Friday, January 13, 2017

Devo à la française: And now, for everyone else... Pt. 1

After going through the revamped Chambery CF line-up, it is time to get a taste of the up and coming talent in the French amateur ranks. With three divisions of the Coupe de France, it is nigh on impossible to give full previews of each team so let's just focus on the U23 talent through the first division plus some select picks after that. After you...

AVC Ax-en-Provence

The Energizer bunnies (one of their main sponsors) of the PACA region are back once again with a mix of younger and older riders, many of whom are focused on climbing including non-U23s like Yoann Barbas and Alexis Dulin. A club since 1925, the Elite team has a U23s to keep an eye on in Brit Alex Braybrooke. The reserve squad also includes an interesting talent in Masahiro Ishigami, a Japanese rider who had a rough introduction into the U23 ranks but showed promise as a junior.

CC Etupes

One of the perennial contenders in the Coupe de France, the team from the far east (of France) currently has 12 former riders that are now professional (World Tour and Pro Continental) including two from last year's team, Leo Vincent (FDJ) and Fabien Doubey (Wanty Groupe-Gobert). A big signing for them was junior standout Alexys Brunel, who was the European Junior TT Champion along with winning the Chrono des Nations. Brunel can also climb fairly well and he used his time trial abilities to solo to a win in the Gent-Wevelgem Juniors.

After a couple of seasons with Division 2 squads, UK-born Irishman Mark Downey moves up to Division 1, where he will take his all-around talents to the road, where he seems to always do well in the GC of French national races but is still searching for a breakout result. He is a talent on the velodrome where he has a penchant for the points race, where he was 2nd in the European U23 Championship and won the latest World Cup in Apeldoorn.

Past these two, Paul Sauvage is coming over from CR4C Roanne and while his 2016 was a bit off from his strong 2015. He does well on flat to hilly courses and should get plenty of opportunities with Etupes.

CC Nogent-sur-Oise

This team is not as strong as they have been in previous years after losing riders like Corentin Ermenault, Marc Fournier, Benoît Daeninck and Turgis brothers over the last few seasons. They don't really have any standout U23s talents but do keep an eye on Julien Van Haverbeke, who had a few good results in sprints.

CC Villeneuve Saint-Germain

Located up in Hauts-de-France, CCVSG has a high percentage of U23s (14 to be exact) on their 18 man roster but they are going to have an uphill road to turn around their next to last finish in the DN1 standings last season as they lack experience. One of the notable signings was Finnish Niklas Henttala, the brother of Team Type 1 rider Joonas. He did pretty good in the Ukranian UCI races so he could provided the team some much needed results.

CR4C Roanne

While Roanne might be most famous for Salmon & Sorrel from La Maison Troisgrois, gastronomy isn't the only thing happening there. The team didn't have a ton of turnover from last year, only losing three and gaining three back. One of their better non-U23 riders is Lucas Papillon, who has ridden well in both the Ronde de l'Isard and Tour du Pays de Savoie the last couple of years.

Simon Guglielmi, Louis Pijourlet and Julien Roux are probably the best U23s the teams have. Guglielmi had a very good last year with only one win but 27 top ten finishes in mainly national races. Pijourlet is a good time trialist and has been rotating with the French national track squad, where he got a bronze in the team pursuit at the Apeldoorn World Cup. Roux is a developing climber who should like some of the hillier stage races like l'Isard and Savoie.

The other U23 to watch is Valentine Deverchere, who won three times in the early summer and finished high on GC in a few races, including the Tour du Pays Roannais.

Creuse Oxygène Guéret

After finishing 2nd in the DN2 classification, Creuse Oxygène is making the move to the DN1field in what will be only its 5th season in the entire Coupe de France. They are going to rely on Maxime Le Montagner, Kevin Fouache and Nicolas David for results.

In terms of U23s, Lucas Grall had some good sprint results at l'Abitibi last year. Theo Menant is a former French Junior RR champion who had a pretty good ride at Roubaix with 26th that he will be looking to improve.

GSC Blagnac VS 31

The main team from the southwest, GSC Blagnac VS 31 lost two important riders in Romain Campistrous and Alexis Guerin but they are brining on a good host of riders incluing Brit Stefan Bennett, Boris Zimine and Yoan Verardo

The notable U23 is Maxence Moncassin, who is the son of former pro Frederic Moncassin, who is joining the team as a DS this year.

