Thursday, August 21, 2014

Tour de l'Avenir: The Teams and the Favorites

We are less than a week away from the Tour de l'Avenir and with a full start list in hand, it is time to look at the teams and determine some favorites for next week.

The full startlist is here on the Tour de l'Avenir website but it is rife with spelling mistakes and there have been a few roster changes.


Starters: Loic Chetout, Pierre Gouault, Quentin Jauregui, Pierre-Roger Latour, Guillaume Martin, Jeremy Maison

France comes into the Tour de l'Avenir with a little bit of a surprising roster. No Thomas Boudat. No Alexis Guerin, Lilian Calmejane or Romain Guyot. Don't get me wrong, they have a strong roster but they seem to valuing a run at GC more than getting stage wins.

Pierre-Roger Latour and Guillaume Martin will be the favorites for GC. Latour is obvious with his 5th place this year in Pays de Savoie and 9th in the pro Tour de l'Ain including 6th on the queen stage. Martin was 4th in the Tour Alsace and was climbing with the likes of Jack Haig (Australia) on the queen stage.
Pierre Gouault was the highest French finisher last year in 13th and should be of good use in the mountains.
Loic Chetout and Quentin Jauregui. Chetout was a stage winner in the Ronde de l'Isard and is very good on rolling courses, which will suit him in the early stages. Jauregui has been mainly riding professional races but he could be another that has his eyes on a breakaway.


Starters: Stefan Kung, Tom Bohli, Lukas Spengler, Thery Schir, Fabian Leinhard, Dylan Page.

The star here is Stefan Kung. Kung will be a big favorite for the prologue as well as another stage victory. He has shown he isn't afraid to lay it out on the line and he has the engine to stick something to the end. Past Kung, Lukas Spengler was one of the bright spots for Switzerland (as well as BMC Development) with multiple top 10 finishes in one-day races so he could be another favorite for a stage. Perhaps Thery Schir or Bohli could mix it up in a bunch kick.


Starters: Tiesj Benoot, Floris De Tier, Dylan Teuns, Loic Vliegen, Dieter Bouvry, Louis Vervaeke

Thanks to some nice UCI rules, Louis Vervaeke is still eligible to ride the Tour de l'Avenir even though he signed mid-year with Lotto-Belisol. Usually any U23 riding for a World Tour team isn't able to participate in U23-only races but thanks to his mid-year signing, he is still eligible. Vervaeke got off to a rocky start thanks to some illness at the Tour of Austria but bounced back for a solid Clasica San Sebastian.

Obviously, Vervaeke is one of the big favorites and he is surrounded by a very talented crew. Tiesj Benoot has been incredibly consistent this year so even if he is shepherding Vervaeke, he could grab himself a stage win or some high placings. Teuns is a very good climber having just won the best young rider's jersey at the Tour of Utah and if Vervaeke were to fail, he could be a back-up. Teuns might be able to escape in the high mountains for a stage win. Vliegen has been very good so far with BMC as a stagiaire with top 10s in the Ride London Classic and Arctic Tour overall. I might have left De Tier and Bouvry for last but both are capable riders with De Tier being a good climber and Bouvry there to do a little bit of everything.

Edit: Bouvry has been replaced by Jean-Albert Carnevali due to "intestinal distress". Carnevali only adds more climbing legs to the Belgian attack and makes the team better in the mountains.

I'm trying not to laud them too much but Belgium's team is their strongest in years and looks, at least on paper, as one of the strongest teams on the start line in Saint-Flour.


Starters: Asbjorn Kragh, Soren Kragh, Magnus Cort, Michael Carbel, Mads Pedersen, Patrick Olesen

The headliner here is obviously Magnus Cort, who is destined to Orica GreenEdge next year. Cort is leading the UCI Europe Tour and has won 11 races this year. Now, I don't expect Cort to do much in the mountains but he could take home at least one stage in the first half of the race.

