Monday, July 29, 2013

2013 Tour de Alsace Roundup

In just his first year out of the junior ranks, Silvio Herklotz has proven himself to be one of the strongest riders on the continental circuit at just 19 years of age. Winner of both the German U23 Road and Hillclimb National titles this year, Herklotz has been one of the most consistent riders on the U23 circuit with 14 top ten finishes heading into this week's Tour Alsace. While the Tour Alsace might not have name recognition with many outside the keenest of fans, it has been a very valuable development race the last few seasons. In the last three seasons, the overall classification has been won by Wilco Kelderman (Belkin), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Jon Tiernan-Locke (SKY). Other riders on the overall podium from the last three editions include Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Alexander Pliuschin (IAM) and Warren Barguil (Argos-Shimano). Looking of the stage winners, you will find a trove of talented riders that include John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano), Geoffrey Soupe and Arnaud Demare (FDJ), Alexei Tsatevich (Katusha) and Jonathan Fumeaux (IAM). This year's edition didn't let down one bit.

Stage 1, which was as flat as the week-long tour would get, saw a breakaway of eight gain 1'11" on the peloton by the finish and in a small sprint, Maxim Pokidov (Itera-Katusha) take the victory of Anthony Perez (Aix en Provence) and Nicolas David (BIC 2000). A key rider in the breakaway was 4-72 Colombia rider Fernando Orjuela, whose talent is pretty raw but can climb pretty well. In the peloton, it was Caleb Ewan (Australia) beating out Emmanuel Keo (Sojasun Espoirs-ACNC) and ZLM Tour winner Yoeri Havik for 9th in the bunch sprint.

Stage 2 was rather straightforward with a few climbs on tap for the day but eventually flattened out for the finish into Huningue. Maxat Ayazbayev (Astana CT) was aggressive on the day and took the most KOM points to secure the jersey. The finish eventually came down to a sprint with Caleb Ewan taking his 5th UCI victory of the season over Morgan Lamoisson (Europcar) and Marcel Meisen (BKCP-Powerplus).

Stage 3 rode the same course as last year's stage 2, an 153.8 kilometer romp from Strasbourg to Bischoffsheim, which saw an elite breakaway of 7 riders get away early and take an unassailable lead and saw the overall race go down to just two men in Tiernan Locke and Pliuschin. This year's stage was not raced quite as aggressively by the GC favorites but a breakaway still ruled the day. Kazakh Maxat Ayazbayev again attacked the KOM competition on the two category 1 climbs that came within the first 60 kilometers of the stage. A breakaway of 12 was then able to get away and included some heavy hitters in BKCP's Philipp Walsleben, Rabobank's Martijn Tusveld, Astana Continental's Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev, Armée de Terre rider Yoann Barbas and European U23 time trial champion Victor Campenaerts, among others. The break was given a decent gap and Walsleben, a rider known more for his cyclocross exploits, was licking his chops as he had this stage marked for weeks. In the end, it was Walsleben who put in an attack on the uphill run-in to Bischoffsheim and won with a three second gap on the rest of the breakaway. A reduced peloton of 58 rolled in 39 seconds down with Walsleben's teammate Marcel Meisen taking the bunch sprint. While BIC 2000's Nicolas David slipped into the yellow jersey, his teammate Olivier Le Gac, who will be joining FDJ as a stagiaire for the remainder of the season, crashed on a descent and broke his collarbone. He is expected to miss Tour de l'Ain and possibly the Tour de l'Avenir but is hopeful for a selection for the World Championships in Florence.

The finish of Stage 4 was one of the more bizarre finishes of the season. After the peloton got sorted out on the final climb and reduced to 85 riders, it was destined to be a bunch sprint in Colmar. Heading into the final kilometer, the final straightaway with the opposing lanes divided in the middle by trees. As eventual winner Simon Zahner explained on twitter, he used his experience in the finish, which was identical from last year, to make the right move. While in the final kilometer, he positioned his team so that they would make the final corner on the right side, which was where the finish line was on. Other than about 10 riders, the rest of the field went to the left side on the final turn. While Caleb Ewan 'won' the bunch sprint, it was on the wrong side of the road and Zahner, who used his experience and intelligence by actually reading the road book, sprinted to the actual win with his EKZ teammate Thery Schir in 2nd place and Vendée U's Bryan Nauleau in 3rd. All the riders in the peloton were scored on the same time.

Stage 5 was the queen stage of the race and the race took on the intimidating Grand Ballon, the highest peak in the Vosges Mountains. To make his debut U23 season even better, Silvio Herklotz went solo on the Grand Ballon and on the small descent to the finish, Herklotz stretched his gap to 16 seconds over the duo of Heiner Parra (4-72 Colombia) and Czech rider Jan Hirt (Leopard-Trek). While I have written to excess about Herklotz, it is simple to say that he is a prodigy. Parra and Hirt are outstanding climbers in there own right with Parra winning the queen stage of the Ronde de l'Isard and Hirt winning a brutal stage in the Tour de Azerbaijan and 2nd in the U23 Peace Race. Herklotz was able to take the overall lead from stage 1 breakaway Fernando Orjuela by 8 seconds as the Colombian finished 1'12" down. Parra was able to take 3rd overall over Philip Walsleben while Hirt slotted into 5th.

Meisen winning with Herklotz (behind) taking the overall (Photo: Directvelo)

Stage 6 culminated in a stage from Ribeauvillé to Cernay. With two climbs around Cernay, Herklotz still had a lead to defend and he did it with a penchant. With two finishing circuits that featured climbs into Wattwiller, Herklotz was apart of the breakaway that separated themselves from the peloton and along with Jan Hirt and Philip Walsleben and five other riders. Marcel Meisen won his 2nd stage ahead of Adam Yates and Herklotz while the impressive Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Belisol U23) lead the peloton home 12 seconds behind in eighth. In a small coup, Miyataka Shimizu (Bridgestone Anchor) took the KOM jersey away from Maxat Ayazbayev on the final day while Walsleben won the points jersey and Herklotz took over the youth jersey.

  1. Silvio Herklotz (Stölting-Ruhr)
  2. Fernando Orjuela (4-72 Colombia) +24"
  3. Philipp Walsleben (BKCP-Powerplus) s.t.
  4. Jan Hirt (Leopard-Trek) +26"
  5. Heiner Parra (4-72 Colombia) +36"
  6. Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev (Astana Continental) +58"
  7. Clément Penven (Aix en Provence) +59"
  8. David Wörher (Tirol) s.t.
  9. Yoann Barbas (Armée de Terre) +1'16"
  10. Dominik Fuchs (EKZ Racing) +1'27"
With Erik Zabel's admission of doping throughout his career, I have seen many people on Twitter saying how they feel sorry for Andre Greipel and Marcel Kittel and how they will have to deal with a German public who is fed up with doping. While I feel for them, no one is talking about current U23 riders that will have to deal with that stigma. How will Silvio Herklotz feel when he becomes a pro? This is a rider that only comes along once in a long while; a rider who can deal with climbs and can ride classics with many of the best U23 riders. What questions will he face whenever he turns pro because I know that his versatility will come into question with some cynics. What about Rick Zabel, who is turning pro with BMC next season? Will the press question him consistently because of his father's admission? It isn't just current German sprinters that will have to deal with the doping questioning. Herklotz, Zabel, Jasha Sütterlin and others will have to still deal with the fallout from the doping era. With a distrusting German public, it is still an uphill struggle for them.

The performances of Philipp Walsleben and Marcel Meisen make me wonder about why both of them don't focus on the road more. I'm sure both of them have a passion for cyclocross and that is why they put their energy towards it but both of them have talent on the road. Meisen has won two bunch sprints this year while Walsleben has had good results on the road in the past and with his 3rd place here, I would be very curious to see him dedicate himself to the road one year.

We have not seen the limits of Silvio Herklotz's talent. It must seem like I drone on and on about him but his talent is just immense. He might lack some time trial ability and he might not be the fastest sprinter but damn, he is one racer I wish I could watch all of the time. He is one who isn't afraid to attack or put everything on the line for the win and I, for one, hope that carries over to the pro ranks, whenever he ends up transitioning to that level.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

EspoirsCentral Exclusive: Marc Garby's Long Road Back, Part 2

Read Part 1 of this 2-part interview with Danish U23 rider Marc Garby, stage winner and yellow jersey wearer at this year's Giro della Valle d'Aosta. Garby told me about his upbringing as a cyclist and his struggle with iliac artery endofibrosis, which, along with problems getting a correct diagnosis, set him back nearly two years in his development. We pick up a the end of 2012 with Garby in search of a new squad for 2013...

By autumn, Garby was able to train pain-free for the first time in nearly 8 months. Even though he tried once before in 2010 with no luck, Garby ventured to Italy in hopes of finding a team for the 2013 season, where he would be able to race on terrain that is more suitable to his riding style and body type. "I got in touch with Team General Store Mantovani and had a meeting with the sport directors in October 2012 and performed some tests from them," Garby explained and after seeing his numbers and hearing his passion for the sport, the directors took a chance on him and signed him for the 2013 season. "They were willing to give me a chance to make comeback on their team, which I'm forever grateful for." After not racing for a year and a half, the next challenge for Garby was to get back into racing shape, which took more time than usual because of a lack of base miles in his legs. Garby would make his season debut at the GP Palio del Recioto in April, finishing 15th and in the 1st chasing group, a impressive performance in a race that featured a huge amount of talented riders.

