Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tour de l'Avenir Stage 3: Australia hit the deck; McLay sprints to win

On the only day where a sprint finish looked definite, the Australian National Team did not have the greatest of days. Riding for Caleb Ewan, they were looking to add onto Ewan's stage 2 victory with another brilliant sprint win into Paray-le-Monial. Yet as the breakaway was swept up with just under 5 kilometers to go, a crash swept through the peloton. Bodies and bikes hit the deck with the majority of the casualties being Australians. In fact, 5 out of the 6-man Australian team hit the deck and finished behind the peloton including GC favorite Jack Haig. The only Australian who escaped the carnage was youngster Robert Power. Others in the crash included points leader Davide Martinelli, Mads Wurtz Schmidt (Denmark) and Logan Owen (USA), among others.

The show went on without them.

Above: The Australians during the calm before the storm.

The day started with a two-man breakaway featuring double European champion Stefan Kung (Switzerland) and Piotr Brozyna (Poland). The duo were able to get a healthy gap but the peloton were not interested in letting them get too far ahead as this was the only true flat stage in the race. Brozyna took the only KOM on the course ahead of Kung while Kung took the sprint point. The gap never got over 2'30" while the peloton rolled along for the majority of the day.

The gap began to fall dramatically once the race hit 30 kilometers to go and it was just 45 seconds at 15km to go. Heading into the final 10 kilometers, the race was hitting full tilt with the sprinters salivating and others just holding on for dear life (looking at you Oskar Svendsen). When the Kung and Brozyna were picked up with 5 kilometers to go, a grenade was set to detonate. The big crash happened just after they were picked up.

The show went on without them.

Heading into the final sprint, lead-out man turned sprinter Magnus Cort went to lead out the sprint and the only rider that was able to truly challenge him was Brit McLay. Heading through the light bend, McLay drew even with Cort and was able to go past him, his true speed showing. McLay took the win ahead of Cort and Pan-Am RR Champion Fernando Gaviria, who had been in the top 10 in the past 3 stages.

Jack Haig, one of Australia's GC hopes, lost 33 seconds because of the crash. Another GC hope, Norway's Odd Eiking, crashed within 3 kilometers so he did not lose any time but it is still unsure if he will be 100% for tomorrow.

GC stays the same with Asbjorn Kragh leading while Colombian Gaviria takes over the points jersey. Kristoffer Skjerping keeps his KOM leader while the Netherlands still leads the team's classification.

Tomorrow is where the race begins. This was just an appetizer. The next 4 days are packed with mountains and tomorrow includes a summit finish at Plateau de Solaison. Anyone whose form isn't 100%, then you better get ready to have the caravan pass you.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Tour de l'Avenir Stage 2: Ewan trumps Cort in future Orica showdown

With a steep ramp heading averaging 6 to 7% gradient in the last 200 meters, the finish on today's stage in the Tour de l'Avenir was bound to be selective. Who was going to be in the finale though? Magnus Cort was one obvious choice. He currently leads the UCI Europe Tour and has done very well for himself on slightly uphill finishes so he was the obvious pick.

Who was going to join Cort in the battle for the line?
Ken was pretty close as he had the right country but we are getting to far ahead now, let us go back to the start of the stage.

Leaving Brioude, the finishing town from stage 1, it took 12 kilometers before a successful breakaway got away including Fabian Leinhard (Switzerland) and Loic Chetout (France), who had been unsuccessful in his bid to join the breakaway on stage 1. The duo got away just as the race began to climb the category 3 Cote de la Chaise-Dieu. Chetout took the mountain points at the top while behind in the peloton, KOM leader Kristoffer Skjerping (Norway) took 3rd place points ahead of 2nd place KOM and overall GC leader Asbjorn Kragh.

The gap to the breakaway duo was never more than 4 minutes because the peloton was quite wary of having a repeat of stage 1's antics, where the breakaway was given a huge lead that the peloton never got back. On the Category 2 Cote de Medeyrolles, Chetout once again took full points ahead of Leinhard while Skjerping took 3rd place points to consolidate his lead. Riders began to pop off the back of the peloton including Sven Fritsch (Luxembourg), Martin Otonicar (Slovenia) and Dan McLay (Great Britain). On the final KOM, Chetout and Leinhard kept banging the drum slowly while Dylan Teuns (Belgium) attacked to try and spice things up a bit. Teuns went over the top solo and Skjerping grabbed the 4th place points. He ended the day with 34 in total while Chetout is now in 2nd in the classification, sitting at 22 points.

The gap at the top of the final climb was under 3 minutes but by the time the group went down the fast stair-step descent, the breakaway only had 1'30". The Australians were salivating like a piece of toast with vegemite was dangling out in front of them. The duo were able to stay out front until they hit the local loop in Saint-Galmier, where they were swallowed up with 8 kilometers to go. Some riders tried to breakaway on the rolling local lap including Evgeny Shalunov (Russia) but everything was brought back for the final uphill punch.


Taking the final left hander into the finish, Caleb Ewan (Australia) hit the jets and only Magnus Cort was able to follow but not able to challenge the new pocket rocket, Ewan. This anticipated battle might actually be the only one simply because these two will be teammate in 2015 with Orica-GreenEdge. They might be going 1-2 in the future but at least for the next few years, it will be an Orica sweep.

Alex Kirsch (Luxembourg) finished in 3rd place 2 seconds down in front of Austrian Michael Gogl, who surprised in 4th place ahead of prologue crashee Owain Doull (Great Britain). There was a separation in the front group and few potential GC riders such as Gianni Moscon, Derk Abel Beckeringh and Dylan Teuns gained 5 seconds on the likes of Robert Power, Silvio Herklotz, Louis Vervaeke and co.