Joining Cort are some good sprinters in Asbjørn Kragh and Michael Carbel. Kragh has been very consistent this year even when he has to deal with his shit show team, Christina Watches. Carbel is just a first year rider in the U23 ranks and I doubt he will finish through the mountains but he could get in a good sprint here.

Patrick Olesen is the best shot at an overall run for Denmark Olesen finished 7th in the Ronde de l'Isard and has been trying to focus on l'Avenir this year. l'Isard has been his only big result this year but his climbing legs are documented so we'll see what happens.


Starters: Odd Eiking, Oskar Svendsen, Sindre Lunke, Sven Erik Bystrøm, Fridtjof Røinas, Kristoffer Skjerping

Another one of my favorites for this year's race is Norway, who is coming in with one big favorite and an enigma. Odd Eiking came alive at the Giro Valle d'Aosta where he finished 2nd overall. He had bright flashes before but it seems the big mountains are his true playground. Eiking looks like the best shot at an overall bid but there is also he teammate Oskar Svendsen.

Svendsen is an enigma. He is horrible at riding in a pack and last year, he has a string DNFs and low finishes before emerging on the climbs at l'Avenir, where he used his high Vo2Max to propel him to a 5th overall. Same story this year as the only place he has done fairly well in the Giro Valle d'Aosta where he was top 5 in both the prologue and uphill TT and climbed pretty well. So either he will DNF, finish about 55th or go for a top result.

Probably a better overall candidate than Svendsen is Sindre Lunke who a) hasn't dropped out of a race all year and b) was incredible at Valle d'Aosta where he was 5th overall and at times climbing better than Odd Eiking. He was also top 20 at the recent Arctic Tour and 15th overall at Tour of Norway earlier this year. This is now three riders for Norway that can potentially climb with the best.

The team is covered in the sprints and rolling hills by Bystrøm and Kristoffer Skjerping.

This truly looks like one of, if not the most, complete team here. They have a little bit of everything and they are looking good for a podium placing later next week.


Starts: Sjoerd Van Ginneken, Sam Oomen, Dirk Abel Beckeringh, Timo Roosen, Martijn Tusveld, Lennard Hofstede

As you can see, there is quite a big omission to this list if you have been reading this site over the last two years. Mike Teunissen, the Dutch wunderkind who rides with aplomb on both the road as well as the dirt, was a non-selection for the l'Avenir squad after dropping out of the Tour de l'Ain. Teunissen has been one of the most reliable Dutch U23 riders this year but without him here, someone else will need to step it up. **Edit: Teunissen broke his collarbone in a crash at Dutch Nationals. He came back at Kreiz Breizh Elites but was still not 100%, which probably led to his non-selection with his DNF in l'Ain sealing it.

Now who will step up...Beckeringh? The Dutch climber, who was 25th in l'Avenir last year, but I don't think he is going to be the best. Tusveld is also strong but he is better on punchier hills and a bit flatter terrain. Roosen has had a breakout year but he likes shorter hills too. I've narrowed down the team by half so let us see when we have left.

Sam Oomen has had a great first year as a U23, where he was 8th overall at the Tour des Fjords and 14th in the Rhône Alpes Isere Tour. Oomen is young though and is similar to his teammate Hofstede, who is another young rider that has done well this year but again, he hasn't been exceptional.

The only non-Rabobank Development rider is Sjoerd Van Ginneken, who rides for Metec. Van Ginneken was 4th in the Czech Cycling Tour and 8th in the Tour of Slovakia but outside that, not a huge amount of results.

This Dutch team doesn't have a GC leader and that seems to bug me more than it should. The Dutch haven't had a true GC result here since Michel Kreder (5th in 2009) and haven't won since Bauke Mollema in 2007. They have had Kelderman, Slagter and Van Baarle race here but without a huge result. Come on Dutchies...take this race seriously.


