Wednesday, April 8, 2015

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.

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