Wednesday, September 25, 2013

U23 World RR Championship Preview

After Damien Howson put on a time trialling clinic Monday to claim the U23 World TT Championship, the road race beckons and it will turn out to be a very interesting affair. With more climbing than any course since Mendrisio, the course in and around Firenze could be as easy to predict as a round of roulette. A few contenders have emerged but just like the TT showed, if you are just a little bit off form then it is game over.

The Course

Starting in Montecantini Terme, the U23 racers will take a 57 kilometer route, which will follow the TT route once the race passes through Pistoia. Once the race hits the Nelson Mandela Forum, the riders will take on a 16.6 kilometer course 7 times before finishing back in the forum. The laps contain two important climbs in the Fiesole, a 4.4 kilometer climb that averages 5.2%, and the Via Salviati, which is short at just 600 meters but hits grades of nearly 20% at its steepest and over 10% average. For good measure, there is a short section within the last three kilometers that hits 10%.

Videos come from the apt website, so thank you to them. Here is the link to the full course preview.

So now that we have a course that features a Ardennes-like climb followed by a climb that would be appropriate in the Ronde van Vlaanderen, it will take a jack-of-all-trades type rider to come out on top for this race. There are some starting that will love the long climb but won't have the pop to hang with some on the shorter, steeper sections while the sprinters are going to have a hell of a time trying to hang onto wheels when the road tilts upwards.

Who's Who from Argentina to USA

(This is in alphabetical order, by country, and not a top to bottom ranking)

  • While Eduardo Sepulveda put in a strong TT performance Monday for Argentina, I wouldn't put my money on the Bretagne-Séché Environment rider hanging with the climbers in the road race. But lest we forget that just a year ago, Sepulveda was 14th in the Tour de l'Avenir and if his form is as good as his TT suggests then perhaps he could hang around in the finale if the pace is steady and a group is brought to the finish line.
  • Aussie-land brings a lot of talent to the road race but I'm not quite sure who they are backing. Obviously, they have Caleb Ewan, the compact jet engine, and he can handle some climbs but this will be a true test of his climbing ability and I don't think he will be able to hang. The team also has TT Champ Howson and Adam Phelan, both of whom are able climbers. One that I am watching is Etixx-iHNed rider Sam Spokes. Spokes injured his shoulder at Tour de l'Avenir but suffered through and had an impressive 14th at Tour du Doubs, which was contested in an all-out rain storm, and was apart of the Etixx-iHNed team that was in the TTT World Championship.
  • Patrick Konrad will lead the Austrian team and should not be taken lightly by his competitors. While he might not have the name recognition of some, Konrad was 11th last year in Valkenburg and has been top 10 in the Tour de l'Avenir two years in a row, this year on the podium in 3rd overall. While I think Konrad can make the final selection, I don't think a win is in the cards because he lacks finishing speed and on the flat finish, he would not be winning a sprint. He will have a strong team with Tour de l'Avenir stage winner Lukas Pöstlberger and Felix Großschartner.
  • Ilya Koshevoy is the only notable on the Belarus roster. He finished in the front group in Valkenburg last year and as the winner of the GP Liberazione, he could produce a top 20 finish.
  • Even with Sean De Bie sitting at home, Belgium has one of the strongest squads in the race with multiple options for the finale. De Bie was one of the backed riders originally but he pulled out last week due to poor form, which is a big move in itself, and Dieter Bouvry was given the spot. In any case, the team is stacked and hopefully they don't blow a big opportunity. The obvious favorite is an on-form Jasper Stuyven, who is suited the climbs on the course and has a finishing kick on him that can rival nearly survivors from the climbs. Another rider I am looking at is Tiesj Benoot. While he is only a first year rider, Benoot had been making waves with his riding in recent weeks by winning the Tour de Moselle and going 17th in the Tour de Wallonie, finishing with guys like van Avermaet, Gilbert and Chavanel. Who finished even higher in that race? Topsport Vlaanderen's Zico Waeytens was 7th at GP Wallonie thanks to a strong effort in the breakaway. Waeytens has his first half of the season wiped out thanks to four different surgeries but will be a valuable domestic. With help from Louis Vervaeke and Edward Theuns, the Belgians will be one of the main threats on Friday.
  • Canada has one in Antoine Duchesne. Top 20 finish will be the goal.
  • I don't know what to think of the Colombia team after their Tour de l'Avenir performance. The majority of the team can climb well but who can fight for a result? Heiner Parra is the best bet as he has been in good form this season. Sebastian Henao, cousin of Sergio and signing for SKY in 2014, has mainly raced in Colombia this year but it'll be interesting to see if he can do anything. No idea if Juan Chamorro is back in form but if he is, the longer climb could provide a launch pad but I don't see him factoring based on his recent results.
  • Czech Republic was dealt a blow when Petr Vakoc pulled out of the event due to illness. Jan Hirt and Karel Hnik will take up the torch but both will need to be on some amazing form to replace Vakoc.
  • The Southern Vikings of Denmark will once again be fielding a strong team with Michael Valgren being one of the main favorites. The double L-B-L U23 winner will be at home on the circuits and will have a strong supporting class in comeback story Marc Garby, Tour de l'Avenir KOM winner Kristian Haugaard and a darkhorse Magnus Cort, who could potentially profit from Valgren's favorite status. Cort has done well on hilly races this year and the flat finish will suit him if it regroups as he has a kick on him. Very interesting to see how the team dynamic plays out.
  • Richard Carapaz is a good climber for Ecuador and one that I neglected to mention in my C post of the U23 ABCs (which will be back post-Worlds). He is the current Pan-American Champion in the U23 RR so he could get a decent result here.
  • Eritrea is not a super strong nation in the U23 ranks when it comes to one-day events but they have an ace up their sleeve in Europcar rider Natnael Berhane. I am not a big fan of pro continental riders being able to ride in the U23 World Championships but then again, I am not in charge. But just because you are a pro continental rider does not mean you are guaranteed a results, see Fabio Felline last year in Valkenburg. Super-climber Merhawi Kudus will also be present for the East African nation along with Tour of Eritrea winner Mekseb Debesay. Kudus could produce a nice result if the climbers really attack on the climbs but he will need a big gap on faster sprinters if he has any dreams of winning.
  • Julian Alaphilippe has a big fat favorite sticker on his ass for this race after he has been following his Tour de l'Avenir performance. Since his queen stage win in l'Avenir, Alaphilippe went 2nd in the Tour de Moselle by 1 second to Benoot and appears to be on some ripping form for Friday. He has a big team behind him with Clément Chevrier and Olivier Le Gac for the climbs along with rouleurs in Pierre-Henri Lecuisinier and Alexis Gougeard.
  • If Silvio Herklotz is on form following a break after his illness at Tour de l'Avenir, he could make the podium. I know that it must seem that I go on and on about this kid but he is just that good on this kind of terrain. He can go uphill and downhill very fast, sometimes too fast (see Palio del Recioto crash). He finished 20th at the Ruota d'Oro on Tuesday in the 2nd chase group at +13" so watch for a crazy attack from Herklotz in the finale. I know Rick Zabel is here but the climbs will probably be a bit too much for him but if sprinters do survive, then look for him. Emu Buchmann and Johannes Weber should be with Herklotz in the hills, at least the early part, while Jasha Sütterlin should provide all-around support.
  • The Yates twins are the headlining act for Team GB this year and it will be Simon's time to shine once again. While that seemingly overlooks good riders such as Owain Doull, Simon Yates will be one of the big favorites to win the rainbow stripes. Yates already won a world title on the track this year in the scratch and after his awesome performance in the Tour de l'Avenir with two stage wins, it is very attainable. Adam Yates will of course be providing help on the climbs. I still don't understand the move to GreenEdge, if it does prove true, but it just does to show how big the future is for these two.
  • Hong Kong's Choi Ki Ho, who I profiled in the C edition of the U23 ABC's, is a strong climber and while he hasn't raced much this summer, he is not to be underestimated.
  • To start off, Davide Villella is a fucking prick. He used to have a penchant to rub his victories in the faces of his competitors but if this story is even half-true, with verifiable evidence of course, then he should have to face a racing ban. Full disclosure: I admire Toms and have been a fan of his racing ever since I first saw his name. Given that, I also know Toms to be a straight-shooter and tends to cut out the bullshit so I give him the benefit of the doubt on this one. The incident was in the Ruota d'Oro and the resulting crash gave Toms a knee injury that could jeopardize his Worlds race. The crazy thing is that home team Villella is a big favorite for the race, not some two-bit racer, and hopefully he has to face something for this actions, though I doubt that would occur. While Villella is one of the more complete riders in the field, Italy also brings star sprinter Andrea Zordan, rouleur Alberto Bettiol and climber Davide Formolo. Zordan has a boatload of wins and strong placings this year and if he can get over the climbs, which he has been known to do, and stay within a shout of the leaders, then he is the overwhelming favorite for a sprint. Bettiol can work on a variety of terrain, finishing high in the European Championships (7th), Italian U23 RR (3rd) and Ronde van Vlaanderen U23 (10th). Formolo is the best climber next to Villella but his finishing kick nor punching ability is nowhere near as strong.  
  • Kazakhstan has been doing well this year and will bring Maxat Ayazbayev, Daniil Fominiykh and Bakhtiyar Kozhatavey to challenge for a high placing. Kozhatayev, who was 4th overall in the Tour de l'Avenir, has been racing well in Italy this year and has had many front group finishes this year but he is another that lacks a finishing kick to breakthrough. Fominiykh has been on good form this year and after his 9th in the TT, he should be willing to show his legs on the climbs. 
  • Not to dwell on Davide Tyson Villella but he might have ruined the chances of Toms Skujins, who has been having a good year and is still searching for a contract for 2013. Skujins was 3rd in European Championships and 9th overall in Tour de l'Avenir and has been on some good form but some prideful buttock might have ruined his hopes. Andzs Flaksis will also start for Latvia and could provide a nice attack to watch.
  • Netherlands are another team that is strong but I cannot pick out a potential winner in the bunch. There is the ever-present Dylan van Baarle but he hasn't been on the same dynamite form in the last few months as he was in the beginning of the season. He can still climb well enough and if it comes about, he has the TT ability to make a move near the end. This is also similar to Nick van der Lijke, who was 3rd at GP de la Somme last weekend. Perhaps the most interesting rider is Mike Teunissen, winner of the recent Breda Classic, who is a strong rouleur and could be a presence in the finale.
  • Norway is filled with talent but I have doubts they will be able to produce a result on this type of course. Sondre Holst Enger and Sven Erik Bystrøm will anchor the team but both would like a course with a few less climbing meters. Oskar Svendsen is here but he has literally had one good race on a international level, the Tour de l'Avenir, and nothing else so I can honestly say I have no idea what he is going to be like.
  • Russia...well who the hell knows. They have Alexander Foliforov but he pulled out of l'Avenir and hasn't done much since. Gennadiy Tatarinov was 10th at yesterday's Ruota d'Oro so there are signs of life there in an otherwise dead season. Shaymuratov...Yatsevich...they all could go between 30th and 50th. Seriously, Russian talent is down this year.
  • Slovenia is quite an emerging cycling nation and bring two talents in Luka Pibernik and Matej Mohoric. Pibernik is one of my darkhorses for the race and is a climber that can sprint or a sprinter that can climb...whatever. He can make it over the climbs and would be a danger man if he was able to go to the line with someone. Mohoric is more of a stage racing talent but he will be present on the climbs while rouleur Mark Dzamastagic will be a right hand man to whomever is feeling the strongest.
  • Spain has Tour de l'Avenir champ Ruben Fernandez but he likely won't be much of a factor at the business end of the race. Or maybe he will because he tends to slip through the cracks when I preview races. Carlos Barbero would like to do well here but the climbing is something that he can only do so much of before he is out the back. Mario Gonzalez Salas won the country's U23 RR but has not proven much elsewhere. The team has strong climbers in Iturria and Orbe but they won't factor much.
  • Sweden has two interesting guys in Frederick Ludvigsson and Kim Magnusson. Ludvigsson has had a stellar first year on the U23 scene and would thrive on a course like this and will be aiming high. Magnusson, who is based in Italy and son of the former pro Glenn, has ridden this course during the season and will have local knowledge of the roads. Magnusson has also come on in recent weeks and could be a nice surprise in the top 20 if all goes to plan. 
  • While Stefan Küng might be known for his TT ability now, he also won the Giro del Belvedere ahead of Silvio Herklotz this year and is a nice dark horse for a podium spot if he and some others are able to slip away. 
  • Team USA is fielding one of its deepest teams in years for the U23 event with Gavin Mannion, Lawson Craddock and Nate Brown all taking the start. Mannion is the team's best climber and can do well on a classic's style course, as proven earlier this season. Craddock was on some stellar TT form but what he could do in the RR is up in the air. He could be anywhere from a mid-race DNF to taking a flyer in the final few k's. Brown was 2nd in L-B-L U23 this year and the climbs will suit him well. Nate Wilson is also a solid climber who will be willing to be a team player as well. Tanner Putt, the USA U23 RR Champ, is not a perfect fit for the course but he always seems to run pretty well at these international events.
And now for some picks...sometime soon! So stayed tuned and follow me on twitter @Vlaanderen90 for more of my musings and angry rants about Evander Villella.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Howson demolishes competition for U23 TT World Title

