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Friday, July 1, 2016

Stagiaire Roundup

It is that time of year again and in just one month, a lucky few young cyclists will get the opportunity to race amongst the highest level. Stagiaire announcements are coming thick & fast with the French once again being the first out of the gate but the Belgians are hugging their wheel.

FDJ - David Gaudu and Léo Vincent

David Gaudu (Côtes d'Armor) is going to be a rider that many will be surprised to see. If he is able to make a clean transition, the repetitive attacking quality that Gaudu has it pretty incredible.  The opening stage of the Ronde de l'Isard was the perfect showing of this. On the final climb to Goulier Neige, Gaudu kept poking and proding, launching multiple attacks even when they were probably not in the best spot. Gaudu launched late on the climb and then came back for the sprint and managed a 2nd place against guys who he had to chase his tiny frame for the last half hour. A wily French climber showing himself in the mountains? The crowds will go nuts.

Leo Vincent (CC Etupes) was a rider last year that was a specialist for stage wins and crazy attacks. This year, it is a bit of a different story. Vincent has turned his sights towards the GC and has taken high GC spots in the Ronde de l'Isard, Pays de Savoie and the Tour du Jura, which he won.

Both riders were associated with the FDJ Foundation, which supports a few number of riders from various teams and usually selects their neo-pros from there, ala Odd Eiking.

Lotto-Belisol - James Shaw, Kevin Deltombe & Michael Goolaerts

Deltombe just broke his collarbone so he will need July to heal up and hopefully give him time so he can race with the pros

more to follow...

Ag2r - La Mondiale - Nans Peters (??)

He has a contract for 2017 but stagiaire bid isn't confirmed. Would not be surprised to see him him join the team.

more to follow...

Caja Rural - Jon Irisarri

Irisarri has already signed a contract with Caja Rural for next year after moving up from their amateur team.

more to follow...

Delko - Marseille Provence - Sofiane Merignat & Ronald Yueng(??)

Yueng was said to be joining Delko way back in January but mid-way through March, he signed with Chinese team Wisdom-Hengxiang so is this deal still on the table? Doubtful but we shall see.

more to follow...

Roubaix - Métropole - Pierre Barbier & Dylan Kowalski

Brothers of Roubaix alums in Rudy Barbier (still on team) and ex-pro Rudy Kowalski

more to follow...

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

No Mas: Savoie Mont Blanc Roundup

The rack, the medieval torture device, was used to get information out of people. Once placed on it, the victim's limbs would slowly be ratcheted to the point where their joints would be dislocated and muscle fibers would be stretched to the point that they would be unusable. The Tour de Savoie Mont Blanc was sort of like that this year. The race started off and slowly but surely, the pain ratcheted up. Hunger knock set in. The legs just hit a point of no return and you have to let go. From a breakaway, riders pop off and the numbers dwindle. If you are lucky, you turn and see no one behind you.

Many other places have done a race report but as not to spit out verbatim nonsense, let's go with a few quick things

I was not sure what type of rider Enric Mas was...

until here but even though he showed his climbing chops here, will he be able to sustain it? This was his 2nd GC win of the year but while he was very strong here, there is a nagging feeling in my head that this won't be permanent. Perhaps I am just a bit stunned by his rampant improvement from last year to now.

Adrien Costa isn't infallible and that is okay

Costa made a bit of a comeback later in the race by taking the time trial stage and riding well on the final stage of the Colombiere but he isn't going to win everything. After the Peace Race and here, it is a good reminder that even for prodigious talents, the U23 ranks are necessary.

This race...should it go full U23 or invite more pro teams?

Savoie sits in a weird place on the calendar as they have to invite some Professional Continental teams but they send weird teams, which end up getting beat by a handful of U23s. It isn't all bad for the riders as Pierre-Luc Perichon proved he was back on form and got an invite to the Tour. Granted, there should be opportunities for older continental racers and not everything should be on the U23 circuit but don't let the young bucks show you up.

Léo Vincent is the next big French GC talent

Last year he picked off stage wins. This year, he did an about face and has been focusing on GC efforts. He has gone 3rd and 4th in the Ronde de l'Isard and Savoie Mont Blanc, respectively. Vincent admitted he was afraid on the final stage of Savoie when he backed off of the descents due to rainy conditions and did not have the killer instinct on that day. If he can find away to harness his natural attacking spirit with a focus on GC, the French will be crying for joy.

