Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Weekend Roundup: Peaches and Nectarines, Triptyque Ardennais and everything else plus more

So while the majority of my attention was on the Ronde de l'Isard this last week, there was definitely a lot of action happening else where that deserves attention.

Peaches and Nectarines

Technically it is the Giro Ciclistico Pesche Nettarine di Romagna but Peaches and Nectarines sounds much better to my non-Italian palate. With the downfall of the GiroBio, Peaches and Nectarines is one of the only proper stage races left for the Italian amateur teams to contest, especially with proper hills as well.

The 150.9 kilometer course started out from Lugo with 120 kilometers of more or less flat road followed by two circuits of the Tre Monti circuit around Imola (It was the same circuit used in the 1968 World Championship that saw Vittorio Adorni ride solo and win by over 10 minutes) before finishing on the Piazza Matteotti. A group of 5 including Luca Muffolini (Gavardo Tecmor), Juan Curuchet (Mg.KVIS-Trevigiani), Davide Belluschi and Matteo Pozzoli (Team Named) and Matteo Natali (Mastromarco) took off after 14 kilometers and were able to establish a nice lead on the flatter portion of the race. The quintet was able to get a maximum of 3'22" advantage but heading into the first Tre Monti circuit, all but Natali were brought back into the fold by the chasing group of roughly 30 riders. Natali crossed the first KOM point with 23.5km to go but was brought back into the fold shortly afterward. There was a general regrouping after the first circuit but another large group showed themselves on the hillier section with Marco Tizza (M.I. Impianti) leading over the last KOM with 11 km to go but it was all for naught.

On the lead into the Piazza Matteotti, it was Zalf-Euromobil on the front for Andrea Toniatti as sprinter Nicolas Marini was out the back after the grueling finishing circuits. While they put in the work, it was Colpack's Luca Pacioni who darted out and put in an impressive sprint to take his first major win ahead of Toniatti and Alberto Tocchella (Gavardo Tecmor).

Stage 2 saw the riders go through the heart of Emilia Romagna and take on some tough climbs that really sorted the wheat from the chaff. Simone Sterbini (Pala Fenice), who has already signed with Bardiani-CSF for 2015, went solo on the first, and largest, climb of the day, the Passo Sambuca, which was the highest point in the race at 1,061 meters. Sterbini went solo over the top with a small chasing pack behind him but on the 2nd climb of the day, the Prato all'Albero, Sterbini was joined by Iuri Filosi, who has been on outstanding form recently, and the duo extended their lead on the climb as well as the subsequent climb, the Passo Carnival. Sterbini has ceded nearly 2 minutes the day before and was looking for the stage win while Filosi was dead set on locking up the GC. Heading over the final summit, which was 5 km from the arrival, the duo pushed the advantage and Sterbini "won" the sprint ahead of Filosi, who didn't really care about the stage and didn't contest the sprint. 1'37" back, Gianni Moscon (Zalf-Euromobil) was the first to come over the line with a small pack of chasers incluing Filosi's teammate Manuel Senni and well as Moscon's teammates Toniatti and Alessandro Tonelli.

In the continuing Italian Sprint Drama, Jakub Mareczko seems to now have the upper hand on Nicolas Marini. The Viris Maserati rider beat out Zalf-Euromobil's Marini on the final stage of Peaches and Nectarines that finished in Faenza in Emilia-Romagna. Mareczko and Marini were in a class of their own and had a big gap on the trailing peloton but it was Mareczko who lead the sprint out and Marini didn't have the power to come around. It was impressive riding from the young Mareczko, who now equaled Marini on 7 wins for the season. Marini's dry spell continues as he has not won for a month now with his last win coming at the GP Memorial Carlo Valentini on April 26th.

