Latour out for four to six weeks with fractured vertebra - News Shorts

Hero's welcome for Thomas in Cardiff, Vliegen signs for Wanty-Groupe Gobert, De Vreese extends with Astana

Pierre Latour (AG2R La Mondiale) has been ruled out of racing for four to six weeks after scans revealed he has an undisplaced fracture of his D8 vertebra.

Latour was caught up in a high-speed crash during the final 20 kilometres of the Clásica San Sebastián after a touch of wheels at the front of the bunch caused many more behind to fall.

The winner of the young rider classification at this year's Tour de France, Latour was involved in the incident along with several other of his teammates and subsequently abandoned the race. The injury means that he will be 'immobilised' for three weeks before another scan is done to determine how his recovery is going.

Movistar's Mikel Landa also fractured a vertebra, his L1, in the crash, and while the team has not ruled him out of the Vuelta a España, it is likely that he will not be able to race. Egan Bernal (Team Sky) was another major victim of the crash, suffering serious facial trauma in the incident. He has undergone two surgeries on his nose and mouth and has since been discharged from hospital.

Thomas to get civic reception in Cardiff

Almost two weeks after he stepped onto the podium in Paris to claim his first Tour de France title, thousands of people are expected to turn up and welcome Geraint Thomas home to Cardiff, the capital city of Wales. A major event is planned for Thursday evening, with young fans getting an opportunity to ride alongside the Tour champion.

Thomas was a surprise winner at this year's Tour de France, having begun the race as a back-up plan for defending champion Chris Froome. He took the yellow jersey in the second week after winning stage 11 into La Rosière and won the following day on the Alpe d'Huez. While Froome faltered in the Pyrenees, Thomas held onto the jersey and all but secured it with a strong ride in the final time trial.

After a string of media appearances in London and post-Tour criteriums in Europe, Thomas will finally return home on Thursday. He is set to make a public appearance outside the Welsh National Assembly (the Senedd) before riding the two kilometres to Cardiff Castle, where he will be interviewed by Welsh television presenter Gethin Jones.

Vliegen joins Wanty-Group Gobert

Loic Vliegen has chosen to turn away WorldTour offers and take a punt on Wanty-Groupe Gobert. The 24-year-old, who turned professional with BMC Racing in 2015, has penned a two-year deal with the Belgian Pro Continental team.

In his young career, Vliegen has shown plenty of promise with strong results in the hillier one-day races. In 2016, he took 10th at the Amstel Gold Race, having finished fifth in the Liège-Bastogne-Liège Espoirs the year before. He made his Grand Tour debut at the 2017 Vuelta a España, where he was part of a BMC Racing team that won the opening team time trial. Despite interest around the peloton, Vliegen says that he was convinced by Wanty-Groupe Gobert's ambitions.

"I could have stayed with BMC and also received offers from World Tour teams. But I see that Wanty-Groupe Gobert is growing and the positive feedback has convinced me. It is a good thing to become a member of a Walloon team with Walloon partners. This project is growing every year and presented a great opportunity," he said.

"I have a role to play at Wanty-Groupe Gobert, which is very important to me. I gained a lot of experience at BMC and was able to participate in numerous important races at a high level. I have learned a lot, it is time to score now. I will do my best to achieve good results for the team over the next two years. This is really something I was looking for: to get freedom in the spring classics, especially for the Flemish classics. I also want to be present in Tour de France, because I have already ridden the Vuelta and the Giro. I will do everything to be in the selection and show myself."

De Vreese extends with Astana

Laurens De Vreese will spend at least one more season with the Astana team after extending his contract with the Kazakh outfit. After four years of racing at Pro Continental level, De Vreese stepped up to WorldTour racing with the team in 2015.

De Vreese is a part of Astana's Classics line-up, which recently lost Michael Valgren to Dimension Data. De Vreese says that he is proud of what the team achieved in the 2018 Classics, with Valgren winning Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Amstel Gold Race, and is hopeful about their future.

"I am very happy about my new contract with Astana Pro Team, where I feel like at home, in the family. The atmosphere in the team is great and I am happy that the work I do for my teammates is highly appreciated," he said.

"Looking back to the Classics season it is impossible not to notice the growth of the team. I am proud of what our team has achieved this spring. We are moving in the right direction step by step. I am excited that I will continue to participate in this development."

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