Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Tour de l'Avenir Stage 4: Breakaway survives first mountain foray

On the first feared day of the Tour de l'Avenir, it was certainly an surprising day that saw a few implosions as well as a familiar country take the leader's jersey.

A breakaway of 5 including Pryzemyslaw Kasperciewicz (Poland), Sam Oomen (Netherlands), Ilya Davidenok (Kazakhstan), Lukas Pöstlberger (Austria) and Luka Kovacic (Slovakia) got away with only 7 kilometers down. Fabian Leinhard (Switzerland) tried to bridged but that move was unsuccessful and he returned to the peloton. Doper Kirill Sveshnikov (Russia) was the first of a few DNFs of the day.

After 41 kilometers, the breakaway had a healthy 6 minute gap. Right after the first KOM, the Cote de Premeyzel, which Pöstlberger won, a crash happened in the peloton that took out Oskar Svendsen (Norway), Till Drobisch (Namibia/UCI Mixed), Ciao Godoy (Brazil/UCI Mixed), Floris De Tier and Loic Vliegen (Belgium) Loic Chetout (France) and overall leader Asbjorn Kragh (Denmark), among others. The others got going but Drobisch was forced to drop out. Svendsen actually got up and going and then switched bikes but was able to return to the peloton.

With the gap running around 6 minutes, Belgium and Norway rode on the front. Both teams had GC favorites in Vervaeke and Eiking and were looking to control the race. Norway's enigma Oskar Svendsen had more mechanical issues but made it back into the peloton. Still 50 kilometers from the finish, the peloton hit the Cote de Cruseilles and riders began to fall out the back including stage 3 winner Dan McLay, Yannick Eckmann (USA), Jean-Albert Carnevali (Belgium) and about half of the Luxembourg team. Pöstlberger won the Cruseilles climb but even once the race had descended the climb, there was still a 4'30" gap.

Australia was setting tempo at the front of the peloton and seemed to be making many uncomfortable. While a group of 30 containing the yellow jersey Asbjorn Kragh dropped off the back of the peloton, Australia was not eating into the breakaway's advantage. When the race hit the bottom of the finishing climb, the Plateau de Solaison, the advantage was at 4 minutes.

The Solaison is right near the Grand Colombier, one of the hidden gems of French cycling, and it is a tough climb that averages 9% for 10 out of its 12 kilometers. While it is in the shade, it will burn the best climber. Nearly as soon as the climb started, Kovacic was out the back. In the peloton, Jack Haig had a flat tire and Caleb Ewan pulled over and gave him a wheel so that he could keep going. Haig was able to get back without drama but riders were just pouring out the back as if a tap had been opened. Chetout, Martinelli, TJ Eisenhart (USA) and so on were dropped on the steep gradient.

Sam Oomen, the talented first year U23, kept on plugging along and with 7 kilometers to go, he was solo with a small gap on Davidenok. During the same time, Robert Power (Australia) had to change bikes but he mitigated the damage and was able to rejoin the front group. While Davidenok was able to join Oomen in front, Oskar Svendsen was dropped from the peloton with 5 kilometers to go. So much for repeating his 4th place overall.

Oomen and Davidenok worked well together to keep a good gap back to the only chaser Postlberger, who was 1'15" back while the peloton was still 2 minutes in arrears. More big names were dropping off in Sindre Lunke (Norway), Silvio Herklotz (Germany), Jeff Perrin and Alexey Vermeulen (USA) and Scott Davies (GB). With 3 kilometers to go, Pierre-Roger Latour (France) finally put a match on the lighter fluid and attacked out of the peloton and Rob Power was the only one to join him.

The duo were chugging along behind the two up front but out of the peloton, a familiar sight happened. A lithe Colombian attacked out of the peloton and powered up and proceeded to go by both Power and Latour. Boyacan Miguel Angel Lopez was riding like Nairo Quintana and Esteban Chaves in Tour de l'Avenir past and Lopez, the winner of the Vuelta a Colombia U23 this year, got up out of the saddle and charged away, his legs churning around like pistons.
Davidenok dropped Oomen in the final meters to take the stage win by 3 seconds. Miguel Angel Lopez came in 3rd place 42 seconds down on Davidenok but more importantly, 16 seconds clear of Latour, who dropped Power in the final kilometer. 5th-7th place proved that a steady pace still kept them in the hunt. Giulio Ciccone (Italy) came in with Alexander Foliforov and Alexey Rybalkin (both Russia) at 1'05" down. Power, who cracked a bit in the finale, came in at 1'16" down while Belgian favorite Louis Vervaeke was 9th at 1'19". More interestingly, Vervaeke was given a 20 second penalty for taking a bottle in the final 5 kilometers, which he just poured over his head.
  1. Ilya Davidenok (Kazakhstan)
  2. Sam Oomen (Netherlands) +3"
  3. Miguel Angel Lopez (Colombia) +42"
  4. Pierre-Roger Latour (France) +58"
  5. Giulio Ciccone (Italy) +1'05"
  6. Alexander Foliforov (Russia) +1'06"
  7. Alexey Rybalkin (Russia) s.t
  8. Robert Power (Australia) +1'16"
  9. Louis Vervaeke (Belgium) +1'19"
  10. Joaquim Silva (Portugal) +1'21"
For those not in the know about Davidenok or just think he is another Kazakh then please read. Davidenok won the Kazakh Elite RR in June and then went on to win one of the hardest stage races no one cares about, the Tour of Qinghai Lake. He might not be fighting for GC here but winning the opening mountain stage certainly justifies his stagiaire role with Astana this year.

Miguel Angel Lopez took over the GC lead by 6 seconds ahead of breakaway Sam Oomen with Robert Power and Pierre-Roger Latour sitting in 3rd and 4th overall, both at 27 seconds. Vervaeke's penalty pushes him down to 54 seconds behind Lopez, which pushed him down to 10th overall.

GC classification through stage 4:
  1. Miguel Angel Lopez
  2. Sam Oomen +6"
  3. Robert Power +27"
  4. Pierre-Roger Latour s.t.
  5. Alexander Foliforov +31"
  6. Alexey Rybalkin +41"
  7. Giulio Ciccone +47"
  8. Emanuel Buchmann +48"
  9. Joaquim Silva +51"
  10. Louis Vervaeke +56"
In case you needed me to spell it out for you, the race is not over. Miguel Angel Lopez might have climb very well today but just one bad day, a mechanical or crash could knock him off. Everyone is hungry and tomorrow will be another dog fight with a summit finish at Les Carroz d'Araches.

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