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Chris Froome to leave Ineos, join Israeli team

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Chris Froome‘s contract with Team Ineos will not be renewed after this season, and he will join Israel Start-Up Nation for the rest of his cycling career.

“We are making this announcement earlier than would usually be the case to put an end to recent speculation and allow the team to focus on the season ahead,” Ineos manager Dave Brailsford said in a press release. “Given his achievements in the sport, Chris is understandably keen to have sole team leadership in the next chapter of his career – which is not something we are able to guarantee him at this point. A move away from Team Ineos can give him that certainty. At the same time, it will also give other members of our Team the leadership opportunities they too have earned and are rightly seeking.”

An hour later, Israel Start-Up Nation announced Froome will sign with its team on Aug. 1 to start next season.

“Chris is the best rider of his generation and will lead our Tour de France and Grand Tour squad,” co-owner Sylvan Adams said in a release. “We hope to make history together as Chris pursues further Tour de France and Grand Tour victories, achievements that would make a serious case for Chris to be considered the greatest cyclist of all time.”

Israel Start-Up Nation, whose current roster includes Grand Tour veteran Dan Martin, made its Grand Tour debut at the 2018 Giro d’Italia. It was announced in January to make its Tour de France debut this year.

Froome, 35, is coming back from major injuries in a June 2019 crash, trying to win his first Tour de France since 2017. Younger Ineos riders Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal won the last two Tours de France.

The team must sort out its leadership for this year’s Tour, which begins Aug. 29, but will now be without the greatest Grand Tour cyclist of the previous decade come 2021.

Froome first joined the team — then Team Sky — in 2010. In addition to his four Tour crowns, he won a Giro d’Italia and two Vuelta a Espana titles.

“It has been a phenomenal decade with the Team, we have achieved so much together and I will always treasure the memories,” Froome said in the Ineos release. “I look forward to exciting new challenges as I move into the next phase of my career but in the meantime my focus is on winning a fifth Tour de France with Team Ineos.”

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Chloé Dygert had the most dominant ride in history. It still drives her nuts

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As Chloé Dygert stood atop the podium, after the most dominant time trial in world road cycling championships history, she had to remind herself to smile. The silver medalist, Dutchwoman Anna van der Breggen, wasn’t convinced.

“Are you happy that you won?” van der Breggen asked her on Sept. 24 in Yorkshire, Great Britain.

“I must not have looked or seemed very happy about it,” Dygert said recently. “I am told by several people that I don’t really show too much emotion, or not happy emotion, when I’m on the podium.”

Dygert let her bike riding leave the ultimate impression. She replayed her emphatic victory — by 92 seconds on an 18-mile course to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics — with NBC Sports cycling host Paul Burmeister for a special edition replay that will air on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA on Monday at 8 p.m. ET.

It’s part of four nights of watchbacks:

2019 World Road Cycling Championships Special Edition TV Schedule (all 8 p.m. ET on Olympic Channel)
Monday: Women’s Time Trial (with Chloé Dygert)
Tuesday: Women’s Road Race (with Chloé Dygert)
Wednesday: Men’s Time Trial (with Rohan Dennis)
Thursday: Men’s Road Race (with Lawson Craddock)

Dygert, at 22, became the youngest man or woman to win a world title in the road time trial. But as she waited for the last riders to finish, and as she received her gold medal and rainbow jersey, she kept thinking about how she could have — should have — gone faster.

Not pushing enough on a descent. Being too conservative on a turn. Most vivid, the line she took with 1km to go, just outside her hotel, that took her way outside of the barriers.

“If I see it, I’m not even going to watch it because I just know how frustrated I am with it,” she said. “It drives me nuts. I get fired up talking about it.”

It fits Dygert’s personality. Growing up outside Indianapolis, she was moved from a girls’ soccer team to the boys. “I was a little too mean and aggressive,” she said. She played basketball but broke too many bones — her own and those of other girls. “Not on purpose,” she said, “but I was just so much bigger and naturally so much stronger.”

She wanted to be Larry Bird. Then she ran cross-country and wanted to be Steve Prefontaine. She picked up cycling in earnest around age 15. At 18, she swept junior world titles in the road race and time trial. At 19, she won an Olympic team pursuit silver medal on the track.

Dygert goes into races expecting to win and with a goal to hurt more than every other cyclist. It was evident at the end of her time trial on the wet roads of Yorkshire, collapsing on the pavement when she dismounted her bike.

“If I don’t perform and train how I should so I can be like that at the end of a race, it’s almost like it doesn’t count,” said Dygert, whose coach is three-time Olympic time trial champion Kristin Armstrong.

