Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Top First Years Edition 2016

We are just weeks away from the first races kicking off in Europe, the races have already been going on with some national championships and races abound Down Under. With the season so close to being here, it is time once again to look at my five riders that I'm watching that are going into their first year in the U23 ranks.
It is hard to say more about Adrien Costa than what has already been said by Espoirs Central and others in cycling. It is very rare when a talent like him comes across, especially for America. His climbing skills at 18 are already on an ethereal level while his time trialing has gotten him multiple medals in the Junior World Championships. The past two off-seasons he has attended training camps with Cannondale and Etixx. I have a striking feeling he won't be in U23 ranks for very long.

Directvelo had a short article on Costa this year that was informative. Costa's parents are French and it was yearly trips to France that got Costa into cycling. Watching the Tour de France on television and then going on rides with his grandfather is where his passion for 'le velo' came from. He is one of two foreign riders, the other being Russian Pavel Sivakov, that have strong ties to France.

Riding with Axeon Hagens Berman along the the U23 National Team, Costa will most likely be targeting stage races in both Europe and America. While his time trial is helpful, he could very well slot himself in the top 10 of big U23 stage races that feature big climbs such as the Ronde de l'Isard and Giro della Valle d'Aosta.
People seem to crave a new Italian prospect and while there are a handful of them including Nicola Conci and Riccardo Lucca, I will reach out on a limb and say Daniel Savini is Espoirs Central's Italian First Year U23 Pick for the Year. Otherwise known as the simple acronym, ECIFYU23PFTY. Savini took an impressive 11 wins in 2015 that included two overall classifciations (including one UCI), a mountain time trial and uphill wins galore. This cat can climb very well and is taking his talents to Hoopla Petroli Firenze, which is partnered with World Tour team Tinkoff. While still very young, he could ride very well on the amateur circuit and will be keen to get some UCI race days.
While at Richmond 2015, I saw Keagan Girdlestone for the first time and he looked like a future professional. Lean and polished, Girdlestone has a metronomic cadence on the time trial bike that was entrancing and nearly saw him take a Worlds medal in the Junior Men's TT. Girdlestone is South African by birth but lives in New Zealand and has been racing on the Australian NRS circuit with Charter Mason-Giant, where he was 2nd in the Tour of Toowoomba and 3rd in Battle on the Border This past summer he got a ride with UC Nantes Atlantique Juniors in France and while he only with them for a bit under two months, he won two UCI junior stage races and was 2nd in the senior Ronde Finesterienne to ex-Cofidis rider Jeremy Bescond. He declared for South Africa and rode the Worlds in the country's colors without stepping foot there in nearly 4 years. He can climb and he can time trial but in his first season as a U23, he has been mum about what team he will be riding for. So in the middle of writing this, it was formally announced that he would be joining the Dimension Data Continental team, which is new for this season sort of, which could signal a stagiaire spot this year or next. In any case, he is a must-watch going forward.
At the 2014 Ponferrada Worlds, Phil Liggett was going nuts towards the end of the Juniors race where Swiss Gino Mäder was on a flier after attacking on the final lap and held an advantage coming into the final straightaway. It was anti-climactic as Mäder was caught within the final kilometer and the bunch sprint was won by Jonas Bokeloh. It has capped off a successful year which saw him finish in the top 10 overall of two home stage races, the GP Reubilland and Pays de Vaud, as well as 2nd in the European Track Omnium. Some rider peak early and don't continue to grow in their 2nd junior season. Mader wasn't one of these cases.

Mäder took the first two stages of the Pays de Vaud and ended up 2nd overall behind Adrien Costa. A few weeks later, he was crowned the Swiss Junior TT Champion and soon after switched his focus to the track. At the European Championships, he was top 5 in the Madison, Pursuit and Team Pursuit. This was followed up by 2nd in the Team Pursuit at the Junior Worlds in Kazakhstan along with 4th in the Madison and 8th in the Individual Pursuit. He came back to the GP Reubliland and proceeded to tag team the race with countryman Marc Hirschi, with Mäder finishing in 2nd overall. He had another good Worlds with 5th in the TT and a top 20 placing in the RR.

