Dutch WorldTour team LottoNL-Jumbo have announced a strong climbing squad for next week's Volta a Catalunya headlined by Robert Gesink and Steven Kruijswijk. The race will be the second of the season that Gesink and Kruijswijk have raced side by side following the Abu Dhabi Tour. New Zealander George Bennett adds further climbing options for the team having impressed on his season debut with seventh overall in Abu Dhabi.
Kruijswijk comes into the race off the back of Paris-Nice as he continues his build up to the Giro d'Italia in May, aiming to improve upon his fourth place overall in 2016. Gesink will lead the team at the Tour de France and has a slower build up than his younger teammate. Both riders will lead the team at the seven stage race which finishes with a circuit in Barcelona.
The climber friendly Volta a Catalunya has re-introduced a team time trial for 2017 with the outcome of the stage 2 test against the clock crucial to the overall hopes of the GC men. Belgian time trial champion Victor Campenaerts will be key for the team across the 41km stage from Pla de l'Estany to Banyoles. Having recovered from the illness that saw him quit Paris-Nice, Stef Clement will also be key for Gesink and Kruijswijk.
Martijn Keizer, Bert-Jan Lindeman and American Alexey Vermeulen will complete the LottoNL-Jumbo squad.
Defending champion Nairo Quintana won't be racing in 2017 as he returns home to Colombia following his Tirreno-Adriatico victory last week. However, the Dutch squad will still be up against the likes of Tour de France winners Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) plus former Catalunya winner Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
LottoNL-Jumbo for Volta a Catalunya: George Bennett, Victor Campenaerts, Stef Clement, Robert Gesink, Martijn Keizer, Steven Kruijswijk, Bert-Jan Lindeman and Alexey Vermeulen.
Robert Gesink and Steven Kruijswijk during a team training ride
Ondrej Cink leads Bahrain-Merida at Volta a Catalunya
The 26-year-old was 22nd on his WorldTour debut at the Tour Down Under, improving to ninth at the Ruta del Sol in February and 18th at Strade Bianche earlier in the month. Cink will aim to express himself across the hilly parcours of the stage race and can count on Janez Brajković for advice. The Slovenian has won a stage of Catalunya and finished top-ten on numerous occasions.
Enrico Gasparotto has also tasted stage success at the race and will be an important rider for younger teammates. Tsgabu Grmay and Yukiya Arashiro are the other riders looking for a result. Antonio Nibali, Domen Novak, and Meiyin Wang complete the team roster as men for the breakaway and as domestiques.
BMC's Manuel Quinziato a qualified lawyer
Having previously completed his undergraduate law degree while balancing a career as a WorldTour cyclist, Manuel Quinziato can now call himself a lawyer. One day after wearing the Italian national time trial champion's jersey on the final day of Tirreno-Adriatico, Quinziato successfully defended his thesis at the University of Trento.
Quinziato will quickly return to his 'day job' with BMC as he lines out at Milan-San Remo in support of Greg Van Avermaet's bid for victory.
Master Degree in Law #happy pic.twitter.com/qG55LCfEgGâ Manuel Quinziato (@manuelquinziato) March 15, 2017
GCC Games time trial win for Mirza
UAE national road race champion Yousef Mirza added the GCC Games (Gulf Cooperation Council Games) time trial title to his palmares Wednesday. The 28-year-old who became the first Emirati to ride at WorldTour level when signing with UAE Team Emirates, beat brother Badar Mirza to the title by 50 seconds across the 34.6km course. Bahraini Sayed Ahmed Khalil finished in third place.
"I love the taste of the victory, this was even more touching because I was on the podium listening to the national anthem - Mirza explained - I like time trial and I'd like to improve my performances in this discipline, I'm aware that thanks to the trainers and the equipments from UAE Team Emirates I'll have all the necessary resources to achieve this goal," said Mirza, who will also aim for victory in the road race. "During the race my feelings were good, it was important to be well focused because 34,6 km is a pretty long distance. It was a family competition with my brother Badr for the victory!"
Mirza started his 2017 season on home soil at the Dubai Tour where he placed 13th overall. He then rode the Tour of Oman, placing 107th overall then placed second in the Asian Games road race to Sanghong Park.