Thursday, July 17, 2014

Giro della Valle d'Aosta: Ochoa storms to prologue win

The Giro della Valle d'Aosta, one of the premiere U23 stage races, kicked off on Wednesday in the heart of Italy's most remote region with a 5.1 kilometer time trial that while not the be all end all, it was certainly an important first test for the riders.

The course itself started from Arvier, the birthplace of Maurice Garin. For people that are unaware and more importantly didn't read my preview, Garin won the first Tour de France and while originally born in Italy, he moved to Northern France at a young age.The course had a small descent out of the gate before slightly rising for the remainder of the course to the hamlet of Valgrisenche.

The bar was set quite early. Elias Van Bruessegem (VL Technics) was the 7th rider out of the gate and he laid down a time of 9'28"98, which was a pretty good time because he ended up getting 14th overall when the day ended. Setting off just 4 minutes later was Diego Ochoa (4-72 Colombia). Ochoa proceeded to blow the doors off of everyone. There was still 111 riders still to set off after Ochoa but he proceeded to put down a time of 8'59"63. Everyone else would be trying to touch that time the rest of the day.

The next favorite to go off was Silvio Herklotz, who opted for an early start time. Herklotz, who is by no means a great time trialist, put in a time of 9'55", which would be good for 55th in the end. Italian U23 time trial champion Davide Martinelli would be one of the only ones to come anywhere near Ochoa. Decked out in his Italian stripes on a blacked-out Pinarello with a 12-spoke Lightweight front wheel, Martinelli rode in witha 9'05"16. I'm sure the future SKY stagiaire is a bit disappointed but it was a strong ride.

Ochoa's 4-72 teammate Juan Felipe Osorio and Bernardo Suaza both proceeded to put in top 10 rides to cap off a great day for the Colombian squad. Speaking of teammates putting in strong rides, Ildar Arslanov and Alexander Foliforov went 6th and 5th and went a long way to putting at least one of them in the top 5 at the end of the race.

The only rider to make Diego Ochoa truly sweat was TJ Eisenhart (BMC Development), who was in the last wave of riders with many of the GC favorites. Eisenhart, who was recently crowned the USA U23 TT Champion in Madison,Wisconsin on July 4th, laid it on on the course and with his 3T disc wheel whirring away, the Utah native clocked in a time of 9'00"73, just 01"10 off of Ochoa. While a little hard to come that close and lose, it does set him up beautifully for a GC run.

To those that read my preview for the race, I was lazily wondering if Oskar Svendsen could make a run at this race like he did the Tour de l'Avenir last year. Well he went 4th place in the prologue just 7 seconds behind Ochoa. So obviously he is on some decent form but the biggest test will be how he handles the peloton and if he is able to hang around until the end. Some other GC favorites that did well include Odd Eiking, Iuri Filosi and Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev, all of whom finished between 11th and 13th. Really no one did too bad because these mountains can see some large time gaps but a 25 second head start is definitely a boost for those in the top 10.
  1. Diego Ochoa (4-72 Colombia)
  2. TJ Eisenhart (BMC Development) +1"10
  3. Davide Martinelli (Colpack) +5"53
  4. Oskar Svendsen (Norwegian National) +6"79 
  5. Alexander Foliforov (Russian National) +7"20
  6. Ildar Arslanov (Russian National) +8"58
  7. Felix Großschartner (Gourmetfein-Simplon) +9"72
  8. Bernardo Suaza (4-72 Colombia) +17"36
  9. Juan Felipe Osorio (4-72 Colombia) +19"38
  10. João Marcelo Gaspar (World Cycling Centre) +25"59
Full Results

Gaspar is a new revelation to me. He was 3rd overall in the Tour of Brazil earlier this year and after that performance, he accepted a role at the UCI World Cycling Centre and in just a few short months in Aigle, Gaspar has managed to win two smaller French races.
 The race continues on Thursday with a 170 kilometer ride to the mountain-top finish at Breuil Cervinia, just outside of Valtournenche.
^^Seriously? The organizers need to decide what century that are in based on the wide range of dress on the podium. The two teenage looking podium girls are in jean shorts and then Ochoa is getting a small trophy (that looks like a mini-keg) from a woman that is in a period dress from roughly 1890. Gold.

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