Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Top First Years Edition 2016

We are just weeks away from the first races kicking off in Europe, the races have already been going on with some national championships and races abound Down Under. With the season so close to being here, it is time once again to look at my five riders that I'm watching that are going into their first year in the U23 ranks.
It is hard to say more about Adrien Costa than what has already been said by Espoirs Central and others in cycling. It is very rare when a talent like him comes across, especially for America. His climbing skills at 18 are already on an ethereal level while his time trialing has gotten him multiple medals in the Junior World Championships. The past two off-seasons he has attended training camps with Cannondale and Etixx. I have a striking feeling he won't be in U23 ranks for very long.

Directvelo had a short article on Costa this year that was informative. Costa's parents are French and it was yearly trips to France that got Costa into cycling. Watching the Tour de France on television and then going on rides with his grandfather is where his passion for 'le velo' came from. He is one of two foreign riders, the other being Russian Pavel Sivakov, that have strong ties to France.

Riding with Axeon Hagens Berman along the the U23 National Team, Costa will most likely be targeting stage races in both Europe and America. While his time trial is helpful, he could very well slot himself in the top 10 of big U23 stage races that feature big climbs such as the Ronde de l'Isard and Giro della Valle d'Aosta.
People seem to crave a new Italian prospect and while there are a handful of them including Nicola Conci and Riccardo Lucca, I will reach out on a limb and say Daniel Savini is Espoirs Central's Italian First Year U23 Pick for the Year. Otherwise known as the simple acronym, ECIFYU23PFTY. Savini took an impressive 11 wins in 2015 that included two overall classifciations (including one UCI), a mountain time trial and uphill wins galore. This cat can climb very well and is taking his talents to Hoopla Petroli Firenze, which is partnered with World Tour team Tinkoff. While still very young, he could ride very well on the amateur circuit and will be keen to get some UCI race days.
While at Richmond 2015, I saw Keagan Girdlestone for the first time and he looked like a future professional. Lean and polished, Girdlestone has a metronomic cadence on the time trial bike that was entrancing and nearly saw him take a Worlds medal in the Junior Men's TT. Girdlestone is South African by birth but lives in New Zealand and has been racing on the Australian NRS circuit with Charter Mason-Giant, where he was 2nd in the Tour of Toowoomba and 3rd in Battle on the Border This past summer he got a ride with UC Nantes Atlantique Juniors in France and while he only with them for a bit under two months, he won two UCI junior stage races and was 2nd in the senior Ronde Finesterienne to ex-Cofidis rider Jeremy Bescond. He declared for South Africa and rode the Worlds in the country's colors without stepping foot there in nearly 4 years. He can climb and he can time trial but in his first season as a U23, he has been mum about what team he will be riding for. So in the middle of writing this, it was formally announced that he would be joining the Dimension Data Continental team, which is new for this season sort of, which could signal a stagiaire spot this year or next. In any case, he is a must-watch going forward.
At the 2014 Ponferrada Worlds, Phil Liggett was going nuts towards the end of the Juniors race where Swiss Gino Mäder was on a flier after attacking on the final lap and held an advantage coming into the final straightaway. It was anti-climactic as Mäder was caught within the final kilometer and the bunch sprint was won by Jonas Bokeloh. It has capped off a successful year which saw him finish in the top 10 overall of two home stage races, the GP Reubilland and Pays de Vaud, as well as 2nd in the European Track Omnium. Some rider peak early and don't continue to grow in their 2nd junior season. Mader wasn't one of these cases.

Mäder took the first two stages of the Pays de Vaud and ended up 2nd overall behind Adrien Costa. A few weeks later, he was crowned the Swiss Junior TT Champion and soon after switched his focus to the track. At the European Championships, he was top 5 in the Madison, Pursuit and Team Pursuit. This was followed up by 2nd in the Team Pursuit at the Junior Worlds in Kazakhstan along with 4th in the Madison and 8th in the Individual Pursuit. He came back to the GP Reubliland and proceeded to tag team the race with countryman Marc Hirschi, with Mäder finishing in 2nd overall. He had another good Worlds with 5th in the TT and a top 20 placing in the RR.