Iuri Filosi wrapped up the GC win over Simone Sterbini after the duo did an impressive tandem on the 2nd stage over three big passes. Filosi has been on fire as of late with a 2nd overall in the Bidasoa Itzulia (along with 2 stage wins) and now the overall at the Peaches and Nectarines. Filosi is a star with Colpack and will be looking to keep the good mojo rolling this summer at the Giro della Valle d'Aosta. Filosi is one of the best climbing talents to come out of the Italian system since Fabio Aru. He was 4th in the Taiwan KOM Challenge in October, which is something like 3000+ meters of climbing in 105km, and that was against a few dodgy Iranians too. The kid is a talent, that much is for certain.

Triptyque Ardennais

So I know it seems like a lot of these races were "big" but bear with me please.Triptyque Ardennais is another amateur stage, this one being in the Ardennes region of Belgium, but a good amount of teams came out including many of the top Belgian teams like Verandas Willems, Lotto-Belisol U23 and EFC-OPQS along with BMC Development and Croford from the Netherlands.

Stage 1 saw a breakaway of 5 including Loïc Vliegen and Lukas Spengler (BMC Development), Gaeten Bille (Verandas Willems),  Jelmer Asjes (Croford) and Fabio Polazzi (ToWin-Josan) get away with 30 kilometers to go on the finishing circuits from a leading group of approximately 20 riders. The five worked well together and while the rest of the chasing group was absorbed but the peloton, the quintet was able to get a lead of over 1 minute. With 5 km to go, the group still had over 40 seconds on the peloton and seemed to be fighting it out for the win. Bille attacked with just over 1km to go but the solo move was hard work as the wind was kicking up. Spengler put himself on the front for Vliegen and slated himself and with 700 meters to go, Bille was brought back. Obviously gassed from his effort, the usually stronger Bille was not match for Vliegen on the slightly uphill finish as the Belgian sprinted to the win ahead of Asjes. Tom Bohli (BMC Devo) led in the peloton 49 seconds down.

Stage 2 featured 10 small climbs peppered along the course to keep things interesting. A group of 3 got away early to serve as the chase. The breakaway was able to get across 7 climbs together with Tim Vanspeybroeck (Team 3M) taking over the KOM classification. After the 8th KOM, the breakaway lost a lot of its impetus and was brought back. U23 Kiwi Champ Hayden McCormick (Lotto-Belisol U23) immediately launched a counter attack and a breakaway of 4 was established on the finishing circuits. BMC Development kept the gap under control and brought the escape back before the last KOM point. Wout van Aert (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace), the U23 World Cyclocross Champ, attacked in the end as well but was brought back for a bunch sprint. BVC-Soenens sprinter Alexander Maes was able to take out the slightly downhill sprint ahead of Tom Bohli (BMC Devo) and Xandro Meurisse (Lotto-Belisol U23) while Vliegen safely finished in the bunch.

Stage 3 was a lot more action packed than I'm going to make it out to be so if you are interested, head over to directvelo and give the live ticker a read.  It was like a big ol' buzzsaw. Attacks went and were brought back and each surge shot more riders out of the back. Surges by Sander Cordeel, Jimmy Janssens and Ludovic Robeet cut down the main peloton to just 37 riders out of the 156 starters on the day. BMC kept everything together even with a late attack by Gaeten Bille, who was sitting 2nd on GC just 5 seconds back. With that, it was Xandro Meurisse who took out the final reduced sprint ahead of cxer Gianni Vermeersch (Sunweb) and Tom Bohli. Loïc Vliegen was able to take back the leader's jersey from Jesper Asjes (Croford), who lost nearly 4 minutes on the stage. Bohli wrapped up the points jersey and BMC finished 1-3-5 on GC with Vliegen, Lukas Spengler and Bohli.

Everything else plus more...

