Why it’s up to cycling fans and the media to hold team sponsors accountable for their actions

Ineos and Total may have bailed out two leading teams, but we shouldn’t let them get away with greenwashing their corporate image

In a week when petrochemical giant Ineos has confirmed that it will be investing heavily in team sponsorship following its takeover from Sky in May, with a reported annual budget of £40 million, and French oil company Total is reported to be on the verge of becoming the new backer of the Direct Energie team, pro cycling’s perennial scramble to find cash seems to have a taken an unexpected and very beneficial turn.

The news has been widely welcomed, with Deceuninck boss Patrick Lefevere, for instance, tweeting: “If it’s true that #Ineos and #total are making their entree [sic] in cycling then this is fantastic news for cycling. Hope that others will follow.”

>>> Team Sky funding boost under Ineos sparks budget cap discussions

There are, though, other figures that should be taken into consideration as a result of these moves. Let’s start with the US$28 million or £22 million that is Total’s annual spend on lobbying to block climate change policies. The French company, one of the world’s big five within its sector, also spends almost twice that same amount each year on climate-focused branding, which may well include its backing for Jean-René Bernaudeau’s squad from next month.

Team Sky with their Ocean Rescue jerseys at the 2018 Tour de France (Sunada)

Consider too the 40kg (88lbs) of plastic that was found inside a young whale that washed up dead on a beach in the Philippines last week. Or the 1.4 million schoolchildren who went on strike in more than 2,000 cities across the world on March 15 urging adults to take responsibility and stop climate change.

In condemning Ineos’s takeover of Team Sky, Friends of the Earth’s Tony Bosworth stated, “It’s a harsh change of tone that may see Sky’s Ocean Rescue campaign to clear plastic pollution from our oceans ditched from the team jersey in favour of Ineos – one of the biggest plastic producers in Europe.”

Taking Bosworth’s comment further, the question arises of whether the investment these companies make in cycling, the greenest and most democratic mode of transport bar shanks’ pony, should be challenged.

Governments and sporting federations have done this in the past, notably in blocking sponsorship by tobacco companies. Similarly, the Italian government introduced legislation earlier this year to prevent betting companies sponsoring sports teams. Comparable legislation in France led to Unibet withdrawing from sponsorship of a bike team a decade ago, although subsequent changes to the law have enabled the betting company to enter the French sports sponsorship market.

Direct Energie is set to be replaced by Total as lead sponsors (Sunada)

The UCI also has the ability to block certain sponsors, its regulation 1.1.089 stating: “Without prejudice, of the applicable law, no brand of tobacco, spirits, pornographic bis products or any other products that might damage the image of the UCI or of cycling in general shall be associated directly or indirectly with a licence-holder, a UCI team or a national or international cycling competition.”

It drew on this clause recently when revoking the affiliation of the Porn Pedallers Cycling Club in the UK.

It could be justifiably argued that a link with petrochemical and oil companies, such Total, Ineos, the conglomerate backing Astana and the oil-based economies of the UAE and Bahrain also damage the image of cycling. However, the precedent set by the UCI’s confirmation of the latter three teams, as well as the lack of heed that the ruling body has shown to political and human rights, exemplified by its award of the 2016 World Championships to Qatar, confirm that this won’t happen.

As a result, it is down to the political and economic pressure groups, the media and individuals to challenge these sponsors.

We may have to accept them being part of cycle sport, but their presence in this most public and high-profile of forums provides an opportunity to highlight and criticise their policies, to spread awareness and perhaps even bring about change for the better.

Country sponsors like Bahrain and UAE have a chequered history with human rights allegations (Sunada)

Consequently, just as Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas and Sky’s other stars are sure to be pressed on their support for Ocean Rescue and how this squares with their team’s sponsorship by Ineos, other teams and riders should also come under greater scrutiny.

For example, let’s hail the achievements of Vincenzo Nibali, Fernando Gaviria and Dan Martin and other big names on the Bahrain and UAE teams, but while being aware and refusing to condone political restrictions and human rights abuses in those countries.

