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  1. Valverde misses out on win in Murcia

    World champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) continued his consistent start to the season with yet another podium place at the Vuelta Murcia, although the Spaniard's search for a first win the rainbow jersey in 2019 continues.

    Valverde finished second to Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) on the second and final day of racing in Murcia with the Movistar rider finishing the race second overall, once again behind Sanchez. Valverde, 38, has now racked up 10 top-10 finishes this season - split between one day races, stages and overall classifications, with half of those results consisting of podium finishes.

    On the final stage in Murica, Valverde went on the attack after his Movistar team set the pace on the final climb before the finish. The world champion attacked before the summit but was caught by Luis Leon Sanchez on the descent. The pair initially worked together but with Astana already holding the race lead through Pello Bilbao, the onus was on Valverde to drive the pace. This dynamic allowed Sanchez to sit back and save himself for the sprint. Despite not winning Valverde, who like Sanchez, was racing on home road saw the race as a positive experience.

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    "Racing in my home region with this jersey on for the last two days already was a victory for me. Every race I take the start of has that special feeling in the rainbow colours," Valverde said in press release.

    "If I'm able to win after that, it's even better, but I feel like we're doing just fine at the moment. Runner-up in Valencia, second again here - we're still missing a victory, but I'm close, and my legs on the climbs feel really good, close or even better than the strongest guys uphill.

    "At the Cresta del Gallo, I knew Luis could make up some terrain against me in the downhill, but I had to give it a try with all I had. I jumped solo, though the gap I had built wasn't enough for Luis not to catch me. We had a couple of good turns together as he caught me, but later on, he started saving more energy because he still had the race leader behind from his own team and couldn't continue to push.

    You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

  2. Estonian sprinters climb the podium in Colombia

    Mihkel Raim and Martin Laas are more than Estonian compatriots who race bikes. They're former schoolmates who share an apartment in Girona and a love for fast finishes.  

    Raim, who rides for Israel Cycling Academy, and Laas, who rides for Team Illuminate, have both scored runner-up finishes this week at Tour Colombia 2.1. Laas was runner-up to Alvaro Hodeg (Deceuninck-QuickStep) on stage 2 in La Ceja, and Raim finished second to Bob Jungels (Deceuninck-QuickStep) on stage 4 after Jungels soloed across the line to take the win Friday in Medellin. Raim was also fourth on the stage Molano won.  

    "I think since we live together in Girona in the same apartment and we've known each other for 10 years or something, that we complete each other in the training, so if one of us has a bad day then the other supports, and I think this is the power that keeps us going," Raim told Cyclingnews before the start of stage 3 in Llanogrande.  

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    Raim, 25, is currently ranked third among Estonian UCI riders behind Direct Energie's Rein Taaramae and EF Education First's Tanel Kangert. The reigning Estonian road champion, he won the overall at the Tour of Hungary in 2016 and has taken stage wins at the Colorado Classic, Vuelta a Castilla y Leon, Tour of Korea, Tour of Japan and Tour d'Azerbaidjan, among others.   

    His compatriot Laas, 25, is ranked seventh among Estonians and has taken multiple stage wins at the Tour of Thailand, Tour of Japan and the Tour of Estonia, where he won the overall in 2015. Laas moved to the American Continental team Illuminate last season after three years on the French Delko Marseille Provence team.  

    Together the pair form the most promising Estonian sprint duo since Jaan Kirsipuu and Janel Tombak were racking up the sprint wins in the 1990s and 2000s. Raim says his roommate could be the next Kirsipuu.  

    You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

  3. Crash knocks Chris Froome from Colombia contention

    Chris Froome's hopes of adding a Tour Colombia 2.1 title to his palmares came crashing down Saturday just 2km into stage 5 when he was caught behind a melee on an opening descent.

    The four-time Tour de France winner, racing for Team Sky,  initially tried to catch back on with the quickly disappearing peloton. Information about the incident was hard to come by at the race, but Froome eventually started ceding large blocks of time to the massively reduced peloton and at last count was more than 13 minutes behind the main bunch.

    Froome eventually finished the stage with a large group that came in more than half an hour behind the winner, and he appeared to be in good spirits when he arrived at the team van to cool down. 

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    Aevolo's Riley Sheehan was riding near Froome when the crash occurred and described it for Cyclingnews.

    "At 2km in, right after the neutral, we started cruising along and the speed went up quite fast," he said. "I think since basically from the start it was a downhill, that all the teams wanted to be safe and up front, and it was almost like coming to a sprint finish.

    "Team Sky, Movistar and Astana were bumping elbows trying to get the front. And then all of the sudden pretty much half the field was caught up in the crash," he said. "There was big pile-up and a lot of people behind: myself, Chris Froome, Jonathan Castroviejo.

    You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

  4. Bart De Clercq becomes first rider to race with artificial hip

    The opening stage of the Tour of Oman might have seen Alexander Kristoff extend his record victory tally with a rapid sprint on the Suhar Corniche, but away from the headlines there was another story, and another slice of history being made, as Bart De Clercq (Wanty-Gobert) became the first professional cyclist to race with an artificial hip.

    The 32-year-old Belgian went through the old pre-race rituals on Al Sawadi Beach on Saturday morning, applying sun lotion and pinning on his numbers, with a childlike grin on his face. It was the first time he’d done that in almost 18 months.

    In the intervening period, he'd struggled with an injury that threatened to ruin not just his career but his quality of life.

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    The crash that fractured his hip, he recalls, was a 'silly' one. Having just transferred from Lotto Soudal to Wanty Groupe Gobert, he was out for a causal ride with a friend in early January last year and was doing a U-turn at slow pace when his front wheel slipped out. It was a classic case of a slow crash doing – somewhat counter-intuitively – more damage than a high-speed fall, where momentum can carry you over the ground rather than into it.

    "It was a stupid crash but with serious consequences. The impact was really located at one place, and the wrong place. I landed with the complete impact on my hip," De Clercq told Cyclingnews in Oman.

    "I remember it clearly. I lay down, I tried to stand up, I couldn't stand up, I immediately went down again on the floor, then I wanted to move to the side of the road – one more metre – but that wasn't possible because of the pain. Then I remember every second on my way to the hospital. I think I'll remember it for a few more years yet."

    "I want to get my old level back"

    You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

  5. Coquard comes close in Tour of Oman opener

    Bryan Coquard (Vital Concept-B&B Hotels) came close to taking his second win in as many stage races in 2019, surging past Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) but unable to squeeze ahead of Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) on the opening stage of the Tour of Oman.

    The Frenchman, who endured a difficult first campaign with Vital Concept in 2018 following his acrimonious split from Direct Energie, had already won on the opening day of the Etoile de Bessèges.

    The finishing stretch on the Suhar Corniche ran arrow-straight for 1,300 metres, but a technical section just before that saw Coquard have to fight back and perhaps sap his legs for the final sprint.

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    "There were riders who mis-stepped in front of me and Kris Boeckmans with two kilometres to go, at the start of the series of bends, so we lost some places. We tried to come back but maybe it was a bit late," Coquard said at the finish.

    "I was very far back ahead of the final kilometre. Kris did a really good job of getting me back up the front. I was in and around the first positions with 300 metres to go and I was able to get on the wheel of Nacer, but unfortunately not that of Alexander Kristoff, and I was only able to get second."

    Coquard explained that it can be hard to adjust to the style of racing in the Middle East. The Tour of Oman is the one that has the fewest pan-flat highway stages, but that's exactly what was served up on Friday's run down the coast.

    You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

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