Monday, May 20, 2013

From Belgium to Cali: News and Notes from the week that was

There is more to the world than the Olympia's Tour so let's catch up with a few results...

Robin Carpenter (Hincapie Development) took the win at the Puivelde Pro Kermis just outside of Sint-Niklaas on Wednesday as he launched a late attack out of the front group and took the impressive solo win over Maxime Vantomme (Crelan-Euphony) and Michael Vanthourenhout (BKCP-Powerplus). Carpenter's story is quite interesting. Last year, he got a ride with the Chipotle Development squad and had quite a solid season albeit for a bad run-in with a chainring, a crash that saw him just inches from impailing his temple with the sharp teeth. Cut to last fall and Carpenter was without a team after Chipotle folded and closed up shop. 

It took until last November for Carpenter to find a home at Hincapie Development and he has already started to put up results. Did I also tell you that he has done this while going to college full-time at Swarthmore? Pretty impressive.

Glava Tour of Norway

Sondre Holst Enger up on the final podium of Glava Tour of Norway
19-year old Sondre Holst Enger (Plussbank) had an amazing week at the Glava Tour of Norway after having four top-7 stage finishes and ended up finishing 3rd overall. And of course, people are now saying things such as...

which is exactly the wrong thing to say. Look, I am not trivializing his results as he absolutely blew expectations out of the water. But this is just one race in his home country. To give some background on Enger, in his final junior season in 2011 he got some results in field sprints and a few harder races and did well in the World Championships with a 10th and 12th place in the TT and RR, respectively. Last year, in his first season as an espoir, he had some good results in field sprints including a 4th place in the 1st stage of the Tour of Norway, a smattering of other Norwegian races and two top-5 places in Loir-et-Cher. All of these are quality results but the best of his year? No.

This year, Enger got off to a slow start. He had problems in the opening races in Croatia and had some sickness and his only notable result of the early season was a 46th in the Ronde van Vlaanderen Nations Cup. He finally got into some form for some Danish (6th in Skive Lobet) and Norwegian (6th in Hadeland GP and 3rd in Ringerike GP) one-day races. Pretty quality stuff for a man of his age but there were guys just as young up there with him. Then we come to the Tour of Norway, where Enger had high results in three sprinting stages (3rd, 7th and 2nd) and on the queen stage where he stayed in the 1st chasing group and snagged 4th place. 

So he obviously talented to finish 3rd overall and he should have an eye kept on him but one race does not a champion make. I'm not trying to be dismissive but when people flip out and say he is "the new Peter Sagan" then they are just putting stupid expectations on him when they should just let the kid keep developing. Don't label him as Norway's saving grace or whatever the hell the fans want because these fans are just going to be disappointed when he doesn't live up to the expectations that fans set for him. There are riders that are simply in a league above at his age (like Sagan or Boasson Hagen) but I don't think he is at that level. I take my hat off to Enger though for showing his strength this week and not being scared of the bigger teams.

P.S. Don't forget about Toms Skujins. In all the talk about Enger, Skujins has had a great few weeks with three top ten finishes in Hadeland, Ringerike and Uppsala and then stayed in the front split in the queen stage of the Tour of Norway and went on to finish 10th overall. This is after being on the tiny Latvian Rietumu-Delfin team. Skujins is quite talented and deserves his chance and shouldn't have his talent squandered. Other young riders that had good races here include Jesper Hansen (CULT Energy), who finished 7th overall, and Frederik Ludvigsson (People4You-Unaas), who was 15th overall and 5 months younger than Enger. 

Ronde de l'Isard (UCI 2.2U)

Juan Ernesto Chamorro and Heiner Parra (yellow & polka dots) led the Colombian Express
Photo: RadioVelo
This is a race that always provides some interesting results but many of which can be skewed by the small field size and perhaps by a lack of depth in the field. Not to say that there isn't a heap of talent but there are so many climbers here that could realistically win a stage.

-Stage 1 saw a two man breakaway with Frenchman Romain Guyot (Vendée U) and Basque Haritz Orbe (Euskadi) that saw the Frenchman take the win with Orbe coming in 2nd and his Basque teammate Carlos Barbero (Euskadi) taking the reduced field sprint 14 seconds back for 3rd over Tom Bohli (BMC Development) and Edward Theuns (VL Techniks). 

-Stage 2 saw the first uphill finish of the race and it was dominated by Euskadi as Barbero and Orbe went 1-2 over a group of favorites including twins Maxime and Mathieu Le Lavandier (Chambery CF),  Dylan Teuns (Ventilair-Steria), Diego Ochoa and Juan Ernesto Chamorro (4-72 Colombia) with other favorites such as Nate Wilson (USA National) coming in a few seconds down.

Arrivée 3è étape (Ronde de l'Isard 2013) by radio-velo

-Stage 3 was the queen stage of the race with a summit finish at Goulier-Neige, deep in the heart of the Pyrennes. The finale did not let down either. KOM leader Heiner Parra, who escaped on stage 2 to take  the polka dot jersey, let out a hellacious attack that didn't see any responses as he was far down on GC. The Colombian romped up the final ascent as his teammate Chamorro let out a big attack with only a couple of kilometers to go and distanced his GC contenders to finish 7 seconds ahead of Maxime Le Lavandier, 9 seconds ahead of Teuns and 13 seconds ahead of Wilson and 4-72 teammate César Paredes.

-Stage 4 saw 4-72 Colombia control the peloton while a lone rider was able to stay out front on the long descent off the Col de la Core. Gert-Jan Devos, a rider for Ovyta-Eijssen, was able to outlast his breakaway mates in a surprise win while behind him, Chamorro comfortably defended his lead and no other riders were able to pose a serious threat.

The final GC looked like this...

1. Juan Ernesto Chamorro (4-72 Colombia)
2. Maxime Le Lavandier (Chambéry CF) +9"
3. Dylan Teuns (Ventilair-Steria) +20"
4. Mathieu Le Lavandier (Chambéry CF) +30"
5. Nate Wilson (USA National) +34"
6. Pierre-Roger Latour (Chambéry CF) +42"
7. Mikel Iturria (Euskadi) +47"
8. César Paredes (4-72 Colombia) +53"
9. Romain Guyot (Vendée U) +1'00"
10. Clément Chevrier (Chambéry CF) +1'45"

Some takeaways from this race are these:
  • Juan Chamorro is legit. After his 2nd in Tour de l'Avenir last year by just 1 second to Warren Barguil (now Argos-Shimano), he has been riding consistently this year on a broad range of terrain and he will be looking for that elusive l'Avenir crown. His territory is the mountains but he has proven himself to be solid on flat to rolling terrain as proven by his Tour de Bretagne performance. Granted, he has a bane and that is a flatter time trial but that can always be improved. Just write this guy down because I guarantee you will hear more from him this summer and beyond.
  • Nate Wilson is showing himself to be one of the more promising American climbers. This was the first race he was really ever given the captain title and he took to it with aplomb. He was admittedly suffering on the final day and couldn't do anything but follow wheels but the Virginian will be one to watch this summer with Bontrager and the USA National Team. Another American to watch is TJ Eisenhart (USA National/BMC Development), who came in 14th overall and 2nd in the young rider classification. It is only his first year out of the juniors but he finished 7th on the final stage, which shows a lot of promise after a brutal tour.
  • Chambéry CF put in a hell of a performance this week with four riders getting into the top 10. They are the development squad for the Ag2r La Mondiale World Tour team (they even ride in identical white/brown kits) and are based in Chambéry, which is in the Rhône-Alpes region in southwest France, deep in the Alps. Team graduates include Romain Bardet, Axel Domont and Ben Gastauer, all of whom now ride for Ag2r. Former pro cyclists including Gilles Delion (Vice President) and Mickael Buffaz (part-time DS) are involved with the club. The twins Maxime and Mathieu La Lavandier are promising climbers but they need to improve their all around abilities if they are going to cut it in the pro ranks. I would say that Clément Chevrier is the most pro-ready of the lot right now as he has had high finishes at races such as Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Piccolo Giro di Lombardia.
Other News includes...

