Friday, August 26, 2016

Tour de l'Avenir Stage 6: Denz explodes; Gaudu bounces to victory in Tignes

On a day that saw a beautiful loop over 4 cols, the Tour de l'Avenir GC was basically put in a blender, pulsed for a few seconds and then dropped from a helicopter over the French Alps. Attacks went back and forth through the day but when riders such as Adrien Costa and Tao Geoghegan Hart didn't follow moves, riders further down on GC got a chance to move up.

From Saint-Gervais-Mont-Blanc, Nans Peters was the first to attack and drew out a rather large group from the peloton including Lennard Kamna, Miguel Florez (Colombia), Valentin Madouas (France), Giovanni Carboni (Italy), among many others. It was then Peters, Kamna and Florez who established themselves on the Col de Saisies.

The breakaway never really got over a minute for the vast majority of the stage. The trio made it down into Beaufort and started the Col du Pre together but then Florez went solo, dropping the other two, who were picked up shortly by the peloton, and went over the col du Pre solo. It was also here that Nico Denz said goodbye to any chance at GC as the yellow jersey was dropped like a stone.

Florez started the Cormet de Roseland solo but was soon joined by a quartet of riders including Michal Schlegel (Czech Republic), Max Schachmann (Germany), a recovered Lucas Hamilton (Australia) and stage 5 winner Jhon Rodriguez (Colombia). In the chasing peloton, France dominated with 4 riders while most other nations had either one or two.

On the descent of the Roseland, France decided to rip it. Even without their two best descenders in Aurelien Paret-Peintre & Nans Peters, it was Valentin Madouas, Mathias Le Turnier & Leo Vincent went out hard, which along with a crash by Artem Nych (Russia) got them a gap. The bad thing about this? They forgot their GC weapon David Gaudu. Whoops.

By the bottom of the climb, the trio got 50 seconds and were able to bridge up to the breakaway, which saw the group swell to 8 riders. Florez was the first rider to pop once the road started going up towards Tignes. Rodriguez and Hamilton were the next ones to attack, which brought out Schlegel with them. The trio worked well together while Schachmann & Vincent were forced to chase together.

At this point, the GC outlook was still normal and Tao Geoghegan Hart was in the main chasing pack along with other favorites. Then David Gaudu attacked with Edward Ravasi. Cue the blender. This duo, which needed to attack to get back much needed time on GC, lept away from the chasing group. In 7 kilometers, the duo got across a gap that was over 1 minute to join the leading trio while soon after Harm Vanhoucke, who is just 19 years old, would bridge as well to make it a sextet with 3 kilometers to go.

What does one do once they join the group they bridged up to? While attack of course. And who better to do it in front of than Romain Bardet, who was on course today on the climb to Tignes.

Good thing this jersey doesn't have sponsors David. Otherwise, 

David Gaudu put in another move that blew the front group apart. Ravasi and Vanhoucke trailed in his wake as Gaudu, the springy Frenchman who first showed his massive potential at the Ronde de l'Isard, bounced his way up through the ski resort and gave a mighty little roar over the line. Rodriguez came across in fourth, which lifted him to the overall lead thanks to his stage win yesterday.

Behind the attackers, it was Australia's Jai Hindley who came across first in 6th, at 1'43" down on Gaudu, while big favorite Adrien Costa came across shortly afterwards in 7th, 2 minutes down. While Egan Bernal was just another 15 seconds down, Geoghegan Hart lost over three minutes to Bernal.

May it be reminded that this was only the first of three big mountain stages so while the GC might have been put into a blender, it is by no means set. Just a day ago, Gaudu, Ravasi and Vanhoucke were 35th, 36th and 38th on GC over a minute down on Tao and nearly a minute on Costa. My how the tables can turn...

Here is GC as it stands:

1. Jhon Rodriguez (Colombia)
2. David Gaudu (France) +9
3. Edward Ravasi (Italy) +28
4. Harm Vanhoucke (Belgium) +29
5. Michal Schlegel (Czech Republic) +45
6. Adrien Costa (USA) +1:13
7. Tao Geoghegan Hart (GB) +1:58
8. Jai Hindley (Australia) +2:07
9. Michael Storer (Australia) +2:14
10. Egan Bernal (Colombia) +2:17

Unless there is a shocking move from a rider like Sivakov or Schachmann, I don't see anyone winning the Tour de l'Avenir outside of this top 10. Rodriguez has put in a lot of energy in the past two stages so if you are taking Espoirs Central's tip, look for him to slide on stage 7.

Costa has moved a few times so far this race but compared to others, he has been relatively quiet. Will Gaudu be able to follow up this performance with some more magic? Ravasi showed he can go big on late stages over the last few years but with this deep of a field? Does Tao still have something in the tank? Will Bernal supercede Rodriguez as the best Colombian in the field?

So many questions and only two stages to go...

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