Thursday, September 25, 2014

U23 World Road Race Preview

Back in 2012, I predicted that Alexey Lutsenko would sprint to the win in Valkenburg. Last year...well I had no idea Mohoric would do what he did. I'm hoping to reach my inner swami and predict the future once more. I was a little rusty in the TT by getting the podium correct but out of order so I'm going to have my shit down by come Thursday.


The World U23 RR only dates back to 1996, when Giuliano Figueras led a 3-up Italian EPO-fueled beat down of the race. The first 3 winners (Figueras, Kurt-Asle Arvesen and Ivan Basso) rode for Zalf-Euromobil, led by Luciano Rui, during those years while 1999 winner Leonardo Giordani rode for dope-rich DS Olivano Locatelli. The racing stayed dirty through wins by Evgeny Petrov and Yaroslav Popovych, podium places by Thomas Dekker and podium rides by anonymous Russians that disappeared into the background.

In more recent years, the results have been all over the place. Some races have been crapshoots. I'm thinking 2007 Stuttgart where a small bunch sprint came to the line and making it through multiple crashes for the win was...Peter Velits, then by no means unheard of as he had won the GP Fourmies 2 weeks prior. Finishing 11th that day? Juraj Sagan. 108th? Alexander Kristoff.

Others featured a shooting star that flashed incredibly bright before going dormant. I'm looking at you Romain Sicard. The now Europcar rider won the Tour de l'Avenir thanks to some French scheming and then in Mendrisio, he attacked and blew by Egor Silin to take an amazing solo win. I might have to stop poking fun at him because he did just get 13th in the Vuelta but I mean, you have to admit his first 4 years as a pro were anonymous.

Then sometimes the stars aligned. 2010's Worlds in Melbourne saw the big 3 finish on the podium as Michael Matthews took the home win ahead of John Degenkolb and Taylor Phinney. Not to forget Arnaud Demare was 5th and Sonny Colbrelli 6th. (Sorry Guillaume Boivin for excluding your half-podium with Phinney.) Also, 2006 in Salzburg; wunderkind Gerald Ciolek formed a breakaway with Robert Gesink, Francesco Gavazzi, Jelle Vanendert, Romain Feillu and the outlier dopebag Alexander Khatuntsev (So good for one year, got a big contract and bombed). They ended up holding off the bunch including Edvald Boassen Hagen and Mark Cavendish and Ciolek took the sprint. 8 professionals in the top 10 in that race.

This race can be a crapshoot or a seeing glass into the future. So let us take a look at the course then to see if it will be leaning towards a crapshoot or a future Elite Worlds podium.

The Course

I've lost some sleep trying to think about who this course is suited for. Okay, not really but this is a challenging course to try and figure out. This is a medium-difficulty course that could suit a few different types of riders. The riders will tackle a 18.2 kilometer circuit 10 times that will feature 2 climbs on each circuit as well as a downhill final 3 kilometers, which is the same finish the TT had.

These two climbs include the Confederacion climb and the Mirador climb. The Confederacion climb is 5 kilometers in length but only half of that is much of a gradient and the whole climb itself is an average of 3.3%. The max gradient is a mere 8.7%, which isn't something to scoff at but it is nothing sustained. The Mirador has some stronger gradients with a maximum of 10.7% and average of 5.5%. While the gradients are a bit stronger, the length is just 1.1 kilometers. The course isn't a sprinters paradise but it isn't quite as hard as last year's course. Hmmm...

My two cents...I'm thinking a group of 6 to 8 gets away in the finale including a couple of fasts guys and they stay away until the end.

The Who's Who

That means every last country god damn it because what if you have questions about Algeria? or Rwanda? Who will be there for you? Not CyclingNews, that is for damn sure. We shall start from the top of the start list, which was made official today.