If we want to promote political, social and environmental change, it’s no good simply cheering schoolchildren’s strike actions, tweeting dismay at the latest abuse of human rights, or expressing shock when the next whale washes up dead having unwittingly swallowed a stomach-load of human waste.

We all need to channel our inner Greta Thunberg and Jimmy Carter in order to challenge these companies and regimes, to ensure that something fundamentally beneficial comes from their investment in cycling.

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Seven of the best deals from the Evans Cycles’ sale

The deals continue at Evans Cycles, with everything from new bikes to the smallest components available at great savings

High street and online cycling retailer Evans Cycles stocks a huge range of cycling kit and has a huge range of deals available. On this page you’ll find deals on everything from Zipp wheels, Bontrager shoes, Castelli kit and much, much more.

At any time, Evans Cycles can have thousands of deals on offer, so we’ve done the hard part and picked out the standout deals. With each product is a ‘Buy Now’ link. If you click on this then we may receive a small amount of money from the retailer when you purchase the item. This doesn’t affect the amount you pay.

The products have been chosen by our expert Tech Team who know what represents a good deal. Where we’ve reviewed the product, we’ve included a link to that review so you can read more about it, but if it’s on this page, it’s because we trust the brand and what they produce.

Zipp 303 Firecrest disc brake wheelset was £2314, now from £1799

Read more: Zipp 303 Firecrest review (rim-brake)

The 303 Firecrest wheels are 45mm deep and come with lots of Zipp’s top tech, including it ABLC dimples that helps reduce aerodynamic drag. The wide internal rim width of 21mm helps seats wider tyres far better, including up to 28mm. If you’re looking for a summer upgrade, these are well worth your consideration.

Buy now: Zipp 303 Firecrest disc brake wheelset from £1799

Schwalbe One road tyre was £52.95, now £31.49

A thoroughbred racing tyre, the Schwalbe One combines grip and rolling speed to make one swift bit of rubber – perfect for the upcoming winter months.

Buy now: Schwalbe One road tyre for £31.49

Bontrager Specter road shoe was £129, now £71.99

Read more: Bontrager Specter road shoe review

The Bontrager Specter road shoe is comfortable thanks to it’s upper and composite sole that’s plenty stiff enough for most riding. It’s secured by a single Boa dial that makes adjusting on the bike nice and easy, too.

Buy now: Bontrager Specter road shoe at Evans Cycles for £71.99

Mavic Cosmic Elite UST road wheelset was £419, now £319

These aluminium Mavic Cosmic Elite wheels make a cracking upgrade wheelset if you’re looking to get a bit more out of your bike. Alternatively, they make a set of great training wheels if you don’t want to wear out your best set.

Buy now: Mavic Cosmic Elite UST road wheelset for £319

Cannondale Synapse Carbon Disc Red eTap was £4999, now £3499

Best Evans Cycles Black Friday deals 2018

The Cannondale Synapse is one of our favourite endurance bikes. With its sophisticated carbon fibre it manages to offer a balanced ride that’s as comfortable as it is fast. Whilst the generous geometry will keep you happy in the saddle for those long days, the stiffness in the frame will match even your most powerful sprints.

This particular model comes with the wireless SRAM Red eTap HRD groupset and Fuclrum wheels.

See more: Cannondale Synapse Carbon Disc Red eTap at Evans Cycles for £3499

Castelli Aero Race 5.1 jersey was £100, now £70

Best Evans Cycles Black Friday deals 2018

The Castelli Aero Race 5.1 is a lightweight, fast-wicking jersey that’s easy on the eye and perfect for summer days. Yes, we might be in throes of winter right now but the warm weather will come back around and you’ll pleased you have this snazzy number stored away.

Buy now: Castelli Aero Race 5.1 jersey at Evans Cycles for £70

Continental GP4000S II road tyre – was £54.95, now £31.99

Best Evans Cycles Black Friday deals 2018

With spring conditions just around the corner, it’s time to think about shedding your winter tyres and fitting some faster rubber. And no tyre has more of a reputation for speed, grip and longevity than the GP4000. It’s available in any size you want from 20mm right up to 28mm.

