Thursday, April 30, 2015

Vuelta de la Juventud Colombia: Carapaz takes Ecuadorian upset

Cue some lyrical waxing about a rider coming through the mountain fog and winning on some mountain top finish to take an improbable win to kick start his career. Blah blah blah and maybe something patronizing about said racer coming from poverty and escaping dangerous drug-riddled streets to inspire his village with his great win. As much as I hate when people try to make Colombian riders as these poor things that come from a backwards land, it wasn't a Colombian that won the Vuelta de la Juventud Colombia, the U23 Tour of Colombia. You had to look to the land southwest to find your winner.

To get it out of the way, yes, Fernando Gaviria was here. He broke his collarbone on the last stage. He was going to clean up on the sprint classification and even won a bonus sprint on the final day but the Etixx signing wouldn't be able to finish with everyone.

Moving on.

I bet the majority of people reading this did not really follow this race. I know there are a dedicated few that seemingly make a living out of following bike races but this is a race where many of the next Colombian talents emerge at. It isn't as toxic as the Vuelta a Colombia and gives young riders some chances to make a name for themselves and perhaps get a national team ride somewhere.

While stage 1 was taking by a solo rider, Jonathan Caicedo, ahead of Gaviria, stage 2 saw the formation of the GC battle as Manzana Postobon's (ex 4-72 Colombia) Wilmar Paredes took out a small sprint while a small group of 12 just finished 2 seconds behind him and formed the GC riders that were to take battle soon.

Stage 3 to Riosucio was one of the big stages of the race as it saw the emergence of Richard Carapaz. For those that are not familiar with Carapaz, please take a look at his results from 2013. After winning the Pan-Am Games RR, he went to the alpine Tour des Pays de Savoie and after going into the top 5 on the first 3 stages, it was only a bad last day with crashes that saw him finish 9th overall in his first European foray.

Carapaz can climb like not many can. Perhaps part of the reason is that he hails from Ecuador, a country that lies even higher than Colombia for the most part. Carapaz comes from Tulcan, which is the highest city in Ecuador at nearly 10,000 feet and lies just 7 kilometers from the Colombian border. Tulcan is tied with Colombia to the point where citizens do not need to show passports when crossing the border between the two nations. Another fun fact about the city is that is has one of the most elaborate topiary gardens in the western world.

The 3rd stage was just 125 kilometers but towards the tail end on one of the unrelenting climbs, Caidedo leadout his teammate and fellow countryman Carapaz and send him into hyperspace. Carapaz got a gap and once Caicedo dropped back then the gap just got bigger.

By the end, Carapaz had a gap of nearly 1'40" and had a nice GC cushion for the coming days that included a time trial. So obviously the logical step was to attack everyone again the next day.

The 4th stage saw a mountain top finish on the knee-weakening Alto de Concordia. While the gradient really isn't too bad at a bit over 6% average, the main difficulty of the Concordia is the length at an alpine 22 kilometers. Carapaz had his right-hand man Caicedo with him in the finale while some others present includes Aldemar Reyes, the best young rider of the Vuelta a Colombia last year, and incredible first year U23 Jorge Ivan Gomez. Carapaz put in a deep dig late on the climb to distance all of his rivals and motored through the mountainous jungle of Antioquia to take the summit win by 11 seconds on Reyes and to further strengthen his leader's jersey.

The 24 kilometer hilly time trial was taken by Jonathan Ospina ahead of TT studs Jhonathan Restrepo and Rodrigo Contreras, the same rider who finished 5th in the Tour de San Luis and is already signed with Etixx-Quick Step for the next two seasons. Carapaz finished 4th to take another chunk of time from Reyes while Restrepo slotted in to 3rd overall but was already over 3 minutes down.

The wrench in the spokes for Carapaz was stage 6 to Jardin or "The Garden". Carapaz was isolated and a group got away up the road with riders including Restrepo (a big TT motor), Reyes, Gomez and John Rodriguez. With his faithful teammate Caicedo behind him, Carapaz was at the mercy of the race with the breakaway putting in good time against him. Restrepo was able to take his 3rd Vuelta de la Juventud stage win while Reyes finished 1 second down after an incredible ride by the young Colombian. The Ecuadorian Carapaz was still a kilometer away from the finish at that point and by the time he finished, he had ceded 1'24" to Reyes and had just 1 minute on him going into the final stage.

I would love to say that there was some crazy final stage that saw the leader on the road switch 4 times and an unheralded rider take the lead over but when the hell does things really end up like that in modern cycling? A breakaway took the day while a select peloton of 15 came across the line 47 seconds down.

Richard Carapaz is a name that most do not know and I'm not sure how many will need to remember it. Coming from Ecuador, he doesn't get many rides outside of Latin America and if he want to ride on cycling's biggest level then he will need to move to a team such as Movistar America and get facetime in larger races as well as in some alpine European races. People will have questions about him though. Many will assume that he is just another doper even though correlation does not apply causation.

Your winner of the 2015 Vuelta de la Juventud Colombia is Richard Carapaz.

