Saturday, August 15, 2015

Tour de l'Avenir Team Preview: Colombia

Just a month ago, the hype for the Giro della Valle d'Aosta was palpable and here at Espoirs Central, the words were flowing. After a little bit of a summer break, the crescendo begins to the Tour de l'Avenir, while perhaps not the hardest U23 race it is the most popular and recognizable U23 race. The fair-weather, mainstream cycling media will for once in a blue moon give proper attention to the U23 ranks while the stars of tomorrow race around the French Alps in search of glory and perhaps a late contract or two.

While the course preview will be coming out in due time, it is high time that some of the teams that announced their rosters early get a proper breakdown and tongue lashing, where needed.


Roster: Sebastian Henao, Fernando Gaviria, Rodrigo Contreras, Daniel Martinez, Aldemar Reyes & German Chavez

I would first like to say once again, fuck you to whoever at the UCI allowed World Tour riders to ride in the Tour de l'Avenir. While there is a point of contention about whether this was explicitly banned by the race, there has not been a Pro Tour/World Tour rider under a full year contract ride in l'Avenir since Jerome Coppel and Rein Taaramäe in 2008. There should not even be Pro Continental riders allowed at this level because if you are making the deliberate choice to go to that level where you are racing, for the majority of the time, against professionals and making at least a minimum wage salary.
In any case, Colombia was the first team to take advantage of this rule change and the federation announced that Sebastian Henao, who currently rides for Team SKY, will most likely be leading the GC fight. Sebastian was recently 13th overall in the Tour of Denmark and is a veteran of the Giro d'Italia from the past couple of seasons. Henao has never ridden the Tour de l'Avenir because when he was an amateur, the 4-72 Colombia team had a stranglehold on the selection. I do

After a squabble between the 4-72 Colombia (now Manzana-Postobon) management and the Colombian Federation, riders from other Colombian teams are getting more rides. While there should be a happy medium found here because of the transparency of the riders from Manzana-Postobon, the Colombian Feds don't care if they look dirty or not.

Joining Henao include headliners Fernando Gaviria and Rodrigo Contreras (both Coldeportes-Claro). Gaviria doesn't really need too much introduction as he will be targeting the flatter stages and the green jersey for the points classification. Contreras will be up front in the mountains but his GC ambitions remain fairly unknown. He hasn't raced any UCI races since the Tour de San Luis but when on, he can climb with the best of them.

Daniel Martinez (Team Colombia) is just a first year U23 rider and hasn't raced a ton this year, mainly in stage races, but really showed his potential in the Tour of Utah, where he finished in the top 10 on the final three stages and snagged 8th overall and the best young rider's jersey by 9 seconds over Lachlan Morton. His potential ceiling is very high as just a first year so while he is most likely not the leader for this year, watch for him in years to come.

If the roster cannot get any deeper, Aldemar Reyes (GW-Shimano) will be making an appearance. The 20-year old finished 2nd in the Vuelta de la Juventud Colombia (Vuelta a Colombia U23) behind Ecuadorian Richie Carapaz. He was the best young rider in last year's big boy Vuelta a Colombia but dropped out of this year's edition after the stage 8 time trial.

The final member of the team is German Chaves (Coldeportes-Claro), who will add a bit more of depth for Gaviria in his hunt for stage wins and a potential points jersey.

Obviously, the biggest snubs from this race include Manzana-Postobon's Hernan Aguirre & Diego Ochoa as well as Katusha stagiaire Jhonatan Restrepo. Politics go a long way here with Aguirre and Ochoa being persona non grata in the l'Avenir outfit while the Pan Am Champion Restrepo is getting his chances on the pro level.

They come in with a hell of a roster that could win...3 stages? Gaviria is one of the best chances to win the sprint stages as he is already able to compete on a pro level while climbing wise, they have a quartet of some of the best climbers in the Western Hemisphere. While all of this is there, I do not see a Colombian winning the Tour de l'Avenir this year. A spot on the podium, yes, but I have reservations about a team like this taking the overall win. Gaviria should win the points jersey unless a climber ends up taking it from him.

More teams are being announced so stay tuned!

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