Foto: Gerhard Plomitzer
U23 Gent-Wevelgem winner Jonas Rutsch will join the WorldTour with EF Education First Pro Cycling. The 22-year-old is the team’s first neo-pro signing for the 2020 season.
“The rise to the WorldTour means that I have reached a career goal already,” said Rutsch. “I have worked towards this since I was a little boy. It was always my dream to become a professional cyclist. I have invested a lot of time and hard work, and I’m really happy to make it to the top level.”
“The kid is a machine,” said EF Education First Pro Cycling CEO Jonathan Vaughters. “A well-tuned machine, like Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Terminator.”
Rutsch’s resume gave him options for the upcoming season. In addition to his competitive Classics results, the German was the only rider on a Continental team to crack the Tour of Luxembourg general classification top ten.
EF Education First’s atmosphere proved attractive to him.
“The team brings a lightness into the world of cycling,” he said. “The team is ambitious and cool with a good direction. It’s an exciting team to follow and I’m excited to explore the world with the team.
“To me, explore the world means discovering new places with amazing people to gain experiences that will broaden my horizons,” Rutsch added. “That can be perfectly pursued while riding for this team.”
Rutsch admits the “tough one-day races” are his favorites, and that is greatest ambitions lies over the cobbled terrain.
“I have always been tall and strong,” he said. “I can use my power in these races.”
“He’s a big rider that seems to climb well and go over cobbles well – and from what I’ve seen, he handles pressure well, too,” said Vaughters. “I think he’s going to be a great Classics rider. I mean, he won Gent-Wevelgem, and I believe is a future Paris-Roubaix winner.”
„There’s an old saying that applies to me: you can’t lose the game if you don’t play the game.“ -William Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet
Here we are, ready to play the game as the first Grand Tour of the year is charged and ready to take to the stage. The curtain will raise on the 102nd Giro d’Italia this Saturday in Bologna, where a 21-stage drama will commence. The power of the iconic pink leader’s jersey driving them along through cities, past seas, up and down mountains to their final destination: Verona. The rider quickest against the three-week clock will stand head held high crowned by a roaring crowd within Verona’s amphitheatre.
Italy has immense pride in its aptitude to conserve tradition. The Giro itself has proven innovative over the years offering an antidote to, say, the Tour de France, but the race always comes down to the traditional arena of the Alps and Dolomites mountains. For riders, staff, and fans, the Giro feels like a celebration of Italy, from road to table.
EF Education First Pro Cycling Team sport director Fabrizio Guidi, an Italian who now calls Switzerland home, gets right to the point when asked about the high points of Italian dining.
“Tignanello wine and fiorentina are good together, but I think my favourite wine is Sassicaia and my favourite dish is Catalana di Scampi — but they don’t go together,” Guidi says. “Scampi has to be eaten with a white wine.”
“I did the Giro two or three years ago with [Alberto] Bettiol and Fabrizio and in one of the stages around Florence they basically got this special delivery for us of Fiorentina from, according to them, the best butcher in Italy,” says Joe Dombrowski. “There’s this knowledge and pride around the food in Italy that I don’t think I’ve seen anywhere else in the world.”
Life in Italy follows a long-ago written script. Like the romance that plays out between Romeo and Juliet, passion has a twine that twists its way through society. Foods and wines must fall together like lovers in each other’s arms; design and architecture are fertilized by craftsmanship and beauty; flamboyance is the pillar of language and fashion.
So when it comes to a bike race, one that’s more than 100 years old, it embodies all this with tradition being its beating heart. It’s a race that the nation has grown up watching, an occasion for family get togethers.
„I grew up with the Giro, watching it on TV with my father and my uncle and brother. We had one TV and we would meet as a family and watch it together,” Guidi explains. “Some of us would support one rider, some would support another. As a child it was fascinating to see the energy that people put into watching this sport.”
Its personality is different in comparison to cycling’s other heartlands, like France and Belgium Guidi says, “In Belgium you are strong if you can ride hard on the cobbles. Here in Italy everyone loves the one who can survive on the mountain.”
Sticking to tradition, this year’s race has back-loaded the mountain stages into the third and final week.
“The last week of the Giro is always the big crescendo, but the geography of Italy and the way the race is designed means it’s much more varied. It’s not like in the Tour de France where you have blocks of flat days and then you arrive in the Pyrenees and then the Alps. In Italy there can be something hiding behind every corner,” sport director Charly Wegelius says.
This year’s Giro d’Italia has a total of three time trials, giving the riders who aren’t as strong in the mountains the chance to claw some time back. But as a consequence of this those missing kilometers have to be made up elsewhere. This year there will be nine stages that exceed 200 kilometers in length. Stage 16 serves up an eye-popping 5,000m (16,400 feet) of vertical elevation over 226 (140 miles) kilometers, where the double act of Passo Gavia at 2,618m (8,589 feet) and Mortirolo at 1,854m (6,100 feet) will soften riders’ legs to clay.