Howson speeding to a TT World Title (Photo: UCI)

Australian Damien Howson was like a bat out of hell Monday at the U23 Time Trial World Championships as he beat every time check on his way to defeating Yoann Paillot by nearly one minute on the 43.5 kilometer course. Howson, who averaged over 52 km/h for the race, stepped his game up and won just his first full-length TT in Europe this season.

Yves Lampaert (Belgium/Topsport Vlaanderen) was not the first rider to start but he was the first to cross the finish line in a time of 52:27 and set an early benchmark. A short time later, a trio of riders would go below Lampaert's time. Stefan Küng (Switzerland/BMC Development), who just went 3rd in the Chrono Champenois, set a new best time by going nearly a minute faster than Lampaert at 51:36. After Lampaert's countryman Frederik Frison crossed the line 6 seconds faster than him to slot into 2nd overall, Lawson Craddock came in like a bolt of lightning into the finishing stadium. Craddock was lowering Küng's check point times and would have demolished his time if it were not for a crash on "the straightest road in Italy". (Craddock's words, not mine.) In the end, Craddock has a quick recovery from his crash and came in 5 seconds inside Küng's time to take the provisional lead, which he would keep for the majority of the day.

There were a few riders that I thought would do better than the results sheet shows. James Oram (New Zealand/Bontrager) was not on his best TT form and came in 26th on the day. Nate Brown (USA/Bontrager) was not on world-beating TT form and settled for 21st. Both Ukrainian talents, Marlen Zmorka and Oleksandr Golovash, came in 15th and 16th, respectively, which is lower than I thought for both of them given prior results and how Golovash would get a chance to really show his engine on the flats. Jasha Sütterlin (Germany/Thüringer Energie) suffered problems within the first kilometer and had to change his bike before restarting and finishing in 13th, which will definitely be disappointing to the new Movistar-signing who had top 5 ambitions.

Yoann Paillot (France/La Pomme Marseille) was the next rider to jolt the competition as he lowered all of Craddock's time checks and came in 44 seconds faster than the American. Paillot had won the French U23 TT Championship and the Meditteranean Games TT Championship but was a slight surprise given that he had not raced against U23 competition much this year and has spent the majority of his time on the French pro circuit. Another impressive performance was laid down by Ryan Mullen, a first year Irish U23, who put in a very steady performance that would ultimately gain him 7th, 1 second behind Küng. Mullen was 2nd in the European Championships as a junior last year and won the Chrono des Herbiers while this season, after winning the Irish U23 TT Championship, he focused on the European U23 Track Championships, where he was 3rd in the pursuit and scratch.

Big favorite Campbell Flakemore (Australia/Huon Genesys) started off well by intially lowering Paillot's time by one second at the first time check but he began to slide back afterwards and would eventually finish an agonizing 4th place, 12 seconds off of the podium. Flakemore had been dominating TTs in Europe this year by winning tests in the Thüringen Rundfahrt and Olympia's Tour along with the recent Chrono Champenois. While 4th place is disappointing at the moment, Flakemore has shown himself as a TT talent and can continue to grow in the sport.

The real battle turned out to be between Damien Howson and Lasse Norman, the last two riders to leave the start house. Howson went through the first checkpoint 10 seconds faster than Flakemore but Norman went through a second faster. Game on. Through the 2nd split at 28 km, Howson has upped his game while it seemed that Norman, who had difficulties at Chrono Champenois, was not as prepared as Howson, as the Dane was 33 seconds behind the Australian. That gap continued to extend as Howson would eventually beat Norman by 1'10", who would slip behind Paillot to slot into 3rd place.

It was a masterclass performance by Damien Howson but as many of these riders will be graduating to the pro rankings, there will be many duels to come in the future. Howson will be going to Orica-GreenEdge;  Lasse Norman will go to Garmin along with Dylan van Baarle (23rd) and Nate Brown (21st); Lawson Craddock is off to the Argos-Shimano while 9th place Daniil Fominykh is destined for the Astana WT team.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

U23 ABC's: C

Victor Campenaerts (Belgium - Lotto Belisol U23 - 1991)

When the European U23 championships came around this year, I honestly did not think of Victor Campenaerts as the potential winner. I had seen his name in previous years and he was good but I thought with Marlen Zmorka, Jasha Sütterlin and others that he would be in the top 10 at best. I was not paying attention.

Campenaerts level came up this year after being somewhat of a nearly man the last few seasons. Thanks to more specific TT training this year, his season started off well with two regional TT wins ahead of some strong TTers in Frederik Frison and Edward Theuns. His season was nearly derailed by a hard fall in a national race in early June where he broke his collarbone but he was back to training after only a week off the bike. The former triathlete then went to the Vuelta a Madrid and put in an impressive performance to score 4th overall on the hilly two-stage race. Days later, Campenaerts and his Lotto-Belisol U23 team won the National TTT over Topsport Vlaanderen, a race which Campenaerts won the year previously with his Bianchi-Lotto-Nieuwe Hopes team. On some hot form, he went to the Czech Republic for the European Championships and blew the doors off the competitions and beat Golovash, Sütterlin and Zmorka on the 23 kilometer course, the only rider to go over 45 km/h.

Could Campenaerts be the first Belgian since Dominique Cornu to podium the U23 Worlds TT?
There have been surprise winners of the European U23 TT that went on to do much of nothing the rest of their seasons. Could Campenaerts keep the form going? You betcha. In the Belgian National TT, Campenaerts took a cautious first lap (out of two), which put him 5 seconds behind teammate Frederik Frison but he turned on the after boosters on the final lap and ended with a 5 second advantage and the best looking tricolour skinsuit in Europe.

After winning the test in Neerpelt at the end of August, Campenaerts has put himself in a position to pull off a coup in Firenze. His form is dialed in after an impressive showing in the Tour du Moselle where he finished 3rd overall after a strong 3rd in the time trial behind Jasha Sütterlin by 13 seconds, which is strong seeing how he admittedly took the final technical descent cautiously, with there being rain and not wanting to mess up his World's bid.

Campenaerts has taken 6 wins this year, 5 of which have come in time trialing events. He could eventually develop into a good pro rider as he can go uphill decently and would be able to out TT most climbers. I will say this now...Campenaerts is good for a top five at Worlds if he is rides a perfect race.

Juan Ernesto Chamorro (Colombia - 4-72 Colombia - 1991)

While he season started out with some promise, the last half of Juan Chamorro's season was a train wreck. After his outstanding 2nd place to Warren Barguil in the 2012 Tour de l'Avenir, it seemed like Chamorro just had to show up and he would be able to ride away from the pack on the slopes of the Col de Madeleine. Apparently, this is the reason why there are actual races instead of simulated races with turbo trainers.

