Sunday, May 31, 2015

Zavod Miru U23: Mühlberger masters Praded, wins overall

With essentially a live media blackout, the 2015 Zavod Miru U23, or U23 Peace Race for those not good with Czech, went by rather uneventfully as there was rarely any news before the race was done for nearly an hour. Not exactly the way the UCI should be handling these types of races as U23 racing should be getting healthy coverage as they are the stars of tomorrow. Not like the UCI cares much if races get proper live coverage anyways.

Stage 1
Kicking the race off Friday was a short stage from Jesenik to Rymarov with just 122 kilometers on the docket. Jeremy Maison (France), freshed off his strong performance at the Ronde de l'Isard, got away with Evgeny Zherkov (Russia) early in the stage. The duo worked well together with Zherkov gaining the maximum KOM points to take the mountains jersey for stage 2. Once they got into Rymarov, the race came back together and it wasn't until the 2nd of the three local circuits around Rymarov that a move got together. Daniel Turek (Czech Republic) got away with Gabriel Cullaigh (GB), German Chavez Torres (Colombia) and Marko Pavlic (Slovenia). Turek attempted a last kilometer attack but Cullaigh came back and sprinted for the win with Pavlic and Turek in 3rd. Rok Korosec (Slovenia) won the sprint for 5th followed by my pick for the win Frantisek Sisr (Czech Republic) and Lucas Gaday (Argentina).

If I had to pick 10 riders that I thought could win the opening stage of the 2015 U23 Zavod Miru, or Peace Race for those that aren't good with Czech, I would not have picked Gabrial Cullaigh (GB).
Cullaigh is a first year U23 and came from a track background as a junior. He got three medals at the European junior track championships with 3rd in the Points Race as well as 2nd in Scratch and Team Pursuit. This year, Cullaigh has continued with the British Development Program by splitting his time between the National Team and the 100% ME team, which British Development riders ride with in amateur races in Belgium and such. He got a win in the Esplechin kermesse in a two-man breakaway and after riding the Tour de Yorkshire, Tour de Berlin and Paris-Arras Tour, Cullaigh came in with some form.

Stage 2

Starting on the border town of Glucholazy, Poland, the 2nd stage was quickly back into the Czech Republic with 113 kilometers that finished with a summit of Praded, the highest tallest mountain in the Hruby Jesenik range and 5th highest in all of the Czech Republic at nearly 1,500 meters.

Once again, it was Zherkov who took off but this time it was with Colin Joyce (USA). Zherkov, in search of mountains points, got the maximum points and got the most aggressive rider of the day prize. The duo got a maximum gap of 3 minutes but coming into the final climb of Praded, they were brought back by a group of roughly 20 riders.

The race split up gradually as they went up the climb and near the top, it was a group of 4 including Gregor Mühlberger, Laurens De Plus, Loïc Vliegen and Odd Eiking.

As you can see, Mühlberger was able pull away from De Plus and won by 2 seconds on top of Praded while Eiking and Vliegen came in 7 seconds down. A group of 5 came in 14 seconds down led in by my pick for the stage win Ildar Arslanov then Lennard Kamna, Matvey Mamykin, Mark Padun and Gianni Moscon. Mühlberger took the leader's jersey to the final day for a long circuit around Jesenik.

Stage 3

The final stage was a hilly one that really didn't have any true breakaway get away. Basically the race stayed together with small groups trying to get away but with no success. Heading into the finale, a group of 5 favorites split off the front in front of the Hotel Preissnitz.

In the finale, my pick for the win Loïc Vliegen (Belgium) came good with my promises and took the win in his 2nd to last U23 race ahead of Odd Eiking, Gianni Moscon (Italy), race leader Gregor Mühlberger and first year U23 Lennard Kamna (Germany). Josef Cerny (Czech Republic) led the chasing group in for 6th.

Mühlberger held off Vliegen and won the GC on stage countback with Odd Eiking in 3rd overall followed with Laurens De Plus and Gianni Moscon.

Mühlberger took the points classification while Zherkov handily took the KOM classification.

-Mühlberger took his 3rd win of the year here. He was a stagiaire with NetApp-Endura last year and it is entirely plausible that he could join Bora-Argon 18 this year, especially since they are focusing on German speaking riders.

-First year U23 riders that made an impact this year include German Lennard Kamna and Ukranian Mark Padun. Kamna was the World Junior TT Champ last year and finished 13th in the Bayern Rundfahrt before coming to the Zavod Miru. Padun is a bit of an unknown but was the Ukranian Junior TT Champ last year and seems to have a good motor under him.

-This is the 2nd stage race in a row where Loïc Vliegen won the final stage but finished 2nd overall.

-Denmark has taken a commanding lead on the U23 Nations Cup with a 10 point leave on Norway and 13 points on France. After Great Britain in 5th place at 41 points, it is a long way down until Russia at 6th place at 22 points.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Course de la Paix U23: Czech 1, Czech 2

Why are we still using a French title for this race when it takes place in the Czech Republic? Sorry, I will go by the proper Czech name, Závod Miru. With that note taken care of, the Zavod Miru U23 is upon us. If you do not know that meaning then I'm sure you have heard it used as the Peace Race. While the historic Peace Race died out in 2006 due to lack of funds, the Zavod Miru U23 began in 2013. Toms Skujins won a thriller in 2013 while Sam Spokes took two stages in a row to win the 2014 edition. For 2015, the race joins the U23 Nations Cup and instead of an amalgam of trade and national teams coming, every invited nation is brining a stacked team as this can affect their Tour de l'Avenir selection as well as the U23 Worlds selections.


The race itself is fairly identical to the 2014 edition with 3 stages more or less centered around Jesenik, Czech Republic. Jesenik sits in the northern bit of the Olomouc region that is just a stone's throw from Poland. The city itself was originally called Freiwaldau ("free from the woods") but after World War II, the purge of German elements occurred and the town renamed to Jesenik after the nearby Hruby Jesenik mountain range.

The first stage travels from Jesenik to Rymarov, just a short distances south. It is only 122 kilometers and while it has three KOM points, it is a fairly flat stage that will benefit either the sprinters in the race or the guys with the biggest set of balls that want to give it a try. It would last year as a two-man move stayed away til the end and won by 9 seconds.

Praded (Wiki Commons)
Saturday's 2nd stage starts in the southern Polish town of Glucholazy, which straddles the Polish-Czech border and is a sister city of Jesenik. The main focus of the stage is the summit finish on Praded, the Grandfather. The 5th highest mountain in the Czech Republic and highest in the Hruby Jesenik range and Moravia, Praded sits just under 1500 meters in elevation (the highest paved road in Czech Republic) and the area around the summit is protected with cars not allowed near the top, which caused issues last year.

The stage itself is just 113 kilometers but the first 80 kilometers will be fierce before the first KOM climb, which is summited 32 kilometers before the finish. A small descent happens before heading up the big climb, which is around 17 kilometers in length. The KOM line is actually 3.5 kilometers before the proper summit, which is where the team cars will have to pull over, but those that are GC focus will blow past it to the weather station at the top.

Race finish will be at the lovely Hotel Preissnitz (
The final stage is a big loop that starts and finishes around Jesenik. It sort of looks like an upside down New Jersey with a little hook at the top. The most difficult circuit of the race will see the racers go up 5 climbs including a step little kicker in the final kilometer that averages around 10% where the races finishes at the Hotel Preissnitz, a spa resort over looking Jesenik.