This team isn't looking quite as strong as they did in the past few years so they will be looking to get some nice surprise results in big races.

Guidon Chalettois

This team is lucky they are still in the DN1 after a year where they scored only 40 points (the winners Chambery CF scored nearly 1000) but that doesn't mean that they are completely dead in the water. They have some "older" riders like Ronan Racault and Stephane Duguenet that can produce while they signed two Moroccan riders in Anass Ait El Abdia and Medhi El Chokri.

He isn't a U23 anymore but Ait El Abdia finished 22nd in the Elite Men's World Championships in Doha, which is probably the definition of punching above your weight. If he concentrates on the DN1 events, he could be a big part of the team moving up the table. El Chokri is a great non-traditional U23 talent. The Moroccan finished 5th on the opening stage of the Zavod Miru U23 Nations Cup as well as finishing the Tour de Bretagne, Tour Alsace, Tour de l'Avenir as well as 2nd in the Tour de Cote d'Ivoire.

I have a feeling this team won't be repeating their last place from this year.

Occitane CF

The other team from the Pyrenees is still a bit of a work in progress and will be looking to get out of the basement of the DN1. On the non-U23 front, new signing Bruno Armirail will be looking to find his time trial form that saw him win the French U23 title a few years ago. On the U23 front, the have the Cabanel twins, Thomas and Vincent, who had some decent results last year so here is hoping.

Océane Top 16

While they are located in the Nouvelle-Aquataine region, I am saying that they are more west central France than the southwest. Past that picadillo, this squad is losing a big name in Mathias Le Turnier, who is moving on to Cofidis, but they do keep Yoann Paillot, the time trial phenom who should most likely be on a professional team, and Clement Saint-Martin, who is good on a variety of terrain. They aren't adding a bunch of talent though non-U23 Jayson Rousseau looks interesting with a lot of top 10 finishes.

Stay tuned for Part 2 from the rest of the French Division 1 classification

Friday, January 6, 2017

NZ Championship: Gough takes U23 TT; Gaze finishes 4th

After concentrating on the Rio Olympics for the past few seasons, Regan Gough is finally able to put some effort into the road and he came good. Riding for the now youth-focused AnPost-Chain Reaction squad this year, Gough put in a sizzling ride on the Napier course to beat first year U23 James Fouche, who was twice 2nd in the Junior National time trial the last couple of seasons. Jake Marryatt continues his improvement in the Nationals by coming 3rd, just 22 seconds in arrears, after finishing 6th and 7th the past two seasons, respectively.

Gough has spent a considerable amount of effort on the velodrome but with the Olympics 3 years away once again, he has time to shift his eyes to the road. He is the current National Criterium Champion and he actually did well in the AnPost Ras last year finishing 26th after spending most of the year training for the Team Pursuit. It will be interesting to see how he does on a bigger European schedule with AnPost.

The big surprise from this race was U23 MTB XC World Champion Sam Gaze finishing 4th. He doesn't race on the road much these days but when he does, he can turn heads. Its his first proper time trial as a U23 and to finish 4th, it was pretty darn good but he will actually be an outside threat for the U23 RR, where his smaller body and big power could see a surprise result.

The U23 RR takes place on Sunday in Napier.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Australian TT Nationals

Callum Scotson won the Australian U23 TT Championship in the same way that he won it last year. He stomped the competition on the rolling Buninyong course with Robert Stannard (Delta Rotterdam) being the closest rider to him at 58". Scotson is the first rider to go back to back in the Australian U23 TT since Mark Jamieson did the double in 2004 and 2005.

It really was no surprise to see Scotson take the win as he was in a league of his own but to see Stannard get 2nd is an accomplishment as it is his first U23 race and first in an Australian Championship, having been born and bred in New Zealand.

The 3rd place for Michael Storer is a good sign as he will need to continue his strong time trial performances to compete in longer tours including the Tour de l'Avenir.