Chamorro started his season well with a solid rides at Castilla y Leon (21st overall) and Tour de Bretagne (34th) before going 15th at the Vuelta a Asturias (15th) and then riding a very consistent Ronde de l'Isard, where he was 2nd on the queen stage to teammate Heiner Parra and then 3rd the next stage to wrap up the overall win by 9 seconds. This was what everyone thought would happen and was just the next stepping stone to a win in l'Avenir and then a on to the pros. And then reality checked in.

After an early summer break, Chamorro was back at it with the Vuelta a Leon but he was unable to follow the lead trio of Merhawi Kudus, Jordi Simon and teammate Ever Rivera and finished over two minutes down. While some of that might have been tactical, Chamorro was not on his best climbing form and this showed at the Tour de l'Ain. In a race where he finished 10th overall in 2012, Chamorro was nowhere near his top form this year, finishing nearly dead last in the prologue and then finishing 8 minutes off the leading groups on both mountain stages to wind up with a 40th overall. What happened to his form?

The Colombian National team was still backing Chamorro for the Tour de l'Avenir ahead of a healthier choice in Heiner Parra, who had been producing better results, but the first two days of the race showed how bad of a hole Chamorro was in. After finishing the prologue in 113th (out of 120), Chamorro crashed on the 1st stage of the race and lost a minute on the GC favorites and before the race hit the big mountains, he was nearly two minutes down. There would be no miraculous comeback either. Chamorro was in the gruppetto on first mountain stage and eventually pulled out on the 6th stage.

While his talent is huge, Chamorro seems to have gotten too much spotlight and perhaps the pressure of being the overwhelming favorite got to him in training. While I am assuming that Chamorro will join the Colombia pro continental team at the very least (perhaps a World Tour team will come calling), there is going to need to be an answer to how he can find the form that got him to such great heights in 2012.

Clément Chevrier (France - Chambéry CF - 1992)

For a stretch in the 00's, there were a dearth of young French climbers coming into the pro peloton but within the last 5 years, the climbers are once again emerging from the Alps. Romain Bardet, Warren Barguil, Kenny Elissonde, Thibaut Pinot and Alexander Geniez are all in the World Tour and while Bardet is the only rider in the group not to win a Grand Tour stage, he finished 15th in this year's Tour de France and won this year's Tour de l'Ain. Bardet is also good friends with...Clément Chevrier. Chevrier, who sees Bardet as the model for his pro career, rides for Bardet's former development team, Chambéry CF (the official development team to Ag2r), and the two of them train whenever possible. While Bardet is thriving with Ag2r, Chevrier was spurned by the World Tour team after his breakthrough season in favor of signing a potential classics rider in Alexis Gougeard.

Chevrier hails from Picarde, which is not exactly the hilliest region of France, but spent vacations in Savoie, where he learned to ride and fell in love with the mountains. As a junior, he became focused on the Classique des Alpes and his future lay in the hills. After good results as a junior, Chevrier made the move to Chambery CF and was at home in the mountains, where his lithe body would continue to hone itself. After a first year in the U23s that included three small wins and a front group finish at the Paris-Tours Espoirs in 13th. 2012 saw even more improvement with more consistent riding in the mountains, including a 3rd on a stage in the Ronde de l'Isard. His crowning achievement of the year was a 7th place in the Piccolo Giro di Lombardia, a race he has said would be a dream to win. Even with this, Chevrier was not happy with his season and hungry for more.

2013 had a cool start for Chevrier as he had to take time away from training after it was found that his body fat was too *low*. His season only began in earnest on April with a 13th in the Giro del Belvedere, where he made the main chasing group including Andrea Zordan, Damien Howson and others. He then turned heads again at Liege-Bastogne-Liege U23 when he was in a chasing group of 4 behind a streaking Michael Valgren but was swallowed up with three kilometers to go by the chasing peloton, where he would finish in 21st. Then, on just three UCI racing days a short mountain training camp, it was time for the Ronde de l'Isard. *Gulp*

It didn't turn out half bad for the preparation and Chevrier finished the first mountain stage race in 10th overall and three more teammates in the top 10 overall. Pays de Savoie, the region where he first learned to ride a bike when he was just 7, was his biggest success to date with a stage win on the stage 3 summit finish at La Toussuire. All 4 stages of the races had uphill/summit finishes and Chevrier was able to finish 2nd overall behind Yoann Barbas by just 38 seconds. The beat went on to Giro Valle d'Aosta, which I wrote about ad nauseam, where Chevrier then went 3rd overall and made every lead group on the mountainous parcours, being distanced by the Davide Villella, who possesses a bit more fast twitch muscle for the more shallow finishes.

Skinny takes a whole new meaning with Chevrier

After a summer break filled with sun and fun, Chevrier returned with the French National Team to the Tour de l'Ain. Chevrier was up against World Tour riders and his best performance came on the 3rd stage, where he stayed with Pieter Serry and Wout Poels to finish 11th on the stage. He ended the race in 16th overall, which was good for 2nd in the youth category behind FDJ's Kenny Elissonde, and finished one place ahead of Merhawi Kudus. Even though he put in a strong ride, he was handed the news that Ag2r, the team he had developed under for three years, was not interested in his services, at least for 2014.

At the Tour de l'Avenir, Chevrier suffered on the opening mountain stage (he was not the only one) and lost a big chunk of time to the favorites, which he would never recover. To salvage his race, Chevrier struck out on the 6th stage to Châtel, roads which he knew very well from training and the Giro Valle d'Aosta. Chevrier, along with Simon Yates, Matej Mohoric and Bahktiyar Kozhatayev, motored off the front of the peloton and took the race to the line, with Chevrier lacking the snap of Yates and having to settle for 3rd.

Still searching for a pro ride for 2014, Chevrier will have a couple more chances to show his climbing talents this year with the World Championships, where he is selected for the RR, and the Piccolo Giro di Lombardia, a race which would be a good stepping stone to his dream on winning the pro version one day.

Magnus Cort (Denmark - CULT Energy - 1993)

The first thing you need to know about Magnus Cort is that he just turned down a neo-pro offer from Garmin. This is after he was flying high off of two stage wins at the Tour of Denmark along with other top results earlier in the year. He has a good head on his shoulders and having spoken to his father, it is very clear to me that he is a rider that wants to develop before getting thrown to the wolves. He wants to avoid the plague of Rasmus Guldhammer.

I've talked about Cort before after his success at Thüringen and Denmark this year. Hailing from the island of Bornholm, which is about as far east as Denmark goes, Cort was a talented junior who won the Peace Race overall, along with two stages, ahead of some names like Olivier Le Gac, Silvio Herklotz, Danny van Poppel and many more. In 2012, he was 2nd to Sebastian Lander (now BMC) in the Danish U23 RR and had a string of domestic results.

2013 saw Cort transfer to CULT Energy and move into an apartment with teammates Michael Valgren and Alexander Kamp. After riding the Tour de Normandie, Cort put in a sensational sprint at the end of the Ronde van Vlaanderen, where he was supposed to lead out his teammate Kristian Haugaard but ended up dropping him and wound up 3rd. After a small bit of sickness, Cort then went 3rd at the Himmerland Rundt. After a string of good results, including a Danish Cup win, Cort had a little lull before he went ape-shit at the Thüringen Rundfahrt. Taking the mountains jersey on the first road stage, Cort attacked on the subsequent two stages, including on the queen stage (stage 3) where he attacked from the gun to gain as many points as possible before being swallowed up by the bunch. With the KOM jersey in hand, Cort was apart of the stage 6 attack that included roommate Michael Valgren and the duo was able to hold off the peloton by 3 seconds with Cort taking the win. He wasn't done either and on the next day, the last stage, he finished 2nd in the bunch sprint to Caleb Ewan. Pretty damn versatile, eh?

After a summer holiday, it was off to the Tour de Liege, where after winning the opening stage, the thinly-veiled CULT Energy Danish National Team was kicked out of the race a few days later for violating a rule about foreign continental teams not being allowed to enter amateur races in Belgium. The irony is that CULT, in its previous iteration Glud & Marstrand, raced in the event for at least the last 7 seasons. While this was annoying at the time, Cort got his revenge at the Tour of Denmark in a big way. Getting into the 1st stage break, he and his two companions, Nikola Aistrup and Lars Bak, drove it to the line and Cort easily took the sprint and the first leader's jersey. While losing the jersey on stage 3, he timed his sprint on the short stage 4, where he was able to accelerate straight out of the corner and over the final riser to the finish line. At just 20 years old, this was incredible and his original plans of staying another year with CULT were temporarily put on hold.

While Cort was not terribly happy with his Tour de l'Avenir, his teammate Haugaard won the KOM title and Valgren won a stage. While staying safe and not crashing, Cort got good miles in for the World Championship TTT, where he is on the roster for CULT Energy, and for the World U23 RR, where he will be one of Valgren's right hand men.

Lawson Craddock (USA - Bontrager CT - 1992)

Every time I see Lawson Craddock's name mentioned on twitter, it is usually about how talented he is or how he is the next big American. And he very well could be but before the circle jerk continues, can we please stop and look at the facts first? CyclingNews calls him a climbing specialist, which makes me think that he seeks out climbing stages like he is Kenny Elissonde but this is simply not true. He is a crazy talent but he is currently missing consistency that he will need to find in the next few years if he will be competitive on the World Tour level.

For those that don't know Gregory Lawson Craddock, let us do some review. As a junior riding for Hot Tubes and the USA National Team, Craddock posted some of the best junior results ever by an American. 8 wins and a slew of podiums in Europe along with a RR/TT National Championship double in 2010. (He put 2 minutes into 2nd place in the TT win on a 24km course) Speaking of TTs, Craddock was 2nd and 3rd in his two attempts at the Junior World Championships, where he lost to some so-so riders in Luke Durbridge and Bob Jungels. Let's not leave out a 3rd in the junior Paris-Roubaix.

