Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Weekend Roundup

It has been quite a busy weekend with many u23 riders opening their seasons with smaller races across the world. While you should have already read my recaps of Ster van Zwolle and the GP Izola (hint hint), we need to review the rest of the weekend that was. Let's spin the wheel and start in...California.

Chico Stage Race

The city of Chico lies north of Sacramento and west of Tahoe pretty close to the middle of fucking nowhere. This year, the Chico stage race drew a good crowd with Optum p/b KBS bringing a strong squad against the likes of Cal Giant, KHS-Maxxis, AltoVelo and other California teams.
After Brad Huff took the brutal stage 2 win, the next morning's stage 3 time trial saw many young riders shine. Connecticut product Ben Wolfe (Cal Giant) rode to 3rd in the Elite Men's TT while U23 Fabrizio Von Nacher (KHS-Maxxis), junior Adrien Costa (Cal Giant) and U23 Adam De Vos (H&R Block) were 7th-9th.

Following the criterium, which was also won by Brad Huff, it ended up with Scott Zwizanski winning the overall by 10 seconds over Huff while junior Adrien Costa was at 11 seconds back in 3rd place. A junior nearly taking the overall against a full blown pro team is always impressive. Justin Mauch (Airgas-Safeway) finished 5th overall while Fabrizio Von Nacher was 10th.

Classica de Loule

To Portugal now for the new one day race, the Classica Internacional Loule Capital Europeia do Desporto, which has a name that is entirely too long and will be henceforth known as the Classica de Loule. Not a whole lot of detail here but once again just highlighting how Optum p/b KBS is having a pretty great early season most notably because of the Canuck Mike Woods.

Woods, a very stringent anti-doper who lashed out last year after Qinghai Lakes winner Ilya Davidenok tested positive, was 5th in the uphill stage finish to Malhão behind Richie Porte in the Volta ao Algarve and finishing the race 12th overall.

In the Classica de Loule, Woods broke off the front of a small group and won with a 10 second gap back to 2nd place Cesar Fonte and teammate Jesse Anthony. Optum put 3 in the top 5 with Guillaume Boivin in 5th. The best U23 on the day was James Knox of Zappi's Cycling who finished 9th on the day in the first chasing group of 11 seconds that Anthony has led home.

Pretty much all of these same teams here will be at the 2-day Troféu Alpendre Internacional do Guadiana starting this weekend. 


-The Vuelta Independencia Nacional Republica Dominica finished up on Sunday with EPM-UNE, the team of General Shithead Oscar Sevilla, finished 1-2 in the overall with Smartstop's Chris Butler in 3rd overall. The U23s in this race were slim to none but the winner of the youth category was Anderson Paredes, a 19 year-old who also finished 12th in the Vuelta al Tachira along with 22nd in the Vuelta Independencia. Perhaps someone to follow if he can catch on?

-In Belgium, the amateur season really kicked off with Brussels-Opwijk. New BMC Development rider Nathan Van Hooydonck blew the race open on the last time up the Putberg and only EFC-Etixx rider Maxime Farazijn was able to follow. Van Hooydonck's teammate Loïc Vliegen bridged on the local circuits and the duo tried to attack Farazijn but he was having none of it. Vliegen hit out hard with 2 kilometers to go but Farazijn was able to follow and he easily took his 2nd win of the season. Van Hooydonck led home Stef Van Zummeren (Verandas Willems) and Frederik Frison (Lotto-Soudal U23) for 3rd.

Full Results

-One of Namibia's brightest talents, Raul Costa Seibeb, won the Nedbank Cycle Challange for the 4th consecutive year. Seibeb, who spent time with the UCI Cycling Center in Aigle last year, will be going to South Africa to chase UCI points to try and help Namibia qualify for the 2016 Rio Games.
-U23 New Zealand RR Champion Hamish Schreurs took a solo flyer at the Route Bretonne to win by nearly 20 seconds over teammate Fabrice Seigneur and nearly a minute and a half over the peloton that was led in by Nicolas David (Hennebont Cycling)

-There were no real big races in Italy this past weekend but the overarching theme from the weekend was sprint wins and teammates being there to raise their hands in the photos.