Asbjorn Kragh still leads the overall classification 16 seconds on Kristoffer Skjerping, 1'34" on Sjoerd Van Ginneken and 2'09" back to Davide Martinelli, the highest placed rider that was not apart of the stage 1 breakaway. Martinelli did take over the points jersey after taking his 3rd straight top-6 placing. Skjerping has the KOM jersey on lock down while the Netherlands leads the teams classification.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Tour de l'Avenir: Skjerping dominates breakaway; Kragh takes lead

After a stressful prologue yesterday, the peloton decided to take it easy. So easy in fact that they nearly let the breakaway get away with a huge gap that could have massively changed the GC. They finally woke up near the end but a win was outside of their grip.

The breakaway got away right after the gun went off and included Kristoffer Skjerping (Norway), Sjoerd Van Ginneken (Netherlands) and Asbjorn Kragh (Denmark). The trio got away on the brief respite for 5 categorized climbs in the first half of the stage. Loic Chetout missed the move and they was shouting "Guys...guys..guys wait up!" for the next 40 kilometers or so.

Skjerping led the breakaway up the category 3 Cote de Sales and Cote de Fridefont, while Chetout was still in no-mans land. Chetout was scooped up by the next KOM, the Cote de Faverolles, which Skjerping went over first yet again. This was where the gap began to balloon. The gap went from 3'45" to 5'45" and with no one willing to chase, the gap kept expanding. Over the Cote de Beauregard, the gap went over 7 minutes and following the final climb of the day, the Cote du Mont-Mouchet, the trio got an advantage of 7'45". Just think of that. The prologue yesterday was roughly 6 minutes of effort. So that is 1.29 prologues between the breakaway and the chasing group.

During the final climb, the peloton had a crash involving Frenchman Pierre Gouault. Gouault hit the deck hard and ended up abandoning the race with a broken collarbone (clavicle). Gouault was France's highest overall finisher last year with a 13th overall but he won't be able to help Pierre-Roger Latour's bid for the podium.

Once over the last climb, the race went down a long stair-step descent to Langeac. With 40 kilometers to go, the gap was still nearly 8 minutes. The Australians didn't seem to be too interested in chasing so other countries had to pick up the slack. France, Germany, Belgium were chipping into the chase while Denmark was up there to make sure they weren't chasing too hard. Oskar Svendsen had a bit more bad luck with a puncture but he was brought back by his teammate Fridtjof Roinas without too much pain. Dan McLay (Great Britain) also had a puncture but got back without drama.

Entering the finishing circuits in Brioude, the gap was not falling nearly fast enough while the trio out front was able to enjoy a fairly peaceful ride to the line. With 6 kilometers to go, the gap was still 3'55" with the peloton at this point just trying to limit the blowout. Asbjorn Kragh was the virtual leader on the road and was willing to let a stage win go for the yellow jersey. Skjerping already wrapped up the KOM jersey for the day but the stage was between he and Van Ginneken and Skjerping is a very strong sprinter.

Skjerping, even with hitting it on all of the KOM sprints, was able to take the win ahead of Van Ginneken and Kragh. It was a fairly healthy gap of 2'21" back to the peloton when Dan McLay crossed the line in 4th place ahead of Fernando Gaviria (Colombia) and Davide Martinelli (Italy). Good result by McLay and re-affirming my internal belief that Martinelli could become a sprinter.

A crash ripped through the peloton in the finale and many riders trickled in after the peloton rolled through (on the same time of course) including Tiesj Benoot, Robert Power, Luka Pibernik, Iuri Filosi, Marc Soler and about half of the Danish team.

Tune in for tomorrow's stage from Brioude to Saint-Galmier, which includes 3 climbs as well as an interesting finish that has an uncategorized climb just a few kilometers from the finish as well as an uphill sprint. The teams are not going to be interested letting a breakaway go this time.

Full Results for the stage

Overall: Asbjorn Kragh

Points: Asbjorn Kragh

KOM: Kristoffer Skjerping

Tour de l'Avenir: Flakemore smokes damp prologue

Under cool and damp conditions, the 51st Tour de l'Avenir rolled off in Saint-Flour in non-ideal conditions but the riders plugged on for the short effort. Riders had to negotiate a 4.45 kilometer course in the center of Saint-Flour and the damp weather did not help with the technical nature of the track.

Christopher Jurado (Panama/UCI Mixed) set off at 18:00 local time and and put in a decent time of 6'17". Jurado's teammate Joao Gaspar was the only non-starter after the Brazilian was diagnosed with appendicitis and had to have emergency surgery in Saint-Flour. The threat of rain has caused a few riders including Domen Novak and Ricardo Ferreira to go on standard road bikes instead of TT rigs.



Just the 8th rider of 123 out of the gates, Davide Martinelli, put in a scorching ride that would be the benchmark for the rest of the day. Martinelli flew in with a time of 5'46", which was astronomically quicker than the next fastest, Alex Clements, who had a time of 6'09". While most were not breaking 6 minutes, Loïc Vliegen (Belgium) came flying in just after Martinelli with a time of 5'50", which put him 2nd provisionally and would have him ending up 5th. Lennard Hofstede, who was just 7th place in the Tour de l'Ain prologue, had a horrible time of it out on course (suspected mechanical) as he rolled in 50 seconds down on Martinelli, which would put him in 119th when the day ended.

