News shorts: Hilton Clarke leaves UnitedHealthcare's crit squad, Katusha finalise 2016 roster

Hilton Clarke leaves UnitedHealthcare's crit squad

One of the founding members of UnitedHealthcare's 'blue train' criterium squad was not renewed for next season, Hilton Clarke, but the veteran Australian wants to continue racing.

Clarke was missing from UHC's 2016 roster announcement yesterday, but posted on his personal Facebook page last month that he was not offered a contract.

"The last three years I have predominantly raced with these 5 riders. Adrian Hegyvary, Brad White, Karl Menzies, Carlos Alzate, Luke Keough," Clarke wrote. "They are some of the most loyal and accountable blokes I have ever come across."

Clarke started with UnitedHealthcare in 2010, but had a long history of racing in the USA, beginning with NetZero in 2001. He spent three years with the Navigators before having a brief stint in the WorldTour with Fuji-Servetto in 2009. He spent the last several years as a key lead-out man and sprinter for UnitedHealthcare.

"In these three years I almost exclusively only raced in the NCC (National Crit Calendar). I have competed in 71 NCC races. I have won 12 of them but most importantly and what I'm most proud of is as a team we won 61 of them - 61/71! Amazing!"

Clarke was three times the overall National Criterium Calendar individual classification winner, in 2012, 2013 and this year.

"Even though I'm a little confused why I haven't been offered a job with UHC next year I will move forward. Hopefully I can find another program to race with and continue racing my bike."

Katusha finalise 2016 roster with contract extensions

The Katusha team has completed their roster for 2016 after announcing a final batch of contract extensions. Four members of the team's Russian contingent, Maxim Belkov, Pavel Kochetkov, Dmitriy Kozonchuk and Alexey Tsatevich, have all signed up for another year. 

Belkov, 30, has been with the team since 2012, and is a former Giro d'Italia stage winner who this year won the mountains classification at the Tour de Romandie. 29-year-old Kochetkov has been involved with the Russian squad and their Pro Conti and Conti feeder teams since 2011, while Tsatevich turned pro with the team in 2012. Kozonchuk has been with Katusha for three years after spending the earlier part of his career at Rabobank and has become an important domestique in the one-day and smaller stage races. 

"Each of these guys has a set of qualities and skills which our team needs. Some riders as, for example, Alexey Tsatevich and Pavel Kochetkov were able to get personal results. Others, like Maxim Belkov and Dmitriy Kozonchuk, were fully dedicated to the team's interests and did their jobs perfectly," said the Katusha team's general manager Viacheslav Ekimov.

"We can see important progress in each of these riders, so I am happy they all stay in Team Katusha. In signing these contracts, we have fully completed our 2016 roster, which will consist of 28 riders."

Van Vleuten restores Dutch flavour at Orica-AIS

Former World Cup champion Annemiek van Vleuten has signed for Orica-AIS next season, completing a move from Bigla Pro Cycling.

In joining the Australian outfit, the 33-year-old helps to redress the Dutch balance in the team after the retirement of road captain Loes Gungewijk earlier this year. 

"For me it is very motivating to be in a foreign team with a different atmosphere and culture. I wanted to be in a team with a professional and nice atmosphere, this is especially important in an Olympic year. Orica-AIS has proven over the last years to be very well organised, a professional team with good support and a great atmosphere between riders and staff," Van Vleuten said in a statement from the team.

"Loes was always so positive about her experiences with Orica-AIS that I had no doubt that I will also fit in the team. We are a bit similar. We both like to work hard, be professional and be focused in the race, but also like to be relaxed after the race"

Gunnewijk indeed had a hand in the signing, recommending Van Vleuten to the Orica management.The Dutchwoman is a versatile talent, a former national road and time trial champion and multiple winner at the Giro d'Italia Internazionale Femminile and on the World Cup series. She will focus on the spring classics next year before turning her attention to the Olympic Games in Rio.  

MTN-Qhubeka's Bos crashes out of Abu Dhabi Tour

MTN-Qhubeka's Theo Bos was forced to abandon the Abu Dhabi Tour after crashing during stage 2 on Friday. He was involved in the same crash that left Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep) with a temporal bone fracture and in the hospital.

The crash happened midway through the 129km stage from Yas Marina to Marina Island and it also involved Bos' teammate Songezo Jim, however, he was able to get up and continue racing.

Boonen was taken to the hospital with head trauma and Bos crashed heavily on his left side and looked to have significant abrasions, although his injuries have not been released.

"We had two riders crash at half distance today," said the team's head of performance, Jens Zemke. "Songezo, in the best young rider jersey, and Theo both went down. Songezo could continue and he finished with the bunch but for Theo the race was over. He had deep wounds that needed treatment straight away."


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