Starters: Alexander Foliforov, Ildar Arslanov, Matvey Mamykin, Artem Nych, Kirill Sveshnikov, Evgeny Shalunov

We come to the enigma of Alexander Foliforov. Foliforov truly emerged last year with a 5th place overall last year in the Giro Valle d'Aosta. Before that, Foliforov had only one big stage race result with a 10th overall at the Toscana Terra di Ciclismo Nations Cup in 2010 (all nine of those ahead of him are now or will soon be professionals). Now, Foliforov seems to come in bright flashes before going dormant. He was 2nd in the Trofeo Piva Banca and then was just so so until the Ronde de l'Isard, where he proceeded to win the first and last stage but spectacularly blew up while in the yellow jersey and finished 6th overall. Riding high off of that, he proceeded to DNF three straight stage races and only seems to be returning to form now with a 23rd in the GP Capodarco. Who the hell knows what type of shape he will show up in but if he finishes this l'Avenir, it will be the first time in three tries.

Arslanov rides uphill pretty well and has a good time trial but I doubt he will pose much GC threat. Hmmmm...who else is there. Well Sveshnikov, who got off on some doping charges, has a good turn of speed and can get over some hills. Shalunov has breakaway potential and a turn of speed that could see him snipe a good result but again, another rider who is sporadic.


Starters: Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev, Maxat Ayazbayev, Tilegen Maidos, Roman Semyonov, Viktor Okishev, Oleg Zemlyakov

The Kazakhs, using the mighty power of Vino and Kashechkin, come in with a two-headed GC beast of Kozhatayev and Maidos. Kozhatayev was riding stronger last year, at least in terms of results, as he was 6th in the Tour Alsace and then ended up 4th overall in l'Avenir, making him the highest placed rider from last year's GC to return to the race this year. This year hasn't been spectacular for him but he started to come around in Valle d'Aosta, where he got a 3rd place on the final road stage and 9th overall. He just finished the Vuelta a Burgos as a stagiaire for Astana Continental in fairly good shape so perhaps he is coming around.

Maidos might not be a GC threat per say but after going 12th overall last year, he has been building since then and looks good for another high run on GC. He was 11th in Valle d'Aosta and has been right there in the Italian one-day races of late including 6th in the GP Poggiana.

There are certainly strong riders on the team but no big result getter. I know that might not make sense but many of these riders are strong like oxen but perhaps they don't have the tactical nous to get a breakout result. Like Maxat Ayazbayev for example...he has one or two big results in a year then goes dormant. He was 2nd in the Vuelta a Mexico earlier this year but has been crickets since then. We shall see if they decide to show up.


Starters: Felix Großschartner, Patrick Gogl, Dennis Paulus, Lukas Pöstlberger, Patrick Bosman and Sebastian Schonberger.

Well Pöstlberger is a former stage winner here but he has been all crickets this year besides one stage at Tour Alsace. Großschartner is probably their best bet for a stage win because he has been consistent this year and was there on the big climbs at the Giro Valle d'Aosta. Also strong at Valle d'Aosta was Bosman but I'm thinking he will be in that upper-pack fill area on the results sheet.

Without Patrick Konrad, this team isn't what they used to be but there are bright spots. Let's see if they can make a breakaway and steal a win.

Great Britain

Starters: Owain Doull, Scott Davies, Tao Geoghegan Hart, Dan McLay, Daniel Pearson, Jake Kelly

The British are in the shadow of a fantastic performance last year by the Yates bros., Simon and Adam, but fear not, they are going once more into the breach. Leading the GC charge should be Tao Geoghegan Hart and Daniel Pearson. Pearson rode a fantastic Giro Valle d'Aosta, where he finished 8th overall with the Zappi's team, led by former professional and anti-doping crusader Flavio Zappi. Geoghegan Hart is currently on the Bissell team and was apart of the Tour of California and Tour of Utah squads, where is was more about survival than winning. He is a great climber and he could definitely feature on some of the mountain stages.

Owain Doull was the man this spring when he dominated Triptyque Monts et Chateaux and was 4th in the U23 Ronde van Vlaanderen. He has been a bit quiet this summer but expect to see him up there on the early stages along with teammate Dan McLay. McLay is coming off an overall in at the Ronde van Oost-Vlaanderen with his Lotto-Belisol U23 team. McLay or Doull will be looking to grab a stage in a sprint.


