Dan Martin and Rui Costa will lead UAE Team Emirates as the World Tour heads to Holland and Belgium for the Ardennes Classics on Sunday.
UAE Team Emirates has announced a strong team for the three races held within an eight-day timeframe, including Matteo Bono, Manuele Mori, Aleksandr Riabushenko, Rory Sutherland and Diego Ulissi.
The programme starts with the Amstel Gold Race in Holland on April 15, followed by the Fleche Wallonne in Belgium three days later and then the Liege-Bastogne-Liege on April 22.
More than one million spectators are reported to gather for the three classics, which is now in its 29th year.
Irishman Martin will be using the Ardennes as a serious stepping stone towards the Tour de France in July – where he has achieved two top-10 finishes since 2016.
The 31-year-old, who captured the 2013 Liege-Bastogne-Liege and finished second in the 2017 edition of the Doyennes, is relishing the prospect of repeating his consistent displays in Belgium.
He said “Training gone well since Volta a Catalunya despite the heavy crash on the last stage. I’ve been in good condition all season but bad luck prevented me from showing it in results.
“I feel ready to head into some of my favourite races.”
His UAE team-mate Costa has also demonstrated his class in the Ardennes, finishing fourth in the 2015 Amstel Gold Race, fourth in the 2016 edition and fourth in the 2015 Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
The 31-year-old, who finished 12th in the Tour of the Basque Country last week, said: “I’m coming to the Ardennes with high morale and I’m confident that I can race to bring the team some significant results.
“The competition in these races is always fierce, but UAE Team Emirates will bring high quality; it’s an advantage to be able to count on a strong group.”
There were contrasting fortunes for two English cyclists in the women’s time trial at the Commonwealth Games – joy for bronze medalist Hayley Simmonds, but despair for Melissa Lowther.
Simmonds, who took up the sport to get in shape and shed nearly half her body weight, won time trial bronze on Tuesday.
A tearful Simmonds was overcome with emotion at the finish line and looked stunned when she placed third in the same event compatriot Lowther was due to race in – but an administrative error meant she could not be registered in time.
Simmonds’ triumph is the result of years of vigorous training which saw her drop 45 kilos (100 pounds).
“I showed Julian (Julian Winn, her coach) a picture of me from 2011 and he didn’t believe it was me, I lost like 45kg,” the 29-year-old said.
“As soon as I started doing time trials my competitive nature took over, it’s been hard.”
Simmonds, who now weighs 55kg, describes baking as one of her hobbies. “There have been times I’ve wanted to go and eat a big cake,” she said.
Simmonds, who did a PhD in chemistry at the University of Cambridge, will also go in the women’s road race on Saturday, the penultimate day of the Games.
Lowther, meanwhile, said she was “gutted” after her Commonwealth Games dreams were shattered because team officials failed to register her for the race.
Lowther was forced out of the individual time trial after an administrative blunder meant she was not formally entered into the event on Australia’s Gold Coast.
“I can’t put into words how disappointed I am to have been missed off the start list due to an admin error,” the 21-year-old wrote on Instagram.
“It was one of my targets this season to make selection for the time-trial event and I was so proud that my hard work in training had paid off.
“While Team England have apologised, I’m still gutted not to have the opportunity to represent my country after all the hard miles I’ve put in.”
Lowther will still compete in the women’s road race on Saturday, the penultimate day of the Games.
Team England chef de mission Sarah Winckless said a last-ditch appeal to include Lowther in Tuesday’s event had failed.
“I have spoken to Melissa to offer my sincere apologies to her, her coaches and to British Cycling,” Winckless said.
“Melissa has trained hard for and focused on this race and it should never be the case that an error on our part prevents an athlete from showing what she can do.
“We appealed to the Commonwealth Games Federation to allow Melissa into the race, but it was not possible at such short notice.
“Team England will be conducting a review to understand how the situation has arisen and how it can be prevented from happening again.”
Lowther is not the first participant at the Games to fall victim to a paperwork blunder.
India’s weightlifters are having to treat one another’s aches and pains because the required documents for their physio’s accreditation were not submitted in time.
Aakrant Saxena flew to the Gold Coast with the Indian team but was refused entry to the athletes’ village and training and competition venues.
A New Zealand athlete who won two Olympic gold medals in a glittering rowing career grabbed Commonwealth Games bronze in cycling on Tuesday, less than two years after switching sports.
Hamish Bond, who formed one of the great rowing partnerships with Eric Murray, was just over two seconds off the silver medal in the time trial – but was still kicking himself for not going faster.
“Now I look back at all the margins and think, ‘What if?’, but from now I just reassess what more I can do and where to next,” he said.
“I’m pleased with my execution. There are still things I could improve on. I’ll discuss this with the people who have helped me along the way.”
Despite his slight frustration, it remained a phenomenal achievement for Bond, 32, who has already won the highest accolades rowing has to offer.
Bond and Murray won Olympic gold in the coxless pairs in London 2012 and Rio 2016, and from 2009 to 2013 they went five years unbeaten.
“Life’s about taking on challenges. You don’t know what you’ve got until you get out there,” said Bond, when asked about his decision to take up cycling.
“I think I’m in a pretty good place but there’s always things you can do better.”
Australia’s Cameron Meyer took gold and silver went to English rider Harry Tanfield, whose brother Charlie won pursuit gold and silver during the track cycling competition.
The Tanfields have emerged from the amateur ranks after self-funding their rise in the sport, and Harry, 23, only applied to take part in the Commonwealth Games in January, according to reports.