Sunday, October 26, 2014

2014 Lookback: What the Fuck Happened? Top 5

Now it is time for a top 5 list of the riders that went from having big years in 2013 or at least some very promising results to disappointment in 2014. It might be a bit depressing but hey, life isn't fair. Shit happens. This list is in no particular order.

1. Fredrik Ludvigsson (Sweden - Giant-Shimano Development)

There were not many freshman who were better than Fredrik Ludvigsson in 2013. The Swede was tearing up time trials and turning heads after winning the Boucle de l'Artois and having a slew of top 20 placings throughout the season. He transferred to the Giant-Shimano Development team for 2014 and looked to be set onto a huge season.

His early season was in fact leading to big things to come. He was top 10 overall in Tour de Normandie and 5th overall in Triptyque Monts et Chateaux. His one-day racing took a big leap with a 7th place in Liege-Bastogne-Liege U23. That would be the high for Ludvigsson and after a few more good races, his results stagnated and then went downhill fast.

What the fuck happened? Ludvigsson has been experiencing numbness in one of his legs while training and was never able to get proper form to focus on his racing. Really, he was never the same rider after April. When one hears of numbness in one leg, especially with a cyclist, then I at least automatically think of the iliac artery. The pesky vessel has been the bane of many riders, including most recently Joe Dombrowski, and in mid-August, it was announced that Ludvigsson would be undergoing the vein patch surgery to correct the issue. Speaking of which, Ludvigsson just underwent the surgery yesterday (as I type this) and is on the mend for a return of sometime next year.
Not exactly a fair reason to list him on this list but to the casual viewer such a big drop in performance will cause a rousing chorus of "What the fuck happened to him?" I look forward to seeing a healthy mini-Ludvigsson in 2015, at least at some point.

2. Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev (Kazakhstan - Astana Continental)

2013 was the year that yet another Kazakh came out of the woodwork and put in a crazy amount of stunning rides. Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev was a name that probably 1 out of 100,000 cycling fans; even I was flummoxed when I saw him go top 15 in two Nations Cups and then get 3rd place in the Tour de Azerbaijan.

From the end of July on, Kozhatayev was one of the most consistent riders on the U23 circuit. Top 10 placings in Tour Alsace, GP di Poggiana, GP Capodarco followed up by a 4th place overall in the Tour de l'Avenir, just 5 seconds out of 3rd.

This year, Kozhatayev was still around but perhaps the inflated expectations deflated his results. He was 6th in La Côte Picarde, which is pretty damn good but it was 6th out of a breakaway of 10 where he should have been one of the favorites. He didn't show anything again until the Giro della Valle d'Aosta, where he was top 6 on two mountain stages but after missing out on the front group of the major mountain stages, he finished over 4'30" down in 9th place. Disappointing figuring that, after last year, he should have been contending the podium.

3. Oskar Svendsen (Norway - Joker)

After exploding at the Tour de l'Avenir last year for 5th place overall and one of the most consistent climbers in the race, I figured that Oskar Svendsen was improving himself in terms of his pack skills and would come out ready to play in 2014.

Well...ummm...urgh. Not exactly the case. The Junior World TT Champion from 2012 had a rough go of it in the first half of the season by finishing just a handful of races before slogging through the Tour des Fjords. Okay, a rough start but perhaps he could turn it around. He was 4th in the Norwegian Elite TT (2nd U23 behind Andreas Vangstad) and 13th in the European U23 TT (on the same time as Vangstad). Not outstanding for someone of his Vo2Max but not too shabby either.

Svendsen's highlight of the season was at the Giro della Valle d'Aosta. He was 4th in the prologue and 2nd in the time trial, both of which were uphill. His climbing on the road stages didn't match l'Avenir 2013 but it wasn't half bad in support of teammate Odd Eiking, who ended up 2nd overall.

The rest of the season was nothing of note. He DNFed the Arctic Tour and then at the Tour de l'Avenir, he came in with high expectations but after multiple crashes and mechanicals, he got through with 71st overall. And like that, Svendsen was gone as fast as he came. He announced that he was leaving cycling, at least temporarily, and focusing on a psychology degree instead. The choice of study makes sense seeing as he had many woes in the peloton but I think he will be back. He had a lot of expectations on his back coming in from the junior ranks and some time away might do him good.

4. Ever Rivera (Colombia - 4-72-Colombia)

Following two strong seasons, Ever Rivera was primed for a big season with 4-72 Colombia. In 2013, he was 8th in the Vuelta Asturias, 10th in the Coupe des Nations Saguenay (along with the KOM prize) and a strong 3rd in the Vuelta a Leon behind Jordi Simon and Merhawi Kudus. Even with the infighting between 4-72 Colombia and the Colombian federation, Rivera was primed to be a leader for many races.

Well that didn't exactly pan out. Rivera got through the early season Vuelta a Mexico but dropped out of the Castilla y Leon. The next race he went to start was the Ronde de l'Isard, a big target for the season. But Rivera never started the race or any race after that.

What the fuck happened? According to 4-72 and the Colombian Federation, Rivera was fired (and not allowed to race again) because the birthday that he provided was fake. That is right, Ever Rivera falsified his birth records so chances are he is not an under 23. That blows my mind a bit that you can do that in this day and age but I have heard or seen nothing from Rivera that disputes the accusations.

5. Sondre Holst Enger (Norway - Øster Hus)

This is the most controversial pick on here but I feel like he does belong on here to a degree. Sonde Holst Enger was one of the revelations of 2013 after being a top 10 machine; hitting the top 10 about 25 times last year. He was 3rd overall in the Tour of Norway, he won the Coupe des Nations Saguenay on bonus seconds after consistent riding, won the Norway Cup overall and finished 3rd in the World Championships. That is really clipping down his results because it was a fantastic season.

2014 started do I put this lightly...slow. He was nowhere in the Istrian Spring Trophy. He had one good result at the Tour of Normandie, where he was 3rd on the 1st stage and 2nd in the bunch sprint behind Maarten van Trijp. The rest of the race saw him finishing in between 107th and 121st before DNFing on stage 6.

Really, it wasn't until late May and the Norwegian UCI races where he was acting his normal self. He was top 10 on 3 stages of the Uno-X Tour of Norway and at the slightly less important Tour des Fjords, he was top 10 on 4 stages and finished 5th overall. He won the Norwegian U23 RR and was 8th in the European Championship.

Again, Enger went through a stretch where he DNFed multiple races including the Arctic Tour, Tour du Jura and GP Isbergues, the latter two as a stagiaire with IAM. His 5 days after DNFing Isbergues, he went to finish 5th overall in the World U23 RR, where his Norwegian teammate Bystrøm escaped for the win and his sprinter teammate Skjerping finished 3rd.

He finished his season with IAM by getting 10th and 8th on two stages of the Eurometropole Tour and actually finishing Paris-Tours, albeit over 10 minutes down.

So why am I including him on this list? While he had some good times this year, he also had a lot of bad times. He DNFed a ton of races and yeah, he was 5th at Worlds, but what is going to happen when he is racing 70 times a year and he is not finishing half of his races? Management might be okay with it for a while but it is a habit he will need to get out of quickly. Also, the majority of his results were on home roads in Norway. Yeah, he might be good for a result in the Tour of Norway but what about when he is racing in pissing down rain in France on a road that is wide enough for a couple of Fiat Puntos?

Give me shit but I was dissapointed with Enger as a whole in 2014. I will happily eat my words if he can produce in 2015 or just smile inwardly if these trends continue.

No comments:

Post a Comment