1. Carapaz (Strongman-Campagnolo)
2. Aldemar Reyes (GW-Shimano)
3. Jhonathan Restrepo (Coldeportes-Claro)

Monday, April 27, 2015

GP Liberazione: Gaday steals win from Consonni

It basically came down to this on Saturday in the 70th GP Liberazione. On the left is Simone Consonni (Colpack) and the right is Lucas Gaday (Unieuro Wilier). First, the gap that these two have on the rest of the pack is impressive. That is probably 4 bike lengths back to 3rd place. Consonni got the initial jump on everyone and it was only Gaday that could hold his wheel in the sprint. Once Consonni got a bit tired, Gaday was able to come to terms with roughly 100 meters and nipped him in the sprint.

There really isn't much more to say about this race. The racing was hard but for the last 25 kilometers, it was all together and nobody was able to break it up. The start list for this race was horrible this year compared with recent years because of the lack of funding the race had. It was on the verge of being cancelled last minute before being saved but with a dearth of foreign teams and even the best Italian talent, it just seemed lacking compared with recent times. Plus it is straddling the divide between a road race and a criterium with a length of only 138 kilometers.

The full results are here. Gaday is a pretty decent rider but certainly was benefitted by the shorter course and the pack staying together on the circuits around the Baths of Caracalla. It was an exciting finish by I'm nonplussed by the race as a whole.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Weekend Preview: Bretagne, GP Liberazione and more

The weekend is upon us and there are big time races starting, ending and happening all over the place. The two biggest races happening this weekend include the 70th edition of the GP Liberazione and the Tour de Bretagne but that isn't all.

GP Liberazione

Saturday will see teams take on the roads around the Baths of Caracalla in Rome for the 70th edition of the GP Liberazione. Uber nationalist Francesco Moser has a special place of hate reserved for this race as he finds the race to be organized by "those communists" and "always favored the Russians". Basically, Moser is some grumpy old man who believes in the fictitious state of Padania, which is basically the top half of Italy, and can't stand anything remotely red.

The race itself celebrates the fall of Mussolini's fascist government and is always held on April 25th, which is a national holiday in Italy. This race was one of the first western races to open up competition to Eastern Bloc riders as early as the mid 1960's with Czechoslovak riders coming over first followed by Soviets and Yugoslav riders. The race was always a feature in the spring but it became to be something bigger when riders such as Gianni Bugno, Konyshev, Bernd Gröne and other strong young riders were winning the event.

The race itself involved 23 twisting circuits around the Baths of Caracalla (one of the most brutal and disliked emperors in Roman history) along with some short but punchy climbs that tend to break up the race at times. While the race itself is just 138 kilometers, the last true bunch sprint was back in 2010 when Sacha Modolo beat Michael Matthews, Fran Lasca and Michal Kwiatkowski. Every year since then has seen a small breakaway rule the day with riders such as Ilya Koshevoy (now Lampre), Matteo Trentin (OPQS) and Enrico Barbin (Bardiani CSF).

If it comes down to a sprint? Simone Consonni (Colpack) is a strong bet but there are others here like Xhuliano Kamberaj (Cipollini Ale), Marco Maronese (Zalf-Euromobil) and Marco Corra (Mastromarco). I have a feeling that these guys will be sprinting for 2nd or 3rd...

Someone plucky with a big engine will be the one to breakaway for the win. Marlen Zmorka? The Ukranian on Pala Fenice has undergone personal tragedy with the civil war back in Ukraine but he has the potential to sneak away here. In the same mold is Davide Martinelli (Colpack) who has the power to stay away and sprint in a small group. Maybe a cheeky rider like James Knox (Zappi's) has the power after a strong start to his season in Portugal.

In any case, here are links to the course map and a start list for your enjoyment. Alas, there are no Russians here in the first time in forever it seems like.

Tour de Bretagne

On the craggily coast of western France, a 7-day stage race will be testing riders on how high their level is on dealing with shit weather and being gutter fodder for hours on end. There is no stage that is the true queen stage as they will all have their points that will put a little bit of self-doubt into most riders. 7 stages of rolling hills and french flat that will see some of the strongest riders crack into a few pieces on the side of a small Breton road in the middle of God knows where.

Speaking of Soviets, this was another race that accepted the Commies in the early 70s and saw them dominate for a time. Here are the complete list of winners.

The big stage early on to watch out for will be stage 3 from Baud to the extreme west of France at Cleden - Cap Sizun in Finestere. Cap Sizun is the peninsula jutting out in Finistere that makes up part of the Cornwall region of Bretagne. You can't get further west unless you want to end up in the ocean. The wind off the coast will batter the rides while the hills will be coming one right after another in the finale. If you are a climber that can weather a storm, you might be in for a treat on Monday.

Stage 6 from Perros-Guirec to Le Quillio has been announced as the queen stage. Just 149 kilometers, the stage features some very steep climbs in the middle part of the stage while the end 30 kilometers looks like a sawtooth with relentless climbs but enough flats to really stretch out an advantage. When the race organizers say that Bernard Hinault approves of the stage then you know it will be trouble.

Even the final stage, a circuit stage around Liffré, has a ton of short hills peppered across the course and will be no procession and could even see some GC moves if the pack is close together.

Here is a start list for the race from directvelo. My pick for the win? Uhhhh Floris Gerts. Wild guess.


Other races happening over the weekend include the Zuid Oost Drenthe (probably a sprint), the conclusion to Joe Martin and the Tour Bohemia. And The Rutland. And the conclusion of the Vuelta de la Juventud Colombia. So you better be taking notes because I'm working and I will be asking a lot of questions.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Riders of Olivano Locatelli

With the suspicion of Fabio Aru possibly being snared by the biological passport growing and his excuse of a viral infection having holes poked through it, I think it is a good point to bring up that the man who "discovered" him was famed (and infamous) Italian director Olivano Locatelli.

