Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Alexey Vermeulen: Making the step up after l'Avenir downer

Things were looking for Alexey Vermeulen at the end of July. A successful Giro della Valle d'Aosta showed he was able to stay with some big-time climbers in the mountains and had him hopeful for the Tour de l'Avenir in August. There was zero doubt in his mind that he would be on the form of his life in France trying to bring the USA a top GC result.

Just two kilometers into the Trofeo Almar Nations Cup, there was a change of plans. Alexey describes the moment best on his personal blog:
"As I came screaming into the mess of riders crashing in front on me only 2 km into the race...I found myself in that moment where everything slows down and you can nearly control the uncontrollable. Gripping my brakes as hard as I can, attempting to find any sort of traction in my tires as they slide across the road like sheet of black ice. All of a sudden I feel the bike stop as I go flying over the handlebars on to the asphalt at nearly 40 mph. I quickly get up to assess myself as well as get out of the path of the riders behind me who are continuing to crash, but I immediately sit back down once out of the road, something is wrong."
 Vermeulen's season was just turned on its head. "I had to argue for an x-ray at the hospital in Italy because I was told my wrist couldn’t be broken if I was texting" Vermeulen said, "I was texting my director!" The prognosis was a broken scaphoid (wrist) and initially, the Pinckney, Michigan native thought he could pull off the impossible but eventually he came to the realization that it wasn't going to happen.

 "After Trofeo Almar, I was in denial that I could race in a wrist splint and didn’t give up on racing until a few days before the start. I couldn’t comprehend that I would actually not race L’Avenir; it had been the focal point of my year." Vermeulen continued saying, "It still hurts thinking about missing L’Avenir this year.  I turned down a stagiaire spot to race l’Avenir in a leader’s role. I thought with a little good fortune it could be my big result for this year and a perfect wind up for Worlds. Last year, 29th place was a learning experience, and this year I had put in the work and adjusted my race schedule to be in top form for L’avenir…I guess we will never know. "
Vermeulen bucked up upon returning home and after consulting with a family friend who happens to be an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Michigan, he decided to have surgery. The reason? To speed the recovery time and perhaps get a chance to salvage his season with one more big race...Worlds.

With the wrist on the mend, Vermeulen had one shot to qualify for the USA's World RR team for Richmond at the Reading 120 in Central PA. While it was a long shot, Vermeulen toed the line nearly 7 weeks after breaking his scaphoid and gave it a shot. While the monsoon weather basically took him out of the running as the descent off Mount Penn was atrocious, Vermeulen was just enjoying getting back to a racing level. He didn't make Worlds yet Vermeulen wouldn't have done anything different with the comeback try because, as he sees it, it is better to try and fail than to not try at all.

Looking back at the season as a whole, it certainly had its high points but it wasn't quite as neat as 2014. "In 2014, I never flatted, crashed or had any ill-timed mechanicals-lucky.  2015 was a bit the opposite as I missed many opportunities, mostly due to things out of my control.  That’s part of racing and I’m a better rider for it."  An example of one of these missed opportunities was as the Liege-Bastogne-Liege U23 this year. "I made a late split with 10 or so other riders in the last 10 km, and then we were shown the wrong direction by a confused course marshal. In the end, there is no one really to blame except myself for not knowing the course. I was 5 hours deep in a race and cross eyed just following the wheel in front of me," Vermuelen said.

It wasn't all thumbs down this season though. Vermeulen went up against the Axeon & Cal Giant leviathan on the difficult North Lake Tahoe course with a handful of BMC teammates. On a course filled with climbs, crosswinds and heat that cracked droves of riders, Vermeulen star was shining. "I really thought I had a chance when I went 20 km from the line and no one (else) could follow," Vermeulen said. It was looking great but for the Pinckney, Michigan native until 3 kilometers to go, when he was brought back by a trio of riders including eventual winner Keegan Swirbul. While it wasn't a win, Vermeulen didn't mind the result. "I was bummed not to pull on the stars and stripes but at least I made them work for it!" He proceeded to go 2nd to in the U23 TT to United Healthcare signing Dan "Swole" Eaton.
In Europe, Vermeulen did string together some results in mountainous stage races in the Ronde de l'Isard and the Giro della Valle d'Aosta. In l'Isard., Vermeulen wasn't able to stay with the pure climbers but consistent top 10 finishes in the three mountain stages netted him 7th overall.  In Aosta, Vermeulen had probably the best day of his season on the brutal stage 3 to Valtournenche, which was 5.5 hours on the bike on a 100 mile course. Vermeulen finished 6th on the day in the same group with Rob Power, Laurens De Plus, Simone Petilli and Sindre Lunke, all of whom are going WT next season. While a high GC finish didn't pan out, Vermeulen was realistic about the year.

