Monday, December 30, 2013

U23 ABCs: T-U

While I said previously that Kazakh/Russian talent can be a bit of crapshoot these days, Maidos Tilegen has been proving his climbing skills to be for real. Born in '93, Maidos comes from the extreme east of Kazakhstan in Oskemen, which lies near the border with Russia, Mongolia and China and is situated nearly 1000 kilometers away from Astana. Maidos was a strong climber as a junior and placed highly in climby Italian stage races as a junior such as the Giro della Lunigiana and Giro di Basilicata. After signing with Astana Continental for 2013, Maidos chewed up kilometers in the spring and then came alit at the Tour of Slovenia, where he finished 7th on the summit finish queen stage to Vrsic and 9th overall. Following an impressive 3rd in the Kazakh Elite RR, Maidos supported three teammates into the top 5 at the Tour of Qinghai Lake. He was able to take his form to the Tour de l'Avenir, where he finished 11th overall thanks to good climbing on the two biggest mountain stages while teammate Kozhatayev finished 4th overall. Definitely a good climber when the gradients hit double digits for multiple kms and could be a l'Avenir 1-2 with Kozhatayev next year. While Maidos is rising, Nikita Umerbekov is fading into darkness. Umerbekov can best be remembered for a stage win in the Tropicale Amissa Bongo in Gabon over Thomas Voeckler before heading to a 4th place overall finish. This year? Crickets. He had a few good rides early in Monts et Chateaux and Tour de Azerbaijan but soon after, it was DNF after DNF. We'll see what happens, I guess. Kazakh Ivan Tsissaruk put his track power to good use in 2012 as he rode in breakaways to an overall win in the Tour of East Java (Indonesia) with the Astana Track Team. Tsissaruk has been apart of the Kazakh team pursuit on the track for the last few years after a strong junior career on the road. While he rode the World Championships on the track in 2013, I haven't been able to find out any racing since then so no idea if he is still active.

To be completely honest, I have no idea where Meron Teshome (1992) came from or his roots in cycling. He had to have raced before in Eritrea because he got a Tour de l'Avenir place in 2012, which he dropped out of after a few stages. But in 2013, he has been one of the best young Eritreans on the scene. Top 10 overall at the Tropicale Amissa Bongo (9th), Fenkel Northern Red Sea (6th) and the Tour of Eritrea (4th overall plus a stage win). He won the Eritrean National RR out of a small group and was apart of the group that won the African TTT Championship for his nation. I have no idea about 2014 re a team and no idea what he is doing now or where he is going except he is down to ride the Bongo Tour in early 2014. Brilliant reporting, per usual of this establishment. I've talked about it before but Rwanda was the touchstone of the major African cycling development for the last decade and while they have been going through a rough patch, they are still getting support from MTN-Qhubeka and the World Cycling Centre, who jointly fielded a team in 2013 that included Rwandan Bontaventure Uwizeyimana. Uwi raced in a good chunk of east and southern African races and had some good climbing results such as 15th overall in the Tour of Eritrea. When I look at his palmares and see a win in the Genocide Memorial...that pulls at every last heartstring. Many kids of his generation don't have parents and many siblings due to the insanity of 1994 and I can't but help to be overjoyed to see some of these guys getting a chance of a lifetime.

He isn't a talent for the ages by any means but Alex Turrin of Zalf-Euromobil has had a few successes over the years including 2nd in the Imola prologue for Peaches and Nectarines in 2011, 5th at the Giro del Belvedere in 2012 and 3rd this year in the Giro del Medio Brenta. He is going to Mastromarco with ginger teammate Paolo Simion for his last U23 season in 2014, where hopefully he should get a healthier schedule as he has been pretty lean on racing over the years. Speaking of Zalf, there are two more T's there to take care of. Andrea Toniatti had 5 of the wins in Zalf's record haul this year including a transitional stage win in the Giro della Valle d'Aosta, the Trofeo G. Bianchin and the Ruota d'Or. This is in addition to 2nd in the Italian U23 TT, 3rd in the Piccolo Giro dell'Emilia and 4th overall in the Peaches and Nectarines. Toniatti can climb well but the high mountains are a bit of a struggle and can launch a good sprint out of a smaller group. He has another U23 year but Zalf is looking to go continental in 2015 so perhaps he will be staying on board for the long haul. Alessandro Tonelli had two wins this year along with a 4th place in the GP San Giuseppe along with top 15 places in the hard Coppa della Pace, GP di Poggiana and Piccolo Giro di Lombardia.

For our French Connection, he have a few including the Turgis brothers. Jimmy Turgis, born in 1991, has been a fixture with CC Nogent-sur-Oise through his U23 career. As a junior, Turgis was 3rd in the l'Etape du Tour in 2009 that finished on Mont Ventoux, finishing behind then French Elite RR Champ Dimitri Champion and pro Jean-Marc Bideau, and was 2nd in the French Junior TT Championship. Jimmy split his time between the road and cyclocross, where he excelled in France and at some World events. 2011 saw him hit some highs with a 12th at Liege-Bastogne-Liege Espoirs, an 8th at the World U23 Cyclocross Championship in Sankt Wendel and 5th overall in Boucle de l'Artois. 2012 saw a more concerted effort on the road as he placed 5th in Liege-Bastogne-Liege Espoirs, won two French amateur races and got a stagiaire role with Cofidis, where he got through a good amount of pro races without too much damage. After not being picked up by Cofidis on a pro contract, Jimmy came back and placed top 20 at both the Ronde van Vlaanderen U23 and Liege-Bastogne-Liege U23 and had podium places at a Ronde de l'Oise stage (2nd behind Faboi Silvestre) and at the GP Ville de Pérenchies (3rd). He was one of the most consistent U23 riders in France (8th in the Challenge DirectVelo Espoirs) and has decided to jump to Roubaix-Lille Métropole for 2014, which is revamping their roster in hopes of getting a few call-ups to Belgian events, which is right up Turgis' alley. Jimmy's younger brother is Anthony Turgis, a first year U23 in 2013. As a junior, he was 2nd in the European Championship RR and Paris-Roubaix along with being the French Champion in the TT. This year on the road, Turgis was 20th in the L-B-L U23 and scored multiple points in Coupe de France races for CC Nogent-sur-Oise. Turgis, like his brother, is a cyclocross fiend and recently placed won the Championship of Picarde, was 3rd in a French National U23 race in Quelneuc behind super strong U23s Venturini and Menut and was 14th in the mudder that was the Namur World Cup on the 22nd of December. Anthony is back with CC Nogent for 2014 and will get a little advice from Tour de France stage winner Jimmy Casper, who will be joining as a part-time director. Elsewhere in the hexagon, La Pomme Marseille Grégoire Tarride rode the 2nd most races (behind teammate Thomas Rostollan) where the race ended in a bunch sprint with 52. Tarride had his best finishes in climbing races with a 23rd overall in the Tour of Qinghai Lake and Tour de l'Ain.

Navarra Basque racer Beñat Txoperena had a breakout season with Gipuzkoa this year with two amateur wins, a 2nd in the Spanish U23 RR Championship and 6th overall in the Vuelta a Madrid. Txoperena got a Tour de l'Avenir ride and supported Ruben Fernandez to his surprise Tour de l'Avenir win. Txoperena will be joining Euskadi for 2014, where he should get a healthier schedule of climbing stage races outside of Iberia.

Low to High...High to Low. Don't know how to describe riders from the Low Countries rising up but we have a couple from both Belgium and the Netherlands. This year with Rabobank Development, Martijn Tusveld finished 4th in Liège-Bastogne-Liège U23, 26th at the 1.1 Münsterland Giro along with top 20 finishes overall at the Volta ao Alentejo, Rhône-Alpes Isère Tour and Tour du Gévaudan. Mike Teunissen might be known more for his cyclocross exploits but this year, he really began to focus on the road after years of focusing on the dirt and doing the road to build fitness for winter. After Teunissen won the World U23 Cyclocross Championship in Louisville earlier this year, he made his road debut in April. After a 2nd in the Arno Wallard Memorial to Coen Vermeltfoort in a small group sprint, he finished 12th overall in the Tour de Bretagne. He was in a lot of breakaways this year including at the Thüringen Rundfahrt, Tour de l'Avenir and the Trofee Jong Maar Moedig I.W.T. At the Kreiz Breizh Elites and the Tour des Fjords, he finished 8th overall thanks to good time trialling and climbing. To cap off his year, he and a group of six others broke off the front of the Rabo Baronie Breda Classic and Teunissen won the sprint for the win. Teunissen is back with Rabo Devo for two more years, where he will split time with the road (working on his rouleur skills) and dirt. Teunissen has kept up with 'cross this year with top 10 finishes in all of the U23 World Cups he has entered including a 3rd at Zolder behind Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert, the two wunderkinds of cyclocross this year. Belgian Dylan Teuns has shown his climbing chops the last couple of years at the Ronde de l'Isard, where he has finished 4th (2012) and 3rd (2013) overall. This year, with Ventilair-Steria, he finished 5th in the Liège-Bastogne-Liège U23 and the final stage of the Tour Alsace. Teuns is hoping over to BMC Development for 2014 for his final U23 season, where he should get a good helping of hilly races.

Probably the moment that I started to follow U23 cycling closely was back in the spring of 2010. I had just gone through a rough breakup and was living alone in a studio apartment with no air conditioning and letting my emotions get the best of me. My obsession with cycling had gone to a new level and I was following races like never before. The Triptyque Monts et Chateaux that year was stacked with talent including Taylor Phinney, John Degenkolb, Jetse Bol, Wilco Kelderman and many more. The final stage was a slightly uphill cobbled finish into Tournai and was surely going to be won by one of the names above. Coming into the final bend, Phinney, Degenkolb and Bol were heading for the line together until a mysterious rider in a white jersey headed out early and stuck it to the line. That mysterious rider was Edward Theuns, then an unhearlded 18 year old, and his win was immortalized in this picture. At that time, I found that picture to be so badass because of the sheer effort and grit that you can see on everyone in the picture. Riding with the VL Technics-Abutriek through his U23 career, Theuns split time between cycling and school, where he studied physiotherapy at the University of Gent. Theuns is a classics rider that can throw down a time trial, as he is a multiple East Flanders Provincial TT Champion. In 2012, he won the sprints jersey at the Giro della Friuli Venezia Giulia, won a few provincial events and placed 8th in the Paris-Tours Espoirs, which was good for 2nd in the bunch sprint behind the breakaway up the road. This year was the best for Ward Theuns, as he seemed to step up to another level from his previous years. He won the Ronde van Oost-Vlaanderen prologue along with the time trial in the Triptyque Monts et Chateaux, ahead of Dylan van Baarle. He went well in La Côte Picarde (10th, 5th in bunch sprint) and 6th in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, where he won the bunch sprint behind the front five. He placed 3rd in the Belgian U23 TT Championship and won the mountains classification in the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia and had a top 20 overall in the mountainous Ronde de l'Isard. He is a true rouleur; getting it done on all sorts of terrain with a strong sprint and good climbing chops. After another 8th place in Paris-Tours Espoirs, Theuns finished 3rd in the Belgian track pursuit championship. Theuns is joining Topsport Vlaanderen in 2014 and while I've been trying my best to be objective, I hope to hell he can breakthrough for a healthy pro career. Good luck Ward.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