  • Slovenia might be the defending champs because of Matej Mohoric but they will have a tough time repeating. Luka Pibernik could get into the top 10 but I don't think the future Lampre rider will be contending for the win.
  • Belgium is coming in as one of the contenders for the win as they seem to have a weapon for every situation. Tiesj Benoot is their most versatile weapon as he is brilliant on the attack, can climb with nearly anyone on these type of climbs and shows himself off in any sprint. If the race turns out to be more of a straight-up sprint, they have Jasper De Buyst. Need some attacking climbers? Loic Vliegen and Dylan Teuns. Throw in classics rider Kenneth Van Rooy and Floris De Tier, and you have a damn strong team.
  • As of right now, Thomas Boudat is my favorite to take the rainbow stripes. The compact sprinter who switches between the road & track and reminds many of Bryan Coquard seems to be the perfect fit for this course that sits between difficult and easy. He is backed up by a strong team in Loic Chetout, Quentin Jauregui, Pierre-Roger Latour and Kevin Ledanois, who won the Tour du Jura 2 weeks ago.
  • Russia had a good l'Avenir with Foliforov and Rybalkin going top 5 overall and if the course becomes more selective then they are the two best bets for a high finish. If it sticks together, it will be Evgeny Shalunov who can mix it up in the sprint for the Russians.
  • Colombia comes in with one of the strongest teams. Tour de l'Avenir winner Miguel Angel Lopez crashed in the TT but should be ready to attack on the hills here. If there is any sprint, Pan-Am Champ Fernando Gaviria is their best bet for a the win. 
  • Is Sondre Holst Enger going to show up for Norway here or is he going to just ride an anonymous race? Because he has some amazing talent but this year, besides some Norwegian races, he hasn't been his 2013-self. If Enger can't get his shit together, Katusha recruit Sven Erik Bystrøm and Kristoffer Skjerping will be there for a sprint-type finish. For the hills, they have Odd Eiking and Sindre Lunke. My problem with this team? Not always consistent. They could have the best team on paper but then they finish just so-so.
  • While Stefan Küng might be a little disappointed from his bronze in the time trial, he still will have his eyes on the road race. Just like he did in the European U23 RR, he could try and attack near the end to steal a huge win here. Lukas Spengler was in great for earlier this year in some hilly Italian races so maybe he can bring some of that to Ponferrada?
  • Will Mathieu van der Poel be able to pull off a shock result at the Worlds with a vicious attack on the final lap? Maybe. Or you know...maybe not. Mike Teunissen is the most seasoned rider on the team but after some injuries this year, his form is just coming back but he did win the Rabo Baronie Breda Classic last week in a mass sprint.
  • I love Magnus Cort's attitude. He was quoted as saying this weekend that he was racing for the win and that he would rather attack, go out front and be brought back than ride in and be content with a top 10 finish. Hell yeah. Because 5 years from now, who is going to remember that you got 7th place in the U23 Worlds RR? No. Not even me. You know who was 7th in the 2009 race in Mendrisio? I hear crickets. It was Yevgeni Nepomnyachshiy. I know everyone talks about his ride from that race. If Cort fails, there are the Kragh brother, Asbjørn and Søren, who are good for attacks and Asbjørn has a good sprint on his as well.
  • Australia comes in as the hot favorite with wunderkinds Caleb Ewan and Robert Power. Ewan will be hard to overcome as he is a sprinter that can climb well and get over climbs most sprinters can't. Power will get bored, flick it into the big ring and make everyone bleed out their eyes. Put in TT Champ Campbell Flakemore, climber Jack Haig and workmen Sam Spokes & Alex Clements and then you have a damn strong team. I think they will be disappointed if they don't come out with at least a medal.
  • For Great Britain, it will depend on who is in form. I think Tao Geoghegan Hart can make the front group but I doubt go for the win. If Owain Doull is in good form then he could go for the podium; if not, then it could be a bit disappointing. I think this course is a bit too much for Dan McLay and his sprint.
  • After an anonymous l'Avenir, Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev has a lot to prove. Is he legit or was he a one-hit wonder? He finished 2nd in the Tour Bohemia to Lukas Pöstlberger and seems to be riding well. Maxat Ayazbayev is riding along on a quiet year and it just seems like Kazakhstan will be a team that will be riding there with the front group but not really showing themselves.
  • Austria is one of my dark horse teams. They have both Lukas Pöstlberger and Gregor Mühlberger. Pöstlberger had a 60 kilometer solo breakaway at the Tour Bohemia to win while Mühlberger was 11th in the 1.HC Tre Valli Varesine and won the Trofeo Piva Banca earlier this year, which had a hilly course that suits a breakaway, a similar situation to this course. The dark horse of the dark horse team is Michael Gogl, who was 15th in l'Avenir and was 4th on a stage there that had a hard finale with a climb in the final couple kilometers. 
  • Is this going to be Silvio Herklotz's year to win U23 Worlds. The uber-talented German has had a quiet summer but this is a course that seems to suit him to a T. It has climbs but they are not super hard and even if it comes down to a select sprint, he has a great turn of speed. If the race sticks together and more sprinters hang on, Jan Dieteren can offer a bigger turn of speed that Herklotz. And let's not forget Ruben Zepuntke, who seemed to turn a corner at Tour of Alberta. He packs a sprint at the end of a classics-style course that could be good use.
  • If Tanner Putt got a top 10 here for the USA, I would be sooooooo happy.
  • *Cue my talk about Davide Martinelli needing to focus on sprinting.* Seriously though, if Martinelli can hang over the climbs then he could stick it to many in the sprint. I'm not talking out of my ass. A top 10 is possibly. Luca Chirico is known to hang on during hilly races and then be around for the sprint at the end and climbs better than Martinelli. Mass sprint? Federico Zurlo. Climbs weed some people out? Iuri Filosi and Gianni Moscon are there but they lack a bit finishing kick; they rely on solo breakaways moves from 20-30km out.
  • Hmmmm Portugal has some good riders. Rafael Reis is obviously a strong TT rider after his 4th place on Monday. Ruben Guerreiro is probably their best bet for a strong result but maybe top 20?
  • Well I hope Spain has a respectable showing at home. I'm rooting for Mikel Iturria (my Basque love showing) but not expecting too much from the homeboys.
  • I doubt Ryan Mullen can come anywhere near his U23 TT result from Monday but Jack Wilson is probably the best bet for a strong ride.
  • Alex Kirsch will be hoping the race can stay relatively together for a sprint because he would be an outsider for a medal if everything went right.  He definitely doesn't have much help from a weak Luxembourg team.
  • Poland is a land I struggle with but I think that their best shot for a good result comes from Pryzemyslaw Kasperkiewicz. PK won a stage in the U23 Peace Race, finished 3rd in the Carpathian Couriers Tour and was 5th in the recent Tour Bohemia. Piotr Brozyna is just a first year U23 but has had a good year as he was the Polish U23 RR Champ and finishing the Tour de l'Avenir.
  • Matti Manninen? Well carry Finland as far as you can. He did finish 5th in the European U23 RR after all, which was the sole reason they qualified, so miracles can happen.
  • Eritrea had stressful lead up to the race with Metkel Eyob and Meron Teshome being stranded in Sudan with visa issues. Their best rider is obviously Merhawi Kudus and he could possibly get a top 10 for the team if the race breaks up.
  • Romania's golden hope is Eduard Grosu, who has had a very strong season with Vini Fantini-Nippo-De Rosa. He has a good sprint on him but with these hills, I don't think he will be able to handle the climbs.
  • Louis Meintjes is basically the team here. He will need to do something similar to last year where he attacked near the end and stuck the move, only being dropped by Matej Mohoric. I mean after riding the damn Vuelta, he should be kicking ass but then that goes into that old argument from me about why Pro Continental riders shouldn't be allowed in these races.
  • I get so hopeful for Moroccan riders because they tend to be amazing in African racing but once they leave the continent, they never quite live up the those standards they have set. Salah Mraouni comes to mind as he has about 20 top 10's this year but I doubt he will factor at all into the race.
  • Ahmet Örken will be carrying Turkey on his back. He is a strong sprinter with a win in the Tour of Qinghai Lake and top 10 finishes in the Tour of Turkey. Question is if he can make it up 20 climbs with the lead group to make a factor.
  • Algeria has well...not much. Adil Barbari should be their best finisher. They race a lot in Northern Africa but unless you know your competition and race at their level, then it is going to be a tough time to compete
  • Rwanda deserves to celebrate even making the championships and I find the stories of Jean Bosco Nsengimana, Valens Ndayisenga and Vendee U's Bonaventure Uwizeyimana incredibly inspiring. They might not even finish the race but I will be unabashedly cheering for them.
  • Slovakia, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Latvia and Serbia...crickets. Seriously, nothing substantial to say.
  • So this is Albania's first trip to Worlds in quite a long time. I'm fairly certain that even Eugert Zhupa didn't even line up for the country that is known for their indecipherable language and being one of the most isolated states on earth until 1992. While Albania as a whole is on the rebound, their cycling roots are just taking shape now. The tiny Balkan nation have two gems in Xhuliano Kamberaj and Iltjan Nika. They both race in Italy since Albania has no racing infrastructure but they have been producing good results. Kamberaj has been all over the top 10 as a sprinter for Cipollini Ale Rime including 7th in the UCI Circuito del Porto while Nika was 3rd in the Junior Worlds RR last year. Both are young (Kamberaj a '94 while Nika is a '95) so they have some time to develop further.
  • James Oram and Dion Smith have had successful seasons racing a mostly USA domestic circuit. Oram has been developing as a stage racer and Smith is more of an all-around sprinter type. They are the only two Kiwis here but they both have the tools to put in good rides. You can sense my unenthusiastic answer, huh?
  • There is this Costa Rican, Jeison Vega, that will be interesting to see. Hasn't raced much but seems to be a strong rider. I'm waiting for the next Andrey Amador to come out of there.
  • Belarus brings to strong riders in Nikolai Shumov and Aliaksandr Riabushenko. Both were top 25 in the European U23 RR. These riders from Belarus can come out from nowhere so perhaps another top 25?
  • From South America and Mexico, there are a few riders that could ride well here. Jose Luis Rodriguez (Chile) rode well in the time trial and seems to climb well for the road race. Ciao Godoy (Brazil) might be nicknamed as the Cannibal but he hasn't been riding up to that name...yet. He can climb well though. Yonder Godoy (Venezuela) rides with Androni Venezuela during the year and while he hasn't made much of an impact with them, he is stepping down a level and could get a results here. Mexico brings Luis Lemus Davila and Ignacio Prado and well...maybe a top 40?
My podium? 1. Thomas Boudat 2. Caleb Ewan 3. Fernando Gaviria. Watch for a twitter preview soon if you make it this far!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Campbell Flakemore wins U23 Worlds TT in a nail-biter

In what is the closest U23 Worlds TT finish in history, Campbell Flakemore was able to cap his U23 career with a rainbow jersey after making up a nearly 20 second deficit between the final checkpoint and the finish line to push Ryan Mullen (Ireland) out of the hot seat and into the silver medal position.
Ahmet Orken (Turkey) was the first rider to roll off the start ramp at 2 p.m. local time under threatening skies. The first few riders got a little advantage of being able to ride without any rain and that included Louis Meintjes (South Africa). While I object to Meintjes being to participate after riding a full pro season and the damn Vuelta, he was the 6th starter and took advantage of the dry course to put in a 44'38", which was an average speed of nearly 48.6 km/h. While the rain had begun to fall on the course, James Oram put in a good ride that saw him start really quick and then do a slow burn to the finish that would see him come in 21 seconds down on Meintjes to take the provisional 2nd place.

The biggest surprise of the day was Portugal's Rafael Reis. Reis was wearing the 41st bib and was far away from the favorite starters. To be honest, I didn't think Reis would do much. Reis was 6th in the Junior Worlds TT in 2010 in Copenhagen but since then, he hasn't done much except win some Portuguese U23 TT Championships. A 15th place in the Volta a Portugal TT was no predictor for what he did in Ponferrada Monday. Reis went out hard in the off and on rain, sprinting out of corners and set the fastest time checks before coming in 29 seconds faster than Meintjes. It was some great pacing by Reis because some riders like Andreas Vangstad (Norway) went faster than him but then faded later on. Reis set the bar high for the favorites that would come later.

Obviously Meintjes and Oram got a little advantage with the rain while other riders like Jon Dibben, Vangstad and others rode through a torrential downpour. Dibben rode out of his skin and if he had dry roads, it might have been an absolute ripper. He finished 19 seconds down on Reis to sit himself in 2nd with Vangstad just 6 seconds behind him in 3rd. The rain took Tour de l'Avenir winner Miguel Angel Lopez as a tariff; the Colombian tore his skinsuit but was still able to finish in the mid-table.

Riders were coming and going but no one was coming close to Reis. Frederik Frison was only 4 seconds down to Reis at check 1 but Reis rode an incredibly quick 2nd check that distanced the Belgian, who would eventually finish in 9th. It was a similar story for Søren Kragh, who started just 6 seconds back of Reis, but was distanced on the back half of the course to finish 16th.