"l'Isard, Nationals and Aosta were decent results but each race left me hungrier than the last. I do not I regret chances taken." Vermeulen said. "I regret crashing, of course, but it’s a tough sport. This season had its ups and downs but ended on a high note. Signing with Lotto validates past efforts, and I’m excited to race at the next level."  

One piece missing from U23 that would have benefitted Vermeulen is longer time trials. "I am a good climber but a time trial is where I could really gain time against the pure climbers. My engine is made for longer efforts in terms of days and individual TT efforts." Long time trials are virtually non-existant in U23 racing with the longest ones being just over 20 kilometers in length. If even given a 40km time trial, it could see a rider such as Vermeulen vault up the GC ranks as opposed to letting just the best climbers have a chance in races with mountains. Vermeulen continued, "I believe U23 stage races need longer time trials to prepare for the professional ranks. Even l’Avenir, considered to be the U23 Tour de France, only has a prologue; longer time trials are a missing piece in U23 racing."

While Vermeulen might have had some up and downs with the season, his talent certainly isn't taken for granted as Lotto-JumboNL signed him for the next two seasons on a neo-pro deal. Vermeulen, whose family hails from the Netherlands, sees the move as a little coming home and plans on learning Dutch in the off-season in preparation for the move. While Vermeulen is the lone American on the team, he doesn't have a fellow English speaker in George Bennett on the team and will be a part of the team's plan to branch out from just Dutch speakers with Primoz Roglic (Slovenia) and Enrico Battaglin (Italy) joining the team. Vermeulen will also be more at home as he plans on relocating to Girona, which has long been the English-speaking base in Europe with many English speaking riders having ties to the area.

While discussing off-season plans, one in particular had Vermeulen light up. "ICEMAN!! You know I will be toeing the line again in the freezing mud in November to kick off my 2016 season if the wrist is 100%. It’s great fun for me because it’s the one race I don’t race for contention but just enjoy being on the trails in Northern Michigan." For those that are not in the know, Iceman Cometh is a Midwest staple that takes place every year in the Northern Michigan on a stretch of single and double track MTB trail from Kalkaska to Traverse City every November before the icy grips of winter fully take hold. While this year's race is sold out and will take place on November 7th, check out the race's website for some more background.

While it most likely will not be an instant transformation, Vermuelen will be one of a handful of American riders that will be building towards being a GC threat. With Tejay van Garderen being the only legitimate Grand Tour threat and Andrew Talansky not being incredibly consistent, teams are looking to get young Americans and mold them into riders that can contend in World Tour events. Vermeulen, Lawson Craddock and Gavin Mannion are in with the likes of Ian Boswell and Larry Warbasse as young Americans trying to cut it. With his time trialing ability, Vermeulen could make an early impact in some smaller races next season so while the jump is quite big, there is no reason to ignore him.

To follow Alexey on his journey as a neo-pro, you can follow him on Twitter.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Transfers Extravaganza, Pt. 1

The transfer season has seemed to be a bit...heavy this year with riders going every which way before the teams are locked for the new year. While other sites like cyclingfever are amazing and update transfers by the hour, I'll give the rundown of some more U23 focused moves. These moves are still ongoing so you will see multiple posts regarding this. While I would love to start with teams such as Axeon and BMC Development, their rosters are not finalized for next year.

Lotto-Soudal U23

IN: Alex Braybrooke, 18 (Great Britain), Jonas Castrique, 18 (Zannata-Lotto Menen), Stan Dewulf, 18 (Zannata-Lotto Menen), Robbe Ghys, 18 (Sport en Moedig Genk), Mikkel Honoré, 18 (Danemark), Kevin Inkelaar, 18 (Netherlands/Avia WCup), Ward Jaspers, 18 (Balen BC), Bjorg Lambrecht, 18 (Avia WCup), Edward Planckaert, 20 (BCV Works-Soenens), Harm Vanhoucke, 18 (Young CT), Thomas Vereecken, 18 (Avia-WCup), Aaron Verwilst, 18 (Tielt)

