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. 

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