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.

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