Garby tried his hand in some Italian races in April and early May but it was still apparent that he was lacking the top end power to hang with the leading riders in the finale. Despite this, his hard work paid off and Danish National U23 coach Morten Bennekou, who had been following Garby's results, rewarded him with a wildcard spot on the national team for the U23 Peace Race (Course de la Paix) alongside riders such as Lasse Norman Hansen, Michael Valgren and Rasmus Sterobo. Personal ambitions were thrown out when Sterobo gained the leader's jersey in the prologue and Garby assumed a domestique role for the final two stages. When Sterobo's lead came under threat on the final stage, Garby took to the front for 100 kilometers to try and hold things down. While the race would blow to pieces at the end and Sterobo would lose his yellow jersey, this performance got Garby a start at the Internationale Thüringen Rundfahrt. While the German race was domestique work and miles in the legs for Garby, it proved fruitful as three teammates finished in the top 10 overall.

Heading into summer, Garby was fixed on the Giro della Valle d'Aosta because it would be one of the only races of the year where he would be able to show off his pure climbing abilities. In an interview during the race, Garby noted that he was nervous heading into the event because even though he had been getting quality racing in, his form was still a bit off from where he wanted it to be. The first stage to La Magdeleine was the stage that Garby had put a bullseye on during the weeks prior and he proceeded to light the race on fire.

Heading into the first long climb of the race, a long drag category 3 climb heading up to La Salle, Garby launched an attack that was followed by riders such as Maxat Ayazbayev, Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev (Astana Continental) Giacomo Berlato (Zalf Euromobil) and Floris De Tier (EFC-OPQS). Garby said, " (he) knew he felt good all day and was aware of drinking and eating all day in the heat." After Louis Vervaeke (Lotto-Belisol U23) bridged the gap to the breakaway, it was just the Belgian, Berlato and Garby heading into the final climb. After Berlato attacked on the 2nd to last climb, Garby ridded himself of Vervaeke and flew down the treacherous final descent to catch Berlato before the final rainy climb. "The final climb was hard as I hit it but from there I just went all out. I don't remember much of what I was thinking up the climb," said Garby. Garby was taking chunks not only out of Berlato and Vervaeke but he was also thinking about the general classification implications. Heading into the rain-soaked finishing straight alone, Garby was hit with a wave of emotion. Garby said, "as I crossed the line I started crying. It was a big moment after having so much against me for 1½ year but I never stopped believing."

Garby had a 2 minute gap to Italian stalwart Davide Villella and the rest of the main contenders and he had his work cut out of him if he wanted to keep the jersey for the four remaining stages. Stage 2 was a tough day for Garby as he did not have the luxury of being out in front of the field and would have to go toe to toe with Villella and company. Garby ended up being distanced on the final climb to Champorcher and spent the majority of the climb around Pierre Paolo Penasa and finished 8th. His lead was cut to just 41 seconds over Villella and more mountains loomed. The loses on stage 3 were mitigated because of a large breakaway getting 5 minutes on the favorites group but Villella once again distanced and the lead was down to 28 seconds.

Speaking on the 4th stage from Châtel to Morillon, Garby said, "It was a difficult stage. On the cat.1 climb (Col de Ajonc) after 55km, I was isolated with the 10 leaders. They started to attack already as the descent started. We were still together as we hit the flat section 10km before the long climb (the Col de la Ramaz) but the attacks felt never-ending and eventually Villella got the best of me." 25 seconds behind the lead group at the base of the Ramaz, Villella, who Garby noted as quite an intelligent rider, was keeping the pace high on the climb. Garby, holding onto the yellow jersey with grim death, continued, "I caught up with two riders that had been dropped from the group. We chased like mad men and did a superb descent from the mountain. I got good help from Penasa, but the third guy (Giulio Ciccone) was not too strong and we never got to catch a breath. Eventually I was the only one pulling and then we hit a short climb where Penasa went all out and closed the group alone. I was still close to catch them. I got back in group 7 kilometers before the final climb but they started attacking again."

Garby had been riding on sheer heart but when the race hit the final climb up to Morillon Les Esserts, his dreams would start to unravel. As Garby put it, "I went with Villella twice but the third time was too much and I got dropped again." Villella, Davide Formolo, Alexander Foliforov and the other leaders were too much and Garby was fighting with his sore, tired legs and the ticking clock. "I just had to eat the pain," said Garby about the final climb. He finished 9th on the day, at 1 minute 45 seconds down on the triumphant Villella, and slipped to 6th overall, where he would finish the race. Garby was also awarded the combativity prize at the end of the week-long race.

While some might be melancholy about losing the overall while in the same position, Garby took away some positives. "I aimed for top 10 (overall) so I'm happy I reached that including having 3 days in yellow. I think I could have gotten top 5 without the (leader's) jersey; it was hard on and off the bike to have but I learned a lot from it too so I'll let that rest."

Throughout our correspondence, it became very clear just how passionate Garby is about cycling and how he has this visceral hunger to get to the pro level. Monk-like, a term I used in Part 1 of our interview, is quite an apt adjective for him because there were multiple times Garby mentioned things like "he could never stop being focused" on the goal of getting to the next level. With no discernibly big ego, it is refreshing to see a rider who is so driven and grateful for every pedal stroke because he is quite aware how easily it could all be taken away. Marc, who had initially set a goal to become a pro by 2014, has had to shift that back to 2015 simply because of his lack of racing but hasn't given up on the hope of getting a deal for next season. Garby said, "I lost a lot of time in the U23 ranks but I have progressed very rapidly this year and am already living away from my family, more a less the life of a pro," which is a contrast to other Danish talent such as Rasmus Guldhammer, who had not left Denmark much before going pro with HTC-Columbia and famously imploded in his only season on the World Tour. Only time will tell but Garby is confident that if he can get a few more results in the coming races, his dreams could be even closer to fruition.

Garby has been selected for the Danish national squad for the Tour of Denmark and while the parcours isn't totally suited for him, he has two stages in mind to try his hand at. He is hopeful to be selected for the Danish Tour de l'Avenir team, which will be announced after the Tour of Denmark. Past l'Avenir, Garby has an eye on the U23 World RR in Florence, which he described as "a dream" to race. 

**Some quotes have been lightly edited for clarity

Friday, July 26, 2013

EspoirsCentral Exclusive: Marc Garby's Long Road Back, Part 1

Every year it seems like the U23 scene produces a rider that seemingly comes out of nowhere and starts to get some big results. Well when I say "out of nowhere" what I really mean is that a rider usually has a couple of years developing on the circuit before finding his own in the races. When Marc Garby dropped Louis Vervaeke on the first stage of the Giro Ciclistico Valle d'Aosta and headed for a solo victory after spending the majority of the day in the breakaway, it was different that "out of nowhere". It was different because it truly was out of nowhere. His palmares were nearly non-existent and if one looked at his racing results, it would look like he just started racing this year. Who was this guy? How could this enigma put it to some of the best U23 climbers in Europe and fight to hold onto the yellow jersey for the next few stages? Well, let's meet Marc Garby.

Like many young riders, Marc Garby dreamed of becoming a professional cyclist but unlike many who dream, Garby possessed a good amount of talent and drive to possibly make the dream a reality. Garby started on the racing in 2002 and like many young Danes, he spent a few years on the track, which netted him one silver medal in the team pursuit.

As he developed in his later junior years, Garby got stronger but his body type was not exactly suited to the flat lands of Denmark. Self-admittedly a "super small and skinny rider", Garby was adapt at getting into breakaways and finding the right groups during races. By the end of his junior years, he had racked up a good number of top-10 and top-5 placings along with a few wins on the Danish circuit. The talent was there and the results weren't bad but a lack of international racing put him behind a few of the top riders such as Sebastian Lander. Unperturbed, Garby set a goal for himself after graduating in 2009: to become a professional cyclist by 2014.

His first U23 season started with a few bumps. Seeing as he was suited for climbs, Garby set out for Italy to try and find a team for the 2010 team but after using his limited resources, he could not find a team and returned to Denmark. Riding for a local club in Ringsted, he did the best with what he could and ended with one win along with a few top 5 placings on parcours that weren't very suited to him. For his hard work, Garby was pre-selected for the U23 National squad in 2011 but his problems were only beginning.
"In March 2011 I had 4 weeks off the bike due to a knee injury. I fought hard to get back in shape and did okay against the Danish continental teams. I started getting problems with my left leg sleeping and cramping when pushing myself hard. When I reached August 2011, I could barely push 80% of my maximal effort before getting these symptoms. It was impossible to race."
From August until December, Garby saw six doctors around Denmark to try and diagnose his problems. After the first few doctor visits and doing some research of his own online, Garby came to his conclusion that he had iliac artery endofibrosis, which is essentially a kink in the major artery that carries blood to the legs. This will sound familiar to fans as riders such as Mike Friedman, Travis Meyer, Hayden Roulston, Tony Gallopin and others have undergone surgery to repair the kink via a vein patch. This is a procedure that many can recover from quickly but many remember South African cyclist Ryan Cox, who tragically died after having this procedure because of an infection of the vein patch, a quite rare but very real consequence. 

