Friday, June 3, 2016

Závod Míru U23 Nations Cup Preview

One of these years I am hoping that the Zavod Miru (Peace Race in English) will emerge as a longer stage race that will be the spring cornerstone to the U23 calendar. I also know that the chances of it being expanded from its current iteration are approximately .0034893744%. In any case, this is always an interesting race as it doesnt necessarily have the toughest climbs but it can catch riders out regularly and result in some exciting finishes.

The race was only revived in 2013 as a U23 race. The first edition was won by Cannondale's Toms Skujins and two years later, it was moved to the U23 Nations Cup. Still just three stages, the race is based around the spa town of Jesenik, Czech Republic, which is nuzzled against the Southern Polish border. One of the main differences this year is that the race will forgo the summit finish at the Praded nature reserve but race manager Jan Svorada is keeping the difficulty level high with two hill top finishes.


Stage 1 - Jeseník to Rymarov - 134km

In what is a carbon copy to the opening stage in the past few years, this year's edition of stage 1 gets a little extra distance (122km to 134km) as an additional finish loop was added on. The last couple of additions have been decided by small breakaways that have eeked out victories ahead of hard charging pelotons. In 2013, this was a two-up sprint with Pole Przemyslaw Kasperviewicz (now Klein Constantia) beating Tom Bosmans while last year, Gabriel Cullaigh (GB National Team) won out of an all-day breakaway.

The town flag of Rymarov is interesting
The change to this year's course could actually see a mass-group sprint as it might give teams a little more time to organize on the finishing circuits. Or it could once again see teams focused on GC fine with letting a small group without any GC favorites getting away to take the pressure off of any serious chase efforts. The circuit itself is not pan-flat and does include a climb but in year's past, the group has not thinned out much. There is a dearth of full-blown sprinters here but some riders with a good kick on them include Ivan Garcia Cortina (Spain), Dusan Rajovic (Serbia/UCI Cycling), Justin Oien (USA) and Piet Allegaert (Belgium) but no one is jumping off the page as a favorite. This would probably be because the final two stage profiles were drawn by a precocious 2-year old.

Stage 2 - Krnov to Dlouhe Strane - 123 kilometers

While it might not be the longest stage, it will be a kick in the jewels for those that are unprepared. This is a brand new stage that climbs up to the Dlouhe Strane Hydroelectric Power Plant, which sits at 1,350 meters (over 4,400 feet) elevation.

The reservoir at Dlouhe Strane has the largest reserving water turbine in Europe. Also, you cannot beat that view.
The climb itself up to the station is arguably the hardest in all of the Jeseniky mountain range, included the Praded climb which the race has used in the past couple years. The climb itself is a stair step affair that starts up into a forested area once they move through Loucna nad Desnou. The middle section of the climb before the brief descent is where the race will be made as it touches a brief gradient of 20% and the kilometer before the descent averages over 10% but sees persistent ramps near 14%. A brief descent gives the riders a respite but the gradients go back to a steady 7-8% before the finish flattens out a bit. The profile of the climb can be seen here.

It isn't as if the race is a race to this climb as there is a smaller climb at Hraběšice to soften the legs a bit but the slopes of Dlouhe Strane will define the GC of this race.

Favorites? Well I will get to that later because I believe who wins here will most likely win the GC or be damn close.

Stage 3 - Jesenik - Jesenik - 160 km

"It sort of looks like an upside down New Jersey with a little hook at the top"

Above is my quote about this stage from last year. The final stage is a loop that goes out of Jesenik, rides along the Polish border for a while, heads south for a while to Bruntal (which is just north of Rymarov) and then starts up towards Jesenik. It is an exact copy of the final stage last year, which more or less came down to the final uphill to the Hotel Priesnitz from a group of favorites as many were shed from the late climbs at Hvezda and Vidly.

Interesting room décor at the Hotel Preisnitz
The final climb to the Hotel only averages about 6% once the race crosses the Staric river but it really doesn't get going until about 2 km to go. The next kilometer averages 8.1% gradient while the final kilometer flattens out a little bit up to the Hotel. Definitely an Ardennes-style finish but not quite as steep.



No Australia here for the 2nd year in a row which really limits them in terms of the UCI Nations Cup. Also, to stack the deck for the Czechs, they brought two full 6-man teams.

Looking over the start list, here are some favorites in no particular order...

-Michal Schlegel (Czech Republic)
-Steff Cras and Bjorg Lambrecht (Belgium)
-Vincent, Cosnefroy, Peters and Paret-Peintre (France). It won't be an enviable position for team leader Pierre-Yves Chatelon.
-Lennard Kämna (Germany)
-Tao Geoghegan Hart (GB) supported nicely by James Knox and Scott Davies
-Edward Ravasi & Giovanni Carboni (Italy)
-Lennard Hofstede (Netherlands)
-Ildar Arslanov (Russia)
-Domen Novak (Slovenia)
-Enric Mas or Jon Irisarri (Spain)
-Mark Padun (Ukraine)
-Adrien Costa (USA)

Espoirs Central pick for the overall win: Tao Geoghegan Hart

Stage 1: Pavel Sivakov (Russia)

Stage 2: Lennard Kämna

Stage 3: Mark Padun

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