Friday, June 27, 2014

U23 TT National Championships

Great Britain: Scott Davies

Scott Davies (Madison-Genesis) pulled a minor upset by winning the British U23 TT in Celtic Manor ahead of An-Post ChainReaction's Owain Doull while Dan McLay (Lotto-Belisol U23) slotted into 3rd. 2-time defending champion Sam Harrison was a hot favorite heading into the event but was a DNS after being hit by the same illness that took out Mark Cavendish out of the weekend's road race.

1. Scott Davies (Madison-Genesis) 27'45"
2. Owain Doull (AnPost-ChainReaction) +24"
3. Dan McLay (Lotto-Belisol U23) +59"
4. Hugh Carthy (Rapha-Condor JLT) +1'13"
5. Harry Tanfield s.t.

Ireland: Ryan Mullen

Ryan Mullen kicked the crap out of everyone. On the 37 kilometer course, Mullen averaged over 50 km/h and while he beat the next closest U23 Sean Hahessy by over 2 and a half minutes, Mullen was also the fastest overall by beating Michael "Dr. Hutch" Hutchinson by 46 seconds. Thanks to being a U23, Mullen was only able to win the U23 title while Hutchinson took the Elite Men's TT.

Switzerland: Thery Schir

Thery Schir benefitted from Stefan Kung trying to take down Fabian Cancellara in the Elite Men's TT so Schir was able to take out the U23 Men's TT title by 23 seconds over BMC Development's Tom Bohli and 37 seconds over Fabian Leinhard. Schir races a lot on the track and has teamed up with Kung on many occasions including a bronze medal in the men's Madison this year at the World Championships in Cali.

Netherlands: Steven Lammertink

Taking advantage of a dearth of strong time trialists in the U23 ranks, Steven Lammertink (Jo Piels) won the Dutch U23 TT by 43 seconds over Mike Teunissen (Rabobank Development) after clocking a time of 45 minutes on the 37.3 kilometer course to average just shy of 50 km/h.

1. Steven Lammertink 45'00"
2. Mike Teunissen +43"
3. Tim Rodenburg +1'43"

Venezuela: Yonder Godoy

Yonder Godoy won. That's it. Not much competition.

Poland: Szymon Rekita

Szymon Rekita isn't the biggest name to many outside Poland. I've barely heard of him myself. He is a fairly good time trialist though and he was able to take the Polish U23 TT title by 1 scant second on Pryzemyslaw Kasperkiewicz and 5 seconds on Bartosz Warchol. Rekita was top 20 in the U23 World TT in Florence last year and while not having too many UCI results this year besides a 10th place overall in the Carpathian Couriers Tour, Rekita confirmed his TT prowess by taking the title, a good accomplishment for a rider in just his 2nd U23 season.

Russia: Alexander Evtushenko

Alexander Evtushenko defended his U23 TT crown after easily defeating his Russian Helicopters teammate Roman Kustadinchev by over a minute.

Czech Republic and Slovakia: David Dvorsky and Mario Dasko

Every year, the Czech Republic and Slovakia combine their National Championships, in cycling at least, and meet somewhere in one of the two countries. Must be some sort of Czechoslovakia nostalgia or something but the events are run on the same course and serves as a good comparison between the two countries. The Czech Republic U23 TT was won by David Dvorsky in a time of 59'43", which was just a second ahead of Michael Schlegel. By comparison, the Slovak U23 TT was won by Mario Dasko in a time of 1'02"01", which would have been good for 7th overall if you combined the countries. Just food for thought.

Luxembourg: Luc Turchi

I've never heard of Luc Turchi. No idea who he is. He is a first year U23 and he won the Luxembourg U23 TT, which is combined with the elite field, with a sizeable margin over 2nd place. He slotted into 7th place overall in the Elite/Combined TT standings at 1'03" behind winner Laurent Didier. Alex Kirsch should have won the U23 title but wasn't registered in the U23 class so therefore no win.

Canada: Kris Dahl

Team Smartstop continued their winning ways by taking the Canadian U23 TT championship with their young Canadian Kris Dahl, who joined the team last year as a stagiaire. On the rolling 40km course, Dahl clocked a 58'44", which was 23 seconds better than Nigel Ellsay, who rides for Sojasun Espoirs in France for the majority of the year.

Ukraine: Marlen Zmorka

So Zmorka won. Enough said.

Germany: Nils Politt

Stolting's Nils Politt was able to upgrade his silver medal from last year to a gold medal after winning the German U23 TT Championship in Baunatal-Edermunde. Politt, who has been having a strong season with the Gelsenkirchen-based squad, won the test by 6 seconds ahead of Giant-Shimano Development rider Maximillian Schachman at an average pace of nearly 48 km/h.

Japan: Manabu Ishibashi

Spain: Oscar Gonzalez

Latvia: Krists Neilands

Portugal: Rafael Reis

Finland: Matti Manninen

Albania: Nikaj Iltjan

Iltjan won the Albaian Elite Men's TT but I'm counting it here because honestly, there isn't many Albanian Elite Men so it was basically a U23 showdown between him and Xhuliano Kamberaj, who lost by just 8 seconds. Albanians don't exactly have a big history in the sport and many of them, including Iltjan and Kamberaj, race in Italy on the big amateur scene. Iltjan is notable in that he was on the podium of the Junior World RR Championship last year in Florence in 3rd place.

To be continued...