The tweet is of Daniele Trentin, the younger brother of Etixx-OPQS rider Matteo Trentin, winning the GP Ceda

Minali being followed by teammates Fran Lamon, Davide Martinielli & Simone Consonni
Photo: ItaliaCiclismo
Gianmarco Begnoni wins with Nicola Toffali and Nicola Rossi
Photo: ItaliaCiclismo

More from Croatia tomorrow as the Trofeo Umag begins a 8 days with a lot of racing down on the Istrian peninsula.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

GP Izola: Mühlberger gets off to another fast start

Last year, Gregor Mühlberger was one of the revelations of the early season after winning the prologue of the Istrian Spring Trophy and winning a 5-up sprint to take the Trofeo Piva Banca. In all, he took 6 wins from March through June and got himself a stagiaire ride with NetApp-Endura, where he snagged an 11th place in Tre Valli Varesine. While he didn't get a pro contract for this season, he switched from Tirol to Felbermayr-Simplon (formerly Gourtmetfein) and it has already garnered results

GP Izola

Beautiful Izola
In its 2nd edition, the GP Izola takes place in and around the Mediterranean port city that lies just 30 kilometers south of Trieste on the bit of Slovenia that juts out and creates a barrier between Italy and Slovenia. The course features multiple hills and with just 30 kilometers to go, Mühlberger took off with Primoz Roglic (Adria Mobil), Paolo Ciavatta (d'Amico-Bottecchia), Lukas Pöstlberger (Tirol) and Igor Frolov (Itera-Katusha) and the quintet got a maximum lead of 7 minutes.

With the major teams represented, the impetus was gone for the peloton to chase and once it was pretty much impossible for the peloton to comeback, Roglic attacked the group and the quintet was shredded. Pöstlberger and Frolov were dropped with the Austrian dropping out and the Russian finished in the back group nearly 4 minutes down. Roglic had a ten second gap and it was Mühlberger who was able to cross it while Ciavatta would spend the rest of the race chasing in no man's land.
Coming to the line, Mühlberger was the fresher of the two and the Austrian powered to his first win of the season. Ciavatta came in for 3rd just ahead of a speeding peloton that was led home by ex-World Tour rider Marko Kump (Adria Mobil) ahead of Maksym Averin (Synergy Baku) and Fabio Chinello (Unieuro Wilier Trevigiani).

1. Gregor Mühlberger (Felbermayr - Simplon) 3:54:51
2. Primoz Roglic (Adria Mobil) s.t.
3. Paolo Ciavatta (d'Amico Bottechia) + 1'10"
4. Marko Kump (Adria Mobil) +1'14"
5. Maksym Averin (Synergy Baku) all s.t.
6. Fabio Chinello (Unieuro Wilier Trevigiani)
7. Daniel Biedermann (Felbermayr - Simplon)
8. Gasper Katrasnik (Sava)
9. Sergey Nikolaev (Itera-Katusha)
10. Felix Großschartner (Felbermayr - Simplon)

Keep an eye on Mühlberger going forward this season as he is a strong time trialist and tends to produce in breakaway situations such as these. He is just a 1994 product and will be on the eye of many teams this year for a stagiaire role and a contract for 2016. Bora-Argon 18 will probably be the front runner as he has stagiaire'd there before but Trek Factory Racing and IAM Cycling could possibly be other destinations as other Austrian riders have ended up there.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Ster van Zwolle Roundup

The wheels are humming a beautiful note across the world right now as cycling season for those in the Northern Hemisphere and some actual UCI racing took place.

Ster van Zwolle
Jesse Kerrison sums it up perfectly. Dutch racing is nuts. It is flat but throw in 200 riders, some road furniture and wind that could match a minor hurricane and you have a typical Dutch UCI race such as Ster van Zwolle. (Fun Fact: The citizens of Zwolle are colloquially known as Blauwvingers according to Wikipedia)

Ster van Zwolle, in the last few years, usually sees a late attack that goes up the road and sticks ahead of a large peloton that comes into sprint for the lower places. The wind took its toll early with a group of 20 mainly made up mainly of Rabobank Development, Metec and Jo Piels (10 out of 20) got a gap. Eventually, the 2nd group was able to come to terms but it was a continuing theme. A group would go up the road and get some time and then be brought back.

