Friday, February 12, 2016

The Algerian Grand Tour

For the last couple of seasons, there has been a new sensation taking over the spring cycling season from a country that was one of the traditional powers in Africa that had been dormant for many years. Algeria, when it was an a region of France, was able to produce a few talents that got into the Tour de France back in the 1950s but after the breakdown of Algerian/French relations, the country lost much of its cycling tradition. The Tour d'Algeria went on as an amateur event in the late 60s and 70s and was popular with the Eastern Bloc riders but after a failed attempt in the 80s, the race didn't come back for good until 2011.

Algerian cycling has featured a comeback of sorts since the mid-2000s with Youcef Reguigui (Dimension Data) being the headline rider for the nation. The number of races in the country have been growing and reached a peak last year with the birth of Le Tour d'Algérie Cycliste, the Grand Tour of Algeria.

While there is no overall general classification as the tour is made up of 10 separate races of varying length, last year's event didn't see one rider make it through the whole affair but Dimension Data's Mekseb Debesay managed to get in the first 17 racing days before DNFing the 2nd stage of the Tour International de Constantine. Hichem Chaabane won 8 of the events but ended up testing positive for EPO and earned himself an 18-month suspension.

This year's schedule is similar to last year's with 10 races over the month of March totaling 22 race days in all.

March 4th - Circuit International d'Alger
March 5th-7th - Tour Internationale d'Oranie
March 8th - Grand Prix de la Ville d'Oran
March 10th-12th - Tour International de Blida
March 13th-16th - Tour International de Setif
March 17th - Criterium International de Setif
March 19th-22nd - Tour Internationale d'Annaba
March 23rd-25th - Tour International de Constantine
March 26th - Circuit International de Constantine
March 28th - Criterium International de Blida

The racing itself can be anywhere from big bunch sprints to serious gutter racing with crosswinds mangling the peloton and spitting riders out left, right and center. 

The only confirmed team at this point is the Rwandan National Team but the race should be attended by multiple national teams in Africa plus with a smattering of continental and amateur teams. The race is bookended by events in Morocco with the Continental Championships taking place before the race on February 22nd and 26th (for the elites) and the Tour of Morocco takes place from April 1st to 10th. In total, that is 34 racing days in just over a month's time. That is in the Maghreb alone and just a week after Morocco ends, there are 8 more days of racing in Eritrea. 42 racing days in just about two months would knacker any rider, continental or World Tour level alike.

Espoirs Central will follow up with more once the racing gets underway next month.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Mid-Week Update

It is literally days away from the season kicking off in Spain and France for the amateurs. Espoirs Central is brimming with...something.

BMC Development Team Camp
Down in Calpe, BMC Development is getting ready for another season that will probably start up in the Netherlands and then make their way down to Italy for some early season races.

Klein Constantia Team Camp
Guess who is also in Calpe? The Etixx and BMC teams can't seem to get enough enough of one another so they have their team camps scheduled for the same time on the Spanish coast.

Dobla Bragado

I am pretty positive that 99.9% of the people reading this have no idea about the Dobla Bragado. That is a very small number seeing how many people don't read this website. I was one of these numbers until the past week when I noticed some familiar names on the result sheets that some Americans might recognize. Namely Alejandro Borrajo, who rode for Rite Aid and Jamis for half a decade, and Juan Pablo Dotti, who tested positive in 2011 and then violated the terms of his suspension, which saw him "benched" until 2015. When I say benched, I mean that he was freely racing in Argentina. I remember Dotti distinctively because when he was in the US with Team Aerocat, he won some of my hometown races in Cincinnati (looking at you, Hyde Park Blast).

Anyways, this is a race that has been going on without much pause since 1922 as this year is the 81st edition, which is pretty astounding for the Western Hemisphere. In any case, it is one of the most important races on the Argentinian domestic scene and many of the big names turn out. Over 11 stages, it was Laureano Rosas that won the race in impressive fashion by winning 6 stages to take his 3rd overall win in the race. It wasn't Rosas most impressive haul in this race as he won 8 stages in 2014. Borrajo and Dotti both won stages in the race.

Namibian Nationals

Deep in the heart of...southwestern Africa. While Namibia is really in its infancy in terms of cycling, they have taken advantage of the UCI Africa Tour and have gotten enough points to qualify for London 2012 and now, Rio 2016.