The U23 men's road race takes place on Satuday, January 7th.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Devo à la française: Chambery CF

Even before we hit the global reset button, Chambery Cyclisme Formation's 2017 season got off to a horrible start following the tragic death of Etienne Fabre, who fell to his death while hiking in the mountains. While carrying his memory in their hearts and legs, Chambery CF will be trying to match their success in 2016 in which they won the French amateur Division 1 overall by 53 points over VC Pays de Loudeac.

It was the first time that the Savoy-based club won the overall title in the highest amateur class in France and once again, they graduated a rider, in this case Nans Peters, to their parent World Tour team, Ag2r-La Mondiale. They are already guaranteed that for 2017 as well as Benoit Cosnefroy is making a mid-season move to Ag2r-LaMondiale in August on a full contract. Even with the losses of riders like Peters, Martin Salmon (Sunweb-Giant Development) and Jordan Sarrou, Chambery is still chocked full of talent and adding a few more to their ranks.

It speaks to the health of Chambery CF and their development system that many seem to be trying to copy. Riders must be in a school of some sort or be apprenticing for a career while on the team but still racing at a very high level. The team also provides a lot of education on health and wellness as they believe it builds the base for a strong person. Jon Vaughters is trying to copy this system with his Drapac-Pat's Veg Holistic development team but it is something that takes time to perfect. In its current iteration, Chambery CF began in 2001and it has taken 15 years to climb the rankings from Division 3 to winning the Division 1 ranking. That is time that many structures cannot afford or don't take the effort to cultivate. The end product isn't necessarily churning out the best professional cyclists though they haven't done too bad for themselves as 23 rides have gone professional from their ranks.

Nine riders return to the fold while six join the all U23 squad. Along with Benoit Cosnefroy, it will be Léo Danes, Jaap de Jong, Aurélien Doléatto, Kevin Geniets, Guillaume Millasseau, Aurélien Paret-Peintre, Hugo Pigeon and Rémy Rochas.

Cosnefroy is not a conventional stage race talent like recent French talents. One-day racing and stage hunting is where Cosnefroy will make his money. 2nd in both the Amateur and U23 French RR Championships, Cosnefroy was also 4th in the European U23 RR to go along with 16 other top 10 finishes including a win in the Annemasse-Bellegarde et retour, a race won by the likes of Warren Barguil, Kenny Ellisonde, Thor Hushovd and Giuseppe Guerini. On hilly or flat courses, Cosnefroy looks like he will continue the history of the plucky French rider when he transitions to the pro ranks.

Leo Danès is one for a hilly route though he has yet to translate that to a bigger race. De Jong is a good rouleur that is keen on Paris-Roubaix and will be looking to do well in his final U23 season. Doléatto is a keen climber and after a good first year, he should be able to help out in the finale more while getting some glory of his own.

Since Bob Jungels matriculated to the professional ranks, Luxembourg has been trying to find their next big rider. Alex Kirsch is finding his feet as a pro and Tom Wirtgen has been going alright but Kevin Geniets is looking quite promising after his first U23 season. Winner of the Tour du Beaujolais after he solo'ed to a stage win and taking the prologue at the Tour d'Auvergne, Geniets has some good climbing skills. He was 8th at the European Championships in Plumelec and 15th in the Trofeo Almar so a hilly course seems to suit him well.

In terms of a classics-style rider, Millasseau would probably be as close as Chambery CF get. In his first U23 season, he finished in the top 30 in Paris-Roubaix after a junior career that saw a lot of top 20 finishes in the Ronde van Vlaanderen Juniors, Paris-Roubaix Juniors, Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne and others. He has a pretty good kick on him as well so with a year under his belt, he could be Chambery's rider to watch in flatter one-day races.

Next to Cosnefroy and Rochas, Aurelien Paret-Peintre is probably Chambery's most talented rider though he seems to still be finding his way. Paret-Peintre was a standout junior with overall wins including the Giro di Basilicata and the Tour of Istria as well as the Classique des Alpes Juniors. Paret-Peintre, who hails from the Haute-Savoie department, is a climber but besides his Ronde de l'Isard ride in 2015, where he finished 6th, he hasn't been able to string together a GC campaign in the mountains. He was close in Savoie Mont Blanc but he imploded on the 3rd stage. His Tour de l'Avenir started promising but he wasn't a factor in the mountains. If he can get some of the kinks worked out and works on not wasting energy before the climbs, he could round out into the big threat he showed himself to be.

