Tuesday, December 1, 2015

2015 Neo-Pros Lookback

As many websites dedicated to cycling do, I made a list of neo-pros to watch this past year. Instead of going for obvious picks such as Caleb Ewan, Tiesj Benoot Mike Teunissen and the like, I tried to be a bit more unconventional in my picks. The original article can be found here. The season has been long over and riders are getting ready for 2016 but let's take a look back at how the 5 riders that were Espoirs Central picks did this season.

The winner for the Best Mustache in the Peloton 2015, Rasmus Quaade had a fairly good year albeit with a slow start on the road due to Quaade's commitments on the track. Once a rider that could barely ride in the peloton, Quaade has gotten a bit better. He finally finished a stage race in May at the Tour of Yorkshire and then went top 20 overall in the Bayern Rundfahrt, where his teammates Gustav Larsson (9th) and Linus Gerdemann (19th) did the same thing. A month later, he got a crack at his specialty and was 5th in the inagural European Games TT, which was 2'12" off of winner Vasili Kiryienka (which was very similar to the deficit at World Championships, where he finished 21st).
Quaade hit form in the latter part of the season by finishing 5th in the Tour du Poitou Charentes behind the likes of Tony Martin, Adriano Malori, Jonathan Castroviejo and Sep Vanmarcke. He then proceeded to be the right-hand man for Rasmus Guldhammer in the Tour of Britain where Guldhammer finished 4th overall while Quaade was 13th.

Quaade has been busy with the Danish team pursuit squad having gone 3rd in the European Championships in Grechen. Currently, he spent 3 weeks in Australia in the buildup for the Cambridge, NZ World Cup. While it was a huge year in terms of results, I would expect to see more from Quaade after the Rio Olympics are over.

Carlos Barbero was probably the most successful on this list this year. Yes, he is one of the older riders on this list but with a big year under his belt, people will not be surprised in 2016. Barbero was a huge talent coming from Euskadi. He isn't a full out sprinter but he isn't a climber by any means. He excels on uphill sprint finishes that weed out the fastest finishers.
The start of his season was rubbish after crashing in Etoile de Besseges and fractured the head of his radius bone. After finishing Catalunya in late March, Barbero really kicked off with podium finishes and high placings in Vuelta a la Rioja, Klasika Primavera, Castilla y Leon, the Tour of Turkey where he nearly scalped Sacha Modolo and then his maiden win of the year at the Vuelta Comunidad de Madrid. In what is probably the perfect parcours for his style of riding, Barbero lit it up in the Philly Classic and left future World Tour riders Michael Woods and Toms Skujins in the dust to take the win, which would be follow up with two more stage wins at the Tour de Beauce.

 The result that showed true class was his win on the opening stage of the Vuelta a Burgos where Barbero pulled away with Dani Moreno, Jesus Herrada and Luis Leon Sanchez and took the win on the uphill finish on Romana de Clunia. Barbero dragged himself through the Vuelta a Espana finishing way down on the table but it was an important step for him in his development. If the road tilts upwards in the final couple of kilometers, Barbero should be on your radar.

After taking out frustation in 2014 by not being offered a pro-contract, Patrick Konrad had a fairly successful year with Bora-Argon 18. I described him as a climber that wasn't total shit on the flats and he certainly lived up to that designation. Konrad rode a good schedule and only DNFed in three later season Italian races, which are known to have high attrition rates. Konrad's biggest strength was in stage races that featured one really hard hilly stage. That description is a bit vague but hear me out.

Tour of Oman was Konrad's first big stage race and he made the decisive split on stage 2 and then was top 15 on Jabal Al Akhdhar to finish 10th overall. Same story with Criterium International, where he finished 13th overall. He was 7th on the queen stage of the Tour of Denmark and after a strong TT, he finished 5th overall. He had a steady week filled with top 10s at Tour de l'Ain and finished in a clump of riders that were just a few seconds away from one another between 4th and 10th overall. He was the team's best finisher at the Abu Dhabi Tour, where he finished 10th overall after a strong ride on the queen stage.

Konrad should find himself on a similar schedule with a steady diet of small stage races intermixed with some bigger tours. He hasn't shown himself in the big mountains yet but on smaller mountains, he is already top 10 potential. He will continue to pair with Dominik Nerz (hopefully he has a better season than last), Emanuel Buchmann and new signing Gregor Muhlberger.
After spending the majority of his U23 time in Belgium, Brit Dan McLay jumped to Bretagne-Seche Environment for 2015 and meshed well with his other sprinters Yauheni Hutarovich and Romain Feillu and had some promising results. With sprinters, it seems like the young ones either tend to be able to go up against the big guns right away or they take some time to get positioning down and build endurance, nipping at their heels for a couple years. McLay is a bit of the latter and his results show it as a lot of his results were in that 5th-10th place range when involved in the big bunch kicks.

I think that McLay can improve on this and start contending for podiums and wins next year but it will be dependent on...you know, improvement. If he comes in and get hold that wheel at 3 km to go and not get bumped out; find the right team to follow; not wait too long to jump. There is so much speculation that can happen but I would rather wait to have the road sort it out.

McLay is staying with Fortuneo-Vital Concept (the next sponsors for the team) for 2016. Romain Feillu leaves and is replaced with a younger and faster Boris Vallee. They are more of a team of opportunists but with McLay, Hutarovich and Vallee, they have options in a sprint.
As I said back in March this year, Floris De Tier was a cyclocross rider but on the advice of Sven Nys himself, he made the switch to the road full time in 2013 and hasn't looked back. This year with Topsport Vlaanderen, he had a good season in terms of getting a lot of racing under his belt and even had a few promising rides. The Vuelta a Murcia was his best ride in terms of results (9th) but he also took on some big races that many neo-pros would shit their bibs over.

De Tier was the top neo-pro in Amstel Gold (43rd) and 2nd best neo-pro in Fleche Wallone (43rd), both of which are World Tour events. He was top 15 in both the GP Wallonie and the Giro dell'Emelia, which both feature some tough finishes. So he was a bit lacking in terms of big results but it is about building a foundation.

How far will these guys go in 2016? Well...who knows. There will be a new crop announced in the coming months for you to keep your eyes on so keep your eyes peeled.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Neo-Pros 2016: Pro Continental Lowdown, Pt. 1

Perhaps it is just my hyper-focus on this issue but it seems like this year, compared with others in recent past, is seeing a larger number of young riders making the leap to the World Tour and Pro Continental level to try and hack it as professional cyclists. The top 13 overall riders from the Tour de l'Avenir have secured pro contracts for next season while 10 out of the top 15 from the U23 World RR have a contract for 2016 with a World Tour or Pro Conti team.

And remember, since we are going by the book, a neo-pro is a rider that is in his 25th year or younger and starting their first season as a professional. Technically, a rider in their 2nd year of a neo-pro deal can still be referred to under the term but now we are just splitting hairs.

Now it is time to go through, team by team, and examine the new signings with Pro Continental teams. Had enough yet? You might need to get a cuppa before sitting down for this. And this is only the first part...

-Stanislaw Aniolkowski
-Adrian Banaszek
-Norbert Banaszek
-Jonas Koch
-Daniel Staniszewski

4 Poles and a German walk into a bar...seriously, Jonas Koch is the only one that I have any inkling of. If you are ignorant of the U23s and this is your first time reading this blog then I'm shame on you but I'm glad you have seen the light. Also, you would need to be familiarized with Jonas Koch's epic breakaway at the Tour de l'Avenir. Epic is an overused term to some but Koch's solo breakaway on stage 1 certainly warrants its use. You can read about his exploits here.

Give Koch a hard course and you will most likely see him attack at some point. His new team will be begging for face time so his attacking disposition should be a net benefit.

-Egan Bernal
-Luca Pacioni

That sly dog Gianni Savio is trying to turn cheap talent into marketable results once again and is bringing in a junior and a sprinter to help his low budget team.

Egan Bernal is Colombian. Egan Bernal rides mountain bikes really fast. Egan Bernal hasn't been in a competitive road race, at least from scouring the internet for any results. Bernal is a sensation on dirt after hitting the podium of the Junior World MTB XC twice in two years (2nd and 3rd) among some other nice wins. Yet with all of this withstanding, Savio decides to take a chance on him and signs Bernal to a four-year contract. Yes, for the entirety of his U23, Bernal has a ride with Savio. I have a bad feeling about this...

EDIT: Bernal has ridden in one road race in Italy, which he won this past year. You can read more about it here. The race? Dreaming of The Tour of Flanders. Mainly some hills with dirt sections but it suited him well.

Pacioni is a sprinter that spent the majority of his U23 days with Colpack before moving the Viris Maserti for a bit more freedom. Probably not his wisest move since his wins dropped from five to just two however he is capable of taking some scalps if he is on form. I don't know if he will come in like a world beater but Savio will be hoping for some production from him in Italian races.

-Giulio Ciccone
-Mirco Maestri
-Lorenzo Rota
-Simone Velasco

I would love to be a fly on the wall at a meeting of the Reverberi brothers discussing the new season. "Roberto, we only had 4 wins last year. What do we a do ah?" "Bruno, we get younger!" Yes, the youngest professional team has decided to get younger for 2016 with their average dropping to an acne-filled, voice cracking 23.8 years.

Simone Velasco is going to be the youngest rider on the team as he has yet to turn 20 just yet. Velasco has been all over the Italian one day races with two wins (Coppa della Pace & Ruota d'Or) and was very consistent in the Giro della Regioni with top 10 finishes on all of the stages and 4th overall. He doesn't seem like a high mountains contender but look for him in hillier Italian one-day races and rolling stage races.

Maestri is one of the oldest on the team and is just making his pro debut. Honestly, he was a good amateur but as a pro? Not holding my breath.

Rota will be the 2nd youngest on the team and his best chance for development seems to lie in one-day races. 7 top ten finishes for a rider that isn't a sprinter is pretty good. The problem? He is too young. He isn't that type of rider that can just jump into the pro ranks and dominate. He will most likely struggle. He could have used with another year....

