G'day on this fairly plain Thursday in February. I'm Vern Pitt here to guide you through all the latest from the world of cycling.
This morning we'll have live coverage of the Saudi Tour and this afternoon there's Vuelta Valenciana.
Inbetween all that we'll be rounding up the best headlines from across the internet.
9.12 - Specialized cans Machines for Freedom
9.39 - Dubai unveils The Loop
9.52 - Milan-San Remo route change
12.10 - Olympic silver medallist wins court case
13.02 - Saudi Tour stage four result
15.52 - Etoile de Besseges crash results in rider hanging from bridge
Specialized axes women's brand Machines for Freedom
Bike giant Specialized has axed it's women's kit brand Machines for Freedom according to reports.
Specialized bought machines for Freedom from brand founder Jennifer Kriske five years ago describing it at the time as a "bold investment in women's leadership".
Speaking to Bicycle Retailer and Industry News following the news of its closure, Kriske said: "I am saddened but hopeful that the legacy will live on. I have been cycling through feelings of both grief and gratitude. For the past decade, Machines' influence in the cycling industry has been undeniable."
The move follows spending cuts at the American brand.
Last December it scaled back its ambassador programme, leaving a raft of influencers and other brand ambassadors without the bike giants support.
Then just last month Specialized announced it would be laying off 8% of staff worldwide citing economic and industry changes.
The end of Machines for Freedom is the second in a concerning trend of female orientated brands shuttering in the tough economic climate. Last month British women-centric brand Velovixen also closed its doors, saying the cost of living crisis was hitting its sales.
Dubai's massive climate controlled bike path
The Dubai government has unveiled plans for a 93km climate controlled bike path around the Middle Eastern city.
The design, put together by URB architects, is part of a plan to make most destinations in the city accessible by bike, or on foot, within 20 minutes.
As well as the bike path it'll feature fitness centres, sports courts, pocket parks and allotments.
The government of Dubai wants to make it the "world's most liveable city" by 2040.
The floors will generate energy from people's footsteps, URB says.
"Ultimately, significantly boosting cycling has multiple benefits. Beyond reducing congestion, pollution & carbon emissions, cycling makes people healthier and happier," the firm boasts.
That's all well and good but as anyone who's been for a 93km bike ride will know, why not just make it a round 100km?
Milan-San Remo to start in er... Abbiategrasso
Milan-San Remo will start to the 25km west of Milan in Abbiategrasso this year rather than in the Vigorelli Velodrome where it started in 2022.
According to a report in Dutch newspaper HLN, the announcement will be made official by race organiser RCS in the coming days.
It's not known if the change of start venue will make a difference to the near 300km length of La Primavera.
UAE Tour wildcard teams unveiled
UAE Tour organiser Abu Dhabi Sports Council has unveiled the four teams that will get a wildcard invite to the second WorldTour stage race of the year.
Israel - Premier Tech, Lott Dstny, Green Project-Bardiani and Tudor Pro Cycling will all be lining up on the start line in Al Dhafra on Monday 20 February.
The least expected of these is Tudor Pro Cycling, the evolution of the Swiss Racing Academy team, which has not been invited to the race in the past.
Riders expected to be on the start line include Tadej Pogačar, Mark Cavendish, Sam Bennett and Caleb Ewan.
TEAM LIST ANNOUNCEMENT The UAE Tour is 19 days away and here are the teams who will be keeping you on the edge of your seat!20 World Class teams7 stages1,028 km #UAETour pic.twitter.com/yxpSzJ3ZGwFebruary 2, 2023
Will you be riding your bike this Valentines day?
Cycling is far outstripped by winter sports in the popularity stakes of sports for couples on valentines day.
According to a blog from Strava only 13% of activities uploaded by couples on valentines day were bike rides, that compares with 20% which were winter sports (perhaps not overly surprising given valentines day is the14 February).
According to Strava: "A 2017 study found that partners who walk together unlock increased positive rapport and empathy, and enjoy other benefits like naturally cooperative (as opposed to competitive) postural stances, experiencing shared attention, and discussions in novel environments."
We wouldn't disagree, you can check out James and Rebecca's video on tips for cycling couples from the Cycling Weekly archive below.
Saudi Tour: With 52km of stage four, the race's queen stage underway the break has 1.52 on the peloton.