Strong engine that can roll a good TT and isn't bad in the hills either. I'm unsure if he harbors track ambitions but could be a possibility for Tokyo 2020 if he does. No team annoucement that I am aware of for 2016 but probably will get rides with the Swiss National Team as well as a strong amateur team.
I thought going into Richmond Worlds, I though it would be an American 1-2 in the TT with Costa and Brandon McNulty. Leo Appelt upset my pick and did he look good doing it. Flat back and Tony Martin-esque, Appelt tore up the course and for the 2nd year running, Costa was pushed to silver. It wasn't a huge upset as Appelt won the German Junior Track Pursuit two years on the trot and won the World Junior Pursuit Championship in Kazakhstan after putting down a 3'15" 3km pursuit. He has a quick finish on the road as well too, which is really down to his huge engine that he has. Think of Cancellara contending in sprints; he didn't have a huge burst but could hold speed very well.

Appelt is with BMC Development this coming year and I have talked about him previously during their team preview but he could certainly break out for a result in a time trial or a small group sprint. It is interesting that in the picture above that he is riding a Giant-Alpecin TT bike and he has been quoted previously that his favorite team is...Giant-Alpecin. From

What team do you hope to ride for one day?My favourite team is clearly the new German team Giant-Alpecin and I hope one day I can ride for this team.
I did notice that all of these riders except Savini were in the top 5 of the World Junior TT so as not to sound like a generic news outlet, let's get some...

Honorable Mentions

Nicola Conci and Riccardo Lucca are two Italians that are looking to have an impact immediately with Zalf-Euromobil. Conci was 6th in the Junior Worlds RR and won a stage of the Giro della Lunigiani along with the UCI rated Trofeo Paganessi in a small group sprint. Lucca is a very strong climber with a lot of results in uphill time trials and climbing events. While strong in Italy with 6 wins and 11 2nd-place finishes, he didn't put up results outside Italy.
While I am always wary of big Danish talents due to past burnout issues, Mathias Norsgaard is the latest Danish talent to wet the appetite of professional teams. He is a strong talent that had two UCI wins last year that ended up in solo breakaway wins. He is also a big unit. At 2 meters in height, he towers above the peloton with few exceptions. Hailing from Silkeborg, which is equidistant from Horsens and Aarhus, he comes from a family of athletes and seems to have a good head on his shoulders. He is signed with SEG Racing and looks like he could get a good result this year, especially if he gets a chance in Denmark.

While some people think his last name is Salomon, Martin Salmon might want to have a word with you. Seriously though, Salmon had a great ride at Worlds to finish 5th, which was a crapshoot due to the slick course conditions and tough parcours. He also won the final stage of the GP General Patton in a solo move and won a round of the Junior Bundesliga. Hailing from Germersheim on the banks of the Rhine, Salmon will be going to Chambery CF for 2016, which has been having German riders of the past few years reach success such as Nico Denz.

Thomas Vereecken might be one of the Belgian hopes for the classics going forward as he was top 5 in both the Bernaudeau Junior and the Ronde van Vlaanderen Junior but was also in the top 5 overall in the Junior Zavod Miru, Trofeo Karlsberg and the Oberosterreich Rundfahrt. Fun fact: He studies Electrical Engineering.
He could have gotten a spot in the top 5 and I could regret not putting him in there. Max Kanter can roll a time trial well, he can sprint against the best and can make a decisive split. Kanter won the Driedaagse Van Axel after making two decisive breakaways and consolidating his win in the time trial. He did the same in La Coupe du President in Poland thanks to a team time trial. He took scalps in sprints against the likes of Serbian Dusan Rajovic and Russian Aleksey Kulikovsky. Kanter is joining LKT Brandenburg, which will allow him to ride the road as well as the track as he was 3rd in the Omnium at Junior Track Worlds this year.

I've written about Pavel Sivakov before and he probably should get a mention on here as well too. You can read about him in the BMC Development team preview. There is more to follow but I'm sure you will hear their names throughout the season.

If you want to follow this riders on Twitter, their names are linked to their Twitter accounts.

Did I miss someone and you have a problem with it? Leave a comment or message me on Twitter @Vlaanderen90

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Espoirs Central Update

The season is finally starting in earnest, at least in the summer hemisphere, so it is high time to get an update about the U23 world as well as some continental updates.