OUT: Jean-Albert Carnevali (CC Chevigny), Maarten Craeghs, Laurens De Plus (Etixx-OPQS), Frederik Frison, Alexander Geuens, Mathias Krigbaum, Hayden McCormick (ONE Pro Cycling), Ruben Pols (Topsport Vlaanderen), Brecht Ruyters, George Tansley, Dries Van Gestel (Topsport Vlaanderen), Kenneth Van Rooy (Topsport Vlaanderen), Massimo Vanderaerden (Veranclassics-Ekoi), Dieter Verwilst

A giant reshuffle leaves Lotto with one of their youngest teams in years. 11 of the 24 riders are first year U23 riders and another 7 of them will be 2nd year riders. That makes 75% of their team coming into 2016 with 1 or less years in the U23 ranks. The returning riders are no super stars. Riders such as Steff Cras and Enzo Wouters are really going to need to step it up for next season while Vereecken was one of the most consistent juniors this past season.

It looks like it is going to be an interesting year for Kurt van de Wouwer's team but a lot of younger riders will get chances in bigger races, which can only help them.


CC Etupes

IN: Rémi Aubert, 20 ans (AC Bisontine)
Alexandre Ballet, 20 ans (Team Hörmann)
Mickaël Plantureux, 21 ans (VC Rouen 76)
Romain Seigle, 21 ans (AC Bisontine)
Emilien Viennet, 23 ans (AVC Aix-en-Provence)

OUT: Jérémy Maison (FDJ), Hugo Hofstetter (Cofidis), Guillaume Martin (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Thomas Bouteille (AC Bisontine), Mathieu Le Lavandier (WAW Pro Cycling), Maxime Le Lavandier (WAW Pro Cycling)

Just seeing the riders that are leaving, fans would see that Doubs-based CC Etupes is in for a long year ahead. They are sending their three star riders to the pro ranks in Maison, Martin and Hofstetter while the Le Lavandier brothers, who were a shadow of themselves this year compared to years past, are off to a new continental team, We Are Wales.

While the team is looking lighter off the bat, they still have some strengths. Leo Vincent proved himself in the mountains with final stage wins in both the Tour des Pays de Savoie and Ronde de l'Isard. Damien Touze was a standout junior and should be better in the one day races next season.Viennet is bouncing back after a tumultuos fall from the World Tour ranks with FDJ and will be looking for his first full season of racing after barely getting any racing kilometers the past few seasons.



IN: Cédric Beullens, 18 (Junior, Kon. Balen BC)
Michael Cools, 21 (BCV Works-Soenens)
Cédric Defreyne, 20 (BCV Works-Soenens)
Jordan De Haes, 18 (Junior, Davo Cycling Team)
Nico Houtteman, 19 (VZW Tieltse Rennersclub)
Célestin Leyman, 18 (Junior, APT-Spie Douterloigne)
Guillaume Seye, 19 (VL Technics-Experza-Abutriek)
Bjarne Vanacker, 18 (Junior, Zannata-Lotto CT Menen)
Gauthier Vandevyvere, 18 (CT Spider King Ieper)

OUT: Gilles Loncin (arrêt), Miel Pyfferoen (Atom 6-Tops Antiek), Maxime Farazijn (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Aimé De Gendt (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise)

Lots and lots of Belgians...with two of their big guns in Farazijn and De Gendt going to Topsport, riders like Ben Declercq, Christopher Noppe and Piet Allegaert will need to take more of a leading role. Looking at the new junior arrivals, Cedric Beullens is one of the ones to watch after winning the Keizer der Juniors.


Chambery CF

IN: Léo Danès, 18 (BIC 2000), Aurélien Doleatto, 18 (Bourg-en-Bresse Ain Cyclisme), Kevin Geniets, 18 (LP 07 Schifflange), Guillaume Millasseau, 18 (Argenteuil Val de Seine 95), Romain Pommelet, 18 (EC Plouha-Lanvollon), Martin Alexander Salmon, 18 (Wheelsports-RV Queidersbach)

OUT: Nico Denz (Ag2r La Mondiale) François Bidard (AG2R La Mondiale), Mattia Viel (Unieuro-Wilier-Trevigiani), Freddy Ovett (SEG Racing), Benjamin Jasserand (retire) and Julien Roux (CR4C Roanne)

The hills are alive with the sounds of new U23 riders in Chambery. Chambery CF, which has been tied to the Ag2R foundation since just about forever, is bringing in a new batch of young recruits to replace a successful class including Denz and Bidard graduating to the pro team. They will have just one non-U23 rider (MTB specialist Jordan Sarrou) on the roster and have some of the biggest hopes in French cycling returning including Nans Peters and Aurelien Paret-Peintre.