-The Race Book

-The Race Website


Start list

The only surprise here is that Australia had to pull out due to too many injuries with their riders.

Doing a cursory look of the list I do see some favorites including:

-Loïc Vliegen (Belgium)
-Scott Davies (GB)
-Alexey Vermeulen (USA)
-Gianni Moscon (Italy)
-Gregor Mühlberger (Austria)
-Odd Eiking (Norway)
-Alexander Kamp (Denmark)
-Guillaume Martin (France)
-Jhonathan Restrepo (Colombia)

My wild out of my ass pick for the GC win: Jeremy Maison (France)

Espoirs Central's KOM winner: Patryk Stosz (Poland)

Stage 1 Pick: Frantisek Sisr (Czech Republic)

Stage 2 Pick: Ildar Arslanov (Russia)

Stage 3 Pick: Loïc Vliegen (Belgium)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Ronde de l'Isard Roundup

Just like that, the Ronde de l'Isard is over and the roads of the Ariege will barely be touched by any bike race for another year. If it is one thing that I can really complain about this race is that it is so short and once the first stage is done, I'm already looking for more.

Regarding the race, I really do wish there was a stronger start list for this event. It is one of the best U23 stage races and yet half of the teams are French amateur squads. Why can't Axeon, BMC Development, Rabobank and all of the big national programs have a team here? If you want to see Rob Power go head to head with anyone on Plateau de Beille then why not? At the very least, this race should join an expanded U23 calendar that holds greater importance to development teams so we can see the best talent going up against one another. But I've discussed that ad nauseum before.

Simone Petilli

The Italian with Unieuro Wilier Trevigiani took the race by the throat after a dominating ride on stage 1 and proceeded to defend the next three stages. The only chink he showed was in stage 2 when Jeremy Maison and Laurens De Plus gained time on him on Plateau de Beille but he had a strong team behind him. This win in l'Isard was the first by an Italian since Graziano Gasparre in 1999 and it would be the first leg of a historic treble if Petilli starts the Giro della Valle d'Aosta and the Tour de l'Avenir.

Petilli was a strong junior with many results in Italy but at just 20, he won the KOM jersey in the Giro della Valle d'Aosta. He joined Area Zero for 2014 and had a trial by fire. He was 11th overall and best youth in the Settimana Coppi e Bartali and after a solid first half of the year, he made it through the end of the Vuelta a Colombia, which is like trying to compete in a Moto GP on a 600cc engine.

Petilli joined the somewhat new Unieuro Wilier Trevigiani for this year and has been all over the top 10 this year in one day races and won the best youth in the Coppi e Bartali for the 2nd year running but his win on the first stage of the Ronde de l'Isard was his first ever UCI win. He definitely could be in line for a stagiaire role near the end of the season but watch him in Valle d'Aosta and l'Avenir but he definitely won't have a cake walk.

Laurens De Plus

The Lotto-Soudal U23 climber was perhaps the bigger revelation of the week as he was the only rider able to keep and sometimes make Petilli work for his win. De Plus won the points jersey and finished in 2nd place by just 10 seconds. While Petilli had some more experience on his side as well as more experienced teammates, De Plus had strongman Brecht Ruyters as well as two first year U23s in Steff Cras and Steff Hermans.

De Plus is still just 19 years old and as a junior, we was going against the likes of Rob Power, Tao Geoghegan Hart, Scott Davies and Mathieu van der Poel. After a quiet 2014 finding his feet, De Plus came out striking early with a solo win in the later winter race Gent-Staden. He followed this up with 11th in the Trofeo PIVA and 5th in the Fleche Ardennaise, which was less than a fortnight before l'Isard.

De Plus still has a couple of U23 years on him so this is only a primer of what he could potentially do. He seems to have a decent kick on him for a climber and could see more success this year depending on where his Lotto-Soudal team sends him to.

CC Etupes

While they are a French amateur team, they could go up against any continental development team. CC Etupes had a fantastic week in the Ariege. Liege-Bastogne-Liege U23 winner Guillaume Martin flew the flag for the team on the first stage with a 3rd place finish on the summit finish at Goulier-Neige while teammate Jeremy Maison finished 7th. The following day, Maison flew away from everyone to take a brilliant win on Plateau de Beille while Martin finished 3rd again. They ended the race with Leo Vincent winning a two-up sprint to take the final stage.

The team won two stages, finished 3rd & 4th on the overall and was 3rd on the team GC. Not too shabby.

First year U23s

The class of '96 had a strong l'Isard performance that was headlined by Aurelien Paret-Peintre (Chambery CF). A standout junior that won the Tour of Istria last year, Paret-Peintre has already slotted in well with the Ag2r development team with 2 wins and strong performances in UCI one-day races such as the Trofeo PIVA and the Liege-Bastogne-Liege U23. Paret-Peintre wasn't the strongest climber of the race but got better as the race progressed and on the final stage, he was hanging with Simone Petilli and Laurens De Plus on the Col de la Core. Paret-Peintre finished 6th overall but definitely underlined his bright future.

David Gaudu (Cotes d'Armor) came out swinging with a 4th on the opening stage to Goulier-Neige but that seemed to put him in a whole for the remainder of the race. He still hung on to 11th overall.

Will Barta (USA) got into breakaways on the first two stages and was pretty insastiable in his quest to make an impact.

Steff Cras and Steff Hermans (both Lotto-Soudal) were key helpers for De Plus' GC hopes. Cras ended up 10th overall for his troubles.

Vendee U

...was a bit disappointing. They were there but at the same time they weren't. This is probably the strongest overall French development team but they were fairly anonymous for such a big time French race. Loic Bouchereau put in a good ride for 8th overall and Paul Ourselin had a good ride on stage 3 but just seemed under expectations. Maybe it is just me.

Alexey Vermeulen

Vermeulen was an absolute wunderkind and has been trying to his niche in the U23 ranks. With 20 UCI racing days in the legs, Vermeulen went to the Ronde de l'Isard looking for a result after not having one yet in the 2015 season. While he was a bit back on the first stage to Goulier-Neige, he stayed steady on Plateau de Beille after attacking on the lower slopes and he finished 7th overall, which is the same as his overall finish.

I'll be interested to see where Vermeulen gets starts the rest of the year because he seems to get better with age. I would like to see him have a crack at the U23 Peace Race again this year to see if he can improve on his 6th overall from last year.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Ronde de l'Isard: Petilli secures overall

While the last stage of the 2015 Ronde de l'Isard appeared to be daunting with 3 big Pyreneean ascent, the cream of the crop stayed together for the most part and the podium remained status quo.

The day started off with a large breakaway that was spearheaded by American TJ Eisenhart, who was trying to make up for some off days earlier in the race. Eisenhart got away on the lower slopes of the Col de Port and was joined shortly after by Paul Sauvage (CR4C Roanne), who has shown himself to be a fiesty rider that was in and out of breakaways all week. Sauvage would take enough points to secure the KOM jersey.

The duo worked well together and made it up the majority of the Col d'Agnes until shortly before the summit, they were joined by a group of 4 others including Dries Van Gestel (Lotto-Soudal), Leo Vincent (CC Etupes), Loic Bouchereau (Vendee U) and Mathias Le Turnier (Oceane Top 16). The sextet went ovet the summit together and plunged back down into the valley in pursuit of the final climb, the Col de la Core.

