Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Van Baarle smashes Bretagne TT; Zoidl bolsters overall lead

There is a reason why Dylan van Baarle is number one on my list of U23 talents right now and it is simply because of the way that he can utterly dominate a time trial. The Rabobank Development rider stormed the rolling TT by averaging nearly 46.5 kilometers per hour over the 15.9 kilometer course around Huelgoat (please...tell me a funnier town name...I dare you.) The Flying Dutchman beat overall race leader Riccardo Zoidl (Gourmetfein-Simplon) by 13 seconds and Jasha Sütterlin (Thüringer Energie) by a further two.

1. Dylan van Baarle (Rabobank Development)
2. Riccardo Zoidl (Gourmetfein-Simplon) +13
3. Jasha Sütterlin (Thüringer Energie) +15
4. Vegard Breen (Joker Merida) +23
5. Bryan Nauleau (Vendée U) +25

While van Baarle might have lost his G.C. hopes with Riccardo Zoidl going up the rode on the 2nd stage with van Baarle's teammate Nick van der Lijke, the man from Voorburg moved up to 4th overall in the overall classification. Van der Lijke, who was only one second off the lead coming into today, tried his hardest to limit his losses and put in a valiant effort but he lost 41 seconds to Zoidl on the course. Rabobank now has three riders in the top 10 overall with U23 cyclocross World Champion Mike Teunissen moved into 8th overall.

1. Riccardo Zoidl (Gourmetfein-Simplon)
2. Nick van der Lijke (Rabobank Development) +42
3. Jasha Sütterlin (Thüringer Energie) +48
4. Dylan van Baarle (Rabobank Development) +1'07
5. Bryan Nauleau (Vendée U) +1'17
6. Vegard Breen (Joker Merida) +1'19
7. Luis Mas Bonet (Burgos BH) +1'21
8. Mike Teunissen (Rabobank Development) +1'29
9. Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-iHNed) +1'31
10. Jeroen Lepla (Ventilair-Steria) +1'32

With a hard road race on tap for the final stage on Wednesday including parts of the Tro Bro Léon course, Zoidl looks to be in charge but anything can happen...

P.S. I know it might sound like a total lie but as I was driving to work this morning, I thought these three would be on the podium.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Dupont triumphs again in Bretagne

Timothy Dupont (Ventilair-Steria) continued his outstanding season with his 2nd stage win of the Tour de Bretagne as he outsprinted Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-iHNed) and Nick van der Lijke (Rabobank Development) in a bunch sprint into Le Quillio, situated in the heart of Brittany. It was Dupont's ninth win of the year and his 8th podium place in his last two UCI stage races (Tour du Loir-et-Cher and here).

The racing was intense from the start as a group of 17, including overall leader Riccardo Zoidl (Gourmetfein-Simplon) and 2nd place Nick van der Lijke, who were only separated by 6 seconds at the start of the day. This dangerous group was eventually brought back but not after van der Lijke was able to take one bonus second.

After this group was brought back, the main breakaway of the day consisted of former junior World Champion Olivier Le Gac (BIC 2000) and Tim Van Speybroeck (Ventilair-Steria) and the duo was given a pretty big lead at nearly 5 minutes at its biggest. Today's stage went over the Mur de Bretagne multiple times, a hill that featured in the 4th stage of the 2011 Tour de France, where Cadel Evans won in a select sprint over other favorites.

As the duo of Le Gac and Van Speybroeck summited the climb multiple times, the gap began to drop and the speed of the peloton picked up. Le Gac attacked solo when the gap got down to 30 seconds but his attempts were for naught as Ventilair-Steria and Rabobank were looking to bring everything back together for the sprint. Late attacks by Sojasun's Fabrice Jeandeboz and Paul Poux were nipped in the bud and at the end, it was Dupont that put his arms aloft in victory.

With his 3rd place, van der Lijke moved to just 1 second behind Riccardo Zoidl's yellow jersey. Don't expect a miracle by van der Lijke though. Zoidl was 14th in the World TT Championships last year in Valkenburg and along with another hilly stage to round out the race on Wednesday, it will be next to impossible for van der Lijke to usurp the Austrian Zoidl.

Dupont, the reigning Belgian elite w/o contract champion, has been on fire this season and especially since the end of March. Since his win at Wevelgem on March 23, only twice has Dupont finished outside the top 10 in any race, including stages. In the two UCI stage races he has done this year, Tour du Loir-et-Cher and now the Tour de Bretagne, Dupont's lowest placing is 7th. Dupont won the points jersey at Loir-et-Cher and looks on track to do the same here at Bretagne with two stage wins, a 3rd, 5th and 7th. As of now, it would be a travesty if Dupont doesn't get a pro contract next season.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sunday Roundup

GP Industrie del Marmo

Luca Benedetti (Begnoni) won the UCI 1.2 GP Industrie del Marmo in a mass sprint over last year's winner Thomas Fiumana (Petroli-Firenze) and Caleb Ewan (Australia). Benedetti has been on fire this season, winning 6 races, and as he is turning 25 in June, this is a crucial year for him to try and gain a pro contract.

Taking place on the Liguarian coast in Carrara, the GP Marmo featured a mix of climbing and flats that made the race difficult but didn't allow for a group to get away. Benedetti overcame Fiumana in the final sprint and Ewan continued his strong season with another podium place in his first U23 season.

Tour de Bretagne Stage 4

Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-iHNed) took advantage of the uphill finish and out sprinted Maxime Renault (Selection Bretagne) out of the last corner to take the win on stage 4 of the Tour de Bretagne in Fougères. Alaphilippe had been close before this season but was finally able to get his first win of the season with his Etixx-iHNed squad and his first UCI win since his stage win at last year's Coupe des Nations Ville de Saguenay.

The stage featured a breakaway of four including Dylan van Baarle (Rabobank Development), Sam Spokes (Etixx-iHNed), Jan Sokol (Gourmetfein-Simplon) and Nicolas Rousseau (Sud Gascone). The quartet of riders got a decent sized gap but were brought back as the race hit the finishing circuits. As the favorites starred at each other, Alaphilippe and Renault surprised everyone and attacked. Hitting the final corner first, cyclo-cross specialist Alaphilippe sprinted and posted up for the win. Riccardo Zoidl still holds the overall lead by 6 seconds over Nick van der Lijke.

In other races...

  • Convicted doper Tino Zaballa (Christina Watches) won the Destination Thy 1.2 race after outsprinting his three breakaway mates. U25 rider Roy Eefting won the group sprint for 5th while Christian Bertilsson (People4You-Unaas) was the top U23 in 12th.
  • Brian van Goethem (Metec CT) won the Zuid Oost Drenthe Classic II out of a break of four. Very impressive season so far for the Zeeland native. Coen Vermeltfoort (De Rijke Shanks) won the chasing group sprint for 5th while Antoine Demoitie (Wallonie Bruxelles) beat out Wouter Wippert for the peloton group sprint for 20th.
Nechita (r) and Penasa (l) celebrating the win (Photo:

  • Zalf-Euromobil dominated one of their home races at the 58th MO Frare De Nardi where they went 1-2 and put 5 riders in the top 10. Romanian Andrei Nechita took the win with his teammate and breakaway companion Pierre Paolo Penasa right behind him in 2nd. Simone Andreetta and Andrea Zordan came 4th and 5th in the sprint for 3rd, which was won by Matteo Colledol (Marchiol). A perfect way to make up for Federico Zurlo's antics yesterday.
  • Hincapie Develpoment rider Robin Carpenter won the hilly RR stage at the Joe Martin stage race on Saturday and finished the race 14th overall on Sunday behind Optum-KBS rider Chad Haga. The former Chipotle Development rider won the young riders jersey for his efforts while his team won the team classification
  • In a rainy and cold race, Miguel Angel Benito (Caja Rural Amateurs) won the penultimate Copa de España race, the Memorial Rodriguez Inguanzo, after spending 90 kilometers in a breakaway with four others. A thorough write-up of the race is available on Biciciclismo. Airan Fernandez (Coluer) took the Copa de España lead back from French Basque Loïc Chetout (Naturgas Energia) but his lead is quite slim with only one event left, the Premio Santa Cruz de Lezgapi in the Basque Country on Wednesday.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Friday & Saturday Roundup

Alright, my procrastination has come to an end...

Tour de Bretagne (Stages 2 & 3)

Riccardo Zoidl (Gourmetfein-Simplon) continued his breakout season on stage two of the Tour de Bretagne when he broke away with Rabobank Development's Nick van der Lijke from the leading breakaway and then proceeded to drop the Dutchman just before the line to take the stage victory and slide into the yellow jersey. Zoidl, the overall winner of the Circuit des Ardennes, has come on in the last two seasons and looks certain to gain a pro contract next year.