With the exception of Leo Danes who comes from BIC 2000, all of their new signings are juniors with German Martin Salmon and Luxembourger Kevin Geniets being the ones with the best junior results.

The team will most likely not be overwhelming and win the Coupe de France DN1 but with the amount of young talent they have, their riders will be bound to break through somewhere.


More to come in the next few days...

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Viktor Manakov

So for those of you that are smart and paying attention to the European Track Championships in Grechen, Switzerland, you would know that Viktor Manakov (Russia) is currently leading the Men's Omnium after the first three events. Manakov rode for Leopard-Trek on the road this year and while his results on the road have been spiky to say the least, Manakov has been a fixture in the world of the track omnium after winning the European Track Omnium in 2013 and finishing 2nd in the U23 edition in 2014. Manakov already has one international omnium win under his belt this year and is making a strong case for the Russian spot in the Rio Olympics.

Viktor Manakov Sr. on the far left "celebrating" the Soviet win in 1980 Olympics
Yet most of you probably are not aware that he is the 2nd Viktor Manakov to be a scourge on the velodrome. Back in the last 70's, Viktor Manakov joined the Lokomotiv school of Alexander Kuznetsov and joined promising young stars such as Alexander Krasnov. Manakov was apart of the World Championship squad in the Junior Team Pursuit and 2nd in the Individual Pursuit in 1978. Manakov would be apart of the winning Team Pursuit squad in the Moscow Olympics in 1980 before having a down period in the early to mid 80's. The Soviets and Manakov re-emerged in the mid-80's in the team pursuit with a very young Viatcheslav Ekimov and Krasnov. In 1985 and 1986, they were the bronze medalists in the Team Pursuit World Championships before cracking through the barriers in 1987 to win the World Championship.

"Papa, how do I go like you did in the pursuit?"
It would be the last hurrah for Manakov and Krasnov as both would miss out on the Olympic selection for 1988 to Lithuanian talents Umaras and Kasputis along with the now-deceased wunderkind Dmitry Nelyubin, who was murdered on New Year's Day in 2005.

Manakov ended up marrying Jolanta Polikeviciute, the Lithuanian cyclist whose twin-sister Rasa won the 2001 World Championship and who is 10 years younger than Manakov. The couple had younger Viktor before the vast majority of Jolanta's career results and younger Viktor grew up riding many of his mom's old team bikes.

Viktor Sr. wanted his younger name-sake to pick anything but cycling because of how painful the sport is but the two wheels won out and have taken his son to new heights.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Italian Exodus

Looking at the transfer season this year, those with a keen (and nerdy) eye such as myself the abundance of riders from the Italian amateur crowd that are moving onwards and upwards. While this tends to happen every year, it is happen on a near unprecedented level this year that will leave the landscape void of nearly every major name. Let's go through a run down of who is jumping ship to the pro ranks...


Davide Martinelli (Etixx-OPQS)
Giulio Ciccone (Bardiani-CSF)
Simone Consonni (Lampre-Merida)
Edward Ravasi (Lampre-Merida)


Gianni Moscon (SKY)
Simone Velasco (Bardiani-CSF)
Nicola Toffali (Roth-Skoda)

Pala Fenice

Marlen Zmorka (most likely Androni)


Mirko Trosino (Southeast)

General Store

Mirco Maestri (Bardiani-CSF)

Viris Maserati

Luca Pacioni (Androni)

These are 11 riders that are leaving the amateur ranks for World Tour or Pro Continental teams and this is not even including riders jumping to and from continental teams such as Unieuro-Wilier, Amore & Vita, etc. There goes the best sprinters, the best climbers and nearly everything in between.

Taking a look at the U23s that are left for next season, it is a much slimmer list. Returning U23s that will be instant contenders next year include:

Marco Maronese, Andrea Vendrame (Zalf-Euromobil)

Riccardo Minali, Seid Lizde (Colpack)

Filippo Ganna (Viris Maserati)

Edoardo Affini (Selle Italia)

Davide Ballerini (Hoppla Petroli Firenze-Tinkoff)

and on the Continental side, there is Simone Ravanelli and Giovanni Carboni (Unieuro-Wilier)

Certainly not packing the punch that they had in 2015 but things are not all lost. Carboni, Lizde, Affini and Ganna are quite the talented trio that have strong time trial pedigree. Maronese can sprint but has only produced in amateur races. Minali is another strong sprinter that takes after his father, Nicola. Vendrame and Ballerini are promising one-day racers while Ravanelli is the best climbing talent left with Carboni also being an option.

