The Tour de Bretagne has been done for nearly half a week now but I've been holding off on posting something as I've been trying to get some take aways from the race itself. Bretagne featured a good mix of professionals and amateurs; riders just breaking through along with seasoned pros that are on the way up and down.
To say that Norway has been churning out talent in recent years would be an understatement. Since Edvald Boasson Hagen's emergence nearly 10 years ago, the Nordic nation has been blessed with talented riders coming out. Alexander Kristoff, Vegard Stake Laengen, Lars Petter Nordhaug and Sven Erik Bystrom are just a few that have jumped to the pro ranks but in the U23 ranks, they still have riders such as Odd Eiking, Truls Engen Korsaeth and Daniel Hoelgaard.
Hoelgaard is in his first year with Joker after spending two up and down years with Etixx Development. Last year, Hoelgaard stepped out at the Tour de Bretagne with a sprint win that kicked him off to a strong season that included 3 more UCI wins. This year, Hoelgaard has been on point where it is a rarity when he finishes outside of the top 20, if not the top 10. After missing out on the first stage breakaway, Hoelgaard managed to go 2nd, 2nd, 4th, 1st and 2nd on the subsequent 5 stages. He isn't just a pure sprinter. He can get over hills and deal with crosswinds. He might not have the best kick in the bunch but when the group is reduced down to just a couple dozen, Hoelgaard seems to be at his best.
He finished in 3rd overall at just 12 seconds to winner Seb Delfosse and won the points jersey along the way. It is going to be a long season for his competitors. I'll be interested to see how he does if he gets called up for the Norwegian pro races.
Seeing Vliegen race a stage race is akin to watching a predator hunt its prey. He won't waste energy until he needs to. He will lay in the cut and make the splits he needs to but when the time calls, he will go for the jugular. While Vliegen is so strong, it is crazy to think that his win on the final stage into Liffre was his first UCI win of his career. Vliegen was apart of the early breakaway that included race leader Seb Delfosse and nearly 20 others. After Delfosse virtually locked up his jersey after the 2nd bonus sprint, Vliegen launched a solo move to go for glory and in the wet and windy Bretagne weather, he stuck the move for his biggest win of his career.
Vliegen already has his pro future locked up as he is bound for BMC starting this summer. He seems bound for the hilly classics but he will definitely be one of those wily stage hunters.
Just one year out of the junior ranks and going top 10 in the Tour de Bretagne? Pretty solid. Will Barta (USA) made the break on stage 1 and proceeded to play damage control the rest of the race to finish 43 seconds behind winner Seb Delfosse in 8th place overall.
Last year this time Barta was just getting ready for the Junior Peace Race, where he would finish 3rd overall. It seems like he hasn't missed a step. And to think Bretagne didn't have a TT at all because if they did, Barta would be licking his chops as he barely finished off the podium in time trials as a junior.
If someone is trying to prove they deserve a pro contract, not many are doing it better than Lilian Calmejane. I still remember nearly a year ago when Calmejane rode through the sleeting rain and snow on Bagneres du Luchon in the Ronde de l'Isard to take what was probably the most memorable U23 win of the season last year.
After stopping his normal cyclocross pursuits early this past winter, Calmejane put in some big miles and came out swinging early in his first season out of the U23s. He is now up to 6 wins including a stage and the overall in the Triptyque Monts et Chateaux, a stage (plus 5th overall) in the Tour de Bretagne along with 1 round of the DN1 Coupe de France. He has a good bunch kick but has proven himself as a strong breakaway rider that can stick a long move for a win.
He could easily double his win total if he doesn't get a stagiaire ride this summer. I could easily see him join Europcar as Vendée U, his current team, is their feeder team but he could also go to other French squads if he has the opportunity. Or if I had my imaginary pro team where I would sign all of the best talent to keep them in a clean environment with strong, clean role models. But you know that is a bunch of horse shit.
Some of this and that..
-I like how this race changes up its parcours from year to year instead of using the same standard course over and over. Espoirs Central approved.
-Kenneth Van Rooy is another name to remember. Van Rooy has been a consistent rider through his first three U23 years but this year saw him go up a level. After a good ride at Normandie was followed by a 4th place in Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Van Rooy came to Bretagne as the leader for Lotto-Belisol U23 and he probably couldn't be more consistent with his results. He proceeded to finish 12th, 12th, 10th, 6th, 8th, 7th and 7th (an average finish of 8.85) to finish 9th overall for the race and 2nd in the points competition to Hoelgaard. Perhaps a threat for the Belgian U23 RR?
- Looks like another Hackney rider needs to be taken seriously along with Tao Geoghegan Hart. SEG Racing's Alex Peters took his first UCI win of his career after winning a three-up sprint against Ioannis Tamouridis and Anthony Delaplace. Peters was so close to a stage win in the Tour de Normandie but struck gold here on his way to 7th overall.
Do you know it is just two fucking weeks til the Ronde de l'Isard? Bretagne is cool and all but l'Isard is one of the best U23 stage races of the season. I will get ridiculously excited about that race so buckle down.