  • Hincapie Development continued their string of success in Europe with former Team Type 1 rider Joey Rosskopf breaking away from the first echelon on the first stage of the new Paris-Arras 2-day race and taking the solo win by 19 seconds over a charging peloton. Rosskopf and his Hincapie Development team then controlled Sunday's rainy 2nd stage and shut down the breakaway attempts and delivered Rosskopf to the overall win as Armée De Terre rider Rudy Barbier beat out Daniel McLay (Lotto U23) in the bunch sprint. 

  • EUGENIO ALAFACI FINALLY WON A RACE! You heard that right, folks, the Italian who is a constant presence in the top 10 of races finally broke through for his first UCI win ever. After placing 3rd in the GP Criquielion in a mass sprint on Saturday, it was at Sunday's Omloop der Kempen where the Italian struck. After breaking away from the front echelon with four others, Alafaci attacked with Steven Lammertink (Jo Piels) and the Leopard-Trek rider outsprinted him easily to take the win. Bravo Eugenio! 
  • Boris Vallée (ColorCode-Biowanze) won the mass-sprint GP Criquielion on Saturday over Topsport Vlaanderen rider Gijs van Hoecke and Espoirs Central's favorite non-U23 continental Italian rider, Eugenio Alafaci (Leopard-Trek).
  • Davide Martinelli (Food Italia) won the Italian U23 Time Trial Championship on Saturday in Ponte San Giovanni, Perugia, Umbria. The field perhaps wasn't as deep as it could be but the former SKY stagiaire averaged an impressive 48.5 km/h over the course as he beat Zalf's Andrea Toniatti by 20 seconds.
  • Conor Dunne (VL Techniks) won the first stage of the An Post Ras, the most prestigious race in Ireland. The Irishman Dunne broke away with Mike Northey (Node4-Girodana) and outsprinted the New Zealander in the final straight to take an impressive home win.
  • Huge shoutout to the Bontrager Cycling team at the Amgen Tour of California, where they showed what U23 rider can do when thrown into a race like that. Jasper Stuyven had a few top 10's in sprint finishes, 'Downtown' Nate Brown and Antoine Duchesne put in some beastly attacks while Lawson Craddock put in quite a performance to finish 8th overall, finishing top 10 on each of the big mountain top finishes. Congrats to them! I just have one thing for ATOC organizers...why not invite more development teams? Why no Hincapie Development? The youth category in this race is a joke when it is dominated by one team because the other young riders are focusing solely on their team leaders. Surprising youth results give the race even more excitement. It seems as logical as having a women's stage race running concurrently with the men...oh wait.
I think that I covered everything here. It was a busy week but it is only going to get busier from here.
Some of the races coming up include: Tour du Gironde (France; 23rd-26th), U23 Peace Race (Czech Republic; 24th-27th); GP Industria e Commercio (Italy; 26th) along with races already happening such as the An Post Ras. Look for a changing of the U23 rankings this week!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Dylan van Baarle signs neo-pro deal with Garmin-Sharp

On the day where Dylan van Baarle wrapped up his Olympia's Tour crown, it was announced that the Dutchman signed a neo-pro deal with the Garmin-Sharp World Tour team for 2014-15 seasons. He will be joining a strong Dutch contingent on the team that includes (as of now) the Kreder brothers Michel and Raymond, Thomas Dekker and Martijn Maaskant. He is also the 2nd Rabobank Development rider this year to sign with a World Tour team after Daan Olivier signed with Argos-Shimano.

This is another great signing by the Garmin-Sharp team, who over the past few years have snapped up some of the top U23 talent by signing riders in past years such as Cameron Meyer (now GreenEdge), Jack Bobridge (now Blanco), Ramunas Navardauskas and Rohan Dennis. Van Baarle, while untested in any big mountains, has shown himself on hilly courses, pan-flat stages and time trials of all sorts and as of now, is Espoirs Central #1 U23 so far this season.

Van Baarle was a sensation last year with 4 wins, two of which came in TTs, but experienced a hard fall last year and broke his acetabulum, the concave area on the base of the pelvis where the femur head meets the hip. This set back ended his season and I, for one, thought he would be a slow starter this year. I couldn't have been any more wrong.

Van Baarle won two early races in a row, the Ster van Zwolle and Dorpenomloop Rucphen, in commanding fashion as he broke away both times for wins. Then he went on to 3rd overall at the Tour de Normandie even after an unlucky prologue in the rain, 8th overall in Triptyque Monts et Chateaux after a breakaway took time on a stage and then 4th overall at the Tour de Bretagne, where he won the TT and then made the decisive split on the final stage. He also rode in the Ronde van Vlaanderen Nations Cup, where he was active near the front and made the front splits to finish 30th in the lead group.Van Baarle has capped his season to date with his impressive Olympia's Tour win, which you can read about in previous Espoirs Central posts.

After a commanding win on the grueling stage 4 in Limburg in the Olympia's Tour, it only seems fitting that van Baarle would capture a big contract. Through this year so far, he has 5 UCI wins and that number should only continue to rise as the season progresses. Hats off to Jonathan Vaughters and Garmin-Sharp for this smart signing.

If you want to follow Dylan on twitter, go to @dylanvanbaarle

Olympia's Tour: Dylan van Baarle wraps up Olympia's Tour

In the span of two days, my #1 espoir of this season, Dylan van Baarle (Rabobank Development), turned the Olympia's Tour on its head and took over the race lead by winning the 4th stage, placing 3rd in the 5th stage TT and then sewed up his lead on the 6th and final stage of the race.

Dylan van Baarle in the muck in Limburg
(Photo: @RaboDevTeam)
The 4th stage of the race was described as hell by many riders as the course featured 27 hills, 15 of which were KOM points, along with windy and wet conditions that made it absolutely brutal to be on the bike. Even though the conditions were absolutely shit, van Baarle said post-stage that he had to control himself because he felt so good on the bike. The road conditions, because of the rain, were horrible as Shimano neutral support ran out of spare wheels just halfway through the race.

Van Baarle tried to get away early in a breakaway move but he flatted out of it, which he said was probably for the better as it saved his legs for later in the race. It wasn't until 50km to until the split was made with van Baarle getting away with Stefan Poutsma, Dylan Groenewegen, Peter Koning, Elmar Reinders and Arno van der Zwet. The group worked well together and with van der Zwet in 3rd overall and van Baarle in 4th, it would come down to these two riders to decide who would be the next leader.

With 15km to go, it was van Baarle who jumped out of the pack with only Groenewegen was able to hold onto his wheel but unfortunately, a flat took him out of contention and van Baarle was clear for a solo finish. The Dutchman kept extending his lead and by the time he crossed the line, it was up to 29 seconds over the chasing group and nearly 3 minutes on the next group behind them.

Van Baarle padding his lead in the TT
Photo: @BritchenDK
Saturday's morning TT was nearly a mere formality for van Baarle, who is a specialist in the discipline. It was Campbell Flakemore (Australia) who was able to take the win in Reuver over teammate (and World's silver medalist) Damien Howson with van Baarle finishing in 3rd and extending his overall G.C. to 1:29. Peter Koning (Metec) moved up to 2nd overall with van der Zwet going to 3rd and Elmar Reinders (Metec) in 4th.

The race wrapped up with a fast split stage on Saturday evening with only 80 kilometers on tap.

Rabobank hanging out before the final stage
(Photo: @RaboDevTeam)
The pace was fast with multiple attacks but nothing got a big gap as Koga was deadset on getting Wim Stroetinga a stage win after being denied multiple times by points leader Jeff Vermeulen (Metec). Keeping an average speed over 47 km/h, it was Koga who led it into the final kilometer and delivered Stroetinga to the line for his first stage victory this year.

Dylan van Baarle finished safely and wrapped up his 2nd in a row Olympia's Tour overall, the first rider to go back to back in the race since Servais Knaven in 1992-93. Van Baarle had some other exciting news announced on Saturday but you will have to wait for a little bit and another article...

