Saturday, September 14, 2013

U23 ABC's: B


"This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But is is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

Okay, I knew this would be a bit of an endeavor from the beginning but it is time for some decision making. To keep these posts on some relative schedule after this post, I will only be doing a big profile on up to 5 riders per letter and those that I think deserve a mention but miss that cut will get a smaller write-up. Take for instance, the letter B. I had 14 riders on a list that I thought deserved some sort of mention, some being in front of others of course but with research and limited writing time, well you can see how long it is and how long it took.

I want to try and keep on a schedule with this alphabet so try to expect a post every 2-3 days. This time frame might be tentative during the world championships and other late season races. Anyways, enough of that...

Alberto Bettiol (Italy - Mastromarco - 1993) @AlbertoBettiol

Guy on the right look familiar? Bettiol (l) on a road trip with teammate Antonio Nibali, Vincenzo's little brother.

Bettiol is one of the most prized Italians that is currently in the U23 ranks and as quickly as he was an espoir, Cannondale snapped him up and signed him for next year. Hailing from the rolling hills of Siena in Tuscany, Bettiol has been winning on the bike since his early days and I, along with many others, foresee a long pro career for the Tuscan. What kind of rider will he turn out to be? Well that will be interesting to see.

I like to think of Bettiol as a jack-of-all-trades. As a 2nd-year junior in 2011, Bettiol churned out 11 victories including winning the overall for the Giro Ciclistico della Lunigiana, a race which features some difficult uphill finishes, and the junior European time trial championship in Offida over Ag2r signing Alexis Gougeard, some Russians and Europcar signing Pierre-Henri Lecuisinier. For a few week stretch in 2011, he was destroying his competition and at one point, he had won 4 stages and two overall classifications in an 8 day stretch.

For 2012, Bettiol joined Idea Shoes-MCS-Madras, a team which was managed by Acqua e Sapone DS Franco Gini and had DSes that included Gabriele Balducci. After his win at the Trofeo Alessio Pistolesi, Gini lauded Bettiol for his win out of a breakaway of three and called him "a real racer". Bettiol raced a light schedule the rest of the season but had other notable results in a stage win at the Coppa del Mobilio (Marlen Zmorka kicked ass in the following TT) and a 5th place in the Piccolo Giro dell'Emilia, where he finished 5th and in the first chasing group behind future Cannondale teammate Matthias Krizek.

Bettiol's promise has really come through this year with four wins and ten other podium placings after he transferred to the Mastromarco squad, which includes Antonio Nibali, Vincenzo's brother, and Lampre signing Valerio Conti. Bettiol won the famed opening Tuscan spring classic, Firenze-Empoli, in a reduced sprint and followed it up with podium finishes at La Torre and Trofeo Franco Balestra. Bettiol continued his hot spring form with a 10th place at the U23 Ronde van Vlaanderen and leading in the chasing group for 3rd place at the GP Liberazione. Bettiol's schedule has been chock full of one-day races, which is partially due in part to the Italian amateur schedule, but Bettiol, who seemed to be a stage racer in the making as a junior, now seems to be more of a one-day racer. In the one stage race he took part in, the Coupe des Nations Ville des Saguenay, he was able to get into the race defining breakaway and after helping teammates get two more stage wins, he ended up 4th overall thanks to bonus seconds.

I don't want to keep droning on about his accomplishments this year but he kind of deserves it. Bettiol then continued his season by going 3rd at the Italian U23 RR Championship behind Androni signing Andrea Zordan and future Cannondale teammate Davide Villella. This was followed by getting into the breakaway at the U23 European Championships but ran out of gas for the sprint and finished 7th. His latest act? Winning the Tuscan U23 Championship.

So what kind of talent does Cannondale have on their hands? Well it is almost whatever they want to make of him. Seriously, two years ago this guy was one of the best TT talents on the junior circuit and could legitimately climb and now he is a legitimate one-day racer to boot. Realistically, it is still to be seen if he can climb and time trial like he showed that he could in his junior days. He seems to have drifted away from the TT and he has not had to climb big mountains in any races in his U23 days so unless Cannondale throws him to some Dolomite prison and won't let him out until he climbs 100,000 meters, he should stick with the one-day races and short stage races. In any case, Cannondale got a big talent.