Don't be mistaken by the small package at 57 kg, Hugo Pigeon isn't necessarily destined for the mountains. Pigeon is a former junior MTB National Champion and was 2nd in the junior cyclocross National Championship. He has marked Paris-Roubaix as his dream race, where he finished 35th this year after getting through the Ronde de l'Isard the week before. He is an all-arounder but without a standout result, his preferred terrain is still to be discovered.

Along with Cosnefroy, Rémy Rochas also got a stagiaire ride with Ag2r-La Mondiale this past season and he made the most of it. In the GP Wallonie, he was a solid 25th on the uphill finish at the Citadel of Namur. He also got across the line in the Tour du Doubs, GP Beghelli and Gran Piemonte. After a successful early season that was capped with an solo, uphill stage win in the Ronde de l'Isard, Rochas was 8th in the hilly Kreiz Breizh Elites, 2nd in the Estivale Bretonne behind FDJ signing David Gaudu and 5th in the downright difficult French Amateur Championships. The local boy from Chambéry most likely will not be developing as an overall contender but whether it is hunting for stages or a hilly one day race, Rochas could find a nice home somewhere down the road.

The six new riders include four juniors in Clément Champoussin, Enzo Faloci, Quentin Grolleau and Anthony Jullien while two current U23s Robin Meyer and Maxime Roger.

Champoussin is the Junior National Champion in MTB and finished 5th in the European Championships in Huskvarna, Sweden. Champoussin had a little success on the road with a few smaller wins but without any international rides, it will be hard to say how he will turn out.

Despite the Italian name, Enzo Faloci is quite French. When you share a scooter driver with Mikael Chérel, you are destined for 8 years as a professional hopping between Ag2r, FDJ and Cofidis. He was 2nd in the Classique des Alpes Juniors but he isn't a slouch on the flat either so he should be a potential all-arounder. Plus the peloton always needs another Enzo.

Coming from VC La Pomme Marseille Juniors, Grolleau is another climber coming to the team. 3rd in the Classique des Alpes Juniors in 2015, he isn't just a mountain dwelling wraith as Grolleau was 3rd in the National Junior Road Race and also 2nd in the Junior Scratch on the track. He did beat future teammate Champoussin in the Tour PACA Juniors on the 2nd stage but Champoussin did win the overall.

While he doesn't have any big wins of note, Anthony Jullien is probably the most seasoned junior coming on board in terms of international riding experience. He seems to do well on a undulating courses and could see some success in flat to hilly stage races and in one-day classics.

Robin Meyer comes from Aix en Provence and had a good year last year with a 4th in the Souvenir Jean-Masse DN1 race, won the Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur Championship and 7th in the French U23 Championships.

Speaking of DN1 success last year, Maxime Roger won the DN1 finale at the GP Blagny-sur-Bresle in a small sprint, which is a huge win for a rider that just began racing on the road in 2015. Very strong against the clock who will most likely target time trials but should be good on flat to rolling races.

Even with the loses they have incured, Chambery CF has the strength to take the DN1 classification again in 2017. This is a team structure that more should be paying attention to now and going forward.

Stay tuned for more quick hits about French development teams going into 2017.

Friday, December 16, 2016

North American Devo: Etxabe signs with Aevolo

After a brief wait, it seems that the 10th rider for Aevolo, the new American development team led by former professional Mike Creed, will be Basque rider Jokin Etxabe, who comes from the Seguros Bilbao team. It has yet to be confirmed by the team, along with the rest of the roster, but if this is the case, Extabe would be the only non-U23 rider on the team as he was born in 1994.

Etxabe was never a standout junior rider but over the past couple of years, he has had some really promising results. He was 6th in the Vuelta a Palencia in 2015 and 6th in the Vuelta a Navarra this year, 21 seconds behind Movistar signing Richie Carapaz. Etxabe also was active in one-day races all season after getting ten top 10 finishes. His climbing skills are developing as he went pretty well in the U23 Peace Race (Zavod Miru) and in the Tour de l'Avenir. The wider roads and steadier climbs in the US might be a blessing for him.

