Saturday, August 29, 2015

Tour de l'Avenir Stage 7: Mamykin takes finale; Soler overall

After two hard days in the mountains, the Tour de l'Avenir finished off with a short but sweet stage that included for 4 climbs including a summit finish on the Les Sybelles climb. The race itself was more about who could hang on as riders were dropping like flies throughout the day and many GC hopefuls that were looking to keep a high overall position fell by the wayside.

The race had literally a couple of kilometers of flat before they starting going up the Col du Mollard, which is roughly 18 kilometers in length but only 5.7% gradient. Right out of the gate, stage 6 winner Elie Gesbert launched an attack but it was short-lived. He would pay for it later as he was dropped and forced to retire. Approaching the top of the Mollard, the leading group was down to just 13 riders including overall leader Marc Soler as well as others such as De Plus, Haig, Sebastian Henao, among others. 1 kilometer from the top, Henao attacked and the remnants of the group exploded as they started the the descent to Belleville for the Croix de Fer climb.

Henao was trying to make up for a disappointing Tour de France by going for a long range attack with three climbs left. Originally, he got away with teammate Aldemar Reyes and the gap got up to 2'10" On the Croix de Fer, Henao went away on his own and the yellow jersey group behind him was splitting up. 2nd overall Laurens De Plus was dropped along with Gregor Mühlberger, Sam Oomen, Sindre Lunke and Guillaume Martin. Henao had nearly 3 minutes over the top of the Croix de Fer and began to plummet down into the Maurienne valley.

On the Lacets de Montvernier, Sam Oomen attacked out of the yellow jersey group and behind him, Mühlberger, Matvey Mamykin and Daniel Martinez emerged as chasers. On the short, steep Montvernier climb, Soler made the jump to the chasing group while 3rd overall Jack Haig was in the chasing group behind. Once on the descent of the Montvernier climb, Haig descended like a stone and was able to get up to the yellow jersey group while 2nd place overall De Plus saw his legs implode for good. Simone Petilli put it best in his post stage interview with DirectVelo when he said, "The tactics of the Italians today? What tactics? You just had to save your skin!"

On the final climb to Les Sybelles, Henao was at the end of his rope. Just a couple of kilometers into the climb, he was caught and the lead group suddenly became just four as Oomen was dropped. Soon after, Mühlberger was the next victim and it was a trio up front with Soler, Haig and Mamykin, who had won the queen stage from the Giro della Valle d'Aosta. Soler was content with keeping the group together as his overall lead was more or less in tact as Haig was his closest challenger over 1 minute back overall.

Soler Power
Photo: Vianney Thibaut/Agence Zoom
In the final kilometers, Mamykin and Haig accelerated away from the Spaniard Soler but the Movistar rider was content as his overall lead wouldn't be touched. It was the Russian who took his 2nd big win of the season while Haig capped a successful week with 2nd while Soler was celebrating over the line to take his biggest win to date.

The rest of the field came over in dribs and drabs as Oomen and Mühlberger limited their losses to just 55 seconds while the Italian duo of Giulio Ciccone and Simone Petilli came across next at nearly two minutes down.

The final podium including UCI Prez Brian Cookson
Photo: Vianney Thibaut/Agence Zoom
The full results for the stage can be found here. The biggest loser on the day was De Plus, who dropped from 2nd to 8th overall after losing 5 minutes to Soler. Sindre Lunke also had an off day after having big gains on Friday. Mamykin and Oomen both moved up with the Russian having a fantastic day to step up to the final podium step behind Soler and Haig.

Guillaume Martin, the winner of stage 5, was awarded the super combative prize for the race. Mamykin pulled a coup in the KOM classification thanks to his exploits on the final stage and pulled out the classification by 2 points on Martin. Jonas Koch survived the stage by finishing nearly 25 minutes down on the leaders but his survival meant that he was awarded the points jersey for the race. Russia dominated the teams classification by beating Italy by over 16 minutes and won for their 2nd consecutive year.

The Tour de l'Avenir is done for another year. It was a brutal edition with only 77 out of 126 starters finishing the race but the cream certainly rose to the top. The formula of backloading the mountains perhaps scared off some of the best U23 talent but the mountain stages in this edition were certainly spectacular. Look out for a wrap-up post on Espoirs Central.

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