Jhonathan Narvaez

Wow...just wow. For someone who hasn't raced in the mountains, this was an eye opener. You should have known this name if you have read this blog before but burn it into your brain now. He is the world record holder for the individual pursuit in the junior ranks and his talents could be making their way to a road near you.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Savoie Mont Blanc Stage 1: Breaking Away

This stage was always going to be a difficult one to predict as form could be varying and with 6-man teams, it isn't necessarily easy to control a mountain stage unless you have some near World Tour strength ala Jack Haig at last year's Giro della Valle d'Aosta working for Rob Power.

The race took off in fairly dreary weather at a rip-roaring average speed of over 50 km/h for the first hour. The breakaway for the day got away early and it was surprising but understandable how it was allowed to even get away. The group included some GC hitters such as Chris Anker Sørensen, Brice Feillu, Lennard Hofstede, Aurelien Paret-Peintre, Julien Antomarchi, Jesus del Pino & Jhonathan Narvaez along with other strong riders like Romain Campistrous, Alexis Guerin, Pat Lane, Pascal Eenkhoorn & local boy Remy Rochas. There were no pretenders in the breakaway with two former Grand Tour stage winners (and both on the same team) and a handful of young prodigies. The big losers in terms of the breakaway? Axeon-Hagens Berman & BMC Development.

The breakaway kept a gap between 2 to 3 minutes through the first half of the race and other than the the two KOM climbs, which were won by Paret-Peintre and Narvaez, the race was fairly quiet. Well quiet is a relative term because it wasn't an easy day for the riders by any means. A relative detante came to an end in the breakaway as Chris Anker Sørensen crash and Pascal Eenkhoorn proceeded to t-bone into him. Both were able to continue but soon after, Eenkhoorn crashed again and was done for the day.

Alexis Guerin attacked the breakaway on the Marais climb and thanks to a bunch of head turning, he was able to grab an advantage that was capped at just under a minute. Guerin, who does have some decent to good time trial results, was annoyingly persistent and stuck it out of the rolling finale. Both the breakaway and peloton were inching closer but it was a counter attack from the breakaway with Hofstede and Narvaez moving up to Guerin while the others were in no-man's land until the peloton picked them up with 10 kilometers to go. Paret-Peintre was very close to making it up the road with them but eventually saw his fate and was absorbed by the chase and then the peloton.

The three attackers turned it to 11 and kept it stuck there to keep a healthy advantage on the peloton. A reduced peloton in chase mode couldn't get within 30 seconds of the trio and after getting over the final bump on the course, they plunged into Cruseilles. Guerin led the sprint out from 400 meters out and neither of the two climbing-oriented riders were able to come around the GSC Blagnac rider for the win. Behind it was Leo Vincent (CC Etupes) taking the best of the rest in 4th.

GC riders that finished safe in the chasing peloton include Vincent, Paret-Peintre, Nans Peters, Tao Geoghegan Hart, Adrien Costa, Steff Cras, Kilian Frankiny, Schlegel, Papillon and Brun, among others. Some that missed out include Chris Anker Sørensen (crash) and TJ Eisenhart (crash).

Guerin took a big fall in the Boulces de l'Artois earlier this year and he has admitted it has been a hard journey back to form. This performance will certainly keep him in the eye of some pro teams even if he isn't able to hold onto this lead for the rest of the race.

The biggest consequence here is that Hofstede and Narvaez now have 30 seconds in hand against any potential GC contenders. While tomorrow is a hard day, the opening of the stage is fairly straight forward and they can just try to conserve energy before La Féclaz.

I do have to say that Costa is a bit of an unknown here after he dropped out of the Zavod Miru U23 due to crapping his brains out and then not eating for three days. If his best form is still here, he is a threat to win. It has been a long year and this is probably his last big race before August so perhaps he goes all out? The road will let us know soon.

The stage to Féclaz is short and sweet. As I said earlier, there is no tricks here. It is a race to the bottom and then a race to the top from there. As of now, some rain is still in the forecast for the Chambery region so any riders reading this over breakfast should keep the jackets nearby and the casquettes at the ready.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Tour de Savoie Mont Blanc: The Hills are Alive

Only a few weeks ago, the highest Alpine roads were just becoming cleared of snow and now, vulcanized rubber will meet tarmac onto some of the most scenic and one of the most beautiful areas of France, Savoie. It is planted inside of the mantle of Europe with hills and mountain dotting the surrounding horizon while small ponds add substance to a region that produces some fabulous wine, Beaufort cheese and fruit.

The city of Saint-Michel de Maurienne, the launch point for the race as well as the site of the mid-race time trial.
Just 527 kilometers in length, the race itself gains over 11,500 meters in elevation over 5 stages, one of which is only a 7.5 kilometer time trial. There are some just a few giant climbs included in this race but there is an untouched gem in the climb to La Féclaz.

