Estonian sprinter Mihkel Räim (Israel Cycling Academy) put an exclamation point on his recovery from the broken scaphoid he suffered at Colombia Oro Y Paz in February, adding his second win of the season during stage 4 at the Tour of Japan on Wednesday.
Räim had to overcome both the broken bone and the disappointment of missing out on an opportunity to start his first Grand Tour as Israel Cycling Academy gained a wildcard entry to the Giro d'Italia.
The Pro Continental team's most prolific winner with10 UCI wins over three years, Räim broke his wrist in a crash during stage 3 of the Colombian 2.HC race and was out of competition for two months. The injury caused him to miss the important early part of the season when riders were proving their mettle to make the Giro roster.
"Kjell [Carlström, team manager] and the sports directors all said there are other races than the Giro, so I just accepted that," Räim said. "I still do my job whether I'm at the Giro or not. I wasn't selected and that's OK. I think the other guys deserved it more because I was injured and couldn't race until a month ago."
Räim returned to racing in April at Tro Bro Leon, where he failed to finish in his first race back. He went to Spain next for the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon and won the stage 2 bunch sprint in Palencia. He raced the Vuelta Aragon before proving again in Japan that his bunch-kick was back with a win on stage 4.
"There aren't many guys like him," said Spanish teammate Jose Diaz Gallego. "He's funny and he makes a lot of jokes, but he's still a very professional racer."
The Tour of Japan continues Thursday with a 123.5km stage in Minami Shinshu.
Mihkel Raim (Israel Cycling Academy) on the podium after winning stage 4 at the Tour of Japan (Bettini Photo)
Tour of Utah unveils 2018 jerseys
The Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah today unveiled the six category jerseys that will be awarded throughout the 2.HC race that begins August 6 in St. George and finishes August 12 in Park City.
Using a theme based on the Utah's 'Beehive State' nickname, the new Tour of Utah jerseys incorporate a honeycomb pattern with distinctive bright colours. It is the eighth year that tour organizers have partnered with Utah-based DNA Cycling for design and production of all the jerseys.
"The beehive is a symbol used on the state flag and the state seal to represent hard work and industry," said John Kimball, the race's managing director. "And from that hard work comes the honeycomb, so we are proud to use this iconic mark to showcase the top performers in the Tour of Utah. These are the best teams and cyclists on the planet, and we are excited to have them racing across our beautiful state."
Five jerseys will be presented daily for the race leader, top sprinter, top climber, most aggressive and best young rider under 24. The special 'Fan Favourite' jersey will be awarded daily in various categories using online voting by fans.
The overall leader will wear the yellow jersey sponsored by the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies. The sprint leader will wear the white jersey sponsored by the Utah Sports Commission. The top young rider will wear the light blue jersey sponsored by WCF Insurance. The king of the mountain leader will wear snowflake-adorned jersey sponsored by the Utah office of Tourism. The daily most aggressive rider will wear the red jersey sponsored by the Larry H. Miller dealerships. The daily fan favourite will wear the dark-blue jersey sponsored by America First Credit Union.
The race previously confirmed 17 teams for the seven-day race, including WorldTour teams BMC Racing, EF Education First-Drapac, Mitchelton-Scott, Trek-Segafredo and LottoNL-Jumbo. The race starts August 6 with a time trial prologue in St. George and works its way north to the conclusion in Park City on August 12.
BMC Racing names Hammer Series roster
BMC Racing will return to the Hammer Series' second run with a five-rider roster that includes Tom Bohlii, Damiano Caruso, Stefan Küng, Miles Scotson and Dylan Teuns. Director Jackson Stewart will lead the team in the three-event race that starts May 25 in Stavanger, Norway.
"I expect Hammer Series Stavanger to be a well-organized and entertaining race just like it was in Limburg last year," Stewart said in the team's roster announcement. "It was my first time experiencing such a race format, and I think it was unique and perpetuated the excitement of road cycling throughout the race."
The first series 'stage' on Friday is an 80.6km 'climb' consisting of multiple laps around an 8.4km circuit that includes two climbs near the end of each lap. Saturday's 92km 'sprint' is 10 laps of a 9.2km circuit with points awarded on each lap. Sunday's final stage is a 48.7km team time trial 'chase.'
"We will be going to Stavanger with five competent riders, some of whom competed at last year's race," Stewart said. "It's a well-rounded roster with Dylan Teuns and Damiano Caruso for the Hammer Climb, while Miles Scotson, Tom Bohli and Stefan Küng are all returning to racing from different circumstances.
"I think we will be curious to see if we can match our level from last year in the Hammer Chase. Personally, I'm looking forward to it, though, and I think Stavanger is a terrific location for such an event," Stewart said.
BMC Racing for the Hammer Series: Tom Bohlii, Damiano Caruso, Stefan Küng, Miles Scotson, Dylan Teuns
Albasini opens 2018 account at Tour des Fjords
Michael Albasini (Mitchelton-Scott) claimed his first win of 2018 Wednesday during stage 2 at the Tour des Fjords, taking a bunch sprint ahead of Pim Ligthart (Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij) and Kristoffer Halvorsen (Team Sky) and moving even on time with overall leader Fabio Jakobsen (Quick-Step Floors) heading into Thursday's final stage.
The 37-year-old said it was a positive sign after a difficult early season that saw him DNF Amstel Gold, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
"It is great to win," Albasini said. "I had a really rough spring, so it feels good to be back and I am super happy now to show that I am not getting too old.
"I was struggling a bit the last week, feeling tired in training so I still wasn't sure how I would be," he said. "I was maybe training a bit too much because I wanted to get back in shape, I just needed to step back a little bit and just recover so I wasn't expecting to win at all, which makes it so much better."
Mitchelton-Scott contributed to the chase of three early breakaway riders, then controlled things in the final circuits before a group of 10 jumped away. That group swelled to 40 by the finish, where Albasini timed his move out the wheels to take the win.
"It was a tricky final and a harder climb than expected," Albasani said. "We thought today would be the easier day out of the three, but it turned out to be a really tough final and we actually took it by the horns.
"This race is all about bonus seconds," he said. "I am now on the same time as the leader so it is not over. It is an uphill finishing tomorrow which suits me so if again I have good legs we can try and do something."