What was the most interesting part of this announcement was in the Spanish press, which said that Aevolo is going to be affiliated with Cannondale-Drapac. This is quite interesting as it could, if true, throw a wrench into the team's plans for the season including their hopes for a Tour of Utah and Tour of Colorado birth. If there is any direct affiliation, that would mean that Aevolo would be ineligible to race in any race with with Cannondale-Drapac on the UCI level.

Officially, Drapac-Pat's Veg Holistic Development Team is the feeder team for Cannondale-Drapac and you can read all about their mission here.

A message to Aevolo for comment was not been returned at the time of publishing.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

North American Devo: Axeon Hagens Berman

This article could sound a lot like a press release if I wanted it to. It was another banner season for Axeon Hagens Berman with huge wins like Greg Daniel winning the Elite Men’s National Championship & Tour de Beauce, Neilson Powless and Adrien Costa emerging as a GC threat, Logan Owen winning Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the list could keep going for 3 more paragraphs. Axel Merckx’s team just seems to keep finding another level year after year and after shipping a team-record 6 riders to World Tour and Pro Continental teams for 2017, the team is restocking half of their team with 3 American juniors as well as 5 foreign U23 riders around their returning core.

The returning core is based around Adrien Costa, Neilson Powless and Logan Owen

Costa’s talent is well documented after one of the most impressive first year U23 seasons this side of Caleb Ewan in 2013 and easily one of the best on record for a GC rider. Most likely this will be his last year as a U23 rider so I am certain he will be going out with a bang with the Tour de l’Avenir certainly in his sights.

Powless explosion of results was much in thanks to his time trailing ability, which saw him win Joe Martin, a time trial podium in the Tour of the Gila and then the head-turning 9th place overall in the Tour of California, where he finished 5th on the Gibraltar Road stage after attacking late in the stage. There are some areas of Powless’ riding that need some polishing so with the help of Axeon Hagens Berman and the U23 National Team, Powless could be bringing a marquee result to the team.

The recently married Owen (to Olympic medalist Chloe Dygert) has been trying to handle cyclocross and road over the past few years with good results including a Tour of Utah stage in 2015 and winning Liege-Bastogne-Liege U23 this season in a late attack. All of this is quite draining and with a choice to come soon between the road and cyclocross, Owen has taken this season off from the dirt to rest and build his base for this upcoming year. Owen will be looking to make his mark on one-day races and sprint stages.

Also coming back again is Will Barta, Johnny Brown, Geoffrey Curran, Eddie Dunbar and Chad Young.

Barta seems to get his best results while in France but this year he will be trying to take his time trial and climbing abilities to a new level to help become a more rounded GC rider. 
After a rough 1st year, Brown will be wanting to settle down and get some solid race days in to live up to his double junior road race national championship.  Geoffrey Curran’s time trial went to a new level this past year that culminated in a 7th place in the Doha U23 TT Worlds. If Curran can continue the progress with his TT, he could become a weapon in shorter stage races and could put himself down as an early medal favorite for the Worlds in Bergen.  Dunbar showed his versatility by going in the top 20 in both the Ronde van Vlaanderen, Tour of Utah and Tour of Alberta along with his 9th place in the U23 TT Worlds; will Dunbar reach a point where he will have to sacrifice versatility to get a career-defining result?  Young is another all-around rider that tends to end up in the 20’s when it comes to GC performances so if he continues to add race days and make progress in Europe, it will be a win.

The new crop joining the team include Edward Anderson, Chris Blevins, Ian Garrison (all three juniors), Chris Lawless, Jhonnatan Narvaez, Ivo & Rui Oliveira and Michael Rice.

With first year U23s, it is never good to expect any results as even the most talented riders need  a year to adjust to the new level usually.

In my time following cycling, I have never seen a more unprecedented signing by any professional team, including a development team, than Axeon Hagens Berman signing Edward Anderson. To my knowledge, Anderson only began racing this season in the Virginia High School MTB Series, where he won a round in the spring series and has won twice this fall as well in the same series. On the road, his best results he got when he was racing as a Category 4. Let me repeat, a rider that was racing in the Cat. 4 groups and not obliterating everyone will be riding with Axeon Hagens Berman. He did get an upgrade to Category 3 before season’s end. An interesting result was his 14th place in the Green Mountain Stage Race in the junior category albeit that was just short of a minute off of winner Matteo Jorgensen. Axel Merckx must have gotten some power files that are mind blowing to make a decision like this but even then, it is a stunning move to use a roster spot for Anderson at this stage in his development.