“I have the impression that it’s more of a classic Giro, in that there’s long stages and some really big mountain stages in terms of the amount of climbing. The second half of a Grand Tour, the narrative is completely different, guys start to get tired, there’s just this sense of apathy and when you have that it turns into opportunities for the opportunists,” Dombrowski says, his thirst for the mountains quite obvious.
Being the Grand Tour that takes place in spring can mean the weather can be unpredictable. It’s not unheard of for the peloton to race between walls of snow at the top of climbs. Descents down mountains after monster efforts climbing up them can chill riders to the core, adding another layer of complexity to keeping it all together. Everything is scripted to be unpredictable.
„I think the race reflects the best things about Italy to be honest, a lot of passion, a lot of color, all kinds of unexpected things going on. Odd things can happen in this race. That’s a bit of a rarity in pro cycling at the moment. In 2010 there was a 56 rider breakaway that got 40 minutes on the peloton, which is unheard of generally in cycling,” Wegelius reflects, a pang of lust towards a race that he rarely works nowadays.
There’s something about this race, it embraces you, taking you on a journey it doesn’t want you to forget.
If what Shakespeare wrote for that famous love story in Verona is true, ‘Love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs,’ then the passion for a bike race is made from the grimaces of pain fighting for pink.
1 Alberto Bettiol (Ita) EF Education First 6:18:49
2 Kasper Asgreen (Den) Deceuninck-QuickStep 0:00:14
3 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates 0:00:17
4 Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Corendon-Circus
5 Nils Politt (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin
6 Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb
7 Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale
8 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team
9 Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal
10 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) CCC Team
11 Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
12 Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Lotto Soudal
13 Dries Van Gestel (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
14 Wout Van Aert (Bel) Team Jumbo-Visma
15 Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) EF Education First
16 Bob Jungels (Lux) Deceuninck-QuickStep
17 Yves Lampaert (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep
18 Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Team Sky 0:00:24
19 Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo 0:01:19
20 Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale 0:01:58
Mit 270,1 Kilometern präsentierte sich die Ronde heute um rund 20 km länger als in den letzten Jahren. Durch insgesamt 17 Hellingen und 13 Kopfsteinpflasterpassagen war die Strecke gewohnt anspruchsvoll, wobei zu erwarten war, dass die Entscheidung beim dritten Anstieg zum Oude Kwaremont (2,2 km, max. 11,6 %), bzw. dem darauffolgenden Paterberg (360 m, max. 20,3 %) fallen würde. Beim Start in Antwerpen zeigte sich das Wetter von seiner besten Seite, 15 Grad und Sonnenschein begleitete das Fahrerfeld auf den ersten Kilometern in Richtung Südosten, wobei heute von Beginn an Attacke auf Attacke folgte. Nach rund 20 km konnten sich dann vier Fahrer vom Feld absetzen, dort hielten aber vor allem die kleineren Teams, die die Gruppe verpasst hatten, das Tempo zuerst weiter hoch. Erst weitere 20 Kilometer später ließ das Feld die Gruppe endgültig ziehen und der Vorsprung entwickelte sich nun rasch in Richtung neun Minuten. Mit Jumbo-Visma und Deceuninck – Quick Step übernahmen zwei Teams im Feld noch vor der Zieldurchfahrt in Oudenaarde Verantwortung, und zogen das Tempo an. Vor dem ersten Anstieg des Tages waren noch 150 km zurückzulegen und der Abstand zwischen Spitze und Feld war auf unter fünf Minuten gesunken. Zu diesem Zeitpunkt zeigte sich auch BORA – hansgrohe immer wieder vorne im Peloton, denn von nun an war es wichtig, eine gute Position zu verteidigen. An der Kapelmuur machte man im Feld zum ersten Mal ernst und die Hauptgruppe teilte sich. Mit Peter Sagan, Daniel Oss und Lukas Pöstlberger hatte BORA – hansgrohe drei Fahrer vorne, die wenig später die frühe Spitzengruppe eingeholt hatten. Einige der Mitfavoriten verpassten diese Vorentscheidung, und an der Spitze entbrannte nun ein harter Schlagabtausch. Zuerst setzten sich vier Mann, darunter Lukas Pöstlberger, ab, doch als die Gruppe wieder gestellt wurde, zögerte man vorne, und das bereits abgeschlagene Feld konnte ebenfalls aufschließen. Am zweiten Anstieg zum Oude Kwaremont setzten sich zwei Fahrer ab, während dahinter das Feld nun merklich kleiner wurde, und am Paterberg zuerst K. Asgreen bzw. wenig später D. van Barle zum Spitzenduo aufschließen konnten. Ein Fahrer fiel zurück und S. Vanmarcke konnte mit Asgreen und van Baarle etwa 30 Sekunden Vorsprung herausfahren. Dahinter hatte Peter Sagan nur noch Daniel Oss an seiner Seite. Wie erwartet kam es zum Showdown in der letzten Auffahrt zum Kwaremont. Die Favoriten machten nun ernst und A. Bettiol setzte die entscheidende Attacke. Dahinter folgte eine 15-Mann-Verfolgergruppe in der auch Sagan vertreten war. Einige Male versuchte Peter sich noch abzusetzen, doch alle Versuche wurden neutralisiert. Bettiol verteidigte seinen Vorsprung bis zum Ende und holte einen beeindruckenden Solosieg. Im Sprint um die Plätze musste sich Sagan heute ebenfalls geschlagen geben und erreichte letztlich als 11. das Ziel in Oudenaarde.