In the time trial, Christina Jewelry rider Till Drobisch walloped the time trial by 44 seconds on Dan Craven. Drobisch is the next big Namibian rider and he should get plenty of opportunities on the Christina Jewelry team this year.

In the road race, it was Drobisch, Craven and Raul Costa Seibeb that were going after the title. The trio stayed together over the 126 kilometer course and destroyed the rest of the field, who would finish over 10 minutes down. In the end, it was Craven that won a very tight sprint ahead of Drobisch with Seibeb close behind in 3rd. Craven sealed the Olympic spot while the reserve spot should go to Drobisch though Seibeb is still in the running for that.

Manacor
On the big island of Illes Balears, the Trofeo Manacor took place over the past weekend and an invading Brit, George Pym, attacked solo ahead of a small group of 5 Mallorcan riders to win by 7 seconds. This was the first of three races that make up the Un Invierno en Mallorca, a Winter in Mallorca.

Costa degli Etruschi

It would be stupid to overlook the opening Italian race as there were a couple good performances. Giulio Ciccone was in his debut race with Bardiani-CSF and like he was a seasoned pro, he made the lead group and ended up 5th in the sprint, which was won by Grega Bole. Not far behind, 2nd place in the U23 Worlds RR Simone Consonni won the bunch sprint for 13th, which was the best U23 on the day.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Espoirs Central Update

Let's find out what has been happening in the world, Johnny...

Twin brothers Rui and Ivo Oliveira dominated Portuguese Track Nationals in Sangalhos by winning the Keirin, Kilometer and Pursuit titles. It isn't really any surprise that these two won as they have been scourges of the board in Portugal and have competed well at the European and International level. Unless you know the junior ranks or follow Iberia closely, the Oliveira twins are a bit unknown but they have big engines that could see them join the thin ranks of Portuguese riders on the World Tour level at some point. It is hard to break out of the insular ranks of Portuguese cycling but perhaps they could take the route of Ruben Guerreiro (Axeon Hagens Berman) so that they do not get caught in the faceless ocean of riders on the Iberian coast.
Till Drobisch isn't a U23 anymore but the Namibian, who signed with Team Stuttgart for this season, crushed the Westlane Loops Road Race in Windhoek by winning solo by nearly 2.5 minutes. The most comical part about this win was that his chief competition, Raul Costa Seibeb, overslept and missed the race. Living close to the course, Seibeb just walked outside and watched everyone go by. It was the last race before the National RR, which should be a duel between the two and could prove pivotal in the Olympic selection however Dan Craven is the front runner the the southwestern African nation.
Who was the sole U23 rider to make the front group at that former MTB racer turned Tour de France winner's Great Ocean RR? Michael Storer. He is something special and making the front group in your first pro race before turning 19 years old just underlines that fact. He is joining VL Technics in Belgium, where he has had success in the junior ranks, but he will inevitably get some reps with the Australian National Team. The move to be outside of the Australian National Team bubble is risky but it could pay off down the road as many that go through the program tend to be a bit coddled in the team house in Varese and have a rough adjustment once they are all alone in the pro ranks.

Other things have happened but those are a couple of the blow by blow takes. Today marks the beginning of a big block of racing including Etoille des Besseges, Comunitat Valencia, Dubai Tour and Herald Sun Tour. European racing on the amateur level doesn't take off for a week or two yet so that is on the precipice while Colombian Nationals take place later this week and South African Nationals next week.

To be continued...

Monday, February 1, 2016

Keegan Swirbul: In Transition

As is know throughout sport and life, many young sensations have a propensity of burning out. Promise turns to what if. People wax about that moment when "they" saw the potential and wonder aloud about how great they could have been. Cycling sees this on a fortnightly basis, it seems like, as young riders turn one big ride into a contract and then try to keep the contracts coming in even if it means transitioning from a young gun to a yeoman.

It isn't often in cycling that a rider is put up on a pedestal at the tender age of 16. Most times, a rider must go through their last two junior years of cycling to be able to get that up-and-comer recognition. Keegan Swirbul certainly got caught up in this. Just a month shy of his 17th birthday in 2012, he beat Lance Armstrong in the Power of Four mountain bike race in Aspen, Colorado. It wasn't a simple sprint win either. Swirbul launched an attack on the final climb and put an aging Armstrong in his place by winning by over 5 minutes. The proclamations began to roll in. Outside ran a headline with "Is Keegan Swirbul the next Lance Armstrong?" and the New York Times even ran a small story on the race. There were quotes about dreaming to race the Tour de France even though he hadn't raced a road bike seriously up to that point.