There are juniors coming in but it is going to be a light year for the Italian U23s in 2016, barring a miracle that it. Got a hot tip? Know an Italian junior that is going to light everyone up next year? Let us know!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Getting to Know: Adam De Vos

Standing at the start/finish line barriers in Richmond for the World Championships, a woman was standing just down from my girlfriend and I that was yelling quite loudly. We were a bit perplexed but through a game of telephone on the barriers, we learned she was the mother of one of the riders in the race. Which rider? Well the start was held up by a couple of minutes and a Canadian rider was circling back and forth. Seeing as my on the ground experience up until then was slim to none, I grabbed for my start list and saw that #150 was Adam De Vos. I thought nothing more of it at the time and proceeded about my day. That is until the finish of the race when De Vos came across with the first group of riders behind winner Kevin Ledanois to finish the race 9th, which is just the fourth time a Canadian has finished in the top 10 of the World U23 RR since its inception in 1996.

Adam on the final turn onto Broad Street
Photo: PedalMag/Ethan Glading
De Vos was not surprised about his mom making herself known at the start line. "She is good at making friends while spectating and I think she had the whole Eritrean contingent cheering for me by the end of the race. My parents are very supportive and are the reason I've been able to pursue cycling over the years." De Vos, hailing from Victoria, BC, rise in the sport has been fairly quick by some standards. He only began to race bikes as a high school senior after a decade of swimming but in just over a year since his first race in June 2010, he was selected for the Canadian Junior Worlds Team in Copenhagen, where he was the team's top finisher in 65th (main peloton finish). Most riders that start racing their senior year of high school don't end up getting a World's spot in less than 12 months but thanks to swimming, he already had a knowledge base for training to pick from.

De Vos, like many young Canadians, began making the yearly trek to Southern California in 2012 and with Trek/Red Truck he had some good results in regional events such as 2nd in the Tour of Walla Walla (Canadian climber Rob Britton was in 4th place in that race) and in 2013, the Canadian National team took him over for some wonderful, kick-you-in-the-gut racing in Europe including the spring Nations Cups (Ronde van Vlaanderen and La Cote Picarde), the U23 Liege-Bastogne Liege and what is a right of passage for anyone that goes over, kermesse racing.

Since he was just a couple of years into the sport at this point, De Vos was quite green and self-admittedly a rider that gives it a go on nearly any type of course, 2013 and 2014 were scarce with big time results but were filled with some promising rides. When asked what type of a race that he prefers, the Canuck says, "My favourite thing would be a really really hard day on the last day of a stage race, for example the Gila Monster in the Tour of the Gila, where you have stage race dynamics but also people are really going for it. Some people outside the top ten are maybe throwing in big moves trying to move up and maybe a favourite doesn't have it and cracks big time. Those are the races I really like." The Gila Monster stage is the final stage of the Tour of the Gila and is traditionally where the race explodes. De Vos' self-assessment is spot on as a gauge for his progression as a U23. In 2013, he was a respectable 33rd in a group with soon to be Trek Factory pro Kiel Reijnen while in 2014 with H&R Block, he elevated that finish to 24th. He has similar results in races such as the Cascade Classic, Redlands Classic and San Dimas Stage Race where he would save his best for last.

This year, he stayed with H&R Block as they made the move to the continental ranks and hired on Chris Baldwin as a coach. Baldwin was a two-time US Time Trial Champion in 2003 & 2005 and one of the most consummate professionals during his time in a career that spanned 15 seasons. With Balwin behind him, De Vos implemented some more gym focused work into his pre-season followed some specific efforts that had him coming in hot in March and April.

De Vos' time trial saw notable improvement in 2015
Photo: Oak Bay Bicycles
The work paid dividends as De Vos was 4th in San Dimas and soon after, he followed it up with 5th in Redlands, where he was less than a minute down on winner Phil Gaimon but ahead of fellow Canadian Mike Woods, Chris Horner and Lachlan Morton. He would then appear once again on the Gila Monster stage, where this time he made the lead group and against some hitters including Woods, Horner, Daniel Jaramillo and Rob Britton, De Vos finished 5th on the stage. His performance garnered him 7th overall and best U23 rider ahead of the much touted Tao Geoghegan Hart and James Oram.

