The ASO on Tuesday named its wildcard picks for the men's and women's editions of Liège-Bastogne-Liège and La Flèche Wallonne WorldTour races.
For the men, seven wildcard teams from the Pro Continental ranks will join the 18 WorldTour teams, with the line-up remaining the same for both races save for Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij swapping in at Wallonne for Fortuneo-Vital Concept. Racing both events will be Aqua Blue Sport, Cofidis, Direct Energie, Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise, Wanty-Groupe Gobert, WB Veranclassic Aqua Project.
In the women's races, five wildcard picks will join 19 teams that have been selected for both races. Bizkaia Durango, Drops, France, S.C Michela Fanini and Sport Vlaanderen Etixx will race Liège-Bastogne-Liège, while Canada's SAS Macogep team will replace the French National Team in Flèche Walonne.
The 19 teams that will compete in both races are Alé Cipollini, Astana Women’s Team, Bepink Cogeas, Boels Dolmans, BTC City Ljubljana, Canyon-Sram, Cervélo-Bigla, Cylance, FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope, Hitec Products, Lares Waowdeals, Lensworld Kuota, Lotto Soudal Ladies, Orica-Scott, Servetto Giusta, Team Sunweb, Team Veloconcept Women, Wiggle High5, WM3 Pro Cycling.
The 2017 edition of La Flèche Wallonne takes place April 19, with Liège-Bastogne-Liège following on April 23.
Alejandro Valverde sprints to the 2015 Liège-Bastogne-Liège win
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Aside from minute-by-minute updates throughout the races, Cyclingnews will provide post-race coverage with the world's best photographers and our own on-site reporting.
The traditional opener to the Spring Classics, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad will make its first WorldTour appearance in 2017. The 197km race will test defending champion Greg Van Avermaet as he tries to repeat his 2016 feat on a course that features 13 official climbs and 10 cobbled sections.
The second race of Belgian cycling's traditional 'opening weekend,' Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, follows the next day with a parcours tailored to the fast finishers. The 200.7km route for the 1.HC race sets out from Kuurne in West Flanders and heads east toward the Belgian capital before heading back to Kuurne for the finish.
Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) won the race last year with a bold solo attack from a small breakaway group.
Both Saturday and Sunday's races start at 11:45 a.m. (CET).
Greg Van Avermaet sprints to victory ahead of Peter Sagan at the 2016 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
Algarve winner Roglic extends with LottoNL-Jumbo
General Manager Richard Plugge confirmed the deal on Tuesday.
"We signed him as an inexperienced talent," Plugge said. "He has made some great steps under our guidance. He is a true athlete who works diligently on his development. He trained as a ski jumper, but in cycling, he is still improving. We put in a lot of energy and Primoz takes it on board. He is very coachable."
"He has huge potential," Plugge continued. "And he is a great example of the development of talent that we stand for. Despite his age, he has not been in cycling long and so he is still young in that sense."
Roglic was signed after an impressive 2015 Tour of Slovenia. He quickly showed his worth, coming second to Tom Dumoulin in the 9.8km opening Giro d'Italia time trial and then winning the longer time trial on stage 9. He is hoping to continue to improve his stage racing ambitions while keeping his time trialing skills honed.
"I like it in team LottoNL-Jumbo," Roglic added. "We were each satisfied with how it was going, so I'm glad we agreed so quickly on the contract extension.
"This will allow me to have more chances to score and to develop. There was interest from several other teams, but proper supervision is still very important to me. Moreover, I get along with everyone in the team and that counts."
Primoz Roglic signed with LottoNL-Jumbo through 2018.
Bahrain-Merida counts on Colbrelli at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
Colbrelli, who has two top 10s in Milan-San Remo in his history, has never competed in the Belgian races, but directeur sportif Tristan Hoffman thinks they will be good preparation for the Italian.
"Our lead rider will be Sonny Colbrelli, who is feeling great both mentally and physically so we believe he is the ideal choice for Classic races like this one," Hoffman said.
"For our riders Ivan Cortina, Antonio Nibali, Domen Novak, Jon Insausti and David Per it will be the first time to ride as professional riders in Belgium. Luka Pibernik and Borut Božic have been racing in Belgium before and we are looking forward to see them on the track again. We believe it will be a good lineup of our team. It is critical to know the course and we don't have many riders that already rode on this track, so one of the goals for our riders will be to learn and gather experience."
Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin) beats Sbaragli (Dimension Data) and Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) to the line.
Garmin continues to sponsor WorldTour teams
Garmin International Inc., announced today that it is sponsoring nine teams this season, including five WorldTour teams.
Garmin, a former title sponsor for Jonathan Vaughters' Slipstream organisation, continues to provide gear to Cannondale-Drapac and Movistar. Astana, FDJ and Dimension Data are new signings.
"Garmin started sponsoring professional cycling teams nearly a decade ago and we are excited to continue our commitment to the sport," said Jon Cassat, Garmin vice president of communications. "As a leader in cycling technology, we are proud to provide the teams with top-of-the-line products – from GPS bike computers to cycling awareness accessories and multi sport GPS watches – for training, racing and adventure in between."
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