Before riding up mountain passes and trying to reach pro cycling, the main outlet for the El Jebel, Colorado native was parkour. "I used to do some pretty wild stuff before cycling. I was heavily into parkour and I used to do insane flips off building into concrete and all sorts of wild stunts and somehow, I never got injured." I know there are probably some that will roll their eyes and laugh but see the video below or the countless ones from his old Youtube channel.



While he pedaled the mountain bike and raced to a 2nd place in the 15-16 year old National XC MTB Championship, he was focused on cross-country skiing in the latter portion of high school and won at the National Championships in Alaska. Even with success on the mountain bike and in skiiing, Swirbul was still dedicated to the notion of switching over to road cycling and after Lance Armstrong passed his information to Axel Merckx, Swirbul was all set to join Bissell for the 2014 season. This is what Espoirs Central said upon the signing annoucement.

I'm still scratching my head at Swirbul because I don't know if he has raced more than a handful of road races but I don't his signing was on just a hunch.

What do you do with a rider that has an incredible engine who could probably crack nearly every rider in the peloton if it were on a mountain pass in Colorado? Enter him into Redlands Classic. On the first stage, he finished 199th out of 201 starters. Since then, Swirbul has had up and down results that have had some people scratching their heads. In his rookie season, he was riding well after taking 2nd place in the National U23 RR to teammate Tanner Putt and in the Tour of Utah and finished 21st on the stage to Snowbird, right with now-BMC pro Dylan Teuns. The next day he was out of the race after he had a flair up with tendonitis and was able to just sit in the pack at the USA Pro Challenge.
2015 didn't start off well either. After looking good in pre-season, Swirbul was hampered with overtraining and a knee injury and was on mandatory rest until finally racing at the end of late May, when we won the Iron Horse Classic, the famous point-to-point race from Durango to Silverton, CO. Soon he was back at the Tour de Beauce and going pretty well with an 6th place on Mont Megantic and ending 14th overall. 10 days later, he weathered attacks from BMC Development and Cal Giant and countered on the uphill finish to win the U23 National RR title.

After the national title, his season hit a wall. He was selected for the Giro della Valle d'Aosta and USA U23 director Mike Sayers had high hopes for Swirbul for an overall result. Swirbul wasn't on great form and in his first trip to Europe, he wasn't on his A game. Then at the Trofeo Almar, Swirbul was caught up in the same crash that Alexey Vermeulen broke his scaphoid in and ended up with a concussion. Said concussion took him out of the Tour of Utah and USA Pro Challenge thus ending his season.

The potential that many were salivating over in 2012 is still a bit of a mystery. Sayers still isn't sure what will come of Swirbul. "He is for sure a work in progress. I am not totally sure what we have in him. Clearly, he is an excellent climber. His descending skills are way above average also so those could lead to some excellent results. He is still extremely "green" but his dedication to training and working, on that side of it, is incredible." Swirbul decided to take a plunge and move over the the more European-focused BMC Development, which he sees as a route that suits him better than staying exclusively in America and fighting on the wide highways in Colorado and Utah.

That dedication to training has been present since his teenage days. Be it parkour, skiing or cycling, Swirbul's focus on training was on a high level. His training for the new season was in full flight but yet another injury caused him a set back. While in Tucson, Arizona, Swirbul had another bout of tendonitis, which he thinks came from a new shoe cleat setup combined with too much low cadence work. Never having any issues in other sports, Swirbul said, "I think that I am just going through a streak of bad luck with these issues as I don't believe I am overly susceptible as many people now believe me to be. The injury this off-season was really frustrating as I came in with incredibly high motivation this year to not make the same mistakes with overtraining and other issues that I made the last winter so it was really hard for me to be off the bike when I desperately wanted to make some progress this winter."

Another step Swirbul is looking to make is to not just be a training champion. "I just have to learn how to arrive at races with my top level versus wasting that shape in training or showing up way tired or whatever and I am hopeful that this year I will be able to put it all together when it actually matters in the races rather than score big time on some local Strava KOMs."