U23 ABCs: S

Ciao tutti...we will start off the 'S' with a quartet of Italians that are good on the climbs, sprints and the velodrome. Manuel Senni (1992) is a burgeoning climber with Team Colpack, having placed 11th overall in this year's Giro della Valle d'Aosta and 4th at Bassano-Monte Grappa, a hillclimb won by none other than Aru, Cunego, Simoni and Bartali to name a few. While his pro status is already set for 2015 with Bardiani, Simone Sterbini (1993) is still coming into his own as a rider. He is a good climber when on form, especially in an uphill time trial, and can lay down a good time trial. Sterbini was 2nd in an uphill test to super skeletor Gianfranco Zilioli, 6th in the Italian U23 RR Championship, 9th in the mountain top finish at Monte Matajur in Friuli Venezia Giulia and 10th at GP Palio del Recioto. So the talent is there but from his results, it needs to be honed. Zalf-Euromobil won 59 races this year and 8 of those were courtesy of Paolo Simion, the ginger sprinter on the green-red-blue team from Veneto. While one of those wins was from the GP Memorial Carlo Valentini where his teammate Zurlo was disqualified for pulling handlebars in the finale (Zurlo was assaulted after the line by Massimo Coledan), Simion won two UCI races in the Circuito del Porto and in the Giro della Regioni F-V-G along with sprint wins and podium places all across the Italian amateur scene. Simion also has a track background, having an omnium World Cup victory to his name from Cali last year, and is apart of the current Italian team pursuit national champion team. Speaking of the track, last but not least is Michele Scartezzini. Scartezzini is one of the anchors of the Italian team pursuit squad and madison partner for Cannondale speedster Elia Viviani. He is the current national champion in both disciplines and features in the World Cups for the Azzurri. Scartezzini is not half bad on the road either with Trevigiani as he won the Trofeo Piva Banca in a three-man sprint and was 4th in the Trofeo Edil C. If the track never pans out, he could turn into a kick-ass leadout man or sprinter in his own right. He will be heading to Astana Continental for 2014 to continue his collaboration with Specialized and grow on both the road and track.

Ivar Slik was a hot shot junior and has been trying to find that same form in the U23 scene with Rabobank Development. As a junior, he won the GP Denmark, multiple stages of the Drei Etappen Rundfahrt and was all over the podium of races like the GP Patton and Trofeo Karlsberg. In his first U23 season in 2012, he struck gold off the bat by winning the Istrian Spring Trophy prologue and followed multiple breakaways at Triptyque Monts et Chateaux to gain a 2nd place overall at the Belgian event. After a steady diet of French 2.2 stage races, Slik won the Ronde van Midden-Nederland in a solo move and a few weeks later, he finished 5th in the Tour of China I. While this might have seemed like a fantastic start, Slik did struggle with longer distance races and had trouble with numbness in his legs during these longer durations. While nothing was specified (illiac artery?), the issue was cleared up in winter and he was set for 2013. His sophomore effort wasn't as noteworthy as his debut. After riding a strong spring, his form dipped after a DNF at the Tour of Azerbaijan and didn't ride well again until later in summer. Slik is an all-arounder who succeeds on flatter to rolling hills and can do a good time trial so Northern Europe and short stage races are his bag. He had a stagiaire with Belkin this year so look for him to either join the team for 2015 or perhaps head elsewhere because I think this will be his last U23 season.

Bob Schoonbroodt (1991) was a Dutch junior national TT champion but in the U23 ranks, he hasn't been able to hit a signature result. The big Dutchman has done pretty well in hard Belgian races like the GP Stad Zottegem this year, where he was 16th, in the first chasing group. He is also a pretty good climber on not-so-long hills and is pretty good in a time trial, 2nd in the national U23 TT in 2012.

With all of the talent that has come out of Denmark in the last 10 years, it wouldn't be hard to overlook a name or two. Rasmus Sterobo was 7-7-7 in time trials in 2012 as he finished 7th in the Danish Elite, European U23 and World U23 races against the clock. Sterobo had been a good TT rider before but with Glud & Marstrand, he came out of his shell. From the class of '91, this year was the civil engineering student's last to show off in the U23 ranks with CULT Energy. Sterobo rode well in most time trials, including an uphill prologue win at the U23 Peace Race along with longer ones such as nationals and European U23 Championships, and did well on hillier races including 6th on the Eschborn-Frankfurt U23 and 16th overall at the Tour de l'Avenir, where he was climbing better as the race wore on. Sterobo will be back with CULT next year in 2014 but he might not be stuck there if he keeps developing his climbing skills.

While I'm never sure about Kazakh/Russian talent, Roman Semyonov seems like a pretty good climber. The young Kazakh, born in 1993, finished the Giro della Valle d'Aosta in 10th overall, spending most of his time just behind the select front groups on the climbers. More Russian talent to be unsure about is Kirill Sveshnikov (Lokosphinx/1992). Sveshnikov is a Russian robot who got a truckload of results on the track and road as a junior and has had a few good rides as a senior. His track results have been quite good with multiple World Cup podiums in various endurance events and a bronze in the points race in Minsk earlier in 2013 at the World Championships. On the road, he has spent the majority of his time in Spain and Italy, with top 20 spots in 1.1 races such as Circuito de Getxo, Vuelta a la Rioja and GP Nobili Rubinetterie. Decent climber, so-so sprinter...don't know how he will pan out. Ivan Savitskiy (Rusvelo/1992) is yet another Russian track rider who is splitting time on the two disciplines. Savitskiy has been subbing in on the Russian team pursuit squad (has World Cup and Euro U23 wins) and is the current madison and team pursuit national champion. While he barely has the endurance to finish a road event, he was on form for the Baltic Chain Tour and thanks to smart riding and getting into the important breakaways, he finished 2nd overall just two seconds behind a 'crosser Philipp Walsleben. Evgeny Shalunov (1992) was a machine as a junior, winning the Junior Peace Race by a wide margin, and as a first year U23, he won eight races including the Vuelta a Bidasoa overall and a mountain stage of the Ronde de l'Isard. This gained him a stagiaire role with Radioshack that year (2011) but it went nowhere and he last two years have been spent with Lokosphinx. 2012 held a solo win in the Vuelta a la Rioja thanks to an attack at 30km to go but past that, it was pretty bare except a good TT in the Vuelta Asturias. This year, he was 10th at the 1.1 Klasika Primavera and 7th at the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon but past these two good results, his season was littered with DNFs. I'm figuring he's suffering from the Russian "no structure, no results" curse that has hit a generation or so pretty hard.

Ibai Salas is a well known name to those that follow the Spanish scene. The young Basque rider has ridden for Seguros Bilbao and more recently, Caja Rural Amateurs, while being one of the more successful U23 riders in Spain. The last two years with Caja Rural, he won rounds of the Copa de España in each year and finished 8th (2012) and 6th (2013) in the overall classification, where both times he was 2nd U23. Salas, who is a good climber that excels on explosive finishes, got a bit of time with the pro Caja Rural team as a stagiaire this summer but he will be with Burgos-BH for 2014 to try and get some better pro races on his schedule with proper mountains in them.

Growing up in Northern France does a cyclist wonders for riding on the rivet for hours on end; the wind whipping in your face as the kilometers tick over metronomically. Florian Senechal attacked the leading group in the 2011 Junior Paris-Roubaix and used his upbringing to good use and blasted away from Alexis Gougeard, Maarten van Trijp, Jon Dibben and Ruben Zepuntke to win by over a minute. The budding classics star finished off his season with a 2nd in the Junior Ronde van Vlaanderen, a overall win at the Keizer der Juniores and a 4th in the Junior World RR in Copenhagen, winning the group sprint behind a trio that included winning teammate P-H Lecuisinier. While he shopped around with a few different U23 programs, he ultimately joined EFC-OPQS. He certainly did his best to show his burgeoning classics talents by going 9th at the U23 Paris-Roubaix, 10th overall at the Tour de Bretagne and won the Brussel-Opwijk, a prestigious Belgian race for young talents that even Merckx won as an amateur. Senechal even got a stagiaire with OPQS for the late summer of 2012 and he definitely showed some strength beyond his years with strong rides in the Tour of Denmark (33rd overall) and 47th in Paris-Tours. While just a product of 1993, he really stepped up in 2013 with Etixx-iHNed. While he suffered from herniated discs in January, he was racing by March and nearly won the queen stage of the Boucle de l'Artois, where he finished 2nd on the uphill finish at Mont Saint Eloi. He had high finishes at 1.1 races such as Tour du Finistère (6th), Paris-Arras (8th overall) and the Rund um Köln (12th). After taking wins at the Memorial Henryka Lasaka and the overall of the Okolo Jiznich Czech, Senechal his some cracking season ending form with a 2nd in the Kustpijl and 4th in the Paris-Tours Espoirs. Senechal had been previously promised a spot on the OPQS pro team for 2014 but he was later told that he would have to have another year on Etixx before that would happen. He gave them the "thanks, but no thanks" and bolted for Cofidis, where he was promised a slot for the classics. While that might seem premature for just 20, Senechal is quite developed for his age. While the classics might be where his future lies, his climbing as been improving every year and it would be silly to count him out of week long stage races in the future.

Clément Saint-Martin went 2nd at the French Elite Amateur Championships this summer with Océane U-Top 16. Saint-Martin got a stagiaire spot with La Pomme Marseille and was fed a heaping dish of Asian racing to end his season. He will be joining the continental team full time in 2014, where he will be looking to get a result in a Coupe de France one-day.

Marc Sarreau was a former medalist at the European Track Championships as a junior and he has been able to turn that into some results on the road. Born in 1993, Frenchman Sarreau joined the Guidon Chalettois team when he became a U23 and this year was by far his biggest year. Sarreau, a sprinter, won six races this year including the overall of the Classic Jean-Patrick Dubuisson and the Souvenir Jean Graczyk and had about 20 other top 10 finishes on the season. He also placed in UCI ranked races with a 7th in the ice world that was GP Nogent-sur-Oise and two top 10 finishes in the Tour du Loir et Cher. He will be joining the camouflage Armée de Terre for 2014 to fulfill his military requirements.

While Sarreau might be leaving Guidon Chalettois, Manchester's Ali Slater (1993) will be joining the squad for 2014 after riding the the 100% ME squad, an arm of the GB Development program. In 2012, he was 5th in the GB U23 TT and this year, he went 16th in the An Post Ras, 32nd in the Tour of Britain along with solid rides in the Thüringen Rundfahrt (27th) and the Tour de l'Avenir.

Sam Spokes is apart of the strong '92 class of Australians that includes Jay McCarthy and Damien Howson. During their junior years, Spokes won the Liège-La Gleize overall and had some high placings in Italy during his time. Going into his U23 years, he was picked up by EFC-OPQS, where he spent two years ('11-'12). 2012 was a big year for Spokes as he was 6th in the Liège-Bastogne-Liege Espoirs and won the Tour d'Eure et Loir Espoirs overall. He also rode the Tour de Bretagne, Valle d'Aosta and l'Avenir. This year, Spokes moved up to the new Etixx team but had a hard time replicating success. Spokes had top 10 stage finishes in Paris-Arras, U23 Peace Race and the Thüringen Rundfahrt along with a win in the Czech Vysocina stage race. Spokes was really onto good form after Tour de l'Avenir with a 14th place in the torrential rain at the 1.1 Tour du Doubs but he suffered a bad day at Worlds and had to pull out. After a training crash netted him a broken collarbone, the young climber has been back on the road and will be back again with Etixx for his final U23 season.