There is a big climb at the end that's expected to essentially decide the GC for the race, but safe to say until then not a huge amount is expected to happen so I'll let you know when you need to turn the TV on.
Saudi Tour: For those of you keen to know the break of four riders is made up of Felix Engelhardt (Jayco AlUla), Antonio Barac (Corratec), Muhamad Nur Aiman Mohd Zariff (Terengganu Polygon) and Nickolas Zukowsky (Q36.5)
Saudi Tour: Bahrain Victorious are setting the pace on the front of the peloton and the gap is ticking down. It's now at 1.38 with 44km to go.
Among their number is stage winner Jonathan Milan, who currently holds the leaders jersey. However, no-one expects him to keep that today.
Young Colombian climber Santiago Buitrago is likely to be Bahrain's best hope of success today.
Olympic silver medallist wins court case
Olympic team pursuit silver medallist Lauren Tamayo has won a law suit against a convicted fraudster over the purchase of a property.
Tamayo was part of the USA team that was beaten into second place by the British team pursuit squad in London in 2012.
In what is a rather twisty tale, reported in Citizen Times, a deal to buy the property property for her development company, was scuttled by the firm that owned it entering into liquidation.
However, when a second company controlled by the original owner bid for the property Tamayo sued arguing it was an effort to launder the property and re-neg on the original sale.
She was successful and ended up paying $442,000 rather than the original $700,000.
That's the potted version but I advise you go read the whole story as it's quite the tale.
Saudi Tour: With 15km to go the break has just 20 seconds now as the climb looms.
Turn on your TV!
Saudi Tour: The Peloton are just 3km from the base of the final climb now with just Nickolas Zukowsky (Q36.5) alone out the front.
He looks pretty smooth for a man who has been off the front for 140km, but his chances of survival are essentially zero.
Saudi Tour: And now Zukowsky is caught with 12km to go. It's all together, except for Frederik Rodenberg (DSM) who has just slipped off the back.
Saudi Tour: As the drag of the lower slopes (still not officially the climb) takes its toll a few riders are losing contact.
Saudi Tour: With the gradients hitting 18% in some of the turns the peloton is broken to pieces. UAE Emirates set the pace for Davide Formolo.
Saudi Tour: It's 22% round some of these turns and a group of Formolo, his team-mate Felix Großschartner, Ruben Guerreiro (Movistar) and a Bahrain Victroious rider I can't identify go clear.
Saudi Tour: Formolo attacks. But he's only dropped his team-mate. Guerreiro then counters.
Saudi Tour: Guerreiro piles on the pressure on the 17% slopes. But the front three stay together.
The Bahrain rider is, as I suspected, Colombian Santiago Buitrago.
The Movistar rider claims the lions share of the bonus seconds at the top of the climb as they reach the plateau.
Saudi Tour: The front three have a gap of 55 seconds over the main group of chasers. It appears that Formolo's team-mate is between the two groups.
Saudi Tour: Buitrago appears unhappy with Formolo's desire to let his team-mate catch back on. The Italian is sitting on the back.
Saudi Tour: No danger of being out of sight here on this dead straight road in the desert.
Saudi Tour: 4km to do and Großschartner has caught the front three.
Buitrago could take the jersey if he beats Guerreiro to the win, he's too far back to take it on time alone if they come in together.
Saudi Tour: The front four seem to be working well together now.
Saudi Tour: Formolo attacks just before 1km to go but Buitrago counters and gets a small gap.
Reuben Guerreiro wins stage 4 of the Saudi Tour
As the leading three riders came to the finishing sprint Santiago Buitrago opened up the sprint but Rueben Guerreiro had too much speed and came around him to win with apparent ease.
The Movistar rider was able to hold off a fast charging Davide Formolo (UAE-Emirates).
Guerreiro will now take the race leaders jersey.
Vuelta Valenciana: After a rather hilly day out in Spain and with 50km to go the break of three riders has a 3.22 lead on the chasing peloton.
Still some way to go as the race now steadily, and then not so steadily, climbs to Alto de Pinos.
Jumbo-Visma and Bora Hansgrohe are doing the bulk of the pace setting as we speak.