Ciccone is a pure climber that will find his best results in the bigger hills. He had a biblically slow first part of the season but came back for the Giro della Valle d'Aosta and won the KOM classification after multiple days out front gaining points. He proceeded to have a steady Tour de l'Avenir, where he mainly stayed with Simone Petilli, and he eventually finished 6th overall. The last call of his season came at the Piccolo Lombardia, where Ciccone was essentially the sacrificial lamb for his teammate Fausto Masnada. Ciccone could have dropped Masnada multiple times but thanks to a large gap, the lithe climber stayed with Masnada and in the final straight, he dipped behind and gifted the win.

I'm skeptical that a team fixes its problem of lack of wins by brining in less experienced riders. But what the fuck do I know.

Bora-Argon 18
-Silvio Herklotz
-Gregor Mühlberger
-Lukas Pöstlberger

Bora-Argon 18 is trying their best to recreate the Anschluss by beginning in Berlin by signing Herklotz and taking Austria with the signings of Mühlberger and Pöstlberger.

Herklotz has been one of the most exciting U23 riders to watch when he is healthy. Again, when he is healthy. Herklotz had a normal spring with 3rd in the Istrian Spring Trophy, 5th in the Giro del Belvedere, 2nd in Liege-Bastogne-Liege in a tight sprint against solo rider Guillaume Martin and break partner Tao Geoghegan Hart followed by 5th in the Carpathian Couriers Tour overall. After a top 10 in the Grody Tour, Herklotz dropped out of the Bayern Rundfahrt. He came back for a couple races but then proceeded to drop out of the Giro della Valle d'Aosta and did not reappear until the final German race of the year, the Sparkassen Münsterland Giro, where he was an anonymous 102nd. Herklotz has been prone to illness, especially in the spring where a bout of bronchitis seems to be seasonal with him. While not a threat in the high mountains, Herklotz has the potential to be an Ardennes favorite for the next decade.

Mühlberger is on the cusp of being a potential GC threat but still has some consistency issues to work on. He is certainly a power in hilly one day racing, where he likes to breakaway and go on some death defying mission. He won GP Izola that way as well as the GP Judendorf in this fashion. In terms of his GC threat, he showed this with great aplomb in the Zavod Miru U23, where he accelerated away from the favorites and held this off with style on the slopes of Praded before sealing the win the next day. Oberösterreichrundfahrt? Huge solo win on the final stage to take the overall. In the Tour de l'Avenir, he had two amazing mountains days and one horrible one. He took the leader's jersey on stage 5 after nearly hunting down stage winner Guillaume Martin (probably would have caught him if he wasn't diverted inside the final kilometer) but exploded in stage 6 to lose 10 minutes. He came back for 4th on the final stage to salvage an 11th overall which is under his liking but he got some takeaways from the race. He could go top 10 or 15 in pro stage races this year, if the wheels stay true, but he certainly has some panache.

Pöstlberger is another that lives and dies by the breakaway. He won a stage in the Osterreich Rundfahrt this year by holding off a split peloton to take his first pro win. He won the An Post Ras before that by breaking away on stage one and then taking more time away from those behind him. I don't think he is consistent enuogh to be a GC threat besides the occassion where he would take it out of a breakaway and hold it. He can climb when on form but can't hang with the best of them. He will most likely turn into a strong work horse that is a breakaway threat.

Caja Rural
-Alberto Gallego
-Jonathan Lastra
-Jaime Roson
-Diego Rubio

Aupa! Or whatever. The green-white and gold of Caja Rural are bringing in some more Spanish talent and things are looking...good. Let me explain...

Gallego has been on the Portuguese circuit the last couple of season but this year, he was a GC standout where he was in the top 10 overall five times. His breakout ride was in the Route du Sud, where he finished 7th overall behind Contador, Quintana and Pierre-Roger Latour. Not a pure climber but a strong all-around rider for those Spanish races Caja Rural will get plenty of.

Lastra is a former cyclocross rider that has transitioned to the road but that is still an ongoing project. He was 6th this year in the Volta a Portugal U23 and he is good on punchy courses. He is new to the road, especially in a long season with 50+ race days, so Lastra will be a bit of an unknown.

Something Caja Rural is good at is brining up homegrown talent. Along with Lastra, Roson has been in the development pipe the last couple of seasons. Roson won the Trofeo Lehendakari (think Basque Cup) and nearly took a stage of the Ronde de l'Isard in 2014. This year, he stepped up and won the Spanish U23 RR, won a round of the Copa de Espana, and then went to the USA Pro Challenge and finished 12th overall. Impressive climber that could show himself in some smaller Spanish races as well as the USA, if Caja Rural comes over again.

Thanks to a dearth of Spanish professional teams, Diego Rubio was forced to Portugal to ride with Efapel and do his best to seek his a way out. Rubio won the Portugal Cup this year after winning the first round and was 2nd overall in the Vuelta a Madrid. Bit of a rouleur but will be most likely breakaway fodder.

CCC Polsat
-Alan Banaszek
-Felix Großschartner

Banaszek is coming straight out of the junior ranks because a) he is Polish and b) he had a hell of a ride in the European Championships. He made the breakaway and proceeded to tear legs off. He more or less led the sprint out from a kilometer out and held off the only real challenger, Stan Dewulf. Will most likely need time to develop but perhaps he can replicate the performance down the road. Next year will just be about hanging on for dear life.

Grossschartner is the only pro cyclist with three consecutive s in his name. He also is a bit of an opportunist. He is a good climber but doesn't necessarily have the stuff to go for GC wins but rather sitting well in the top 10. He gets into good breakaways and comes out on top sometimes. Example being the Trofeo Piva this year, where he and Artem Nych got away and the Austrian proceeded to drop Nych and take the win just ahead of a hard charging sprint. He won the Osterreich Rundfahrt KOM thanks to a few breakaway opportunities and taking advantage of a field not filled with super climbers, he won the 2nd stage of the Giro della Regioni. He will be useful in difficult stages to set up a climber like Jan Hirt and if the team needs it, a presence in the breakaway.

-Rayanne Bouhanni
-Hugo Hofstetter
-Anthony Perez

The pair that are joining Cofidis were both stagiaire with the team last summer. One is a brother to a current team member and the other is a much-tattooed rider with a penchant for sprints.

Bouhanni is the brother of rough and tumble Nacer Bouhanni, who took 11 wins this year. One would be mistaken to think that Rayane is the same rider as Nacer. Okay, it isn't that drastic. Rayane does have a little sprint on him but he doesn't climb like a stone. As a junior, he won the French Junior RR Championship in a two-up sprint, the Tour de l'Abitibi in Canada and was 2nd overall in the Zavod Miru Junior to Magnus Bak Klaris. This year, he rode with AWT-Greenway and it was...a long year. A lot of DNFs but some good top 10s in regional French races including the Paris-Arras Tour and some time in breakaways.

Personally, it is too early for Bouhanni to go pro and he would benefit from another year developing but what do I know, I just write about these guys.

From the extreme east of France from the Sundgau territory in the Alsace region, Hugo Hofstetter could joined the sprint train for Cofidis straight away. Known as a joker that even live tweeted and took a selfie during the Piccolo Giro di Lombardia last year, Hofstetter didn't even have a coach until he was 18, when someone Cofidis took over the coaching duties at his club in Altkirch. He was slowly introduced to the Cofidis staff. In 2014, he took 14 top five places and had a nice 6th place in the Paris-Tours Espoirs. This year, his season got off to a slow start due to a professional internship but got heated up later in the spring and was capitalized by a 3rd place in the Paris-Roubaix Espoirs, where he was 2nd in the sprint behind a solo Lukas Spengler. The Alsatian was on super form for the European Championships in Tartu but coming into the finale, a touch of wheels saw Hofstetter break three spokes and knocked him out of contention. His frustrations were translated into the French U23 RR Championsips, where he attacked inside the final kilometer and won in solo fashion.

If he continues the upward trajectory, he could work into the rotation with Jonas Ahlstrand & Geoffrey Soupe for Bouhanni while getting a chance or two for himself in some smaller French races.

Perez (right) stealing a win from a celebrating Romain Campistrous
A late announcement was made with Anthony Perez joining the team. Perez, who comes from AVC Aix-en-Provence, had an emerging year after winning the Circuit de Sâone-et-Loire overall as well as the final stage, which was his major goal for the season. He was also on the podium of two Coupe de France one day races, 3rd on two stage of the Tour des Pays de Savoie, and a handful of regional wins. Perez isn't a pure climber by any means but works best from small groups and from breakaways. He can climb pretty well and can also sprint a bit. He credits his surge in results to actually using a power meter (he was sans power before this past year) and honing his training so that he wasn't wasting time plodding about the countryside. I can see him being a large part of Cofidis' team that rides on the French continental circuit.

CULT Energy-Stölting
-Lennard Kämna
-Thomas Koep
-Sven Reutter
-Jonas Tenbrock
-Alexander Kamp

With the merger of the top Danish team CULT Energy and the development focused Stolting, the team it trying to set itself up with some riders that will be valuable in the long run.

Lennard Kämna is one of the brightest German talents to emerge since...dare I say, Ullrich? The young rider from Wedel, which is outside of Hamburg, grew up in the RSC Cottbus team, which is on the opposite end of the country. A side note on RSC Cottbus because they are one of the most storied clubs in Germany. Since 1990, they have seen Olaf Pollack, Danilo Hondo, Heinrich Haussler and Nikias Arndt among a slew of others track cyclists. Kämna's talent as a time trialist was evident by his torrid 2014 season where he blew out Adrien Costa in the Junior Men's TT. His maiden U23 year was slower but in May, he finished 13th overall in the Bayern Rundfahrt. This was followed up by a 6th in the Zavod Miru Nations Cup, which highlighted his climbing abilities against more experienced competition. He beat out Katusha-bound Nils Politt for the U23 TT title before winning a superb solo victory in Valle d'Aosta after attacking his breakaway mates. His shining moment was Richmond Worlds, where Kämna overcame bad conditions in the TT to manage a 3rd place and then went 10th in the road race. He will most likely ride a lot of U23 races mixed with pro events but it will be hard to miss his talent.

