Team Sky will enter the 2.HC Tour of the Alps with its dual-pronged GC attack of Mikel Landa and Geraint Thomas, with Elia Viviani for the sprints stages. Landa is the defending champion and will again look for success at the re-branded stage race to kick-start his Giro d'Italia campaign. Landa and Thomas will be the two GC leader's for Sky at next month's Giro.
Thomas hasn't started the race since 2009 but will be hoping to carry his Tirreno-Adriatico from, where he was fourth overall and won stage 2, into the Tour of the Alps. The duo will be able to call upon Diego Rosa for support across the five stages with Italian Salvatore Puccio also lining out for Sky.
While Thomas has enjoyed a steady build-up for the Giro, Landa is searching for his first win of the year. The Spaniard's season fell part at the 2016 Giro when illness forced him to withdraw, 12-months on from winning two stages and finishing third overall. Having finished second overall in 2015 and tenth in 2014, Landa will be keen to continue his successful run at the race and make a winning return to form ahead of the Giro.
Viviani has had several podium results thus far in 2017 but is yet to break through for a victory. He will be aiming to break his drought at the race before he also lines out at the Giro.
Team Sky for the Tour of the Alps: Mikel Landa, Geraint Thomas, Diego Rosa, Salvatore Puccio and Elia Viviani.
Geraint Thomas will co-lead Team Sky at the Tour of the Alps
Prudhomme on a women's Paris-Roubaix
In 2017, a full triptych of Ardennes Classics will be raced by the women's peloton with the introduction of Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège to the calendar. The new races are the latest example of race organisers also putting on a women's race alongside the men's. One exception of the move toward more women's one-day races alongside the men's is a lack of a women's Paris-Roubaix which takes place Sunday.
On the eve of Paris-Roubaix, Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme explained further groundwork and research is required before a women's race will be held.
"I don't know. A musician shouldn't play faster than the rhythm," Prudhomme said of the possibility of a women's race. "In two weeks time, we organise the women's Liège-Bastogne-Liège for the first time. We're trying things every year. You can't expect anything to happen just like that."
As ASO run and operate a men and women's edition of Fleche Wallone, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Tour de Yorkshire and the now defunct Tour of Qatar, the question has been asked why a women's Roubaix couldn't be added to the calendar. ASO's portfolio of women's races also includes La Course by Le Tour de France and La Course by Le Tour de France.
"We take it step by step, and that's the best way to make sure it lasts. What matter is that its pérenne, sustainable," added Prudhomme. "The problem isn’t organising new races. The problem is that the races need to be covered by the media. The races exist, but the Route de France was cancelled this year because there wasn't media coverage. I don't feel a lot of support from other parts too."
Of cycling's five monuments, there is a men and women's edition of the Tour of Flanders while a women's edition of Milan-San Remo, Primavera Rosa, was held between 1999 and 2015. The end of season Il Lombardia also does not feature a women's edition.
Meintjes and Ulissi show form with top-ten results at Pais Vasco for UAE Team Emirates
UAE Team Emirates had a mixed final day of racing at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco with Diego Ulissi recording his third top-ten result of the race as Louis Meintjes slipped from fourth to sixth overall. Both riders are next in action at the Ardennes Classics with the duo confident in their form ahead after a tough week of racing.
"The result in the time trial makes me happy and I'm confident for the next races because I had good feelings during the Vuelta al Pais Vasco," said Ulissi. "It was difficult to manage properly the efforts during the time trial, in the climb of the course I tried to set immediately my pace on a high speed, even if I paid attention not to run out of energies, because in the final part it was necessary to have power in the legs to push strong.
"In my programs I wanted to have a top form during the week of the Ardenne Classics, I feel I'm close to the top condition."
While Ulissi was more concentrated on the stage result, Meintjes started the stage equal on time with eventual overall winner Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and was looking at the GC. Sixth place is Meintjes' best result in a stage race since winning Coppi e Bartali in 2015 to boost the 25-year-old confidence.
"It has been a very good week, I've come back to live the feelings of being in the front of the races. The 6th place in the general classification of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco is an important result and, moreover, it gives me morale and important feedback in view of the next races: I'll participate in the Fleche Wallone and in the Liege-Bastogne-Liege," said Meintjes.
"I'd really like to thank my teammates, we're a great group and I received precious help from everybody during the race."
Ulissi was seventh at last year's Amstel Gold Race, and eighth at La Flèche Wallonne but has never finished better than 20th at Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Of the three Ardennes classics, Meintjes' best performances have come at Liege-Bastogne-Liege with 11th his top result from three starts.
Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates)
Eddie Dunbar wins U23 Tour of Flanders
Eddie Dunbar made history Saturday when he soloed to victory at the U23 edition of Tour of Flanders to become the first Irishman to win the race. Compatriot Sean Kelly came close to winning the elite edition De Ronde on three occasions but was unable to claim victory at the Belgian monument.
Riding for the Irish national team, the Axeon Hagens Berman rider made his race winning move with 35km left in the 168.2km race. Despite the energy sapping long range attack, Dunbar held off the chase group by 49 seconds with Belgian Jasper Philipsen leading home the reduced peloton.
"I was actually cramping in the last three kilometers and was just hoping that my legs would not lock up completely," Dunbar said. "So I was trying not to press too hard. Once I passed two kilometers to go, I knew I was not going to be caught. There were so many things going through my head at the end. I was even wondering if there was maybe a guy ahead of me."
Trade teammate Neilson Powless could only watch on as Dunbar made his winning move but explained he was pleased to see the Irishman come up trumps.
"When Eddie went, I actually tried to attack up to him over a cobbled sector on the circuit and got within 10 meters maybe," said Powless. "I looked back and there were still a long line of riders on me, so I pulled off hoping someone else would finish it off. No one rode and Eddie got away.
"Eddie was super strong today and no one would commit to an organized chase. He was impressive and definitely deserved the win. I am pretty sure he was off the front from 35 kilometers out and I am super stoked to see a ride like that pay off. "
The duo will look for further success at next week's U23 Liège-Bastogne-Liège race where teammate Logan Owen took the victory in 2016.
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