One thing that could certainly help with this is that Swirbul is working with a new coach, which is something that Sayers certainly agreed with. "I think a lot of the negative things he was going through were due to a highly incompetent, borderline masochistic coach that had no idea what he was doing to this kid." Sayers seems hopeful that with Swirbul on a good track, everyone will finally be able to see what Swirbul is capable of.

When asked what he would do if cycling didn't work out, Swirbul was honest saying, "If I went (away from) cycling, honestly I'd give everything I had in another sport. I know it sounds trashy, but my whole life I've dreamed of being a professional athlete at something."

This year isn't make or break for Swirbul but it is certainly important for his development. He doesn't want to be a national level cyclist and plod along on the continental circuit for the better part of a decade before hanging up the wheels to work as a cycling coach. It is World Tour or bust for Swirbul. If he is able to put the training to the road, he could be one of the top U23 climbers on the circuit but alas, the twisting mountain roads of Europe will decide his fate.

Swirbul starts his year in Portugal with the National team before going to Italy for some of the early one day races. His first target race is unsurprisingly the grueling Tour des Pays de Savoie and he will most likely target mountain stage races along with the Tour de l'Avenir later in the season.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Top First Years Edition 2016

We are just weeks away from the first races kicking off in Europe, the races have already been going on with some national championships and races abound Down Under. With the season so close to being here, it is time once again to look at my five riders that I'm watching that are going into their first year in the U23 ranks.
It is hard to say more about Adrien Costa than what has already been said by Espoirs Central and others in cycling. It is very rare when a talent like him comes across, especially for America. His climbing skills at 18 are already on an ethereal level while his time trialing has gotten him multiple medals in the Junior World Championships. The past two off-seasons he has attended training camps with Cannondale and Etixx. I have a striking feeling he won't be in U23 ranks for very long.

Directvelo had a short article on Costa this year that was informative. Costa's parents are French and it was yearly trips to France that got Costa into cycling. Watching the Tour de France on television and then going on rides with his grandfather is where his passion for 'le velo' came from. He is one of two foreign riders, the other being Russian Pavel Sivakov, that have strong ties to France.

Riding with Axeon Hagens Berman along the the U23 National Team, Costa will most likely be targeting stage races in both Europe and America. While his time trial is helpful, he could very well slot himself in the top 10 of big U23 stage races that feature big climbs such as the Ronde de l'Isard and Giro della Valle d'Aosta.
People seem to crave a new Italian prospect and while there are a handful of them including Nicola Conci and Riccardo Lucca, I will reach out on a limb and say Daniel Savini is Espoirs Central's Italian First Year U23 Pick for the Year. Otherwise known as the simple acronym, ECIFYU23PFTY. Savini took an impressive 11 wins in 2015 that included two overall classifciations (including one UCI), a mountain time trial and uphill wins galore. This cat can climb very well and is taking his talents to Hoopla Petroli Firenze, which is partnered with World Tour team Tinkoff. While still very young, he could ride very well on the amateur circuit and will be keen to get some UCI race days.
While at Richmond 2015, I saw Keagan Girdlestone for the first time and he looked like a future professional. Lean and polished, Girdlestone has a metronomic cadence on the time trial bike that was entrancing and nearly saw him take a Worlds medal in the Junior Men's TT. Girdlestone is South African by birth but lives in New Zealand and has been racing on the Australian NRS circuit with Charter Mason-Giant, where he was 2nd in the Tour of Toowoomba and 3rd in Battle on the Border This past summer he got a ride with UC Nantes Atlantique Juniors in France and while he only with them for a bit under two months, he won two UCI junior stage races and was 2nd in the senior Ronde Finesterienne to ex-Cofidis rider Jeremy Bescond. He declared for South Africa and rode the Worlds in the country's colors without stepping foot there in nearly 4 years. He can climb and he can time trial but in his first season as a U23, he has been mum about what team he will be riding for. So in the middle of writing this, it was formally announced that he would be joining the Dimension Data Continental team, which is new for this season sort of, which could signal a stagiaire spot this year or next. In any case, he is a must-watch going forward.
At the 2014 Ponferrada Worlds, Phil Liggett was going nuts towards the end of the Juniors race where Swiss Gino Mäder was on a flier after attacking on the final lap and held an advantage coming into the final straightaway. It was anti-climactic as Mäder was caught within the final kilometer and the bunch sprint was won by Jonas Bokeloh. It has capped off a successful year which saw him finish in the top 10 overall of two home stage races, the GP Reubilland and Pays de Vaud, as well as 2nd in the European Track Omnium. Some rider peak early and don't continue to grow in their 2nd junior season. Mader wasn't one of these cases.