Stage 1 will most likely sort some of the wheat from the chaff but will most likely not be very consequential in terms of GC unless a small group gets away. There could be separation at the end as there is an uncategorized climb that kicks up a few kilometers before the downhill finish into Cruseilles.

Stage 2 will most likely form the GC race as it will basically be a race to Thoiry, where they do a small little loop before continuing up to the ski station at La Féclaz, which overlooks Chambery. Steep gradients mark the final climb with steady ramps of ~9% while there are pieces that briefly touch 13 to 14%. It is a beast of a climb that pure climbers will looking forward too.

Stage 3 is a bit like stage 1 in that is has a good amount of climbing but will most likely not play too much of a factor with GC, especially with an afternoon time trial coming up. From Chambery, the race rides up the valley and goes steadily upwards from Saint-Michel de Maurienne to the peak at Aussois before descending down to the finish.

A short time trial on stage 4 in the afternoon right after stage 3 is a short test but on a rolling course, a non-pure climber could help themselves by taking some time out of the featherweights.

The final climb will probably confirm or deny those that showed up on stage 2. Four climbs are on the docket including the big momma, the Col de la Colombiere, which will be one of the biggest tests of the race. Once summiting the climb, it is a steep descent down to Cluses for the finish.

The stages are short and sweet to keep the action tight, which is something I agree with as mountain stage races can become blowouts fast.

Contenders

Here is a full list of the riders for the race from directvelo and it is a who's who list of young climbers and continental journeymen.

-Jesus Del Pino leads Burgos BH in a race that they have tried to make their own over the years but haven't been able to take a win.

-Chambery CF come in with a loaded team with Paret-Peintre, Cosnefroy, Rochas, Peters, and Pigeon that could definitely land a person on the podium.

-Direct Energie & Fortuneo come with their B-teams to this race but they Fortuneo look like they could get a podium contender with Frederic Brun, Brice Feillu and Pierre-Luc Perichon.

-Roubaix-Lille has Antomarchi, who podiumed here last year, while Rabobank have newly signed with Giant-Alpecin rider Lennard Hofstede.

-Axeon bring a stus team headlined by Tao Geoghegan Hart, Ruben Guerreiro and Adrien Costa. Costa's form is a mystery as he dropped out of the Zavod Miru Nations Cup so I don't know if he will be up to going for a stage race overall at this point but Geoghegan Hart and Guerreiro are good back ups.

-Doesn't seem like Klein Constantia have a GC threat but Schlegel and Narvaez probably will like this terrain to play around a bit. Same for Avanti but Australian U23 RR champ Chris Hamilton might try to go for a top 10 on GC or go for a stage result.

-Leo Vincent won the final stage here last year but he seems to be more focused on GC this year so he might try to go for a top 10 overall for CC Etupes but he does like a good solo attack.

-Steff Cras & Bjorg Lambrecht take the reins for Lotto-Soudal again here in the mountains. Lambrecht has taken better overall results this year but they should finish fairly close to one another inside the top 10 of GC.

-Kilian Frankiny seems to wait to go for a big result until hitting a hilly/mountainous stage race so he could be a good shot for a top 5 overall if he is firing on all cylinders.

-From the French amateur teams, look for Lucas Papillon and Julien Liponne, who are both top 10 contenders overall.

Espoirs Central Podium Pick for Tour de Savoie Mont Blanc

1. Chris Anker Sørensen
2. Bjorg Lambrecht
3. Tao Geoghegan Hart

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Weekend Roundup

What a weekend, huh? I watched more track racing this past weekend in Trexlertown. If you don't know Luke Mudgway's name then please remember it now. I watch him race and curse that the Olympics do not have a points race or scratch race (shut up about the Omnium) because against a fairly strong field including names like Christian Grasmann, Marcel Kalz and Stephen Hall, Mudgway carved them up. I do have to say watching Marcel Kalz try to pull back a half lap lead in roughly 5 laps of a 333m track was a treat because there was a scary look in his eye. Last note from T-Town is Canadian sprinter Hugo Barrette. He was flying in the keirin after leading for two solid laps as the moto pulled off and having speed to burn to hold off Kwesi Browne, Simon Van Velthooven and Matt Baranoski. Looking good for Rio...if the velodrome gets done.

Also, wishing Australian sprinter Holly Takos a speedy recovery after a scary fall in the keirin final where she punctured her lung.

Now back to your regularly scheduled writing...sort of.