Some GC men were doing themselves big favors by putting in storming prologues including Louis Vervaeke (5'55") and Robert Power (5'49"). Others who put in a good ride included Jack Haig, Derk Abel Beckeringh, Tiesj Benoot and Miguel Angel Lopez.

Timo Roosen put in one of the biggest challenges to Martinelli as the Dutchman was one of just 3 to put in a time under 5'50" as he stormed to a time of 5'49", which slotted him just 2 seconds behind the vice-European champion Martinelli.

In recent years, the Tour de l'Avenir prologue has been owned by Australians. In 2010, Michael Matthews was 3rd behind Taylor Phinney. The next year, Michael Hepburn won it. In 2012, Jay McCarthy took the win. Last year, Damien Howson was on a flier before clipping a pedal and going airborne. He took solace in his dominating performance at U23 TT Worlds.

Campbell Flakemore rode off the start ramp just as the rain began to fall in Saint-Flour but he was one of the last riders to escape the rain. The Australian has taken a while to get into form this year and has sacrificed his own chances many times this year but his prologue ride was magic. Flakemore came flying in with a time of 5'45", which put him a top of the pile with the last 20 riders still to come through. No one would be passing Flakemore though.

The rain began to fall harder and with the cool weather, just 54 F (12 C), riders were dropping like flies. Owain Doull was on a flier before skidding across the road at 50 kph, ending his chances. The rain was the bane of Oskar Svendsen, who ceded 49 seconds to Flakemore and is now on the backfoot for the mountains along with teammate Sindre Lunke. Stefan Kung put in a fairly reasonable time for being in the deluge but the big Swiss rider finished 29 seconds down, a disappointment for a rider looking to win. Pierre-Roger Latour was the last rider down the ramp and even going through the downpour, he didn't end up too bad, just 22 seconds down on Flakemore.

Big winners: Robert Power, Louis Vervaeke, Miguel Angel Lopez, Derk Abel Beckeringh, Jack Haig

Big losers: Oskar Svendsen, Sindre Lunke, Owain Doull, Stefan Kung, Bahktiyar Kozhatayev, Manuel Senni, Giulio Ciccone

Friday, August 22, 2014

Stagiaires Update: Stagiaires Strike Back

So being focused on Tour de l'Avenir, I haven't had a lot of time to write on the riders who have actually been getting the big break with stagiaire riders on professional teams. Let's check in on how they are doing...

Tour de l'Ain

Marc Sarreau has a great year going so far with 5 wins for Vendée U and the rider from Vierzon, smack dab in the middle of France, got a deal to join FDJ.fr for the remainder of the season. Sarreau took advantage of this opportunity at l'Ain by going 2nd on stage 1 to Raymond Kreder and 5th on stage 2 behind four professionals including Gianni Meersman, Romain Feillu, Leonardo Duque and Julian Alaphilippe. If he keeps it up, he could be looking at a pro contract.

GP Stad Zottegem

Tiesj Benoot kept up the great season with a 4th place in the GP Stad Zottegem, where he won the chasing group sprint 15 seconds behind Edward Theuns. This was Benoot's 16th top 10 of the year in a UCI race and nearly his 20th overall this year. He should be in some smoking form for l'Avenir but even if he isn't on his top game, he always likes to show himself in the sprint.

Vuelta a Burgos

Steven Lammertink gave the best stagiaire result with a 2nd place on stage 2 behind Matteo Pelucchi, who got a superb lead out from Mimo Reynes. Lammertink, who is the current Dutch U23 TT Champ, used the lack of sprint talent here to his advantage to get a nice podium spot.

Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev was using Burgos for a bit of Tour de l'Avenir prep where he finished top 20 on a couple of stages. Nothing too outrageous but a strong ride by a rider who is looking to go top 5 once again in the Tour de l'Avenir.

Arctic Race of Norway

The Arctic Tour, which was a big stupid and simultaneously awesome, saw some of the best stagiaire results from the past week or so.

Kevin Ledanois (Bretagne Séche Environment) and Loïc Vliegen (BMC) went 8th and 9th on the opening stage to Nordkapp, which is essentially the the northern cap of Norway. Vliegen got another top 10 placing on stage 3 while Ledanois gained more time on the final stage into Tromsø when he finished 6th, which was just 4 seconds behind winner Alexander Kristoff.

Ledanois ended up 6th overall, 229 seconds behind winner Kruijswijk, while Vliegen was 8th. Ledanois has a bit of pedigree as his father, Yvon, was a pro for a decade and is now a director at BMC. Ledanois was 6th in the Tour de Normandie earlier this year and has been doing quite well in his short time as a stagiaire with BSE. Vliegen has been lights out as a stagiaire with BMC having been in the top 10 four out of seven times, including the Arctic Tour GC.

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Currently, stagiaires are at the USA Pro Challenge of the Territory of Colorado, Tour du Limousin and more. More updates will happen soon.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Tour de l'Avenir: The Teams and the Favorites

We are less than a week away from the Tour de l'Avenir and with a full start list in hand, it is time to look at the teams and determine some favorites for next week.

The full startlist is here on the Tour de l'Avenir website but it is rife with spelling mistakes and there have been a few roster changes.

France

Starters: Loic Chetout, Pierre Gouault, Quentin Jauregui, Pierre-Roger Latour, Guillaume Martin, Jeremy Maison

France comes into the Tour de l'Avenir with a little bit of a surprising roster. No Thomas Boudat. No Alexis Guerin, Lilian Calmejane or Romain Guyot. Don't get me wrong, they have a strong roster but they seem to valuing a run at GC more than getting stage wins.