Mäder took the first two stages of the Pays de Vaud and ended up 2nd overall behind Adrien Costa. A few weeks later, he was crowned the Swiss Junior TT Champion and soon after switched his focus to the track. At the European Championships, he was top 5 in the Madison, Pursuit and Team Pursuit. This was followed up by 2nd in the Team Pursuit at the Junior Worlds in Kazakhstan along with 4th in the Madison and 8th in the Individual Pursuit. He came back to the GP Reubliland and proceeded to tag team the race with countryman Marc Hirschi, with Mäder finishing in 2nd overall. He had another good Worlds with 5th in the TT and a top 20 placing in the RR.

Strong engine that can roll a good TT and isn't bad in the hills either. I'm unsure if he harbors track ambitions but could be a possibility for Tokyo 2020 if he does. No team annoucement that I am aware of for 2016 but probably will get rides with the Swiss National Team as well as a strong amateur team.
I thought going into Richmond Worlds, I though it would be an American 1-2 in the TT with Costa and Brandon McNulty. Leo Appelt upset my pick and did he look good doing it. Flat back and Tony Martin-esque, Appelt tore up the course and for the 2nd year running, Costa was pushed to silver. It wasn't a huge upset as Appelt won the German Junior Track Pursuit two years on the trot and won the World Junior Pursuit Championship in Kazakhstan after putting down a 3'15" 3km pursuit. He has a quick finish on the road as well too, which is really down to his huge engine that he has. Think of Cancellara contending in sprints; he didn't have a huge burst but could hold speed very well.

Appelt is with BMC Development this coming year and I have talked about him previously during their team preview but he could certainly break out for a result in a time trial or a small group sprint. It is interesting that in the picture above that he is riding a Giant-Alpecin TT bike and he has been quoted previously that his favorite team is...Giant-Alpecin. From cyclingupdates.com

What team do you hope to ride for one day?My favourite team is clearly the new German team Giant-Alpecin and I hope one day I can ride for this team.
I did notice that all of these riders except Savini were in the top 5 of the World Junior TT so as not to sound like a generic news outlet, let's get some...

Honorable Mentions

Nicola Conci and Riccardo Lucca are two Italians that are looking to have an impact immediately with Zalf-Euromobil. Conci was 6th in the Junior Worlds RR and won a stage of the Giro della Lunigiani along with the UCI rated Trofeo Paganessi in a small group sprint. Lucca is a very strong climber with a lot of results in uphill time trials and climbing events. While strong in Italy with 6 wins and 11 2nd-place finishes, he didn't put up results outside Italy.
While I am always wary of big Danish talents due to past burnout issues, Mathias Norsgaard is the latest Danish talent to wet the appetite of professional teams. He is a strong talent that had two UCI wins last year that ended up in solo breakaway wins. He is also a big unit. At 2 meters in height, he towers above the peloton with few exceptions. Hailing from Silkeborg, which is equidistant from Horsens and Aarhus, he comes from a family of athletes and seems to have a good head on his shoulders. He is signed with SEG Racing and looks like he could get a good result this year, especially if he gets a chance in Denmark.

While some people think his last name is Salomon, Martin Salmon might want to have a word with you. Seriously though, Salmon had a great ride at Worlds to finish 5th, which was a crapshoot due to the slick course conditions and tough parcours. He also won the final stage of the GP General Patton in a solo move and won a round of the Junior Bundesliga. Hailing from Germersheim on the banks of the Rhine, Salmon will be going to Chambery CF for 2016, which has been having German riders of the past few years reach success such as Nico Denz.

Thomas Vereecken might be one of the Belgian hopes for the classics going forward as he was top 5 in both the Bernaudeau Junior and the Ronde van Vlaanderen Junior but was also in the top 5 overall in the Junior Zavod Miru, Trofeo Karlsberg and the Oberosterreich Rundfahrt. Fun fact: He studies Electrical Engineering.
He could have gotten a spot in the top 5 and I could regret not putting him in there. Max Kanter can roll a time trial well, he can sprint against the best and can make a decisive split. Kanter won the Driedaagse Van Axel after making two decisive breakaways and consolidating his win in the time trial. He did the same in La Coupe du President in Poland thanks to a team time trial. He took scalps in sprints against the likes of Serbian Dusan Rajovic and Russian Aleksey Kulikovsky. Kanter is joining LKT Brandenburg, which will allow him to ride the road as well as the track as he was 3rd in the Omnium at Junior Track Worlds this year.

