Thursday, April 16, 2015

U23 Schedule SNAFU

I think someone at the UCI got a little too buzzed before giving the all clear on the UCI schedule for this weekend, mainly in regards to the U23 racing. This Friday and Saturday, the ZLM Roompot Tour is on the UCI Nations Cup calendar, which determines the number of spots a nation can get at the U23 World Championships. Also scheduled for this weekend on Saturday is the non-Nations Cup race but still very important Liege-Bastogne-Liege U23.

Now you may be right in thinking that these races do not have a ton of overlap seeing as the ZLM Tour is on the dikes of Zeeland while LBL takes place on the endless hills of southern Wallonie. Yet having these races overlap is utter bullshit and just another reason that the UCI fails to have foresight to make a cohesive schedule to expand racing audiences and allow teams and countries to be able to get the best out of their riders.

I wonder why one of these races couldn't be pushed one week later? In all honesty, the Nations Cups should be drawing the biggest and best talent from the respective countries as well as including the best races. While I know that this is  a more complicated question that I am making it as there are UCI license fees and other hoops to jump through to be able to be apart of the Nations Cups circuit  but why couldn't Liege-Bastogne-Liege join this circuit? Anyways, I'm getting away from my original point.

Is it that hard to schedule these races so that you aren't overlapping them and compromising them? No, it isn't. Yes, national teams and trade teams are always going to have an interesting relationship but don't make it an even harder decision for them, UCI.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

La Côte Picarde: ¡Vince Consonni!

The northern coast of France took on an Italian look today during the 2nd of the season's U23 Nations Cups. 27 nations toed the starting line in Crotoy for 180.7 kilometers of fun along some windy and mainly flat French coastline.
The day started out with an attack trying their best to get established but it wasn't until nearly an hour was done that 1st year U23 Eddie Dunbar was able to get clear and the pack was willing to let him go. Dunbar, a very talented junior who now rides for the British NFTO team, was restless in the pack and decided to go for it and a cheeky move turned into a nearly all-day breakaway.
With a free pass from his Belgian DS, Dunbar got a lead that max out at over 7 minutes on the peloton. Federico Vivas (Argentina) tried in vain to chase down Dunbar but had no luck in doing so. He was briefly joined and subsequently passed by Kazakh Grigoriy Shtein, last year's junior Asian RR Champion. Shtein could only make it within 5 minutes of Dunbar before running out of steam.

With 60 kilometers left, Dunbar still had over 4 minutes on the peloton but soon after, a counter move by Massimo Morabito (Luxembourg) and Juan Curachet (Argentina) got out of the peloton. Shortly after, they were joined by Jonas Koch (Germany) and the trio began to steadily chomp at Dunbar's advantage. The pace of the breakaway and peloton began to ramp up but Dunbar still had an advantage of over a minute on the chase after being out front for over 100 kilometers.

The chase group was finally able to make a junction with 30 kilometers to go and the quartet plowed on trying to avoid a seemingly inevitable fate. Dunbar showed strength beyond his years as he and Koch broke away from the other two on the rolling hills on the finish circuit and continued towards the line. It wasn't until 18 kilometers to go and the beginning of the final circuit that Koch and Dunbar, who had been out front for 124 kilometers or roughly 3 hours of racing, were brought back into the fold. For his hard work, Dunbar brought home the KOM trophy and got a nice handshake from Eddy Merckx on the podium.

It was Soren Kragh (Denmark) that lit the touch paper on the final lap as he took the KOM on the final circuit. Jack Haig made a small move but was followed closely by Gianni Moscon (Italy), who had a few kilometers of freedom before being brought back. The only true attack in the finale that had the peloton sweating was started by a two man move by Austrian Felix Großschartner and Dane Mads Pedersen, who got off the front with just after Moscon was brought back. Soon after it was Ronde van Vlaanderen U23 Truls Engen Korsaeth (Norway) who bridged up to the duo and with 5 kilometers to go, they were nursing a 10 second advantage. Korsaeth has been a revelation this week and was using some secret herring-aided strength to power the move but it was for naught as they were brought back just before 3 kilometers to go.

Consonni looks like a Stretch Armstrong but his sprint is masterful
Photo: Courrier Picard/
Into the finale kilometer, my pick for the win, Daniel Hoelgaard, was looking good for the win but Simone Consonni of Italy (Colpack during the rest of the year) timed his sprint to perfection and wearing some ridiculous POC sunglasses, the Italian took a huge victory ahead of last year's Ronde winner Owain Doull and Hoelgaard.