Once Ryan Mullen hit the first check point, then the true race was on. Mullen just demolished Vangstad's best time by 21 seconds and looked incredibly smooth on his Vitus. And actually, no one was anywhere near his time. Mullen started so fast that he had a 20 second lead back to 2nd place Campbell Flakemore at check 1. Perhaps going out a little slower would have been a little better strategy for Mullen...

One of the biggest "what-ifs" had to go to Maximillian Schachmann. The German was on an absolute ripper of a ride and eventually ended up 5th on the day. Most everyone would be ecstatic with that ride but Schachmann was very sad. But why? Well the young German finished 37 seconds back but that included a crash...that is right, Schachmann crashed on course and rode the last half of the course in pain but he kept getting faster as the course went on. Could he have challenged for the medals? Maybe. Just keep an eye on him next year in Richmond.

While Mullen went out like a bat out of hell, Küng and Flakemore kept conserving as they still knew they had the final climb at the end of the course. While Mullen went flat out on the dead flat first half, he was suffering a little on the back half including on the climb. Mullen came in with 8 riders still out on course; his mount agape trying to hoover as much air as possible into his lungs. He was swerving down the finishing straight and came across in the lead, nearly 19 seconds up on Rafi Reis.

Mullen had even extended his lead to both Küng and Flakemore, whom he lead by 23 and 21 seconds at the 2nd check. Party time has going to be happening soon for thousands of his supporters but I do hear that the race isn't over until Phil Liggett sings. In the final check, Flakemore was able to bring back over 21 seconds and with a stunned Mullen watching on from the hot seat, Flakemore stood up and sprinted for the line. Flakemore beat the Irishman by .48 seconds. At nearly 50 kilometers per hour, that amounts to just 6 bike lengths. Over 36 kilometers and you tell me it comes down to 6 bike lengths? Damn. Being gutted is an understatement but Mullen will be back; this is not his only shot.

Stefan Küng brought back some time but the Swiss Mister was only able to finish 9 seconds down on Flakemore. Küng brings in a bronze medal in an amazing season with the RR still to come. Küng might be an after thought after Flakemore's incredible dramatics but his ride is nothing to scoff at. The big 3 came to play today and play they did.

 The Tasman Flakemore couldn't be a more deserving winner. Ask any of his teammates about how selfless he is as a rider and how willing he is to work for any one. Time trials are his times to shine and he does that with great aplomb. He isn't an incredible rider because he endurance is lacking for a future professional rider and he is a TT specialist so he has a bit to go before knocking on the World Tour door but cheers to Campbell Flakemore for the great win.

Ryan Mullen might have gotten his big win stolen from him but he is young. He will be in Richmond next year to get his rainbow bands. Perhaps Max Schachmann can keep it upright and those two can have a nice duel along with Jon Dibben? Can I call the podium a year in advance?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

U23 World Time Trial Championship Preview

Contre la montre. The race of truth. One man against the road. Does anyone want to here any more overused Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin quotes to describe a time trial? Didn't think so.

The U23 World Time Trial Championship is going on its 19th year (before it was just professionals and amateurs) and for the most part, the winners have gone on to some level of success as a pro. Success can be used in its loosest sense with guys like Markus Fothen but still, if you get a good result at Worlds then you should at least get a chance in the pro ranks.

For an example, there have been 24 riders on the podium of the U23 World TT in a ten year span from 2004-2013. 19 of them are currently professionals in either the World Tour or Professional Continental. Three others are still riding on the continental level in Dominique Cornu, Rasmus Quaade and Yoann Paillot. The former is well...doing not much while the latter two are still riding well. The only one not riding anymore is Kiwi Peter Latham, who was a significant part of the New Zealand Team Pursuit squad in 3 Olympics. The enigma of the bunch is Dmytro Grabovskyy, who was the absolute darling child as a U23, signed with Quick Step, proceeded to get a vicious drinking problem that nearly killed him, made a comeback, went off the wagon and now lives in Israel with his family and has ridden national events there.

Those 19 riders that are still kicking are: Janez Brajkovic, Thomas Dekker, Vicenzo Nibali, Mikhail Ignatiev, Jerome Coppel, Lars Boom, Adriano Malori, Patrick Gretsch, Cameron Meyer, Jack Bobridge, Nelson Oliviera, Taylor Phinney, Luke Durbridge, Marcel Kittel, Michael Hepburn, Damien Howson, Anton Vorobyev and Lasse Hansen. A pretty good list there.

The Course

There are a few noticeable differences about this year's course compared to last year's course in Florence. First, the course is 7 kilometers shorter than last year and more technical than last year's nearly dead straight affair. Second, this course will have a climb right near the finish that might prove a little tricky for some. It hits a maximum of 7% but the climb only lasts for maybe 1 kilometer before a sharp downhill into the final three kilometers, which only features one turn about 800 meters from the line.

The contenders are going to have to be riders that put out boatloads of power in a straight line but can handle a bike reasonably well. There are definitely a few that fit the bill.

The Contenders

I have three main contenders for the U23 World TT Championship that I think will separate themselves from the pack fairly well. Campbell Flakemore, Stefan Küng and Ryan Mullen are my three riders that I think will set themselves apart and fight it out of the medals. The start lists are still not finalized but these three seem to be a cut above the rest. I know that is excluding riders such as Davide Martinelli, Marlen Zmorka, Frederik Frison, TJ Eisenhart, etc. but these three are my choices.

Flakemore won the rain-soaked Tour de l'Avenir prologue and finished 3rd at last weekend's Chrono Champenois, a scant three seconds ahead of Stefan Küng. Flakemore had a poor early season but has come around and is continually lauded by his teammates for his selfless attitude. Flakmore won the Chrono Champenois last year and finished 4th at Worlds in Florence, just 12 seconds off the podium.  He also won time trials in the Thüringen Rundfahrt and Olympia's Tour last year so while things have quieted down a bit this year for him, I expect him to come in with some scary good form.

Küng will be seen as the new Cancellara by some. He is the current European U23 pursuit champion, 2nd in the World Elite Pursuit Championship in Cali, the current European U23 TT and RR champion and did I mention he won a week long stage race in the Tour de Normandie? Scary fucking talented. It also might help that he is built like a truck (6'3" (1.93) and 185 pounds (84 kg)) but Küng should be taken lightly by no one in any race. He was just 3 seconds off Flakemore at Champenois and he will be hungry to stand on the podium.

Mullen will be the British Isles favorite. Yeah I'm aware he is declared for Ireland but he was born and raised in GB like many of Ireland's talents that ride under the flag. Mullen is the current Irish Elite TT and RR Champion and has been riding a lot of time trials on the British circuit including 2nd in the British 10-mile championships and clocking the 3rd fastest 10-mile in British history. Mullen missed the Chrono Champenois but for good reason as he was racing the Tour of Britain, where he finished 7th in the final TT just 20 seconds behind winner Sir Dame Sherlock Holmes Knight Brad Wiggins.

My prediction? 1. Küng 2. Flakemore 3. Mullen

Now I'm also not a very smart man so let us look at the rest of the field then so I can cover my tracks and tell you all that I didn't forget about <insert rider's name here>.

-Davide Martinelli is the current Italian U23 TT Champion and finished 2nd to Stefan Kung at the European U23 TT Championship. He also finished 2nd in the Tour de l'Avenir prologue but he had much better conditions than winner Campbell Flakemore and others that went late including Kung. Last year, he fell quite flat at Worlds after a promising year. This year will be a test because he has had his most successful year to date but will he be able to perform on the big show?

-Frederik Frison was just out of the top 10 last year with an 11th place in Florence and had a strong Chrono Champenois this year, finishing 8th place, which was in a group within 2 second of one another including Martinelli, Eisenhart, Manakov, etc. He won the big Angreau TT this year in Belgium but he has been light on results.

-TJ Eisenhart had a great Chrono Champenois after a small training camp with Stefan Küng and BMC Devo director Rik Verbrugghe, who wasn't a bad time trialist in his day. Eisenhart was the best of the rest in Champenois with a strong 5th place but he was a good ways off Flakemore and Küng. He is just at Worlds for the TT and he will be wanting to get a top 5, if the podium is a bit out of reach.

-Max Schachmann will be looking to break into the top 10 this year as a 2nd year U23 after his 12th place last year in Florence. The German was 5th in the European Championships and will like the course.