For those that want more background on Aru himself, you can direct yourself to Podium Cafe and the article I wrote back in 2013 when Aru was coming through the ranks. Hailing from Sardinia, Aru started riding on the MTB and cyclocross circuit in his junior ranks before Locatelli showed up at his house in 2009 asking if he wanted to go on the road with his team Palazzago. While Aru was a bit of a project as he had no pack skills to speak of, he certainly emerged as one of the best U23 riders in 2011 and 2012 after two wins in the Giro della Valle d'Aosta, a win in the Toscana Terra di Ciclismo and a podium in the GiroBio.

Locatelli has been around cycling for decades now and while he was a decent amateur rider, his major success came as a coach and director. Locatelli mostly worked on the amateur level but he did have stints on Mercatone Uno, Saeco and Landbouwkrediet.

While Aru's doping is still just rumors at this point, Olivano Locatelli has been a proven facilitator of doping in the past and many of his riders have turned up positive over the years. Daniel Friebe, one of the cycling's best writers, says that some in Italy swear up and down that Locatelli has changed. For someone with this history, I find it quite hard to believe especially with cycling's reputation for broken promises. In any case, I have compiled an incomplete list of riders that have been under the direction of Locatelli. This is not meant to be an implication of anything but just a nod to how far Locatelli's reach has been during the last 20 years in cycling.

Amateur ranks include:
Giovanni Lombardi
Fabio Casartelli
Dario Frigo
Paolo Savoldelli
Wladimir Belli
Ivan Gotti
Giuseppe Guerini
Marco Milesi
Lorenzo Bernucci
Leonardo Giordani
Paolo Tiralongo
Volodymir Gustov
Yaroslav Popovych
Volodymyr Bileka
Yuri Metlushenko
Tomas Vaitkus
Giampaolo Caruso
Sergey Lagutin
Santo Anza
Alberto Loddo
Matej Mugerli
Domenico Pozzovivo
Maurizio Biondo
Davide Vigano
Alessandro Bisolti
Branislau Samoilau
Stefano Pirazzi
Fabio Aru
Diego Rosa
Daniele Ratto
Simone and Luca Sterbini
Marlen Zmorka

On Mercatone Uno and Saeco, Locatelli directed the likes of:

Mario Cipollini
Michele Bartoli
Francesco Casagrande
Adriano Baffi
Eros Poli
Max Lelli
Gian Matteo Fagnini
Eddy Mazzoleni
Roberto Petito
Davide Cassani
Toto Commesso
Giorgio Furlan
Alexandre Moos

He brought Popovych to Landbouwkrediet and brought a whole Italian-Ukranian contingent with him before he was ejected in 2003 after being caught in wiretaps by Italian police regarding doping conversations. Riders he brought the Landbouwkrediet include...

Sergey Adyeyev
Mikhail Timochine
Santo Anza
Lorenzo Bernucci
Oscar Cavagnis
Claudio Lucchini
Domenico Romano
Salvatore Scamardella
Ruslan Gryschenko
Vladimir Duma
Tomas Vaitkus

There are more names that I could list with Locatelli but many of his amateur riders ended up being burnt out and never lived up to their potential as he drove them into the ground as U23s. Even though he has stated in recent years that it is stupid to start going for races in February, Locatelli has ruined many careers by trying to extract the best from his riders as U23s and leaving them dead for the transition to the pros. Leonardo Giordani won the U23 World RR in 1999 as well as the Giro della Regioni. He proceeded to race for 14 more years amongst various Italian teams and never registered a win during his entire career. Obviously he had the potential to do bigger things but alas, he never built off his U23 Worlds win.

The last few years he seems to have softened and tries to look for talent that were not big winners in the junior ranks and has stated that he doesn't care about winning. While this is a redeemable quality, I think that he lost his chance in this sport long ago. Olivano Locatelli might be a nice guy and could be a good coach too but he doesn't belong coaching young, impressionable riders.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Truls Engen Korsaeth: The Next Big Norwegian?

The last few weeks have shown that a boy from Lillehammer has some immense talent for riding on 2 wheels. Yet this is a rider that few English speakers knew anything about and even I, king nerd of the U23 realm, was sat scratching my head when Truls Engen Korsaeth nearly caught the duo of Alexander Edmondson and Gianni Moscon in the finale of the U23 Ronde van Vlaanderen.
I was a bit dumbfounded by Korsaeth as he continued to put in strong rides after attacking the finale of the La Côte Picarde and an all-around strong ride at the ZLM Roompot Tour where he was only let down with his national teammates in the team time trial where they ceded 2 minutes. To finish off this week of brilliance, Korsaeth finished 2nd in the Ronde van Noord Holland in a big bunch sprint behind Dutchman Johim Ariesen, whose build resembles that of a brick.

So who is this Truls Engen Korsaeth and why they hell should you remember his name?


He comes from Lillehammer and his background in sport didn't start with road cycling. As with many from central Norway, skiing was his first sport. Korsaeth has competed in the famous Birkebeinerrennet multiple times and has finished in the top 200 three times, the last time of which was in 2012.