With 40 kilometers to go, a group of 6 including Remco Te Brake (Metec) , Steven Lammertink (SEG Racing), Stefan Poutsma (Jo Piels), Rene Hooghiemster (Baby Dump), Dimitri Claeys (Verandas Willems) and Twan Castelijns (Baby Dump) got 40 seconds but the group wasn't working well together and with 20 kilometers to go, it was done. Elmar Reinders tried right after but even going 55 kph, he wasn't able to get away from the peloton.

When it looked like it was coming back for a big sprint, a group of 10 got away with 10 kilometers to go and there was a pause from the peloton. Twan Brusselman, Reinders and Jeff Vermeulen (Jo Piels), Haavard Blikra (Coop-Oster Hus), Claeys and Daan Myngheer (Verandas Willems), Coen Vermeltfoort and Ronan Van Zandbeek (Join's-De Rijke), Castelijns and Te Brake. This group worked well together and there was no bringing them back.
Reinders, who was 3rd in the 2013 edition of this race, came around Claeys, who led the sprint out, to take his first win since last year's stage 1 of the Tour de Berlin. Reinders is out of the U23 ranks but he has tested with Lotto-Belisol in the past and is on the verge of getting a big contract. The best U23 rider of the day was Myngheer, who finished 9th.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

My Top 5 Neo-Pros of 2015

I've been pushing this post off to try and get some more data about who I think will be standout neo pro in 2015. That has pretty much been a fail but I don't want to keep pushing this off. So without further adieu, these are my top 5 neo-pros for 2015. Yes, some of these picks are driven by actual numbers while some of these picks are simply because I think these riders are badass.

Notice this says "My Top 5" in the title. Let us not kid ourselves with filling these lists with the likes of Louis Vervaeke, Caleb Ewan, Magnus Cort, Tiesj Benoot and Mike Teunissen. They are all going to be damn good pro riders and they could all easily go on this list so let us skip the formalities and try to go some more substance.

1. Rasmus Quaade (Denmark - CULT Energy)
One of the biggest enigmas on two wheels is turning pro and I am so fucking excited. And I shouldn't be the only one excited. No other rider has had ups and downs like Quaade. An absolute monster in a time trial with such singular focus that it might creep some people out. In 2011 at just age 21, he won the Danish Elite TT by one second over Jakob Fuglsang. That same year, he went 4th in the Tour of Denmark TT and then posted a 2nd place in the Copenhagen Worlds, the only non-junior Dane to get a medal in the home race.

For as amazing as he was in a time trial, he was petrified of a peloton. I'm not talking about a skinny climber that gets bounced around a bit. More like he could barely ride when having to deal with crosswinds and large groups. Just look at the 2012 Tour of Denmark where he was 6th in the TT but 4 out of the other 5 stages he was lower than 120th and finished 2nd to last overall.

In 2013, he pulled a huge coup by going 6th in the Elite Men's Time Trial in Florence. He is the same age as Taylor Phinney and riding on a continental team he was just 28 seconds slower than him. There were riders in his wake that are quality

He didn't exactly start last season off to a great start with a bunch of 100th places. He won his national TT but it was a weak field. Then he lost some weight. A lot of weight. 6 kilos to be exact. During this time, his power did not drop. An extra light Quaade came to the Tour of Denmark and he wasn't petrified. He wasn't scared to move about the peloton. He wasn't going off the front at will but he wasn't crawling in his skin. He was 2nd in the TT by just one second to Lutsenko and he made the final stage breakaway.

This new found confidence was brought to the Giro della Regione Friuli where in 5 stages his lowest stage placing was 13th. This wasn't a pan flat race. On the uphill finish to Castelmonte, Quaade finished 2nd to a streaking Simone Andreetta. If it wasn't for the peloton letting a long break go on stage one, he would have won a hilly stage race. He did finish the season with a disappointing ride at Worlds after crashing basically right after the start but even with that, he still managed a 13th, which was 8 places better than the next continental rider, Alex Pliuschin, who didn't crash.

Quaade is currently focusing on the track and will have his eyes set on Rio 2016 but with an actual professional team behind him in CULT Energy he could really turn some heads a little bit later in the season.

