News shorts: A Welsh team in the Tour de France?

Katusha's Le Samyn squad, Novo Nordisk to Strade Bianche, Liv-Plantur to Le Samyn des Dames

New Welsh team aiming for 2019 Tour de France

We Are Wales (WAW) Pro Cycling, the brainchild of former professional Eifion Weinzweig, is set to make its debut next season at the Continental level although the ambitious Welsh project has set its sights on a Tour de France appearance. Weinzweig has already secured a reported £11m backing to start WAW's quest next season.

"We're starting off at Continental level for the first two years, [then we want to] stabilise the riders, stabilise the finances and the business model and then move up to the second division in year three," former professional Weinzweig and team co-principal told the BBC.

"That's when we can start officially trying to get into the Tour de France."

Although based in Wales, performance director Yann Dejan and a former coach of Weinzweig's, will oversee the team from its training base in Brittany.

Team Sky's Geraint Thomas is one of Wales most successful male cyclists who has competed in the Tour on five occasions, helping teammate Chris Froome to overall victory in 2013. Thomas also won the Commonwealth Games road race gold medal last year in Glasgow riding for Wales last year.

In early February, it was announced that Wales would host its first UCI categorised professional race in 2015 after the announcement of a new one-day event, which is due to take place on June 14

Novo Nordisk primed for Strade Bianche debut

Pro-Continental team Novo Nordisk will line up in Tuscany this weekend for its first appearance at the Italian once-day Strade Bianche race. The team has selected a versatile squad race which includes Scott Ambrose, who claimed the team's first ever victory at the Tour de Filipinas last month

"Strade Bianche is like the Italian Paris-Roubaix with its very unique course and multiple off-road sections," general manger Vassili Davidenko said. "It's an incredible event and we are thrilled to be participating for the first time this year."

David Lozano, an 11-times Spanish cross country and cyclo-cross champion has also been selected with Davidenko expecting the 26-year-old to shine on the gravel roads.

"Besides needing to be strong on the hilly route, riders need to have great bike handling to navigate the off-road sections," Davidenko said. "In that sense, it is a great event for David Lozano with his mountain bike background and his current form."

Team Novo Nordisk for Strade Bianche: Scott Ambrose, Joonas Henttala, Nicolas Lefrançois, David Lozano, Javier Megias, Andrea Peron, Martijn Verschoor and Chris Williams.

Katusha to Le Samyn

Having won the race in 2013 with Alexey Tsatevich who was then runner up in 2014, Katusha will enter La Samyn confident of another podium result. However Tsatevich, 25, won't be lining up at the race with Tirreno-Adriatico his next appointment.

The Russian team are sending the 2014 U23 road race world champion Sven Erik Bystrøm for his third Belgian one-day race in a week. Bystrøm made his debut at the Tour of Qatar, finishing fifth in the young rider classification and has since raced Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Elite and Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne.

Katusha for Le Samyn: Maxim Belkov, Sven Erik Bystrøm, Vladimir Isaychev, Alexander Kolobnev, Dmitriy Kozonchuk, Sergey Lagutin, Gatis Smukulis and Anton Vorobyev.

Pieters and Claudia Lichtenberg for Liv-Plantur at Le Samyn des Dames

Having starts its classics campaign at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad last weekend, Liv-Plantur is backing Amy Pieters and Claudia Lichtenberg at the Le Samyn des Dames Wednesday. Pieters was seventh at the race last year and seventh in defence of her title at Het Nieuwsblad where a puncture hindered her chances.

"Races like this are a good way to keep progressing and finding the good feelings again and we need this at the moment with a few riders whose preparation was interrupted for the start of the season through sickess," said coach Hans Timmermans.

"We evaluated Nieuwsblad in a good way together and identified out weak points to work on and also saw that Amy is riding in a really good way already so for Wednesday we will look to support her for a good result, while racing in an offensive way."

The will also ride in support of Lichtenberg in just her second race of the year fater making her season debut at Het Nieuwsblad, finishing 94th.

Le Samyn des Dames team: Claudia Lichtenberg, Floortje Mackaij, Sara Mustonen-Lichan, Amy Pieters, Julia Soek and Kyara Stijns.

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