Zoidl and van der Lijke were apart of the day long breakaway including Petr Vakoc (Etixx-iHNed), Pierre-Luc Perichon (Bretagne-Séché), Julien Morrice (Vendée U) Yaan Botrel and Jacques Bouchevreau (Selection Bretagne). Windy conditions made it hard for the peloton to pull back the peloton and when Zoidl and van der Lijke attacked, they were gone for good and the peloton had to limit their losses. The group sprint was won by Marco Benfatto (Astana) over Luis Mas Bonet (Burgos BH) and Timothy Dupont (Ventilair-Steria).

Stage 2 highlights

Stage three saw a group of 4 powerful riders breaking away late and holding off the peloton with Timothy Dupont holding off Thüringer Energie's TT powerhouse Jasha Sütterlin and the Etixx-iHNed duo of stage 1 winner Louis Verhelst and Florian Senechal. Juan Villegas (4-72 Colombia) won the bunch sprint just 7 seconds behind with Marco Benfatto (Astana) and Eugenio Alafaci (Leopard-Trek) coming in behind him.

Stage 3 highlights

Skive Løbet & Himmerland Rundt (Denmark)

While the Himmerland Rundt has been around for a few years now, the organizers have added two races to make it more attractive to foreign teams. With the Skive-Løbet and Destination Thy joining the Himmerland Rundt, 33 teams showed up to the flat and windy Danish coast for racing.

Skive Løbet was won by Danish speedster Patrick Clausen (CULT Energy) over Remco Te Brake (Metec) and former World Tour rider Gorik Gardeyn (Doltcini-Flanders) from a 45-strong peloton. Wind decimated the race as echelons formed and a large group of nearly 60 was dropped from the leading back. On a sad note, this was the last race for Steve Schets (Doltcini-Flanders). After struggling to find motivation for this season, Schets fell and broke his elbow and immediately announced his retirement after the race. Schets was the winner of the inagural Handzame Classic in 2011.

Himmerland Rundt, the gem of the weekend, was won by Yoeri Havik (De Rijke-Shanks), winner of the ZLM Tour and 4th place the previous day at Skive. Riding near the west coast of Denmark, wind was once again the major factor of the day because by the time the final sprint was coming, the peloton was down to only 32 riders. Out of 187 starters, only 80 finished the race because after so many were dropped, it seems as if they were too tempted by passing the team cars on the finishing loops.

In the end, it was Havik taking the sprint convincingly over Norwegian Kristian Drynes (Øster Hus Ridler), Magnus Cort (CULT Energy) and Fridtjof Røinås (Plussbank). It is so nice to see an-all U23 podium in a race that is open to riders of all ages.


  • Jeff Vermeulen (Metec) beat out breakaway partners Niko Eeckhout (AnPost-Chain Reaction), Grischa Janorschke (Nutrixxion-Abus) and Michael Vingerling (3M) in the final sprint for the win at the Zuid Oost Drenthe Classic I. Behind them, it was Wouter Wippert (3M) beating out Dylan Groenewegen (De Rijke-Shanks) in the bunch sprint. Groenewegen beat out Wippert for the win at the Ronde van Noord-Holland last weekend so this proves that the duel is not one sided between these two young Dutch sprinters. 
  • Federico Zurlo (Zalf-Euromobil) was 1st across the line at the Memorial Carlo Valentini but was last on the results sheet. Zurlo, a 1st-year U23 with Zalf, got into a fight with an unnamed Trevigiani rider just a few kilometers before the finish. Luckily for Zalf (and Zurlo), teammate Paolo Simion had come in 2nd to Zurlo and was promoted to the top step. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

GP Liberazione: Belorussian Koshevoy escapes to incredible victory

It should have been easy to see as it has happened the last three years but once again a breakaway ruled the 68th GP Liberazione.

The 23-lap circuit race around Rome's famed Baths of Caracalla set off around mid-day and very early on, it was Damien Howson (Australia) who set out with Filippo Rudi (Palazzago) and Mattia Viganò (FGM) on just the 2nd lap of the race. Soon after, it was Howson who dropped his breakaway companions and stretched his advantage to 1'20" on the flat to rolling course. Behind a speeding Howson, many riders tried to attack out of the peloton but to no avail. Last year's junior World Champion Matej Mohoric (Slovenia) was one of these attackers but he then was caught up in a crash with a race motorbike along with other riders.

While riders still attempted to bridge to Howson, last year's bronze medalist from the World U23 TT, Australia was dealt a big blow when Caleb Ewan was caught up in a crash with 20 other riders on a descent and was forced to pull out of the race.

With Ewan out, Australia had to shift their plan and the race broke open with 18 kilometers left. With Howson's advantage dropping, a group of four attacked out of the peloton including Belorussian Ilya Koshevoy (Big Hunter), Adam Phelan (Australia), Matteo Cremoni (Vibert Italia-Amore e Vita) and Mirko Trosino (Mastromarco). With others chasing from behind, the chasing four reached Howson and with two laps to go, Koshevoy and Phelan attacked their group and the advantage grew as the organization in the peloton failed.

With Koshevoy and Phelan flying away, a counter attack with Alberto Bettiol (Mastromarco), Stefano Nardelli (Gavardo), Federico Zurlo (Zalf-Euromobil) and Mitchell Mulhern (Australia) got a gap on the stalled peloton. Coming into the final kilometer, Koshevoy put in a soft attack that slowly distanced Phelan; 10 meters, 20 meters then 40 meters. In the final straight, Phelan pulled back some of the advantage but in the end, it was the Belorussian Koshevoy posting up for the victory ahead of Phelan. Behind, the counter attack had broken up with Bettiol coming in first ahead of Nardelli while Abruzzian Guiseppe Fonzi attacked the peloton late and managed a 5th place just ahead of a sprinting Andrea Zordan in 6th.

1° Ilya Koshevoy (Big Hunter)
2° Adam Phelan (Australia) a 1"
3° Alberto Bettiol (Mastromarco) a 30"
4° Stefano Nardelli (Gavardo) a 35"
5° Giuseppe Fonzi (Vini Fantini) a 39"
6° Andrea Zordan (Zalf Euromobil Desirée Fior) 40"
7° Paolo Simion (Zalf Euromobil Desirée Fior)
8° Riccardo Stacchiotti (Vini Fantini)
9° Gianni Bellini (Mastromarco)
10° Niccolò Rocchi (Marchiol Emisfero)

  • This was an impressive performance by Koshevoy, who up until not now had not had a big victory to his name. Koshevoy comes from a cycling background with both of his parents racing in their youth. He is also one of a few Belorussians that have come to the Italian amateur scene to try and strike it big. This win will go far in his search for a professional contract.
  • Even with the loss of Caleb Ewan, Australia has to be credited with a great race. This is the 7th time in 9 years that an Australian has stepped on the podium in this race. Phelan and Howson continued strong seasons and both are headed towards pro contracts next season.
  • Where the hell were Zalf, Trevigiani and Colpack? Arguably the three strongest Italian teams and most of them were anonymous today with Zalf being the only one to make a dent. Davide Villella (Colpack) and Michele Scartezzini (Trevigiani) both attempted to attack but they both went nowhere. Even with Andrea Zordan winning the group sprint for 6th, Zalf comes away with a sour taste in their mouth.
  • Mastromarco probably put in the strongest performance by an Italian team. Mirko Trosino attacked with Koshevoy and Phelan but couldn't hold on while Bettiol did well to get the team on the final podium. Grade A job done by Gabriele Balducci's Tuscan team.

Verhelst sprints to first stage win at Tour de Bretagne

Photo: Fabrice Lambert /

In the first stage of the seven stage tour, Louis Verhelst (Etixx-iHNed) sprinted to his 3rd win of the season ahead of Jan Sokol (Gourmetfein-Simplon) and Timothy Dupont (Ventilair-Steria). The bunch had to overcome a late attack from Norwegian Vegard Breen, who has 10 seconds headed into the final three kilometers. A speeding bunch was able to shut him down and Julian Alaphilippe lead out Verhelst  until 300 meters to go and Verhelst launched his sprint and according to him in a post-race interview, he knew from the moment he launched, he would win.

According to Verhelst, who graduated from the U23 ranks last year, he was in contact with multiple pro teams last year including Bretagne-Schuller (now Bretagne-Seche Environment) but they all turned him down. With three UCI wins so far this year, Verhelst has definitely shown he is ready for the next level.