Pierre-Roger Latour and Guillaume Martin will be the favorites for GC. Latour is obvious with his 5th place this year in Pays de Savoie and 9th in the pro Tour de l'Ain including 6th on the queen stage. Martin was 4th in the Tour Alsace and was climbing with the likes of Jack Haig (Australia) on the queen stage.
Pierre Gouault was the highest French finisher last year in 13th and should be of good use in the mountains.
Loic Chetout and Quentin Jauregui. Chetout was a stage winner in the Ronde de l'Isard and is very good on rolling courses, which will suit him in the early stages. Jauregui has been mainly riding professional races but he could be another that has his eyes on a breakaway.

Switzerland

Starters: Stefan Kung, Tom Bohli, Lukas Spengler, Thery Schir, Fabian Leinhard, Dylan Page.

The star here is Stefan Kung. Kung will be a big favorite for the prologue as well as another stage victory. He has shown he isn't afraid to lay it out on the line and he has the engine to stick something to the end. Past Kung, Lukas Spengler was one of the bright spots for Switzerland (as well as BMC Development) with multiple top 10 finishes in one-day races so he could be another favorite for a stage. Perhaps Thery Schir or Bohli could mix it up in a bunch kick.

Belgium

Starters: Tiesj Benoot, Floris De Tier, Dylan Teuns, Loic Vliegen, Dieter Bouvry, Louis Vervaeke

Thanks to some nice UCI rules, Louis Vervaeke is still eligible to ride the Tour de l'Avenir even though he signed mid-year with Lotto-Belisol. Usually any U23 riding for a World Tour team isn't able to participate in U23-only races but thanks to his mid-year signing, he is still eligible. Vervaeke got off to a rocky start thanks to some illness at the Tour of Austria but bounced back for a solid Clasica San Sebastian.

Obviously, Vervaeke is one of the big favorites and he is surrounded by a very talented crew. Tiesj Benoot has been incredibly consistent this year so even if he is shepherding Vervaeke, he could grab himself a stage win or some high placings. Teuns is a very good climber having just won the best young rider's jersey at the Tour of Utah and if Vervaeke were to fail, he could be a back-up. Teuns might be able to escape in the high mountains for a stage win. Vliegen has been very good so far with BMC as a stagiaire with top 10s in the Ride London Classic and Arctic Tour overall. I might have left De Tier and Bouvry for last but both are capable riders with De Tier being a good climber and Bouvry there to do a little bit of everything.

Edit: Bouvry has been replaced by Jean-Albert Carnevali due to "intestinal distress". Carnevali only adds more climbing legs to the Belgian attack and makes the team better in the mountains.

I'm trying not to laud them too much but Belgium's team is their strongest in years and looks, at least on paper, as one of the strongest teams on the start line in Saint-Flour.

Denmark

Starters: Asbjorn Kragh, Soren Kragh, Magnus Cort, Michael Carbel, Mads Pedersen, Patrick Olesen

The headliner here is obviously Magnus Cort, who is destined to Orica GreenEdge next year. Cort is leading the UCI Europe Tour and has won 11 races this year. Now, I don't expect Cort to do much in the mountains but he could take home at least one stage in the first half of the race.

Joining Cort are some good sprinters in Asbjørn Kragh and Michael Carbel. Kragh has been very consistent this year even when he has to deal with his shit show team, Christina Watches. Carbel is just a first year rider in the U23 ranks and I doubt he will finish through the mountains but he could get in a good sprint here.

Patrick Olesen is the best shot at an overall run for Denmark Olesen finished 7th in the Ronde de l'Isard and has been trying to focus on l'Avenir this year. l'Isard has been his only big result this year but his climbing legs are documented so we'll see what happens.

Norway

Starters: Odd Eiking, Oskar Svendsen, Sindre Lunke, Sven Erik Bystrøm, Fridtjof Røinas, Kristoffer Skjerping

Another one of my favorites for this year's race is Norway, who is coming in with one big favorite and an enigma. Odd Eiking came alive at the Giro Valle d'Aosta where he finished 2nd overall. He had bright flashes before but it seems the big mountains are his true playground. Eiking looks like the best shot at an overall bid but there is also he teammate Oskar Svendsen.

Svendsen is an enigma. He is horrible at riding in a pack and last year, he has a string DNFs and low finishes before emerging on the climbs at l'Avenir, where he used his high Vo2Max to propel him to a 5th overall. Same story this year as the only place he has done fairly well in the Giro Valle d'Aosta where he was top 5 in both the prologue and uphill TT and climbed pretty well. So either he will DNF, finish about 55th or go for a top result.

Probably a better overall candidate than Svendsen is Sindre Lunke who a) hasn't dropped out of a race all year and b) was incredible at Valle d'Aosta where he was 5th overall and at times climbing better than Odd Eiking. He was also top 20 at the recent Arctic Tour and 15th overall at Tour of Norway earlier this year. This is now three riders for Norway that can potentially climb with the best.

The team is covered in the sprints and rolling hills by Bystrøm and Kristoffer Skjerping.

This truly looks like one of, if not the most, complete team here. They have a little bit of everything and they are looking good for a podium placing later next week.


Netherlands

Starts: Sjoerd Van Ginneken, Sam Oomen, Dirk Abel Beckeringh, Timo Roosen, Martijn Tusveld, Lennard Hofstede

As you can see, there is quite a big omission to this list if you have been reading this site over the last two years. Mike Teunissen, the Dutch wunderkind who rides with aplomb on both the road as well as the dirt, was a non-selection for the l'Avenir squad after dropping out of the Tour de l'Ain. Teunissen has been one of the most reliable Dutch U23 riders this year but without him here, someone else will need to step it up. **Edit: Teunissen broke his collarbone in a crash at Dutch Nationals. He came back at Kreiz Breizh Elites but was still not 100%, which probably led to his non-selection with his DNF in l'Ain sealing it.