2. Carlos Barbero (Spain - Caja Rural)

The demise of Euksaltel-Euskadi and the majority of the Basque cycling development pipeline was hard to watch especially with the big talk of Miguel Madariaga. Many talented Basque riders are currently out of the sport or are still trying on the continental and amateur level but one rider that finally made it out of the muck was Carlos Barbero. Barbero, if you can tell by the name, wasn't born in the Basque Country (he comes from neighboring Burgos) but came up through the Basque development system and like Samuel Sanchez, he was able to squeak past the Basque nationality requirement.

Riding with Euskadi, Barbero blossomed in his final U23 season in 2013 with a stage win in the Ronde de l'Isard along with incredibly consistent riding that saw him in the top 10 more often than not. He was a shoo-in to join the Euskaltel-Euskadi team but after they went belly up, Barbero was even lucky to get a ride with Euskadi again for 2014. Hungry to get a chance at the pro ranks, Barbero came in with a head of steam for 2014 and thanks to consistent riding on punchy hills and in small bunch sprints, Barbero won the overall of the Volta ao Alentejo and quickly followed it up by a 3rd place in the Vuelta a La Rioja behind Michael Matthews and Fran Lasca.

Barbero finished the season with 22 top 10 finishes (including overalls and team time trials) and another win in the Circuito de Getxo on an uphill finish ahead of Luca Chirico and Peio Bilbao.

Barbero joins Caja Rural for this year and will be one of their protected riders in hilly one-day races and in small bunch sprints as they have Fran Lasca for bigger bunch sprints.

3. Patrick Konrad (Austria - Bora-Argon 18)

After being snubbed out of a contract after a very successful final U23 road season in 2013, Patrick Konrad did the best thing one could do and came out crushing skulls. After placing 3rd on a stage of the Istrian Spring Trophy behind Magnus Cort and Karel Hnik (now CULT Energy), Konrad came out and won the stage to Mont de l'Enclus in the Triptyque Monts et Chateaux in a sprint ahead of Tiesj Benoot. Konrad got better with time and was 6th in the Rhone Alpes Isere Tour overall and won the Oberosterreichrundfahrt overall. His eye opening performance was in the Tour of Austria (Osterreich Rundfahrt) where he was top 6 on three big mountain stages and finished a handsome 4th overall.

Konrad excels on big mountain stages and in hard one-day events so he is a bit more than just a pure climber. For example, he made the important split on stage 2 of the Tour of Oman that saw many spit out into the sands of time. Konrad rode well on the summit finish at Jabal Al Akhdhar to secure a 10th place overall for his Bora-Argon 18 team and 2nd in the youth classification at less than 30 seconds to Louis Meintjes.

Konrad is down for Tirreno-Adriatico and the Giro del Trentino, which are two races that could see him shine on the climbs and punch above his weight.

4. Dan McLay (Great Britain - Bretagne-Séché Environment)
It seems that if you don't like the track-heavy Olympic development route of British Cycling, British kids can just buck up a bit, find a team that will take them and just train like hell. Adam Yates did it with CC Etupes. Hugh Carthy did it with Rapha to get a spot on Caja Rural. And now with Dan McLay.

McLay, a Brit born in New Zealand, quit the Olympic track route after winning the British Junior RR and the World Madison Championship with Simon Yates in 2010. He got a stipend through the Dave Rayner Fund and joined OmegaPharma-Lotto U23 in 2011 and didn't look back.

McLay was winning a few races a year but he stepped out last year for some consistent performances that got him the contract on Bretagne. He won a stage in the Tour of Normandie (along with the points competition) before breaking his collarbone just kilometers into the Triptyque Monts et Chateaux. He bounced back and just a month later, he won a stage in the Paris-Arras Tour. His signature result of the season would have been his stage win in the Tour de l'Avenir, where he jumped past both Fernando Gaviria and Magnus Cort in the last 250 meters to take a big win.

McLay didn't get many bites from big teams but Bretagne-Séché Environment, who were looking to bolster their sprint train for Yauheni Hutarovich, nabbed McLay and the arrangement hasn't been too bad so far. They got themselves acquainted in San Luis where McLay piloted the Belorussian to two top 5 finishes. Things got even better in Tropicale Amissa Bongo where McLay won a stage and was the leadout for Hutarovich, who won the final three road stages.

5. Floris De Tier (Belgium - Topsport Vlaanderen)
De Tier was originally a cyclocross rider but after getting some advice from Sven Nys, De Tier virtually hung up the knobby tires after mid-2013 for the skinny ones and it has been smooth sailing since then.