Top 10:

1 Verhelst Louis Etixx-iHNed CT
2 Sokol Jan Team Gourmetfein-Simplon
3 Dupont Timothy Ventilair-Stéria
4 Villegas Juan 472-Colombia
5 Laborie Christophe Sojasun
6 Torres Muiño Pablo Burgos BH - Castilla y Leon
7 Alafaci Eugenio Leopard - Trek CT
8 Benfatto Marco Continental Team Astana
9 Zabel Rick Rabobank Development Team
10 Manzin Lorenzo UC Nantes Atlantique

Full Results

Daan Olivier signs with Argos-Shimano for next season

Rabobank Development's Daan Olivier signed his first professional contract with Argos-Shimano, a three-year deal that will see him be with the team from 2014-2016. Olivier cited the clean environment within the organization and that their coaching staff would be able to develop him further as a rider.

“It is a dream come true to become a professional cyclist,” said Olivier. “I signed with Team Argos-Shimano because it is the best team for a young rider who wants to develop himself, so I am really keen to join this project. I really admire the clean way they approach cycling and how they work with their riders, with intensive coaching and a complete team of experts. I want to develop in the future as a GC rider. I see myself as a typical climber, but I am going to work with the team on my time trialing to become a more complete rider.”
Press Release from Argos-Shimano 

Olivier had a impressive season last year but after coming off of a small crash, he suffered a big setback by coming back too fast and overtraining. This overtraining plagued him through the early season and hasn't allowed him to be in his best shape. Olivier finished the Circuit des Ardennes stage race is a reasonable 28th overall and then was quite active in Liege-Bastogne-Liege U23, where he was in some attacks and finished 22nd.

This could turn out to be a great move for Argos-Shimano. They have been stock piling young talent for years now but it would behoove them to sign some older mentors to help guide these riders. You can get some of the best talent in the world but it is always hard learning the ropes.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Zabel and Zepuntke out of Rabobank Development at season's end

With the Rabobank Continental team of 2012 morphing into the KNWU (Dutch Cycling Federation)-backed Rabobank Development team for 2013, it has been confirmed by that German riders Rick Zabel and Ruben Zepuntke will have to find new teams for 2014.

According to KNWU Technical Director Thorwald Veneberg, it was "a logical choice". The former Rabobank rider went on to say that it makes no sense that a team backed by the KNWU would contribute to the development of German riders. From the outset, it seemed strange that Zabel and Zepuntke would be here for 2013 but after the quick departure of Rabobank as a sponsor, it would have been bad to push them out. In any case, the parting seems to be amicable.

Now the speculation will begin where two talented riders will end up for 2014. There could be a very plausible argument that Zabel could make the jump to the World Tour next season but in my opinion, another year in the U23 ranks would serve him well as he will only be 20 years old this year. Above, you can see Bontrager CT Axel Merckx tweeting Zabel after the news came out. Zepuntke will also have to look for greener pastures and after two solid seasons as a U23, he will be a hot commodity on the transfer market. While not as talked about as Zabel, Zepuntke has great time trialling skills along with a body suited to classics and flatter stage races.

Hmmm Zabel to OPQS? (Photo: @ZabelRick)

GP Liberazione: A Race for "The Comrades"

Proposed flag for Padania
Francesco Moser was one of the finest and more respected riders of his generation, especially for taking to the northern classics with some aplomb not seen by an Italian since Fiorenzo Magni. 3-time winner of Paris-Roubaix, "The Sheriff" has stayed in touch with cycling since his retirement and was integral in the formation of the CPA, the professional cyclists union. Come 2011, many people's opinion of Moser changed when he came out in support of the Giro di Padania's supposed political backing, which came from the Lega Nord, a far right wing party that has been seen as xenophobic, among other things. At times, Lega Nord has advocated the secession of Padania, which is a term for the Po Valley region of Italy which has been seen as the economic driver of the country due to high rates of industry but Lega Nord has changed this to include all of Northern Italy and states such as Tuscany, Marche and Umbria.

During the inagural Giro di Padania, which was marred by protest, Moser came out swinging against those who criticized any political leanings that the race itself had because, as he sees is, there were races such as the Gran Premio Liberazione and Giro della Regioni that were never criticized for having direct links to the Communist Party. Okay let's pause and take a trip back in time. In 1946, the first GP Liberazione was run to celebrate the fall of Mussolini's fascist regime and the end of Nazi occupation, which happened on April 25th, 1945. Every subsequent edition has been run on April 25th, which is a public holiday in Italy, and the race has been seen as a beacon for post-fascist Italy. Where Moser gets his communist idea is from the race inviting teams from the Eastern Bloc to come take part in this showcase of talent. At a time where tensions were still high, geo-politically speaking, the race was inviting Czechoslovak and Soviet riders to compete as early as the mid-sixties.

Moser recalls when he was racing the event in 1972 where he alleges that two Soviet riders broke rules in the breakaway with him and fellow Italian Enzo Rossi, which propelled Soviet Yuri Osincew to the win. Moser continued saying that the race officials, who according to him were communist sympathizers, didn't do anything about it because they wanted to see a communist winner. All of these claims are unsubstantiated and it seems that Moser has a bone to pick based upon his political ideology.

While Moser seems to be a sympathizer of Lega Nord and a breakaway Padania state, it should be noted that in 1975 it was Italian Communist Guido Fanti, the President of Emilia-Romagna, who first proposed a Padania state, but only those states in the Po River Valley and not all of northern Italy. But I digress...

The Baths of Carcalla (
The GP Liberazione is run around the Baths of Caracalla in Rome, making it a circuit race. The Baths of Caracalla were the 2nd largest Roman public bath and date back to the 3rd century C.E. under the aforementioned Emperor Caracalla. To give you a sense of the size of the structure, 1,600 bathers could fit inside at one time and the structure covered a massive 25 hectares. The baths were sacked by the Ostrogoths during the 6th century Gothic War.

As you can see above, the course winds its way around the baths but honestly, this race's parcours is nothing special and the race is pretty short at just 138 kilometers. So what makes this race special if it is just a circuit race around the heart of Rome? Tradition. This race has been run every year since 1946 and the list of future champions that have competed here as amateurs would stretch from Rome to Sicily. As mentioned previously, this race featured Eastern Bloc riders before many other events. 1985 saw Gianni Bugno win while 1987 saw a young Dimitri Konyshev raise his arms in victory. In 2004, the race went to an all U23 format and this race became one of the gems of the Italian calendar. Look at some of the winners since then: Daniele Colli, Chris Sutton, Matt Goss, Sacha Modolo, Manuele Boaro, Matteo Trentin and Enrico Barbin. It should be said that just because there are no substantial climbs on this course, it doesn't mean that there will be a guaranteed field sprint because of the technical nature of the course. The last three winners of the race, Barbin, Trentin and Jan Tratnik, all won from breakaways so it is definitely possible with enough horsepower.

This year will be no different in terms of the quality of the field. All of the big Italian teams will be lining up including the big three of Trevigiani Dynamon Bottoli, Zalf-Euromobil and Team Colpack along with national teams from Australia, Ukraine, Japan, Russia and Slovenia. BMC Development will also be present with Ignazio Moser, the son of Francesco Moser. Another interesting note is that the maximum amount of riders a team can have is only 5, which makes controlling the peloton next to impossible. 

There are multiple riders that must be watched. Zalf-Euromobil's Andrea Zordan already has 5 wins this year and will be keen to add another to his palmares. Last year's 3rd place Davide Villella (Team Colpack) has had a rough go of it lately with four 2nd place finishes in the last two weeks but he will be looking to breakthrough with a big win here. Trevigiani brings Michele Scartezzini, the winner of Trofeo Piva Banca and 4th place at this past weekend's Trofeo Edil C.

There is no defined start list as of now but if the Australian National team brings who I think they will bring, they will have a strong chance at victory. If either Caleb Ewan or Damien Howson show up for Thursday's event, that is a two-headed cobra that no one will want to tame. Marlen Zmorka, who should line up for either Palazzago or the Ukrainian National team was in fine form this last weekend at Vicenza-Bionde, with a impressive solo victory over a speeding pack. Other names to watch include Niccolò Bonifazio (Viris Maserati), Niccola Ruffoni, Davide Orrico (Colpack), Simone Andreetta and Paolo Simion (Zalf-Euromobil).

