Friday, June 28, 2013

Rabobank Development reloads for 2014; Leopard-Trek no more in 2014

Rabobank Development reloads for 2014

The Rabobank Development Team is going full-Dutch for 2014 after their move to being run fully under the KNWU (Royal Dutch Cycling Federation) for 2013 after Rabobank pulled sponsorship from the flagship male World Tour squad. Even with the Dylan van Baarle (Garmin-Sharp), Daan Olivier (Argos-Shimano) and the German pair of Rick Zabel (BMC) and Ruben Zepuntke leaving after this year, the team has already loaded up with seven new signings in the form of five junior riders and two U23 riders.

The team, after joining together with Rabobank Off-Road this last offseason, will contain more cyclocross talent to accent Mike Teunissen and Lars van der Haar.

Martijn Budding (Enertherm-BKCP) was the eternal second to Raymond Poulidor's grandson, Mathieu van der Poel, on last season's junior cyclo-cross circuit. Budding finished on the podium in 13 races (+ the World Cup overall) last year, including the World Championships in Louisville, which is commendable seeing as van der Poel was a literal buzz saw by winning every race. Naturally, his focus will be on cyclocross but if he races on the road, he could possibly crossover to the road.

Nino Honigh (Enertherm-BKCP) is the reining junior pursuit and points race national champion on the track. Seemingly a jack-of-all trades, Honigh dabbled in nearly every discipline of cycling with some success. The kid from Noord-Holland has had a relatively successful year on the road this year with an 8th place finish at the Junior Paris-Roubaix and 4th on the opening stage of the Tour of Istria Nations Cup.

Cees Bol (DTS Zaandam) is another Noord-Holland talent that'll be joining the team for next year. While no relation to Belkin World Tour rider Jetse Bol, Cees is the current junior champion of Noord-Holland on the road.

Sam Oomen (TWC Pijnenburg) is perhaps the most talent junior of this group on the road. The current junior time trial champion of the Netherlands and the Zuid-Oost province, Oomen will be the new TT/GC promise on the Rabobank squad and will follow in the footsteps of many before him such as Dylan van Baarle, Wilco Kelderman and many more. Oomen won last year's GP Rüebliland overall ahead of BMC Development rider Tom Bohli and Ilnar Arslanov along with the stage three TT. This year, Oomen placed 9th overall in the Junior Peace Race this year, helping his Dutch National teammate Mathieu van der Poel to a 3rd place overall.

Andre Looij (WV Viking Waterland) has done something this year that not many other junior racers can say this season in that he beat Danish powerhouse Mads Pedersen in a race. Granted it was only once, the Ronde Van Het Lage Land, but the performance definitely shows the potential that he has. Looij was a triple national champion on the track this winter by winning the omnium, scratch and 1 km TT. Looij could be a sprinting talent for the future as he has a few wins and other results in bunch gallops.

The team also went after two U23 riders, both of whom come from the WV de Jonge Renner.

Timo Roosen was the winner in the Tour de Berlin opening stage where he was in the leading breakaway with eventual race wiiner Mathias Møller. Roosen also placed well in the Carpathian Couriers Tour in early May where he finished 2nd in the prologue and 3rd in the hilly stage three, once again in a breakaway. On the domestic front, Roosen put up a couple of wins including in Limburgs Mooiste.

Jeroen Meijers has been trying to find his feet in the U23 ranks after a pretty successful juniors career that saw him place high on the GC in races such as the GP General Patton and Driedaagse van Axel. Meijers first U23 season with the Parkhotel Valkenburg team was nothing to write home about but this year, he has experienced better results. Jeroen won the first stage of the Carpathian Couriers Tour in a reduced sprint and went on to finish the race 3rd overall. He also won the Wim Hendriks Trofee on the domestic side of things. Meijers used to be more serious about cyclocross in his younger days but more recently he only dabbles in the discipline with some decent rides.

While it is a good time for the Rabobank Development team, it is sad news for another Low Countries squad.

Leopard-Trek to disband in 2014

After having some great success over the last season and a half, it was reported by the Luxembourg newspaper Le Quotidien that the development team would be disbanding at season's end after the Radioshack-Leopard World Tour license was sold by team owner Flavio Becca to cycling industry giant Trek. The team has amassed 23 wins and dozens more podium finishes in the past year and a half. Last year's squad saw the team graduate three riders to professional contracts in Bob Jungels (Radioshack-Leopard), Julian Kern (Ag2r) and Alexander Pliuschin (IAM).

An interesting tidbit in the article was that four riders from the Leopard-Trek team would be moving to the Trek World Tour squad for 2014. The four riders are:

  • Eugenio Alafaci - prolific top 10 finisher (24 this year alone) and winner of the Omloop der Kempen.
  • Fabio Silvestre - winner of the Triptyque Monts et Chateaux overall; stage winner in the Tour de Normandie, Circuit des Ardennes and Ronde de l'Oise in 2013.
  • Sean de Bie - 4th, U23 Ronde van Vlaanderen; 2nd La Côte Picarde; 3rd, Arno Wallaard Memorial. 2nd, U23 Ronde (2012); 1st, stage Toscana-Coppa della Nazioni (2011). 
  • Kristian Haugaard - 5th, U23 Ronde van Vlaanderen; 4th La Côte Picarde; 1st, stage Fleche du Sud; 2nd prologue and 9th overall, U23 Peace Race; 7th overall Istrian Spring Trophy.
It will be interesting to see if these signings turn out to be true. If so, that is a lot of talent headed to the Trek World Tour team for 2014. I have doubts about this simply because of the fact that I am sure some Bontrager riders will be headed for the Trek team and a World Tour team cannot have that many neo-pro riders on their rosters.

Monday, June 24, 2013

National Championships Review

It has been a busy weekend around the cycling world because for nearly every big cycling country, the weekend before the start of the Tour de France signals the national championships all over Europe, Asia and beyond. U23 national championships do not always fall on the same weekend as the professionals and occasionally are stand-alone events, such as is the case with Italy.


Dylan Van Baarle blew away the competition (Photo:

Dylan van Baarle did the U23 double in the Netherlands this season after pulling away on the brutal Kerkrade circuit to take an impressive victory to compliment his national TT victory in Schoonebeek earlier this month. Van Baarle and teammates Mike Teunissen and Gert-Jan Bosman broke away in the middle of the race and got an advantage on the peloton. Bosman was dropped with a few laps left while Teunissen and van Baarle plowed on, the gap ballooning. On the final lap, it was van Baarle leaving Teunissen on the climbs and taking the victory solo by 49 seconds over his Rabobank teammate. Behind, it was upstart Joey van Rhee (Metec) who was able to gain the final podium position over Bob Schoonbroodt (De Rijke-Shanks) after the two had broken away from the decimated peloton.


Andrea Zordan (Zalf-Euromobil) backed up his impressive results so far this season with another sprint win in a rather familiar way. It was a group of eight that decided the sprint finish in Felino and all the more familiar, it was Zordan and Colpack rival Davide Villella who were the leading two with 200 meters to go. Zordan and Villella had sparred earlier this season with Zordan taking every occasion. Zordan lead out the sprint and Villella, who was directly in his wheel, could not come past him and was once again beaten. Managing 3rd in the sprint was Alberto Bettiol, the jack-of-all trades 19-year old who was 4th overall in the Coupe des Nations Ville de Saguenay.

Davide Martinelli (Food Italia) won the Italian U23 TT championship in May.


Photo: Dariusz Krzywański
After his breakaway stage 1 win in the Thüringen Rundfahrt, Etixx-iHNed's Lukasz Wisniowski did what Dylan van Baarle and Lasse Norman did in their respective countries this season and pulled off the U23 National Championship double. Wisniowski won his TT by 14 seconds over first year U23 Pryzemyslaw Kasperkiewicz and followed this up by a solo victory in the RR over Wociech Migdal. Frankly, I would have been more surprised if Wisniowski didn't win. There are no Polish U23 riders that are close to his talent lever at the moment.


Former junior standout Rafael Reis had been tapping into his potential recently and at the Portuguese National TT, he blitzed the competition by winning with a 2 minute margin over 2nd place Victor Valinho (Loulentano). The Ceramica Flaminia rider has been doing better this season after having some teething problems in his first two U23 seasons. Reis was 5th in the Tour de Berlin TT but he has not had many chances to race, as I think he only has one racing day with his Ceramica Flaminia team.

The RR was decided by a small breakaway ahead of a larger peloton and it was Valinho who was able to escape from António Barbio and Federico Figueiredo and take a solo victory. The bunch came in at 18 seconds back for 4th place with Daniel Freitas taking the sprint and Rafael Reis finishing in 7th.


Photo: ROTH/

After a disappointing Thüringen Rundfahrt, Jasha Sütterlin had a big chip on his shoulder for the German National TT Championship, a race where he was the defending champion. With his main competition, teammate Maximilian Schachmann, out because of an injury from the Thüringen Rundfahrt, Sütterlin was determined to blow out his competition. In this race, he definitely met expectations.

Sütterlin blasted around the course in Wangen im Allgäu, just northeast of Lake Constance, with an average speed of nearly 49 km/h and beat his closest compeition, Nils Politt of Team Stölting, by 48 seconds on the 25 kilometer course.

With Silvio Herklotz winning the German U23 Championship on the weekend before the Thüringen Rundfahrt in Ilsfeld, a contingent of U23s lined up on the Wangen im Allgäu course on Sunday to contest the elite men's championship and vied to be the first non-professional U23 since Gerald Ciolek in 2005 to win the elite men's race (sorry Martin Reimer). On the cool day that went from cloudy to torrential rain, it was a select sprint finish that decided the race. While Andre Greipel took the sprint win over Gerald Ciolek and John Degenkolb, three U23 riders crossed the line in the lead selection of 18. Herr Herklotz was an impressive 7th in the sprint while Heizomat teammates Raphael Freienstein and Johannes Weber finished 9th and 11th in a group that consisted of nearly all World Tour and Pro Continental riders.