'Downtown' Nate Brown (USA - Bontrager - 1991) @natebrown0707

When I started racing bikes as an untalented junior, I always remember how impressed I was with Nate Brown. While Phinney was the wunderkind at the time and Tejay van Garderen was cutting it in Europe, I believe (and still do) that Nate Brown would be one of the best Americans of his generation. After four seasons with Livestrong/Trek/Bontrager, Brown will be joining Garmin-Sharp as a neo-pro in 2014, so obviously Jonathan Vaughters saw the  binders full of talent.

As a junior, Brown won two big international junior stage races in the Tour de l'Abitibi and Tour du Pays de Vaud among other victories that included the Tour of The Red River Gorge, which was a world championship selector race at the time. Brown went on to join the Trek-Livestrong development team in 2010, the team he would stay with for the rest of his espoirs career.

If you haven't seen Brown before, the one thing you need to know about him is that he is a kick-ass TT rider. Brown won the 2011 and 2013 US U23 TT titles ahead of Lawson Craddock and Ty Magner, respectively. Brown was 3rd this year in the Elite TT championship in Chattanooga, which was a relatively home race for the Tennessee native. His TT skills even helped him get within striking distance of the yellow jersey, which he would take a couple days later thanks to his climbing.

Brown has made an impression with his skills in the hills. He made the winning breakaway at U23 Liege-Bastogne-Liege this year and finished 2nd behind a streaking Michael Valgren. Brown and teammate Tanner Putt attacked the hilly RR course in the USA U23 Championships in Wisconsin this year and ended up 1-2 on the hilltop finish. After making the decisive breakaway at Coupe des Nations Saguenay, Brown put in impressive performances on Mont-Mégantic and on the final stage to Ville de St-Georges, where he made the breakaway and rode into the leader's jersey for the overall win.

While Brown didn't step out into the spotlight like teammate Lawson Craddock did at California and Colorado, Brown was able to nearly finish all the big American stage races (he pulled out of the final stage of Tour of Utah), which was the cap on a big season of over 50 racing days. Brown finishes his year with the U23 World Championships in Florence, where he will be in both the TT and RR.

Vaughters has a few options with "Downtown" Brown but Garmin has proven over the years that they can develop young TT talent.

Tiesj Benoot (Belgium - Lotto-Belisol U23 - 1994) @TiejsBenoot

In just his first year as a U23, Tiesj Benoot has made his mark as one of the most promising U23 racers. As a junior in 2012, Benoot was all over the results because of his strong all-around skills and was one of the only juniors to be able to go up against Matej Mohoric. Benoot finished the season with 22 top tens and had other strong finishes such as 12th the the World Junior RR Championship in Valkenburg. Benoot is an economics student in the offseason at the University of Gent, his hometown, and in his transition offseason from junior racing to the U23 scene, he transferred to the Lotto-Belisol U23 amateur team.

The consistency he showed as a junior transferred over to the espoirs level. Benoot came alive at the Circuit des Ardennes where he finished top 5 on all three individual stages and 5th in the TTT and went to finish 4th overall behind, among others, Riccardo Zoidl and won the points and young riders jersey. After this, Benoot went 8th at Liege-Bastogne-Liege U23, finishing 3rd in the 2nd chasing group sprint. While he had a small set back at the Carpathian Couriers Tour after crashing in the bunch sprint for the win and breaking a scaphoid bone, BoBo was back in a big way at the Vuelta a Madrid. On the 2nd stage, Benoot made the front group with riders like overall winner Petr Vakoc and Haritz Orbe and in the finale, Benoot outsprinted Vakoc and Antonio Molina for the win.

Looking at his results from this year, one thing that is encouraging about Benoot is the lack of DNFs, which signifies not only talent but consistency. Some that are big winners in the U23 ranks can also be riders that pull out of many races, which is not an encouraging trend if you dream of the pro ranks. Along with his overall consistency, Benoot has done well in the mountains; a good example being the Vuelta a Palencia. Benoot went up against Spanish super-climber Cristian Cañada and was able to win a stage, finish 2nd on two others and finish 2nd overall.