 Eric Sheppard (1991) is probably one of the better Australians you don't recognize. In 2011 with search2retain, he won the Tour of Indonesia overall and finished 4th overall in the Tour of Thailand. 2012 saw him venture to Italy to get his head promptly kicked in. While it was a tough journey, he had a few bright spots with a 2nd place in the 2nd stage of Peaches and Nectarines and finished 10th in the Memorial Davide Fardelli. This year, he signed with OCBC Singapore halfway through spring after riding some Australian NRS races (4th in the Battle on the Border overall). He climbed well at the Tours of Japan, Kumano and Korea; the latter two he finished 13th and 11th overall. In Korea, he was in breakaways in the final two stages that both went to the line and he got 2nd and 3rd places. He is back with OCBC for 2014 so perhaps he can swing some more results in the Asian scene.

Kiwi Dion Smith (1993) first came over to North America as a junior, where he was top 5 in the NRC Iron Hill Twilight Criterium and then smashed the Tour de l'Abitibi, where he finished 2nd overall. Smith was to be apart of the ill-fated PureBlack team before it was announced they lacked the funding to race internationally. He stuck with them for 2012 but for 2013, he joined the American amateur Predator Carbon Repair team. Smith, who is a strong climber and good on some punchier finishes, started off well with a 20th overall in the Redlands Classic and then 13th overall at the Tour of the Gila thanks to good climbing skills. At the Philly International, he won the KOM competition on his way to finishing 6th overall in the new uphill finish on the Manayunk Wall. After two stage wins at the Tour of America's Dairyland and a 4th at the Tour de Delta, Smith signed on with Champion System for a stagiaire position and boy, did he get his money's worth. Smith went 17th in the Arctic Race of Norway and 26th in the Tour des Fjords and raced all around Europe and even had a ride in the U23 Worlds RR. Smith will join Hincapie Development for 2014 and will be one of the brightest talent on the American racing scene.

With the boom in African cycling, many countries around the continent are seeing a surge in competition and in riders being sent to Europe and other events. Namibia had Dan Craven for a while but now, along with Till Drobisch, there is Costa Seibeb. Seibeb (1992) joined the UCI World Cycling Centre this year where he won the amateur Meisterschaft von Zürich out of a small group sprint and got a spot in the Tour de l'Avenir squad, where he seemingly got stronger as the race went on. Seibeb finished his season at the African Continental Championships and got a top 10 in the Elite TT.

Speaking of young African riders doing well in time trials, there is greenhorn Willie Smit. To my knowledge, Smit (1992) has never raced outside of continental Africa and has been a feature on the continental South African circuit. Over the last few years, Smit has had more than a handful of top five finishes in SA races including a win in the huge one-day 94.7 Cycle Challenge. Perhaps his two biggest rides of the year were a 3rd place in  the South African U23 TT Championship followed by an incredible ride at the African Championships TT, where he was the only rider to get within a minute of Daniel Teklehaimanot, winner of the last three African TT titles, and ended up 2nd, just 32 seconds behind, which also netted him the U23 win. His performance garnered him a contract with the continental Vini Fantini-Nippo-De Rosa for 2014, which will see him head to Europe and Asia for some quality racing.

The demise of Thüringer Energie is a bit of a sad moment for German cycling. With team manager Jörg Werner retiring and Jens Lang moving to Argos-Shimano Development, Thüringer Ernergie shouldn't be forgotten for the precedent they set in U23 cycling. The system goes back to the mid 1990's and nearly every big German racer has been apart of the team. Greipel, Martin, Kittel, Degenkolb, Wagner, Gretsch, Schillinger and more have gone through the ranks of the East German squad. Since he was a junior, Jasha Sütterlin (1992) has been tapped as one of Germany's next big things. As a first year junior, he nearly medalled at the European Championships (4th). As a 2nd year junior, oh brother...he was incredible. German junior TT champion; winner of the Niedersachsen Rundfahrt; Trofeo Karlsberg stage 5 stage races, the lowest overall he placed was 5th in the Driedaagse van Axel. The World Championships proved to be just as fruitful with a 2nd place in the TT and 8th in the road race in a select lead group. His U23 career has boosted his status as a strong TT rider who can go for an overall. He won the Tour de Berlin in 2011 as a U23 rookie. He was German U23 TT Champion in 2012, had strong stage race results such as 7th in the Thüringen Rundfahrt and 26th in the Tour de l'Avenir, where he showed off some of his diesel climbing skills. He capped off 2012 with a strong Worlds where he was 8th overall on the hilly Valkenburg TT course. 2013 saw more variety as Sütterlin had strong TTs including in the pro Bayern Rundfahrt and another German U23 title, won a sprint (and prologue) in the Giro Valle d'Aosta, went well on small hills and nabbed 3rd overall in the Tour de Bretagne and was climbing well late in the Tour de l'Avenir. Sütterlin is on the brink of being like Tony Martin was a few years ago...climbing well enough to go for one-week stage races and perhaps flirt with a GT later in his career but it remains to be seen whether he can handle the heat with Movistar in 2014. Sütterlin's Thüringer teammate Max Schachmann could be described as Sütterlin-lite. As a first year U23 this year, he had good time trial rides with a 2nd at the Valle d'Aosta prologue, 9th in the Euro U23 TT and 12th in the World Championships. He had a bit of a DNF problem in stage races but that can be chalked up to youth. He will move to Argos Development for 2014, where he will look the match or better the bronze medal he got in the junior World Championship TT in 2012.

Whenever I try to judge Jasper Stuyven, I feel like I'm too hard on him. He was talking himself up for the better part of a year about the World course this year in Florence; how perfect it was for him and that he would go out and win for mother and country. Except for the part where he came out flat and finished outside the frount group in 25th, the plan went to a T. Maybe I just have such high expectations because of how good he was as a junior. Hell even at 15 and 16, he was turning heads with age-group national titles and was literally the next big thing. His first year as a junior, he goes out and beats Arnaud Demare and Marco Haller in a sprint in Moscow to win the World Championships. The next year he podiums nearly every race he enters, wins the Paris-Roubaix Juniors and goes 3rd in his World Championships defense. His first go at the U23 Paris-Roubaix? 2nd place, just 9 seconds behind winner Ramon Sinkeldam. In 2012, he finished 7th on the uphill finish on the Citadel of Namur in the GP de Wallonie. This year, he won the Volta ao Alentejo with sprinting and breakaway skills, finished 3rd in the Liege-Bastogne-Liege Espoirs and the 1.1 GP Jef Scherens and was sprinting well all over with Bontrager. So while he has had a lot of success and promise, I just think he should be winning these huge events that he marks as goals. I'll try to check my expectations at the door when he gets his first taste of the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix this spring with Trek Factory Racing.

If the myth of Oskar Svendsen grew any bigger last year, I would have flown to Norway myself to track down the young man to see what he was all about. Seriously, after his win in the World Junior TT Championship and reports of his record high Vo2Max score, Svendsen was immediately touted as one of the greats of the future. So when his first U23 year came about this year, you expected to see him demolishing the competition. Nope, not even close. Svendsen DNFed or placed low, except for a TTT win, all the way through June. His early summer was nothing to write home about with only a decent European Championships TT to hang his hat on. Where was this wunderkind? After inklings of form at the Tour des Fjords, Svendsen was flying at the Tour de l'Avenir. He did a shit prologue but then climbed with Merhawi Kudus to the finish on the first mountain stage. The final two mountain stages notched up two top 10 stage finishes and in the end, he finished 5th overall after a season of next to nothing. That continued after l'Avenir, when he DNFed a few more races before calling it a year. Seriously, this kid is an enigma to me.

Last but not least is EC favorite Toms Skujins, the Latvian who will be taking a voyage to America for 2014 with Hincapie Development. Latvia isn't what you'd call a cycling powerhouse. Ugrumov, Vainsteins, Saramontins...the list isn't exactly long. Skujins is apart of a young generation of young Latvians that have been breaking through and been doing well on the international scene. Skujins broke out in 2010 with strong results including a 6th in the Paris-Tours Espoirs, 2nd in the 1.1 Tartu GP and 5th overall in the Tour du Gévaudan. A two year stint with La Pomme Marseille netted fine results such as a 4th in the Classic Loire Atlantique, 2nd in the Ronde van Vlaanderen U23, 5th in the Riga GP along with a heap of racing across Europe and Asia. He was dumped in 2013 by the French squad and that probably wasn't the best decision. Heading back to hometown Rietumu-Delfin, Skujins rode an Algerian Grand Tour (12 races in 13 days including a stage win) and was on all cylinders for Flanders, where he was 7th in the final group sprint at the U23 Ronde. After three top 10 finishes in Scandanavia, he went 10th overall at the Tour of Norway after a 6th on the queen stage. Then the gem in his season was a breakaway stage win at the U23 Peace Race that was enough to wrestle away the overall title. He won the U23 Latvian RR, went 3rd on the quite hilly European U23 RR course and spent a week in the sun in the leadup to l'Avenir in Guadeloupe, where he finished 7th after 9 days of racing. Showing his versatility, Skujins was climbing at some of his best ever at the Tour de l'Avenir, where he was able to follow the best in the mountains on the final stage to secure a solid 9th place overall. Following an incident with Davide Villella at the Ruota d'Or, where the Italian punched Skujins off his bike, the young Latvian came to the start line of the World Championships with shooting knee pains. While it felt like an icepick was stabbing his knee for a while, an unscheduled bike change seemed to settle him and he grew stronger as the race went on. As Matej Mohoric basked in the glow of his victory, Skujins was battling for the bronze medal and on the line, he finished 5th place, just ahead of Davide Villella in 6th. Vengeance is sweet. While Skujins probably deserved a pro contract with a WT or PC team, he will be crushing skulls in the USA this year with Hincapie, no doubt about it. His talent is evident and it is only a matter of time before big results follow....perhaps a win on the Manayunk Wall in Philly.

Friday, December 20, 2013

U23 ABCs: R


If there was a list of the worst doping excuses of the last 20 years, I'm sure Raimondas Rumsas would be right up there. On the day of his 3rd place finish at the 2002 Tour de France, Rumsas' wife was caught with a metric ton of dope by the gendarmes. She said all the drugs were for Raimondas' mother and the police believed her so much that they kept her in prison for a few months while the case worked its way through the system. After he tested positive at the '03 Giro, Rumsas then went on to blame Lampre and accused them of intentionally doping him without his knowledge. While Rumsas went on to make good money riding Gran Fondo events in Italy, his son Raimondas Rumsas got into a bit of racing. Raimondas the Junior is more Italian than Lithuanian, as he grew up mainly in Lucca, and took after his father on the bike. He is a pretty good climber and decent TTer but he is on a very small club team and barely got any results in 2013; his best result being 32nd in the GP Liberazione. Who knows what will happen with Raimondas Jr. but he is definitely in one big shadow right now.

After a impressive spring, Lotto-Belisol was beckoning after the Dutchman Elmar Reinders of Metec Cycling to get some testing done on him and try to sign him to a neo-pro contract. Reinders had lit it up in the spring with some impressive rides such as winner the Dutch Meuss Race, 3rd in the Ster van Zwolle, 6th in the hellacious ice storm that was the 1.1 Ronde van Drenthe along with a 4th overall in the Olympia's Tour, thanks to some strong riding on the rainy queen stage. In July, it seemed like Lotto had him all wrapped up after the testing, from everything publicly available, went well but later in the summer, it was announced that he would not be making the jump to the World Tour and instead shifting over to Team Jo Piels. Reinders cited a need to race outside of Holland and Jo Piels calendar would take him abroad.