When asked about the media not paying him any mind for cracking the top 10 of one of America's hardest stage races, De Vos was nonchalant saying, "It's kind of frustrating to see an article per week on someone's asthma condition but there is not much I can do about that." Zero mentions by either Cyclingnews or Velonews the whole season made De Vos an unknown quantity to many outside of Canada.

With the Canadian U23s on the hunt for UCI points to qualify spots for Richmond Worlds, De Vos went down to the Pan Am Championships in Mexico and instead of lining up for both U23 events, he and Alex Cataford went into the Elite Men's RR. In one of his first big one-day races and on a challenging course, De Vos went deep for a 5th place and 25 UCI points. So deep in fact that he was ill back in the hotel room due to the effort. Thanks to De Vos and fellow countryman Ben Perry, Canada was able to qualify 4 spots for the U23 RR in Richmond. To cap off his brilliant spring, De Vos then went 13th at the Winston-Salem Classic (which, self-admittedly, could have been better but lacked experience) as well as the KOM prize at the Philly Classic, after spending the majority of the day out front with hometown boy Robin Carpenter.

The British Columbia native had mixed emotions on the Worlds build-up, saying "Yeah from last year (having) zero spots at world championships to this year (having) four and the top 10 finish is a pretty massive improvement. It's a shame the national team didn't send us to the Nations Cups or l'Avenir as I think we could have done something good there; getting some more race days in against world class U23s would have helped massively to be more prepared for worlds. One big benefit was that we were able to do the Quebec World Tour races for prep; they were such a high level the Worlds road race felt easy in comparison."

While the World Tour races might have been good prep, De Vos wasn't feeling like a top 10 finish was within reach heading into Worlds. "If I had felt good leading up to the race and felt like I was on super form I would have been aiming for that (a top 10 finish). Truth be told, I felt like garbage the whole week before so I was kind of metering my expectations and was not too confident heading in. After getting through a few laps and still not feeling great, I started coming around. The final two laps, when guys were coming apart, I was feeling great so I started thinking I had a shot."

The metering of expectations seemed to do the trick for De Vos as he stayed fresh for the finale and survived the pile-up on Libby Hill on the final lap when Nathan Van Hooydonck took a tumble. With Kevin Ledanois away, De Vos was grimacing for life as he hung onto the back of the lead chase group on Governor Street and was trying to be the glue to bring back the small group of Moscon, Consonni and Turgis but to no avail. De Vos was North America's best finisher in the U23 race by nearly 20 spots in the first North American Worlds in 12 years and was the cherry on the cake for is a Canadian resurgence in international cycling.

What is next for De Vos? In the off-season from September to December, he is a full-time student at the University of Victoria studying Microbiology, which he describes as a nice diversion but doesn't really cut into his training time. For now, De Vos is remaining quiet on his destination for 2016 but he had this to say. "Next year I'll have a really, really solid program. It's going to include racing in Europe which I haven't done in a few years so I'm really happy about that too." An announcement should be forthcoming.

The bigger question is where De Vos is going to fit in as he continues to develop as a rider. He has talents in stage races, especially as he works on his time trial skills, but seems to save his best for the latter parts of those races. This tactic can work sometimes but he will need to prove himself in race like Gila (again), Tour de Beauce and then going to Europe. He could see himself as an option in hilly one-day races after his Worlds breakthrough or an opportunistic stage hunter looking for KOM points. It is highly suggested that you highlight De Vos' name for the coming years.

For those of you that are not, you can follow Adam on Twitter, @A_de_Vos

Thursday, October 8, 2015

2016 UCI Nations Cup Calendar

So while I was in my Richmond bubble, I totally missed the announcement for the 2016 U23 Nations Cup calendar. Not much changes to this calendar from last year except the addition of the Kattekoers, which is apart of the Gent-Wevelgem "day", so to speak, with 4 races taking place on March 27th including the Junior Men, the U23 Men and Elite Women and Men.

The calendar is as follows...

