As Great Britain continues to rise in the pro cycling scene and emerging as a dominate nation, the Olympic development system continues to churn out talent. While people go "OMG Yates Bros.", which I heartily agree with, don't forget about the others in that system. Coming off the velodrome, English-Welsh (Welsh-English?) Owain Doull has had an impressive year with front group finishes in the Ronde van Vlaanderen U23 and the ZLM Tour, two Nations Cup races, along with strong rides at the An Post Ras and Tour of Britain. He is a sprinter with a good kick on him that can get over a few bumps and the more he rides the road, the heads should turn a bit more every time he gets a chance. He is still a fixture on the track, having recently partnered with Mark Cavendish in a Madison in Gent. Doull was 5th this year in the World Championships in the Scratch in Minsk and with a participation in the Manchester World Cup forthcoming, he could see Olympic rings in his future.
Jon Dibben has made for himself as a road and track talent as a junior, taking a medal at the Junior World Championship Omnium (2nd) and going top 5 twice at the Junior Paris-Roubaix along with 5th at the Junior Worlds RR in Valkenburg. Dibben is another than has feet firmly in both the road and track, with Rio 2016 looking like the target. Dibben was 8th overall in the omnium in his first Elite World Championships in Minsk and won the scratch race. At just 19, he is one of Britain's best candidates to go for the omnium gold in Rio.
|Dibben winning the Omnium Scratch in Minsk (Photo: jondibben.jimdo.com)|
|Sean De Bie (Photo:Wiki Commons)|
Belgium…what is there to say that most people cannot say? They have one of the strongest cycling cultures on earth and mass amounts of talent are a byproduct of this. From his early junior days, Sean De Bie was seen as the next Tom Boonen by Belgian cycling and was set up for greatness. De Bie is a name synonymous with cycling in Belgium as he is related to World Champion Danny De Bie, national coach Rudy De Bie and his father, Eddy, was a professional in the 80's. Sean started as a cyclocross rider as a junior but quickly showed his talents were on the road, with wins across Europe. His U23 career started off slowly with his first big result coming in 2011 with a win at the Toscana Nations Cup in a sprint ahead of Youcef Reguigui and Alexey Lutsenko. 2012 started off very promising with a stage win and 5th overall at Triptyque Monts et Chateaux followed by a 2nd, behind a breakaway win by teammate Kenneth Vanbilsen, at Ronde van Vlaanderen U23 and a 4th place just days later at La Côte Picarde. While De Bie continued to impress through June, his season was halted by a nasty crash that put him out for the season. With a switch to Leopard-Trek for 2013, De Bie has a quieter early season but came out storming for April with three top 5 finishes in two weeks, including 4th at RvV U23, 2nd at La Côte Picarde and 4th at Arno Wallard. But past that? De Bie had one more bright spot on the season with a win at the European U23 Championships in the Czech Republic, where he outsprinted Petr Vakoc and Toms Skujins. De Bie had some good national results but after back-to-back rides at the Volta a Portugal and Tour de l'Avenir, De Bie was too tired for the end of the season and the World Championships, where he had been preselected earlier in the season to be a leader. While he has signed a neo-pro deal with Lotto-Belisol starting next year, I'm interested to see if De Bie can be one of the future Belgian stars or if injury and inconsistency will continue to plague him. De Bie is just one of a crop of 'D' Belgians…
Floris De Tier was trying to forge a career in cyclocross but in June, he announced that he would be quitting to focus on the road and transferred to EFC-OPQS. It was evident immediately that this kid had some talent. In his first major stage race, De Tier finished 18th overall at the Giro Ciclistico Valle d'Aosta. Later in the summer, De Tier went on to with the Tour de Namur and then capped off his season with a 5th place in the Paris-Tours Espoirs last weekend. De Tier still has one more year in the U23s and should be able to shop for a pro team next year. De Tier's EFC-OPQS teammates included Tom Devriendt and Gerry Druyts. Devrient clocked up 9 regional wins this season along with a 3rd place in the GP Stad Geel, a Top Competitie race. Team Director Wim Feys described Devriendt as the best sprinter he has ever had under him. Druyts clocked up 2 wins in Belgium but had more success on a larger circuit with a 15th overall at Tour de Normandie, a 10th at Liege-Bastogne-Liege U23 and a 7th at the GP des Marbriers. Moreno De Pauw is better known for his exploits on the track but after a solid season on the road this year, he will be joining Topsport Vlaanderen in 2014. De Pauw won the 5th stage of the An Post Ras this year out of a group of favorites along with multiple top finishes on the Belgian amateur scene with his Rock Werchter squad. De Pauw will continue to dream for a spot in the Rio 2016 Olympics but while try to become more active on the road. Other Belgies of note include David Desmecht (23 podiums this year including 5 wins) and Gertjan De Vos (stage winner in Ronde de l'Isard.)