Now who will step up...Beckeringh? The Dutch climber, who was 25th in l'Avenir last year, but I don't think he is going to be the best. Tusveld is also strong but he is better on punchier hills and a bit flatter terrain. Roosen has had a breakout year but he likes shorter hills too. I've narrowed down the team by half so let us see when we have left.

Sam Oomen has had a great first year as a U23, where he was 8th overall at the Tour des Fjords and 14th in the Rhône Alpes Isere Tour. Oomen is young though and is similar to his teammate Hofstede, who is another young rider that has done well this year but again, he hasn't been exceptional.

The only non-Rabobank Development rider is Sjoerd Van Ginneken, who rides for Metec. Van Ginneken was 4th in the Czech Cycling Tour and 8th in the Tour of Slovakia but outside that, not a huge amount of results.

This Dutch team doesn't have a GC leader and that seems to bug me more than it should. The Dutch haven't had a true GC result here since Michel Kreder (5th in 2009) and haven't won since Bauke Mollema in 2007. They have had Kelderman, Slagter and Van Baarle race here but without a huge result. Come on Dutchies...take this race seriously.

Russia

Starters: Alexander Foliforov, Ildar Arslanov, Matvey Mamykin, Artem Nych, Kirill Sveshnikov, Evgeny Shalunov

We come to the enigma of Alexander Foliforov. Foliforov truly emerged last year with a 5th place overall last year in the Giro Valle d'Aosta. Before that, Foliforov had only one big stage race result with a 10th overall at the Toscana Terra di Ciclismo Nations Cup in 2010 (all nine of those ahead of him are now or will soon be professionals). Now, Foliforov seems to come in bright flashes before going dormant. He was 2nd in the Trofeo Piva Banca and then was just so so until the Ronde de l'Isard, where he proceeded to win the first and last stage but spectacularly blew up while in the yellow jersey and finished 6th overall. Riding high off of that, he proceeded to DNF three straight stage races and only seems to be returning to form now with a 23rd in the GP Capodarco. Who the hell knows what type of shape he will show up in but if he finishes this l'Avenir, it will be the first time in three tries.

Arslanov rides uphill pretty well and has a good time trial but I doubt he will pose much GC threat. Hmmmm...who else is there. Well Sveshnikov, who got off on some doping charges, has a good turn of speed and can get over some hills. Shalunov has breakaway potential and a turn of speed that could see him snipe a good result but again, another rider who is sporadic.

Kazakhstan

Starters: Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev, Maxat Ayazbayev, Tilegen Maidos, Roman Semyonov, Viktor Okishev, Oleg Zemlyakov

The Kazakhs, using the mighty power of Vino and Kashechkin, come in with a two-headed GC beast of Kozhatayev and Maidos. Kozhatayev was riding stronger last year, at least in terms of results, as he was 6th in the Tour Alsace and then ended up 4th overall in l'Avenir, making him the highest placed rider from last year's GC to return to the race this year. This year hasn't been spectacular for him but he started to come around in Valle d'Aosta, where he got a 3rd place on the final road stage and 9th overall. He just finished the Vuelta a Burgos as a stagiaire for Astana Continental in fairly good shape so perhaps he is coming around.

Maidos might not be a GC threat per say but after going 12th overall last year, he has been building since then and looks good for another high run on GC. He was 11th in Valle d'Aosta and has been right there in the Italian one-day races of late including 6th in the GP Poggiana.

There are certainly strong riders on the team but no big result getter. I know that might not make sense but many of these riders are strong like oxen but perhaps they don't have the tactical nous to get a breakout result. Like Maxat Ayazbayev for example...he has one or two big results in a year then goes dormant. He was 2nd in the Vuelta a Mexico earlier this year but has been crickets since then. We shall see if they decide to show up.

Austria

Starters: Felix Großschartner, Patrick Gogl, Dennis Paulus, Lukas Pöstlberger, Patrick Bosman and Sebastian Schonberger.

Well Pöstlberger is a former stage winner here but he has been all crickets this year besides one stage at Tour Alsace. Großschartner is probably their best bet for a stage win because he has been consistent this year and was there on the big climbs at the Giro Valle d'Aosta. Also strong at Valle d'Aosta was Bosman but I'm thinking he will be in that upper-pack fill area on the results sheet.

Without Patrick Konrad, this team isn't what they used to be but there are bright spots. Let's see if they can make a breakaway and steal a win.

Great Britain

Starters: Owain Doull, Scott Davies, Tao Geoghegan Hart, Dan McLay, Daniel Pearson, Jake Kelly

The British are in the shadow of a fantastic performance last year by the Yates bros., Simon and Adam, but fear not, they are going once more into the breach. Leading the GC charge should be Tao Geoghegan Hart and Daniel Pearson. Pearson rode a fantastic Giro Valle d'Aosta, where he finished 8th overall with the Zappi's team, led by former professional and anti-doping crusader Flavio Zappi. Geoghegan Hart is currently on the Bissell team and was apart of the Tour of California and Tour of Utah squads, where is was more about survival than winning. He is a great climber and he could definitely feature on some of the mountain stages.

Owain Doull was the man this spring when he dominated Triptyque Monts et Chateaux and was 4th in the U23 Ronde van Vlaanderen. He has been a bit quiet this summer but expect to see him up there on the early stages along with teammate Dan McLay. McLay is coming off an overall in at the Ronde van Oost-Vlaanderen with his Lotto-Belisol U23 team. McLay or Doull will be looking to grab a stage in a sprint.