Reaktionen im Ziel
„Das war heute ein hartes und spannendes Rennen. Trotz der Anstrengung macht es Spaß hier zu fahren, weil die Atmosphäre einfach unglaublich ist. Ich muss mich bei meinen Teamkollegen bedanken, denn sie haben 100 % gegeben, um mich zu unterstützen. Ich konnte viel Kraft sparen, am Ende war ich vorne, konnte aber die Attacke von Bettiol nicht mitgehen. Auch im Sprint hat mir der letzte Punch heute gefehlt.“ – Peter Sagan
„Das Team hat bis zur zweiten Passage des Kwaremont einen sehr guten Job gemacht. Peter konnte wichtige Energie sparen, da er perfekt flankiert war. Er selbst ist aber auch ein schlaues Rennen gefahren, hat nie ein Korn verschwendet. Als am Ende die Entscheidung fiel, war er aber nicht perfekt platziert und man konnte schon sehen, dass er nicht den besten Tag hatte. Er war dann dennoch in der Verfolgergruppe und hatte damit immer noch alle Chancen. Bettiol war aber auf den letzten Kilometern sehr stark, und Peter im Sprint letztlich noch eingebaut. Da war heute nicht mehr drin.“ – Enrico Poitschke, sportlicher Leiter
Mike Woods was working at a running-shoes store in Ottawa, Canada when he began to borrow his dad’s bike. He was one of the best runners in the country, but he’d injured himself by overtraining. And so he had some time on his hands. He needed to do something. Anything.
Riding, turns out, proved cathartic. And talent doesn’t just go away.
Friends convinced him to try his hand at bike racing, and Woods soon discovered an innate talent. Local race wins earned him a spot on Canada’s national team for Tour de Beauce. His performance at Canada’s oldest stage race garnered him a UCI continental team contract two years after he first picked up a bike.
Three years later, in 2016, Woods was pulling on argyle, making the leap up to the WorldTour.
EF Education First Pro Cycling is thrilled to announce Woods has signed a multi-year extension with the team.
“The direction of the team, the idea of exploring the world — it all really meshes with what I believe in,” said Woods. “I feel very fortunate to be on a team that values what I naturally value – education, exploration, community.
“Riders can be themselves on this team,” added Woods. “They can be individuals. They can speak their minds. It makes for a fun environment, an interesting environment. I have good friends on this team because of how Jonathan Vaughters has chosen to build the roster. It’s an interesting group of guys not just on the bike but off the bike as well. I could go on for ages about how great this team is, how great the guys are. I’m really happy here, and I’m super stoked to stay.”
Woods enjoyed a breakout season in 2018, finishing second at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, winning his first Grand Tour stage at the Vuelta a España and taking the bronze medal at the 2018 Road World Championships in Austria.
It was after that Vuelta stage that more people would come to understand both Woods’ talent and his story: Woods publicly dedicated that emotional victory to a stillborn son, Hunter, he and wife Elly had lost two months prior.
“There were so many people on side of the road today just screaming my name. My director Juanma [Garate] was on the radio and in the last 500m he said, do this for your family,” Woods said that day, tears welling up in his eyes. “I wanted to win so bad for him, and I did … I did.”
Woods was lovingly dubbed the “Rook” when he came onboard. He proved a quick study.
“I came to the team not knowing who I was as a cyclist and what I was capable of,” Woods said. “I didn’t fit the typical neo-pro role. I’m lucky to have had the directors and team managers believe in me.
“I had no experience in the WorldTour when I joined the team, but JV said I could win an Ardennes Classic,” added Woods. “Knowing what I know now, that was a bold prediction for him to make about me at the time. I had not shown anything that truly indicated I could win a Classic – but he was right. I haven’t won one yet, but with the results I got last year, these are races we know I can win.”
Standing on the top step of the podium at one of the Ardennes races is high among Woods’ future ambitions. He hopes to start the 2019 Tour de France, and he’s excited about the opportunities on offer at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“I really want to try to win some big races now,” said Woods. “I’m starting to figure out how to win in the WorldTour. That doesn’t mean I’m going to win every race, have success in every race. I know I will have some big failures […] but I’m much more consistent now. I have a better understanding of my fitness and can better predict how I will perform.”
Since joining the team in 2016, sport director Juanma Garate has worked closely with Woods.