Buy now: Continental GP4000S II road tyre for £31.99

We’ll keep updating this page with more deals – so don’t forget to check back regularly.

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Mathieu van der Poel says ‘it’s a small miracle he’s back on the bike’ after high-speed crash

The Dutchman has been to recce the Tour of Flanders route with his team

Mathieu van der Poel says ‘it’s a small miracle he’s back on the bike again’ after his high-speed crash earlier this week.

Van der Poel was caught in a spill during the sprint finish at Belgian one-day race Nokere Koerse, being taken away by ambulance.

But fortunately the cyclocross world champion suffered no serious injuries, escaping with abrasions and bruises.

He was back on the bike the following day to recce the Tour of Flanders route, ahead of his cobbled Classics debut.

>>> Who are the bookies’ favourites to win Milan-San Remo 2019?

The 24-year-old told cycling news site Wielerflits: “It’s a small miracle I’m back on the bike again. It could have been a lot worse.

“I was in a lot of pain, but in the ambulance I already felt that it wasn’t so bad.

“But still, falling on the cobblestones definitely hurts.”

Van der Poel, the Dutch national road champion, crashed in the wind up for the sprint finish in East Flanders.

As the peloton hit the cobbled sector leading to the finish, Sunweb sprinter Max Walscheid came down near the front of the bunch.

Van der Poel was unable to avoid the collision, rolling along the stones before being hit by another rider.

He stayed down after the crash and was taken off the course by ambulance.

>>> André Greipel to ride 2019 Tour de France as final wildcard places announced

His Corendon-Circus team later confirmed he had suffered no fractures and will be able to complete his road programme as planned.

The crash brought van der Poel’s schedule into question as he makes his debut in the cobbled Classics, starting with Gent-Wevelgem later this month, followed by Dwars door Vlaanderen, the Tour of Flanders and Amstel Gold Race.

He added: “I’m still fairly stiff. That will take a few days. But during the recce I upped the pace more.

“My hip was hit the hardest, but that will be fine too.”

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André Greipel to ride 2019 Tour de France as final wildcard places announced

The German sprinter has stepped down from the WorldTour but will still get his chance on the biggest stage

André Greipel will have his chance at the 2019 Tour de France after his new team were invited to race as a wildcard.

The German sprinter stepped down from the WorldTour to join French outfit Arkéa-Samsic at the end of last season.

Tour organisers ASO have now revealed the final two teams being given wildcard entries – Arkéa-Samsic and Direct Energie.

>>> Petrol company Total to take over sponsorship Direct Energie, according to reports

The two French teams will join Cofidis and Wanty-Groupe Gobert to make up the four second-tier teams racing the biggest Grand Tour of the year.

Competition between Professional Continental teams for Tour places was tough this year, with the French outfits all bolstering their line-ups to be awarded a coveted spot.

Alongside Greipel’s move to Arkéa-Samsic, Direct Energie signed double Monument winner Niki Terpstra from Deceuninck – Quick-Step.

Pierre Rolland, a two-time Tour stage winner and top-10 overall finisher, also moved to Vital Concept-B&B Hotels for 2019 from EF Education First.

>>> Team Sky funding boost under Ineos sparks budget cap discussions

But the Frenchman will not be given the chance to repeat his previous glories as Vital Concept have missed out on a place.

Sprinter Bryan Coquard is another Vital Concept rider who will be disappointed to miss out on a spot, having last rode the Tour in 2016 and coming second and third in bunch sprints.

Arkéa-Samsic are also expected to take Warren Barguil to the Tour, after his two stage wins and King of the Mountain title from 2017.

The French rider appeared to have a breakthrough year with Sunweb, but has failed to take a win since moving to Arkéa-Samsic last season.

Alongside Classics specialist Terpstra, Direct Energie also count 2017 stage winner Lilian Calmejane among their number.