It is January 20th and the UCI still has completely updated the list of continental teams. I'm trying to imagine if the NBA didn't release the roster of all of their teams or development teams until after the beginning of the season. Yet the UCI doesn't have a firm grasp on marketing for their stakeholders or in management practices. While teams are smart to get ahead of the game in announcing their riders, the UCI should still be responsible for getting this information together and made available before the season begins.

Vuelta a Tachira

The opening race in Venezuela looked like it could have been an upset win by U23 Jose Mendoza all the way up until the final stage of the race. Mendoza, from the small village of Las Mesas, which lies in the Tachira province in the extreme west of the country, was on a magical run through the first 9 stages that included two stage wins including an uphill sprint in La Grita.

On the 9th stage, chinks in the armor began to appear as Mendoza was tailed off near the end of the mountain top finish at Casa el Padre but held the overall lead. On the final stage to San Cristobal, the site of the 1977 World Championships, the dream went out the window as Mendoza lost a colossal 24 minutes and 32 seconds to finish 30th overall. Luis Mora turned out as the winner of the U23 classification after finishing 11th overall, 4'14" behind Costa Rican winner Joseph Chavarria. Chavarria is fairly young (born in 1992) and has done well domestically in Central and South America including 5th in the past two Vuelta a Costa Rica editions. 

Hong Kong World Cup

Frenchman Thomas Boudat won the Men's Omnium and seems to have usurped Bryan Coquard as the pick for France for the Rio Olympics. Boudat beat out Olympic medal contender Lasse Norman Hansen while U23 World RR silver medalist Simone Consonni finished in the top 10. Boudat could be a medal contender in Rio as he was the 2014 World Champion in the discipline even though many current contenders were not present there. Hell, there are probably about 10 riders at a given time that could win a medal there so it will be interesting to see who gets the birth.

A very young Australian team pursuit team that was anchored by Miles Scotson had a big weekend by turning out some impressive times including a 3'56" in the quarterfinal. That is underlined by the fact that this is not their A team by any means so these demons are not holding back and would be very happy to take an Olympic spot. The team they beat for the gold was Denmark, who had another very young team that included two junior riders. Bronze went to GB, who brought their U23 squad along with former sprinter turned endurance rider Kian Emadi. 

New Zealand Cycle Classic

Chris Lawless (JLT Condor) took a 1-2 with teammate Alex Frame to open up the New Zealand race with a circuit around Masterton. State of Matter-MAAP rider and Australian U23 criterium champion Jesse Kerrison took the final podium spot ahead of Dion Smith and former Drapac trainee Brad Evans.

San Luis

While the World Tour teams are the main draw here, there are some younger riders that are invariably turning heads. With the Colombian contingent of Gaviria and Conteras carrying Etixx, Miguel Angel Lopez being a main player for Astana and Tour de l'Avenir winner Marc Soler being a possible contender for Movistar, there a few younger riders that are looking to shine at some point. While they both lost time in the opening team time trial, Brayan Sanchez (Jamis) and Vuelta a Colombia U23 winner Richie Carapaz (Strongman-Campagnolo) could shine in the mountains later on. 

Tour Down Under

Sean Fucking Lake. That is all.

Tropicale Amissa Bongo Bongo Bongo

More towards the equator, racers from all over creation come to take part in some hot, dusty African racing. While Andrea Palini is currently cleaning up the race, there are a few promising young results including Abderrahmane Bechlagheme (Algeria), Belay Fisseha (Ethiopia) and current KOM leader Joseph Areruya (Rwanda), who was 2nd overall in his home tour back in November. 

EFC-Etixx gets a boost

In case it was overlooked by some, EFC-Etixx, the former development arm of the Etixx World Tour Team before what is now Klein Constantia came aboard, is now teamed up with Trek-Segafredo as their development team. While comprised of all Belgian riders, they feature some strong riders such as Benjamin Declercq and Piet Allegaert.

News should begin pouring is as the tap of results is burst open and teams are getting close to their first events. Look to Espoirs Central either here or on Twitter for all of your news and (unsolicited) opinions.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Antipodean Nationals

While it was reaching near single digit Farenheit temperatures at Espoirs Central HQ, it was nearly the opposite in the Antipodes with Australia & New Zealand both in the height of summer racing and their respective National Championships. While most readers probably saw the results by now, let's give a quick update.

