Monday, March 31, 2014

Weekend Roundup: Marcezko trumps Ewan; Chevrier wins San Dimas

So while many were in Normandie and Alentejo this week, there was a lot of racing still happening that most people, unless they are a dork about this stuff like yours truly, didn't know about. We will get started with the big duel of the weekend that turned into a bit of an upset.

Jakub Mareczko beats Caleb Ewan

The title really says it all on this one. For those that have followed the site so far this season have heard already heard of Jakub Mareczko (Viris-Maserati), mainly for his shortcomings against the Italian V12 that is Nicolas Marini (Zalf-Euromobil). At the 31st Trofeo Antonietto Rancilio, Mareczko was set up for a duel with the Australian international wunderkind Caleb Ewan, who was coming with his Australian National Team. While Marini was disappointingly not present, Mareczko and Ewan were set up for a duel and on a more-or-less flat 8 kilometer circuit that was to be done 19 times, the sprint was looking inevitable from the start. While a couple of breakaway attempts tried to go, it was Viris-Maserati, Australian National, Colpack and General Store leading the peloton to keep everything set up for the sprint.

Heading into the finale, the Australians had set up Ewan perfectly and launched the Mini-Pocket Rocket on what looked to be a winning sprint. Ewan looked clear but with 30 meters left in the race, Mareczko popped up on his left and went past for the win. I don't want to sound like getting one 2nd place will be the downfall of Caleb Ewan but it is always a reminder that when fans and the media build up an athlete, such as Ewan, into such an infallible being that when they actually do lose, people lose their damn minds instead of remembering that Ewan is still just a 2nd year U23 and that, as crazy as it might sound, there are really fast sprinters out there. Just because he is being offered World Tour contracts doesn't mean he is going to win every "gimme" race. 

I'm sure before the race, Mareczko was planning to be all cool if he beat Ewan. What his salute came off like was "SHITSHITSHITIBEATEWANHOLYSHIT". (Photo:
Coming in a close 3rd place was Simone Consonni (Colpack), who is the reigning Italian Track Omnium Champ and has been in fine form this season including a 5th at Popolarrisima two weeks ago. 4th place was 1st year U23 Riccardo Minali (General Store), the son of famed sprinter Nicola Minali and heralded as the next coming of his father, who won stages in all three Grand Tours. The race itself was a very fast one, averaging nearly 45 km/h over 157 kilometers. Now hopefully Mareczko and Ewan will be able to get with Marini and some others for a big time sprint duel later this year.

Iuri Filosi dances away at the Piccolo Sanremo

In a race that is nowhere near Sanremo or the Mediterranean coast for that matter, the Piccolo Sanremo offered up as much excitement as a "small race" can. Located in Sovizzo, which is nearly 300 miles away from Sanremo in the province of Vicenza, the Piccolo Sanremo is dedicated to the big races legacy and follows a course than includes a finishing circuit that has a climb in it and is done 7 times. Every big team was represented by their A-team, in most cases, and fireworks were intimate.

After a flurry of action, a breakaway with Isaia Modena and Mirco Maestri (both General Store) took off early and provided a carrot for the peloton. When the two attackers were gobbled up, a large group rolled off the front of the peloton. This group included Iuri Filosi and Manuel Senni (Colpack), Giacomo Berlato and Alessandro Tonelli (Zalf-Euromobil) and Ilya Koshevoy (GS Podenza), among about 20 others. On the last ascent of the Vigo climb on the final circuit, Filosi was able to drag himself away from the group with Michele Gazzare chasing solo and Senni, Berlato and Koshevoy following in his wake. The masterful climber Filosi was able to time trial away and had time to sit up to celebrate his first, as well as the team's first, win of the season. Gazzara came in 2nd at 6 seconds down while Berlato lead the chasing trio across the line in 3rd, just salvaging the day for Zalf-Euromobil, with Senni in 4th and Koshevoy, whole is scheduled to join Lampre as a stagiaire later this year, in 5th. Filosi is on tap for a huge year on the climbing front so watch out. Also, it is so weird to think that Colpack hasn't won at all this year until now. For a few years, they were right up there with Zalf-Euromobil in the win column but without Villella and company, it is dry times.

Other Races

-Clement Chevrier won his 1st race with Bissell Development by taking the San Dimas Stage Race overall after a solid opening uphill TT and making the breakaway on the next stage, which put him in the leader's jersey. Bissell teammate James Oram won the opening uphill time trial by 1 second over Gregory Brenes (Jamis) and 10 seconds on junior William Barta (BYRDS). Oram's Bissell teammates Tao Geoghegan Hart was 5th and Chevrier was 8th in the TT. On stage 2, a breakaway of 9 went away on the 135 km RR and Chevrier was the best placed in the group. Anton Varabei won the stage with u23 Dan Eaton (Canyon Bicycles-Shimano) in 3rd place. Chevrier took the overall lead on the stage by 3 seconds on Coulton Hartrich. The final stage, a criterium, was won by former USA National Team rider Dan Holloway while Chevrier finished comfortably in the bunch to win the overall over Hartrich while Dan Eaton finished 3rd overall. Chevrier took a big gamble by coming to Bissell and as of now, it is paying off.

-Attention. Attention. Nicolas Marini did not win a race this weekend. The nation is crumbling at the seams. Well maybe not but still, it is notable that Nicolas Marini, who had a winning percentage of 87.5% so far this year, did not win a race that he started in. While Marini didn't win, the 105th edition of La Bolghera did not end in disappointment for Zalf-Euromobil. On an undulating course, 1st year U23 Simone Velasco, who has been heralded as one of the best of his generation, attacked solo on the final 10 circuits of the race and put in a huge effort, that allowed him to have a gap of nearly 1'00"
 by the time he crossed the line. A group of 20 came to the line after him with his Zalf-teammate Albanian Eugert Zhupa leading the charge. Zalf now has 8 victories in a very young season and will be looking to top 60 wins this year. This race signaled the return of the talented Federico Zurlo, who bork ehis collarbone in Trofeo Franco Balestra.

-Arnua Sole won the heralded Spanish one-day, the Subida al Gorla, which is a one-day hill climb that has been won by some of the biggest Spanish names in recent history including Joaquim Rodriguez and Alberto Contador. Marc Soler, a U23 that has been tearing it up on the national front, finished 4th and will be a new name to many when he joins the U23 national team for some races later this year.

-Arvid de Kleijn (Croford) won the U23 Meeus Race, which is a relatively big regional event in Belgian involving everyones favorite elements: wind and cobbles. The race more or less stayed together for a big sprint, which was won by de Kleijn ahead of Christophe Noppe (EFC-OPQS) and Christopher Lawless, a first year U23 with the GB National Team's 100% ME squad.


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Caldeira takes rainy Volta ao Alentejo finale; Barbero takes overal

Barbero embracing his Basque teammate after a big win
In a rain-soaked finale to a great week of racing, Sammy Caldeira (OFM) won the final stage of the 32nd Volta ao Alentejo ahead of Haavard Blikra (Oster Hus) in the UNESCO World Heritage city of Evora. Without winning a stage, Carlos Barbero (Euskadi) was able to secure the overall classification by 10 seconds over Eduard Prades (OFM) and 17 seconds over Karel Hnik (Etixx).

The race started out really fast with an average of 48 km/h in the first hour of racing and many riders chose to abandon because of the weather and close proximity of Evora. A break of four, that included Portuguese champ Joni Brandão (Efapel), Michael Isidro (Louletano), Alex Darville (USA National) & Carter Jones (Optum), was finally able to roll away after the 1st intermediate sprint and able to get a gap. They were soon joined by Markus Hoelgaard (Etixx), Frederik Galta (Oster Hus), Mateusz Komar (BDC-Marcpol) and finally, Carlos Oyarzun (Efapel), who was able to join the breakaway after the only KOM spot on the map. During this time, Barbero did have a flat tire but was able to get a quick change and get back into the peloton.