With a start list released, there are a few other riders that I should mention. The GS Mastromarco squad led by former pro Gabriele Balducci has strong men such as Alberto Bettiol (10th in Flanders Nations Cup) and a former GiroBio stage winner in Mirko Trosino. While Davide Martinelli might enjoy a bit of a hillier course, the former SKY stagiaire and his Food Italia team could throw a wrench in the spokes of the bigger favorites. There is also the Slovenian National Team which will come with studs Jan Polanc and Luka Pibernik. Polanc will no doubt trying to attack while Pibernik is probably one of the few that can stay close to Ewan in a sprint. Shouldn't count out last year's World Junior Champion Matej Mohoric either but he has shown that while strong, he is in a teething process this year.

The good thing about this race is that every year RAI Sport shows this race on TV. It is scheduled for broadcast at 18.00-19.00 on RAI 2 so it will be highlights but that is much better than no coverage at all. It perhaps might be the last time the race is seen as well. Giancarlo Brocci, the head of the GiroBio, mentioned in an interview with that the organizers of the GP Liberazione have already cancelled the 2014 edition. While this is mere speculation at this point, it would be a great tragedy to see this race disappear.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Weekend of Video (April 20-21st)

Busy weekend of lots of racing so my writing can be a bit of a snooze-fest after a while since there are only so many similes and metaphors one can use.

Arno Wallaard Memorial - Won by Coen Vermeltfoort (De Rijke-Shanks) (Skip to around 3:19:00)

Ronde van Noord-Holland - Won by Dylan Groenewegen (De Rijke-Shanks)

Memorial Gerry Gasparotto - Won by Simone Andreetta (Zalf-Euromobil)

**Davide Villella didn't even bother showing up for the podium ceremony.

Memorial Fumagalli - Won by Andrea Zordan over Davide Villella AGAIN

XXIII Trofeo Guerrita (6th round of Copa de España) - won by Ibai Salas (Caja Rural Amateur)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sunday Roundup

While everyone (okay, maybe not everyone...) was watching Liege-Bastogne-Liege, lots of racing was happening elsewhere, including in Belgium and Europe and many other places.

Zordan denies Villella again in Memorial Angelo Fumagalli

In a rivarly that is getting downright comical, Andrea Zordan once again topped Davide Villella in the final sprint in the Memorial Angelo Fumagalli in Castelllo di Brianza, Lombardia. When I say comical, I don't mean it in a mocking sense (okay, maybe a little because this was Villella's victory salute from last year) but after Villella won 11 times last season, he has been denied his first win of the year four times in the past 12 days, three times by Zordan and once by Zordan's Zalf teammate Simone Andreetta, at yesterday's Memorial Gerry Gasparotto.

Zordan and Villella were going head to head with each other and seemingly left others in their wake as they attacked on the final climb together and continued down the downhill, where the remainder of the pack soon joined them. Zordan launched his sprint and was once again to strong for Milanese rider Villella and Davide Pacchiardo (Cerone-Rodman), who got his 1st podium of the year.

Zordan is up to an impressive 5 wins so far this season and his Zalf team is now up to 12 wins on the year. Both Zordan and Villella will be targeting next weekend's GP Liberazione, one of the crown jewels of Italian amateur cycling. 

Zmorka solos to victory at Vicenza-Bionde

Ukranian Marlen Zmorka (Palazzago) rode to an impressive solo victory at the 69th edition of Vicenza-Bionde, becoming only the 2nd foreign rider to win the race after Brazilian Luciano Pagliarini. Zmorka was apart of a breakaway group of 22 that went away halfway through the race but with 40 kilometers to go, Zmorka set out on his own. 6th place in last year's world U23 TT, Zmorka increased his advantage over the chasing group and the peloton and heading into the final 10 kilometers, the Ukranian had a large 1'10" gap. The bunch, led by Zalf-Euromobil and Colpack, were desperate to bring things back but in the end, Zmorka was able to take a comfortable win. Nicolas Marini (Zalf-Euromobil) continued his team's trend of beating Colpark as he finished 2nd ahead of Colpack's Nicola Ruffoni 3rd and Niccolò Bonifazio (Viris-Maserati) 4th.

Zmorka will be in an attacking mood for Liberazione and will be looking to target TTs later in the season.

Groenewegen makes it two in a row for De Rijke-Shanks

Photo: Marcel Koch (

Dylan Groenewegen made it two wins in two days for his De Rijke-Shanks squad at the Ronde van Noord-Holland as the Dutchman beat out Wouter Wippert (3M) and Remco te Brake (Metec) in a bunch gallop. It was a breakaway that defined the day as a large escape group went up the flat, windy roads as the peloton would eventually split behind them. It was with less than 10 kilometers that the first peloton brought back all of the escapees.

Mike Terpstra (3M) was burying himself for Wouter Wippert but the Drenthe native couldn't quite seal the deal as Groenewegen, from Amsterdam, powered to his first victory of the season. This victory mitigates the sour taste he had in his mouth after missing out on the victory at the Ronde van Vlaanderen Nations Cup, where he was blocked in the final sprint and had to settle for 2nd to Rick Zabel. 

In other races...

  • Tao Geoghegan (Great Britain) won the Tour of Istria Nations Cup overall after finishing safely in the bunch on the 3rd stage, which saw Kristoffer Halvorsen (Norway) take the win in a big bunch sprint. David Per (Slovenia) finished 2nd overall with Dmitry Strakhov (Russia) in 3rd.
  • Jérôme Baugnies (ToWin-Josan) won his 9th race of the year today at the GP Affligem kermis. Baugnies got into a group of 14 and sprinted to the win over Tommy Baeyens (Van Eyck Sports). That is the 4th win for Baugnies in the last 8 days and he is well on his quest to getting a pro contract for next season.
  • Simon Yates (Great Britain) finally broke his spell of near-misses and won the final day of the Arden Challenge over Jasper Stuyven (Bontrager CT) and twin brother Adam Yates. Simon wrapped up the overall after finishing 3rd, 2nd, 2nd and 1st in the 4-race event. 
  • Ibai Salas (Caja Rural Amateur) won the Copa de España sixth round at the Trofeo Guerrita in a mass sprint over Loïc Chetout (Naturgas Energia). With this result, Chetout retakes the overall lead in the series from Aira Fernandez (Coleur)
I'll add some video later on as it filters in. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Saturday Roundup

No properly big races are happening this weekend but many teams were in actions across the continent...

Long wait is over for Vermeltfoort at Arno Wallaard

Photo: via Coen Vermeltfoort's personal website

Coen Vermeltfoort (CT De Rijke-Shanks) tasted victory for the first time in three years at Saturday's Arno Wallaard Memorial after getting into the final breakaway and sprinting past Mike Teunissen (Rabobank Development) and Sean De Bie (Leopard-Trek). Vermeltfoort has been close to victory this season with two previous 2nd place finishes but he was finally able to cross the line with his hands in the air. Behind the breakaway of eight, Wouter Wippert (Team 3M) pipped Rick Zabel (Rabobank Development) on the line for 9th place. After the race, Vermeltfoort thanked teammate Ronan van Zandbeek for his great work while in the breakaway.

Vermeltfoort experienced some of the worst luck with Rabobank in his two years in the World Tour, where he broke both his wrists falling off a start ramp and then crashed multiple times, essentially ruining any chance of making a impression. The rider from Schuinesloot hit the restart button with CT De Rijke-Shanks and has had a solid season so far, only DNFing one race (the hellish Ronde van Drenthe) and making the most of his opportunities.

Villella denied again at Memorial Gerry Gasparotto

Simone Andreetta denied Davide Villella his first victory of the season, the third time that a Zalf-Euromobil rider has done so within the last couple weeks. Zalf-Euromobil is now up to 12 wins so far this season and this total will keep multiplying throughout the season. It was an early attack that saw ten riders leap away from the field of 164 and coming into the final corner, it was Andreetta that lead out the sprint and held off a chasing Villella and Zalf teammate Andrea Toniatta. 

Villella, while he is without a win this year, is in some amazing form for next weekend's GP Liberazione, where he was 3rd last year. The Zalf-Euromobil team of former pro Gianni Faresin will be another big favorite for next week's big events, where Andrea Zordan and Simone Andreetta will be looking for the biggest wins of their career. 

Daniel wins in 3rd day of Arden Challenge

Greg Daniel (USA/Bontrager CT) won the 3rd day of the Arden Challenge over an on-fire Simon Yates (Great Britain) and Tyler Williams (BMC). The Arden Challenge is a series of races just like the Mallorca Challenge where riders can race one day and pull out the next without any penalty and race as many days as they want to. The first two days were won by the indomitable Jérôme Baugnies (ToWin-Josan), who has been on fire so far this season on his quest to get back to the top rung of the sport. Daniel was able to break away from the pack and take a nice solo victory.