French amateur elite champion Cedric Delaplace (Photo: PQR/Ouest France)
France is weird. France decided to hold a national championships for elite men, elite and U23 women and amateur men all on the proper weekend and then hold the championship for l'Avenir (promises), which consists of U23 men and junior women and men in August. For the amateur men event, it plays out like many Coupe des Frances races with a mixture of young and old that keeps things interesting.

This edition was no different and saw a breakaway attempt make it to the line with a cheeky solo move to seal the deal. With Clement Saint-Martin (Top 16) up the road, it was Cedric Delaplace (Sojasun Espoir-ACNC) who lept away from a chasing group of 4 others with two kilometers to go and bridged to Saint-Martin. Spending a mere 20 meters on his wheel, Delaplace put a surge in with 500 meters to go and dropped the Angouléme-based rider and took the win by five seconds.

The Delaplace surname might sound familiar to you because Anthony Delaplace, Cedric's brother, is a pro with Sojasun and will be starting his 3rd consecutive Tour de France, an impressive feat for one who is just 23 (will turn 24 in August). Cedric just finished his exams for his degree in Business Management from Caen Basse-Normandie University and is hoping to find a stagiaire role this season and then give it his all for a professional contract.


  • Luka Pibernik pulled off a shocker in Slovenia as he beat out Matej Mugerli and Jure Golcer for the Slovenian Elite Men's RR title. Pibernik, Mugerli and Golcer were apart of a group of seven inlcluding Matej Mohoric (Sava), Kristjan Fajt (Adria Mobil) and Blaz Jarc (NetApp-Endura). The breakaway began to crumble in the latter stages of the race and Pibernik, Mugerli, Golcer and Mohoric were the only ones left to contest the finish. On the steep run-up to the finish, it was the powerful Pibernik who easily sprinted away from Mugerli and Golcer to take the elite title while Mohoric was close behind. Pibernik now owns both the Elite and U23 National Championship jersey and will be in the white, blue and red year around
  • While the Elite men's result was sprinted out between Matt Brammeier and Philip Lavery, the race for the U23 Irish crown was being settled in the middle of the pack in a tight sprint. Sprinting for 13th-15th places, it was AnPost-ChainReaction rider Jack Wilson who took the sprint over young Cormac Clarke and Conor Dunne (VL Techniks), who is still rebounding from a broken elbow in the An Post Ras.
  • Spain had both their U23 TT and RR this past weekend with some new names getting big wins. The former junior and U23 Spanish TT champion Mario Gonzalez Salas had a fabulous weekend. The Cafes Baque rider won the U23 RR on Friday with an impressive breakaway with Basque rider Beñat Txoperena and won the two-up sprint for the win. Friday saw Gonzalez go 3rd in the TT behind Alberto Just, the Champion of Aragon in the RR two years running. Just was just able to hold off last year's U23 TT champion, Marcos Jurado of Seguros Bilbao, by 8 seconds on the challenging course around Bembibre.
  • Simon Yates continues his impressive season by being the best U23 in the British Elite RR Championships in Glasgow on Sunday. After finishing 10th overall at the Thüringen Rundfahrt, which concluded last weekend, Yates spent the majority of his day in a chasing group behind a World Tour dominated breakaway. In the end, Yates managed 8th overall, finishing with NetApp rider Scott Thwaites, but he was nearly 5 minutes clear of 2nd place in the U23 category, which went to his 100% ME teammate Owain Doull.

    The British U23 TT title went to Sam Harrison, who defended his title from last year with aplomb by beating Joseph Perrett by 23 seconds on the 35km course. Harrison is a fixture on the track and has mixed in the the British team pursuit squad.
  • Other Champions include: Tom Skujins (Latvia RR), Andzs Flaksis (Latvia TT), Josef Cerny (Czech Republic TT), Michael Boros (Czech Republic RR) Roman Katyrin (Russia RR), Alex Kirsch (Luxembourg RR), Antoine Duchesne (Canada RR)
Well that should be a good start for everyone and if you are more curious, results are everywhere. The U23s will be ramping up their prep for July, which include the Vuelta a Comunidad Madrid U23, Giro Ciclisto della Valle d'Aosta Mont Blanc and the European Championships.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Getting To Know: Jan Polanc

I'm going to try to start profiling some more riders, similar to my Silvio Herklotz preview albeit perhaps not as in-depth, in hopes for them to be talked about more while they are still U23s. While some of these guys could definitely use some more publicity in terms of getting a contract, Jan Polanc already has that covered as he is due to transfer to Lampre this summer. In fact, this move has been in the works for over a year and a half, when a verbal commitment was announced in January of 2012.

Polanc (c) with Radenska team manager and former Lampre rider Andrej Hauptman (l) and Guido Bontempi  in October 

Slovenia's cycling scene has seen a boom in the last decade that has made it one of the emerging countries on the pro and U23 scene. Going back a decade, there were only a few established Slovenian pros including riders such as Andrej Hauptman, Uros Murn and Tadej Valjavec (Sava). While there wasn't exactly a bevy of legitimate pro talent in the former Yugoslav Republic, Slovenia began to churn out U23 talent year after year it seemed like. In 2004, Janez Brajkovic (Astana) won the U23 World TT Championship in Verona over a heavily favored Thomas Dekker. After Brajkovic's move to the pros in 2005 with Discovery Channel, more riders began to pop up. Borut Bozic (now Astana) rose through the ranks as eventually went pro with LPR. Grega Bole was a U23 Liege-Bastogne-Liege winner and eventually turned pro with Lampre in 2010 after a false start with Amica Chips-Knauf. Simon Spilak (now Katusha) won La Côte Picarde and was 4th in Tour de l'Avenir in his final year as a U23 before heading off to Lampre. Note the Slovenia-Lampre connection now. You need more examples of the talent explosions in just the last 6 years? Okay...Kristjan Koren (Cannondale), Marko Kump (Saxo-Tinkoff), Robert Vrecer (Euskaltel), Blaz Jarc (NetApp-Endura), Gregor Gazvoda (Champion System), Jure Kocjan (Euskaltel), Aldo Ilesic (UHC) and Luka Mezgec (Argos-Shimano). If it wasn't for the dumbass Blaz Furdi, who was popped for taking ecstasy (MDMA), there would be another in the higher ranks of the sport.

Lots of love and smiles between Polanc (l) and Tratnik (

These are just the guys who are in the top flight of the sport. Remember Jan Tratnik? He was a darling U23 rider who was dealt bad luck after turning pro (too) early with Quick Step and hasn't been able to get back to his old level yet. Then there is the outstanding U23 and junior talent. Leading the charge is Polanc but is followed by names such as teammate Luka Pibernik and the Sava duo of Mark Dzamastagic and Matej Mohoric, last year's junior world champion. Another name to watch is junior David Per. This is all coming from a country of just over 2 million people.

As you can obviously see now, Polanc isn't an anomaly when it comes to his roots. His father Marko, a trainer and director formerly with continental team Sava and now with Radenska, was a two time winner of the Croatian Istrian Spring Trophy while racing as a Yugoslavian national rider. Starting out riding in his pre-teens, Polanc took to the sport easily and had a natural talent for the sport. Before he hit the junior ranks, he was a prolific winner in his home of Slovenia in youth races. As Polanc continued to develop as a junior, his talent grew right along with him. He won the Slovenian junior RR crown in his first attempt in 2009 in a impressive solo victory.

Polanc blossomed as a 2nd year junior and put in some great performances with top ten overalls in the Peace Race and Trofeo Karlsberg, podium finishes in Italian one-day events and 4th overall along with a stage win in the Giro Internazionale della Lunigiana. His sterling results of the year with a 5th place in the World Championships in Offida, finishing 4th in the elite sprint behind solo Olivier Le Gac. Like many coming out of the junior ranks, Polanc stayed at home with his Radenska squad, which allowed him to ride a versatile schedule of U23 races along with pro races in Slovenia, Central Europe and Italy.

To say that his talent was apparent in just his first U23 year is an understatement. Polanc was making the selections and finishing in elite groups like he had been there for a few years and knew the ropes already. He was top 10 in Italian U23 one day events such as Trofeo Piva Banca and Giro del Belvedere, where he finished in the front groups with riders such as Enrico Battaglin, Sonny Colbrelli, Salvatore Puccio, Georg Preidler and Enrico Barbin, to name just a few of the guys that are now professionals. He was versatile as well as he finished 22nd in his first U23 Ronde van Vlaanderen and then was 5th overall in the Giro della Friuli Venezia Giulia, finishing on the same time as current Ag2r pro Romain Bardet. Polanc capped his year off with an astounding ride in the Giro di Padania queen stage, where he went 11th behind a whole host of previous doping convicts.

In a 2011 interview, Polanc stated that he was "scared to dope". This is a translation from his native Slovene but he was seemingly adamant about his stance on not touching doping products, saying that it is too much of a risk and he could not even imagine the health (which he put first) and career consequences (and embarrassment) that follow.  Granted, it is never okay to fully trust any rider when they say these statements but it is refreshing to hear him at least talk about it, given that he has ridden a fair bit in the toxic Italian amateur scene. Not to absolve him completely, he did say some rather short-sighted things in the same interview where he said that no one his age was interested in doping. Right.

