Wednesday, October 29, 2014

2014 Lookback: Top 5 Race Days

I don't have quite enough time to pour over the whole of the 2014 U23 season but even without a lot of TV coverage, there were some races that had my hair standing on end just from the words. This article will present you with, in my opinion, the top 5 racing days of the 2014 season. If you have any objections, please feel free to let me know. Or even better yet, if there is a U23 reading this that has a vote on their favorite racing day from 2014, please feel free to let me know and I'll add it on here.

These are in no particular order but without further adieu...

1. Ronde de l'Isard stage 2: Muret to Bagneres de Luchon (May 23rd)

After Alexander Foliforov took the yellow jersey into stage 2 after a dominant performance on the opening stage of the Ronde de l'Isard, Lotto-Belisol U23 was pretty determined to take back the yellow jersey. A sunny day was short-lived as attacks flew off the front while Itera-Katusha controlled the pace from behind. An attack, spearheaded by 4-72 Colombia's Diego Ochoa, led out front with chasers including Pierre-Roger Latour, Lilian Calmejane (Vendée U) and Jeff Perrin (USA).

Riding into the Hospice de France climb at Bagneres de Luchon, Calmejane had attacked and brought with him Romain Campistrous, Loïc Bouchereau and Perrin. Campistrous had attacked on the climb but in the final kilometers, he was brought back and passed by Calmejane, the cylocross rider who was beginning his best season on the road ever.
Behind it was chaos. Foliforov was on a horrible day and Louis Vervaeke and co. had succeeded in dropping the Russian on the early stages of the final climb. Vervaeke was piloted by Brecht Ruyters through the shallow lower sections before Tiesj Benoot took over on the final half of the climb. I have yet to mention that the climb was under a sleeting wintry mix that made conditions down right miserable.

While Calmejane was being chased by Perrin nearly 2 minutes ahead with 3 kilometers to go, Benoot hit the gas and dropped everyone besides Vervaeke and Maxime Le Lavandier. When the slopes hit 13%, Le Lavandier was dropped and the Belgian duo were scorching the remote climb. In the final two kilometers, the duo made up 1'20" on the front riders and while Calmejane was able to take the win solo, Vervaeke came storming across the line in 2nd just ahead of an exhausted Jeff Perrin.

Foliforov lost nearly 5 minutes to Vervaeke, who took the overall win a few days later. Vervaeke would then go on to win the Tour des Pays de Savoie and begin his pro career with Lotto-Belisol.

2. Trofeo Sportivi di Briga - Briga Novarese (August 7th)

This was the race that should have showed every keen observer how badass Robert Power is and is going to be. Power, the New-Zealand born Western Australian with an American grandfather, had a strong season going but he had not been able to get a win yet. His biggest opponents were the riders of Zalf-Euromobil. For those unaware, Zalf is the top dog team on the Italian amateur circuit that finished with 56 wins this year, which is just 3 wins off their best ever that was set last year. Zalf doesn't like to lose home races. Zalf had controlled the race to perfection and into the final kilometers, they had a train at the front of the race that was whipping the pace up to an insane rate for the final uphill finish.

What happens in the final kilometer is a thing of beauty. It was Power's first win as a U23.

3. Tour de Normandie stage 6: Torigni-sur-Vire to Caen (March 30th)

Coming into the final stage of the Tour of Normandie, Lukasz Wisniowski riding high on some of the best form of his career and was looking to secure the overall. Wisniowski had a slight lead on Bert-Jan Lindeman but lurking 18 seconds back was Stefan Küng, the Swiss prodigy from BMC Development. On the stage commemorating the invasion of Normandie on Omaha Beach, Küng and BMC launched an assault on the race that flipped it on its head.

On the rolling, windy terrain of northern France, Küng and teammate Tom Bohli hit out early with a group of nearly 20 including Alex Kirsch (Leopard-Trek), Frederik Ludvigsson (Giant-Shimano), Kevin Ledanois and many others. No Wisniowski. No Etixx. Uh oh.

The breakaway held a good 2 minute gap all of the way down Omaha Beach and even as the peloton tried to chase through the big right hander towards Caen, the gap was not falling. They had a gap of over 1'30" by the first of the local laps in Caen around the hippodrome. Wisniowski was taking turns on the front but the gap was still hovering around 1 minute with one lap to go. Benoit Jarrier took the stage while Küng rolled in with the breakaway, quite content with his accomplishments on the day.
It was one of Küng's 5 wins on the road and it went a long way of showing his future capabilities as a pro.

4. Trofeo Antonietto Rancillo - Villastanza, Italy - (March 30th)

On the same day as Stefan Küng pulled a coup in Northern France, there was a major upset in the suburbs of Milan. Caleb Ewan came into the season as the next sprinting god who was going to vanquish anything that came his way. The Australian National Team, lead by their faithful leader James Victor, came strolling in declaring that this was a training race in preparation for the upcoming Nation Cups. They proceeded to sit on the front and control the race in preparation for Ewan to unleash his big sprint, which everyone expected.

It was a little bit too textbook though. While Ewan has an incredible turn of speed, it seems like they hadn't done their homework in terms of possible riders that could upset everything. In the final 10 kilometers, the Australians hit the front and got everything back together. They were feeling quite confident in themselves. In the final 250 meters, Caleb Ewan came off his final lead out and launched his sprint on the inside barriers, quickly getting an advantage. With 100 meters, there was a green/black bullet that had drawn himself equal to the powerful Australian. The challenger had his chest on his stem; churning the bars and trying to snap them off in his hands. With 50 meters to go, he drew clear of Ewan and in the end, he had enough time to post up and salute with Ewan nearly a bike length back in 2nd.

Jakub Mareczko, up until that point at least, had only won a single race in 2014 but this was the turning point that saw the Polish-Italian rider go for 13 wins and 19 total podiums. Mareczko, who is done to ride with Neri Sottoli for 2015, has a style that reminds me of an early Mark Cavendish. He gets his chest down to the handlebars and the bike is the one holding on for dear life while his legs churn away. While he struggles with some longer races, he could be a force to be reckoned with a in a couple of years time.

Australia tried to write off the defeat by saying that they were just focusing on everyone getting through (instead of winning the thing) but they were upset, hands down. Mareczko handed Ewan a beat down and it was pretty fun to watch.

5. Vuelta de la Juventud stage 4: Villa Leyva to Alto del Crucero (June 6th)

While I know that there are some other major races I'm going over, I feel like the queen stage of the Vuelta de la Juventud deserves its place because it was the race that one of the revelations of the season, Miguel Angel Lopez, busted out. "El Superman", riding for the Boyacan Lottery, was sitting high on the GC but about a 10 seconds behind leader Brayan Ramirez. Lopez, who had gained the Superman monicker after being stabbed by would-be robbers yet still being able to fight them off. He would use that on the 24 kilometer climb of El Crucero.

Heading into the finale, a breakaway including Daniel Rozo had been brought back and while there was a temporary lull, Lopez attacked with 8 kilometers to go and the only one able to respond was Brayan Ramirez. Ramirez's latch onto the GC lead was short-lived as Lopez accelerated with 4 km to go and went streaking through the mist. It was a precursor to the season that would come and Lopez gave everyone a taste of his explosive power, which was relatively unknown up to that point because of his lack of racing.

Lopez would go on to take the GC lead by 42 seconds on Ramirez by the end of the day and would end up winning the race overall. It was the 1st of 5 GC wins that Lopez had on the season including his incredible Tour de l'Avenir win. While I think Lopez is moving too fast to the pro ranks with Astana, this was the victory that sparked it all.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

2014 Lookback: What the Fuck Happened? Top 5

Now it is time for a top 5 list of the riders that went from having big years in 2013 or at least some very promising results to disappointment in 2014. It might be a bit depressing but hey, life isn't fair. Shit happens. This list is in no particular order.

1. Fredrik Ludvigsson (Sweden - Giant-Shimano Development)

There were not many freshman who were better than Fredrik Ludvigsson in 2013. The Swede was tearing up time trials and turning heads after winning the Boucle de l'Artois and having a slew of top 20 placings throughout the season. He transferred to the Giant-Shimano Development team for 2014 and looked to be set onto a huge season.

His early season was in fact leading to big things to come. He was top 10 overall in Tour de Normandie and 5th overall in Triptyque Monts et Chateaux. His one-day racing took a big leap with a 7th place in Liege-Bastogne-Liege U23. That would be the high for Ludvigsson and after a few more good races, his results stagnated and then went downhill fast.

