Tuesday, June 3, 2014

U23 Peace Race Roundup

The U23 Peace Race went off this weekend and while I was busy playing with my parent's new puppy for the majority of the weekend, I did pop my head in to catch some of the action. Last year when the race was in its first edition, there was some serious firepower in attendance. CULT, Leopard-Trek, Radenska, Tre-For, USA National, Polish National...pretty much every big U23 team was in attendance. This year...a little bit different story. I don't want to take away from Sam Spokes' big ride that he had here but it is undeniable that the competition, even with some strong riders in there, was a step under last year's competition.

Stage 1 (Jesenik to Rymarov)

It was a breakaway that ruled the day as the remnants of the early breakaway were able to survive on the rolling course to Rymarov. VL Technics riders Tom Bosmans and Elias Van Breussegem joined Tadej Hiti (Radenska), Pryzemyslaw Kasperkiewicz (Bauknecht-Author) and Adam Vales (SKC Tufo) got away and got a gap of nearly 2 minutes on the short stage. Bosmans and Kasperkiewicz attacked the breakaway and with 6 kilometers to go, they had a 45 second gap but it was falling fast. In the end, they were able to hold on by 9 seconds ahead of the peloton with Kasperkiewicz taking the sprint ahead of Bosmans with Frantesik Sisr taking the bunch sprint for 3rd ahead of Luka Pibernik.

Stage 2 (Glucholazy to Praded)

A proper uphill finish marked stage 2 as the race took off from the Polish town of Glucholazy right on the Czech/Polish border. The race was only 93 kilometers in length and was dominated by the summit finish on the Praded mountain, which is the highest mountain in the Hruby Jesenik range and the 5th highest in the Czech Republic. Etixx controlled the peloton for the majority of the day, especially towards the tail end of the day when some small breakaways were attempting to stay away. Sam Spokes launched in the final kilometers with Bram Van Broekhoven (VL Techniks) and the duo leapt away on the slight grade (last 3 kilometers averaged 5%) and got a good gap. Interestingly enough, the finale saw the riders on there own as there were no cars or motos allowed on the final kilometers of Praded due to some protected plant life. Spokes accelerated away for the win with Van Broekhoven coming in 2nd while Bartosz Warchol just beat out the main chase group, which came in 35 seconds down and included riders such as Alvaro Cuadros and Markus Hoelgaard (Etixx), Alexey Vermeulen (BMC Development) and Robert Power (Australia).

Stage 3 (Jesenik-Jesenik)

The final stage was a rolling affair that featured a steep kicker in the finale to the Hotel Priessnitz, which is a spa located on the ridge just above Jesenik. Maximillian Keun (Gebruder Weiss) struck out solo early on and was joined by Kiwi U23 Champ Hayden McCormick (Lotto-Belisol U23) and Michael Cools (VL Techniks). The group was able to work well together over the lumpy route but once the last KOM was crossed, everything was brought back together.

Going into Jesenik, TJ Eisenhart (BMC Development) and Kenneth Van Rooy (Lotto-Belisol U23) attacked with 17km to go and got a gap of nearly one minute but the flat valley course was going to end in a steep wall, which was not good news for the breakaway.

The duo got to 500 meters before the final climb up to Priessnitz before being swept up by the front group. Sam Spokes proceeded to do a repeat of stage 2 and attacked on the steep ramp that touched grades over 12% and beat out Van Broekhoven once again into 2nd as well as a select group including Alexey Vermeulen and Luka Pibernik.
Spokes wrapped up the overall the overall by 12 seconds over Bram Van Broekhoven and 47 seconds on Bartosz Warchol. It was the Australian's signature win to date and definitely showed his strength on the uphills.

I still can't help but think that this weekend showed that there needs to be revisions to the UCI calendar. There were about so many races going on at one time including Roubaix, Peace Race, Gironde, Fleche du Sud, Tour de Berlin and Italian one-days and others that pulled away U23s including the Tour des Fjords and the Bayern Rundfahrt. That is too much racing for Europe to have at one time and while I know there are a lot of teams that would love to race, there should still be a focus on the quality of races and the fields that are in attendance. If that means that some races need to shift or disappear then so be it but when you have 10 races happening at once just in Europe, that is not progress.

Thanks to Vojtěch Jírovec for his great live reporting on the race.

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