Astana left without a top GC captain; Vinokourov disappointed to see Aru go

Astana boss Alexander Vinokourov couldn’t hide his disappointment that Fabio Aru decided to jump ship.

The Italian star left the team where he made his pro debut in 2012, and penned a three-year deal to join UAE-Emirates. In what appeared to be an open secret was a bit of a shock, at least according to Vinokourov.

“Aru had another optional year with us, and he never warned us of his desire to leave,” Vinokourov told L’Equipe. “We asked him what his plans were on numerous occasions, but he never answered us.”

Aru’s exit leaves Astana in a bind. One of the peloton’s best-funded teams will enter next year’s WorldTour racing season without a major grand tour contender on its roster.

Vinokourov said the team only learned of Aru’s departure when he read the official team press release Tuesday, just hours before the course presentation of the 2018 Tour de France.

“I only learned about it in the press release. I am very disappointed in him,” Vinokourov said. “It puts us in a difficult situation because of the time of year. It will be impossible to find a replacement of his level, someone able to win the Tour de France.”

With most of the major GC stars committed to contracts, Vinokourov will have almost no chance to find a top rider to take Aru’s place at this stage of a busy transfer season.

Vinokourov said that the team explored signing Rigoberto Urán when it appeared Cannondale-Drapac might fold. He also revealed that Nairo Quintana’s agent approached the team during the Tour about possible interest in signing with the Kazakhs.

Neither of those options panned out. Urán is staying with the renamed Education First-Drapac team for 2018, while Quintana also confirmed intention to stay with Movistar.

Without Aru, and the departure of Vincenzo Nibali to Bahrain-Merida at the end of 2015 coupled with the tragic death of Michele Scarponi this spring, leaves the powerful Astana team without a marquee rider to lead in the grand tours.

Jakob Fuglsang, seventh in the 2013 Tour, will be back for next season. Injury knocked the 32-year-old out of this year’s Tour after taking a dramatic victory at the Critérium du Dauphiné in June. Miguel Ángel López, 23, will see more opportunities, but he only completed his first grand tour last month at the Vuelta a España, riding to eighth overall with two stage wins. Neither is considered front-line yellow jersey contenders.

Aru is the latest arrival to the bolstered UAE-Emirates roster for 2018 that also includes new arrivals Dan Martin, Alexander Kristoff, and Rory Sutherland.

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Lawson Craddock: ‘The 2018 season definitely needs to be different from 2017’

NANNING, China (VN) — American Lawson Craddock’s “2018 season definitely needs to be different” after overdoing it in 2017.

Craddock, who recently re-signed with Cannondale-Drapac for 2018, began the 2017 season too hot and paid the price.

“Yeah, it definitely needs to be different in 2018!” Craddock told VeloNews. “It’s been a pretty rough year for me both on and off the bike.

“Honestly I’m just looking to ending this year on a decent note and coming back next year and showing what I’m capable of, which is a pretty high standard I hold myself too.”

Craddock sat waiting for the team’s meeting ahead of stage two of the Tour of Guangxi in South China. He listened to the sports director and prepared for his final race of 2017.

This 2017 season he had hoped to perform with the best in the Ardennes Classics and the Tour de France, but over-training and over-dieting left him exhausted.

“This year, it’s not like I had a weird issue, I was just too motivated early on in the year and over-cooked it,” he said. “It’s one of those things where you keep trying to come back and you aren’t prepared to do so. And some personal stuff too.

“I know I’m capable of great things in this sport. I’ve shown a glimmer of that before. I like to come out and show that I can be there with the best. And I know I can be there with the best. I’ll just focus on what I need to do to do that.”

The 25-year-old Texan raced professionally with Giant-Sunweb for 2014 and 2015. He joined Cannondale-Drapac for 2016. In those seasons, he rode the Tour de France, placed third and fifth overall in the Tour of California, and ninth overall in the País Vasco. In 2017, he expected more of the same, or better.

After a disappointing start, he tried to reach his best in time for the Tour of California in May. That ended with only 113th overall. Other races ended with a DNF – did not finish – beside his name.

“It just hasn’t been an easy year all around. If anything, it’s given me a chip on my shoulder to come back and prove next year that I do belong in the top-level of this sport.”

Craddock signed a one-year extension with the Slipstream Sports team, which came back from near collapse thanks to new sponsor EF Education First. He is due to meet with the managers this winter to discuss his race schedule. He maintains high ambitions.