Staying with the Dutch, we have the Roosen brothers, Sjors and Timo. Sjors is the older, 22 this year, and is the stronger climber and time trialist of the pair. This year was the best yet for the Jo Piels rider as he 7th overall in the Boucle de l'Artois, 5th in Arno Wallard, 7th in Carpathian Couriers, 2nd overall in Tour de Berlin thanks to some good TTing behind Lasse Norman Hansen along with a 2nd overall at the National U23 TT behind Dylan van Baarle. Sjors had only one DNF the whole year (which is excusable since it was ~20F on the startline), which is something I like to see in young riders. So while he might be out of the U23 ranks now, he could develop into a pro racer is everything goes according to plan. Timo is two years younger and has better sprint legs than his brother but is not as good of a TTer. This year with De Jonge Renner, Timo won the opening stage of the Tour de Berlin - his brother was in the breakaway with him - and had two podium placings at the Carpathian Couriers Tour and won the Dutch National University RR, taking a 1-2 finish with his brother. While Sjors is staying with Jo Piels for next year, Timo, who is a physiotherapy student, is heading to Rabobank Development for 2014.

Stephan Rabitsch was the Austrian Amateur RR Champion in 2012 and this year, he won a round of the Austrian Tchibo Cup in an impressive solo breakaway and finished 5th in the Ruota d'Or before going 24th in the World U23 RR, just behind the front pack.

For about the last year and a half, it seems like Croat Josip Rumac has been hoarded by Omega Pharma-QuickStep and its development squad, Etixx-iHNed. As a junior last year, he attended the notorious OPQS Talent Camp and his talent was pretty obvious. While Croatia isn't exactly a cycling hug, Rumac had some nice results with the national team and the UCI Cycling Centre including 3rd in the Valkenburg World RR Championship and multiple top 10 finishes in junior stage races. While Rumac didn't initially sign with a big team this year, his twitter was a dead giveaway about who his allegiance was with. He attended the Talent Camp again this year and was announced as a stagiaire with Etixx-iHNed for the rest of the season. While results weren't exactly overflowing this year, he had some strong TT performances (3rd at Nationals and 9th at the Med Games) along with good rides in some UCI races with Etixx. Also, he can wheelie on cobbles, so he has that going for him.

Told you. (Photo: @koenpelgrim1)
Jonas Rickaert is from the track-road mold where seemingly, you never get an offseason and you are racing all of the time. Okay, maybe not literally but Rickaert, who will be riding for Topsport Vlaanderen next year, has been pulling double duty for the last few years. Silver medalist at both the European Junior Track Omnium and World Junior Madison Championship in 2012, Rickaert had some nice results as a junior including a TT win at the Keizer der Juniores and a GC win at the UCI 2.1 Cop of Grudziadz Town President. This year with Ovyta-Eijssen, Rickaert got some action in U23 stage races as well as a steady diet of Belgian amateur events, where he had a handful of top five placings. He has been in action this year with the national track team as a part of the Belgian team pursuit squad.

While it seems like I have been droning on and on about Colombians for days now, Ever Rivera is yet another strong Colombian climber. Rivera was a keen helper for Juan Chamorro's Tour de l'Avenir 2nd place run in 2012 and joined Chamorro with 4-72 Colombia. Ever came out swinging when he came over to Europe this year and his best results was an 8th overall (best youth) at the Vuelta Asturias. He made the winning break at Coupe des Nations Saguenay and took the KOM jersey on his way to 10th overall. His 130 pound frame then went back over to Spain in summer and rode away with Merhawi Kudus and Jordi Simon on the first stage of the Vuelta a Leon and held on for 3rd overall.

I'm sure all of us have come across riders that are so good at a young age that you think the sky is the limit but when they stagnate and don't keep improving, you wonder what the hell is going on? To me, Rafael Reis is one of those riders. As a junior, Portuguese Reis was one of the best in the world...a triple national champion (2x TT, 1x RR), Peace Race stage winner, top 10 places in European and World Championship TT and RR along with high overall placings in the Peace Race and Trofeo Karlsberg. So Reis would win a few U23 events and then go to the pros right? Turns out it is a bit more complicated than that. Through his first two U23 years, his only nice results were a 7th overall in the Volta ao Alentejo, 2nd in the U23 National TT and 6th in the Volta a Portugal prologue. For this year, he signed with Ceramica Flaminia, which on its outset was supposed to be Portuguese-Italian but that team was a bit of a clusterfuck with multiple signings and firings midseason. He did well in some TTs this year with 5th in the Tour de Berlin TT, winning the Portuguese U23 TT and rides at the European and World TT Championships. Reis is migrating back to Iberia with the Banco BIC squad for his final U23 year but he might be able to benefit with new teammate Manuel Cardoso, ex-Radioshack and Caja Rural. Then there is Rasim Reis, Rafael's Turkish brother from another mother, who is a bit of an anomaly. Reis doesn't have many road results but this year, he won the Balkans TT Championship and went 3rd in the Mediterranean Games.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

U23 ABCs: P-Q


Let's start off with the probable retirement of Pierre Paolo Penasa (1991), which came out of the blue along with fellow U23 Daniele Dall'Oste, who announced he is seeking greener pastures. Penasa's situation is still a bit unclear but it seems like the talented Tyrolean climber has been having persistent injury problems that has made getting back to top form seemingly impossible. His 2012 was quite impressive with a 3rd overall in the GiroBio and 7th overall in the Giro della Valle d'Aosta and big things were expected for the Zalf-Euromobil rider in 2013 where he would be taking on a leadership role for the hills. His season started off well enough with 9th in the GP Palio del Recioto and 4th in the Trofeo Piva Banca Popolare but when it came to stage races, he just didn't have the same spark as in year's past. On the hardest stages of the Giro della Regione Friuli Venezia Giulia, he faltered and his best stage was an 8th place and was just 17th on the queen stage. It was the same story in Valle d'Aosta as he finished 9th overall and was not able to handle the pace of the best. I understand his decision...why keep trying to do something when you know you are not able to be at your best effort? Good luck to him in his future endeavors.

While Lampre snagged Jan Polanc (1992), he rode for his continental Radenska team for the first half of the season and showed why his early move to the pro ranks was justified. The young Slovenian tore up the U23 ranks with consistent riding over 2011 and 2012, especially when the rode tilted upward. This year, he started early with strong stage finished in the Istrian Spring Trophy and a 5th in La Côte Picarde, where he made the final breakaway but was creamed in the sprint. His best performance of the year came at the Giro della Friuli Venezia Giulia, where he rode away from Ivan Rovny and Riccardo Zoidl on the Monte Matajur, which straddles the Italy-Slovenia border, and won solo to clinch the overall crown. He continued to impress with a 5th overall in the U23 Peace Race, where he was the strongest climber behind a four-man breakaway that decided the race on the queen stage. He then was 2nd overall in the Tour of Slovenia, just 19 seconds behind Croat Radoslav Rogina but ahead of the likes of Patrick Sinkewitz, Tadej Valjavec and Darwin Atapuma. He went on to some pretty good rides with Lampre at just 21, including 40th in the World Championship RR and 15th at the Tour of Beijing.

While Polanc might be the only Slovenian at Lampre right now, he will have some home country company if he stays with them. Luka Pibernik (1993) has been one of the most consistent U23s the last couple years; so much so that Lampre, who have a scouting agreement with his team Radenska, decide to sign him to a pre-contract that begins in 2015. Pibernik was strong in his first U23 year in 2012. After wetting his feet, he finished 3rd in the Slovenian Elite RR at just 18, good enough for best U23, and proceeded to go 7th overall at the Czech Cycling Tour and 6th in the Trofeo Internazionale Bastianelli. After a trying Tour de l'Avenir, Pibernik came back with a vengeance at the World U23 RR in Valkenburg, where he was able to hang over the Cauberg and in the mad dash to the line, Pibernik ended up 5th, the best first-year by 31 places (Rick Zabel, 36th). So 2013 would be an even bigger year, right? You got it in one. After finishing the Istrian Spring Trophy in 12th overall, Pibernik attended the hotly contested GP Palio del Recioto and when the front group came together right before the final straight, Pibernik ended up 3rd behind Caleb Ewan and Silvio Herklotz. The almost-but-not-quite-there theme continued through the year as Pibernik racked up a slew of top 10 finishes but only two wins, a big one in the Slovenian Elite RR Championship and a stage in the Czech Cycling Tour. For someone who can sprint as well as a he can, he did well in Friuli-Venezia-Giulia in 20th place overall and thanks to getting into the final breakaway at the U23 Peace Race, he finished 3rd overall. His climbing showed again at the Tour de l'Avenir where he finished 13th on the first big mountain stage and climbed reasonably well the rest of the way to finish 22nd overall. Pibernik falls in between categories when you try to describe his racing characteristics. So while he isn't going to be a manic bunch sprinter, he won't be leading on the charge on the climbs either. He can sprint well, climb well and even do a pretty good TT but even then, it seems a bit of an understatement to call him just a rouleur. Anyways, keep your eyes on him because once he gets to the big leagues, he should make his presence felt.

When any rider leaves their native country to head out on their own to make it in cycling, they are one brave soul. Usually a strange language, different customs, not many friends; this can make or break an athlete. Just look at Chris Horner's first European foray with FDJ for some evidence. The dude tore it up in the US and then was isolated in France, gained a lot of weight and cracked mentally. Australian Adam Hansen (Lotto-Belisol) is known for his unique decision to have his training base int he Czech Republic, a country that isn't exactly world renown for their cycling as say Monaco, Lucca or Girona. Hansen was an integral part in allowing Australian Josh Prete (1991) to get a ride with Czech team Whirpool-Author in 2011-12. Prete hails from northern Queensland, the same area as Hansen, and while talented, he struggled with a dearth of racing in his area, which limited the attention he got from national selectors and bigger teams. Prete got a great opportunity via Hansen, who had connections within the Whirpool team, and rode around Central Europe for two years with some pretty good results such as 12th in the Czech Cycling Tour. He was all set to ride with them in 2013 but due to some sponsorship reshuffling, he was out of a contract. The bad luck continued early this year as he suffered from glandular fever and then a knee injury, which knocked him out of the first half of the season. He got a lifeline from the national team and Budget Forklifts and was able to ride the brutal Tour of Qinghai Lake, the Tour of Hokkaido (finished 3rd overall) along with some good team rides for teammate Jesse Kerrison at the Tour of Taihu Lake and Tour of Nanjing. He is back with Budget Forklifts for 2014 and should get a good schedule filled with Asian races.