At the bottom of the climb, Van Gestel started to push the pace and Eisenhart, fatigued from his early efforts, was distanced. The breakaway slowly broke apart as Van Gestel and Vincent showed themselves as the strongest two climbers. While the duo worked well together, riders were throwing in attacks in the yellow jersey group to try and break things up. David Gaudu (Cotes d'Armor) was trying to make up for an off stage 2 and did his best to attempt a bridge on the Col de la Core but was stuck in no man's land for the majority of the climb. Race leader Simone Petilli and 2nd place Laurens De Plus (Lotto-Soudal) were comfortably the best two climbers in the race as they distanced everyone else when the pace kicked up. The only exception here was impressive first year U23 Aurelien Paret-Peintre (Chambery CF), who made contact with the duo and stayed with them for the remained of the race.

Up front, it was Vincent who bombed the descent and put time into Van Gestel but the Belgian was able to claw his was back up front. Roughly a minute behind was Bouchereau, who was trying his best to come to terms but he would spend the remainder of his race in no-man's land. The two came into the sprint and it was Vincent who took out the sprint and capped off an impressive week for CC Etupes. Bouchereau clawed back nearly all of the deficit but came in 6 seconds down on the leading two. Laurens De Plus led in the yellow jersey group to wrap up the points jersey.

For more analysis, hold on for a Ronde de l'Isard wrap-up post that will be coming in the next day or so.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Ronde de l'Isard Stages 2 & 3: Maison wins big on Plateau de Beille; Petilli clings to lead

The past two days have seen the GC battle get even closer with some spectacular rides in the mountains as well as a chance for outsiders to get a bit of glory.

Stage 2 - Salies du Salat to Plateau de Beille

The Break (via

The stage itself was more or less flat for the first 100 something kilometers saw a lot of attacks with Will Barta (USA) getting into yet another attack with about 9 others after 50 kilometers. For about the next 70 kilometers, the break rode out front but once it got lumpy out on the road, Barta flew the coop with roughly 30 kilometers left to go. Thomas Alfonso (Midi-Pyrenees) briefly bridged up to Barta while Paul Sauvage (CR4C Roanne) hopped out of the peloton and bridged and then passed the duo and was the leader on the road once the race hit Plateau de Beille.

Just before the beginning of the climb, 2nd place Laurens De Plus had a mechanical and missed the split but once the lead group of 17 was formed on the lower slopes of the climb, the Lotto-Soudal Belgian was back in the fold. While the initial racing was controlled, an attack by Guillaume Martin (CC Etupes) lit the paper and soon after, his teammate Jeremy Maison attacked with roughly 9 kilometers to go. De Plus and leader Simone Petilli still had multiple riders around them initially but in only a few kilometers, it was De Plus, Petilli and Martin chasing the flying Maison, who had 30 seconds on them.

Maison flying up Plateau de Beille (via Ronde de l'Isard)
The chase behind was disorganized at best with Martin running cover for his teammate up the road while Petilli had to be concerned with every passing second that went by. The chase was so lackluster at one point that first year U23 rider Aurelien Paret-Peintre and Lucas Papillon were able to come back briefly before De Plus launched an attack to try and get some seconds back.

In the end, Maison just battered the chasers and even with a more concerted effort at the end, the CC Etupes rider pulled out 1'05" on the chasing trio that was led in by Laurens De Plus. Papillon and Paret-Peintre came in within 2 minutes while Pinckey, Michigan product Alexey Vermeulen (USA) put in a very impressive ride with 7th place after being stuck in no-man's land for a while on the climb.

The GC race got even tigher as Petilli's lead was reduced to just 10 seconds on De Plus while Maison's bravery got him within 23 seconds of the lead.

Stage 3 Auterive - Boulogne-sur-Gesse

After the GC turbulence on the big mountain on Friday, Petilli and his Unieuro-Wilier teammates were content to let a group go that would soak up the sprint bonuses and allow the big boys some rest. A breakaway of 5 got a gap within a few kilometers and that was all the race wrote.

The breakaway consisted of Xabier San Sebastian (Euskadi), Benoit Cosnefroy (Chambery CF), Paul Ourselin (Vendeé U), Stéphen Géuvel (Côtes d'Armor) and Valentin Deverchère (CR4C Roanne) and their gap went up to nearly 10 minutes within 30 kilometers. That would mean a combination of them having the accelerator jammed open and the peloton basically pulling over to get a gap that big in such a short period.

The action came quite late in the stage when San Sebastian and Cosnefroy attacked with roughly 3 kilometers to go and the others seemingly had no impetus to chase. Euskadi v. Chambery CF sprint showdown after 160 kilometers of lumpy terrain? Thrilling stuff for certain.

As you can see, Xabi San Sebastian was able to take a thrilling win ahead of Cosnefroy to give Euskadi a nice UCI win for the season. It was San Sebastian's 2nd win of the season with the other being a stunner in the 7th round of the Copa de Espana where he held off a speeding peloton to take the win. The remnants of the break came in 20 seconds later while the peloton, led it by Michael Bresciani (Roth-Skoda), didn't come in for another 4'30" minutes.

The GC situation stayed stagnant for the big showdown over 3 massive cols to the downhill finish in St. Girons. Simone Petilli is only up by 10 seconds on a very strong looking Laurens De Plus, who along with his team are leading every other classification, while Jeremy Maison lurks just 23 seconds back and is very dangerous after his exploits on Plateau de Beille. Can Guillaume Martin seemingly come back from a minute plus deficit to steal the jersey? Follow the live ticker on directvelo to see!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Ronde de l'Isard Ariege: Petilli romps on Goulier-Neige

It has been 15 years since Graziano Gasparre went through his banner U23 year when he won the European U23 RR, the Giro della Regioni and the Ronde de l'Isard overall. An Italian hasn't been close to the Ariege region since and no Italians have been on the podium of the Ronde de l'Isard since Gasparre's triumph.

It looks like the long draught might be coming to an end soon. Simone Petilli (UniEuro-Wilier) is still a U23 but has been swinging with the pros this season with 15th overall in the Coppi e Bartali and top 20 finishes scattered all over his racing calendar. Petilli broke away from Belgian Laurens De Plus (Lotto-Soudal U23) roughly halfway up the finishing climb of Goulier-Neige and was able to keep a small lead on the fiesty Belgian all the way up the climb to take the opening stage win of the Ronde de l'Isard by 12 seconds.

The duo has broked away near the bottom of the climb but it was Petilli who separated from De Plus while riders such as Guillaume Martin (CC Etupes) and Lorenzo Rota (UniEuro) tried but failed to make any dent in the gap. Martin was able to come across 3rd but was 1'03" back at the finish. First year U23s David Gaudu and Aurelien Paret-Peintre came across together in 4th and 5th at 1'25" with Marco Tecchio (UniEuro).

More Later...

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Ronde de l'Isard Preview: Pyrenean Playground

In just one short week, riders will be descending on the Ariège department for what is one of the most consistently difficult U23 stage races on the calendar, the Ronde de l'Isard. Nestled in the heart of the Pyrenees, the Ariège is one of the most unspoiled regions of France with a fairly sparse population and with 40% of the region being dedicated as a national park. With plains, foothills and full blown mountains, the region is an incredible and demanding location for a bike race and the Ronde de l'Isard, which is in its 38th edition now, will see even the best riders crack and salivate for a ride in the team car.

