Friday, November 21, 2014

2015 Team Preview: SEG Racing

The logo for SEG Racing in 2015 (via SEG Racing)
New for 2015 comes yet another development team but the first sponsored by a sports agency. The cycling arm of the Sports Entertainment Group (SEG) was created in 2007 and is currently headed by Eelco and Martin Berkhout. SEG Cycling currently represents some very big names such as Dan Martin, Bauke Mollema, Sep Vanmarcke, Niki Terpstra, Wout Poels, Rory Sutherland and others. What would go better with represent your riders than hiring your own performance team to coach your up and coming stars on your own UCI team?

Being based in the Netherlands, the majority of the team is Dutch. The team is also not strictly a U23 team with a few riders outside of that parameter.

The two "elder statesmen" of the team are Yoeri Havik and Jasper Bovenhuis. Havik is a strong sprinter and classics rider that also has a penchant for the velodrome. Havik won the Antwerpse Havenpijl in a difficult sprint ahead of Ivar Slik (Rabobank Development). He also had ten top 10 finishes this year and won the Amsterdam Six Day with Niki Terpstra a few weeks ago. If he really puts his nose to the grind, he could break through for a few more wins in 2015. Bovenhuis rode for Rabobank Development for his entire U23 career and then with Koga this year. He had some of his better years in 2011 and 2012 but he is a pretty good sprinter that can survive a longer day and rides a good prologue. In any case, both riders are going to need to be strong examples for the crop of younger riders coming in that includes 4 juniors.

6 more Dutchman are joining SEG for the 2015 season. They include:

-Koen Bouwman comes over from Jo Piels. He is a developing all-arounder entering his last U23 season. He finished 4th in the Carpathian Couriers Tour after a very strong time trial and was 3rd in the KOM classification. Speaking of KOMs, he was also 2nd in the classification in the Oberösterreichrundfahrt. In one-day racing, he was 10th in the 1.1 Volta Limburg Classic. Look for him in some potential GC races and harder one-days.

-Davy Gunst comes over from EFC-OPQS after a good first year as a U23 but still has lots of room to improve. Gunst was a very strong junior rider in 2013 with a UCI win in the Ronde des Vallees stage 1 and multiple top 10 finishes in UCI races. In 2014, Gunst put in some good rides like a 20th overall in the Kreiz Breizh Elites, winning a few Belgian kermesses and finishing the Giro della Valle d'Aosta in a decent 46th. Gunst will be looking to gun for some hillier races and see if he can make an impact in some UCI races.

-Fabio Jakobsen is one of the juniors joining the squad. He was a tremendous sprinter with 10 wins by my count (11 by SEG's count) this year. Now all of these wins came in the Netherlands against mainly Dutch competition. Any time he faced international competition, he was either pushed down the podium or didn't make the bunch sprint. It'll be a big step up to elite competition

-The best junior Dutch talent SEG will have for 2015 will be Julius van den Berg. Van den Berg had 4 UCI wins in 2014 including a stage win and the overall in the La Coupe du President Grudziadz stage race along with a stage in the International Neidersachsen-Rundfahrt. He was 2nd in the Dutch Junior TT as well as 2nd in the Sint-Martinusprijs Kontich. He likes a breakaway and should be a good one to watch in 2015 to see if he can pull a UCI win.

-Ricardo van Dongen has shown his penchant for the classics but now he has to think about the rest of the calendar. He won the Junior Ronde van Vlaanderen in 2012. This year, he was 4th in the Paris-Roubaix Espoirs, which won the bunch sprint just behind breakaway rider Bas Tietema. Van Dongen seems to like these races but past them, he seems to make the major race splits but doesn't factor in the sprint. Example being he made the cut int he Sparkassen Münsterland Giro but finished 12th. This is an important year for him to step and see if he can turn these top 15s into top 5s and more importantly, some wins.

-The final Dutch rider was actually their first signing for 2015 and might be their biggest result getter for next year. Steven Lammertink won the Dutch U23 TT this year and finished 4th in the European U23 TT. I thought he would be set for a potential top five ride at Worlds but it was not to be and he settled for 14th place instead. Lammertink has the tendency to DNF a fair amount of races but when he is on then he can certainly produce. For example, he nearly stole a stage win in the Vuelta a Burgos this year after a botched lead-out saw Lammertink go for it on his own (instead of leading out Thomas Damuseau) and he was just passed by Matteo Pelucchi. Huge potential in Lammertink and could be a threat for ITT Worlds next year but he needs to become more consistent. I feel like I say that like it is so easy but it is so important for a rider to become consistent if they have any shot at becoming a professional.

The foreign signings for SEG Racing include:

-Jenthe Biermans and Rob Leemans are the two Belgians joining up with the team. Biermans come from Giant-Shimano Development and won the Belgian Junior RR and the Ronde van Vlaanderen Juniors in 2013. Biermans had an alright season but should be getting a better calendar and more chances to shine in 2015. Leemans is coming from Lotto-Belisol U23 after having his best season as a U23. He won 3 regional races in Belgium against some pretty good competition. He had some top 10 finishes in UCI races and also, he is built like fucking Popeye.