Australian U23 TT

It was a domination by the brothers Scotson as it was the younger Callum that usurped his brother Miles, the defending champion, in the U23 time trial. These two riders were really head and shoulders above the rest of the field as Callum beat Miles by just 12 seconds but it was another minute back to 3rd place Ben O'Connor (Avanti IsoWhey). That isn't meant as a slam to O'Connor as it was a great ride that averaged over 45 km/h but the Scotsons were on another level
It was soon learned from the Scotson's coach Tim Decker that Callum produced an astonishing 405 watt average on his national title winning ride.
Australian U23 RR

While he eventually finished 52nd in the race, Rylee Field (GPM Stulz) got away after just one lap with Jason Lea and soon after, Field was on his own for what would be nearly 80 kilometers of solo riding. Field held on brilliantly to scoop up the KOM and Sprint crowns before being usurped by Chris Harper (State of Matter MAAP), who would define the finale of the race.

Harper, who had gone on a solo mission to bring back Field, was riding like a bat out of hell with some big names behind him. Harper's effort brought a counter attack from Miles Scotson, who would cause a reaction in the peloton that would eventually split it from 60 riders to a mere 14. That group was further reduced to just 6 chasers that included M. Scotson, Alistair Donohoe and a brilliant Michael Storer in his first U23 championships.

It wasn't any of these riders that would make the difference. A pair of Hamiltons attacked just before the end of the penultimate lap and made contact with Harper on the circuit's climb on the final lap of the race. Chris Hamilton (Avanti IsoWhey) was the U23 Criterium champion last year but also rides a fair bit of MTB races as was 2nd in the Australian U23 XC Championship last year as well. Lucas Hamilton (Victoria Institute of Sport) was the Australian Junior RR champion in 2014 and rode on the Australian NRS last year.

On the climb, Harper was dropped while the lawfirm of Hamilton & Hamilton accelerated. While some counter attacked occurred, they were not nearly enough to unseat the leaders. It came down to a sprint between the two and it was Chris who out-sprinted Lucas for the win.

 From the group of 5 chasers, it was Miles Scotson who out-sprinted Donohoe and Storer for the bronze medal while Harper managed to hang on for 6th.

For their efforts, Hamilton & Hamilton got spots on the Uni-SA team for the Tour Down Under coming up in a week. Scotson proved his class in spades as he was a marked man coming into the race but came away with a medal. And as said previously, Storer was great in his first U23 championship with a 6th in the TT and 5th in the RR.

New Zealand U23 TT

While Australia was the media darling, New Zealand's Nationals were a smaller affair that offered some tighter battles. In the U23 TT, new ONE Pro Cycling signing Hayden McCormick improved on his last year's 6th place by taking the title by just 9 seconds on Liam Aitcheson and 14 seconds on Klein Constantia rider Hamish Schreurs.

New Zealand U23 RR
Due to the low field size, the U23 and Elite men ran their race together. The race had an early attack that put many of the big WT names on the back foot. A group of 5 got away that included Jason Christie (Kenyan Riders Down Under), Robin Reid, ONE Pro Cycling teammates James Oram and Dion Smith along with Schreurs. By virtue of making the breakaway, Schreurs was able to secure the U23 jersey while finishing 3rd in the Elite RR behind winner Christie. McCormick came in with World Tour rider Paddy Bevin to finish 2nd while Aitcheson finished over 12 minutes down for 3rd in the U23 race. Out of 75 starters in the combined field, there were just 16 finishers.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Team Preview: Axeon Hagens Berman

There is something a little...disheartening when the top US development team absorbs two other development teams and leaves a huge amount of people left out of rides and management spots. I like the set-up that Axeon Hagens Berman has developed over the last half decade. It's healthy. Whatever you may think about dopers being involved with development, which is something I have been rather vocal about, Axel Merckx has created a sustainable system that seems to be, more or less, squeaky clean.
The team has come a long was since its first iteration in 2009. Taylor Phinney was the headline name but the team also include current World Tour riders Ben King, Jesse Sergent and Sam Bewley as well as other strong riders like Julian Kyer and Bjorn Selander. The team developed and brought on even more talent as the years went on. Joe Dombrowski, Nate Brown, Alex Dowsett, George Bennett, Ian Boswell, Lawson Craddock, Carter Jones, Gavin Mannion, Jasper De Buyst, James Oram, Jasper Stuyven, Antoine Duchesne, Tanner Putt, Clément Chevrier and Ruben Zepuntke. That is an incredible list and is really just riders that have graduated to the World Tour/Pro Continental ranks and is not including riders from last year's team. It wasn't all sunshine and roses as there were many that didn't work out but that is a list of 20 riders over that are in the pro ranks.