Italy

Starters: Iuri Filosi, Davide Martinelli, Gianni Moscon, Manuel Senni, Alessandro Tonelli, Federico Zurlo, Giulio Ciccone

The Italians are bringing their strongest team since a few years with Mattia Cattaneo. Headlining on the climbs will be Manuel Senni, Iuri Filosi and Gianni Moscon. Senni was going head to head with the best at the Giro Valle d'Aosta where he had some impressive displays, winning the first two stages in a row before fading to 3rd overall. Senni has been quiet as of late but he is their best shot for a big overall contender. Filosi had a big spring with multiple wins and high placings but he hasn't been anything good as of late and DNFed in Capodarco. Moscon has been in very good form during the one-day races in Italy lately but he hasn't raced a high-profile international stage race a sa U23 so it will be a test for him.

SKY stagiaire Davide Martinelli will certainly be targeting the prologue as well as the sprint stages early on in the race. Martinelli could possibly be good for a breakaway in the mountains. Tonelli is certainly strong in one-day races but like Moscon, untested in big stage races.

Thanks to @AlessioZanni on twitter for informing me that Tonelli has been replaced by Giulio Ciccone, the Colpack climber that has been on point this year with 6th overall in Valle d'Aosta and was top 10 in both Poggiana (9th) and Capodarco (5th). Ciccone is young, not even 20 years old yet, but he is a gifted climber. He will certainly add to the climbing arsenal along with Senni, Filosi and Moscon.

Federico Zurlo is one of the most gifted young Italians but a brash temper and multiple crashes have limited him from his potential. Zurlo showed signs of life as a stagiaire with United Healthcare at the Tour of Denmark where he got into multiple breakaways to finish 2nd in the King of the Molehill classification.

They have the potential but Moscon has gotten the beatdown from Robert Power the last few weeks. Will Senni and Filosi be able to step up and be consistent? We shall see.

Spain

Starters: Mikel Iturria, Mikel Aristi, Oscar Gonzalez, Jaime Roson, Marc Soler, Alvaro Trueba

This Spanish are going green. Green in the sense that no one on the roster has ridden the Tour de l'Avenir before but fear not, there might be a little hope. Jaime Roson was climbing well earlier this year but after finishing 13th in the Ronde de l'Isard in May, he hasn't raced a UCI race. Mikel Iturria is strong in the mountains but he has been inconsistent. With the demise of his trade team Euskadi, he will be extra motivated for a big results. (I'm also hoping to see him have a breakout ride like he did at the Giro Valle d'Aosta last year.

Marc Soler has been tearing it up on the Spanish amateur scene this year, so much so in fact that Movistar offered him a two-year contract for next season. Soler has won 6 races and has been climbing very well. He is untested in international races but he will feel at home on the climbs. It will be interesting to see if he can adapt.

This isn't exactly the strongest Spanish squad we have at the Tour de l'Avenir but we'll see what happens.

USA

Starters: TJ Eisenhart, Jeff Perrin, Logan Owen, Yannick Eckmann, Tyler Williams, Alexey Vermeulen

A young American team could pull off a nice result if everything goes to plan for the team. The two defaults for a GC run are Utah native TJ Eisenhart and Michigan product Alexey Vermeulen. Eisenhart was 23rd overall in l'Avenir last year and while he hasn't produced a big GC this year, he has the potential. Vermeulen, who also rides with Eisenhart on BMC Development, has started to become more consistent this year with a top 20 placing overall in the Tour Alsace (20th), Giro Valle d'Aosta (17th), U23 Peace Race (6th) and Triptyque Monts et Chateaux (14th).

The joker in the cast is Jeff Perrin. Perrin was top 10 in a stage last year and this year, he was 8th overall in the Ronde de l'Isard, which features some proper mountains. I could see Perrin in a support role if need be but he is no slouch on the climbs. Perhaps a breakaway? Only the race will tell.

Williams just won the KOM classification in the Tour de Namur but he will be a good asset on the flatter to rolling stages. Eckmann is a late replacement for Geoffrey Curran and like Williams, he will be a good motor. Logan Owen is capping off a long first season as a U23 and while he is at his best on the flat to rolling terrain, he could be off use in the mountains for a while.

Luxembourg

Starters: Alex Kirsch, Massimo Morabito, Kevin Feiereisen, Sven Fritsch, Michel Hubsch, Luc Turchi

Alex Kirsch is the only real chance at a result here. He just slogged through the Tour of Utah and he might have the form to mix it up in a selective sprint. Past him...maybe Feiereisen? He has been sniffing around the top 10 all year  in the sprints and he might get a top 10. The others better hold on as long as they can.

Colombia

Starters: Miguel Angel Lopez, Brayan Ramirez, Carlos Ramirez, Fernando Gaviria, Daniel Rozo, Rodrigo Contreras

Following the fall-out between the Colombian Federation and 4-72 Colombia, led by Luis Saldariagga, the Feds took control of the team back from Saldariagga, which led to no 4-72 riders being chosed for l'Avenir. This includes Giro della Valle d'Aosta rider Bernardo Suaza, Juan Felipe Osorio, Diego Ochoa and so on. While it would have been great to see some of these riders on the team, not all Colombian hopes are lost.