  1. Simone Consonni (Italy)
  2. Owain Doull (GB)
  3. Daniel Hoelgaard (Norway)
  4. Yoann Verardo (France)
  5. Aksel Nömmela (Estonia)
  6. Mads Pedersen (Denmark)
  7. Colin Joyce (USA)
  8. Jan Dieteren (Germany)
  9. Pryzemyslaw Kasperkiewicz (Poland)
  10. Lucas Gaday (Argentina)
Full Results can be found here

-This was the first edition of this race to finish in a true bunch gallop since 2011 when Arnaud Demare won ahead of Alexei Tsatevich and Tosh van der Sande. This is only the 2nd true bunch sprint in this race since 2005.

-Consonni's win along with Gianni Moscon's performances the last two races have shown that Italy has come to play this year. The last couple of seasons have seen Italy fall a bit flat in the Nations Cups while succeeding at home against domestic competition. These two come from two different programs in Colpack and Zalf-Euromobil but Consonni has proven himself as an impressive sprinter at just 20 years old while Moscon can get it done on nearly any type of hilly terrain.

-Italy takes the lead in the Nations Cups overall by 7 points on Norway and 11 on France.

-Truls Engen Korsaeth? Didn't really know the name before last weekend but I will be remembering it for certain. After strong performances in the Ronde van Vlaanderen and here in Picarde, he is on the form of his life right now.

-A little underwhelming so far this year? Jon Dibben.
-Above, a wild Kazakh mechanic seems to be contemplating life out of the car window while in the caravan.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Ronde van Vlaanderen U23: Edmondson makes history

In the U23 ranks, Australia is pretty light on legitimate classic threats and historically hasn't had a deep roster in races that go over cobbles. Yeah, Caleb Ewan was always a threat in almost every race he entered but he crashed out of last year's Ronde van Vlaanderen and isn't necessarily built for the Northern Classics. Michael Matthews is the only Australian to ever make the Ronde van Vlaanderen U23 podium but even then, Matthews is more built for the the hillier roads of France, Spain and Italy. The dearth of Australians in the Northern Classics does make sense though if you look at their development. Their U23 base is in Italy and the team tends to take riders that can climb or time trial ad they ride race in Italy, for the most part, that feature a lot of climbing or races that feature rolling terrain or have stages that accentuate the time trial.

This day would be different for the Australians.

14 hills were on the docket with three climbs being climbed twice including the Steenbeekdries, the Taaienberg and the Eikenberg. A breakaway of two including Matthew Zenovich (New Zealand) and Lucas Gaday (Argentina) got away in the opening kilometers but shortly after, Gaday was dropped and Zenovich was out front alone in the lashing wind and rain. Even with many riders attempting to bridge, the Kiwi who rides for the NZ/Japanese amalgam CCT p/b Champion System
 It took over 100 kilometers before Zenovich was brought back with 75 kilometers to go and the real race started. At 65 kilometers to go, a group of 9 got away and defined the rain-soaked race. The breakaway consisted of Nils Pollitt (Germany), Martijn Tusveld (Netherlands), Francesco Rosa (Italy), Markus Faglum (Sweden), Dylan Page (Switzerland), David Per (Slovenia), Kenepajs (Latvia), Amund Grøndahl Jansen (Norway) and 1st year Stepan Kurianov (Russia).

The gap grew to nearly a minute before Great Britain got on the front for their man Owain Doull. The breakaway began to splinter on the first time up the Steenbeekdries and Taaienberg with Kurianov, Per, Faglum and Rosa falling off the pace. The front group was splintered with riders such as Nans Peters (France) and Krists Neilands (Latvia) moving up to the break before even more riders such as Alexander Edmondson (Australia), Nathan Van Hooydonck (Belgium) and Franck Bonnamour (France) came up to join the fun.

Nearing the base of the Koppenberg with 25 kilometers to go, the breakaway was neutralized and a peloton of 40 riders were flying into the base of the climb. With the cobbles being slick with rain and an unforgiving 22% maximum gradient, the Koppenberg was at it fiercest today. On the steepest part, Edmondson accelerated away from the rest of the riders and was trailed shortly by the likes of Jan Dieteren (Germany) and Gianni Moscon (Italy). Really, it was the riders that were able to stay up right that had some sort of chance at making the finale group.