It should be noted that through three days of this event, Simon Yates has finished 3rd, 2nd and 2nd in three days of racing. Yates hasn't missed a beat since his Points Race World Track Championship in early March and won two kermis races in Belgium before attacking every Nations Cup race he was in. Yates is an absolute animal on the bike and should score a big win soon.

Other results to look at:
  • Lasse Norman Hansen won the UCI 1.2 GP Herning in Denmark. It was the first road win for Hansen this year after his two medal performance at the World Track Championships. 
  • Michael Kolar (Dukla Trencin-Trek) won the Banja Luka Belgrade I race ahead of Austrian Jan Sokol
  • Junior Tao Geoghegan Hart won the 2nd stage of the Tour of Istria Nations Cup out of a select group of five. Hart and Slovenian David Per, winner of the 1st stage, will be fighting it out for the overall with a few others on the final stage Sunday.
  • Another junior racer to watch right now is American Geoffrey Curran (Get Crackin'). Curran is an 18-year old from California who after putting up impressive junior results last year, has been doing great at the Pro/1 Sea Otter stage race. Saturday saw Curran go 4th in the TT to Kirk Carlsen, former Garmin-Sharp professional. Curran should be headed to Europe soon for more international junior racing.

Italian Amateur Cycling v. The Credit Crunch: Will the Kids Be Alright?

Last week, the UCI Nations Cup calendar had both the La Côte Picarde and ZLM Tour events, with two great wins by Caleb Ewan and Yoeri Havik. Also last weekend was the Liege-Bastogne-Liege U23 event, won by Michael Valgren, which featured 33 teams, including many foreign squads. In all three events, there was only one Italian present. Many in the Italian amateur and U23 system called foul for this vast oversight. If we look above, we can see Team GeneralStore, based out of Mantova, tweeting about how no Italians were present at the ZLM Tour while there was an Algerian national team on the start line. lamented in a piece about how Italy hasn't won a big international U23 event in a long while (2011 with Salvatore Puccio at the Ronde van Vlaanderen, if I'm not mistaken). The Toscana Terra di Ciclismo Nations Cup stage race has been cancelled and the GiroBio is on the brink of being cancelled. What the hell is going on in Italy and is it a problem that people should actually be worried about?

The UCI Nations Cup should be about highlighting the best young talent that countries have to offer but it should also be more than that. Notice I say should because rarely does this happen when it comes to the UCI. Italy, as a nation, finished 5th overall in the 2012 rankings and because of this, they receive automatic invitations from organizers  of Nations Cup races. Yet the only Nations Cup race Italy attended this spring was the Ronde van Vlaanderen, where Alberto Bettiol finished 10th and Ignazio Moser played a key role in a final kilometer attack. The same weekend saw the biggest Italian teams (along with some foreign squads) take place in the Trofeo Piva Banca. With this UCI 1.2U event running concurrently with the RvV, guys like Andrea Zordan and Davide Villella were not given the opportunity to try their hand at the Nations Cup event.

To put it simply, the federation is lacking money. Instead of riding Nations Cup races, Ignazio Moser was forced to ride local races so his racing legs could stay fresh. From what I gather, many are upset because the federation (and other teams, organizers, etc.) were spending a lot of money on pretty lavish things but come this year, they have had to tighten their belts significantly. This could come back to bite them if the Italians are not careful. After Toscana Terra di Ciclismo, organized by the same people that do the GiroBio, was postponed, the Italians have slipped down the Nations Cup rankings and will have to target the European Championships and the Tour de l'Avenir if they want to be able to get invited to Nations Cup races next year.

This issue goes a bit deeper than this though. Giancarlo Brocci, the head of the GiroBio and Toscana Terra di Ciclismo Nations Cup, has tried to get backing for his races but has seemingly failed and is having to take more drastic measures. Brocci tried to have teams chip in to keep the GiroBio running but with many of them strapped for cash and still waiting for prize money from the 2012 event, the majority of teams refused. Out of 13 amateur squads, only three (as of now unnamed) have given their unconditional support to the the GiroBio while some others have agreed to back the race's new motto of "transparency, ethics and romance". With a divide falling between Brocci and Italian teams, Brocci has been looking outside of Italy for help with the GiroBio. In the above linked interview, Brocci states that he has had 18 foreign teams express interest in participating in the now 10-stage race. This is quite new for the GiroBio as it is usually dominated by Italian amateur squads and their stars of the future. Brocci also stated that since he now has enough teams to participate, he is now focusing on the course and organization and if needed, will shorten the race down to eight days. He had previously set a April 15th deadline for whether the race would happen or not but that date has gone and passed with Brocci still working on keeping the race alive.

With the GiroBio looking towards the outside for help, should anyone be worried about Italian amateur cycling? Not really. As bleak as the news might sound at times, I still think that Italy has one of the strongest amateur scenes going and while they are definitely strapped for cash right now, there is an abundance of quality racing. There are certainly problems that need to be addressed.

 Firstly, the Italian calendar situation needs to be fixed so big UCI 1.2U races are not held on the same weekend as other big international races. This dilutes the international fields in these Italian races and also denies some riders the chance of headed to different parts of the continent to try their hand at racing.

Secondly, I wouldn't be surprised if there is a changing of the guard in the Italian federation and race organizers. Many seem unhappy about the current situation and while it is very hard for organizers to put on big races because of very stingy sponsors, it seems that is there was some new blood, there would be more thrifty ways of putting on and keeping races going for a long period.  If this means that there are a few less training camps so that riders can go attend big races such as Nations Cup events or others, then that should be happening. It could also mean that some smaller one-day events are shuttered. While that might be sad, there is a plethora of racing and the Federation should be trying to become less insular and put their riders out their against the best competition.

Lastly, big races like the GiroBio shouldn't be over promising and under-delivering. If the race isn't going to be 10-days long, let the public, teams and sponsors know that in December instead of March, when teams have already set their schedules and sponsors have allocated all of their money. It is a shame that this happens to great events such as the GiroBio but when you wait until a couple months before your event to tell everyone you might not make it happen, it makes me think that something is wrong with the management. There are back payments from 2012 that are still outstanding so if it means the race has to be cut down to 6 days, that is fine by me as long as everything can be paid for in full.

It is a shame to see Italians miss big Nations Cup events because in the past they have been very prominent and how shown off guys such as Jacopo Guarnieri, Elia Viviani and Salvatore Puccio among many others. The Italian Feds need to get their shit together and focus on this talent (and other youths in every other discipline) because they are going to be the face of Italian cycling in the future. Organizers need to stop being so dramatic about their problems and be more pragmatic about their situations. I, for one, hope that everything works out for the better but when those in charge are shuffling their feet and not helping the problem, there needs to be some changes.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Top 5 U23s of 2013 (through Mid-April)

With the spring Nations Cup races coming to a close this weekend, I think it is time to introduce the first Top 5 ranking of the year. It has been a pretty packed season so far with racing all the way from Croatia to the Netherlands and beyond and when we look back on things...well it is hard to forget some of the truly great performances. Welcome to my mostly subjective, perhaps a little objective, Top 5 U23 ranking.

1. Dylan van Baarle (Rabobank Develpoment)

Photo: Wiki Commons
The rider from Voorburg has built up his successes from last year and done extraordinarily well in the first portion of this season after cracking his acetabulum last autumn in a fall in the GP Jef Scherens. Van Baarle got his season off to a hot start by putting in two sterling efforts at Ster van Zwolle and the Dorpenomloop Rucphen. In both cases, van Baarle won from breakaways; in Ster van Zwolle, he won the final sprint with the peloton breathing right down their necks while in the Dorpenomloop, he took off solo with less than 10km to go and won by an impressive margin.

What is also impressive about van Baarle has been his consistency. In the Tour de Normandie, van Baarle suffered from bad luck in the form of a rainy prologue and being caught behind multiple crashes in the first road stages. To make up for this, van Baarle went on the attack in stage 4 and after dropping his breakaway mates on the run-in to Villers-Bocage, he was only caught by former-TdF KOM winner Anthony Charteau for the stage win. Van Baarle moved up to 3rd overall and would finish the race in that position. 5 days later, van Baarle started the Triptyque Monts et Châteaux stage race in Belgium and stomped the time trial for 2nd place. Van Baarle, after misjudging some attacks on 2a stage, would only finish 8th overall but still good for a rider that had been going since early March. He finished up his spring campaign with two front group finishes at Ronde van Vlaanderen and La Côte Picarde Nations Cups.