Chris Blevins is one of the brightest talents on both the road as well as in MTB, where Americans have been lacking in the Men’s XC department for a few years now (though Howard Grotts is helping). Blevins has won the National Championship in his age category in XC discipline each year for the last seven years and won the Albstadt World Cup this year, just two weeks after he won the Junior Peace Race (Zavod Miru) overall. Blevins has a good time trial, climbing and wheelie abilities so he should be a great helper for Costa and Powless while finding his own way. Blevins, a Durango, Colorado native, is attending Cal Poly for school.

After getting the bronze medal in the Junior Men’s ITT at the Doha Worlds, Garrison’s name should be familiar to many people. Behind Brandon McNulty, Garrison is the best American time trialist talent. He was top 10 in both the Trofeo Karlsberg (3rd) and the Tour de l’Abitibi (8th) mainly thanks to his time trial abilities. If you can time trial as a junior, you can time trial as a U23; it is just everything else involved that will need to be figured out.

The foreign contingent have been around the block before with some of them being huge talents that I know will turn many American heads after they see them perform.

I have so wanted Chris Lawless to come to America to race criteriums after his past couple of season where he was won multiple stages of the Pearl Izumi Tour Series. Lawless & a British contingent v. Australians in Scott Law and Jesse Kerrison v. Americans in Dan Holloway, Ty Magner and Brad Huff…throw in Ryan Aitcheson, Aldo Ino Ilesic…and now I need to stop before I get a hot flash thinking about a World Criterium League. Anyways, Lawless has gotten his best results in criteriums with six wins in Britain alone this past year with JLT-Condor but he isn’t a criterium rider alone. Lawless was only 19 when he went 6th in GP Pino Cerami in 2015, which is an immense result. This past year, he was 3rd in the Rutland (basically a race run over old farm roads), 13th in the Ride London Classic and also 9th in the British Championships, where he was one of three U23 riders to make the front group of 13. Lawless will certainly be a sprint option for Axeon Hagens Berman but hopefully with another year under his belt, his endurance level will rise so he is able to be competitive in longer and hillier tours.

While barely talked about at the time, Espoirs Central was one of the first, if not the first, English  language sites to talk about the Ecuadorian phenom Jhonnatan Narvaez. I talked about his background in last year’s Klein Constantia preview but for more depth on Narvaez, go to this article from Ciclismo Internacional. The only change from those articles was that his Junior World Record in the 3km pursuit was broken by Swiss Stefan Bisseger this year. In his first U23 season, Narvaez showed big potential in the mountains after winning the KOM and finishing 5th in the Tour des Pays de Savoie. With a full year under his belt, Narvaez could have some fun with Costa and Powless if and when they are teamed up together.

The Oliveira twins are Portuguese track talents that are dabbling in the road side of things. Rui and Ivo were both Worlds medalists in 2014 when Ivo won the 3km Individual Pursuit over Regan Gough, Ivo was 3rd in the Omnium, Rui was 3rd in the Scratch and the pair went 3rd in the Madison. As Elites, they have ridden nearly every track event in Western Europe with Ivo getting the slightly better results in pursuit events and the omnium while Rui had good results in the Scratch and Points. Ivo was 2nd in the European Championships in the Individual Pursuit to World Champion Filippo Ganna after riding a losing but still scorching time of 4’17”. Rui lost the majority of his season after fracturing his femur at the Tour de Gironde. If he recovers well and doesn’t lose a step or two, Rui seems to be more consistent on the road than his brother with a few top 10 results in UCI events, mainly in sprints. Ivo did well at the Worlds in Doha after making the front split so perhaps if his concentration goes to the road after the track season is done, Ivo could turn some heads somewhere.

The last new rider is Michael Rice, a Australian who came from the Canadian Garneau-Quebecor. Rice is a former Junior Australian RR Champion (2013) who left the Australian system for the New World. He has a good year last year too. He had three top 10 stage finishes in Joe Martin and later on, he won a stage in the Tour de Beauce in a late escape. His resume isn’t quite as deep as others but a stage win in Beauce is no joke so he will be looking for more of that.