Others such as Nathan Van Hooydonck, Löic Vliegen and Daniel Eaton were able to make it over the Koppenberg but it was going to get sketchy for them very quickly.

The trio of Edmondson, Moscon and Dieteren were away with a select chasing group after them but soon after, Dieteren was lost and it was just the Australian and Italian riding for the win out front.
The other that was supposedly in this group was Truls Korsaeth (Norway) but it was definitely Edmonson and Moscon out front with the Norwegian being the first chaser. Behind him was the French duo of Nans Peters and Franck Bonnamour, who were both ahead of the chasing peloton.
Coming into the final kilometers, the duo were obviously fighting it out for the win. Moscon was the surprise to be in this position as his strengths lie more in the Italian hills but he proved his all-around strength by making it to this selection. Edmondson was capitalizing on his GP Rancillo win and riding like a man possessed. It would come down to a two-up bunch sprint...

Incredible win by Edmondson and while it is no indicator for classics success in the future, it is nice to see Australia branch out and taking a big Northern classics win in the U23 ranks. Moscon can't be faulted as Edmondson has a wicked sprint on him. Korsaeth came across the line for 3rd just 7 seconds back for his biggest result ever while Peters and Bonnamour came around at 54 seconds for 4th and 5th. Mihkel Räim (Estonia) had a fantastic race for 6th while it was Mads Pedersen who came across the line in 9th to win the small chasing peloton sprint ahead of Owain Doull and Davide Martinelli.

  1. Alexander Edmondson (Australia)
  2. Gianni Moscon (Italy)
  3. Truls Korsaeth (Norway) +7"
  4. Nans Peters (France) +54"
  5. Franck Bonnamour (France) s.t.
  6. Mihkel Räim (Estonia) +1'23"
  7. Anders Skaarseth (Norway) s.t.
  8. Fabien Grelier (France) +1'37"
  9. Mads Pedersen (Norway) +1'39"
  10. Owain Doull (Great Britain) s.t.
  11. Davide Martinelli (Italy) s.t.
  12. Daniel Hoelgaard (Norway) s.t.
  13. Twan Brusselman (Netherlands) s.t.
  14. Jan Dieteren (Germany) s.t.
  15. Daan Myngheer (Belgium) s.t.
  16. Krists Neilands (Latvia) s.t.
  17. Michal Paluta (Poland) s.t.
  18. Daniel Biedermann (Austria) s.t.
  19. Amund Grøndahl Jansen (Norway) +1'42"
  20. Daniel Eaton (USA) +2'44"
Some takeaways...

-Belgium only had one in the top 20. Some mind find it disappointing but they had bad luck with crashes and I'm sure they will be back in La Côte Picarde and the ZLM Tour.

-France put in 3 in the top 8. Les Bleus are red hot so far this year and Peters, Bonnamour and Grelier are all continuing impressive seasons.

-Norway put 5 riders in the top 19. These races aren't a perfect look to the future but on such a shitty day with the rain and wind, having nearly your whole team in the front peloton is quite a feat.

-Raim's finish is the highest ever by an Estonian and the highest by a rider from the Baltics since Toms Skujins in 2011. Raim rides for Immo Pro Nicolas Roux in France while not on the National Team.

-The Netherlands, Swiss and Danes were fairly anonymous through the day. The Dutch got into the break with Tusveld but nothing other than Brusselman in 14th. The Swiss? A couple in the breakaways but best finished was 28th in Thery Schur. The Danes? They just didn't do much of not. Yeah, Pedersen was 9th but they were anonymous in the group through the day.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Italian Roundup: Zalf likes to prove me wrong

In my head at least, I like to thing that Luciano Rui or some one high up with the Zalf-Euromobil team read my last article about Zalf being usurped by Colpack this year and gave it to everyone on the team as motivation to kick some ass. The past few days has saw some of the most important one-day races of the spring for Italian U23s with the Trofeo Piva, Giro di Belvedere and the GP Palio del Recioto. Zalf will not take being knocked off the top step of Italian amateur cycling lightly.