Back with Radenska for 2012, Polanc extended his success and was yet again a constant presence in the top 20 of nearly every race he contested. 9th in ZSSDI, 9th in Piva Banca, 17th at U23 Flanders, 13th in La Côte Picarde, 11th in ZLM Tour, 11th overall in the Istrian Spring Trophy...and that is just up until the middle of April. Granted, Polanc had bad races as well. He had to pull out of the Toscana-Terra di Ciclismo and on the queen stage of the Friuli Venezia Giulia stage race, he was outgunned big time and came in 10th on a course that was tailor-made for him. Polanc suffered (and still does to an extent) when the pace gets too high going into mountains and is still trying to work on pack positioning skills to limit this. He admitted that he was not good when the pace went over 50 km/h when he first entered the U23 ranks.

Polanc began to enter bigger races but his results were not always stellar. After a win in the Slovenian U23 TT, Polanc won the white jersey in the Tour of Slovenia but was a level under the climbers on the big mountain stages and finished 17th overall. His maiden Tour de l'Avenir was not what he was hoping for. The self-admitted Tour (de France) fanatic was facing some big competition and was only able to post two top-10 finishes (6th in the transition stage 3 and 10th on the uphill finish at Les Saisies) and was not at his best when the hill pointed upward but he was still able to post a 12th overall. This lit a spark underneath him for the rest of the season.

Polanc went 2nd overall in the Okolo Jiznich Tour in the lead-up to the World Championships in Valkenburg. Loving the selective course, Polanc attacked in the finale but had to settle for 12th in the bunch finish. While his season had been good up to that point, he was missing a signature win. Polanc would find success at the last possible second. Attacking deep in the finale of the Piccolo Giro di Lombardia, Polanc was able to pull out a gap on an elite selection of riders including Davide Villella and Enrico Barbin to take a win that would seal his move to Lampre-Merida.

Photo: Piccolo Giro di Lombardia website
The official announcement of Polanc's move to Lampre-Merida seems natural in a way. If you look up the list at the rant about the riches of Slovenian talent, you will notice many names that were once Lampre riders. Valjavec, Spilak, Gorazd Stangelj, Grega Bole and most importantly, Andrej Hauptman are all Slovenians that have ridden for Lampre in the past. Hauptman was the broker in the deal between the team and Polanc and what was at first a verbal commitment, it turned into an official deal that would see Polanc join the Italian squad, which received a big sponsor commitment from Merida bikes around the same time of the announcement. It is still unclear whether this is a stagiaire-to-pro move or if Polanc will ride under a full contract starting in August, similar to riders in recent years such as Fabio Aru (Astana) and Matteo Trentin (OPQS).

2013 has been about one thing for for the win. I can find you five riders that get as many top 10's as Polanc but are nowhere near the talent. He started off early with two 4th place finishes in Istria but his spring was merely a buildup for the stage racing season. On the 4th stage of the Friuli Venezia Giulia, Polanc raced Riccardo Zoidl and Daniele Dall'Oste to the summit of of the Matajur, a mountain which straddles Italy and Slovenia. His timing could not have been better...

Polanc went on to take his first overall stage race victory as a U23 and seemingly matured from a nearly-there rider to one that was primed for GC racing. Polanc and many other GC favorites were marked out of the decisive GC breakaway at the U23 Peace Race but Polanc was easily the best of the rest, distancing rival teammates Julian Alaphilippe and Patrick Konrad by 12 seconds on the uphill finish in Jesenik.

Polanc's latest feature was his performance at his home race, the Tour of Slovenia. Polanc was interviewed pre-race and said that he had high hopes for the race, perhaps going high on GC and maybe going after the KOM jersey. He had not been doing any time trial training but he knew the queen stage route very well. It is quite easy to say that any expectations that were had pre-race were blown out of the water. After a solid prologue for 20th, Polanc made the front echelon on the downhill run into Visnja Gora. Sitting pretty for a high GC ranking, Polanc was on familiar roads on the queen stage to the summit at Vrsic. While the Croat Radoslav Rogina pulled away towards the summit, it was Polanc who came across the line in 2nd, beating out names like Sinkewitz, Atapuma and all of his future Lampre teammates after accelerating in the final kilometer. Polanc finished the race in 2nd overall and blew out the competition for the young rider's jersey.

I would not pigeonhole Jan Polanc as a climber and pure GC guy. Polanc definitely needs to show improvement against the clock if he ever wants to race in the front of his dream race, the Tour de France. I would call Polanc a mix between two well-known Slovenians, Simon Spilak and Janez Brajkovic. Polanc has shown proficiency in the classics, which he shares with Spilak, and has a GC capability that is similar to Brajkovic. Polanc is not the TTer that Brajkovic is and will have to consistently improve yearly if he wants to get to Spilak's currently level of riding. In any case, it will be another Slovene you will want to watch when the screws are turned and the racing gets deliciously agonizing.

Jan Polanc

  • May 6th, 1992
  • Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • Team: Radenska (will join Lampre-Merida in August)
  • Favorite Race: Tour de France
  • Biggest Results: 1st, Giro della Friuli Venezia Giulia GC and stage 4; 2012 Piccolo Giro di Lombardia; 5th, 2010 Junior World RR, Offida
  • Strengths: Climbing; Rouleur-ability; GC riding
  • Weaknesses: High-speed run-ins to climbs; long TTs
  • Where will he be in 5 years? How the hell should I know.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Dylan van Baarle wraps up Thüringen

Thüringen: Van Baarle wraps up overall; Ewan takes victory in Ichtershausen

Norman and van Baarle will be Garmin-Sharp teammates in 2014 while 3rd place Howson should be destined for a  World Tour squad with his impressive TT ability (Photo: ROTH)

Dylan van Baarle wrapped up the Thüringen Rundfahrt after spending the day more-or-less relaxed in the peloton as he gave all of his attention to 2nd place Lasse Norman (Denmark), who was only three seconds back on the general classification. Van Baarle took his 2nd straight stage race win after the Royal Smilde Olympia's Tour, a race where he is a repeat champion. The lowest van Baarle has placed in a stage race this year is 8th in Triptyque Monts et Chateaux, which occurred after missing out on a key breakaway.

The final stage of the Thüringen Rundfahrt was settled over a hilly course in Ichtershausen, which went over 4 difficult hills before heading down to some finishing circuits back in town. A breakaway including hometown team Thüringer Energie's Jasha Sütterlin, Swedish sensation Frederik Ludvigsson, New Zealand Hamish Scheurs, Rabobank's Ruben Zepuntke and Dane Kristian Haugaard. Sütterlin tried to make up for a disappointing week by taking out three of the four KOM points on the course while behing, Silvio Herklotz (Stölting) continued his attacking ways by making a separation that included van Baarle and 3rd place Damien Howson but left Lasse Norman isolated.

In the end, it was everyone but Hamish Scheurs who was swept up on the run-in into Ichtershausen as the Kiwi made it onto the final circuits solo but with under 5 kilometers to go was swept up and spit out by a peloton that was lusting for a sprint.

In the end, it was Caleb Ewan who triumphed in the sprint with a narrow victory over overall KOM winner Magnus Cort and Brit Owain Doull. It was Ewan's 2nd stage win of the week and 4th of the year. With the victory, Ewan was able to wrap up the blue and yellow polka dot points jersey. There were some though that were not happy with his set the scene, New Zealand's Josh Atkins (usually rides for EFC-OPQS) said he and his teammates took to the front for team leader Michael Vink on the big cat 1 climb to split the peloton. They were successful and Vink was off with van Baarle and Herklotz among others. And then...

-Van Baarle, Hansen and Howson's talent is for all to see and all are ready for the next level.

-In 4th and 5th, two more Oceania riders in Adam Phelan and Michael Vink. Both are graduating from the U23 ranks after this year and this is the crucial year for them to find a contract. Vink has seemingly found his European form with the New Zealand national team in the last month and Phelan has had a string of good results, which could see him rise into the Pro Continental ranks or higher.

-6th through 9th place are nearly all riders from '92-'94. TJ Eisenhart (USA/BMC) won the youth category by 37 seconds over 8th place Silvio Herklotz, who spent time in the yellow jersey after attacking the first half of the race with tenacity that is much needed in cycling. 9th place Michael Valgren had a solid race overall and his 6th stage performance with teammate (and stage winner and roommate) Magnus Cort was the highlight of the Danish campaign.

-You might have forgotten about Simon Yates but the Brit finished the race in 10th overall and is having an incredibly consistent year after his storming ride at Track Worlds. In his first year of really targeting the road, Yates has finished 10th, 9th and 10th in his last three stages races (Fleche du Sud, An Post Ras and Thüringen) and was 2nd on the queen stage in Thüringen. Come autumn, Yates will be a prime contender for U23 Worlds.

-Magnus Cort put on one hell of a performance here in Germany. Cort was off the front in over half of the stages including the queen stage, where he was focused on collecting as many mountain points as possible. Cort put on an amazing stage 6 ride with Valgren to double his KOM points total and take the stage win. Not to be outdone on stage 7, the Dane nearly pipped Caleb Ewan on the line for the bunch sprint win and had to settle for 2nd place. Cort is only 20 and has two years left in the U23 ranks but I have a feeling that he won't need the next two years...

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Thüringen: Roommates dominate stage 6

Valgren and Cort are two happy guys (Photo: Thüringen Rundfahrt)

It was teammates and roommates Magnus Cort and Michael Valgren who dominated the sixth stage of the Thüringen Rundfahrt on Friday with an impressive breakaway performance which saw KOM leader Cort take a wonderful stage victory after spending nearly all week attacking the hills.

Early on, it was Cort and Valgren, along with LKT Brandenburg's Jonas Koch, who started off the breakaway on the 2nd climb. Subsequent attacks brought out Frederik Ludvigsson (Sweden), Mike Teunissen (Rabobank Devo), Quentin Jauregui (BKCP), Patrick Konrad (Etixx-iHNed) and Simon Yates (GB). The Danes were trying to put race leader Dylan van Baarle under pressure as their national teammate Lasse Norman was only down 3 seconds on the Dutchman.

