Monday, July 20, 2015

Giro della Valle d'Aosta Wrap-Up

 The Giro della Valle d'Aosta, one of the premier stage races in the U23 ranks, is done and dusted for another season. Espoirs Central, being the home of all things U23, continental and development cycling, would be amiss if we (meaning I) didn't run through some of the important motifs from the race.

A Race for Firsts...

Besides the prologue win by Robert Power, every stage winner in this year's edition of Valle d'Aosta was a first time UCI winner.

It was a bit surprising with a rider such as Odd Eiking but any wins that he has had have been on the national level or in national championships, such as this year's Norwegian U23 RR. Eiking has been all over the podium in the past couple of seasons but his stage 2 win that saw him pass Edward Ravasi in the final kilometer was his maiden trip to the top step in the UCI ranks.

Speaking of a riders that have been all over the podium this year, you can look to both Laurens De Plus and Lennard Kämna. The Belgian has proved himself to be an immense climbing talent that is a consistent finisher. He took advantage of Robert Power's mechanical mishap and had legs that were a little bit fresher to sprint to the win on stage 1. Kämna was impressive in the prologue but continued to get stronger as the race continued. After losing GC time on stage 1, the young German was able to get into the breakaway on stage 4 and timed his move well to solo away for the final 20 kilometers.

The breakaway bestowed glory onto Matvey Mamykin and Koen Bouwman. The Russian Mamykin had a weak team but on the queen stage of the race, he played his cards brilliantly and didn't use everything too early. He was able to pass Giulio Ciccone on the final climb and take a masterful win in Cervinia including a yellow jersey for the day. Bouwman did a similar tacit and let Nicola Bagioli wilt on the long climb up to the Colle del San Gran Bernardo and with Kilian Frankiny, the Dutchman passed Bagioli and then sprinted to a masterful win near the top of Western Europe.

While Rob Power has won before on the UCI level, he did take his first UCI stage race overall after taking a near 2nd in last year's Tour de l'Avenir. You can make a number of puns with his last name but Power is obviously destined for big things in the professional ranks.

Is Valle d'Aosta too hard?

I wrote an article about this yesterday about this topic but I feel like the thought is still developing in my head.

So a maximum elevation gain limit could be an interesting topic for the UCI to consider in the U23 ranks if they want to keep the U23 system as something that is meant for development. The queen stage had nearly 4200 meters (13750 feet) of climbing over only 162 kilometers. If the stage were to be straight uphill for the whole stage, it would be a average gradient of 2.59%. Now concentrate that on just a few climbs and you can see why the grupetto was a half hour down on. You can take it from one of the racers, Alexey Vermeulen, who said that a lot of people had their mind set on where they were pulling the pin.

Why does nearly every stage have to be an uphill finish? Why can't there be a sprint stage or two? Why are multiple climbs used 2 or 3 times in the race? There are a lot of questions I do not have answers two but would be good for the organizers to examine before next year. I know that sponsor dollars were a big reason why the first two stages were in France but that shouldn't have to make for lazy stage planning or a focus strictly on riders that can go uphill fastest.

This can be shelved for another time but if you have any more opinions, I would love to hear them.

Laurens De Plus

De Plus was disappointed with his 2nd place in the Ronde de l'Isard behind Petilli. He was still not satisfied with his 4th place in the Zavod Miru U23. What do you think his thoughts are on after finishing 2nd overall here? His riding on anything remotely hilly has been incredibly consistent this year and he still has eyes on the Tour de l'Avenir later this year. Perhaps he can crack the Power code and get his way to the top step of an overall.

The Italian Misfortune

For the first time since 2006, an Italian rider failed to win a stage of the Giro della Valle d'Aosta. While 2006 was dry in terms of stage wins, Alessandro Bisolti won the overall. While Simone Petilli hit the overall podium with his 3rd this year, it was a historically off year for the Italians in their home stage race.

While it was an off year in terms of stage wins, there was an Italian on every single stage podium and there were two stages where an Italian rider (Enrico Salvador and Edward Ravasi, in particular) was caught in the final kilometers. Salvador was a hundred meters from the line while Ravasi was inside of 4 kilometers from the line. You can even throw in Nicola Bagioli on the final stage where he was solo on the Colle del San Gran Bernardo and was overhauled by Bouwman and Kilian Frankiny with 5 kilometers left.

While the stage wins were dry, Giulio Ciccone did capture the KOM jersey after a late stage assault by Nicola Bagioli. Petilli deserved credit too because he did has a nice week even if he and his team were like the shadows of the Australian team.

The Australians

Just a moment to recognize how organized and efficient this team was the entire week at defending Robert Power's lead. With only 5 riders, it is hard to control anything but the Australians spent countless kilometers on the front controlling everything and then Jack Haig rode out of his skin on the later climbs to bring Power to within a shouting distance of the win or to set him up to take time. This was also Haig's first race in roughly 2 months after dealing with multiple injuries so to do what he has done, it is impressive.


-Lennard Kämna was the best first year in the race by a country mile with the next first year being Steff Cras (Lotto-Soudal U23) in 25th, 32 minutes down on the German. Kämna was a known talent in the time trial but on the climbs, he seems that he could be a future GC talent with how he seemingly got better at the race progressed.

-Dan Pearson (Zalf-Euromobil) improved on his GC position from last year by moving up from 8th to 5th place. Pearson was consistent all week but his only slip up was the final stage, where he lost two minutes to the yellow jersey and lost his 4th place on GC to breakaway rider Kilian Frankiny. In any case, the Brit seems to be loving racing on Italian soil and should be a treat to watch in some of the late summer races.

-Alexey Vermeulen (BMC Development) has continued to steadily improve on the GC side of things and could be a top 10 threat for the Tour de l'Avenir after his rides here, where was 12th overall, and the Ronde de l'Isard.

-They were silent in the way that they did it but Michal Schlegel (AWT-Greenway), Simone Ravanelli (Palazzago) and Stefano Nardelli (Unieuro Wilier) all finished in the top 10 overall. Kudos.

That is a wrap on the 2015 Giro della Valle d'Aosta. How was the coverage? Good? Poor? Because if you like it, then you will soon have an opportunity to support it directly. More on that later this week.

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