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Olympia's Tour: Vermeulen swoops into leader's jersey after 3rd stage victory

Vermeulen takes the flowers and smooches again (Photo: @AllardEngels)

After trying his hardest to keep the leader's jersey over the past few days, Coen Vermeltfoort finally ceded the Royal Smilde Olympia's Tour lead to Metec's Jeff Vermeulen as the man from Rotterdam took the sprint win on stage three in Gendringen. Vermeltfoort, who has been a one-man show as his De Rijke-Shanks team has lacked some depth, tried valiantly to keep the white leader's jersey but only managed one bonus sprint win and thanks to the finishing bonus seconds, Vermeltfoort sits at 3 seconds behind Vermeulen.

The Thursday stage was water logged as it rained from kilometer zero until the end of the stage. The rain gave the riders in the peloton a brief respite as the average speed for the stage was just 45.5 km/h average for the 158 kilometer stage. (The average speed for this race, as it stands now, is a whopping 46.65 km/h.) A group including Rens Te Stroet (Jo Piels), Leander Schreurs (RDW), Joey van Rhee (Metec) and Patrick Ruckert (Parkhotel) were the main breakaway of the day but with the rain and poor conditions, they were being reeled in relatively early with 50km to go as the race hit the local laps around Gendringen. Jim van den Berg (Koga) lept out of the pack and it was Te Stroet and Schreurs who joined him as the other two were swallowed by the peloton.

Being just 32 seconds down on GC, Te Stroet assumed the leader on the road status as the gap grew to over a minute for the Jo Piels rider. His lead was short lived as De Rijke-Shanks, 3M and Ked-Stevens ramped up the pace and took the break back with one lap left to race. Coming into the finale, Vermeulen had decided to go solo and said post stage that he told his team that he's "got this". The cockiness was backed up with legs because when Wouter Wippert (3M) hit out, Vermeulen went past him and then easily held off Wim Stroetinga (Koga) to take the win. In the last three days, Vermeulen has gone 1st, 2nd and 1st in an impressive display of sprinting. The question is will it get him the attention he needs to get a pro contract...

Stage 3 Full Results along with Full GC Results

Stage 4 will be the decider (probably..what do I know?) as the race has 15 "KOM" sprints as it goes around Massright and Valkenburg in the heart of Limburg. It will be a doozy and my money is on Raboabnk Development to blow the doors off the race.

Olympia's Tour: Van Der Zwet steals Stage 2 for Koga

Coen Vermeltfoort making faces at his dinner
(Photo: Olympia's Tour Twitter)

I will never say that I was a normal child. Reserved and shy, I tended to hang on the fringe when I was in school and unless I was comfortable with my surroundings, I would be quiet albeit for the random teenage-charged political outburst. I guess that is what drew my to cycling in my teen years; the solitary hours out in the countryside where I could get lost in my thoughts. Before this goes into a long diatribe about my youth...when I graduated high school a bit early, I asked to go to see the Ronde van Vlaanderen in person for my birthday/graduation present and ended up going to some surrounding areas during my sojourn.

Well, I ended up staying a few days in Noord-Holland and I found it to be a very gorgeous place. I was racing my bike at that point and even though I was in good shape, there is one thing that sticks out to me about the place. The wind. My god...I would go on a ride from Edam to Hoorn along the coast and it could be incredibly easy or insanely difficult, just do to the fact that my pace was dictated by the direction and force of the wind. I would love to go back there sometime...

Just riding in these conditions makes me feel for guys and girls who are racing in this stuff that aren't the best in windy conditions where one position could mean the front group or being spit out the back. A very windy, flat stage that causes big echelons can sap someone's energy just like a a hard stage in the Tour de France. The Olympia's Tour is the antithesis of these racing conditions and Stage 2 was no different.

Butts of the breakaway (Photo: Olympia's Tour Twitter)

Starting in Rhenen at a zoo, it was a group of four that dominated the majority of the early racing. Berden De Vries (Jo Piels) Dries Hollands (Metec) Ritchie Motke (Baby Dump) and Joeren Segers (3M) got away after Johim Ariesen (Jo Piels) took the two "hill" points on the course. The quartet of riders got only a minute before the peloton started to reel them back in because Motke was only 49 seconds down on Coen Vermeltfoort (De Rijke-Shanks).

As the race reached Almere, the breakaway was neutralized but that doesn't mean that the pace let up. In fact, the race went into tatters. Nearly half the field was dropped as the pace was ramped up before the race hit the 27-kilometers long Houtribdijk dam that links Flevoland and Noord-Holland. The race split into three groups but the front group was still 60 riders long after the crossing the long dam. To say that this race was fast was an understatement. As the front group went over the bridge, they were over 20 minutes ahead of the fastest time check.

And then the race hit Noord-Holland...

After Vermeltfoort and Rabobank Devo's Dylan van Baarle duked out some bonus sprints, the race blew to pieces as it went through Hoorn. That group of 60 was cut in half with only 26 riders making the fron echelon for the finale, with Rabobank Devo and Koga each having 5 riders but once again, Coen Vermeltfoort was isolated after his De Rijke-Shanks teammate couldn't hang with the nearly 48 km/h average speed.

The gap was tenuous as the 2nd echelon, made up of nearly 20 riders, was trying to reconnect. It looked like it would be down to a sprint into Theo Bos' home of Alkmaar but there was a stick thrown into the wheel by an unlikely name. Even with 5 riders in the front group, the Koga team was missing their sprinter Wim Stroetinga, who was stuck in the 2nd group. Robin Chaigneau can sprint on occasion but he was having some troubles in the final kilometers. So what to do?

With two kilometers left, it was Arno van der Zwet who attacked the race and instantly got a big gap. A former Dutch points race champion and primarily a track rider, van der Zwet put the suffering skills to good use here as Metec and others gave him too much room in the end to take a fine solo victory. Just two seconds behind, it was Jeff Vermeulen taking the sprint once again, this time over Wouter Wippert (3M) and Clinton Avery (New Zealand).

Thanks to taking some bonus seconds, Vermeltfoort kept his overall lead over Vermeulen but it is now only four seconds.

Stage 2 Olympia's Tour Rhenen-Alkmaar

  1. Arno van der Zwet (Koga) 3:37'07"
  2. Jeff Vermeulen (Metec) +2"
  3. Wouter Wippert (3M) all s.t.
  4. Clinton Avery (New Zealand)
  5. Johim Areisen (Jo Piels)
  6. Mitchel Heunders (Park Hotel)
  7. Joris De Boer 
  8. Cameron Karwowski (New Zealand)
  9. Jim van der Berg (Koga)
  10. Mike Teunissen (Rabobank)


  1. Coen Vermeltfoort (De Rijke-Shanks)
  2. Vermeulen +4"
  3. van der Zwet +6"
  4. Dylan van Baarle (Rabobank Development) +9"
  5. Campbell Flakemore (Australia) +13"
  6. Jesper Asselman (Metec) +14"
  7. Cameron Karwowski (New Zealand) +15"
  8. Adam Phelan (Australia) s.t.
  9. Robin Chaigneau (Koga) +20"
  10. Jasper Bovenhuis (Rabobank Development) +22"
Fact on today's winner:

Arno van der Zwet is in a relationship with German cyclist Lisa Brennauer of Specialized Lululemon

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Olympia's Tour: Vermeulen takes 1st stage honors on a decisive day

Jeff Vermeulen took the flowers and smooches (Photo: @AllardEngels)
On the opening road stage of the 2013 Royal Smilde Olympia's Tour, there were no holds barred as the  peloton laid down the gauntlet early and when the dust settled, it was Jeff Vermeulen (Metec) taking the win over track man and former Milram rider Wim Stroetinga (Koga) and Wouter Wippert (3M) in a group of only 37 riders, meaning 80 riders finished over 2 minutes down on the leading group.

The day started under some cloudy conditions with the riders leaving Noordwijkerhout in a large peloton but it wouldn't be for too much longer. After a fairly neutral rollout, the race exploded with a group of 20 going off the front including names such as race leader Coen Vermeltfoort and Rabobank Devo rider Dylan van Baarle. Vermeltfoort won the day's first two bonus sprints to extend his lead but eventually, this group was brought back into a reduced peloton.