With Garby, the 4th doctor helped him come to a conclusion that he needed the iliac artery procedure and was referred to the University Hospital in Skejby, just outside Aarhus. While the doctors told him the hospital would be able to help Garby out, he described the hospital as "extremely rude and incompetent". The doctors are the hospital disagreed with the iliac artery diagnosis and wanted to do an entirely different surgery, which threw up some red flags. After consulting with an expert on the procedure in the Netherlands, Garby cancelled the new surgery but even after a vein scan, the Skejby doctors still said no to the iliac artery diagnosis.

Heading into 2012, Garby met with the expert, Dr. Schep, from the Eindhoven, The Netherlands and the the iliac artery endofibrosis was confirmed. While the surgery had its risks, Garby was more than willing to put himself under the knife to reach his dreams of being a pro. While it was now diagnosed,  their was still a problem. The only hospitals that were seasoned with the surgery were outside of Denmark and if he wanted insurance to cover the surgery, he needed to tell Skejby about his visit with Schep so they could sign off on his transfer to a foreign hospital. They were being persistent and then told him that they could do the surgery themselves, even though they never even attempted it. Uhhh, thanks but no, thanks. 

After back and forth with Skejby, his regional government and others, Garby was out of luck and now having to cover the bill himself but when he had the surgery done in June of 2012, it was exactly what he needed. Within 2 months, he was back to his pre-injury levels but his hunger was not satiated and Garby was monk-like in his pursuit to get to the pro level. Always a skinny rider, he was down to just 57 kilograms by autumn and once again he ventured to Italy to try and find a team for 2013. 

Stay tuned for Part 2 where Marc goes into his 2013 season, his breakthrough Giro della Valle d'Aosta and his plans for the rest of the season and beyond.

**There has been minimal editing to quotes for the sake of clarity.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Stagiaires & Transfers 2013

The stagiaire season is coming quickly and in a little over a week, the stagiaires for professional teams will be announced. For those unfamiliar with the term, a stagiaire or "trainee" is a rider from an amateur or lower professional team that rides the latter portion of the season with a team in hopes of gaining experience and getting a contract. UCI rules dictate that stagiaires cannot ride World Tour races but many will get plenty of time in .HC and larger .1 races. Not all guys joining new teams in August will be stagiaires. Riders such as Jan Polanc, the Slovenian climber, will be signing a full pro contract, in this case with Lampre, and will be able to ride any race.

World Tour:

Ag2r La Mondiale:
Frédéric Brun (Bourg-en-Bresse Ain Cyclisme)
Pierre-Roger Latour (Chambery CF)
Gabriel Chavanne (Chambery CF)

Jakub Novak (BMC Development)
Julien Taramarcaz (BMC Off-Road)
Silvan Dillier (BMC Development)

Davide Villella (Colpack)
Nicolò Martinello (Italy)

Olivier Le Gac (BIC 2000)
Alexis Guérin (Entente Sud Gascogne)
Benoît Poitevin (U Nantes Atlantique)

Mikhail Antonov (Itera-Katusha)
Sergey Nikolaev (Itera-Katusha)
Maksim Razumov (Itera-Katusha)

Niccoló Bonifazio (Viris Maserati)
Valerio Conti (Mastromarco)
Enea Cambianica (Maca Loca)

Stig Broeckx (Lotto U23)
Jorne Carolus (Lotto U23)

Orica GreenEdge:
Damien Howson (Jayco)
Ji Yong Kang (South Korea)

Michael Olsson (People4You-Unaas)
Nikodemus Holler (Thüringer Energie)
Quentin Jauregui (BKCP Powerplus)

Jesper Hansen (CULT Energy)
Pawel Poljanski (Poland)

Pro Continental:

Accent Jobs-Wanty:
Stefano Nardelli (Gavardo Tecmor)
Lander Seynaeve (EFC-OPQS)

Androni - Venezuela:
Andrea Zordan (Zalf Euromobil)

Bretagne - Séché Environment
Merhawi Kudus (UCI Trainee)
Fabrice Seigneur (ASPTT Rennes)

Caja Rural:
Ramon Domene (Caja Rural Amateurs)
Ibai Salas (Caja Rural Amateurs)
Diego Rubio (Caja Rural Amateurs)

Champion System
Gregory Brenes (Costa Rica)
Dion Smith (Predator Carbon)
Fu Shiu Chueng (Hong Kong)

Philip Lavery (AC Bisontine)
Clement Venturini (Vulco)
Louis Verhelst (Etixx-iHNed)

Kevin Verwaest (Doltcini-Flanders)
Tom David (Ovyta-Eijssen)

Romain Guillemois (all Vendée U)
Pierre-Henri Lecuisinier
Julien Morice

Mikhail Akimov (all Helicopters)
Alexander Foliforov
Alexander Evtushenko

Maxime Renault (all Sojasun Espoir-ACNC)
Julien Guay
Guillaume Martin

Vini Fantini:
Airán Fernández (Coluer)
Riccardo Stacchiotto (Vini Fantini Amateurs)
Luca Sterbini (Vini Fantini Amateurs)

Development Teams:

Astana Continental:
Artur Fedosseyev 
Viktor Okishev

Josip Rumac (Croatia)

Hincapie Development:
Joseph Schmalz (Elbowz)

Nikita Kugaevskii (Katusha U21)
Artur Shaymuratov (Katusha U21)

Alexander Vdovin 
Sergey Vdovin

Rabobank Development:
Jeroen Meijers (De Jonge Renner)
Timo Roosen (De Jonge Renner)


While some are getting an audition at the top, there are other U23 and young amateur riders who are already guaranteed a spot for next year. These riders include...

Rider - Team for 2014 (rumors in italics)

Jan Polanc
Niccoló Bonifazio
Valerio Conti

Davide Villella
Matej Mohoric

Dylan van Baarle
Lasse Norman
Phil Gaimon

Sean de Bie

Julian Alaphilippe

Damien Howson

-Saxo Bank
Michael Valgren (3 year deal)
Riccardo Zoidl

Nathan Earle

Daan Olivier

Rick Zabel

Dayer Quintana

Jasper Stuyven
Fabio Silvestre
Eugenio Alafaci
Kristian Haugaard

Pro Continental

Andrea Zordan
Yonder Godoy

-Bardiani CSF Valvole:
Nicola Ruffoni

Clement Venturini
Christophe Laporte
Louis Verhelst

Pierre-Henri Lecuisinier
Romain Guillemois
Bryan Nauleau

Development Teams

-Rabobank Development:
Cees Bol
Martijn Budding
Nino Honigh
Andre Looij
Jeroen Meijers
Sam Oomen
Timo Roosen
Piotr Havik

Piet Allegaert
Edward Planckaert

Got additions? Subtractions? Anything? Comment or tweet me @Vlaanderen90

Belgians sweep U23 Euro Championships

In somewhat of a surprise, Belgium swept the U23 men's road events at the Junior and U23 European Championships in Brno and Olomouc, Czech Republic last week. While Belgium was a big favorite for the road race, it was the win in the time trial that turned heads.

Friday saw the U23 Time Trial and while the pre-race favorites did well, it was Victor Campenaerts (Lotto Belisol U23) who took the surprise victory in Brno ahead of Ukranian Oleksandr Golovash and German powerhouse Jasha Sütterlin. Marlen Zmorka, once called an alien by Italian U23 TT power Davide Martinelli this year, finished 4th while Andzs Flaksis (Bontrager) did very well to finish 5th.

Campenaerts is a time trial specialist but going into the event, it didn't seem like he would be challenging for the win. A top 5, yes, but riders like Sütterlin, Golovash, Zmorka and Rasmus Sterobo would probably beat him. From his post-race interview, it was gleaned that he had been specifically training for a 30-minute effort for the last couple of months and while he did well in the Vuelta a Madrid and was apart of the winning Belgian TTT Championship team for the 2nd year running, he was a bit under the radar. Campenaerts, a former triathlete, has a very traditional style on the bike with a long and low position and has a back that is flatter than the Dutch coast. While this result is impressive, it remains to be seen if he can perform like this again later in the season.

I always feel like the European Championships, especially the TT, are a bit overrated just for the simple fact that since they are held in the late July, many racers are not on their peak form. Those like Sütterlin just came from the Giro della Valle d'Aosta while there are others that are just coming off breaks and not on their best. In any case, these races have produced surprises in the past so if Campenaerts finishes 10th at the Worlds TT, this writer will not be surprised.

  1. Victor Campenaerts (Belgium)
  2. Oleksandr Golovash (Ukraine) +7"
  3. Jasha Sütterlin (Germany) +25"
  4. Marlen Zmorka (Ukraine) +37"
  5. Andzs Flaksis (Latvia) +39"
  6. Alexis Guérin (France) +40"
  7. Alexis Gougeard (France) +41"
  8. Bekir Baki Akirsan (Turkey) +44"
  9. Maximilian Schachmann (Germany) +47"
  10. Rasmus Sterobo (Denmark) +49"
Sunday's road race was a brutal affair with a whole host of DNFs and some electric racing filled with attacking. The race started franticly with a whole host of attacks and crashes taking out some riders early in the race. Italy and France both fielded deep teams and were the early pace makers but when the race began to heat up, Italy was on the short end of the stick with just Alberto Bettiol and Davide Villella in the finale.