-Steven Lammertink is the sole Dutch entry into the race but he was 4th in the European Championships (and even signed a contract with SEG Racing for 2015).

-I don't know who the Russians will be but they will be looking for a top 10 if their rider is either Viktor Manakov or Alexander Evtushenko. Manakov was 6th in the Chrono Champenois while Evtushenko is the Russian U23 TT Champ and was 3rd in the European Championships.

-Jon Dibben is coming back from a broken elbow in the British U23 TT that halted his season. He isn't always on his TT game but when he is, he is damn good. He did win the Triptyque TT earlier this year

-Gregor Muhlberger has the ability to go top 10 in the time trial and the road race after the electric season he has had. He won time trials in the Istrian Spring Trophy and the Carpathian Couriers Tour along with the Austrian U23 TT, which was combined with the Elite Men so Muhlberger also got 2nd in the Elites. He took a little summer break but seems to be in form with 11th in the 1.HC Tre Valli Varesine as a stagiaire with NetApp-Endura.

-Ukranian Marlen Zmorka has had a troubled year with the violence back home and I can understand if his head isn't in it. He was 6th in the European Championships and won a couple TTs in Italy but will he be able to rally for Worlds?

This article might be updated when I can get a fucking start list from the organizers. We are 2 days out and still nothing is official. The best I have is cyclingfever's list so thank you to them.

*EDIT: Entry list available on the UCI website

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Transfer Update: BMC Development, Moser & Svendsen done, Topsport and more

Quick transfer update before diving deep into World Championship stuff...

BMC Development

While Rik Verbrugghe's ploeg is losing some good guys for 2015 in Dylan Teuns, Loic Vliegen and Stefan Küng, who are all going professional with BMC, but he has reloaded well for next year.

Joining the team for 2015 are three new signings (as of right now) including Swiss Thery Schir, Belgian Nathan Van Hooydonck and Australian Jesse Kerrison.

-Schir is built like brick house and kicks faces in.  He is mainly known from his track exploits as he is the current Swiss Omnium Champion, current U23 European Team Pursuit Champ and was bronze medalist in the Madison World Championship. While he is mainly on the track, Schir is the current Swiss U23 TT Champion...well just because Stefan Küng rode the Elite TT, where he was 2nd behind Cancellara.

-Van Hooydonck is transferring from Bissell Development to ride a more European-based schedule. He was quite the strong junior but this year he spent a lot of time in Belgium finishing up school and riding kermesses until later in summer, when he came over to join his Bissell teammates. He will fit in with the classics squad.

-Kerrison is finally getting some god damn recognition. Verbrugghe must have been reading my twitter because I just mentioned a couple week ago that Kerrison needs more respect as a sprinter (he does have 9 wins this year) and it seems like he will be getting a chance in Europe now. He might have a longer transition because the racing style and whatnot but he could be dangerous pretty soon into his career.

Ignazio Moser and Oskar Svendsen move on from cycling

In other news, there were a couple of riders that have announced plans to move on from cycling, at least temporarily in one case.

 Perennial under-performer Ignazio Moser announced his "retirement" from the sport. Moser cited a lack of motivation and drive for his decision to stop racing as well. He had already stopped once as a junior but picked it up again in the U23s and had some decent success but without the drive to get through the rough times, he stagnated and never really hit his peak. He did win a stage in the Tour de Guadeloupe in the beginning of August but he hasn't touched the bike since then. He will be going into the real world but seems to be destined to work with the family's vineyard.

Also announced was Oskar Svendsen's decision to step away from Team Joker and cycling to focus on a degree in psychology at the University of Trondheim. Svendsen was plunged head first into stardom after his win in the junior World TT Championship in 2012 in Valkenburg and a record Vo2max score. His transition to the pros was rough with weak pack skills and motivation that could flucuate at times. He got through the Tour de Bretagne this year rather well but was slammed with a virus that set him back again. He had another high in Valle d'Aosta with a near stage win but then following multiple crashes in l'Avenir, he was out of contention early. He was selected for Worlds but chose to forgo the event and step away from the sport. There is a good probability that he will return to cycling sometime in the near future but he will remain one of the biggest enigmas in cycling's recent memory.

You can go to this article on for a deeper look


-Former Belgian U23 RR Champion Jens Wallays signed with Topsport Vlaanderen for 2 years. This is the team's 5th signing for 2015 including Jef Van Meirhaeghe, Bert Van Lerberghe, Floris De Tier and Oliver Naesen.

-Ronde van Vlaanderen U23 winner Dylan Groenewegen has signed with Roompot-Orange Cycling for 2015. He is always a top 10 contender and should be able to grow with the team in races that he prefers even if I think that team is an just another example of how cycling cannot move on from the past and will still be stuck in old way. Not that I have a strong opinion or anything.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Long Weekend Roundup

Quaade wins Chrono Champenois

In some of the most unsurprising news of the week, Rasmus Quaade won a time trial. Not just any time trial but a very important time trial in front of the World Championships, the Chrono Champenois. Situated in Betheny, which is just north of Reims in the Marne department in the north of France, the Chrono Champenois usually shows who is ready for the U23 World TT Championship. While this is a good U23 predictor, this race isn't strictly U23 thus why Rasmus Quaade was there to show everyone a tutorial on suffering.

For those not familiar with the race, the last three winners have been Campbell Flakemore, Rohan Dennis and Luke Durbridge. Other previous winners include Quaade in 2010 (before he crashed out of Worlds on a medal winning run), Vuelta TT winner Adriano Malori won it twice, Lazlo Bodrogi and Tomas Vaitkus. Lots of U23 World TT winners have ridden here as well as some of the best continental TT riders including the like of Quaade right now.

While Quaade beat everyone by a healthy measure on Sunday, this race proved that the U23 World TT is probably going to be a two horse race between Stefan Küng and Campbell Flakemore. The two stellar time trialists were the last two men to set off in the event and by the end of the 33.4 kilometer course, the two finished just 4 seconds off one another with Flakemore taking the "win" over Küng. They were over a minute faster than the next fastest U23 in TJ Eisenhart, who put in a great ride for 5th overall. While gold and silver might be looking to have two front runners in Ponferrada, Eisenhart is leading a troupe of others just behind these two including Viktor Manakov, Davide Martinelli and Frederik Frison. Another major contender is Irishman Ryan Mullen, who wasn't present but finished 7th in the Tour of Britain TT. We will get to that TT soon enough though...

Bouvry wins stage in Tour de Moselle; misses WC selection

After riding through multiple injuries this year, Dieter Bouvry pulled out a win in the 3rd stage of the Tour de Moselle after attacking his breakaway mates in the final kilometer. While Bouvry was able to take the win in Moselle, he wasn't able to get a selection for the U23 World Championships in Ponferrada. While the first 5 riders were announced, the 6th rider was a mystery until Monday. The selection was given to Kenneth Van Rooy, the Lotto-Belisol U23 rider that won the Top Competitie this year.  Bouvry, who is in his final year as a U23, is suited for the Ponferrada course but will have to be content with first alternate. He dropped out of the final stage of the Tour de Moselle.

U23 Nico Denz (Chambery CF) finished 2nd overall in the Tour de Moselle after a strong breakaway ride and a TT.

Teuns finishes 10th overall in Tour of Britain

Dylan Teuns (BMC) continues to impress as a stagiaire with BMC after finishing 10th overall in the Tour of Britain after taking three top 10 stage finishes on some of the hardest terrain the race had to offer. If it wasn't for a so-so time trial, Teuns would have finished higher up the GC but make no mistake, this kid is for real.

Tao Geoghegan Hart finished the race in 15th overall even after flipping over the bars on the 7th stage in the final corner into Brighton.

Pöstlberger wins Tour Bohemia; Kozhatayev 2nd

In the lead-up to the World Championships, Lukas Pöstlberger took a flyer from 60 kilometers and spent the rest of the race out front to take an impressive win. Coming home nearly 53 seconds later was Kazakh Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev (Astana CT), who rode much better than his Tour de l'Avenir results.

Ledanois wins Tour du Jura

One of the other best stagiaires of the season has been Kevin Ledanois of Bretagne Seche Environment. After a great Arctic Tour and a selection for the French National U23 team, Ledanois made the break in the Tour du Jura and in the hilly finale, he won the sprint ahead of David Belda, fellow U23 Pierre-Roger Latour and Nicolas Baldo. A good dark horse for Ponferrada.