Naturally, Craddock signed with the Trek-Livestrong program. His talent was obvious in just his first U23 season as he won a stage at Triptyque Monts et Chateaux, went 11th at Ronde van Vlaanderen U23 and then 4th overall at Tour de Berlin. It also was not the junior ranks anymore. He was not dominating every race and he got dropped quite a bit. 2012 started off slow and didn't pick up until Tour of Gila where, after a strong TT, Craddock and Bontrager teammate Ian Boswell broke away from a big breakaway and stormed to victory on the Gila Monster stage. Craddock ended 5th overall on GC and thus where the climbing specialist was born. He fared well at California with a good TT (12th) and finished Cascade Classic 3rd overall and went 2nd in the U23 TT National Championship for the 2nd year in a row.

2013 saw Craddock take on a new coach, USA Cycling's Jim Miller, and a more low-key approach into the season. With a focus on growing his base and doing higher intensity intervals, Craddock came alive at Monts et Chateaux, where he soloed to a stage victory but lost the overall by 1 second to Fabio Silvestre of Leopard-Trek due to time bonuses on the final stage. Tour of Gila saw Craddock get some climbing legs back but after a 4th place in the TT, he faltered on the latter stages. Tour of California was a lightswitch for Craddock this year as he was 9th and 7th on the two hardest climbing stages to Palm Springs and Mount Diablo, respectively. Finishing 8th in the Tour of California was a huge step forward for Craddock so what would the rest of the season hold?

After a 4th in the Pro National TT, his summer was pretty quiet with one decent result (18th at Coupe des Nations Saguenay) followed by a series of DNFs, including the climby Tour of Utah. Wait, CyclingNews! What happened to the climbing specialist? He was back at the Tour of Colorado where he once again was going crazy well on the long, steady climbs and finished 5th on stage 2 to Breckenridge. He was up and then down a bit on the next climby stage where he was gapped at the end and finished 20th, ceding nearly a minute to the main front group. With a strong TT in Vail, Craddock finished 7th overall.

The one nag I have with Craddock, other than with his personal opinions sometimes, is how up and down he can be. This can obviously be corrected with age and experience but through his U23 career, he seems to have a great performance followed by a little disappointment. Will he turn into a legitimate stage racer as a pro or will he be one of those nearly men that always seems to get close but eventually has an off day. I would love to see him put egg on my face and come out with Argos-Shimano next year and do well in 2 or 3 stage races. Perhaps another brash Texan will take Europe by storm.

Cristian Cañada (Spain - Mutua de Levante -1991)

I've searched far and wide and there is not much information with Cristian Cañada even though he has been pretty damn impressive this season on the Spanish amateur scene. Cañada won the Subida al Gorla, the most important hill climb in Spanish amateur cycling. That might sound overblown but former winners include (descending chronologically): Iñigo Cuesta, Carlos Sastre, Juan Manuel Garate (x2), Joaquim Rodriguez, Alberto Contador, Beñat Intxausti, Andrey Amador, Mikel Landa, Jesús Herrada and Omar Fraile. If you win that race, it is an almost guaranteed seal of approval.

His season continued with strong rides at the Spanish National U23 RR (7th) and Vuelta a Madrid U23, which included a 7th place, lead pack finish on stage 2 and 11th overall. Cañada broke through again at the Vuelta a Palencia on the climb to Santuario de la Virgen del Brezo, where he broke away with U23 ABC rider Tiesj Benoot and Chilean Edison Bravo and dropped them for a solo win by 18 seconds. He eventually won the overall with the other two filling out the podium. His latest result came at the Volta Ciclista Valencia, where he finished 5th overall. 

I don't know whether Cañada is getting attention from any bigger teams but his climbing talent is undeniable but he is a diamond in the rough that needs more development time. 

Jorne Carolus (Belgium - Lotto-Belisol U23 - 1992)

Without looking at results, Jorne Carolus has already proved himself as a shrewd tactician. When he was negotiating with the Lotto-Belisol U23 squad this past winner for a contract extension, the reigning Belgian U23 RR Champion put a demand on the table: get me a stagiaire position with the Lotto-Belisol WT team or I'm not signing. It proves something that he got his wish (his results did help) and that always stuck with me because, as a whole, U23 riders looking for an amateur contract are not the most demanding of negotiators. Other facts about Jorne include that he is great friends and training partners with Trek-signing Jasper Stuyven and he is an industrial engineering student.

You might have picked up that Carolus was the Belgian U23 Champion but as of August 25th, he gave up that jersey to Jens Wallays. Carolus has had an up and down year after some crashes and injuries but he has four wins this year, including a pretty big win in Triptyque Monts et Chateaux. Another big race for Carolus was the Tour of Slovakia, where he went 4th overall.

So what type of rider is he? He likes the one-day races and shorter stage races but he can't handle super hard courses. He has a sprint on him, which has gotten him to most of his wins, and if he wants to garner a pro contract with a World Tour team then he will need to start to specialize and/or step up his training for the classics.

Robin Carpenter (USA - Hincapie Development - 1992)

Hide yo kids, Hide yo wife
Coming into this year, Philadelphia native Robin Carpenter did not know exactly where his cycling career was headed. His Chipotle development team had folded and late in the fall, he was without a contract. It was the Hincapie Development squad that rescued Carpenter for 2013 and he has been one of the riders that has driven them to some strong results this season. Unlike many upper echelon American U23 racers, Carpenter has stayed dedicated to his studies at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, where he is in his final semester.

This season started out with well with a slew of local wins followed by a solid Redlands performance. Due to school, his season did not kick into high gear until Joe Martin Stage Race (Arkansas). Carpenter and his Hincapie teammates Joe Lewis and Joey Rosskopf went 1-2-3 on a slightly uphill sprint on the third stage with Carpenter taking the win, which helped propel him to 11th overall when it was all said and done. Carpenter then ventured over seas with his Hincapie Devo teammates for a European adventure. Flèche du Sud was a team success as Joey Rosskopf made the decisive breakaway and finished 3rd overall and Oscar Clark took a stage win as Carpenter stayed outta trouble with 26th overall. After the team celebrated their team classification win with a bit too much champagne, it was off to a pro kermis in Puivelde, where Carpenter would put in his biggest ride of the year.

After spending time tail-gunning on the back of the 200-man peloton, Carpenter was able to get in an 8-man move after the race got back together. This might not sound impressive to some put this move included multiple pro continental riders and according to Carpenter's guess, Sven Nys and Niels Albert. When cooperation ceased with the breakaway, Carpenter jumped away with Maxime Vantomme (Crelan) and Kristof Dhollander (Rupelspurters Boom) and they worked well together until 4km to go, when Carpenter saw a hesitation and put his nose to the stem and drilled it. Carpenter took the win in the perfect Belgian way...with no-one else in the picture.

Carpenter then set off around the country with his team taking in stage races such as Cascade Classic (was in a breakaway), Tour de Beauce and Tour of Utah...well the majority of Utah. After an otherwise good Tour of Utah, Carpenter took a tumble on stage 5 and had to pull out of the race with concussion like symptoms. He headed to France as a part of the pre-selection for Tour de l'Avenir but once he began to train, it became obvious that the concussion was still lingering and he had to pack up shop and head back home, his season over.

Carpenter has one more season left in the U23s and if he continues the upward trajectory he has been on the last few years, then he should be a handful for more experienced pros in 2014.

Choi Ki Ho (Hong Kong - 1991)

You might recognize his name as Ki Ho Choi but it is standard in China to put the surname first. While  Wong Kam-po is still the most venerated cyclist in the short history of Hong Kong cyclin, Choi Ki Ho has a huge amount of potential that he has been releasing on the Asia Tour. As a first-year U23, Choi made some waves with a World Cup victory in the track madison with Kwok Ho Ting, who would win a surprise individual World Championship in the scratch in 2011. Choi went 10th at Tour of Taiwan and then won the Berner Rundfahrt ahead of Daniel Teklehaimanot before going to the Coupe des Nations Saguenay, where he would finish 7th overall in his 1st U23 race. And that was only the beginning.

Choi has been training at the UCI Training Center his whole UCI career and has been noted as one of the most talented athletes to walk through their doors. While the UCI profile calling him the Asia's Daniel Teklehaimanot might be a bit hyperbolic, Choi confirmed his talent in 2011 by taking the Tour de Korea overall win ahead of riders such as Markus Eibegger and Jon Tiernan-Locke. While people were expecting him to keep going from their, his results stagnated because of a strong push from his federation to take part in the Olympic omnium on the track. Specialized training saw him absent on the road but when the Olympics came, Choi's heart was not in it and he finished 16th out of 18 competitors. Post-Olympics, Choi's coach allowed him to pick what he wanted to pursue and Choi followed the road and a slew of results on the UCI Asia Tour followed.

Choi busted loose for 3rd at Taihu Lake, 1st at Fuzhou, 1st at Tour de Ijen followed by an opening stage win at the Tour de Vietnam, all of which vaulted him to the Asia Tour lead. With the Asia Tour straddling 2012 and 2013, Choi continued his strong performances at Tour de Taiwan with 8th overall and then an overall win at Tour of Thailand. While Choi had to contend with Julian Arrendondo and the shit shows that were Nippo and Tabriz Petrochemical, he still sits 2nd in the Asia Tour overall.

I know there will be a team that will be interested in some exotic talent and I hope that team will not just gut him for his UCI points and then leave him for dead. Choi is extremely talented and if he gets more experience and specialized training in the mountains to go along with his steady time trial and sprinting abilities, he could be scary good in no time.

Valerio Conti (Italy - Mastromarco - 1993)

There is a reason that Valerio Conti is joining Lampre for 2014 and that is because he goes fast uphill. Okay, maybe he isn't the fastest but he is definitely up there. Conti also has a lineage in cycling with his (great?)-uncle, Noél, racing with Coppi and winning the Coppa Bernocchi. So how did Conti snag a contract with Lampre at the tender age of 20? To be honest, I'm not entirely sure.