I've written about Pavel Sivakov before and he probably should get a mention on here as well too. You can read about him in the BMC Development team preview. There is more to follow but I'm sure you will hear their names throughout the season.

If you want to follow this riders on Twitter, their names are linked to their Twitter accounts.

Did I miss someone and you have a problem with it? Leave a comment or message me on Twitter @Vlaanderen90

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Espoirs Central Update

The season is finally starting in earnest, at least in the summer hemisphere, so it is high time to get an update about the U23 world as well as some continental updates.

It is January 20th and the UCI still has completely updated the list of continental teams. I'm trying to imagine if the NBA didn't release the roster of all of their teams or development teams until after the beginning of the season. Yet the UCI doesn't have a firm grasp on marketing for their stakeholders or in management practices. While teams are smart to get ahead of the game in announcing their riders, the UCI should still be responsible for getting this information together and made available before the season begins.

Vuelta a Tachira

The opening race in Venezuela looked like it could have been an upset win by U23 Jose Mendoza all the way up until the final stage of the race. Mendoza, from the small village of Las Mesas, which lies in the Tachira province in the extreme west of the country, was on a magical run through the first 9 stages that included two stage wins including an uphill sprint in La Grita.

On the 9th stage, chinks in the armor began to appear as Mendoza was tailed off near the end of the mountain top finish at Casa el Padre but held the overall lead. On the final stage to San Cristobal, the site of the 1977 World Championships, the dream went out the window as Mendoza lost a colossal 24 minutes and 32 seconds to finish 30th overall. Luis Mora turned out as the winner of the U23 classification after finishing 11th overall, 4'14" behind Costa Rican winner Joseph Chavarria. Chavarria is fairly young (born in 1992) and has done well domestically in Central and South America including 5th in the past two Vuelta a Costa Rica editions. 

Hong Kong World Cup

Frenchman Thomas Boudat won the Men's Omnium and seems to have usurped Bryan Coquard as the pick for France for the Rio Olympics. Boudat beat out Olympic medal contender Lasse Norman Hansen while U23 World RR silver medalist Simone Consonni finished in the top 10. Boudat could be a medal contender in Rio as he was the 2014 World Champion in the discipline even though many current contenders were not present there. Hell, there are probably about 10 riders at a given time that could win a medal there so it will be interesting to see who gets the birth.

A very young Australian team pursuit team that was anchored by Miles Scotson had a big weekend by turning out some impressive times including a 3'56" in the quarterfinal. That is underlined by the fact that this is not their A team by any means so these demons are not holding back and would be very happy to take an Olympic spot. The team they beat for the gold was Denmark, who had another very young team that included two junior riders. Bronze went to GB, who brought their U23 squad along with former sprinter turned endurance rider Kian Emadi. 

New Zealand Cycle Classic

Chris Lawless (JLT Condor) took a 1-2 with teammate Alex Frame to open up the New Zealand race with a circuit around Masterton. State of Matter-MAAP rider and Australian U23 criterium champion Jesse Kerrison took the final podium spot ahead of Dion Smith and former Drapac trainee Brad Evans.

San Luis

While the World Tour teams are the main draw here, there are some younger riders that are invariably turning heads. With the Colombian contingent of Gaviria and Conteras carrying Etixx, Miguel Angel Lopez being a main player for Astana and Tour de l'Avenir winner Marc Soler being a possible contender for Movistar, there a few younger riders that are looking to shine at some point. While they both lost time in the opening team time trial, Brayan Sanchez (Jamis) and Vuelta a Colombia U23 winner Richie Carapaz (Strongman-Campagnolo) could shine in the mountains later on. 

Tour Down Under

Sean Fucking Lake. That is all.

Tropicale Amissa Bongo Bongo Bongo

More towards the equator, racers from all over creation come to take part in some hot, dusty African racing. While Andrea Palini is currently cleaning up the race, there are a few promising young results including Abderrahmane Bechlagheme (Algeria), Belay Fisseha (Ethiopia) and current KOM leader Joseph Areruya (Rwanda), who was 2nd overall in his home tour back in November. 