Timmy

He isn't a U23 but Timothy Dupont has continued to have one hell of a season. Dupont has always been a capable sprinter on the UCI Europe Tour with a handful of wins every year. He hit a peak in 2013 with Ventilair-Steria with 8 wins including 2 Tour de Bretagne stages. After trending downwards for a couple of seasons with Roubaix-Lille Metropole, Dupont moved to the Verandas Willems continental leviathan and has went off with 8 wins already this year, all of which are UCI wins, and had gotten close to taking scalps that include Bryan Coquard, Giacomo Nizzolo and Kenny Dehaes. He might not have the out and out speed of some of his rivals but he can make it over a harder course than many of his other rivals cannot so at 28 years old, this may be his coming out party.

Maronese & Zalf-Euromobil-Fior trumps Consonni & Colpack

Maronese playing for the crowd after a Zalf twosome beat a Colpack foursome.
The picture says it all. Simone Consonni has not found the form that took him to 2nd place in the World U23 RR but he seems to be coming around with his sprint form. Consonni isn't a rider that has the pure speed of some recent Italian U23s like Jakub Mareczko but on a course with some bumps and a non-traditional sprint, Consonni is still a force.

Ben Perry & GP Saguenay

An opening stage that Estonian Mikhel Räim described as the coldest day he has ever experienced on a bike, Silber's Ben Perry beat out Räim in a tough sprint in La Baie to take the first stage of the GP Saguenay after a breakaway dominated by Silber and Räim's Cycling Academy team took the race by the reins. Perry's hot form carried over from Philly, where he placed 7th on the Manayunk Wall, but got a huge test trying to hold off Räim over the weekend.

A crash for Perry on the criterium stage 3 gave Silber a scare but team tactics saw the GC slip away from Perry to teammate Ryan Roth, who made the breakaway on the final stage and thanks to making the opening breakaway, he scored the overall and vaulted over Perry and Räim for 2nd and 3rd. While the GC win would have been nice, Perry will probably be looking to match his stage win in Tour de Beauce from last year as Canada's oldest pro stage race starts on Wednesday.

Other races...

Pascal Ackermann went 7th in the Rund um Köln against legitimate sprint talents like Groenewegen, Greipel, Arndt, Sbaragli, Renshaw and Ciolek. Ackerman won two straight stages in the Tour de Berlin and comes from a very strong track background that includes a World Championship in the team sprint as well as a European Junior Championship in the Omnium. I have a very good feeling that Ackermann will be getting an offer from a German team for a stagiaire role this summer. I believe this team is on the World Tour and recently announced they are searching for German talent and they won't let a big sprint talent get away.

Hamisch Schreurs continues his great season with Klein Constantia after going 5th overall in the Okolo Slovenska (Tour of Slovakia) after making the split on the decisive stage won by Mauro Finetto. Klein Constantia enjoyed a successful race as Frantisek Sisr won the points jersey and Jhonathan Narvaez finished 2nd in the KOM classification.

Jon Irisarri signed with Caja Rural, which was the first contract announcement for 2017. Irisarri rode for the Euskadi system before joining Caja Rural Amateur this season. Irisarri has taken four wins this year, mainly in sprints out of small groups. He is a quick rider that can compete in some sprints but does better on selective courses. He doesn't have a ton of experience in UCI races so I wouldn't go out of your way to get him in your cycling fantasy league but give him a few years to develop.

The Ronde de l'Oise had a wonderfully difficult final stage that sent people scattering. Belgian powerhouse Nathan Van Hooydonck made the front split and took the small group sprint for the stage win and securing 3rd overall. It was Van Hooydonck's first big individual U23 win and bodes well for him going forward, especially to break out of the classics-only mode that some might want to put him into. Rabobank had a good race with Martijn Budding taking an...interesting sprint for the win while Cees Bol finished up 4th overall.

First year U23 rider Kevin Geniets (Chambery CF) from Luxembourg has made quiet results this year. After going top 20 in the Zavod Miru U23 Nations Cup, Geniets came to the Tour du Beaujolais in the Rhône Alpes and won the opening stage in a solo move. With the 2nd stage being annulled, Chambery was able to successfully defend the jersey with Geniets taking the overall win while Jordan Sarrou won the KOM and points jersey and Chambery taking the best team as Hugo Pigeon, the lightest all-arounder in the game, finished 3rd overall.