Thursday, June 26, 2014

BCS! BCS! Let's meet Louis Vervaeke

**This is a cross-post from a recent post I made on the cycling website PodiumCafe. I couldn't say enough good things about the website and it was the first place online that I joined that was cycling-only (for the most part...sort of) and it is a great community with many informed people. This post is about Louis Vervaeke and I refer to him as the BCS, or Belgian Climbing Sensation, which as I explain is an reoccurring meme to refer to Kevin Seeldraeyers, who got the moniker in 2009, but it can be used to refer to any standout Belgian climbing talent. I would recommend any of you that aren't on Podium Cafe to go take a look especially with the Tour de France coming up!**
There are tales of the BCS. The BCS was born in the flatlands, in the cold wind and lashing rain, but has the ability to climb with the smallest Italian and Iberian grimpeurs. The BCS is an enigma. A supernova. A bright flash riding up the side of a mountain before burning out, never reaching the inflated expectations that matched his rise. The BCS teases us. He will put on a brilliant ride that will make people salivate with his potential and then put in poor performances that would sober the town drunk. Why BCS, why? Why can't you ride with some consistency? Why hath you forsaken us BCS?
The BCS, for those of you that don't know, is the term on PdC for Belgian Climbing Sensation.Its origins date back to 2009 and Kevin Seeldraeyers performances in Paris-Nice, where he placed 7th overall, and Giro d'Italia, where he was 14th overall, where hewon the youth classification at both races. Expectations were high and then fell quite quickly when he wasn't able to produce anything of note for a while. He switched to Astana from Quick Step but was only able to go 3rd in the Tour of Austria. He now races for Wanty-Groupe Goubert.He was followed by Bart De Clercq, who won a stage in the '11 Giro and has yet to reach back to those heights. You could throw Thomas De Gendt into the mix but his climbing abilities depend on his motivation. Tim Wellens is also a contender for the moniker, especially after his strong Giro but he is a strong all-around rider as well.
Seeldraeyers certainly wasn't the first BCS. Kurt Van De Wouwer placed 11th in the 1999 Tour de France. He finished 17th the next year but he never again reached the heights of that first big Grand Tour GC placing. Van De Wouwer hung around until 2006 with and then in more recent years, he took over the Lotto-Belisol U23 program as a DS.He was instrumental in bringing up both BCS possibles De Clercq and Wellens as well as many others including Sean De Bie, Thomas De Gendt and others.There is another now. A climber that has proved to be both explosive on the climbs and isn't a leaf in the wind when riding in crosswinds. Is this potential BCS the one? Will he finally break the Belgian Grand Tour drought? Will be be the new Merckx? When will he succeed to the Belgian royal throne? Maybe I'm not helping with those expectations...
Louis Vervaeke wasn't a junior that blew riders out of the water. He was a national level rider that had some good rides as on the European circuit but to say that he was the next big thing? That would be a bit much. Out of the junior ranks, Vervaeke signed with Bofrost-Steria for his first U23 season while also going to school for sales management. He was rough around the edges but was comfortable in the hills as he was 6th on a stage in the Ronde de l'Isard and finished 15th overall in the ridiculously hilly Giro Ciclistico Valle d'Aosta, which was very good for a 1st year U23 even though he was nearly 30 minutes down on winner Fabio Aru. For 2013, Vervaeke come on board with Van Der Wouwer and Lotto-Belisol U23 and made waves the moment he hit the mountains. After being flat on the first stage of the Tour des Pays de Savoie, Vervaeke bounced back with 3 strong rides in a row on summit finishes where he finished 7th, 4th and 3rd, with the last one coming on the slopes of La Toussuire. He finished 4th overall and less than a month later, he would be back in the mountains in Valle d'Aosta. Vervaeke was one of the best climbers in the race and finished 4th overall behind 2 now-Cannondale pros Davide Villella and Davide Formolo as well as Bissell's Clement Chevrier.
The new BCS was rising. After the season last year, Vervaeke moved to an apartment in Tuscany with Lotto-Belisol riders Sean De Bie and Tim Wellens and Trek's Jasper Stuyven. Vervaeke was now surrounded by hills and had a strong training group to ride with as well and if needed, he could get to some serious climbs within a day's journey. There is even some photos of the group heading out with Cipo as an escort...on a ride where Cipo might have talked about escorts.

After a slow build-up this spring, Vervaeke was primed for some big rides in the mountains. In the Ronde de l'Isard, he was always near the front when the mountains really kicked up and he placed 3rd in the mountain top finish on the 1st stage behind Alexander Foliforov. The next stage was a pure display of power. On the mountain finish on Bagneres du Luchon, Vervaeke and teammate Tiesj Benoot nearly rode across a 3 minute gap in the final 6 kilometers and when Vervaeke stormed over the finish, he only finished 24 seconds behind stage winner Lilian Calmejane (Vendee U). Since overnight leader Foliforov exploded and lost nearly 5 minutes, Vervaeke played defense the rest of the week and he was able to win the overall by 1’22" over Maxime Le Lavandier (Chambery CF). Vervaeke became the first Belgian to win l’Isard since Yannick Eijssen (now BMC...also a BCS that had some failure to launch syndrome) in 2010 and his sights were set to his favorite race, the Tour des Pays de Savoie.
While l’Isard has mountains, Pays de Savoie is in another league. Just judging by the parcours, it is a harder race than many pro races. 5 stages with every one of them having an uphill finish; 3 mountain top finishes, an uphill sprint and a short time trial that…you guessed it…ended with an uphill finish. The race this year provided great drama as well. On the first stage on the mountain finish to Valmeinier, Vervaeke went too hard and went into the red too early on the final climb. When Dmitriy Ignatiev (Itera-Katusha) kept away, no one responded and the Russian, who just got off a mysterious 2 year vacation, was able to pull out big time. When Vervaeke rolled in, he finished 4th but was 1’19 down on the Russian. Hole dug. Now it was time to get that time back.
On stage 2, the race did two finishing loops on the Plateau d’Assy. Vervaeke attacked with Jesus Del Pino (Burgos-BH) and the duo broke the Russian Ignatiev, who was laboring on with Pierre-Roger Latour (Chambery CF) to limit his loses. Vervaeke and Del Pino worked well together and while Jordi Simon (ex-Andalucia now Team Ecuador aka Movistar South) won the stage, Vervaeke finished 2nd and more importantly got back 53 seconds. The next stage, Vervaeke attacked late with Simon and Maxime Vantomme and was able to steal a few more seconds while Simon won his 2nd stage in a row.
The Russian Ignatiev got his revenge by taking the afternoon TT but Vervaeke, who isn’t a total slouch against the clock, finished 2nd just 2 seconds behind. The table was set for a battle on the incredible Col des Glières. On a parcours that our own Willj described as better than any Tour de France stage in the last 40 years, the race went up both sides of the Col des Glières, which is hallowed ground when talking about the French Resistance during the 2nd World War. In the dead of winter in 1944, the French Resistance marquisards fought to protect the plateau against the Wehrmacht and their Vichy allies as it was the site of a British aid drop. 121 died in the process and it was technically a lose after no reinforcements arrived but it was a turning point for the Resistance to fight on. 

