Monday, August 17, 2015

Tour de l'Avenir Team Preview: France & Netherlands

To speed this process up, let's get a few more teams in the mix.


Roster: Elie Gesbert (Pays de Dinan), Fabien Grellier (Vendée U), Jérémy Maison (CC Etupes), Guillaume Martin (CC Etupes), Nans Peters (Chambery CF) and Leo Vincent (CC Etupes)

Like every other nation that has any GC hopes, France is bringing out all of their best climbers. They are not bringing anyone that will be able to compete in the bunch sprints for the first few days with every concentrated on the final three stages that will decide the GC.

In terms of GC, it might be something that the road decides. Going on most recent results, Nans Peters would be the choice to go for the yellow jersey. Peters exceeded expectations at the Tour de l'Ain when he was able to stay with the best climbers (albeit being caught from the breakaway on one stage) and combined with a strong prologue, he finished 4th overall only 24 seconds behind winner Alexander Geniez. Peters is an all-around talent as he was 4th in the Ronde van Vlaanderen U23 this year and has a strong time trial motor on him. National coach Pierre-Yves Chatelon has his interest piqued by the thought of Peters being able to climb on Alpine climbs but will not put all his chips in his corner.

The other two riders that will form the French GC backbone are CC Etupes teammates Maison and Martin. Maison has been on the cusp of something big over the past two seasons. The first time many heard of him was from last year's Tour de l'Avenir, where he got better as the race progressed and ended up 9th overall. He continued that success this year on the 2nd stage of the Ronde de l'Isard when he went on a huge solo move on Plateau de Beille and took a huge chunk of time out of the duo of Simone Petilli & Laurens De Plus to win the stage and move up to 3rd overall, where he would finish the race. Following a "down" Zavod Miru U23, he was back again at the Tour des Pays de Savoie and while he had to deal with some...seedy...competition, he was able to hold 4th overall. While he wasn't on point for l'Ain, he got better as each stage went on so perhaps there is no need to worry too much?

Martin's signature win from the season was his breakaway win in the Liege-Bastogne-Liege U23 but he has been pretty good in the mountains this year. He was the best in l'Isard where he was 3rd on the opening two mountain stages and locked up 4th overall but since then he has been in that 2nd tier of climbers that have been good but not knocking people down. He was good in l'Ain but missed a crucial split on the final stage to miss the yellow jersey group.

Leo Vincent won the final two stages of the Ronde de l'Isard and Tour des Pays de Savoie. Expect no less of him taking the final stage in l'Avenir and getting some cool nickname. He will be needed support in the mountains. Elie Gesbert is a developing climber but hasn't seemed to get his feet in the big mountains yet. He will be doing the yeoman's work all race long.

What else does this team need? Sprinters? A time trialist? Nah. Another rider to chew up the kilometers that can climb well and keep the climbers out of trouble on the flat stages. This rider is...Fabien Grellier.

The only potential snub I see from this squad is first-year Aurelien Paret-Peintre (Chambery CF), who has been climbing very well this year but I can understand the justification for leaving him at home as he is just a first year but still, he could provide a breakout performance here.

Prediction: I will say this...if Jeremy Maison is on form, he could make the final podium.


Roster: Mathieu van der Poel (BKCP-Powerplus), Sam Oomen, Lennard Hofstede, Stan Godrie, Martijn Tusveld (all Rabobank Development) and Koen Bouwman (SEG Racing)

I have shied away from making a pick that could win the overall so far. Sam Oomen can win this edition of the Tour de l'Avenir. Looking across the board this year, Oomen has put up some of the most consistent results for any U23. Oomen has finished in the top 10 in stage races five times this year including a win in the Rhône Alpes Isere Tour and 2nd in the Tour des Pays de Savoie & Tour Alsace. Remember back to last year and Oomen was 2nd to convicted doper Ilya Davidenok on Plateau de Solaison as just a first year rider. Oomen has the engine. He can climb with pretty much everyone in this field. He has the team. No reason why he can't.

Speaking of the team, he has a damn good one behind him. Mathieu van der Poel is making his l'Avenir debut and if Oomen is the leader, van der Poel is the super domestique. There isn't a particular stage that suits him besides stage 4, which ends on a descent without too much climbing, but he will be able to mess some people up along the way. He can certainly mix it up on all types of terrain so he will be a breath of fresh air.

The team's "sprinter" is Stan Godrie, the U23 RR champion. He isn't a out-and-out bunch sprinter but he has a good kick on him with an example being his recent 2nd place in the Antwerpse Havenpijl behind burly Lithuanian Aidis Kruopis.

A yeoman that will be trying to do a bit of everything will be Martijn Tusveld. He could be acting as a leadout for Godrie while shagging bottles and getting in breakaways for Oomen & co.

The two climbers Oomen has for support will be Valle d'Aosta stage winner Koen Bouwman and Hofstede. Hofstede assumed this position for Oomen in Pays de Savoie, where Oomen was 2nd overall and Hofstede 10th. While his best result came in the recent Trofeo Almar (3rd), he was going well in the Tour de l'Ain and seems to be on track to have Oomen in his shadow until show time. Bouwman was going well in Aosta and one the short but spectacular stage on the Colle delGran San Bernardo. He has proven his climbing skills elsewhere so if Oomen has any overall shot, he will be grateful for Bouwman.

No snubs here as the Dutch stayed away from any World Tour or even Pro Continental talents, which is applaudable. This race is for experience and...well, don't get it started again.

Prediction: Sam Oomen wins the overall.

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