In their place, Miguel Angel Lopez and Brayan Ramirez lead the charge for an overall chance. They were 1-2 in the Vuelta a Colombia U23 earlier this year with Lopez being the darling climber while Ramirez is a bit better overall. The team also includes two Pan-Am champions including Fernando Gaviria (U23 RR) and Rodrigo Contreras (U23 TT) along with the U23 Colombian TT champion Carlos Ramirez.

The talent might be there but these are untested riders and also riders that are not apart of the new push in Colombia to get better doping testing. This isn't a slam on the riders individually or saying that they are dirty but there are certain teams, like 4-72, that have been pushing for a bio-passport and more testing in Colombia. There has been push back against this, especially with some in the country's federation that are not entirely behind the anti-doping cause. Brayan Ramirez was also quoted in an interview saying that Santiago Botero is "my idol". That is the same guy that blood doped with Kelme, T-Mobile and Phonak.

Germany

Starters: Emanuel Buchmann, Silvio Herklotz, Yuriv Vasyliv, Matthias Plarre, Mario Vogt, Max Schachmann

Silvio Herklotz would like to forget about last year's Tour de l'Avenir. The German wunderkind, who was riding like a banshee for most of 2013, caught a bad cough and was out of the race after just 2 stages. He is looking for a bit of redemption this year. Herklotz hasn't been quite as electric in his last couple of stage races, the Valle d'Aosta and Tour Alsace, but he has been consistent in getting up with the lead groups even while not off the front.

Emanuel Buchmann should be right up there with Herklotz in the mountains. Buchmann was in the top 10 at the GP Capodarco, where he came in right behind the breakaway group that included winner Robert Power. Buchmann looked strong in Alsace and he is at home in the mountains.

To support these two, there is Yuriv Yasyliv, who is a strong mountain climber, Mario Vogt, who is pretty good at it all, and then two diesels in Plarre and Schachmann, the latter of which is a fairly good climber.

A notable exception here is Ruben Zepuntke, who is currently racing the American Pro Tour of Colorado Challenge Extravaganza.

Australia

Starters: Caleb Ewan, Robert Power, Jack Haig, Nick Schultz, Alex Clements, Sam Spokes

Maybe a little weird to put the race favorites halfway through the preview but you know, I need to have you people reading everything and not reading the first paragraph and x-ing out. Not that I make any money from doing this right now. In any case, Australia is coming in with a few powerhouses that will make people legs ache.

Robert Power has been on some of the best form of his short career having now won 3 out of 3 races in Italy against some stiff competition. When I say win, it was more like he stood up on the pedals and rocketed away from everyone. Now Power has not raced on climbs like the ones at l'Avenir so if for any reason he were to have a bad day on one of the many 15+ kilometer climbs then Australia still has a back-up plan. Jack Haig is in his first year on the road in Europe with the Australian National Team after many successful years as on the MTB circuit. This year, he has been a revelation having won the best young rider in the Tour Down Under, 3rd in the Herald Sun Tour, 2nd in the Tour Alsace by 6 seconds on Karel Hnik and been the right hand man for Power in the Italian one-days, providing some numbers in the chasing groups and shredding lead groups.

It might feel weird to think of Caleb Ewan as an afterthought but when you have Power and Haig covering the overall, Ewan will be fighting for the few sprint stages on offer. Ewan hasn't had the greatest of seasons since winning the Australian U23 RR title back in January. Ewan has a good amount of top 5 placings this year but has been denied multiple times by other sprints like Wim Stroetinga, Jakub Mareczko and Daniele Cavasin. Ewan did put in a good performance and the RideLondon Classic a couple of weekends ago by getting into the race's main breakaway. He did have a bad crash at the Ronde van Vlaanderen U23 that derailed part of his spring but hopefully we can see him at his best.

Joining these three are a good cast of supporters including U23 Peace Race winner Sam Spokes, Etixx stagiaire Nick Schultz and National Team rider Alex Clements, who was 12th overall in the Sun Tour this year and did well in the spring one-day races.

Portugal

Starters: Joaquim Silva, Carlos Ribeiro, Nuno Matos, Rafael Ferreira, Rafael Reis, Ruben Guerreiro

Portugal hasn't been here since 2010 and is primed to make a good showing. Ruben Guerreiro nearly didn't make the team even though he is one of their best bets for a good GC ride. After winning the Volta a Portugal do Futuro, Guerreiro didn't want to ride the Volta a Portugal because of fatigue. The national coach did not like this and up until yesterday, Guerreiro was out of the team. Common sense has prevailed and he is in the squad. Joaquim Silva is another strong rider who finished the Volta in 25th overall, 4th overall in the youth classification.

Not a half bad team but they will need a little luck to get a good result.

Slovenia

Starters: Luka Pibernik, Domen Novak, Gasper Katrasnik, Martin Otonicar, Matej Razingar, Rok Korosec

Pibernik is the only one to watch her unless Otonicar can sprint better than he ever has. Pibernik will be targeting stages but most likely, he will be around the top 10 a few times.

Poland

Starters: Bartosz Warchoł, Eryk Latoń, Arkadiusz Owsian, Przemysław Kasperkiewicz, Patryk Stosz, Jakub Kaczmarek

Just like Portugal, Poland is making their first appearance in l'Avenir since 2010. Kasperkiewicz is probably the best threat for a Polish result. He won a stage at the U23 Peace Race this year and even got through the professional Tour of Poland with the National Team. Behind him, Bartosz Warchol is pretty good rider. Warchol won a stage of the Carpathian Couriers Tour and finished 3rd overall in the U23 Peace Race. Stosz seems to target KOM classifications, having taken 3 in two years, and while these climbs are much bigger than any he has faced, it could be a good shot for him to get some breakaway time.

