Monday, August 25, 2014

Tour de l'Avenir Stage 2: Ewan trumps Cort in future Orica showdown

With a steep ramp heading averaging 6 to 7% gradient in the last 200 meters, the finish on today's stage in the Tour de l'Avenir was bound to be selective. Who was going to be in the finale though? Magnus Cort was one obvious choice. He currently leads the UCI Europe Tour and has done very well for himself on slightly uphill finishes so he was the obvious pick.

Who was going to join Cort in the battle for the line?
Ken was pretty close as he had the right country but we are getting to far ahead now, let us go back to the start of the stage.

Leaving Brioude, the finishing town from stage 1, it took 12 kilometers before a successful breakaway got away including Fabian Leinhard (Switzerland) and Loic Chetout (France), who had been unsuccessful in his bid to join the breakaway on stage 1. The duo got away just as the race began to climb the category 3 Cote de la Chaise-Dieu. Chetout took the mountain points at the top while behind in the peloton, KOM leader Kristoffer Skjerping (Norway) took 3rd place points ahead of 2nd place KOM and overall GC leader Asbjorn Kragh.

The gap to the breakaway duo was never more than 4 minutes because the peloton was quite wary of having a repeat of stage 1's antics, where the breakaway was given a huge lead that the peloton never got back. On the Category 2 Cote de Medeyrolles, Chetout once again took full points ahead of Leinhard while Skjerping took 3rd place points to consolidate his lead. Riders began to pop off the back of the peloton including Sven Fritsch (Luxembourg), Martin Otonicar (Slovenia) and Dan McLay (Great Britain). On the final KOM, Chetout and Leinhard kept banging the drum slowly while Dylan Teuns (Belgium) attacked to try and spice things up a bit. Teuns went over the top solo and Skjerping grabbed the 4th place points. He ended the day with 34 in total while Chetout is now in 2nd in the classification, sitting at 22 points.

The gap at the top of the final climb was under 3 minutes but by the time the group went down the fast stair-step descent, the breakaway only had 1'30". The Australians were salivating like a piece of toast with vegemite was dangling out in front of them. The duo were able to stay out front until they hit the local loop in Saint-Galmier, where they were swallowed up with 8 kilometers to go. Some riders tried to breakaway on the rolling local lap including Evgeny Shalunov (Russia) but everything was brought back for the final uphill punch.

Taking the final left hander into the finish, Caleb Ewan (Australia) hit the jets and only Magnus Cort was able to follow but not able to challenge the new pocket rocket, Ewan. This anticipated battle might actually be the only one simply because these two will be teammate in 2015 with Orica-GreenEdge. They might be going 1-2 in the future but at least for the next few years, it will be an Orica sweep.

Alex Kirsch (Luxembourg) finished in 3rd place 2 seconds down in front of Austrian Michael Gogl, who surprised in 4th place ahead of prologue crashee Owain Doull (Great Britain). There was a separation in the front group and few potential GC riders such as Gianni Moscon, Derk Abel Beckeringh and Dylan Teuns gained 5 seconds on the likes of Robert Power, Silvio Herklotz, Louis Vervaeke and co.

Asbjorn Kragh still leads the overall classification 16 seconds on Kristoffer Skjerping, 1'34" on Sjoerd Van Ginneken and 2'09" back to Davide Martinelli, the highest placed rider that was not apart of the stage 1 breakaway. Martinelli did take over the points jersey after taking his 3rd straight top-6 placing. Skjerping has the KOM jersey on lock down while the Netherlands leads the teams classification.

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