Trofeo Piva

The Trofeo Piva has a few steep climbs that always separates the race somewhat and leads to a small group coming to the line; at least since they changed the course a few years ago. The race this year really kicked off with 20 kilometers to go when the big hill on the course, which is unnamed because I cannot find a race website or map to save my life the Combai climb, that was 2 kilometers long and peaked at 20% gradient. A group of 15 riders managed to get off the front after the 2nd passage of the climb and the group featured some big names such as Rob Power, Silvio Herklotz, Tao Geoghegan Hart, Gianni Moscon, Loïc Vliegen, Simone Petilli and Ildar Arslanov as well as some young names like Patrick Müller, Artem Nych and Laurens de Plus.

Coming into the final kilometers, the group was holding off the chasing peloton but last year's 5th place Felix Großschartner (Felbermayr - Simplon) lept away on the slight uphill finish with Nych (Russia) and the Austrian Großschartner accelerated in the sprint to take the win and continue his strong early season. Davide Gabburo (General Store) led in the chasing group ahead of Gianni Moscon (Zalf) and Loïc Vliegen (BMC Development). The race broke a 4-year streak the Australians had going with getting a rider on the podium while the Austrians have a two-year winning streak going now. Last year's winner Gregor Mühlberger was in the final group but crashed out with 15 kilometers to go.

Full Results

Giro del Belvedere
What can be considered to be a home race for Zalf-Euromobil, the Giro del Belvedere is just 1 hour away from the team's base in Castelfranco Veneto. The race goes around the village of Villa di Villa and is punctuated by the Conche climb, which is smaller and done 10 times, and the Montaner climb, which is the big climb of the day that usually separates the race and is done twice.

The race saw a breakaway early on but the action came on the Montaner climb towards the later stages of the race. The first ascent saw Andrea Vendrame (Zalf-Euromobil) get away with Seid Lizde (Colpack), Geoffrey Curran (Axeon) and TJ Eisenhart (BMC Development). The quartet got a bit of a gap but on the twisting descent at Rugolo, Vendrame went full kamikaze and stretched his lead out. Lizde and Eisenhart were dropped while Curran followed just a small distance behind. On the 2nd ascent of the Montaner ,Vendrame led over the climb while a quartet of chasers formed behind him including Curran, Rob Power, Silvio Herklotz and Gregor Mühlberger. Again, Vendrame used some strong downhill skills to stretch his gap out to 20 seconds at a point and entering the final left hander to the finishing straight, he had enough time to look back and celebrate his first UCI victory of his career and Zalf's first major victory of the season.

Behind Vendrame, Curran put in a late surge and it wasn't until meters before the line until he was paseed by Mühlberger for 2nd. Power and Herklotz finished 4th and 5th to show that while they might not be on peak form, they are certainly their to challenge nearly any racer. The sprint for 6th was won by Colpack's champion sprinter Simone Consonni ahead of Trofeo Piva winner Großschartner and BMC's Loïc Vliegen.

Zalf was able to make it two in a row in this race after hometown boy Simone Andreetta won the race last year for them in a two-up sprint over Herklotz.

Many riders put in good back-to-back performances in the UCI rated Trofeo Piva and Giro del Belvedere including Loïc Vliegen (8th and 5th, respectively), Rob Power (13th and 4th), Herklotz (10th and 5th), Großschartner (1st and 7th), Lennard Kamna (25th and 9th), Sebastian Schönberger (14th and 13th), Ildar Arslanov (9th and 15th) and first year Patrick Müller (12th and 18th).

GP Palio del Recioto

This race began the season on the UCI calendar but reverted to an amateur race and lost a lot of the international racers that it has seen in previous years. Perhaps a budget move or to get an Italian winner after only having one in the last five years, the race featured mostly Italian teams with the Australian National Team making an appearance.

To make a long story short, the breakaway spent the majority of the day out front before Jack Haig (Australia) lept out of the chasing peloton to get away solo on the penultimate lap while a chasing group including Gianni Moscon, Simone Petilli (UniEuro Wilier, Giulio Ciccone (Colpack) and Davide Gabburo were shortly behind. While Haig plowed on ahead, Moscon attacked out of the chase group and on the final lap of the race, Moscon bridged to Haig with just a handful of kilometers left. Coming out of the final right hand corner, Moscon came around Haig with with 200 meters to go to take the 2nd big win for Zalf-Euromobil in as many days.