On the final lap, Alexander Foliforov (Russia) attacked and Sean De Bie (Belgium) was quick to be on his wheel and they were joined by Petr Vakoc (Etixx-iHNed/Czech Republic), Toms Skujins (Latvia), Julian Alaphilippe and Olivier Le Gac (France), Maximilian Kuen and Lukas Pöstlberger (Austria) and Bettiol.

De Bie takes the sprint with ease (Photo: Cristian Torri)

 Coming into the finish, both Austrians were distanced as the sprint was becoming inevitable. It was De Bie who was able to easily take the sprint over Vakoc and Skujins and take his first UCI win of the season. De Bie, who just came off a Italian training camp and the Czech Cycling Tour, is going very well and will be looking for a result in the U23 World Championships in Florence, where he will be one of the protected riders. Vakoc has been on fire as of late by winning the Vuelta a Madrid overall, a stage win at the Czech Cycling Tour plus a stage win and now with a podium at the U23 Euros. One of the sensations of the season. Skujins, one of this site's favorite riders, continues a strong season with 3rd and will be one to watch in l'Avenir and at Worlds. Julian Alaphilippe finished 4th and has been another very consistent rider over the whole year while Alexander Foliforov, who finished 5th overall in Valle d'Aosta, showed off his good form with 5th.

Two placings to look at are 10th and 11th in Davide Villella and Luka Pibernik. Villella, known for his Valle d'Aosta overall win two weekends ago, beat out Pibernik, the elite champion of Slovenia, for 10th in the chasing group sprint and could be two to watch come time for Worlds in Florence. 
  1. Sean De Bie (Belgium)
  2. Petr Vakoc (Czech Republic)
  3. Toms Skujins (Latvia)
  4. Julian Alaphilippe (France)
  5. Alexander Foliforov (Russia)
  6. Olivier Le Gac (France) +5"
  7. Alberto Bettiol (Italy) +7"
  8. Maximilian Kuen (Austria) +17"
  9. Lukas Pöstlberger (Austra) +31"
  10. Davide Villella (Italy) +1'03"

Monday, July 15, 2013

Valle d'Aosta wrap-up: Villella wins stage 4 and overall; Sütterlin takes final stage

After chipping away at Marc Garby's lead since stage 1, Davide Villella was on a mission to unseat the Dane and take the yellow jersey. Villella, who up until this past week had been having just a good year but nothing like his 2012 campaign, was just 28 seconds back heading into the fourth stage of the Giro Ciclistico della Valle d'Aosta and right from the get go he decided to pressure Garby.

An early breakaway was away and the pack was quiet until the 3rd categorized climb of the day, the Col d'Ajonc, when an elite selection was formed from the peloton including Garby, Villella and others high on GC such as Clément Chevrier, Alexander Foliforov, Davide Formolo, Louis Vervaeke and Mikel Iturria. The elite selection joined the remainder of the breakaway, which included eventual KOM winner Simone Petilli, and the race was set.

As the leading group expanded to 18 after the descent, Villella was having none of the waiting game and on the early slopes of the Col de la Ramaz, he launched an attack that would put Garby on his limit. Villella drew out Formolo, Foliforov, Chevrier, Iturria, Vervaeke and Daniele Dall'Oste. The gap between that group and the yellow jersey was grow steadily on the Ramaz and maxed out at 1'28" but the Dane on the General Store amateur squad was not done fighting by any means. While Chevrier attacked ahead, Garby was pulling back time on the descent and on the flats on the way to the climb up to Morillon Les Esserts.

While Chevrier was pulled back, Garby was fighting tooth and nail behind to chase back on and along with Giulio Ciccone (Palazzago), Garby's deficit was eventually nullified and with 12 kilometers to go, he joined the leading group. While the grit and tenacity was admirably, the reality of the situation was about to take hold. Once again, it was Villella who attacked near the bottom of the climb and Garby and Ciccone were distanced and would never catch back on. The dream of yellow was over but damn was it good while it lasted.

Punch to the sky for Colpack's Davide Villella

Villella had the company of Foliforov, Formolo, Dall'Oste, Vervaeke, Chevrier and Iturria on the way to the summit of the climb but he wasn't happy taking them all to the line. Dall'Oste was the first to pop and soon after Iturria was gone. With 1km to go, Chevrier and Vervaeke were popped. Villella and Foliforov wound it up for the finish but Villella, the eventual winner of the points jersey, took the sprint convincingly. The seconds ticked by and when the 29th second ticked by, the leader's jersey belonged to Villella. Garby eventually finished 10th on the stage, 1'45" down. Behind Garby, it was another 8 minutes until 11th place rolled in with American Alexey Vermeulen coming in 9'33" down on Villella.

  1. Davide Villella (Colpack)
  2. Alexander Foliforov (Russia) +1"
  3. Davide Formolo (Petroli Firenze) +7"
  4. Louis Vervaeke (Lotto) s.t.
  5. Clément Chevrier (Chambery CF) +9"
  6. Mikel Iturria (Euskadi) +37"
  7. Daniele Dall'Oste (Trevigiani) +1'01"
  8. Pierre Paolo Penasa (Zalf Euromobil) +1'34"
  9. Giulio Ciccone (Palazzago) +1'38"
  10. Marc Christian Garby (General Store) +1'45"

Full Results

While Villella was ensconced in the yellow tunic, there was still the final stage that needed to be played out, a 90 kilometer romp back in Valle d'Aosta from Pré-Saint-Didier to Aosta with flat(ish) finishing circuits to help the weary legs. The majority of the race was made by a two-man breakaway of Felix Baur (Swiss National) and Jan Brockoff (Thüringer Energie), who livened up the pace and helped keep a high average of nearly 45 km/h. The duo got a gap of nearly a minute before the peloton decided that was too much and began to reel them in.

As the gap went down to just 15 seconds, Baur attacked solo and pushed the advantage back out. It was all for naught as with 30 kilometers to go a Colpack-lead peloton neutralized Baur. On the finishing circuits, there were no legitimate threats and as the race wound up, Zalf Euromobil put themselves on the front for their fast man Andrea Toniatti. While Toniatti was in prime position, it would not be enough on the day as Jasha Sütterlin, the German time trial powerhouse, freelanced his way to the front and held off Toniatti and Carlos Barbero to take the final stage win.

  1. Jasha Sütterlin (Thüringer Energie)
  2. Andrea Toniatti (Zalf Euromobil)
  3. Carlos Barbero (Euskadi)
  4. Rino Gasparrini (Trevigiani)
  5. Michele Senni (Colpack)

Final GC
  1. Davide Villella (Team Colpack)
  2. Davide Formolo (Petroli Firenze) +28" 
  3. Clément Chevrier (Chambery CF) +32"
  4. Louis Vervaeke (Lotto) +36"
  5. Alexander Foliforov (Russian National) +38"
  6. Marc Christian Garby (General Store) +1'17"
  7. Mikel Iturria (Euskadi) +1'43"
  8. Daniele Dall'Oste (Trevigiani) +2'29"
  9. Pierre Paolo Penasa (Zalf Euromobil) +3'50"
  10. Roman Semyonov (Astana CT) +11'04"
  • KOM: Simone Petilli (Delio Gallina)
  • Points: Davide Villella
  • Sprints: Marco Chianese (Palazzago)
  • Best Team: Colpack

Overall, it was a standout race for Davide Villella. After only one win this year compared to 8 at this point last year, Villella was visibly getting frustrated about being relegated from the top step. Valle d'Aosta turned it around and with a little less difficult parcours than last year, it played right into his hands. Villella will be riding with the World Tour Cannondale squad with summer on a stagiaire role along with a neo-pro contract starting in 2014. Whatever you do, do not forget Davide Villella. I'd prefer to see him on another team other than Cannondale due to their up-down track record with young talent but he will be good. 

Villella isn't the only talent in this group. Formolo, who also went to a Cannondale training camp this past winter with Villella, is emerging as a consistent climber who could potentially turn into a GC talent in the World Tour. Clément Chevrier comes from the same amateur team as Romain Bardet and his climbing abilities are top notch, especially on the HC climbs. Louis Vervaeke is just two years out of the juniors ranks and is already the best U23 climber from Belgium and a call up to the World Tour wouldn't surprise me. 

And Marc Christian Garby? Well you will have to wait a little bit for that because his story takes more than just a few blurbs to spell out. Watch out for an Espoirs Central exclusive...

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Valle d'Aosta Stage 3: Toniatti wins; Garby in yellow but lead shrinks

On a transitional but still uphill stage, it was yet another brutal day for the racers at the Giro Ciclistico della Valle d'Aosta. While the course only had 3 categorized climbs, there was an uphill drag back into the start town of Châtel and after the previous two monster days, there were tired legs to contend with as well. To add some more crazy to the day, a 15 man breakaway took off int the first kilometers of the stage and put race leader Marc Christian Garby (Team General Store) on the back heel once again.

The race transitioned to the French town of Châtel, a small hamlet in the Rhône-Alpes region that is popular as a ski resort, for the first of two stages around the area. The race, like many other Italian stage races, was low on funds and found a partner in the town's government to keep the race healthy. It also helps that home region team Chambery CF is in the race along with a Haute Savoie team, the department where Châtel is located in. Anyways, I digress...