What the fuck happened? Ludvigsson has been experiencing numbness in one of his legs while training and was never able to get proper form to focus on his racing. Really, he was never the same rider after April. When one hears of numbness in one leg, especially with a cyclist, then I at least automatically think of the iliac artery. The pesky vessel has been the bane of many riders, including most recently Joe Dombrowski, and in mid-August, it was announced that Ludvigsson would be undergoing the vein patch surgery to correct the issue. Speaking of which, Ludvigsson just underwent the surgery yesterday (as I type this) and is on the mend for a return of sometime next year.
Not exactly a fair reason to list him on this list but to the casual viewer such a big drop in performance will cause a rousing chorus of "What the fuck happened to him?" I look forward to seeing a healthy mini-Ludvigsson in 2015, at least at some point.

2. Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev (Kazakhstan - Astana Continental)

2013 was the year that yet another Kazakh came out of the woodwork and put in a crazy amount of stunning rides. Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev was a name that probably 1 out of 100,000 cycling fans; even I was flummoxed when I saw him go top 15 in two Nations Cups and then get 3rd place in the Tour de Azerbaijan.

From the end of July on, Kozhatayev was one of the most consistent riders on the U23 circuit. Top 10 placings in Tour Alsace, GP di Poggiana, GP Capodarco followed up by a 4th place overall in the Tour de l'Avenir, just 5 seconds out of 3rd.

This year, Kozhatayev was still around but perhaps the inflated expectations deflated his results. He was 6th in La Côte Picarde, which is pretty damn good but it was 6th out of a breakaway of 10 where he should have been one of the favorites. He didn't show anything again until the Giro della Valle d'Aosta, where he was top 6 on two mountain stages but after missing out on the front group of the major mountain stages, he finished over 4'30" down in 9th place. Disappointing figuring that, after last year, he should have been contending the podium.

3. Oskar Svendsen (Norway - Joker)

After exploding at the Tour de l'Avenir last year for 5th place overall and one of the most consistent climbers in the race, I figured that Oskar Svendsen was improving himself in terms of his pack skills and would come out ready to play in 2014.

Well...ummm...urgh. Not exactly the case. The Junior World TT Champion from 2012 had a rough go of it in the first half of the season by finishing just a handful of races before slogging through the Tour des Fjords. Okay, a rough start but perhaps he could turn it around. He was 4th in the Norwegian Elite TT (2nd U23 behind Andreas Vangstad) and 13th in the European U23 TT (on the same time as Vangstad). Not outstanding for someone of his Vo2Max but not too shabby either.

Svendsen's highlight of the season was at the Giro della Valle d'Aosta. He was 4th in the prologue and 2nd in the time trial, both of which were uphill. His climbing on the road stages didn't match l'Avenir 2013 but it wasn't half bad in support of teammate Odd Eiking, who ended up 2nd overall.

The rest of the season was nothing of note. He DNFed the Arctic Tour and then at the Tour de l'Avenir, he came in with high expectations but after multiple crashes and mechanicals, he got through with 71st overall. And like that, Svendsen was gone as fast as he came. He announced that he was leaving cycling, at least temporarily, and focusing on a psychology degree instead. The choice of study makes sense seeing as he had many woes in the peloton but I think he will be back. He had a lot of expectations on his back coming in from the junior ranks and some time away might do him good.

4. Ever Rivera (Colombia - 4-72-Colombia)

Following two strong seasons, Ever Rivera was primed for a big season with 4-72 Colombia. In 2013, he was 8th in the Vuelta Asturias, 10th in the Coupe des Nations Saguenay (along with the KOM prize) and a strong 3rd in the Vuelta a Leon behind Jordi Simon and Merhawi Kudus. Even with the infighting between 4-72 Colombia and the Colombian federation, Rivera was primed to be a leader for many races.

Well that didn't exactly pan out. Rivera got through the early season Vuelta a Mexico but dropped out of the Castilla y Leon. The next race he went to start was the Ronde de l'Isard, a big target for the season. But Rivera never started the race or any race after that.

What the fuck happened? According to 4-72 and the Colombian Federation, Rivera was fired (and not allowed to race again) because the birthday that he provided was fake. That is right, Ever Rivera falsified his birth records so chances are he is not an under 23. That blows my mind a bit that you can do that in this day and age but I have heard or seen nothing from Rivera that disputes the accusations.

5. Sondre Holst Enger (Norway - Øster Hus)

This is the most controversial pick on here but I feel like he does belong on here to a degree. Sonde Holst Enger was one of the revelations of 2013 after being a top 10 machine; hitting the top 10 about 25 times last year. He was 3rd overall in the Tour of Norway, he won the Coupe des Nations Saguenay on bonus seconds after consistent riding, won the Norway Cup overall and finished 3rd in the World Championships. That is really clipping down his results because it was a fantastic season.

2014 started do I put this lightly...slow. He was nowhere in the Istrian Spring Trophy. He had one good result at the Tour of Normandie, where he was 3rd on the 1st stage and 2nd in the bunch sprint behind Maarten van Trijp. The rest of the race saw him finishing in between 107th and 121st before DNFing on stage 6.

Really, it wasn't until late May and the Norwegian UCI races where he was acting his normal self. He was top 10 on 3 stages of the Uno-X Tour of Norway and at the slightly less important Tour des Fjords, he was top 10 on 4 stages and finished 5th overall. He won the Norwegian U23 RR and was 8th in the European Championship.

Again, Enger went through a stretch where he DNFed multiple races including the Arctic Tour, Tour du Jura and GP Isbergues, the latter two as a stagiaire with IAM. His 5 days after DNFing Isbergues, he went to finish 5th overall in the World U23 RR, where his Norwegian teammate Bystrøm escaped for the win and his sprinter teammate Skjerping finished 3rd.

He finished his season with IAM by getting 10th and 8th on two stages of the Eurometropole Tour and actually finishing Paris-Tours, albeit over 10 minutes down.

So why am I including him on this list? While he had some good times this year, he also had a lot of bad times. He DNFed a ton of races and yeah, he was 5th at Worlds, but what is going to happen when he is racing 70 times a year and he is not finishing half of his races? Management might be okay with it for a while but it is a habit he will need to get out of quickly. Also, the majority of his results were on home roads in Norway. Yeah, he might be good for a result in the Tour of Norway but what about when he is racing in pissing down rain in France on a road that is wide enough for a couple of Fiat Puntos?

Give me shit but I was dissapointed with Enger as a whole in 2014. I will happily eat my words if he can produce in 2015 or just smile inwardly if these trends continue.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Cutting It Short: When young riders take an early bow from cycling

Yesterday, it became official that former Belgian U23 RR Champion Jorne Carolus was ending his cycling career at the ripe age of 22. After suffering with muscle problems that hampered his training throughout the season, Carolus decided it was time to hang up the wheels and focus on his studies in Industrial Engineering at the University of Hasselt. His decision is quite understandable. It would be hard to continue training when you see your good friends and peers keep getting better, signing pro contracts all while you are stuck in a loop. Not everyone wants to be that 28 year old journeyman that is still looking to catch his big break. Carolus tried to his best and his body didn't cooperate. No need wracking yourself trying to find a cure when you have accepted that there is a life after cycling and you can move on. Who knows, maybe in a couple years you will see Carolus pop up again. You never know.

It was pretty sweet to see him take a win in early September after such a challenging year.
His teammates have sent out some messages about his move.

Carolus isn't the only young rider moving on from two wheels. Dane Rasmus Sterobo, just one year removed from his last U23 year, decided to hang it up in favor getting his Masters Degree in Physics and Technology to become a civil engineer. Sterobo was a big talent that put up big results in 2013 including a prologue win in the U23 Peace Race, 7th in the Thüringen Rundfahrt and 16th in the Tour de l'Avenir. He came out flat this year and seemed to be lacking the motivation for a full-time pro career. In his words, he called the lifestyle " too monotonous". He hasn't ruled out a comeback in the future.

Other young riders hanging up the bike include:

-Piero Baffi (Leopard-Trek)

-Ignazio Moser (BMC Development)

-Florent Mottet (Wallonie-Bruxelles)

-Alexander Mork (Designa Køkken)

-Jan-Niklas Droste (Heizomat)

-Mathias Rask (Giant-Shimano Development)

-Giorgio Brambilla (Veranclassics) got close to the top a couple of years ago with Leopard-Trek but never got the big contract he needed/deserved.