Once De Tier got onto the road with EFC-OPQS, the results started to flow including 5th in the Paris-Tours Espoirs (2013), top 10 in both the Ronde van Vlaanderen U23 and Liege-Bastogne-Liege U23 along with a 3rd in the Circuit de Wallonie and 7th overall in the Kreiz Breizh Elites.

I'm sort of reaching with De Tier but he could definitely make a good showing with his Topsport Vlaanderen team if he plays his cards right. He was 9th in the Vuelta a Murcia and was the only first year pro in the front group behind winner Rein Taaramae. I don't think he will be out front of every race but a hilly 1.1 race could see him sneak into the top 5 every now and then this year.

Those are my 5 riders but I will be watching many more. Did I do badly and forget your favorite rider? Please inform me of my grievous error and I will get you in touch with my manager who will relay this to HR who will dock my pay accordingly.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Weekend Roundup: Calmejane sweeps in France, Italy & Spain kick off plus everything and more

Freezing my ass off in a small apartment, the world of cycling moves on in places warmer than where I am. No time, we must get going.

Lilian Calmejane takes a double in France

After a cyclocross season that included 5 wins, Lilian Calmejane has had a successful return to the road in the past couple weeks. After a close two-up sprint loss to Oscar Landa on the opening stage of the Circuit des Plages Vendéennes, Calmejane came into the first race of the Coupe de France, the rainsoaked GP du Pays d'Aix down on the Cote d'Azur, with his Vendée U squad with some confidence.
With nearly 50 kilometers to go, Calmejane got into a move with Thomas Rostollan (AVC Aix), Remi Cavagna (Pro Immo Roux) and Benoit Cosnefroy to chase down Fabrice Seigneur (Sojasun Espoirs). More riders including Nans Peters, Nico Denz (both Chambery CF) and Jeremy Cornu (Vendée U) joined up and while it took a while, with 25 kilometers to go Seigneur was caught and it was a group of 9 up front. Coming into the final 10 kilometers, the breakaway had 2 minutes on the peloton and the attacks started to come thick and fast. Peters, who won 2 races last year, took off and teammate Denz, Cavagna and Calmejane went along with him with 6 kilometers to go and the quartet was off.

Denz attacked in the final kilometer but he was brought back for the final sprint. It was between Calmejane and Peters for the win with Calmejane taking the win. It wouldn't be his last of the weekend.

At Sunday's Souvenir Jean Masse, it was basically a carbon copy situation with Calmejane getting in to a breakaway with around 50 kilometers to go. The group, including riders like Alexis Dulin, Guillaume Martin and Jeremy Bescond, extended their lead over the peloton as the group was whittled down. While attacks went, it was a group of 5 heading into the finale with these four plus Geoffrey Bouchard (CR4C Roanne) but no one was going to deny Calmejane, who came around Bouchard to win the race.

Keep an eye on Calmejane, who won the queen stage in last year's Ronde de l'Isard, for this spring as he is not a U23 any more and will really need to ride out of his skin to impress someone enough for a pro ride.

In other French races...

The Norwegian National Team finished their demolition of the Circuit des Plages Vendéennes with 4 riders in the top 5 in August Jensen, Haavard Blikra, Tormod Jacobsen and Oscar Landa along with 3 stage wins and a rider on the podium of every stage. It is just a training race for them with some good but not amazing competition.

Down in the Basque County, the l'Essor Basque wrapped up with Armée de Terre taking a win in the Trophee de l'Essor but with GSC Blagnac's Romain Campistrous taking the overall from the 5-race series. Albeit the overall is just for riders that rode every race and don't include riders such as Yoan Verardo, who won two stages, so it is pretty much meaningless.

Opening Italian Weekend

It was a busy weekend for Italian teams as they got their seasons off to a start with some short but sweet racing.

Ballerini takes a big win in San Geo (via italiaciclismo.net)

The 91st Coppa San Geo was a wet and fairly cold affair but after a few breakaway attempts during the day, a smaller group came in for the bunch sprint. It was a UniEuro Wilier Trevigiani's Davide Ballerini who led the sprint from a long way out and rounding the final bend, he was able to hold off teammate Lorenzo Rota and Davide Martinelli (Colpack) in 3rd. Top 10 and small video here.