-Sven Erik Bystrom (Oster Hus) finished the Tour of Norway 10th overall, which was good for the best U23 in the race. Bystrom made the split on stage 2, finishing 7th in the bunch sprint behind breakaway winner Marc de Maar and Macej Paterski. He also made the split on the more decisive stage to Lillehammer, where he made the first chase group behind Bauke Mollema and got 6th on the stage. Fellow Norwegian U23 Odd Christian Eiking (Joker) finished 13th overall, 10 seconds behind Bystrom and 47 seconds off the overall winner Paterski, while teammate Kristoffer Skjerping and Sindre Lunke (Sparebanken) finished 14th and 15th overall. All in all, a good race for the U23s that saw Sondre Holst Enger (Sparebanken Sor) get a 2nd place on stage 1 and Amund Grondhalen Jansen (Sparbanken Sor) take the overall KOM jersey.

-Mathieu van der Poel got his U23 career off to a start at the Omloop der Kempen in a cracking way as he was able to make the major breakaway of 13 that decided the race. Luke Davison (Australia) won the race in a sprint ahead of Sjors Roosen (Jo Piels) and Mike Teunissen (Rabobank Devo) with van der Poel finishing in 7th place. Tour of Belgium better be ready for van der Poel because he won't be waiting around for anyone.

-Alex Peters (Madison-Gensis) was able to finish 2nd overall in the AnPost Ras thanks to making the race-defining breakaway on the stage to Clonakilty. Peters rode quite consistently through the week and on the 8-stage race, his lowest placing was 27th. For a rider that is just 20 years old, Peters rode exceptionally well and should be watched at the Tour des Fjords later this week. On a side note, I wish I could cover the Ras more in detail because it is truly an incredible race but unfortunately with the zero resources I have, that is next to impossible for now.

-With the amount of U23 racing happening during the week that was, Paris-Arras was missing a few pieces but teams definitely showed up to play. You can definitely tell that Lotto-Belisol U23 is a well funded outfit because they were at 3 races during the same time. The race's GC was largely determined by the opening 28.1 km TTT. Roubaix-Lille Metropole, including U23 Rudy Barbier, won the opening team test ahead of Vendée U (U23s inlcuding Thomas Boudat and Taruia Krainer) and Lotto-Belisol U23. The next stage to Beaurains was a sprint won by Vorarlberg's Fabian Schnaidt ahead of Maxim Vantomme (Roubaix-Lille Metropole) and U23 Daniel Hoelgaard (Etixx). The final stage was won by U23 Daniel McLay (Lotto-Belisol U23) ahead of Jasper Bovenhuis and Filippo Baggio. The TTT weighted the race too much, in my opinion, as Roubaix-Lille Metropole took the top 3 spots followed by stage winner McLay and Vendée U teammate Boudat and Krainer.

-Another British kid who has been riding out of his skin is Hugh Carthy of Rapha-Condor. The gangly kid from outside of Preston (just east of Blackpool...near the Irish Sea for those of you who have no idea where I'm talking about) just finished the Tour of Japan and was arguably one of the best climbers in the race at just the age of 19. On the hillclimb stage of Mount Fuji, Carthy finished 2nd to the Persian Pantani, Mirsamad Poorseyedigolakhour, on the 11.6 km mountain with 37 switchbacks that climbs to nearly 2000 meters in height and has a full kilometer in the middle that average 14.3%. He even beat Damien Monier, who let's not forget won a Giro stage in 2010. Then on the next stage, Carthy rode along with the Persian Pantani and his teammate Ghader Mizbani, who won the stage. If it wasn't for some problems on stage 3, where he lost 2 minutes to some big rivals, he would be close to sitting on the podium but 6th place GC is nothing to sneeze at especially with the past doings of some of his rivals. Carthy is all skin and bones at 1.89 meters and 63kg (roughly 6'2" and 138 pounds) and the kid can fly up mountains. If he can learn to deal with flatter stages and handle himself in the winds then he could have quite the successful career.

-Shoutout to Robin Carpenter and Tanner Putt as they were the only U23s to finish the ridiculous USA Nationals RR in Chattanooga. Putt finished in a chase group in 21st and Carpenter was 23rd in the last group on the road in a race that only saw 32 finishers. Props to those guys for sticking it out.

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