering member of the group of English-speaking cyclists nicknamed the Foreign Legion, a doughty five-times Tour de France finisher and, together with Phil Liggett, half of the Channel 4 commentary pairing that brought the race into British sitting rooms daily for the first time during the late 1980s.

“Phil and Paul” became the voices of the Tour de France across the English-speaking world: the voluble Liggett described the action and the more measured Sherwen detailed moves and personalities. For a generation of fans – initially in the UK, later across most of the English-speaking world – they were the defining voices of the sport. By this year, Sherwen had attended 40 tours.

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Don’t expect many Giro-Tour double attempts in 2019


If 2018 was the year of the Giro-Tour double, this coming season likely won’t see many of the major grand tour stars take a shot at one of cycling’s most elusive achievements.

So far, Movistar’s Mikel Landa is the only top rider who’s hinted he might race both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France in 2019. While race schedules are yet to be finalized, most of the other major GC riders in the peloton seem to be shying away from the heft of the double attempt in 2019.

Look no further than Team Sky. Tour champ Geraint Thomas and defending Giro winner Chris Froome have both strongly hinted that the Tour will be the center of their respective calendars. For both of those riders, the lure of the Tour is too much to resist.

“I definitely feels there’s unfinished business [at the Giro] but next year might be the wrong time,” Thomas told BBC this week. “Being at the Tour with the No. 1 on my back, it would be a shame to know I wouldn’t be at my best.”

Froome, who won the Giro in May and finished third at the Tour, also said he’s leaning toward an all-out push for the yellow jersey in what he hopes will be a record-tying fifth victory.

Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), who finished second in both the Giro and Tour in 2018, says he’s still undecided on how his calendar will shape up. The big Dutchman says the Giro route with its longer time trial kilometers suits him better than next year’s climb-heavy Tour route. However, many expect Dumoulin to tilt toward the Tour at the expense of the Giro.

Quintana, who fell short in a 2017 double attempt with second at the Giro and 12th at the Tour, has already confirmed he will not race the Giro in 2019.

“I want to be as fresh as possible for the Tour,” Quintana said this week from Colombia, “and the route with the high mountains really favors me. My dream of winning the Tour is still fully intact.”

Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) admitted he’d love to race next year’s Giro, but said the combination of sponsor demands and a climb-friendly Tour route means he’ll put July at the center of his 2019 calendar.

Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), one of only two active riders who has won all three grand tours (alongside Froome), is expected to make a full push for the Giro. He last tried the Giro-Tour double in 2016, when he won the Giro but was not a factor for the yellow jersey, in 30th overall.

Once considered too difficult to realistically confront both races in top form, the demanding Giro-Tour double has returned to fashion the past few seasons.

More major riders have taken up the challenge with varying success. Alberto Contador gave it a good run in 2015, winning the Giro before going fifth at the Tour. Quintana tried in 2017 with mixed results, finishing second to Dumoulin at the Giro before finishing a flat 12th at the Tour. Both of them said the hard effort at the Giro left them empty for the Tour.

So why did Froome and Dumoulin — the closest anyone’s come to pulling off the double in decades — fare so well in 2018? Soccer’s World Cup. Tour organizers bumped the race back a week later in July to limit overlapping the race with the popular soccer tournament.

This year’s Giro ended May 27 and the Tour started July 7 for a total of 40 days between. An additional week spaced out the two grand tours. That might not seem like much, but both Froome and Dumoulin said that full week of recovery was decisive to their commitment to the 2018 double attempt.

“That extra week was key to being able to race the Giro and still have a chance to recover for the Tour,” Froome told VeloNews in a recent interview. “That was the main reason why we decided to try the Giro. Without that week, there really isn’t enough time to have a chance to recover from that effort at the Giro.”

Dumoulin doesn’t expect any GC rider to realistically hope to fare well in both grand tours.

“Next year it’s going to be a week less so there will be only three and a half weeks,” Dumoulin said. “I think next year whoever wants to go for the challenge to do the Giro and Tour, that would be pretty impossible in my eyes.”