A long, shitty day out for Oyarzun
Oyarzun was not done with his aggression because as soon as he joined the breakaway, he attacked the breakaway and went solo off the front. It was a bold move by the Chilean, who previously rode for Movistar, but he plowed onwards on the twisty circuit. In just 25 kilometers from his 2nd attack, Oyarzun had a gap of 2 minutes over the breakaway, which was just minutes from being absorbed by the peloton. Oyarzun continued to ride on solo in fine time trial form but with 20 kilometers to go, he was swallowed up by the peloton. Up until 5 kilometers to go, the peloton was together heading into the sprint finish. The final kilometer included a roundabout and two turns. Once the peloton cleared those obstacles, they went up a slight uphill cobbled road where the finish line was location.

Caldeira leading it out on the ancient streets of Evora
Sammy Caldeira led the sprint out over the uphill portion that he and Blikra broke away from those following from behind and Caldeira was able to take it ahead of the Norwegian, who finished 2 seconds down, as well as Francisco Moreno (Louletano), who led the remnants of the peloton in at 5 seconds. A crash had swept through the peloton in the finale but there were able to get the same time as the winner. Carlos Barbero came across the line 5th, just behind Moreno and American Alex Candelario (Optum), and was able to secure the overall win, which is his 1st win since taking a stage in the Ronde de l'Isard last year. Tanner Putt came in safely with the peloton to secure his 10th place overall as well as the youth jersey, which he won by 10 seconds over Jaime Roson (Ecuador).

Photos: Volta ao Alentejo

Stefan Küng and BMC Devo pull coup; takes Tour de Normandie overall

Today, the Swiss broke their neutrality and launched an attack on Omaha Beach, which saw them take Normandie and give them good position for the coming assault on the Low Countries. Okay, maybe they actually launch an assault on the beach and perhaps they are not occupying northern France. But, BMC Development launched an assault today on the final stage of the Tour de Normandie that shredded the peloton and took leader Lukasz Wisniowski out of contention for the overall win.

The final stage of the Tour de Normandie started in Torigni-sue-Vire and headed north towards Omaha Beach, where the race would ride the entire length of the beach (roughly 40 kilometers) and then cut inland again towards the annual finish in Caen. This stage is usually just a sprint finish that has no impact on GC but BMC Development had other plans on Sunday. Stefan Küng and Tom Bohli went with a breakaway that took off early in the stage and with company such as Frederik Ludvigsson, Benoit Jarrier, Alex Kirsch, Reidar Borgersen and 12 others, the breakaway got a big gap and when it came time to reel it back it, the gap was not coming down quickly.

Entering the final stages of the race in Caen, the 2nd largest community in Normandie, the gap was still at a healthy 1'30". Etixx was feeling the pressure in the peloton and even Lukasz Wisniowski, the leader of the race, was taking massive pulls on the front to try and bring the gap down. With one lap to go, it was 1'05" and Küng and company were still relatively fresh. Coming into the final sprint, it was Benoit Jarrier who took the stage honors ahead of Olivier Pardini (Verandas Willems) and Cedric Delaplace (Sojasun Espoirs) with Küng riding across the line hoping that they had done enough. It wasn't until 51 seconds later that Dan McLay beat out Marco Benfatto for 19th place that Küng was able to properly celebrate, making it the 2nd BMC Development winner in Normandie in as many years. Lukasz Wisniowski, was was crestfallen about losing the yellow jersey on the final day, finished the race in 15th overall.

Stefan Küng put in two impressive bookend rides that really sealed him Tour de Normandie overall. He won the opening prologue and after a week of solid riding including taking some time bonuses here and there, he rode impressively on the final day to take the overall ahead of Jarrier and Borgersen. His BMC Development teammate Tom Bohli capped off a great week with a 5th overall and 2nd in the youth category (behind Küng) and CC Nogent sur Oise's Kevin Ledanois was my biggest surprise of the week by finishing 6th overall (courtesy of getting into the breakaway on the final day) and taking 3rd in the youth category. U23 Dan McLay won the points classification by 5 points over Marco Benfatto and Stef Van Zummeren capped a successful week by winning the KOM classification.

BMC Development won the teams classification over Bretagne-Seche Environment and it is just a testament to how well Rik Verbrugghe manages his squad. With Silvan Dillier winning last year and Küng's win this year, they definitely have their shit together.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Hnik breaks Iberian stranglehold; takes uphill finish into Santiago do Cacém

Former cyclocross rider Hnik breaks through in Alentejo (Photo: Volta ao Alentejo)

Carlos Barbero was surging towards the line for his first victory in nearly a year and was already thinking about the dedication he was going to give on the podium where he would thank his Euskadi team for their flawless work in delivering him to the line. This was all going to plan until Karel Hnik (Etixx) came up along side him and passed him in the last 50 meters to take his first win in Etixx colors since joining the team last year.

The day started off with a bad note as Optum's Ryan Anderson, who was 3rd on GC, was forced to pull out of the race after crashing hard in the finale of stage 3, which also took out his teammate Eric Young. With the American team being down their leader, Tom Soladay hopped into the day's main breakaway including Robin Carpenter (USA National), Haarvard Blikra (Oster Hus-Ridley), Antonio Carvahlo (LA Alumninios) and Portuguese RR Champion Joni Brandão, among others. The break soldiered on through the flat opening half of the race but with 40 kilometers left to go, Blikra and Brandão attacked the breakaway and kept going on their own for another 25 kilometers before the gave up after going over the KOM spot. The reduced peloton, which was shredded by the pace and undulating circuit in the finale, began to crank up the pace before the final climb to the finish.

The uphill finish was good in the it was steep enough to make the legs cry but not steep enough to blow everyone up and allowed for an exciting sprint finish. Barbero looked good to have it but Hnik came around him in the last 50 meters to get it for Etixx while Eduard Prades slotted into 3rd place. On the U23 front, Sven Erik Bystrøm finished 7th and Ryan Eastman (USA National) finished 8th, similar to their 3rd and 4th places from the day prior. Tanner Putt (USA National) finished safely in the peloton to keep his lead in the youth classification for another day.

The races finishes up tomorrow with a stage to the historic town of Evora, which the race has not visited since 2010. Barring any catastrophes, Carlos Barbero has the GC locked up but his Euskadi team will just need to make sure it stays together for a sprint. Byron Guama will probably want his Ecuador team covering early moves so he can protect his tight KOM lead while Tanner Putt can just keep doing what he has done to keep the youth classification.

Benfatto dodges carnage; takes Tour de Normandie sprint into Carentan

For the majority of the finale at the Tour de Normandie, it looked like there would be a coup on GC and that Lukasz Wisniowski would be unseated from the lead by Reidar Borgersen (Team Joker) but after the peloton hit the hyperdrive, the breakaway was caught in the final kilometer and even more chaos ensued. After a crash went through the peloton, that even delayed leader Wisniowski, it was Astana Continental's Marco Benfatto who was able to emerge victorious ahead of Kristoffer Skjerping (Joker) and Romain Cardis (Vendée U) in the mad dash to the line. Wisniowski, Sondre Holst Enger and Owain Doull were just some of the victims from the crash that swept through the peloton and none were able to participate in the sprint.

The stage, which included a ride along Utah Beach to commemorate D-Day, included multiple breakaways that attempted to wrestle the GC lead away from Wisniowski including a five-man breakaway containing Clement Kortezky (7th, Bretagne-Seche Environment). That breakaway, which was away for the majority of the day, was shut down and then a two man move including Borgersen (9th place) and Fridtjof Roinas (Sparebanken Sør) took off in the last 20 kilometers and got a maximum of nearly 40 seconds, which was more than enough to put Borgersen into yellow. As the kilometers began to click down, the gap plunged to under 20 seconds with 5 kilometers left. Still wanting the stage win, the two put their heads down and soldiered on but heading into the last kilometer, it was all for naught as the peloton went rushing by them. In the finale, there were two separate crashes that ended up causing a hell of a lot of chaos, which led to shuffling and re-shuffling as the sprint unfolded. Dan McLay hit the front too soon for Lotto-Belisol and was toasted by the time others launched their sprint. Benfatto swept past for his 1st win in 2 years with the Astana Continental, finally capitalizing on an big number of podium places. Following Skjerping and Cardis, it was last year's Belgian Top Competitie winner Nicolas Vereecken (Verandas Willems) in 4th and ex-Belgian U23 RR Champion Jorne Carolus (Lotto-Belisol) in 5th.