Tanner Putt wheelie-ing up to the finish at Snowbird on stage 5 of the Tour of Utah
Photo: @Denco83 
One thing about Tanner Putt (1992) I can say is that he is consistent. He is a rider that can put in a strong sprint, climb relatively well and ride a pretty good TT. A strong junior, he took off in 2012 with BMC-Hincapie and never looked back. In January of that year, the Utah native rode in the breakaway on stage 8 at the Vuelta a la Independencia Nacional in the Dominican Republic and attacked late in the race and held on for a solo win ahead of a charging pack. He continued his charge in 2012 with the national team in Europe with top 15 finishes in the Ronde van Vlaanderen U23 and the ZLM Tour. After a top 20 overall at Coupe des Nations Saguenay and finished 5th at the vaunted Stillwater criterium at the Nature Valley GP, Putt was agonizingly close to winning U23 Nationals but he was pipped in the sprint by Kentucky-native Rob Bush of Chipotle. Following the Tours of China I & II, he signed with Bontrager for 2013 and stepped up yet another level. Riding nearly 60 racing days, Putt DNFed a grand total of one time (Tour de Beauce) and finished well in races like the Volta ao Alentejo (14th), Tour of the Gila (20th), Tour of California (31st), Coupe des Nations Saguenay (17th) along with the Tours of Utah and Colorado. Putt attacked the hell out of the U23 Nationals in Wisconsin and along with teammate Nate Brown, he attacked in the finale and took the gold medal in a Bontrager 1-2. After a strong Worlds performance in 33rd, he will be one of the lead riders for Bissell in 2014 and if he is set on making it to Europe, he will need to drop some big-time rides. Tanner also has a brother, Chris Putt (1993), who will be joining him at Bissell in 2014. His rise has been pretty fast as he just started to race seriously in 2011. Still a Category 2 at the beginning of this year, Putt upgraded to a Cat. 1 and rode well in the Tour of the Gila, Mt Hood and the Cascade Classic. His best result was finishing 9th in the U23 National RR, just a minute or so behind his more experienced brother. The younger Putt could go quite far if he can continue to improve.

Lukas Pöstlberger (1992) shocked just about everyone interested when he won the elite Austrian RR Championship in 2012, when he held a six second gap on a chasing group and took home the title at just 20. He wasn't done as at that year's Tour de l'Avenir, he set out with Vegard Breen and Bob Jungels for an long breakaway that stuck it and beat the other two in the sprint to take the stage win. He didn't blow the doors off this year but he had some good results like the 6th overall at the Sibiu Tour, 5th at Elite Nationals, 9th in the European U23 RR and won the GP Kranj. He still has another U23 year where he will be transferring to Tirol Cycling but he got to work early for 2014 with a 5th overall at the Tour of Al Zubarah in Qatar a few weeks ago.

Paillot getting some Coke after taking the hot seat at U23 Worlds TT
(Photo: @FabienDouillard)
Yoann Paillot (1991) is a horse. I don't want to get all lovey-dovey with the superlatives but Paillot could be the next big French TT hope if he has the drive and luck is on his side. As a junior, Paillot showed off his TT skills with podium finishes in the Chrono des Nations Juniors and the French TT Championships. As a 2nd year U23, he won the European U23 TT crown ahead of Bob Jungels, finished 2nd at the French U23 TT and won the Chrono des Nations U23. In 2012, he shocked with a 3rd place overall in the rain behind Sylvain Chavanel and Jeremy Roy at the French Elite National TT at just 21. He backed this up with a strong TT at the Kreiz Breizh Elites, which propelled him to 2nd overall. He repeated his Chrono des Nations U23 victory and then signed on with continental La Pomme Marseille, with whom he stagiaired with, for 2013 as a professional. He was fed a steady diet of springtime 1.1 races, an area which he feels he can improve upon in 2014, and short French stage races. He barely DNFed these races but he didn't have a breakout result until the Mediterranean Games TT, where after a disappointing 13th at the French Elite TT Championships, he averaged nearly 50 km/h to take the victory. He kept clocking up the racing days with the Tour of Qinghai Lake (13 stages) and the Tour de l'Ain (5 stages) before he really turned it on heading into autumn. He finally won the French U23 TT crown and then after a successful Tour du Poitou Charentes, he spent 170km in the breakaway at the Tour du Jura and finished 4th. His objective of the U23 Worlds TT was in jeopardy after a fall in the Tour du Doubs left him limping in the days before the event but for the first time at Worlds, the stars aligned for him and he blew the doors off of everyone except Damien Howson for an impressive 2nd place. When it was all said and done, Paillot collected 66 racing UCI racing days in 2013 and nearly 10,000 kilometers. For someone who could have been finishing his final U23 year with half that number of racing days, Paillot is ready to hit the Coupe de France with a vengeance next year and perhaps vie for a French Elite TT crown is all goes well. Staying with the hexagon, Felix Pouilly (1994) is one to watch for the future. He was the French Junior RR Champion in 2012 and this year, he had some good rides in Belgian 1.1 races while stagiairing with ToWin-Josan and finished 14th in the Paris-Tours Espoirs.

Little Heiner Parra takes the queen stage at the Ronde de l'Isard
Photo: @pedaleamosCOL
Heiner Parra (1991) might be the Colombian version of Jose Rujano, except with an age-appropriate attitude. Parra weighs in at a whopping 48.5 kilograms (107 pounds) and a diminutive 1.60 meters (5'3") but he packs some immense power when the road goes uphill. He started his U23 career with EPM-UNE but left the team after a quiet 2012 that didn't see him leave Colombia. He took the queen stage at the Ronde de l'Isard and supported his teammate and leader Juan Chamorro to the overall win. While he faltered at the Vuelta a Colombia, an event he was targeting, he turned it on again at the end of the year for 5th at the Tour Alsace (2nd on the queen stage) and after Chamorro faltered in the Tour de l'Avenir, he took over leadership for Colombia and finished 7th overall. His climbing talents got him a spot on Caja Rural for next year, where he will get a great schedule of climbing races and perhaps a birth for the Vuelta a Espana.

When Joe Perrett (1991) took the win in the British 25 Mile TT Championships, people were scratching their heads a bit as they were expecting N. Ireland's Michael Hutchinson to take his 7th title. While Hutchinson was relegated to 3rd, Perrett won in a scorching 49'21" time. Perrett is a former European Junior TT Champion and double GB TT Junior Champion and that prowess has transferred over into the senior ranks. He was apart of the GB Academy for a couple years but he left this year after signing with IG Sigma Sport. This year was his best year of his U23 career as he won the national 25, won the Premier Calendar Ryedale GP, finished 2nd in the GB U23 TT and 4th in the Tour de l'Avenir prologue. 

Italian Simone Petilli (1993) might ride for a super small team in Gallina Colosio Eurofeed but the 20 year old was always a factor in hilly one-day races. This year alone, he was top 10 in the Giro del Belvedere (9th), GP Palio del Recioto (6th), Trofeo Piva Banca Popolare (6th) and the Trofeo Internazionale Bastianelli (4th). He also spent a lot of time in the breakaways at the Giro della Valle d'Aosta, where he won the KOM jersey. He highlighted some potential GC talent with a 7th at the Peaches and Nectarines this year. Petilli will be moving to the new Area Zero continental team for next year, which will be lead by former Acqua e Sapone manager Ivan de Paolis. Loîc Pestiaux (1991) had some good rides at some Belgian Topcompetitie races for Color Code-Biowanze including 4th at the Antwerpse Havenpijl and 8th at the Flèche Ardennaise. Ginger-Swede Robert Pölder (1991) might be the benefactor of a bit of nepotism on the part of Aike Visbeek in getting a contract with Argos-Shimano Development but it isn't totally undeserved. Pölder did a lot of strong teamwork and at least on twitter, the team lauded his strength and selflessness. So while the results might not show, he does have something to give his new team. Simon Pellaud (1992) won the Swiss U23 RR crown this year with a strong solo breakaway but didn't make his mark in many other big races. Pole Emanuel Piaskowy (1991) rode strong at in the Tour of Malopolska, where he finished 10th overall and won the youth classification, and then went 11th at the quite hilly Tour du Jura. Dutchman Stefan Poutsma (1991) won the Carpathian Couriers U23 Tour in Poland this spring after he did a decent prologue and then won a three-man sprint out of a breakaway on stage four to seal his overall win. He also got into strong breakaways at the Olympia's Tour queen stage and the Oberösterreichrundfahrt.

**EDIT: I was informed, correctly, by Mr. GroupRideKing himself, Bontrager's Nate Wilson, that I missed American Jeff Perrin (1993) on my list of "P" riders. As a first year U23 in 2012 with Colorado's Juwi Solar, Perrin won a stage at the Mt. Hood Classic along with strong rides at some hillier events. This year, he was on Cal Giant-Specialized but spent a large amount of time in Europe with the U23 National Team. Perrin rode some damn hard hilly races such as the Ronde de l'Isard, the U23 Peace Race, the Thüringen Rundfahrt, Kreiz Breizh Elites and the Tour de l'Avenir. At l'Avenir, Perrin was able to latch on to a late star-studded escape with the Yates brothers, Skujins, Sütterlin, Gougeard, Teunissen and others and after cresting the Col des Gets, he finished an impressive 8th. I'm not sure exactly what he is doing for next year as he isn't listed on the 2014 roster for Cal Giant but he is definitely an all-arounder to watch.

While much of the attention has been on Caleb Ewan and Damien Howson when discussing the next big Australian talents, Adam Phelan (1991) has been right there and probably deserves more credit than he has gotten. Phelan really stepped onto the scene in 2011 with Drapac where he was top 10 overall at both the Tour of Taiwan (won the prologue) and Tour of Hainan. In 2012 while still with Drapac, he was able to make the jump over to Europe with the Australian National Team. While riding a healthy schedule, he got 4th in the Fleche du Sud (2nd in the TT behind Bob Jungels), won the GP di Poggiana and got a berth for the Tour de l'Avenir and World Championships. This year, he made another step up. He started with a Tour Down Under berth with UniSA, finishing a great 23rd overall, and then jetted over to Europe with the national team, where he spent time helping Ewan and Howson but got plenty of chances for himself. Arguably his best ride of the year was the GP Liberazione, where he escaped with Ilya Koshevoy but try as he might, he couldn't hold onto the Belorussian on the final uphill and had to settle for 2nd place. Phelan also did well in the stage races including 7th overall in the Olympia's Tour and 4th in the Thüringen Rundfahrt, mainly due to his time trialling and solid climbing skills. Granted his climbing is limited as he doesn't seem to go quite as well on climbs past 5 kilometers. For 2014, he is staying with Drapac as they are transitioning to the pro continental level.


With Q, we have lonely Dayer Quintana (1992), the brother of Colombian climbing sensation Nairo Quintana. During the silly transfer season, Dayer's move to Movistar to join his brother was long talked about and while I think he could be useful, I don't see him being anything like his brother. Dayer, like his brother, hails from the cycling-rich area of Boyaca and while he put up some good results as a junior (8th at the 2010 Vuelta del Porvenir), he didn't race at all in 2011 and only some in 2012 due to becoming a police officer. He continued on the bike though and after some early season races in Colombia this year, at Nairo's insistence he moved in with him in Pamplona and joined the amateur team Lizarte. Dayer attacked in many races and had some pretty good results including multiple top five results at Spanish one-day events along with strong rides in Copa de Espana events. His talent is a bit unknown but I wouldn't go into 2014 thinking he will be napalming people on climbs. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

U23 ABCs: N-O


When I first came into cycling, I was a wrestler so once the leaves started to change, my priorities went to a sweaty wrestling room instead of riding my cheap Jamis Satellite. Like many teenagers infatuated with cycling, I hung around the local shop and did my bet impersonation of a sieve; soaking up all the knowledge I could, even during my "offseason". One local rider knew my desperation for cycling magazines and every few weeks, he loaded me up with a dozen or so old VeloNews and Cycle Sport issues, that I promptly read and re-read. One issue included the Cycle Sport issue previewing the 2006 season that had a "Four to watch in 2006" section that included a fresh-faced Gerald Ciolek, Heinrich Haussler, CSC DS Tristan Hoffman and the Shark of the Straits, Vincenzo Nibali. I distinctly remember how clean cut the young Nibali was and how comfortable he seemed with his talent at the tender age of 21. In just his 2nd pro season, his "one to watch" tag turned out to be right as he stole the GP Plouay Pro Tour race ahead of Juan Antonio Fleche, Manuele Mori and Yaroslav Dopovych. While Vincenzo has gone on to some great heights, his younger brother Antonio Nibali could be on his way to similar exploits.

