Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Tour de l'Avenir Stage 5: The Mountains Are Here

Following the time trial stage that saw Adrien Costa take the first American win in six years at the Tour de l'Avenir, the race was supposed to really begin. It sort of did today but the finish did not prove that decisive, somewhat due to the stage length and after the teams have a fairly lengthy transfer, they didn't want to stir up the pot with four mountains summits.

What is surprisingly not the races shortest stage, the 98 kilometer affair started fast with riders trying to form a breakaway before the only real climb on the course up to Carroz d'Araches. A fast start saw multiple attacks try to get up the road and fail until a large group got off the front including three Americans, three Germans plus some dribs and drabs of Belgians, French and other riders. What was notable about the breakaway was that 2nd through 4th overall (Nico Denz, Nathan Van Hooydonck and Jon Dibben) all were present along with GC contender Neilson Powless.

Great Britain was keen to not let this move going and with Dibben in the breakaway causing disruption, the Brits clawed the move back just a few kilometers before the final climb. Pryzemyslaw Kasperkiewicz tried multiple times to get away in the finale but was subsequently brought back every time. About halfway into the climb, Jhon Rodriguez (Colombia) attacked with Pavel Sivakov (Russia) & GP Poggiana winner Michael Storer (Australia) at a moment when everyone was looking around and got some distance. None of them were immediate GC threats so the chasing peloton didn't really need to pounce on them.

The trio was working well together while some counter attacks behind were launched including one by Aurelien Paret-Peintre, Nans Peters and Alexander Vlasov. The chasers ran out of room as Sivakov was the first to move up front by ran out of gas and Rodriguez accelerated around him. Storer was able to follow but was limited as he was not in the big chainring when the climb leveled off, which allowed Rodriguez to take the first Colombian win in l'Avenir since "Superman", Miguel Angel Lopez, in 2014 on stage 6 to La Rosière.

Vlasov came in for 4th behind Sivakov making it two Russians in the 3rd and 4th spots, which funnily enough happened on stage 6 to La Rosière in 2014 with Aleksey Rybalkin and Alexander Foliforov. Actually the top five from that stage and this were almost identical in terms of nationalities and their finishing orders except that Paret-Peintre ruined it and let Alex Aranburu finish 5th (Pierre Latour was 5th on the 2014 stage).

David Gaudu led the bunch home 29 seconds in arrears with all of the main GC players as well as a few jokers still in their same positions. With Amund Grøndahl Jansen finally succumbing to his stomach issues, the yellow jersey was passed onto German Nico Denz, who holds a 1'40" lead back to Tao Geoghegan Hart, 2'05" back to Storer, 2'10" to countryman Jan Tschernoster and 2'13" back to Adrien Costa.

Storer, Rodriguez and Sivakov were able to move up slightly in the GC rankings but the main question being is about Denz. Obviously he is a World Tour rider and given that he has some free reign here, how long will he be able to hold this lead? He is a competent climber with some good results in the mountains from his U23 days but will he succumb to the onslaught of attacks or perhaps will a diesel engine like Max Schachmann be able to pilot him to an overall lead?

After a bad crash a couple of days ago, Steff Cras was forced to abandon today. He will most likely be back next year ready to give it another go.

The race continues tomorrow with a absolutely beautiful ride from Saint-Gervais-Mont-Blanc to the ski resort at Tignes over 4 climbs including a final ascent that is 17 kilometers in length.

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