Tuesday, November 5, 2013

U23 ABCs: F

"Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." - Everyone's favorite anarchist-burning imbiber, Winston Churchill

Why did I do this again? Seriously, I have 21 riders that I feel deserve some mention and I am only at F. There are still 20 letters after this and I know there are some letters that will have more riders than this. Sometimes I would rather give myself a lobotomy during this series but no sense in turning back now.

First off, let's start with Tour de l'Avenir winner Ruben Fernandez of Spain. You won't be getting much about him because he was already a pro cyclist with Caja Rural when he won l'Avenir and while he might have been an U23 rider, he will only be getting a little blurb. My take on his victory? A bit of a fluke. He has talent - he wouldn't be a pro without it - but nearly all of his other results would dictate that while he is good, he is not that good and he took advantage of the circumstances of stage 4 on the Col de la Madeleine. I know that expectations will be piled on him for years so while I might think his l'Avenir overall win was a little bit of a fluke, I still think he could do something in the pro ranks. But no matter, Fernandez is already a pro - making pro money - and actually has a ride for 2014, unlike many graduating from the U23 ranks.

Marcus Fåglum (@FaglumMarcus) might not be a name that anyone outside of Sweden (or the cycling nerd circles) but he descends from the first family of Swedish cycling. Fåglum's grandfather is Sture Faglum Pettersson, one of the famed Pettersson brothers from Sweden who were double Olympic medalists in the Team Time Trial, bronze in Tokyo and silver in Mexico City, and three-time World Amateur Champions in the same discipline. Gosta is the most famous brother as he went on to win the 1971 Giro d'Italia and placed on the podium of the 1970 Tour de France. Sture, Erik and Tomas took up Fåglum as a surname, which was the club that they rode for at the time of their greatest success. So Marcus definitely has some pedigree no?
As a junior, Marcus was a double Swedish champion in the TT and was an accomplished time trialist, finishing 4th in the 2011 World Championships in Copenhagen (12th in 2012 in Valkenburg) and 5th in the 2012 European Junior Championships. His TT skills propelled him to top stage racing results in 2012, placing high in Trofeo Karlsberg and Niedersachsen Rundfahrt overall. As a first year U23 this year, Fåglum didn't have a ton of results as he rode for a Swedish club team and sparingly for the national squad but he did have some nice stage results in the Baltic Chain Tour and finished 22nd in the U23 World TT Championship, which was good for 4th among first year U23 riders.

I have to admit that I'm not very good when it comes to just about anything Central or South America cycling. Okay, I follow a lot of the race results but for some reason, my lack of Spanish understanding really makes it hard for me to follow more in depth. Thus, I miss a lot of the talented riders and rely on the better informed to feed my addiction. I've found a couple of riders from these parts in Venezuelan Jhorman Flores and Mexican Eder Frayre.

Flores is a younger rider, born in 1993, that was the winner of the youth classification at the Vuelta a Tachira in January of this year and finished 16th overall. Flores was announced as one of a group of young Venezuelans, as apart of the U23 National Team, that will be receiving support from the national federation in the buildup for the Rio 2016 Olympics and will include some European racing opportunities. I couldn't dig up much about him but he won a few smaller national races and was 7th in the U23 National RR, 1'07" behind Androni-Venezuela signing Yonder Godoy.

Frayre was in his final year in the U23 ranks this year and made some of his best results. Frayre, who comes from Ensanada, Baja California, won the Mexican U23 RR this year in Guadalajara and on the domestic front, he was 3rd in the Vuelta a Mazatlán and won the Vuelta Mexicali earlier this month. Frayre, being so close to the USA, races in California and on the west coast. He finished in the top 20 of the San Dimas Stage Race and Cascade Classic, where he finished on the same time as Tanner Putt. He has a good kick on him but he can survive over the hills. He spent time in Valencia, Spain with the amateur Mutua Levante squad in 2011 and 2012, which, according to him in an interview after his Mexicali win, is where he learned what it takes to be a pro and everything that it entails. He was 22nd overall in the 2012 Vuelta a Mexico and finished 3rd in the U23 classification, 8 minutes behind Jamis-Hagens Berman signing Daniel Jaramillo. His biggest ride of 2013 was his ride for Mexico at the U23 World RR Championship where he finished 44th, 2'33" behind winner Matej Mohoric, in a group that included Magnus Cort, Mike Teunissen, Duchesne, Beckeringh, Vervaeke and others. He was looking for a ride in the United States or somewhere close to home for 2014.