The race itself first appeared in 1977 as a French regional race before slowly gaining prestige throughout the next few decades. In 1998, it became a race just for U23 racers and the palmares become a bit more familiar. '98 saw Denis Menchov win and he was followed by the likes of Jamie Burrow, Graziano Gasparre, Christophe Le Mevel and Markus Fothen. Names that many know dot the podiums from the 00s including a strong American contingent in Mike Creed (2x 3rd), Pat McCarty (1st in 2003), Saul Raisin (2nd and 3rd) and John Devine (2007) as well as others including Ignatas Konovalovas, Philip Deignan, Kevin Seeldraeyers, Ben Hermans, Francis De Greef, Blel Kadri, Maxime Bouet and more.

While in the 00s many of the winners varier between climbers and rouleurs, the majority of winners in the last few years have been pure climbers except for Pierre-Henri Lecuisinier. These winners include Alex Geniez, Yannick Eijssen, Kenny Elissonde, Juan Chamorro and Louis Vervaeke.

Perhaps the only thing holding this race back is its start list but because of the U23 requirement and the intense parcours, it is understandable that the majority of the teams are just French amateur teams with some foreign teams scattered in for good measure.

For the teams for the 2015 edition, visit the race website that includes all of the riders and numbers.

An interesting note is that just days before the race is beginning, it was announced that Team Ecuador would be participating. With no Colombian team in this year's edition, it is a good sight to see some South American participation.


Stage 1

Mirepoix to Goulier Neige (143 kilometers)

Kicking off the race is a swift kick in the pants. Starting from Mirepoix, situated in the Hers Valley, the race is fairly flat for the first 120 kilometers with only a small climb to handle during that time. I'm certain a breakaway will get time here because the last 25 kilometers will see all of the big hitters in the peloton going for it.

The climb to Goulier Neige doesn't start until the turn at Vicdessos and then for the next 9.5 kilometers, the climb averages a stout 8%. With 15 kilometers of false flat before the climb even begins, there will be some tired legs before the climb even starts.

This climb was used on the finish of stage 1 last year and only 3 riders finished within a minute of winner Alexander Foliforov. There is a good chance the race will be won or lost here so if anyone wants to have a shot, they better be on their A game.

Stage 2

Salies du Salat to Plateau de Beille (139.9 kilometers)

Nothing like having a mountain top finish one right after another. This stage is very similar to stage 1 in that for the first 100 kilometers, it is fairly straightforward with only 1 climb to speak of and the rest involving valley riding.

The climb itself is relentless with nearly 15 kilometers of 8%+ average gradient before leveling off at the end. If people were not hurting on Goulier Neige then they will be asking for their parents to take them home on Plateau de Beille. This isn't a climb that is necessarily steady either. They have kilometer long sections that go up to 9 or 10% average and the climb winds up at nearly 1800 meters in elevation.

Will over at cycled it so you can read his words on the climb. If GC isn't done and dusted by this stage then something is wrong.

Stage 3

Auterive to Boulogne-sur-Gesse (157.6 kilometers)

After two consecutive mountain top finishes, this will either result in a mass bunch sprint or a breakaway over the up and down terrain. Boulogne-sur-Gesse hosted a stage finish last year that saw Loic Chetout take a small group sprint out of a group of 6 and something very similar could happen on Saturday.

Stage 4

Foix to St. Girons (130.4 kilometers)

A carbon copy of the final stage from the 2014 edition. Following work on the Port de Lers, the race substituted the Col de Latrape for the Col de Port and just went with last year's stage. Within roughly 80 kilometers, the race takes on the Col de Port, the Col d'Agnes and the Col de la Core.

The peloton will be sorted at will be most likely a small group coming of the de la Core with 30 kilometers of downhill for the finish in St. Girons. If it is anything like last year, the group will be small but together perhaps a solo rider out front.

For the complete guide book with the full route, go here. I will try to get another post about the riders out before Thursday.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Olympia's Tour: Vermeulen wins the Belgian sojourn

Stepping out of the Netherlands, the Olympia's 3M Tour made a fairly unprecedented step by having a stage completely out of the country by hopping over the border to Diegem, Belgium for lord knows why. One reason that I can think of is that it is a halfway point between Reuver, where stage 3 was held, and Delft, which is hosting the split stage tomorrow. Another is that the race is sponsored by the Benelux arm of 3M, which would be looking to get more coverage of the race outside of the Netherlands.

In any case, it was a cut and dry affair. A break of 9 including names such as Floris Gerts (BMC Development), Martijn Budding (Rabobank Development) and James SHaw (Lotto-Belisol U23) got away early and got a couple of minutes advantage. Jochem Hoekstra (Jo Piels) grabbed the KOM jersey for his efforts but the breakaway was doomed.

In the sprint, it was the sames names that you have been hearing all week coming to the forefront. The two leadout men, Elmar Reinders (Jo Piels) and Marco Zanotti (Parkhotel Valkenburg), were battling for position while their respective leaders, Jeff Vermeulen and Wim Stroetinga, bidded their time. Reinders did a masterful leadout to spring Vermeulen and the Jo Piels rider was able to grab his 3rd win of the year while Stroetinga came in 2nd and Coen Vermeltfoort grabbed his 3rd podium of the week in 3rd.

No offense but this stage left much to be desired in terms of excitement. Hopefully going to Delft and the royal family, Johannas Vermeer and Delftware will inspire the race and see a thrilling conclusion.

The race will conclude with a split stage on Saturday in Delft with a TT in the morning and a afternoon road stage followed by a circuit in Rijswijk on Sunday.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Olympia's Tour: Stroetinga makes it twice as nice

Nearly two years to the day, Wim Stroetinga won the final stage of the 2013 Olympia's Tour on the Reuver circuit in a sprint ahead of Geert van der Weijst, Jeff Vermeulen and Johim Ariesen. Two years later, you just needed to substitute Coen Vermeltfoort for Geert van der Weijst in 2nd place and you would have the exact same result.

The stage itself was fairly no-descript with a breakaway going ahead, getting some time and being brought back. The only exciting bit of the stage was that Stroetinga had to come from far back to be able to get the win. He used the slipstream to jet past everyone including Jeff Vermeulen, who was passed in the final meters for the win. Stroetinga was matter-of-fact about his win as he said, "if you're almost thirty, you are no longer working to get there. I've done that happily again."

This is Stroetinga's 12th win in the Olympia's Tour or 14th if you count Vermeulen's DQs from 2013. The only change on GC came from 2nd place Arno Van der Zwet, who crashed out of the race. Bob Schoonbroodt is now in 2nd place overall followed by Piotr Havik.

The racing continues tomorrow with a sojourn into Belgium with a circuit around Diegem.

Olympia's 3M Tour: Stroetinga makes it 11 or 13, GC picture framed

Just a couple days into the Olympia's 3M Tour and a perennial stage winner has already struck and the GC has already been framed with just 15 riders holding any shot at the GC title, barring some miracle on the road.

Stage 1a (Team Time Trial)

The race began in Assen with a 21,8 kilometer team time trial through the surrounding area including a portion of the famed Assen TT circuit, nicknamed "The Cathedral" by motorbike fans. Fifteen teams of seven riders launched early on Tuesday morning and it came down to just a few turns of the crank.

The more experienced Jo Piels team took the victory over the much younger BMC Development squad by only 1 second while the older Join's-De Rijke team was 3rd place at 7 seconds. Jo Piels team for the Olympia's Tour has no U23 riders while BMC Development's team is made up of all but one U23 rider.