“I have to laugh when you ask me about Mike’s future because I have said the same sentence to him over and over since his first month with the team,” said Garate. “I always repeat to him ‘You don’t know what your limit is.’ It was true then, and it’s still true now. He doesn’t know. We don’t know. He’s kind of a new rider with the maturity of a 31-year-old. He’s progressing all the time.“
A latecomer to professional cycling, Woods played hockey growing up before finding success in running. He set the Canadian junior record in the mile (3:57:48) and the 3km (7:58:55). Both records still stand today. Woods earned a track scholarship to the University of Michigan, competed for the Canadian national team and harbored ambitions of becoming one of the world’s best milers.
Running’s loss quickly became cycling’s gain.
“We had our eyes on Mike for a long time before we actually signed him. His talent was clear based on his running, but it’s a rare runner who can figure out the bike handling and nuance of bike racing,” said EF Education First CEO Jonathan Vaughters. “But at Tour of Utah in 2015, I felt he had a certain extra determination to get over those hurdles. He was a gut feeling signing. I’m so happy to see him progress so far.”
“Performance wise, the sky’s the limit for Mike,” Vaughters added. “That’s exciting for the team. But beyond that, he’s just a fantastic person to have on the team. Mike Woods is all heart. He gives all he’s got to his teammates. And I couldn’t be happier to have him on the team.”
Both the team and Woods are growing together.
“I’m really pleased with the progression of the team since I joined it,” said Woods. “I had a lot of fun the first year, but it’s nothing compared to the kind of fun I’m having now. As an organization, the team is far more organized, far more focused, far more clear in its goals. I’m really proud to be a part of this team, especially now with the partnership with EF.
“I’m hoping the team’s approach and my performances over the last year will inspire more kids to get on bikes and more fans to cheer for a Canadian kicking it in the WorldTour.”
Text: EF Education First
Fotos: Gerhard Plomitzer – www.plomi.smugmug.com
Part of a young crop of Colombian talent shaping the narrative of the still-young season, Dani Martinez has managed to fly under the radar – until today.
The 22-year-old took his third victory of the season on Saturday, and the biggest of his flourishing career. In the final kilometer of the queen stage of Paris-Nice, Martinez rode compatriot Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) off his wheel to win atop Col du Turini.
“I am very excited about this victory,” said Martinez. “It’s a special day for me. Paris-Nice is one of the great races in the world.”
The seventh stage of the Paris-Nice covered 181 kilometers between Nice and the race’s eventual finish at the top of Col de Turini. Despite its popularity with Monaco- and Nice-based professional cyclists, the Col de Turini, 14.9-kilometers long with an average gradient of 7.3%, is a new inclusion in Paris-Nice. The summit finish was the sixth climb of the mountainous day.
A group of 39 riders split off from the peloton on the Côte de Gourdon, the stages second categorized climb. Martinez represented EF Education First Pro Cycling in the selection. With the best-placed rider more than two minutes down on the general classification, the breakaway’s chances looked promising.
“Dani and the whole group were highly motivated to confirm the excellent results of the TT also in the mountains,” said head sport director Charley Wegelius. “The size and make up of the big break that formed were ideal for him.“
Thirty kilometers from the finish, the breakaway maintained a six-minute advantage over the peloton.
Adam Yates (Mitchelton-SCOTT) and Lopez were the first to launch attacks on the lower slopes of the Col de Turini. Martinez marked the moves as the breakaway group exploded in his wake. Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) joined the party up front, making it a four-man fight for glory.
An uneasy cooperation between the leading quartet gave way to a round of attacks with the finish line looming. All four frontrunners spent brief stints of time alone up front at various points in the final five kilometers.
“I was controlling Lopez and Yates,” said Martinez. “I didn’t want them to surprise me.”
“It was a tough fight,” said EF Education First CEO Jonathan Vaughters. “Dani was tactically very astute. His ride was gutsy.”
Martinez upped the pace under the flamme rouge, drawing out Lopez as Yates and Edet were distanced. Lopez rode back to Martinez’s wheel only to fall off the pace again at the 500-meter mark. Although Lopez was able to claw his way back once more, Martinez powered away again in the final 100 meters, crossing the finish four-seconds ahead of Lopez.
“I was tired, but I gave everything I had left in the last kilometer,” said Martinez. “I was more afraid that Simon Yates would return because he won the time trial and is in great form.”
“Dani managed his energy and his nerves perfectly all day,” said Wegelius. “In the end, he showed his class with a great win.”
Martinez’s victory is the sixth for EF Education First this season and the third for Martinez, who won the Colombian national time trial title and was part of the Tour of Colombia team time trial victory.
“The win was highly deserved for all the riders and staff,” said Wegelius. “It was a true team effort today.”
Paris-Nice concludes with a short, sharp stage on Sunday. The 110-kilometer route covers five categorized climbs before a steep drop into Nice. Identical to last season’s Paris-Nice finale, Sunday’s stage eight should deliver drama and excitement.
EF Education First Pro Cycling
Photo by Gerhard Plomitzer
Rigoberto Uran fractured his left clavicle on Monday during the second stage of Paris-Nice, from Les Bréviaires to Bellegarde, and was forced to abandon the race.