The 28th Firenze Empoli looked like it would be a slam dunk for the Zalf-Euromobil but last year's 3rd place Thomas Pinaglia threw a wrench into those plans with a big sprint win over Zalf's Andrea Toniatti (2nd) and Gianni Moscon (4th) with Simone Bernardini in 3rd.

This will not be the only time this happens this year (photo:ItaliaCiclismo)
Not to be disappointed about their opening day, Zalf-Euromobil bounced back with a podium sweep at the Coppa San Bernardino with Nicola Toffali taking the win in front of Simone Velasco and Filippo Rocchetti.

If it wasn't enough for the Venetian Zalf-Euromobil squad, they took the 1-2 in the GP De Nardi with Marco Gaggia and Gianluca Milani making it a banner day for the team.

After getting his nose in a sprint on Saturday, Davide Martinelli showed off his sprint promise (championed by yours truly) by taking the sprint at GP La (Joe) Torre. A breakaway of three were caught within sight of the line and Martinelli, the son of Astana DS Giuseppe, took the sprint by a good margin ahead of Marco Corra and Alex Turrin (both Mastromarco).

Copa de Espana opening

The Spanish Cup also opened up this weekend with the Circuito Guadiana, which ended up being a big sprint after multiple breakaway attempts ruled the day. Coming down to it, it was Antonio Angulo taking the big bunch sprint for the win. Cristian Torres (Fundacion Contador) was the best U23 in 4th place with James Newey (GB/Zappi's Pro Cycling) just behind him in 5th place.

To be continued next time.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Ciao a Tutti: Italian Amateur Opening Weekend

With French amateur racing already underway and confusing the hell out of everyone with the insane amount of meaningless races, it is time for the Italians to get into the act and kick off their 8 month season with a few races that all of the big teams will be attending.

On Saturday, the big races are the Coppa San Geo (Lombardia) and Firenze Empoli (Toscana).

San Geo has a huge start list this year with over 200 toeing the line for the 91st edition of the race. It isn't a race that provides a huge indicator for the future as there are not too many notable winners and frankly, its very early date gets many of the training camp champs showing up super fit while some of the bigger riders are easing into the season. 95% chance it will end in a sprint.

Here is the start list for San Geo. My favorites including Davide Martinelli and Damiano Cima (Colpack), Xhuliano Kamberaj (Cipollini Ale), Nicola Gaffurini (Mg.Kvis), Rino Gasparrini (UniEuro Wilier Trevigiani) and Andrei Voicu (Altopack).

Firenze-Empoli offers a bit more difficult course that draws out the climbers and all-arounders in the crowd. It isn't nearly as storied as San Geo as this is only in its 28th edition but with 6 climbs of the Monterappoli and a short 134 kilometer course, it is some nice early season racing.

Former winners of the race include Gabriele Balducci, Yaroslav Popovych, Aurelien Passeron, Davide Appollonio and Kristian Sbaragli, among others.

The favorites here include Zalf-Euromobil, Colpack, Mastromarco and Pala Fenice. I have to say that if Giulio Ciccone is on form then he is the favorite. Zalf has a strong contingent with Simone Velasco and Gianni Moscon but who knows with this early season stuff.

There are a few more races happening in Italy during the weekend with the only one of some importance being La Torre, which is a bit wide open since Zalf will not be in attendance. These are just the first in many, many weekends of lopsided racing punctuated by a few truly competitive events.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Weekend Roundup: Here at last!

While it is currently single digits in central Pennsylvania, the racing in continental Europe has finally started in earnest and the riders are coming out of hibernation after a long off-season of riding a lot and not eating much. Lots of French races plus a little bit more.

Gogl hangs on for GP Laguna win
With 40 kilometers to go, Michael Gogl was nearly 5 minutes up the road with breakaway companions Seid Lizde and Simone Petilli over a group of 23. While the gap might have appeared to seem dramatic, it was about to plummet and become a nail biter. The chasing group was stacked with 5 of Gogl's Felbermayr-Simplon Wels teammates, 3 from Petilli's Unieuro-Wilier Trevigiani and 2 from Lizde's Colpack team.