Kattekoers - March 27th

Ronde van Vlaanderen U23 - April 9th

La Côte Picarde - April 13th

ZLM Tour - April 15th-16th

Course de la Paix - June 3rd-5th

Trofeo Almar - July 31st

Tour de l’Avenir - August 20th-27th

17 racing days is pretty good for the Nations Cup circuit plus the other .1U and .2U UCI races on the calendar. If you add up the Nations Cup and the other U23 races, there are 60 racing days just for U23 racers. Not too shabby plus all of the other .2 and amateur racing that most teams take part in through the season. Yet without an overall season competition for all of the U23 races, it seems to be a bit...hollow. Even the Nations Cup is a bit hollow as trade teams are not involved. Imagine a competition with Colpack, Zalf, Axeon, AWT-Greenway, BMC Development, Lotto-Belisol U23 and a bevy of other amateur and continental teams.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Piccolo Giro di Lombardia: Colpack Smackdown

It might be October but Team Colpack decided to sucker punch the peloton in Lombardia by taking the Piccolo Giro di Lombardia by the throat and dominating the race. At one point late in the race, it almost looked like it could have a been a 1-2-3 podium sweep.

It was a race that was held under gloomy conditions with rain happening for the majority of the race. A breakaway group including 3 Colpack riders in Giulio Ciccone, Seid Lizde and Fausto Masnada, Stefano Nardelli (Unieuro-Wilier), Ivan Garcia Cortina (AWT-Greenway), among others got away near the middle of the race . Lizde broke away on a descent and got a substantial gap on the chasing group. The time trial specialist was doing fairly well on the hills but behind, his teammate Ciccone and Masnada broke away from the chasers on one of the many hills and accelerated away.

Ciccone and Masnada were trading pulls fairly equally up until they caught and passed their teammate and sacrificial lamb Lizde. After this, Ciccone was clearly the stronger rider and looked like he could have ridden away from Masnada many times on the steep pitches. While Ciccone was breathing easy, Masnada was bracing for death and grimacing as if nails were being pounded into his quads.

While the Colpack duo were ahead, Martijn Tusveld (Rabobank Devo) was chasing behind and riding quite well. The Dutchman was taking time from the Italians but nearing the finish, he slid out on a descent and deflated his chasing efforts. Just before the line, Lennard Hofstede joined his teammate.

In the final straightaway, Ciccone and Masnada rode in easy and with the team car just behind them, Ciccone gifted the win to Masnada, who is seemingly one of the only Italian U23s that doesn't have a contract secured for next season. Tusveld beat out Hofstede for 3rd while Petilli broke up the Rabobank Devo party by coming in 5th ahead of Jan Maas. The chasing peloton was led in by Rabobank Devo's Jeroen Meijers and included such names as Edward Ravasi and Laurens De Plus.

The Italian season is reaching the finale with just a handful of races left before the bikes get put away for a few weeks.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

World Championship Notes

So I've reminisced enough about Richmond so just a few notes about the U23 race...

-Over half of the top 15 have pro contracts for next year. The whole top 5 are bound for pro teams with winner Ledanois and Turgis continuing with Fortuneo (formerly Bretagne Seche) and Cofidis, respectively. 2nd place Consonni is bound for Lampre, Gianni Moscon is off to SKY and Alexander Kamp is going (back) to CULT Energy-Stolting. Others continuing or going pro are Lennard Kamna (CULT-Stolting), Merhawi Kudus (Dimension Data), Jack Haig (Orica-GreenEdge) and Tim Kerkhof (Roompot).

-Ledanois winning in his final year as a U23 is just the 3rd time in the last 11 editions that a rider in their final U23 season won U23 Worlds. The other riders were last year's winner Sven Erik Bystrom and Fabio Duarte in 2008.

-Lucas Gaday is the first Argentinian to get a top 10 in the U23 Worlds RR since at least 2005 but I think he is a first there. Kudus was close to being the first non-South African African of taking a top 10 but finished one spot shy.

-Adam De Vos' 9th place was the first Canadian in the top 10 of the U23 Worlds RR since Michael Barry in the inaugural U23 Worlds RR in 1996 in Lugano. And of course, Guillaume Boivin in 2010 with his 3rd place.

-While Worlds is certainly a big race, with Nathan Van Hooydonck's crash on Libby Hill and the weather being erratic, I don't know how much stock should be put into Ledanois' win. Certainly he is a talent but with the shorter course and other factors, I wouldn't place him on a pedastal. Remember Peter Velits won U23 Worlds in a crazy fashion with Wes Sulzberger and Jon Bellis on the podium. Boasson Hagen crashed in the race and the guys further down in the pack have experienced much bigger and brighter careers.