Greipel to make Volta a Catalunya debut as Classics prep
André Greipel has 21 Grand Tour stages to his name, but at 34 he is yet to win a Monument. In order to change his Classics fortunes, the German champion will change up his early season and race the Volta a Catalunya for the first time as preparation for the Tour of Flanders. Greipel's best finish so far in Flanders was 15th in 2015.
"It's important for every rider to focus on other goals now and then. That helps to stay motivated and is challenging," Lotto Soudal manager Marc Sergeant said. "André starts the season with the Challenge Mallorca and Volta ao Algarve, just like last year. Of course we are very pleased with the victory of André in Mallorca."
Greipel won the Trofeo Porreres - Campos last week in his first race of the year, and after dropping out of the hilly Trofeo Andratx-Mirador des Colomer, he was just off the podium in the sprint on the final day of the Challenge Mallorca series in Palma.
The German has remained in Europe in the early season for the past two years, skipping the typical sprint-friendly races like Tour Down Under, where he amassed 16 stages between 2008 and 2014, and the now-cancelled Tour of Qatar, opting instead to follow up the Challenge Mallorca with the Volta ao Algarve and Paris-Nice.
This year, Sergeant says Greipel will slot in the Abu Dhabi Tour in between the two, rather than have two weeks off from racing.
"It's a WorldTour race since this season and so a more important race. Just like last year, he will participate in Paris-Nice. It's not certain yet if he will take the start in Milan-Sanremo. Afterwards, André will race the Volta a Catalunya for the first time in his career. He's 34 years old and wants to try to start the Ronde van Vlaanderen, Scheldeprijs and Paris-Roubaix in the best possible shape. That's why he chooses to race in Catalunya to prepare for these goals. After a rest period he will start in Frankfurt on the 1st of May and just like previous years he will ride the Giro," Sergeant concluded.
Collarbone surgery for Veuchelen
Wanty-Groupe Gobert's Frederi Veuchelen underwent successful surgery to repair a broken collarbone, the result of a crash before stage 1 of Étoile de Bessèges. The 38-year-old finished the stage, but examinations by doctors on Thursday revealed the fracture.
"The surgery was successful. I have to rest some days. Then, I can ride on the rollers," Veuchelen said. Doctors say he will be able to train outside in as soon as two weeks.
"I want to keep calm. Some days off the bike should not be that annoying for my condition. Saturday, I have to undergo a new scanner then I will be authorized to leave hospital. I want to look it positive, it could have been much worse."
Cholet-Pays de Loire canceled
The French UCI 1.1-ranked Cholet-Pays de Loire, which was scheduled to take place on March 19, has been cancelled, according to Ouest-France. It is the third French race to be axed from the calendar after Criterium International and La Mediterraneeanne.
Reportly, the race will not go forward because of a conflict between the organization and the Cholet municipal government.
2017 would have been the 40th edition of the race.
The Classic Loire-Atlantique, which is on the calendar for March 18 in nearby La Haie-Fouassiére, is still going forward.
Putt puts UnitedHealthcare on the podium in Australia
Tanner Putt scored UnitedHealthcare’s first podium result of the season Friday when he finished third on stage 2 of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour behind Luke Rowe (Team Sky) and Conor Dunne (Aqua Blue Sport).
Putt bridged to the day’s breakaway when the peloton got tantalizingly close the escapees before the gap went out again.
"Today we had a fairly hard stage with a difficult climb at 15km to go,” said UnitdHelthcare Sports Director Hendrik Redant. “A lot of fireworks were expected. Our boys covered most of the moves in the first 30km of the race, although seven riders managed to escape. We had to 'reshuffle' the peloton to close the gap or put a rider in the break. The gap came down to 20 seconds and Putt bridged across to get his place in the breakaway."
When Rowe jumped away from that group as it began to disintegrate, Putt and Robbie Hucker (IsoWhey Sports SwissWellness) went along, and Dunne, who had suffered a puncture, quickly rejoined to form a lead group of four.
Rowe was able to dislodge his breakaway mates once again the final climb, however, eventually soloing in for the win as first Dunne, then Putt, crossed behind him.
"Putt got away with Luke Rowe, however at 1.5km to the top of the climb, Rowe attacked again and was off to victory. In the chase, Putt managed to get third place. Another good rider by our boys today," Redant said.
The team’s previous best result this season came on stage 4 of the Vuelta a San Juan when Luke Keough finished fifth in a field sprint.
The team started its Herald Sun Tour campaign with a top 10 results from Travis McCabe, who finished ninth in the prologue time trial. Janier Acevedo is the best-placed rider overall in 12th after he finished 11th on the Queen stage to Falls Creek.