Benoot will finish his first U23 season with a spot on the Belgian National team for the World U23 RR Championship in Florence. You read it (in English) here first...Benoot will have a huge season next year.

Niccolò Bonifazio (Italy - Viris Maserati - 1993)  @Bonifazio_993

While Andrea Zordan has had the majority of the press when it comes to the sprinters of the Italian U23 class, Niccolò Bonifazio has been lurking in the shadows and winning. Bonifazio has been a machine in the last three years (junior and two years as a U23) by winning 23 races and beating nearly every big U23 sprinter he has gone up against. Bonifazio was so impressive in his first U23 season that he signed a pre-deal with Lampre-Merida that ensured him a stagiaire role for 2013 and a neo-pro contract for 2014. 2013 was about progression for Bonifazio, who has lacked in consistency at times especially on more difficult courses. One of the highlights of his season was his stage win at Coupe des Nations Ville des Saguenay over Sondre Holst Enger. During his on-going stagiaire position with Lampre, he finished 11th in Coppa Bernocchi.

Bonifazio has a penchant for leaving the sprint to the last meter and lunging for the line in a desperate attempt for the win, which is different to Andrea Zordan's "come and get it" attitude. One potential problem I could see with Bonifazio in his first couple years as a pro is consistency and it would probably be better to focus on getting his endurance up otherwise it will be a long couple of years.

Thomas Boudat (France - Vendée U- 1994) - @La_Boud

Boudat is another French youngster that is super quick on the track and many have pointed out a relation to another Vendée U product, Bryan Coquard. Coquard is more of a pure sprinter than Boudat but the two did pair up this year to win the U23 European Madison Championship. Boudat also took the points race title, which will go with his junior title from the previous year, and finished 3rd in the omnium, where he is also the current French champion. With a heavy track schedule, Boudat has run a lighter road program with just 35 days of racing this year but still has three wins including the French University title. Boudat also went 7th in the Mediterranean Games and the French U23 championships.
He could be a lock for the 2016 Rio Games for the track omnium if he continues on that path.

Fun facts: Boudat started riding to school at age 5. Grandfather and two uncles raced the Tour.

Derk Abel Beckeringh (Netherlands - Croford - 1992)

Beckeringh is one of those university age cyclists that tried to balance school and cycling that didn't end up going very well. Beckeringh was a very good junior and was up there with Jasha Sütterlin, Dylan van Baarle, Jasper Stuyven and others. (He wasn't at Bob Jungels level but no one was). The Dutchman made the obvious choice and signed with Rabobank Continental for 2011 but that ended badly. He tried give 100% focus at school and on the bike at the same time and while some are able to do it, others are not and it was obvious that if he was going to focus on school, he was going to have to stop with the bike for a little while.

Taking a step back for 2012 was a good thing and Beckeringh was more low-key in his approach focused mainly on the Low Countries while he did some international races, where he was able to show off his climbing skills. Beckeringh came back in a good way this season with a top 20 at U23 Liege-Bastogne-Liege, which led to national team selections for Coupe des Nations Saguenay and Tour de l'Avenir. l'Avenir saw Beckeringh shine with a 25th overall in his first major tour in the U23 class with legitimate mountain passes. He even finished with Adam Yates (2nd overall) and Ruben Fernandez (overall winner) on stage 6 to Châtel and got 10th place for himself on the stage.

2014 will see Beckeringh return to the Rabobank program and should lead to more leadership opportunities.

Liam Bertazzo (Italy - Trevigiani - 1992)

The name Bertazzo probably sounds familiar to some because of Omar Bertazzo, the Italian track and road rider with Androni and also the older brother of Trevigiani rider, Liam. Like his older brother, Liam has spent a large chunk of his development on the track and has been apart of the Italian team pursuit and madison squads. This year has seen Bertazzo racing on the road more than year's past but apart from a team time trial win, it has been agonizing for the Venetian as he has five second places without an individual win. While he has been beaten by some of the best Italian sprinters, just last weekend Bertazzo beat Andrea Zordan in a sprint for 2nd place in the Giro Nazionale del Valdarno. On an international level, Bertazzo had two top 5 placings in sprint stages in the Tour de l'Avenir, hanging up with Ewan, Zabel and Holst Enger.