-Following a powerful sprint win in the World Junior RR Championship, SEG locked down German Jonas Bokeloh. Now I don't want to say that his Worlds win was a fluke but..yeah. Bokeloh did with the German Junior RR but that was his only other major win on the season. He did tally 6 other wins but they were minor wins in Germany. Bokeloh did ride a good amount of UCI races but for the most part, he was beat by riders such as Enzo Wouters, Izidor Penko and Gianmarco Begnoni. Bokeloh, to me, isn't going to be a bunch sprinter.

He is going to need more selective courses to thin out the guys with the biggest kick and then he will be able to pounce. Even with that in mind, his Worlds sprint was surprising. He attacked late in the race with just over 6 kilometers left, joined the breakaway and he was brought back by the peloton. He was doing work inside the last 2 kilometers but thanks to riders getting mixed up, he was able to get a little rest in the last 600 meters before leading out from the front and holding everyone off. He seemed to be the beneficiary of circumstances. I just hope people are not expecting big bunch sprint results out of him right out of the gate.
-Speaking of super talented juniors, Magnus Bak Klaris is yet another super-talented young Dane to come through the system. The question is, along with many young Danes that have been coming through, if he will actually show his true potential or if he will never reach the heights of his early career and hit a massive wall. I could list a whole bunch of names like Thomas Vedel Kvist, Rasmus Guldhammer, Andre Steensen, Jonas Aaen, Rasmus Sterobo and so on but it has certainly been a theme in Danish cycling. Bak Klaris took out the Paris-Roubaix Juniors this year after launching a late attack and held off a reduced bunch sprint of 14 riders. He won the Junior Peace Race after making the breakaway on the final two stages, got two 2nd places and stole the GC on the final stage from Rayane Bouhanni. He took two more breakaway wins in Gent-Menen and the 4th stage of the GP Rüebliland. He even got into the mix in the World Junior RR sprint with 5th place to cap off his season. The young kid from Copenhagen obviously has the talent but it will be interesting to see if he is another statistic in the problematic development of Danish cyclists or he continues to excel to a pro career.

-The Irish-Australian Robert-Jon McCarthy had a really good first half of the season with AnPost-Chain Reaction but the 2nd half of the season was a disaster. McCarthy finished 2 races, both in the 100s, out of 9 races. McCarthy has some strong sprinting talents judging by his wins in the final stage of the Herald Sun Tour and the opening stage of the An Post Ras. If he could duplicate the opening of 2014 over the whole season in 2015, then McCarthy will have no problems.

-The final rider for 2015 with SEG is Alex Peters, one of the sensations of the 2014 season with the Madison-Genesis team. The Brit Peters, who is one of the only Hackney riders on the circuit, won the Tour of Reservoir this year on the British Premier calendar before breaking out for some big UCI rides. He was 2nd overall in the An Post Ras by just 25 seconds and won the youth classification. He had just turned 20 and on his steel bike, he was turning heads. He was 2nd in the KOM classification in the Kreiz Breizh Elites and while he finished 36th in the Tour of Britain, he would have finished so much better if it wasn't for a disastrous TT where he finished in dead last (105th at +7'33") after crashing in the final bend and having to walk his bike across the line. If it wasn't for that, he probably would have finished somewhere inside the top 30.

The roster looks fairly good for 2015. They are lacking a big name rider with a track record of success but this is a development team so the goal will be getting one or two of their riders to really make the next step to winning races.

The team is bringing on a pretty good director staff with some ex-pros to lead the team and a coach from outside the usual loop.

-Ton Welling will be joining as the team manager for 2015, coming over from the Koga team that will be defunct as of January 1.
-Michiel Elizjen rode for 5 years professionally and then hung up the wheels at just 28 years old and became a director in 2011. He will join as the performance director for the team after 2 years of directing at Belkin.
-Peter Schep was a World Champion in the points race in 2006 and was a force on the track for the first decade of the 2000s. Schep will be one of the performance coaches on the team and he has been working with some of the riders already.
-Some of you might recognize the name Vasilis Anastopoulos from when Thomas Dekker made his comeback with Garmin. Anastopoulos was a professional with Volksbank for 5 years and has been managing and coaching SP Tableware for the last few years. He will be responsible for the testing and data analysis for the entire team.
-Joining Elizjen in the team car will be Brit Neil Martin, the father of Garmin pro Dan Martin, who is also a SEG client. Martin is a former British National RR Champion and has been the Irish National team coach for the past several seasons.

Also, the team will be riding Koga bikes (Ton Welling connection) on Shimano components.

Verdict: 5 UCI wins (maybe 10 if they ride amateur races)

I find it a bit confusing when teams count very small amateur races towards their win total but I feel like SEG will have a pretty good year. They have a very young team so they will be relying on their elder statesman for support but their young guys could produce a few wins. I'll be looking forward to see how the rider agency backing a team works out because it could be something that happens more in the future.

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