Dygert’s intensity manifests in her warm-up playlist: There’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston. But the majority being songs from “Rocky” film soundtracks. The crescendo is music from “Rocky IV” when Balboa is fighting Ivan Drago.

“So every time I hear that song now [outside of racing], I have to turn it off because I can’t handle it,” she said. “It’s amazing, the power of music.”

Cycling is the rare Olympic sport with a world championships every year, including Olympic years. The 2020 World Championships are still scheduled for late September.

Dygert could get the chance to defend her title and better her fourth-place finish from the road race in 2019. She missed the breakaway last year when her chain dropped, and she had to manually remount it.

Then in 2021, Dygert is expected to race three events in Tokyo — road race, road time trial and team pursuit on the track. She will try to succeed Armstrong as the time trial gold medalist and lead the U.S. to its first women’s Olympic title on the track.

It would be historic. What it might not be is completely satisfying.

“Even when I win, I’m still not happy,” Dygert said. “It’s very hard, and I bet it is frustrating for those girls [other cyclists] to see that, especially when they bring it up to me. I do feel bad. That’s who I am. That’s not going to change. I want to be the best at anything and everything. I want to beat the boys. I don’t care.”

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Rohan Dennis reflects on time trial, weighs Tour de France, gold medals

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For Rohan Dennis, the world’s best time trial cyclist, the last year included the most difficult two months of his life, the best moment of his career and a move to the world’s dominant team. Then came the coronavirus pandemic, postponing his Olympic plan by a year.

Dennis discussed all of it with NBC Sports cycling host Paul Burmeister for a watchback of his 2019 World time trial title, airing on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA on June 24 at 8 p.m. ET.

Olympic Channel’s World Championships Week features the 2019 World Road Cycling Championships beginning Monday. Dennis and Americans Chloe Dygert and Lawson Craddock join the special edition broadcasts to offer insights.

In the time trial, the Australian Dennis repeated as world champ in his first race since quitting the Tour de France the day before that Grand Tour’s time trial without explanation. He later cited a situation with his then-team, Bahrain-Merida, that affected his home life.

“It was probably the toughest eight, 10 weeks of my life,” Dennis said of the time between leaving the Tour on July 18 and leading up to the Sept. 25 time trial at worlds in Great Britain. “There was a lot of mental sort of battles within my own head each day thinking about obviously the Tour de France departure and everything.”

Dennis said he bounced between training a mile high in Andorra and at sea level in Girona, Spain.

“To keep things a little bit fresh because I was pulled out of all my races,” said Dennis, whose psychologist lived with him during that time. “I knew if I stayed in one place, it was going to play mind games with myself the whole time.”

Dennis’ training for worlds went so well that he believed a podium was guaranteed. Dennis dominated, distancing 19-year-old Belgian Remco Evenepoel by 68 seconds on a 33-mile course.

“It’s been a lot tougher than what it looked out there,” Dennis said that day, when he was surprised to be greeted by wife Melissa and baby son Oliver in the finish area. “It was absolutely perfect today.”

Now, Dennis calls it the best moment of a career that included time trial wins at all three Grand Tours, holding the hour record for two months in 2015 and a 2012 Olympic team pursuit silver medal and a pair of world titles in that discipline on the track.

Later last autumn, Dennis signed with Team Ineos, joining an already star studded roster that includes the last three Tour de France winners — Chris FroomeGeraint Thomas and Egan Bernal. He’s confident the team will have no leadership problems for the rescheduled Tour de France that starts Aug. 29.

“They’ve had this same situation more than once before,” Dennis said, citing Bradley Wiggins and Froome racing together in 2012, Thomas and Froome in 2018 and Bernal and Thomas in 2019. “The leadership works itself out. … The team always puts that goal first, so they really stamp out anything that can destroy the team winning. It’s not an individual who wins, even though it technically is. The goal is that Team Ineos has a rider on the top step of that podium in Paris. It doesn’t actually matter who it is.”

That rider will not be Dennis, whose focus is on the world championships time trial in Switzerland that falls on the same date as the last day of the Tour (Sept. 20). Dennis is “90 to 95 percent sure” he will not start the Tour de France this year. Next year’s Tour de France runs into the start of the Tokyo Olympics, so Dennis admits he could miss that Grand Tour, too.

“[A Tour de France] is something I want to do with the team,” said Dennis, who hopes to become the first Australian man to win an Olympic road cycling title. “It also is not a given that you’re in the team if you put your hand up for it on this team. It’s probably the hardest team to get into.”

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