Everything else...

-Jef Van Meirhaeghe and Bert Van Lerberghe signs with Topsport Vlaanderen

Topsport Vlaanderen continues their yearly signing of the best Belgian talent by signing Van Meirhaeghe (Lotto-Belisol U23) and Van Lerberghe (EFC-OPQS). Van Meirhaeghe is the current Belgian U23 RR Champion and is strong on classics style courses and shorter stage races. Van Lerberghe is a a similar style (finished 2nd in the U23 RR behind JVM) but is a bit stronger in the TT and is seemingly able to always be there in the finale; a good trait to have.

-Alex Kirsch signs with CULT Energy

A good move by the Luxembourg rider, I think. Kirsch has been riding with the Leopard-Trek Development for the last three years and even got a stagiaire role with Trek Factory Racing this year, where he rode the Tour of Utah. Kirsch originally started as a stage race rider but he has molded himself into a strong classics style rider that has a kick at the end to mix it up in the sprints.

-Gebrüder Weiss is ge-stopped.

Austria team is setting to stop after Gebrüder Weiss is pulling out and so-so results. Currently, the team has U23s in Michael Gogl and Maximillian Kuen.

-Stölting take final Bundesliga round; Buchmann wins overall

In the final round of the German Bundesliga (think USA NRC or Australian NRS), team Stölting ran amuck. On a doubleheader weekend, the Gelschenkirchen-based squad won the first race in an impressive 1-2-3 display with Phil Bauhaus, Jan Dieteren and Max Werda. Not to be outdone, Nils Politt (also Stölting) won the next day time trial.

Emanuel Buchmann (Rad-Net Rose) won the final overall standings ahead of Christopher Hatz (MLP Bergstraße). Buchmann deserves a hats off after the strong season he has had and he should keep it going in Ponferrada with Politt, Dieteren and their friends Silvio Herklotz and Ruben Zepuntke.

-Iliac artery surgery in the news again

It was announced the other day that SKY's Joe Dombrowski would be transferring to the "new" Cannnodale team run by Jonathan Vaughters after a rough 2 years with the British team. In an article with Cyclingnews, it was announced that Dombrowski had iliac artery surgery after suffering from numbness in his left leg for over a year before finally being diagnosed after the Tour de Suisse.

While my thoughts are anecdotal, it seems that iliac artery injuries are becoming more common. Just for example, Frederik Ludvigsson is facing an off-season surgery for his iliac artery after experience numbness and reduced power output, both of which are common signs of the injury. Any time I see someone tweet about numbness in their leg or reduced power, the iliac artery is my first thought. It is a scary thing because the surgery itself isn't a harmless procedure (South African Ryan Cox died from complications of the surgery). I'd love to due some more research on this because it seems to be a growing problem with rider's development.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Miguel Angel Lopez signs with Astana

So many of you have probably seen by now that Tour de l'Avenir winner Miguel Angel Lopez has agreed to a deal with Astana. The Colombian, who in his first European race, lit everyone up in the mountains to claim the overall crown and many teams were after him at that point.

Lopez (right) getting ready to fuck up Brayan Ramirez (photo: El Colombiano)
Claudio Corti and Team Colombia were trying to get him using the home team pull and what I'm sure would be a huge contract of maybe 20,000 bucks. Team SKY was thrown into the mix there but that would be With that, Astana came calling and through his agent Rafael Acevedo, a deal was done quickly to bring Lopez in for 2015 and 2016 to, and I quote a certain Mr. Alexander Vinokourov, "grow with (Astana)...and be an effective rider in the mountains and at first help Fabio Aru."

I have a bad feeling about this. My feelings are 100% right about 20% of the time but with this one...this one seems bad. Just a few things to note about this transfer...

-The whole transfer went through Lopez' agent Acevedo so the star of the future had no contact with the team during and since the contract. I'm sure Astana hierarchy might call him to the team's lair in Astana but never meeting a team that has a grand total of 1 Spanish-speaking rider in Mikel Landa and no Spanish-speaking staff, that I'm aware of. He will basically be flying solo into his neo-pro season without much of a support system around him so it is going to be a sink or swim scenario. I know Astana and Vino said he can grow with them but you know...they are a bit authoritarian.

-Lopez has had a history with crashes and injuries. He is nicknamed "El Superman" after he was knocked off his bike by robbers but even after being stabbed by them, he fought them off. While that was a bit out of left field, he also had a few more crashes and injuries that has limited his racing in the last few years.

-Lopez hasn't had a lot of racing time the last few years. Just this year, he had less than 30 racing days including the Tour de l'Avenir. The lack of racing might be okay at the U23 level but unless you are training at a ridiculously high level, he will have to have an adjustment period to World Tour level racing and the length of the season.

Speaking of which, Lopez rode his first race since l'Avenir in his home state of Boyaca in Colombia this past week, the Vuelta a Boyaca. He didn't miss a beat by finishing 3rd overall (best U23 by nearly 4 minutes) and in the top 10 on every stage (3rd, 2nd, 4th, 7th and 5th places).

I am just going to be very curious how this plays out with the larger training load, longer races, a more nervous peloton with double the amount of riders he is used to. All of these concerns might just be blips in the rearview mirror if he adjusts well but people need to be realistic before shoveling expectations onto him before he even takes his first pedal stroke in the Kazakh sky blue.

Friday, September 12, 2014

ES Roundup: Transfers, New Teams and more!

In the lead up to the World Championships, the yearly transfer shuffle has been in full swing with riders departing, new teams popping up and some lovely doping reports. Let's crack on...

Asbjorn Kragh fired by Christina Watches

Asbjorn Kragh, who has been one of the only bright spots on the toxic Christina Watches team, announced that he was fired by the team effective immediately and that he would be riding under the support of the Danish Cycling Federation for the remainder of the year. Kragh's last race with the team was at the Volta a Portugal, which the team demanded that he ride. He lasted 6 stages (plus the prologue) before dropping out but he did produce two top 10 finishes for the team.

He rode the Tour de l'Avenir with the Danish National Team but without much of a reason, he was dropped from Christina Watches. This isn't a new thing with CWO because of their buffoon manager Claus Hembo having major issues managing and not letting his director Bo Hambuger direct without interference. They hire ex-dopers like Schumacher, deal with lazy uber-talents like Alexander Kamp and under race young riders. It is a complete shit show so it is a bit of a blessing in disguise for Kragh to get out of there.

Kragh, who has 19 top 10 finishes this year, will not be hurting for a new contract next year.

Lukasz Wisniowski moves from Etixx to Etixx

Pole Lukasz Wisniowski got the call up from the development team Etixx to the World Tour team Etixx for 2015. Well, Etixx-OPQS but I couldn't help to indulge in the wordplay. Wisniowski has been one of the more consistent riders for the Etixx team over the last couple of years and he will be joining his Polish compatriots Michal Kwaitkowski and Michal Golas.

Wisniowski had a torrid spring where he won the Kattekoers, a stage in the Tour de Normandie and the Circuit des Ardennes within the span of a month. He cooled off a bit as his schedule was a bit lighter over the summer due to his non-U23 status (aged out last year) but he still did well in one day races including a 2nd place in the Top Competitie finale in Templeuve.

Wisniowski should fit in with the classics approach at Etixx-OPQS and with a strong all-around riding style, should be able to adapt in multiple races.

Other transfer news includes...

-Rabobank Development is doing a huge personnel flip with many of their most seasoned riders departing for the pro ranks or other teams. Mike Teunissen and Bert-Jan Lindeman will be going to Lotto-BrandLoyalty (ex-Belkin) while Andre Looij and Ivar Slik will be going to Roompot. Ricardo van Dongen will be moving to SEG Racing while Timo Roosen, Etienne van Empel and Floris Gerts have been confirmed as moving to other pastures.

While Maarten van Trijp will be staying on, there is a huge influx of young riders. Mitchell Cornelisse, Sjoerd Bax, Joris Nieuwenhuis, Siebren Wouters, Peter Lenderink, Antwan Tolhoek, Jan Maas and Hartthijs De Vries have been confirmed moving to Arthur van Dongen's "ploeg" for 2015. All of them except Tolhoek are juniors...7 of them. I mean, they have some pretty good talent but nearly half of the team will be first years. We shall see how they hold up.

-Norwegian junior Kristoffer Halvorsen has signed with Team Joker.