Starters: Iuri Filosi, Davide Martinelli, Gianni Moscon, Manuel Senni, Alessandro Tonelli, Federico Zurlo, Giulio Ciccone

The Italians are bringing their strongest team since a few years with Mattia Cattaneo. Headlining on the climbs will be Manuel Senni, Iuri Filosi and Gianni Moscon. Senni was going head to head with the best at the Giro Valle d'Aosta where he had some impressive displays, winning the first two stages in a row before fading to 3rd overall. Senni has been quiet as of late but he is their best shot for a big overall contender. Filosi had a big spring with multiple wins and high placings but he hasn't been anything good as of late and DNFed in Capodarco. Moscon has been in very good form during the one-day races in Italy lately but he hasn't raced a high-profile international stage race a sa U23 so it will be a test for him.

SKY stagiaire Davide Martinelli will certainly be targeting the prologue as well as the sprint stages early on in the race. Martinelli could possibly be good for a breakaway in the mountains. Tonelli is certainly strong in one-day races but like Moscon, untested in big stage races.

Thanks to @AlessioZanni on twitter for informing me that Tonelli has been replaced by Giulio Ciccone, the Colpack climber that has been on point this year with 6th overall in Valle d'Aosta and was top 10 in both Poggiana (9th) and Capodarco (5th). Ciccone is young, not even 20 years old yet, but he is a gifted climber. He will certainly add to the climbing arsenal along with Senni, Filosi and Moscon.

Federico Zurlo is one of the most gifted young Italians but a brash temper and multiple crashes have limited him from his potential. Zurlo showed signs of life as a stagiaire with United Healthcare at the Tour of Denmark where he got into multiple breakaways to finish 2nd in the King of the Molehill classification.

They have the potential but Moscon has gotten the beatdown from Robert Power the last few weeks. Will Senni and Filosi be able to step up and be consistent? We shall see.


Starters: Mikel Iturria, Mikel Aristi, Oscar Gonzalez, Jaime Roson, Marc Soler, Alvaro Trueba

This Spanish are going green. Green in the sense that no one on the roster has ridden the Tour de l'Avenir before but fear not, there might be a little hope. Jaime Roson was climbing well earlier this year but after finishing 13th in the Ronde de l'Isard in May, he hasn't raced a UCI race. Mikel Iturria is strong in the mountains but he has been inconsistent. With the demise of his trade team Euskadi, he will be extra motivated for a big results. (I'm also hoping to see him have a breakout ride like he did at the Giro Valle d'Aosta last year.

Marc Soler has been tearing it up on the Spanish amateur scene this year, so much so in fact that Movistar offered him a two-year contract for next season. Soler has won 6 races and has been climbing very well. He is untested in international races but he will feel at home on the climbs. It will be interesting to see if he can adapt.

This isn't exactly the strongest Spanish squad we have at the Tour de l'Avenir but we'll see what happens.


Starters: TJ Eisenhart, Jeff Perrin, Logan Owen, Yannick Eckmann, Tyler Williams, Alexey Vermeulen

A young American team could pull off a nice result if everything goes to plan for the team. The two defaults for a GC run are Utah native TJ Eisenhart and Michigan product Alexey Vermeulen. Eisenhart was 23rd overall in l'Avenir last year and while he hasn't produced a big GC this year, he has the potential. Vermeulen, who also rides with Eisenhart on BMC Development, has started to become more consistent this year with a top 20 placing overall in the Tour Alsace (20th), Giro Valle d'Aosta (17th), U23 Peace Race (6th) and Triptyque Monts et Chateaux (14th).

The joker in the cast is Jeff Perrin. Perrin was top 10 in a stage last year and this year, he was 8th overall in the Ronde de l'Isard, which features some proper mountains. I could see Perrin in a support role if need be but he is no slouch on the climbs. Perhaps a breakaway? Only the race will tell.