The 2015 squad had a good season with a fairly young team with 5 UCI wins and won three national championships. Logan Owen showed himself in bunch sprints including a win in the Tour of Utah, Tao Geoghegan Hart finished 3rd in Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Greg Daniel showed everyone that he is a diesel truck in disguise. The team had a European foray early on but then stuck to North American soil for the majority of the season. The budget isn't unlimited so if others want to race more in Europe, they usually get rides with the national team.

The team only has 4 riders departing from the 2015 team with three riders aging out of the program and one moving on. Dan Eaton and James Oram are both moving to Pro Continental set ups with Eaton to UnitedHealthcare and Oram to ONE Pro Cycling. Chris Putt is moving to Jelly Belly while Keegan Swirbul, the Colorado climber, is transferring over to BMC Development to get more exposure in Europe.

8 riders return from last year, well 9 if you include Chad Young, who rode the USA Pro Tour Challenge of the Colorado Front Range with the team after signing after nationals. Along with Young, the others coming back include Will Barta, Geoffrey Curran, Greg Daniel, Ruben Guerreiro, Tao Geoghegan Hart, Phil O'Donnell, Justin Oien and Logan Owen.

Barta was 8th in the Tour de Bretagne but it will be interesting to see if he races more with the team this year as he spent the vast majority of the season in Europe with the national team. Curran and Oien both had the honor of a month and a half racing block that saw them take in the Giro della Valle d'Aosta, Trofeo Almar, Tour Alsace, Tour de l'Ain, Tour de l'Avenir and the Tour of Alberta. Georgian Phil O'Donnell was on a similar trend of more national team appearances but was strong at Nationals and in Alberta.

As said before, Daniel is basically an autobot and can swing at the sky, mainly from breakaways, when he is on form as he has nearly taken stage wins in all of the major American stage races. Geoghegan doesn't need much introduction as he is basically ready to go professional but he could make strides to improve in stage race overalls while trying to continue to be a one-day force. Guerreiro has the tools to be a great GC rider but always seems to be just a little bit off. He put it together early in his home GP Liberty Seguros but it would be good for him, in his final U23 year, to get a high GC finish.

Since Logan Owen is pretty damn good at cyclocross, he can't be faulted for being a being a bit flat at the beginning part of the road season. Once he gets going though, he is a fine sprinter that can win on tough courses. Mainly, this year could be used on getting more experience to surf field sprints and get some more one-day racing in such as his preferred Paris-Roubaix and more in Europe. Schedule is TBD, that is a bit open-ended at this point.

With the team expanding to 16, there are 7 new riders coming into the fold. Two juniors in Jonny Brown and Adrien Costa are coming in while Eddie Dunbar (NFTO), Colin Joyce (Cal Giant), Krists Neilands (Rietumu-Delfin), Neilson Powless (Cal Giant) and Tyler Williams (BMC Development) complete the roster.

I don't think Adrien Costa needs much of an introduction but he is probably the biggest American talent since...Van Garderen? It is a good question because I could go on for a while about Costa and how he could be a once-in-a-generation talent. He is a talented time trialist but his heart lies in climbing. Costa danced away from most juniors and I can see him doing it again in the U23 ranks. If he keeps on his current track, GC glory lies in his near future.

The other junior signing, Jonny Brown, is the younger brother of former alumn Nate Brown and won the US National Junior RR the last two years running.

Ireland has been a small gold mine for talent in recent years and Eddie Dunbar is the latest one. A strong time trial rider, Dunbar was a gem as a junior where he won the Trofeo Karlsberg (technically 2nd but winner was popped for doping). This year with NFTO, he didn't get a ton of racing but was 2nd in the Elite Irish Championships in both the TT and RR, 9th in the European TT and made it through the Tour of Britain.