I always find it interesting seeing young riders walk away from the sport when they still have so much ahead of them. It makes me think, "Oh yeah, there actually is more than just cycling." Here I was thinking that the pinnacle of my life would be a cycling writer, just narrowly ahead of doctor in impoverished country and working with the poor.

Monday, October 20, 2014

2014 Lookback: Top 5 First Years

With racing in America and Europe not focused more on dirt than tarmac, I will take a look back at 2014 and highlight a few different categories with some top 5 lists. Now usually my top 5 lists start at #12 but this first one should be fairly simple. Let us take a look at the top 5 first year U23s from 2014 and I think the top rider is fairly obvious...

1. Robert Power (Australia)

Power is an obvious choice here after his dominant season that went from February to September. After some strong junior results in Italy in late 2013, Power started his year off by going a close 2nd in the Australian U23 RR behind Caleb Ewan in a tight sprint and then went off the front of the Oceania Championships with Luke Durbridge and Bernie Sulzberger before settling for 2nd behind Durbo.

Power took a couple months "off", which included some altitude camps with the U23 National Team before heading over to Europe and making his presence felt very fast. In his first U23 European race, Power lived up to his made and made the decisive breakaway in the Trofeo Piva Banca. He was outpaced in the sprint by Gregor Mühlberger but hung on for 3rd place. Just weeks later, he was 2nd in the GP Palio del Recioto behind a flying Silvio Herklotz.

Power then went top 10 in his next three stage races, the Tour d'Azerbaijan, U23 Peace Race and the Czech Cycling Tour. He even went 13th in the Tour Alsace in support of Jack Haig, who finished 2nd overall. These races were just a prelude to a dream that would begin in Briga Novarese and lasted for 10 days. Watch the finale at Briga Novarese. Power essentially leads out the last kilometer and even after Gianni Moscon overtakes him, Power pops it into the big ring and crushes the young Italian's soul in the final 50 meters to take the win.

That was 3 Zalf-Euromobil's to 1 Australian and look who came out on top.

Power continued his dominance at GP Poggiana, where he broke away early with Tilegen Maidos, Simone Andreetta and Felix Großschartner. With 35 kilometers to go, Power laid down a strong attack and while Maidos tried to hold on, Power was soon solo and the after burners were on. With a huge gap, Power start whipping the crowd up with 300 meters to go and cruised in for a brilliant solo win.
Suns out. Guns out. #poowwaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh
Was he done? Not quite yet. On the tail end of his brilliant stretch was the GP Capodarco, one of the best races on the Italian amateur circuit. Zalf-Euromobil, the most dominant Italian team, had been upended twice and wasn't planning on making it a 3rd time in a row, especially to a foreigner. After having Jack Haig pilot him up to the leading group in the finale, Power went head to head with Gianni Moscon once again with similar results.

3 wins in 10 days. It was a pretty unreal streak. While he took a little break from racing, his next race was the Tour de l'Avenir, where he quickly showed that he belonged with the best. While he put in a very good prologue effort for 4th place, Power met someone that could match him stroke for stroke in the mountains in Colombian Miguel Angel Lopez. Power went against Lopez in the mountains and for the most part, they were pretty evenly matched but Lopez took advantage of a few missteps by Power and the New Zealand-born Australian took a hard-fought 2nd.

Power finished the season strongly with front group finishes in the Coppa Bernocchi and Coppa Agostini as well as the U23 World Championships, where he played a wild-card role but even with a last lap attack, the course proved to be a little bit too flat for the Australian to break it up.

In any case, Power proved he is a once-in-a-generation talent and really, the sky is the limit with this one.

2. Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands - BKCP-Powerplus)

When you only race 25 or so days on the road, you make a hard comparison but Mathieu van der Poel is one of the biggest natural talents in the sport of talent. He can seamlessly transfer from the road to cyclocross and back again and be highly successful in both. He seems to be committed to cyclocross through 2017 but the road teams will be begging him to go full time while cyclocross will be yearning to have a big-time star.

Van der Poel didn't appear on the road this year until May, at the Omloop der Kempen, but in just his first UCI race as a senior, he finished 7th. Next race? Tour of fucking Belgium. Okay, there big boy. Time to slow down. Or not. On the "queen stage" of the race, Mathieu VDP finished 4th place in the reduced bunch sprint behind the likes of Andre Greipel and Philippe Gilbert.

Probably the shining moment of his road season was when he won the Ronde van Limburg in a bunch sprint. Yes, I was trying to make that sound as dull as possible. He beat out Paul Martens and Greg Henderson, two bona-fide World Tour riders, in a tight sprint. The kid is just 19.

His lack of racing against U23s and similar competition makes him hard to rank because, for example, he dominated the Baltic Chain Tour because well...there was no competition. On the other hand, he won a stage at the Tour Alsace ahead of Julien El Fares (ex-Pro Conti) and soon to be WT-rider Kristoffer Skjerping while finishing 6th overall in the race.

In my book, he could be more talented than Power but because of his cyclocross focus, I'm keeping him at a close #2 but if he were to focus on something like Amstel Gold or Liege-Bastogne-Liege, then watch out.

3. Sam Oomen (Netherlands - Rabobank Development)

The Dutch are fucking knee-deep in a dike full of talent currently with 1995 being one of their more talented classes. Sam Oomen is a great example of the Dutch's future GC potential that is currently in their development system (i.e. Rabobank Development).

Oomen was a junior with a lot of potential behind him after winning the GP Rüebliland in 2012 and the Dutch Junior TT in 2013. While he started off his senior career off slowly this year, Oomen soon came around by winning the KOM in the Tour de Bretagne by a healthy margin. In his 2nd stage race, the Rhône-Alpes Isère Tour, Oomen rode quite well for such a green horn and with some consistent, unflashy riding, Oomen finished 14th overall and 2nd in the youth classification, just 30 seconds behind Silvio Herklotz.

Not that a first year could ask to go much better but Oomen stepped it up another notch and went to the Tour des Fjords, made all the splits and ended up 8th overall. He still had a couple more months until he turned 19 and he was top 10 in a pro stage race.

After some warm-up races in the mountains including the Tour de l'Ain, Oomen went full bore into the Tour de l'Avenir and on the first mountain stage to Plateau de Solaison, he got into a breakaway that included dumbfuck-doper Ilya Davidenok. In case any of you missed it, sleaze-ball Davidenok tested positive for anabolic steroids on the day that he clawed his way back up to Oomen's wheel and then out-sprinted him for the win. I have no more patience for these kind of guys. In my old age of 24, my views on doping are becoming more militant. Dopers can be nice guys but if you cheat in a voluntary sport, then you have no purpose being there. I don't give a shit if you use the childish excuse of "everyone else is doing it" because that is a cop-out. So congrats on the Tour de l'Avenir stage win Sam Oomen. You deserve it.

Oomen was a little blown out from the massive effort on stage 4 but still stuck it out for 13th overall, which was 3rd best first-year U23 behind Mr. Power and Tao Geoghegan Hart, who we will meet later. Oomen capped his season by being apart of the 3-man Rabo Devo attack at the Paris-Tours Espoirs that saw the team sweep the podium with Mike Teunissen taking the win in his last U23 race while Martijn Tusveld and Oomen wrapped up the podium.

Next year, Oomen will definitely be locked on for the Tour de l'Avenir while improving his consistency and trying to grab some wins in the process.

Oomen hails from Tilburg, just 15 minutes from the Belgian border, where he goes to the Tilburg university and studies psychology. Oooooomen also plays the piano pretty well. He seems to have a good head on his shoulders (he doesn't even twitter) so I think that he will be able to make it through the process of being a pro. Oomen will be back at Rabobank Devo for 2015.

4. Michael Carbel (Denmark - CULT Energy) & Andre Looij (Netherlands - Rabobank Development)

So we have a tie for the 4th spot with two young sprinters who showed that they have the speed to win in the coming years.