Before concentrating on the road, Korsaeth was a strong MTB rider. He rode as a junior as rode on the international level as an 18 and 19-year old with varying success. He had many races ruined by mechanicals and a chance at another World Championship after breaking his wrist in a lead-up race in Britain. He was 2nd in the Norwegian Elite MTB Championship in 2013 and was 6th in the Bundesliga U23 Bike the Rock round in 2013 as well.

Korsaeth began to split time on the road as a U23 and put out a warning shot with a 5th in the Norwegian Elite TT in 2012 as a first year U23. He moved up one spot to 4th in 2013 at just over 1 minute back from winner Edvald Boasson Hagen. He proved to be a bit skittish in the pack (not new for riders with big engines if you look to Oskar Svendsen and Rasmus Quaade) and the majority of his results came in time trials.

2014 saw the onset of mononucleosis and Korsaeth's season was derailed. He was able to come back for the tail end of the season where he finished 11th overall in the Okolo Jiznich Cech as well as winning the two-man Duo Normand with teammate Reider Borgersen. A battling spirit and a marked improvement with his pack skills.

Korsaeth left it a bit late in U23 RvV but put in a damn fine ride
The national team director Stig Kristiansen put it simply when he described Korsaeth as "a brutal rider." Korsaeth's background makes him set up for races with small hills and hard courses with a lot of wind. His skills in the peloton seem to be improving by the race and if he isn't feeling comfortable? Well, he will just attack.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Sugar rush: The Danish attack

At times, I take Danish riders with a grain of salt. Many times they are very strong riders at home and show well in the junior ranks. Those that transition to the u23s, many end up fairing so-so with most not living up to their junior expectations. Some in recent years have chosen an early retirement. While I still have my reservations about the Danes, what they did in the ZLM Roompot Tour was amazing.

For the first time, the ZLM Roompot Tour became a stage race after years of being a one-day race along the windy dikes of Zeeland. Stage 1 was a morning race of just 122 kilometers but what it lacked in distance was made up with bombs that detonated all over the peloton from the wind. In the final kilometers, a group of six riders including Soren Kragh Andersen & Mads Pedersen (Denmark), Daan Myngheer (Belgium), Jon Dibben (GB), Nico Denz (Germany) and Tom Bohli (Switzerland) were holding a slender lead on the reduced peloton, who numbered just 40 riders. Two riders from this group, Kragh and Myngheer, tried their luck and attacked the front group. The two established a gap while the remainder of the breakaway was swept up by the front group just off the front of the peloton.
In the sprint, it was Kragh Andersen who was the stronger of the two and just rode Myngheer off his wheel to take his first win of the season. Kragh Andersen was just 19 years and 364 days when he finished 4th in the Post Danmark Rundt time trial last year and was even 3rd in the La Côte Picarde Nations Cup last year.

Behind, it was Owain Doull (GB) taking the sprint for 3rd at 11 seconds after passing Michael Carbel (Denmark) in the final meters.

While Kragh possessed the lead for the time being, his advantage would only get bigger.

Originally, the time trial portion of the ZLM Roompot Tour was meant to be a two-man time trial that would only count towards team GC and not affect the individual classification. This is a fairly unique idea but it was shot out of the sky by the teams, who had their misgivings about such a one-off event.
In any case, the Danish team decided to make this race as much of a blowout as possible. With the sun setting across the flat, dike-ridden landscape, the 6-man Danish team managed to but 25 seconds into the Russian squad and 36 and 37 seconds into France and Italy. The next team back from Italy was GB, which was 1'17" back from the flying Danes.

Kragh Andersen had a gap of 17 seconds back to teammates Michael Carbel and Mads Pedersen while Mamyr Stash (Russia) was sitting in 4th place at 42 seconds. Were the Danes going to sit by and control the pack for a basic sprint finish? No thank you. They got their herring sandwiches ready and decided to wreck everyone's legs.

The final day followed the more traditional ZLM Tour route out that makes a big loop around the region including a trip over the Netherland's longest bridge, the Zeelandbrug, and circling the majority of the perimeter of the Oosterschelde tidal basin. The race was whittled down as the day went along but before the run in to Goes to start the city loops, a crosswind section took the peloton from roughly 60 to 20 with 4 Danes present. The 3 laps around Goes and the surrounding area go on and Kragh Andersen sat comfortably while the race played out as he had over half his team working for him in the front group.
The Danes cranked it up in the final kilometer and it was CULT Energy teammates Mads Pedersen and Michael Carbel that led out the sprint and they proceeded to take a 1-2 over Daniel Hoelgaard (Norway) while race leader Kragh Andersen coasted over in 4th place to take quite an impressive win.

This article might be lacking in some detail about the race itself but what else is there to say other than the Danes came out for blood and won every stage and took the top 3 spots on the general classification. I said before that I have my reservations about these riders every making it through to the pro ranks and making a big impression on the biggest stage. But holy hell, do they have potential to be incredible riders. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

U23 Schedule SNAFU

I think someone at the UCI got a little too buzzed before giving the all clear on the UCI schedule for this weekend, mainly in regards to the U23 racing. This Friday and Saturday, the ZLM Roompot Tour is on the UCI Nations Cup calendar, which determines the number of spots a nation can get at the U23 World Championships. Also scheduled for this weekend on Saturday is the non-Nations Cup race but still very important Liege-Bastogne-Liege U23.

Now you may be right in thinking that these races do not have a ton of overlap seeing as the ZLM Tour is on the dikes of Zeeland while LBL takes place on the endless hills of southern Wallonie. Yet having these races overlap is utter bullshit and just another reason that the UCI fails to have foresight to make a cohesive schedule to expand racing audiences and allow teams and countries to be able to get the best out of their riders.