After countrymen Toms Skujins and Andzs Flaksis have hit gold in America, Latvian Krists Neilands signed with ABH. He has seen success in harder road races that end up in sprints. He can mix it up in bunch sprints and get into breakaways and go for a KOM jersey. Krists is strong like ox that is fueled with Latvian potato.

Coming from Cal Giant are Colin Joyce and Neilson Powless. Joyce was a mainstay on the national team where he was the most consistent rider after going 7th in the La Cote Picarde Nations Cup, 3rd overall in the GP Liberty Seguros and top ten finishes over Europe. He has a good sprint but does well on harder races that have uphill finishes or hard sprints. Powless rode mainly with the national team in Europe and did pretty well by making it through the races and was top 20 in the Tour de Namur.

Last but not least is BMC Development transfer Tyler Williams is coming on board after an up and down year last season. He will be looking to get back on the form that saw him go 2nd in Paris-Roubaix Espoirs in 2014.


While the team looks stronger than ever, it is unclear if the team is going to be heading to Europe more than they did in previous years. So even though they have a bolstered roster, it could mean waiting until April before some riders get their first racing days for the year instead of cutting their teeth on the small, tight roads of Europe. While many will be with the national team during the year, the team should still target big results including Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Paris-Roubaix and the big American tours.

Prediction: 8 UCI wins (14 wins total)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Australian U23 Criterium Championship

Now I do not always profess that I have the answers. Most of the time, I'm an incompetent fool driven by my heart instead of my head. Yet there are times when people should just praise me for my inate ability to predict U23 RR results. While niche, people could literally be winning 10s of dollars off of my abilities.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

2016 Team Previews: Zalf-Euromobil and Team Colpack

The past couple of seasons, I have been trumpeting the fall of Zalf-Euromobil and how Team Colpack would soon usurp them as the team of Italian amateur cycling. I truly believed it this past year but thanks to some monster years by Gianni Moscon & Marco Maronese along with a heaping scoop of lower class wins, Zalf-Euromobil was still the winningest team amongst Italy while Colpack, who had one of their strongest teams to date, was still 19 victories behind the Green-White-Blue-Red machine.

I'm not going to pull the wool over my eyes yet again. No false realities for 2016. Zalf-Euromobil will remain the winningest team in Italy. Team Colpack will be 2nd even with the amount of talent they are bringing back and having a larger team that Zalf. Of course I say this but still hope that the Zalf monolith is taken down because I enjoy watching races where a team doesn't go 1-2-3-4-6-8-9.


First off, let me start from my preview of the team last year. I described their returning riders as "...a bit lacking." I had little to say about Marco Maronese but I did mention that he was a Christmas baby. I also might have used the words "down year" at one point. My prediction for them? 37 wins and 1 UCI win.

They were just off a record 57 win season in 2014 with 51 wins, roughly half of which came from returning riders, and 4 UCI wins (not including Moscon's wins with the national team). Maronese ran to 8 wins including Vicenza-Bionde.

Chris is exited to unpack his new flatpack furniture. He has always enjoyed assembly and has had dreams of being a mechanic. Upon removing the packing tape, he pulls the directions out and begins to read. "Direction 1...take off shoes and socks. Direction sweaty foot in mouth."
You can read more about the Venetian's team's sordid history here.

The big departure is obviously Gianni Moscon, who is headed to Team SKY. Other notable departures include Dan Pearson to Team Wiggins, Enrico Salvador to Unieuro-Wilier, Simone Velasco to Bardiani and Nicola Toffali to Roth Gruppe. Andrea Toniatti is crossing over to the darkside and joining the

They have a pretty good roster staying on which include Pietro Andreoletti, Nicola Bagioli, Gianmarco Begnoni, Andrea Borso, Marco Gaggia, Marco Maronese, Gianluca Milani, Filippo Rocchetti, Nicolò Rocchi, Andrea Vendrame and Giacomo Zilio. Maronese is the top dog but Milani and Rocchi are two big returns with 8 wins together. 

The riders that are coming in include Michael Bresciani, Filippo Calderaro, Nicola Conci, Nicola Da Dalt, Davide Gabburo, Riccardo Lucca, Francesco Rosa and Michele Toffaletti.