Cort was hunting the KOM points even though his KOM lead was already unassailable at the start of the stage. The break got a nice gap but Rabobank and Australia were present up front to help bring it back together for a possible sprint finish. While the gap dropped on the local circuit, they left it a little too late. In the final kilometer, the Danish duo of Cort and Valgren attacked the breakaway as the gap was only a few seconds and they pulled clear by three seconds to take the win. Behind, Simon Yates won the sprint for third as the break was caught by the peloton on the line.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Thüringen: Consistency pays off for Dylan van Baarle

He wasn't the strongest in the prologue and he hasn't been the strongest in the hills but you don't have to be in a stage race, where consistency is the Rosetta Stone to unlock a high GC placing. Dylan van Baarle has been storming the fields in his final U23 season before he sets off for Garmin-Sharp in 2014 and while he didn't blow the doors off the field in the Streufdorf TT, he did well enough to take the yellow jersey over fellow Garmin recruit Lasse Norman Hansen by three seconds.

From the beginning, it was going to be a tough ask for Silvio Herklotz to hold onto his yellow jersey. While a competent prologue rider, Herklotz is still a level under the best TTers on the U23 level and with only a seven second lead on Hansen and just a few more seconds going back from there. This was compounded by his truly epic ride on Tuesday when he spent the final 60 kilometers off the front to get into the leader's jersey. At only 19, Herklotz was going into this with some thoroughly trashed legs and lacking in some important experience.

Early on, it was Herklotz's Stölting teammate Nils Politt who set the best time, averaging a tick over 48 km/h over the rolling course. Politt had to wait a good while before he was knocked off by Kristian Haugaard but shortly afterwards, it was Olympia's Tour TT winner Campbell Flakemore who put in a outstanding ride with an average that was nearly 50.5 km/h. Flakemore, who, when not ont he national team, rides for the Huon-Genesys trade team that has produced such riders as Richie Porte, Nathan Haas and Steele von Hoff, is cementing himself as the next big Aussie TT specialist. With Flakmore well down on GC, his time would be a goal for the GC riders later in the day.

More riders came in but Flakemore's time was the gold standard. His Australian compatriot Damien Howson, who lost time on the difficult queen stage, put in a sterling ride that put him 16 seconds down on Flakemore and improved his GC chances exponentially. Dylan van Baarle set off just before best young rider TJ Eisenhart (USA National/BMC Devo) and while the course was perhaps not perfectly suited for him, the Dutchman rode within himself and slotted into 3rd position, 2 seconds back from Howson. It should be said that Eisenhart put in a great performance that saw him finish 7th on the day and bolstered his young rider's lead.

With van Baarle setting the GC standard, his future teammate Lasse Norman Hansen, who has been performing brilliantly all week, needed to stay within 12 seconds of van Baarle to stay ahead of him on the general classification. Stormin' Norman gave it everything he had, using Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-iHNed) as his carrot, but even as he caught the Frenchman in the final kilometer, it was not enough to stay ahead of van Baarle, as he finished 14 seconds behind him.

It was a bitter pill to swallow for the Dane but he was still able to see the podium at the end of the day as he took over the points classification and still has a shot to take over the general classification with two stages left.

Silvio Herklotz tried his best but it seems that fatigue and just good, but not excellent, TT skills saw him cede two minutes to Flakemore and the young Berliner dropped to 9th overall. Herklotz's team manager and coach Jochen Hahn was nonplussed on the loss of the yellow jersey after the finish and said that Silvio is still young and has plenty of time to develop. Herklotz recently inked a deal that would see him stay with the team for a further two seasons and while we know that this deal could end prematurely, it is a good sign that Herklotz knows that he has things he needs to improve on before stepping up to the next level.

Also, it was a pretty disappointing day for Etixx-iHNed. The Czech-based squad had Alaphilippe (3rd) and Patrick Konrad (13th) inside the top 15 but both produced so-so TT performances, which saw them drop down to 13th and 17th overall respectively.

Top 10 Streufdorf - Streufdorf 28.4km

  1. Campbell Flakemore (Australia)
  2. Damien Howson (Australia) +16"
  3. Dylan van Baarle (Rabobank Devo) +18"
  4. Lasse Norman Hansen (Denmark) +32"
  5. Jasha Sütterlin (Thüringer Energie) +44"
  6. Adam Phelan (Australia) +1'08"
  7. TJ Eisenhart (USA) +1'13"
  8. Michael Vink (New Zealand) s.t.
  9. Rasmus Sterobo (Denmark) +1'17"
  10. Maximilian Schachmann (Thüringer Energie) +1'22"

Full Results

The GC battles is very tight heading into the final two days of the race with van Baarle only having 3 seconds on Stormin' Norman while Damien Howson sits at 16 seconds back. Stage 6 heads up to the highest point in the race at nearly 1000 meters but the stage is front loaded with six climbs in the first half of the race, while the last 60 kilometers is mainly downhill with one small climb and descent back into the stage town of Ichtershausen. Saturday's course is again around Ichtershausen but the climbs are more spread out and there are a few lumps near the end that could serve as a jumping point. It really depends how the stages are races because if some sprinters are able to hand around and the peloton is keen, any breakaway attempts could be squashed but the opposite could be true as well. Let's hope the crazy racing continues, eh?

Top 10 GC

  1. Dylan van Baarle
  2. Lasse Norman Hansen +3"
  3. Damien Howson +16"
  4. Adam Phelan +47"
  5. Michael Vink +49"
  6. TJ Eisenhart +53"
  7. Rasmus Sterobo +1'05"
  8. Michael Valgren +1'21"
  9. Silvio Herklotz +1'30"
  10. Maximilian Schachmann +1'37"

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Thüringen Rundfahrt: Herklotz pulling out all the stops through stage 4

Coming into the Thüringen Rundfahrt, I was on the fence about Silvio Herklotz chances in the biggest German U23 race of the year. Herklotz was racing with the German U23 National Champion jersey on his back and he was obviously ready to give it a go on the climbs. The big question mark was how his form would be holding up. After a strong early spring followed by an unexpected rest due to a crash in the GP Palio del Recioto, Herklotz has been exceeding expectations (well the mastermind of EC saw this coming) of many people with strong stage race performances in Istria, Szlakiem Grodow Piastowskich, Bayern Rundfahrt and now Thüringen. While his climbing is impressive, his long TT skills were just average with a 51st in Bayern Rundfahrt (31.2k course, 2:51 down on winner Malori and 1 second down on Joe Dombrowski) and 25th in Szlakiem (2 minutes down on Jan Barta on a 30.2k course). Thursday's TT will be of vital importance if he has wants to keep a hold on his GC lead...but I am getting ahead of myself.

Prologue 4.1km Sülzbrücken to Holzhausen

It was Damien Howson (Australia) who took the short affair ahead of a flying Lasse Norman Hansen (Denmark) by just one seconds to take the inaugural stage of the Thüringen Rundfahrt. On a slightly uphill course, speeds were still quick and the top riders were separated by mere seconds. Early in the day, it was Australian Adam Phelan who set a best time that stood for a while until Peace Race prologue winner Rasmus Sterobo (Denmark) overtook him. Michael Vink, the New Zealander who has finally found his legs in Europe this year, was the next one to take over the hot seat after storming the course to finish a six hundredths of a second better than Sterobo.

Vink's time in the hot seat wasn't long because after Herklotz came in top 10, it was Hansen who laid down a storming ride, going 3 seconds better than Vink, and seemingly had a lock on the leader's jersey. Jasha Sütterlin, the German U23 TT champ from home team Thüringer Energie, was off the mark and Dylan van Baarle, the newly crowned Dutch U23 champ for Rabobank, couldn't get close either. It came down to the last rider and it was Howson, last year's U23 World TT bronze medalist and current Australian U23 champion, who was over a second quicker than Hansen on the line and slipped into the yellow tunic.

Top 10

  1. Howson 4'52"
  2. Hansen +1"
  3. Vink +4"
  4. Sterobo s.t.
  5. Phelan +5"
  6. TJ Eisenhart (USA) +8"
  7. Herklotz s.t.
  8. van Baarle s.t.
  9. Sütterlin s.t. 
  10. Ivan Savitskiy (Russia) s.t.

Stage 1 170km "Rund um die Hainleite" Erfurt-Erfurt 

While a difficult race, the Thüringen Rundfahrt is not one where big time gaps will be made on the road stages and without time bonuses, a rider will need to have some balls to move himself up the GC before any time trials. The Rund um die Hainleite is one of the oldest one-day classics in Germany but as a one-day race, it has been defunct since 2007. Thankfully, it has been incorporated into the Thüringen Rundfahrt since 2008 and provides an excellent hilly course. The Hainleite is simply a Muschelkalk ridge which dates back to the mid-Triassic period and is one of the oldest in Germany. 

A break of four got up the road early and spent the first half of the race away as the peloton was preparing for the difficult finale. Martijn Tusveld (Rabobank Devo), Michael Vanthourenhout (BKCP), Magnus Nielsen (Denmark) and Tim Schlichenmaier (Bergstrasse-Jenatec) formed the break and it was Nielsen who attacked the KOM points and built up a dominate lead. Then the heavens opened...

Buckets of rain, the same that had been pounding Germany for weeks and causing massive floods, fell on the riders as they hit the finishing circuits, where they were going three times over the 12% Arnstädter Hollow climb. With the breakaway swept up and rain and wind pounding, the riders lit up the course. It was first Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-iHNed) and then another breakaway that went up the road in the finale. Adam Phelan, Kristian Haugaard (Denmark) and Lukasz Wisniowski (Etixx-iHNed) that got away on the Arnstädter and were quickly joined by David van der Poel (BKCP), Mike Teunissen (Rabobank Devo) and Patrick Konrad (Etixx-iHNed). On the final climb, it was Silvio Herklotz himself leading the charge.