Conti had strong results as a junior and had multiple wins abroad as well as a slew in Italy. In 2012, he rode well enough with 6 podiums but no wins and not many more results to speak of. He did put on some good climbing results such as a stage in the Giro Delle Valli Cuneesi. 2013 saw him grow with the Mastromarco team of Bettiol and Nibali. He started his season with a 5th at Palio del Recioto and then he began to succeed in regional races that featured difficult courses that suited breakaways. In his four victories this year, Conti has beat such racers as Davide Formolo (signed with Cannondale) and Gianfranco Zilioli (signed with Androni). While Conti is talented, I am still a bit baffelled why Lampre signed him to a pro contract so early. He has not ridden a big stage race this year and rode a grand total of 2 international races, both in Italy. He is obviously talented but he is green and needs seasoning before he will be effective and unless I am missing some huge power numbers or test results, I feel like they could have gotten someone like Pierre Paolo Penasa, who is much more proven. But what do I know.


Two Swiss riders to keep an eye on Gabriele Chavanne and Adrian Chenaux. Chavanne rides for the Chambéry CF team and Chenaux is with Atlas Personal-Jakroo. Both rode with the national team a fair bit this year with Chavanne doing better in one day races while Chenaux has put up some decent results in climbier stage races.

Loïc Chetout is a name that many outside of the France/Spain loop have not heard of but he has consistenly been one of the strongest amateurs in Spain. Chetout is a French Basque and has ridden for the Naturgas Energia development squad, which is apart of the Euskadi development system that was headed by Migual Madariaga. Chetout has five wins this year on the amateur circuit and finished 4th in the Copa de España rankings and 2nd U23. If the Spanish economy rebounds and teams expand or a French team wants to take a chance, Chetout could be an interesting signing.

Ciao a tutti. Time to go to Italia for a few talents. Marco Chianese won the Firenze-Mare and has a good kick on him. Luca Chirico won the GP San Guiseppe this year, which is an absolutely gorgeous race that features an uphill drag to the finish in a picturesque hill town, in a small group sprint but this has been his only result of the season. Giulio Ciccone is a first year U23 climber who did fairly well in Valle d'Aosta and finished 12th overall.

Issiaka Cissé is the lone racer from the coastal country of Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) to reach Europe and has had an interesting journey in his short career. Cissé bought his first bike, an old Peugeot, at 15 but had no idea what cycling was. He started competing at 18 and won a few races and the UCI Development Center, one of Pat McQuaid's few good initiatives, rang him up with an offer. Only problem was that his country was plunging into civil war from a controversial election and Cissé stopped riding his bike for six months and missed his opportunity with the UCI. (He couldn't even leave to country to travel to Aigle because the country's border was closed.) He was finally able to join the UCI development program last year and has been making strides and in addition to African racing, he has been getting important racing time in Europe. Cissé had over 50 race days in 2012 and this year has been lighter but included a Tour de l'Avenir ride where he was 33rd while supporting Merhawi Kudus on the UCI Mixed Team. Pretty good for a rider that doesn't describe himself as a climber (Ivory Coast is flat) and more of a rouleur.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

U23 ABC's: B


"This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But is is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

Okay, I knew this would be a bit of an endeavor from the beginning but it is time for some decision making. To keep these posts on some relative schedule after this post, I will only be doing a big profile on up to 5 riders per letter and those that I think deserve a mention but miss that cut will get a smaller write-up. Take for instance, the letter B. I had 14 riders on a list that I thought deserved some sort of mention, some being in front of others of course but with research and limited writing time, well you can see how long it is and how long it took.

I want to try and keep on a schedule with this alphabet so try to expect a post every 2-3 days. This time frame might be tentative during the world championships and other late season races. Anyways, enough of that...

Alberto Bettiol (Italy - Mastromarco - 1993) @AlbertoBettiol

Guy on the right look familiar? Bettiol (l) on a road trip with teammate Antonio Nibali, Vincenzo's little brother.

Bettiol is one of the most prized Italians that is currently in the U23 ranks and as quickly as he was an espoir, Cannondale snapped him up and signed him for next year. Hailing from the rolling hills of Siena in Tuscany, Bettiol has been winning on the bike since his early days and I, along with many others, foresee a long pro career for the Tuscan. What kind of rider will he turn out to be? Well that will be interesting to see.

I like to think of Bettiol as a jack-of-all-trades. As a 2nd-year junior in 2011, Bettiol churned out 11 victories including winning the overall for the Giro Ciclistico della Lunigiana, a race which features some difficult uphill finishes, and the junior European time trial championship in Offida over Ag2r signing Alexis Gougeard, some Russians and Europcar signing Pierre-Henri Lecuisinier. For a few week stretch in 2011, he was destroying his competition and at one point, he had won 4 stages and two overall classifications in an 8 day stretch.

For 2012, Bettiol joined Idea Shoes-MCS-Madras, a team which was managed by Acqua e Sapone DS Franco Gini and had DSes that included Gabriele Balducci. After his win at the Trofeo Alessio Pistolesi, Gini lauded Bettiol for his win out of a breakaway of three and called him "a real racer". Bettiol raced a light schedule the rest of the season but had other notable results in a stage win at the Coppa del Mobilio (Marlen Zmorka kicked ass in the following TT) and a 5th place in the Piccolo Giro dell'Emilia, where he finished 5th and in the first chasing group behind future Cannondale teammate Matthias Krizek.

Bettiol's promise has really come through this year with four wins and ten other podium placings after he transferred to the Mastromarco squad, which includes Antonio Nibali, Vincenzo's brother, and Lampre signing Valerio Conti. Bettiol won the famed opening Tuscan spring classic, Firenze-Empoli, in a reduced sprint and followed it up with podium finishes at La Torre and Trofeo Franco Balestra. Bettiol continued his hot spring form with a 10th place at the U23 Ronde van Vlaanderen and leading in the chasing group for 3rd place at the GP Liberazione. Bettiol's schedule has been chock full of one-day races, which is partially due in part to the Italian amateur schedule, but Bettiol, who seemed to be a stage racer in the making as a junior, now seems to be more of a one-day racer. In the one stage race he took part in, the Coupe des Nations Ville des Saguenay, he was able to get into the race defining breakaway and after helping teammates get two more stage wins, he ended up 4th overall thanks to bonus seconds.

I don't want to keep droning on about his accomplishments this year but he kind of deserves it. Bettiol then continued his season by going 3rd at the Italian U23 RR Championship behind Androni signing Andrea Zordan and future Cannondale teammate Davide Villella. This was followed by getting into the breakaway at the U23 European Championships but ran out of gas for the sprint and finished 7th. His latest act? Winning the Tuscan U23 Championship.

So what kind of talent does Cannondale have on their hands? Well it is almost whatever they want to make of him. Seriously, two years ago this guy was one of the best TT talents on the junior circuit and could legitimately climb and now he is a legitimate one-day racer to boot. Realistically, it is still to be seen if he can climb and time trial like he showed that he could in his junior days. He seems to have drifted away from the TT and he has not had to climb big mountains in any races in his U23 days so unless Cannondale throws him to some Dolomite prison and won't let him out until he climbs 100,000 meters, he should stick with the one-day races and short stage races. In any case, Cannondale got a big talent.

'Downtown' Nate Brown (USA - Bontrager - 1991) @natebrown0707

When I started racing bikes as an untalented junior, I always remember how impressed I was with Nate Brown. While Phinney was the wunderkind at the time and Tejay van Garderen was cutting it in Europe, I believe (and still do) that Nate Brown would be one of the best Americans of his generation. After four seasons with Livestrong/Trek/Bontrager, Brown will be joining Garmin-Sharp as a neo-pro in 2014, so obviously Jonathan Vaughters saw the  binders full of talent.

As a junior, Brown won two big international junior stage races in the Tour de l'Abitibi and Tour du Pays de Vaud among other victories that included the Tour of The Red River Gorge, which was a world championship selector race at the time. Brown went on to join the Trek-Livestrong development team in 2010, the team he would stay with for the rest of his espoirs career.

If you haven't seen Brown before, the one thing you need to know about him is that he is a kick-ass TT rider. Brown won the 2011 and 2013 US U23 TT titles ahead of Lawson Craddock and Ty Magner, respectively. Brown was 3rd this year in the Elite TT championship in Chattanooga, which was a relatively home race for the Tennessee native. His TT skills even helped him get within striking distance of the yellow jersey, which he would take a couple days later thanks to his climbing.

Brown has made an impression with his skills in the hills. He made the winning breakaway at U23 Liege-Bastogne-Liege this year and finished 2nd behind a streaking Michael Valgren. Brown and teammate Tanner Putt attacked the hilly RR course in the USA U23 Championships in Wisconsin this year and ended up 1-2 on the hilltop finish. After making the decisive breakaway at Coupe des Nations Saguenay, Brown put in impressive performances on Mont-Mégantic and on the final stage to Ville de St-Georges, where he made the breakaway and rode into the leader's jersey for the overall win.

While Brown didn't step out into the spotlight like teammate Lawson Craddock did at California and Colorado, Brown was able to nearly finish all the big American stage races (he pulled out of the final stage of Tour of Utah), which was the cap on a big season of over 50 racing days. Brown finishes his year with the U23 World Championships in Florence, where he will be in both the TT and RR.

Vaughters has a few options with "Downtown" Brown but Garmin has proven over the years that they can develop young TT talent.

Tiesj Benoot (Belgium - Lotto-Belisol U23 - 1994) @TiejsBenoot

In just his first year as a U23, Tiesj Benoot has made his mark as one of the most promising U23 racers. As a junior in 2012, Benoot was all over the results because of his strong all-around skills and was one of the only juniors to be able to go up against Matej Mohoric. Benoot finished the season with 22 top tens and had other strong finishes such as 12th the the World Junior RR Championship in Valkenburg. Benoot is an economics student in the offseason at the University of Gent, his hometown, and in his transition offseason from junior racing to the U23 scene, he transferred to the Lotto-Belisol U23 amateur team.