The other Germans joining him from Stölting are...okay. Koep is older and a good worker. Reutter showed some good climbing skills this year but is very young; he will need time to develop and see if he can work on his time trial skills that saw him breakout as a junior. Tenbrock is a developing classic rider that was 13th in Paris-Roubaix Espoirs and has had some other good one-day results.

The other "big" signing is Alexander Kamp, the Danish talent that was incredible as a junior but a bit mercurial at times in his U23 years. After some promising results but losing out on most of his 2014 due to the horrible management at Christina Watches, he got it mojo back after winning a couple of Danish one-days and showed his sprinting and classics chops in Danish and some other European races. He was 3rd on the queen stage of the Tour of Denmark and ended up 9th overall. Kamp then made his presence known again in Richmond, when he survived the carnage to place 5th in the U23 RR. Classics potential. Sprint potential. Keep him in check and CULT-Stölting could have a nice (and cheap) pick up here.

-Brendan Canty
-Jason Lowndes
-Gavin Mannion
-Tom Scully

They come from a land Down Under. Drapac is going through a bit of a transitional phase as they are cutting many of the riders that they brought up through the continental ranks and trying to compete for bigger races.

Canty was a stagiaire with the team in 2014 and with Budget Forklifts this year, he was 7th in the Herald Sun Tour and 11th overall in both the GP de Saguenay and Tour de Beauce, the latter of which where he won the TT. This isn't over the moon by any means but Canty has had a metoric rise with just two years of high level racing under his belt now. He capped off his season with 13th in the Abu Dhabi Tour while riding with Drapac, which was by far the team's best finish.

A former MTB rider, Lowndes rode in North America this year with the Garneau-Quebecor outfit. He showed some promise as a sprinter with wins in the Sea Otter Classic and a stage of the Tour of Delta. Probably going to need some work getting the endurance up to make an impact.

Tom "Scud Missle" Scully has been toiling around British continental teams the past few years and splitting time between the road and track. He is world class on the track with silver medal in the 2014 Worlds Points Race. While he has gone away from the track a bit, he has been riding a lot of criteriums in England and winning a few. He could be an asset in harder one-day races as Scully seems to enjoy races such as the Tour de Normandie, where he was 3rd overall this year.

After staying on the continental level for a couple seasons after finishing top 10 in the Tour de l'Avenir, Mannion is finally getting his shot with a professional outfit. Mannion has continued to develop as a stage racing talent with 2nd in the Redlands Classic, 3rd in the Tour of the Gila & Cascase Classic and 4th in the USA Pro Challenge as evidence from just this year alone. For some unbeknownst reason, bigger teams haven't touched him until now but Drapac will be doing a happy dance if Mannion continues on this upward trajectory.

Fortuneo-Vital Concept
-Franck Bonnamour

The solo neo-pro joining the team formerly known as the Bretagne-Séché Environment has been courted by the team for years now. The European Junior Champion in 2013, Bonnamour has been sticking home in Bretagne and building slowly. This year, he took three wins including the Coupe de France Prix Gilbert Bousquet, which he won in a solo move. He was 5th in the Ronde van Vlaanderen U23, where he was in the 1st chase group behind the winning group. As a stagiaire this year, his best result came at the GP Wallonie, where he survived the inevitable attrition up the Citadel  de Namur and ended up 8th. He is green but he has a huge upside.
Fun Fact: Bonnamour is joining World U23 TT Champion Kevin Ledanois on the team next year. Their fathers, Yves Bonnamour and Yvon Ledanois, were teammates for two years on Super U and Castorama in 1989 and 1990.

-Antwan Tolhoek

The rise for Antwan Tolhoek from amateur to pro was very rapid. Tolhoek spent less than a full year with a continental team, Rabobank Continental, before getting a stagiaire place on Tinkoff and then signing a deal with Roompot. Originally, Tolhoek was a marathon speed skater before switching over to cycling. His father, Patrick, also rode for Superconfex and Buckler and took part in two Tours de France.

He was with the Dutch De Jonge Renner team in 2014 but results were fairly slim. He got picked up by Rabobank Continental this year and was top 20 in Liege-Bastogne-Liege U23 and won the KOM in the Tour de Bretagne.

It was announced he would be joining Tinkoff-Saxo as a stagiaire after having a successful training camp with the team in Livigno in July. He hit it off very quickly at the Tour of Norway, where he finished 6th on the final stage and ended up 12th overall, which was the team's highest finisher. He got through the Tour of Britain and some other one day races pretty well but some other ones, not so much. So...fingers crossed? Obviously he impressed Tinkoff but it is translating it onto the road consistently that will be the issue.

-Dan Eaton
-Daniel Jaramillo
-Ty Magner

The American team that spans back over a decade now is downsizing from their 2015 roster with noticeably less Italians and less big names. While the team is losing the likes of Kiel Reijnen and Alessandro Bazzana, they are brining on some young talent that has already turned more than a few heads.

Eaton comes from Axeon Cycling, where he raced his first full season on the continental level. Splitting time with the national team, Eaton was top 20 in both the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Liege-Bastogne-Liege U23 and finished solidly in California. Known as "Swole" to his teammates, Eaton won the U23 National TT this year by 42 seconds on LottoNL-Jumbo signing Alexey Vermeulen. Eaton then exceeded expectations at Worlds when he finished 10th in the TT, less than 10 seconds out of 4th place.  He has GC potential in flatter stage races so whenever UHC goes on a Belgian excursion or if Tour of Alberta is still around next year, Eaton could be an outside GC favorite.

Magner has been spent about the last decade with the Hincapie team...okay, it has only been 4 years. The Georgia native has been transitioning from a criterium sprinter to taking on harder one-day races like the Winston Salem Classic, where he was 5th this year. Magner will need to string together a full season as he has been up and down in his time with Hincapie.

Jaramillo is a previous winner of the Vuelta de la Juventud Colombia (2011) and also 2nd place in the race (2013) before hopping over to America with Jamis. In his first season in America, he won the two hardest stages of the Tour of the Gila and went to finish 5th overall. He was top 20 in the Tour of California, Tour of Utah and USA Pro Challenge of the American state of Colorado. He came into the season hot by finishing top 10 in the Tour de San Luis, finishing 2nd in the Colombian National RR and 2nd overall in the Tour of the Gila. Jaramillo has a quieter end to the season but did finish 5th in Philly Classic. He has a huge upside but seems to be a bit mercurial in terms of bringing in results. If UHC treats him right and adds him to the climbers in Busche and Brajkovic, he could blossom.

Wanty Groupe Gobert
-Antoine Demoitie
-Guillaume Martin
-Robin Stenuit

A good little group of riders here that are undervalued by some. Mark McNally will also be considered to be a neo-pro by some since he spent the last half decade with AnPost-Sean Kelly and most recently with Madison-Genesis, where he was 3rd in GP Jef Scherens, which is right in WGG's wheelhouse. While he is a bit too old for this post, he should have a few opportunities for next year.

Demoitie has been one of the best sprinters on the continental circuit the past two seasons that seems to gravitate towards places 3rd through 8th. He has had 23 top 8 finishes over the past two seasons with two wins. The question here is if he will progress past being bunch sprint filler and start fighting for wins. He is a tough sprinter and does well out of breakaways and more selective courses so there is some room to grow as WGG gets bigger invites.

Robin Stenuit was one of the only stagiaires, with Fernando Gaviria being the only other to my knowledge, to win with his team. Stenuit blossomed this year following a move to Veranclassics-Ekoi after an extended time with Wallonie-Bruxelles. The Walloon won six races through June, including UCI wins in the GP Nogent-sur-Oise & Memorial Van Coningsloo, both of which were in small bunch sprints. Stenuit got a ride with WGG and after a month of toiling through some bigger races, he got his chance at the revamped Schaal Sels, which featured sections through polders and corn fields. Stenuit got away with Topsport Vlaanderen's Oliver Naesen and out sprinted him for the win. He is a bit like Demoitie in that he can gravitate towards 4th-10th places but perhaps he has that kick for the win Demoitie lacks? Splitting hairs, I know.

The final neo-pro is Guillaume Martin, who erupted this year for a win in the Liege-Bastogne-Liege U23, a huge breakaway win in the Tour de l'Avenir and high GC showings in races such as the Ronde de l'Isard and Tour de l'Ain. He just seems a bit...out of place. Martin has stagiaire roles with Sojasun and FDJ so getting stuck with a team such as WGG seems like Martin had to settle a bit. While he will get a lot of starts in the Ardennes and other hillier races, his heart lies in the mountains and with a team like this, he will most likely be found lacking. A one-year stay could be possible if he gets a few good results in bigger races and he finds a team with a schedule that is more suited to him.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Neo-Pro 2016: The World Tour Lowdown

Perhaps it is just my hyper-focus on this issue but it seems like this year, compared with others in recent past, is seeing a larger number of young riders making the leap to the World Tour and Pro Continental level to try and hack it as professional cyclists. The top 13 overall riders from the Tour de l'Avenir have secured pro contracts for next season while 10 out of the top 15 from the U23 World RR have a contract for 2016 with a World Tour or Pro Conti team.

And remember, since we are going by the book, a neo-pro is a rider that is in his 25th year or younger and starting their first season as a professional. Technically, a rider in their 2nd year of a neo-pro deal can still be referred to under the term but now we are just splitting hairs.

Now it is time to go through, team by team, and examine the new signings, beginning with the World Tour. This list could be updated but for the most part, these are signings set in stone.

Ag2r-La Mondiale
-Nico Denz
-Francois Bidard

The French squad is sticking with its roots by taking two riders from their Chambery CF development team to their 2016 roster.