I wonder why one of these races couldn't be pushed one week later? In all honesty, the Nations Cups should be drawing the biggest and best talent from the respective countries as well as including the best races. While I know that this is  a more complicated question that I am making it as there are UCI license fees and other hoops to jump through to be able to be apart of the Nations Cups circuit  but why couldn't Liege-Bastogne-Liege join this circuit? Anyways, I'm getting away from my original point.

Is it that hard to schedule these races so that you aren't overlapping them and compromising them? No, it isn't. Yes, national teams and trade teams are always going to have an interesting relationship but don't make it an even harder decision for them, UCI.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

La Côte Picarde: ¡Vince Consonni!

The northern coast of France took on an Italian look today during the 2nd of the season's U23 Nations Cups. 27 nations toed the starting line in Crotoy for 180.7 kilometers of fun along some windy and mainly flat French coastline.
The day started out with an attack trying their best to get established but it wasn't until nearly an hour was done that 1st year U23 Eddie Dunbar was able to get clear and the pack was willing to let him go. Dunbar, a very talented junior who now rides for the British NFTO team, was restless in the pack and decided to go for it and a cheeky move turned into a nearly all-day breakaway.
With a free pass from his Belgian DS, Dunbar got a lead that max out at over 7 minutes on the peloton. Federico Vivas (Argentina) tried in vain to chase down Dunbar but had no luck in doing so. He was briefly joined and subsequently passed by Kazakh Grigoriy Shtein, last year's junior Asian RR Champion. Shtein could only make it within 5 minutes of Dunbar before running out of steam.

With 60 kilometers left, Dunbar still had over 4 minutes on the peloton but soon after, a counter move by Massimo Morabito (Luxembourg) and Juan Curachet (Argentina) got out of the peloton. Shortly after, they were joined by Jonas Koch (Germany) and the trio began to steadily chomp at Dunbar's advantage. The pace of the breakaway and peloton began to ramp up but Dunbar still had an advantage of over a minute on the chase after being out front for over 100 kilometers.

The chase group was finally able to make a junction with 30 kilometers to go and the quartet plowed on trying to avoid a seemingly inevitable fate. Dunbar showed strength beyond his years as he and Koch broke away from the other two on the rolling hills on the finish circuit and continued towards the line. It wasn't until 18 kilometers to go and the beginning of the final circuit that Koch and Dunbar, who had been out front for 124 kilometers or roughly 3 hours of racing, were brought back into the fold. For his hard work, Dunbar brought home the KOM trophy and got a nice handshake from Eddy Merckx on the podium.

It was Soren Kragh (Denmark) that lit the touch paper on the final lap as he took the KOM on the final circuit. Jack Haig made a small move but was followed closely by Gianni Moscon (Italy), who had a few kilometers of freedom before being brought back. The only true attack in the finale that had the peloton sweating was started by a two man move by Austrian Felix Großschartner and Dane Mads Pedersen, who got off the front with just after Moscon was brought back. Soon after it was Ronde van Vlaanderen U23 Truls Engen Korsaeth (Norway) who bridged up to the duo and with 5 kilometers to go, they were nursing a 10 second advantage. Korsaeth has been a revelation this week and was using some secret herring-aided strength to power the move but it was for naught as they were brought back just before 3 kilometers to go.

Consonni looks like a Stretch Armstrong but his sprint is masterful
Photo: Courrier Picard/
Into the finale kilometer, my pick for the win, Daniel Hoelgaard, was looking good for the win but Simone Consonni of Italy (Colpack during the rest of the year) timed his sprint to perfection and wearing some ridiculous POC sunglasses, the Italian took a huge victory ahead of last year's Ronde winner Owain Doull and Hoelgaard.

  1. Simone Consonni (Italy)
  2. Owain Doull (GB)
  3. Daniel Hoelgaard (Norway)
  4. Yoann Verardo (France)
  5. Aksel Nömmela (Estonia)
  6. Mads Pedersen (Denmark)
  7. Colin Joyce (USA)
  8. Jan Dieteren (Germany)
  9. Pryzemyslaw Kasperkiewicz (Poland)
  10. Lucas Gaday (Argentina)
Full Results can be found here

-This was the first edition of this race to finish in a true bunch gallop since 2011 when Arnaud Demare won ahead of Alexei Tsatevich and Tosh van der Sande. This is only the 2nd true bunch sprint in this race since 2005.

-Consonni's win along with Gianni Moscon's performances the last two races have shown that Italy has come to play this year. The last couple of seasons have seen Italy fall a bit flat in the Nations Cups while succeeding at home against domestic competition. These two come from two different programs in Colpack and Zalf-Euromobil but Consonni has proven himself as an impressive sprinter at just 20 years old while Moscon can get it done on nearly any type of hilly terrain.

-Italy takes the lead in the Nations Cups overall by 7 points on Norway and 11 on France.

-Truls Engen Korsaeth? Didn't really know the name before last weekend but I will be remembering it for certain. After strong performances in the Ronde van Vlaanderen and here in Picarde, he is on the form of his life right now.