The consistency he showed as a junior transferred over to the espoirs level. Benoot came alive at the Circuit des Ardennes where he finished top 5 on all three individual stages and 5th in the TTT and went to finish 4th overall behind, among others, Riccardo Zoidl and won the points and young riders jersey. After this, Benoot went 8th at Liege-Bastogne-Liege U23, finishing 3rd in the 2nd chasing group sprint. While he had a small set back at the Carpathian Couriers Tour after crashing in the bunch sprint for the win and breaking a scaphoid bone, BoBo was back in a big way at the Vuelta a Madrid. On the 2nd stage, Benoot made the front group with riders like overall winner Petr Vakoc and Haritz Orbe and in the finale, Benoot outsprinted Vakoc and Antonio Molina for the win.

Looking at his results from this year, one thing that is encouraging about Benoot is the lack of DNFs, which signifies not only talent but consistency. Some that are big winners in the U23 ranks can also be riders that pull out of many races, which is not an encouraging trend if you dream of the pro ranks. Along with his overall consistency, Benoot has done well in the mountains; a good example being the Vuelta a Palencia. Benoot went up against Spanish super-climber Cristian Cañada and was able to win a stage, finish 2nd on two others and finish 2nd overall.

Benoot will finish his first U23 season with a spot on the Belgian National team for the World U23 RR Championship in Florence. You read it (in English) here first...Benoot will have a huge season next year.

Niccolò Bonifazio (Italy - Viris Maserati - 1993)  @Bonifazio_993

While Andrea Zordan has had the majority of the press when it comes to the sprinters of the Italian U23 class, Niccolò Bonifazio has been lurking in the shadows and winning. Bonifazio has been a machine in the last three years (junior and two years as a U23) by winning 23 races and beating nearly every big U23 sprinter he has gone up against. Bonifazio was so impressive in his first U23 season that he signed a pre-deal with Lampre-Merida that ensured him a stagiaire role for 2013 and a neo-pro contract for 2014. 2013 was about progression for Bonifazio, who has lacked in consistency at times especially on more difficult courses. One of the highlights of his season was his stage win at Coupe des Nations Ville des Saguenay over Sondre Holst Enger. During his on-going stagiaire position with Lampre, he finished 11th in Coppa Bernocchi.

Bonifazio has a penchant for leaving the sprint to the last meter and lunging for the line in a desperate attempt for the win, which is different to Andrea Zordan's "come and get it" attitude. One potential problem I could see with Bonifazio in his first couple years as a pro is consistency and it would probably be better to focus on getting his endurance up otherwise it will be a long couple of years.

Thomas Boudat (France - Vendée U- 1994) - @La_Boud

Boudat is another French youngster that is super quick on the track and many have pointed out a relation to another Vendée U product, Bryan Coquard. Coquard is more of a pure sprinter than Boudat but the two did pair up this year to win the U23 European Madison Championship. Boudat also took the points race title, which will go with his junior title from the previous year, and finished 3rd in the omnium, where he is also the current French champion. With a heavy track schedule, Boudat has run a lighter road program with just 35 days of racing this year but still has three wins including the French University title. Boudat also went 7th in the Mediterranean Games and the French U23 championships.
He could be a lock for the 2016 Rio Games for the track omnium if he continues on that path.

Fun facts: Boudat started riding to school at age 5. Grandfather and two uncles raced the Tour.

Derk Abel Beckeringh (Netherlands - Croford - 1992)

Beckeringh is one of those university age cyclists that tried to balance school and cycling that didn't end up going very well. Beckeringh was a very good junior and was up there with Jasha Sütterlin, Dylan van Baarle, Jasper Stuyven and others. (He wasn't at Bob Jungels level but no one was). The Dutchman made the obvious choice and signed with Rabobank Continental for 2011 but that ended badly. He tried give 100% focus at school and on the bike at the same time and while some are able to do it, others are not and it was obvious that if he was going to focus on school, he was going to have to stop with the bike for a little while.

Taking a step back for 2012 was a good thing and Beckeringh was more low-key in his approach focused mainly on the Low Countries while he did some international races, where he was able to show off his climbing skills. Beckeringh came back in a good way this season with a top 20 at U23 Liege-Bastogne-Liege, which led to national team selections for Coupe des Nations Saguenay and Tour de l'Avenir. l'Avenir saw Beckeringh shine with a 25th overall in his first major tour in the U23 class with legitimate mountain passes. He even finished with Adam Yates (2nd overall) and Ruben Fernandez (overall winner) on stage 6 to Châtel and got 10th place for himself on the stage.

2014 will see Beckeringh return to the Rabobank program and should lead to more leadership opportunities.

Liam Bertazzo (Italy - Trevigiani - 1992)

The name Bertazzo probably sounds familiar to some because of Omar Bertazzo, the Italian track and road rider with Androni and also the older brother of Trevigiani rider, Liam. Like his older brother, Liam has spent a large chunk of his development on the track and has been apart of the Italian team pursuit and madison squads. This year has seen Bertazzo racing on the road more than year's past but apart from a team time trial win, it has been agonizing for the Venetian as he has five second places without an individual win. While he has been beaten by some of the best Italian sprinters, just last weekend Bertazzo beat Andrea Zordan in a sprint for 2nd place in the Giro Nazionale del Valdarno. On an international level, Bertazzo had two top 5 placings in sprint stages in the Tour de l'Avenir, hanging up with Ewan, Zabel and Holst Enger.

Next year, Bertazzo will stay with Trevigiani as they go to the UCI Continental level.

Emanuel "Emu" Buchmann (Germany - RadNet-Rose - 1992)

Emu definitely is one of my favorite nicknames in cycling after doing some research on Buchmann. Buchmann hails from Ravensburg (the extreme south just north of Lake Constance) and is a climber through and through at just 64 kilograms. While Emu is a featherweight, he can do a decent time trial on good days.

He has progressed as a U23 and seems to have gotten more consistent over the last few years. Last year, Emu joined Specialized Concept Store, the German-Azeri mashup, and at just 19 he had nice results such as an 11th place, front group finish at Eschborn-Frankfurt U23, 6th overall at Tour of Azerbaijan and 2nd in KOM classification and 25th overall at Thüringen Rundfahrt.

With the collapse of Specialized Concept Store, Emu joined the new RadNet-Rose squad, which is primarily a track squad but has a team for the road as well. While the schedule was a bit erratic at times, Emu has done well in stage races; the harder they are, the better it seems to go for him. 13th at the inaugural Mzansi Tour and 2nd youth, 20th at the Tour Alsace and then a solid 17th at Tour de l'Avenir. He is not a rider that is a hitter right off the bat but he still has another U23 season and could continue to progress.

Phil Bauhaus (Germany - Stölting - 1994) - @PhilBauhaus

Bauhaus is a strong sprinter that had a slow start to his season but since May, Bauhaus has been going very well including wins in the Oder Rundfahrt and Tour of Bulgaria. Most recent was a 6th place in the Kernen Omloop. I like Team Stölting because they have an experienced rider like Luke Roberts there as a mentor and that can only help Bauhaus going into next year.

Carlos Barbero (Spain - Euskadi - 1991) @BarberoCbc

While he isn't Basque, Carlos Barbero is one of the biggest promises for the Basque cycling scene and the team formerly known as Euskaltel. Similar to Samu Sanchez, Carlos Barbero was born outside of the Basque country, in Burgos, but has spent all of his development years in the Basque countries riding in the Euskaltel-Euskadi system with the Naturgas Energia amateur team and then the Orbea/Euskadi continental team for the past two seasons.

2013 has been a big season for Barbero. Interestingly, the big results Barbero has gained this year have come in professional races and not really from U23 racing. Barbero was 11th in Clasica Almeria (first continental rider) and followed it up with a 9th overall the the Volta ao Alentejo, where he placed in the top 10 four times over the five stage race. Continuing his sizzling form, Barbero finished 6th and 5th in the first two stages and then finished 3rd on the final stage's short uphill finished, just behind Ruben Plaza and El Dopo Mancebo. 5th overall in a 2.1 stage race just before your 22nd birthday is quite a treat. Barbero went to the Ronde de l'Isard where he finished 3rd on the 1st stage, winning the group sprint, and then broke through and won the 2nd stage with teammate Haritz Orbe right behind.

Coming into this year, Barbero was trying to improve his sprint and while he probably will never be a speedster like Bonifazio and thus why his results are littered with 5th-10th place finishes and not a heap of victories. Barbero was on track to join Euskaltel-Euskadi but with the new arrangement with Fernando Alonso, any transfer is up in the air. 23 top 10 placings should speak for themselves.

Rudy Barbier (France - Armée de Terre - 1992)

Barbier rides for the French Army, which is one of the strongest amateur teams in France. Last year saw Barbier really emerge after taking 6 wins with USSA Pavilly Barentin, a Division 2 French squad. Barbier joined Armée de Terre for this year to, most likely, fulfill his military obligation while continuing to ride. With the French Army riding on the Division 1 level, Barbier's competition took a step up but he has brought in a heap of results, which helped propel Armée de Terre to the top of the Coupe de France tables. Flat and rolling races is where Barbier succeeds and this year, he has brought in four victories including a 2.2 stage victory at the Paris-Arras Tour.

Next year, Barbier will join Roubaix-Lille Metropole, where he will get more opportunities in 1.2 and 2.2 races along with the occasional 1.1 race. He is a strong and tough rider that can ride in pretty much every condition so it'll be interesting to see how he copes going up the rankings.

Dieter Bouvry (Belgium - Etixx-iHNed - 1992) @DieterBouvry

Bouvry is a solid climber and all-arounder who is still developing and hopefully can turn some promising results into something in the near future. Bouvry was 4th in Liege-Bastogne-Liege U23 last year while riding for EFC-OPQS and moved to the Etixx-iHNed continental team this year. The season started well with a 6th overall at the Volta ao Alentejo and then a 15th place, lead group finish at the Ronde van Vlaanderen U23. He had good placings overall at {insert long name of Polish race here} (7th) and the Czech Cycling Tour (5th). His Tour de l'Avenir started slowly but he was able to finish in the top 15 in two mountain stages. He is currently fighting for a spot in the Belgian U23 team for the Florence Worlds.