The lanky Herklotz powered his way up to the breakaway and it was only Wisniowski who could follow him with 2 kilometers to go as the duo got a gap and stuck it to the line. Wisniowski was much fresher and easily took the stage over the Berliner but Herklotz gained valuable seconds and slipped into 3rd overall, two seconds behind race leader Howson. Behind, it was Haugaard who lead the remnants of the peloton in for 3rd. A notable exception was Frederik Ludvigsson, who struggled with bad legs after a subpar prologue performance.

Top 10

  1. Wisniowski 4:36'58"
  2. Herklotz s.t.
  3. Haugaard +4"
  4. Lasse Normann Hansen all s.t.
  5. Magnus Nielsen
  6. Rick Zabel (Rabobank Devo)
  7. Simon Yates (GB)
  8. Christopher Hatz (Bergstrasse Jenatec)
  9. Phelan
  10. Max Werda (Stölting)

Willi Willwohl, the up and coming sprinter with LKT Brandenburg, crashed seriously with a race vehicle and shattered his forearm along with cutting his knee. He is in stable condition but the triple stage winner from the Tour de Berlin is out for an indefinite period.

Stage 2 185.8k Behringen-Behringen

On the longest day of the "Rund", Team Stölting's Jan Dieteren repeated his stage winning performance from last year as he beat out the Rabobank Devo duo of Nick van der Lijke and Rick Zabel in a bunch sprint.

The day started out with another breakaway including the excitable Tim Schlichenmaier from stage 1, Wietse Bosmans (BKCP), Jonas Rickaert (Ovyta-Eijssen), Aydar Gareyshin (Russia) and Hayden McCormick (New Zealand). With Schlichenmaier going after the sprint points, the breakaway stayed relatively intact and eventually with just 5km it was just the German and McCormick left. McCormick put in an attack, a move which Schlichenmaier criticized post-stage as a waste of energy, and disrupted the duo's rhythm. With 1 kilometer to go, Rabobank shut the duo down and were all hands on deck for the sprint. With the final bend around the 300m to go sign, Dieteren was dropped into place by his Stölting team and hit the after burners and held off a charging van der Lijke. Howson kept his overall lead but the hills were looming.

Top 10

  1. Jan Dieteren (Stölting) 4:37'02"
  2. van der Lijke all s.t.
  3. Zabel
  4. David van der Poel (BKCP)
  5. Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-iHNed)
  6. Ruben Geerinckx (Ovyta-Eijssen)
  7. Savitskiy
  8. Florian Senechal (Etixx-iHNed)
  9. Owain Doull (GB)
  10. Caleb Ewan (Australia)

Stage 3 152.9k Neuhaus-Neuhaus

It is official. Silvio Herklotz has a touch of crazy in him. Herklotz is crazy strong on the hills and being only two seconds back on race leader Damien Howson, one might hold back until a little later to put in the big attack to try and wrestle the jersey away from the Australian. Yeah, that didn't happen.

Under cloudy skies, the race headed on the queen stage route where there would be no holds barred. It was Magnus Nielsen, keen on defending his mountains jersey, who lept out early solo to collect the precious points. After cresting the 3rd KOM with an almost unassailable lead, Nielsen was overtaken by Herklotz and Russian Alexander Foliforov, who set out for 25 kilometers out front alone as the skies once again opened up with rain. At the summit of the next KOM, it was Herklotz, a man just 2 seconds off the lead mind you, who attacked his breakaway partner and set out alone with nearly 35km to go. His gap was nearly two minutes before the final climb started but a charging pack whittled down to his advantage to just 30 seconds with five kilometers to go. Herklotz, running out of energy, tried desperately to hold on but with only one kilometer to go, it was Julian Alaphilippe and Simon Yates who joined him and the birthday boy Alaphilippe, the Frenchman who has been on a torrid streak of form, outsprinted Yates and a dissapointed and exhausted Herklotz, shortly behind. Behind, it was David van der Poel (BKCP) taking the sprint 14 seconds back on Alaphilippe over Lasse Normann and Sam Spokes (Etixx-iHNed). Herklotz, while dissapointed on losing out on the stage, was consoled somewhat with the yellow jersey, now on his back after Damien Howson faltering and finishing 38 seconds back on him.

Silvio is crazy but we need more of him in the peloton. Great rides were put in by his Stölting teammates Mager and Werda, as the latter is up to 9th overall. 

Top 10
  1. Alaphilippe
  2. Yates +4"
  3. Herklotz +6"
  4. van der Poel +14"
  5. Normann Hansen all s.t.
  6. Sam Spokes (Etixx-iHNed)
  7. van der Lijke
  8. Christian Mager (Stölting)
  9. Werda
  10. Felix Großschartner (Austria)

Stage 4 163.6k Langewiesen - Langewiesen 

Finally, some flat terrain for the sprinters to shine and shine they did. Still only 18, Caleb Ewan got a better draw than on stage 2 and was able to make a devastating gap over the charging Ruben Geerinckx (Ovyta-Eijssen) and Julian Alaphilippe to take an excited victory. This stage was not without heartbreak.

A large breakaway formed early but over the rolling parcours, it was whittled down to just two in Maximillian Schachmann (Thüringer Energie) and Robert Pölder (Sweden). The duo had a two minute gap at one point but this was whittled down over time and it was tight with one lap to go. Pölder was spent and dropped and Schachmann tried valiantly to hold on for a home team win but with only a few hundred meters to go, the peloton picked him up on the way to a bunch sprint. Schachmann was distraught after crossing the line, having wanted this win so badly.

Caleb Ewan launched himself off of Rick Zabel and put in a great kick and Geerinckx could only hold onto his back wheel. Ewan's sprint at 18 looks as if he could mix it up with the World Tour. His style reeks of Cavendish and as long as he gets in good position, there is nearly no U23 rider that can beat him. In 3rd, it was Julian Alaphilippe, whose multi-faceted talents should have teams craving for his signature.

Top 10

  1. Ewan
  2. Geerinckx
  3. Alaphilippe
  4. Zabel
  5. Alex Frame (Thüringer Energie)
  6. Wisniowski
  7. Dieteren
  8. Mager
  9. Mamyr Stash (Russia)
  10. Andreas Hofer (Austria)
Herklotz' hold on yellow is tenuous, with only 7 seconds on Lasse Normann and a whole host of others just a short ways back, and will have to put in the TT of his short U23 career to keep within a shouting distance of yellow.

Also, on the 4th stage, two horses ran into the peloton when they went through Langewiesen and for a whole kilometer, the two thoroughbreds sprinted through the peloton. That might scare some just a wee bit.

The Time Trial awaits...

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

U23 Nations Cup: Enger takes Coupe des Nations Ville de Saguenay

I hope that I don't sound overly negative when it comes to checking the hype of U23 riders because that isn't what I am trying to accomplish. Sondre Enger is a fantastic bike rider and he showed again that he is a talent for the future with his overall victory at the Coupe des Nations Ville de Saguenay this weekend. Just don't sound like a complete homer and exclaim that, "Sondre Enger is the next Peter Sagan", like some (Norwegian) bloke did on Twitter after his 3rd place overall at the Glava Tour of Norway. All that accomplishes is making you sound like a complete dolt.

The intro gave away one of this weekend's big results but the race itself did not turn out like it should have on paper. The Coupe des Nations Ville de Saguenay parcours for this year, while challenging, should have been manageable even with small teams and with a reduced race schedule this year, bunch sprints could have ruled the day. This was not the case.

Friday's first stage saw the race blow wide open thanks to a large breakaway and a peloton that was happy with the makeup of said break and let the gap balloon. A break of twelve snuck away early on the stage but soon after it was a chasing group of eight, including Norwegians Enger and Sven Erik Bystrøm who would eventually bridge up to the break. Three riders in Alexis Gougeard (France), Diego Ochoa (Colombia) and Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev (Kazakhstan) broke away with two laps to go and got a healthy gap ahead of Nathan Brown (USA) and a dwindling chase group. As the chase group broke up over the final climb, Bystrøm sacrificed himself for Enger and put in a monster effort to bring back Brown and close the gap to the leading trio. It was just a little too late...

Alexis Gougeard taking the win (Photo: Etienne Garnier / VeloFotoPro)

In the final straighaway, Gougeard launched his sprint and was able to hold off Ochoa and Kozhatayev while Enger was only able to make it up to the wheel of the Kazakh for 4th place. In the end, it was 11 riders who were close enough to fight for the overall GC. Gougeard, a noted time trialist, took his 3rd win of the season and has shown himself well in the Nations Cup events this year, after a long solo breakaway at the Ronde van Vlaanderen and 10th at the ZLM Tour.

Stage 1 La Baie to La Baie (151km)

  1. Alexis Gougeard (France)
  2. Diego Ochoa (Colombia)
  3. Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev (Kazakhstan)
  4. Sondre Enger (Norway)
  5. Romain Guillemois (France)
  6. Nathan Brown (United States)
  7. Maxat Ayazbayev (Kazakhstan)
  8. Alberto Bettiol (Italy)
  9. Antoine Duchesne (Canada)
  10. Ever Rivera (Colombia) +5"
  11. Sven Erik Bystrøm (Norway) +14"
After the craziness that was Saturday's stage, there were many who missed out that were trying to get stage glory. As stated before, bonus seconds are important in this race and naturally, the first sprint was hotly contested as Enger won over Bettiol and Yean Rodriguez (Colombia). A breakaway including Nurbolat Kulimbetov (Kazakhstan), Gavin Mannion (USA), Florent Mottet (ColorCode-Biowanze) and Alexander Krieger (Germany) were away for the middle part of the stage but with the Italians and Norwegians craving a stage win and bonus seconds, the gap dropped quickly and it was all set up for a bunch sprint.

