Monday, August 26, 2013

Tour de l'Avenir Stage 2: Ewan does it again

While Sunday's stage featured a bit more exciting parcours, Monday wasn't totally boring. Alright, maybe it was for some but I rarely ever get bored with this stuff. The title might say it all but a little more happened than a small Korean-Australian unleashing a hellacious sprint.

Some of the biggest news on the day happened before a pedal was turned. German wunderkind Silvio Herklotz was a DNS after suffering from an illness overnight. Herklotz will have to wait for another year to test himself against the best U23 riders in the Alps. Once the flag dropped and the pedals started to turn, an attack was launched that would last the majority of the day. Prologue runner-up Lasse Norman (Denmark) set out with TT specialist Oleksandr Golovash (Ukraine) and Krists Neilands (Latvia) and the trio easily gained a big advantage. There were a few quibbles from the peloton such as Spain's Carlos Barbero flatting twice but other than that, the French- and Australian-controlled peloton rode tempo as the gap went over 5 minutes.

Norman defended his teammate Kristian Haugaard's lead in the KOM competition by taking the only KOM spot on the map and also took the only sprint point on the map. Norman and Golovash rid themselves of Neilands and up the tempo with 90 kilometers left in the stage, knowing full well that the sprinter's teams would be hitting top gear in the finale. With 64 km to go, the two man TT got the gap back up to nearly 6 minutes but it would be short lived. Over the next 30 kilometers, there gap would fall to just two and a half minutes. The chasing peloton saw GC contender Alexander Foliforov have derailleur problems while Rick Zabel took a little tumble.

From 25 kilometers, it only took the peloton 6 kilometers more to catch the breakaway as the platoon hit speeds of 60 km/h. The pace was kept high into the final 10 kilometers but that didn't stop probing attacks from Andzs Flaksis and Cesar Paredes, both of which were short-lived sojourns. In the final three kilometers, there was a crash that went through the peloton that took out multiple riders including Australian Sam Spokes but that did not derail the Aussie Express.

Caleb Ewan moved up after the last turn in the final kilometer and launched his sprint in the final quarter kilometer and trounced everyone in the run to the line, with Norwegian Sondre Enger coming in 2nd at a few bike lengths back.

  1. Caleb Ewan (Australia)
  2. Sondre Enger (Norway)
  3. Julian Alaphilippe (France)
  4. Liam Bertazzo (Italy)
  5. Nick van der Lijke (Netherlands)
  6. Rick Zabel (Germany)
  7. Mike Teunissen (Netherlands)
  8. Davide Martinelli (Italy)
  9. Carlos Barbero (Spain)
  10. Jasper Stuyven (Belgium)
Overall: Alexis Gougeard (France)
Points: Caleb Ewan (Australia)
Mountains: Kristian Haugaard (Denmark)
Team: Great Britain

Why I am very impressed with Caleb Ewan's performance, I wonder what it would be like if Italy brought a team that actually had a power sprinter such as Andrea Zordan or Niccolò Bonifazio, who both might be able to go head to head with Ewan. While that might seem like a bit of hyperbole but when you look at the facts, you will see that Zordan has won 9 times and neither of them have truly gone head to head. While they have gone head to head this year, it was never for the win and I really hope that one more time this year they both go head to head because it could give a preview for years to come. 

Stage 3 features a real mountain so it will be interesting to see if Australia can control the pace or if France, the Netherlands and others will be keen on drilling it.

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