Full list of teams riding 2019 Tour de France

Ag2r La Mondiale (Fra)
Astana (Kaz)
Bahrain-Merida (Brn)
Bora-Hansgrohe (Ger)
CCC Team (Pol)
Cofidis, Solutions Crédits (Fra)
Deceuninck – Quick-Step (Bel)
Direct Energie (Fra)
EF Education First (USA)
Groupama-FDJ (Fra)
Lotto-Soudal (Bel)
Movistar (Esp)
Mitchelton-Scott (Aus)
Arkéa-Samsic (Fra)
Dimension Data (RSA)
Jumbo-Visma (Ned)
Katusha-Alpecin (Sui)
Team Sky (GBr)
Sunweb (Ger)
Trek-Segafredo (USA)
UAE Team Emirates (UAE)
Wanty-GroupeGobert (Bel)

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Katie Archibald column: The women who stare at bikes

Katie gives her advice on how to break a staring habit

A lot of the time I want to sit still and stare at the wall. Not any one particular wall; I don’t have a series of black market fine art pieces hung in my basement, or the script to an episode of The Simpsons written in its entirety across my dining room.

It doesn’t have to be a wall either — I’ll sit in the car and stare at my steering wheel or sit in the garage and stare at my bike. Really I’ll stare at any inanimate object. It doesn’t know I’m staring and even if it does, according to Toy Story rules, it can’t do anything about it.

>>> Katie Archibald column: It’s not always smooth riding in the velodrome

This is an unproductive hobby. Of course I get my heaviest craving for wall-staring when the demand for productivity is at its highest, because that’s how the world works.

It’s similar to drinking so much coffee you feel tired again; your heart rate is high, hands are sweaty (because it’s those hands that wrote the big to-do list in the first place and that know all too well all the things to do), but all you want to do is sleep. Sleep with your eyes open, sat bolt upright, and staring at a wall.

Which isn’t always practical. Sure, quite often I just completely indulge and do it (you only live once!), but life is about moderation. Too much of anything, even a good thing, can be trouble.

So I have two useful systems to overcome the craving. The first is to drink a can of Pepsi Max (AKA Happy Fizz Juice). Somehow it’s different to drinking coffee (Happy Bean Juice) and I can’t explain why (it’s sugar-free — don’t treat me like an idiot).

The second is a bit more time consuming and a bit hit and miss. It’s doing something that makes you worse off in the hope that an hour after the fact you’ll be hit by the kind of guilt that drives a person into action.

Eat two loaves of bread, say, or maybe break some stuff. Let the act brew for a small while and then, hey presto, you’re ready to go again.

For obvious reasons, I recommend the first. Now if we’re finished here, I’ve got a Cervélo S5 in the next room that’s begging for a good stare down.

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Death of Kelly Catlin ‘a huge tragedy’ that has hit British Cycling community

The America track star took her own life earlier this month

The death of US track star Kelly Catlin has been described as a “huge tragedy” that has hit the British Cycling community.

Catlin, an Olympic silver medallist, took her own life earlier this month at the age of 23.

Her death has been felt throughout the world of cycling, including among riders with the British track team.

>>> Does elite cycling have a problem with mental health?

Neah Evans, a European and national champion on the track, said the impact has been felt here.

The 28-year-old told Cycling Weekly: “Because she was a cyclist, and a very good cyclist at that, it’s hit our bubble much more than it would.

“Suicide is such a common thing and when its someone you can relate to, it suddenly becomes much more of a problem you’re aware of.

“It’s a huge tragedy.”

Catlin, a post-graduate student who was fluent in Chinese and was an accomplished violinist, had previously tried to take her own life in January.

Born in Minnesota, she started her racing career as a junior with the NorthStar Development Team, going on to represent Team USA at the 2013 UCI Road World Championships in the junior road race and time trial.

She was invited to join the national team as a track rider, going on to win three World Championships as part of the women’s team pursuit squad in 2016, ’17 and ’18.

Catlin was a biomedical engineering and Chinese graduate and was studying for a master’s degree in computational and mathematical engineering.