The only other addition to the team will be a new European DS, Koos Moerenhout. The long time pro with Rabobank and Lotto was a DS with Rabo Liv for the past 5 year since retirement from the peloton. With Moerenhout on the ground in Europe, he will be key in making the day to day life a bit easier and trying to snag a few other invites to fill calendar holes.

With the big crop of talent leaving the coop, Axeon Hagens Berman will have to find an answer as over half of their podiums from 2016 were from departing riders but with the new riders joining and old ones hitting another level, it will be no surprise to see them gelling and excelling soon enough. 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

North American Devo: CCB Velotooler

With the 2nd installment of this coupling, one of the oldest cycling clubs in America is making the move towards the continental level while working on a tight budget. Based out of Boston, CCB has been a club for nearly 40 years and will face a test trying to compete on the continental level while managing a budget of under $100,000 for the whole season. For 2017, the team will be known as CCB Velotooler and like Aevolo, the U23 riders will be either in college or graduate school but unlike Aevolo, the team is not strictly a U23 squad. As the riders will receive no salary, it is basically an elite amateur team with a UCI license. For more of the details about the project, Fred Dreier from VeloNews had a good article.

With many riders in college, the bulk of the team’s schedule will be done between May and August while riders will obviously target collegiate and amateur races across the Eastern seaboard of the US throughout the season. I am interested to see how well they are able to compete with other continental teams in American UCI races because they are a development team but they definitely should be able to mix it up in regional races as well as on the criterium circuit.

The UCI roster will feature 13 riders while there will be a few other first year U23 “development riders” that will be on the club level that will most likely join the pro team at different points. 

The UCI roster will include: Cameron Beard, Patrick Collins, Ansel Dickey, Noah Granigan, John Harris, Jonah Mead-VanCort, Nate Morse, Spencer Petrov, Sam Rosenholtz, Jake Sitler, Antti Sizko, Cory Small and Cooper Willsley. Josh Anderson, Ian Clarke and Wyatt Goral are the said “development riders” that are on the club team and will join the pro team at various points.

Cameron Beard is more known for his cyclocross with top rides across his junior and now senior career with a smattering of top 10 finishes in elite races and U23 races this year. He isn’t just a dirt monger either as he finished high in the Junior Peace Race (Zavod Miru) where teammate Chris Blevins won the overall while also finishing 6th overall in the Driedaagse van Axel behind Swiss Stefan Bisseger, who is the junior world record holder in the 3km individual pursuit. A good all-around rider that is a good time trialist, a good climber as well as having that short burst power that top cyclocross riders possess.

Patrick Collins has been on a diet of New England races the past few years and will be looking to move up to the next level on the road side of things. He is also a strong cyclocross rider with majority of his finishes in UCI races coming between 15th and 20th. 

The Kombucha-loving Ansel Dickey is another that is looking to hit a new level in his final U23 season. Dickey has gotten some of his best results in criteriums as he was 2nd in the U23 National Criterium in 2015 while with Cal Giant but he doesn't have a resume-making result quite yet. Also a coach, Dickey could benefit from the bolstered crit squad that CCB Velotooler will be bringing. 

New Jersey native Noah Granigan is another rider that has had success in criteriums, mainly ones in stage races, however he seems to have the endurance for longer one-day races that is stronger than some of the other U23s on the team. Races like Winston-Salem, U23 Nationals and Reading could be targets especially with a stronger team. 

Connecticut’s John Harris has been another rider kicking it around New England as well as some choice criteriums the past few seasons. He was never on the National team but he has plugged away including top 15 places in Wilmington, Iron Hill and a 5th in Chris Thater. He will be a good part of the crit squad as well as getting some opportunities in other one days.

Lupus was a disjointed team from the moment that they signed Chris Horner. Jonah Mead-VanCort did get a couple of races with the big boys including Joe Martin however the winner of the collegiate D1 criterium in 2016 didn’t get a huge amount of support from his “professional” team. Mead-VanCort will most likely be another one of the crit squad train.

Splitting his time between Furman University and the Northeast, Nathaniel Morse has seen some of his best results come in criteriums including 3rd in the U23 National Criterium this past year. Morse also gets around on a ‘cross bike as well so he should be shooting for a good result at U23 Nationals.