Continuing this strange journey, let's go to Kazakhstan where he have Daniil Fominykh and Artur Fedosseyev. I seem to have a soft spot for Kazakh riders because normally, they have to live under an autocratic regime and cycling is a way of escaping that, just like with Soviets in the 70's and 80's. It is still a country where striking workers will be mowed down by machine gun fire and formerly was the home of Soviet nuclear testing and anthrax production. (I'm sure there are nice things about the country.) So when a Kazakh dopes, I can at least understand part of the reason why they are doing it, if they are wanting a way to get out of the country anyways. They also have to deal with a pretty insular system where only a few are able to break through to the Astana Pro Team and unless they ride out of their skin, they usually have a spell on the Astana Continental team. Hell, there was only one Kazakh on a foreign World Tour team, Valentin Iglinsky with Ag2r, in 2013. Anyways...

Daniil Fominykh has been one of the Kazakh's biggest talents since his junior days and will be joining Astana for 2014 on a neo-pro contract. Fominykh was a good junior and was 3rd overall in l'Abitibi overall behind winner Nate Brown, had two Worlds appearances and was 2nd in the Asian Junior TT Championship in 2009. As a first year U23, he came 3rd in the Kazakh Elite TT Championship and the next year, he finished 22nd in Tour de l'Avenir along with riding in nearly every Nations Cup race. In 2012, he finished nearly every race, 3rd in Kazakh Elite TT, 20th in l'Avenir and 9th in Thüringen. He was Asian U23 TT Champion, 3rd in the Kazakh Elite TT (a bit of a trend, no?), 3rd overall in Qinghai Lake around some dodgy Iranians and Kazakhs, 14th overall in l'Avenir and 9th in the U23 World TT Championship. He be Kazakhstan's next big rider or he could turn into yet another Kazakh drifting around the Asian Tour. This year, he showed that he is a freaking horse...Okay, maybe not the best description for a cyclist but he didn't drop out of a single race this year and while he wasn't always near the front, he was never all the way at the back either.

Fedosseyev is a 1st year U23 and a promising rider for the future. He was the junior Kazakh RR Champion in 2012 and had some good rides in the climbing stages of the Giro della Lunigiana. This year, he was 8th in the Tour of Iran along with some good rides in Italy with the Kazakh National Team and Astana Continental.

Let us journey northwest to the oligarchy of Russia, where we find Alexander Foliforov, yet another strong Russian U23 from the RusVelo system. I know most people tend to lump all of the Russian teams together because of the oligarch Igor Makarov...and you would be right, albeit for some managerial differences. The man behind ITERA Natural Gas is one of three partners in the Russian Global Cycling Project, the money source for Katusha, Itera-Katusha, RusVelo and Helicopters. Foliforov signed with Itera in mid-2011 and at that year's Giro della Valle d'Aosta, he finished 5th on the final day uphill TT behind Fabio Aru, Kenny Elissonde, Joe Dombrowski and Ilnur Zakarin, all of whom are professionals now. In 2012, now full time with Itera-Katusha, Foliforov rode a stage race heavy program and had some nice results including 10th overall at the Toscana Terra di Ciclismo Nations Cup and 3rd in the final TT at Valle d'Aosta, behind teammate Chernetskii and Fabio Aru. His long season took a toll on him and by l'Avenir, he was exhausted and had to pull out. His season was good but he definitely had problems with consistency.