The rider from Jo Piels that took the yellow jersey was returning doper Jeff Vermeulen. Vermeulen won two stages in the 2013 edition but tested positive on both stages that he won for the fairly common substance Methylhexanamine, which Rui & Mario Costa, Clement Lhotellerie, Eduard Vorganov and others have tested positive for. It is a substance that is a component of geranium oil and is found in a number of different diet supplements, weight loss products & amphetamines and is listed as a stimulant under the WADA code. Vermeulen tried to explain it away as a tainted supplement and that he didn't knowingly ingest it. This didn't fly well and he was stripped of both wins and was suspended until the beginning of this season. Vermeulen then went on later to say that he thinks it is unfair for athletes are responsible for everything they ingest as their are so many variables like an unknown energy bar or bottle they could get in a race. There is more here but it seems like a line of bull shit.

Stage 1b (Assen to Ureterp)

The race's afternoon stage was a fairly flat affair from Assen to the Frisian town of Ureterp with three final laps of 14.2 kilometers each. A small breakaway of 4 including Robert De Greef, Martijn Budding, Maarten Craeghs and Joris Bloker were out front for nearly 80 kilometers but never got much more than a gap of 1 minute and were swept up with one lap to go.

As happens many times in the Olympia's Tour, the race was decided in a bunch sprint and it was local boy Wim Stroetinga (Parkhotel Valkenburg), born just 10 kilometers away in Drachten, who sprinted to the win ahead of Coen Vermeltfoort (Join's-De Rijke) and Nicolai Brøchner (Riwal).

Stroetinga is one of the biggest sandbaggers on the continental circuit as he obviously has the speed to compete with some better sprinting competition but seemingly can't get over climbs bigger than molehills and prefers the smaller races as he is a track racer at heart. This win was Stroetinga's 11th win in the Olympia's Tour and if you count the two stages where Jeff Vermeulen was DQed, this was Stroetinga's 13th stage win.

On another note, BMC Development put 3 in the top 9 and 5 in the top 15 just to let everyone know that they mean business.

Stage 2 (Ulft to Gendringen)

The GC race for the Olympia's Tour was framed on Wednesday when a large breakaway of 15 riders got away fairly early in the stage and a lethargic peloton basically let them ride away and it was no contest after that.

Out of the 15, a group of four broke off late including Bob Schoonbroodt (Parkhotel Valkenburg), Piotr Havik (Rabobank), Arno Van der Zwet (Metec) and Jetse Bol (Join's-De Rijke). The group of four worked well and in the final sprint, it was Bol taking the win ahead of Van der Zwet and Schoonbroodt to take his first win since the final stage (and overall) of the 2011 Olympia's Tour.

Bol had a rough three years with Rabobank/Belkin and took a step back to get his career back in order. Bol won the Olympia's Tour overall twice in 2009 and 2011 and was one of the best Dutch talents in the U23 system before transferring to the pro ranks. The old Rabobank system was sink or swim and Bol wasn't the first talented rider to flounder with the team. He will be looking to hold this jersey until the end but with more hills and a TT coming up, it will not be a cake walk.

The GC contenders include
  1. Bol
  2. Van der Zwet +17"
  3. Schoonbroodt +18" (Point Jersey)
  4. Havik +28" (Best Young Rider)
  5. Gert-Jan Bosman +33"
  6. Nathan Van Hooydonck +34"
  7. Martijn Tusveld +39"
  8. Ronan Van Zandbeek +43"
  9. Dennis Bakker +48"
  10. Jeroen Meijers +50"
  11. Geert Van Der Weijst +52"
  12. Jasper Hamelink +56"
  13. Frederik Frison +1'23"
The action continues on Thursday with a classic circuit around Reuver that usually ends up in a sprint. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

One-Day Roundup: Pan-Ams, Nogent-sur-Oise, Ardennaise + more

More than a Danish assault on the Scandinavian fingers happened this past weekend. Let's jump right in.

Pan-Am Games

While no American teams were present at the U23 or Elite Men's Pan-Am Games (I know Jim Miller works on a tight budget and some scheduling issues so it is understandable), the racing from Leon, Mexico offered some nice insights.

In the U23 TT, Ignacio Prado (Mexico) improved on his 2nd place from last year to take the win ahead of Euro-based Sebastian Trillini (Argentina) and Chilean U23 TT Champ Jose Luis Rodriguez. The podium was within 15 seconds of one another and Prado averaged nearly 50 km/h on the flat course. Behind the podium, it was Brazilian Endrigo Da Rosa in 4th place followed by Vuelta de la Juventud sparring partners Jhonathan Restrepo (Colombia/5th) and Richard Carapaz (Ecuador/6th). Adam De Vos (Canada), who has been killing it on the American scene this year, finished in 7th at 1'25" back from Prado.

In the U23 RR, a breakaway of 8 separated themselves from the rest of the pack and that was basically all she wrote. Restrepo was attacking the breakaway a lot and eventually, he was joined by Rodriguez, GP Liberazione winner Lucas Gaday (Argentina), Carapaz and Colombian teammate Wilmar Paredes. Restrepo, winner of the 6th stage of the Vuelta de la Juventud out of a big breakaway, repeated his efforts from a few weeks ago and won the small sprint ahead of Rodriguez and Gaday.

In the Elite Men's race, the Canadian U23s in De Vos and Alex Cataford decided to toe the line and De Vos swung big and ended up 5th in the race, just 30 seconds behind winner Byron Guama (Ecuador). Remember this De Vos kid if you haven't already.


After a cancellation last year, the race in the north of France was back again for some some rather non-exciting racing. A breakaway of 14 got away and and proceeded to stay together for a small bunch sprint won by Robin Stenuit (Veranclassics-Ekoi). Best U23 was Adrian Legros (Chambery CF) in 7th.

Fleche Ardennaise

Remember that last post about Loïc Vliegen taking his first UCI win of his career in the final stage of the Tour de Bretagne? He liked it so much that he followed it up with a win at the Fleche Ardennaise, his hometown race, in a small group sprint. The race kicked off the Thomas Vaubourzeix (Veranclassics-Ekoi) getting off the front with 50 kilometers to go and being followed shortly by Vliegen, Gaeten Bille (Verandas Willems), Laurens De Plus and Dries van Gestel (Lotto-Belisol U23), Sam Oomen (Rabobank), Alex Peters (SEG) and Dimitri Claeys (Verandas Willems).

With 10 kilometers to go, it was Vliegen getting off the front of that group with Oomen, Bille, Van Gestel and De Plus to form the winning move. Vliegen won the sprint over Bille and Oomen to take the win, which is the 3rd win in a row for BMC Development in this race.

Trofeo San Vendemiano

A quartet of four including Daniel Pearson and Nicola Bagioli (Zalf-Euromobil), Giovanni Carboni and Stefano Nardelli (Unieuro Wilier) that got 3 minutes over a circuit including Ca' del Poggio in the province of Treviso. They led over the the first three circuits but after that, the Australians slammed it to get them to the base of the climb for the 4th and final passage. Rob Power, who seems to be back to full health after slogging through the Tour de Bretagne, attacked and Gianni Moscon, one of the best Italians so far this year, latched on to him. They drove past the breakaway while Nardelli tried his best to get to terms with them.

While Power and Moscon led in front, Nardelli finally clawed back with 500 meters to go and proceeded to go straight past the lead duo to try and get a surprise win. The cheeky move nearly worked as Moscon and Power left it late and it was Moscon who had to jump out and was able to pass Nardelli to take his first UCI win and 4th win of the season overall. Nardelli hung on for 2nd while Power, who seems to be almost at full strength, finished 3rd.