My hometown of Mason, Ohio finally has a pro cyclist to their name with Spencer Petrov. Move over George Clooney and Dan Patrick, you now have company. Brought up in the local Lionhearts and ProChain programs, Spencer has continued to improve every year, especially in cyclocross. On the road, Petrov rode for Holowesko-Citadel’s junior program as well as with the national squad a bit. He is a top 10 to 15 rider in cyclocross on the national circuit and one of the top U23 ‘cross riders in the country so how will he continue to develop on the road? Go the way of Logan Owen, who skipped cyclocross this year to rest up for the road season, or the way of Curtis White, who has exploded on the national ‘cross circuit this year with 9 wins while trying to continue to slowly expose himself to the road? An interesting question that will eventually need to be answered.

The scourge of the New England criterium scene joins CCB Velotooler as a mentor to the young crit squad. Sam Rosenholtz has come around in the last few seasons as a hell of a sprinter in New England that included a 4-race win streak this summer where he beat out future teammates in Dickey, Nate Morse, John Harris and Pat Collins. Rosenholtz’s highlight was a 2nd place in one race of the Memorial Day Gateway Cup in St. Louis where he was nipped on the line by Ty Magner but did beat out National Champion Dan Holloway and Aldo Ilesic. Rosenholtz will be the glue that will hold this young team together in bigger races plus his sprint could deliver some much-needed results.

Jake Sitler is just looking for the opportunities to show his talents. Former steeplechaser turned cyclist from Astellas that had a good year in 2015, had a big block of training in Tasmania and came into 2016 on very good form. He got through a trifecta of Redlands, Joe Martin and Gila, which set him up for a good late spring that saw him go 15th in Winston-Salem, 20th in Philly and then a 3rd overall in the Air Force weekend behind Ty Magner and Bobby Lea. Going into summer with great form, right? Except Astellas as a team more or less imploded and with very limited funds, the crit squad got the majority of the remaining budget as there is more bang for the buck. He DNFed Saguenay and the team didn’t start North Star GP nor Cascade. Sitler raced only a handful of times in July and August. With his age, Sitler will be a road captain this year but if he brings the form, it seems like he will get the opportunities he needs to shine.

Finnish Antti Sizko seems to be a bit of a rider/manager after coming over from CMI Cycling last year, a team that briefly including one of Espoirs Central’s favorite riders, Dmitri Grabovskyy.

Cory Small is one of the few current CCB riders that will be joining the club on their rise to the professional ranks. Small was the team's best finisher in the AnPost Ras this year with 24th overall. Comparatively, Small hasn't raced a large number of race days over the past few years so with some opportunities at high level events perhaps he will be able to have a breakthrough. 

Speaking of another strong cyclocross rider on the team, Cooper Willsey has taken a big step up in his 2nd season on the elite 'cross circuit. Willsey's best finish last year was an 11th in the late season C2 in Kingsport, TN but this season with, he already has eight top 10 finishes in UCI cross races including the U23 Pan-Am Championships. Like Nate Morse, Willsey splits his time between Furman University in South Carolina and the Northeast. Willsey was the Division 2 Cyclocross National Champion last year for the Paladins while on the road, he was the first non-Axeon Hagens Berman rider to finish in the U23 National RR in Lousville after breaking away from the field for 8th place. Depending on how many opportunities he gets, Willsey is definitely a strong piece of the road team that is just beginning to find his feet while still needing to balance his cyclocross priorities. 

Josh Anderson, Ian Clarke and Wyatt Goral are the three development riders. Anderson won a stage in l’Abitibi while doing well in a lot of junior criteriums. Goral is a good time trial rider including a solo win in the Junior Tour de Somerville. Clarke rode well in l’Abitibi however he didn’t have a ton of other results to back that up.

It will be interesting to see what CCB Velotooler will be capable of doing on a shoe-string budget. It is refreshing to see that the team has no illusions of what they are. They aren’t putting on a façade that they are a big-time "pro" team with "paid" professionals nor going the route of having one marquee rider with a bunch of pack fodder to fill in. They are just trying to get as many opportunities as they can and for a development team, it could pay off.