Coming into the finale, it was Norway who took control and Daniel Hoelgaard was putting in a devistating leadout for Enger but when Hoelgaard pulled off at 200 meters to go, Enger couldn't accelerate hard enough past him and this allowed Italian speedster Niccolò Bonifazio to pip the two Scandinavians on the line for a dramatic win. 

Bonifazio makes on of the most unattractive winning faces ever
(Photo: Etienne Garnier / VeloFotoPro)
Thanks to taking a large chunk of time bonuses, Enger only found himself 3 seconds behind Alexis Gougeard on the overall standings. It would be a showdown Sunday for the overall and the dramatics were high until the final kilometer.

Gougeard, not known for his sprinting, was trying to play tactician and to combat Enger, he sent his French teammate Christophe Laporte up the road to soak up the first time bonus. While Laporte took the 5 seconds, it was Bettiol and Enger fighting it out for the minor places with each respectively getting 3 and 1 seconds. The gap was now only two seconds. To Gougeard's relief, a break of seven got up the road and looked dangerous enough to stay away until the end.

The group of seven included Italian speedster Andrea Zordan, Kazakhs Kulimbetov and Zhandos Bizhigitov, Lennard Hofstede (Netherlands), Simon Pavlin (Slovenia) Loïc Pestiaux (ColorCode-Biowanze) and Basque Carlos Barbero. The group worked well together and while the finishing circuits were flat, they kept a healthy gap going into the pointy end of the race. It was the USA (for some reason) that was leading the charge up to bring back the breakaway. As the breakaway began to crumble, it was Kulimbetov who set out alone and was heading for a solo victory until the final descent back into Chicoutimi, when the pack picked him up with less the 500 meters to go.

Once again, it was Enger who was out front early but this time it was another Italian, Federico Zurlo, who took advantage of his slipstream and shot past to take the victory ahead of the Norwegian and Italian teammate Bettiol. You might remember Zurlo from earlier this year when he got into a fight in the final kilometers with a Trevigiani rider in an Italian amateur race and was disqualified after winning the sprint. It seems for now that he has his attitude in check and took an impressive victory. Enger wasn't mad about getting 2nd place either as that was all he needed to shoot past Gougeard on the overall and take the yellow jersey.

Stage 3 Chicoutimi - Chicoutimi

  1. Federico Zurlo (Italy)
  2. Sondre Enger (Norway)
  3. Alberto Bettiol (Italy)
  4. Carlos Barbero (Spain)
  5. Aljaz Hocevar (Slovenia)
  1. Enger
  2. Alexis Gougeard (France) +3"
  3. Diego Ochoa (Colombia) +7"
  4. Bettiol +8"
  5. Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev (Kazakhstan) +11"
  • Young Rider (1994): Zurlo
  • Climber: Ever Rivera (Colombia)
  • Points: Enger
  • Team: Norway

Sondre Enger is on a great year so far but, and no offense to the competition here, what would he do against a better U23 field like the one at Thüringen? He showed himself against the pros and he is obviously capable in the U23s but I still am left wanting more because I am not convinced he is the real deal just yet. L'Avenir and Worlds will be a testing ground.

Diego Ochoa has been impressive this year. You might have not heard about him much but go look at his results. 3rd overall here with 2nd on stage one. 6th in the Tour de Gironde with three top 10 stage results. He also had two top 10 stage placings in the Ronde de l'Isard. He is only 20 years old, as of last week, and has a pedigree as a sprinter who can climb.

Other impressive ride was from Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev. Kozhatayev has been incredibly consistent this year: KOM at Triptyque Monts et Chateaux, 12th in RvV U23, 14th ZLM Tour, 3rd in the Tour de Azerbaijan and now 5th overall here. If he gets a chance to ride either Valle d'Aosta or l'Avenir, watch out.

I think that Saguenay gets a fairly raw deal when it comes to its Nations Cup race. Because it is across the Atlantic and seems to always run concurrent with Thüringen Rundfahrt, it gets a watered down field that is only here for one race before heading back to Europe, South America, etc. Why not extend the trip? It is time for an American U23 Nations Cup race and it would be perfect to have the foreign riders stay here for a bit longer so they have time to get over get lag, get acclimated and then set out racing.  It seemed like big names such as Davide Villella and Ignazio Moser struggled because of the short trip and not having enough time to find their legs. You only have so many Nations Cup races and the fields shouldn't be watered down because of bad scheduling or the UCI not giving these races enough importance. If anything, the UCI should be funding these races more, bumping them up to 4 or 5 days and trying to get these races out to the greater mass audience.

For lots and lots of pictures of the Coupe des Nations Ville de Saguenay, head over to VeloFotoPro. Really, they have so many great pictures and need to get the attention that they deserve.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Weekend Preview: Thüringen & Coupe des Nations

Pretty big weekend on the U23 this week with the Internationale Thüringen Rundfahrt and the Coupe des Nations Ville de Saguenay. While I'm on the fence about whether they should be run together seen as there are more racing being run at the same time such as the Ronde de l'Oise, Tour of Slovakia and others but I won't get started on that because it will just lead to incoherent babble.

Internationale Thüringen Rundfahrt U23 (Thüringen, Germany) Startlist Maps

It doesn't take a genius to find out where we are...Thüringen, natürlich. Centered near the middle (sort of) of the country, Thüringen (Thuringia in English) was apart of East Germany during the Soviet occupation. In a very CliffNotes version of the area, it is one of the sporting hearts of the country and in terms of cycling, it has been a powerhouse for producing talent. The biggest two names to mention are Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb, both of whom came from the Thüringen Energie development team and are Thüringen natives. Others include Patrick Gretsch, Sebastian Lang, Hanka Kupfernagel and Olaf Ludwig, among others.

The Thüringen Rundfahrt is one of the showcases of the U23 season and it has one of the most exciting lineups of the year. To start, this race is proper with seven stages and a prologue, which makes it one of, if not the, longest U23 stage race. Just look at the results from the last few seasons and you will understand why this race is so important to watch.

  • 2012 saw Rohan Dennis (now Garmin-Sharp) take the overall over Johan Le Bon (FDJ) and Marc Goos (Blanco) while Nikias Arndt (Argos-Shimano) and Danny van Poppel (Vacansoleil) won stages.
  • 2011 saw Wilco Kelderman (Blanco) take two stages and the overall win while Tobias Ludvigsson, Nikias Arndt (Argos-Shimano) Luke Rowe (SKY) and Jay McCarthy (Saxo-Tinkoff) won stages.
  • 2010 saw John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) win the overall with Barry Markus (Vacansoleil) winning a stage.
That is just three years. Going through the top 10 overall and the podiums from all the stages (excluding TTTs) in just those three years, you would find 17 current World Tour riders. Keep going back and look at some of the winners of this race: Stefan Denifl, Patrick Gretsch, Mathias Frank, Tony Martin, Kai Reus, Thomas Dekker, Joost Posthuma and Pieter Weening. That is a list of phenomenal talent and that is just overall winners. Go back even further and you will see some of the best East German talent in Bert Dietz, Uwe Ampler, Olaf Ludwig and Uwe Raab. Want to look at stage winners? does Edvald Boasson Hagen, Danny Pate, Sergey Lagutin, Andre Greipel, Mark Cavendish, Jack Bobridge and Marcel Kittel. I'll go as far as to say that this race alone is 2nd to the Tour de l'Avenir in churning out big time talent and it isn't far off being the top race.

The startlist for this race doesn't let down either. There hasn't been a race yet this year that has had a deeper lineup. Let's review...
  • Australia, i.e. Jayco-AIS, is bringing a hell of a lineup. Damien Howson and Caleb Ewan headline for the antipodean squad while the rest of the team consists of guys such as Adam Phelan and Olympia's Tour TT winner Campbell Flakemore. Howson will be shooting for the GC while Ewan will be trying to get some sprints but no one will make it easy.
  • Dylan van Baarle is the man to beat for this Thüringen Rundfahrt, especially after his crushing National U23 TT victory this week. Coming in with his Rabobank Development team, van Baarle will have a strong team with riders such as BMC recruit Rick Zabel, strongman Nick van der Lijke and legbreakers in Ruben Zepuntke and Mike Teunissen. This team is pure power and could dominate this race.
  • Jasha Sütterlin highlights the hometown Thüringer Energie squad and will be targeting the TT and the overall. Sütterlin is the heir-apparent to Der Panzerwagen himself, Tony Martin. While the squad might seem one dimensional, they bring strong riders in rouleur Alex Frame and climber Nikodemus Holler.
  • What is probably the only team to rival Australia and Rabobank Development is the Danish National Team. National U23 TT & RR winner Lasse Norman Hansen is here and will be a favorite for some stages but for the overall, I'm looking at Michael Valgren and Rasmus Sterobo with Kristian Haugaard looking good as well. They will have to have the road define a true GC leader but they will be strong.
  • Etixx-iHNed has been red hot as of late and two of their strongest riders in Julian Alaphilippe and Patrick Konrad come here on great form. This duo were two of the strongest climbers at the U23 Peace Race and Thüringen isn't the flattest place in the world. Florian Senechal is craving a win and he could definitely win a selective sprint.
There are definitely more guys to watch...
  • Frederik Ludvigsson will be looking for the overall after going 2nd in the Tour of Estonia. His TT will make a huge impression while his climbing could prove decisive.
  • Espoirs Central favorite Silvio Herklotz brings a deceptively strong Stölting squad. Herklotz destroyed the German U23 RR and the hillier stages could be where he shines. His TT has not been red hot so the GC might be out of reach against stronger TTers.
  • Willi Willwohl is just 18 but his sprint is devistating. He will be looking to clash with Caleb Ewan, Magnus Cort Nielsen and others.
  • Simon Yates (Great Britain) has been all over the results pages this year and his sprint should get him on the podium again this year. Owain Doull will be right there with him.
  • Michael Vink is coming of a win the the Memorial Van Coningsloo and will be looking for more success. He was 4th in the Olympia's Tour TT so he is a darkhorse for the 28.4km test. 
  • Daniel Paulus was not on my radar this year until his last two stage races at Giro del Friuli and the U23 Peace Race. 13th and 4th overall respectively makes him a dark horse for a top 10 overall but his TT is unproven.
  • TJ Eisenhart is a steady pick for an unproven USA National Team but he will have to step up to get up into the top 10. He certainly has the pedigree from the juniors but he seems to need more experience.
This is a deep lineup and I am oh so excited to see how this turns out. Thüringen's course is deceptively tough due to the up and down nature of the race and stages that might look bunch sprint friendly could easily split up. Make sure you look at the course profiles here, thanks to @MarkelGL on twitter.