The first time that most people heard of Flavien Dassonville's name was during this years U23 World Championships when he attacked with teammate Julian Alaphilippe in the road race. Dassonville was eventually brought back but still managed to finish just behind the front group in 21st position. Dassonville, who rides for BigMat-Auber93, had a breakout season this year with a win in the French U23 RR, a stage win in Tour de Franche-Comte and just this last weekend, an impressive win in the Paris-Tours Espoirs, where he outsprinted breakaway companion Daan Olivier to take the win. Other 'D' Frenchman include Cedric Delaplace and Alexis Dulin. Delaplace won the French Elite Amateur RR Championship while riding for Sojasun-ACNC. Dulin was 6th overall at Tour des Pays de Savoie, after finishing 2nd on the final stage summit finish to La Toussuire behind Clément Chevrier.
|Dall'Oste glistening in the Italian sun|
Italy has Daniele Dall'Oste and Andrea Dal Col. Dal Col was the winner of the time trial in the 2012 Giro Bio, which got him some recognition. This year has been quieter for the Trevigiani product but he produced three regional victories and is set to join the remains of the Vini Fantini squad for next year, Team Yellow Fluo. Whoever came up with that name needs to be smacked. Daniele Dall'Oste comes from the Trevigiani brood as well and is seen as one of the future Italian stage racing talents. Strong in the TT as well as in the hills, he is still a developing talent who might need a few years in the pros before he will make an impact. Last year, a won the Giro del Belvedere along with the prologue in Valle d'Aosta and finished 4th overall in the Vuelta a Tenerife, which could be changed to 3rd because of a doping Jose Belda, who blew away the field. This year, Dall'Oste was 2nd overall in the Giro del Friuli, thanks to an impressive climbing performance on the summit finish at Matajur where he finished 2nd behind Jan Polanc and ahead of Riccardo Zoidl and Ivan Rovny. Dall'Oste was 8th overall in the mountain heavy Valle d'Aosta and followed it up with some top placings in the late summer including a 3rd at the GP Poggiana.
Two young Americans that broke into the U23 ranks this year were Greg Daniel and Alex Darville. Both were apart of the Bontrager Development Team though they were not on the UCI roster, which saw them spend the majority of their time racing in Europe with the USA National Team. Daniel, who was the junior National TT Champion last year, was able to win a stage in the Arden Challenge ahead of Simon Yates and finished 12th overall in the Kreiz Breizh Elites. Darville, who is a stronger sprinter, was 3rd this year in the U23 National Criterium Championships and finished 2nd behind a last gasp breakaway winner Kristian Haugaard in the opening stage of Fleche du Sud. Both should joint he UCI roster for Bissell next year though nothing is confirmed as of now.
I want to mention Tobias Derler because he was involved in a horrific crash in a Tchibo Cup race in Austria. The peloton was heading full-tilt into a downhill section of the course when unbeknownst to them, a car had gotten onto the course and was heading straight for them. The impract was gruesome and Derler was one of the two main casualties that had to be airlifted off the course and to the hospital. The young Austrian, who rides for the Tirol team, suffered multiple arm fractures, a broken cheekbone and a concussion but after only a few days in the hospital was allowed to return home. If he is able to continue cycling, Derler has talent to work with but it will be a long road back.
|Dieteren beating van der Lijke and Zabel in Thüringen Rundfahrt (Photo:thueringenrundfahrt.de)|
While Rick Zabel was the best known German sprinter in the U23 ranks, Team Stölting's Jan Dieteren has set himself up as a prime suspect to take over that mantle next season. Dieteren has been in the U23 ranks for two years now and has struck gold twice at the recently defunct Thüringen Rundfahrt, including winning this year over Zabel and Nick van der Lijke. He is not in every sprint and does not like the mountains but he finished the season off strong with three top 10 finishes at the Kernen Omloop, Ruota d'Oro and the Münsterland Giro.
