Friday, March 13, 2015

Istrian Spring Trophy: Austria sweeps the prologue

On Thursday, it seemed as if the Austro-Hungary empire was trying to make a comeback with 4 Austrians in the top 6 and 6 German speakers in the top 6 of the short but sweet Istrian Spring Trophy prologue in the scenic town of Umag, Croatia.

Kicking off one of the annual spring cornerstones on the European continental calendar is an always short but insanely fast stretch of road that goes along the Umag harbor. The course is only 1.9 kilometers and features very little in the way of obstacles with only 2 proper turns on the course.
My pre-race favorite was Gregor Mühlberger, who had been coming into good form after his breakaway win in the GP Izola and won the prologue here last year. I was close as the Austrian came in 6th place just 2 seconds down. AWT-Greenway teammates Max Schachmann and Jan Brockhoff finished a very respectable 4th and 5th place and gives the Czech team some confidence heading into the week.

Austrian Felix Großschartner (Felbermayr-Simplon), who has been posting some good rides so far this short season, was a strong 3rd with only 1 of 2 riders to come within 2 seconds of the winner. The other was the unheralded Michael  Taferner. Taferner, who is a 4th year U23 who has ridden for the WSA team the last 4 years, was within a second of our winner. Taferner was a strong junior and even had a high placing in the junior Tour du Pays de Vaud TT but has been anonymous up until this point. A 2 km prologue is only 2 kilometers but careers have been born with lesser results.

To end the mystery, the winner of the miniature prologue was 1992 product Lukas Pöstlberger of Tirol. Pöstlberger has struggler with consistency issues through his career and even this year, has made breakaways and promptly disappeared and dropped out of races, but when he is on form he can be a damn fine rider. In the 2012 Tour de l'Avenir, he beat World Tour riders Vegard Breen (now Lotto-Soudal) and Bob Jungels (Trek Factory) out of a 3-man breakaway to take a stage win.

Pöstlberger loves a good breakaway and isn't afraid of making himself hurt. Massive breakaways are just some of what he does but he also showed he can lay down serious power for short periods that could potentially make him dangerous in an individual pursuit.

Other riders that are going to be potential GC threats didn't lose heaps of time. Sam Oomen (Rabobank Development) and Silvio Herklotz (Stölting) both finished within 5 seconds of Pöstlberger while others around there include Jordi Simon (Ecuador), Andi Bajc (Amplatz-BMC), Matej Mugerli among some others.

Really the only riders that lost were the new first year U23 trio for Stölting in World Junior TT champ Lennard Kamna, Manuel Porzner and TT stud Sven Reutter. I haven't been able to find out why they all finished in stone dead last but I'm going to assume they either missed their start time, crashed or decided to ride around as easy as possible so that they can ride hard for Herklotz in the coming days.

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