The stage itself came down to the 2nd ascent of les Glières up to the plateau, which sits at 1450 meters in altitude. Vervaeke needed to take back 28 seconds on the final stage to over Ignatiev on GC. Heading into the final 5 kilometers, it was a brawl. Digs going every which way. Ignatiev drew out just Vervaeke and Simon. Then with under 4km to go, Vervaeke drilled it and left the Russian scrambling. On the rivet, Vervaeke hit the line to take the stage win but it was left down to the clock to see if he did enough. Tick tick tick. When Ignatiev crossed the line, the clock read 29 seconds in arrears. With bonus seconds, Vervaeke secured the GC win by 5 seconds over Ignatiev. He became the first Belgian to win the race (only been going since 1999) and only the 2nd rider to win l’Isard and Pays de Savoie overall in the same year with the first being Guillaume Bonnafond in 2008.
There is a new BCS in town. Well…maybe. It still is just the U23 ranks and maybe this post is premature and Vervaeke crashes and burns out and has to take a straight job…okay I don’t believe that for a second. This BCS is special. He isn’t like the others. He has panache. He isn’t scared to let it fly. He can climb so damn fast to boot. 

So why am I going into depth about Vervaeke? Because, according to this Het Nieuwsblad article, Vervaeke is said to be going directly up to the Lotto-Belisol pro team and his DS Van De Wouwer wouldn't confirm or deny this. Vervaeke is off the roster for the U23 European Championships. Now this is also Het Nieuwsblad and they are usually full of shit half the time but it is a possibility as Tim Wellens did something similar in 2012 where he signed with Lotto-Belisol from July 1 and still got to ride the Tour de l'Avenir that year, where he finished 10th. Vervaeke's next major goal is the Tour de l'Avenir, which has a stellar parcours this year that is beefed up including 4 mountain-top finishes as well as a final day finish on La Toussuire. Perhaps Vervaeke can improve on his 3rd place from last time and take the win? We shall see. 

**And as I write this, Directvelo publishes a story that Vervaeke will be turning pro in July with Lotto-Belisol and if the paperwork goes through quick enough then he could ride the Tour of Austria. 

In the meantime, you should all welcome your new BCS overlord with open arms! 

Louis Vervaeke 
Team: Lotto-Belisol U23/Lotto-Belisol 
Born: October 6th, 1993 in Ronse. 
Lives: Lucca, Italy (Melden when in Belgium) 
Specialty: Big mountains and GC 
-Studied for a bachelors in business management with a focus in sales management 
-Started riding when he was 13 years old

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Week Roundup

Surprisingly, the world continues to turn when I am in full-geek mode about a race. This past week for example, I was pretty much obsessed with Tour des Pays de Savoie to the point where I'm sure more than one person muted me on Twitter. Yet other races happened and big news was announced as well while I was questioning why there was an Ottavio Bottecchia sprint in the final stage of Savoie. Let's begin at the beginning with the biggest U23 news of the week.

Magnus Cort signs with Orica-GreenEdge

The biggest news of the past week was the announcement that Magnus Cort had signed with Orica-GreenEdge for 3 years starting in 2015. While Caleb Ewan was the biggest announcement for a contract so far, the Dane's signing overshadows Ewan's, in my opinion, because of how dangerous of a rider he really is. Cort has racked up 10 UCI wins this year and doesn't look like he will be stopping anytime soon. GreenEdge is a good spot for him to go as well because of their good track record with development, most recently with the Yates brothers Simon and Adam.

DS Matt White described Cort as a multi-dimensional rider and a "classy all-arounder" who should develop with their Classics team. I'm hoping that  they don't pigeonhole him as just a one-day rider because this kid...he is a talent. If you limit him to just focusing on one-day classics, then you could be missing out on some things. Anyways, White included some comment in the CN article announcing the move where he said, "Most people probably perceive Magnus as a sprinter, but
I wouldn't call him that." Matt White, did you fall on your head one too many times as a rider? Who are these most people that think Cort is just a sprinter? Maybe if you have been hit in the head with a hammer you might think that. Not to offend the casual observer but even if you just looked at his race results, you would realize Cort isn't just a sprinter. Uphill finishes, breakaways, one-day races, stage races...and yes even sprints. Yet you would need to be blind and deaf to think he is a sprinter. Even then, I think that those unfortunate souls could work out he is more than just that.