Moscon took home the Challenge del Prosecco for the best overall finishes between the Trofeo Piva Banca, Giro del Belvedere and the Trofeo San Vendemiano. He keeps the trophy with Zalf-Euromobil for another year as Simone Andreetta won it last season.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Scandinavian Update: Danes Attack!

Busy weekend up north with two races in Norway, the GP Hadeland and the Ringerike GP, as well as the big Swedish one-day race in Uppsala. The Danes were on a mission to steal UCI points from everyone and boy, did they ever.

Hadeland and Ringerike

The Kragh Andersen brothers have been known quantities for some times now but they have been on their A-games this year with Tre-For. Asbjørn is the older of the two and is more sprint oriented with top 10 finishes in the Rund um Köln, Coppi e Bartali, Volta ao Portugal and more recently at the Tour du Loir et Cher, where he took a bunch sprint on the final day. He isn't limited to sprints though as he has had his share of long breakaway results such as his 3rd place on the first stage of the Tour de l'Avenir last year that saw him secure the lead for the next two stages.

Søren is probably the more talented of the two. After a star junior career, Søren showed promise in 2014 after winning the Danish U23 TT and then finishing 4th in the Tour of Denmark TT just 12 seconds behind winner Alexey Lutsenko. This year has been intense flashes of brilliance. He was 7th on the insane stage 2 at Coppi e Bartali ahead of Siutsou, Meintjes, Pellizotti and a whole host of others. He was 6th in the Volta Limburg Classic, which was in the first chase group behind winner Stefan Küng. He proceeded to stomp everyone at the ZLM Roompot Tour by winning 2 stages (one being a TTT) and 4th in the other to take Denmark to the Nations Cup lead.

Søren Kragh takes the sprint win for his 4th win of the year.
Photo: Lindstrom

In the GP Hadeland, Søren got into a late move with ex-pro Vegard Stake Laengen (Joker), Frederik Galta (Coop) and young Dane Rune Almindsø. They worked well together and with representation from many of the big teams, they were able to take it to the line. Galta was hoping to take the sprint but having done a bit too much work in the break, he wasn't fresh enough to compete with SKA. 

Ringerike was an even more impressive beatdown. The 40th anniversary of the race, which has been won by nearly every big time Norwegian racer including Hushovd, Boasson Hagan, Kaggestad, Rasch, etc., was shaped by an early breakaway that saw the field wittle down slowly lap after lap. Following a Haavard Blikra attack, Odd Eiking (Joker) went solo but was eventually joined up by 7 others including 3 from Tre-For in the Kragh Andersen bros. and Swede Michael Olsson as well as Stake Laengen (again), August Jensen and Skive-Lobet winner Alexander Kamp. This basically came down to Olsson running cover for his teammates and Asbjorn and Soren were too quick for everyone and took an impressive 1-2.

When is the last time two brothers finished 1-2 in a UCI race? Cool to see.


Meanwhile 600 kilometers away in Eastern Sweden, the Danes were continuing their dominant run in Sweden's oldest race, the Skandisloppet or Scandinavian Race Uppsala. It was the 107th edition of the race and the record for the most wins in the race is shared between Henry-Peter Hansen (Denmark) and Ragnar Malm (Sweden), both of which were from the 1910's and 20's.

In any case, Uppsala never usually finishes together but the surprise here was a rider that is better known for his sprint won solo. Nicolai Brochner (Riwal) has been getting closer every year to a breakthrough and he ended up off the front of a group of 9 with 15 kilometers to go to take a solo win in the famous university city. Brochner took advantage of some lighter competition but perhaps he is moving away from being a total sprinter? We shall see but in any case, it was a banner weekend for the Danes.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Thoughts on the Tour de Bretagne

The Tour de Bretagne has been done for nearly half a week now but I've been holding off on posting something as I've been trying to get some take aways from the race itself. Bretagne featured a good mix of professionals and amateurs; riders just breaking through along with seasoned pros that are on the way up and down.

Daniel Hoelgaard

To say that Norway has been churning out talent in recent years would be an understatement. Since Edvald Boasson Hagen's emergence nearly 10 years ago, the Nordic nation has been blessed with talented riders coming out. Alexander Kristoff, Vegard Stake Laengen, Lars Petter Nordhaug and Sven Erik Bystrom are just a few that have jumped to the pro ranks but in the U23 ranks, they still have riders such as Odd Eiking, Truls Engen Korsaeth and Daniel Hoelgaard.

Hoelgaard is in his first year with Joker after spending two up and down years with Etixx Development. Last year, Hoelgaard stepped out at the Tour de Bretagne with a sprint win that kicked him off to a strong season that included 3 more UCI wins. This year, Hoelgaard has been on point where it is a rarity when he finishes outside of the top 20, if not the top 10. After missing out on the first stage breakaway, Hoelgaard managed to go 2nd, 2nd, 4th, 1st and 2nd on the subsequent 5 stages. He isn't just a pure sprinter. He can get over hills and deal with crosswinds. He might not have the best kick in the bunch but when the group is reduced down to just a couple dozen, Hoelgaard seems to be at his best.

He finished in 3rd overall at just 12 seconds to winner Seb Delfosse and won the points jersey along the way. It is going to be a long season for his competitors. I'll be interested to see how he does if he gets called up for the Norwegian pro races.

Loïc Vliegen

Seeing Vliegen race a stage race is akin to watching a predator hunt its prey. He won't waste energy until he needs to. He will lay in the cut and make the splits he needs to but when the time calls, he will go for the jugular. While Vliegen is so strong, it is crazy to think that his win on the final stage into Liffre was his first UCI win of his career. Vliegen was apart of the early breakaway that included race leader Seb Delfosse and nearly 20 others. After Delfosse virtually locked up his jersey after the 2nd bonus sprint, Vliegen launched a solo move to go for glory and in the wet and windy Bretagne weather, he stuck the move for his biggest win of his career.

Vliegen already has his pro future locked up as he is bound for BMC starting this summer. He seems bound for the hilly classics but he will definitely be one of those wily stage hunters.

Will Barta

Just one year out of the junior ranks and going top 10 in the Tour de Bretagne? Pretty solid. Will Barta (USA) made the break on stage 1 and proceeded to play damage control the rest of the race to finish 43 seconds behind winner Seb Delfosse in 8th place overall.

Last year this time Barta was just getting ready for the Junior Peace Race, where he would finish 3rd overall. It seems like he hasn't missed a step. And to think Bretagne didn't have a TT at all because if they did, Barta would be licking his chops as he barely finished off the podium in time trials as a junior.

Lilian Calmejane

If someone is trying to prove they deserve a pro contract, not many are doing it better than Lilian Calmejane. I still remember nearly a year ago when Calmejane rode through the sleeting rain and snow on Bagneres du Luchon in the Ronde de l'Isard to take what was probably the most memorable U23 win of the season last year.

After stopping his normal cyclocross pursuits early this past winter, Calmejane put in some big miles and came out swinging early in his first season out of the U23s. He is now up to 6 wins including a stage and the overall in the Triptyque Monts et Chateaux, a stage (plus 5th overall) in the Tour de Bretagne along with 1 round of the DN1 Coupe de France. He has a good bunch kick but has proven himself as a strong breakaway rider that can stick a long move for a win.

He could easily double his win total if he doesn't get a stagiaire ride this summer. I could easily see him join Europcar as Vendée U, his current team, is their feeder team but he could also go to other French squads if he has the opportunity. Or if I had my imaginary pro team where I would sign all of the best talent to keep them in a clean environment with strong, clean role models. But you know that is a bunch of horse shit.

Some of this and that..