Except to see more out of the young Dutchman this year and I wouldn't be surprised to see him called up to Blanco (or another Dutch team) for a stagiaire role this fall.

2. Jasper Stuyven (Bontrager CT)

Stuyven has been a prodigy since his junior days and has continued his rise through the early part of this season. Hailing from Leuven, Stuyven was a junior World Champion at just 17 (2009, Moscow) and followed that performance up with a Junior Paris-Roubaix win in 2010. After two building years in the espoir ranks, Stuyven came into his own this year. Not starting in the early Belgian classics, Stuyven and his Bontrager squad opted to open the season at the Volta ao Alentejo in Portugal. Stuyven was impressive on the race's first uphill finish, finishing 7th and in the first group behind winner Daniel Silva. To follow this performance up, Stuyven joined a powerful breakaway halfway through the 2nd stage and broke away with Chad Haga at the end and sprinted to his maiden victory of the season. Stuyven continued his domination with 4th, 6th and 7th places on the final three stages, with the final 7th place coming on another uphill finish. Stuyven wrapped up overall honors along with the points and youth classifications.

While his climbing skills might seem impressive for his stature, Stuyven's eye is firmly set on the northern classics and he came into the Ronde van Vlaanderen Nations Cup with high hopes. Stuyven attacked late in the race this year on the Holleweg but was brought back. Before he could be silenced, Stuyven went on a final kilometer mad escape with Ignazio Moser and Kiwi Kieran Hambrook and was only brought back with 150 meters to go, having to settle for 31st. After finishing in the front pack at La Côte Picarde, Stuyven had his eyes set on the Liege-Bastogne-Liege U23 race, hoping to make an impact but was put up against stiff competition. After seeing his teammate Nathan Brown escape up the road with eventual winner Michael Valgren (CULT Energy), Stuyven lept out of the peloton on the Côte d'Ans and brought himself up to Dutchman Martijn Tusveld and won the sprint for 3rd place. Stuyven, along with Sean De Bie, will be headed to Florence, Italy to preview the World Championship course with, among others, Tom Boonen. Boonen himself was a podium finisher at L-B-L U23 (2nd, 2001) so perhaps Stuyven is following in his footsteps? Only time will tell.

3. Caleb Ewan (Jayco-AIS)

If you have read this blog for a while, you will know my dislike of directly comparing riders of different generations. While this is true, Australia might have found a new 'Pocket Rocket' in Caleb Ewan. Last year's silver medalist in Valkenburg in the junior World Championships behind Matej Mohoric (Slovenia), Ewan is the next big sprinting talent to come out of Australia; so prodigious in fact that he could be compared to the now-retired Robbie McEwen in some ways. He is in fact short at just 165cm (5'4") but he packs an unreal sprint, very similar to McEwen's sprint in his prime years. While he possesses a McEwen-esque sprint, Ewan doesn't sink like a stone like Robbie did when the road tilted upward.

Ewan is a former junior world omnium champion on the track, having won in 2011.While still only 17 in early 2012, Ewan won two criterium stages of the Jayco Bay Cycling Classics over experienced sprinters such as Allan Davis, Bernard Sulzberger and Leigh Howard. While being primarily a sprinter, Ewan also won the junior national TT championship. 2013 started much of the same for the young Australian as he won the opening criterium of the Bay Classics and went on to win the overall. Enrolling with the Jayco-AIS Australian National Development squad for 2013, Ewan quickly went to work once the team hit European soil. After Silvio Herklotz' brave descent went awry in the GP Palio del Recioto, Ewan was able to beat the German in the final sprint by multiple bike lengths and took a win in his first European race of the season. This win is quite impressive because of the fact that Ewan spent a large amount of time in the breakaway and survived the final climb with enough energy to latch on to the leading group. At the Trofeo Piva Banca, Ewan finished 8th and won the group sprint ahead of Italian fast man Andrea Zordan.

Ewan entered his first Nations Cup race with the Australian national team at La Côte Picarde and was carrying hot form. Simon Yates (Great Britain) launched a vicious attack on the final uphill of the race with ~15km to go and Ewan got into the counter attack with Sean De Bie, Jan Polanc (Slovenia) and Kristian Haugaard (Denmark) and latched onto Yates shortly thereafter. Ewan once again took the race by the scruff and won convincingly ahead of De Bie and Yates.

Ewan will no doubt get more wins this season and could possibly jump to the World Tour after only one season in the espoirs ranks. There was even talk of Ewan jumping directly from the junior ranks to the Saxo-Tinkoff World Tour squad but after Brad Mcgee's departure from the squad, these plans were dashed. Really, this kid might be quite small but he is the real deal.

4. Fredrik Ludvigsson (People4You-Unaas)

Before this season, if you would have asked he about "that Swede Ludvigsson" I probably would have started going on about Argos-Shimano's Tobias Ludvigsson. Well...about that. Tobias has a younger brother and he could possibly be even more talented but again, only time will tell.

Before this year, Fredrik (whose name I have been spelling wrong for the last month and a half) was a talented junior but wasn't a rider that was tipped to be the next big thing. In his final junior season, Frederik earned the mountains jersey at the junior Peace Race and finished 2nd overall in the Trofeo Karlsberg Nations Cup race, thanks in large part to a phenomenal TT performance.

Photo: Twitter @Ludvigsson94
Coming into this year, I had no idea who this guy was. Even after a few Belgian races, he was pulling mid-pack results, which is commendable in itself for an 18-year old. Then came the Tour de Normandie. Ludvigsson did what Swedes do when they come to this race and he sped through the prologue, an event his brother won 2011, and finished 4th. Fredrik's performance over the next week showed strength beyond his years and when it was all said and done, the young Swede was 5th overall.

The following weekend, Ludvgisson followed that performance up at the Boucle de l'Artois, another nice romp around Northern France. Fredrik made the large, decisive breakaway on stage 1 and the next day he demolished the TT, winning by a comfortable margin heading into the final afternoon stage. Being an uphill finish, Fredrik would have to be quite attentive but he handled it with aplomb, finishing 5th on the stage and securing his overall victory.

The young Swede's spring was not yet done as he was called up by the Swedish national squad for the first batch of Nations Cup races. Having ridden cobbles only a handful of times, Ludvigsson was present in the Ronde van Vlaanderen and made the leading split multiple times before settling for a 19th place finish. Places to watch Ludvigsson will be stage races (especially the TTs) and harder one-day races.

T-5. Andrea Zordan (Zalf-Euromobil)

Seemingly every year, there is this new great Italian prospect that wins a truckload of races in the amateur scene, gets picked up by a Italian pro team and then goes on to a career of varying success, sometimes prolific and other times underwhelming. Francesco Chicchi, Danilo Napolitano, Andrea Guardini, Dario Cataldo, etc. are just a few examples. This year, Andrea Zordan has been racking up the placings with his Zalf-Euromobil squad.

Zordan was the Italian junior champion in 2009 at just 16 but in the lead-up to the World Championships that year, he was sent home from a training camp with a hematocrit of 50.9, just above the legal limit and above his usual reading of 49. No doping accusations have been put against Zordan and the high hematocrit seems to be natural ala Damiano Cunego. 2011 and 2012, his first two year sin the U23 ranks were spent with the powerhouse Trevigiani Dynamon Bottoli squad, where he gained only two wins and a handful of places. A controversial switch to one of Trevigiani's archrivals Zalf-Euromobil for 2013 has lead Zordan to greener pastures.

Zordan (r) beats Villella (l) at Edil C

Through the early spring, Zordan has sprinted to 4 wins but the way that he has won is what is interesting. While he certainly possesses a knockout sprint, Zordan has won his races from smaller groups on more selective races. Zordan took the early season GP Ceda in a big sprint. Zordan then took the Trofeo Balestra win a selective sprint. Then the Venetian embarrassed Davide Villella, the superstar from Team Colpack, twice in a row by beating him at both the Trofeo Mario Zanchi and Trofeo Edil C, sprints that were from select groups, which showed off Zordan's versatility.

You need to look past the wins to see how well Zordan has been doing this year. He was 4th at the Giro del Belvedere, where he won the chasing group sprint behind the leading trio. He won the uphill bunch sprint at the GP San Guiseppe for 10th, again over Davide Villella. This consistency could translate well to the next level if Zordan continues to hone his sprinting skills. It does still remain to be seen how he stacks up against international competition but with the GiroBio on the verge of being scrapped, he might not get that chance until later in the summer.