-A little underwhelming so far this year? Jon Dibben.
-Above, a wild Kazakh mechanic seems to be contemplating life out of the car window while in the caravan.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Ronde van Vlaanderen U23: Edmondson makes history

In the U23 ranks, Australia is pretty light on legitimate classic threats and historically hasn't had a deep roster in races that go over cobbles. Yeah, Caleb Ewan was always a threat in almost every race he entered but he crashed out of last year's Ronde van Vlaanderen and isn't necessarily built for the Northern Classics. Michael Matthews is the only Australian to ever make the Ronde van Vlaanderen U23 podium but even then, Matthews is more built for the the hillier roads of France, Spain and Italy. The dearth of Australians in the Northern Classics does make sense though if you look at their development. Their U23 base is in Italy and the team tends to take riders that can climb or time trial ad they ride race in Italy, for the most part, that feature a lot of climbing or races that feature rolling terrain or have stages that accentuate the time trial.

This day would be different for the Australians.

14 hills were on the docket with three climbs being climbed twice including the Steenbeekdries, the Taaienberg and the Eikenberg. A breakaway of two including Matthew Zenovich (New Zealand) and Lucas Gaday (Argentina) got away in the opening kilometers but shortly after, Gaday was dropped and Zenovich was out front alone in the lashing wind and rain. Even with many riders attempting to bridge, the Kiwi who rides for the NZ/Japanese amalgam CCT p/b Champion System
 It took over 100 kilometers before Zenovich was brought back with 75 kilometers to go and the real race started. At 65 kilometers to go, a group of 9 got away and defined the rain-soaked race. The breakaway consisted of Nils Pollitt (Germany), Martijn Tusveld (Netherlands), Francesco Rosa (Italy), Markus Faglum (Sweden), Dylan Page (Switzerland), David Per (Slovenia), Kenepajs (Latvia), Amund Grøndahl Jansen (Norway) and 1st year Stepan Kurianov (Russia).

The gap grew to nearly a minute before Great Britain got on the front for their man Owain Doull. The breakaway began to splinter on the first time up the Steenbeekdries and Taaienberg with Kurianov, Per, Faglum and Rosa falling off the pace. The front group was splintered with riders such as Nans Peters (France) and Krists Neilands (Latvia) moving up to the break before even more riders such as Alexander Edmondson (Australia), Nathan Van Hooydonck (Belgium) and Franck Bonnamour (France) came up to join the fun.

Nearing the base of the Koppenberg with 25 kilometers to go, the breakaway was neutralized and a peloton of 40 riders were flying into the base of the climb. With the cobbles being slick with rain and an unforgiving 22% maximum gradient, the Koppenberg was at it fiercest today. On the steepest part, Edmondson accelerated away from the rest of the riders and was trailed shortly by the likes of Jan Dieteren (Germany) and Gianni Moscon (Italy). Really, it was the riders that were able to stay up right that had some sort of chance at making the finale group.

Others such as Nathan Van Hooydonck, Löic Vliegen and Daniel Eaton were able to make it over the Koppenberg but it was going to get sketchy for them very quickly.

The trio of Edmondson, Moscon and Dieteren were away with a select chasing group after them but soon after, Dieteren was lost and it was just the Australian and Italian riding for the win out front.
The other that was supposedly in this group was Truls Korsaeth (Norway) but it was definitely Edmonson and Moscon out front with the Norwegian being the first chaser. Behind him was the French duo of Nans Peters and Franck Bonnamour, who were both ahead of the chasing peloton.
Coming into the final kilometers, the duo were obviously fighting it out for the win. Moscon was the surprise to be in this position as his strengths lie more in the Italian hills but he proved his all-around strength by making it to this selection. Edmondson was capitalizing on his GP Rancillo win and riding like a man possessed. It would come down to a two-up bunch sprint...

Incredible win by Edmondson and while it is no indicator for classics success in the future, it is nice to see Australia branch out and taking a big Northern classics win in the U23 ranks. Moscon can't be faulted as Edmondson has a wicked sprint on him. Korsaeth came across the line for 3rd just 7 seconds back for his biggest result ever while Peters and Bonnamour came around at 54 seconds for 4th and 5th. Mihkel Räim (Estonia) had a fantastic race for 6th while it was Mads Pedersen who came across the line in 9th to win the small chasing peloton sprint ahead of Owain Doull and Davide Martinelli.

  1. Alexander Edmondson (Australia)
  2. Gianni Moscon (Italy)
  3. Truls Korsaeth (Norway) +7"
  4. Nans Peters (France) +54"
  5. Franck Bonnamour (France) s.t.
  6. Mihkel Räim (Estonia) +1'23"
  7. Anders Skaarseth (Norway) s.t.
  8. Fabien Grelier (France) +1'37"
  9. Mads Pedersen (Norway) +1'39"
  10. Owain Doull (Great Britain) s.t.
  11. Davide Martinelli (Italy) s.t.
  12. Daniel Hoelgaard (Norway) s.t.
  13. Twan Brusselman (Netherlands) s.t.
  14. Jan Dieteren (Germany) s.t.
  15. Daan Myngheer (Belgium) s.t.
  16. Krists Neilands (Latvia) s.t.
  17. Michal Paluta (Poland) s.t.
  18. Daniel Biedermann (Austria) s.t.
  19. Amund Grøndahl Jansen (Norway) +1'42"
  20. Daniel Eaton (USA) +2'44"
Some takeaways...

-Belgium only had one in the top 20. Some mind find it disappointing but they had bad luck with crashes and I'm sure they will be back in La Côte Picarde and the ZLM Tour.