-I like how this race changes up its parcours from year to year instead of using the same standard course over and over. Espoirs Central approved.

-Kenneth Van Rooy is another name to remember. Van Rooy has been a consistent rider through his first three U23 years but this year saw him go up a level. After a good ride at Normandie was followed by a 4th place in Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Van Rooy came to Bretagne as the leader for Lotto-Belisol U23 and he probably couldn't be more consistent with his results. He proceeded to finish 12th, 12th, 10th, 6th, 8th, 7th and 7th (an average finish of 8.85) to finish 9th overall for the race and 2nd in the points competition to Hoelgaard. Perhaps a threat for the Belgian U23 RR?

- Looks like another Hackney rider needs to be taken seriously along with Tao Geoghegan Hart. SEG Racing's Alex Peters took his first UCI win of his career after winning a three-up sprint against Ioannis Tamouridis and Anthony Delaplace. Peters was so close to a stage win in the Tour de Normandie but struck gold here on his way to 7th overall.

Do you know it is just two fucking weeks til the Ronde de l'Isard? Bretagne is cool and all but l'Isard is one of the best U23 stage races of the season. I will get ridiculously excited about that race so buckle down.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

One-Day Roundup: Oh, the races you'll see

To say the last week was busy with U23 racing would be an understatement. Scandinavia had a big week of racing while one-day racing hit South Africa, Russia, Italy, Belgium, and more. Once more into the breach, dear cycling nerds...

South Africa

Since the death of the Giro del Capo races, South Africa has had a dearth of one-day racing. This year saw two races, the Mayday Classic and the Hibiscus Classic, make their debuts. South Africa has a pretty good continental circuit but they don't get much in terms of foreign riders most of the time besides follow Africans, especially Eritreans.

The Mayday Classic was controlled by a breakaway of three including Hendrik Kruger (who rode in France for a while with Martigues SC), Eritrean Metkel Eyob and U23 Nicholas Dlamini, who was 2nd in the S.A. U23 TT this year. The breakaway of three was riding well ahead of a disorganized chase group and it was Kruger, the current South African pursuit champion, who won the sprint ahead of Dlamini and Eyob, both of whom are U23 riders and teammates on the MTN-Qhubeka/WCC team. But due to issues with traffic on the course during the finale, the race jury announced that Kruger and Dlamini would split the win. U23 Ryan Gibbons won the sprint behind to take 4th.

In the Hibiscus Classic on Sunday, Dlamini launched an attack with 55 km to go but once he was brought back, it was his teammate Eyob who struck out on his own and got a maximum of one minute. Eyob had numbers in terms of teammates behind him and the Eritrean buried himself to take a fine solo win while behind it was Kruger taking the sprint ahead of Eyob's MTN-Qhubeka/WCC teammate Meron Teshome. I saw to keep an eye on this Kruger fellow. He has ridden in Europe and has a motor on him. And of course the Eritreans.


A series of three races took place over the weekend in the motherland with the first of which being the Mayor Cup in Moscow, which celebrates May Day, the International Workers' Day or basically ex-Soviet Union National Parade Day. This was won by Ukranian Sergey Lagkuti after a long breakaway with teammate Denys Kostyuk. The best U23? Get ready for it...Nikita Kugaevskiy

The next day the peloton went across town for the Memorial Oleg Dyachenko. A breakaway of hardened Ukranian and Russian journeymen took the day with another Ukranian, Mykhaylo Kononenko, winning the day while the first U23 was nearly 8 minutes down in Moldovan Cristian Raileanu.

What else but another race in Moscow. The biggest country in the world yet they have to have 3 races in the city that doesn't have too many geographic features. The GP of Moscow was a big sprint with Belorussian Siarhei Papok (Minsk) winning the day ahead of Russian trackie Ivan Savitsky and first year U23 Dzmitry Zhyhunou (Belarus).

Just a series of blah races.


Gianni Moscon is coming into fine form as he showed why he is one of Italy's finest one day racing prospects after taking his 3rd win of the year in the GP Industria e Commercio Botticino. Zalf-Euromobil held it together very well for the steep uphill finish and once on the climb, Moscon attacked and but distance between himself and Davide Gabburo, the only rider relatively close to him. Similar to his win in the GP San Giuseppe, Moscon came around the final uphill corner solo and powered up to the line to take another impressive win. In less than two months, he has 3 wins along with 2nd in the Ronde van Vlaanderen U23 and 4th in the UCI Trofeo Piva Banca.

Minali (l) taking a tight one over Pacioni (r)
Photo: ItaliaCiclismo
On Sunday, the Circuito del Porto showcased the fast sprinters that Italy has on offer. To make a paragraph into a few lines, it came down to the final sprint and Colpack looked to be in the driver's seat. Instead of going for the win per usual, Simone Consonni was the lead-out for Riccardo Minali and Consonni did his job to perfect as he dropped off the young Minali with 200 meters to go. Minali had to deal with Viris-Maserati's Luca Pacioni and it was very tight coming to the line but Minali had the kick in the end and took the Circuito del Porto trophy 23 years after his father Nicola won.


The Romana Sieminskiego Memorial took place this weekend in no idea where, Poland. It was a big sprint won by Czech Alois Kankovsky, who won the inaugural track omnium World Championship in 2007. The best U23 was 5th place Adrian Banaszek. I have no idea who he is other than his results.


The Belgies love to do things their own way sometimes and while it is the beginning of May, the time trial championships happened this past weekend. In the U23 category, heavy favorite Ruben Pols (Lotto Belisol U23) blitzed the 37.8 kilometer course in an average speed of nearly 46 kilometers per hour or 28.5 miles per hour. Pols has won the East Flanders regional title, the Borlo National TT and now the National U23 Championship. Pols avenged his close loss from last year and looks destined to have an impact on the U23 Worlds TT this year.

Behind Pols, it was Nathan Van Hooydonck (BMC Devo) taking 2nd at a bit over 25 seconds down while Aime De Gendt (EFC-Etixx) finished in 3rd overall.


Formerly known as the Destination Thy, the GP Vyborg kicked off the Danish Three Day weekend of racing. The race featured three pieces of gravel roads and on the final portion, a group of 7 including three from Coop-Østerhus got away. That group would be slowly wittled down to two in Oscar Landa (Coop) and Bob Schoonbroodt (Parkhotel Valkenburg), who got away on the final local circuit. The duo had to keep their nose to the stem as the peloton was hard charging behind. In the two-up sprint, the upstart Landa was able to take the win ahead of Schoonbroodt while just 8 seconds behind it was Schoonbroodt's teammate Wim Stroetinga taking the bunch sprint ahead of Oscar Riesebeek (Metec) and U23 Gustav Höög (Tre Berg). This was an important win for Landa, who did it in front of his family no less, as the Norwegian rider has been trying to find consistent form all season.

The following day was more or less straightforward as the peloton kept together in the Himmerland Rundt and a bunch sprint came to the line. Who else but Wim Stroetinga to take the bunch sprint as it is seemingly his forte for nearly the last half decade. Behind Stroetinga, it was Asbjorn Kragh, Johim Ariesen and U23 Nicola Brøchner. 

The last race of the weekend was the Skive Løbet. Mads Würtz Schmidt (coloQuick) was off the front with 30 kilometers to go but the young Dane was only able to stay away until roughly 10 kilometers to go.  The small chase group that caught Würtz was quite active but on the final lap it was Alexander Kamp (coloQuick) and Haavard Blikra (Coop) that got away. Once they worked together, they were gone. Kamp has gone through some rough years with bad motivation and bad teams but the last three years seemed to all slip away and the rider that was hailed out of the junior ranks showed some of that brilliance. Kamp took Blikra to the line and the Dane took the sprint for his first UCI win in over two years.

