Sunday, June 5, 2016

Zavod Miru U23 Finale: Short and Sweet

The final stage of the the Zavod Miru U23 was a to put this without sounding like a complete asshole...pointless? That isn't the right word but after two years of this finish without any consequences on the general classification, there needs to be a shake-up on the final stage here because for two years running now, one stage defines the race and then the final stage has a little separation but GC is fairly stagnant. Espoirs Central is pleading with you, Jan Svorada, I hope that a change will be happening for 2017.

The stage featured a large breakaway that really didn't get a lot of room from the peloton but did include a rider high up on GC, Czech Michal Schlegel. The breakaway was brought back with 8 kilometers to go, just in time for the run into Jesenik and up to the Hotel Priessnitz. The bunch stayed together until the revelation of the Ronde de l'Isard, Belgian Bjorg Lambrecht, lept from the lead group on the climb. No way he would be taking enough time out of race leader David Gaudu, Lambrecht bounced away with Markus Hoelgaard (Norway) giving chase.

Lambrecht took another nice win in the drizzly conditions while Hoelgaard "gapped" the chasing group led in by Giovanni Carboni with Gaudu celebrating his victory in 4th place. With both Lambrecht and Gaudu being of diminutive stature, it really was a day for the small guy.

While most of the GC riders finished on time with Gaudu, the absolute surprise of the day was UCI Cycling Centre rider El Medhi Chokri, the first year Moroccan U23 who was 5th on the opening stage and followed it up with 11 on the final stage.

Gaudu was able to pull out an overall victory and if pro teams are smart, they will continue to follow him this summer and take him of a stagiaire ride either this summer or next. He still has things to prove as an overall rider so this is not a confirmation that he will be a Grand Tour winner but when he is on, that acceleration is brutal. If he can survive flatter races as well as rough 'n tumble environments, Gaudu could enchant the French public.

It seems that Lambrecht is confirming the promise he showed in the Pyrenees mountains in l'Isard. A compact rider that never really raced in the mountains before this season, he has been riding in front groups and while Belgians love their classics, they would love to see riders winning in the mountains once again.

Espoirs Central pick for the win Tao Geoghegan Hart was a hesitation away from perhaps taking the victory and settled for a strong 2nd overall with Swiss Kilian Frankiny confirming his 4th overall from the Giro della Valle d'Aosta last year. The Italians were there once again with Ravasi and Carboni but didn't have the finishing punch to make the podium. A rider that could be monitored is Markus Hoelgaard. His brother Daniel is a fantastic sprinter but I think Markus was a bit misunderstood and never developed as well as he could have when he was on Etixx. He has come into his own on rolling to hillier parcours and hopefully Joker allows him to blossom on courses like this.

I still cannot get over the course. A stage race should not be a carbon copy year after year and while they changed the queen stage, this race lacked final stage drama to really have the results leap off the page and make this a can't-miss race. This is a Nations Cup race. Imagine if the Tour de l'Avenir was decided two stages through the race? I'm cognisant of the limitations of a race like this in terms of budget but I do not want carbon copy stages. I want this race to sing to people. There is a huge legacy from this race and part of that was some fantastic course selection over the years. If this race will have two of the same stages next year, you have no doubt a scathing review will come from here. It should also be mentioned that the official website is basically a cheering section for the Czech National Team and give token mentions to riders that don't win the race yet list the results of every last Czech rider.

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