Monday, January 6, 2014

2014 Bay Crits

With Twitter becoming a more important to connect with the media, athletes, etc., I've found that this connection has taken a bit of the surprise out of some cycling journalism. I always like going in blind to new interviews with riders or not excepting to see them on the frontpage of such and such magazine but with the media trying to contact riders through twitter and both parties announcing the event sometimes, it loses a little something.

I couldn't help but chuckle though when looking at Velonews' Dan Wuori's twitter page...

I see lots of blogs do this to riders but seeing a publication like VeloNews do it is a little bit different. I guess Ewan is a hard interview right now for the non-Australian press. Not a surprise seeing as his stock has seemingly been rising all off-season since the announcement that he signed a pre-deal with Orica-GreenEdge that will see him join the team as a stagiaire later this summer and as a full pro starting in 2015.

While the article linked in the tweet has some poorly written parts about his transfer, it did have some nice little gems such as his decision to stop school after Year 11. Ewan did start his 2014 campaign at the Bay Crits, a yearly tradition for many Aussies that want to get some speed into the legs before Nationals.

As the picture above shows, Ewan hit the deck in training a few days before the New Year and headed into the first round of the Bay Crits a bit banged up. The first stage of the race series was the Ritchie Boulevard Criterium and featured a group of seven lapping the field including GreenEdge riders Luke Durbridge and Matt Goss. While Ewan missed the break and settled for a peloton finish, the group contained multiple U23s in Felix English (Rapha-Condor), Harry Carpenter and Luke Parker. Irishman English missed the win in a close sprint Zakkari Dempster.

The next day at the Eastern Gardens crit, English was in the attack again but OGE was on the front and shutdown the move with a sprint being inevitable. In the final straight, Ewan wasn't able to beat out Matt Goss for the win and settled for 2nd with English in 8th place.

On the tough Portarlington circuit, Luke Durbridge repeated his 2013 feat and won for the 2nd year running. Ewan held down the fort in the peloton and won the bunch sprint for 5th with fellow U23 Robert-Jon McCarthy coming in 7th place.

On the final day, it was all Ewan as the race stayed together and Ewan unleashed a mid-2000's-esque Robbie McEwen sprint and dusted everyone for the win. While Ewan was celebrating, the overall series was being decided with a tight bunch sprint between former MTBer Brenton Jones and Zak Dempster, with Jones taking 2nd place on the day and the overall win by one point with Ewan in 3rd place.

So in short, Caleb Ewan is really fucking fast and is going to be an animal when he gets to the pros, barring an unforseen incidents. While not a U23 but still young, Brenton Jones should be an interesting one to follow with Avanti Pro Cycling, the former Huon-Genesys setup. He is pretty new to the road scene, at least full time anyways, and could pop up in some Asian Tour sprints this year. Felix English is going into his 3rd year with Rapha-Condor and his last as a U23 and could do well this year in some sprints if his Bay Crits form is a good indicator.

Speaking of which, Australian Nationals are this week. Campbell Flakemore should win the U23 TT if in shape but if not, there are a few riders behind him in the wings. Alex Morgan was the runner-up last year and is on the start list. Others for the top 5 include Australian Junior TT Champ Tom Kaesler, Jordan Kerby and Jack Haig. It really comes down to who is in shape right now because Flakemore, who is the best current U23 TTer for Australia, only finished 3rd last year behind Damien Howson and Morgan but was a Worlds contender later in the year. Pick your battles and if Flakemore doesn't win, I wouldn't be too concerned at the moment.

Australia is stupid for keeping the Nationals on the same course for every year because it ends up with the same result. The course ends up splitting the pack apart and a breakaway wins with the bunch close behind. It follows a script to a T and while it is difficult, the same type of riders keep winning. Jordan Kerby returns as the defending champion and will have to make it very hard for Caleb Ewan because the New South Welshman can climb better than most sprinters. Others to watch are last year's bronze medalist Jack Haig, Sam Spokes, Mitchell Lovelock-Fay and Robert Power, the new Australian sensation who can climb out of his skin.

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