Keagan Girdlestone to make return to racing at Grafton to Inverell - News Shorts

Lotto Soudal outline rider programmes, Tour d'Azerbaidjan chasing 2.HC status in 2018, Recon Ride's 2017 Giro d'Italia podcast

Keagan Girdlestone to make return to racing at Grafton to Inverell

Almost one year since a accident in the Italian Coppa della Pace race came close to claiming his life, Keagan Girdlestone is poised to make his first return to racing at the Grafton to Inverell Australian National Road Series (NRS) event on May 13. The South African born New Zealand resident suffered cuts to his jugular and carotid arteries, preventing blood and oxygen from reaching his brain, during the crash. The 20-year-old also had substantial blood lost and also suffered serious nerve and muscle damage.

"I really believe I'm ready for this. I've had an awesome block of training with solid 30 hour weeks in the lead up. I've gained movement and dexterity in my right arm and I'm lean and super hungry to get back into the NRS for this race. It's a really competitive level of racing and I just want to ride!," Girdlestone said in a statement.

Girdlestone first made his name with several impressive performances in the NRS with the then CharterMason team before moving onto the Dimension Data Continental squad for the 2016 season. He will line out at the Grafton to Inverell with the Team Ultra Racing NRS squad.

"I am just going there to finish. This is just another piece in the comeback puzzle," he said of his expectations. "That said, since my crash, I've become notorious for wanting to over achieve so the not-so-secret secondary goal is to finish with the bunch - or what remains of it! I'm not going in as a favourite rider nor as a supported one. There's no pressure to perform, so I am going to just enjoy it."

 

Benoot set for Tour de France debut

Lotto Soudal have outlined the upcoming race schedules for several of its rider with confirmation that Tiesj Benoot will make his Tour de France debut in July. Third year professional Benoot is yet to start a Grand Tour having shown his promise in the cobbled classics. However, the 23-year-old has shown his potential in stage races with the best young rider classification at the Volta ao Algarve in 2016 and 2017. He also finished second at the Belgium Tour in 2015 and fifth at the Tour of Poland last year.

In order to prepare for his Tour debut, Benoot will train at altitude in Sierra Nevada with the Beglium Tour, Criterium du Dauphine and the Belgian national championships key races before the Grand Tour.

Frenchman Tony Gallopin will also line out at the Tour de France and will join Benoot in the Dauphine but first makes his return to racing at the Tour of Norway alter this month.

Having won a stage at the 2016 Giro d'Italia, Tim Wellens skips the Italian Grand Tour in 2017 as he returns to the Tour. The 25-year-old will also train at altitude in preparation for the race but will do so at Isola 2000. He will also race the Hammer Series and the Tour de Suisse as lead in races to the Tour.

Lotto Soudal also confirmed that Andre Greipel's post Giro schedule with the Hammer Series, Rund um Koln and Ster ZLM Tour all on the agenda. The German national champion has also been selected in the Tour squad.

Tour d'Azerbaidjan wants to upgrade to 2.HC status from 2018

First run in 2012 as a U23 UCI race, the Tour d'Azerbaïdjan gained 2.1 status in 2014 and from 2018 is looking to join the HC ranks.

Vice-president of the Azerbaijan Cycling Federation Sahib Alakbarov explained the rationale on the eve of the sixth edition of the stage race.

"We aim to become a UCI 2.HC race by next year, but we know we have a long way to go and we want to do this on a sustainable way," Alakbarov said. "We've grown the race on a responsible way the last five years and we're looking for new opportunities to keep 'moving ahead', like our slogan says."

In 2017, six Pro-Continental teams are confirmed for the race but there are no WorldTour squads in the start list. While wanting to attract top class fields, Alakbarov added that he is looking to seeing what the local Azeri cyclists can achieve.

"For now we're focused on this year's race, which has a strong international field of riders and will be broadcast globally on Eurosport once again," Alakbarov said. "We're eager to show the development of Azeri cycling, and the Synergy Baku Cycling Team has more Azeri riders then ever before at the Tour d'Azerbaidjan."

The five-stage Tour d'Azerbaidjan starts with a 148.6km stage from the capital Baku to Sumgayit. The race concludes with a 158km circuit in Baku

Recon Ride Giro d'Italia - Podcast 

On the eve of the 100th Giro d'Italia, the Recon Ride Cyclingnews podcast turns its attention to the first Grand Tour of the year. Dane Cash and Cosmo Catalano provide a run down of the percorso, start list, general classification contenders and a stage-by-stage guide to the first week of racing. Also featuring in the podcast are Trek-Segafredo's GC man Bauke Mollema;Chris Froome, who offers some thoughts on Team Sky's Giro leaders Geraint Thomas and Mikel Landa; and Jim Ochowicz, president of BMC Racing, on Tejay van Garderen's first Giro.

To subscribe to the Cyclingnews Podcast, click here.

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