-Team Bissell is undergoing a bit of an overhaul for 2015. Team manager Axel Merckx is going to be securing a new title sponsor for the team and to try and "create a long-term sustainable brand" to create more of a legacy with alumni and drive merchandise/marketing opportunities.

DS Omer Kem is departing the team for a GM role at Smartstop but for the most part, the core of the team stays the same. Tanner Putt and Ryan Eastman age out while Ruben Zepuntke is looking at World Tour/Pro Conti offers. Those confirmed as staying are James Oram, Geoffrey Curran, Dan Eaton, Chris Putt, Greg Daniel, Keegan Swirbul and Tao Geoghegan Hart. Riders confirmed for next year are Justin Oien, who rode for the U23 National Team this year, and junior Will Barta.

Other riders not confirmed on this year's roster are Clement Chevrier, who will most likely be moving to Trek, Nicolai Brochner, Alex Darville, Logan Owen and Nathan Van Hooydonck. I know Darville has been focusing on the track so he might be deviating from the road route and Owen has cyclocross but not sure of the others.

The team also mentioned having a bigger focus on European racing, which might be the best call because even when guys had American schedules, a lot of them would take a timeout to ride with the national teams. That cuts out the middleman for many races and will offer more opportunities abroad.

Also, the article I linked was by Pat Malach,If you could, please read everything that guy writes. He is one of the best reporters on the USA scene and does quality work. Or you can follow him on twitter @ORCyclingAction. Do it.

-Tour de l'Avenir winner Miguel Angel Lopez is signing with Astana. I just...don't think this is a good idea. I know I'm being an armchair pundit here but I have a whole post about this brewing and it just has too much potential to backfire.

New Italian Continental Team for 2015: Velo Club Abruzzo

A new Italian project is getting off the ground for 2015 and is making some interesting signings. Run by Carmine Santoleri and Gabriele Marchesani, the team will be based in Abruzzo (as the name suggests) and has already made some interesting signings for the new year. They brought on Abruzzo's best talent in Marco D'Urbano, who won 3 races in 2014 and was 3rd in the Italian Elite w/o Contract Championship. The team also signed Daniele Cavasin, currently tied with the most elite wins in Italy with 9, former junior World track champion Jordan Parra and Francesco Pedante.

Anything else? Well it will need to wait until a bit later.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Why USA riders need to go to Europe for Development

There was an article posted on Bicycling Magazine's website today by Frankie Andreu talking about development riders on the UCI circuit. The point of the article that Andreu was trying to get across was that because of the high level races on the USA circuit now, riders can ride a USA-centric schedule and make it up to the World Tour level. One of the money quotes is "The road to the World Tour doesn't have to go through Europe." I mean, technically he is right because guys like Chad Haga and Matt Busche made it to the World Tour without riding (much) in Europe but for the vast majority of riders, riding a USA-centric calendar would not propel them to the World Tour.

If riders have ambitions for the World Tour, it is still important that they go over to Europe for racing time. It isn't just for the racing time either. If you are an American, living in Europe is a much different experience. Think of the stress moving to a new double that by moving to a new continent, perhaps not knowing the language and having to get your water and heat turned out, get groceries, etc. and still being expected to train 25 hours a week and be on top form. It is hard work. Just look at Tejay van Garderen's experience when he moved to Italy with HTC-Columbia, as an example. Moving in winter, he had to take cold showers after training rides and live without heat until some teammates were able to help him get it turned on. While that is extreme, going over to Europe at a young age gets you used to the routine and being able to see if you can handle living in a foreign place.

Mike Sayers, the USA U23 National DS, says it all in just a few tweets.

In terms of the racing, unless we are racing on roads that would be in the Tour of Backwoods West Virginia, racing on big open highways doesn't prepare guys for the narrow roads of Europe that will spit out of without remorse. When Europeans come over to race in America, it is like a vacation for them because of how large our roads are. The climbs in the USA, that are used in a lot of the major races, have highway grades that don't allow them to have big changes in pitch which can be more commonly seen in Europe. The Tour de Georgia had some nice climbs that mimicked this but sadly, that race is no more.

Riders can race well in America. They can get some very good results against strong riders but once they hit the European peloton full-time, it can be a very different story. Example here is Evan Huffman. He rode for Cal Giant and won the TT at the Tour of the Gila in 2012 ahead of Rory Sutherland, Joe Dombrowski, Lawson Craddock and others. He has been with Astana for the past two years and doing some yeoman's work, just scrapping by.

The vast majority of American riders getting results in Europe have come from the development program that took them over there as juniors and u23s. Nearly every rider in Andreu's piece was racing in Europe before their "big American results". Lawson Craddock was racing in Europe since he was about 16 and got immense development there before. Dombrowski? He proved himself as a future GT racer by his GiroBio win

The article continues to list riders like Will Routley and Jure Kocjan, both of whom race domestically but have been on World Tour and Pro Conti teams in Europe. Also including Freddy Rodriguez as an example of a continental rider breaking the stranglehold of the World Tour riders at Nationals.

My whole point being is that American races alone will not a great racer make. You might be good, even great, on big wide open highways but once the racing gets tighter and the packs get a little meaner, will you be able to handle the heat? How many American races will prepare you for World Tour races going down single lane mountains roads at 80 kph?

This is more of a ramble than anything but Andreu over-simplifies everything by sticking to the American-centric line that Bicycling pushes. Yeah Phil Gaimon got onto Garmin by pushing his way through the continental ranks but now? He barely races in Europe. And when he has? Mash your pedals as hard as you can and hold fucking on. You don't have to go through Europe to be a strong professional rider but if you dream of going World Tour, it is highly suggested because at least right now, sticking to an American diet of racing won't get you all the way there.

Monday, September 8, 2014

World Championship Provisional Startlist

Time is ticking to the Ponferrada World Championships and start lists have been trickling out for the U23 men and will be continuing for the next week or so. Here is what I have as of right now...


South Africa

RR: Louis Meintjes, Willie Smit, Kevin Patten, Jayde Julius


RR: Bonaventure Uwizeyimana, Valens Ndayisenga and Jean Bosco Nsengiyumva



RR: Rob Power, Caleb Ewan, Alexander Clements, Campbell Flakemore, Jack Haig and Sam Spokes

TT: Campbell Flakemore

New Zealand

RR and TT: Dion Smith and James Oram




RR: Tyler Williams, Tanner Putt, Robin Carpenter, Alexey Vermeulen and Logan Owen

TT: Robin Carpenter and TJ Eisenhart


RR: Miguel Angel Lopez, Brayan Ramirez, Fernando Gaviria, Rodrigo Contreras, Juan Molano, Carlos Ramirez


RR: Carlos Gimenez, Xavier Quevedo, Roniel Campos, Andres Soto



RR: Michael Gogl, Gregor Mühlberger, Lukas Pöstlberger, Sebastian Schönberger and Felix Großschartner

TT: Gregor Mühlberger, Lukas Pöstlberger


RR: Thomas Boudat, Loic Chetout, Jeremy Leveau, Kevin Ledanois, Quentin Jauregui and Pierre Roger Latour

TT: Bruno Armirail and Remi Cavagna


RR: Loïc Vliegen, Dylan Teuns, Tiesj Benoot, Floris De Tier, Jasper De Buyst

TT: Frederik Frison, Ruben Pols


RR (long list): Owain Doull, Scott Davies, Tao Geoghegan Hart, Hugh Carthy, Dan McLay, Tom Moses, Dan Pearson and Alex Peters

TT: Scott Davies and Jon Dibben


RR: Silvio Herklotz, Ruben Zepuntke, Emanuel Buchmann, Mario Vogt, Jan Dieteren

TT: Nils Politt and Max Schachmann


RR: Mathieu van der Poel, Sam Oomen, Mike Teunissen, Timo Roosen, Lennard Hofstede

TT: Steven Lammertink


RR: Ryan Mullen, Conor Dunne, Jack Wilson

TT: Ryan Mullen


RR: Magnus Cort, Michael Carbel, Mads Pedersen, Soren Kragh, Asbjorn Kragh


RR (long list): Simone Andreetta, Seid Lizde, Gianni Moscon, Alessandro Tonelli, Federico Zurlo, Davide Martinelli, Iuri Filosi, Luca Chirico


RR (long list): Mikel Iturria, Mikel Aristi, Marc Soler, Imanol Estevez, Mario Gonzalez, Miguel Angel Benito

TT: Juan Camacho


RR & TT (long list): Carlos Ribiero, Gaspar Goncalves, Joaquim Silva, Luis Gomes, Nuno Bico, Rafael Reis, Ricardo Ferreira, Ruben Guerreiro


RR: Sven Erik Bystrom, Odd Eiking, Sindre Lunke, Sondre Holst Enger, Kristoffer Skjerping, Markus Hoelgaard

TT: Andreas Vangstad


RR: Stefan Küng, Tom Bohli, Thery Schir, Fabian Leinhard, Lukas Spengler and Simon Pellaud

TT: Küng, Bohli, Schir


RR: Luka Pibernik, Domen Novak, Luka Kovacic, Rok Korasek and Gasper Katrasnik

TT: Martin Otonicar and David Per


RR: Alex Kirsch (unofficial)

More to follow...