With 100 kilometers to go, van Baarle got off the front again, this time with a group of 18 but Vermeltfoort and his De Rijke-Shanks squad were caught off guard and entirely missed the move. Van Baarle was able to win a bonus sprint ahead of Campbell Flakemore and Rabobank teammate Mike Teunissen to move himself up the G.C. into a tie for 5th place.

Behind the leading group, it was De Rijke-Shanks and Koga, who was working for Wim Stroetinga, who laid their chips on the table to bring back the front group. They finally were able to bridge with just 5 kilometers to go and the chips were laid down. In the final kilometer, Peter Koning (Metec) put in a strong attack to try and foil the sprinters but was brought back at around 500 meters. Even with a man of Vermeulen's strength, he had just spent the last 50 or so kilometers riding hard in the breakaway so they had no idea how his legs would even go in the sprint. That question was quickly answered...

Vermeulen took to the front and Wim Stroetinga tried but couldn't come around him in the final 100 meters. Wouter Wippert charged to the line and was going very quickly at the end but ran out of road. In the front group, many of the overall favorites stayed in the front group including Vermeltfoort, van Baarle, Adam Phelan, Remco Te Brake, etc.

Remember the Australian domination of the prologue? Only 2 out of the 7, Flakemore and Phelan, made the front group with Alex Morgan getting time cut and the rest finishing in the big peloton at 5'34".

Top 10 Stage 1 Noordwijkerhout - Hoofdorp 

  1. Jeff Vermeulen (Metec) 3:52'30"
  2. Wim Stroetinga (Koga) all s.t.
  3. Wouter Wippert (3M)
  4. Dylan Groenewegen (De Rijke-Shanks)
  5. Johim Ariesen (Jo Piels) **KOM**
  6. Remco Te Brake (Metec)
  7. Adam Phelan (Australia U23)
  8. Rick Zabel (Rabobank Development)
  9. Clinton Avery (New Zealand National)
  10. Coen Vermeltfoort (De Rijke-Shanks)

G.C. Top 10 after Stage 1

  1. Vermeltfoort 3:56'20"
  2. Vermeulen +6"
  3. Campbell Flakemore (Australia U23) +9"
  4. Jesper Asselman (Metec) +10"
  5. Dylan van Baarle (Rabobank Development) s.t.
  6. Cameron Karwowski (New Zealand National) +11" 
  7. Phelan s.t.
  8. Stroetinga +12"
  9. Arno Van Der Zwet (Koga) +14"
  10. Groenewegen +16"
To be honest, it was a bit disappointing to see many of the Australia and New Zealand guys get dropped today but a crosswind is one of cycling's most honest places, where one can be one great form but if they are in bad position, forget about it. Vermeltfoort nearly paid the price for this today but was able to claw his way back. It wasn't so lucky for Damien Howson, Mitchell Mulhern or even natives such as Tom Vermeer, who all fell on the wrong side of the sharp edge of the blade.

The 2nd stage of the race heads west of Amsterdam, where the race starts in Rhenen (outside of Veenendaal) and makes its way northwest, heads over the 27km Houtribdijk dam over the Markermeer and then finishes in the Noord-Holland city of Alkmaar, the home of Blanco Pro Cycling's Theo Bos. There are two KOM sprints early on but after that, it will be the wind that takes over and if you have ever been to Noord-Holland, you will know that it is a cruel mistress.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Blast from the Past: Coen Vermeltfoort takes out the Olympia's Tour prologue

Are we back in 2010? Did the flux capacitor hit 1.21 gigawatts while he went 88 mph? Okay, maybe Coen Vermeltfoort didn't go that fast today but the De Rijke-Shanks rider looks to be back to the form that got him a place on the Rabobank World Tour team in the first place. Vermeltfoort absolutely stomped the breezy prologue in Katwijk today as he was one of only four riders to go under 4 minutes on the 3.2 kilometer course and beat a trio of Australians on his way to his 6th Olympia's Tour stage win.

The prologue in Katwijk started off the 61st Olympia's Tour and even though there was a lot of strong riders here to contend for the win, there was no clear favorite. Obviously the Australians would be strong as the majority of them have a pursuit background but with riders such as Vermeltfoort, Dylan van Baarle (Rabobank Development) and others, there were no guaranteed victoires.

Early on in the race, it was Australian Alex Morgan who took the lead and was the first man to go under four minutes. Morgan was 4th place in the junior world TT championships last season in Valkenburg and was World Champion this year in the elite men's team pursuit at just 18 years of age. It wasn't until Vermeltfoort stormed across the line until the Australian was unseated.

Vermeltfoort and his treetrunk quads in the hot seat (via Olympia's Tour twitter)
There was a strange event during today's race that paused the action for a while. A plastic inflatable, the ones that are usually seen at the side of the road with 1km to go banners and other places, blew over onto the road and neutralized the race for a while. Once the proceedings got underway again, it was the Australians that were knock, knock, knocking on the Dutch door as Damien Howson and Mitchell Mulhern came within two seconds of Vermeltfoort.

Last year's reigning champion Dylan van Baarle was no match for the strong man from Overijssel as he  only managed 13th, 9 seconds back, which is still a very good performance and van Baarle will have his eyes set on the longer TT later in the week. Vermeltfoort got his 3rd UCI win in the last month and yet another boost of confidence after his bad luck-ridden two years at Rabobank.

In one of the most astonishing team performances that I can remember, the Australian national team put 7(!!) riders in the top 10. Seven. Seven riders finished within 4 seconds of each other. Wow.

Top 10 Prologue Katwijk-Katwijk

  1. Coen Vermeltfoort (De Rijke-Shanks)
  2. Damien Howson (Australia) +2"
  3. Mitchell Mulhern (Australia) s.t.
  4. Alex Morgan (Australia) +3"
  5. Cameron Karwowski (New Zealand) +5"
  6. Jesper Asselman (Metec) s.t.
  7. Campbell Flakemore (Australia) s.t.
  8. Glenn O'Shea (Australia) s.t.
  9. Adam Phelan (Australia) s.t.
  10. Bradley Linfield (Australia) +6"
Other notables include...
  • 13. Dylan van Baarle (Rabobank Devo) +9"
  • 18. Robin Chaigneau (Koga) +10"
  • 25. Brian van Goethem (Metec) +13"
  • 43. Berden De Vries +19"
  • 104. Jesper Hansen (CULT Energy) +34"
Tuesday's stage is a flat affair which should end up in a bunch sprint at the finish in Hoofdorp but this being the Netherlands, a crosswind could break that up fairly quickly.

Weekend Roundup (5/11-12)

With about 935 races finishing up this weekend, it was busy on the results watching front. Lots happened so let us catch up with the weekend that was...

Flèche du Sud

Michael Valgren takes the stage 3 win (

When we left off last, Michael Valgren (CULT Energy) won the 3rd stage in a breakaway ahead of Mirco Saggriorato (EKZ) and Joey Rosskopf (Hincapie Devo). Valgren took over the overall lead from fellow Dane Kristian Haugaard (Leopard-Trek).

Saturday's stage was a taste of Luxembourg with short, punchy hills abound and an uphill finish. With 40 meters gained in the final half kilometer, the peloton or what was left of it broke up and only a group of 15 made it to the line together. It was Alberto Cecchin (Nippo-De Rosa) who took the win over (who else) Eugenio Alafaci (Leopard-Trek) and Johan Coenen (Differdange). All three GC contenders stayed with the front group.

Sunday's stage saw an incredibly fast finish (nearly 60 km/h average for the final 3km) but a bunch sprint was foiled by a crafty move on the finishing loops. With three laps to go in the race, Oscar Clark (Hincapie Devo), Alex Kirsch (Leopard-Trek) Clemens Fankhauser (Tirol), Alexander Foliforov (Helicopters) and Nikola Aistrup (Concordia) made a move together and got a gap. It was Clark and Foliforov who managed to attack the bunch and held off the bunch with Clark winning Hincapie Devo's first European race. Behind, it was the beastly Simon Yates (Team GB) winning the bunch sprint for 3rd.