 Within the first five kilometers, 15 riders broke off the front of the race and immediately made the race. The breakaway included:
  • Diego Brasi and Marco Chianese (Palazzago), Maxat Ayazbayev and Roman Seymenov (Astana CT), Thomas Vanbeisen and Jeroen Vrolijkx (Lotto U23), Oliviero Troia (Colpack), Giacomo Berlato and Andrea Toniatti (Zalf-Euromobil), Rino Gasparrini (Trevigiani), Simon Pellaud (Swiss National), Walter Devecchi (Overall), Jasha Sütterlin (Thüringer Energie) and Loïc Vliegen and Paul Lynch (BMC)
These 15 got a healthy gap but the fun wasn't over for potential GC contenders. As the gap grew out further to two minutes, Gennady Tatarinov (Russia National) and Mikel Iturria (Euskadi) then attacked out of the peloton and set off in pursuit of the breakaway. Manuel Senni (Colpack) joined them shortly afterwards. After the first sprint points, 25 more riders joined the front group and it was now 40% of the peloton out in front with Garby chasing about a half minute behind. After the 2nd climb of the La Beunaz, it was a group of 20 riders that would make the breakaway for the rest of the race.

  • Fiorillo (Vejus), Baur, Pellaud (Swiss National), Maxime Le Lavandier (Chambery), Katyrin, Foliforov and Akimov (Russian National), Troia (Colpack), Berlato, Toniatti (Zalf Euromobil), Kozhatayev, Ayazbayev and Semyonov (Astana), Vrolijkx (Lotto-Belisol), Iturria (Euskadi), Sütterlin (Thüringer Energie), Vliegen (BMC), Brasi and Ciccone (Palazzago) and Maestri (General Store)

Over the next 10 kilometers, the gap went from 30 seconds to nearly 5 minutes. A group including Luca Chirico (Trevigiani) and Carlos Barbero (Euskadi) took off after the group but only Barbero and Lotto's would eventually bridged to the group. Going into the final 20 kilometers, the gap was nearly six minutes on the peloton.

With 15 kilometers left, the break was on the uphill run in to Châtel and a group of five had separated themselves. Andrea Toniatti and Giacomo Berlato (Zalf Euromobil), Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev and Maxat Ayazbayev (Astana) and Maxime Le Lavandier (Chambery) lifted the pace and the race blew open. Le Lavandier and Ayazbayev dropped off fairly early while Euskadi's Mikel Iturria bridged the gap to the other leaders.

The four worked well together but with 5 kilometers left they were joined by Ayazbayev, Diego Brasi (Palazzago) and Simon Pellaud (Swiss National). The group of 7 had a gap of a minute on most of the breakaway and still have 5'47" on the rest of the peloton, which included Garby, 2nd place Davide Villella and other high GC placers. With four kilometer to go, Berlato attacked and got 10 seconds. The only ones able to respond were Berlato's teammate Toniatti and Itturia, the rest not able to follow on the shallow uphill. The duo went by Berlato in the final kilometer and Toniatti came around the Basque rider and took the victory, his 3rd of the year.

Behind, Davide Villella attacked the yellow jersey group in the finale, an attack that saw the leader Garby drop off the back slightly. Villella took a further 13 seconds out of Garby's lead, taking it down to just 28 seconds. The biggest GC mover on the day was Astana's Roman Semyonov, who was in the day long breakaway and took enough time to move from 10th to 3rd on GC, just 47 seconds down on Garby.

  1. Andrea Toniatti (Zalf Euromobil)
  2. Mikel Iturria (Euskadi)
  3. Giacomo Berlato (Zalf Euromobil) +7"
  4. Diego Brasi (Palazzago) +16"
  5. Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev (Astana) +34"
  6. Simon Pellaud (Swiss National) +1'03"
  7. Maxat Ayazbayev (Astana) +1'12"
  8. Roman Semyonov (Astana) +1'26"
  9. Mikhail Akimov (Russian National) +1'28"
  10. Dimitri Peyskens (Lotto-Belisol U23) +1'30"
  1. Marc Garby (General Store)
  2. Davide Villella (Colpack) +28"
  3. Roman Semyonov (Astana) +47"
  4. Davide Formolo (Petroli Firenze) +49"
  5. Clément Chevrier (Chambery CF) +51"
  6. Louis Vervaeke (Lotto-Belisol U23) +57"
  7. Alexander Foliforov (Russian National) +1'05"
  8. Mikel Iturria (Euskadi) +1'34" 
  9. Manuel Senni (Colpack) +1'35"
  10. Daniele Dall'Oste (Trevigiani) +1'56"
Full Results for Stage and GC

The GC has continued to tighten up and another mountain filled day on Friday will most likely see the conclusion of the GC battle as Garby will have to put everything on the line to defend his lead over Villella, Formolo and the rest of the contenders.

Garby's last day in yellow?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Valle d'Aosta Stage 2: "A Return to Normalcy" as Villella takes stage honors; cuts GC deficit

After yesterday's surprising ride by Marc Christian Garby (Team General Store), stage 2 of the Giro Ciclistico della Valle d'Aosta saw a return to normalcy of sorts as many of the pre-race favorites duked it out on another uphill finish, this time at Champorcher. Garby would finish the day in yellow but his lead would be much reduced from the previous day.

There were multiple attacks early in the stage with over half of the Astana Continental team trying to get into the day's break at various stages of the race. First it was Bahktiyar Kozhatayev who went but was pulled back quickly before Maxat Ayazbayev tried his hand with Giacomo Gallio (Delio Gallina) but after some kilometers of trying, they were both absorbed. Finally after 40 kilometers, it was Zhandos Bizhigitov along with Simone Petilli (Delio Gallina) who attacked and opened up a nice gap and were later joined by Roman Katyrin (Russia), Simone Andreetta (Zalf Euromobil) and Gallio. The peloton was finally willing to let this one go as they needed to keep something in their legs for the fearsome Col Tze Core, a 15 kilometer climb that averages nearly 7%.

The gap got up to nearly 3 minutes but as the break hit the first slopes of the Tze Core, it was Petilli who immediate attacked his breakaway companions and put time into them. Petilli rode solo up the whole climb while behind, Bizhigitov and Andreetta created an alliance and worked well together to limit their advantage. From the peloton, Fausto Masnada (Colpack) attacked near the bottom and put in a herculean effort to pass Gallio and Katyrin and then catch the chasing duo of Bizhigitov and Andreetta before he reached the summit, where he was only 22 seconds down on a streaking Petilli after dropping the duo. After a short descent, it was the short side of the Col de Joux that was tackled next. Masnada joined Petilli near the beginning of the climb and the duo worked together and at the top, it was Petilli who took maximum points to pad his KOM lead.

While this ride was impressive, it was only in the first 106 kilometer to go and the two climbers still had another 35 kilometers of descent and flat before hitting the first slopes of the climb to Champorcher. While the leading duo plowed on, the peloton were fine with letting the gap balloon as it went from 2 minutes to 3 and then 4 minutes plus with 15 kilometers to go. Finally, with 12 kilometers to go the peloton awoke from their slumber and Davide Formolo (Petroli Firenze) attacked and was initially followed by Davide Villella (Colpack) and race leader Garby but would soon be joined by many more as the race went under the 10km to go banner, the gap now under three minutes.

After the chasers reformed, one of yesterday's attackers, Louis Vervaeke (Lotto U23), put in another attack today at 8 kilometers to go and drew out Villella, Alexander Foliforov (Russia), Clement Chevrier (Chambery CF) and Floris De Tier (EFC-OPQS) and the gap between them and the two leaders was plummeting. Petilli went on solo but with a little over 5 kilometers to go, it was all over for him. De Tier and Vervaeke exploded soon afterwards while Formolo, Daniele Dall'Oste (Trevigiani) and Maunel Senni (Colpack) joined to leaders to make it a sextet. Garby was struggling behind with Vervaeke and nearly a minute back with four kilometers to go.

As the steepest bit of the climb ended, it was just down to Formolo, Villella and Chevrier with the other three gapped by a few handfuls of seconds. Formolo, the worst sprinter, tried to lead it out with a long sprint from nearly a 750 meters to go of shallow uphill but the other two easily came around the the powerful Villella distancing Chevrier for his 2nd win of the year, quite a surprising fact in and of itself seeing as he already won 8 races this time last year. In the end, Villella pulled out 1'19" from Marc Garby's lead as the Dane came across the line in 8th, just behind Pierre Paolo Penasa (Zalf Euromobil), and kept his overall lead by 39 seconds on Villella.

  1. Davide Villella (Colpack)
  2. Clement Chevrier (Chambery CF) +1"
  3. Davide Formolo (Petroli Firenze) +4"
  4. Daniele Dall'Oste (Trevigiani) +22"
  5. Alexander Foliforov (Russia) +25"
  6. Manuel Senni (Colpack) +28"
  7. Pierre Paolo Penasa (Zalf Euromobil) +1'15"
  8. Marc Christian Garby (Team General Store) +1'19"
  9. Louis Vervaeke (Lotto-Belisol U23) +1'40"
  10. Roman Semyonov (Astana CT) +1'57"
  1. Garby
  2. Villella +41"
  3. Formolo +56"
  4. Chevrier +58"
  5. Vervaeke +1'04"
  6. Foliforov +1'12"
  7. Senni +1'29"
  8. Dall'Oste +2'03"
  9. Penasa +2'46"
  10. Semyonov 4'34"

Behind the top 10, it is a steep drop off on the results page. The rest of the top 20 came in anywhere from 3'16" to 7'40" and the gaps got even larger afterwards. The final rider, Sergey Vdovin of Lokosphinx, came in at 37'12". Technically he wasn't last as three Ventilair Steria riders missed the time cut. Tomorrow will give the riders some respite as the race transfers to the French town of Châtel and will feature a few climbs but nothing on the scale of the last two days. 

