Sunday, August 24, 2014

Tour de l'Avenir: Flakemore smokes damp prologue

Under cool and damp conditions, the 51st Tour de l'Avenir rolled off in Saint-Flour in non-ideal conditions but the riders plugged on for the short effort. Riders had to negotiate a 4.45 kilometer course in the center of Saint-Flour and the damp weather did not help with the technical nature of the track.

Christopher Jurado (Panama/UCI Mixed) set off at 18:00 local time and and put in a decent time of 6'17". Jurado's teammate Joao Gaspar was the only non-starter after the Brazilian was diagnosed with appendicitis and had to have emergency surgery in Saint-Flour. The threat of rain has caused a few riders including Domen Novak and Ricardo Ferreira to go on standard road bikes instead of TT rigs.

Just the 8th rider of 123 out of the gates, Davide Martinelli, put in a scorching ride that would be the benchmark for the rest of the day. Martinelli flew in with a time of 5'46", which was astronomically quicker than the next fastest, Alex Clements, who had a time of 6'09". While most were not breaking 6 minutes, Loïc Vliegen (Belgium) came flying in just after Martinelli with a time of 5'50", which put him 2nd provisionally and would have him ending up 5th. Lennard Hofstede, who was just 7th place in the Tour de l'Ain prologue, had a horrible time of it out on course (suspected mechanical) as he rolled in 50 seconds down on Martinelli, which would put him in 119th when the day ended.

Some GC men were doing themselves big favors by putting in storming prologues including Louis Vervaeke (5'55") and Robert Power (5'49"). Others who put in a good ride included Jack Haig, Derk Abel Beckeringh, Tiesj Benoot and Miguel Angel Lopez.

Timo Roosen put in one of the biggest challenges to Martinelli as the Dutchman was one of just 3 to put in a time under 5'50" as he stormed to a time of 5'49", which slotted him just 2 seconds behind the vice-European champion Martinelli.

In recent years, the Tour de l'Avenir prologue has been owned by Australians. In 2010, Michael Matthews was 3rd behind Taylor Phinney. The next year, Michael Hepburn won it. In 2012, Jay McCarthy took the win. Last year, Damien Howson was on a flier before clipping a pedal and going airborne. He took solace in his dominating performance at U23 TT Worlds.

Campbell Flakemore rode off the start ramp just as the rain began to fall in Saint-Flour but he was one of the last riders to escape the rain. The Australian has taken a while to get into form this year and has sacrificed his own chances many times this year but his prologue ride was magic. Flakemore came flying in with a time of 5'45", which put him a top of the pile with the last 20 riders still to come through. No one would be passing Flakemore though.

The rain began to fall harder and with the cool weather, just 54 F (12 C), riders were dropping like flies. Owain Doull was on a flier before skidding across the road at 50 kph, ending his chances. The rain was the bane of Oskar Svendsen, who ceded 49 seconds to Flakemore and is now on the backfoot for the mountains along with teammate Sindre Lunke. Stefan Kung put in a fairly reasonable time for being in the deluge but the big Swiss rider finished 29 seconds down, a disappointment for a rider looking to win. Pierre-Roger Latour was the last rider down the ramp and even going through the downpour, he didn't end up too bad, just 22 seconds down on Flakemore.

Big winners: Robert Power, Louis Vervaeke, Miguel Angel Lopez, Derk Abel Beckeringh, Jack Haig

Big losers: Oskar Svendsen, Sindre Lunke, Owain Doull, Stefan Kung, Bahktiyar Kozhatayev, Manuel Senni, Giulio Ciccone

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