-France put in 3 in the top 8. Les Bleus are red hot so far this year and Peters, Bonnamour and Grelier are all continuing impressive seasons.

-Norway put 5 riders in the top 19. These races aren't a perfect look to the future but on such a shitty day with the rain and wind, having nearly your whole team in the front peloton is quite a feat.

-Raim's finish is the highest ever by an Estonian and the highest by a rider from the Baltics since Toms Skujins in 2011. Raim rides for Immo Pro Nicolas Roux in France while not on the National Team.

-The Netherlands, Swiss and Danes were fairly anonymous through the day. The Dutch got into the break with Tusveld but nothing other than Brusselman in 14th. The Swiss? A couple in the breakaways but best finished was 28th in Thery Schur. The Danes? They just didn't do much of not. Yeah, Pedersen was 9th but they were anonymous in the group through the day.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Italian Roundup: Zalf likes to prove me wrong

In my head at least, I like to thing that Luciano Rui or some one high up with the Zalf-Euromobil team read my last article about Zalf being usurped by Colpack this year and gave it to everyone on the team as motivation to kick some ass. The past few days has saw some of the most important one-day races of the spring for Italian U23s with the Trofeo Piva, Giro di Belvedere and the GP Palio del Recioto. Zalf will not take being knocked off the top step of Italian amateur cycling lightly.

Trofeo Piva

The Trofeo Piva has a few steep climbs that always separates the race somewhat and leads to a small group coming to the line; at least since they changed the course a few years ago. The race this year really kicked off with 20 kilometers to go when the big hill on the course, which is unnamed because I cannot find a race website or map to save my life the Combai climb, that was 2 kilometers long and peaked at 20% gradient. A group of 15 riders managed to get off the front after the 2nd passage of the climb and the group featured some big names such as Rob Power, Silvio Herklotz, Tao Geoghegan Hart, Gianni Moscon, Loïc Vliegen, Simone Petilli and Ildar Arslanov as well as some young names like Patrick Müller, Artem Nych and Laurens de Plus.

Coming into the final kilometers, the group was holding off the chasing peloton but last year's 5th place Felix Großschartner (Felbermayr - Simplon) lept away on the slight uphill finish with Nych (Russia) and the Austrian Großschartner accelerated in the sprint to take the win and continue his strong early season. Davide Gabburo (General Store) led in the chasing group ahead of Gianni Moscon (Zalf) and Loïc Vliegen (BMC Development). The race broke a 4-year streak the Australians had going with getting a rider on the podium while the Austrians have a two-year winning streak going now. Last year's winner Gregor Mühlberger was in the final group but crashed out with 15 kilometers to go.

Full Results

Giro del Belvedere
What can be considered to be a home race for Zalf-Euromobil, the Giro del Belvedere is just 1 hour away from the team's base in Castelfranco Veneto. The race goes around the village of Villa di Villa and is punctuated by the Conche climb, which is smaller and done 10 times, and the Montaner climb, which is the big climb of the day that usually separates the race and is done twice.

The race saw a breakaway early on but the action came on the Montaner climb towards the later stages of the race. The first ascent saw Andrea Vendrame (Zalf-Euromobil) get away with Seid Lizde (Colpack), Geoffrey Curran (Axeon) and TJ Eisenhart (BMC Development). The quartet got a bit of a gap but on the twisting descent at Rugolo, Vendrame went full kamikaze and stretched his lead out. Lizde and Eisenhart were dropped while Curran followed just a small distance behind. On the 2nd ascent of the Montaner ,Vendrame led over the climb while a quartet of chasers formed behind him including Curran, Rob Power, Silvio Herklotz and Gregor Mühlberger. Again, Vendrame used some strong downhill skills to stretch his gap out to 20 seconds at a point and entering the final left hander to the finishing straight, he had enough time to look back and celebrate his first UCI victory of his career and Zalf's first major victory of the season.

Behind Vendrame, Curran put in a late surge and it wasn't until meters before the line until he was paseed by Mühlberger for 2nd. Power and Herklotz finished 4th and 5th to show that while they might not be on peak form, they are certainly their to challenge nearly any racer. The sprint for 6th was won by Colpack's champion sprinter Simone Consonni ahead of Trofeo Piva winner Großschartner and BMC's Loïc Vliegen.

Zalf was able to make it two in a row in this race after hometown boy Simone Andreetta won the race last year for them in a two-up sprint over Herklotz.

Many riders put in good back-to-back performances in the UCI rated Trofeo Piva and Giro del Belvedere including Loïc Vliegen (8th and 5th, respectively), Rob Power (13th and 4th), Herklotz (10th and 5th), Großschartner (1st and 7th), Lennard Kamna (25th and 9th), Sebastian Schönberger (14th and 13th), Ildar Arslanov (9th and 15th) and first year Patrick Müller (12th and 18th).

GP Palio del Recioto

This race began the season on the UCI calendar but reverted to an amateur race and lost a lot of the international racers that it has seen in previous years. Perhaps a budget move or to get an Italian winner after only having one in the last five years, the race featured mostly Italian teams with the Australian National Team making an appearance.