Valenciana: The break is made up of Javier Romo (Astana Qazaqstan), Alessandro de Marchi (Jayco-AlUla) a veteran stage hunter from the break-away, and Samuele Zoccarto an Italian rider with Green Project-Bardiani.
Canadian Ben Perry (Human Powered Health) is somewhere in between the two groups.
Valenciana: Now with just under 40km to go the lead has been cut to 2.44.
Valenciana: Ben Perry is caught by the main bunch as Cycling Weekly columnist Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious) sets the pace o nthe front of the bunch.
My colleague caught-up with the Londoner about his up-coming appearance at the European Track Championships and his Olympic dreams earlier this week.
Meanwhile, the breakaway hits the 21% climb of the Cumbres del Sol.
In the back of the race Héctor Carretero (Kern Pharma) has had a crash. He's up and appears to be in OK shape.
Valenciana: Zoccarto has been distanced by his two breakaway companions now. 35km to go.
Valenciana: Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty), the GC leader of the race, has been spat out of the back of the peloton.
Commentator Brian Smith informs GCN viewers that there have been several crashes before the TV pictures started, Girmay was among them.
Even so his falling off the back on this climb was not unexpected. It's probably a bit too much for the classics specialist.
Valenciana: With 34km to go Matej Mohorič has now taken over pace-setting duties at the head of the rapidly reducing peloton.
The two up front are approaching the top of the climb.
Big crash at Etoile de Bessèges
Word reaches us, via the Inrng, that today's stage of Etoile de Bessèges has been neutralised due to a big pile up. Apparently there are concerns they could not service any further medical incidents as they've had to pick up those injured riders.
No more racing in the Etoile de Bessèges, rest of stage cancelled. Riders will pedal to the finish. After a big crash there are no more ambulances/medical aid in case of further accidentsFebruary 2, 2023
Valenciana: 25km to go and the break's led is just 1.12
Rider hangs off bridge after crash
TotalEnergies rider Valentin Ferron has been pictured hanging off a bridge after the massive pile up at the French race Etoile de Bessèges.
I appears the bridge was pinch point for the peloton which served to trigger the crash which saw many riders in the peloton go down.
We do not yet know who was hurt.
Quite a dramatic crash on a bridge in Etoile de Besseges. Valentin Ferron was lucky because it wasn't that high. Hope everyone is ok. #EtoiledeBesseges pic.twitter.com/oKxTgBA9cYFebruary 2, 2023
Valenciana: Mohorič continues to set the pace but with 17km to go the two out front are doing a remarkable job of holding the gap at 1.13.
Valenciana: 12km to go and for the first time the gap to the two leaders has dipped below one minute.
Valenciana: Ineos Grenadiers have come to the front to set a strong pace as the race goes under 10km to go. Carlos Rodriguez is doing the work right now.
Turn on your TV now!
Valenciana: Things are hotting up and the gap to the leaders is really coming down now. Just 19 seconds.
Valenciana: I made a mistake earlier it's Jonathan Castroviejo who's currently setting the pace on the front. Carlos Rodriguez is, of course, the Spanish champion - about fourth wheel.
Valenciana: Just 6km to go and the breakaway is being caught. Not that the TV motorbike can get out of the way very well on these very tight twisty Spanish roads.
Valenciana: 5km the whole race is back together now and soon it'll really kick up to the finish.
Valenciana: It's Carlos Rodriguez's birthday today and so you'd do wel lto bet against him. You'd be surprised how often riders find a way to win on their birthday.
Valenciana: 2.7km to go and Castroviejo doesn't seem to be tiring! Marc Soler is struggling at the back. Even his team-mate Laurens de Plus can't take the pace and drops out of the line.
Valenciana: Young British neo-pro Thomas Gloag (Jumbo-Visma) is still very much at the head of affairs as the race reaches 2km to go.
Valenciana: Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers) takes over but immediately Brandon McNulty (UAE Emirates) attacks and gets a decent a gap.
Valenciana: McNulty looks calm and composed and Gloag bridges the gap and the two start workign together. They've not got a massive gap yet though.
As I typed that Geoghegan Hart brought the group back.
All together again.
Giulio Ciccone wins stage 2 of the Vuelta Valenciana
Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious) attacks, Giulio Ciccone (Trek Segafredo) Geoghegan Hart also comes across but out of the final corner Ciccone opens the sprint and holds it to the line.
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