Friday, August 29, 2014

Tour de l'Avenir Stage 6: "El Superman" takes the day

Today was the day where it was put up or shut up. If anyone was going to go up against Miguel Angel Lopez and take down his overall lead, it would most likely have come today. 3 huge mountains in just 108 kilometers with barely any flat road during the whole time. It was pure hell for some while others were in their natural habitats.

The day began with the announcement of a few DNFS including Magnus Cort, Michael Carbel and Felix Großschartner. Tiesj Benoot dropped out soon after having dealt with some illness issues for the whole race. 9 more riders ended up dropping out including another Dane, Mads Würtz, as well as stage winner Dan McLay, Iuri Filosi, Marc Soler and others.

Before the first climb, the Col de Saisies, a breakaway of 8 got away including Martijn Tusveld and Lennard Hofstede (Netherlands), Jeff Perrin (USA), Oskar Svendsen (Norway), Dylan Teuns (Belgium), Fabian Leinhard (Switzerland), Guillaume Martin (France) and Oscar Gonzalez (Spain). The group was able to get a minute on the peloton, which was controlled by Colombia and Lopez, but while they got over the top of the Saisies, which Hofstede won, their gap diminished to just 25 seconds before the biggest climb of the race, the Cormet de Roselend. Jeff Perrin was the last rider to stick it out before being swept up by the peloton at the base of the Roselend.

On the Roseland, Jeremy Maison (France), who has been one of the breakouts of the race, accelerated and was able to stay solo for nearly all of the 20 kilometer climb. Maison passed over the summit solo with a 45 second gap back to the Colombian led peloton but on the descent, he was soon joined by teammate Loïc Chetout and Sam Spokes (Australia). At the base of the descent, Chetout attacked and went solo onto the final climb of the day, La Roseire, while a chasing group including Maison, Jaime Roson (Spain) and Lukas Zeller (Austria) were behind ahead of the Colombian train, which was picking up speed.

Hitting the turn that would take them up to Mont Valezan, race leader Lopez decided to flex his muscle and with 10 kilometers of climbing left, he attacked the race and only Australian Robert Power, who was sitting in 3rd overall, could hold on. In no time at all, the duo had gone by the chasers and Chetout and were out in front. The leading group members were chasing in vain with Pierre-Roger Latour and Giulio Ciccone making counters to try and bridge, both unsuccessful.

The gap extended from 15 seconds to 35 seconds and the panic had set in with the chasers. With 4 kilometers to go, Alexey Rybalkin (Russia) attacked and was actually gaining ground on Lopez-Power train and after Rybalkin flew the potato farm, his Russian teammate Alexander Foliforov attacked and also started gaining time. Rybalkin reached Lopez and Power in the final kilometer but he was wasted from the chase and was not going to be any concern for the stage. Latour launched in the final kilometer to try and salvage some time while the chasing group containing Haig, Buchmann, Vervaeke, Ciccone and Lunke kept doing their best to limit the loses.
According to Lopez post-stage, he wanted Power to take some turns but he was too tired. In the end, Lopez launched the sprint while exhausted Power had to settle for 2nd place and Rybalkin in 3rd, 3 seconds down. Foliforov came in 4th, 20 seconds down, while Latour came in 38 seconds down.

"El Superman" is here. Thanks to @CyclingUptodate on twitter, I learned that Lopez suffered from multiple crashes that limited him in both 2012 and 2013 but when he was active, he was destroying the competition. Also, he got the nickname because he was attacked while out training one day and thieves trying to take his bike stabbed him but Lopez fought them off and got away. Don't fuck with Miguel Angel Lopez. He will beat you silly in the mountains and then fight you off at the same time.

The race is still not over but I will be surprised if Lopez is overhauled tomorrow. It seems like he and Robert Power, who is just going incredibly, are on a similar level and unless something sudden happens, it looks like the maillot jaune from the Tour de l'Avenir will be heading back to Colombia.

Full stage results here

GC has bounced around a bit. Lopez's lead is now at 27 seconds to Robert Power, who took over 2nd place after Sam Oomen cracked hard on La Roseire and lost 6 minutes, while the Russians Rybalkin and Foliforov sit 3rd and 4th with French hope Latour in 5th, 1'05" down. Past Latour, Giulio Ciccone is doing very well in 6th place followed by Emanuel Buchmann, Louis Vervaeke, Joaquim Silva and first year U23 Tao Geoghegan Hart.

Full GC results here

One conclusion we can draw at this time is that Silvio Herklotz, while a brilliant rider, doesn't seem made for the high mountains.

Tomorrow is the final day of the 51st Tour de l'Avenir and while only 94 kilometers long, it features 3 big cols including the Col du Molard, the Col de la Croix de Fer and a summit finish on La Toussuire.

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