Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tour de l'Avenir Stage 3: Norway is the New Denmark

What is the hell do they think this is? 1524-1814 during the Dano-Norwegian union? Is Olaf II riding bikes now instead of eating some pickled herring? Norway has had a very good year on the U23 circuit, which is more of a culmination of the work Joker and other teams have been doing with young Norwegian talent. It remains to be seen if it all turns out a little bit Danish (see Thomas Vedel Kvist, Rasmus Guldhammer, Sebastian Lander) or if Norway is a new light in development cycling.

The stage started out of Bourg-en-Bresse and on the longest stage, David Per (Slovenia) really wanted to be alone. I don't know if he had an argument with his team or perhaps he didn't shower after the stage yesterday. Perhaps the race served some goulash that didn't sit well with him. In any case, the Ronde van Vlaanderen U23 winner took over 6 minutes after the peloton hit the breaks. Even after a puncture by Per, the gap was still over 4'30".

He might not have wanted to be out on his lonesome but Per was able to gobble up the KOM points on offer, which vaulted him to the lead in the KOM competition, which he will hold headed into stage 5 after the TT.

When Per began to flag, Galym Akhmetov (Kazakhstan), a former Asian Junior MTB XC Champion, bridged up to him. Soon, Akhmetov dropped Per but a counter attack from Adrien Costa (USA) and Gonzalo Serrano (Spain) soon made it a trio. Any substantial moves were short lived as the peloton was, at least for once, set on a sprint finish.

The last substantial move was by Gab Cullaigh (GB). The former Peace Race stage winner set out for about 15 kilometers and dangled in front of the jaws of the peloton until 4 kilometers to go. Once the catch was made, the nervous energy in the peloton was ratcheted up until the uphill finish in Autun kicked in

In the final, it was Kristoffer Halvorsen who did a copy cat sprint from his efforts yesterday except that this time, there was no one in front of him. Even with the steep pitch, Halvorsen was able to hold off Vincenzo Albanese and Jon Dibben for the stage win, making it three in a row for Norge, coming close to Denmark's 4 out of the first 5 stage win haul from last year. Really, this sprint was a lot like Nokere Koerse this year, where Halvorsen was 2nd to the flavor of the season, Timothy Dupont, as the finish on that course is a straight power sprint that can tend to drag on a bit.

It was a shame that Pascal Ackermann couldn't make the finale as he could have potentially made it interesting against Halvorsen. Also good to note that this was a finish that Simone Consonni would usually devour however with his track legs from Rio, he was off the back as well with Ackermann.

The real GC hunt starts in a couple of hours as the Lugny TT will be the first test that will begin to sort the wheat from the chaff.

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