Michael Valgren wrapped up the overall GC with Saggiorato in 2nd and Rosskopf in 3rd. Thanks to ever consistent finishes (albeit with no wins), Eugenio Alafaci (Leopard-Trek) wrapped up the points jersey while teammate Alex Kirsch got the KOM crown. This is Valgren's 3rd UCI win of the season and I will be surprised if he isn't picked up by a Pro Conti/World Tour squad for next year.

Giro della Regioni Friuli-Venezia Giulia

After Friday's uphill finish into Claut, it was time to go into the mountains on Saturday. It wasn't a particularly 'epic' stage with only two categorized climbs but the finish was on the Monte Matajur, right on the border with Slovenia.

After a scenic, rainy journey to the base of Monte Matajur, the group was wittled down to only 6 with approximately 5km to go when Daniele Dall'Oste (Trevigiani) attacked. At 3km to go, it was Slovenian Jan Polanc (Radenska) and Austrian Riccardo Zoidl (Gourmetfein-Simplon) who bridged up to the Italian. With two km to go, it was Polanc who put in a hellacious attack that dropped Zoidl immediately and then dropped Dall'Oste soon after. Polanc went through the red kite with a gap and climbed up through the picturesque forest of the Julian Alps and as he climbed to the summit of the mountain that straddled the border with his home country, Polanc let loose an exuberant celebration as he won brilliantly. Dall'Oste hung on for 2nd while Ivan Rovny (Ceramica Flaminia) passed Riccardo Zoidl for 3rd.

With Polanc resplendent in the white leader's jersey, the race wrapped up Sunday with a 40-rider sprint into Corno di Rosazzo with Zalf-Euromobil's Paolo Simion and his ginger hair taking the victory. It was Simion's 4th victory of the season and for his efforts, he took home the points jersey. Polanc finished safely in the bunch and took his first overall stage race win in his career.

Top 10 overall
  1. Jan Polanc (Radenska)
  2. Daniele Dall'Oste (Trevigiani) +25"
  3. Ivan Rovny (Ceramica Flaminia) +28"
  4. Riccardo Zoidl (Gourmetfein-Simplon) +35"
  5. Andrea Manfredi (Ceramica Flaminia) +1:07"
  6. Davide Orrico (Colpack) +2:07"
  7. Andrei Krasilnikau (Belarus) +2:25"
  8. Matija Kvasina (Gourmetfein-Simplon) s.t.
  9. Matteo Fedi (Ceramica Flaminia) +3:16"
  10. Roberto Giacobazzi (General Store) +3:22"
**U23 riders in bold

Tour de Berlin

While the G.C. was essentially all said and done, the main reason that the Tour de Berlin should be followed was still to come...the sprints. Berlin and its surrounding area are not known for their hills and, while not to discount the G.C. riders here, the sprinters are really the main attraction. Past winners and high finishers in sprints here in the recent past include Bryan Coquard (Europcar), Rüdiger Selig (Katusha), Kris Boeckmans (Vacansoleil), Leigh Howard (GreenEdge) and superstars such as Mark Cavendish (OPQS) and Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol).

The next big German sprinter?
Willi Willwohl of LKT Brandenburg

After finishing 6th on the first stage, Willi Willwohl (LKT Brandenburg) took out Friday's bunch gallop and being only 18, it was a fantastic result. But really...could he win another stage? Well to prove any doubters wrong, the young man from Cottbus took the final two stages during the weekend. Willwohl took out stage four ahead of Stölting's Phil Bauhaus and Rad-Net Rose's Pascal Ackermann while on Sunday, the speedster beat out Philipp Zwingenberger and Ackermann again to cap off an amazing week. 

It should be noted that the team that Willwohl rides for, LKT Brandenburg, is primarily a track squad and Willwohl has track roots in the pursuit and points race. Willwohl was 2nd in the German junior national RR last year but he never had any huge results as a junior that screamed "Talent over here!". His track background and team shouldn't bother anyone in terms of development. LKT Brandenburg also had guys such as Nikias Arndt and Roger Kluge in the past and both have transferred to the road well.

Mathias Møller (Blue Water) wrapped up the overall GC ahead of Sjors Roosen (Jo Piels) and Blue Water teammate Lasse Norman Hansen, winner of the stage two TT.

Other results from around the world...

  • Bontrager teammates Jasper Stuyven and Tanner Putt went 5th and 10th in the first stage of the Amgen Tour of California. On what was an incredibly hot day, the Bontrager team performed better than most teams as they got 5 riders into the front group. Beastly performance by Axel Merckx's men and keep looking for them in the week ahead.
  • Niccolo Bonifazio (Viris Maserati) took another win, his 3rd of the year, in a sprint over Trevigiani's Liam Bertazzo and Marco Mazzetto (Coppi Gazzerra) in the GP Camon on Sunday. Bonifazio signed an agreement with Lampre-Merida last season, along with Jan Polanc, that should see them stagiaire with the squad this fall and turn pro with them in 2014. The only reason I say should is because I know deals such as this can fall through so nothing is set in concrete.
  • Mark Dzamastagic (Sava) took out the final stage of the Rhône-Alpes Isère Tour in a bunch sprint over former World Junior cyclocross champion Clément Venturini and Kevin Reza (Europcar). Dzamastagic can be remembered for his 2nd place in the ZLM Tour behind Yoeri Havik this April. Martijn Tusveld (Rabobank Development) won the youth classification overall for the race, finishing 17th behind winner Nico Sijmens (Cofidis) at 3'26".
  • Triptyque Ardennaise is a three-day stage race through, you guessed it, the Ardennes of Wallonie. Dylan Teuns (Ventilair-Steria) won the first day out of a group of 8 including Jèrôme Baugnies (ToWin-Josan) with Boris Vallee (ColorCode-Biowanze) took the field sprint for 9th, 14 seconds back. Baugnies got his revenge on Saturday's stage two by taking an impressive win in Eupen over Frederik Backaert (EFC-OPQS) and Stefan Küng (BMC Development) after the trio broke away from their breakaway group on a stage that saw 12 categorized climbs. With a nice lead but without a strong team, Baugnies was isolated on stage three. Starting the stage only 1 second ahead of Backaert, Baugnies spent his day covering the EFC-OPQS man but while he did that, a breakaway including Silvan Dillier (BMC) and Stig Broeckx (Lotto-Belisol) got away up the road to contest the stage win. Baugnies, to protect his lead, took over the pace making to keep Broeckx from usurping him. Dillier beat out Broeckx in the sprint for the stage win while Baugnies kept his slender lead. This was Baugnies' 10th win in a season that is a tale of redemption for the former Pro Continental rider with Topsport Vlaanderen and NetApp, who is trying to get back to that professional level and doing his best to show off his skills.
Alright, that'll do for now. Read my twitter timeline @Vlaanderen90 to see a short preview of the Olympia's Tour, which starts Monday with a prologue. Until next time.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Danes, they are a coming (and other news and notes)

As the title states, Danish riders have been doing quite well for themselves the past couple of days since we last spoke. After Kristian Haugaard won the opening stage to Flèche du Sud, the Leopard-Trek rider went 2nd on the 2nd stage of Fléche du Sud, which was won by Mauro Richeze of Nippo. Do you think the Danes were done in Luxembourg? NOPE.

The 3rd stage of the Fléche du Sud, a lumpy and rolling stage to Clervaux, saw double Liege-Bastogne-Liege winner Michael Valgren drop his breakaway companions of Mirco Saggiorato (EKZ) and Joey Rosskopf (Hincapie Development) right near the end and take the win and the overall lead. The Danes are taking over Luxembourg! To be fair, Dane Lasse Bøchman won this event in 2010 and 2011 so this isn't their first invasion. The trio above gained 1:08 over the chasing peloton, which totalled only 34 riders. These three should be vying for GC unless someone goes on the attack.