Gabburo brought up the chasers for 3rd ahead of Filippo Fiorelli and Stefano Nardelli. Colpack had 3 riders in the front chasing group in Giulio Ciccone, Edward Ravasi and Andrea Garosio but they couldn't finish better than 6th.

Along with a couple more local wins, Zalf was able to break the 10 win mark for the season and while they do have the largest and have the best funded Italian amateur team, they are not ready to relinquish their hold as the best team in Italy.

Triptyque Monts et Chateaux: Vendée U dominates; Calmejane continues dream year

For the last few years, Triptyque Monts et Chateaux has proven to be a good indicator of form for the Nations Cups in Belgium, France and the Netherlands. Triptyque is a bit weird in that many people don't think of Wallonia as a spring mecca for U23 riders. The race offers flats and hills, smooth roads and cobbles as well as some lovely spring crosswinds.

The French have been going well so far this year and Triptyque was their coming out for the spring. In regards to warning shots, they used a sawed-off shotgun to let everyone know that they are ready to bash some heads. Vendée U and the French National Team both came to the race and from the beginning, they showed they were aggressive.
Stage 1 was all over the place with groups going left and right in the finale. For the majority of the race it was Marc Fournier (France), Maxime Farazijn (EFC - Etixx), Sjoerd Bax (Rabobank Development), Michael Goolaerts, Joachim Vanreyten (Lotto - Soudal U23), Ruslan Giliazov (Russia), Brent Luyckx, Viktor Manakov (Leopard Development) and Daan Myngheer (Verandas Willems) out in front leading the race.

After a Luyckx acceleration with a bit under 80 kilometers to go, Fournier was the only one to follow. Soon after, Fournier dropped Luyckx and with 60 kilometers to go, Fournier was solo. Even though he had won the Coupe de France Boucles Guegonnaises round the prior weekend, it looked like a doomed ride for Fournier. While it was a long way out, Fournier plowed on and was brought back after the 2nd to last bonus sprint. While a group with Nans Peters, Lilian Calmejane and Justin Oien got away in the finale, there was a late shuffle and Peters stayed aware with Fournier bridging with German Nico Denz.

Denz was dropped in the finale and the French national team duo was able to ride to the finish in tandem with Fournier taking the brilliant win after spending nearly all of the race out front not to mention taking his 3rd win. 25 seconds later, Romain Cardis won the bunch sprint for Vendée U over last year's champion Owain Doull (Great Britain).
Stage 2 was the queen stage for the race and finished on Mont de l'Enclus. Basically, the race boiled down to 12 riders in the lead group including Doull, 5 Vendée U riders (1 was riding for the French National Team) along with some other riders like Piet Allegaert, Maxime Farazijn, Alexander Kreiger. With 4 kilometers to go, Lilian Calmejane put in a strong attack and left everyone standing still. Calmejane, who took one of my favorite wins of the year last year in the Ronde de l'Isard, powered away for another win, his 4th on the season. Doull came in for 2nd with Calmejane's teammate but not for this race Fabien Grellier. Calmejane's teammates Jeremy Cornu, Taruia Krainer and Romain Guyot all finished in the top 8 and within 35 seconds.

Stage 3 was rather boring stage in terms of following the race. A breakaway got away and Ruslan Galiazov (Russia) took the majority of the KOM climbs to take the climbers jersey while the racing really heated up with 25 kilometers to go. An attack by Steven Lammertink kicked everything off with a small attack. It didn't stick but he ended up getting into a move with Justin Oien, Dries De Bondt, Piotr Havik, Remy Mertz and Dmitry Strakhov that got traction in the final 10 kilometers. The group had to keep the gas on as the peloton was going full bore at this point. Lammertink was the aggressor and was able to take out the sprint win ahead of Strakhov and Mertz to take SEG Racing's first UCI win. 8 seconds back from the winner was the peloton led in by GC leader Calmejane ahead of Doull.
The final day was an up and down day into Frasnes-les-Buissenal. Eight riders were fined for behavior which damages the image of cycling including Calmejane and Doull. Nicolas Vereecken got into a breakaway and swept up a mass amounts of sprint and KOM points and the Belgian was able to take both the sprints and KOM classifications overall. Other than this, the race was selective but when it came down to it, it was a mass sprint to the line with about half the peloton. Belgian Maxime Farazijn (EFC-OPQS) took out the sprint over SEG Racing's Robert-Jon McCarthy and Frederik Vandeweile.