Carbel was a star sprinter in the junior ranks and transitioned well to the senior level. In the Dorpenomloop Rucphen, only his 2nd race as a senior, he won the bunch sprint ahead of Dan McLay and Johim Ariesen. Carbel won the bunch sprint in La Côte Picarde, which was good for 11th, albeit this was a bit disappointing because they caught the breakaway on the line and finished on the same time. Carbel showed some more sprinting promise in the Czech Cycling Tour (one bunch sprint win), the ZLM Tour (3rd in the bunch, 14th overall) and the Ronde de l'Oise (2nd and 5th). He showed a bit of toughness with a 2nd place in the Danish Elite RR Championship, where he won the bunch sprint ahead of Michael Mørkøv and Rasmus Guldhammer behind a streaking Michael Valgren.

Carbel definitely has a sprint on him but on courses with many hills, he is normally shot out the back into the grupetto or into his team's car. For example, even on the flattest stages of the Tour de l'Avenir, he was nowhere near the sprints. He is moving up with CULT Energy to the Pro Continental level next year and well...he better have his nose to the grindstone otherwise it is going to be a long year.

Andre Looij is just as quick as Carbel but you know...even better. Looij was another strong sprinter as a junior but they are a dime a dozen at the time. The real test comes once you hit the U23s and Looij started pretty damn well. He was 2nd in the bunch sprint in the first race of the season, Ster van Zwolle, which was good for 7th place. Just 2 weeks later, he won his first race of the year in the 1st stage of Triptyque Monts et Chateaux, where he handily outsprinted Tiesj Benoot and Michael Goolaerts. Just a month later at Tour de Bretagne, Looij showed he isn't a one-trick pony and got into a breakaway with Jonathan Dufrasne (Wallonie-Bruxelles) and once the line was in sight, he trounced him in the two-up sprint.

Looij went straight from Bretagne to finish 5th in the GP de la Somme, one of those hard as hell 1.1 French races that no one gives a fuck about. After a summer break, Looij came back with a stage win in the Kreiz Breizh Elites and then had a great late season run in one-day races with 4 top-10s at races such a the Ronde van Midden-Nederland (3rd), Knokke-Heist Kustpijl (6th), Rabo Baronie Breda Classic (7th) and the Münsterland Giro (8th).

Looij showed himself not to be just a bunch sprinter but a strong rider on classics-style courses. Looij  hails from Wilnis, which is up north in the Utrecht province, and attends Johan Cruijff Academy studying Communications and Marketing. For 2015, Looij will also be jumping to the Pro Continental ranks with the new Dutch team Roompot, where he will join fellow classics-sprinters Dylan Groenewegen and the Kreder trio of Michel, Wesley and Raymond. The Dutch, like the Danish, have had a lot of very talented juniors and U23s in recent memory that did not pan out as professionals but I have a good feeling about Looij.

5. Tao Geoghegan Hart (United Kingdom - Bissell Development)

Coming out of the junior ranks, Tao Geoghegan Hart was hailed as an amazing climber with his lithe build being very well suited for Ardennes-style climbs as well as gargantuan Alpine climbs. The born and bred Hackney rider, a rarity in the professional ranks, signed with Axel Merckx's Bissell squad and didn't race with the team until April. After a warm-up at Redlands, Geoghegan Hart joined the GB National Team for the April Nations Cups, where TGH was one of the more consistent riders during the week with 2 top 20 rides including 15th in the Ronde van Vlaanderen and 20th in La Côte Picarde. Geoghegan Hart did one of his best rides of the season at Liege-Bastogne-Liege where he got into the late race breakaway and with the peloton breathing down their neck, the Brit got on the front and while he was a little wasted for the sprint, he still managed 3rd place.

A plus riding with Bissell is that Geoghegan Hart got to ride the Tour of California and Tour of Utah with the team. While he was a little out of his class, he still got through both races and gave him a taste of the future. The Brit, riding for the national team, put some consistent rides in the mountains together in the Tour de l'Avenir and got 10th overall. He didn't do anything too flashy but he didn't have any big breakdowns along the way.

He did the same thing at the Tour of Britain with the national team, which he described his ride as an "OK 15th". His most memorable moment from the race was when he went ass over tea kettle on the final corner on the stage to Brighton.
Geoghegan Hart signed a one-year extension with Merckx's yet to be named team for 2015, where he should be targeting leadership in some races and trying to go for a couple of wins in his 2nd year.

Honorable mentions

-Roman Kustadinchev (Russia - Helicopters) was apart of the breakaway at the U23 Worlds RR for all but one lap, which was quite a herculean effort. A few days later, he was 2nd in the Ruota d'Or behind Giacomo Berlato. Speaking of Helicopters, they had another strong first-year rider in Artem Nych. Nych was 12th in the Tour of South Bohemia (Okolo Jiznich Cech) and had front group finishes in the Trofeo Bastianelli (9th) and the U23 Worlds RR (23rd).

-BMC Development's Bas Tietema had a great Paris-Roubaix Espoirs by breaking away with teammate Tyler Williams and Mike Teunissen and while he was dropped, hung on by the skin of his teeth for 3rd place.

-Franck Bonnamour was the European Junior RR Champion in 2013 and this year with BIC 2000, he was 8th in the Tour of Bretagne, 1'05" down on winner Bert-Jan Lindeman. He had a strong ride at the GP Wallonie, where he was 18th place as a stagiaire with Bretagne-Séché Environment.

-Simone Ravanelli (Italy - Pala Fenice) was 10th in the Peaches and Nectarines and 13th in the Giro della Valle d'Aosta. Probably will be a strong GC contender next year on the Italian circuit. Seid Lizde (Zalf-Euromobil) was 2nd to Davide Martinelli in the Italian U23 TT and was 7th in the European U23 TT.

-Mads Pedersen was one of, if not the, star junior making his senior debut in 2014 and it wasn't too shabby. With CULT Energy, the Dane won the Eschborn-Frankfurt U23 RR in a 3-up sprint over Nils Politt and Sven Erik Bystrøm. There were certainly teething issues with Pedersen having a slew of DNFs and low finishes but he did pull out a strong TT in the Tour of Denmark, where he was 10th at +31" behind winner Alexey Lutsenko. He will be moving along to the Pro Continental ranks with CULT and he will need to step up if he wants to be competitive.

-Scott Davies won the British U23 TT as apart of Madison-Genesis. Davies had some other strong time trials during the year and is also a strong climber. He finished 34th in the World U23 RR, which was in the front group. For 2015, Davies is joining the Olympic program and will be riding exclusively with the national team.

-I kind of already wrote about a lot of the young American talent so if you are looking to hear about Miguel Byron, Justin Oien and Keegan Swirbul, read here.

-Jingbiao Zhao is a name that you probably have never heard of and maybe never will again. Yet, Zhao won the Chinese Elite RR this year and rode pretty well in the Tour of China I and II.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Season Roundup: USA! USA!

While the USA is not exactly known as a hub for U23 racing, they still have a presence when they go abroad and any time on of their sprogs is racing in one of the big American races. Since the Americans don't have a sprawling amateur scene with an abundance of U23 races, we will be going by American U23 performances both domestically and abroad.


-One of the sensation of the year was Dan Eaton. Riding for Canyon Bicycles - Shimano, the Arizona native started out early this year by winning the Valley of the Sun stage race after putting in a strong ride in the TT and then riding himself in the leader's jersey. This was the first in a string of strong results including top 10 GC finishes at the Tour de Murrieta, Tucson Bicycle Classic, San Dimas Stage Race and Redlands Bicycle Classics, the latter being on the NRC calendar. These results propelled Eaton on the US National Team and getting starts in the Tour de Bretagne, Olympia's Tour and Paris-Roubaix Espoirs.


-Some of the American's on the European track got their season's started at the Volta ao Alentejo, a fun little 5-stage race in the southern, agrarian region of Portugal. Tanner Putt was the GC leader, having gone 14th there in 2014, and he improved with a 10th overall place. Greg Daniel nearly stole a stage win on stage 2 but was swallowed up just 200 meters from the finish. Ryan Eastman put in strong sprint finishes along with 4th on stage 3 and two other top 10s. Along with 10th on GC, Putt took home the best young rider jersey.


-With the majority of the experienced riders going to the Volta Limburg, the young guns got a chance to shine at the Triptyque Monts et Chateaux, a 3-day, 4 stage race in Belgium. Eamon Lucas, who was targeting the TT, went 5th in the TT just a few seconds behind the likes of Jon Dibben, Owain Doull, Alex Kirsch and Kristian Haugaard.  On the final stage, Justin Oien was able to get 10th place while Geoff Curran won the best young rider's jersey, which was for 1st year U23 riders.