Kung wins Fleche Ardennaise; 2nd in Swiss Elite TT

While I was in my brain fog of Savoie, something else did happen in Belgium. Stefan Kung (BMC Development) continued his strong season by breaking away from a breakaway and riding solo to win the Fleche Ardennaise while his teammate Loic Vliegen, also riding well this year, was able to come in for 2nd, 43 seconds down, while Boris Dron slotted into 3rd.

To follow up his win at Fleche Ardennaise, Kung went to the Swiss Nationals and instead of lining up for the U23 TT on Wednesday, he took part in the Elite Men's TT against Fabian Cancellara. Fabs bested the younger Swiss Mister by 49 seconds on the 44.7 kilometer course but Kung was able to hold on for 2nd place.

Sondre Holst Enger wins the Norway U23 RR

Mr. Enger has had a fairly quiet year up until the Tour des Fjords, where he was up in the sprints and finished 5th overall. This past weekend, Enger lined up for the Norwegian U23 RR. The race itself didn't turn out to be too hard and a big group came to the line together which allowed Enger to take the sprint victory ahead of teammate Andreas Erland and Frederik Galta (Oster Hus). I'm not very surprised as there were no other big-time sprinters in the race so I'll chalk it up to just checking a box rather than a very big accomplishment.

Other News and Notes

-In case you missed the big news, Louis Vervaeke will be transferring to the Lotto-Belisol pro team starting on July 1. Vervaeke had wanted to stay in the U23 ranks for the rest of the season but after winning Pays de Savoie, according to Lotto-Belisol manager Marc Sergeant, Louis realized he was ready to face the professionals. This isn't an unprecedent move as roommate Tim Wellens did just the same in 2012 after a torrid spring in the U23 ranks. Wellens told Louis that this would reduce the pressure compared to starting in the pros in 2015. If everything goes to plan, Louis could see the start of the Tour of Austria and singing mid-season, he would still be able to ride Tour de l'Avenir (thanks UCI!).

-On the back of the Vervaeke announcement, it was also confirmed by Lotto-Belisol U23 leader Kurt Van De Wouwer that Tiesj Benoot would be getting a stagiaire role with Lotto-Belisol starting in August. I have to say that Lotto is doing a very good job at keeping home grown talent in house.

-Patrick Konrad won the Oberosterreichrundfahrt over the weekend. He was the first one that was able to pronounce the race name correctly. He and countryman Gregor Muhlberger got away on the final stage together and Muhlberger got the win, his 5th of the year, while Konrad took the overall.

-Loic Vliegen continued a torrid spring by going 2nd in the IWT Jong Maar Moedig race on Wednesday. The BMC Development rider got into a 2-man break with partyboy Gijs Van Hoecke (Topsport Vlaanderen) and the track star Van Hoecke outpaced Vliegen in the finale. Vliegen has gone very well in one-day races this year and could be in line for a stagiaire role later this year if he keeps it up.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Tour des Pays de Savoie: Vervaeke steals overall win on Plateau Glieres

How great am I? Seriously. If I could get any smarter, I don't know if I could be around anyone because I would just be endlessly smug and content about my near-superhuman intelligence. Perhaps that was a bit of hyperbole but in any case, the Tour des Pays de Savoie came down to the final stage, which showcased the Col de Glieres, one of the finest climbs in all of the Alps that the Tour de France seemingly won't touch with a 39 1/2 foot long pole. Read my friend Will's piece (from 2011) where he lists the Glieres as one of the top climbs never to be in the Tour de France. It is an absolutely fantastic mountain, which has two sides to climb, that is steeped in history and is a national treasure because of the World War II battle that took place on the Plateau where 122 resistance fighters died defending aid drops from the British against the Nazis.

Coming into the stage, it was essentially a 3-horse race with Dmitriy Ignatiev (Itera-Katusha) leading the race by 28 seconds on Louis Vervaeke and 38 seconds on Jesus Del Pino (Burgos-BH). The peloton let 10 riders go up the road within the first 5 kilometers and the group built up a solid lead of 2'20" before heading up the fearsome Col des Glieres.

Out of the breakaway, it was Guillaume Martin (CC Etupes) who accelerated away from the breakaway. Elie Gesbert (France Espoirs) led the chase of Martin up the climb ahead of the remnants of the original breakaway, which was just a few seconds in front of the peloton. Martin was able to claim first over the top and proceeded down the descent, where he would be chased vigorously and eventually be joined by Yoann Barbas (Armee de Terre), Benat Txoperena (Euskadi), Maxime Vantomme (Roubaix Lille Metropole) and Romain Campistrous (France Espoirs). This group was joined by a few more but there was too many fish to make it a successful breakaway and Martin countered and brought with him Txoperena and Julien Duval. They were joined by Tom Dernies shortly after. Seriously, this doesn't matter too much because so many guys came and went from the front group that it is so hard to keep track of. Let's fast forward to the finishing climb of the Plateau de Glieres.

The final climb started with 14 kilometers to go and the breakaway was down to just 7 riders including Martin, Clement Chevrier, Jimmy Turgis and Txoperena. Txoperena distanced himself from the rest of the breakaway while the fireworks began behind them in the yellow jersey group. First Vervaeke attacked which caused Del Pino to drop off.

There was a little regrouping as the break picked up Txoperena and then Ignatiev attacked. Vervaeke and Jordi Simon (Movistar South) were the only ones able to come to terms with the Russian but the fireworks were not done. With around 4 kilometers to go, Vervaeke attacked and the others were not able to respond. Vervaeke's advantage grew while Ignatiev and Simon, who were joined by Alexis Dulin and Barbas, began chasing in vain. In 2 kilometers, Vervaeke pulled out 17 seconds and he kept riding away.

