Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Tour de l'Avenir Stage 4: Stuck on Repeat

With the mountains backloaded in this year's edition of the Tour de l'Avenir, most teams went with a climbing heavy roster that lacked big-time sprinters and rouleurs. I say most teams because Danish National coach Morten Bennekou went in the complete opposite direction and brought a team filled with riders that are most comfortable on the flats and small hills bar one in Patrick Olesen. This gamble has paid off in spades and continued on the 4th stage of the Tour de l'Avenir, where the race finally entered into the Haute Savoie department and got a taste of what is to come.

The majority of the stage was quite flat and it was a very quick pace for the first two hours, which averaged 45 km/h. Crashes were a unwelcome presence in what has been an otherwise incident free race so far. Harry Carpenter hit the deck with a few others including Mikhel Raim, Daniel Paulus and Gracjan Szelag and all but Paulus were forced out of the race. Others that dropped out today included Freddy Ovett (Australia), Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands), Michael Paluta (Poland), Illya Klepikov (Ukraine) and Oskar Nisu (Estonia).
It took nearly an hour for the main breakaway to get away and their gap never got too out of hand. The group included Dries Van Gestel (Belgium), Jan Dieteren (Germany), Joao Rodrigues (Portugal), Anders Skaarseth (Norway), Ziga Rucigaj (Slovenia), Gian Friesecke (Switzerland), Théry Schir (Switzerland), Mads Würtz Schmidt (Denmark), Julien Amezqueta (Spain) and Christofer Jurado (UCI/Panama). The group never got over a two minute gap and heading into the first pass of the Col du Chatillon-sur-Cluses, they had barely over 1 minute. On the first climb, Friesecke and Rucigaj were shelled.

After the first climb, the Colombia led peloton let off the gas and the gap went back out to two minutes. Unhappy with the state of affairs, Giulio Ciccone (Italy) launched an attack and eventually drew out Liege-Bastogne-Liege U23 winner Guillaume Martin to pursue the breakaway. On the 2nd pass of the climb, this attack saw an acceleration from the peloton and saw race leader Tom Bohli (Switzerland) get dropped. Ciccone and Martin were within 30 seconds at one point but were hauled back in just before the KOM summit, where the gap went out a bit again.

The KOM split the breakaway with Mads Würtz Schmidt (Denmark), Julien Amezqueta (Spain), Anders Skaarseth (Norway) and Dries Van Gestel (Belgium) getting a gap and starting the descent together. Dieteren, Rodrigues and Schir were chasing behind but were eventually swept up by the chasing peloton inside the final couple of kilometers.

Scream and Shout! Mads Würtz is on a comeback season and this is just another exclamation point
Photo: James Startt/Agence Zoom
The quartet stuck it out and for the 4th time in 5 days, it was a Dane that took out the win. Mads Würtz won the sprint ahead of Dries Van Gestel (Belgium) and Anders Skaarseth (Norway) to make up for his close 2nd on stage 1. Stage 1 winner Jonas Koch led the peloton home 24 seconds later ahead of Gianni Moscon (Italy) and Fabian Grellier (France).

Bohli lost the overall lead to a rider that many thought would just be pack fill. Chilean Jose Luis Rodriguez (UCI World Cycling Centre) finished in the main chase group with his teammate Caio Godoy (Brazil) but thanks to his part in the breakaway on stage 2, he took the race lead over from Bohli and now leads the race by 4 seconds on Spaniard Imanol Estevez. This is the first time ever that a rider from the UCI World Cycling Centre has led the Tour de l'Avenir overall and if I'm not mistaken, led a UCI race overall. A groundbreaking moment for the UCI team, which takes riders from countries that do not have an established development program, and hopefully it is a sign of more things to come.

Rodriguez will wear the yellow jersey on the first big mountain stage of the Tour de l'Avenir but unless an act of god happens, he will most likely cede the jersey. Aksel Nommela leads the points classification but Jonas Koch tightened it up to just a 9 point lead while Mads Würtz took over the KOM jersey from Estevez.

This Danish team is officially the most successful Tour de l'Avenir team since the race went to an all-U23 set-up in 2007 and will most likely not be touched for a while. They read the field right and their willingness to go for the flatter stages paid off. They aren't angels because they do have a pro in their ranks in Mads Pedersen but to think that they could do this much is pretty incredible.

Würtz himself was with CULT last year but they let him go after battling with injuries and rocky form. This year has been a comeback year and the last month has been incredible with the time trial win in the Tour of Denmark and now his success here. With CULT being saved for next year with their recent merger with Stölting, Würtz could be have a home for next year in the pro ranks.

Full results can be found here

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