Sunday, August 24, 2014

Tour de l'Avenir: Skjerping dominates breakaway; Kragh takes lead

After a stressful prologue yesterday, the peloton decided to take it easy. So easy in fact that they nearly let the breakaway get away with a huge gap that could have massively changed the GC. They finally woke up near the end but a win was outside of their grip.

The breakaway got away right after the gun went off and included Kristoffer Skjerping (Norway), Sjoerd Van Ginneken (Netherlands) and Asbjorn Kragh (Denmark). The trio got away on the brief respite for 5 categorized climbs in the first half of the stage. Loic Chetout missed the move and they was shouting "Guys...guys..guys wait up!" for the next 40 kilometers or so.

Skjerping led the breakaway up the category 3 Cote de Sales and Cote de Fridefont, while Chetout was still in no-mans land. Chetout was scooped up by the next KOM, the Cote de Faverolles, which Skjerping went over first yet again. This was where the gap began to balloon. The gap went from 3'45" to 5'45" and with no one willing to chase, the gap kept expanding. Over the Cote de Beauregard, the gap went over 7 minutes and following the final climb of the day, the Cote du Mont-Mouchet, the trio got an advantage of 7'45". Just think of that. The prologue yesterday was roughly 6 minutes of effort. So that is 1.29 prologues between the breakaway and the chasing group.

During the final climb, the peloton had a crash involving Frenchman Pierre Gouault. Gouault hit the deck hard and ended up abandoning the race with a broken collarbone (clavicle). Gouault was France's highest overall finisher last year with a 13th overall but he won't be able to help Pierre-Roger Latour's bid for the podium.

Once over the last climb, the race went down a long stair-step descent to Langeac. With 40 kilometers to go, the gap was still nearly 8 minutes. The Australians didn't seem to be too interested in chasing so other countries had to pick up the slack. France, Germany, Belgium were chipping into the chase while Denmark was up there to make sure they weren't chasing too hard. Oskar Svendsen had a bit more bad luck with a puncture but he was brought back by his teammate Fridtjof Roinas without too much pain. Dan McLay (Great Britain) also had a puncture but got back without drama.

Entering the finishing circuits in Brioude, the gap was not falling nearly fast enough while the trio out front was able to enjoy a fairly peaceful ride to the line. With 6 kilometers to go, the gap was still 3'55" with the peloton at this point just trying to limit the blowout. Asbjorn Kragh was the virtual leader on the road and was willing to let a stage win go for the yellow jersey. Skjerping already wrapped up the KOM jersey for the day but the stage was between he and Van Ginneken and Skjerping is a very strong sprinter.

Skjerping, even with hitting it on all of the KOM sprints, was able to take the win ahead of Van Ginneken and Kragh. It was a fairly healthy gap of 2'21" back to the peloton when Dan McLay crossed the line in 4th place ahead of Fernando Gaviria (Colombia) and Davide Martinelli (Italy). Good result by McLay and re-affirming my internal belief that Martinelli could become a sprinter.

A crash ripped through the peloton in the finale and many riders trickled in after the peloton rolled through (on the same time of course) including Tiesj Benoot, Robert Power, Luka Pibernik, Iuri Filosi, Marc Soler and about half of the Danish team.

Tune in for tomorrow's stage from Brioude to Saint-Galmier, which includes 3 climbs as well as an interesting finish that has an uncategorized climb just a few kilometers from the finish as well as an uphill sprint. The teams are not going to be interested letting a breakaway go this time.

Full Results for the stage

Overall: Asbjorn Kragh

Points: Asbjorn Kragh

KOM: Kristoffer Skjerping

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