Next year, Bertazzo will stay with Trevigiani as they go to the UCI Continental level.

Emanuel "Emu" Buchmann (Germany - RadNet-Rose - 1992)

Emu definitely is one of my favorite nicknames in cycling after doing some research on Buchmann. Buchmann hails from Ravensburg (the extreme south just north of Lake Constance) and is a climber through and through at just 64 kilograms. While Emu is a featherweight, he can do a decent time trial on good days.

He has progressed as a U23 and seems to have gotten more consistent over the last few years. Last year, Emu joined Specialized Concept Store, the German-Azeri mashup, and at just 19 he had nice results such as an 11th place, front group finish at Eschborn-Frankfurt U23, 6th overall at Tour of Azerbaijan and 2nd in KOM classification and 25th overall at Thüringen Rundfahrt.

With the collapse of Specialized Concept Store, Emu joined the new RadNet-Rose squad, which is primarily a track squad but has a team for the road as well. While the schedule was a bit erratic at times, Emu has done well in stage races; the harder they are, the better it seems to go for him. 13th at the inaugural Mzansi Tour and 2nd youth, 20th at the Tour Alsace and then a solid 17th at Tour de l'Avenir. He is not a rider that is a hitter right off the bat but he still has another U23 season and could continue to progress.

Phil Bauhaus (Germany - Stölting - 1994) - @PhilBauhaus

Bauhaus is a strong sprinter that had a slow start to his season but since May, Bauhaus has been going very well including wins in the Oder Rundfahrt and Tour of Bulgaria. Most recent was a 6th place in the Kernen Omloop. I like Team Stölting because they have an experienced rider like Luke Roberts there as a mentor and that can only help Bauhaus going into next year.

Carlos Barbero (Spain - Euskadi - 1991) @BarberoCbc

While he isn't Basque, Carlos Barbero is one of the biggest promises for the Basque cycling scene and the team formerly known as Euskaltel. Similar to Samu Sanchez, Carlos Barbero was born outside of the Basque country, in Burgos, but has spent all of his development years in the Basque countries riding in the Euskaltel-Euskadi system with the Naturgas Energia amateur team and then the Orbea/Euskadi continental team for the past two seasons.

2013 has been a big season for Barbero. Interestingly, the big results Barbero has gained this year have come in professional races and not really from U23 racing. Barbero was 11th in Clasica Almeria (first continental rider) and followed it up with a 9th overall the the Volta ao Alentejo, where he placed in the top 10 four times over the five stage race. Continuing his sizzling form, Barbero finished 6th and 5th in the first two stages and then finished 3rd on the final stage's short uphill finished, just behind Ruben Plaza and El Dopo Mancebo. 5th overall in a 2.1 stage race just before your 22nd birthday is quite a treat. Barbero went to the Ronde de l'Isard where he finished 3rd on the 1st stage, winning the group sprint, and then broke through and won the 2nd stage with teammate Haritz Orbe right behind.

Coming into this year, Barbero was trying to improve his sprint and while he probably will never be a speedster like Bonifazio and thus why his results are littered with 5th-10th place finishes and not a heap of victories. Barbero was on track to join Euskaltel-Euskadi but with the new arrangement with Fernando Alonso, any transfer is up in the air. 23 top 10 placings should speak for themselves.

Rudy Barbier (France - Armée de Terre - 1992)

Barbier rides for the French Army, which is one of the strongest amateur teams in France. Last year saw Barbier really emerge after taking 6 wins with USSA Pavilly Barentin, a Division 2 French squad. Barbier joined Armée de Terre for this year to, most likely, fulfill his military obligation while continuing to ride. With the French Army riding on the Division 1 level, Barbier's competition took a step up but he has brought in a heap of results, which helped propel Armée de Terre to the top of the Coupe de France tables. Flat and rolling races is where Barbier succeeds and this year, he has brought in four victories including a 2.2 stage victory at the Paris-Arras Tour.