Lilian Calmejane took the overall to continue the dream start to his first season out of the U23 ranks. 5 wins and April isn't even half way through yet. Calmejane has dropped his cyclocross ambitions and if he keeps it up, a road career looks very much viable. His Vendée U team has about the best race possible with a stage win and, technically, 5 riders in the top 8 placings overall. The French look to be in fine form for the upcoming Nations Cups. Speaking of form, Owain Doull looks like he could take on of the Nations Cups this year after his 4th place last year in the Ronde van Vlaanderen U23.

Anyways, Triptyque saw some riders showing off while others were more coy about their form.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Weekend Roundup: Consonni takes 2; Subida a Gorla

Outside of the Tour de Normandie and the Volta ao Alentejo, the weekend had results all over the place including Italy, France, Spain, the Americas and more.

Simone Consonni takes two

Team Colpack's Simone Consonni became the first Italian rider to take 2 wins in the season and he did it over the span of 2 days. Winner of the GP Citta di Perignano in a bunch sprint over Marco Maronese (Zalf-Euromobil) and Marco Corra (Mastromarco), Consonni and his Colpack team came into the weekend already looking like the team to beat.

On Saturday, the team went to Milano-Busseto, which is a traditional sprint fest that draws out all of the big teams. Previous winners include Francesco Moser, Giovanni Lombardi, Fran Ginanni, Ian Stannard and neo-pro Nicolas Marini, among many others. The race more or less stayed together over the 140 kilometer course and Consonni proceeded to jump first and beat everyone by a considerable margin as he still had 2 bike lengths by the time he was celebrating across the line.

The next day saw the Piccola Sanremo, which takes place in Sovizzo, which is nowhere near Sanremo. Really, it is on the other side of the country. Sovizzo, in Veneto, has a course that is mainly flat in the beginning before the final circuits around the town, which has one major climb, the Vigo. The race itself saw a break of 5 be out on the attack for the majority of the race but once the race hit the local circuits, their advantage dropped significantly. The only other challenge came from Davide Gabburo (General Store), Trofeo Franco Balestra winner Alfio Locatelli (Viris Maserati) and Nicola Baggioli (Zalf-Euromobil). The trio got away on the final lap and over the Vigo climb but Colpack was having none of it. In the final kilometers, they led out Consonni and he blew the doors off the sprint and had a couple bike lengths back to 2nd place Nicolo Rocchi (Zalf-Euromobil) and Locatelli, who hung on for 3rd. A full write-up of the race can be found here.

Consonni certainly looks like the rider to beat on the Italian sprint scene so far this year with the important month of April coming up.

Speaking of Italy, there was another race that needs some attention

Edmondson avenges Ewan at Trofeo Rancilio

Last year, Caleb Ewan was flying high and any race he entered most people would put money on him. In Trofeo Rancilio, Ewan and his Australia mates kept the race together and Ewan did his trademark sprint; getting hunched over the bars and wrenching the bike back and forth like his life depended on it. It looked to be working but he launched his sprint about 50 meters too soon. and Jakub Mareczko came by to take the upset win. Ewan's season was quiet until the Tour de l'Avenir.

This year, Australia was back and was looking to avenge Ewan's loss last season. The race was very quick with an average speed of 46 kilometers/hour and a breakaway of three dominated most of the race and it wasn't until two laps to go before the peloton really began to split. With one lap to go, it was 32 riders in front that would come down to decide the race.

In the sprint, Francesco Lamon (Colpack) had a brilliant lead-out going for Riccardo Minali and with 100 meters to go, Minali had a bike length on everyone by track star Alex Edmondson came around him and by the time he crossed the line, he had a bike length on Minali. Results here.

 Edmondson, who was born in Borneo and lived in Holland and Oman before returning to Australia, is a multi-time World Champion in the pursuit and team pursuit. Edmondson sees his strength in the sprints on the road and has already inked a deal with Orica-GreenEdge that is for 2016-17 but will be focusing on getting a gold medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Subida a Gorla: Lastra completes switch from 'cross to road

Nestled in the hills of the Basque Country, Bergara plays host to a little known but important race for Spanish U23 and amateurs. The Subida a Gorla has been running since 1975 and its list of winners is incredible. One five year stretch saw Carlos Sastre, Juan Manuel Garate (x2), Joaquim Rodriguez and Alberto Contador take wins. Other winners include Andrey Amador, Inigo Cuesta, Benat Intxausti, Mikel Landa and Omar Fraile.