Evans added: “You can’t point at one big factor, but it is a snowball effect. How can governing bodies, not just British Cycling, try and negate that snowball effect so this doesn’t happen again?

“Not just cycling but in any elite level sport, there’s so much pressure put on [athletes], mostly by themselves, but it’s a personality you have that drives you to be the best, that puts you under that pressure.

“You constantly aspire to improve and be better, that’s what makes you a standout athlete.”

>>> UCI plans to ban corticosteroids under same rules as tramadol

Catlin’s dad Mark has suggested a concussion suffered in December may have contributed to her state of mind before her death.

She had written an article for VeloNews in February about the stresses of combining her grad school studies and racing.

USA Cycling has since set up the Kelly Catlin Fund, in memory of the three-time world champion.

Evans said: “Blaming the institute is a little bit unfair. You think of the number of athletes that have issues and go to the sport, get the support and okay because of it.

“There is a support network there. Unfortunately in Kelly’s case it wasn’t successful. It’s not to say that’s its completely failed everyone. You don’t here about the success cases. You only hear about the tragedies.

“I know that British Cycling has a lot going on that needs to be applauded.”

In the UK the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.

Evans will be racing the Six Day Manchester at the National Cycling centre between March 22-24, with tickets on sale now.

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Icons of cycling: Il Poggio di San Remo

Chris Sidwells admires Milan-San Remo’s great leveller

It’s the jewel in the crown of Milan-San Remo, a 3.7km climb that snakes its way up the Via Duca d’Aosta then helter-skelters back down to the streets of San Remo. The famous last climb of the first Monument of the cycling season, the Poggio always sets up a spectacular finish.

>>> Milan-San Remo: how the last 16 editions have been won

The Poggio was first included in 1960, when a climb starting eight kilometres from the finish was included to break up the big groups that were increasingly deciding Milan-San Remo. It worked, René Privat of France launched a solo attack on the Poggio to win. Raymond Poulidor won alone the following year, as did Emile Daems of Belgium in 1962.

Then in 1964 Poulidor and Tom Simpson dropped the remains of a break on the climb, with Simpson eventually winning on the Via Roma.

And so the story continued. Eddy Merckx made the Poggio his own, with seven Milan-San Remo victories between 1966 and 1976, nearly always pulling something special on the climb. Michele Dancelli won solo in 1970. And in 1974 Felice Gimondi supplied one of the great moments of the Poggio when he climbed it alone wearing the rainbow jersey and riding a Bianchi bike.

Then bigger group finishes started happening again. More climbs were added; La Cipressa in 1982 and La Manie in 2010, beefing up a course that already had the 532-metre Turchino Pass, and the three Capi; the Mele, Cervo and Berta that carry an ancient road, the Via Julia Augusta, along the Mediterranean coast. But those hills just tire the legs, acting as lenses focusing the action on the Poggio.

It starts as a right-hand turn off the Strada Statale 1. The gradient changes, but not by much until the first right bend.

With an average of 3.7 per cent, the Poggio is never really steep, but it’s enough to make a difference if the will and form is there.

The steepest gradient, eight per cent, comes before a green-painted house on the inside of a left-hand bend. Then the last quarter of the Poggio begins. Sprinters start hoping they will be there, climbers attack because they can.

More lefts and rights, past the cylindrical irrigation pools, then the gradient lessens. The summit comes quickly, scruffy farms replaced by smart houses. The last gambit is an attack across the top then a reckless descent. It’s worked in the past, most famously for Sean Kelly in 1992.

More than any other climb, the descent of the Poggio is as important as the ascent. No one can relax: lose concentration and the wheel in front and all the hard work on the climb can be thrown away.

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Sky’s bolstered budget under Ineos sparks concerns over fairness

Team budget caps could be discussed, though new funding in the sport is considered healthy

Team bosses and the UCI’s president have raised questions over fairness within cycling as Team Sky’s budget is set to increase under new sponsor, Ineos.

>>> Who are Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Ineos, Team Sky’s potential new sponsors? 