EFC-Etixx gets a boost

In case it was overlooked by some, EFC-Etixx, the former development arm of the Etixx World Tour Team before what is now Klein Constantia came aboard, is now teamed up with Trek-Segafredo as their development team. While comprised of all Belgian riders, they feature some strong riders such as Benjamin Declercq and Piet Allegaert.

News should begin pouring is as the tap of results is burst open and teams are getting close to their first events. Look to Espoirs Central either here or on Twitter for all of your news and (unsolicited) opinions.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Antipodean Nationals

While it was reaching near single digit Farenheit temperatures at Espoirs Central HQ, it was nearly the opposite in the Antipodes with Australia & New Zealand both in the height of summer racing and their respective National Championships. While most readers probably saw the results by now, let's give a quick update.

Australian U23 TT

It was a domination by the brothers Scotson as it was the younger Callum that usurped his brother Miles, the defending champion, in the U23 time trial. These two riders were really head and shoulders above the rest of the field as Callum beat Miles by just 12 seconds but it was another minute back to 3rd place Ben O'Connor (Avanti IsoWhey). That isn't meant as a slam to O'Connor as it was a great ride that averaged over 45 km/h but the Scotsons were on another level
It was soon learned from the Scotson's coach Tim Decker that Callum produced an astonishing 405 watt average on his national title winning ride.
Australian U23 RR

While he eventually finished 52nd in the race, Rylee Field (GPM Stulz) got away after just one lap with Jason Lea and soon after, Field was on his own for what would be nearly 80 kilometers of solo riding. Field held on brilliantly to scoop up the KOM and Sprint crowns before being usurped by Chris Harper (State of Matter MAAP), who would define the finale of the race.

Harper, who had gone on a solo mission to bring back Field, was riding like a bat out of hell with some big names behind him. Harper's effort brought a counter attack from Miles Scotson, who would cause a reaction in the peloton that would eventually split it from 60 riders to a mere 14. That group was further reduced to just 6 chasers that included M. Scotson, Alistair Donohoe and a brilliant Michael Storer in his first U23 championships.

It wasn't any of these riders that would make the difference. A pair of Hamiltons attacked just before the end of the penultimate lap and made contact with Harper on the circuit's climb on the final lap of the race. Chris Hamilton (Avanti IsoWhey) was the U23 Criterium champion last year but also rides a fair bit of MTB races as was 2nd in the Australian U23 XC Championship last year as well. Lucas Hamilton (Victoria Institute of Sport) was the Australian Junior RR champion in 2014 and rode on the Australian NRS last year.

On the climb, Harper was dropped while the lawfirm of Hamilton & Hamilton accelerated. While some counter attacked occurred, they were not nearly enough to unseat the leaders. It came down to a sprint between the two and it was Chris who out-sprinted Lucas for the win.


 From the group of 5 chasers, it was Miles Scotson who out-sprinted Donohoe and Storer for the bronze medal while Harper managed to hang on for 6th.

For their efforts, Hamilton & Hamilton got spots on the Uni-SA team for the Tour Down Under coming up in a week. Scotson proved his class in spades as he was a marked man coming into the race but came away with a medal. And as said previously, Storer was great in his first U23 championship with a 6th in the TT and 5th in the RR.

New Zealand U23 TT

While Australia was the media darling, New Zealand's Nationals were a smaller affair that offered some tighter battles. In the U23 TT, new ONE Pro Cycling signing Hayden McCormick improved on his last year's 6th place by taking the title by just 9 seconds on Liam Aitcheson and 14 seconds on Klein Constantia rider Hamish Schreurs.

New Zealand U23 RR
Due to the low field size, the U23 and Elite men ran their race together. The race had an early attack that put many of the big WT names on the back foot. A group of 5 got away that included Jason Christie (Kenyan Riders Down Under), Robin Reid, ONE Pro Cycling teammates James Oram and Dion Smith along with Schreurs. By virtue of making the breakaway, Schreurs was able to secure the U23 jersey while finishing 3rd in the Elite RR behind winner Christie. McCormick came in with World Tour rider Paddy Bevin to finish 2nd while Aitcheson finished over 12 minutes down for 3rd in the U23 race. Out of 75 starters in the combined field, there were just 16 finishers.