This year's edition saw a breakaway of 13 be whittled down to one rider, Jonathan Lastra (Caja Rural), by the foot for the Gorla climb and had 40 seconds ahead of the peloton. Lastra benefited from a large contingent of teammates behind and was able to extend his gap as none were able to break the Caja Rural stranglehold loose. Lastra was able to take victory on the Gorla climb by 1'18" ahead of Jaime Roson (Caja Rural) and Julen Amezqueta (Baque Campos).

Lastra was a star cyclocross rider who was the best Spanish U23 by a mile and was even top 20 in the U23 World Championships in his last year riding in 2014. He basically hung up the knobbly tired last season and didn't make any appearances abroad and instead is focusing on the road with Caja Rural. While he is capable, this win is certainly a big surprise for the Basque rider.

Caja Rural itself is overflowing with talent with riders like Roson, Victor Extebarria, Miguel Indurain Jr. as well as foreign talent such as young Ivan Venter (South Africa). Roson is quite a climber and can go up against some of the best in the U23 world when he is on form. His 2nd place is showing he is on good form and will be one to watch for the spring.


-The San Dimas Stage Race might have sucked in terms of live updates and very slow on getting results out but there actually was racing that took place. In terms of GC results, the race was largely decided in the opening TT, which was won by Emerson Oronte (AltoVelo). Junior Adrien Costa (Cal Giant) continued a strong spring with 3rd place while Canadian U23s Adam De Vos (7th) and Alex Cataford (9th) had good top 10 rides.

The road race only saw 46 out of 155 riders make the front group while only 78 finished the race. Espoirs Central favorite Robin Carpenter (Hincapie Racing) won the sprint ahead of U23s Fabrizio Von Nacher (KHS/Maxxis) and Cory Williams (InCycle-Predator).

On the final criterium stage, Williams took out the sprint for InCycle while fellow U23 Ansel Dickey (Cal Giant) finished 4th on the stage. Dickey's teammate Costa was looking good for a GC podium but had to bow out of the race due to knee problems. On the GC side of things, Oronte took the win while De Vos and Cataford finished 4th and 6th overall.
-The past weekend saw two rounds of the Division 1 Coupe de France with two major winners. In Saturday's GP Gilbert-Bosquet (Finistere), Fabrice Seigneur (Sojasun Espoirs) was out in front but on the false flat finish, he was struggling big time and trying his damn best to stay out front. Frank Bonnamour (BIC 2000) had attacked from the group behind a few laps before and was chasing and within sight of the red flag, he made the junction. Bonnamour started his "sprint" early at 400 meters to go but was easily able to drop Seigneur to take the biggest win of his career so far and his 3rd of the season. Full results can be found on Directvelo.

Bonnamour was the European junior champion in 2013 and after an 8th overall in the Tour de Bretagne last year, he got a stagiaire role with his home team, Bretagne-Séché Environment. He is set to ride Triptyque Monts et Chateaux with the national team and should be a prominent player in the upcoming Nations Cups.

The 2nd Coupe de France race of the weekend was the Boucles Guegonnaises in Morbihan, Bretagne.
After getting called out by his coach and team leader following his DNF in the GP Gilbert-Bosquet, Marc Fournier was coming in with a chip on his shoulder and told his team that the day was going to be theirs. After being told that he wasn't performing in the big races, Fournier made the junction to solo rider Anthony Perez (AVC Aix-en-Provence) with Romain Cardis (Vendée U) inside the final 3 laps and the trio was off. Perez admitted Fournier was the strongest of the trio and with 5 kilometers to go, Fournier began to attack and was able to dislodge from his breakaway companions.

Fournier took the win solo while Perez came around an exhausted Cardis for 2nd place. Cardis' Vendée U teammate Lilian Calmejane, who is the French U23 rider of the spring so far, came across solo for 4th place and solidified Vendée U's lead in the DN1 Coupe de France race by 18 points on Sojasun Espoirs.

Fournier will be in the French teams for the Nations Cups and has an eye on Paris-Roubaix.

