Tour de Beauce
After finishing this race, Robin Carpenter said that the Tour de Beauce might be one of the hardest races not many have heard of. That is certainly a true statements, especially for those that do not follow the North American circuit.
Without going into an exhaustive analysis of the race, Caja Rural showed everyone what a European team can race like while Hincapie Racing with Toms Skujins and Dion Smith nearly pulled off a coup. Caja Rural put 3 riders in the top 6 overall with Pello Bilbao, Amets Txu-Txu Train and Eduard Prades but they had to wait until the last 2 laps of the last stage to steal the GC from Skujins, who capped off a brilliant two weeks with 2nd overall here.
On the U23 front, Dion Smith was incredibly consistent with 4 finishes in the top 7 on stages along with 3rd overall and overall wins in the points and youth jersey. Smith is good on so many different terrain types that he can score a good GC place in sprint dominated races as well as races with climbs.
Axeon had a good week with 4 in the top 15 led by James Oram in 7th place. Oram did as well as he could but missed a decisive split on stage 2 that would have saw him higher on GC. Keegan Swirbul was the only rider to make that split but he suffered the following day that sank any GC hopes. Greg Daniel was 6th in the TT and Ruben Guerreiro was consistent for 10th overall.
Ben Perry (Silber) had the U23 ride of the week as he got into the final move on the final stage with Pello Bilbao and Rob Britton (Smartstop). Perry had the best sprint on the day and took his biggest ever result with the stage win. His teammate Alex Cataford was 8th in the TT and continues to do well in his comeback season after his horrific training accident in 2014.
The 3-day Polish race saw all of the best Central European continental teams for the race's 53rd edition. Marko Kump dominated the race as he won the first two stages in sprints and while a breakaway got away on the 3rd stage, we won the sprint for 4th.
Stage 2 was the deciding stage when about half of the race abandoned while the front half of the peloton split off and about 25 riders gained 5 minutes on everyone else. Silvio Herklotz missed the split but his teammate Lennard Kamna represented Stolting in the move and went to finish 4th place on the stage. Martin Grøn (Riwal) got the KOM jersey and some bonus seconds from the sprints to vault him him on the GC.
The final stage was Herklotz's revenge as the German got into a breakaway with Adrian Kurek and Sergey Lagkuti. Herklotz took the maximum sprint points to take the sprint jersey and took the maximum mountain points but finished 2nd in the KOM competition to Grøn. While Kurek broke away for the stage win, it was who else but Marko Kump to take 4th place to wrap up the overall.
Marko Kump is in this weird talent level that straddles the continental level and the World Tour. He has won 10 races this season and probably will get near 20 by the end of the season and yet, who knows if he will get a ride on the World Tour level again.
Gregor Muhlberger once again proved how dangerous he is by another long range breakaway to win the GP Jugendorf with a gap of 1'25" back to the chasing group of 4 that included Andi Bajc, Florian Bissinger, Victor de la Parte and teammate and fellow U23 Felix Grossschartner.
The question is now where Muhlberger is headed to for next season. Bora-Argon 18 is a favorite because of their strong German ties as well as Giant-Alpecin for similar reasons. He can time trial, climb, proven himself as a GC threat and as a good one-day rider. If you somehow haven't heard of him then I have failed at this but you should watch out for him.
Besides the interesting elimination race prologue that decided the jerseys before the first stage, the Okolo Slovenska (Tour of Slovakia) was a rather mundane affair with 4 sprint stages punctuated by one hillier stage that separated the GC. The only two U23s to make the break were Lorenzo Rota (UniEuro-Wilier) and Oleg Zemlyakov (Vino4Ever) and they ended up 7th and 6th respectively on the final GC, both 21 seconds back on winner Davide Vigano. You would need to go back to 14th overall with Toon Aerts (Telenet-Fidea) to find the next U23 finisher.
To Bosnia with the GP Sarajevo, which turned out to be a contest between three riders pretty quickly. In the end, Slovene Gasper Katrasnik, riding for the now-amateur Sava team, got away from his breakaway mates Sergey Belykh (Itera-Katusha) and Stefan Stefanovic (Keith Mobel-Partizan) to take his first UCI win for his young U23 career. U23s dominated the top 10 win 6 riders.
GP Horsens & Fyn Rundt
Two Danish one-day races dotted the calendar with the GP Horsens & Fyn Rundt.
Horsens sits roughly halfway between Copenhagen and Aarhaus. Horsens was the home of the Glud & Marstrand cycling team that was the predecessor to the CULT Energy team and saw riders such as Michael Valgren, Sebastian Lander, Chris Juul Jensen and more.
Anyways, the GP Horsens was a lumpy race with a lot of short, sharp climbs as well as a nice heaping spoonful of Danish crosswind. Similar to the Skive-Løbet, Alexander Kamp, who is experiencing his best season since the junior ranks, got into the winning breakaway that was fairly spread out between teams. Kamp (ColoQuick) was the strongest after the tough day and out-sprinted Rasmus Guldhammer & Asbjorn Kragh for the win. Other U23s in the leading group include Steffan Christiansen (5th), Magnus Bak Klaris (7th/SEG Racing) and Mads Rahbek (Trefor).
The Fyen Rundt was a much flatter affair as it took place on the isle of Fyen and, more specifically, around the city of Odense. The main action came in the finale when last year's Swedish junior TT champion Hampus Anderberg was out front and with 2 kilometers to go, Andreas Vangstad (Sparbanken Sør) came out of the peloton to try and bridge up to him. He didn't make the connecting until inside the final kilometer but the peloton was breathing down their neck. The only problem was that no one in the peloton wanted to launch the sprint so Vangstad went again. Either with Alexander Kamp and Yoeri Havik going for it, Vangstad held them off to take his 2nd win of the season after his solo win in the Tour of Norway. Kamp was the first U23 in 2nd while Anderberg held on for 4th place.
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