My pick for the win: Dylan van Baarle. I cannot look past the Dutchman and I think this is his race to lose. The only thing I can think of that will stop him is fatigue. He has raced a lot this year and it could catch up with him.

Dark horse: Julian Alaphilippe. I got a feeling.

Coupe des Nations Ville de Saguenay - Startlist - Course Maps

Going up against the Thüringen Rundfahrt, the Coupe des Nations Ville de Saguenay Nations Cup suffers from competition and this year, it is only down to a paltry three stages, which is a shame for a Nations Cup race. One of only two stage races on the Nations Cup circuit, the race reduced from four stages to three on the reasoning that the race would save 500,000 Canadian dollars. Three stages is better than zero and with the race entering its 6th year, it is important for the race to keep continuing.

Out of the 5 winners of the race so far, all 5 have ridden in the World Tour. I say have because Thomas Vedel Kvist retired early in favor of medical school after not cutting it with Quick Step. This race has talent go through it but it is also special because it seems to be where diamonds in the rough are found. 
  • Can you name one of the first big races where Daniel Teklehaimanot showed himself? It was here in 2009 that he was 10th in the TT with the UCI Mixed Team. Slovenian Marko Kump (now Saxo-Tinkoff) won a stage here in 2009 when he was one of the best U23 riders in the world. 
  • At just 18, Sebastian Lander (BMC) won the first stage while Arnaud Demare (FDJ) won the final stage of the 2010 race. Luka Mezgec (Argos-Shimano) won that 2010 edition, which was his first big international victory. 
  • 2011 saw Lasse Norman Hansen win his first U23 RR in a breakaway. At just 20, Warren Barguil (Argos-Shimano) was 4th overall while Chris Juul-Jensen (Saxo-Tinkoff) took an impressive overall win
  • Julian Alaphilippe was still primarily a 'cross racer through 2012 but his first big international win in the U23 ranks came in last year's edition as he blasted the uphill sprint in La Bale.
As was stated previously, the startlist for this year's race is a bit depleted because of competing races. Despite this, there is a whole host of racers to watch.
  • Mark Dzamastagic leads a short handed Slovenian team but the winner of the recent GP Industria e Commercio is on good form and with time bonuses playing a major factor in this race, he is a danger man for the overall.
  • France brings two big names here to look for success. Christophe Laporte will be looking for the straight sprints while former junior World Champion Pierre-Henri Lecuisinier could be an outsider for the overall thanks to stage 2's uphill finish and the focus on bonus sprints in this race.
  • United States brings what is the 2nd strongest team in the race. Depending on who is in form, they have a bevy of options for the sprints but Ty Magner should be the guy for the flatter sprints while Gavin Mannion should be the man if stage 2 comes down to a sprint on the uphill finish. Lawson Craddock is here as well and could see himself in the breakaway to get bonus seconds to snag a high overall finish.
  • Italy has the strongest team. I saw their lineup and drool might have came out of my mouth. They have a man for every situation. Davide Villella is ultra-consistent and will like the uphill finish on stage 2. Niccoló Bonifazio is blazing quick and will love stage 3's downhill/flat finish. Wait...I'm forgetting Andrea Zordan, the darling Italian sprinter of this year, who could win possibly any of these stages! And then we still have the powerhouses of Ignazio Moser and Alberto Bettiol and another fast man in Federico Zurlo, who could serve as a leadout to his trade teammate Zordan. I am very excited to see how this team works together because they could win every stage. Seriously.
  • The Norwegian "OMG HE IS THE NEXT PETER SAGAN!!!1!11!!!!" Sondre Holst Enger will be here and this terrain will suit him. We shall see how is form is after nearly a month layoff from the Tour of Norway
  • From the Spanish corner, Carlos Barbero will be flying the Euskadi flag and the uphill finish will suit him as his sprint isn't as quick as others like Bonifazio.
The course in Saguenay, Quebec is flat to rolling but with small teams, sprints are not assured.

-Stage 1 starts out with a small climb but the finishing circuits are flat with a small climb up to the finish every lap. Course Map can be seen here

-Stage 2 is the queen stage with a seven-lap circuit race around Jonquière with a 20km loop that is very rolling. The final three kilometers has a slight incline, which could dull some legs after the first 140 kilometers. This is where the race will probably be won and lost. Course Map.

-The race wraps up with a rather flat race around Chicoutimi that has one climb but it flattens off for a flat sprint, which will help the Lamborghinis among the group. Course Map for Stage 3.

Pick for the win: Davide Villella. Finally.

Keep tuned to my twitter feed @Vlaanderen90 for results and other news before a weekend wrap-up post on Sunday/Monday. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

It isn't always greener on the Other Side

Every day, I always have some moments where I sit down and just scan race results. Big European race? Of course. Asia? You betcha. Tour of Tristan da Cunha? Okay, maybe not but if I have a nervous tick, it is looking at results. I could be bored out of my mind or incredibly busy with work that should have my attention but doesn't; I just go back to scrolling through bike results.

Scanning mindlessly through Monday's Criterium du Dauphine results on my lunch break, my attention is caught by two names, Timofey Kritskiy (Katusha) and Romain Sicard (Euskaltel). If you are new to the sport, these names mean next to nothing and if you saw their results (148th and 149th) on the day, you wouldn't bat an eye. If you have followed young riders as much as I have, these names should mean something to you and Monday's results speak to how difficult and cruel cycling can be. To understand, we need to go back to the last time that these two finished together, the 6th stage of the 2009 Tour de l'Avenir.

Better days. (Photo:
On a sweltering day in the Vosges mountains, Russian wünderkind Timofey Kritskiy and Romain Sicard had broken away from the lead group that included the like of Tejay van Garderen, Darwin Atapuma and Rafel Valls among others and were on their way to the summit finish in Gérardmer. The French Basque Romain Sicard was leading the race courtesy of a breakaway (thanks to a French A and B squad) on stage 1 and had a stranglehold on the leader's jersey and he was not thinking about any gifts. The bigger, more powerful Kritskiy was staying with him over every pedal turn. Time was being put into van Garderen and co. but Sicard wasn't gifting this win, he wanted that precious stage win while resplendent in the leader's jersey. Kritskiy overhauled the Basque rider in the finishing straight and put his hand in the air in triumph. It would be be nearly two years to the day until he could experience that thrill again.

2009 Tour de l'Avenir Stage 6 Château-Salins to Gérardmer

  1. Timofey Kritskiy
  2. Romain Sicard
  3. Tejay van Garderen +22
  4. Darwin Atapuma s.t.
  5. Rafael Valls +28
  6. Daniel Teklehaimanot +36
  7. Peter Stetina s.t.
  8. Michel Kreder +42
  9. Sergej Fuchs +46
  10. Sergio Henao +49

There paths would diverge abruptly two days later. On the fast descent back into the village of Ornans in the stage 8 time trial, Timofey Kritskiy's projected career was over. Kritskiy was pushing Romain Sicard to his limit and after hearing how close he was to the French-Basque, Kritskiy hit the afterburners going into the final descent. At 80 kilometers/hour, disaster happened. On the 2nd hairpin turn, Kritskiy washed out and crashed hard, shattering his tibia and leaving the Russian on the hot tarmac. A picture from the scene can be seen here but Russian TV did a re-enactment of the ordeal and dressed up his leg for audiences...

The blood is strawberry jam, if I remember correctly
Kritskiy wouldn't walk until after the new year. Sicard won the stage 8 TT and went on to secure the overall title in dramatic fashion by just one second over Tejay van Garderen after a two minute penalty for an illegal bike swap. Sicard would reach another unprecedented height by winning the U23 World RR Championship in Mendrisio two weeks later after flying by a fading Egor Silin and Peter Kennaugh on the final climb. (Carlos Betancur eventually finished 2nd.) Sicard, thanks to his Basque roots, signed with home team Euskaltel-Euskadi while Kritskiy signed a contract with Katusha while unbeknownst the the western media he was still wheelchair bound.

2010 was a year of promise and despair.

Sicard, a hot and cold rider as a U23, showed the signs he showed in the Tour de l'Avenir in some races and went 10th in the Bayern Rundfahrt, 11th in the Dauphine (including 2nd on stage 5) and 20th in the Vuelta a Burgos.

Kritskiy didn't start riding his bike again until spring, something doctors initially thought was out of reach, and rode a grand total of...wait for it...4 races. Four. A rider that was the top of his class as a U23 just a year before rode four semi-classics in his first pro year. The long road is filled with twists.

2011 was a year of promise and despair. 

Romain Sicard showed the cold side of his talent and his 2011 was filled with bad luck and injury, finishing a grant total of two races and pulled out of five more, mainly due to muscle tendonitis which lead to a muscle imbalance. His season was an unmitigated disaster. Not helping matters, Sicard was arrested for drink-driving in November of that year.