Tomorrow is the thrilling conclusion to the 34th Tour de Normandie that will include a 40 kilometer ride along Omaha Beach in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of D-Day as well as a likely sprint finish around the Hippodrome in Caen.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Volta ao Alentejo: Cardoso takes sprint into Mertola

Manuel Cardoso does the funky chicken after his win in Mértola (Photo: Volta ao Alentejo)
In what is never the best idea, the Volta ao Alentejo finished with a downhill sprint into Mertola. The finish, that included a couple of turns, did prove bad for a few riders high on GC including Carlos Barbero (Euskadi) and Ryan Anderson (Optum), who were both involved in crashes in the last three kilometers. Anderson is pretty banged up (but his helmet was not broken for what it's worth) and is a race-time decision tomorrow, according to DS Jonas Carney. Former Little 500 champion Eric Young (Optum) was also involved in the same crash as Anderson but was not as lucky as his teammate as he suffered a concussion and well as a few stiches from crashing on gravel. While crashes are a part of bike racing, this should just provide a reminder to race organizers that a technical downhill sprint is never the best of ideas unless the riders are on knobby tires.

The race started off fierce with no breakaways being able to get away for the first 60 kilometers until a breakaway of 5 including Victor de la Parte (Efapel-Glassdrive), Antonio Cabello (Ecuador) and Mateusz Komar (BDC Marcpol). The breakaway went along its merry way of taking the intermediate sprints and mountain points while the peloton slumbered until the real race began. When the peloton began to bear down on the breakaway in the last 60 kilometers, Antonio Cabello attacked but he only lasted until 33 kilometers left, when the peloton vacuumed him up.

Coming into the final kilometers, the race got to its sketchiest point when a rider slid out and took out 10 riders including Barbero, Young and Anderson. Everyone in the main peloton received the same time but the sprint continued to go on. Heading into the final straight from the descent onto a slight uphill, it was ex-World Tour rider Manuel Cardoso (Banco-BIC) who darted out from behind Vincento Rubio (Loulentano), who had lead out the sprint, and took the sprint ahead of Filipe Cardoso (Efapel) and U23s Sven Erik Bystrom (Oster Hus-Ridley) and Ryan Eastman (USA National). Oscar Landa (7th) and Tanner Putt (10th) rounded out a strong stage for the U23 riders.

Barbero was able to hold on to his overall lead due to everyone receiving the same time within the last kilometer. He still holds a 6 second lead on Eduard Prades (OFM) and 9 seconds on Ryan Anderson (Optum) while multiple other riders are in contention. Putt held onto the youth jersey and still has a 11 second lead on Jaime Roson while Barbero kept a 1 point lead on Prades for the points compeition. Byron Guama, who won the only KOM on the day, solidified him KOM lead and now has a 5 point advantage on Barbero.

Tomorrow is yet another uphill finish in Alentejo, this time with an uphill kick into Santiago do Cacém.

P.S. I need to thank my lovely girlfriend Kirsten, who has been extremely patient with me the past week as I have been churning out articles for both Alentejo and Normandie as well as a few other things. Cycling might be a big part of my life but she is my rock so I thank her deeply.

Lukasz Wisniowski continues torrid spring, takes Tour de Normandie queen stage

In his 1st season out of the U23 ranks, Lukasz Wisniowski has been riding with a chip on his shoulder about not getting a professional contract and has been riding like a man possessed. The winner of the Kattekoers, Wisniowski has been riding quietly during the Tour de Normandie but on the 4th stage to Villers-Bocage, he came out of his shell and rode in a breakaway with 3 others and won the sprint to take both the stage as well as the yellow jersey with just 2 stages left.

The stage left Domfront to some special Norman weather including cold, wind and rain and immediately, a break containing Benoit Jarrier (Bretagne-Seche Environment), Guillaume Thevenot (Vendee U) and Paul Oselin (Sojasun Espoirs) went away. The French have been shut out so far in the Tour de Normandie so they were looking to get some glory for Le Hexagon. They got a maximum advantage of 4 minutes but with 4 circuits to be done in and around Villers-Bocage, the gap soon came down. When the group was brought back with over 60 kilometers to go, multiple escape attempts happened but were shut down.

After a big crash involving around 30 riders happened during one of the crossing of the start finish line in Villers-Bocage, Niels Vandyck (AnPost-Chain Reaction) and Johan Coenen (Differdange) took off the front and Rapha-Condor and race leader Tom Moses were put into difficulty. With his team more or less exhausted, Moses was isolated when a group of 4 dropped the hammer with 5 kilometers to go and chaos ensued. Wisniowski, Bert-Jan Lindeman (Rabobank Development), Dylan Teuns (BMC Development) and Erwann Corbel (Bretagne Seche Environment) went off the front and immediately got a big gap. In just 5 kilometers, they were able to extract 22 seconds from the reduced peloton and in the sprint to the line, Wisniowski was able to easily beat out Erwann Corbel and Teuns for the stage win.

Wisniowski was able to leapfrog the GC thanks to time bonuses and take the leader's jersey from Moses. Wisniowski leads breakaway mate Lindeman by 2 seconds while Corbel and Moses lie 10 seconds in arrears. BMC Development's Stefan Kung is in 5th place at 13 seconds and his team was able to hold onto the lead in the team classification.

The race continues tomorrow with an up and down stage to Carentan that will include a ride along Utah Beach in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Dan McLay avoids chaos, continues British assault on Normandie

Yeti and Clifford sending off AnPost-Chain Reaction (Photo: AnPost_CRC)
Typical Norman weather continued for the 3rd stage of the Tour de Normandie on Thursday with a lot of rain, wind and clouds to go around for everyone. The stage was lumpy in the first half after leaving Elbeuf but once the race hit the circuits in Argentan, the race was flapjack flat. The breakaway was established as soon as the gun was sounded and KOM leader Stef Van Zummeren (3M), Edouard Louyest and Julien Guay (Sojasun Espoirs) took off. Van Zummeren was on a mission to consolidate him KOM lead and took out all three climbs on offer to put 16 points between himself and Laurent Van den Bak (AnPost-Chain Reaction).

The breakaway was not going to be getting very far with the conditions and after Louyest tried a flyer, he was brought back when the race entered Argentan, which signalled 30 kilometers to go and the real start to the race. BMC Development's Stefan Küng launched at one of the intermediate sprints and took the 3 second bonus, which put him just 3 seconds behind Rapha-Condor's Tom Moses on the overall. Leopard-Trek's Alex Kirsch thought he had the sprint win when he raised his hands for a victory salute but he embarrassingly did it one lap too soon and there were still 10 kilometers to go.

Coming into the final kilometer, a crash created some separation in the peloton and shuffled some guys back including yesterday's stage winner Dylan Groenewegen. Brit Dan McLay (Lotto-Belisol U23), who was 3rd yesteday and 5th on Tuesday, was able to navigate through the fray, even with a huge black eyes he got from a crash on stage 1, and outsprinted Marco Benfatto (Astana Continental) and Daniel Hoelgaard (Etixx) for the victory.

McLay gets it by a bike length (Photo: Tour de Normandie)
Rapha-Condor's Tom Moses was able to keep his overall lead by 3 seconds over Stefan Küng along with the white youth jersey while BMC Development kept the teams classification and McLay consolidated the points jersey.

Saturday's stage to Villers-Bocage will be one of the most decisive stages of the race with a very up and down course that will surely break up the peloton and will be one of the best chances for an attacker to shuffle the GC.

So close yet so far: Prades wins on Montemor-o-Novo; Daniel falls just short

Prades takes the win on the slopes of Montemor-o-Novo (Photo:
If you were to look at the results from today's stage at the Volta ao Alentejo, you'd be quite mistaken to think it was as straightforward as it seemed.

Featuring another uphill finish, this one shorter and steeper than the day prior, a breakaway ruled the majority of the day. Nothing was able to get away in the first 30 kilometers due to two intermediate sprints won by Delio Fernandez (OFM) and Ryan Anderson (Optum), which gave the pair valuable bonus seconds . Finally, a group of 5 took off early in the 2nd hour including Greg Daniel (USA National), Jon Larrinaga (Euskadi), Stian Remme (, Alvaro Cuadros (Etixx) and Jaroslaw Kowalczyk (BCD Marcpol). The group was able to take advantage of the mainly flat parcours and was able to get a maximum advantage of nearly 4 minutes with Greg Daniel being the leader on the road.

