The Olympia's Tour is halfway over and I have to say, the Olympia's Tour social media has been on-point for a U23 race. With no live video, they have provided a ton of updates, some small videos and detailed previews on their website so kudos to them. Oh yes and the racing has been good too.
Stage 1 - TTT - Hardenberg
The Axeon-Hagens Berman filled American team put their team cohesion to good use by taking the opening team time trial ahead of some very strong teams from Australia, which was a mix of world class track talent and all arounders, home favorites Rabobank Development along with continental juggernauts in Klein Constantia, BMC Development and Lotto-Soudal. The USA was also unique out of the top 5 finishers as they finished with their whole team in tact.
Colin Joyce took the initial overall lead before the GC race exploded.
Stage 2 - Assen Loop
True to the Olympia's Tour, a windy day brought out a breakaway that ended up going to the line. To break up the monotony of twisting roads and crosswinds, a stretch of cobbles was used twice that shook everything up.
A large group of 22 got away from the peloton early and got nearly 2 minutes on the peloton. The breakaway had a large contingent of Dutch riders from Metec, Jo Piels, Rabobank as well as some composite teams plus overnight leader Colin Joyce, Mads Pedersen and BMC riders Lukas Spengler & Pavel Sivakov, among others. The first stretch of cobbles at Exloo saw some of the riders from the breakaway get splintered off and after the 2nd pass, they only had 11 riders left. Pavel Sivakov attacked in the final kilometers coming into the finish and only Jan Willem Van Schip, a U23 who was apart of the Dutch Team Pursuit team in Rio, was able to follow. Van Schip took the sprint from Sivakov but due to taking time from the rest of the breakaway, Sivakov slid into the 3M Yellow Jersey.
I have said it before but even as a first year, Pavel Sivakov is the most versatile rider in the U23 ranks. He was 2nd in Liege-Bastogne-Liege, he was in sprints in the Tour de Berlin, competed in the mountains in Aosta and l'Avenir and now attacking through the windy roads of Holland.
Stage 3a - TT - Herenberg to Elten TT
Miles Scotson shot to the podium in the Espoirs Cetral virtual U23 World Championship TT after stomping on an otherwise tight top 10. Geoffrey Curran, who turned in a very fast time, was beating Mads Pedersen by a second and Espoirs Central pick for the win Remi Cavagna by another two while Neilson Powless and Nathan Van Hooydonck were close behind. Scotson proceeded to come in and beat Curran's time by 27 seconds.
Scotson has been bouncing around all year with road events and team pursuit commitments but has started to build form over the last month with this being an exclamation point before Doha.
Curran has been up and down the last few years but this year has by far been his best in the U23 ranks. His time trial game has been on point this year with top ten rides all over the place but this is by far his best ride. Definitely shooting for a top 10 ride at Worlds, with this current form.
Sivakov rode well for 15th however he lost time to Cees Bol and Harthijs De Vries (both Rabobank Development) to pull the GC within 8 seconds.
Stage 3b - Ulft to Gendringen
Due to starting too late, the stage had to be shortened due to the waining sunlight and even then, the stage didn't finish until early twilight.
Espoirs Central called a Kristoffer Halvorsen win and by god, did that Norwegian eat some herring. Obviously one of the best U23 sprinters this year after winning a fucking professional 1.1 race, the GP Isbergues, which wasn't stacked with talent but hell, it was a 1.1 event. He nearly won the Nokere Koerse only to be denied by continental wonder Timothy Dupont but beat out Dylan Groenewegen. A favorite for Doha, Halvorsen beat out Chris Latham by a nose, which could be a possible result in Doha as well.
Cees Bol grabbed a few bonus seconds to bring the lead down to 5 seconds overall on Sivakov
Stage 4 - Zutphen loop
I said it in my preview but because this stage was front loaded, there was nothing special about this except for Markus Faglum getting the KOM jersey before being sucked back into the breakaway along with his break mates. Not to make the race sound easy as it never is in the Olympia's Tour. If you feel like shit, good luck holding onto a peloton that is going 50km/h in a crosswind while you are riding in the gutter. Feeling good? You could miss a split in the peloton.
Once out of the hills, the race came back together as Rabobank Development leading the charge for the bonus sprints. Cees Bol came through on both of them and taking 1st and 2nd for 5 bonus seconds while Sivakov snagged 2nd one of the sprints. Bol finished up 2 seconds behind Sivakov at the end of the stage.
Coming into the finale, it was a familiar sight with Halvorsen again leading the sprint out and just barely holding off 2nd place Fabio Jakobsen, who was a tire length or two behind the Norwegian across the line while Van Schip finished up in a close 3rd. The tight finish didn't give anyone a ton of room so some other favorites like Latham, Lecrocq, Christopher Noppe didn't have the room to contend.
With two stages to go, Rabobank Development is ravenous to get their final Olympia's Tour win while Sivakov will not go down without a fight. Stage 5 should end in a sprint as the last two kilometers are more or less a runway for a fast sprint. I picked Ivan Garcia however if Halvorsen or Latham are around, it won't be a contest. Stage 6...well that is where the real fun begins.