The Colombian went down on his left side in the middle of a pack of riders midway through the stage, and he was immediately taken for evaluation at a nearby medical facility. Dr. Jon Greenwall, team doctor at Paris-Nice, said that beyond the clavicle break and some road rash, there were no other concerns with Uran’s health. Specifically, he did not suffer a head injury.
“I had a tough crash,” Uran said after leaving the hospital. “Today, there was a lot of wind. I touched a rider, another rider touched my wheel. […] I feel disappointed, of course. I had good legs. That’s cycling.“
Uran is slated to travel to his European base of Monaco immediately and have surgery to repair the fracture Wednesday morning. Once the surgery is completed, Uran will be able to return to the trainer when he feels ready and will likely resume riding outside in a few weeks’ time.
His return to racing will be carefully evaluated.
“It’s always tough when you see anyone on the team take a hard fall like that. These guys put a ton of time in during the offseason training for the early season, so I feel for them when there’s a setback,” said EF Pro Cycling CEO, Jonathan Vaughters. “We wish Rigo a speedy recovery and look forward to welcoming him back to the races once he’s ready.”
Copyright © 2019 Slipstream Sports Inc., All rights reserved.
1 Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) EF Education First 4:00:22
2 Julien El Fares (Fra) Delko Marseille Provence KTM
3 Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
4 Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
5 Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
6 Lucas Eriksson (Swe) Riwal Readynez Cycling Team
7 Krists Neilands (Lat) Israel Cycling Academy
8 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
9 Miguel Eduardo Florez Lopez (Col) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
10 Dimitri Peyskens (Bel) Wallonie Bruxelles
Sep Vanmarcke won a small group sprint in Mandelieu-la-Napoul, France on Friday. The Belgian benefited from an adaptable team prepared to react to any scenario on the opening stage of Tour de Haut Var. With the stage win came the yellow race leader’s jersey.
“I’m really happy to win,” said Vanmarcke. “It’s my first win in nearly three years. It feels so good to be back on the top step.”
Groupama-FDJ showed their cards early, taking control of the pace-setting in the peloton behind the three-rider breakaway. The 154-kilometer stage offered up undulating terrain, and EF Education First Pro Cycling Team had discussed several different plans to approach the tricky route.
“There was a false flat part with 30-kilometers to go,” said sport director Ken Vanmarcke, Sep’s older brother. “If the gap to the breakaway was small, we wanted to anticipate action with Sep and Matti [Breschel]. The gap wasn’t small enough to do anything then, but on the second to last climb, the gap was down to 40-seconds and Lachlan [Morton] tried to go across. The climb was too short for that.”
With initial efforts thwarted, EF Education First regrouped ahead of the last climb.
“Normally the final would be hard for me with a five kilometer climb,” said Sep. “But I felt really good all day, and I wanted to give it a try.”
Only 20 riders remained in contention over the top, Vanmarcke and Hugh Carthy among them. Crashes and splits on the technical descent further reduced the group. Fourteen riders hit the four-kilometer flat run-in to the line.
“Hugh knew Sep had a big chance to win the sprint, and immediately started riding in the front of the group to keep the pace high,” said Ken.
“He pulled into the last corner,” Sep added. “I could focus on the sprint. My timing was good. I made it a long sprint and could hold on to take the win.”
The younger Vanmarcke brother is EF Education First’s Classics captain.
“I think we see that Sep is on a really good path for the Classics,” said team CEO Jonathan Vaughters. “I don’t want to overstate anything because of course the Tour of Haut Var and the Tour of Flanders are completely different things, but he’s obviously in a good place.”
“A lot of the things we’ve been working on for two or three years now are coming to fruition. There’s no magic thing that just started happening. We have the same directors, and a lot of the same riders. It’s just that little by little we’re able to build on things,” said Vaughters. “The serenity of having EF’s support allows us to better execute and plan for the future. Everyone isn’t worried about where their next paycheck is coming from; they’re looking at how to win the race. And that’s showing.”
The Tour du Haut Var continues on Saturday with a hilly 200-kilometer day between Le Cannent-des-Maures and Mons.
“We will enjoy the jersey, but we have to be realistic,” said Ken. “Sep won’t have the jersey on Sunday evening. We will try to keep it on the team but on different shoulders.”
“Tomorrow will be another hard day, and on Sunday the final is on a longer climb,” said Sep. “I want to give something back to Hugh. He’s our strongest climber here, and I suspect well work for him this weekend.”
“As always, Sep worked this winter,” said Ken. “He’s on the right track towards the Classics.”
The Haut Var victory is the team’s fifth win in the still young season. Last year, the team recorded six victories in total.
Dani Martinez stood on the Tour Colombia 2.1 podium atop Alto de las Palmas, Colombia on Sunday. The 22-year-old rode a bold race with the full support from his strong team, including his childhood hero Rigoberto Uran. The result? Third overall.
“It’s been a week where I’ve learned a lot about my performance,” said Martinez. “Every day you learn something new and take it forward to further races.”
