Spanish climber Daniel Navarro has signed a two-year contract with Katusha-Alpecin, the team has announced. Navarro will bolster Katusha’s climbing squad and will be an important inclusion for Grand Tour contender Ilnur Zakarin.
Navarro, 35, turned professional in 2005 with Liberty Seguros-Würth, which became Astana the following year. The Spaniard developed into a key support rider for Alberto Contador, and he accompanied joined Contador when he departed for Saxo Bank-Sungard in 2011. After two seasons with the Danish squad, Navarro chose to move to Cofidis in 2013 and see what he could do given his own chances.
In that first season, he finished ninth overall at the Tour de France and took 10th at the following year's Vuelta a Espana, winning a stage along the way. Since then, his GC performances have not reached the same level. He has come close to some stage wins but he hasn't tasted victory since that Vuelta stage in 2014. Returning to WorldTour level for the first time in six years, Navarro sees this move as an opportunity to help Zakarin, while also taking his own chances.
"It was time for me to move to another team, just to give myself some new motivation. The fact that Katusha-Alpecin was interested in me and that I know a lot of people in the team means I'm looking forward to this transfer," he said in a team press release. "I'm not a winner, but I have proved my value at all my previous teams. I'll work for Ilnur Zakarin with pleasure, knowing that I'll get my chance, too, from time to time. This season I proved that I'm not too old for this.
"I've already ridden a number of Grand Tours in my career, but not often more than one per season. That's why I'm sure I still have some years left in me at the highest level of cycling. In my head, I still have a lot of freshness. Now I'm already looking forward to 2019."
Boom scrapes through time limit after camper-van pit stop
Boom had to make an emergency toilet stop midway through the stage, with a fan video showing the Dutchman coming out of a roadside camper van having used the facilities. His travails did not end there as he suffered a crashed as he sought to regain contact with the bunch ahead, leaving him drained and fighting just to stay in the race.
In the end, Boom crossed the line 35:21 after stage winner Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), along with AG2R La Mondiale's Julien Duval. The duo was not on the initial list of finishers but was eventually confirmed as finishing just three seconds inside the time limit.
"Thanks for all the nice messages. Big stomach problem. Thanks to the people from the Mobil home were [sic] I could put my 'shit'. The downhill after my pitstop I had a nasty crash. After this moment my body was totally fucked. Happy to make the time cut," Boom wrote on Twitter.
Van Hoecke signs with CCC for 2019
Greg Van Avermaet's training partner, Gijs Van Hoecke, will be his teammate next season after signing a contract with the CCC-sponsored team. The 26-year-old will be a support rider for Van Avermaet in the Classics.
Van Hoecke turned professional with Topsport-Vlaanderen in 2012 and spent five seasons with the Belgian outfit before signing for LottoNL-Jumbo for the 2017 season. He is a former world champion on the track in the Madison but has not taken a major win on the road. He completed his first Grand Tour this season at the Giro d'Italia.
"I am really excited to join Continuum Sports next year. Although I wasn't really looking for a change, I was charmed by the offer I received from Jim Ochowicz. With BMC Racing Team, Jim has proven that he can make one of the best teams in the world, and I am convinced that he can do the same with the continuation of the team, sponsored by CCC. I'm honoured that I can be a part of this team," said Van Hoecke.
Naesen on Bretagne win: 'I felt as though I had to win'
Oliver Naesen scored his first WorldTour victory two years ago at the Bretagne Classic, and the Belgian repeated his success on Sunday. The AG2R La Mondiale rider braved torrid conditions to beat Michael Valgren (Astana) and Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) from a breakaway.
Naesen had been part of a larger breakaway group before he escaped with his two companions with 15 kilometres remaining. With Valgren in the group, Naesen was always going to be up against it in the finale, but he took up the sprint early and managed to out-kick the Dane to the line. Not only was it Naesen’s first win in over a year – since becoming Belgian road champion in June 2017 – but it was also the team’s first victory at WorldTour level in 2018.
"This is my second victory at Plouay," said Naesen. "I like this race. On this course, while the pure sprinters and riders like me are on a par, we're still all in action all day long. When I won two years ago, I'd won a kermesse race shortly beforehand just beforehand. And then this year I won the same event, so I obviously had Plouay in mind.
"It's amazing to win it again," he continued. "I had to be at the front all the day, as the roads were really demanding. In the breakaway, I was aware that I was maybe doing too much, but I didn't want anyone to say, 'He won, but he wasn't the best.'
"Valgren is an amazing rider, and he's shown that this year. But despite that, I felt confident. This is the first UCI WorldTour victory of the year for the AG2R La Mondiale team, so I felt as though I had to win."