-Tanner Putt put in a strong one-day campaign in Europe with a 16th place in the 1.1 Volta Limburg and then 9th in the Liege-Bastogne-Liege U23, which was technically 5th in the bunch sprint behind the breakaway, which was caught on the line but not passed. This isn't the last time I will bring him up for his one-day ability. I think his future is going to be in the Ardennes and other hilly one-day races that end in a small sprint.

-It has been a while since America has had a big classics U23 to get excited about. Probably since Phinney. But this season, some of the younger U23s got the hopes up yet again. In the ZLM Tour, first year Justin Oien made the breakaway with big talents such as Ryan Mullen, Sven Erik Bystrøm and Thomas Boudat. Oien was able to hang on for 8th place, which comparing to recent USA attempts in the Nations Cup, is fantastic. Tyler Williams, riding for BMC Development, got away with Mike Teunissen and teammate Bas Tietema in Paris-Roubaix Espoirs and while Teunissen dropped a bomb about 20 kilometers to go, Williams hung on solo for 2nd place while first-year Logan Owen finished in 8th place. Not to be outdone by the youngins, Ryan Eastman made the front group at the Ronde van Vlaanderen U23 only to get held up in the sprint crash to finish 13th.

-A rider who rides outside of the National Team bubble is Alexey Vermeulen. Since Vermeulen rides with BMC Develpoment, he gets more European racing days in places like Italy. In spring, Vermeulen had some nice rides in the big back-to-back one days, Giro del Belvedere and Palio del Recioto. He made the front chasing group at both and registered 15th and 20th respectively. He is just a 2nd year U23 and I think next year is going to be the year we see a breakout from the Michigan native.


-Greg Daniel nearly stole a stage win at the Tour of California. Well stole isn't the right word...he nearly manhandled it out of the hands of some much more experienced pros. On stage 4 to Cambria, Daniel got into the breakaway and after riding the cranks off his bike, he nearly pipped Will Routley on the line but had to settle for 2nd on the line.

-The Peace Race is gaining momentum and hopefully keeps growing because I think it is fantastic. Alexey Vermeulen took advantage of the leadership role and finished 6th overall in the Czech race, which was even better than Robert Power.

-One of the best kept secrets in American development is Jeff Perrin. Along with Chris Putt, brother of Tanner, the duo carrier the Americans in the Ronde de l'Isard. After an admittedly shitty first day, Perrin got into the breakaway on stage 2 to Bagneres de Luchon. While Lilian Calmejane attacked the breakaway on the final climb, Perrin kept a strong tempo and while the freight train of Louis Vervaeke and Tiesj Benoot was bearing down, Perrin was only passed by Vervaeke on the line and held on for 3rd on the day. Perrin and Putt held down through the next few days and came out 8th and 11th overall respectively at the end. The new P&P for cycling. No more fucking Phil and Paul...Perrin and Putt please.


-TJ Eisenhart is on the cusp of being a really great rider but he is just a chain-skip away from getting there. Granted he is only 2nd year U23 but he shows his potential in the time trials. Eisenhart rode a strong TT on July 4th to take the Stars and Stripes. He even went 2nd in the Giro della Valle d'Aosta time trial prologue but just 2 stages later, he DNFed. He is super strong but he was all over the board this year in terms of results. One great ride, getting his hopes high and then a so-so ride. Here is to a big 2015.

-Vermeulen rode a steady eddy Valle d'Aosta to finish 17th overall. That race is as hard as balls. Later in the month, Vermeulen finished 20th overall in the Tour Alsace, yet another hard as balls race.


-One of the bigger enigmas of this year was Keegan Swirbul, the gangly mountain kid from Colorado who can climb really fucking fast. He is a hill-climb sensation but with next to no road results coming in to this year, it was a fairly quick transition to climbing in the top 20 at the Tour of Utah. Swirbul was climbing very well in Utah and was around the top 20 (19th and 21st) on two huge mountain days before having to pull out on the final stage due to tendonitis. He has some crazy potential. I hope the National Team can get a hold of him for a little bit and put him in some stage races with steep, long stages like l'Isard.

-How have I come this far and not discussed Robin Carpenter? Seriously, this kid is a terrier in the breakaways; just never quits. He showed his true colors on stage 2 of the Tour Pro Challenge of Colorado States of USA where despite a crazy fuck-up by the officials, who stopped him and the peloton temporarily, Carpenter fought through the shit show and survived the final climb up to Crested Butte to take a narrow stage win ahead of Alex Howes and Van Garderen.

-Well um...l'Avenir was certainly a test. Perrin saved it, sort of, by going 18th overall but I'm sure they wanted a little bit more than that.


-Worlds weren't too bad for the Americans. Tanner Putt laid it out on the line during the last lap but timed it a bit wrong. Still, he finished 13th which extended to the USA's streak of coming 13th at U23 Worlds to two (Nate Brown was 13th in Florence).

-Yannick Eckmann made an appearance at the Ruota d'Or by snatching 8th place in the first chasing group behind the breakaway. Eckmann is mainly known for his 'cross stuff but that was a damn good ride.


-Guess who it is making the top 20 of an Italian one-day race? Alexey Vermeulen. He got 17th at the Piccolo Giro di Lombardia, which was at the tail-end of the leading chase group.

In all, it was a fairly good year for the USA. The U23 guys got a good amount of results state-side and then results here and there abroad. There is a lack of true GC heir apparent but there are multiple candidates including Vermeulen, Eisenhart, Perrin, etc. I'm looking forward to Oien getting another year under his belt and seeing what he can do in the classics.

Other riders to look out for that I missed...

-Ben Wolfe - The Connecticut product reminds me of Adam Leibovitz. Tall, strong and can make buckets of watts. He had some issues with leg numbness early in the season but once he got those sorted, he was going very strong through the summer. He was 3rd at the U23 TT Nationals and won probably 5 criteriums in the Northeast by going solo off the front and hammering away. With his health sorted, watch out next year.

-Miguel Bryon - 2nd in the Ronde van Vlaanderen Juniors in 2013, Bryon got some rides with the National Team this year and showed that he has a pretty good sprint on him, especially in the flatter Belgian and Dutch races. Perhaps next year, he will be a bit wiser and able to contest some of the bunch kicks.

-Alex Darville - The former standout junior who is only 20 won the National Points Race Championship ahead of evergreen Bobby Lea. The Bissell rider raced a bit on the road but seems fully committed to the track in the possible Rio 2016 run.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Season Roundup: Italy

The leaves are turning and with just days left in the road season for virtually everyone except the Asian circuit, it is time to do a wrap-up of the season that was and I'd like to start with Italy. This year, I have gone quite in depth with the Italian amateur scene and now it is time to draw a few conclusions.

First off, there are way too many bullshit races that big teams use to pad their stats. Zalf-Euromobil, for example had multiple races where they put 5 riders into the top 10. Hell the Venetian team but 6 in the top 7 at the recent Coppa San Vito. While that might be "dominant" to some,  a good chunk of Zalf-Euromobil's 56 wins so far this year. 100 kilometer flat circuit races with lopsided fields aren't exactly quality wins to many.

Not many can overhaul Caleb Ewan in a flat-out sprint. Especially with enough time to sit up.
(Photo:Italia Ciclismo)
This leads into the next point about the wins that many riders rack up. Jakub Mareczko, the Italian-Polish rocket of Viris-Maserati, was the most successful rider on the Italian amateur circuit with 12 wins, so far. Only one of these wins was a UCI win, the Circuit del Porto, which is basically a flat 180km circuit race with a ridiculous average speed (nearly 50km per hour) that ends in a bunch sprint. This isn't to discount Mareczko's vicious turn of speed. When he gets a whiff of the finish line, the short, stocky figure of Mareczko will hunch over the bars ala Mark Cavendish circa 2008 and do his best to rip the bars clean off the steam. The rider that was beating him in the sprint, Nicolas Marini (Zalf-Euromobil), has been just able to get his back wheel for 2nd or 3rd in recent weeks. Mareczko has won 3 races in the span of a week in late September.