Team Ecuador, the team of stage 1 winner Byron Guama, began the chasing effort and were joined by OFM and in a period of 50 kilometers, the gap went to just 1 minute in length. With the gap holding steady at 1 minute, Larrinaga left the breakaway group after a fall and with 10 kilometers to go, Daniel attacked his breakaway mates and went on a jailbreak; putting everything on the road to try and get the stage win. With 3 kilometers to go, he had around 20 seconds but the road really began to kick up in the final couple of kilometers and the pack was bearing down on him. With less than half a kilometer to go, Daniel was smoked and passed up by the peloton and he would eventually come in 1:54 down. His USA National (and Bissell) teammate Ryan Eastman launched an attack that looked promising but when the road kicked up, he was caught by the front group with 100 meters to go.

Eduard Prades (OFM) launched and was able to distance himself over the brick-paved road with Carlos Barbero (Euskadi) and Ryan Anderson (Optum) in his wake. Spaniard Prades, who fought toe-to-toe with Contador and Kwiatkowski at the Volta ao Algarve, confirmed his good form on the steep finish. On the U23 front, Sven Erik Bystrøm finished at 6 seconds and Ryan Eastman & Tanner Putt were able to come in a 9 seconds, which allowed Putt to move up the GC and grab the youth classification jersey.

Barbero slipped into the yellow leader's jersey thanks to time bonuses with Prades at 6 seconds and Ryan Anderson at 9 seconds. Previous leader Byron Guama slipped to 7th overall at 23 seconds and Karel Hnik (Etixx) is still in the hunt at 19 seconds. The race continues tomorrow with a long but flatter stage to Mértola. While the stage is flat, an aggressive breakaway could definitely shake things up so everyone will need to be on their toes.

Is anyone else going to beat him? Marini wins his 5th race in a row at GP Possenta

Marini does it again (Photo:

Is anyone going to be able to stop Nicolas Marini this year? I ask because his winning streak is starting to become comical. Marini was able to gain his 5th straight victory at Tuesday's GP Possenta in Ceresara in Southern Lombardia; continuing his staggering run that seemingly has no end in sight.

Tuesday was the 63rd edition of the Gran Premio Possenta, which features a 4.1 kilometer circuit that is done 25 times and is meant to be a showcase for sprinters as past winners include Niccoló Bonifazio, Giacomo Nizzolo and Jacopo Guarnieri. The start list was huge and included 200 riders from 26 teams but after just 3 laps, the race had been more or less decided. Zalf-Euromobil, who has been nothing short of perfect this year, put 9 riders into an attack of 20 riders including Nicolas Marini as well as his arch rival Jakub Mareczko of Viris-Maserati. The advantage swelled to a gap of nearly 2 minutes and while Andrei Voicu's Pala Fenice team was desperately chasing, the move was gone.

With Zalf having huge numbers in the breakaway, they were able to play some chess on bikes. They started to put in some digs to get some separation between Marini and Mareczko and they were able to do just that when 2 of their riders sat up during a particularly windy stretch and left Mareczko out in the wind to fend for himself, where he would ultimately be dropped. Heading into the finish, Marini was lead out flawlessly by Daniele Cavesin and he hit the turbos when he was dropped off, winning comfortably by at least four bike lengths over Michael Bresciana of General Store.

How far could Marini go this year? That remains to be seen. I wouldn't be surprised if he goes over 20 wins this year seeing as he won 9 races last year and he wasn't even the best sprinter on his team. Remember in the first race of the year, the Coppa San Geo, Marini won the field sprint just behind a breakaway of two and he was visibly upset; banging his handlebars and his wheel onto the road in frustration at his 3rd place. Since then, he has won 5 straight races. His Zalf-Euromobil team has been so well oiled over the last few races that Marini really just needs to show up for the last 300 meters. The rider from Lago de Iseo was raved about as a younger rider. He won 13 races at 15. 14 races at 16. 19 races as a junior racer including UCI wins and a top 10 at the Junior Worlds RR in Copenhagen. There is nobody in Italy in the amateur ranks that has as much speed as Marini but speed is only one component of a complete professional rider. If he keeps it up like this though, he will be in the World Tour come next year.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Groenewegen takes Elbeuf sprint in Tour de Normandie

The U23s have been dominating through the 2nd stage of the Tour de Normandie and De Rijke's Dylan Groenewegen extended the winning streak with a strong sprint victory on the banks of the Seine in Elbeuf. Groenewegen put on the afterburners and only Mamyr Stash of Itera-Katusha was the only rider able to stay relatively close to the powerful Dutchman while Brith Dan McLay (Lotto-Belisol U23) was the best of the rest in 3rd place, about 5 bike lengths back.

The day, which was cold and windy compared to yesterday's rain, started off with a breakaway of 3 including Clement Koretzky (Bretagne-Seche Environment), Laurent Van Den Bak (An Post-Chain Reaction) and Janis Dakteris (Differdange). Van den Bak took the KOM points on offer on all three climbs but was unable to unseat KOM leader Stef Van Zummeren, who was able to get a single point to keep a one point lead on Van den Bak. The trio was doing its best to stay away but with a flat finish, the sprinters were chomping at the bit to get a chance for some glory. Clement Koretzky attacked his break mates with 25 kilometers to go but when he went under the 10 kilometer to go banner, he was swept up by the peloton.

In the sprint, Groenewegen was clearly the fastest rider on the slightly downhill run to the line with Stash being the only one that was able to follow but was not able to come around and challenge. Groenewegen appears to be in fine form for the spring classics and is looking to improve upon his 2nd place in the Ronde van Vlaanderen U23 from last year.

Tom Moses was able to secure his yellow jersey for another day while BMC controlled the teams classification. The race continues tomorrow with a relatively flat stage to Argentan that will most likely end up in a sprint but with the cold and wind, you never know what can happen.

P.S. It is pretty shitty when your website gets a 502 error, especially when your a race website and the race is going on.

Guama Takes Volta ao Alentejo opener

Guama stretches out after taking the win (Photo:
Ecuadorian Byron Guama popped the first cork of the Volta ao Alentejo by sprinting away on the steady uphill finish in Marvao ahead of a select group of climbers such as Cesar Fonte and Delio Fernandez and uphill sprinters like Carlos Barbero. Portuguese and Spanish riders dominated the top 20 with only Karel Hnik (Etixx) and Ryan Anderson (Optum) being the only non-Spanish/Portuguese speakers in the top 20, both finishing at 7 seconds back.

The day was marked by a three man breakaway including 3-time Little 500 Champion Eric Young (Optum), August Jensen (Oster Hus) and Jose Ragonessi (Ecuador). The trio, which formed after 25 kilometers, got a maximum gap of 5 minutes before the peloton felt like chasing. Young, who is a former American Pro Criterium Champion, won the two intermediate sprints on offer before dropping back from the breakaway with 50 kilometers to go. With 24 kilometers to go, Jensen and Ragonessi were swept up by the peloton, who were preparing for the finale that included two climbs, one of which included the uphill finish.

On the first climb, Raul Alarcon from Louletano lead Efapel teammates Carlos Oyarzun and Joni Brandao over the top for the KOM points but the group more or less stayed together to the bottom of the finishing climb. Going into the final uphill, a small group of 5 separated themselves and as the climb leveled out in the final 200 meters, Guama lept away from the others and was able to take the victory with a 1 second cushion on a group of 4. In the U23 classification, Guama's Team Ecuador teammate Jaime Roson came in 6 seconds down and took the white youth jersey. Roson leads four riders by 5 seconds including USA National's Tanner Putt, Etixx's Markus Hoelgaard, Anicolor's Joaquim Silva and Nuno Matos.

For those that don't know much about Guama, he has been a stalwart in South America for the last half-decade and has won the overall classification of the Vuelta a Ecuador twice and has 5 stage wins in the Vuelta a Colombia. His team, Team Ecuador, is the South American arm of Team Movistar and they act as a pseudo-Ecuadorian National Team but half of their roster does include Spanish riders, including former Tour de l'Avenir winner Jordi Simon.

