Organisers of the Tour de France have again focussed on local team wild card selections for the July race and one from Germany.
3 Mar 2016 - 11:55 AM  UPDATED 3 Mar 2016 - 6:17 PM

The four teams to make the cut are Cofidis (FRA), Direct Energie (FRA), Fortuneo-Vital Concept (FRA) and Germany's Bora-Argon 18.

The usual 18 WorldTour teams will also line up for the 2-24 July Grand Tour, including Australia's Orica-GreenEDGE and BMC which will be led by Tasmanian Richie Porte.

It will be third consecutive time Bora-Argon 18 will ride the Tour, and with a German start set for 2017, it can also be assured there will be a forth.

“These are great news today," team manager Ralph Denk said. "To be invited for the third time in a row to the worlds biggest cycling event is a big honour, and I want to thank the ASO for their trust in us.

"But it is also a proof that we have presented ourselves very well in the past, and always showed good performances. Now the whole team can focus on the preparations for our highlight – the Tour de France 2016.

"With Sam Bennett we have a very fast talented sprinter for the flat stages. With (Emanuel) Buchmann and (Dominik) Nerz we have two German cards to play when it comes to the big climbs. Nerz has shown in the past that he is also able to play a role in the GC at a Grand Tour, we hope that he is back to full strength this year.

"But also Patrick Konrad has the talent and ability to may surprise in the mountains. But the most important thing now is that all our guys stay healthy. Then we just need some luck to also be spared from any crashes in the first frantic week. If the preparation is good, without any problems, a lot will be possible."

WorldTour teams:

AG2R La Mondiale (FRA)
Astana Pro Team (KAZ)
BMC Racing Team (USA)
Cannondale Pro Cycling Team (USA)
Dimension Data (RSA)
Etixx-QuickStep (BEL)
IAM Cycling (SUI)
Lampre-Merida (ITA)
Lotto Soudal (BEL)
Movistar Team (ESP)
Orica-GreenEDGE (AUS)
Team Giant-Alpecin (GER)
Team Katusha (RUS)
Team Lotto NL-Jumbo (NED)
Team Sky (GBR)
Tinkoff (RUS)
Trek-Segafredo (USA)

Wild card teams:

Bora-Argon 18 (GER)
Cofidis, Solutions Crédits (FRA)
Direct Energie (FRA)
Fortuneo-Vital Concept (FRA)

Thursday 3 Mar 2016

Nikki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep) and Chantal Blaak (Boels Dolmans) notched up men's and women's victories at the Belgian Le Samyn in heavy European spring conditions.

The 202.6km race from Quaregnon to Dour  included the requsite miserable weather, punchy climbs and cobbled sections which are a feature of early season racing in Europe.

Terpstra held off a late selection of 15 riders to claim a solo victory ahead of Scott Thwaites (Bora-Argon 18) and Florian Sénéchal of Cofidis.

“It was a really tough race, as we rode full gas from the beginning," Trepstra said. "The last 10 kilometers were the hardest of the entire race.

"I knew I had about 15 seconds on Thwaites and I had to continue pulling. To make things even more difficult, the last 3 kilometers had a headwind and an uphill part.

"The weather conditions made the race beautiful in a strange way. I am happy with this victory, as it gives me confidence and comes as a confirmation that my condition is good for the upcoming Classics.

Blaak's victory was different but no less demanding as she got the best of Emma Johansson (Wiggle-High5) in a sprint with Amy Pieters (Wiggle-High5) trailing in 15 seconds later.

Her victory came after a split in the peloton left a selection of 23 riders at the front to shape the race.

We had a five in that group,” Blaak said. “That's the whole team. It was a good situation for us. We decided to continue working so at least the group stayed away.

"The girls were great. The two groups came together sometime around ten kilometres. The attacks kept coming. Emma attacked in the last four kilometres, and I followed her.

