Sunday, April 20, 2014

Bou-Bou-Bou Ya: Thomas Boudat wins the ZLM Tour Nations Cup

France has been spoiled with talent the last few years and that is not about to stop anytime soon. Chalk it up to doping or some weak development years but until a few years ago with Romain Sicard and Tony Gallopin, the French had been turning out some weak classes but ever since 2009 they have been pure gold. Bardet, Barguil, Bouhanni, Coquard, Demare, Pinot...need I say more?

That tradition is continuing with a one Thomas Boudat. Boudat should be familiar to those that have watched any track racing in the past couple years as he is the current World Champion in the omnium discipline and possesses similar skills to Bryan Coquard, who is a friend (the two won the 2013 European U23 Madison together). The Vendée U rider is just a 2nd year U23 but he possesses some devastating speed that even those that are somewhat familiar with are nervous about. For evidence, just look to the La Côte Picarde Nations Cup from earlier this week; Boudat was marked out by his breakaway mates after Jens Wallays attacked because they didn't want to tow him back just so he could take the sprint. He isn't just a sprinter though and is able to get over a few hills.

The ZLM Tour, which features a twisting loop around the coastal province of Zeeland in the Netherlands, kicked off on Saturday with a furious pace. Within 10 minutes of the start, the races was in pieces. Welcome to the Netherlands, kids. If you weren't already aware, you were going to eat shit in the gutter for the next 4 hours. After the first hour, a group of nearly 20 got off the front including riders from France, Italy, Australia and the USA and were able to get a lead. With just nearly 100 kilometers to go, the chasing peloton was able to fuse itself back to the big breakaway but for those caught out, it was a going to be a long day. A group with Jon Dibben, Loïc Chetout, Davide Martinelli, Artur Shaymuratov and Przemyslaw Kasperkiewicz were able to get off the front and they actually got a nice gap that extended to over 1 minute but there was a severe communication breakdown. Chetout was covering moves for his teammates Marc Sarreau and Boudat while Martinelli also had a sprinter in the peloton. Dibben was the impetus in the group but once the cooperation failed then the gap began to plummet. That is where the race truly broke open.

The peloton had turned on the accelerator mainly thanks to the Danes, who had missed the move, and once they got close to the breakaway, attacks started to fly off the front. Lukas Spengler (Switzerland) moved off the front to bridge and while the breakaway was being caught, a reshuffling occurred. Chetout was able to stay with Spengler and they were joined by Sarreau & Boudat (France), Mads Würtz (Denmark), Evgeny Shalunov (Russia), Ryan Mullen (Ireland), Justin Oien (USA), Sven Erik Bystrøm (Norway) and Tomasz Mickiewicz (Poland). The group of 10 seemed to be a good combination of riders and while a few nations missed out including Australia, GB and the Netherlands but France had the numbers in the breakaway and the horsepower to drive it. With the final two-17 kilometer circuits to go, the gap was already at 45 seconds and holding steady. The peloton was led by various nations including the Dutch and Slovenians but nobody was bringing back the breakaway.

Chetout was doing the work of 3 men keeping everything under control and marking counter-attacks in the breakaway as the kilometers ticked down. Inside the last kilometer, Würtz attacked and Boudat was able to latch onto his wheel and while the others were clamoring to get back on terms, Boudat launched his sprint to take the victory while Würtz managed 2nd ahead of Sarreau in 3rd and Shalunov in 4th. Spengler lead in the rest of the break for 5th. Behind the group, doper Kirill Sveshnikov (more on him later) came in ahead of the peloton for 11th while Lorenzo Manzin capped off a great day for France by taking the bunch sprint for 12th.

Boudat's victory is just another confirmation of his talent while Würtz landed his first major podium as a senior after a promising junior career. Both are from the class of '94, which also includes breakaway mates Mullen, Spengler and Mickiewicz. Boudat rides for Vendée U on the road and while he will be focusing on the track at least through Rio 2016, he will be making his presence known on the road in the meantime. If 2nd and 1st in your last two Nations Cups were proof enough...

Justin Oien's 8th place is very promising for the first-year U23 from California and is a sign of huge things to come for the American, who was 10th last year in junior Paris-Roubaix.

Ryan Mullen's 6th place was a big boost for Irish hopes in the UCI rankings. The Irish missed out on places in the U23 Worlds RR last year and Mullen was able to get valuable points for his nation in hopes of getting a berth for the Worlds in Ponferrada, Spain. 

Side Note: Kirill Sveshnikov just sort of snuck back in under the radar after it was announced that he failed a doping test at Russian Track Nationals. He was set to race in Cali, Colombia for the World Track Championships before the announcement but he has re-appeared in the last week by taking the start at Klasika Primavera on the 13th of April, followed by La Côte Picarde and ZLM Tour. Now his coach on his trade team Lokosphinx Alexander Kuznetsov, the father of tennis grand slam winner Svetlana Kuznetsova and former coach of Vyacheslav Ekimov, stated that the positive test came from a minute amount of Clenbuterol and that it must have been from tainted meat at one of the World Cups in Mexico. There was no announcements that he was cleared but he just magically started to appear at races again so unless the UCI or the Russians have something to tell us then I guess Mr. Sveshnikov is back racing again. Oh joy.

While the French celebrated Boudat on Saturday, they would be jumping for joy again after Lige-Bastogne-Liege U23...

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