Yet how many wins of these are quality? I'd say maybe half. The Vicenza-Bionde win was strong; he did beat Caleb Ewan straight up Antonietto Rancilio and we can rope in his UCI win in there. Many of the other wins? Short, flat circuit races with the same old faces like Marini, Andrei Voicu and Xhuliano Kamberaj. Now, he could turn out like Andrea Guardini, who set the record with 19 wins in 2010, but remember, he had a slow time transitioning to the longer, much harder races of the professional peloton. Or he could turn out like Bernardo Riccio. Why do you have a confused look on your face? He won 14 races in 2007. He turned pro with Tinkoff and wasn't too bad for a few years before not getting a contract and retiring after 2011.

So who then had the most amount of quality wins on the Italian circuit this year? Nicolas Marini had some good sprints but most of his wins came after motor pacing for 2.5 hours. Paolo Toto had 7 wins for Veloclub Senigallia but since he isn't a U23, many of his wins came against thinner competition. Ilya Koshevoy certainly has the climbing talent but like Toto, rode mainly against reduced competition. Looking towards quality wins, you'd have to look at riders like Marlen Zmorka, Simone Andreetta, Giacomo Berlato, Iuri Filosi and Manuel Senni.

This is turning into more of a ramble but the point I'd like to make is that just because some kid won 15 races as an amateur doesn't mean shit when he turns pro. Yeah, he has a killer instinct but can he suffer? Can he slog through rain and undulating hills to finish off a sprint in the end? Is he more than a one-trick pony? I feel like many Italian amateurs, mainly sprinters, aren't preparing themselves for the professional ranks because when they go out of Italy, many of them fall flat. Riding 120 km flat circuits isn't getting you ready for the pros. If you are wanting to be a World Tour sprinter, you need to be able to combine that tenacious sprint with a little bit of climbing. You might not have the fastest sprint on a drag strip but if you can get over some bumps in tact, you will be at a much better advantage.

Another thing about the Italian amateur scene I've been noticing? Shit stays the same. A amazing sprinter, a brilliant climber and a bunch of fucking middle aged directors that have a distinct smell of doping on their collared shirts. I'm looking at you Olivano Locatelli. Go the fuck away. Doping is still there and if you keep giving shitheads like Luca Benedetti a second chance, they will keep biting you in the ass.

Some of the best rides in Italy this year? Well let's go in no particular order...

-The Coppa San Geo was the kick off to the season and it provided some nice dramatics to start the season off. Marlen Zmorka and Alberto Tocchella went off the front and the two were able to hold off a charging pack. Tocchella was able to sprint around the diesel Zmorka while Nicolas Marini was bouncing his wheel off the ground in frustration of missing out on the sprint win.

-Mareczko beating Caleb Ewan Antonietto Rancilio in a straight up sprint. I know the Australians were coming in confident that it would be a tune up for some spring races but they got some egg on their face when the Viris-Maserati rider confidently came around Ewan in the final 50 meters to take the win.

-Davide Martinelli tried to beat out the sprinters in a final 2000 meter attack in Milano-Busseto but in the final 100 meters, Nicolas Marini shot around him and stole the win while Martinelli hung on for 2nd. Full video of the sprint and the juxtaposition of pure elation and heartbreak.

-Simone Andreetta showed that he belongs on the top level of talent in cycling as he attacked on the final climb in the Giro del Belvedere and was quickly marked by Silvio Herklotz, who finished 2nd in the race in 2013 behind Stefan Küng. The duo worked well together but Herklotz made the mistake of leading the last 500 meters and after doing multiple accelerations during that time, he was gassed for the sprint. Andreetta came around and celebrated quite vigorously as he is the hometown boy who grew up in Vittorio Veneto, which is on the race course, and lives in San Vendemiano, just minutes away as well. It was the beginnings of a very strong season for Andreetta.

-The next day, Silvio Herklotz stole the show and bounced back from a 2nd place in the 2013 Palio del Recioto to solo to a victory in the 2014 edition ahead of Australian Robert Power, Stefano Nardelli and Manuel Senni. (Highlights)

-Alessandro Tonelli and Luca Sterbini broke away with 7 others after 23 kilometers and with just 200 meters to go, they were the only two survivors left in the 150 kilometer Trofeo Matteotti (the amateur version). Tonelli accelerated on the final uphill and gave Zalf their 23rd win of the season. Highlights.

-Iuri Filosi went through a torrid stretch in May where he was nearly untouchable and at Peaches & Nectarines in Romagna, he broke away with Simone Sterbini and with Filosi ahead on GC, the two took nearly 2 minutes out of a strong chasing group including Manuel Senni, Gianni Moscon and others. Sterbini only won the stage because Filosi had locked up the GC. Highlights.

Colpack's highlight of the year: Senni taking back-to-back stages in Aosta
(Photo: Italia Ciclismo)
-Manuel Senni got his contract with BMC for 2015 by winning two stage back-to-back in the Giro della Valle d'Aosta. Senni came into the race with a stacked Colpack team and on stage one, they had 3 men in a 5-man move and Senni took out the final sprint with Giulio Ciccone in 2nd. The next day, Senni hit off with Andreetta and at the foot of the final mountain, Senni took off and won with a 20 second gap back to Odd Eiking in 2nd.

-Robert Power went on a rampage by taking 3 straight one-day wins in a row. Starting in Briga Novarese, Power put it into the big ring for the last kilometer and even with 3 Zalf riders on his wheel, he fucked them all up. Next up? Power went on a huge solo attack at the GP Poggiana where he was basically solo for the last 45 kilometers and won by a healthy 1'25". Lastly, he joined the breakaway on the final lap of the GP Capodarco and for the 2nd time in a week, he dropped Gianni Moscon and soloed to the win over the steep final climb. Power is a fucking animal. When he kicks it into the big ring, I can just hear his legs go "Powaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh" from across the pond.

-Gianni Moscon winning the Piccolo Giro di Lombardia. I just kind of wrote about it so...yeah. He beats Dylan Teuns in a two-up sprint. Fantastic race.

All of this talent has to go somewhere so let's go over some of the Italian transfer news...

-Manuel Senni is heading to BMC as part of the truckload of talent BMC is getting.

-Bardiani-CSF kept up its commitment to youth by signing 6 neo-pros for 2015, as of now. Paolo Simion, Simone Andreetta, Luca Chirico, Alessandro Tonelli and the Sterbini bros., Luca and Simone. That is a lot of talent. Yet how many of these guys will stick around a few years from now? I'll go with maybe half.

-Ilya Koshevoy, who won 6 races on the Italian amateur scene this year, will be joining Lampre for 2015 after a successful stagiaire role with them this year that included a 13th overall in the Tour of Utah.

-MG.Kvis-Wilier continue their development track by taking on Stefano Nardelli and Simone Petilli, among 6 others.

-Neri Sottoli looks like it will be getting a little face lift. Neri Sottoli picked up the most prolific winner on the Italian scene this year, Jakub Mareczko, along with Eugert Zhupa (Zalf-Euromobil), who is going to become the first Albanian pro to my knowledge.

-Nippo-Vini Fantini is making the jump from the continental ranks to pro continental, assuming everything goes well. They signed the aging star Cunego, who doesn't seem much interested with the bike anymore. They signed Nicolas Marini, the 2nd strongest U23 sprinter behind Mareczko, at least on the Italian amateur scene, along with Giacomo Berlato and Antonio Nibali. Berlato, to me, is the most talented of the three and could go on to a long career. Nibali...well I have seen bits and pieces of talent but nothing like his brother.

That is really all that I have right now. It was a fun year Italy. I'll see you in a few months.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Big Ol' Roundup

I'm still coming out of the post-Worlds fog here in the Mid-East United States. I did interview Australian sprinter Jesse Kerrison about his year this year and how he feels about his coming year with BMC Development in 2015, so go read about that. While I know y'all would have read that by now if you truly like me and aren't using me for my boyish looks, let us catch up on the week or so that was.

-Gianni Moscon wins the Piccolo Lombardia

Italian amateur races seem to have the best finish line pictures (Photo:Italiaciclismo)
The Trento native Gianni Moscon, who featured in the finale of the U23 World RR Championships in Ponferrada last week, took his form to the roads of Lombardia where he beat out BMC recruit Dylan Teuns in a two-up sprint for the victory on Saturday. This race, which celebrated its 86th running, has a winner's list that includes Sean Kelly, Aldo Moser, Maurizio Fondriest, Moreno Argentin, Alberto Elli, Stefano Garzelli and more...the likes of Denis Bondarenko, which I'm sure everyone remembers. In the last few years, the winners have included Davide Villella, Jan Polanc and Daniele Ratto.