“I’d love to get a victory because I still haven’t won a race yet in four years of the WorldTour. It’s not easy, for sure,” he added. “I want to have a good result in the early spring races like País Vasco and try to go for something at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and find myself back in the Tour de France and maybe go for a stage win there.”

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Week in Tech: Breadwinner G-Road, raining cats and dogs, Skratch bars

Here’s your Week in Tech — all the gear news you need, and none of the marketing gibberish you don’t.

It’s raining cats and dogs

French apparel company Café du Cycliste’s cats and dogs design now appears on a pair of its rain pieces. The Charlotte soft shell rain jacket and Josette short-sleeve rain jersey are the only pieces on the company’s line that have the unique design. The jacket’s waterproof breathable membrane is layered with two lightweight fabrics, resulting in a piece that Café du Cycliste says fits more like a long sleeve jersey. It also comes in a women’s cut and costs $276. The jersey, just available in men’s cut, has a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) treatment and a performance cut. A breathable interior membrane provides insulation from the rain but helps prevent overheating. The special dogs and cats jersey costs $204.


Breadwinner groads so hard

BreadWinner Cycles gets in the gravel game with the limited edition G-Road. The rig comes with 650b wheels and an IGLE steel fork. It was designed with off-roading in mind, with a sloping top tube and a 36mm head tube. Of course, it is disc-brake and thru-axle-equipped. As with all BreadWinner Cycles, each bike is made to order and the sizing is custom to the buyer. The bike comes stock with a SRAM Force drivetrain, but updates to Red and eTap are available for a little extra dough. The G-Road costs $6,395.


Hunt introduces mixed-depth wheelset

Hunt’s 3650 Carbon Wide Aero clincher wheelset takes advantage of a 36-millimeter front wheel depth, while the rear is 50mm deep. Mixed-depth wheelsets have become a trend, capitalizing on different strength and aerodynamic capabilities specific to front and rear wheels. The wheels are not disc-equipped but do come tubeless-ready. The 19-millimeter-wide rims work with a 23mm tire, but Hunt recommends a 25-millimeter tire or larger. You can preorder the wheelset now; deliveries will begin November 2. The pair weighs 1477 grams and costs $1,292.


A bar for any time

Skratch Labs now offers an Anytime energy bar made with fruits, nuts, and quinoa.  Skratch claims they have 50 percent less sugar than leading national energy bar brands. They are also non-GMO, vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, and kosher. Three flavors are available — chocolate chips and almonds, cherries and pistachios, and ginger and miso. A single bar is $2.65 or you can order a 12-pack for $30.


A shoe for indoor adventures

As winter approaches, the call of the trainer gets louder and louder. So Garneau and Reebok have collaborated on a shoe designed for indoor riding. The Actifly focuses on breathability because, without the breeze of the outdoors and increased humidity, sweat tends to build up. The top of the shoe mainly uses a mesh fabric to allow more air onto the foot. The mesh includes anti-bacterial and anti-odor treatments that also help with quick drying. The nylon/fiberglass outsole helps maintain power through the pedal stroke. The shoe is available in both men’s and women’s fits and is compatible with SPD cleats and most road cleats. The pair costs $110.


Silca lightens up

Silca has reintroduced its ratchet and torque kit and made it even lighter. Perhaps those small torque wrenches were just too heavy for our skinny cyclist arms. The torque beam allows you to measure 2-8Nm in three separate scales, so it is easier to find the right torque setting. The kit comes with a multitude of interchangeable hex bits (2mm, 2.5mm, 3mm, 4mm, 5mm, 6mm), three Torx bits (T10, T20, T25) and a 2-millimeter Phillips screw bit. It also includes an extendable rachet. The kit costs $99.


Bike box vs. bike bag

Scicon has introduced a neat new feature that helps you decide how to pack your bike for your next adventure. The infographic walks you through five main components to help you decide the best way to travel with your bike: cardboard bike box, soft shell bike case, or a hard shell bike case. You’ll end up with a final result based on the level of protection, portability, packability, durability, and price.


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Riders react to shortened La Course

On Tuesday, ASO revealed plans for the 2018 version of La Course by Le Tour de France, the race’s fifth running since its 2014 debut. Scheduled for July 17 in conjunction with stage 11 of the men’s race, La Course has been shortened to a one-day race (in 2017 it was two stages). The 2018 version includes 118km of racing and finishes in Le Grand Bornand.