2013 saw him join Helicopters, which was new for 2013. Based in Bergamo, Italy, it is the feeder team for RusVelo, which houses many of the endurance riders in the Russian track program. Foliforov was a rider that spent the majority of his racing time somewhere near the front for the first half of the year but he was one of those riders that was invisible at times. In stage races, he would have strong rides on some stages but lose times on others and finish lower on GC. In the harder one-day races, he was near the front group or just behind but never deciding the win. It wasn't until Valle d'Aosta until he really had a meaningful result. Foliforov made the front groups on the climbing stages and finished 2nd on the last mountain stage, a scant second behind Davide Villella, to wind up 5th overall. He continued his hot form at the U23 European Championships, where he finished 5th in the road race and in the leading group. After this? Well he had a few good rides in Italy but the rest of his season was a dud, DNFing l'Avenir again and pulling out of the World Championships.

Foliforov still has another year in the U23 ranks and could do some good things in the mountains but there is always that looming question with Russian riders...will he do anything if he goes pro? Russians riders come from a dog-eat-dog system that is still very tough to breakthrough. So when these riders finally make it to the big time, what happens when that rigid system goes away and they are left to their own devices. Just look at the last decade and the Russian riders that tore up the U23s and haven't reproduced results: Timofey Kritskiy, Egor Silin, Mikhail Ignatiev, Evgeni Petrov, Alexander Khatuntsev, Sergey Kolesnikov and Ivan Rovny, just to name a few. (Also, Nikita Novikov aka The Terminator)  So while Foliforov is improving now, it remains to be seen whether he can buck the trend of recent Russian riders and break through to a successful career.

Let us go from repressive dictators and oligarchs to a country that has the record for the longest period without an elected government. Belgium brings us Frederik Frison, Wout Franssen and Maxime Farazijn. Frison (@FrederikFrison) is one of the best Belgian U23 time trialists and while Belgians TTers are notorious for not performing to expectations at Worlds, Frison finished a commendable 11th place. Riding for Lotto-Belisol U23, Frison battled with teammate Victor Campenaerts in multiple TTs over the course of the year with Frison, a former Belgian junior TT champion, winning the Antwerp Provincial TT and the test in Angreau and nearly upsetting Campenaerts at the U23 Belgian TT Championship, where the elder Campenaerts won by just 5 seconds on the flat course in Maldegem. In addition to his TT prowess, Frison did well in road races including the Belgian U23 Championships (3rd), getting into a breakaway on stage 3 of the Okolo Jiznich Cech (Tour of South Bohemia) and ending up in 11th overall along with a handful of results in regional events.

Wout Franssen, at least in his U23 years, has been light on results but since he is riding with AnPost-ChainReaction, obviously some talent is there. As a junior, Franssen scored some nice results with a win in the GP Bati-Metallo along with an 8th in the Ronde van Vlaanderen Juniors. GP Bati-Metallo might not sound like a huge deal but when you look to the results, it is a different story. Franssen was in a breakaway of five that went to the line and he outsprinted Danny van Poppel, Dieter Bouvry and Bob Jungels for the win. Pretty stout effort, no? In his first two years in the espoirs with Roch Werchter, he didn't chalk up a lot of results other than a win in his local kermis, Houthalen-Helchteren. This year, we won the pro kermis in Houthalen-Helchteren ahead of Clement Lhotellerie and Floris Goessinen, he was 9th (5th in the bunch kick) at U23 Nationals and was 5th at the Gooikse Pijl. The last result might sound like nothing but he won the bunch kick over Baptiste Planckaert, a pro with Crelan, and Timothy Dupont, who won 16 times in 2013. He'll be back in 2014 with AnPost.