The race continues in Alentejo tomorrow with a flat stage that is capped off by a short but steep climb to the castle in Montemor-o-Novo.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tom Moses sneaks away to victory at Tour de Normandie

A fine victory for Tom Moses in true Norman weather (Photo: Tour de Normandie)

The 1st stage of the Tour de Normandie played out similarly for the majority of the stage with wind and tight roads wreaking havoc on the peloton but while last year's race finished in a reduced field sprint, this year the British decided to invade Normandie once again.

A group of three, including Kevin Lalouette, Stef Van Zummeren and Mark Christian, set out as the early breakaway and their gap jumped to over 5 minutes at one point before the peloton finally kicked it in gear and their gap dwindled. As the race entered Forges-les-Eaux, the breakaway was neutralized and the real fun began. In the rain, attacks and counter-attacks were launched and brought back in the final 28 kilometer circuit before Tom Moses (Rapha-Condor) attacked solo and, taking advantage of a lull in the action, got a good gap that quickly increased. While the peloton finally decided to pin it, Moses had already gotten a sufficient gap and while the peloton was at 300 meters to go, Moses was in full celebration as he crossed the rain-soaked line.

17 seconds later, Maarten van Trijp took out the field sprint ahead of Sondre Holst Enger to make it an all U-23 podium. Prologue winner Stefan Kung finished safely in the front group in 12th place and the vast majority of GC contenders emerged from the stage unscathed. Moses took over the leader's jersey by 6 seconds over Stefan Kung and looks like he could make a solid run at GC. He also took over the points classification and the U23 Youth classification while breakaway member Stef Van Zummeren took the KOM classification for his 3M team.

The race continues tomorrow with another lumpy stage to Elbuef-sur-Seine that includes a few hills but will have a flat finish so an attack does have a chance to stick but they will need some luck.

Preview: Volta ao Alentejo

Did you think that Normandie was the only stage racing action you would be getting this week? I've said it before and I will say it again. Portuguese racing tends to confuse the shit out of me and I will admit that it is one of my weaker coverage areas simply because of my absolute lack of Portuguese language skills and lack of coverage in general, especially with amateur racing. Portugal has a pretty good continental system with 6 teams having UCI status but they tend to stick close to home so you will more than likely never see them outside of the Iberian Peninsula. This leads to a lot of insular competition and come the offseason, you will see something similar to French teams in that 5 guys will go from one team to the next as if it were some version of cycling hot potato.

The 32nd Volta ao Alentejo is one of the biggest sporting events in the breadbasket of Portugal. The region of Alentejo is located in south central Portugal and stretches from the Tagus river southward to Algarve. Alentejo is known as the breadbasket because of their huge agricultural presence as well as being the world center for cork production. Every summer, men use special hand-axes to strip the cork oaks of their bark is a precise way that won't damage the tree and will allow it to regenerate itself. The bark from one mature cork oak will be enough to produce 4,000 wine corks. I find it fascinating simply because it is a process that has been used for hundreds of years and could be used for hundreds more because there has been no mechanical process discovered that produced the bark as efficiently as manual labor does.

But we do have a race to discuss so I should get back to the topic at hand. The 1st stage of the race is identical to last year's opener with a nice uphill finish in Marvão; not too steep as to blow the race up but still a long enough drag to make it interesting. Last year, Daniel Silva attacked on the lower slopes of the climb and his aggression paid off as he held on by 2 seconds over Karel Hnik and Eduard Prades. All three will be back again this year so I would not be surprised if all of them were somewhere near the front.

Stage 2 can be surmised as a 190 kilometer lead-out into a 2 kilometer uphill sprint that finishes at the ancient castle in Montemor-o-Novo. The castle, which was started in 1203 and completed 162 years later, was apart of the Christian conquest of Iberia that drove out the Moors once and for all. The race features a few up and downs through the day but there is no significant challenge until the finale. It could be a prime day for a long breakaway and anyone interested in getting some intermediate sprint points. With the uphill finish, many GC teams will be eager to keep any dangerous moves in check but with small 6 man teams, it can turn into chaos fast.

Stage 3 could turn out to be the race's only true bunch sprint, just like it was last year. Leaving Redondo, the races heads due south for the majority of the day with only one small climb before hitting a finishing circuit at the town of Mértola. Mértola isn't a metropolis by any means but it does have multiple buildings dating back to the Moorish occupation that make it an important cultural site. The finishing loop is 50 kilometers that takes the riders in the viscinity of Mértola before taking a semi-technical entry back into town that opens into a long straightaway sprint.

 Time for some griping with the Volta ao Alentejo organizers. Look at this stage profile...

Why in the hell would you make the scale go up to 1600 meters? Seriously, you don't need to make molehills into mountains but this squishes down everything into a little bump that you could do a jump your bike off.

Well the above profile is from the 4th stage of the Alentejo Rundfahrt, which includes two different loops including a flat one around Odemira and an up and down one around Santiago do Cacém. The last 30 kilometers of this stage are definitely interesting. An attack could certainly go off the front but they would need a substantial gap because it would be vollgas up the final climb, which climbs around 100 meters in the last 2 kilometers. If it finishes anything like last year's final stage, the finish will be a hard sprint with many guys trickling in behind...slowly.

The race finishes with a historic tour of Alentejo. Launching from the town of Alcåcer do Sal, which has evidence of Paleolithic settlements, the race takes a jaunt across the province to the west before heading into the city of Evora, a UNESCO World Heritage site that dates back to Roman times and was one of the most important cities in Iberia at that time. Filled with stunning examples of Roman and Gothic architecture, the finish in Evora will feature 5 turns in the final two kilometers before finishing in front of Giraldo Square, which was the site of countless executions during the Spanish Inquisition. And just like that, it is over before it even starts.

The course really benefits those that are aggressive and willing to lay it all on the line for the race lead. The Portuguese do have a home field advantage but with Etixx, USA National and Euskadi will make it very hard for the home nation to win their first overall in Alentejo since Sergio Ribeiro in 2006.

The Volta ao Alentejo actually has a pretty easy to navigate website with nearly everything that you could think of in terms of a quality race website...except for any type of start list, even though the race is just 1 day away. Oh well.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Ride of the Week: Gaffurini wins GP San Giuseppe; tributes recently passed girlfriend

I know this blog is usually dedicated to U23 racing but I have always covered amateur racing here as well so senior racers are not strangers around this place. I say this because my Ride of the Week for the past week will be going to a senior rider simply because of the story behind his win.

Nicola Gaffurini wins GP San Giuseppe

According to, in the weeks before the race, Vega-Hot Sand's Nicola Gaffurini received tragic news when he was called and told that his girlfriend of 4 years, Claudia, had passed away suddenly. Gaffurini was panged with grief and one of the only ways he could find solace was through the bike. He lined up for the race in Montecassiano with a picture of Claudia in his back pocket and fire in his belly.

The race, which features a few climbs including one that leads up to the false flat finish, started off with a large breakaway that whittled down as the circuit began to take its toll. Gaffurini was active throughout the day, launching multiple attacks including the winning one after Marco Chianese had sprinted for the finish line, not knowing their was one lap left. Gaffurini was joined by Matteo Marcolin, Giacomo Berlato, Marcin Mrozek and Michele Gazzara and the quintet broke away with one lap remaining.

After cresting the finishing climb and turning onto the false flat finishing straight, Gaffurini led it out from the front and while Marcolin and Berlato tried to catch up with him, they were unable to and Gaffurini let out a primal scream as he crossed the line; letting out pet up grief from his body and giving Claudia a fitting tribute. Zalf-Euromobil, the big winners so far this year, were able to put three in the top 5 but failed to do much against Gaffurini.


Kung takes Normandie prologue

Photo: Tour de Normandie

Apparently a silver medal in the individual pursuit at the World Track Championships a few weeks ago was not enough for Stefan Kung, the powerful U23 from BMC Development. The young Swiss rider set one of the early fast times at the Tour of Normandie prologue and he never relinquished the lead, though it did get tight at the end.