The details are scarce because Croatian races simply do not believe in live updates but the race got tight as Adria Mobil, who had 4 in the chasing group including ex-World Tour rider Marko Kump. A 5 minute gap was just mere seconds by the finish but Gogl, who was 4th in a stage of the Tour de l'Avenir last year on the way to 15th overall, was able to easily out-sprint Lizde and Petilli for the win. Just 10 seconds behind Gogl was a flying Marko Kump, who beat out Gogl's teammate Daniel Biedermann and Lizde's teammates Davide Martinelli and Damiano Cima. Martinelli is further proving my hypothesis that he will see more success as a sprinter than as a time trialist.

Tour de l'Ardeche Meridionale

Down in South Central France, Chambery CF got their season off to a splendid start in the two day Tour de l'Ardeche Meridionale, which took place along the scenic Ardeche river and river valley. When I mean splendid, I really mean that it was about as close to perfect as possible.
Day 1, aka the GP du Domaine Lou Capitelle, saw Chambery CF take 5 riders off the front of a 150 man peloton and go 1-2-3-4-5 with Nans Peters taking the solo win ahead of Nico Denz (Germany), Benoit Cosnefroy, Francois Bidard and Freddy Ovett (Australia). Now, this isn't the first time this has happened like Baden Cooke exclaimed as Armée de Terre did this multiple times over the last couple of seasons but it was an impressive display.
Day 2, aka the GP d'Aubenas, was a repeat for Peters, who once again took a rain-soaked solo win. Chambery didn't do the quintet but put 3 in the top 10. Peters, who was 3rd in the French U23 TT last year, beat out Bruno Chardon (ASPTT) and Simon Buttner.

Circuit des Plages Vendeennes

Coop-Osterhus, disguised as the the Norwegian National Team, went down to the Vendee region and so far, has gone 2 for 2 in the 6 stage Circuit des Plages Vendeenes (think Mallorca Challenge of Central France). On stage one, Oscar Landa and Lilian Calmejane (Vendee U) went off the front of a group of 10 late in the race. Calmejane didn't have much impetus to work with Landa as he had multiple teammates in the breakaway including sprinter Romain Cardis. The two-man move didn't come back and it was Landa, who rides for Coop-Osterhus, that outsprinted Calmejane for the win. 14 seconds back, it was Haavard Blikra (Norway taking the sprint for 3rd over Fabian Grellier (Vendee U) and Clement Mary (Sojasun Espoirs).
On stage 2, August Jensen, who won the KOM in the Arctic Tour of Norway, won after taking a solo flyer. Have a mentioned that results sheets for French amateur races suck because it shows that there was no time gap behind Jensen but obviously there was no one for a while since there is no one in the photo. Anyways, the action in the Vendee continues on Tuesday.

l'Essor Basque

Speaking of Mallorca Challenge look alikes, the l'Essor Basque takes place down in the French Basque country (and surrounding areas) with some short races to warm the legs up for a long year. While usually much better weather, the first stage, the Boucles de l'Essor, was a rain-soaked affair that was dominated by the home team, GSC Blagnac. Yoann Verardo lept away from 7 others to take a wet solo win while his Blagnac teammate Romain Campistrous took out the sprint for 2nd.

In the Circuit de l'Essor, former Ag2r pro Julien Loubet made the race defining breakaway and dropped everyone to take a solo win for his new team, Marseille 13 KTM (former La Pomme Marseille). Ex-pro Erwann Corbel won the sprint for 2nd with teammate Cyrille Patoux following in 3rd.

In other races...

-Remi Cavagna, a 2nd year U23 with Pro Immo Nicolas Roux, took a solo win in the Tour du Centre Var. Cavagna was 2nd in the French U23 TT last year and was a standout time trialist as a junior.

-Axeon Cycling's Dan Eaton won the Valley of the Sun time trial. Fabrizio Von Nacher, who hails from Southern California and rides for the KHS-Maxxis-JLVelo team, rode a fairly consistent race with 3rd in the TT and 2nd in the criterium to finish as best U23 and 4th overall in the race behind winner Heath Blackgrove.

-David Edwards, who had been riding for Chambery CF in France up until this year, won the U23 crown in the Oceania Continental RR after being apart of an early breakaway of 6 and being the U23 present in the group. Edwards has had a trying two years in France but looks to be on good form to bounce back with CharterMason.

Anything else present that you think is missing and deserves immediate attention? See me @Vlaanderen90 on twitter