To make a long story short, the breakaway spent the majority of the day out front before Jack Haig (Australia) lept out of the chasing peloton to get away solo on the penultimate lap while a chasing group including Gianni Moscon, Simone Petilli (UniEuro Wilier, Giulio Ciccone (Colpack) and Davide Gabburo were shortly behind. While Haig plowed on ahead, Moscon attacked out of the chase group and on the final lap of the race, Moscon bridged to Haig with just a handful of kilometers left. Coming out of the final right hand corner, Moscon came around Haig with with 200 meters to go to take the 2nd big win for Zalf-Euromobil in as many days.

Gabburo brought up the chasers for 3rd ahead of Filippo Fiorelli and Stefano Nardelli. Colpack had 3 riders in the front chasing group in Giulio Ciccone, Edward Ravasi and Andrea Garosio but they couldn't finish better than 6th.

Along with a couple more local wins, Zalf was able to break the 10 win mark for the season and while they do have the largest and have the best funded Italian amateur team, they are not ready to relinquish their hold as the best team in Italy.

Triptyque Monts et Chateaux: Vendée U dominates; Calmejane continues dream year

For the last few years, Triptyque Monts et Chateaux has proven to be a good indicator of form for the Nations Cups in Belgium, France and the Netherlands. Triptyque is a bit weird in that many people don't think of Wallonia as a spring mecca for U23 riders. The race offers flats and hills, smooth roads and cobbles as well as some lovely spring crosswinds.

The French have been going well so far this year and Triptyque was their coming out for the spring. In regards to warning shots, they used a sawed-off shotgun to let everyone know that they are ready to bash some heads. Vendée U and the French National Team both came to the race and from the beginning, they showed they were aggressive.
Stage 1 was all over the place with groups going left and right in the finale. For the majority of the race it was Marc Fournier (France), Maxime Farazijn (EFC - Etixx), Sjoerd Bax (Rabobank Development), Michael Goolaerts, Joachim Vanreyten (Lotto - Soudal U23), Ruslan Giliazov (Russia), Brent Luyckx, Viktor Manakov (Leopard Development) and Daan Myngheer (Verandas Willems) out in front leading the race.

After a Luyckx acceleration with a bit under 80 kilometers to go, Fournier was the only one to follow. Soon after, Fournier dropped Luyckx and with 60 kilometers to go, Fournier was solo. Even though he had won the Coupe de France Boucles Guegonnaises round the prior weekend, it looked like a doomed ride for Fournier. While it was a long way out, Fournier plowed on and was brought back after the 2nd to last bonus sprint. While a group with Nans Peters, Lilian Calmejane and Justin Oien got away in the finale, there was a late shuffle and Peters stayed aware with Fournier bridging with German Nico Denz.

Denz was dropped in the finale and the French national team duo was able to ride to the finish in tandem with Fournier taking the brilliant win after spending nearly all of the race out front not to mention taking his 3rd win. 25 seconds later, Romain Cardis won the bunch sprint for Vendée U over last year's champion Owain Doull (Great Britain).
Stage 2 was the queen stage for the race and finished on Mont de l'Enclus. Basically, the race boiled down to 12 riders in the lead group including Doull, 5 Vendée U riders (1 was riding for the French National Team) along with some other riders like Piet Allegaert, Maxime Farazijn, Alexander Kreiger. With 4 kilometers to go, Lilian Calmejane put in a strong attack and left everyone standing still. Calmejane, who took one of my favorite wins of the year last year in the Ronde de l'Isard, powered away for another win, his 4th on the season. Doull came in for 2nd with Calmejane's teammate but not for this race Fabien Grellier. Calmejane's teammates Jeremy Cornu, Taruia Krainer and Romain Guyot all finished in the top 8 and within 35 seconds.

Stage 3 was rather boring stage in terms of following the race. A breakaway got away and Ruslan Galiazov (Russia) took the majority of the KOM climbs to take the climbers jersey while the racing really heated up with 25 kilometers to go. An attack by Steven Lammertink kicked everything off with a small attack. It didn't stick but he ended up getting into a move with Justin Oien, Dries De Bondt, Piotr Havik, Remy Mertz and Dmitry Strakhov that got traction in the final 10 kilometers. The group had to keep the gas on as the peloton was going full bore at this point. Lammertink was the aggressor and was able to take out the sprint win ahead of Strakhov and Mertz to take SEG Racing's first UCI win. 8 seconds back from the winner was the peloton led in by GC leader Calmejane ahead of Doull.
The final day was an up and down day into Frasnes-les-Buissenal. Eight riders were fined for behavior which damages the image of cycling including Calmejane and Doull. Nicolas Vereecken got into a breakaway and swept up a mass amounts of sprint and KOM points and the Belgian was able to take both the sprints and KOM classifications overall. Other than this, the race was selective but when it came down to it, it was a mass sprint to the line with about half the peloton. Belgian Maxime Farazijn (EFC-OPQS) took out the sprint over SEG Racing's Robert-Jon McCarthy and Frederik Vandeweile.

Lilian Calmejane took the overall to continue the dream start to his first season out of the U23 ranks. 5 wins and April isn't even half way through yet. Calmejane has dropped his cyclocross ambitions and if he keeps it up, a road career looks very much viable. His Vendée U team has about the best race possible with a stage win and, technically, 5 riders in the top 8 placings overall. The French look to be in fine form for the upcoming Nations Cups. Speaking of form, Owain Doull looks like he could take on of the Nations Cups this year after his 4th place last year in the Ronde van Vlaanderen U23.

Anyways, Triptyque saw some riders showing off while others were more coy about their form.