German Nico Denz joined the team last year in August on a full contract so technically his pro career has already begun but I threw him in here anyways. The German is a bit of an all-around rider that has a knack for climbing and some solo breakaways. He will probably be thrown in to all sorts of races in 2016 to see what kind of rider he will turn out to be.

Francois Bidard is more of a climber but wasn't one of those riders that was beating all comers. If he is to be successful in the pro ranks, he will need a couple of seasons to find himself, most likely. Bidard was an outstanding 4th overall in the Rhone Alpes Isere Tour after getting into a stage 3 breakaway with Europcar pro Fabrice Jeandesboz and Felix Grossschartner. Along with some strong riders in the French domestic scene, Bidard should fit into the team well and support the likes of Romain Bardet and Pierre-Roger Latour.

-Floris Gerts

The solo neo-pro on BMC for 2016, Floris Gerts is just one of two new riders to the team along with Richie Porte. Gerts isn't moving far as he was with the BMC Development Team this past season and had some stellar results as a stagiaire with BMC in the latter part of the season.

Gerts was a bit of a late bloomer and only started to truly show himself in his final U23 season with Rabobank Development in 2014 and had consistent rides in the 1.1 races they rode towards the end of the season. Out of the U23 ranks, Gerts exploded at the beginning of 2015 by winning the 2nd race of the season, the Dorpenomloop Rucphen, in impressive solo style. He matched this later in the month with a similar solo win on the final stage around the hippodrome in Caen in the Tour de Normandie.

Gerts' spring is littered with top 10 finishes in a variety of races but he didn't grab his signature win of the season until early July, when he rode off the front of the pack in the amateur Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and took the win by a minute. He joined BMC in August and proceeded to slot right into the pro ranks in the Tour of Britain with four-top 15 stage finishes on the first four stages. His signature result from his stagiaire time was his 3rd place in the GP Impanis, which finished in a bunch sprint.

-Paddy Bevin
-Ryan Mullen
-Toms Skujins

Being the nerd that I am, I actually got into a heated debate over at r/peloton on reddit about Cannondale-Garmin's team for next year. While I am one of the last people to defend some of the decisions that Jonathan Vaughters makes, the team is more than him and while the team is very young, they have a shit ton of talent that can break out.

Kiwi Paddy Bevin hopped over to America right out of the junior ranks and always made heads turn with big results in criteriums against the likes of Jono Cantwell, Luke Keough and Alessandro Bazzana. He peaked in 2012 when he took 2 stages & overall of Merco Credit Union Classic, 3 stages of Redlands as well as the Tour of Bucks County in Pennsylvania. After a troubling 2013, he came back strong in 2014 and ended up 5th overall in the Australian NRS after taking 14 wins.

This season, he has just stepped it up to another level with a stage win and 2nd overall to Cam Meyer in the Herald Sun Tour, a stage win and 4th overall in the Tour of Taiwan and a duel with Caleb Ewan in the Tour of Korea, where he ended up 2nd overall by just 4 seconds. With his Avanti team, Bevin dominated the Australian NRS with 10 wins along with the overall title for the season. If Garmin can retain his sprint then they will be spoiled.

Ryan Mullen is still a diamond in the rough. The Irishman's engine is huge but he will be put into the fire with Garmin in tough races where he will need to show he belongs. No one cares that he was 2nd in the U23 World TT in 2014. When he is getting gapped off of Gatis Smukulis' wheel and he grits his teeth to hold onto it, that is where he will earn respect.

Toms Skujins has been making a following for himself in America after joining Hincapie in 2014. The Latvian rider that could have easily joined the pro ranks after his stellar 2013 season as a U23 where he won the U23 Peace Race, was top 10 in the Tour de l'Avenir and 5th in the U23 World RR. Instead, no big teams picked him up and he journeyed to America. He was an instant hit with Hincapie and after getting his feet under him, he was 6th in Philly and won the Tour de Beauce after an incredible solo ride on Mont Megantic.

This year, his season didn't kick off in earnest until mid-May but then it never really stopped. He won the stage 3 of the Tour of California into San Jose in impressive solo fashion. A couple weeks later, he won the Winston Salem Classic in more solo fashion. The next weekend, he was in the sprint for the win at Philly and managed 3rd place. He nearly went back to back in Beauce but finished up 2nd overall to Peio Bilbao. The consistency was remarkable because later in the season, Skujins was top 10 overall in both the USA Pro Challenge and the Tour of Alberta, two courses which aren't too similar, and then nearly won the Reading 120. Skujins consistency sealed the UCI Americas Tour win as well as the American NRC championship. If he isn't pressured into becoming a rider he isn't, Skujins could thrive next season as he is probably one of the most pro ready riders coming into the World Tour for 2016.

-Rodrigo Contreras
-Laurens De Plus
-Fernando Gaviria
-Davide Martinelli

Some of the most talked about names are headed the way of Etixx for 2016. Pat Lefevere used to be known for how badly he would fuck up young talent that wasn't a young Belgian focused on the classics. A GC talent? Don't make him spit up his Jupiler.

The two that have been known for about 8 months now are the signings of the pair of Colombian talents Gaviria and Contreras.

Fernando Gaviria's talent has been known since his junior days when he was a double World Champion on the track. Last year, Gaviria came onto the scene by winning the Pan-Am Championship U23 RR and a stage win in the Vuelta a Juventud Colombia before a trio of top 10 finishes in the Tour de l'Avenir. Gaviria exploded onto the scene this year by winning two stages of the Tour de San Luis and then winning the Omnium at the Track World Championships ahead of multiple Olympic hopefuls. In his stagiaire-ship with Etixx late in the year, he proceeded to win stages in the Czech Cycling Tour and the Tour of Britain. He talent is undeniable but his track ambitions might see his focus off the roads this upcoming year for a considerable period of time.

Contreras is a bit more mysterious of the two. He was 5th in the Tour de San Luis but proceeded to drop out of both the Czech Cycling Tour and Tour de l'Avenir. He can climb but I don't think he will be lasting in this type of environment.

Martinelli has been talked about on this site ad nauseum due to his talents for not only time trialing but also getting mixed up in the bunch sprints. Remember that Marcel Kittel was a TT specialist in the U23 ranks when he moved to Skil-Shimano. Martinelli is a legacy as his father, Giuseppe, is a current DS with Astana and a former pro himself and the younger Martinelli has taken a liking to one-day racing and the northern classics with 6th in this year's edition of Paris-Roubaix Espoirs. If he began making the transition to a sprinter, this is certainly a good team to hone those skills with especially with Kittel coming on board. If he doesn't go the way of a sprinter, Martinelli has a motor on him that will see him working for others in one-day races this spring.

In one of the more meteoric rises of the season, De Plus is heading to the pros after just one big season in the U23 ranks. He had a fairly anonymous 2014 season as a first year U23 but this year was incredible and perhaps the best all-around year. In the Ronde de l'Isard, De Plus was staying with the best on the climbs and was consistently pushing race leader Simone Petilli before settling for 2nd place. On the slopes of Praded in the Zavod Miru U23, he was a close 2nd to Gregor Mühlberger and ended up 4th overall. He took his only UCI win of the season in Valle d'Aosta by out-sprinting Rob Power on stage 1 of the race. Guess where he ended up on the overall? 2nd place to Power. If it wasn't for the spectacular collapse on the final stage of the Tour de l'Avenir after trying to counterattack race winner Marc Soler, De Plus most certainly would have bettered his 8th place overall and perhaps been on the podium. While he only has one big season behind him, De Plus does seem to have a good head on his shoulders and could continue to build from here. Perhaps throw him into a Grand Tour to see if he sinks or swims and get him time in the mountains to see what he can do.

-Odd Eiking
-Marc Fournier
-Daniel Hoelgaard
-Jeremy Maison

Two Norwegians and two Frenchman walk into a bar together...okay, no. But still, FDJ is bringing in a fine class of riders that can do just about everything. Don't fuck it up, Madiot.

Odd Eiking and Daniel Hoelgaard come from Joker, the Norwegian continental team that has been spitting riders out every year to the pro scene.

Eiking has been a bit hot and cold for my tastes. He had a spectacular result and then falls down the results sheet, which ruins any GC chances. He won a stage in Valle d'Aosta but not after shitting the bed on stage 1. I would not think of him as a future Tour de France winner. He seems to to best in hillier races but in the high mountains, there is inconsistency. Perhaps this can be ironed out by FDJ but only time will tell.

Hoelgaard is the sprinter that was all over the top 10 in 2015 and really has been consistent for the last few years. He has taken 6 UCI wins in the past two seasons and this season alone, Hoelgaard had 22 top 10 finishes. He isn't a sprinter that will gap his competitors by 3 bike lengths and doesn't have the out & out speed of the likes of Simone Consonni but it is very rare when Hoelgaard isn't present for some sort of a bunch kick.

On the French front, Fournier and Maison are more or less polar opposites. Rouleur vs. Climber. Burly, bearded Norman vs. the lithe Burgundian. Fournier won 5 races with CC Nogent-sur-Oise including a breakaway stage win in the Triptyque Monts et Chateaux. Maison has some prodigious climbing talent that will see him fit in with Thibaut Pinot, Alexander Geniez and Kenny Elissonde. On Plateau de Beille, Maison rode away from Simone Petilli and Laurens De Plus and won by an astounding minute to secure 3rd overall. He put together a consistent Pays de Savoie that saw him finish in 4th overall and he was well on his way to some stage glory in the Tour de l'Avenir on stage 5 of the race to La Rosiere but proceeded to crash out of the race. In any case, Maison could be showing himself, especially in some smaller French races that feature climbing.

-Simone Consonni (?)
-Simone Petilli
-Edward Ravasi

Lampre's manager Brent Copeland needs to learn not to string riders along. Edward Ravasi was announced much earlier in the summer as a Lampre signing when his stagiaire role was announced but just this past week, Copeland stated that both he and his Colpack teammate Simone Consonni were going to have to wait until 2017 to get a chance at the pro ranks. I would be a bit annoyed if I had to wait a whole year after being primed for a chance at the pro ranks.