That is all. There could possibly be more but I've reached my limit for now. Until next time.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Stage Race Roundup: Gila, Jura and Carpathian Couriers

With so many races happening and with me not wanting to be anywhere near a computer for the last couple of days, I'll split up my roundups into stage races and one-day races. For the stage race portion, we will be stopping across the world with races in the USA, France and Poland.

Tour du Jura

While it isn't a UCI race, the 4-stage Tour du Jura had a pretty strong start list and offered a few little gems along the way. It isn't a mountainous race by any means but it certainly is no cake walk either. Much of the Jura is hilly and while it is a French amateur race, it was still a good test for the legs.

The first stage was won by Gabriel Chavanne (EKZ Racing), who was twice a stagiaire with Ag2r-La Mondiale. Chavanne is in his first year out of the U23s and Chambery CF so his year with EKZ Racing is a pivotal one for him to pilot himself to a pro career. Behind Chavanne, the field was shredded but the likes of ex-pro Stephane Poulhies, Leo Vincent (CC Etupes), Mikel Aristi (Euskadi) and Jeremy Maison (CC Etupes) all within 31 seconds.

After Sylvain Georges (Pro Immo Roux) got another win following his dope suspension comeback on stage 2, Thomas Rostollan (AVC Aix en Provence) put on a impressive display to take a win in Champagnole, affectionately known as the Pearl of the Jura. After consistent rides through the first three stages, it was Mikel Aristi leading the GC standings by 9 seconds ahead of UCI World Cycling Centre Morrocan Anass Ait El Abdia. It was nearly two minutes back to 3rd place Pierre Bonnet (Pro Immo Roux) but it was going to come down to the wire on Sunday.

In the department capital of Dole, a breakaway of 10 got away and Bonnet found himself in the move. They got a 2'30" gap on the peloton and Bonnet, who spent the majority of his years riding for riders such as Romain Bardet and Warren Barguil while on Chambery CF and CC Etupis respectively, had to judge the move wisely and dig deep to fend them off. Riding into the finale, it was Jeremy Maison, the 8th place from last year's Tour de l'Avenir, get off the front of the breakaway and win the day while Bonnet and the rest came across 7 seconds in arrears.

It was Ait El Abdia who came across at 2'10" but Aristi crossed the line 2'12" down on Maison. With the bonuses tallied and everything official, it was Bonnet who took the win ahead of Aristi by just 1 second with Ait El Abdia in 3rd by 11" and Maison and Chavanne rambling out in the top 5.

Ait El Abdia seems like an interesting rider. He was 3rd overall in the Tour du Maroc behind just Tomas Marczynski and Vlad Gusev. His ride with the UCI World Cycling Centre could open some doors but many pro teams are leery about Moroccan riders after Tarik Chaoufi bombed with Euskaltel-Euskadi. Perhaps going with SkyDive Dubai? We shall see.

Tour of the Gila

The annual journey to southwestern New Mexico and the mountain town of Silver City for the Tour of the Gila, a race which didn't look certain until a crowd-sourcing venture saw them safe for another year. Time and time again this race proves to be one of the toughest of the year for American domestic racers and while it usually isn't a U23 winning the race, there are usually some bright U23 results to look at for times to come.

The Mongollan stage was filled with with Rafael Montiel spending the whole day bridging and then flying past breakaway mate Guillaume Boivin to win the stage. In the peloton, Tao Geoghegan Hart (Axeon) was the best U23 in 13th place at 1'27" but within 10 seconds of him were Adam De Vos (H&R Block) and James Oram (Axeon).

After a quiet stage 2, the high altitude TT saw Axeon's Greg Daniel go 5th place at 55" behind winner Tom Zirbel. Oram was just a few seconds behind while De Vos and Geoghegan Hart were both at 1'28". By this point, Oram was 7th on GC while Geoghegan Hart and De Vos were 10th and 11th.

The race, as with many other editions, comes down to the Gila Monster stage. 4 hours of kicking-your-teeth-in fun punctuated by an uphill finish. A group of 16 pulled away from the rest of the peloton and race leader Montiel was toast at this point while on the U23 side of things, Oram slipped off the pace and it was Geoghegan Hart and De Vos left to duke it out. With Canadians Mike Woods (Optum) and Rob Britton (Smartstop) really animating the race up front, Geoghegan Hart seemed to be distanced while De Vos was putting in a superb ride to stay with the leaders. Woods won the small group sprint for the win while Britton took the overall win over Daniel Jaramillo and former Tour de l'Avenir standout Gavin Mannion.

Adam De Vos took the unofficial best U23 rider after placing 7th overall in a stud UCI field while Geoghegan Hart held on for 8th just 13 seconds back. De Vos is unknown to many outside of Canada but he has been tearing it up this year with 4th overall in San Dimas and 5th in Redlands before this 7th in Gila. Certainly one to watch going forward.

Carpathian Couriers Tour

Ah Poland, for when one needs a good cycling stage race with a tight finish.

Since many will be scrolling at this point, I will give them a quick and dirty on this one.

Jan Brockoff won the prologue. The AWT-Greenway rider has been on some great form of late after his 6th place in Liege-Bastogne-Liege and won a tight 1.8km ride where the top 9 riders were all within 2 seconds of Brockoff.

Stage 1 saw a breakaway of 7 including Brockoff and teammate Alvaro Cuadros, Piotr Konwa, Sven Reutter (Stölting), Tilegen Maidos (Vino4EVVAAAAA/Kazakhstan), Alexander Wachter (Tirol) and Tim Ariesen (Jo Piels). Even though they had the numbers, Wachter took the sprint for the stage win out and with the time bonuses he was able to take the overall lead.

A notable that missed out on stage 1 was Silvio Herklotz and you cannot keep the Berliner down for long. Herklotz got into a breakaway with Dries Van Gestel (Lotto Belisol U23) and Cuadros to try and take some time back. They succeeded in taking back roughly 20 seconds and Van Gestel managed to beat out Herklotz for the stage win while Cuadros took over the leader's jersey.

Following a stage 3 that saw Herklotz and Van Gestel take back a few more seconds, Herklotz nabbed a intermediate sprint to get himself within 4 seconds of Cuadros heading into the final stage. While the final stage was short, it contained a good amount of hills and the rain just added to the fun. Tim Ariesen (Jo Piels) got into the early breakaway with 1 kilometer ridden and proceeded to take the first sprint and 2nd in the second sprint to get within three seconds of Cuadros' lead. The breakaway worked well together but coming into the finale, it was a slip-n-slide for everyone as greasy roads and tight corners saw multiple crashes in the final kilometers. While their gap had dropped a good portion, the break kept 7 seconds as Remy Mertz was able to take the stage win.

Ariesen was able to take the leader's jersey from Cuadros by a mere 4 seconds while Van Gestel moved up to 3rd place on the same time. Brockoff made the break and finished in 4th place while Herklotz had to settle for 5th and was followed by the likes of Wachter, Nowa and Patryk Stosz.

Speaking of Stosz, he is a KOM machine. He was just two points away from winning the KOM classification at the Carpathian Couriers Tour for the 3rd year running.

Don't fret...A Tour de Bretagne wrap-up will be coming soon. Also, watch for a huge post with all of the one-day races that I think are important enough to cover.