Sven Erik Bystrøm (Norway - Oster Hus-Ridley - 1992) @sebystrom

Bystrøm is a big strong rouleur with a bit of a sprint on him. His claim to U23 fame is his victory over Michael Valgren and others at the 2012 U23 Eschborn-Frankfurt. Bystrøm has ridden the U23 circuit and always seems to do reasonably well but he has yet to truly break out. Only two DNF's and he posted strong results in all of the pro stage races in Norway, including a 13th overall in Tour des Fjords.

Sam Bassetti (USA - Cal Giant - 1991)

Bassetti came to road cycling late unlike many of the other guys on this list and as a junior, he went from a category 4 to a category 2 and impressed with a 7th place ride in the national RR against much more seasoned competitions. After a quiet 2010 after going to Cal-Davis, 2011 saw Bassetti go in big and he had a ton of top 5 and 10 placings in criteriums and he advanced to a category 1 license. Bassetti joined Cal Giant in 2012 and he had strong placings at Collegiate Nationals and 2013 has seen Bassetti claim top ten finishes in criteriums in Tour of Gila and Nature Valley Grand Prix along with a 2nd (criterium) and 4th (road race) at U23 Nationals. While he might not be destined for the European roads, he is one to watch in America.

Bontrager CT (Director: Axel Merckx) @BontragerCT

While it was dark times for Bontrager this summer when Axel Merckx announced the team was on the brink and needed a new sponsor for 2014, the clouds have dissapated after it was announced that the team was saved for 2014. The sponsorship was only one of their problems as the team is possibly set to lose 8 of their 13 riders, due to graduating to the professional ranks and possibly leaving team due to being aged out of the U23 ranks. While the latter rule could be bent, I don't think it will be and Merckx will have to start from scratch, essentially.

This year was a grand year for the team, which has had alumni such as Taylor Phinney, Alex Dowsett, Ben King, Jesse Sergent, George Bennett, Joe Dombrowski and Ian Boswell. Jasper Stuyven won the Volta ao Alentejo and featured in one-day races and sprint all year. Nate Brown, which I went into more detail up the page, was one fire in Beauce, LBL U23 and at the National Championships. Lawson Craddock was top 10 in California and Colorado and 2nd in Triptyque Monts et Chateaux. Gavin Mannion got his climbing shoes and finished Tour de l'Avenir in 8th overall.

What will the team look like next year? Well Merckx said that he wants the base to be Tanner Putt, James Oram and Ryan Eastman and wants Greg Daniel and Alex Darville, both first-year U23s this year, to stay on as well. The latter two spent a lot of time on USA U23 team and Merckx wants them to be more involved with big team races. While the rumor mill hasn't been churning too much, they will probably get a few more Americans and possibly some new Aussie/NZ talents but it depends on new sponsors as well. It will be interesting to see what Merckx can bring to the table for 2014.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

2013 U23 ABC's: Intro and A

It's time to introduce a new series of articles that I'll be rolling out over the next few weeks, both in preparation for the World Championships and to wind the season up so you have a solid basis on how to judge a rider going into next year, whether they are a neo-pro on a World Tour team or heading into another U23 season. While I know that everyone isn't as geeky with cycling as I am but if some bigger publications would give more coverage to juniors and U23 racing, we wouldn't have to deal with a deluge of articles telling us about "the next Merckx" or the "surprise of the season". When Jonathan Vaughters tweeted about Lachlan Morton at the 2010 Tour of Utah and said how no one since Lemond was capable of the performance he gave as just a junior, it should have been no surprise that he was capable of his solo win at Tour of Utah this summer. This could be said for many riders that come out and "surprise" or "shock" in their first few years, when their talent should have already spoken for themselves in their development years.

In my attempt to spread the wealth with my U23 knowledge, I'm going to be going through the alphabet, from A-Z (by surname for riders), and giving you an overview of who and what you need to know from the U23 scene going forward. After this, you will be able to act like a hipster while chatting on group rides and hanging out in the bike shop and say how you knew Alexis Gougeard way before VeloNews. (Disclaimer: You might lose friends.)

We shall start light with the letters A and B.


"This is the beginning. We're at ground zero. Maybe you should say a few words, to mark the occassion."

Simone Andreetta (Italy/Zalf-Euromobil/1993) Twitter: @Andreetta93

Nothing to do with cycling. Just Andreetta eating a gummy.

Andreetta might be overshadowed by some of his more prolific Zalf-Euromobil teammates but the Venetian has been able to find his own glory this year and snagged two wins for himself. Before I get too ahead of myself, a little background on Andreetta is appropriate. Simone was a strong junior and was 2nd overall at the Giro Ciclistico della Lunigiana in 2011. After a relatively quiet 2012, Andreetta has been a more prominent figure in 2013 and his defining moment was his win at Bassano-Monte Grappa, a race won by no less than Aru, Cunego, Piepoli, Simoni, Gotti...and Gino Bartali. It is one of the most underrated Italian one-day events and while it is just 107 kilometers, it features a summit finish at the Cima Grappa after 27 kilometers of uphill and 1600 meters of vertical gain. A win at Gerry Gasparotto Memorial along with top 5 placings at UCI 1.2U races such as Trofeo Piva Banca and GP Poggiana are a good indicator of some talent and next year will be interesting as Andrea Zordan will be departing and Andreetta should get more chances instead of working (as much) for others.

Julian Alaphilippe (France/Etixx-iHNed/1992) Twitter: @alafpolak

Photo via @EKOIcycling

Before this season, you wouldn't be wrong to not recognize Julian Alaphilippe's name during the road season. While he has had good results on the road during his career, the bulk of his big results have come from the cyclocross circuit, until this year at least. Alaphilippe was 2nd in the junior World Championships in cyclocross on the ice rink that was Tabor in 2010. In 2011, he began a two-year stint with the Armée de Terre (French Army) team that saw his talent level go even further. Riding on both circuits, Alaphilippe took four road wins including a stage of the Coupe des Nations Ville de Saguenay in 2012 while contending on the cyclocross circuit with a 3rd place overall on the U23 World Cup circuit in 2011-12 and winning the Rome round of the U23 World Cup in 2012-13. Alaphilippe was also a double French U23 cyclocross champion during this time.

2013 saw Julian join Etixx-iHNed, the start-up development team created by the OPQS World Tour squad. While he had a relatively quiet early season, he hit the on-switch at the Tour de Bretagne with a stage win, two more 2nd places and a 5th place overall. From there on in, Alaphilippe has been one of, if not the, most consistent rider in terms of seemingly always being around the top 10 on all but the toughest of days. Alaphilippe has snagged 25 top ten placings this year in just a bit over 50 racing days. Alaphilippe now has 4 wins this year after his solo victory at the final stage of the Tour de l'Avenir up to Plateau des Glieres. Alaphilippe gets the bulk of his results in mass sprints and sprints from small groups but also has success in prologues, tough one-day races and in breakaways. He does lack consistent performances in the mountains and is by no means a great time-trialist on longer courses.

Alaphilippe will be taking his talents to OPQS next season and he should be able to thrive on a World Tour level. While no one has talked about it, it seems like his cyclocross days will be over or at least reduced to a few races ala Zdenek Stybar.

Maxat Ayazbayev (Kazakhstan/Astana Continental/1992)

Q: Where in the World is Maxat Ayazbayev? A: Ecuador

I'm trying to think of something profound to say about Ayazbayev but I'm blanking. He was a good junior and won the Giro Ciclistico della Lunigiana overall in 2010 ahead of Jasha Sütterlin. Until this year, he was a rider who was pack fill in the U23 ranks unless you count his Tour of Bulgaria overall win last year. This year, Ayazbayev was more active and has had strong rides at Coupe des Nations Ville de Saguenay (7th overall), Tour Alsace (2nd in mountains classification) and a solo win at the Trofeo Internazionale Bastianelli. Tour de l'Avenir wasn't an amazing result but Maxat was in multiple attacks and teammate Kozhatayev finished 4th so it wasn't a total wash. Look for more from Ayazbayev next year when he will be in his final U23 season.

Astana Continental (Kazakhstan)

As the name dictates, this is the continental squad for the Astana World Tour team, a team which is backed by Samruk Kazyna, the national welfare fund of Kazakhstan (technically a corporation run by the dictator's son-in-law) which owns part or all of many big Kazakh corporations and 56% of the nation's GDP, according to the IMF. I have always liked Kazakh riders and it first started when I started following cycling because of watching Vinokourov attacking on the Champs and winning the final stage of the Tour de France in 2005. Even after the doping fiasco with Vino, Kashechkin and Fofonov, I still find Kazakh riders interesting because of these are guys that use a bike to get out of a repressive dictatorship. Yes, Kazakhstan is a dictatorship with a president for life and is rather ruthless to striking workers getting in the way of profits, seeing as 70 striking oil workers were killed and over 400 injured in the oil town of Zhanaozen. So a team backed by the company that owns the majority of Kazakh companies...where would this team go for a training camp? Of course the obvious answer is Ecuador, one of the more repressive regimes in the world.

When not in media-hating states, the team that was started in 2012 is based out of Italy and takes in a big schedule of races, including a lot of U23 races that are either run under the team or the Kazakhstan National Team. Notable alumni and racers include Alexey Lutsenko, Ruslan Tleubayev, Arman Kamyshev and Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev, among others.

Stay tuned for B-C and the rest of the alaphabet over the coming weeks.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Tour de l'Avenir Roundup

A quick apology is needed as I sort of left readers high and dry in the middle of the Tour de l'Avenir. I went on a road trip and was scouting out a potential move back to my hometown and while I thought I might have a little time to update on the race, 2350 kilometers of driving and lots of visiting left me with next to no time to write but in a sense, it might be good as I have had some time to dwell on the results of the Tour de l'Avenir. So let's begin where we left off, which will be standard review for those following the race and news for those living under rocks.