So currently, the only neo-pro joining Lampre is Simone Petilli, who is coming from Unieuro-Wilier. Petilli was on a tear this year, especially in the stage races, by winning the Ronde de l'Isard by a slim 10 seconds, 3rd in the Giro della Valle d'Aosta and 5th in the Tour de l'Avenir. That is perhaps a bit understated but he is up there against the best young climbers in cycling. Now he is a bit behind the likes of Rob Power because he had to resort to some shitty tactics to attack the Australian when he had a puncture to try and find an advantage in Valle d'Aosta.

-Jorge Arcas
-Antonio Pedrero

I talked about this Jorge Arcas cat before...

Movistar stuck with home talent by signing Arcas, a strong climber from the Lizarte amateur team, which is managed by ex-Euskaltel rider Juan Jose Oroz. He is a noted teammate, especially in the early part of his U23 career, but in the last couple seasons including this one, which is his first out of the U23 ranks, he has taken over a leadership role in some races and has accrued 9 wins including stages of the Vuelta a Palencia and the Vuelta a Navarra. Most recently, Arcas was battling it out in the Vuelta a Toledo but his Lizarte team was manhandled by the Fundacion Euskadi squad and big time climbing talent Mikel Iturria. Arcas held on for 10th overall while teammate Rafael Marquez finished in 6th, 3 seconds ahead.
Antonio Pedrero is a more recent announcement who also comes from the Lizarte team. Pedrero had a cracking 2013 campaign in his final U23 year where he was integral in Ruben Fernandez's Tour de l'Avenir win and won the Vuelta a Cantabria. He even finished 12th in the Copa de España even though he only scored points in 5 of the 8 races on offer. His 2014 was a little quieter however he did win the Vuelta a Navarra and 2nd in the Vuelta a Toledo. This year, he managed three wins and finished 3rd in the Copa de España. So he is a consistent rider and seems to have a knack for one day races and getting stage wins. Perhaps some stage racing a few years down the road.

-Alexander Edmondson
-Jack Haig
-Rob Power

This trio of talent have been signed by Orica for nearly a year now but with two of them coming off major knee injuries, there form could be up in the air. Obviously, Jack Haig and Rob Power are two fine stage racing talents. Power is the more explosive of the two and perhaps just a little step above Haig but after going 3rd overall in the Tour de l'Avenir, Haig is no slouch whatsoever. Power was sidelined nearly the whole 2nd half of the season with a knee injury that took him out of l'Avenir so how he will come into 2016 is a bit of a mystery.

Juxtaposing these two GC dreamers, Alexander Edmondson is a combination of classics man and track pursuit brute. While he is another that had a knee injury, he made his return at the classic 280km Melbourne-Warrnambool, where he placed 2nd to Scott Sunderland. His eyes will be on Rio for the team pursuit so I wouldn't get too excited to see him make a big impression on the road in 2016.

I will be curious to see how these Australians work out on their move to Europe. With the amount of Australians that move to Europe not working out nearing double digits with Campbell Flakemore being the latest victim, it seems that the AIS system is producing results in the U23 ranks but then leaving riders to flounder once they hit the pros.

Team Alpecin-Giant
-Soren Kragh Andersen
-Sindre Lunke
-Sam Oomen
-Max Walscheid

Alpecin-Giant is one of the teams in the World Tour that can transform so much young talent. This has its plusses and minuses. While they have Degenkolb and Dumoulin bringing them a truck load of results, they also have a lot of "projects" that are trying to steadily progress. Out of 5 new hires this year, they have 4 that are signing their first pro contracts but boy, they are some big signings.

Kragh Andersen had a coming out in 2014 with some strong results and podium finishes but he blew the doors off everyone's expectations this year. He led the Danish attack at the ZLM-Roompot Tour by getting in every major breakaway and topping the Danish filled podium. He then spent most of the spring in the top 10 including a breakaway win in the Hadeland GP and a stage win in the tour des Fjords and narrowly missing out on the GC win by 12 seconds. He then put the cherry on the cake by taking not only the Tour de l'Avenir prologue but also winning a four-up sprint on stage 3 of the race ahead of Mathieu van der Poel. He has a huge engine that if tuned properly, he could make an instant impact next year.

Oomen and Lunke are familiar with one another after being near the front on the climbing stages of the Tour de l'Avenir.

Dutchman Oomen comes from Rabobank Development where DS Grischa Niermann referred to him as a prodigious talent. As a first year U23 in 2014, he already showed signs of a top talent but more or less assaulted the mountains this year. After some good results in hillier races early in the year including Liege-Bastogne-Liege U23 and Fleche Ardennaise, Oomen took a stage 1 win in the Rhone-Alpes Isere Tour and turned it into an overall win by beating Fabrice Jeandesboz (Europcar) by mere stage placings. In the Pays de Savoie, Oomen was the only rider somewhat near the "interesting" David Belda (Burgos-BH) after a fine solo win on stage 2 and winning the Orelle time trial to finish 2nd overall. His final three stage races of the year? He didn't finish outside of the top 8 overall. He got better with age in the Tour de l'Avenir as he vaulted up the GC ranks to finish 4th thanks to a 5th place on the final stage. Don't pigeonhole him as a sickly climber either. He and his Rabobank Devo teammates dismantled the Paris-Tours Espoirs race with Oomen and teammate Martijn Tusveld taking 1-2.

Lunke is the Norwegian that played in the shadow of Odd Eiking but is an even better climber than the future FDJ rider. Lunke made a name for himself in 2015 after coming 5th overall in Valle d'Aosta and 11th overall in the Tour de l'Avenir. This year, Lunke had some up and down days but still finished 8th overall in Valle d'Aosta and 7th in the Tour de l'Avenir. He is at his best in the mountains and after getting some races under his belt and adjusting to pro life, he could be a good asset for any team.

German Walscheid is a potential replacement for Marcel Kittel. Alright, that might be a best case scenario but he has won multiple stages of the Tour de Berlin and also won the Kernen Omloop in a sprint this year. If he gets the endurance in his legs for the pro ranks, he could mesh well with riders like Nikias Arndt and Ramon Sinkledam.

Team Katusha
-Matvey Mamykin
-Nils Politt
-Jhonathan Restrepo

Katusha will have a wonderfully weird split on their team with half of it Russian and the other half a mish-mash of riders from all over Europe and now, Colombia.

Matvey Mamykin showed hints of some talent in 2014 after a strong Giro della Valle d'Aosta and a steady Tour de l'Avenir. He started this year anonymous as best but then on the slopes to Praded in the Zavod Miru U23, he came to life and eventually finished the Nations Cup race in 9th overall.

His performances in the summer showed that Mamykin is suited mainly for the high mountains. On the brutal queen stage of Valle d'Aosta, Mamykin dropped Giulio Ciccone like a bag of rocks and in 10 kilometers, he proceeded to put in over 3 minutes on the Italian and took the leader's jersey from Robert Power on a stage that took nearly 5.5 hours to finish. He would cede the lead the next day but the seed was planted. In l'Avenir, he got better with age and on the final stage on the final climb to Les Bottieres, he proceeded to drop eventual race winner Marc Soler and had Jack Haig on the back foot as the Russian was setting an incredible tempo. He would win the stage and settle into 3rd overall. I forsee many low finishes for Mamykin in 2016 but when he gets some chances in the mountains, keep an eye out for him.

Politt and Restrepo were both stagiaires with Katusha in 2015 and signed neo-pro deals with the team. Politt is a strong rouleur that had an impressive Bayern Rundfahrt thanks to his TT that slotted him 6th overall. The German is a very strong time trial rider when on form and seems to do well in other non-climbing big mountains races.

Restrepo has been a known quantity on the Colombian circuit for a few years after winning two stages of the Vuelta a Colombia Juventud and placing 3rd in the individual pursuit in the Pan-Am Championships as a first year U23 in 2013. This year, he won a stage of the Vuelta a Colombia Juventud and ended up 3rd overall in the race. He went on a Pan-Am tear by winning the continental U23 RR, continental Individual Pursuit and continental team pursuit. He was eventual apart of the winning Colombian team pursuit team at the Pan-Am Games in Toronto. While he is untested in Europe besides getting drug through the Vuelta a Burgos, Restrepo is a diamond in the rough.

Team LottoNL-Jumbo
-Koen Bouwman
-Steven Lammertink
-Alexey Vermeulen

The Dutch team is getting more of a facelift for 2016 as they are adding three non-Dutch speaking riders to their roster and to try and kick start what was a sluggish season in the win column in terms of the win column.

Coming over from SEG Racing are Koen Bouwman and Steven Lammertink. Bouwman is an opportunist that was consistent through the season in difficult races. The Dutchman showed off his climbing skills on the final stage of the Giro della Valle d'Aosta when he made the breakaway on the way to the Colle del San Grand Bernardo and rode away from BMC Development rider Kilian Frankiny for the stage win. Besides Valle d'Aosta, Bouwman was a strong helper to Sam Oomen in the Tour de l'Avenir and got some time with Lotto-Jumbo in pro races in the fall including 30th overall in the Tour of Britain.

Lammertink is a time trial stud that had a bad end to his season after such an amazing start. A small group sprint stage win in Triptyque Monts et Chateaux was followed by a top 10 in the Liege-Bastogne-Liege and time trial win in the Tour de Berlin, which set up an overall win. Following a win in the U23 TT at Nationals, his season took a nose dive with exception for his win at the European U23 TT in Tartu. He didn't finish the Tour Alsace or Tour du Poitou Charentes. He scrapped a 14th place at the Worlds TT after being dealt bad conditions but sickness took him out of the U23 RR. While his time trial talents are obvious, it seems that consistency could be an issue. This is an issue with big time U23 TT riders that dominate their fields but then struggle mightily in their first pro seasons; Campbell Flakemore and Damien Howson are two recent examples of this.