In the final kilometer, Ignatiev was riding on the front trying to salvage the overall win and while Vervaeke was able to raise his arms for the stage win, the count down started. Tick tick tick. Ignatiev crossed the line utterly wasted. He was 29 seconds behind on the line. When you figure in the time bonuses, Vervaeke had pulled the coup and taken the leader's jersey by 5 seconds. Dmitriy Ignatiev's return from the dark was soured while Vervaeke became the 2nd rider to win both the Ronde de l'Isard and Tour des Pays de Savoie overall in the same season (1st was Guillaume Bonnafond, 2008).

Jesus Del Pino has just able to hang on to his 3rd place overall after blowing up quite spectacularly on the final climb. Jordi Simon capped off a solid week to finish 5th on the final stage after winning stage 2 and 3a for Movistar South.

-Looking at Vervaeke's race as a whole, it is pretty astounding. His lowest placing on a stage in the race was 4th, which is where he went too hard too early on the final climb and ceded some time to Ignatiev. He proceeded to go 2nd, 3rd, 2nd in the ITT and then won the final stage. Consistency really is the key. Vervaeke has buckled down on his training this year and has been living the pro lifestyle after moving to Italy and training in the hills all winter. He has a good head on him to but the key will be the transition period to the pros. I'm smelling a stagiaire position later this year for the lanky Belgian. And maybe a Tour de l'Avenir win. Also bacon.

-Dmitriy Ignatiev...well I'm not too sure what to say about him. It was the first time he did really well in a race since 2011 so who knows if he can keep it up. If he rides like this again then he has some talent but just too many sketchy factors involved.

-Out of 126 that started the race, only 64 finished the race with the lantern rouge Jurien Bosters (Belkin-De Jonge Renner) over 1 hour and 34 minutes in arrears.

1 VERVAEKE Louis Lotto Belisol E3 en 13:37:00
2 IGNATEV Dmitriy Itera Katusha TIK 13:37:05 0:00:05  
3 DEL PINO CORROCHANO Jésus Burgos BH BUR 13:39:00 0:02:00 
4 BARBAS Yoann EC Armée de Terre 13:39:44 0:02:44 
5 LATOUR Pierre Roger Chambéry C.F. E3 13:40:32 0:03:32 
6 LIPONNE Julien Bourg en Bresse A.C. 13:42:00 0:05:00 
7 DULIN Alexis VCCA Team Pro Immo N. Roux E4 13:42:01 0:05:01
8 TXOPERENA Benat Euskadi EUK 13:44:09 0:07:09   
9 KRASILNIKAU Andréi A.V.C. Aix en Provence 13:44:17 0:07:17 
10 CANAL Fabien EC Armée de Terre 13:45:21 0:08:21 
11 TURGIS Jimmy Roubaix Lille Métropole RLM 13:46:06 0:09:06 
12 EVRARD Laurent Wallonie Bruxelles WBC 13:47:01 0:10:01  
13 CHEVRIER Clément Equipe de France Espoirs E4 13:47:12 0:10:12  
14 FERNANDEZ Higinio Team Ecuador ECU 13:48:31 0:11:31  
15 ITURRIA Mikel Euskadi EUK E4 13:50:11 0:13:11

Results via DirectVelo

Stay tuned for a wrap up of the week that was outside of the Kingdom of Savoie.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Tour des Pays de Savoie: Simon takes 2nd stage; Ignatiev holds firm

Saturday was a split day on the Tour des Pays de Savoie with the race having a short morning stage to Chatel followed by a short time trial that featured a descent then an uphill back into Chatel using the same finishing uphill used during the road stage.

The morning stage started from Morillon and while the last two days have been balls to the wall from the gun...well today wasn't different. Attacks were starting early on and with the stage only being 90 kilometers, there was no time to breath. It took all the way until 5 kilometers from the summit of the Col des Gets, the first climb on the day, for a successful breakaway to go. Vadim Deslandes (CC Nogent-sur-Oise) and Florian Dumourier (CR4C Roanne) were able to breakaway together and make it over the top ahead of the peloton.

A chase group of 6 was able to bridge with 30 kilometers to go. The group included Liege-Bastogne-Liege winner Anthony Turgis (CC Nogent-sur-Oise), Loic Chetout and Romain Campistrous (France Espoirs), Anthony Perez (AVC Aix), Maxime Robert (CC Etupes) and Julian Duval (Roubaix-Lille Metropole) and they bridged up to Deslandes and Dumourier just before the last downhill until the long, shallow uphill to Chatel. This same run-up has been used in both the Giro Ciclistico della Valle d'Aosta and the Tour de l'Avenir within the last year.

Loic Chetout proceeded to snap his chain and his day was done. The break was disintegrating on the long steady climb and with 20 kilometers to go, it was Turgis who lept out of the group. The only 2 able to chase him were the original break partners Deslandes and Dumourier but Turgis was looking solid on the climb. With 10 kilometers to go, Turgis has 55 seconds on the chasing peloton. Even with 4 kilometers he had 26 seconds. 2 kilometers later, after Deslandes and Dumourier were swept up, Turgis had 16 seconds on the break as he got into Chatel. It wasn't to be.

Even with the small lead, Turgis died in the final kilometers. It was Louis Vervaeke, sitting in 3rd overall for Lotto-Belisol U23, who put in the attack. He was countered by Jordi Simon, who bridged up to the Belgian with Maxime Vantomme, and Simon just kept going. Simon, who was fresh off the stage 2 win, powered to the win for Team Ecuador aka Movistar South while Vervaeke and Vantomme came in a couple seconds ahead of the peloton, which was led in by David Belda (Burgos-BH). Vervaeke got a couple of seconds on leader Dmitriy Ignatiev but nothing much of consequence.