Martinez, the newly crowned Colombian time trial champion, spearheaded EF Education First’s winning efforts during the team time trial. The result laid the foundation for the work that followed with Martinez riding a particularly gutsy race on stage five that put him only eight seconds out of the race lead.
“We saw Martinez confirm his development this week,” said sport director Juanma Garate. “More than his development, we saw him confirm his potential. He will be a top, top rider.”
The energy Martinez expended on Saturday cost him in the closing kilometers on Sunday as the race was being decided up Las Palmas, the 15 kilometer summit finish. Uran proved stronger than Martinez but Garate had Uran hold back in the hopes of preserving Martinez’s overall podium position.
“It was incredible for Rigo to have waited for me today,” said Martinez. “This is something that really means a lot to me. He’s a brilliant rider and leader who has won so many races and for him to wait for me makes me feel quite emotional.”
Uran and Martinez crossed the finish line side-by-side in fifth and sixth place, around a minute down on stage winner Nairo Quintana (Movistar). Mission accomplished. Martinez kept his podium spot.
The young Colombian was joined on the podium by all his EF Education First teammates as they collected the team classification prize.
“Winning the team general classification is always a great award,“ said Lawson Craddock. „So often the sport is represented by one rider on top of the podium. When you can take the team GC and bring everyone up there to share the success, that’s always pretty special.”
Nearly nine thousand kilometers away and four hours before Martinez graced the podium, Simon Clarke collected awards and accolades of his own. The Australian, also tasked with a leadership role, rode a smart and strategic race at Tour de la Provence en route to second overall.
EF Education First team management asked Clarke to arrive in France with the fitness required to contend for the general classification. He was happy to oblige. Clarke regularly rides in support of his teammates or in a road captain role. He embraced the opportunity to race as team leader, coming away with second overall, tied on time with race winner Gorka Izagirre (Astana).
“I did a lot of preparation at home to make sure my condition was good coming into this race,” Clarke said.
The stage race began with an opening stage time trial in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. It was the only stage during the four-day race that Clarke finished outside the top five. After coming fourth on stages two and three, Clarke realized he had a real shot to stand on the top step of the podium in Aix-en-Provence on Sunday.
“It was a good race for me because all the stages suited me quite well,” Clarke said. “It all just came down to tactics in the sprints – for the time bonuses available in the intermediate sprints and on the finish line.”
Clarke began stage four in fourth overall, eight seconds off the race lead. He finished in second place on the stage and picked up enough bonus seconds to jump up to second overall.
“I didn’t have high expectations today because the stage suited me the least of the road stages this week, but considering my position overall and the seconds on offer, we approached the day with same mentality as the other days,” said Clarke. “We took every opportunity possible. This actually worked out better than we expected. I picked up second in the intermediate sprint and second at the finish.
“The team has been great for me this week,” Clarke added. “Quite often I find myself in a supporting role. To have the support of my teammates this week was very special.”
Copyright © 2019 Slipstream Sports Inc., All rights reserved
1 Michael Woods (Can) EF Education First Pro Cycling 2:55:44
2 Richie Porte (Aus) Trek-Segafredo
3 Kenny Elissonde (Fra) Team Sky 0:00:17
4 Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Team Sky 0:00:19
5 Lucas Hamilton (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
6 Pavel Sivakov (Rus) Team Sky 0:00:43
7 Chris Harper (Aus) Team Bridgelane
8 Damien Howson (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
9 Nicholas Schultz (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
10 Robert Stannard (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott 0:01:54
1 Michael Woods (Can) EF Education First Pro Cycling 5:12:32
2 Richie Porte (Aus) Trek-Segafredo 0:00:04
3 Kenny Elissonde (Fra) Team Sky 0:00:27
4 Lucas Hamilton (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott 0:00:29
5 Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Team Sky 0:00:33
6 Pavel Sivakov (Rus) Team Sky 0:00:53
7 Chris Harper (Aus) Team Bridgelane 0:00:57
8 Damien Howson (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
9 Nicholas Schultz (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
Mike Woods made it two for two for EF Education First Pro Cycling Team at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour. The Canadian out-climbed and then out-sprinted Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) to take the stage two win.
Woods will start stage three in the race leader’s jersey worn by his teammate Dan McLay during Thursday’s stage.
“We have been riding so well as a team here in Australia,” said Woods. “It had been frustrating that I hadn’t been able to finish it off. Dan felt the same way. Everyone was doing his part, executing on his part, but the results weren’t reflecting that. This race. Today. It was a continuation of the great teamwork. Having Dan win yesterday was a bit of a release.
“Everyone was excited and rode out of their skin again today,” Woods added. “Mitch [Docker] and Scud [Tom Scully] were on the front all day controlling and still managed to make the front split in the wind. Dan McLay was in yellow and getting bottles and protecting me. Lachy was there in the end. Everyone was working so hard for me, and I wanted to honor their hard work.”
A six-rider breakaway escaped early into the 127 kilometer stage between Wonthaggi and Churchill. The leaders managed only a three-minute maximum advantage ahead of the bunch paced by Docker and Scully.