Valentin Madouas (BIC 2000) took his 3rd win in a week after winning the final stage of the DN1 Coupe de France Tour d'Eure-et-Loir. Riding for the smaller Bretagne outfit that saw Olivier Le Gac carry them in recent years, Madouas is one of the gems for Fortuneo-Vital Concept and will most likely stagiaire there again in 2016. Aurelien Paret-Peintre led the U23s in this year with a 3rd overall for his Chambery CF team while Elie Gesbert (VC Pays de Loudeac) won the 3rd stage of the race in a small sprint while his team kept control of the French DN1 Coupe de France classification by over 100 points on Chambery and nearly 300 over perennial favorite Vendée U.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Giant-Alpecin can't seem to make up their damn mind

Scrolling through the bits and bobs of cycling news from today, I see a re-typed press release on Cyclingnews regarding Giant-Alpecin.


Oh that is really good to see them creating a team to support the development ranks in cycling. There are more teams that should support that cause. I'm surprised Giant-Alpecin and their previous iterations haven't had a continental team before. Oh wait...


So...they are re-launching their team? I wonder what happened...



Team manager Iwan Spekenbrink offered a nice quote to sum up the decision.
“We have explored the capacities of having a development team connected to our structure this past season, but found it not effective enough in developing our team structure as a whole to continue it for another season,” explained Team Giant-Shimano general manager Iwan Spekenbrink. (Velonews Oct. 3, 2014)
Let's get this straight. They launch a development team in 2013 that only last for one season before hitting the grinder. They announce these talent days in a partnership with the BDR (German Cycling Federation) to promote German talent with male and female riders between 17 and 20 years old. The 2016 talent days are happening right now in the Eifel mountains. Days after that press release comes the announcement of these new development teams to help mold developing talent using all of the same experts as the pro squad.

Will we see another press release after the end of next year that they will be moving away from a development team model? Or is Alpecin sponsorship putting pressure on Spekenbrink to develop German talents, which then caused a flip-flop with his development team decision? In any case, it looks a bit ridiculous for him to be changing course so drastically in a relatively short period of time.



Monday, June 6, 2016

Weekend Roundup: Philly, Italy and more

The Zavod Miru U23 Nations Cup was obviously the big race of the weekend but one should look elsewhere as talent lies in every nook and cranny. Speaking of the U23 Nations Cup, France is now leading ahead of Norway at 85 and 82 points, respectively, with Great Britain vaulting up from 5th to 65 points.

I went to Trexlertown this past Friday for opening night of the annual UCI races and while seeing some of the best sprinters in the Western Hemisphere (plus a few others). One of the takeaways was from a feisty U23 in Luke Mudgway from New Zealand. In the 15 kilometer Scratch Race, he judged his moves to perfection by taking a lap halfway through and once Bobby Lea nearly ripped the cranks off his bike to get on terms, Mudgway then went solo to take a brilliant win. He is a former Junior World Champion in the Madison so he isn't a total unknown but definitely a name to remember.

Anytime I see a big time endurance talent on the track, I do become quite enraged how track cycling has been neutered in the Olympics and has basically given next to no incentive for many countries to invest in the beautiful sport.

Philly

While I didn't make it down for Philly, it looked quite good from my computer. Besides Chris Horner throwing a little temper tantrum on Lemon Hill, a shoutout is in order for the best U23 of the day, Canadian Ben Perry from Silber, who finished 7th up the Manayunk Wall.

Italia

While it is now well publicized, let's all wish Keagan Girdlestone a speedy recovery from his horrific crash that saw him airlifted from the Coppa della Pace after smashing through the back windscreen of a team car.

Cyrille Thiery took a lovely solo win at the Milano Tortona, where he went away and kept going, going and going. Thiery finished with over a minute gap but the sprint behind offers a few hints. 2nd place from last year's U23 World Championships, Colpack's Simone Consonni has been fairly quiet this season but he was able to put the flame out off on-fire Damiano Cima (Viris Maserati) by beating him for 2nd place by half a bike length.

Elsewhere, Zalf-Euromobil dominated a race in Veneto because...well it's Veneto. They are not to lose on home soil.

Everywhere else and more...


-Enzo Wouters nearly stole the Memorial Van Coningsloo from the top Belgian sprinter of the year, Timothy Dupont of Verandas Willems, but came up less than a bike length short.

-Speaking of the track, Ivo Oliveira was quite active in Portugal at the Anadia meet by winning the Kilo TT with a time of 1:03 and followed it up with 2nd in the Individual Pursuit, behind fellow U23 Benjamin Thomas.

-For the past few weeks, there has been a Tour of Ukraine happening that along with the Tour of Ukraine, has included about 2 weeks of racing in the country thats fate is still up in the air. On the U23 front, Azeri rider Samir Jabrayilov has been consistent with 5 top five finishes in sprints as well as breakaways. The competition level was strictly Eastern European so nothing to get Team SKY calling but it is certainly something.

Anything else that should be mentioned? Let me know...