Monday, August 22, 2016

Tour de l'Avenir: Grøndahl Jansen dominated first two stages

In the Tour de l'Avenir, there is nothing that guarantees a sprint stage. With small teams and a big emphasis on the mountains, there are no teams that can waste riders to bring back breakaways. On stages that are definite sprint stages in pro races, small breakaways come to the line here. There hasn't been a bunch sprint here since stage 3 in 2014 when Dan McLay trumped Magnus Cort and Fernando Gaviria. It looks like we will have to wait until 2017 to see a bunch sprint unless a miracle happens on stage 3, which looks unlikely as the course is quite bumpy over the first half along with a short, sharp uphill finish.

Stage 1

On a slight downhill start, the Tour de l'Avenir got underway and it didn't take long before attacks were flying. Eventually, a group of 17 got away with some fairly big names including Tao Geoghegan Hart (GB), David Gaudu (France) Lennard Kamna (Germany), Michael Carbel (Denmark), Nathan Van Hooydonck (Belgium) and Vincenzo Albanese (Italy).

An attack by Geoghegan Hart was innocuous at first but drew out Grøndahl Jansen and Jan Tschernoster (Germany). In a post-race interview, David Gaudu regretted letting this move go as he sat on with the rest of the now chasing group. He really began to regret it when Van Hooydonck and Albanses bridge to the move, which then put it into over drive.

The dreary weather didn't help the proceedings. Albanese took the sprint as well as the two small KOM climbs on offer. The group held a minute gap on the chasing group with Gaudu while the peloton bided their time until 30 kilometers to go, when they took up the chase group again. With Germany and Italy having sprinters in the peloton but men in the move, they were no help to the chase. With no other sprinters having a big chasing effort, it was more about teams wanting to limit the GC loses with Geoghegan Hart gaining precious time before the mountains.

A small climb in the finish town of Veauche didn't do much to prevent the inevitable as Bardiani-bound Albanese won the sprint ahead of Grøndahl Jansen, from won the ZLM Roompot Tour & Tour de Gironde this year, and Van Hooydonck. Behind, it was Espoirs Central favorite U23 German sprinter Pascal Ackermann taking the bunch sprint ahead of Kristoffer Halvorsen (Norway) and Ivan Garcia Cortina (Spain). Albanese locked up the yellow jersey, sprint jersey and KOM jersey while Geoghegan Hart took 50 seconds on GC ahead of his closest rivals.

Stage 2

Even more straight forward, the attack of the day came on the only categorized climb of the day, the Côte de Charnay, when Grøndahl Jansen was at it again with a long range attack, similar to his day long romp in Gironde earlier this year.

It wasn't for another 20 kilometers that a counter attack was made with Jon Dibben (GB) and Nico Denz (Germany) dropping Sergey Luchshenko and motoring up to Grøndahl Jansen. Even with a World Tour rider like Denz up the road, the gap went way out to nearly 6 minutes.

The stage progressed on as riders in the peloton plodded along while the gap was minutes ahead. David Gaudu did take a spill but got up just fine. It really was a bit of a snore. Grøndahl Jansen does have a beautiful position on the bike that is a bit more old school than most riders these days; very long torso with a flat back.

In the sprint, Dibben and Denz tried to mix it up a bit as the finish was a bit uphill but Grøndahl decimated them in the sprint while Halvorsen got the better of Ackermann this time for the lower placings.

Grøndahl Jansen now leads on GC by 1 minute on Denz, 2 minutes on Dibben and over 3 and a half on the main pack. He is no climber however the decision to let Denz get time is puzzling as he is a World Tour rider and he isn't a slouch in the mountains either, especially when he is on some good form. Why risk it? Especially when he has over 2'30" on the main group of GC contenders.

Monday's stage is the longest of the Tour de l'Avenir this year and the last chance for any sprinters glory but as stated previously, the lack of organization with the chase is killing any chances of bunch sprints.

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