Thursday, September 24, 2015

U23 World RR Championship Preview

Just a little bit over 1 day from now and the U23s will be clicking into their pedals to take on 162 kilometers of up and down tarmac that makes up the 2015 World Championships in Richmond, Va. Just like the TT, Espoirs Central will be on the ground for the event so I expect someone to come up and say high. Or at least say something if they see me on TV. But I digress...

My picks for the TT weren't too shabby with my 1-2 of Mads Würtz and Max Schachmann slotting into position with my 3rd place of Ryan Mullen being slightly off. The TT is fairly straight forward but with a RR course like is going to be a crapshoot.

The course itself is punchy with three short climbs coming in at the end of the circuit. You can see the course profile here. When I say the climbs are short, Libby Hill, the cobbled climb that has been on the tip of many people's  tongues, is just 300 meters. The Paterberg, which is one of the shortest Ronde van Vlaanderen climbs, is 380 meters in length. The super steep 23rd Street is just 100 meters while Governor Street is just 300 meters. However, the big debate will be how selective this course will turn out to be. The finishing straight is tough. It is a deceptive false flat that some might attack thinking that they can stay away only to be brought back in the final 200 meters. Some might try to go for a longer move on Governor Street and hope the pack looks at each other. It could turn into a situation like Valkenburg 2012 where the pack gets over the climb and then it is a small group sprinting it out for the win. Or if it turns out like a classic, a group will get away with ~25km to go and ride away from the peloton. I'm tending to lean towards some sort of sprint but the possibilities are endless.

Now with the race being so wide open in terms of options, let's consider who is riding.

We need to start with Denmark, because if there Tour de l'Avenir showed anything, it is that the majority of their roster is capable of a win here. Soren Kragh Andersen is a name on the tip of everyone's tongue after a season with 7 UCI wins. Kragh Andersen certainly could take a small group to the line and win a sprint, depending on who is in the move. U23 World TT champ Mads Würtz Schmidt could do something similar however, unlike Kragh Andersen, he needs a breakaway to stick to have any shot.

On the sprinting end of things, they have Alexander Kamp and Michael Carbel. Kamp is the most classics oriented sprinter however he needs quiet a small group to produce anything. Carbel is the out-and-out sprinter here but if a group accelerates on the climb, he could certainly be spit out.

This is a country that will not be waiting on a bunch sprint to play out and will be very active in the moves. Denmark could do the double but on the other hand, their plans might backfire and we could see just 1 or 2 in the top 15. 

Gianni Moscon will be looking to redeem himself after last year's Worlds when he slid out on the final descent to the finish in Ponferrada. Moscon has proven himself to be one of the most pro-ready riders in the U23 peloton with podiums galore in the U23 one-day races including a win in the Trofeo Almar Nations Cup and a close 2nd at the Ronde van Vlaanderen U23. He can mix it up in a select sprint but for the best result, he will be looking to thin out the field as much as possible. In case of a sprint, Italy comes prepared with perhaps the fastest sprinter in the field, Simone Consonni, who is Lampre bound next season. Consonni comes with trade teammates Davide Martinelli and Oliveira Troia as help. If Consonni can't cut it, Martinelli is a safe back up as he was 3rd in the European U23 RR.

Jan Dieteren is another rider that lacks a signature win to his palmares but if he can make the selection, he is probably Germany's best shot at a top result. The Germans are stacked with TT talent in the likes of Lennard Kamna, Max Schachmann and Nils Politt. Without Silvio Herklotz, who has been out with mysterious injury the 2nd half of the season, the Germans will be relying on Dieteren or perhaps Jonas Koch, who is known for his long attacks that have proven to be lucrative.

Owain Doull showed at the Tour of Britain that his sprint is nearly pro ready and that in the u23 ranks, he is a danger man. Yet outside of Fleche du Sud, Doull has been the nearly man with a heaping handful of top 10s. Doull will be GB's first leader but in case of attacks, they have riders like Tao Geoghegan Hart and Alex Peters to pick up any slack.

Twan Brusselman is the best shot at a result for the Dutch on this classics-style course. They have a lot of other riders that are talented such as Steven Lammertink and Sam Oomen that could get into moves but Brusselman is their best chance if it comes down to a sprint.

Dion Smith leads a trio of New Zealand riders to the Worlds RR and Smith, along with fellow countrymen James Oram and Hayden McCormick signed with ONE Pro Cycling for next year, is the best shot for a medal. Smith has had an incredibly consistent year but lacks a signature win to hang his hat on. This finish suits him with the long false flat up to the line. Hayden McCormick, who was 10th in this year's Liege-Bastogne-Liege, will be his primary helper.

