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Wout van Aert’s monumental goals and Lotto-Soudal’s bubbles: Daily News Digest

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Even in the uncertainty of the current time, riders and teams continue to lay plans for the future. Wout van Aert is looking to the monuments, Lotto Soudal to the Grand Tours, and Anna van der Breggen to Paris-Roubaix, while former Belgian champion Oliver Naesen has had a long contract extension with AG2R La Mondiale.

Meanwhile, despite the UCI having just announced a revised calendar, there are already question marks over some of the races in it. Vuelta a Burgos – scheduled to start on July 28 – is reported to be in doubt, due in part to the financial situation in Spain as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

All that and more in today’s Daily News Digest.

Until next time, readers.

What’s news

| Wout van Aert’s monumental goals

Belgian star Wout van Aert’s proposed schedule continues to take shape, with a focused tilt at classics including Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix in the pipeline. Talking to the Dutch podcast In Het Wiel, the Jumbo-Visma rider discussed his growing self-belief and his prospects for the monuments.

“A few years ago, I set the goal for myself to see how far I can get in those Classics, and I believe now that I can win a Monument,” van Aert said. “That’s the goal for the coming years, and so it would be very stupid to miss an opportunity just because the calendar’s a bit different this year.

“It’s not that easy to win the Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix, so you should take every chance.”

If the calendar proceeds as planned, van Aert will have a busy few months, with a slated start at Strade Bianche on August 1, Milan-San Remo a week later, and the Tour de France from late August. Paris-Roubaix would wrap up his road season, before switching to cyclocross for the winter.

| Paris-Roubaix not like any other race: Anna van der Breggen

With the long overdue but surprise announcement of a women’s edition of Paris-Roubaix, Anna van der Breggen has been mulling tactics and what it will take to win the race, saying that Paris-Roubaix favours the fearless.

“I think it will be someone who is not scared, first of all,” Van der Breggen told Cyclingnews. “Also, someone who does very well in positioning. If you go to the cobbles you should be in front because it’s possible that there will be some crashes.

“You see it with the men’s race, and if you are behind, it will take a long time before you get back. It’s a long race and a hard race so somebody who is strong and good in positioning could win.”

Van der Breggen was among a number of Boels Dolmans riders to preview the cobbles in 2019 for a Specialized product launch, and got a taste for the Forest of Arenberg segment. “It’s not like any other cobbled race. We had some rain and it was a grey day. I was surprised that the cobbles were laid out so badly… when you hit them sometimes it’s at 60kph or more. If it’s wet, like it was that day, it’s quite something,” Van der Breggen said.

| Oliver Naesen extends with AG2R until 2023

Belgian classics specialist Oliver Naesen has signed a three year extension of his contract with AG2R La Mondiale, saying that the offer was “a great mark of trust” from the team.

“Since 2017, the team has not stopped progressing, either in sport or in its structure and approach. Why look elsewhere for what works so well here?” Naesen said.

Team manager Vincent Lavenu had similarly nice things to say: “He is now one of the best classic racers in the world and we will build a successful team by his side so that he can achieve his sporting goals. Beyond his quality as a rider, it’s the man, his values and his joie de vivre, that is such an important element in the life of the whole team.”

| Lotto Soudal splits squads into ‘bubbles’ to reduce COVID-19 risk

In a bid to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, Lotto Soudal has split their squad into three bubbles – including riders, management and support staff – each operating independently of the other.

Initially, the squads are loosely split into the three Grand Tour squads the team will field, with the gaps in the classics rosters to be filled by available riders. Riders will only train and race with those in their bubble.

“There are three bubbles and the three Grand Tours are the starting point,” team doctor Jens De Decker told Sporza. “Such a bubble is actually a succession of different races on the cycling calendar in which we will keep the same staff and the same riders together in the coming months. The riders must also always share hotel rooms with the same person.”

| Vuelta a Burgos in doubt

Vuelta a Burgos, slated as one of the first major races once the season resumes, appears to be in some doubt, according to local media.

Due to looming financial difficulties due in part to the coronavirus epidemic, which Spain has been particularly hard-hit by, the five stage race may not be able to proceed. If it does, however, it would attract one of its most prestigious fields ever, with the likes of Movistar, Mitchelton-Scott and Israel Start-Up Nation hoping to line up.

“We are waiting to hear on Burgos,” Mitchelton-Scott sport director Matt White told VeloNews. “It’s planned to be our first race back. We hope to be able to race it, but it’s up to the local government to decide.”

A decision is expected to be made on Tuesday.

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| Katie Hall sets new Everesting world record

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