Strong engine that can roll a good TT and isn't bad in the hills either. I'm unsure if he harbors track ambitions but could be a possibility for Tokyo 2020 if he does. No team annoucement that I am aware of for 2016 but probably will get rides with the Swiss National Team as well as a strong amateur team.
I thought going into Richmond Worlds, I though it would be an American 1-2 in the TT with Costa and Brandon McNulty. Leo Appelt upset my pick and did he look good doing it. Flat back and Tony Martin-esque, Appelt tore up the course and for the 2nd year running, Costa was pushed to silver. It wasn't a huge upset as Appelt won the German Junior Track Pursuit two years on the trot and won the World Junior Pursuit Championship in Kazakhstan after putting down a 3'15" 3km pursuit. He has a quick finish on the road as well too, which is really down to his huge engine that he has. Think of Cancellara contending in sprints; he didn't have a huge burst but could hold speed very well.

Appelt is with BMC Development this coming year and I have talked about him previously during their team preview but he could certainly break out for a result in a time trial or a small group sprint. It is interesting that in the picture above that he is riding a Giant-Alpecin TT bike and he has been quoted previously that his favorite team is...Giant-Alpecin. From

What team do you hope to ride for one day?My favourite team is clearly the new German team Giant-Alpecin and I hope one day I can ride for this team.
I did notice that all of these riders except Savini were in the top 5 of the World Junior TT so as not to sound like a generic news outlet, let's get some...

Honorable Mentions

Nicola Conci and Riccardo Lucca are two Italians that are looking to have an impact immediately with Zalf-Euromobil. Conci was 6th in the Junior Worlds RR and won a stage of the Giro della Lunigiani along with the UCI rated Trofeo Paganessi in a small group sprint. Lucca is a very strong climber with a lot of results in uphill time trials and climbing events. While strong in Italy with 6 wins and 11 2nd-place finishes, he didn't put up results outside Italy.
While I am always wary of big Danish talents due to past burnout issues, Mathias Norsgaard is the latest Danish talent to wet the appetite of professional teams. He is a strong talent that had two UCI wins last year that ended up in solo breakaway wins. He is also a big unit. At 2 meters in height, he towers above the peloton with few exceptions. Hailing from Silkeborg, which is equidistant from Horsens and Aarhus, he comes from a family of athletes and seems to have a good head on his shoulders. He is signed with SEG Racing and looks like he could get a good result this year, especially if he gets a chance in Denmark.

While some people think his last name is Salomon, Martin Salmon might want to have a word with you. Seriously though, Salmon had a great ride at Worlds to finish 5th, which was a crapshoot due to the slick course conditions and tough parcours. He also won the final stage of the GP General Patton in a solo move and won a round of the Junior Bundesliga. Hailing from Germersheim on the banks of the Rhine, Salmon will be going to Chambery CF for 2016, which has been having German riders of the past few years reach success such as Nico Denz.

Thomas Vereecken might be one of the Belgian hopes for the classics going forward as he was top 5 in both the Bernaudeau Junior and the Ronde van Vlaanderen Junior but was also in the top 5 overall in the Junior Zavod Miru, Trofeo Karlsberg and the Oberosterreich Rundfahrt. Fun fact: He studies Electrical Engineering.
He could have gotten a spot in the top 5 and I could regret not putting him in there. Max Kanter can roll a time trial well, he can sprint against the best and can make a decisive split. Kanter won the Driedaagse Van Axel after making two decisive breakaways and consolidating his win in the time trial. He did the same in La Coupe du President in Poland thanks to a team time trial. He took scalps in sprints against the likes of Serbian Dusan Rajovic and Russian Aleksey Kulikovsky. Kanter is joining LKT Brandenburg, which will allow him to ride the road as well as the track as he was 3rd in the Omnium at Junior Track Worlds this year.

I've written about Pavel Sivakov before and he probably should get a mention on here as well too. You can read about him in the BMC Development team preview. There is more to follow but I'm sure you will hear their names throughout the season.

If you want to follow this riders on Twitter, their names are linked to their Twitter accounts.

Did I miss someone and you have a problem with it? Leave a comment or message me on Twitter @Vlaanderen90

No comments:

Post a Comment