The race took a small break but was back in the afternoon for a short 9 kilometer time trial around Chatel that included a descent before climbing back up the same climb into Chatel that they used in the morning. Very original, this race. Anyways, doing a blow by blow of the time trial is pointless.

Getting to the meat of the action, ex-Euskaltel rider Miguel Minguez led for the longest and it wasn't until Louis Vervaeke broke his time that he was off the hot seat. Just behind Vervaeke, leader Ignatiev was able to protect his lead by beating Vervaeke by 2 seconds. The only big loser was Jesus Del Pino, who lost 34 seconds and ceded his 2nd place overall to Vervaeke.

It is still a three-horse race for the overall between Ignatiev and the challengers Vervaeke and Del Pino. Ignatiev still only has 2 teammates for assisting and he showed on the 2nd stage that he is vulnerable on the steepest climbs, where he lost time to both Vervaeke and Del Pino. This Glieres stages in no joke and I wouldn't be surprised if half of the field DNFs or is time cut. Yoann Barbas and Pierre-Roger Latour both sit around 2'30" back and while they have a long way to go, they could be looking at a podium placing if one of the top 3 has a bad day and cracks.

Tour des Pays de Savoie: Simon slogs out stage 2 win; Ignatiev holds slender lead

While the stage wasn't very long at 146 kilometers, the 2nd stage of the Tour des Pays de Savoie was an absolute slog with riders coming in dribs and drabs for over a half an hour after a solo Jordi Simon crossed the line.

The long march began in Chambery, the location of the Ag2r service course as well as the home of the Chambery CF, and was flat to rolling before hitting Albertville. Early on, i.e. km 0, the stick was dropped and the pace was fierce. Over the course of the first 30 kilometers, the breakaway swelled to 30 riders that included many high on GC including Yoann Barbas (Armee de Terre), David Belda (Burgos-BH), Quentin Pacher, Andrei Krasilnikau (AVC Aix) and Mikel Itturia (Euskadi), among others, and they were pulling out multiple minutes on the yellow jersey Dmitriy Ignatiev.

The temperature was heating up on the road (up to 29 C, 84 F) while the race was heating up as well. The gap maxed out at 3 minutes before the race went up the first GPM point, the Fort du Mont, which was won by Eduoard Lauber (CC Etupes) ahead of Jimmy Turgis (Roubaix Lille Metropole) and Jordi Simon (Team Ecuador). As the race headed back down into Albertville, the gap was down to 2'30" before the race headed up the Cote du Cohennoz, a 14 kilometer climb that for some reason is classified as only a category 2 climb. Liam Glen, who is racing with Terra Footwear here, said it best about the classified climbs.

Once on the Cohennoz, the bombs were bursting all over the place. Lauber went solo out of the breakaway while a chasing group behind him including Barbas, Simon, Itturia and Belda, among others. In the trailing peloton, Ignatiev was already in difficulty while Pierre-Roger Latour (Chambery CF), Louis Vervaeke (Lotto U23), Alexis Dulin (Immo Pro Roux) and Clement Chevrier (France Espoirs) hit it on the climb. Ignatiev came to terms but it was a sign of the damage to come later on.

At the summit, Lauber had a gap of 45 seconds on the chasing group, which was led by Jordi Simon over the top, and Lauber, who rides for CC Etupes, was able to extend his lead to 1'30" while Jesus Del Pino was able to make the junction to the first chasing group and was the leader on the road. The race culminated in two loops on the Plateau d'Assy. Lauber hit the climb with a nice gap but the solo effort had gassed him. Jordi Simon attacked out of the chasing group and proceeded to bridge and drop Lauber. On the first ascent, Vervaeke attacked the yellow jersey group and commenced his chase of the leading breakaway, going through the stragglers that were dropped by the ferocious pace and gradient. Ignatiev was scrapping but was able to recover somewhat to get back to Latour on the climb but there was still another loop to go.

Simon was clearly out in front with 10 kilometers to go while Lauber was hovered up by the chasing group that included Vervaeke, who had bridged, as well as Del Pino, Barbas, Maxime Anciaux (Wallonie Bruxelles) and Julien Liponne (Bourg-en-Bresse). Simon was going strong up front while Vervaeke and Del Pino attacked in tandem. Behind, Ignatiev and Latour were riding well together and the Russian was limiting his losses but it was going to be tight on the line.

Jordi Simon was able to take it easily over the last few hundred meters and was able to take the stellar win on the tough, hot day in the Alps. Jordi Simon was once of the brightest Spanish talents. He placed top ten overall in the Tour de l'Avenir in 2011 and was a constant presence in the race. He raced for Andalucia in 2012 and raced quite solidly but he was a victim of the great contraction of 2013 and had to go from Pro Continental to amateur in 2013 with Coluer Bikes. He won the Vuelta a Leon ahead of Merhawi Kudus and got a contract with Team Ecuador, which is Movistar's South American-Spanish continental team. He paid back his dues on Friday afternoon with this win. No contracts. Riding without knowing where he would be going next. He rode through his skin on Friday and showed that he is a mountain man, through and through.

Louis Vervaeke and Jesus Del Pino came through both 1'37" down on Simon. 14 seconds later, it was Anciaux, the KOM winner from Triptyque Monts et Chateaux, and Barbas coming in. Then, 53 seconds down on Vervaeke and Del Pino, Ignatiev came over the line. The Russian had saved his lead by 4 seconds. After putting on a demolition show on stage 1, the Russian was nearly reduced to ruble the next day and will have to fight to keep his yellow jersey. Vervaeke is just 30 seconds back.

It is hard to describe how hard this stage was. On paper, it wasn't even the toughest stage. Yet once you get out of the top 10 then the gaps become chasms. Clement Chevrier hasn't been on his top game and finished back at 5'33". It only got worse from there. Mikel Iturria...8'31". David Belda....16'32" in 30th. 28 riders abandoned and only 81 are left in the race with 3 stages still left including the final, amazing stage over the Glières.