Williams just won the KOM classification in the Tour de Namur but he will be a good asset on the flatter to rolling stages. Eckmann is a late replacement for Geoffrey Curran and like Williams, he will be a good motor. Logan Owen is capping off a long first season as a U23 and while he is at his best on the flat to rolling terrain, he could be off use in the mountains for a while.


Starters: Alex Kirsch, Massimo Morabito, Kevin Feiereisen, Sven Fritsch, Michel Hubsch, Luc Turchi

Alex Kirsch is the only real chance at a result here. He just slogged through the Tour of Utah and he might have the form to mix it up in a selective sprint. Past him...maybe Feiereisen? He has been sniffing around the top 10 all year  in the sprints and he might get a top 10. The others better hold on as long as they can.


Starters: Miguel Angel Lopez, Brayan Ramirez, Carlos Ramirez, Fernando Gaviria, Daniel Rozo, Rodrigo Contreras

Following the fall-out between the Colombian Federation and 4-72 Colombia, led by Luis Saldariagga, the Feds took control of the team back from Saldariagga, which led to no 4-72 riders being chosed for l'Avenir. This includes Giro della Valle d'Aosta rider Bernardo Suaza, Juan Felipe Osorio, Diego Ochoa and so on. While it would have been great to see some of these riders on the team, not all Colombian hopes are lost.

In their place, Miguel Angel Lopez and Brayan Ramirez lead the charge for an overall chance. They were 1-2 in the Vuelta a Colombia U23 earlier this year with Lopez being the darling climber while Ramirez is a bit better overall. The team also includes two Pan-Am champions including Fernando Gaviria (U23 RR) and Rodrigo Contreras (U23 TT) along with the U23 Colombian TT champion Carlos Ramirez.

The talent might be there but these are untested riders and also riders that are not apart of the new push in Colombia to get better doping testing. This isn't a slam on the riders individually or saying that they are dirty but there are certain teams, like 4-72, that have been pushing for a bio-passport and more testing in Colombia. There has been push back against this, especially with some in the country's federation that are not entirely behind the anti-doping cause. Brayan Ramirez was also quoted in an interview saying that Santiago Botero is "my idol". That is the same guy that blood doped with Kelme, T-Mobile and Phonak.


Starters: Emanuel Buchmann, Silvio Herklotz, Yuriv Vasyliv, Matthias Plarre, Mario Vogt, Max Schachmann

Silvio Herklotz would like to forget about last year's Tour de l'Avenir. The German wunderkind, who was riding like a banshee for most of 2013, caught a bad cough and was out of the race after just 2 stages. He is looking for a bit of redemption this year. Herklotz hasn't been quite as electric in his last couple of stage races, the Valle d'Aosta and Tour Alsace, but he has been consistent in getting up with the lead groups even while not off the front.

Emanuel Buchmann should be right up there with Herklotz in the mountains. Buchmann was in the top 10 at the GP Capodarco, where he came in right behind the breakaway group that included winner Robert Power. Buchmann looked strong in Alsace and he is at home in the mountains.

To support these two, there is Yuriv Yasyliv, who is a strong mountain climber, Mario Vogt, who is pretty good at it all, and then two diesels in Plarre and Schachmann, the latter of which is a fairly good climber.

A notable exception here is Ruben Zepuntke, who is currently racing the American Pro Tour of Colorado Challenge Extravaganza.


Starters: Caleb Ewan, Robert Power, Jack Haig, Nick Schultz, Alex Clements, Sam Spokes

Maybe a little weird to put the race favorites halfway through the preview but you know, I need to have you people reading everything and not reading the first paragraph and x-ing out. Not that I make any money from doing this right now. In any case, Australia is coming in with a few powerhouses that will make people legs ache.