BMC Development's Alexey Vermeulen is taking the plunge in the pro ranks with LottoNL-Jumbo. Going a route such as Tejay van Garderen did with HTC-Columbia (only one of two Americans on the team in his rookie year), Vermeulen is going with a foreign team that might take the pressure off as opposed to moving up with BMC. I just wrote a recent profile on him so as not to sound like a broken record, go read up on him. Vermeulen will be looking to get his pedals wet in some stage racing as well as some harder one day races. Don't look for a Great American Hope but perhaps the no pressure route will work wonders here.

Team SKY
-Alex Peters
-Gianni Moscon

SKY brings on two high profiles signings with the Hackney Peters and Italian stud Moscon. Tao Geoghegan Hart seems to be in the pipeline but has defered a chance at the pro peloton for another year.

Alex Peters switched to SEG Racing this year and was one of the team's top riders. He started off the year with a bang after a pair of 2nd places and a 2nd overall in the Tour de Normandie and quickly followed it up with a stage win in the Tour de Bretagne. He had a light mid-year but then came back for the Tour of Britain with the British National Team and finished 12th in the Tour of Britain. Obviously he is a talented rouleur but I do hesitate with him a bit because he hasn't had a ton of racing days in a season and stepping up to a World Tour team, he could have some growing pains.

Gianni Moscon is one of the biggest talents on the U23 circuit and it was more of a question of where he was going to end up and not if he would get a contract. Moscon won 9 times this year including the Italian U23 RR, the GP Palio del Recioto, Citta di San Vendemiano and the Trofeo Almar Nations Cup. Even more important were some of the races he didn't win. Moscon was 2nd in the Ronde van Vlaanderen U23, 5th in the U23 Zavod Miru (Peace Race), was 5th overall in the Tour de l'Avenir before having to drop out on the penultimate stage and then finished 4th in the World U23 RR after leading out Simone Consonni in a desperate attempt to go for the win.

While I dislike making comparisons between riders but Moscon could be like Paolo Bettini-type except he seems to be a better climber in the high mountains. If SKY do not torpedo his potential like they have with other riders, they have hit a gold mine.

-Erik Baska
-Michael Gogl

Now I am not saying that Erik Baska is overrated but Baska is coming in with some expectations as this killer sprinter and I don't think that he will live up to that, especially right out of the gate. The winner of the European U23 RR that finished in a big bunch sprint in Tartu, Estonia, Baska has gained the majority of his results in Central and Eastern Europe against startlists that might not be up to snuff in other races. His most quality win outside of Europeans was his stage win in the Tour de Berlin. So while he might be quick, I wouldn't be surprised to see him struggle mightily this season.

Gogl, who rode on 3 teams last year including his Tinkoff stagiaire role, is a bit of an opportunist that does well in the breakaway and on selective courses. In 2014, he was 15th overall in the Tour de l'Avenir and was 4th on one stage behind Caleb Ewan. He started off the year with a bang by winning the GP Laguna in a breakaway over Seid Lizde and Simone Petilli. He got a large chunk of race days with Tinkoff (20 race days) and had a lot of top 30 placings. He seems to be a rider that is ready for a large chunk of days (70 or so) that can be a good teammate and maybe get a result or two.

Trek Factory
-Julien Bernard

You can read a more complete write-up of Bernard's signing with Trek on Cyclingtips. Coming from the small SCO Dijon team, Bernard is a very impressive climber that was all over the top 5 in the French mountains this season. Thanks to his dad Jean-François, Julien got a ride with Trek Factory as a stagiaire. After getting through the Tour of Utah, Bernard rode a consistent USA Pro Challenge and managed to finish 10th overall. More recently, he rode the Tour of Hainan and on the only hard stage of the race, Bernard finished 6th and ended up the same on the overall rankings.

Don't think he will be an instant producer but throw some riders behind him and he could grab some top 10s.

Teams with no neo-pro signings - Astana, IAM, Lotto, Dimension Data

Predictions for top neo-pros of 2016?

1. Rob Power
2. Gianni Moscon
3. Soren Kragh Andersen

Am I way off? Am I right on the money? Let me know!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Shorts: Zmorka, Kamberaj to SkyDive; Wurtz stays local & Cali World Cup results

I don't understand how riders are still swapping around as many of them are beginning to train for next season. Yet this is the current state of affairs that we live with...

Marlen Zmorka, Xhuliano Kamberaj to SkyDive Dubai

SkyDive Dubai is an UAE based team that is a split between UAE riders and riders that got the team UCI points including Goku Mancebo, Andrea Palini and Edgar Pinto as well Rafaa Chtioui and Soufiane Haddi. It seems like some pet project with some bored Emirati.

The first two signings for 2016 are two riders that have been based in Italy that aren't Italian. The more recent signing is the Ukranian Muslim Marlen Zmorka, who has spent the last four season with Olivano Locatelli's Palazzago team. Zmorka is a time trial specialist but will need to work on his pack skills and endurance to complete a full road schedule.

Also joining the UAE team is Trentino-based Albanian Xhuliano Kamberaj, who won the final race of the season at the Giro d'Autunno. Kamberaj switched teams mid season from Cipollini Ale Rime to Cycling Team Friuli and has been on the cusp of greatness the past few seasons after getting lower podium spots against riders such as Jakub Mareczko, Nicolas Marini and Simone Consonni. Kamberaj still has a year of U23 eligibility left and with SkyDive being on the continental level, he could still get some chances at the U23 level and will most likely target the Qatar World Championships next year.

Mads Wurtz Schmidt rejects World Tour; signs with Tre-For

In a move that Espoirs Central wholy endorses, U23 World TT Champion Mads Wurtz Schmidt (Denmark) has decided to forgo the World Tour for now and use his final year of U23 eligibility and transfer to the Tre-For team for 2016. Tre-For is one of the biggest Danish continental teams and has had riders such as Rasmus Quaade, the Kragh Andersen brothers and Rasmus Guldhammer in their ranks in the recent years.

It is a sensible decision for Wurtz Schmidt to make at such a young age. Many young riders see dollar signs and the World Tour as a land of opportunity when many lack the foresight to see how the machine chews up and spits out young riders that are not prepared for being professionals on the highest level. While Wurtz Schmidt is a stud in the time trial, he could work on being more consistent in road races, which would help make him more marketable. He could leave Tre-For mid-year if a great offer came along or be a stagiaire at a later point in the season.

Other recent transfer news...

-U23s James Knox (Zappi's Pro Cycling), Scott Davies (GB Academy) and Dan Pearson (Zalf-Euromobil) move to Team Wiggins.

-Brendam Rhim (Cal Giant) moves to Holowesko-Citadel Racing.

-GP di Poggiana winner Stefano Nardelli is in search of a new team for 2016 after cutting ties with Unieuro-Wilier.

More transfers to follow in Transfer Extravaganza posts...

Cali Track World Cup

The Track World Cup series has been neutered this year somewhat with some events not taking place thanks to asinine Olympic rules that shot the sport in the foot. In any case...a few U23s are having a go at the Track Omnium with bids for Rio becoming available.

Viktor Manakov (Russia) won the event after a strong showing at the European Track Championships in Grechen ahead of Roger Kluge (Germany) and one of the hardest working men in cycling, Elia Viviani (Italy). Jon Dibben led up the U23 men by finishing in 5th place overall and was followed by fellow U23s Ignacio Prado (Mexico) and Sang-Hoon Park (South Korea) in 6th and 7th places overall.

German Dominic Weinstein won the individual pursuit over Andrew Tennant (Great Britain) after rolling consistent times of 4 minutes 20 seconds in the 4 kilometer event. U23s Sean Mackinnon (Canada), Corentin Ermenault (France) and Frank Pasche (Switzerland) finished 5th, 6th and 7th in the event.

Pasche was apart of the Swiss team including Stefan Kung, Thery Schir and Patrick Muller (all U23s besides Kung) that set the fastest time of the weekend in Cali with a 3'58"998 in the team pursuit. The Swiss side slowed slightly in the final against Russia but still finished a close 2nd less than a second back. Australia managed a very nice 3rd place after missing the final by less than .1 of a second. Australia brought a full U23 contingent for the team pursuit with Dan Fitter, Callum Scotson, Alexander Porter, Sam Welsford and Jackson Law.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Transfers Extravaganza Pt. 2: Zalf-Euromobil, Colpack, SEG Racing, Rabobank Development

This is a big one so grab some coffee and block out the next half hour please. This is serious, guys. You need to know the moves these development teams are making. And you should pay me for it.

As the title states, we are going to be looking at the moves from teams in two big cycling nations, Italy and the Netherlands. These are not meant to be team previews because there are always some last minute moves so just take it as an overview for the transfer season. Team previews will come at a later time.


The Venetian team is undergoing a changing of the guard with their star rider Gianni Moscon leaving for Team SKY, Simone Velasco bound for Bardiani-CSF while Nicola Toffali is headed for Roth-Skoda. Will this signal the end of their reign as the top Italian team for the last half decade?

They are certainly unloading a lot of riders including some very talented ones in Salvador, Brit Pearson and Toniatti, among others. What are they getting in return? The one big scalp they are landing is Davide Gabburo from General Store, who was close to a few big one-day wins this year in Italy. They are also grabbing chrono rider Nicola Da Dalt from Selle Italia. And...umm...errr...

Really going to see how this team pans out for them because they are going to be relying heavily on riders such as Marco Maronese, Gianluca Milani, Niccolo Rocchi and Andrea Vendrame.