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sunday Roundup: Hoelgaard goes #2, Roe wins dramatic Gippsland and more

It is a boring Sunday at work so let's do a nice roundup, shall we? We are taking a tour around the world so please fasten your lap belts, put your chairs in the upright position and put your trays back. Onwards, dear friends.

Okolo Jiznich Cech

Czech is a language I have been trying to wrap my mind around but as a English speaker, it just looks like random letters thrown together. In any case, races in Central Europe seem to fascinate me for some reason and this one is no different. The Okolo Jiznich Cech goes through Southern Bohemia, which looks absolutely fantastic in pictures.

I briefly touched on the race earlier this week when Daniel Hoelgaard (Etixx) took the first stage for one of the home teams and on Sunday, he was able to take his 2nd stage win of the week in a mass gallop ahead of Top Competitie winner Kenneth Van Rooy and Michael Kolar, who is riding with the Slovak National Team.

Also in U23 news, Emanuel Buchmann (Rad-Net Rose) won the queen stage on stage 3 to continue a fine late season push, which the tall rider from Baden Wurtemberg is hoping to turn into a pro contract.

On the GC, Norwegian TT Champion Reidar Borgersen won the overall after winning the TT and then conserving his lead while Buchmann finished in 3rd overall. Fellow U23 Alexis Guerin finished in 5th overall to cap off a successful week for the Etixx team.

Tour of East Java

Tabriz Petrochemical strikes again. The notorious Iranian team that I love to poke fun at once again dominated an Asian stage race by going 1-2 with Ghader Mizbani and Amir Kolahdozhagh on the queen stage in East Java. Mizbani took the overall on the two-stage event while Kolahdozhagh finished in 3rd behind Danish John Ebsen (CCN). They only reason I'm mentioning this at all is that Kolahdozhagh is a U23 that doesn't get many chances to ride against big U23 talents because of the big troubles with Iranian riders getting visas to European countries so he is having to make due by riding the Asian scene with Tabriz. If Iran is able to get a team to Spain for the U23 World Championships, Kolahdozhagh should be on the roster but that is a big if.

Tour of Gippsland

It was quite a cracker of a stage on the final day of the Oil Lakes Tour of Gippsland, the 7th stop on the Australian NRS circuit. On the final stage, Raphael Freienstein (Charter Mason) started in the leader's jersey but he was closely stalked by Joe Cooper (Avanti), Cameron Bayly (Search2Retain) and Tim Roe (Budget Forklifts), who were all within 10 seconds.

A breakaway got away early including Bayly, his teammate Paddy Bevin, Alexander Edmondson and a few others a got a gap that was hovering around 15 seconds, enough to but Bayly in the provisional lead. Former Bissell rider Bevin was burying himself for Bayly while behind, it was Charter Mason trying to control the gap for Freienstein. About halfway through the race, Tim Roe hit out as hard as he could on the climb and while Freienstein tried to chase, the former BMC rider was able to bridge across to the breakaway. Roe had a 5 second gap on Bayly heading into the stage so after bridging, he only needed to worry about Bayly winning the stage for him to be able to usurp him on the GC.

Back in the pack, Charter Mason was running out of men and Freienstein was isolated in his attempt to bring the breakaway back. It wasn't until 2 laps to go in the races that Avanti, who had Joe Cooper, moved to the front because they also had Mitchell Lovelock-Fay up in the breakaway.

In the sprint, it was Australian pursuit champion (and U23) Alexander Edmondson who took the win ahead of Paddy Bevin and Lovelock-Fay. Edmondson has had a quieter year on the road and this was a nice win for him as he won the same stage last year. Bayly and Roe finished on the same time, which ended up being 11 seconds ahead of the peloton. Roe secured the overall win ahead Bayly by 5 seconds while Freienstein hung on for 3rd overall.

Roe was able to redeem himself here as he lost the 2008 edition on the final stage to Bernard Sulzberger but this is also a return to form for Roe, who spent an injury plagued 2 years with BMC before spending a year on their amateur team last year. Roe has been consistently strong on the NRS circuit and could be a threat in some autumn Asian races.

Just out of the U23s Brenton Jones still holds the NRS overall by 4 points ahead of Joe Cooper and 7 points ahead of Roe and Jesse Kerrison with 4 rounds left to race.


-Dan McLay finished 7th on the opening sprint stage of the Tour of Britain behind Marcel Kittel.

-Phil Bauhaus (Stolting) took his 5th win of the season in the Kernen Omloop in a bunch gallop. Bauhaus was being courted by a few teams but seems to be set on staying with Stolting for 2015 as the team is planning to step up to the Pro Continental level.

-Ilya Koshevoy took his 6th win of the season on Sunday in the Coppa 29 Martiri di Figline. Belorussian Koshevoy has been going quite well this year and Lampre will be very pleased to have him in 2015 for hillier races.The Coppa Figline is actually a fairly good race historically for Belarus as Kanstantin Siutsou won in in 2004 and Vasili Kiriyienka was 2nd in 2005. It actually has a very strong winners list, which you can view here courtesy of the race winner himself.

-In transfer news, Mads Wurtz will not be returning to CULT Energy for 2015, when the team plans to move up to the Pro Continental level. Wurtz, a very strong junior, has had an up and down beginning as a U23 and was hoping to move on with the team but the Skelde family, who runs the team, say they will be keeping in close contact with Wurtz to possibly bring him back in the future.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Saturday Ramble: Quaade, Gippsland and more

They news is a bit slow these days but never fear, there is always some good stuff to ponder. Let us begin with an enigmatic Dane who, up until this season, has struggled to ride in the peloton but was able to finish 6th in the World TT Championship last year, just 2'36" behind Tony Martin, on a herculean 57.9 kilometer course.

Rasmus Quaade is back

This blog might be called Espoirs Central but I take great interest in all of the continental scene and I have a few riders that I have been constantly tracking over the last few years. Rasmus Quaade is one of them. His lazer focus on time trials is so great that they even made a documentary about him. In this documentary, Moon Rider, Quaade says about his intense riding style that "Just like a drug addict that needs a fix - I want to get a close to dying as possible." He came close to greatness in 2011 as a U23 when he won the Danish Elite TT over Jakub Fuglsang and then finished 2nd in the U23 World TT Championship to Luke Durbridge in his home town of Copenhagen. He couldn't race for shit in a pack but once a time trial came, he could take nearly anyone. Last year proved that he was one of the best time trial riders in the world but could he do anything more?

This year started out slow but he was able to once again grab the Danish TT crown before heading to the Post Danmark Rundt, which is where he started to turn a few heads. Instead of his usual 99th and 112th placings, Quaade was staying in the peloton. Granted when the going really got tough, he faded a bit but he finished 2nd in the TT by just 1 second and then made the breakaway on the final stage. He followed this up by dropping Magnus Cort at a Danish Post Cup Race to take a win there before heading to Italy and the Giro della Regione FVG.

In the Giro della Regione, Quaade was the most consistent rider in the whole race. On the 6 stages of the race, Quaade finished no lower than 13th, which had a small breakaway gain a handful of seconds. Also, for the first time, Quaade was showing some climbing abilities. He was 2nd to Simone Andreetta on the so-called queen stage of the race that finished at Castelmonte. While he wasn't able to challenge for the win due to the 2 riders in front of him being in a long breakaway on stage 1, Quaade finished 3rd overall.

The secret to all of this success? He has lost 4 kilograms this season and his team director, ex-pro Allan Johansen, says this has helped his confidence in the peloton. He continued saying that Quaade used to hope that the team car would get a shitty position so he could just coast at the back but now he seems to be comfortable moving through the pack. If he could keep this confidence going, then the sky could be the limit. And no, that doesn't mean he should go to SKY.