Ignatiev needs to watch his back. He only has 2 teammates in this race with Pavel Ptashkin being the only semi-decent climber, it is going to be a monumental task for the Russian to keep this lead. This race is between Del Pino and Vervaeke. Both defending champion Yoann Barbas and Pierre-Roger Latour are a bit over 2 minutes behind and if the dice roll there way, which isn't out of the question on this terrain, then they are still within shouting distance.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Tour des Pays de Savoie Stage 1: Ignatiev solos to opening stage win

So I don't really know how to start this because I have a really funny feeling about Dmitry Ignatiev. Ignatiev had ridden with Itera-Katusha in both 2010 and 2011. He was 13th in the Tour de l'Avenir in 2010 and 7th in the Tour Alsace (harder than you think) in 2011. And then? Poof. Gone. I haven't been able to find anything on his whereabouts in 2012. No team. No racing. In 2013 it was much of the same for most of the year but he was on the roster of the Spanish amateur team Mutua Levante. The only result I can find for him is the Tour de Leon in August of 2013. Just to review then...Ignatiev had last raced on 8/25/11 when he DNFed a stage of the Giro Ciclistico della Valle d'Aosta and didn't race again (to my knowledge at least right now) until 8/2/13 on the first stage of VdL. That seems just a little too convenient. Seeing as he was also on Itera with the likes of Nikita Novikov, aka the Terminator, who tested positive in 2013, I have my doubts about Ignatiev.

In any case, the first stage of Pays de Savoie went to the summit of Valmeinier. It took a while for a breakaway group to stick and a few groups were brought forwards and then back. Finally, with nearly 50 km off the clock, a group of 7 including Elie Gesbert, Jeremy Maison (France Espoirs), David Belda (Burgos-BH), Jimmy Turgis (Roubaix Lille Metropole), Andrei Krasilnikau (AVC Aix), Hinigio Fernandez (Ecuador) and Florian Dumourier (CR4C Roanne) got away. There gap was pretty small and soon they were joined by Jordan Sarrou (Chambery CF), Quentin Pacher (AVC Aix) and Yoann Michaud and the group of 10 extended there gap on the main chasing peloton, which included all of the GC favorites. With 24 kilometers to go, the gap got to over 1'30".

Soon after, the race hit the short but steep Cote d'Orelle (1.9km at 9%) and while the lead group stayed intact, the gap dropped to under a minute. Once the race hit the Valmeinier climb then all hell broke loose. Like dynamite was dropped in the break, Quentin Pacher surged ahead and the remnants of the breakaway followed closely behind. The peloton had busted open as well. Jesus Del Pino (Burgos-BH) surged ahead and was the best early on and was followed by Louis Vervaeke and behind the Belgian was a small group including Pierre-Roger Latour, Ignatiev, Alexis Dulin and a few others.

Del Pino and Ignatiev bridged to the first chase group behind Pacher. Then Ignatiev hit the turbo-chargers and just danced away. With 5 km to go, he had 10 seconds on Del Pino. Vervaeke had go into the red early and was 50 seconds back. Clement Chevrier had blown and was already 3 minutes in arrears.
With 3km, Ignatiev was 30 seconds up. 2km to go and he was up 45 seconds. By the time he crossed the line, Ignatiev had pulled 57 seconds out of Del Pino while U23 Alexis Dulin came in at 1'07" down. Vervaeke recovered a bit and came in with AVC Aix teammates Krasilnikau and Pacher. Other favorites like Latour (1'59"), David Belda (2'28"), defending champ Yoann Barbas (2'33"), Mikel Iturria (2'39") and Clement Chevrier (3'31") all ceded time but all is not lost. Ignatiev lost 3 teammates during the day including double Ronde de l'Isard stage winner Alexander Foliforov and two others that were out of the time limit. Also this race has uphill finishes every day and many can suffer a bad day that will blow their GC hopes. Those that are consistent will get the worm...or the maillot jaune. I mean, if they really want a worm I'm sure they can go find one but it won't be on the podium presentation.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Weekend Update: Van der Poel wows; Cort smashes and Carthy soars

Busy weekend so let's get to the meat of it shall we?

Ronde van Limburg

We knew it wouldn't take long but Mathieu van der Poel finally struck out for a big win. And when I say big, he was able to beat two World Tour riders onto the lower steps of the podium. The finish of the Ronde van Limburg is uphill and suits the lanky van der Poel to a T. Coming into the final kilometers, Philip Walsleben piloted van der Poel into the final climb along side riders from Belkin, Lotto, Topsport and others. Paul Martens was getting a bit boxed in in the sprint so to avoid losing out on the sprint entirely, he launched early and was looking good to take the win but it was van der Poel who lept out from behind him to take the win. Greg Henderson (Lotto) rounded off the podium while U23s Gianni Vermeersch (11th) and Mike Teunissen (14th) also finished well. Just out of the U23s Alexander Kreiger (still 22) finished 7th for Team Stuttgart. The German has been going quite well the last few weeks with a lot of top 10's including the Ronde van Zeeland Seaports (4th), two top 10's at the Bayern Rundfahrt and he even had a 6th at the Rund um Koln in April.