Daniel Hoelgaard will be the best shot for glory as Norway is looking to go back-to-back after Sven Erik Bystrom snuck away for the win last year. Hoelgaard is only bested by the fastest sprinters so if he can survive the selection on the climbs then he is within a shot of a medal. If the race blows to pieces, Norway has Truls Engen Korsaeth, who seems to be in very good form after his 4th in the U23 TT.

Erik Baska did win the European U23 RR in a bunch sprint however that was a very flat course around Tartu with just one small bump. He has the speed but is untested in this type of race.

Tom Bohli is the only viable option for the Swiss in terms of a result. While Dylan Page is their best sprinter, I don't see him making the fractured finish or at least in contention for any medals. If Bohli makes a move and gets some guys with him, it could be the best option for them.

Colin Joyce & Logan Owen will be amped for perhaps the only Worlds in the USA during their lifetime (if history holds true). Both are suited for this type of race with Owen having the more out and out speed while Joyce can stick with a more select group and sprint it out from there. If a longer move gets it, Greg Daniel has shown himself to be unafraid of getting into lactic acid up to his eyeballs.

Mikhel Raim & Martin Laas are the two dark-horse Estonians that could surprise with a medal (of the bronze color, at best). Raim is a through and through classics rider that was 6th in the Ronde van Vlaanderen U23 after getting off the front of the peloton and 2nd in the Trofeo Almar, finishing 2nd in a group of 10 sprint to Gianni Moscon. Laas is the better rider in the bunch sprint but can make a selection on occassion. Estonia has been having one of their best seasons since the mid 00s so it could be a milestone ride here if the stars align.

France isn't shy with picking Pro Continental riders to try and go for glory in the U23 ranks. Some call it cherry picking. I call it a slap in the face to development cycling. Others say why the hell not. In any case, France has a deep team with many option. Kevin Ledanois and Anthony Turgis both certainly have the endurance for this race as both are professionals but I don't think either of them are capable of taking a win here unless the stars truly align. Both have a decent turn of speed and can get over a lumpy course but nothing that separates them from everyone else. If the race gets selective, they have Frank Bonnamour, who was just 8th in the recent and hellish GP Wallonie and was 5th in Ronde van Vlaanderen U23 earlier this year. Hugo Hofstetter is also in this mold but a bit less suited for the climbs. Fabien Grellier might be suited for the final climbs as he has a kick on him after some hills.

Belgium has never won the U23 Worlds RR and I don't think this will be the year. However, they have a pretty nice line up. The big name is Laurens De Plus, who is better known for his climbing in the high mountains but he can throw down some attacks in one-day races to snag results such as 4th place in the Trofeo Almar. Daan Myngheer has been the other consistent rider here with top 15s in RvV U23 and La Cote Picarde as well as Omloop Het Nieuwsblad U23 and GP Criquielion. The same applies for Maxime Farazijn, who is a better alternative because he has a better sprint on him than Myngheer. I would say the team is going with an open mind and will be laying it out on the line but if a sprint is looming, Farazijn will be the man.

Austria has a strong but perhaps misplaced squad. Michael Gogl has been in good form in recent weeks riding with Tinkoff-Saxo as a stagiaire but he would need to get a lot of luck for a high result. Felix Grossschartner is doing well after a strong Giro della Regioni including a stage win but the course is a little bit flat for him however he did win the Trofeo Piva in a solo move. Gregor Muhlberger is obviously a powerhouse but on such a flat course with short climbs, I don't see him being much of a factor unless he gets into a breakaway move.

Australia is I mean, perhaps Jack Haig can mix it up as well as some of their other time trialists but this team seems destined to be pack fill unless Haig gets into a special move with some other engines.

The only other major team I didn't touch is Russia but they just don't seem to have any riders that fit this course. Mamyr Stash can certainly sprint but needs a pan-flat course. The rest of the team is chock full of climbers that, while strong, don't fit the parcours. Ildar Arslanov is suited for Alpine climbs, not 300 meters climbs that demand 1000 watts.

A couple of other riders that could be coming to a top 10 near you if the chips fall right:

Frantisek Sisr (Czech Republic)
Gustav Hoog (Sweden)
Rok Korosec (Slovenia)

Got any more hot tips? Is someone on the form of their life? Is a favorite not doing too hot? Let me know.

Prediction are just going to have to wait on that. I need a little bit more time so follow me on Twitter @Vlaanderen90 for my podium prediction tomorrow morning.

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