Before a few years ago, many who follow cycling could not name a single cyclist from sub-Saharan Africa, excluding South Africa. MTN-Qhubeka has been breaking open the gap by signing riders from across the continent but sub-Saharan Africa is still rather dry in terms of cyclists. Dan Craven (Synergy Baku) is the most famous Namibian cyclist and has raced for mainly British squads, represented his country at the Olympics and sported the biggest unibrow this side of Colombia. This mantle of most famous Namibian cyclist could be taken by Till Drobisch, a young rider for the MTN-Qhubeka Development Squad and the UCI World Cycling Centre. Drobisch, the Elite and U23 TT and RR Nat. Champ, has been making strides with the UCI coaches and with a lighter race schedule, was able to finish the Tour de l'Avenir in 35th overall. He has two more years left in the U23s and hopefully he can see expanded racing time, which will help in his development.
With more development money coming into Eastern Africa, Eritrea is emerging as a new cycling power on the continent and pushing riders into Europe. Starting with Daniel Teklehaimanot, Eritrea now has 5 professional riders. Mekseb Debesay is another potential Eritrean talent. He was the winner of the Tour of Eritrea this year, ahead of Merhawi Kudus, but he does have a) much racing outside of Africa and b) not many results when he has gone to Europe. Perhaps MTN-Qhubeka will bring him in to their fold.
Antoine Duchesne has come on in recent years and has been Canada's brightest hope in the U23 ranks but unlike some of his Bontrager teammates, his team for 2014 is still not secured. Duchesne has had some good rides this year with 8th at Coupe des Nations Saguenay, a front group finish at Ronde van Vlaanderen U23 and a 5th at stage 4 of the Tour of Alberta, where Duchesne was able to slug it out with Cadel Evans, Tom Slagter, Simon Geschke and Ben Day in the breakaway that went to the line. Duchesne was also consistent this year, having only one DNF (last stage of Tour de Beauce along with most of peloton) in around 50 racing days.
|Dunne after winning opening stage of AnPost Ras (Photo: Velovercors)|
Conor Dunne is a big unit and the Irish-English rider has been making a name for himself in Belgium during his U23 career. Riding for VL Techniks, Dunne has proven himself to be good in the TT and on the cobbles. His shining moment of the year was in the AnPost Ras when he broke away with 20 kilometers to go on the first stage and beat out break mate Mike Northey for the victory. Dunne still has another year left in the U23s and is rumored to be joining AnPost-ChainReaction for next year, which will make him the tallest rider in the pro peloton.
|Dzamastagic heading to stage win in Rhône-Alpes Isère Tour|
Mark Dzamastagic is a name most have not heard but there is a chance he could get by in the pros. The Slovene has won twice this year, a late break away win at the GP San Vendemiano along with a sprint victory at 4th stage of the Rhône-Alpes Isère Tour ahead of Clément Venturini and Europcar's Kévin Reza. Dzamastagic also came agonizingly close at the ZLM Tour, where he was involved with a last kilometer move with Yoeri Havik but didn't have it in the legs and settled for 2nd. While these results are impressive, pro teams only have so many spots and it looks unlikely that a spot will be available. This means yet another young Slovene, as there has been more than one, that will have to wait his turn on the sidelines and ride random 1.2 and 2.whatever races across Eastern Europe and Asia. It remains to be seen what will become of Dzamastagic.
The last two I have, since I seemingly cannot get enough of the D, are Norwegian Kristian Dyrnes and Dutchman Emiel Dolfsma. Dyrnes is good on a variety of courses; 10th last year at the L-B-L U23 and 2nd this year in the flat Himmerland Rundt in Denmark. Dyrnes finished his year with year with a 20th overall at the Tour des Fjords. Dolfsma is in his 1st full year on the road with Rabobank Development after focusing on cyclocross as a junior and early in his U23 career. He definitely has some promise and can get through tough races and with no DNFs this year, he is pretty consistent as well. With a full year on the road under him, Dolfsma should be one to watch for 2014.