“I thought it was a good situation,” Blaak said. “I had been saving myself all day. I only now had to beat her in the sprint."

Andrea Guardini of Astana made it four as he also won the final stage of the 2016 Tour de Langkawi while Reinardt Janse van Rensburg of Dimension Data took the overall classification.

Guardini got the better of Jakub Mareczko (Southeast-Venezuela) and Shiki Kuroeda (Aisan Racing Team) to claim his fourth stage of the 2016 race and career 22nd in Malaysia.

The consistent van Rensburg was active on the final day, winning the first intermediate sprint as he secured the overall title in front of Daniel Jaramillo (UnitedHealthcare) and Miguel Angel Lopez of Astana.

“I was a bit nervous today”, he said. “I was counting down the kilometers and I was relieved when I saw the 3km to go mark.

"This is my first stage race victory since 2012. It’s been a long time. I’m happy with this breakthrough victory. This is definitely the biggest win of my career.

"It’s a UCI H.C. race, a very important one. It’s a good race with a good organization. I wasn’t sure to come here. I was initially a replacement rider but we came here as defending champions and we’re delighted we’ve made it again.”

A breakaway involving Seo Joo Yong (KSPO), Chiu Ho San (HKSI) and Loh Sea Keong (Malaysia) took shape after 40km of racing but a bunch sprint was always on the cards.

Drapac, Astana and Dimension Data combined forces to set the pace of the peloton, and after pulling back 5min 20sec, it was all together with 10km to go.

“I’m happy to win here again in Melaka, Guardini said. "I remember very well when I first did it in 2012. I knew there was a head wind to finish but I sprinted with a good timing.

"It would have been hard to get better results than four stage wins in eight days of racing. The fights for sprinting have all been highly competitive."

Alberto Contador will start Paris-Nice expecting an uptick in performance on what has been in the past a happy hunting ground.

The Tinkoff captain has won twice, 2007 and 2010, so knows what lies ahead as he builds up for what is supposed to be his final professional season.

"I return to the race that revealed me as a rider, in 2007, and which in some aspect was the springboard for the Tour de France," he said.

"It is a special race where I have always performed well. In addition, it is a very important one in terms of preparation because it gives you pace and provides a good base for the rest of the year. On the other hand, it's also a complicated race, because of the big number of rivals, its parcours and the often tough weather conditions.

"I'd like this first part of the season to be as good as possible but it's certain Paris-Nice is a top-level race in which everybody wants to win, even if it's a demanding one due to the level of the rivals and the difficulty in controlling it. Tinkoff heads to Paris-Nice with the intention to race well and fight for victory.

SBS2 will broadcast and Cycling Central will stream Paris-Nice LIVE from Sunday 6 March - Sunday 13 March. Details here.

The UCI Women’s WorldTour, which will be launched on March 5th with the Strade Bianche (Italy), promises a new and exciting era for women’s cycling.

Replacing the former UCI Women Road World Cup, which ran since 1998, the UCI Women’s WorldTour has been established to accommodate the fast growth of women’s cycling and provide a significant boost to the sport.

The 2016 UCI Women’s WorldTour will comprise 35 days of racing, including Spring Classics, exciting stage races held worldwide and monument races attached to men’s UCI WorldTour events. In total, competition days will increase by more than 60 per cent.

Spanning six months (from the Strade Bianche in March to the recently formed one-day La Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta in September), the 2016 UCI Women’s WorldTour will take the peloton to 17 events across Europe, the United States and China.

That represents nearly twice as many races as the UCI Women Road World Cup and for the first time includes stage races such as the Aviva Women’s Tour of Britain and the historical Giro d'Italia Internazionale Femminile.

At a minimum, the top 20 UCI Women’s Teams will be invited to each event, with some organisers choosing to increase the size of the peloton by offering a greater number of teams the chance to race.

As well as battling for victories in the individual races, the riders will compete in the UCI Women’s WorldTour rankings (individual, under 23 and teams).