The British WorldTour outfit will change its name to Team Ineos on May 1, with funding coming from the chemical giant owned by Britain’s richest man, Sir Jim Ratcliffe.

The team already had a budget of approximately €40 million euros (£34.3 million), and it has been rumoured that the takeover will mean more money, not less.

Rivals are estimated to be ‘getting by’ on budgets closer to 15-20 million.

Team Sky has won six of the last seven editions of the Tour de France, and their dominance sparked discussions over a possible team budget cap last year. 

The suggestion of a further increase has brought those comments back to the surface.

In a BBC podcast, EF Education First manager Jonathan Vaughters said: “You’re purchasing the ability to win.

“You’re looking at an almost impenetrable wall of money. You can basically go buy all the best riders. The question for the sport is if they are all on one team, is it fun for spectators to watch?”

President of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), David Lappartient told Reuters on Wednesday that a budget cap, to preserve fairness, is something that could “be discussed.

He said: “I understand there can be concerns that the team with the biggest budget can have all the best riders and it affects the uncertainty of sport.”

Lappartient has discussed the idea of budget caps before, saying in November 2017: “I am against a salary cap for the riders, cyclists can earn as much as they want and teams have to pay as much for a rider as they want.”

“What I am talking about is introducing a ceiling for the team’s budget in general, which means that if you pay a certain rider a high wage, you will have less money left for other riders. That means you would naturally have the strong riders better divided among various teams.”

However, the UCI president also called the arrival of a new sponsor “healthy” for the sport, noting “one of our objectives is to have an economy that is more solid.”

Alongside the arrival of Ineos, oil and gas business Total has also been linked to French team Direct Energie, in a move expect to take place in 2020.

Patrick Lefevere, the manager of Belgian team Deceuninck-Quick Step, welcomed the arrival of the new funding streams, saying: “If it’s true that Ineos and Total are making their entry in cycling then this is fantastic news for cycling. [I] hope that others will follow.”

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First British virtual racing championships will be broadcast live on TV

British Cycling’s inaugural e-racing event will be held later this month

The first British virtual racing championships will be broadcast live on TV.

British Cycling and Zwift have organised the inaugural national title for e-racing, with the finals due to be held later this month.

Olympic gold medallist Dani Rowe, Ian Bibby, Rosamund Bradbury, Jon Mould and Stevie Young will race in the live finals, due to be held on Thursday, March 28.

Winners will receive £400 prize money and a virtual national jersey to be worn on Zwift for a year.

>>> Bontrager helmet safety performance falls ‘far below’ its claims, says MIPS 

Second place will receive £200 and £100 will be awarded to the bronze medal winner.

The competition, held at the BT Sport Studios in London, will be broadcast on BT Sport.

British Cycling’s commercial director Jonathan Rigby said: “We had nearly 400 people on the virtual start line and thousands more tuning into our online qualifying event back in February.

“We are looking forward to building on those brilliant numbers to see what our finalists can bring to London on 28 March.

“Having such a well-regarded broadcaster like BT Sport on board for the championships is testament to the broad appeal it has carried since announcing this new event late last year both within the cycling industry, but also amongst new audiences and new generations.

“We are in the infancy of our partnership with Zwift however the huge boom in e-sports means that the sky is the limit for indoor cycling.”

The qualifying round for the live finals was held on Sunday, February 24.

In the final, the top 10 male and female qualifiers will battle it out for national champion’s jerseys.

The event will comprise of an elimination race, points race and a scratch race for men and women, starting at 1.55pm on March 28.

Zwift CEO and co-founder Eric Min said: “We’re just at the very beginning of forming a new discipline of cycling and I can’t wait to see these 20 athletes go head-t0-head in the live finals.

“British Cycling has a reputation of being at the forefront of innovation and we’ve already seen their members embrace the opportunity in the qualifying rounds.

“This will be a great spectacle and I’m delighted that audiences at home will be able to watch the action live on BT Sport.”

Tech brand Wahoo is the official partner for the event.