With 55 kilometers to go over the Madonna di Ghisallo, the race had a defining breakaway of 18 including 4 Zalf riders (Moscon, Garosio, Tonelli, Berlato), 3 BMC riders (Teuns, Vliegen and Vermeulen) and others including Pierre-Roger Latour (Chambery), Dan Pearson (Zappi's) and more. Teuns and Moscon attacked on the Villa Vergano climb and with 21 kilometers to go, they had an 11 second gap on Latour. The duo up front worked well together and Latour never quite got on terms and in the finale, it was a confident Moscon who overhauled Teuns while Latour came in 8 seconds down. The chasing group was led in by a Chambery CF 1-2 in Nans Peters and Francois Bidard, making it a 3-4-5 for Chambery on the day.

Moscon, only a 2nd year U23, capped off a great year with his 2nd win of the year and his first major win. Moscon was all over the top 10 in one-day races with top finishes in the Giro del Belvedere (6th), Palio del Recioto (9th), Vittorio Veneto (1st), Coppa della Pace (8th), Citta di Felino (2nd), GP Poggiana (5th), GP Capodarco (2nd) to go along with his win here. He was chasing a streaking Brayan Ramirez in the World Championships when he slid out in a corner and lost any hope of an upset victory.

Zalf took their 51st victory of the year. They took their 52nd a bit later in the afternoon with Nicola Toffali and Eugert Zhupa leading the 1-2 for Zalf in the Coppa San Vito. Well actually it was a 1-2-4-5-6-7 with only Christian Grazian spoiling the party since he got into the breakaway. They won't equal their record haul of 59 from last year but it is by no means a down year for the Venetian squad.

For Dylan Teuns, this is just an re-affirmation of his awesome season and a sign of things to come in the pro ranks. The same goes for Latour. Perhaps this is a podium we could see in the future.

Other racing news...

-Speaking of Zalf-Euromobil wins, Giacomo Berlato won the Ruota d'Oro earlier this week. Berlato broke away from Russian Roman Kustadinchev, the guy who featured prominently off the front for nearly all of the race at the U23 Worlds

Team and Transfer News

-Giant-Shimano Development Team is kaput. The team, which will be known as Giant-Alpecin next year, is moving away from the development team method in favor of having testing camps, where riders will come in and test with the team and see if they have what it takes. The riders currently under contract will be taken care of, apparently, "so they can continue their cycling career and help them take the next step in their development." Little Lars van der Haar will move to the World Tour team for 2015 but will still focus 100% on cyclocross.

The team was a nice announcement last year but the results were very slim this year for the squad with many rider's development being stunted with injury including Frederik Ludvigsson and Mathias Rask while others just simply didn't produce.

Full press release here.

-Team Stölting is not going Pro Continental for 2015. After being talked about for months, the team manager Jochen Hahn sheepishly admitted that the "talks' with potential sponsors didn't develop past that. Meanwhile, Phil Bauhaus is off to Team BORA for the next 2 years while Christian Mager, who was very strong this spring and in the Giro della Valle d'Aosta, signed with CULT Energy. Silvio Herklotz is still set to stay on the team for 2015 but after a strong spring and a so-so summer, he is going to need to take the reigns, take the next step in his progression and lead the team.

-Yoeri Havik is the 5th rider unofficially announced for the SEG Racing team in 2015. The quick Dutchman won the Antwerpse Havenpijl this year and is an aspiring classics man.

-Nicolas Marini, Giacomo Berlato and Antonio Nibali are reportedly headed to the Pro Continental hopeful Vini Fantini-Nippo team that will include the likes of Damiano Cunego and Elia Favilli. I think I will write a larger article on this because well...I don't know if they made the right picks here and I want to look at the Italian transfer market as more of a whole. Until then...

Other recent transfers include...

-U23 Worlds TT rider Campbell Flakemore, Italian Manuel Senni and American Joey Rosskopf all signed with BMC for 2015. They have been much talked about and will be joining previously announced riders Stefan Küng and Dylan Teuns. I hope these guys don't succumb to BMC-itis and get lost in a huge team with a lot of money for the next 2 years.

-Swiss climber Simon Pellaud signed with IAM Cycling. While obviously the team is focused on Swiss talent, he isn't half-bad in the hills and hard one-day races so I hope he doesn't get kicked in the gut too hard next year.

-Alexander Foliforov (Helicopters) moved to the step-father team of RusVelo for 2015. He is an enigma to me. He can climb so fucking brilliantly and then just drop off the planet the next day.

-Amaury Capiot, the son of 80-90s classics man Johan Capiot, is the latest youngster to sign with Topsport-Vlaanderen for 2015. Capiot walked in the steps of his father this spring by having top 10s in the Paris-Roubaix U23, GP Criquielion and Antwerpse Havenpijl as well as 5 top 10 sprints in the Carpathian Couriers Tour and 2nd in the sprint jersey. Topsport can be good for some and a swamp that some cannot escape but Capiot is one to watch in the grueling classics next spring to see if he has any of his father's brute strength that took him to 3 Brabantsje Pijls, 3 Le Samyn, 2 Het Volks and 1 Paris-Tours win.

-Timo Roosen to Team LottoNL
-Alexander Kamp and Mads Wurtz to QoloQuick

-Owain Doull, the British star on the road and track who won the Triptyque Monts et Chateaux this year, looks all set to join Europcar for 2015.

More news and notes in the coming days...

Friday, October 3, 2014

Jesse Kerrison Interview: Breakout 2014 season and looking forward to 2015

I've decided that if I want to keep this blog growing that I'll need to start doing a bit more ground work so I've decided to start bringing you some interviews. The first rider that took the bait was Australian Jesse Kerrison, Budget Forklifts star young rider who is destined for BMC Development in 2015. If you don't know about Kerrison, he made a splash on the Asian circuit by taking a stage win in the Tour of Taihu Lake, albeit by a DQ by Alois Kankovsky from a 4-lane chop in the sprint. It was no fluke as he finished with 7 top 5 finishes in Taihu Lake and another top 5 at the Tour of Nanjing. Kerrison is unknown to many because he didn't follow the most traditional route onto the road circuit. Kerrison started as a track sprinter but then slowly, after getting his ass handed to him many times, transitioned over to track endurance.

He transitioned to a full road calendar with Budget Forklifts in 2013 where he was a first year nobody that was keeping up in the sprints, including stage wins in the Tour of the Murray River and the North Western Tour. Following his Asian sojourn, Kerrison set out three goals for his 2014 season: 1) to start winning stages in the NRS 2) win the Tour of the Murray River overall and 3) improve his results from Taihu Lake. He checked off the first two boxes by winning 8 stages in the Australian NRS including 2 stages each at the Tour of the Murray River, Tour of the Great South Coast and Tour of Gippsland as well as snagging the overall of Murray River, where he overhauled race leader Brenton Jones after winning the final criterium in Yarrawonga.

While Kerrison experienced a fantastic season in Australia, he also had an eventful trip to North America. Originally not expecting to get the call, Kerrison was chosen at the last minute but he said, "I went over a little bit underdone as I struggled to find my feet in the first couple of races." While he had a few bunch kick opportunities in the GP Sageunay, Kerrison was still positive about the experience. "Once Beauce came around, I actually felt the strongest I have ever been. Without any chance for GC myself,  I dedicated myself to my team leader (Tim Roe)." Kerrison's hard work led Roe to an 8th place overall and it showed him that his progression had been paying off and "that is pretty much what I need to keep doing if I want to have a career in this sport."

Kerrison believes that this work ethic is what is going to get him through the tough times in Europe next year with BMC Development. "I'm not entirely sure how long my manager (ex-Finnish pro Joona Laukka), my coach (Ian Melvin) and Rik (Verbrugghe) had been talking but Rik contacted me mid-tour and from there it went fairly smoothly." Asking if his teammate Tim Roe, who rode on BMC and BMC Development in years past, was any help in the process, Kerrison said, "I'm sure he asked Timmy if I would be a good fit for the team or not. I guess I'm lucky Timmy likes me!" Kerrison is quite grateful having Roe on the team as he has been a great friend and mentor through the year.