-Another interesting note from this stage is Eugenio Alafaci's 5th place. Yeah, yeah I know...5th place. Woop di do. Well we are only in May and this is Alafaci's 17th top 10 stage placing. Another interesting point is that Alafaci hasn't come 1st or 2nd in a race yet this year. The Leopard-Trek rider is incredibly consistent but he hasn't overcome the hump yet in terms of victories.

Were the Danes done? NOPE. The Scandanavian invasion went to Germany next for the Tour de Berlin. The first stage was a relatively flat loop around the Berlin suburb of Birkenwerder but even with this, a breakaway was still able to get away. A group of 4 including Timo Roosen (De Jonge Renner), Mathias Moller (Blue Water), Odd Christian Eiking (Norway) and Sjors Roosen (Jo Piels) took it to the line with Timo taking the win over Moller.

The 2nd day featured with a split stage with a short morning TT followed by a road stage. You should already know who won seeing as this is a theme post. You're right! A Dane! This time it was the fast man from Faaborg, Lasse Norman Hansen, the Olympic Gold Medalist in the track omnium, who beat out Sjors Roosen and Blue Water teammate Mathias Moller. With his 2nd place on stage two, Moller took the overall lead with Roosen only 6 seconds back and Hansen in 3rd. On a down note, one of the big favorites, Stölting's Silvio Herklotz, had to pull out because of an overnight sickness, which is a bummer seeing as this is his home race. The afternoon stage saw alliterative first year espoir Willi Willworth (LKT Brandenburg) take the bunch sprint win over the Stölting duo of Jan Dieteren and Phil Bauhaus.

The current GC looks like this:

1) Mathias Moller (Blue Water)
2) Sjors Roosen (Jo Piels) +4
3) Lasse Norman Hansen (Blue Water) +18
4) Steven Lammertink (Jo Piels) +29
5) Jochem Hoekstra (Jo Piels) +35

Full Results can be seen here

Okay, I promise I am done with the Danes for now. Quickly, let us fly south to Friuli-Venezia Giulia.

Thursday's 2nd stage saw Colpack's Niccola Ruffoni take a 2nd stage win in a row, this time ahead of Ruben Geerinckx (Ovyta-Eijssen) and Paolo Simion (Zalf-Euromobil). If we take a look at the video, you can see that Simion (center-green) got an amazing leadout from his teammate Gianluca Milani but didn't have the finishing power to go from 200 meters out and was overhauled before the line.

Friday's stage finally said goodbye to the flats and headed for the hills. A slight uphill into Claut saw the practically ancient Paolo Colonna (1987) keep the Colpack train rolling as he edged out rival Trevigiani rider Daniele Dall'Oste and former Russian wunderkind Ivan Rovny (Ceramica Flaminia). Thanks to bonuses, Michael Schweizer (NSP-Ghost) took the overall lead over Edward Theuns (VL Techniks) and future Lampre rider Jan Polanc (Radenska). As of now there are about 27 riders left with a chance for GC and with no TT, it will come down to the weekend to decide the tight race.

P.S. Watch that video ^^ Some spectacular scenery. Really, what other race has strade bianchi and a road that goes through a tunnel that pops out on a spectacular lake?

There is so much racing this weekend that it'll be hard to keep up. All three of these races will be going on while there is racing all over the place in Europe and the Tour of California starts this week, which will need to be watched because of Bontrager's presence in the race. I'll be trying to keep up but we shall see how that goes.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Haugaard strikes in Flèche du Sud; Ruffoni puts Colpack on the board in Italy

Flèche du Sud Stage 1 

Dane Kristian Haugaard surprised the sprinters and took a fantastic solo win for the hometown Leopard-Trek squad. Haugaard, who isn't a bad sprinter usually, went really hard going into the final kilometer and no one was able to come around him. In 2nd was young Alex Darville, only in his first espoirs season, while 3rd was Argentinian ried Mauro Richeze (Nippo). Haugaard is having a fantastic year in his final U23 year as he was 5th in the Ronde van Vlaanderen Nations Cup and 4th in La Côte Picarde and was 7th overall in the Istrian Spring Trophy in March. Leopard-Trek comes here with a stacked team as this is a home race that they desperately want to win.

The 1st stage was more of a prologue than anything as it was only 82 kilometers around the town of Roeser, which is situated in the south in Esch-sur-Alzette. A group of four, including Oscar Clark (Hincapie Development), Christian Helmig (Differdange) and Jasper Ockeloen (Parkhotel) (I CANNOT FIND THE OTHER BREAK RIDER AND IT IS BUGGING ME) spent the majority of the day away as they were up front for over 60km of the 82km.

The break was brought back with just under 10km to go and then the peloton turned the dial to 11 and the pace became frantic. Luxembourgish rider Alex Kirsch (Leopard-Trek) hit the deck with 4km to go, apparently due to a Nippo rider getting into his way but didn't suffer any major damage. Coming into the final k, Haugaard found a gap and hit is hard and didn't look back and took his first win of the season. Post race, Haugaard was relieved to finally take his first win and get that monkey off his back.

There seems to be next to no coverage on the race so results are still hard to come by.

Top 5 Stage 1 Roeser - Roeser

1. Kristian Haugaard (Leopard-Trek)
2. Alex Darville (US National)
3. Mauro Richeze (Nippo)
4. Federico Pozzetto (Tirol)
5. Owain Doull (GB National)

Fleche du Sud might not sound like much but look at this group of winners from this race: Charly Gaul, Acácio da Silva, Alex Zülle, Kim Kirchen, Bradley Wiggins, Geraint Thomas, Andy Schleck and Bob Jungels. That doesn't include any famous stage winners either!

Giro della Regioni Friuli Venezia Giulia Stage 1

Nicola Ruffoni (Colpack) got the race started off well for his team by taking a tight sprint over Filippo Baggio (Ceramica Flaminia) into Mereto di Tomba to kick of the 2013 Giro della Regioni Friuli Venezia Giulia. The name might be a mile long but it is simply the tour of the far northwestern region (Friuli Venezia Giulia) that abuts Slovenia and Austria.

The racing started off very quick as many tried to attack but with over a 50 kilometer average in the first hour, nothing was getting off the front. The course was nearly all flat except for a small climb near the middle, a climb won by Ruffoni's Colpack teammate Davide Orrico. While there was a group of 16 that got off the front during the middle bit of the race, they were brought back as Orrico summited the 4th category climb at 78.5 kilometers. With finishing loops around the finishing town of Mereto di Tomba, the peloton was not letting a big group get much of a gap. A group of 8, including Tour de Bretagne and Circuit des Ardennes winner Riccardo Zoidl (Gourmetfein-Simplon). This group lasted until the last 12 kilometer lap and was swallowed up with 6 kilometers to go as the sprinter's teams were trying to ramp up the pace.

To say this sprint was chaotic...well that is a downright understatement. No organization whatsoever. Hell, Filippo Baggio was EVERYWHERE in the final 200 meters and had to come across multiple riders in the final few meters to get 2nd. Nicola Ruffoni stuck to the inside and got his 3rd victory of the season, a welcome site for the team that has been relegated to the lower steps of the podium so many times this year.

1st  Nicola Ruffoni (Colpack) 3h41'09 " 
2nd Filippo Baggio (Ceramica Flaminia) 3rd David Gomirato (Podenzano) 4th Edward Theuns (VL Technis Abutrlek) 5th Hanis Dakteris (CCD Team Differdange Losch) 6th Andrea Dal Col (Treviso Dynamon Bottoli) 7th Paul Simion (Euromobil Zalf Desiree Fior) 8th Emiljano Stojku (Albania) 9th Jan Sokol (Team Gourmetfein Simplon) 10th Ruben Geerinkx (Ovyta Eijssen)

Tomorrow should be another sprint stage, this time into the the town of Pordenone.