Just inside the final 40 kilometers, first a crash and then an uptick in speed due to winds split the peloton.
“It wasn’t a problem for us,” said sport director, Tom Southam. “Sky hit it in a small crosswind section, and it caught Jimmy [Whelan] out unfortunately, which meant we had one less for the climb. But having a smaller bunch reduced the potential complications in the group for Mike, so that was fine for us.”
The stage came to a climax up Jeeralang, the category one climb that topped out 12-kilometers from the finish and included a 1.1-kilometer dirt-road section near the summit.
Team Sky’s Pavel Sivakov and Bridgestone’s Chris Harper were the first to attack. Kenny Elissonde (Sky) bridged the gap, giving Sky two up front. Behind the leaders, an elite chase group formed that included Woods, Porte, Dylan van Baarle (Sky) and Mitchelton-SCOTT’s trio of Lucas Hamilton, Damien Howson and Nick Schultz.
As the chase group made grounds on the leaders, Woods attacked and only Porte could follow. The pair reached the gravel sector alone with Woods leading Porte across the summit.
„We reconned this stage three days ago,” said Woods. “Southam spent over five hours in the car, driving to the course, driving behind me, to make it happen. We had a long talk about the stage, and we executed exactly as we had planned. It was a huge advantage, and it paid off. It couldn’t have gone better today.”
Although Woods slightly distanced Porte uphill, the pair agreed to work together on the descent to keep their chasers at bay. They reached the line together with Woods besting Porte in the sprint. Their efforts netted them a 17-second advantage on Elissonde and 19 seconds on both van Baarle and Hamilton.
Having picked up a 10-second bonus for the stage win, compared to Porte’s six seconds for second place, Woods holds yellow by four seconds over Porte heading into stage three.
“We’ve got such a strong team right now and have been riding so well together,” said Woods. “I’m confident in our abilities to defend. That said, four seconds over one of the best climbers in the world is not a margin you can rest on. We’re gong to have to be smart, and I’m going to have to lean on my teammates heavily.”
Woods has grown increasingly comfortable with the leaning that leads to winning.
“I’ve learned so much over the last three years,” said Woods. “Every year I’m progressing. Last year I took a big step in terms of finding the front of a race on a regular basis, but I hadn’t yet figure out how to win. It’s only been in the last six months that I’m starting to figure out that part. And I’m enjoying that quite a bit. It’s a lot more fun to be at the front of the race, having expectations and living up to them on occasion. To be 32 and feel like you have this whole world to still learn and understand and explore, it’s really exciting.”
“Mike is a born winner,” said team founder Jonathan Vaughters. “He’s learning how to use his talents, and as he learns, we’ll see him win more and more.”
The Jayco Herald Sun Tour continues on Friday with a 161-kilometer stage between Sale and Warragul. While hilly, it’s not a big day for the general classification.
“There are only a small number of guys close on the general classification now,” said Southam. “We just have to focus on that and the rest will take care of itself.”
Copyright © 2019 Slipstream Sports Inc.
Text + Photo EF Education First
EF Education First (EF), the world leader in international education, today announced that experienced sport and fitness executive Mary Wittenberg has joined EF as president of EF Pro Cycling. Wittenberg will help position the team for future success and promote EF’s mission of opening the world through education by encouraging people to step outside of their comfort zones and explore the world.
Wittenberg recently served as the founding CEO of Virgin Sport and prior to that was the long time CEO of New York Road Runners and race director for the TCS New York City Marathon. Her experience in the running and endurance space spans 20 years, and her ability to think creatively in promoting athletes and partners dovetails with EF’s adventurous company spirit and bold goals for EF Pro Cycling in 2019 and beyond.
“EF’s commitment is to bring different cultures together, to spark mutual understanding around the ways people and communities approach and see life. The goal is to promote empathy among people of diverse backgrounds, and inspire new ways of thinking which together can help make the world a little better,” said EF CEO North America Edward Hult. “EF Pro Cycling is a platform that embodies this spirit, and which helps show how positive things happen when people explore the world. Having Mary join the team is an exciting step in continuing to spread this message.”
Wittenberg will focus on creating fun new ways for the team and EF’s global workforce of 46,500 to interact, identifying new, compelling partnership opportunities, and exploring resources to further benefit the team. She will also liaise between EF senior leadership and EF Pro Cycling staff.
“I am excited to join EF and our pro cycling team at this formative stage and to be part of a purpose-driven company that brings people together through exploring the world,” Wittenberg said. “I am inspired by the sport of cycling and this team, in particular; as riders from different countries and cultures come together to bring their dreams to life. EF and Jonathan Vaughters have set a great foundation that marry the transformative power of travel, education and sport. We have a chance to bring a fresh approach to cycling and recruit similarly inspired partners to join us.”
In Wittenberg, team CEO, founder, and former pro cyclist Jonathan Vaughters has a partner who can help the team reach new audiences.