IN: Davide Gabburo, Fillipo Calderaro, Michele Toffaletti (General Store), Michael Bresciani (Roth Skoda), Francesco Rosa (Colpack), Nicola Da Dalt (Selle Italia), Riccardo Lucca, Nicola Conci

OUT: Gianni Moscon (SKY), Nicola Toffali (Roth-Skoda), Enrico Salvador (Unieuro-Wilier), Dan Pearson (Team Wiggins), Nicola Rossi (Selle Italia), Mirco Sartori (Selle Italia), Daniel Rupiani (Gavardo), Alessandro Savignano, Andrea Toniatti (Colpack), Gianluca Vecchio (Marchiol)


Not much you can say about the Bergamo team except that they had a hell of a season. At the end of the day, they are a development team and they are promoting 4 riders (potentially) to the pro ranks with Giulio Ciccone (Bardiani), Davide Martinelli (Etixx-OPQS), Edward Ravasi (Lampre) and probably Simone Consonni (Lampre) but that deal is still being finalized because Merida want to get an Asian rider on the team. Those four riders got 17 victories on the road alone and were the backbone of the team itself. And these aren't the only riders leaving either. Up and coming TT rider Edoardo Affini is moving to Selle Italia and the cogs of the sprint train in Cima and Rosa are moving elsewhere.

So even if Consonni ends up staying for the first half of 2016, Colpack will need to find some more riders to take the reins. They have some nice additions coming in that will bolster their roster. Ganna is basically a replacement for Martinelli in the time trial (even better actually) and Bevilacqua is the Italian Junior TT Champ. Ukranian Padun was top 10 in the U23 Peace Race and won the queen stage of the Giro della Regioni. Toniatti is a former stage winner in the Giro della Valle d'Aosta.

Pairing these incoming riders with their current cast including Riccardo Minali, Francesco Lamon, Oliveira Troia and even younger guys such as Attilio Viviani might see the Bergamo team finally overcome Zalf-Euromobil.

IN: Simone Bevilacqua (junior), Nicolas Dalla Valle (junior), Filippo Ganna (Viris-Maserati), Carloalberto Giordani (junior), Marco Negrente (junior), Mark Padun (Palazzago), Andrea Toniatti (Zalf-Euromobil), Simone Viero (CT Friuli) and Enrico Zanoncello (junior)

OUT: Edoardo Affini (Selle Italia), Alessandro Bresciani (Delio Gallina), Giulio Ciccone (Bardiani-CSF), Damiano Cima (Viris-Maserati), Simone Consonni (Lampre...maybe), Davide Martinelli (Etixx-OPQS), Edward Ravasi (Lampre-Merida), Francesco Rosa (Zalf-Euromobil) and Alberto Tocchella (General Store)

SEG Racing

For a first year, SEG Racing set the bar high. They beat the Espoirs Central prediction of 5 UCI wins by a slim margin of one and also won the Dutch & European U23 TT crown with Steven Lammertink. By pioneering a radical new route of being a rider agency that is controlling the means of production in terms of their assets, SEG placed four of their riders as stagiaires on pro teams this year with three of them catching on to World Tour teams.

There is a teething process with first year teams thus there is a high turnover for 2016. Out of the original 16 man team, only 5 are staying over for the 2nd year. The moves were for various reasons including fit with the team, underperformance or finding a team that can suit their needs better.

The riders they are keeping are young but pretty strong. Biermans is the strongest, at least in terms of results, with his 2nd in the Paris-Roubaix Espoirs and one-day potential. Klaris has a season in his legs and should be able to get some nice results in 2016.

As they say, out with the old and in with the new. And boy, did they grab some nice new. Tim Ariesen comes over from Jo Piels where he tore it up this season with the overall win in the Carpathian Couriers Tour and a solo win in the GP des Marbriers. You might recognize the name but his brother Johim, who won 10 UCI races this year with Metec.

They went and got two Australian talents that were hiding out in France in Freddy Ovett & Nick Schultz. Ovett, who just rode his first full season on the international level with Chambery CF, should be ready to produce in the hills after a trial by fire with the French team. Schultz is another climber that loves a hard, week-long tour and has been at the service of others in recent years, be it Jack Haig or Rob Power.

The two big juniors the team is bringing in next year are Dane Mathias Norsgaard and American Jack Maddux. Norsgaard is an absolute powerhouse that had a penchant for solo breakaways. I always take young Danish talents with a grain of salt because they have had an incredible rate of coming in under expectations. Maddux had an incredible ride at the opening stage of the Trofeo Karlsberg, where he won in solo fashion. The surfer boy from California might be more of a long term project but he brings a certain personality to the team.

IN: Ariesen, Jack Maddux, Ovett, Schultz, Mathias Norsgaard, Yannick Detant, Marten Kooistra and Martijn De Jong.

OUT: Jonas Bokeloh (AWT-Greenway), Davy Gunst (Rabobank Development), Yoeri Havik (3M), Rob Leemans (Baguet Cycling Team), Sea Keong Loh (??), Robert-Jon McCarthy (??), Ricardo Van Dongen (3M), Jasper Bovenhuis (AnPost??), Steven Lammertink (LottoNL-Jumbo), Koen Bouwman (LottoNL-Jumbo), Alex Peters (SKY)

Rabobank Development

The de facto Dutch National Development Team is coming away well after losing some big pieces for next season but still making out fairly well. The team did their job with Sam Oomen and graduated him to the World Tour rankings and also did well with Antwan Tolhoek, who stagiaired with Tinkoff and is now off to Roompot on a neo pro deal. Honestly, getting rid of Piotr Havik wasn't a huge loss for them as he was a bit stagnant. Van Trijp had some shit luck this year and could still turn out to be a strong sprinter if he can pin a season or two together. A bad crash the Tour de Normandie wiped out his spring and he went under the knife for knee surgery mid-season. Metec could revive his career and see him still get to the pro ranks.

The team adds Davy Gunst from SEG Racing, who is still finding himself but seems to do well in the hillier terrain. They also bring on 4 new riders from the junior rankings in Dylan Bouwmans, Jelle Nieuwport, Bob Olieslagers and Maik van der Heijden. The juniors were not huge on the results with Bouwmans winning one UCI race and van der Heijden more known as a cyclocross rider.

IN: Davy Gunst (SEG Racing), Dylan Bouwmans, Jelle Nieuwport, Bob Olieslagers and Maik van der Heijden (all juniors)

STAY: Martijn Tusveld, Stan Godrie, Lennard Hofstede, Jeroen Meijers

OUT: Piotr Havik (3M), Sam Oomen (Alpecin-Giant) and Maarten van Trijp (Metec), Antwan Tolhoek (Roompot)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Alexey Vermeulen: Making the step up after l'Avenir downer

Things were looking for Alexey Vermeulen at the end of July. A successful Giro della Valle d'Aosta showed he was able to stay with some big-time climbers in the mountains and had him hopeful for the Tour de l'Avenir in August. There was zero doubt in his mind that he would be on the form of his life in France trying to bring the USA a top GC result.

Just two kilometers into the Trofeo Almar Nations Cup, there was a change of plans. Alexey describes the moment best on his personal blog:
"As I came screaming into the mess of riders crashing in front on me only 2 km into the race...I found myself in that moment where everything slows down and you can nearly control the uncontrollable. Gripping my brakes as hard as I can, attempting to find any sort of traction in my tires as they slide across the road like sheet of black ice. All of a sudden I feel the bike stop as I go flying over the handlebars on to the asphalt at nearly 40 mph. I quickly get up to assess myself as well as get out of the path of the riders behind me who are continuing to crash, but I immediately sit back down once out of the road, something is wrong."
 Vermeulen's season was just turned on its head. "I had to argue for an x-ray at the hospital in Italy because I was told my wrist couldn’t be broken if I was texting" Vermeulen said, "I was texting my director!" The prognosis was a broken scaphoid (wrist) and initially, the Pinckney, Michigan native thought he could pull off the impossible but eventually he came to the realization that it wasn't going to happen.

 "After Trofeo Almar, I was in denial that I could race in a wrist splint and didn’t give up on racing until a few days before the start. I couldn’t comprehend that I would actually not race L’Avenir; it had been the focal point of my year." Vermeulen continued saying, "It still hurts thinking about missing L’Avenir this year.  I turned down a stagiaire spot to race l’Avenir in a leader’s role. I thought with a little good fortune it could be my big result for this year and a perfect wind up for Worlds. Last year, 29th place was a learning experience, and this year I had put in the work and adjusted my race schedule to be in top form for L’avenir…I guess we will never know. "
Vermeulen bucked up upon returning home and after consulting with a family friend who happens to be an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Michigan, he decided to have surgery. The reason? To speed the recovery time and perhaps get a chance to salvage his season with one more big race...Worlds.

With the wrist on the mend, Vermeulen had one shot to qualify for the USA's World RR team for Richmond at the Reading 120 in Central PA. While it was a long shot, Vermeulen toed the line nearly 7 weeks after breaking his scaphoid and gave it a shot. While the monsoon weather basically took him out of the running as the descent off Mount Penn was atrocious, Vermeulen was just enjoying getting back to a racing level. He didn't make Worlds yet Vermeulen wouldn't have done anything different with the comeback try because, as he sees it, it is better to try and fail than to not try at all.

Looking back at the season as a whole, it certainly had its high points but it wasn't quite as neat as 2014. "In 2014, I never flatted, crashed or had any ill-timed mechanicals-lucky.  2015 was a bit the opposite as I missed many opportunities, mostly due to things out of my control.  That’s part of racing and I’m a better rider for it."  An example of one of these missed opportunities was as the Liege-Bastogne-Liege U23 this year. "I made a late split with 10 or so other riders in the last 10 km, and then we were shown the wrong direction by a confused course marshal. In the end, there is no one really to blame except myself for not knowing the course. I was 5 hours deep in a race and cross eyed just following the wheel in front of me," Vermuelen said.