Kung was one of the first riders to set off on the technical course, which included a hill as well as multiple corners, and blasted around with a time of 5'02", just shy of a 43 km/h average speed. Many tried to come close but they were not able to match him. Reidar Borgensen came in at 4 seconds back, which was good enough for 4th on the day, and Tom Bohli, Kung's BMC Development teammate, came in 3 seconds back. GC favorite Frederik Ludvigsson had a rough night of sleep, according to his twitter, but even with that setback, he clocked in a respectable time, good enough for 24th place, 12 seconds back on Kung. Bert-Jan Lindeman, the Rabobank Development man who has been on fire as of late, came in 9th place at 8 seconds. The only scare the Kung got at the end was from Sergey Nikolaev of Itera-Katusha. Nikolaev, who was in good for in the Istrian Spring Trophy, came around the final bend and missed Kung's time by a slim .87 seconds.

Kung will start in the yellow jersey and he could have a shot at keeping it until the end but one of his biggest tests will come later in the race on the stage to Villers-Bocage, which has a difficult series of hills as well as wind to contend with. Kung, for those that do not know, is a big unit. He stands at 6 foot 3 inches and comes it at a bulky 185 pounds (84kg) and is an absolute powerhouse. He has been developing very well and even though he is a big guy, he can handle the hills pretty well (see his win in the Giro del Belvedere from last year for evidence) and has a shot at this.

The race continues tomorrow with a 200 kilometer stage to the mythical town of Forges-les-Eaux, which should belong to the sprinters but after last year's crash-fest, it could come down to a smaller group.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Preview: Tour de Normandie

While this weekend had some pretty good races including the GP San Giuseppe, a personal favorite of mine, and the Zuidkempense Pijl, this week signals the start of the big amateur stage races in Europe. The Tour de Normandie and Volta ao Alentejo will be having two very different climates, the former being windy and rainy while the latter is hot and dry, but they both are races that draw out the best in the pack over rolling terrain. Let's start off with the tour around northern France and the windy fields of Normandie.

Tour de Normandie (March 24th-30th)

The race will be commemorating the 70th anniversary of D-Day with rides along both Utah and Omaha Beach, the latter shown above (Photo: Wikipedia)

I previewed the Tour de Normandie in depth last year, where I went all out to describe the course in depth including the stunning history that surrounds the mythical location. Thankfully, Normandie isn't the size of Siberia and the races tends to hit the same towns so for my sake, I don't need to research 7 new stages.

Smartstop DS and former Pro Tour rider Mike Creed described the Tour de Normandie as "one of the hardest races that nobody gives a fuck about." I find this to be a perfectly apt description of the race. It can be three different seasons, the wind can keep guys in the gutter for hours on end and the rolling terrain can seem relentless. While the race is certainly difficult, it does produce a high caliber of podium finishers including BMC pro Silvan Dillier, Kai Reus, Thomas Dekker, Jerome Pineau, Thor Hushovd and more.

The race starts off with a winding prologue around the town of Saint-Lô,which has been used in the previous two editions. The Scud Missile, Kiwi Tom Scully, won the prologue last year while Swede Michael Olsson won the year before. There is a small hill in the course but like most prologues, it does suit explosive riders. Weather can be a factor such as last year when it rained during a good part of the race and derailed riders such as Dylan van Baarle.

The 1st stage is a 200km romp from Colombelles to Forges-les-Eaux, which was a blood-bath last year that included multiple crashes in the last 20 kilometers. In Roman times, Forges-les-Eaux was the home to an important mine for iron ore but in the last half of the millennia, the town became famed as a therapeutic spa destination because of the thermal waters. The town also had the first annual French Butter Convention in 1906. Last year's stage was decided in a small sprint, which could be a likely outcome this year but there is always the possibility of an attack.

The 2nd stage heads out from Forges to the town of Elbeuf-sur-Seine. The stage finish in Elbeuf has historically been a sprint (it used to be the 2nd stage in a 2-split stage day) but last year, Martin Mortensen and Jesper Hansen attacked on the windy circuit and held off the peloton, who finished 7 seconds behind.

The 3rd stage will feature a new finishing town to the Tour de Normandie, Argentan. The stage only features one major difficulty in terms of hills but after that hill, the wind could prove to be a big factor. The finish is a circuit that will be done three times and will be flat, so it will be difficult to stay away if the bunch if big enough. While the finish might not be the most exciting, the town of Argentan is fascinating. Situated on the banks of the Orne, Argentan dates back to the Middle Ages when it was built by Henry I and multiple castles and battlements popped up in the vicinity. Eleanor of Aquitaine took up residence in the town in the late 12th century and produced two sons, including Richard the Lion-Heart. The city also became one of the centers for lace production in Europe during the reign of Louis XIV. During WWII, Argentan was more or less leveled due to excessive bombing during the D-Day offensive and later battles and by the time Patton's troops liberated the city, it was in ruins and on fire.

Stage 4 is a classic case of French flat; a parcours that is rolling hills up and down all day long including a nice steep pitch less than 5 kilometers from the finish. This stage, which is an extra 11 kilometers from last year tacked on, was the stage where Dylan van Baarle attacked from way out and only Anthony Charteau had the grit to go after him and drop him for the stage win. This will be an important GC stage because if there is a breakaway, there will certainly be multiple packs behind them and any guy with a fighting chance will want to stay near the front.

In recognition of the 70th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy, the namesake race will be taking a ride along its famous coast on the 5th stage of the race. Starting out in coastal town of Gouville-sur-Mer, which has one of the more er...interesting coat of arms, the race will travel up and then across the Cotentin Peninsula in Manche before turning southward again to ride along Utah Beach, a fitting way for a bike race to give tribute to those that fought bravely. But the tribute isn't quite finished...

The 6th stage, which finishes with the usual sprint romp on the big avenue, Cours General De Gaulle, in Caen, will have a bit of a memorable twist this year. Leaving Torigni Sur Vire, the race will ride north and then proceed to race alongside Omaha Beach for the next 40 kilometers. Omaha Beach was one of the five landing points for D-Day on June 6th, 1944 and there were a mass amount of casualties, around 4,200 in the space of a single day. Once the race turns back off the coast, it finishes off with a few laps around the hippodrome in Caen and a big ol' sprint to finish all off.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Week in Review: Marini continues winning ways

Before getting started on a recap of the week that was, I would like to give my condolences to the family and teammates of Yerlan Pernebekov, who died on Monday in Ecuador after suffering a burst vein from a stroke. Pernebekov was a talented first year U23 Kazakh on Astana Continental that was at team camp in Ecuador and when he complained of a severe headache and was rushed to the hospital. After being put in an artificial coma by doctors on the 14th, he passed away on Monday. It is always a shame when a young person is taken from this world before they are able to make their impact on the world.

For those wondering why Astana Continental is in Ecuador for team camp, there is a pretty good reason. Ecuador is the police-state version of Colombia, where the press are treated as enemies of the state and the current sham of a government restricts human rights, treats rape victims as criminals and enjoys cracking down on protesters. Seeing as Kazakhstan isn't exactly the most free place to live either, you can see why a their national development cycling team would come to train in a similar place. But Ecuador does have some great mountains to climb and very nice roads, so there is that.

Let's get away from the dreary and try to accentuate the positive...

Italian Sprint Opera: Marini continues domination at Popolarissima

Gomirato (l) posts up at Marini (r) takes the win by a comfortable margin
Nicolas Marini has announced himself in a big, bad way this season. Marini extended his winning streak to four, having won a race on four consecutive weekends to start out his 2014 campaign. His latest win came at the 99th Popolarissima, a race which has been won by the likes of Viviani, Minali and the founder of Pinarello himself, Giovanni Pinarello. (Pinarello is Zalf-Euromobil's bike sponsor.)

The race itself had multiple attacks but nothing was able to stick for a long time and a sprint became inevitable as Zalf-Euromobil's train, which is becoming quite a fearsome bunch, ramped up the pace. Davide Gomirato, who has taken to the lead-out man job for Marini with aplomb, lead out the Lombardian in the last 250 meters and Marini took off like a jet and won by a bike length over Liam Bertazzo (MK.Kvis-Trevigiani), Mattia De Mori and archrival Jakub Moreczko, who had to settle for 4th.

Zalf-Euromobil is already at 6 wins for the year and is well on their way to topping the 59 wins the team had in 2013. Marini is marking himself as the biggest sprint talent on the Italian market but there are some big races in the next month that will separate the weed from the chaff so it'll be important to see how the rider from Lago de Iseo gets on.

Other races include...

