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.

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