It wasn't all thumbs down this season though. Vermeulen went up against the Axeon & Cal Giant leviathan on the difficult North Lake Tahoe course with a handful of BMC teammates. On a course filled with climbs, crosswinds and heat that cracked droves of riders, Vermeulen star was shining. "I really thought I had a chance when I went 20 km from the line and no one (else) could follow," Vermeulen said. It was looking great but for the Pinckney, Michigan native until 3 kilometers to go, when he was brought back by a trio of riders including eventual winner Keegan Swirbul. While it wasn't a win, Vermeulen didn't mind the result. "I was bummed not to pull on the stars and stripes but at least I made them work for it!" He proceeded to go 2nd to in the U23 TT to United Healthcare signing Dan "Swole" Eaton.
In Europe, Vermeulen did string together some results in mountainous stage races in the Ronde de l'Isard and the Giro della Valle d'Aosta. In l'Isard., Vermeulen wasn't able to stay with the pure climbers but consistent top 10 finishes in the three mountain stages netted him 7th overall.  In Aosta, Vermeulen had probably the best day of his season on the brutal stage 3 to Valtournenche, which was 5.5 hours on the bike on a 100 mile course. Vermeulen finished 6th on the day in the same group with Rob Power, Laurens De Plus, Simone Petilli and Sindre Lunke, all of whom are going WT next season. While a high GC finish didn't pan out, Vermeulen was realistic about the year.

"l'Isard, Nationals and Aosta were decent results but each race left me hungrier than the last. I do not I regret chances taken." Vermeulen said. "I regret crashing, of course, but it’s a tough sport. This season had its ups and downs but ended on a high note. Signing with Lotto validates past efforts, and I’m excited to race at the next level."  

One piece missing from U23 that would have benefitted Vermeulen is longer time trials. "I am a good climber but a time trial is where I could really gain time against the pure climbers. My engine is made for longer efforts in terms of days and individual TT efforts." Long time trials are virtually non-existant in U23 racing with the longest ones being just over 20 kilometers in length. If even given a 40km time trial, it could see a rider such as Vermeulen vault up the GC ranks as opposed to letting just the best climbers have a chance in races with mountains. Vermeulen continued, "I believe U23 stage races need longer time trials to prepare for the professional ranks. Even l’Avenir, considered to be the U23 Tour de France, only has a prologue; longer time trials are a missing piece in U23 racing."

While Vermeulen might have had some up and downs with the season, his talent certainly isn't taken for granted as Lotto-JumboNL signed him for the next two seasons on a neo-pro deal. Vermeulen, whose family hails from the Netherlands, sees the move as a little coming home and plans on learning Dutch in the off-season in preparation for the move. While Vermeulen is the lone American on the team, he doesn't have a fellow English speaker in George Bennett on the team and will be a part of the team's plan to branch out from just Dutch speakers with Primoz Roglic (Slovenia) and Enrico Battaglin (Italy) joining the team. Vermeulen will also be more at home as he plans on relocating to Girona, which has long been the English-speaking base in Europe with many English speaking riders having ties to the area.

While discussing off-season plans, one in particular had Vermeulen light up. "ICEMAN!! You know I will be toeing the line again in the freezing mud in November to kick off my 2016 season if the wrist is 100%. It’s great fun for me because it’s the one race I don’t race for contention but just enjoy being on the trails in Northern Michigan." For those that are not in the know, Iceman Cometh is a Midwest staple that takes place every year in the Northern Michigan on a stretch of single and double track MTB trail from Kalkaska to Traverse City every November before the icy grips of winter fully take hold. While this year's race is sold out and will take place on November 7th, check out the race's website for some more background.

While it most likely will not be an instant transformation, Vermuelen will be one of a handful of American riders that will be building towards being a GC threat. With Tejay van Garderen being the only legitimate Grand Tour threat and Andrew Talansky not being incredibly consistent, teams are looking to get young Americans and mold them into riders that can contend in World Tour events. Vermeulen, Lawson Craddock and Gavin Mannion are in with the likes of Ian Boswell and Larry Warbasse as young Americans trying to cut it. With his time trialing ability, Vermeulen could make an early impact in some smaller races next season so while the jump is quite big, there is no reason to ignore him.

To follow Alexey on his journey as a neo-pro, you can follow him on Twitter.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Transfers Extravaganza, Pt. 1

The transfer season has seemed to be a bit...heavy this year with riders going every which way before the teams are locked for the new year. While other sites like cyclingfever are amazing and update transfers by the hour, I'll give the rundown of some more U23 focused moves. These moves are still ongoing so you will see multiple posts regarding this. While I would love to start with teams such as Axeon and BMC Development, their rosters are not finalized for next year.

Lotto-Soudal U23

IN: Alex Braybrooke, 18 (Great Britain), Jonas Castrique, 18 (Zannata-Lotto Menen), Stan Dewulf, 18 (Zannata-Lotto Menen), Robbe Ghys, 18 (Sport en Moedig Genk), Mikkel Honoré, 18 (Danemark), Kevin Inkelaar, 18 (Netherlands/Avia WCup), Ward Jaspers, 18 (Balen BC), Bjorg Lambrecht, 18 (Avia WCup), Edward Planckaert, 20 (BCV Works-Soenens), Harm Vanhoucke, 18 (Young CT), Thomas Vereecken, 18 (Avia-WCup), Aaron Verwilst, 18 (Tielt)

OUT: Jean-Albert Carnevali (CC Chevigny), Maarten Craeghs, Laurens De Plus (Etixx-OPQS), Frederik Frison, Alexander Geuens, Mathias Krigbaum, Hayden McCormick (ONE Pro Cycling), Ruben Pols (Topsport Vlaanderen), Brecht Ruyters, George Tansley, Dries Van Gestel (Topsport Vlaanderen), Kenneth Van Rooy (Topsport Vlaanderen), Massimo Vanderaerden (Veranclassics-Ekoi), Dieter Verwilst

A giant reshuffle leaves Lotto with one of their youngest teams in years. 11 of the 24 riders are first year U23 riders and another 7 of them will be 2nd year riders. That makes 75% of their team coming into 2016 with 1 or less years in the U23 ranks. The returning riders are no super stars. Riders such as Steff Cras and Enzo Wouters are really going to need to step it up for next season while Vereecken was one of the most consistent juniors this past season.

It looks like it is going to be an interesting year for Kurt van de Wouwer's team but a lot of younger riders will get chances in bigger races, which can only help them.


CC Etupes

IN: Rémi Aubert, 20 ans (AC Bisontine)
Alexandre Ballet, 20 ans (Team Hörmann)
Mickaël Plantureux, 21 ans (VC Rouen 76)
Romain Seigle, 21 ans (AC Bisontine)
Emilien Viennet, 23 ans (AVC Aix-en-Provence)

OUT: Jérémy Maison (FDJ), Hugo Hofstetter (Cofidis), Guillaume Martin (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Thomas Bouteille (AC Bisontine), Mathieu Le Lavandier (WAW Pro Cycling), Maxime Le Lavandier (WAW Pro Cycling)

Just seeing the riders that are leaving, fans would see that Doubs-based CC Etupes is in for a long year ahead. They are sending their three star riders to the pro ranks in Maison, Martin and Hofstetter while the Le Lavandier brothers, who were a shadow of themselves this year compared to years past, are off to a new continental team, We Are Wales.

While the team is looking lighter off the bat, they still have some strengths. Leo Vincent proved himself in the mountains with final stage wins in both the Tour des Pays de Savoie and Ronde de l'Isard. Damien Touze was a standout junior and should be better in the one day races next season.Viennet is bouncing back after a tumultuos fall from the World Tour ranks with FDJ and will be looking for his first full season of racing after barely getting any racing kilometers the past few seasons.



IN: Cédric Beullens, 18 (Junior, Kon. Balen BC)
Michael Cools, 21 (BCV Works-Soenens)
Cédric Defreyne, 20 (BCV Works-Soenens)
Jordan De Haes, 18 (Junior, Davo Cycling Team)
Nico Houtteman, 19 (VZW Tieltse Rennersclub)
Célestin Leyman, 18 (Junior, APT-Spie Douterloigne)
Guillaume Seye, 19 (VL Technics-Experza-Abutriek)
Bjarne Vanacker, 18 (Junior, Zannata-Lotto CT Menen)
Gauthier Vandevyvere, 18 (CT Spider King Ieper)

OUT: Gilles Loncin (arrêt), Miel Pyfferoen (Atom 6-Tops Antiek), Maxime Farazijn (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Aimé De Gendt (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise)

Lots and lots of Belgians...with two of their big guns in Farazijn and De Gendt going to Topsport, riders like Ben Declercq, Christopher Noppe and Piet Allegaert will need to take more of a leading role. Looking at the new junior arrivals, Cedric Beullens is one of the ones to watch after winning the Keizer der Juniors.


Chambery CF

IN: Léo Danès, 18 (BIC 2000), Aurélien Doleatto, 18 (Bourg-en-Bresse Ain Cyclisme), Kevin Geniets, 18 (LP 07 Schifflange), Guillaume Millasseau, 18 (Argenteuil Val de Seine 95), Romain Pommelet, 18 (EC Plouha-Lanvollon), Martin Alexander Salmon, 18 (Wheelsports-RV Queidersbach)

OUT: Nico Denz (Ag2r La Mondiale) François Bidard (AG2R La Mondiale), Mattia Viel (Unieuro-Wilier-Trevigiani), Freddy Ovett (SEG Racing), Benjamin Jasserand (retire) and Julien Roux (CR4C Roanne)

The hills are alive with the sounds of new U23 riders in Chambery. Chambery CF, which has been tied to the Ag2R foundation since just about forever, is bringing in a new batch of young recruits to replace a successful class including Denz and Bidard graduating to the pro team. They will have just one non-U23 rider (MTB specialist Jordan Sarrou) on the roster and have some of the biggest hopes in French cycling returning including Nans Peters and Aurelien Paret-Peintre.

With the exception of Leo Danes who comes from BIC 2000, all of their new signings are juniors with German Martin Salmon and Luxembourger Kevin Geniets being the ones with the best junior results.

The team will most likely not be overwhelming and win the Coupe de France DN1 but with the amount of young talent they have, their riders will be bound to break through somewhere.


More to come in the next few days...