Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Valle d'Aosta Stage 1: De Plus adds a win

It seems like every season there is another Belgian that is showing himself as a potential World Tour climbing extraordinaire. The last couple of years have seen Louis Vervaeke and Dylan Teuns take that mantle and this year, it has passed on to Laurens De Plus. The Belgian has been a consistent presence on climbing stages this year be it on the slopes of Plateau de Beille or on the way up to Praded in the Czech Republic. The one thing that the Belgian was missing from his resume was a UCI win.

De Plus gets sweet gratification
Photo: Riccardo Scanferla/Giro della Valle d'Aosta

The stage set out from Morillon and a group of 4 including TJ Eisenhart (BMC Development), Justin Oien (USA), Davide Ballerini (Unieuro-Wilier) and Nicola Bagioli (Zalf-Euromobil). A chasing group of 11 got away in pursuit of the quartet while the Maglia Gialla Robert Power (Australia) let the escapees get a significant gap that got up to over 11 minutes at one point.

Justin Oien on being in the breakaway today:

"Got in the break with T.J. (Eisenhart), Bagli or whatever that Zalf guy's name is and this other guy (Ballerini). We worked super well all day; steady hard on the climbs, ripped the descents and steady hard in the valleys. Not exactly sure where we got our big gap (8 minutes at one point) but I just remember Sayers (USA DS) saying "you guys (are) good, keep it steady."

Diego Sevilla (Fundacion Contador) got away from the chase group and bridge up to the breakaway. As Oien puts it, "We made it to the climb before the 10k one and a Contador guy comes up from the breakaway that was about 2 minutes behind us the whole time. He rests for a second and then takes Bagioli (who would grab the KOM points every climb) with him. At the top of that climb, the other group makes contact and then they just start dropping, with the other Zalf guy (Enrico Salvador) through in accelerations in every so often."

Diego Sevilla was solo after the Col de Plaine Joux and continued to plow on by himself to the foot of the Col de la Ramaz. Enrico Salvador (Zalf-Euromobil) launched out of the chasing group and slowly chomped away the gap. The remnants of the breakaway including Will Barta (USA), Bagioli and Enrico Logica (General Store) that were hanging in no man's land between the leaders and the yellow jersey group of Rob Power.

Sevilla went over the Col de la Ramaz solo but was quickly joined by a solo Salvador. The yellow jersey group made the junction with the chasing group just a couple kilometers into the descent.
Salvador went solo towards the bottom of the descent and got back into Morillon but with a gap that was shrinking fast.

With 10 kilometers to go and the chase at full bore in the valley, Power was struck with a mechanical and was forced to change bikes. No one was waiting for him and yet Power, who was down 30 seconds by the time he got back up to speed, got up and bridge the gap within 5 kilometers. A turbo V8 against a bunch of V6s.

According to Oien, "We rip the descent, make it into the valley and they start attacking and I'm just holding on at this point; very happy with how I've done having never climbed that well before. My last two weeks have just been so I can survive this race. (We) make it to the bottom of the finish climb and they go and do their flying up hill stuff and I come in 6 or so minutes behind."

While Norway had every one together coming into the final climb, Power lit it up and drew out a group including De Plus, Simone Petilli & Stefano Nardelli (Unieuro Wilier), Edward Ravasi & Andrea Garosio (Colpack), Oleg Zemlyakov (Kazakhstan), Michel Schelgel (AWT-Greenway) and Dan Pearson (Zalf-Euromobil), among others.

Salvador was so close to making it a fantastic solo win but alas, this wasn't a fairy tale ending. With roughly 100 meters to go, Salvador was passed by Robert Power and De Plus, who was the only one able to hang with Power in the sprint for the line. De Plus came around the Australian to take his first ever UCI win while Power consolidated his overall lead.

The full stage results can be found here while the overall results are here.

Other notes...

This is Laurens De Plus' 3rd mountainous stage race of the season and he is on track to go for another podium place on the overall standings. While he was disappointed somewhat in his l'Isard and Zavod Miru 2nd places, you have to sit back and admire a rider that can do this in his first season as a leader.

One rider that was clearly off was Odd Eiking from Norway, who finished over 6 minutes down. Obviously the talent is there but obviously, he isn't going for overall goals. One possibility is the heat that is going through Aosta right now, which is seeing highs around 90F/32C.

Another Norwegian rider, Kristian Aasvold, had to pull out of the race due to some intestinal issues. Or as put it, "He was taken out of the race after taking a walk in the woods to in an attempt to remedy these problems." Feel better, Kristian.

Two of Slovenia's riders bailed during the day's stage. Not posing well for a race that only has five-man teams.

Lennard Kämna's (Stölting) big day out yesterday was short lived as he finished over 8 minutes back in 41st place. The heat could play a factor but obviously yesterday was a short effort that required a high, steady power output, which perfectly suited him. Today had a lot of ups and downs so perhaps another day this week will have Kämna or his teammate Silvio Herklotz out front.

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