T-5. Rick Zabel (Rabobank Develpoment)

Rick Zabel seems to be imitating his father's victory salutes...hopefully he doesn't forget to post up too early? Zabel has been one of the more talked about U23s partially because of his famous father but also because of his talent. Every since his father was racing the Tour de France, young Rick could be seen in pictures with his green-jersey clad father. While Rick might have been talked up, his results were strong but perhaps not meeting up to the high praise he was getting by commentators. His crowning achievement as a junior was finishing 5th in the World Championships in Copenhagen but outside of this result, he didn't rack up any international victories.

In Zabel's first espoirs season last year, the German only racked up one win with the Rabobank Continental outfit, the German National U23 Road Race. The German also racked up high finishes in races such as Ronde van Vlaanderen U23 (20th), Ronde van Limburg (2nd) and Paris-Tours Espoirs (12th).

Coming into 2013, Zabel and German teammate Ruben Zepuntke stuck with the Rabobank Development squad even though the team was now technically run by the KNWU (Dutch Cycling Federation). This season has been a breakthrough one for Zabel. Zabel struck gold at the Tour de Normandie when he out sprinted a select group of riders on the 5th stage into Bagnoles-de-l'Orne. After some strong racing at Le Triptyque Monts et Châteaux, the German set his sights to the Ronde van Vlaanderen Nations Cup. Sitting near the front all day, Zabel stayed clear of trouble and coming into the finale, the German freelanced his way through the sprint and when the dust settled, the German sat up comfortably ahead of Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen.

This is a key thing when we look at young Zabel...he isn't his father. As of now, I do not see Rick going into every bunch sprint and trying to go for the win. Zabel might be able to do something his father got close to but was never able to do and win a big Northern Classic. He has all-around skills that are impressive and he shouldn't be pigeon-holed into the sprinters mold.

On the Rise

While not everyone can fit into the top 5 (or 6) there are other riders that deserve a mention, in no particular order...

Photo: La Fundacion Euskadi

Carlos Barbero (Euskadi) 

While his team might be on the verge of collapse, Carlos Barbero's impressive results so far this year have been the saving grace of the squad. You'd be right in seeing that Barbero isn't a Basque name. Barbero is from the Burgos province originally but has developed in the Basque system, first at Naturgas Energia and then with Orbea/Euskadi. Over the winter this year, Barbero talked about wanting to improve his fast-twitch muscles and his hard work has started to pay off. 

Barbero gained some attention with four top 10 stage placings at the Volta ao Alentejo in early March along with 9th overall in the race. Then came last week's Vuelta Castilla y Leon, where Barbero unleashed power that hadn't previously been seen before. Always staying near the front of the race, Barbero finished 5th and 6th in the first two stages, relatively good results against teams with better organization. On the final 3rd stage on an uphill finish, Barbero lept out of the chasing pack and finish 3rd on the stage, only finishing 7 seconds behind stage winner Ruben Plaza. 

Barbero was selected for the Tour de Azerbaijan (the annoying Eurosport commercial race) with the Spanish U23 National squad. 

Damien Howson (Jayco-AIS)

Mister Howson...where do I begin. In his 2.33 years as a U23, Howson has steadily risen through the ranks but now he is nearing the top of his class and the future is looking very bright. Howson is a bit different than some of his countryman who stormed the U23 ranks in that while he spent time on the boards of the velodrome, his focus has clearly been on the road. If this is because of a lack of interest in the track or not fitting in with the program, Howson has dedicated himself to the time trial and has slowly morphed himself into a GC rider.

Howson attacking his favored discipline (Photo: PelotonCafe)

In his first U23 year, Howson was Oceania TT Champion and finished 9th in the World Time Trial Championship. His 2nd year in 2012 led to even more success with another Oceania TT Championship and a 3rd place at the World Championships in the TT. You sense a theme here with the TT, no? I should say that 2012 was also promising on the GC front with 7th in the Tour Alsace (won by Jon Tiernan-Locke) along with a 2nd in the TT.

Seeing the TT theme here, Howson continued this streak into 2013. Sticking with the Jayco-AIS WorldTour Development squad, Howson won the Australian U23 National TT and the Oceania TT Championships, his 3rd straight victory in the event. Howson also got a chance to ride the Tour Down Under, where he had a day out in the breakaway to show off some of his power. When the team hit the European circuit, Howson rode incredibly, finishing in the top 10 in the first three races. He was 5th in the Giro del Belvedere (1st chasing pack), 7th in the Palio del Recioto (front pack) and 3rd in the Trofeo Piva Banca (breakaway of three) <----Impressive (slow clap).

Except to see Howson in stage races such as the Olympia's Tour, Tour de l'Avenir and important time trials in the lead up to the World Championships in Florence, where he will be targeting the win.

Silvio Herklotz (Stölting-Ruhr)

I have written about Herklotz at length so far this season. See my profile of Herklotz from earlier to get more background on the rider from the outskirts of Berlin. He is one of my favorites and I hope to see him when there is more racing video. Sadly, Herklotz hasn't been racing much since his last race at the Palio del Recioto, where he crashed on the final downhill at high speed. With the cancellation of the Toscana Terra di Ciclismo Nations Cup stage race, Herklotz rode one local German event (where his teammate won) and will be racing next at the Rund um den Finanzplatz Eschborn-Frankfurt U23 event, which could be a good course to suit his all-around skills. 

Davide Villella (Colpack)

Villella humiliates Barbin (r) and Fedi (l) Photo:
Perhaps that wasn't Davide Villella's finest moment...or perhaps it was. This guy definitely has some style though and as long as he keeps himself in check (and keeps producing results), I have nothing wrong with that. Riding for one of the Italian powerhouses, Colpack, Villella exploded onto the scene in 2012 with 11 wins and 37 top ten placings, beating some of the big guns of the Italian scene. While nearly all of this happened in Italy, Villella also put in a very strong performance in Worlds, attacking in the late race breakaway and trying to push the pace.

2013 and the story is the same with Villella putting in some incredibly strong rides except the Milanese rider has yet to get a win. When I say that Villella has ridden strongly, his lowest placing is 20th, which was a front (chasing) group finish at the Trofeo Piva Banca. In the span of one week, Villella was denied twice by Andrea Zordan (see above) in sprint finishes. He will get a victory soon and there is a strong possibility that Villella could crack the top 5 soon.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Havik blows away the competition at ZLM Tour

Yoeri Havik takes the win at ZLM Tour (photo: @RolfBosboom)
On a blustery day in Zeeland, it was a late attack by Yoeri Havik (Netherlands/CT De Rijke-Shanks) that sealed his victory at the ZLM Tour Nations Cup in Goes. Havik attacked in the final kilometers with Mark Dzamastagic (Slovenia/Sava) from a group of 16 others and outsprinted the Slovene to the line. There former break mates were led home by Kirill Yatsevich (Russia/Helicopters).

The race started out astronomically quick and the windy conditions had no forgiveness for those that were caught out. Echelons formed early and with a first hour average of 52 km/h, a group of 17, including the whole Dutch squad, Rick Zabel (who would later be dropped) and Ty Magner among others, were up the road ahead of a chasing group and the peloton. The Belgian and Kazakh teams were caught out and were chasing hard to bring the race back. Soon enough a group of 39 riders had formed behing the breakaway and were chasing the break and eventually joined up with the leaders. This group of 56 riders were the selection that would be contesting the win as the majority of the trailing riders behind would pull out as the race hit Goes for the finishing laps.

After 2.5 hours of racing, the racing started to heat up with multiple attacks trying to gain advantage over the peloton. As the race completed its loop of the Oosterschelde estuary and made its way back to Goes for two final 17-kilometer laps, the front bunch was not letting any moved get away until the final lap. Just before the final lap, a group for 18 was able to separate itself from the bunch, spurred on by Dutchman Brian van Goethem.

Bakhyitar Kozhatayev was the first to attack the group entering the final 10 kilometers but suffered a fall that negated his advantage. With only a few kilometers left in the race and a few riders dropping off the group, Havik and Dzamastagic attacked the bunch and went clear. Possessing the better sprint, Havik confidently launched his sprint and took his biggest win to date in the U23 ranks. 
  1. Yoeri Havik (Netherlands)
  2. Mark Dzamastagic (Slovenia) +2
  3. Kirill Yatsevitch (Russia) +7
  4. Owain Doull (Great Britain) all s.t.
  5. Niels Wytinck (Belgium)
  6. Paco Ghistelinck (Belgium)
  7. Marlen Zmorka (Ukraine)
  8. Maarten van Trijp (Netherlands)
  9. Ty Magner (USA)
  10. Alexis Gougeard (France)
  • I had picked Havik for 2nd place...I guess going one better wasn't too bad ;)
  • This race is seemingly always a clusterfuck so the results that come from here should be taken with a grain of salt.
  • I'm impressed with Magner in his first race in Europe this season. He just flew over mid-week so a 9th place is pretty good considering.
  • Owain Doull is one that was not on a radar this season but after 13th at De Ronde and 4th place here, he is definitely on to watch.