Valle d'Aosta Stage 1: Garby shocks the favorites

Garby was in tears after his stage win (Photo: Race Website)

Before today, I could not have told you who Marc Christian Garby was. Today, I still cannot say much about the 22-year old Dane who rides for Team General Store, the Italian amateur squad that is based out of Verona. Garby put in one of the more stunning rides of this year but riding in the breakaway all day and taking a solo victory in the uphill finish at La Magdeleine.

For the last two years, I cannot find any record of Garby even racing, with his last results coming from 2011 in the Danish National RR and the Scandinavian Race Uppsala. From his Facebook, it says that he was working in a theater up until this year, when he moved to Italy and eventually started to race with the Team General Store in April at the GP Palio del Recioto, where he finished 15th. I won't pretend to know his story because I am just as curious as many others as to how this all came about and what his journey has been like.

On the nearly all uphill journey from Pont-Saint-Martin to La Magdeleine, it was within the first 8 kilometers of the 155 kilometer stage that saw Garby attack with others including Lotto's Louis Vervaeke. The group scaled the first two smaller hills without much difficulty and then continued on the false flat run in up to the foot of the Col St. Pantaléon, the main feature for the day's racing. While the gap had dropped between the peloton and the breakaway, the break was still given a healthy lead and Garby was putting in accelerations, dropping riders from the break and it was only Vervaeke and Giacomo Berlato (Zalf Euromobil) that could follow. It wasn't long after that Garby attacked the duo on the Pantaléon and went solo over the top. After a short descent, it was Garby who had a 30 second advantage on Vervaeke at the foot of the climb with the group nearly two minutes back.

Garby, who has a very lithe build and is suited for climbs, put another 20 seconds into Vervaeke, an impressive climber in his own right, and finished up with a gap of 54 seconds on the Belgian. Behind, it was perennial podium placer Davide Villella taking a small sprint from Russian Alexander Foliforov with Davide Formolo, Clement Chevrier, Mikel Iturria and Manuel Senni all finishing close behind. Behind the leading chasing pack, it was utter shambles as the time gaps were huge and it was minutes rather than seconds between many riders.

  1. Marc Christian Garby
  2. Louis Vervaeke +54"
  3. Davide Villella +2'13"
  4. Alexander Foliforov s.t.
  5. Davide Formolo +2'16"
  6. Clement Chevrier s.t.
  7. Mikel Iturria +2'18"
  8. Manuel Senni +2'21"
  9. Pierre Paolo Penasa +2'53"
  10. Daniele Dall'Oste +3'09"

Garby was in tears at the end and thanked his team and everyone for giving him the chance this year and promises to put everything out there. I would like to see an interview with him so that I can understand his near two-year layoff from the sport, the racing side at least. He has raced twice this year with the Danish National U23 team in stage races such as the U23 Peace Race and the Thüringen Rundfahrt but according to a post-race interview, he was still not on 100% form and it wasn't until Wednesday morning that he truly felt like he could win the stage. He hopes to defend the jersey for as long as he can.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Thüringer Energie goes 1-2 in Valle d'Aosta prologue

Sütterlin punching it on the finishing straight (Photo: Race Wesbite)

Taking advantage of some of the only flat parcours they will have, the German duo of Jasha Sütterlin and Maximilian Schachmann (both Thüringer Energie) went 1-2 in the opening 2.5 kilometer prologue with Sütterlin taking the win by a slim .81 of a second. This prologue was a stark contrast to the last few years which featured a twisting uphill prologue that favored lithe climbers.

The opening event of the 50th Giro Ciclisto della Valle d'Aosta took place in Pont-Saint-Martin, a small valley town that sits near the border of the Valle d'Aosta and Piemonte. The course was a 2.5 kilometer loop that went started in town, near the 1st-century Roman bridge, and looped around to the west before heading back into the city center for the finish. Pont-Saint-Martin is one of the small gateways to the Aosta Valley, the smallest, least populated and least densely populated region in Italy and home to mythic peaks and stunning scenery.

The race features 22 teams but with only 5-man teams (and a four man Euskadi squad), the race started with only 109 riders. Sütterlin, a consistent threat in nearly any TT, was the easy favorite and put on a storming performance. Schachmann, last year's 3rd place in the World Junior TT in Valkenburg, continued his streak of impressive time trialling performances with 2nd place and by next year, he should be contending for even more wins. The next closest rider was Swiss Adrian Chenaux (Atlas Personal-Jakroo), which made for an all-Teutonic podium. Chenaux is no stranger to the hills of Aosta as he finished 24th overall here last year.

Diego Brasi (Palazzago) wore #1 on his back, courtesy of Fabio Aru's winning performance here last year, and did well by going 4th and was one of only three Italians in the top 10. While some of the Italian media lamented about Italy's lack of strong time trialling, it should be noted that many of the Italian teams are loaded with climbers and will be looking to the hills to make the race. The mountains of Aosta and Rhône-Alpes, the French region the race will be going through, will negate (or vastly expand depending on how you see it) the time gaps of a short flat prologue.

  1. Jasha Sütterlin (Thüringer Energie)
  2. Maximilian Schachmann (Thüringer Energie)
  3. Adrian Chenaux (Atlas Personal-Jakroo) +2"
  4. Diego Brasi (Palazzago) +3"
  5. Xandro Meurisse (Lotto-Belisol U23) +4"
  6. Daniel Peeters (Ventilair-Steria) +5"
  7. Loïc Vliegen (BMC Development)
  8. Mattia Frapporti (Trevigiani)
  9. Jan Brockoff (Thüringer Energie) +6"
  10. Marco Chianese (Palazzago)
Placings for some GC contenders include...

-19th Louis Vervaeke (Lotto)
-20th Mathieu Le Lavandier (Chambery CF)
-27th Haritz Orbe (Euskadi)
-29th Daniele Dall'Oste (Trevigiani)
-39th Pierre-Roger Latour (Chambery CF)
-54th Davide Formolo (Petroli Firenze)
-58th Pierre Paolo Penasa (Zalf Euromobil)
-69th Clement Chevrier (Chambery CF)
-71st Bahktiyar Kozhatayev (Astana CT)

Tuesday's flat will be sorely missed as tomorrow will be mountain heavy with four categorized summits along with back-to-back category one ascents in the Col St. Pantaléon and the uphill finish at La Magdeleine. Without a juggernaut like Fabio Aru or Joe Dombrowski this year, the race will be more open but look to some of the highlighted riders for high finishes.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Thursday Night Shorts

Nate Brown takes title #2 for Bontrager at USA Nationals 

After tag-teaming the road race with teammate Tanner Putt, Nate Brown still had a score to settle with the time trial. The Tennessee native had won the race in 2011 and was 3rd last year (he was also 3rd in the US Professional TT Championships this May) and with Lawson Craddock out, his road to the title was made easier but still would not be a simple task.

The first rider off was bronze medalist from the road race Hincapie Development's Ty Magner, who laid down an impressive time of 37'28" on the flat to rolling 29 kilometer course that finished right outside of the Trek headquarters. This time was so impressive that Magner was in the hot seat for nearly the whole day. Hincapie Devo teammate Robin Carpenter was the first to come remotely near Magner's time with a 37'50", which put him in a provisional 2nd place. Next to come closer was Colorado rider Andrew Hemesath (PrimalWear-McDonald-Audi), who went six seconds faster than Carpenter but was still 16 seconds off the time laid down by Magner.

 Nearly an hour after Magner had set off, Nate Brown launched down the start ramp and proceeded to smash the course, posting the only time under 37 minutes with a 36'59", a time which was topped by only two elite men's riders. Five riders set off after Brown but none of them could touch him. Steven Perezluha (AG Bicycles - Guttenplan Coaching), who showed promise with his Cat.1-2 overall win at the Joe Martin Stage Race in Arkansas earlier this year, finished 3rd at just 10 seconds off of Magner's 2nd place time. T.J. Eisenhart (BMC Development) finished up well with a 4th place, four seconds off Perezluha, to go with his 8th place in the road race yesterday.

  1. Nate Brown (Bontrager CT) 36'59"
  2. Ty Magner (Hincapie Development) +29"
  3. Steven Perezluha (AG Bicycles-Guttenplan Coaching) +39"
  4. T.J. Eisenhart (BMC Develpoment) +43"
  5. Andrew Hemesath (PrimalWear-McDonald-Audi) +45"
  6. Robin Carpenter (Hincapie Development) +51"
  7. Eamon Franck (CalGiant) +52"
  8. Gregory Daniel (Bontrager CT) +1'04"
  9. Zack Noonan ( +1'09"
  10. Robin Eckmann (CalGiant) +1'10"

Teams announced for Giro Ciclisto della Valle d'Aosta-Mont Blanc

Next to the Tour de l'Avenir, the Giro della Valle d'Aosta is the most prestigious stage race for U23 cyclists and this year, the race will feature a prologue and five road stages, two of which will be in and around the French town of Châtel. The 22-team lineup will consist of half Italian amateur teams and a group of foreign squads including continental, amateur and national teams.