Tour of Gippsland

It might just be the Australian National Racing Series but many riders have been produced from here so it is always good to keep an eye Down Under.

The man I like here is Jesse Kerrison. The sprinter for Budget Forklifts has two stage wins already here, which brings his tally up to 9 for the season. He is only 20 years old and doesn't get many chances to race overseas. If he gets into the late season Asian races, watch out for an explosion of wins.

Also showing themselves well here are a few other young guys. German ex-pat Raphael Freienstein (Charter Mason) won the 5th stage and took over the leader's jersey heading into the final stage. Aussie Point Race Champ Scott Law (Avanti) also took out the 1st stage of the race. Both are riders just a year out of the U23 ranks but have been having strong seasons.

And everything else...

-Colombia and the USA have announced their rosters for the U23 World Championships in Ponferrada. I'll do a whole post on rosters in the coming week so I won't go into much more detail.

-U23 Nations Cup looking to expand for 2015. A new Italian one-day race, Trofeo Almar, has been approved for next year. The race is named after the sponsor Almar, which makes showers, and will be in Varese on July 26th, tentatively.

It also looks like the U23 Peace Race will be joining the U23 Nations Cup calendar while the ZLM Tour, currently on the calendar, is looking to extend to a 2nd day that would included a team time trial. All of these are good updates because frankly, the currently calendar was much too short and even more so meaningless.

-A new development team is coming for 2015. SEG Cycling, a sports agency that represents riders like Niki Terpstra, Sep Vanmarcke, Dan Martin and many others, is dipping into the development side by creating SEG Racing Development. The team has 3 current signings in Steven Lammertink, Robert-Jon McCarthy and Ricardo Van Dongen. Another devo team is a welcomed sight especially in the Netherlands, which has been a bit monopolized with Rabobank.

-Kevin Ledanois and Maxime Cam have signed with Bretagne Seche for 2015. Ledanois is a current stagiaire with them that proved himself in spades in the Arctic Tour. Cam was 5th in the Kreiz Breizh Elites.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

U23 Roundup: Zepuntke wins, French & British U23 Worlds rosters and more

Zepuntke wins in Alberta

Following a non-selection by the German National Team for the Tour de l'Avenir, Ruben Zepuntke has been riding out of his skin in the Tour of Utah, the Professional Climb-Tour of the Rocky Mountains in the State of Colorado and now, in the Tour of Alberta.
On the brutal circuit race around Lethbridge that involved cold weather and torrential rain, Zepuntke, a rider who self-admittedly likes the cool and wet weather because of a few extra pounds on him, capitalized on some great team work by his Bissell Development team. Teammate Dan Eaton was in a late attack that was brought back in the final two kilometers. Kiwi James Oram piloted Zepuntke into the final kilometer with a group of about 35 riders. Oram motored until the final 300 meters when Zepuntke came around him to take a photo finish ahead of Garmin Honey Badger Ramunas Navardauskas. Zepuntke is putting together a very strong late season and I hope pro teams are noticing.

Much better article and interview with Ruben Zepuntke by Pat Malach on Cyclingnews

France names their U23 Worlds roster

After their good ride at the Tour de l'Avenir, French National Team selector Pierre-Yves Chatelon has announced his selection for "Les Blues" team at the World Championships in Ponferrada.

For the road race: Thomas Boudat, Loïc Chetout, Quentin Jauregui, Pierre-Roger Latour, Kevin Ledanois and Jeremy Leveau

After not being selected for l'Avenir, Boudat is now featuring in the Worlds roster and could be one of the favorites for the race because he can get over some hills and he has a wicked sprint on him. He was 4th in the European U23 RR where he won the field sprint ahead on the heels of the 3-man breakaway. Boudat will be France's counter to Australia and Caleb Ewan if it does come down to a sprint.

 Chetout and Latour will be primed to do well on the course. Jauregui has shown himself well in the pro ranks with top 10 finishes in races like the Tour du Finistere and La Poly Normande. Ledanois had a spectacular Arctic Tour where he finished 6th overall; he is definitely built for a course that has some hills but nothing too dramatic. The big surprise here was the selection of Jeremy Leveau ahead of Liege-Bastogne-Liege winner Anthony Turgis. Leveau won the French U23 RR in Saint-Omer and he was selected because of that and his work he did earlier this year in the Nations Cups. Turgis was left off because of his lack of form recently.

For the TT: Bruno Armirail and Remi Cavagna

Armirail is the obvious choice as he is just focused on time trials and he is the current French U23 TT championship. While he wasn't too good at the European Championship with an 11th place, Armirail is a good shot for a top 10 place.

Cavagna is just a first-year U23 but he was 2nd in the French U23 TT Championship but he beat Armirail in a French amateur TT earlier this year and would probably be pleased with a top 25 placing.

Read Pierre-Yves Chatelon's full reaction on DirectVelo

GB announces U23 Worlds RR long list and TT spots

The British are coming...soon. The GB Federation announced their long list for the U23 Worlds RR, which looks like they have a threat for pretty much every situation.

RR long list: Hugh Carthy, Scott Davies, Owain Doull, Tao Geoghegan Hart, Dan McLay, Tom Moses, Dan Pearson and Alex Peters

McLay is obviously the best bet for a bunch sprint but Doull can get a over a few hills himself. The list is chock full of climbers with Carthy, Geoghegan Hart, Davies and Pearson. Now only 5 will be selected from this list but I have a feeling that Doull, Geoghegan Hart and McLay are locks.

TT: Scott Davies and Jon Dibben

Davies is the current U23 TT Champion while Dibben won the TT at Triptyque Monts et Chateaux earlier this year. I thought Doull might get the nod but I think GB will be happy if they get one in the top 20.

GB Federation announcement

Everything else...
-Piotr Havik won the opening stage of the Vuelta Valencia with the Dutch National Team after he attacked his 5 breakaway mates over an overpass and powered to the line with a 3 second back on Sergio Rodriguez and Artem Samolenkov.

-For those that might have missed it, Kenneth Van Rooy sealed up the Belgian U27 Topcompetitie overall at the final round in Templeuve with a 14th place behind Olivier Naesen, who is a Lotto-Belisol stagiaire and bound for Topsport Vlaanderen next year.
-Daniel Hoelgaard (Etixx) won the opening stage of the Okolo Jiznich Cech with a sprint win ahead of Jo Kogstad Ringheim, Riccardo Bolzan and Van Rooy. 3rd win for the Norwegian this season who will probably be on the Norwegian team at Worlds.

-At the Ronde van Midden-Nederland, Wim Stroetinga won the mass bunch sprints ahead of two U23s, Eduard Grosu (Vini Fantini-Nippo) and Andre Looij (Rabobank Development).

The Giro della Regioni Friuli is going on right now but let's wait till week's end to talk about it, k? Good.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Belgium wins U23 Nations Cup

With Louis Vervaeke and Dylan Teuns stage wins and Vervaeke's 5th place overall in the Tour de l'Avenir, Belgium was able to secure the U23 Nations Cup by a scant 2 points ahead of France, who led the competition coming into the race. (Full rankings here) The French put up a good fight but as French National selector Pierre-Yves Chatelon said with DirectVelo, they lacked riders that could go for stage wins like they had last year in Julian Alaphilippe and Alexis Gougeard so they did what they could.

An interesting tidbit is that since the Nations Cup rankings were first started in 2007, France has been on the podium every year. They have won the overall 4 times and had a 3-year streak up until the Belgians derailed them this year.

Vaulting up to 3rd place was Russia, who rode the strong performances of Alexey Rybalkin and Alexander Foliforov at the Tour de l'Avenir to move from 7th place to 3rd. This is Russia's highest overall placing in the rankings after getting 7th place three times within the past 5 years.

Rounding out the top 5 are Colombia, thanks to Miguel Angel Lopez, and Norway, which held steady in 5th place thanks to Kristoffer Skjerping's stage win in l'Avenir.

There is a reason I'm only listing the top 5 because if you remember back to my World Championships Qualifying story, the top 5 countries on the final Nations Cup standings get an additional rider for Worlds. Now Colombia was already at the maximum of 6 because of Fernando Gaviria winning the Pan-Am Games U23 RR so this bonus does nothing more for them. Belgium, France, Russia and Norway will all be getting an additional rider at Worlds, which means all of them will have 6 on the line in Ponferrada.