Maxime Farazijn (@De_Max_) is a young buck and son of Peter Farazijn, a 9 time GT finisher and a pretty handy classics rider. Maxime is a first year U23 and he had a lot of solid results as a junior. No wins but he was in the top ten a handful of times in some bigger juniors events and had a nose for a sprint. Riding for EFC-OPQS in his first year, he was in a few more bunch sprints and hung around on some tougher courses, including the queen stage of Triptyque Monts et Chateaux. He finished the season off strong with a 13th at Paris-Tours Espoirs as he was in the main breakaway and eventually rolled in with Julian Alaphilippe and Tiesj Benoot. He is back with EFC for another season in 2014.

Now where can we go to find a government (and country) that seems to run on organized chaos? You're right...Italy. Italia brings four F's to the table for dissection.

Davide Formolo is going pro with Cannondale next year and there is no doubt why. Little dude can fly up hills. While he isn't the most tactically adept at times, Formolo can climb with the best in his age group and will certainly figure into long term plans for Cannondale with regards to the Giro d'Italia. I've written about Formolo's exploits before but let us review. Good results as a junior but nothing too big; no major wins but a 3rd overall in Tre Bresciana. Good first year as U23; no wins but a few good climbing performances. 2012? He went ape-shit and won Peaches & Nectarines overall, 2nd in Palio del Recioto, 8th in the GiroBio, 2nd in the National U23 RR and topped off with a 4th overall at Giro della Valle d'Aosta overall. He was climbing around the like of Fabio Aru, Manuel Bongiorno, Gianfranco Zilioli and the like. Another thing...Formolo can't win a sprint for his life of him unless the road is tilting upward and even then, he has work to do. This year was even better for Formolo. Strong results in Italian one-day races, another overall win in the Peaches and Nectarines, 4th in the Italian U23 RR (lost a sprint) and then went on to great performances at Giro della Valle d'Aosta and Tour de l'Avenir. Valle d'Aosta proved that Formolo was the best climber behind Davide Villella and if the stage finishes were as difficult as in years past, it might have suited Formolo better but there is no reason to scoff at 2nd place. l'Avenir saw Formolo go well in the mountains and apart from one bad day that saw him lose overall time, his 6th overall on a reduced Italian team was a good way to cap off his U23 stage racing career.

Andrea Fedi (Ceramica Flaminia - Fondriest) went pro with a year left in the U23s and has shown himself to be a good rouleur, with a sprint win this year in the Tour of Slovakia along with some top 10's in 1.1 and 1.2 races. He has consistency issues that need to be ironed out but he could a solid one-day racer in the future. Iuri Filosi broke out in 2013 with Viris Maserati, the same team as Niccolò Bonifazio, and won the famed Milano-Rapallo one-day race in solo fashion. It might not sound like much but this race has been won by racers such as Giuseppe Minardi, Dino Bruni, Francesco Moser, Giorgio Furlan, Gabriele Colombo, Leigh Howard, Enrico Battaglin and some fucker named Ricco.
Giuseppe Fonzi has a great name and he isn't bad at racing a bike either. This year, The Fonz was 5th at the GP Liberazione and won the Trofeo Citta di Bevagna. He was very good in the junior ranks and is slowly meeting those expectations.

Portugal is another country that I always struggle with when it comes to following the scene because of my lack of Portuguese comprehension. Two Portugalese riders who are graduating from the U23 ranks this year that should be watched are Frederico Figueiredo and Daniel Freitas. Figueiredo broke out in 2011 when he finished 7th overall in the Volta a Portugal do Futuro. In 2012, he finished 4th in the same race along with other results in Iberia like 8th in the Volta a Coruña and winning the GP Cidade de Vigo. This year, Freddy was 15th in the Volta ao Alentejo, a race which I covered pretty thoroughly earlier this year, won the KOM at the Vuelta a Madrid U23, 3rd in the National U23 RR along with more results from Iberia. His best result of the year was a 14th at the U23 World Championship RR in Florence, which put him in some pretty good company on a difficult course. He joins Radio Popular Onda for 2014, which will have about half of the Volta a Portugal top 10 from this year. (The team also known for these kits this year...and last year.)