REMINDER: Tour de Berlin starts tomorrow with a 164km romp around the suburb of Birkenwerder. Unless someone can pull a good U23 Marcel Kittel impression, it will be a sprint.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Beginning of May Roundup: The Stage races

The beginning of May had about five thousand different stages races happening at once and unless you paid attention to a particular race, any results just passed over glazed over eyes without much analysis. Just for the sake of time, I won't be going into the minutia of the race as much since there were 4 stage races running concurrently with one another that had some big U23 talent in them.

Tour de Azerbaijan

We saw the commercials on Eurosport for the first few months of the year about the Tour de Azerbaijan, an attempt by the corrupt government to promote Azerbaijan (i.e. Baku) tourism and attempt to get it back to its former level, where Baku was seen as the gem of the Caspian. Since the fall of communism and the hellacious Nagorno=-Karabakh War between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the country had fallen on hard times but thanks to oil money, Baku is getting back a bit of its former reputation. I might sound very negative about this part of the world but I have done research on Azerbaijan before (oil workers during the turn of the 20th century) and I love the country and the people. I just don't love the Aliyev family, who has ruled Azerbaijan for the majority of the last 50 years. Funnily enough, last year's version of this race was named the Heydar Aliyev Anniversary Tour, in honor of the late tyrant. Now that I have ruined any chance of being invited to the Tour of Azerbaijan, let's get to the race.

Azerbaijan is quite flat around Baku but once you live the city, it can get hilly fast. The first stage was won by the hometown team as Baku Synergy's Christoph Schweizer surprised the sprinters and held them off for an impressive victory. The 2nd stage started at sea level in Baku but climbed and climbed before reaching the highlands into Ismyaili...decimation is a word that fits quite well in what happened. A group of twenty two broke away from the peloton and created a big gap over the peloton. While Serhiy Grechyn got away in the end, it was an impressive performance by Astana Continental's climber Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev, who was able to go 3rd on the stage. Kozhatayev has had a wonderful season so far in the U23 ranks and I really hope this is a talent that can transition into the pros.

After a tame stage three, the fourth stage was utterly brutal for the racers as they made their way up to the Pirqulu Observatory. Jan Hirt (Leopard-Trek) jumped away from Rabobank Development's Jasper Bovenhuis and Baku Synergy's Connor McConvey on the penultimate climb and laid down some serious power to extend his lead to over 4 minutes by the time he summited the Observatory climb. 

Hirt only joined Leopard-Trek midway through last year but he has the talent to climb with the pros, as evident by his ride here and his efforts in the Giro di Padania queen stage last year, where he was 11th after being dropped late by the leading group containing guys such as Betancur and Nibali. His Leopard-Trek teammate Sean De Bie, who helped Hirt early in the 4th stage, showed well on the final stage in Baku where he was 2nd in the final sprint to World Tour Tomas Vaitkus, who was riding for the Lithuanian National team.

The G.C. was largely decided by the 2nd stage breakaway with young riders such as Kozhatayev (3rd), Rabobank cyclocrosser Lars van der Haar (5th), Efapel-Glassdrive's Joni Brandao, Hirt in 8th and Astana CT's Zhandos Bizhigitov in 9th. Take a look down the rankings though and you will find some nice gems. While he missed the decisive breakaway, Merhawi Kudus (UCI Cycling Centre/Eritrea) finished 22nd overall and rode very strong for a team that has little to no consistent support. Ireland's Connor McConvey rode strong on stage 4 and won the KOM jersey, which is a nice result for the Baku Synergy squad and a positive sign of things to come for the young Irishman.

Tour of the Gila

In a desert far, far away from from Azerbaijan, American racing took on one of the more prestigious events of the year in the town of Silver City, New Mexico. Up at nearly 6,000 feet of elevation, this race is quite a shock to the system for those that are not fans of altitude. Gila is really known for three stages: the opening Mongollon stage, the TT and the closing Gila Monster stage, which makes everyones legs give them a last chance to scream at them. While stage racing isn't the heart of American racing by any means, this race has had a huge amount of talent pass through it. This year's edition was no different as both the BMC Development team and Bontrager showed up to throw down.

  • The first stage saw the race go up the Mongollon Pass and while Jamis-Hagens Berman Javier Acevedo won the stage up the road, a trio of Bontrager riders in Gavin Mannion, Lawson Craddock and Nathan Wilson led home the young riders, taking 9th, 10th and 11th. 
  • Arnaud Grand of BMC Development took the 2nd stage of the race after Johnny Clarke (United Healthcare) nearly ran him into the barriers and was deservingly DQed.
  • More strong performances on the young riders front in the 26 kilometer TT as Tour de Normandie winner Silvan Dillier (BMC Devo) went 3rd, Lawson Craddock (Bontrager) 4th and Bissell's Carter Jones went 6th. 
  • After suffering from mononucleosis throughout 2011, Kiel Reijnen is probably the most underrated American racer of the last two years. Reijnen stormed the 2010 Asian Tour with Jelly Belly but went through a so-so time with Team Type 1 before landing at United Healthcare. The Washington native has consistently performed on a multitude of courses and deserves a bigger role. Reijnen took the stage four win over youngster (and arrogant and stupid) teammate Luke Keough with Optum's young sprinter Eric Young rounding out the podium.
  • Remember how I just said Reijnen was underrated? Bissell's Phil Gaimon was an out of shape gamer when he was 18 but after dedicating himself to getting into better shape, he took to cycling and went from a cat-5 to a cat-1 in just a year. After having some up and down results, Gaimon came into his own last year and even after a crash this year at the San Dimas Stage Race, this writer believes that Gaimon will be headed for the big time next year. I mention him because even after just coming back from a crash, Gaimon attacked the Gila Monster stage and drew out an elite selection of three others. While Gaimon eventually faltered (as dopehead Paco Mancebo won) and finished 4th, his performance was memorable. Behind, it was young Gavin Mannion who attacked the peloton and distanced race leader Javier Acevedo on the finishing climb to finish 5th.
I have to admit that I was surprised to see it was Philip Deignan who took the overall honors here. Wasn't this guy 9th in the Vuelta just a few years ago? How far people can fall but it is good to see him back in the winner's circle. Mannion sewed up the young riders jersey after his impressive climbing on the Gila Monster stage while Carter Jones rolled in 8th overall and Nathan Wilson 10th. 

California will definitely be interesting as Bontrager will be lining up with a strong roster that might be able to challenge for a stage win.

Carpathian Couriers Tour & Szlakiem Grodòw Piastowskich

How do I go about doing this lightly...hmmm...Okay. Poland has five stage races, which isn't bad for a country that size and with their economy and so forth. So why the fuck would you schedule two stage races that overlap each other? Honestly, why would you do this? The Carpathian Couriers Tour is a U23 stage race and should be trying to attract some big U23 talent, no? So why is Silvio Herklotz and his Stölting team at Szlakiem? Along with Etixx-iHNed, Sava and others. But let's not get away from the main point...WHY ARE THESE RACES SCHEDULED TOGETHER?!? Literally, schedule one just a week later and you could draw some better teams for Carpathian Couriers and Szlakiem could be a logical follow up for some of those U23 teams that wanted to test themselves.

Szlakiem is a legit pro race and young riders were spit out without any remorse. Silvio Herklotz had one bad day but after his great 1st stage, Herklotz settled for 12th overall and won the white jersey over Etixx-iHNed's Patrick Konrad. Etixx-iHNed's Norwegian Daniel Hoelgaard was close to knocking off the sprint juggernaut that is Tino Thömel (NSP-Ghost) but had to settle for 2nd.

What is there to take away from Carpathian Couriers? Boris Vallee is quick. Slovakian Michael Kolar took his 3rd win of the year for his Dukla Trencin Trek squad. These wins need to be taken with a grain of salt though because honestly, the competition level is slightly lower than western Europe. Other than this? I honestly cannot draw much from here. It just really annoyed me that they could do so much with this race and well...they don't. I know there are limitations with money and logistics but really...this could be fixed quite easily.

Look forward to more coverage from the Fleche du Sud and the Giro della Regioni Friuli-Venezia-Giulia stage races. There should be no worries about a lack of talent here...these races will promise to be awesome. Also, the latter usually has some kick ass highlights, with last year's race getting 20 minute stage recaps. My addiction is getting bad when this is making me slightly salivate. Until then...