Asking how he feels about the shift to Europe for next year, Kerrison conceeds that "it will be a huge change of scenery for me. The races are longer, harder and different to the racing in the NRS and with my track background and shorter racing distance, it will be hard (to transition) but I like to think that I'm a hard worker so hopefully I'm able to handle the challenges thrown at me." Kerrison does believe the NRS is a great development platform but he said, "there is definitely an emphasis on crits and sprinting throughout the season and while that is great for me, there is perhaps too much of an emphasis on it and I would like to see longer, harder stages. Not only would this make it more exciting for spectators, it would also allow Aussies going over to race in Asia, America or Europe less of a gap to jump." Organizers seem to have been taking the hint in terms of the courses and Kerrison hopes that within the next few years, there will be a surge of Australians overseas.

While Kerrison has his sights set on Europe and a big-time pro career, he is aware that cycling is a fickle business and a long career is not guaranteed. Kerrison is currently studying for his Bachelor's in Sport Development with the end goal to become a teacher. "While I'm only part-time" Kerrison said, "studying and training can conflict begin to conflict together. Even though it can make life difficult, I definitely think it is the right thing to do in the long run as you never know how long you'll be able to compete in this sport. Unfortunately crashing and the unstable nature of our sport is something we have to live with. So having a backup plan isn't a bad thing."

The next time you will probably see Kerrison will be at the Tour of Taihu Lake, which is one of his big goals of the year to go even better than last year. The way his sprint has been, I wouldn't be surprised if he bags multiple stage wins. I'll be interested in seeing how Kerrison transitions to European racing with BMC Devo but Verburgghe has done well in developing his riders. Cycling is a fickle thing sometimes but Kerrison seems to have a good attitude to get it done on a higher level.

I'd like to thank Jesse for his time for taking some questions. Some of the quotes were edited for clarity. Also, as not to plagiarize, some of the background info for this piece came from an interview Jesse did earlier this year with Jono Lovelock.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

U23 World Road Race Roundup

So I had a bit of a holiday during the end of Worlds week so frankly, this roundup is really late and unneeded for many.

The race went off at 1 p.m. local to the not-so-dulcet tones of Phil Liggett.

The first breakaway got off within the first few hundred meters with Rasim Reis (Turkey), Eduard Grosu (Romania) and Sebastian Schönberger (Austria) getting a gap. After the first climb, Reis dropped away and Tural Isgandarov (Azerbaijan) joined the break. Isgandarov had trouble holding on during the descent but they had a lead of 24 seconds after the first lap over a chase group that broke away during the 2nd climb on the course. Before the 1st climb on the 2nd lap, the race was back together after a fairly quick start.

As everything came together again, Schönberger rolled off the front again and brought with him Adil Barbari (Algeria) and Roman Kustadinchev (Russia). The peloton seemed to be okay with this group and they let them get a 1'08" gap. The peloton was waiting for a couple more hours before the race would heat up.

On lap 3, the peloton took a little tumble on a very strange part of the road, which seemingly had 2 levels. Those involved included Abdenour Yahmi (Algeria) and Gerardo Medina (Mexico), who both unclipped but neither fell. The gap went over 2 minutes to the breakaway while many teams including Australia, Poland, Colombia and others hitting the front at different points.

At the 1 hour and 59 minute mark, the camera guys tried to do the "Catlike helmet view". Never do this again.

Once the gap hit nearly 4 minutes, a restless peloton saw another launch attack including Owisan (Poland), Lennard Hofstede (Netherlands), Sindre Lunke (Norway) and Pierre-Roger Latour (France). Meanwhile, Barbari was dropped from the breakaway after struggling one to many times on the climbs. Floris De Tier (Belgium) bridged to the chase but the Germans, who didn't like the reactionary  move, drilled it and brought everything back, which deleted 1 minute from the breaks lead, which was just 2'15".

I heard Phil call Adil Barbari as "Andrew Barbari". Never do this again.

Moves kept happening off the front of the peloton but nothing was sticking for the time being. Eritrea and Azerbaijan were tail-gunning the peloton while Schönberger and Kustadinchev went to finish the 5th out of 10 laps.. The biggest news at this point though was Caleb Ewan being temporarily dropped by the bunch on the 2nd climb of the course. Along with teammate Jack Haig, he was able to join up again.

Mike Teunissen jumped away on the 1st climb on the 6th lap and for a while, he motored on solo ahead of the peloton. After about a half lap, the Dutchman was brought back into the fold. A weird move for someone who was looking to win the race.

While the two upfront kept plugging away, Ruben Zepuntke (Germany) led a small group over the top of the 2nd climb to try and bridge inlcuding Tilegen Maidos (Kazakhstan), Willie Smit (South Africa), Amanuel Gebrezgabihier (Eritrea), Hofstede, Van Rooy and Jose Luis Rodriguez, the Chilean who was solo who they picked up. P.S. Smit has some wide, powerful looking shoulders on him. Anyways, this group was able to pull back some time to the breakaway while the peloton waited.

On lap 7, Merhawi Kudus got a flat and had a dreadfully slow change but was able to rejoin. Schönberger and Kustadinchev led out front but Zepuntke exploded the chasing group and only Hofstede was only able to join him. Zepuntke was another I was surprised with going so early when he showed form in the Tour of Alberta that he could potential go for a win. After the 1st downhill, the main group consisted of Zepuntke, Hofstede, Kustadinchev, Schönberger and Maidos with Latour chasing shortly behind. Australia, looking to keep things relatively together, was all over the front the breakaway up front kept going strong with a 1'09" back to the peloton. That gap wouldn't last.

After over 130 kilometers, Schönberger finally called it quits while Louis Meintjes hit off the front of the peloton. It was an interesting move seeing as he got his 2nd place in Florence doing the same thing and as he is no sprinter, he was going to have to attack at some point. Meintjes was off the front solo while others that attacked just behind him included Stefan Küng and Piotr Brozyna (Poland), who joined the chasing group. Then it was Ignacio Prado (Mexico) and Hernando Bohorquez (Colombia) who bridged up to that group.

Meintjes continued to power off the front alone following the 8th lap with a chasing group at 16 seconds but the peloton was bearing down. Up the first climb on the 9th lap, Meintjes was caught by a group of 16 riders. I guess even riding the Vuelta doesn't give you the power to breakaway with three laps to go and try and solo to victory. As this breakaway was getting shutdown on the 2nd climb on the penultimate lap by Australia, Kevin Ledanois (France) attempted to go for glory. He was able to go through the start/finish by himself but only by 10 seconds. Australia was still on the front.

Ledanois was dogged in his effort to stay on the front while Australia was whipping the pace up in the peloton before the first climb. As the race hit the first climb, Ledanois was kaput and just after, Joaquim Silva, the Portuguese U23 RR Champ, and Mikel Iturria (Spain) hit off the front. Silva accelerated and he stayed out for a while before being passed by Brayan Ramirez (Colombia). Behind Ramirez, Tanner Putt and Gianni Moscon joined Silva. After a brief regrouping of the chasers, Moscon went solo behind Ramirez on the descent from the first climb but slide out on a corner and crashed pretty hard.

Once the race hit the 2nd climb on the circuit, the last climb of the race, the race-defining move came. Sven Erik Bystrøm hit the front and just powered his way past Ramirez and not even the most deft climbers could bridge up to him. It was a brilliant move as Bystrøm had not shown himself at all up until that moment. When I mention deft climbers chasing him, it was the likes of Robert Power, Fernando Gaviria, Mathieu van der Poel, Tiesj Benoot and others. Bystrøm was on a flier and if he wasn't in the tuck position, he was just as frequently in the drops and powering his way to the finish. Fernando Gaviria had attacked and had a gap up on the chasing peloton but within sight of the finishing banner, Gaviria was slowed up by the peloton.

Bystrøm had time to sit up in the finishing straight and he was able to celebrate his beautiful, well-timed win. While Thor Hushovd was retiring, Norway is having a fantastic bunch coming up from the U23s with Bystrøm, Sondre Enger, Odd Eiking and more. Just behind Bystrøm, Caleb Ewan led the bunch home 7 seconds later ahead of Norway's Kristoffer Skjerping, Tiesj Benoot and Norway's Enger. 3 out of the top 5 is pretty damn good.

Australia? I think their mistake was controlling it for so long. They were on the front for over half of the race, which seems excessive. You can still be active in a race without riding on the front for nearly 100 kilometers. Still good to get a medal with Ewan in any case.