-American U23 Dan Eaton, who won the Valley of the Sun GC early this year, finished 8th in the Tucson Bicycle Classic for his Canyon Bicycles-Shimano team, just 8 seconds behind winner Gregory Brenes and on the same time as Colombian Daniel Jaramillo. In fact, 5 of the riders that finished in front of him on GC were from Continental teams.

-Catalan Marc Soler (Lizarte) has been really stamping his name onto the Spanish/Basque scene after winning his 3rd race of the season at Saturday's GP Kutxabank. Mixing some sprint as well as climbing, Soler has been able to lead his Lizarte team to multiple good results and might be making him a spot for himself on the national team.

-Norwegian Kristoffer Skjerping capped off a successful day by the Joker team at Paris-Troyes by getting 2nd place behind Steve Tronet in a small group spring. Skjerping, the current U23 National RR Champion, benefited from strong team work from fellow U23 Odd Christian Eiking and Reidar Borgersen, who finished in 11th and 12th, respectively. Skjerping will be in attendance at the upcoming Tour of Normandie, which starts on the 24th and should suit his strengths as a rouleur.

-Pole Lukasz Wisniowski beat out his breakaway mates Gaeten Bille and Boris Dron to take out the Kattekoers. Wisniowski, who graduated from the U23 ranks last year, has been on hot form this year including a 4th at the Ster van Zwolle. Daan Myngheer (EFC-OPQS) finished 2nd in the group sprint behind the breakaway trio, which was good for 5th on the day and best U23.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Ride of the Week: Magnus Cort dominates in Istria

There is no speculation about who received the honors for this week's Ride of the Week because when a rider dominates a race like Magnus Cort did at the Istrian Spring Trophy, you would have to be mental to not give him a tip of the hat. For the 2nd week running, a Danish CULT Energy rider takes the Espoirs Central Ride of the Week and unless your name is Jack Haig, this might be one of the most impressive U23 performances this season, to date.
Magnus Cort was a revelation in the 2013 season with his two stage wins in the Tour of Denmark and was attracting World Tour attention, including from Tinkoff-Saxo (with whom he attended a training camp in early 2013). Cort decided to stay with CULT for 2014 but he did attend Giant-Shimano's team camp this January so he might be making his plans known. For those who are new to Cort, let me give you a crash course. He was raised on the island of Bornholm, which is on the extreme east of Denmark in the Baltic Sea and a ways away from the mainland. Cort was a big talent as a junior and won the junior Peace Race as well as the Danish National RR. Also, he lives with his CULT Energy teammate Rasmus Sterobo in an apartment in Horsens, which is the city where the team historically comes from.

After a rather quiet buildup to the race, Cort put in a good prologue (for him) that landed him 31st, just five seconds back off the winner Gregor Muhlberger. Cort wouldn't need to worry about needing an extra second or two because he would be taking dozens of seconds from the peloton. On the first stage, Cort attacked the large lead group on the final cobbled climb into the town of Labin with 300 meters to go and simply rode away from the likes of Karel Hnik and Patrick Konrad to take the victory. Would Cort be satisfied with a yellow jersey and a stage win? Not a chance.

On the 2nd stage to the medieval town of Motovun, Cort and his CULT Energy team played it to a T. Letting a breakaway that included, among others, Jan-Niklas Droste, Tim Schlichenmeier and Stian Remme get over a 5 minute advantage, the Danish team tapped out a good rhythm and caught them with 10 kilometers to go before taking the uphill into Motovun. With 4 kilometers to go, Adria Mobil's Radoslav Rogina attacked at the base of the cobbled climb but was brought back with 1.5 kilometers to go. His teammate Matej Mugerli proceeded to hit his front wheel into him, breaking a spoke and ending any chances of beating Cort. Cort accelerated hard in the final kilometer and stretched out an advantage over Karel Hnik (again) and Felix Großschartner and was 8 seconds ahead by the time he past through the city's medieval archway.

Cort simply rode in the wheels on the final day to secure his overall victory, becoming the first person to win consecutively on the two hilltop finishes in the race's history. This was also the first time that a Slovenian didn't place in the top 3 overall in the race. In any case, I have a strong suspicion that come June, Cort might be feeling the pull to come into the pro ranks early but only time will tell.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Week(s) in Review

I've been a bit tardy with some of the early spring races but hopefully I'll be able to figure out a nice schedule. My ride of the week belonged to young Michael Carbel with his impressive sprint win at the Dorpenomloop but much more happened during the last week and a half than just a Dane chasing some imaginary herring.

Lindeman wins Ster van Zwolle; Würtz best U23 in 5th


After two solid years as a professional with Vacansoleil, Bert-Jan Lindeman had to take a step backwards in hopes of being able to go forwards again. Lindeman signed with Rabobank Development for 2014, which will hopefully just be a temporary stay for the former Ronde van Drenthe winner.

Lindeman continued his good year with an win out of a breakaway of five at Ster van Zwolle, which was very similar to last year's finish because of the sprinting peloton breathing down their necks. Lindeman, who isn't exactly a sprinter, made it his 2nd win in the Ster van Zwolle, as he also won the Dutch race in 2010 with Jo Piels. Lindeman escaped late in the race with CULT Energy's Troels Vinther and Mads Würtz, Etixx's Lukasz Wisniowski and local homeboy Brian Van Goethem of Metec. In one of the slower sprints of the early season, Lindeman was able to outsprint Vinther and Van Goethem for the win while Würtz came in 5th, which was the best out of the U23s. The pack finished on the same time as the breakaway with with Johim Ariensen of Metec beating out first-year U23 Andre Looij for 6th.

Italian Sprint Opera: Marini trumps Mareczko again

This might be a common sight for the next 6 months (Photo: ItaliaCiclismo)

While Davide Villella, Andrea Zordan, Niccolo Bonifazio and other sprinters have moved onto greener pastures (i.e. money), the Italian amateur peloton has another sprinters duel brewing. Nicolas Marini and Jakub Mareczko have gone head to head three times this year with Marini taking two wins and a 3rd place bunch sprint win. Marini, who rides for Zalf-Euromobil just like Zordan did, was a victor 9 times last year on the road and is a former Italian junior national Champion on the track. Marini has a kick that many others do not have and when he hits the front, he can just power through the wind and when he doesn't win, he is not a happy camper. (Look at this video from the Coppa San Geo to see his reaction to getting 3rd place, just a whisker away from the breakaway.) Marini is the older of the pair and has a huge sprint train with Zalf, so when he doesn't take a sprint now it could be seen as a disappointment to some. Mareczko is the younger of the pair, just a 2nd year U23, and while his Viris Maserati team is seasoned (they did have Niccolo Bonifazio last year) but their train is just a step below that of Zalf. Mareczko looks like he is shot out of a gun when he gets into his kick; his chest touching his stem while he gets as low as possible to slice through the air ala Mark Cavendish.

Marini got the better of Mareczko for the 3rd time this year at the Circuito de S. Urbano in Pianzano in Treviso, as seen in the picture above. Zalf dominated the race by putting 3 in the top 4 and Marini hit speeds of nearly 80 km/h in the sprint. (He also won a small diamond for his efforts.) But Mareczko is not far off of beating Marini and come this summer, it will be interesting to see what these two are up to.

Other races...


Way back on the 5th of March, we had the Trofej Umag in Croatia's Istrian peninsula. Umag is the westernmost city in small nation and is nestled on the Adriatic coast. Umag is only a 2nd year race and last year, the race was shortened to just 80 kilometers so this year was the first full run. Stölting had a bit of a scary moment when three of their riders, star Silvio Herklotz, Phil Bauhaus and Thomas Koep, all hit the deck at nearly 70 km/h when a crash went through the field. All three were able to get up, with Herklotz continuing for a little while before abandoning. While ex-World Tour Matej Mugerli snuck away for the win, Martin Otonicar (Radenska) won the bunch sprint for 4th for best U23.

Transferring a whole 32 kilometers south for the Porec Trophy on the 9th, where it was another sprint fest. Maksym Averin opened up the account for Synergy Baku this year with a win ahead of U23 Daniel Biedermanm of Gourmetfein and Matej Mugerli, who hasn't been outside the top 8 yet this year. While Biedermann won the U23 classification, he was closely followed by Andrej Rajsp (Radenska) and Phil Bauhaus (Stölting).