The lucky 22 are...
  1. Team Palazaggo
  2. Petroli Firenze
  3. Colpack
  4. Zalf-Eruomobil
  5. Trevigiani Dynamon Bottoli
  6. General Store
  7. Overall Cycling Team
  8. ASD Cerone
  9. Gallina Eurofeed
  10. Vejus-TMF
  11. Haute-Savoie-Rhône-Alpes
  12. Chambéry CF
  13. Lotto-Belisol U23
  14. EFC-OPQS
  15. Ventilair-Steria
  16. Lokosphinx
  17. Euskadi
  18. Astana CT
  19. BMC Development
  20. Thüringer Energie
  21. Swiss National Team
  22. Russian National Team
The race starts next Tuesday, the 9th, and runs through the 14th. A full course preview should be up relatively soon but no idea when there will be a full startlist available. Here is the full race guide along with route profiles and information about the race.

Transfer News

Directvelo has listed many French riders that will be getting stagiaire roles this summer
  • Rudy Barbier will stagiaire (trainee) with Roubaix-Lille Métropole. The Frenchman has two wins to his name this year riding for the Armée de Terre (French Army) including a stage at the UCI 2.2 Paris-Arras stage race.
  • Alexandre Billon and Yannis Yssaad will stagiaire with BigMat-Auber93. Both have been riding on the team's feeder squad, C.M. Aubervilliers 93. Billon was 12th overall in the 2.2 Tour of Gironde along with two top 5 stage placings. Yssaad stagiaired with the team last year and has multiple top placings in the French amateur scene.
  • Europcar has gone with three stagiaires this summer, all of whom come from their feeder team Vendée U. Former junior world champion Pierre-Henri Lecuisinier, Romain Guillemois and Julien Morice will be joining the green team in August. Lecuisinier is pegged by many as one of France's big hopes for the future, especially in the classics and in time trials. Guillemois recently won a stage in Boucles de la Mayenne and finished 7th in the Liege-Bastogne-Liege U23. Both of these riders were stagiaires with the team last year. Morice was French University champion in the time trial and will be at the European Track Championships.
  • Clément Saint-Martin will stagiaire with La Pomme Marseille. Saint-Martin was 2nd in the French Amateur Championships and has been riding for the Oceane U-Top 16 team out of Poitou-Charentes on France's west-central coast.
  • Former junior World Champion Olivier Le Gac (BIC 2000) will stagiaire with FDJ. Currently 19, Le Gac is still a university student but was able to take a win in the Boucles de l'Essor earlier this year.

-Elmar Reinders (Metec-TKH) underwent testing with Lotto-Belisol, according to, and will hear about a possible stagiaire role and/or professional contract after the Tour de France.

-Yoann Barbas (Armée de Terre) will stagiaire with Ag2r-La Mondiale, according to

-According to Polish tweeter Pawel Gadzala (@8aldwin), Pawel Poljanski will probably ride as a stagiaire for Saxo-Tinkoff. Poljanski experienced a turbulent season as the team he was supposed to ride for, Italian Pro Continental Vini Fantini, did not have money to register him and therefore he was stuck in limbo for the first half of the season.

-Het Nieuwsblad reported that Louis Verhelst (Etixx-iHNed) will definitely be going to the pro ranks next year but to which team is still the mystery. The article suggests that Cofidis has been really going after him. Cofidis is the home to Belgians Jan Ghyselinck, Romain Zingle, Nico Sijmens and Edwig Cammaerts.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Wayback Machine: Bakelants takes shock Tour de l'Avenir win

Jan Bakelants
With a profound stage win on Sunday and spending some valuable time in the Tour de France's maillot jaune, Jan Bakelants is finally living up to the hype he was given as a U23 star. Sunday's late breakaway win was Bakelants first professional win in his now 5-year career, which is a bit surprising if one were to look at his last U23 season. Seen as one of Belgium's finest young prodigies, 2008 was a year of excellence for the kid from one of the heartlands of Belgian cycling, Oudenaarde.

Bakelants didn't have just one good performance in 2008. He also had more than a few. That season saw Bakelants take 11 victories including four stage race overall crowns. On the domestic front, Bakelants frequently toed the line against Jérôme Baugnies, Ben Hermans, Thomas De Gendt and Sep Vanmarcke. Taking after his cycling faux-fathers of Flemish lore, Bakelants specialized in the long, solo-breakaways that demoralized the men behind him. For example, take his win at the Fleche Ardennaise in June of that year; Bakelants beat 2nd place Aurélien Duval by an astonishing 3 minutes and 12 seconds. 5th place Jérôme Baugnies? 5 minutes and 47 seconds back. This was not a one-off occurrence either as Bakelants put on similar performances at the Tour de Liege and, more importantly, the 5th stage of the Tour de l'Avenir.

For all of Bakelants' talent, his winning was limited mainly to Belgium and Northern France and up to that point, he was pretty untested on ascents longer than five kilometers. The 2008 edition of the Tour de l'Avenir was still in a time when race organizers were not strapped for cash and were able to put on mammoth races. This race was nine stages plus a prologue and featured talent that is all over the current World Tour (Look at the GC from this race...26 out of 30 are professionals). Heavyweight favorites included Portugal's Rui Costa, France's Jerome Coppel, UCI Mixed Team racer Andrey Amador and American Tejay van Garderen, among many others.

That year's race was something much different than the one we see now. With only one true mountain stage, the majority of the route was made up with rolling hills and what the Tour de France would consider transitional stages, races that are deceptively hard and ones that play to the strengths of riders such as Bakelants. On stage 4, a breakaway of five stayed away and pulled out a big gap on the peloton (thank you five man teams!) and by the time Ricardo van der Velde beat out Matteo Busato in a two-up sprint, the peloton was over three minutes behind. American Peter Stetina slipped on the yellow jersey holding a quite comfortable advantage on the hungry pack but the next day was where the race threw the script out entirely. What commenced was an impressive ad-lib performance...

Stage 5

Within the first five kilometers of the 212.5 kilometer journey from Saint Flour to Carmaux, a breakaway got away and their advantage began to grow as the race traversed through the belly button of France. The breakaway was rather large with eleven riders before hitting the first proper climb; riders including Bakelants, Tejay van Garderen, Maxime Bouet, Blel Kadri, Patrick Gretsch, Michel Kreder, Macej Paterski, Stefano Pirazzi and Mitchell Docker. After getting to a maximum gap of over 4:30, the gap began the fall as the climbs became more frequent, eight in total on the course.

On the Côte de Lussagues, Bakelants attacked his competitors as the gap had dropped under two minutes. On the descent, only van Garderen and Gretsch were able to catch up to the flying Fleming. While the initial breakaway was in tatters, the peloton had detonated and any semblance of control was lost as the gap once again ballooned. After the breakaway finally regrouped through the feedzone, the gap was over 5 minutes. Bakelants proceeded to lead the break over the Côte de la Bastié and then with 52 kilometers left, he dropped his breakaway companions and quickly formed a gap.

Bakelants was gone. 15 kilometers later on the Côte de la Malric, his gap was 1'55" over Gretsch, van Garderen and Paterski while the peloton was over six minutes in arrears. Over the lumpy roads of Midi-Pyrénées, the gap went from 2 minutes to 2:30 and beyond. As he crossed the 10km to go and the summit of the Côte de la Roucarié, Bakelants was suffering but still leading by three minutes on the chasers. The chasing bunch was ceding multiple minutes to the peloton, who had picked up their tempo considerably. On the line after 207 kilometers of riding in the breakaway, Bakelants won with a gap of 3'10" on a group of seven chasers. The peloton came in just over a minute later, lead in by Kristjan Koren. 

Stage 5 results

  1. Jan Bakelants (Belgium)
  2. Mitchell Docker (UCI Mixed) +3'10"
  3. Macej Paterski (Poland)
  4. Blel Kadri (France A)
  5. Michel Kreder (Netherlands)
  6. Patrick Gretsch (Germany)
  7. Maxime Bouet (France B)
  8. Tejay van Garderen (USA)
  9. Kristjan Koren (Slovenia) +4'27"
  10. Sergej Fuchs (Germany) s.t. 
  11. Ben Gastauer (Luxembourg) +4'28"
  12. Rasmus Guldhammer (Denmark)
  13. Romain Zingle (Belgium)
  14. Alexander Porsev (Russia)
  15. Troels Vinther (Denmark)
The Aftermath

The rest of the Tour de l'Avenir was no cakewalk for Bakelants because even though he had a substantial lead headed into the 2nd half of the race, he had legit mountain climbers to contend with. The Stage 6 time trial was won by Estonian Rein Taaramäe as Bakelants did well to only cede a half minute to Jérôme Coppel and 23 seconds to Rui Costa. Stage 7 saw the leader lose another 30 seconds to the small leading group containing Costa, Coppel and others as Dominik Klemme won his 2nd stage of the race. Coppel had chopped a minute off the lead in two days and a legitimate mountain stage was looming.