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Big Beginning of May Roundup: One-Day Races

Your fearless writer has been a bit busy this week since I've had to start a new 9-5 job and trying to fit that in with riding and this...well it has been a bit straining but I should be able to get back into the swing of things soon enough.

Let's go back to mid-week and May Day, the day where sensible Europeans give their workers the day off to celebrate their hard work...

Rund um den Finanzplatz Eschborn-Frankfurt: Lasse Norman Hansen (Blue Water Cycling) beat out Michael Valgren Andersen (CULT Energy) and Max Werda (Stölting) in a 4-up sprint to take his 2nd victory of the season on the road and his 2nd win in just 2 weeks. After 140 undulating kilometers around Frankfurt, a breakaway of four including Hansen, Andersen, Werda and his Stölting teammate Silvio Herklotz were out in front after breaking away from seven other riders before the finale. As they had numbers, Herklotz was dialing up the pace to lead out Werda but a miscommunication saw Werda attack as Herklotz wasn't able to keep the speed up any longer after spending the whole day out front. Andersen brought Hansen back up to Werda and Hansen launched with 200 meters to go and took the sprint.

Behind, it was Magnus Cort Nielsen (CULT Energy) who won the bunch sprint for 12th. After spending nearly the whole race out front, Herklotz picked up the mountain and sprint jerseys for his troubles.

Grote Prijs 1 Mei: De Rijke-Shanks continued their impressive season as the Dutch team swept the podium in Hoboken with former Rabobank rider Coen Vermeltfoort taking the honors over Mats Boeve and Yoeri Havik. It was the team's 5th UCI win of the season and the 2nd for Vermeltfoort, who has bounced back nicely after suffering from bad luck and injuries while with Rabobank.

Fernando Grijalba gets the magic Txapela for his Copa de España win

LXXX Clasica Santa Cruz Legazpi: Fernando Grijalba (Caja Rural Amateur) was able to steal the Copa de España overall from Airan Fernandez (Coleur) and former Andalucia pro Pablo Lettuce Lechuga (Cajamar). The final round of the CdE was a 141 kilometer romp around Legazpi but it was the final ten kilometers and the final climb that saw the race exploded. It was Santiago Ramirez (Lizarte) that attacked first followed by Lechuga, Aitor Gonzalez (Lizarte), Cristian Cañada and then Grijalba. Loïc Chetout (Naturgas) and overall leader Airan Fernandez tried to go with Grijalba but were dropped before the finish.

In the end it was Ramirez who won the 5-man sprint for the win while Grijalba finished in 5th place. With Airan Fernandez losing the sprint for 6th to Chetout, he lost his overall lead to Grijalba by a mere three seconds with Pablo Lechuga a further two points behind.

Grijalba is only the 4th rider to win the Copa de España as a U23 along with a guy named Alejandro Valverde. Grijalba also won the junior Copa de España, which makes him the only rider to win both the junior and elite/U23 classification. Watch for the rider from the Valladolid province of Castilla y Leon to move up to the Caja Rural pro team for next year.

Ronde van Overijssel: Tom Vermeer (Jo Piels) outsprinted his breakaway companions Martin Mortensen (Concordia-Riwal) and Christoph Pfingsten (De Rijke-Shanks) as the trio just barely outlasted the chasing peloton, who was lead home by Jeff Vermeulen (Metec CT).

Other results include...

  • Paolo Simion (Zalf-Euromobil) took his 3rd win of the year at the Circuito del Porto in a bunch sprint over Liam Bertazzo (Trevigiani) and Davide Martinelli (Food Italia). Zalf continues to roll as in two other smaller races on Sunday, they had Andrea Toniatti and Pierre Paolo Penasa take wins. Best Italian team of the first half of the season by far.
  • Frederik Strand Galta (Øster Hus-Ridley) won the Hadeland GP Saturday out of a breakaway of four over Stian Remme (Joker-Merida), Jesper Hansen (CULT Energy) and Frederik Ludvigsson (People4You-Unaas). The group sprint for 5th was won by Asbjørn Kragh Andersen. Sunday saw 20 year old Sondre Holst Enger (Plussbank) go 3rd in the Ringerike GP in a group sprint behind winner Reidar Borgersen (Joker-Merida) and Michael Olsson (People4you-Unaas)
That is all I have for one day races. I know it was a bit brief but don't worry...tomorrow (or later today, depending on location) you will read about the stage races that have been on going. Trust me it is going to be filled with acid. Let's just say that while I support a lot of U23 racing, you need to fucking schedule it a lot better than some races should. Until then :)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Perichon survives to win into Quimperlé; Zoidl wraps up overall

Pierre-Luc Perichon (Bretagne-Séché Environment) attacked in the final kilometers but was just able to hold off a sprinting Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-iHNed) to take his first win of the year. On a course filled with dirt roads and short, punchy climbs, the peloton did not have a parade finish to their Tour de Bretagne.

Of all people, it was Dylan van Baarle (Rabobank Development) and Julian Alaphilippe who really blew the field apart after the third sector of dirt roads, a common sight in Bretagne. Van Baarle was going very well, driving the pace and stealing the mountains jersey away from Olivier Le Gac and sewing it up for himself. While this duo was powering up ahead, race leader Riccardo Zoidl wasn't going to let this move get any more time and took the initiative multiple times to try and bring the gap of nearly two minutes down.

Zoidl and his Gourtmetfein-Simplon team continued to whittle the gap down before the Austrian attacked with Fabien Schmidt (Sojasun) and Pierre-Luc Perichon. Zoidl showed his red hot form as he drug the group up to the tired duo, nullifying a 50 second gap in only 12 minutes. The final climb into Quimperlé saw Perrichon attack and the Frenchman took a 200m advantage into the final uphill rise. Perrichon was clearly suffering as he headed up the finishing straight but was able to raise his arms in victory over a strong Julian Alaphilippe, who nearly caught him on the line. Simon Yates' twin brother Adam Yates (CC Etupes) won the chasing group sprint for 8th.

1. Pierre-Luc Perichon (Bretagne-Séché Environment)
2. Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-iHNed)
3. Fabien Schmidt (Sojasun)
4. Dylan van Baarle (Rabobank Development) **KOM Winner
5. Riccardo Zoidl (Gourmetfein-Simplon)

1. Zoidl
2. Nick van der Lijke (Rabobank Development)
3. Jasha Sütterlin (Thüringer Energie)
4. van Baarle
5. Alaphilippe
6. Bryan Nauleau (Vendée U)
7. Perichon
8. Vegard Breen (Joker-Merida)
9. Luis Mas Bonet (Burgos-BH)
10. Juan Villegas (4-72 Colombia)

After struggling on the wicked final stage, Timothy Dupont (Ventilair-Steria) still held on to his points jersey thanks to his strong early race, just three points ahead of Alaphilippe. Today capped of a strong week for Riccardo Zoidl, who has won his last two stage races overall and truly is a big koi in a small water garden.

Other takeaways include...

  • Consistency was one of the big trends this week as many guys had outstanding races because they  had a consistent presence in the finale. Dupont was very strong in the sprints day after day while guys like Alaphilippe, Mas and Juan Villegas were consistent over nearly the whole race.
  • Dylan van Baarle is a beast.
  • Jasha Sütterlin looks to be in line for a strong season and might be able to finally live up to the tall expectations that were set for him by some after his incredible performances in the junior ranks. German cycling still is not what it once was and Sütterlin is a key figure in the U23 scene and could play a pivotal role in the next couple of years to see if German riders can still develop into more than sprinters and classics men.
  • If you were not watching him before...Bryan Nauleau of the prestigious Vendée U team needs to be watched. He is a late bloomer but after his stagiaire role with Europcar last year, it will be interesting to see if they sign him to a pro deal next year.
  • With teammate Daan Olivier signing with Argos-Shimano, it is time to start speculating where Dylan van Baarle and Nick van der Lijke will go for next year. Hmmmm...