Dutch cyclists brave Storm Ciara

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NEELTJE JANS, Netherlands — Call them riders in the storm.

While much of northern Europe hunkered down Sunday and hoped that Storm Ciara would blow over quickly with its hurricane-force winds, an intrepid band of cyclists made the most of the conditions to take part in the Dutch Headwind Cycling Championships.

The ingredients were simple: A basic bicycle with no gears, no featherweight carbon race frame, no drop handlebars, strong legs, steely resolve and wind. Lots of wind.

Yet completing the course along the coast of Zeeland province in the southern Netherlands and across a storm water barrier as heavy winds blasted riders with sand from nearby beaches was anything but simple, even for experienced riders. Organizers provided vomit buckets at the end of the 8.5-kilometer (5.3-mile) route.

“I survived, but it’s very tough,” said 56-year-old Hans Deting, his right hand dripping blood due to an injury he sustained when he was blown off his bike.

While the idea of plowing headfirst into a major storm on a bicycle may sound like madness, it’s surprisingly popular in the Netherlands, where many people commute to and from work by bicycle come wind or rain. Some 11,000 people expressed interest online, but organizers only had a maximum of 300 places available.

This was, organizers say, as close as you can get in the largely pancake-flat Netherlands to tackling an Alpine stage in a bike race.

“We call this the Dutch mountain,” organizer Robrecht Stoekenbroek told The Associated Press. “It’s like climbing a 10% slope on the worst bike you can imagine.”

With red-and-white wind socks snapping in the wind, riders hunched over their handlebars in a desperate attempt to remain as aerodynamic as possible. Many competitors wore tight lycra cycling clothes.

One man made a bold fashion statement by wearing a onesie emblazoned with Brussels sprouts over his cycling gear.

Crossing the Oosterscheldekering storm barrier, riders weaved across the cycle path as they struggled to maintain their balance.

“There’s nowhere to hide,” Stoekenbroek said.

Many participants, who rode one-by-one against the clock, weren’t too interested in their times. It was simply about completing the event.

“This is a bucket list thing,” Edwin van Gaalen said, as he leaned, gasping for breath, on his handlebars after finishing.

He paused to further explain.

“When you’ve done it once, you want to do it twice. And more and more and more, because this is an experience you have to experience,” he said. “So I can talk a lot about this, but you have to take part of this to feel the wind, to feel the experience, to get it all.”

Giro d’Italia to start on former railway line in Abruzzo

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L’AQUILA, Italy — The 2023 edition of the Giro d’Italia will start with an individual time trial on a coastal cycle path that has been recreated from a former railway line in the region of Abruzzo.

At a ceremony in the Abruzzo capital of L’Aquila, race organizers announced that the Grand Tour will run from May 6-28 and begin with an 18.4-kilometer (11.4-mile) time trial on the Adriatic coast.

Almost the entire time trial will be on the spectacular Costa dei Trabocchi cycle path that hugs the coast line before a short climb to the finish in Ortona.

“I am excited at the idea of the Grande Partenza (Big Start) of the Giro in Abruzzo . It is a dream come true, especially with regard to the prologue on the Costa dei Trabocchi,” said Trek-Segafredo cyclist Dario Cataldo, who is from the region.

“I well remember that when the cycle path project was born and I saw the first tracks, I imagined the beauty of a Giro d’Italia passing along the route. It looked perfect.”

Stage 2 is a 204-kilometer (127-mile) leg from Teramo to San Salvo that is hilly in the first part but expected to end in a bunch sprint.

Stage 3 will also start in the Abruzzo region, in Vasto, but it will then head south and will be detailed when the full route is revealed on Oct. 17 in Milan.

The Giro will also return to the region for Stage 7, a daunting climb on the Gran Sasso d’Italia to Campo Imperatore. The high mountain stage, on May 12, will be the edition’s first finish above 2,000 meters.

Australian Jai Hindley won this year’s Giro.

Norway takes gold-medal lead at world road cycling titles

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WOLLONGONG, Australia – Soren Waerenskjold repeated Norway’s gold medal success at the world road cycling championships a day after Tobias Foss finished first in the elite men’s time trial.

Waerenskjold won the men’s under-23 time trial on the second day of the championships with a dominant performance. He clocked 34 minutes, 13.40 seconds over the 28.8-kilometer course to beat Belgian Alec Segaert by 16.34 seconds.

British rider Leo Hayter, the younger brother of elite rider Ethan Hayter, was 24.16 seconds off the pace for the bronze medal.

Foss beat a strong field to win the elite time trial, the biggest win of his career.

Norway has two gold medals, while Dutch ace Ellen van Dijk beat Australian Grace Brown to take out the women’ elite time trial.

The mixed relay time trial is set for Wednesday. The championships conclude on the weekend with the women’s road race on Saturday and the men’s on Sunday.