-Antonio has taken similar steps as his brother including coming over from Sicily to the mainland in his teen years and joining the same amateur team, Mastromarco. While Vincenzo was prodigious, Antonio's progress has been a bit more step-by-step. His results have been a bit sparse in his U23 career but he has had good rides, especially going uphill, including the 2011 Cronoscalata del Montemignaio, where he was third behind a streaking Winner Anacona and his ride this year in the Giro Ciclistico Pesche Nettarine di Romagna, known as Peaches and Nectarines around here, where he was 2nd on the queen stage and ended the race 3rd overall. While his results are thin now, he still has another U23 season and he is joining Team Marchiol, a new Italian continental team, which will offer him a better calendar than he has seen in past years. (Side note: Marchiol will be piloted by Mirco Lorenzetto, who rode for Milram, Lampre and Astana among other teams. He was implicated in the Mantova investigation along with many other Lampre riders so hopefully, he won't be allowing dope to be pedaled.) While Antonio might not be the talent that Vincenzo is, I'm curious to see if he will be put in the "other brother" pigeonhole or breakout into his own rider.

-Another Italian to note is Stefano Nardelli, who got a stagiaire role with Accent Jobs this fall. He had a few nice results with a 4th in the GP Liberazione and 9th in the GP di Poggiana.

-Dutchman Bram Nolten raced a slew of Belgian one-days at the end of this year when he stagiaired with Doltcini Flanders, where he did pretty well including a 4th in the Gooikse Pijl. He was also 11th overall at the Tour de Berlin and won the points classification.

-Asian Cycling has been booming the last few years and Thanh Tam Nguyen is one of Vietnam's strongest cyclists. Winner of the Vietnam Elite RR this year, Nguyen has been competitive around Southeast Asia; having a pretty good turn of speed and being able to climb decently well.

-While Rwandan cycling development might have been somewhat abandoned by Jock Boyer and Tom Ritchey, the talented riders haven't disappeared. Jean Bosco Nsengiyumva has cut out a spot for himself on the Rwandan National Team and done well in the Tour of Rwanda (6th overall) and Fenkel Northern Red Sea (10th overall) along with other good rides on the continent. Valens Ndayisenga pulled away from yellow jersey Jay Robert Thomson in the uphill finale of stage 2 of the Tour of Rwanda this year and took the win, at just 19 years old. Valens also pulled off a 7th at the recent African TT Championships.


Speaking of the African Championships, the newly crowned RR champion is Tesfom Okbamariam of Eritrea, who has developed into one of the biggest Eritrean talents this side of Asmara. Okbamariam and Eritrean teammate Merhawi Kudus did the one-two on Namibian and unibrow enthusiast Dan Craven and Okbamariam took the sprint in Sharm el-Sheikh. Last year, Okbamariam took stage wins in the Tour of Algeria and Tour of Eritrea, where he also placed in the top 5 overall. This year, he was once again top 5 in the Tour of Eritrea and even finished the U23 World Championship RR in Italy this year.

-Diego Ochoa and Fernando Orjuela fly the Colombian flag for 4-72 Colombia and put in some rather impressive years. Ochoa was the most consistent rider for 4-72 this year and had results all over Europe and North America. Ochoa has some lineage as his father, Israel Antonio Ochoa Plazas, won the Clasico RNC along with national TT titles, stage wins in the Vuelta a Colombia and a slew of other South & Central American stage races over a 20+ year career. Diego is a junior Vuelta a Colombia stage winner and even won an amateur stage race in Spain last year in his first U23 season, the Vuelta a Segovia. Diego signed on with 4-72 this year, a team which this writer is a fan of because of their use of the bio-passport and staunch anti-doping viewpoint. He started off a bit slow but started to hit his stride in the Ronde de l'Isard, where he was 6th and 5th in the first two stages and supported teammate Juan Ernesto Chamorro to victory. He followed it up with three top 10 stage finished at the Tour de Gironde for 6th overall and then at the Coupe des Nations Saguenay, he made the race-winning breakaway on the first stage, where he got 2nd place, and then finished 3rd overall. Summer break was good to him and he came back flying at the 1.1 Circuito de Getxo, where he finished 5th in the uphill sprint behind JJ Lobato (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and was the best continental rider. Ochoa didn't let up as he was 7th in the Vuelta a Leon and won the mountains classifications. Pretty impressive stuff from a 20 year old; he is a combination of sprinter and climber so keep an eye on him. Orjuela is a bit of an unknown commodity but he put in a impressive performance at the Tour Alsace, where he got in a good breakaway on stage one and then climbed pretty well to finish 2nd overall behind Silvio Herklotz. Definitely a climber but doesn't have many other results to speak of.

-Daan Olivier was totally crickets for most of this year because of overtraining that plagued him in the lead up to 2013 and following Liege-Bastogne-Liege, which neutered his season to just a few fall races albeit some good results. He was 11th overall in Languedoc-Roussillon and a 2nd in the Paris-Tours Espoirs, where he made the winning attack but was beat in the two-up sprint by Flavien Dassonville. While Olivier had to deal with his overtraining, he was given the vote of confidence by Argos-Shimano and they gave him a three year deal through 2016. It wasn't like they were taking a shot in the dark because of his terrific 2012 season where he was top 10 overall at: Istrian Spring Trophy (10th), Volta ao Alentejo (10th), Tour de Bretagne (3rd), Tour de Gironde (2nd), Thüringen Rundfahrt (5th), Tour Alsace (8th), Tour de l'Avenir (8th) and to top it all off, the Tour de l'Ain, where he finished 4th overall. He is talented but he might turn into one of those Dutch riders that is perennially there (paging Mr. Gesink) but never seems to break through for a big stage race win.

-Miguel Madriaga has a talent with pulling teams out of his ass with shoestring budgets on short notice. Every year, his Euskaltel-Euskadi team was on the brink of folding and always on the edge and up until this next year, they were always there. His Euskadi continental team had the same issues but always seemed to show up and 2014 will be no different, even though the team seemed dead in the water. I wish there were more Madriaga-like figures in cycling. Haritz Orbe will be there again with the Euskadi team after a redemptive season following a bad 2012. Orbe did well in climbing races like the Ronde de l'Isard and the Vuelta a Madrid.

-While I'm trying my best to forget about Mustafa Sayar's "unbelievable" performance in the Tour of Turkey, the country is developing pretty well and this includes Ahmet Örken. Örken is a former European junior champion in the track omnium from 2011 (ahead of the likes of De Buyst, Doull and Boudat) and is one of the first Turkish riders to have gone up against western junior talent. The Turk, riding for Konya Torku, went off this year with a solo stage win in the Tour du Maroc and two stage wins in the Tour of Serbia. He then finished his season off with nine top 10 stage finishes in China at the Tours of China II, Taihu Lake and Nanjing.

-I remember reading about James Oram when he was coming up out of the junior ranks; doing 25 to 30 hours a week as an 18 year old and really laying down the power that brought him an overall win in the Tour de l'Abitibi and a 2nd place in the Junior World TT Championships in Copenhagen in 2011. The past two years with Bontrager, Oram has been a consummate teammate but has been able to get some good results in time trials and the occasional overall. This year, he really was on his game with lots of good work for riders like Craddock and Mannion but he also won the New Zealand U23 RR, went 17th in the USA Pro Challenge, 5th in the Chrono Champenois and closed out his season with a dominate win in the brutal Tour of Southland. Oram is staying with the Bontrager/Bissell setup for 2014 and you should expect big things from him.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

U23 ABCs: M

When a rider wins Junior Worlds, he is literally set for his cycling life if he chooses to go down that road. Just look at Arnaud Gerard...he won the junior RR in Zolder in 2002 and while he is a good rider, he is by no means great but he rode for FDJ for nearly a decade and is still on the pro continental level with Bretagne-Séché Environment. Winning U23 Worlds usually signals a big career ahead and will have the WorldTour teams diving at their feet for a contract. Now for a rider who wins both the junior and U23 worlds...well that rider was unprecedented until this year. Matej Mohoric distanced Julian Alaphilippe in the finale in the Florence Worlds RR and then held off Louis Meintjes (who will be getting no mention because of his pro status) in the final kilometers to take his 2nd World Championship in a row, after his solo, final kilometer win in the Junior World RR in Valkenburg. I was a bit down on Mohoric mid-season because of how anonymous he was but after a strong Qinghai Lakes, he just went on fire at l'Avenir with two strong 2nd place finishes at the end and was on good form heading into Worlds. Mohoric just read the road race like a damn book and with hills that suited him to a T, he attacked out of the bunch in hunt of a streaking Alaphilippe. Once he caught the Frenchman, he chewed him up and spit him out and while Meintjes tried to catch him, Mohoric was able to showboat in the finishing straight to a huge win. I do have a few quibbles with his meteoric rise in that a) does he have the base to compete on the World Tour level at just 19? and b) he tends to be a good rider in the spring and early summer but he just turns into a different rider in the late summer that kicks the shit out of nearly everyone...could frustrate a DS or two focused on spring classics. Mohoric had a more traditional upbringing compared to riders from decades past. The Sloven, the oldest of four children, grew up on a modest farm as the son of two professors, in chemistry and biology. Mohoric didn't glean his love of the bike from the TV but from riding his bike around their farm, joining a local club and going from there with nothing but support from his family. Mohoric also knows that a career on the bike might not be the be all, end all and has intentions of finishing an Engineering degree if his career takes a bad turn.

Another Slovene to watch is Mohoric's Sava teammate Tim Mikelj, who finished 2nd overall in the Okolo Slovenska along with a stage win and 2nd in the GP Industria e Commercio.

In Alex Morgan and Mitchell Mulhern, we have half of the Australian Team Pursuit squad that just won the gold medal in the Aguascalientes Track World Cup on Thursday. At one of the fastest velodromes in the world, these two, along with Glenn O'Shea and Alexander Edmondson blitzed the 4km test in a blistering 3'55" time, which is near the top 10 fastest team pursuit times ever. Morgan is a stud on the track, having won medals in Junior Australian, Oceania and World Championships in the pursuit and team pursuit. Stepping up to the elite ranks? No problem. Morgan was apart of the World Championship TP squad in Minsk that defeated the Brits. Morgan hasn't done a ton on the road but what he has done, it has been quality. Morgan was 4th in the 2012 Junior World TT Championship, just 13 seconds off winner Oskar Svendsen. As a U23, Morgan finished just one second off Damien Howson for the U23 National TT title. Mulhern also comes from a track background, having raced on the Australian National Team in multiple track World Cups but never getting a call-up *yet* for a ride in the World Championships. He is no slouch on the road either with an outstanding 3rd place in the Giro del Belvedere.