Kritskiy started the year with a monkey still on his back. The initial tibia surgery in 2009 had seen him get a 42 cm rod in his leg and after his races in 2010, he got the rod removed. Complications arose and a false joint was created, which meant more surgery and another false start. His season was on ice until the Russian Championships in June with the Itera-Katusha feeder squad, where he finished two minutes back of Mikhail Ignatiev. Kritskiy was experiencing a renaissance, albeit one with a few ups and downs. 5th in the Czech Tour, two top 10s in the Volta ao Portugal followed by two stage wins in the Tour of Bulgaria. To top it off? A world's appearance in Copenhagen in the Elite Men's World Championship RR. He was on his way back...almost.

2012 was a year of promise and despair.

Sicard put together his 2nd whole season as an elite racer and while his results were nothing outrageous, he put together a season that only had one DNF. Sicard finished races such as Paris-Nice (39th overall), Liege-Bastogne-Liege (96th), Tour de Pologne (39th) but his season was highlighted by his inaugural Grand Tour appearance in the Vuelta a Espana, which went splendidly. Sicard rode within himself to 44th overall  and had an impressive ride on the 20th stage to Bola del Mundo, where he finished 5th on the catastrophically hard summit finish.

Kritskiy had another frustrating false start. Following some brutal weather at the Volta a Catalunya, Kritskiy pulled out and the leg injury that had plagued him since the Tour de l'Avenir was back again. Kritskiy could barely train and when he was finally able to get back to it, he got a handful of races in Belgium and the Tour of Beijing. Baby steps get frustrating when your natural talent is limited by nagging injuries. Kritskiy gained nearly 15 kilograms since his Tour de l'Avenir stage victory, which had turned him into a strong rouleur and stunted his climbing abilities he showed in the U23 ranks.

What does 2013 bring? Promise and despair.

Kritskiy is finally experiencing his first professional season without injury and having a relatively proper buildup. Halfway through 2013, Kritskiy has 37 racing days, which is nearly double of his first two "pro seasons" combined. He has yet to find his niche in pro cycling. It is so sad to see a rouleur talent like Kritskiy struggle but so heartwarming to see continuing to go after his dream and not give up. His time trial is coming along relatively well and it could be a place where the young Russian shines in the future.

Sicard is struggling through the hype of his 2009 U23 results and seemingly with every bright spot, there is a gloomy set of clouds on the horizon. Case in point being the stage 2 of the Dauphine, where he finished with Kritskiy. Sicard crashed heavily and hit his knee, which handicapped him greatly. Scheduled to make his Tour de France debut this summer, Sicard's participation has now been thrown in doubt.

It would have been hard to recognize these two guys crossing the finish line on Monday if one were to see a picture of them from 2009. From the highest of highs to the lowest of lows, these guys are just two of many who have experienced the rough road between the U23 ranks and the professional scene. Cycling is damn hard and quitting is a choice that could be made literally every day and after the rotten luck that these two have had, they could be applauded for not hanging up on their dreams before they got their fair shot.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Weekend Roundup: Herklotz and Hansen take National Titles; Surprise winners elsewhere

So we are nearing the mid-point of the season and guys are starting to hit their late spring peaks of form, which makes for some pretty damn good racing action. The U23 men will be ramping up their form for the stage racing season of June and July so some guys are taking it a bit easier while others are blowing their wads early. That's enough of an intro, right? I'm running out of tired clichés to describe June and it is literally the first few days of the month. Let's just get to the action...

Herklotz wins German U23 RR Title

In one of the more impressive displays of power this year, Silvio Herklotz (Stölting) broke away from a group of seven on the next to last lap of the German U23 RR. Located in and around the wine vineyards of Heilbronn, the race was located on a demanding hilly circuit that decimated the field. I know it shouldn't given the state of pro cycling in Germany but I am still surprised there is not a pro race in this region because in is constantly up and down around Heilbronn and the Neckar Valley and you could create a brutal circuit. But I digress...

The course was centered around Ilsfeld, a town just outside of Heilbronn, and followed a winding loop that took it through the white wine vineyards of the Neckar and up a climb to the finish. Stölting had a large team and drove the pace from the start of the 17 lap-9.1 kilometer loop race. A group of 7 that included Herklotz, teammate Max Werda and Nicodemus Haller (Thüringer Energie) among others broke away from the field in the later stages and without a proper chase, the gap ballooned out. on the penultimate lap, Herklotz launched an attack on the uphill back into Ilsfeld, which caused Haller and Raphael Freienstein (Heizomat) to react. They only were allowed a sojourn by Herklotz who dropped them quickly and turned on the afterburners on the last lap. With Herklotz zooming up ahead, it was Werda who was able to react against Haller and Freienstein and pass both of them. Herklotz was ecstatic as he crossed the line and was in disbelief and overwhelmed about what he had just done and was just as excited when he saw Werda crossing the line in second. The three other breakaway companions came in at 4:53 while Rick Zabel (Rabobank Develpoment) and Fabio Bruno lead in the chase at 5:22. Full Results.

Herklotz (r) and Werda showing off the Stölting 1-2
This performance could have easily not occurred because the decision for Herklotz to ride only became definite three days before the race. Herklotz was coming off a tough Bayern Rundfahrt and after having experiencing some fatigue and less-than-ideal training, he came here hoping that his legs would turn around. Well, I think that question was answered, no? I have written about Herklotz previously and I am touting him as one of the brightest talent to come out of Germany in a while. Honestly, when was the last time Germany had a legitimate contender in hilly races, bar Fabian Wegmann? Herklotz could be the answer. I'm not one that likes to pile on a bunch of undeserved accolades but the way this guy rides, it is just incredible. This course was also used once in the past before and the podium from that day was Dominik Nerz, John Degenkolb and Julian Kern, all of whom are in the World Tour currently.

I should also note that Mieke Kröger won the women's U23 event on the same course earlier in the day.  She won a five-up sprint over Katherine Hammes to take the title. Kröger was a very talented junior and she is in her first full year with on the women's pro circuit.

Hansen doubles up in Denmark

Photo: @dullemarulle via Twitter

In an impressive display just a week after signing a contract with Garmin-Sharp for next season, Lasse Norman Hansen gave Jonathan Vaughters a boost of confidence in his decision by taking both the Danish U23 TT and RR titles over the course of Friday and Sunday. Hansen (Blue Water Cycling) first took out the TT on Friday by flying around the ~32km course in a 48.5 km/h average and won the event by 20 seconds over Casper Folsach (TreFor) and 22 seconds on Rasmus Sterobo (CULT Energy). A small field contested Sunday's RR with Hansen taking to the lead with Michael Valgren, Alexander Kamp (CULT) and Kristian Haugaard (Leopard-Trek). With only 6 kilometers left, it was Valgren who suffered a flat tire and left Hansen with a solo victory ahead of Kamp and Haugaard. Hansen is the first Dane to do the double in the U23 championships and will look to go for a senior title in 2 weeks time.

Other results include...

-Damien Howson (Jayco-AIS) broke through for his first win of the season at the Trofeo Alcide Degasperi in a small group sprint win over Gianluca Leonardi and Simone Minali (both Zalf)  just ahead of a sprinting peloton. Howson and the Zalf duo were apart of a breakaway of six that dominated the majority of the race and were able to stay away in the dying moments of the race as the chasing peloton were breathing down their necks.

-In one of the closer bunch sprints of the season, it was Alessio Taliani (Futura Team) taking the Coppa della Pace title ahead of Graziono Di Luca (Monturano) by a mere fraction with Pesche Nettarine di Romagna winner Davide Formolo (Petroli Firenze) settling for 3rd in the three-up bunch sprint. Results and Recap via ciclismoweb

-Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-iHNed) took out the GP Südkärnten (Austria) over Matej Mugerli (Adria Mobil) and Leonardo Pinizzotto (Nippo-De Rosa) in an uphill sprint. It was the 2nd win for Alaphilippe this year after his stage win in the Tour de Bretagne.

-Michael Vink (New Zealand) took a breakthrough win in the Memorial Van Coningsloo in a two-up sprint against Etixx-iHNed's Czech Petr Vakoc. Thanks to a late breakaway with just 10 km to go and a disorganized chase behind, the two were able to contest the sprint alone with Vink outfoxing the slower Vakoc. Behind, it was Nicolas Vereecken (AnPost-ChainReaction) taking the chasing group sprint for third ahead of Jérôme Baugnies (ToWin-Josan). Vereecken is the new leader of the Lotto U27 Top Competitie headed into the next round at the Fleché Ardennaise. Vink has had a lot of highs and lows in his career and hasn't been able to find his feet in the Europe for multiple reasons. Having multiple amazing rides at NZ nationals, he joined Trek-Livestrong in 2011 but while living in the US, he couldn't adapt to the altitude and essentially wasted a year. Vink joined the Belgian VL Techniks team in 2012 but still had a troubled year without much in the way of results. This year, Vink is again in Belgium but has spent a large amount of time with the NZ national team and seems to be finding his feet better in the European scene. Here is to hoping for him.

-Frederik Ludvigsson (People4You-Unaas) wrapped up a successful weekend at the Tour of Estonia with a 2nd place overall thanks to a great TT behind Estonian Gert Joeaar (Cofidis). Ludvigsson finished 4 seconds back mainly due to not getting another chance to get any bonus seconds due to the mainly flat terrain.

-On the juniors front, everyone needs to remember the name Mads Pedersen. By far and away, 2013 is the year of Pedersen. He has dominated the juniors scene with incredible performances. Pedersen won the Paris-Roubaix then went on to win the junior Peace Race overall along with two stage victories. This weekend's Trofeo Karlsberg was owned by Pedersen. The Dane won the final three stages in a row, including a time trial, and won the overall by 18 seconds over American Geoffrey Curran.

Stay tuned for a piece about Rick Zabel's move to BMC later this evening. To Be Continued...