Freitas was a talented junior (5th in the World Championship RR in Moscow) but is still trying to fulfill that promise. Freitas is a competent sprinter and can get over a few hills but as of now, lacks a burst to really contend in the sprints and is too heavy to be a true climber. He was 7th overall in the Volta a Portugal do Futuro, 4th in the National U23 RR and 13th in La Côte Picarde (8th in the peloton sprint).

To finish, we have a few more miscellaneous to sort through...

Australian Campbell Flakemore was the TT revelation of the season after winning the time trials at the Olympia's Tour, Thüringen-Rundfahrt and the Chrono Champenois. He was a bit flat at the U23 World Championship TT, which was the longest and fastest course of the year, and missed the bronze medal by just 12 seconds, having to settle for 4th. Riding for Huon Salmon-Genesys and the Australian National Team this year, Flakemore raced mainly in Europe and outside of TTs and some other races, he was in a support role for riders like Damien Howson and Caleb Ewan. He has another year left in the U23 ranks and should be featuring even more next year and perhaps targeting a few GC results, as he did in 2012 when riding on the Australian continental circuit.

Latvian Andzs Flaksis had a rough early season this year with injury but once he got going again, he was strong as an ox. Flaksis is apart of a strong generation of young Latvian cyclists that have come up in the past few years. His first big result was a 3rd in the 2011 Ronde van Vlaanderen U23, finishing just behind his teammate Toms Skujins (2nd). 2012 saw him join the Chipotle Development squad and he chewed up the kilometers in some hard ass races. He finished 20th in the Paris-Roubaix Espoirs (the pro race is his dream event), won the Riga GP solo and broke away with Jan Tratnik at the U23 European Championship RR and the duo held off the bunch on the flat course with Tratnik beating Flaksis in the two-up sprint. With the demise of Chipotle, Flaksis joined Bontrager for 2013 but an injury took out the first half of his season and he only started racing in June. After winning the Latvian U23 TT for the 3rd consecutive time, he went to the European Championships in Czech-land and went 5th in the TT against some good competition. Flaksis rode well in the Tour of Utah with his Bontrager team that included a lot of support riding and a couple of attacks and then went to the Tour de l'Avenir in support of Toms Skujins, who eventually finished 9th. Flaksis deserves a chance in the pros but as of now, there has been no news on a contract for next year.

Alex Frame was the lone Kiwi on Thüringer Energie in 2013 and he will be following DS Jens Lang along with a couple teammates to Argos-Shimano Development for 2014. Frame is a big, strong rider who has his roots on the track and has transitioned nicely onto the road. For a bigger rider, he can deal with a few hills, which he showed on the final stage of the Boucle de l'Artois, where he finished 7th on Mont Saint Eloi to finish the race 6th overall. Frame also had a front group finish in the Ronde van Vlaanderen U23 and was able to mess around in some sprints in the Thüringen Rundfahrt.

Swiss Killian Frankiny joined BMC Development for 2013 after some good results as a junior and definitely had some first year problems. He only finished 4 UCI races, albeit one of those was the Giro della Valle d'Aosta. Frankinny is a good climber but he needs more racing and at this point, I have no idea if he is being kept by BMC Devo.

When you look at the results from this year Boucles de la Mayenne, you see a relative no-name rider in Marc Fournier in 2nd place behind winner David Veilleux of Europcar. Riding for the French Division 1 CC Nogent sur Oise, the former team of guys like Arnaud Demare, Yoann Offredo and others, the 18-year old Fournier broke away on stage two of the race with Veilleux and Romain Guillemois of Vendée U, who would eventually join Europcar as a stagiaire later in the year. He admittedly was too excited for the sprint and this caused him to lose to Guillemois but it was an excellent result nonetheless. Fournier was 3rd in the French Junior RR in 2012 and as a first year U23, he won the U23 French Points Race Championship on the track and was 4th in the Elite Pursuit Championship. Fournier will be back with CC Nogent next year and should be a presence on the road and track.

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