Next year, Barbier will join Roubaix-Lille Metropole, where he will get more opportunities in 1.2 and 2.2 races along with the occasional 1.1 race. He is a strong and tough rider that can ride in pretty much every condition so it'll be interesting to see how he copes going up the rankings.

Dieter Bouvry (Belgium - Etixx-iHNed - 1992) @DieterBouvry

Bouvry is a solid climber and all-arounder who is still developing and hopefully can turn some promising results into something in the near future. Bouvry was 4th in Liege-Bastogne-Liege U23 last year while riding for EFC-OPQS and moved to the Etixx-iHNed continental team this year. The season started well with a 6th overall at the Volta ao Alentejo and then a 15th place, lead group finish at the Ronde van Vlaanderen U23. He had good placings overall at {insert long name of Polish race here} (7th) and the Czech Cycling Tour (5th). His Tour de l'Avenir started slowly but he was able to finish in the top 15 in two mountain stages. He is currently fighting for a spot in the Belgian U23 team for the Florence Worlds.

Sven Erik Bystrøm (Norway - Oster Hus-Ridley - 1992) @sebystrom

Bystrøm is a big strong rouleur with a bit of a sprint on him. His claim to U23 fame is his victory over Michael Valgren and others at the 2012 U23 Eschborn-Frankfurt. Bystrøm has ridden the U23 circuit and always seems to do reasonably well but he has yet to truly break out. Only two DNF's and he posted strong results in all of the pro stage races in Norway, including a 13th overall in Tour des Fjords.

Sam Bassetti (USA - Cal Giant - 1991)

Bassetti came to road cycling late unlike many of the other guys on this list and as a junior, he went from a category 4 to a category 2 and impressed with a 7th place ride in the national RR against much more seasoned competitions. After a quiet 2010 after going to Cal-Davis, 2011 saw Bassetti go in big and he had a ton of top 5 and 10 placings in criteriums and he advanced to a category 1 license. Bassetti joined Cal Giant in 2012 and he had strong placings at Collegiate Nationals and 2013 has seen Bassetti claim top ten finishes in criteriums in Tour of Gila and Nature Valley Grand Prix along with a 2nd (criterium) and 4th (road race) at U23 Nationals. While he might not be destined for the European roads, he is one to watch in America.

Bontrager CT (Director: Axel Merckx) @BontragerCT

While it was dark times for Bontrager this summer when Axel Merckx announced the team was on the brink and needed a new sponsor for 2014, the clouds have dissapated after it was announced that the team was saved for 2014. The sponsorship was only one of their problems as the team is possibly set to lose 8 of their 13 riders, due to graduating to the professional ranks and possibly leaving team due to being aged out of the U23 ranks. While the latter rule could be bent, I don't think it will be and Merckx will have to start from scratch, essentially.

This year was a grand year for the team, which has had alumni such as Taylor Phinney, Alex Dowsett, Ben King, Jesse Sergent, George Bennett, Joe Dombrowski and Ian Boswell. Jasper Stuyven won the Volta ao Alentejo and featured in one-day races and sprint all year. Nate Brown, which I went into more detail up the page, was one fire in Beauce, LBL U23 and at the National Championships. Lawson Craddock was top 10 in California and Colorado and 2nd in Triptyque Monts et Chateaux. Gavin Mannion got his climbing shoes and finished Tour de l'Avenir in 8th overall.

What will the team look like next year? Well Merckx said that he wants the base to be Tanner Putt, James Oram and Ryan Eastman and wants Greg Daniel and Alex Darville, both first-year U23s this year, to stay on as well. The latter two spent a lot of time on USA U23 team and Merckx wants them to be more involved with big team races. While the rumor mill hasn't been churning too much, they will probably get a few more Americans and possibly some new Aussie/NZ talents but it depends on new sponsors as well. It will be interesting to see what Merckx can bring to the table for 2014.

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