VeloNews reached out to current and past members of the women’s pro peloton for perspective on the new format. The reaction was mixed, with riders expressing both disappointment that it is a one-day event and optimism about the challenging course.

“They’ve just kind of like punched us in the guts again with another one-day event,” said Carlee Taylor (Ale Cipollini). “I think the whole women’s peloton, to be honest, is probably pretty disappointed.”

Retired British rider Emma Pooley called the new route a “missed opportunity.”

“I think they have a great opportunity to build a stage race out of La Course,” Pooley said. “It’s great they have a race, I just think they could do a lot more with it. ASO are leaders in cycling and I think they have a great position where they could show leadership. I think it would be great if they could develop it a little bit more.”

For the first three years, 2014-2016, La Course was held on the Champs the morning of the Tour’s stage 21 finale. In 2017, the race moved to the mountains and debuted an unorthodox two-day format. ASO staged a 67.5km race to the top of Col d’Izoard. That was followed by an unconventional pursuit time trial in Marseille, two days later. Orica-Scott’s Annemiek van Vleuten won both races.

“It was nice they tried something different,” said Australian racer Tiffany Cromwell (Canyon-SRAM). “At the end of the day it was a fantastic day, but I still would have liked to have seen a much bigger stage.”

For many fans of women’s cycling and some of the riders, La Course 2017 was too short. Pooley said the mountain stage up the Izoard represented progression, but the short 67.5km stage length was not ideal.

“It’s almost humiliating,” Pooley said. “The Etape riders, the sportive riders, do the full distance. Women are really capable of a longer stage than that.”

Pooley, an Olympic silver medalist in 2008 and world champion in 2010, believes ASO should instead expand La Course to a multi-day stage race. The goal of the event should be to create a women’s version of the Tour de France, she said.

“I did get the feeling from ASO that they were annoyed by the hassle of having to deal with women wanting a race and then having to arrange a women’s race,” she said.

Pooley thinks an expanded La Course is a business opportunity for ASO.

“You can see amongst new women’s races like the [OVO] Women’s Tour in the UK, how well a women’s race sells as an entertainment and media event,” Pooley added. “It’s brilliant for people to watch they love it. It seems to me like the ASO are really missing an opportunity for their sponsors.”

The OVO Women’s Tour is a five-day race that covered 650 kilometers of racing June 7-11 in Britain this year. According to organizers, the 2017 race attracted 500,000 spectators; 1.4 million people watched the highlights program in the UK with more watching abroad in almost 100 countries.

Cromwell shares Pooley’s perspective, hoping La Course will expand to a multi-stage race. “Align it with the men’s so we benefit from the crowds,” Cromwell said. “Logistically I know it’s challenging, but ideally that’s what you want. There’s something special about how big the TDF is.”

The dream of a proper women’s Tour de France will have to wait. Fortunately, for 2018, the new route should afford exciting racing, albeit in a single-day format. “I’m glad it’s in the mountains next year and that it’s a bit longer so it’s a decent length next year,” Pooley said.

“Going back to one day of racing is definitely a bit of a disappointment, but the 2018 course sounds like a good one and hopefully will help us continue to build in the future,” said American Ruth Winder, who will transfer from UnitedHealthcare to Sunweb for 2018.

“The course is exciting,” Cromwell added. “It’s the biggest stage we have from an exposure point of view. It’s nice that we finally have a true race.”

Caley Fretz contributed to this report.

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VeloNews Show: Is the 2018 TDF innovative or gimmicky?

Editor’s note: This VeloNews Show includes images from, BrakeThrough Media, Flickr Creative Commons, Wikimedia Commons, YouTube/Cycling Sports, YouTube/Le Tour de France, YouTube/UCI, YouTube/La Vuelta, YouTube/Gravel Guru.

Organizer ASO stunned the cycling world with an unusual Tour de France route for 2018. It has cobblestones, a super-short climbing stage, precious few time trial kilometers, and even a bit of dirt road. Is the Tour de France headed in the right direction with an innovative approach to spice up the race? Or, are these just gimmicks that detract from the Grande Boucle’s heritage?

Plus, we discuss the 2018 La Course route. ASO has found another climber-friendly route for the Women’s WorldTour race, but is one day enough for what should be the season’s marquee event?

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