Zalf are hoping Conci will be able to do this 
Conci and Lucca are both coming from the junior ranks. Conci won 7 races last year including two UCI events and was 6th in the Worlds RR in Richmond. Lucca was 2nd place 11 times last year including in the Giro Lunigiana overall but also had 6 victories in Italy.

Bresciani is coming from Roth-Skoda after a long year; he seems to be able to go well in one-day races and has a decent kick. Calderaro is a young sprinter that seems promising. Da Dalt makes the move from Selle Italia and had a strong year last year in the time trial as well as in hillier one-day races. Toffaletti had some good rides in smaller one day races.

The best pickups include Gabburo and Rosa. Gabburo is a very solid all-around rider that was all over the top 5 last year, especially in one-day races. He can also climb well so while he might not be GC material, he is certainly handy in the mountains. Rosa comes from the evil empire and was a very strong leadout man for Consonni but more than that, he can climb well and mixed it up in hillier races. With some more freedom, he could have a breakout season.

Prediction: 45 total wins (2 UCI wins)

Team Colpack 

Switching from Veneto to Lombardia, which is little more than a stone's throw away. The team headquarters are only an couple of hours away from one another. The white and black of Colpack had their best season to date with 32 wins and 34 second place finishes not to mention that Simone Consonni nearly won the U23 World RR Championship after a horrifically close sprint against professional Kevin Ledanois. This year, they will be celebrating their 25th year of existence.

At one point, the team was planning to lose 4 riders to the professional ranks but after Lampre and Brent Copeland led some riders along and fucked them over, only Davide Martinelli (Etixx) and Giulio Ciccone (Bardiani) are turning professional. Others leaving include Edoardo Affini (Selle Italia), Alessandro Bresciani (Delio Gallina), Damiano Cima (Viris Maserati), Rosa (Zalf) and Alberto Tocchella (General Store).

Something wrong, Simone?
While Ciccone and Martinelli are big loses, they aren't selling the farm by any means. They keep a strong contingent of riders that are led by Simone Consonni and Edward Ravasi, both of which were the victims of Lampre's shadowy ways. (It should be mentioned that Colpack has officially teamed up with Lampre and will be a pipeline for the fuscia/blue team.) Consonni needs no introduction as he is the best sprinter in the Italian amateur scene while Ravasi is one of the best pure climbers in amateur Italy.

Past those two, they bring back sprinter Riccardo Minali, who will be nipping at Consonni's heels, climber Fausto Masnada, workhorse Oliveira Troia along with some other strong riders like Francesco Lamon, Attilio Viviani and time trialist Seid Lizde.

They are picking up 12 riders for this year, 5 of which are coming out of the junior ranks. The junior pick-ups include Italian Junior TT Champion Simone Bevilacqua (no relation to team GM Antonio Bevilacqua), Nicholas Dalla Valle, Carloalberto Giordani, Marco Negrente and Enrico Zanoncello.  All of them had wins in Italy and Negrente showed well in the Giro della Lunigiana, where he was 6th overall.

Out of the other 7 signings, there are 2 or 3 big signings. Filippo Ganna graduated high school just this past year but once he was focused on the bike full-time, the results started to flow in. Ganna won the Chrono Champenois ahead the likes of Martinelli and Miles Scotson and finished 13th in the U23 TT in his first season. Ukranian Mark Padun was another first year that made some waves after he was 8th overall in the Zavod Miru U23 and won the hilly final stage of the Giro della Regioni. Andrea Toniatti is out of the U23 ranks but he had been a mainstay at Zalf for the past few seasons but it looking for change of scenery, which could propel him to some one-day glory.

The others joining the team include Carlo Franco, Luca Muffolini, Federico Sartor and Simone Viero.

Colpack is certainly bringing a nice team together that has a bevy of sprinters along with some strong one-day racers for hillier courses. Consonni, Minali and Viviani will be riding on the track, where they all have some success but with Elia Viviani getting the nod for the omnium (99.99% sure), none will be going to Rio unless Italy qualifies for the team pursuit.

Prediction: 41 wins (4 UCI wins)

To end, a haiku...

Italy, cycling
Bergamo, Lombardia
Same ol' story once again