Valgren goes back to back at Liège-Bastogne-Liège U23

Michael Valgren (CULT Energy) attacked on the Côte d'Ans with only 6 kilometers to go and rode solo to his 2nd win in as many years on the asphalt velodrome in Liège. Valgren broke away from Nate Brown (Bontrager CT) and Martijn Tusveld (Rabobank Development) but both continued to the line with Brown holding on for a fine 2nd place while his Bontrager teammate Jasper Stuyven passed Tusveld for 3rd place. Valgren is the first back-to-back winner here since Raivis Belohvosciks did the double in 1995-96.

The races left Bastogne shortly after noon local time and a few breakaways tried to get away but it wasn't until 40 kilometers that a breakaway got away. A group of 11 was whittled down to a group of seven including U23 cyclocross world champion Mike Teunissen, Rabo Devo teammate Ruben Zepuntke along with others from continental and amateur squads. The break got a maximum advantage of 4'43" before the peloton started to ramp up the pace on the Côte de Wanne.

By the time the race got to the Côte de Rosier, the gap had dropped to only 2'46. With BMC and Bontrager at the front, the gap continued to drop over Côte de la Vecquée but as the race approached the fearsome La Redoute climb, a cloud of chaos came over the riders. Josh Atkins (EFC-OPQS), Rasmus Sterobo (CULT Energy) and Lawson Craddock (Bontrager CT) attacked halfway up La Redoute and were quickly joined by Michael Valgren (CULT Energy), Dylan Teuns (Ventilair-Steria) and Daan Olivier (Rabobank Devo). This powerful group of six would have been a dangerous move if it wasn't for incompetence...
 Over the top of La Redoute, the group of six were led the wrong way on the descent and the advantage they gained on the climb was neutralized. Valgren showed that he was on a good day though and soon after the detour, attacked with Nate Brown (Bontrager CT) and Martijn Tusveld (Rabobank Devo) with 37 kilometers left in the race and three climbs still to go. They were briefly joined by Ruben Zepuntke but he was dropped, most likely tired from his escape earlier in the race.

The trio gained a minute by the time they summited the Côte de Tilff and plowed on to the Côte de Saint Nicolas. By the time the peloton summited the Saint Nicolas, the gap was down to just 28 seconds with just 10 kilometers to go. On the Côte d'Ans, Valgren made his move and attacked, distancing his breakaway colleagues as the peloton breathed down their necks. Valgren powered on and maintained his gap over Brown as Jasper Stuyven and Dylan Teuns joined Tusveld. Valgren took the victory solo, taking in all the emotion and joy as he raised his arms in triumph. Brown held on for 2nd while Stuyven came in 3rd over Tusveld and Teuns. Edward Theuns (VL Techniks) won the sprint for 6th, another impressive result for the full-time student from Gentbrugge.

Seems like Valgren "ate his shit, like 1000 times", eh?

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Stuyven, Valgren and Brown (Photo:ProCyclingStats)

Full results

1. Michael Valgren (CULT Energy)
2. Nate Brown (Bontrager CT)
3. Jasper Stuyven (Bontrager CT)
4. Martijn Tusveld (Rabobank Devo)
5. Dylan Teuns (Ventilair-Steria)
6. Edward Theuns (VL Techniks)
7. Romain Guillemois (Vendée U)
8. Tiejs Benoot (Lotto-Belisol U23)
9. Loïc Vliegen (BMC Development)
10. Gerry Druyts (EFC-OPQS)

  • It always sucks when human error plays into bike races. Who knows what would have happened if the group of six wasn't sent in the wrong direction.
  • While Jasper thinks his team was the strongest by far, they came up just short in the end. Breakthrough ride for Nate Brown, who was a standout junior but hadn't had a big result yet in the U23 ranks. He will be fighting for a call-up for races like the Tour of California but this result definitely helped his case.
  • Valgren is apart of a Danish class of riders who could bring Denmark back to prominence in the pro ranks but for all of the success they have had in the U23 ranks, they have not been able to translate it into success on the World Tour level. Perhaps Valgren and others can buck this trend.
  • Teuns and Theuns rode well today...Dylan (Teuns) accomplished his goal of finishing in the top 10 while Edward (Theuns) continued a string of strong performances that have really bumped up his chances for a big contract next season.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Liège-Bastogne-Liège U23 Preview: The Walloon Conundrum

While the grownup version of Liège-Bastogne-Liège is the oldest classic in cycling and has a storied history, the U23 version of La Doyenne has quite a different dynamic. Beginning only in 1986, the race did not really take shape as a targeted event until the mid-90's, when more international riders started to frequent the event. Just like many other U23 races, U23 L-B-L doesn't play out like it does with the pros.

 Firstly, there is the 6-man team factor, which mitigates the "SKY effect" where one team rides at the front until the finale. Second, this race doesn't finish on a long uphill drag like in the big race but instead on the Liège velodrome. Lastly, this race is 80 kilometers shorter and has a few less climbs than the pro version, most notably the Côte du Stockeau, with nine in total.

All of these factors put together lead to a different mix of winners, many of whom have had some unheralded professional careers. Raivis Belohvosciks won back-to-back editions in 1995 and 1996. Jurgen van Goolen won the 2000 edition over alcoholic Wim Vanhuffel and nearly no one else of note.  2001 saw Ruslan Gryshchenko win over Tom Boonen and Andrey Kashechkin. Let's stop there...Tom Boonen was 2nd in Liege-Bastogne-Liege? This is another race that tends to draw out guys with lots of talent rather than guys that will end up targeting the Ardennes classics when they graduate to the pro ranks. Other winners include Christophe Kern, Johan Vansummeren, Kai Reus, Grega Bole, Jan Bakelants, Ramunas Navardauskas and Tosh Van der Sande. Van der Sande and Bole are both names that aren't usually associated with the Ardennes and both benefitted from the shorter course and the flat finish. Even though Navardauskas is a bit of an unknown quantity in the pro ranks, he still benefitted from an incredibly high fitness level as his larger body is not what one would consider prime for the Ardennes.

The Course

The course essentially follows the return route of the pro route as the race starts in Bastogne and traces a squiggly route on its way up to Liège. The first 40 kilometers of the route are lumpy but nothing too serious until the race passes through Houffalize and goes up the Cote de Mormont. 

and quickly followed by the Côte de Mont, a climb which starts out in the village of Achouffe, home to the Brasserie d'Achouffe brewery

The race hits a lull and goes over some more lumpy terrain and it takes another 30 kilometers before they hit the next climb, the Côte de Wanne, which goes up for 2.2 kilometers and hits grades of 12%. Heading further up the road through Stoumont, the race hits two climbs: the Côte du Rosier and the Côte de la Vecquee. After this point is where the race hits some of the classic climbs of the region...

Côte de la Redoute is the home climb of superstar Philippe Gilbert and has featured in the finale of numerous L-B-L races. The climb itself is only 1.7km but averages a nasty 9.5% average with spots on the climb hitting 22%, a grade steep enough to cause an existential crisis. 

The final 24 kilometers features three tough climbs. The Côte de Tilff might only average 6 percent but it is a three kilometer climb, which will sap the legs ahead of piece de la resistance, the Côte de St. Nicolas. Only 1.4 kilometers long, the St. Nicolas is frequently where the race winner shows himself. The race takes in the last climb, the Côte d'Ans, a short climb but the summit sits only 6 kilometers from the line.

Michael Valgren wins the 2012 edition

The race finishes on the Liège velodrome...not the old famous one though. That was demolished in 1995. This is a asphalt velodrome but it still offers an interesting finish.


As it is a regular UCI 1.2U race, the organizers are free to invite any teams they wish. Well they did just that and invited a colossal 33 teams, which will mean nearly 200 riders will take the start in Bastogne. There is no positive startlist but there are a few names to watch...

Michael Valgren returns as the defending champion and looks to repeat as the winner on the velodrome. Dylan van Baarle will be here with his Rabobank Development squad and is always one to watch. Lawson Craddock will be racing his with Bontrager squad and along with teammates Jasper Stuyven, will be looking for a top result.

There is no startlist as of now so follow me on twitter, @Vlaanderen90, for updates.