“Mary brings a fresh perspective to the sport. Mary’s vision, passion, and expertise make her uniquely qualified to lead our efforts as we seek to expand our reach,” Vaughters said. “We’re working toward creating a more sustainable financial model for the team, and we’ll be leaning heavily on her business and brand background, and also her experience in growing one of the world’s great sporting events.”
The addition of Wittenberg comes as the team looks toward next season with a new perspective. EF Pro Cycling recently announced its partnership with apparel brand Rapha to collaborate on all-access content and bold new team kit, and the team will also put some of its riders in alternative-style events, from gravel races in the US to multi-day endurance races in far-flung locales. The aim? Reach more people, and tell more compelling stories.
As the first female CEO of New York Road Runners and Race Director for the New York City Marathon, Wittenberg and her team drove unprecedented growth with initiatives that touched the five boroughs of New York, the nation, and the world. Wittenberg also co-founded the Abbott World Marathon Majors, a strategic alliance of the world’s major marathons of Boston, Chicago, New York, London, Berlin and Tokyo, created in 2006 to grow the sport of marathon running globally.
Wittenberg’s start with the team is effective immediately.
About EF Education First: EF Education First is an international education company that focuses on language, travel, academics and cultural exchange. Founded in 1965, EF has more than 580 offices and schools in over 50 countries. Moved by the powerful way cycling unites people of diverse backgrounds in a peaceful, fun, and friendly way to achieve extraordinary athletic feats, EF entered professional cycling in 2018 to help spread its mission of opening the world through education.
Come 2019 Taylor Phinney will be crushing cobbles at the Spring Classics with EF Pro Cycling as he will return to the team next season. As Phinney eases into his off-season we chat about the drama of the Hell of the North, how the Tour de France is like playing Call of Duty, and superpowers.
Take us through this year, what’s been the highs and lows?
From a professional standpoint the highlight of my year was definitely Paris-Roubaix and being a factor in that race. I’ve wanted to be up there and wanted to be riding with those guys for my whole career, so it was cool to have the stars align for that one and have a good day.
I always enjoy the Tour de France and finishing always feels good, although this time wasn’t so great finishing with a broken face, so I didn’t have as much energy to celebrate. I had to go to visit the doctor the next day, but I don’t even think that was a low point; there haven’t really been any.
Why do you like Paris-Roubaix so much?
I think I always had a strong passion towards Paris-Roubaix, there’s just something about that race. There’s a level of drama it has that doesn’t exist in any other race on the calendar. It was always the race that I looked forward to watching before I started racing it. I mean the races in Belgium are part of the same family and they fit into the same category but in my eyes they’re just not on the same level as Paris-Roubaix.
But if you talk to Italians or Belgians, Tour of Flanders is the be-all-and-end all and Paris-Roubaix is just an afterthought for whatever reason. But Paris-Roubaix is the jam and I think it’s sort of the last type of race that I can be good at. In this sport you see the trend of the races are changing and getting harder and hillier and more suited to smaller riders. So we kind of have these last races to hang onto to hope to do well at, for me that’s Paris-Roubaix. It’s the one race I do all year which I’m not at a weight disadvantage, because I just weigh a lot more than everybody else being 6 ft 5.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen in the peloton this year?
Probably the Tour de France tear gas day, that was the craziest thing. Yeah, that was a trip, I felt like I was in a video game. It was like I was playing Call of Duty or something, because you went through this protest they broke up and then all of a sudden you’re like, ‘I can’t breathe’ and then you’re having trouble seeing and everyone else is coughing around you. The old alarm bells start to ring in your head, you’re like: “What the hell is happening?”
You’ve extended with the team. How have you found riding for EF Pro Cycling this year?
I mean I love it, there’s no other team that I could envision myself racing for in the professional peloton. I feel like I can be honest with everyone around me and myself, and there’s not a ton of expectations thrown on you, on what you need to be and what you need to look like, and how you need to act. They just let you explore yourself and let you be who you want to be.
The team obviously want to win races and do well and that’s a priority, but there’s not this cookie cutter that you need to be a certain way or ride your bike a certain to be on the team, which you’ll find on a lot of other programmes.
When you heard about some of the new, offbeat races the team will line up for next year, what did you think?
I think that it is the greatest thing ever. I mean when we were first hearing little rumours about the change and that Rapha wanted to come on board, it felt like all these different ideas that I had been talking about with friends, all these adventures I had been thinking about, it was like someone had read my mind.
If you were able to shotgun a race next year, which one would it be?
Dirty Kanza! I would really like to do Dirty Kanza.
Describe EF Pro Cycling team in one word…
If you could have any superpower what would it be?
There’s a lot of responsibility in that question. I mean, my gut instinct is to say I’d like to fly but that is kinda selfish. Actually I think I’d like to be like the moon and manipulate the tides. I’m not sure what I would be able to do with that but I’m sure I’d be able to figure something out.
It doesn’t have to just be the sea, it could be water in general…
Yeah, because inside your body is 70% water, if I could manipulate that, you know how weird I could make people feel all the time, it would be dope. I think I actually just created a new superhero [still to be named].
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