-In other French racing news, Guillaume Martin took a victory for the first time in nearly 2 years after winning the 80th Annemasse-Bellegarde and back out of a small group including first year U23 Aurelien Paret-Peintre (Chambery CF), Leo Vincent (CC Etupes) and Brazilian Caio Godoy (UCI Cycling Centre). Martin is a rider that can climb very well but struggles on big mountain days. He was 4th in the Tour Alsace last year and 2nd on the stage to Markstein, which goes over Grand Ballon, the highest point in Alsace and the apex of the Vosges Mountains. Martin will be peaking for the U23 Peace Race with the French National Team, which should suit his style of riding.

-1st year U23 Patrick Müller, who was a junior sensation the last two seasons, took his first win of his Espoirs career by winning the GP de la Courtine in Switzerland in a four man sprint including track riders Tristan Marguet and Claudio Imhof. Müller, who rides with BMC Development, should be getting some international races on his schedule soon enough.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Tour de Normandie: Shake your Caen Caen

Heading into the final stage, Alex Peters (SEG Racing) and Dimitri Claeys (Verandas Willems) were tied for the GC lead with Peters taking the nod due to stage count back. It came down to the shortest stage of the race of 155 kilometers through some usual Norman weather for March - rain and winds that gusted to 40 mph. It was like Gent-Wevelgem except no one was blown off their bikes and the race was decided on the line, not 50 kilometers out.

The race began slowly but soon a solo attack by Gaeten Bille (Verandas Willems) went out to soak up time bonuses for Dimitri Claeys. Bille put in a hard ride with tough winds, which would usually be something that would be forgotten into the footnotes. Alexis Bodiot (Armee de Terre) and Tim Vanspeybroeck (3M) attacked in tandem to get up to the lone rider but were never able to make the junction. The wind wiped against the peloton with such ferocity that after 100 kilometers, the majority of which were near the sea front at Omaha Beach, only 30 riders were left in the peloton.

After the big right hand turn and heading towards Caen, Bille was returned to the peloton with 35 kilometers left. The race was in tatters but it wasn't until Floris Gerts (BMC Development) launched an attack on the outskirts of Caen that the race really got on edge. Gerts, the winner of the Dorpenomloop Rucphen, was 29 seconds down on GC and quickly got a gap that was up to 35 seconds at one point.

Gerts was riding like a man possessed on the front with the chase in the peloton behind disorganized. Three local laps around the hippodrome totaled just 10 kilometers but heading into the final lap, Gerts still had a 25 second lead. With some luck, that could have been enough to get him the win. The peloton surged to life and Gerts' lead was slipping dramatically but it was too little too late and the Dutchman was able to cross the line solo for his 2nd win of the year.

Don't cry. You won!
Behind, the GC race was coming down to the bonus seconds on the line. Peters is a climber and his sprint is well...just alright. Claeys on the other hand is a kermesse king and has been a handy sprinter for years on all levels.

Claeys wins the GC thanks to the 6 bonus seconds for 2nd place.
Claeys took the sprint for 2nd and Peters finished mid-pack and the bonus seconds was how the race was decided. Claeys, the first Belgian winner, added his name to the winner's list of the Tour de Normandie that includes British legend Paul Curran, Ekimov, Hushovd, Sammy Dumoulin, Kai Reus (x2), Thomas Dekker and current BMC professionals Silvan Dillier and Stefan Küng.

While SEG racing was denied their first UCI win of the season, they were able to finally get a UCI podium thanks to Alex Peters stage placings and 2nd overall. Hackney-born Peters won the best young rider overall while fellow teammate and U23 Koen Bouwman won the KOM classification.

Other storylines...

-BMC Development wasn't able to make it 3-in-a-row in the Tour de Normandie but they did leave the race with bookend stage wins. Tom Bohli finished off a consistent week with 6th overall.

-Rabobank Development was decimated by illness and injury as 5 out of their 6 riders left the race before the 5th stage. The team's lone finisher was first year U23 Peter Lenderink, who finished a respectable 28th overall.

-U23s had a very respectable week with 5 riders in the top 10 with Peters (2nd), Daniel Hoelgaard (4th), Tom Bohli (6th), Gerts (9th) and Owain Doull (10th). Along with 4 stages wins, it was a good weeks for the young bucks.

-Teams that underperformed? Itera-Katusha, Lotto-Belisol U23 and Armée de Terre.

-The last stage saw 37 DNF/DNS riders. Only 66 finishers with Estonian Oskar Nisu (VC Rouen 76) last on GC at 52'13" back on Claeys.