UCI Mixed Team

Starters: Raul Costa Seibeb (Namibia), Till Drobisch (Namibia), Caio Godoy (Brazil), Christopher Jurado (Panama), Anass Ait El Abdia (Morocco), Joao Gaspar (Brazil)

Always nice to see the UCI put in a mixed team to give riders from smaller countries a chance. Seibeb and Drobisch are the biggest names and if one of them scores points for a stage or the overall for the Nations Cup, they would qualify Namibia for the U23 Worlds RR.

Godoy is a highly rated Brazilian with the nickname, "The Cannibal". Just a first year U23 and he hasn't had any DNFs, which includes races like Valle d'Aosta and Kreiz Breizh Elites. Anass Ait El Abdia won a stage in the Tour du Maroc this year, where he also finished 9th overall, as well as high finishes during the Grand Tour of Algeria including best young rider in the Tour International de Constantine.

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My three favorites? Australia, Norway and Belgium, in no specific order.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

GP Capodarco: Power goes 3 of 3

For those that are going to be lining up at the Tour de l'Avenir, they are going to have their eyes fixed on the white, green and yellow kit of first year U23 Robert Power. Someone is going to have to come out of left field because just looking at the last couple of weeks, Power has been putting out some serious powwwwaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh.



Sorry. Moving on. Today was the GP Capodarco, one of the best Italian amateur races of the year and seemingly always a great race. The race dates back to the 1970s as has a list of winners that includes Davide Bramati (OPQS director), Wladimir Belli, Fabio Casartelli, Moises Aldape, Marco Bandiera (Lampre), Peter Kennaugh (SKY), Enrico Battaglin (Bardiani), Matteo Cattaneo (Lampre) and Gianfranco Zilioli (Androni). The course itself those is the big draw, at least for me. Going through the old town of Capodarco, a hamlet of Fermo just minutes from the Adriatic coast in Marche, the race takes in a brutal ramp right before the finish line. With an old finishing town, a very steep wall and rural charm, it ticks all the boxes for a great Italian one-day. In that regard, it is very similar to the GP San Giuseppe, which is also in Marche.

The 180 kilometer race started off quickly with a few breakaways trying to get away before ascending the Capodarco "wall" for the first for 8 times. A breakaway of 5 got away and on the first wall, a group bridged up to them including Alessandro Tonelli (Zalf) and Pan-Am Champion Fernando Gaviria (Colombia). The breakaway was kept in close check and riders were coming to and fro but after 80 kilometers, everything was back together. A breakaway with more firepower was soon established and included Tonelli and teammate Gianni Moscon, Giulio Ciccone (Colpack), Andrea Vaccher (Marchiol) and 3 Colombians including Gaviria. A few more riders bridged including Diego Brasi (Pala Fenice) bridged and the 17 rider breakaway was finally pulling some time out of the Australian National Team-led peloton.

The group served as a carrot for the Australians, who were one of just a few team that missed the breakaway. The gap hovered around 1'30" for most of the time while there was a chase group of 6 with Giacomo Berlato (Zalf) and Davide Orrico (Colpack) dangled in between. Once the race hit 2 laps to go (roughly 30 kilometers), the heat was on. The breakaway, now just 14 men, only had 30 seconds but by the time they hit the wall for the 2nd to last time, the breakaway imploded and the remnants of the breakaway were joined by pair of green and yellow streaks..

After the penultimate trip up the wall, a group of 8 leaders had formed. Jack Haig and Robert Power (Australia) had bridged up to Tonelli, Moscon, Ciccone, Vaccher, Moreno Giampaolo (Vega-Hot Sand) and Albanian Karmelo Halilaj (Team Named). During the final lap, the group kept a very slim lead on the chasing group. On the climb up to the wall, Jack Haig just started to drill it for Power. The breakaway proceeded to come to piece with Moscon being the only one to keep on terms with the two Australians at the base of the wall.

Once Haig pulled off, Power turned on the jets. Moscon held on for the first few millimeters before Power just flew away up the cobbled climb, dancing on the pedals while his upper body rocked to try and get as much power through to the wheels. Once the climb leveled onto the final straight, Power  hit the afterburners. In Capodarco tradition, Power raised his hands in victory and confetti was shot off and rained down on the young Australian.

Get used to this pose because it could be happening for a long time coming.
Photo: Italiaciclismo
Gianni Moscon, who put up a valiant effort after being in the day long breakaway, came in 8 seconds down in second while Moreno Giampaolo finished strong in 3rd ahead of Haig, Ciccone and Gennaro Giustino.

I don't know of a more fitting surname for an explosive rider than Power but for the 3rd time in 10 days, Robert Power put on a display of force that many others, pro or amateur, wouldn't be able to match. He showed his short-term power with explosive efforts in both Briga Novarese and here in Capodarco but showed off his breakaway power with his 30km solo effort at Poggiana. Those that have to go against Power at l'Avenir, you have been warned. Take a deep breath and prepare for a searing sensation across your body that may last for many hours.

Results - GP Capodarco
  1. Robert Power (Australia)
  2. Gianni Moscon (Zalf-Euromobil) +8"
  3. Moreno Giampaolo (Vega-Hot Sand) +13"
  4. Jack Haig (Australia)
  5. Giulio Ciccone (Colpack)
  6. Gennaro Giustino (Delio Gallino Colosio Eurofeed)
  7. Emanuel Buchmann (Germany) +28"
  8. Alessandro Tonelli (Zalf-Euromobil) +32"
  9. Andrea Vaccher (Marchiol)
  10. Marco Bernardinetti (Malmantile)