Robert Power has been on some of the best form of his short career having now won 3 out of 3 races in Italy against some stiff competition. When I say win, it was more like he stood up on the pedals and rocketed away from everyone. Now Power has not raced on climbs like the ones at l'Avenir so if for any reason he were to have a bad day on one of the many 15+ kilometer climbs then Australia still has a back-up plan. Jack Haig is in his first year on the road in Europe with the Australian National Team after many successful years as on the MTB circuit. This year, he has been a revelation having won the best young rider in the Tour Down Under, 3rd in the Herald Sun Tour, 2nd in the Tour Alsace by 6 seconds on Karel Hnik and been the right hand man for Power in the Italian one-days, providing some numbers in the chasing groups and shredding lead groups.

It might feel weird to think of Caleb Ewan as an afterthought but when you have Power and Haig covering the overall, Ewan will be fighting for the few sprint stages on offer. Ewan hasn't had the greatest of seasons since winning the Australian U23 RR title back in January. Ewan has a good amount of top 5 placings this year but has been denied multiple times by other sprints like Wim Stroetinga, Jakub Mareczko and Daniele Cavasin. Ewan did put in a good performance and the RideLondon Classic a couple of weekends ago by getting into the race's main breakaway. He did have a bad crash at the Ronde van Vlaanderen U23 that derailed part of his spring but hopefully we can see him at his best.

Joining these three are a good cast of supporters including U23 Peace Race winner Sam Spokes, Etixx stagiaire Nick Schultz and National Team rider Alex Clements, who was 12th overall in the Sun Tour this year and did well in the spring one-day races.


Starters: Joaquim Silva, Carlos Ribeiro, Nuno Matos, Rafael Ferreira, Rafael Reis, Ruben Guerreiro

Portugal hasn't been here since 2010 and is primed to make a good showing. Ruben Guerreiro nearly didn't make the team even though he is one of their best bets for a good GC ride. After winning the Volta a Portugal do Futuro, Guerreiro didn't want to ride the Volta a Portugal because of fatigue. The national coach did not like this and up until yesterday, Guerreiro was out of the team. Common sense has prevailed and he is in the squad. Joaquim Silva is another strong rider who finished the Volta in 25th overall, 4th overall in the youth classification.

Not a half bad team but they will need a little luck to get a good result.


Starters: Luka Pibernik, Domen Novak, Gasper Katrasnik, Martin Otonicar, Matej Razingar, Rok Korosec

Pibernik is the only one to watch her unless Otonicar can sprint better than he ever has. Pibernik will be targeting stages but most likely, he will be around the top 10 a few times.


Starters: Bartosz Warchoł, Eryk Latoń, Arkadiusz Owsian, Przemysław Kasperkiewicz, Patryk Stosz, Jakub Kaczmarek

Just like Portugal, Poland is making their first appearance in l'Avenir since 2010. Kasperkiewicz is probably the best threat for a Polish result. He won a stage at the U23 Peace Race this year and even got through the professional Tour of Poland with the National Team. Behind him, Bartosz Warchol is pretty good rider. Warchol won a stage of the Carpathian Couriers Tour and finished 3rd overall in the U23 Peace Race. Stosz seems to target KOM classifications, having taken 3 in two years, and while these climbs are much bigger than any he has faced, it could be a good shot for him to get some breakaway time.

UCI Mixed Team

Starters: Raul Costa Seibeb (Namibia), Till Drobisch (Namibia), Caio Godoy (Brazil), Christopher Jurado (Panama), Anass Ait El Abdia (Morocco), Joao Gaspar (Brazil)

Always nice to see the UCI put in a mixed team to give riders from smaller countries a chance. Seibeb and Drobisch are the biggest names and if one of them scores points for a stage or the overall for the Nations Cup, they would qualify Namibia for the U23 Worlds RR.

Godoy is a highly rated Brazilian with the nickname, "The Cannibal". Just a first year U23 and he hasn't had any DNFs, which includes races like Valle d'Aosta and Kreiz Breizh Elites. Anass Ait El Abdia won a stage in the Tour du Maroc this year, where he also finished 9th overall, as well as high finishes during the Grand Tour of Algeria including best young rider in the Tour International de Constantine.


My three favorites? Australia, Norway and Belgium, in no specific order.

No comments:

Post a Comment