Robert-Jon McCarthy was born in Ireland but moved to Australia at 14 and last year, he won the Australian Junior RR Championship in a well-timed move ahead of Caleb Ewan. He spent this year on the Australian continent but he will be joining Irish-Belgie AnPost-Chain Reaction for next year.

The two Americans here are stalwarts Ty Magner and Gavin Mannion. Magner career trajectory has gone up and up since his junior days and he is on the cusp of breaking into the pro ranks from his Hincapie Development squad. Magner was a good junior with the Hincapie-Barkley team and placed well in Nationals and Tour de l'Abitibi along with pro criteriums. He got stagiaire roles with Mountain Khakis in 2010 and Team Type 1 in 2011, where he got experience in Italy, China and Rwanda. 2011 also saw him breakout stateside with big rides in NRC criteriums, where he was a regular feature in the top 10. 2012 saw him sign with Hincapie Development and he turned into a monster...9 wins including the USA U23 Criterium Title, a stage in the Tour of China and wins in NRC criteriums; not to mention a heap load of podium placings. This year, Magner was, what I thought at least, on a level to where he could join a pro team in 2014. In his first European race of the year, the ZLM Tour, he came over just a day or two before the race and then drove the decisive break to take 9th place. After Fléche du Sud, he went 9th overall at Paris-Arras Tour thanks to some helpful time bonuses. He came to Nationals with a huge chunk of racing under his belt and he just smashed it. The first day, the U23 road race, he made the decisive break but was dropped by the Bontrager duo of Putt and Brown and settled for 3rd. Less than 24 hours later, he was the first rider off in the U23 TT and his time held until nearly the end when only Nate Brown beat him by 29 seconds. To cap it off, he won the U23 criterium that weekend, his 2nd consecutive U23 criterium title. Magner deserves a pro ride but the tight market definitely made that much harder...

Gavin Mannion reinvented himself this year and I don't know what the hell he had to do to get a pro ride for 2014 instead of having to stick around with 5 Hour Energy, who has had many problems over the years including Francisco "Mr. Puerto" Mancebo and not paying riders on time, or if at all. Before this year, Mannion could be described as a sprinter and domestique. He had chalked up a few good results such as top 10 stage finishes at Coupe des Nations Saguenay & Giro della Valle d'Aosta, 6th at La Côte Picarde in 2011 along with strong rides at U23 Nationals. His Bontrager DS Axel Merckx thought he was a bit too pudgy and while he was a bit hesitant, the 5 kilograms he lost showed in the Tour of Colorado in 2012, where he finished 4th on the stage to Aspen. Mannion would finish 17th overall and 2nd best youth and the climbing seeds were sown. Mannion went 15th in the Liege-Bastogne-Liege U23, 6th overall at Tour of the Gila and a respectable 26th at the Tour of California. He was one of two U23s to make the finale in the USA Pro National Championship RR. After a 16th at the Tour of Utah (2nd youth behind Lachlan Morton), he was streets ahead for l'Avenir. Mannion broke away on stage 3 to steal a few seconds with Michael Valgren and then was super strong on the 1st mountain stage for 6th. The next day, he moved up to 4th overall but he would crash heavily on the 6th stage and drop to 8th overall, where he would finish the race. Mannion deserved a bigger contract than he got and while Frankie Andreau will be very valuable to him next year, I do not believe he needs to stay at this level again. Just one guy's opinion.

Magnusson back on the bike after crashing out of the European Championships
The Swedes seem to be attracted to Italia. Maybe it is the negroni or a case opposites attracting but Kim Magnusson is no different. The son of former pro Glenn Magnusson, a multiple Giro d'Italia stage winner, Kim is apart of the new wave of Swedish talents but unlike the others, he set up shop in Italy and went up against the tough Italian amateur scene. Riding a split schedule with the Swedish amateur team and the small Malmantile team, Magnusson did some strong rides the last few years including a 3rd in Lamporecchio, a close 2nd in the Memorial Pigoni Coli and a 4th place in the queen stage of the Peaches and Nectarines in Romagna, where he would finish 5th overall behind the likes of Davide Formolo, Davide Villella and Antonio Nibali. The Swede is a promising climber and should get a good schedule with Vini Fantini-Nippo-De Rosa, that should include both Italian and Asian races.

After soloing to a huge stage win at the Giro della Valle d'Aosta along with a 3rd overall in 2012, Andrea Manfredi had lots of hype put on him moving forward and when he stepped up with Ceramica Flaminia this year, he came out a bit flat. Manfredi only had one stand out ride, which was a 5th place on the queen stage of the Giro della Regione Friuli Venezia Guilia and a 5th overall in the same race. He rode a pretty good Volta a Portugal but the majority of the year, he was pack fill. Still, his talents landed him a two-year neo-pro deal with Bardiani. Fausto Masnada had a huge 2012 but it was all crickets in 2013. The Colpack rider was 6th overall in Valle d'Aosta last year but 2013 was chock full of DNFs except for a few good climbing performances including a 10th place in the Taiwan KOM Challenge. Davide Martinelli was a stagiaire with SKY in just his first U23 season and he proved his talents again in 2013 with Food Italia. The son of Giro d'Italia stage winner Giuseppe, Martinelli won the U23 National TT Championship and had a few good battles with Ukrainian Marlen Zmorka domestically in the TT (after one loss, he referred to Zmorka as an alien). On the road racing side, Martinelli combined some climbing with a strong finishing kick to get a long list of top 10 finishes, including in the Tour de l'Avenir.

Speaking of riders with influential fathers, Ignazio Moser finally knuckled down and showed some of the talent that got him notoriety as the son of Francesco. Known as a bit of a partier, Ignazio was confronted by his father and was questioned about how passionate he was about cycling and if this is what he truly wanted to do. Moser responded by signing with BMC Development this year and while he didn't blow the doors off the place, he made steps in improving his endurance and even won the Shimano Road Race at Suzuka ahead of Argos-Shimano's Jonas Ahlstrand. He has another year to get it right in the sprints before his U23 career is done. Gianluca Milani won three races this year with Zalf-Euromobil, the standout Italian team of the year, but I'm afraid he is a bit anonymous compared to others and he will be back with Zalf once again.

The Lotto-Belisol U23/Amateur squad is chock-full-of-talent and they bring us three riders in the M category. Xandro Meurisse probably has the most interesting first name in the peloton but he is no slouch on the bike either. Pretty much a classics man through and through, Meurisse also has a bit of a kick on him, which helped him win a stage in the Okolo Jiznich Cech. Meurisse is just a percentage or two off of really breaking through. He was 11th in the Liege-Bastogne-Liege U23 and 12th in the GP Criquielion and last year, he was 11th in the Paris-Roubaix Espoirs. With some age, he could improve like a fine win and breakthrough this year when he returns to Lotto for his final espoirs season. While Lotto are Belgian, they do offer a heterogenous roster that includes Brit Dan McLay and Kiwi Hayden McCormick. McLay has gone native and has been racing in Belgium since his junior days. A former Paris-Roubaix Juniors podium finisher, McLay has chalked up a few regional wins and mixes it up in the bunch kicks in places like the Dorpenomloop Rucphen, Triptyque Monts et Chateaux and the Paris-Arras Tour. McLay can pull of a decent TT as well as he went 4th in the UK National U23 TT but the big boy needs to work on his climbing. McCormick has more climbing chops and has done well in some stage races but needs a bit more time to mature. Winner of the Trophée Centre Morbihan and multiple World Junior Track Championship medalist, McCormick put in good rides at the Tour de Liege (4th overall), Tour de Azerbaijan (12th) and Boucle de l'Artois (18th).

Other Belgian M's to watch are Florent Mottet (ColorCode-Biowanze) and Daan Myngheer (EFC-OPQS). Mottet is a burgeoning sprinter who took home seven scalps in 2013 including a stage of the Triptyque Monts et Chateaux and the Zuidkempense Pijl. Mottet doesn't quite have the kick in some of the one-day races, especially 1.1 events, but next year with Wallonie-Bruxelles will be interesting to watch and see if he can improve at all. Myngheer is a former Belgian Junior National RR Championship and in his 2nd year with EFC-OPQS, he won the West Vlaanderen Provincial Championship and a stage in the Ronde van Oost Vlaanderen along with the overall. He took three more wins besides these big ones and he is on the cusp of some big things.

Mathias Møller is another prototypical Dane trackie who crossed over to the road. Møller was on the Junior European Championship Team Pursuit squad and was on the winning Danish elite TP squad at the Glasgow World Cup in 2012. Just a first year U23, Møller surprised at the Tour de Berlin by getting into a cheeky breakaway move that stuck to the line and getting 2nd. Møller then came out and blitzed the TT, placing 3rd behind winner and teammate Lasse Norman Hansen. He also took the opening prologue to the Tour de Slovaquie, showing some big power on the short 1.8 kilometer course. Frenchman Julien Morice is another track rider (2nd, U23 European TP) who shows up on the road occasionally with Vendée U, where he excels in time trials. Brit Tom Moses put in a sterling effort at Paris-Camembert for 9th place with Team Raleigh this spring and had another good result at the GP Lucien Van Impe, where he was 2nd behind a streaking Iljo Keisse but held off a charging peloton. Ryan Mullen is yet another Irish rider born outside the country but I'm sure they don't mind because of how big of a talent he is. Mullen was born in Birkenhead in England and still lives in Rhos on Sea in Northern Wales but in his junior days, he declared for Ireland to be able to ride with the national team. Mullen set Irish and British junior records in the 10-mile and 25-mile time trial and last year, he went to finish 2nd overall in the European junior championship and 9th in the World Championship in Valkenburg. He signed with IG-Sigma Sport for 2013 and was fed a steady diet of one-day races and time trials, along with races with the national team. While he admitted in an interview to preferring road races, Mullen excelled in time trialling this year with a win in the Irish U23 TT over beanpole Conor Dunne, a 7th place in the World U23 TT Championship and a win in the Chrono des Nations. While he made some good progress this year, it wasn't exactly a perfect first year as he did not get any stage racing in his first senior year. Mullen's teammate Wouter Sybrandy questions why many young riders are even trying to get into UK continental teams...
Fair question and after just one year, Mullen is making the jump over to Europe with AnPost-Chain Reaction for 2014 to get his head kicked in Belgium. Austrian Gregor Mühlberger is another first year U23 that is new to many but he put up some good results including top 20 overall placings in the Thüringen Rundfahrt and the Szlakiem Grodòw Piastowskich. Mühlberger is getting an early start to his 2014 by racing in Qatar currently at the Tour of Al Zubarah. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

U23 ABCs: L

When I was 17, I started to train on my bike seriously and I was putting in up to 15 hours a week through the winter and when February came around, I found the first race I could do and went to it. Pulling into the gravel lot catty-corner some bar in California, Kentucky, I began to look around at the other competitors. I barely knew anyone other than a few teammates but I distinctly remember a rider in an orange and white Mesa Cycles jersey straddling a Specialized chatting with a teammate before riding down the road to warm up. My race went pretty good that day but I continued to see the same rider throughout the early season and after I finally put two and two together, I realized that he was Adam Leibovitz. Later that same year, after coming back from a disastrous Worlds where he broke a shift cable on the TT start ramp, Leibovitz won the junior national TT title ahead of Ian Boswell, Andrew Barker and Nathan Brown. Then in 2009 with the junior national team, he won the Ster van Zuid-Limburg prologue ahead over Joe Perrett, Dylan van Baarle, Jacob Rathe, Moreno Hofland and others. He was a strong TT rider as a junior, which transferred over to the track where he won a bevy of collegiate titles and the US Elite Pursuit Championship in 2010. Leibovitz wasn't an instant success as a U23 as he spent most of his time racing in the collegiate ranks with Marian University and the amateur Texas Roadhouse. He did spend time with Chipotle in 2012 but after they shuttered, he was back with Texas Roadhouse but this year was different. Leibovitz started to ride like his junior days and began to win and place well. After winning the TTT and 2nd places in the criterium and road race at Collegiate Nationals, Leibovitz went apeshit and won three straight criteriums on Memorial Day weekend, including the vaunted Snake Alley, which is something that has never been done before. He continued to place in criteriums all over including NCC level events like the Glencoe GP and Tulsa Tough. 2014 will see him join Champion System p/b Stan's No Tubes, a team which will focus on criterium and one-day races.