Next year’s Giro ends June 2 and the Tour starts July 6 with only 33 days in between, so don’t expect anyone racing to win the Giro to have a lot of firepower left in late July.

Next year’s Giro is expected to draw riders such as Nibali, Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates), Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and perhaps Egan Bernal (Sky). None of them are expected to race the Tour, and if they do, the yellow jersey wouldn’t be a realistic goal.

The mark left by Marco Pantani — who became the last rider to pull off the double in 1998 — looks safe for now.

Read the full article at Don’t expect many Giro-Tour double attempts in 2019 on VeloNews.com.

A cult figure, Paul Sherwen brought cycling to the world

With his infectious enthusiasm for and knowledge of cycling Paul Sherwen expanded the frontiers of the sport

During his cycling career, Paul Sherwen liked the hard stuff. Riding for French team La Redoute in the 1980s, the Englishman gained a reputation for his willingness to suffer on grueling climbs. One of his most-memorable performances at the Tour de France, a race he rode seven times and later commentated for three decades, was a six-hour solo breakaway.

It was no surprise, then, that Sherwen relished another kind of challenge upon picking up the microphone in the late 1980s: teaching the world to love cycling as much as he did.

Related: Paul Sherwen, cycling broadcaster and former rider, dies aged 62

Related: Australian cycling mourns death of much-loved commentator Paul Sherwen

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Australian cycling mourns death of much-loved commentator Paul Sherwen

  • Former cyclist and legendary commentator dies, aged 62
  • Cycling world pays tribute to 40-Tour rider and commentator

Australian cycling fans, riders and journalists have paid tribute to the commentator Paul Sherwen, whose broadcasts for SBS made him a much-loved figure far beyond the sport’s traditional audience. Sherwen’s death, at the age of 62, was confirmed on Monday.

One half of an iconic commentary duo, alongside Phil Liggett, Sherwen covered the Tour de France on 33 occasions, earning high praise for his knowledge, passion and dedication to the sport.

Related: Paul Sherwen, cycling broadcaster and former rider, dies aged 62

Shocked to learn of the sudden passing of Paul Sherwen.
A former pro-cyclist who became a familiar voice for SBS audiences as a member of his partnership in commentary with Phil Liggett.
This was our last time together in July this year.
A true gentleman. RIP. pic.twitter.com/dGMpJdVpKe

I’m deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Paul Sherwen. An absolute gentleman – I knew him for over 20 years & listened to him & Phil for almost 30. Always generous with his time, I learnt plenty working alongside him. My sincere condolences to his family & loved ones pic.twitter.com/lLTe0bDdXC

We’re heartbroken to hear the news of Paul Sherwen’s passing overnight. Paul was a fantastic friend & supporter of the #TourDownUnder & a true gentleman. Our condolences go out to his family, friends & colleagues.

You’ll be missed Paul. Vale.

More ➡️ https://t.co/SADGSA34NQ pic.twitter.com/y3uPBN1cFr

Completely shocked and saddened to hear of Paul Sherwen’s passing. Met Paul in 1992 when he worked as our press officer for Team Motorola. He was always a class act and a great friend. My deepest condolences go out to his family. RIP Climber.

Statement from @NBCSports on the death of Paul Sherwen, its longtime Tour de France cycling analyst. pic.twitter.com/7sU7niA8Sm

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Paul Sherwen, cycling broadcaster and former professional rider, dies aged 62

• Former British champion competed in seven Tour de Frances
• Sherwen known for commentary partnership with Phil Liggett

The death of respected cycling broadcaster and former professional rider Paul Sherwen has been confirmed at the age of 62.

Born in Lancashire, Sherwen made his name during the 1980s, competing in seven Tour de Frances and twice becoming British national champion. He later moved into broadcasting and worked alongside commentator Phil Liggett for Channel 4’s coverage of the Tour for several years before moving to NBC Sports in America. The 2018 Tour – which saw Geraint Thomas win his first title – was the 33rd Sherwen had commentated on.

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