A summit finish at Guzet was on tap for Stage 8 and Bakelants, someone who was adapt to climbs that were less than 5 kilometers, was making a cartoonish gulp as he looked at the profile. The stage was backloaded with a category two and three category one climbs. Bakelants was dropped on the Port de Lers and had to fight on the short descent before the Col d'Agnes, where he had van Garderen, Fuchs and Coppel for company. There was trouble in the form of the main chasing group behind a streaking Arnold Jeannesson in the form of Rui Costa, Taaramäe, Marcel Wyss, Jarlinson Pantano and Andrey Amador, who were taking time out of the Belgian.

On the climb up to Guzet, it was everyman for himself. Jeannesson was putting in a ride that could possibly see him take yellow. Costa had dropped his companions and was on the red line, doing everything he could to take time out of Bakelants, who was struggling after being dropped by Coppel and was trying to hold onto van Garderen's wheel. Jeannesson celebrated a spectacular win while Costa came in at 1'06" and the countdown started. Wyss and Pantano were followed by Caruso, Coppel and Amador. The feelings in Costa must have been growing with every second that that ticked by but when van Garderen rode in 3'43", he was soon followed by an exhausted Bakelants, who had preserved his lead by 36 seconds.

Van Garderen's final day win into Mirepoix, a solo breakaway to salvage a self-described so-so race, saw Bakelants wrap up his Tour de l'Avenir overall in one of the bigger upsets of the last decade in this race. So this should have been the first of many big wins in the Belgian's career and by his 5th professional year, he should be contending for many race wins, single day affairs and stage races alike..right? Guys? Anyone?

And then what happened...

Like many riders who win big races young or experience a very successful season, the next step can be a bit of a stutter step. Bakelants, who was already signed by Topsport Vlaanderen at that point, joined the Belgian Pro Continental outfit for 2009 and by anyone's standards, he had a successful first year. The Belgian rode well in his suited terrain and netted high overall placings in races such as the Tour of Belgium, Ster Elektrotoer, Tour de Wallonie and a fine 9th in the World Tour stage race, the Eneco Tour. Bakelants even finished 2nd in the ungodly hard GP Triberg-Schwarzwald to Heinrich Haussler. This was a impressive season results wise and featured just two DNF's and this was the first stepping stone.

Then Bakelants moved to OmegaPharma-Lotto for the follow two years. Remove many of the short stage races and one-day races and replace them with the Giro, Vuelta and a few other stage races. Granted, Bakelants did well in both Grand Tour performances with a 36th in the Giro and a solid 18th in the Vuelta but what happened to his wheel house, the shorter stage races and harder one-day races? He went 6th overall in the Tour de Wallonie but that was one of his only races in Belgium.

2011 again saw the Giro-Vuelta double along with races such as Tour de Suisse, Paris-Nice and many other stage races. While still his 3rd pro year, he had relatively similar finishes in the Grand Tours with a 22nd overall showing in the Giro and a 31st in the Vuelta. 13th in the Tour de Suisse is solid stuff but he finished just ahead of rouleur-sprinter Juan Jose Rojas. Where was our attacker from l'Avenir? The man with cojones the size of Texas and willing to put it all on the line because even though these finishes were consistent, Bakelants was supposed to be something...different.

Bakelants moved to greener pastures for 2012 in Radioshack-Leopard and by george, they put him in some races that suited his characteristics as a younger rider. 6th in Circuit de la Sarthe, 6th in Tour Down Under, 10th in Eneco Tour and 5th in the Tour de Wallonie...these are not the wins but if he were to focus on these races more, it could show something. His year was once again based on the Giro-Vuelta double and he put in similar GC performances but now he was attacking some stages, particularly the 12th stage of the Giro into Sestri Levante where he was 4th.

While he missed a chunk of spring this year, Bakelants has put in his biggest performances in...guess where...shorter stage races and harder one-day races. 4th in a small sprint in the Swiss GP Kanton Aargau-Gippingen followed by a 3rd overall in the Tour of Luxembourg after attacking the final stage with teammate Bob Jungels. On a hard course in the Belgium National RR, he managed a 3rd place after being stuck in the chasing group behind a flying Stijn Devolder. Even looking at his Tour stage win, Bakelants took it with an opportunistic attack and sheer guts, something that got him a bevy of results as a U23 in 2008.

The point is that just because someone wins the Tour de l'Avenir doesn't make them the next Grand Tour star. Even though it was a ten stage race that year, Bakelants literally won the race on a stage that was peppered with short climbs and while an able climber, the long Pyreneean ascents saw Bakelants lagging behind the elite climbers, a trend that has continued into his elite career. When Bakelants rode two Grand Tours a year, it seemed like Lotto were trying to make him into something that he wasn't. It seems like in every big results he has had in his short career has come from either a) an opportunistic breakaway or b) consistent riding on flat to hilly terrain in a stage race. It seems like Bakelants is finally getting his grove in the pro scene and hopefully his future teams race him in things that are more suited to his skill set.

For every Nairo Quintana there is a Sylvain Calzati. For every Tejay van Garderen there is a Sergej Fuchs. Not every strong U23 rider is going to be a star even those that his great heights in the U23 scene. Look where Jérôme Baugnies is now after being a fantastic U23 rider...he is fighting for a contract earning a whopping zero Euros per month. Jan Bakelant's ride in the 2008 Tour de l'Avenir was an awesome performance and really is one for the history books but what should also be examined is the pro career afterwards. I think he was bookmarked as the rider of the future by some and because of that, he was targeting races that, while posting solid results, were perhaps not the races where he could be getting great results.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

USA Nationals: Putt takes Stars-n-Bars in Bontrager 1-2

Photo: @USACycling

Tanner Putt (Bontrager) went one place at the 2013 USA Elite U23 Natioals as the Utah native improved on last year's silver medal performance by attacking the breakaway in the race with teammate Nate Brown and crossed the line triumphantly.

The Blue Mounds circuit, which had to be amended because of safety concerns due to the large field sizes, played up to its brutal design as the hilly Wisconsin course saw multiple breakaways during the day. Bontrager was on a mission to win the U23 RR this year as they have been denied the past two seasons by the now-defunct Chipotle team. The early break consisted of Bontrager's Alex Darville, Cal Giant's Robin Eckmann and Texan Michael Pincus (Super Squadra) and the trio worked together to get a gap of 2:30 minutes. Their gap was not extended any further than that as the peloton was keen on bringing them back and as the 6-lap, 140 kilometer race hit the halfway mark, the gap was only 40 seconds.

With 2 laps to go, Bontrager lined up at the front and drilled it on one of the climbs and the peloton was shattered as a 5-man breakaway emerged from the carnage. Along with Putt and Brown was Robin Carpenter, Ty Magner (both Hincapie Development) and Cal Giant's Sam Bassetti were the survivors and their gap quickly expanded as their teams, arguably the three strongest in the race, lead the blocking efforts behind. Gateway-Harley Davidson rider Daniel Eaton was the man stuck in the middle as he tried for the better part of a lap to bridge to the break but was eventually brought back.

The Bontrager duo of Putt and Brown were putting in a large amount of work as the breakaway's gap hovered between 1-1:45 minutes. Hitting speeds of 75 km/h on the descent, the gap heading into the final lap was out to 1:45 and the race was to be decided between the quintet. The final three kilometers of the race featured a stair step climb with the final kilometer ramping up to gradients touching 11% near the finish. Even with two riders, the Hincapie duo of Carpenter and Magner were not able to reign  in Putt as he attacked near the base of the climb and his teammate Brown attacked soon after and bridged up.

Heading into the finish (Photo: @TrekTeamMatt)

Putt was putting it all out and as the Bontrager duo reached the final kilometer, they were still working well together. While an agreement might have been hashed out, recent Tour de Beauce winner Brown by no means gifted the win as he and Putt both raised their arms, crossing the line together. Behind, it was Magner and Bassetti who distanced Carpenter in the final stretch and Magner took the bronze medal on the line.

Magner out sprints Bassetti for 3rd (Photo:USACycling) 

Behind the breakaway, Bontrager continued to ride well as Connor O'Leary, also of Utah, distanced the chasing group for 6th. It was a good day for Utah as The Beehive State put four riders in the top 10. There was also more than one Putt in the race as Tanner's brother Chris put in a breakout performance for 9th on the day.

Top 10 (Full Results)
  1. Tanner Putt (Bontrager CT) 3:14'10"
  2. Nate Brown (Bontrager CT) s.t.
  3. Ty Magner (Hincapie Development) +29"
  4. Sam Bassetti (Cal Giant) s.t.
  5. Robin Carpenter (Hincapie Development) +32"
  6. Connor O'Leary (Bontrager CT) +1'13"
  7. Connor McCutcheon (VRC-Get Crackin') +1'21"
  8. T.J. Eisenhart (BMC Development) +1'22"
  9. Chris Putt (Canyon-Shimano) s.t.
  10. Jonathan Freter (Panther Racing) +1'23"

Tomorrow will feature the U23 time trial. Noticeably absent is Lawson Craddock so depending on how he recovers from today's efforts, Nate Brown could get a title of his own this weekend. Former junior National Champion Adam Leibovitz will be in town and has been on some great form so he is one to watch for the time trial (EDIT: Leibovitz is signed up for the Elite Men's TT so that's a no-go) and for Sunday's criterium, which takes place around the state capital in Madison.

Provisional Startlist for Thursday's TT