Vive Le France...l'Hexagone brings a whopping seven riders to the plate including two former junior World RR champions. Said riders are 2010 winner Olivier Le Gac and 2011 winner Pierre-Henri Lecuisinier. Le Gac won the 2010 edition in Offida with a well timed late attack to hold off a charging Jay McCarthy and defending championship Jasper Stuyven, who led home a peloton three seconds in arrears. As a U23, Le Gac has come up with a smaller French Division 1 squad, Brest Iriose Cyclisme (BIC) 2000. In his first U23 season in 2012, Le Gac stayed around France mainly, taking three national level wins, but also doing well in GC at races such as Kreiz Breizh Elites (12th) and Coupe des Nations Saguenay (9th), not to mention a few national stage races. This year, he stepped up a level and went 6th at the European U23 RR Championship but his stagiaire with FDJ was ruined with a busted collarbone. While he wasn't able to ride l'Avenir, Le Gac came back late and went 3rd in the Paris-Tours Espoirs. While his U23 results might seem light, do not be fooled. Lecuisinier was a wunderkind junior and won his world title with a late breakaway with two others and took the slightly uphill sprint in Copenhagen for the win. As a U23, Lecuisinier joined Vendée U and in his first year in 2012, he took a shocking overall win at the mountainous Ronde de l'Isard, something that he has described as a one-off due to his focus on flatter races. This year, Lecuisinier won the Boucle de la Marne overall and honed his skills as a prologue rider and in classics style races.

These two are huge talents and in a surprise twist, they will be teammates next year. Le Gac will be joining FDJ this year starting in August while Lecuisinier shocked the French cycling world by defecting from a verbal agreement with Europcar to sign a neo-pro contract with FDJ. Lecuisinier had stagiaired with Europcar for the last two years (along with riding for their development team, Vendée U) and it seemed all but inevitable that he would be joining Bernaudeau's side until this transfer season. Bernaudeau called it a betrayal. FDJ got a huge score with these two talents to go along with Pinot, Geniez, Demare, Bouhanni and co.

While these two are talent, they are only a small part of the French L...egion. Chambery CF's Pierre-Roger Latour might be the next big French climber. While it seems like the French are popping out climbers nearly every year, Latour is legit and at just the tender age of 20, he has already proven himself pretty well in the pro ranks. He showed this talent early as a junior at the Rothaus Regio Tour in 2011. In the opening uphill time trial, Latour destroyed the field and beat 2nd place Silvio Herklotz by 44, Matej Mohoric by 48 seconds and 5th place Calvin Watson by a whopping 1'17". A truly stunning result. As a first year U23, Latour suffered from injuries, including a cyst that required surgery, that limited his season but still road well in hillier events. The electrical engineering student broke his collarbone early in January this year but despite this, he reloaded with Chambery CF and came out swinging in the mountains. At the Ronde de l'Isard, he finished 6th overall, 42 seconds behind Juan Chamorro, and won the youth classification. Notably, he had two teammates finish 2nd and 4th overall but more on them later. From here, he went the even more mountainous Tour des Pays de Savoie and finished 2nd on the opening stage and 8th overall. While he was a bit fatigued at Valle d'Aosta, he came back with a fury for the final part of the year as a stagiaire for Ag2r. A self-confessed attacker, Latour did well in the Tour du Poitou-Charentes, where he was tasked with early breakaways and working for leaders, and did a good time trial (22nd) for a climber and finished 28th overall. In what was his crowning ride of the year, he finished 5th in the Tour du Doubs, a damn hard race not many give a shit about. He also did well in other pro rides including a 13th in the Giro dell'Emilia. To cap off his U23 season, he finished 4th in the Piccolo Giro di Lombardia.

Latour had two teammates this year in the Le Lavandier twins, Maxime and Mathieu. The two twins from Bretagne have been bouncing from team to team together but for 2014, they will be separating. Both born in 1992, the Le Lavandier brothers rode for Sojasun-ACNC for two years before transferring to Chambery CF this year to ride along with the likes of Chevrier and Latour. The pair are both good climbers but they aren't on the same level as the two I just mentioned. The bright spot for them this year was the Ronde de l'Isard where Maxime finished 2nd and Mathieu 4th in one of the more well attended climbing stage races for U23s. For me, Mathieu is the more talented of the pair as he had other results such as a 14th in the Liege-Bastogne-Liege U23 and 5th overall in the Giro della Valli Cunessi. Mathieu will be moving to CC Etupes while Maxime will spend his finale U23 season with Chambery CF.

Christophe Laporte showed himself well as a burgeoning sprinter with results such as 6th in the La Côte Picarde, where he won the bunch sprint, and 2nd in the Mediterranean Games along with a few domestic wins in France for AVC Aix-en-Provence. He will be stepping up with Cofidis for 2014. Maxime Le Montagner decided to forgo the amateur side of things halfway into his U23 career and has ridden for Vérande Rideau-Super U and Roubaix-Lille Metropole, his current squad. While this route is a bit more difficult for some, Le Montagner pulled out a few big results including a 6th in the Ronde van Zeeland Seaports and a stage win in the Ronde de l'Oise. He has a lot of DNFs to his name but with age, he might be able to get some more endurance under him and get into more kicks. Pat Lane was a former AIS rider but after a so-so year in 2012, he transferred to Italy full-time with Food Italia this year but that stint was short-lived as he moved up to Synergy Baku, the team he will be staying with for 2014. This year was a decent year but nowhere near his talent barrier by any means. Lane is a handy climber that previously won stages in the Giro della Friuli and Thüringen Rundfahrt but needs to find his feet again. A few years ago, Scott Law was one of the biggest sprinting talent on the Australian scene and a move to AnPost-Sean Kelly was seen as the next link in the chain to a successful pro career. Cue the dramatic music...Law didn't get along with Europe and went back to the criterium and circuit race scene in Australia, where he continued to sprint well. Law will join Huon Salmon Genesys for 2014 and it'll be interesting to see if they can tame Law's vicious speed and keep him in a stable environment and grow his talents, if that is what he truly seeks. Bradley Linfield is on the AIS-track and after an impressive juniors career on the road, Linfield rode all over Europe with Howson, Ewan and co. and did fairly well, including on the rolling terrain. The former winner of the Regio Tour won the Australian U23 Criterium Championship in early 2013 and was 4th in the Herald Sun Tour, which was ahead of World Tour riders among others.

Australia brings four riders to the plate, some of whom are lost talents while others are more up and coming. Mitchell Lovelock-Fay faced the same problems as Jordan Kerby this year with Christina Watches with a lack of racing days and extended breaks between racing. Lovelock-Fay suffered from the lack of racing and didn't have much to speak of other than 11th overall in the Tour du Maroc. Lovelock-Fay is a former junior World Champion on the track in the team pursuit and last year, he really stepped up by winning the Tour of Thailand and placing 6th in the Tour of China II. While 2013 might have been a wash, he will be back with a strong program in 2014 in Huon Salmon Genesys.

Lucas Liß wins the award for the Best U23 cyclist with an Eszett in his name. Liß is a budding track rider who also has a turn of speed on the road. Lulu, his nickname per the Rad-Net Rose site, has his eyes set on the track omnium event in Rio after winning the 2012 European omnium title and placing 4th in the 2013 World Championship omnium. While not on the boards, Liß rides a bit on the road and he has a strong sprint but due to his track racing, he tends to lack the endurance to make it into the bunch kicks.

Another American to watch in Stephen Leece, who is joining Jamis-Hagens Berman for 2014. Leece split time between Cal Giant and the USA National Team this year and experienced a great deal of strong rides. A European campaign that only included one DNF, Leece races all over including the Tour de l'Avenir and the U23 Peace Race, where he rode to a 16th overall. Leece also won the USA Elite Amateur National RR Champion this year in Wisconsin, when he distanced super-climber Cameron Cogburn in the finale. Leece is a pretty good climber, especially on hills that aren't super steep and long, and could develop well around the likes of Daniel Jaramillo, Ben Jacques-Maynes and the rest of the crew.

Estonian Martin Laas was 3rd in the GP Jurmala and won a couple of French amateur events, both in sprints. Norwegian Oscar Landa was 2nd in the Trofej Umag. Dutchman Steven Lammertink is a former Junior Worlds RR medalist from Copenhagen in 2011 and this year with Jo Piels, he was 4th overall at Tour de Berlin and was 2nd at Omloop der Kempen behind Eugenio Alafaci. Next year, his brother Maurits will join the team again after riding with Vacansoleil. Jelly Belly's Luis Lemus Davila has won the last two Mexican Elite RR titles and is a handy climber. Rustom Lim has been racing across Southeast Asia and this year, he won the Philippines Elite RR Championship in a solo breakaway. Latvian Emils Liepins is a good sprinter and has had a handful of top five finished over the last couple of years including at the Jurmala GP and the Baltic Chain Tour.

While everything has been downhill since Gustavus Adolphus' death, the Swedes have found a bright spot in cycling within the last few years. With Tobias Ludvigsson, the Swedes finally have a talent to brag about to get over the embarrassment that is Thomas Löfkvist. With Fredrik Ludvigsson, they might have a talent that will bring back the glory days of Gösta Pettersson and Tommy Prim. As Tobias' younger brother, it is Frederik's responsibility to try and one up his brother in every possible goal and so far, so good. Freddy was a good junior but coming into the U23 ranks, sometimes riders have a few teething issues before they start getting some results. The teething took just a few weeks as Ludvigsson, just like his older bro a few years before, blitzed the Tour de Normandie prologue and went 4th. Thanks to some skills beyond his years along with strong riding in the hills, Ludvigsson finished 5th overall. Still just 18, he went from here to Boucle de l'Artois, where he won the time trial and comfortable held the jersey on the final day to take the overall. Ludvigsson continued to ride well in the first half of the season in one-day races (front group finish at Ronde van Vlaanderen U23) and stage races (2nd place in Tour of Estonia). He cooled off a bit over the summer but was still strong at Thüringen, Tour des Fjords and Arctic Tour of Norway. If this is just his first U23 year...well he has a huge target next year when he joins Argos-Shimano Development. Also for Sverige is Philip Lindau. Lindau was dealt with some shit luck this year including multiple cases of sickness and crashes but he has some talent. In 2011, Lindau pulled off a major upset and at only 19 years old, he won the Swedish National RR Championship. While this result was a bit of an anomaly, Lindau is talented but he needs some good luck next year with Team Joker.