The Istrian Spring Trophy is currently happening and will be going through Sunday. Austrian U23 Gregor Muhlberger took the prologue with a winning speed of over 54 km/h, ahead of fellow U23 Andrey Sazanov (Helicopters) and Mugerli. U23 favorites such as Mads Pedersen and Silvio Herklotz slotted in the top 25, only a few seconds down on the leader. While flat 2 kilometer prologues are a stupid idea in my opinion, the rest of the weekend should be a nice treat.


I'm not going to break down the whole Vuelta Mexico but there were a lot of breakaways. Maxat Ayazbayev (Astana CT) got into one of the said breakaways and got himself into the leader's jersey for a couple days before being overtaken by 4-72 Colombia's Juan Villegas in the ridiculous short TT. Ayazbayev finished 2nd overall by just 3 seconds to Villegas and looks set to be on track for a big year in '14 if he continues at this pace.


Benoit Daeninck was going for his 4th victory in the GP de Lillers, including back-to-back victories as he also won last year, but it proved a lot harder that usual. A breakaway of 12 ruled the day including three from Big Mat-Auber93, three from EFC-OPQS and two from Cofidis, among others. With a large peloton breathing down their necks, the breakaway stepped on the gas on the city circuits around the sleepy Nord-Pas-Calais city of Lillers and it was Steve Tronet who was able to breakthrough ahead of Martijn Degreve of EFC-OPQS and Daeninck, who was denied his record 4th win. EFC-OPQS teammates Jens Wallays and Floris De Tier were able to stay in the top 10 following their day in the break


Dieter Bouvry won the Brussels-Zepperen ahead of Mathias Allegaert and Rutger Roelandts on Sunday in a sprint. Roelandts opened up his win colum for the year by taking the sprint victory in the St. Ieper kermesse.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Ride of the Week: 3/2-3/9

The spring is finally hitting full stride so there are no more excuses for just riding into form for anyone that has goals in the next couple of months. While there were many that got close to the top step, no one did it last week quite like CULT Energy's young Michael Carbel at the Dorpenomloop Rucphen

Carbel takes the Dorpenomloop in his 2nd senior race

Carbel screams to a two bike-length win (Photo: Roland Godschalk)

In just his 2nd race as a senior rider, Michael Carbel opened up the results page for CULT Energy with a sprint over Brit Dan McLay (Lotto-Belisol U23) and Johim Ariesen (Metec-TKH). Carbel opened up a hellacious sprint in the final straight that relegated McLay to 2nd place, that same place that he was last year in this race. Former World Tour rider Jonas Aaen finished 4th while Kristian Haugaard snuck in for 5th for the new Giant-Shimano Development.

Multiple breakaways peppered the first half of the flat, windy race as attacks were launched and brought back by the eager peloton. After Lukasz Wisniowski drew out Sam Oomen, Timo Roosen and Emiel Vermeulen, the action started to heat up and within 20 kilometers, a group of 21 riders was off the front with another large group behind chasing. The leading group included riders such as American Tyler Williams, Jesper Asselman and Ivar Slik. While the average speed was topping 44 km/h, Oster Hus-Ridley was on the front and the gap was dropping. As the race went under 30 kilometers to go, the leading group dwindled down to just 9 riders. With less than 10 kilometers to go, Jesper Asselman set out on his own and was the last dying hope for a breakaway win but was swept up with under 5 kilometers to go, ensuring that there wouldn't be a repeat of last year's breakaway win by Dylan van Baarle. 

Coming into the finale, Oster Hus tried a small attack as well as Rabobank but it all came back together and Carbel blew the doors off everyone. For those not in the know, Carbel is the reigning Danish Junior RR Champion and along with teammate Mads Pedersen, is one of the brightest Danish talents for his generation. Keep looking for him this spring as he will be at the Drenthe races this weekend as well as upcoming Nation Cups with the National team.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Oh Canada?: Four Canucks trying to make it in Europe

With the demise of Spidertech, Canadian cycling has a gaping hole in its development track and currently has very few channels in which a rider can go from an amateur to a professional without having to move down south or going across the Atlantic to try their hand. With Guillaume Boivin and David Boily out of the U23 ranks, Canada is past their best days for the time being on the U23 front but there are multiple guys racing in Europe right now that could step up for the Red and White.

Steve Bauer is the Wayne Gretzky of Canadian cycling. Bauer famously came 2nd in Paris-Roubaix by 1 centimeter to Eddy Planckaert and wore the yellow jersey for two weeks through his career in the Tour de France including a stage win and 4th overall in 1988, among many other things. His presence was felt through his retirement as he was the director at Spidertech; bringing up countless numbers of Canadians for a shot at the biggest races in cycling. Ben Perry felt Bauer's effect but on a more personal level. Perry hails from the same town as Bauer, St. Catherine's, Ontario, a city that sits on Lake Ontario that is just a little journey from Niagara Falls. Perry was a good junior; winning the KOM competitions at Liege-La Glieze in 2012 as a junior and secured himself a ride with Lotto-Belisol U23 last year. Perry and Bauer spent a good amount of time riding together and talking about the classics, which has made Perry dream about the classics and becoming a strong all-arounder like Bauer. Perry finished 63rd in the U23 Ronde last year with the Canadian National Team and finished other UCI races such as the Carpathian Couriers Tour. Perry was released by the Lotto but was able to get a contract with the smaller Baguet-Mibapoorten squad, sponsored by former Belgian Champion Serge Baguet. He should get a nice schedule filled with Top Competitie races as well as spots with the National team. Perry in down in Los Angeles with the Canadian Track Team until the middle of March when he is shipped off the Belgium. He did finish 3rd in his first race of the year behind Hincapie's Ty Magner so things are looking good.

Nigel Ellsay got his season off to an early start when he attacked just 8 kilometers into his first big race of the year, the Souvenir Jean Masse, the first round of the DN1 Coupe de France. Ellsay bridged to Clement Penven and the duo took off for the next 100 kilometers together, where the Canadian with the Sojasun Espoirs took the sprints award as well as the most aggressive rider award. Ellsay and Penven were swept up by the regiment of Armée de Terre riders and were promptly split out the back. Ellsay is in his 2nd year with the Sojasun Espoirs outfit and 3rd overall in France, as he came over as a 2nd-year junior. He was a strong junior that was the Canadian junior TT champ in 2012 and even beat Mathieu van der Poel in the TT at the Ronde des Vallées stage race. Last year, he didn't race any Coupe de France races but he did well in some harder races like the Tour du Jura and other hillier races. Ellsay, who is rooming with Kiwi Sean Hambrook and Lithuanian Paulis Siskevicius, is looking to do well in the spring Nations Cups as well as some harder races, including the Coupe de Frances races.

While the two others got their seasons off to a pretty good start by most standards, Amore & Vita's Alex Cataford had the opposite start to his season. On January 23rd, Cataford was riding an nearly 30 mph when a car pulled out in front of him and he t-boned them and in the process, he broke his C6 vertebrae, shattered his jaw and broke six teeth. Currently, Cataford is back training albeit lightly because his jaw is wired shut and he is drinking everything through a straw. According to an interview with Kirsten Frattini, Cataford was looking to be in the spring Nations Cups but now is looking to the Coupe des Nations Ville de Saguenay before the Tour de Beauce, Canadian Championships, Tour de l'Avenir and Alberta. Cataford is the reigning Canadian U23 TT Champion and was a top 20 overall finisher last year at Elk Grove and Alberta. He is not a pushover and he is tough; look for him later on this year.

Quebec has been turning out cycling talent over the last half decade that could fill out a good portion of a World Tour team. David Veilleux, Bruno Langlois, Guillaume Boivin, David Boily and Dominique Rollin are just some of the riders from "La Belle Province" to break out and Hendrik Pineda could be the next one. The strong sprinter won two stages at the Tour de l'Abitibi as well as the sprints jersey and took out the Canadian Junior National Championship. Instead of trying with a North American team, Pineda is hopping over to T.Palm-Pôle Continental Walloon for 2014, where he should be able to get valuable time racing in Belgium and Northern Europe in both professional and U23 racing. It also helps that the language barrier is already taken care of so all Pineda has to do is move over there and focus on riding his bike.