  • Stage 4 was the key to the whole Tour de l'Avenir as Ruben Fernandez, a pro U23 rider from Caja Rural, put in a devilish attack with 7 kilometers to go that caught everyone off guard and the Murcian rider put time into a chasing Oskar Svendsen, who would later be absorbed by the leading group. Favorites were falling out as Clement Chevrier, Louis Vervaeke and Ever Rivera all lost chunks of time while pre-race favorite Juan Chamorro limped in with the grupetto. Fernandez continued to put time into the front group as no concerted chase effort could be organized on the slopes of the Col de Madeleine. Fernandez came in 1'38" over a chasing Patrick Konrad (Austria) and Adam Yates (Great Britain) with Mannion, Kudus, Formolo and others trickling in not too far behind.

    Obviously Fernandez' performance was shocking but he definitely took advantage of the tactics and used the passive front group to his advantage. I was quite surprised at Svendsen's climbing ability as his season to date was definitely a learning one that was filled with DNFs and so-so performances. His huge Vo2 Max was the talk of the press after his Junior World TT Championships last year in Valkenburg and that helped him along.
  • The obvious mission to the riders behind Fernandez was to gain time anywhere possible and the punchy parcours on stage 5 proved to be a good perfect ground for just that. Fernandez's Spanish Armada wasn't exactly the strongest squad in the race and while it wasn't the Battle of Trafalgar, the British took advantage of that fact and attacked with aplomb on the short 70km stage. A leading group of 8 including Davide Martinelli, Lasse Norman and American Jeffery Perrin lead the race on the lead into the Col des Gets when a counter attacked emerged out of the peloton including British twins Simon and Adam Yates, Latvian Toms Skujins and Alexis Gougeard among others. As the race climbed the Col des Gets, the group splintered and included just the Yates twins, Dutchman Derk Abel Beckeringh, Italian Simone Andreetta, KOM leader Dane Kristian Haugaard and Gougeard. Andreetta faltered, Beckeringh crashed and Haugaard suffered a mechanical all in the final 8 kilometers which left three for the final sprint. Gougeard was no match for the Brits and Simon took the win ahead of Adam, which was a repeat of his stage 5 win in the 2011 edition of the race.

    Fernandez was isolated and finished 37 seconds behind Adam Yates with the leading peloton. Davide Formolo was unlucky and crashed in the finale, which saw him dropped an unneeded 25 seconds. Russia and Ukraine stunk up the race by not having one rider finish in the front group. In case anyone missed this good Cycling Weekly article, Adam Yates also rides for CC Etupes, one of the most historic French development teams (think Barguil, Elissonde, Chainel, Dessel, etc.), and has tested with FDJ and might turn pro next year or in 2015. Simon Yates has been linked to SKY 
  • Stage 6 of the race was quite similar to the finish of stage 3 of the Giro Valle d'Aosta, which also had finished with a gradual run-up to the mountain town of Châtel. Kristian Haugaard possessed a six point KOM lead on Adam Yates and uncomfortable with that close of gap, the Leopard-Trek Dane escaped with habitual attacker and prologue winner Alexis Gougeard and Swiss Gabriel Chavanne. Haugaard took full points on the first three climbs of the day and on the final categorized climb, the Col du Corbier, Haugaard dropped his companions and went for broke. The peloton kicked it up a gear and Heiner Parra leapt out of the bunch in pursuit of the wily Dane. Parra caught Haugaard just before the top but the Dane's KOM mission was done and Parra was solo on the small descent but was quickly passed by a strong quartet.

    Said quartet included Stage 5 winner Simon Yates, Kazakh Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev, French climber Clément Chevrier and reigning Junior World RR Champion Matej Mohoric. The group was working well together and on the run-up to Châtel, they had up to a minute gap at one point. A counter attack including Patrick Konrad, Jasha Sütterlin, Jasper Stuyven and others launched on the near 12% ramps just before the finale and put Fernandez on the ropes yet again as he was isolated yet again. Yates easily outdistanced his companions and won his 3rd Tour de l'Avenir stage ahead of Mohoric and Chevrier while Konrad took nearly 20 seconds out of Fernandez and finished 5th on the stage.

    Juan Chamorro abandoned the stage and added to an under-expectations performance by the Colombians at l'Avenir. 
  • The final stage saw the race take the riders along a scenic route including two difficult Cat 1 climbs in La Salève and the Col des Glieres, site of one of the more memorable battles of the French Resistance in World War II. The break of the day included --among others-- Caleb Ewan, American Greg Daniel, Belgian Dieter Bouvry, Italian Manuel Senni and Russian Victor Manokov, who was trying to salvage a bad l'Avenir for the Russians. The break got over six minutes but the fun came in the final half of the stage. Ewan, Daniel and Bouvry led the remnants of the breakaway over Le Salève but behind in the peloton, Julian Alaphilippe and Matej Mohoric solemnly swore they were up to no good and attacked on the descent from the climb with attacking addict Alexis Gougeard. The trio made their way up to the breakaway and only Bouvry was able to join them. The quartet extended their lead to over two minutes on their way to the climb to the Plateau des Glieres. Soon it was just Alaphilippe and Mohoric at the head of affairs on the final climb while the peloton was being whittled down behind.

    With around 7 kilometers to go, Alaphilippe took off from Mohoric and began to extend his lead while behind, leader Fernandez had to fight with some frisky attackers as he was isolated once again. Alaphilippe pulled away from Mohoric, who continued to hold tough in 2nd with under 5 kilometers to go. Attacks by Toms Skujins, Davide Formolo and Adam Yates were valiant attempts to shell Fernandez in the final kilometers but the Spaniard held tough. Alaphilippe took the solo victory in an impressive performance on a national monument while Mohoric came in for 2nd. Yates took 3rd and a few more seconds from Fernandez but it was too little, too late for the Brit and Spain took home its first Tour de l'Avenir title since Moises Duenas in 2006. 
Final Top 10 GC
  1. Ruben Fernandez (Spain)
  2. Adam Yates (Great Britain) +55"
  3. Patrick Konrad (Austria) +1'07"
  4. Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev (Kazakhstan) +1'12"
  5. Oskar Svendsen (Norway) +1'40"
  6. Davide Formolo (Italy) +2'05"
  7. Heiner Parra (Colombia) +3'03"
  8. Gavin Mannion (USA) s.t.
  9. Toms Skujins (Latvia) +3'27"
  10. Simon Yates (Great Britain) +3'44"
Points: Julian Alaphilippe (France)
KOM: Kristian Haugaard (Denmark)
Team: Kazakhstan

  • I'm still struggling to classify Fernandez's win here at l'Avenir. He is obviously a talent seeing as Caja Rural had signed him before this season and his attack on stage 4 was impressive and tactically smart but was hampered by a weak team and looked in difficulty on other climbs throughout the week when thrown against guys such as Konrad, Adam Yates, etc. I know that many in the media will only look skin deep at this l'Avenir win and start to tout him as the next big Spanish Grand Tour talent, which I am hesitant to do seeing as this was a one-off result. I'm reserving judgement now and it will take some time to see if Fernandez will develop into a perennial contender.
  • The Yates twins showed just how good they are on the climbs and both have very bright futures ahead. Simon has been one of the most consistent U23s on the circuit this season and in addition to being the Points Race World Champion on the track, he has attacked as nearly every opportunity on the road. Adam broke through this year and while he might not be as heralded as his brother, he has a bright future.
  • Patrick Konrad has been lacking with consistency at times this year but he definitely put it all together for this l'Avenir and if Fernandez could have been controlled a bit better, he might have been able to close down the gap further. Kozhatayev continued his consistent year and marked himself as the next big Kazakh talent for some of the hillier races. L'Avenir was Kozhatayev's 4th top six placing on GC this year. As previously stated, I was shocked with Svendsen's climbing and I am curious if he can keep this type of riding up in the future, as he is just a first year U23. Speaking of consistency, Toms Skujins 9th place overall was yet another top 10 to go with the handful of others this year, including a win at the U23 Peace Race. After being dropped by La Pomme Marseille last year, Skujins came back in the best way possible and featured on a variety of terrains. Hopefully a contract offer will follow soon because he is a good clean racer that deserves a chance. 
  • This race wasn't without disappointments as some teams were left wanting much more. Russia came in with a decent squad but finished with just two riders and a whole lot of nothing on the results front save a few decent riders by Manakov early on. Ukraine, as stated in the l'Avenir preview, did not deserve this start and was one of the more invisible teams of the race. While Chamorro's early crash was a damper for Colombia, I couldn't help but be slightly disappointed with Ever Rivera and less so, Heiner Parra. Rivera had climbed well earlier this year but was limited in the mountains while Parra managed 7th overall, which is good but not spectacular for a team which has dominated the podiums of the last three editions. Parra was in contention for a top-5 placing but he ceded nearly 1'30" on the final stage alone. Others that were underwhelming were Clément Chevrier and Louis Vervaeke, two that struggled in the early mountains and then never recovered.
This brings me to the final piece of news, which is a pretty shitty article by CyclingNews about the "six best riders" from the Tour de l'Avenir. The laziness of this piece really gets to me because this is one of the biggest cycling journalism companies and they are simply taking the most recognizable names and churning out a bland story. These are supposed to be the six best riders in the race and all they did was look at the top 10, through out the names that might confuse people like Kozhatayev and then do some minor research and voilà, a piece read by hundreds, if not thousands, of people who take them at their word. While these guys are all good are they really the six best from the race? Simon Yates gets one sentence in the piece and they mention his two stage wins like they were two rolls at breakfast when this was yet another impressive performance by Yates in an overall impressive year. No real mention of Kozhatayev's performance either, who has been consistent in the hills and mountains this year and has been on fire in the last month. There were many riders that were attacking all the time such as Alexis Gougeard that get nothing from them even though they were all over the front. Kristian Haugaard could have gotten a higher overall GC placing but he targeted the KOM jersey and held it from stage 1 to the end. Oskar Svendsen's turn around was one of the stories of the race. Of course that piece had no byline because it was just a lot of generic bullshit. The main point of this rant is that much of the U23 coverage in the mainstream cycling media is a lot of fluff and not much of it cuts through the bullshit. We will still be inundated with articles in a few year's time about how such and such rider "came out of nowhere" when, in most cases, his talent has been evident for a while and it is just laziness on the major media's part not to be more vigilant about up-and-coming riders.