Wahoo CEO Chip Hawkins said: “We are delighted to be part of the first ever British Cycling Zwift eRacing Championships.

“At Wahoo we’re confident that eSports has a part to play in the future of cycling and are proud to help cultivate this.”

>>> Team Sky would ‘raise the bar’ with rumoured bigger budget as Ineos sponsorship confirmed 

Race one will be an elimination race over five laps of the 2.8km LaGuardia Loop.

The last two riders to cross the line will be eliminated, with 10 points handed to the winner, nine to second, down to one point for the rider eliminated first.

In the points race, riders will tackle three laps of the 4.1km Volcano Circuit CCW.

Each time a rider crosses the sprint line, the first four will be awarded points, with double points on the final lap.

The rider who accumulates the most points will be the winner.

Finally is the scratch race – the first to cross the line after two laps of the 9.1km Watopia Hilly Route wins.

The event starts at 1.55pm and will be live-streamed on the British Cycling Facebook page and website from then.

From 8pm until 10pm it will be broadcast live on BT Sport 1.

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Luke Rowe: ‘It’s time to step up and try to deliver a Classics result, it’s as simple as that’

‘I’m confident and my form is better than ever,’ the Welshman says

Vital to Team Sky’s success at Paris-Nice, where he coached race winner Egan Bernal through the mayhem caused by the crosswinds that hit the race over its first three days, Luke Rowe came out of ‘the Race to the Sun’ with his form good, confidence high and determined to put two years of setbacks in the Classics behind him.

>>> The Monuments: Cycling’s five biggest one-day races

“For one reason or another over the last two years things haven’t gone my way,” Rowe told Cycling Weekly in Nice. “I’ve finished Paris-Roubaix in an ambulance the last two years, but this year I’m confident and think my form is better than ever.”

The Welshman believes that the one ingredient that he has been missing in the Classics is a bit of good fortune, and hopes he will find that at Milan-San Remo and, particularly, during the subsequent three weeks that he will spend in Belgium, culminating with leading Sky’s attack at Roubaix.

Luke Rowe on the Muur van Geraardsbergen in the 2018 Tour of Flanders (Sunada)

“Everything has to go right on the day, because to an extent you’re a lottery when you’re in those races,” he said.

“The fire in the belly is there and I want to step into them and try to get a result. Two or three years ago I was knocking on the door and looked like I was going to make a breakthrough, but I haven’t taken that next step forward in the last year or two. It’s time to step up and try to deliver a result, it’s as simple as that,” said Rowe.

Reflecting on Bernal’s Paris-Nice success, Rowe explained that Sky had taken a calculated risk by weighting its team with several climbers and with the Welshman as the one specialist rouleur to support the Colombian and Michał Kwiatkowski over the first three days on flatter roads open to the wind.

“We took a risk that we could deal with what might happen in the early days and go into in the second half still in the contest, and that paid off. Then we knew that we were in a great position. The last few days the small guys have stepped up and we’ve come out on top,” said Rowe.

The Welshman paid fulsome tribute to Bernal’s performance, suggesting that it augurs well for his future role as a Grand Tour leader. “There are GC guys who can ride in crosswinds, but there are others who can’t, and it hampers them throughout their career. You know that as soon as there’s one crosswind day they are out of the equation,” said the Welshman.

“But Egan, he’s just got it, and that’s instantly going to put him on the front foot in most GC races and Grand Tours. It’s a massive weapon to have. He wants to learn, he was asking questions, but essentially he’s just a class act.”

Rowe revealed that the Colombian did get a little nervous when compatriot and rival Nairo Quintana went clear on the final stage and became the leader on the road, but essentially remained calm.

“If you’re not calm in situations like that, you just use up energy, thinking and overthinking, being worried.

“Staying calm in situations like that demands a lot, but once you’ve developed that level of trust in your team-mates, when you can say to yourself, ‘I’m going to follow these guys whatever and wherever because I know they’re going to do the best by me, and I trust them,’ and we’ve developed that now, that level of trust and commitment.”

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