I know that van der Poel has a contract with BKCP through the 2016-17 cyclocross season (which would end around March) but I can't help but wonder how big the offers are going to get from road teams? He is a talent that does not come along very often. Cyclocross is going to need a superstar seeing how Sven Nys is getting older, Niels Albert is sidelined for now and Zdenek Stybar only comes around every now and then. Even Francis Mourey, who rides the World Cups at a very high level but has a pretty nice road schedule with FDJ. Those in power in 'cross will be wanting van der Poel to stick around along with the likes of Mike Teunissen, Wout van Aert, Gianni Vermeersch, etc. so that they can fill in the vacancies that are going to be happening sooner rather than later. I'm interested to see if that Pro Continental team that is being formed by Erik Dekker, Jean-Paul van Poppel and the rest of the Dutch crew happens because it might offer van der Poel and interesting opportunity. Well, enough of that for now...

Walscheid take German U23 crown

So Stölting was all raring to go for Sunday's German U23 RR Championship in Cottbus and were looking to keep the jersey on the team after Silvio Herklotz's win last year on the hilly course in Ilsfeld-Auenstein. With Herklotz not taking the start on Sunday (he was focusing on the German Elite RR), Stölting was looking to their best sprinter Phil Bauhaus to take the crown. Well they thought that Bauhaus would be the best sprinter anyways. The race itself came down to a sprint in the Cottbus city center after the breakaway, that included Stölting's Lucas Liß, was caught with 5 kilometers to go and it was Stölting's Max Walscheid that led the sprint from out long with 400 meters to go and no one was able to come around him, including the team's original leader Bauhaus. Behind the Stölting duo was Erik Bothe (MLP Bergstraße) in 3rd place followed by Pascal Akermann (Rad-Net Rose) and Willi Willwohl (LKT Brandenburg)

I shouldn't make it sound like such a surprise that Walscheid won because he had taken two stage of the Tour de Berlin and he is a good sprinter but this is really the first time opportunity has intersected with form. Stölting isn't exactly at a loss for winners seeing as the team has 6 different winners already this year and many others that have filled the top 10.

Magnus Cort

So Magnus Cort has 10 wins now. 10 UCI wins. 11 if you count the win he took back on Bornholm, his home island, in May. It is mid-June. That's as many wins as Andre Greipel has this year. Obviously not on the same level but for some one that isn't a bunch sprinter then 10 is a lot.

He added three to his haul the past weekend at the Ronde de l'Oise. l'Oise the the region just north of Paris that includes the city of Compiegne, which is where Paris-Roubaix has started for nearly the last 40 years. Stage 1 saw Romain Feillu take his first win in over 3 years (Tour de Luxembourg on June 5th, 2011). To put that in perspective, Linus Gerdemann was on Leopard-Trek and won the race overall. Anyways, Michael Carbel got 2nd in the sprint which is yet another good result from the young Dane.

Stage 2 = More sprint. Another bunch kick which was won this time by U23 Daniel Hoelgaard ahead of Justin Jules (La Pomme) and Dylan Teuns (BMC Development). Those that didn't make the split were minutes behind the group. The last couple didn't come in for another 33 minutes. Oof.

The final two stages is where Magnus Cort decided to stop playing around and came out to play. Stage 3 had a day long breakaway that included Shane Archbold (AnPost-ChainReaction), Thomas Vaubourzeix (La Pomme), Ricardo Van Dongen (Rabobank Devo) and Jeremy Morel (VC Rouen). The quartet spent the majority of the day outfront but when it came down to crunch time, Archbold and Vaubourzeix attacked with roughly 10 kilometers to go. The peloton was kicking into high gear. With 7 kilometers, the duo has 45 seconds. 5 kilometers...35 seconds. Down to just 2 kilometers and it was still 20 seconds. The duo lost 10 seconds in the next kilometer. The gap wasn't going to hold. It was just a few seconds in the last half kilometer. Archbold jumped and he looked golden to take the big win. But it wasn't to be. Cort jumped from the peloton and just mere meters from the line, he flew by Archbold to take the win. Boom. Done. Onto the next one.

The final stage, Cort, who was on level with Feillu in the general classification, was going to do what he needed to take the win. The race came down to the final sprint and it was Cort, in the points jersey, who was leading out the sprint and no one was able to come around him including Rudy Barbier and Romain Feillu. Cort, thanks to time bonuses, took the overall leader's jersey as well as the points jersey. Even when he isn't a true bunch sprinter, Cort can still get it done in a bunch kick. He is simply just another level...a pro level. He is just adding another 0 onto his contract at this point.

Carthy wins Tour de Korea

There he was. Riding across the lot looking like a tall drink of water that could have blown away if someone pushed him. Hugh Carthy isn't much except for a head, torso and a long pair of legs but god damn can that kid climb fast. After placing 3rd on the 3rd stage and surviving the others in one piece, Carthy punched it on the hard finishing climb to Pyoengchang Jin-Gogea, which averaged 8.7% gradient over 7+ kilometers. Carthy distanced the rest of the lead group on the final kilometer and when it was all over, that skinny kid had taken out 7 seconds from U23s Hyoeng Min Choe and Jack Haig and many seconds on all the others.

It was really the only stage that defined the race and Carthy manage through the final stage to sow up the general classifications to take a huge win. Carthy, just 19 still, took the yellow over Choe, who is still a U23, and the Australian wonder Jack Haig. In the last month, Carthy has gone 6th at the Tour of Japan overall and won in Korea and was there in all of the biggest mountain stages, even when there were a few dodgy Iranians.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Vuelta de la Juventud Colombia: Riders in the Mist

So I've said it before and I will say it again. South America is one of my weaker areas in terms of covering riders and races, especially when getting into the amateur scene. Maybe because of my lack of Spanish skills or perhaps some indifference at some points, I've always been a little behind. But I've been trying to stretch my boundaries a bit this year and really delve into some different areas this year. With the emergence of 4-72 Colombia last year as well as the work by Ignacio Velez and author/presenter Matt Rendel, I've been slowly falling for Colombian cycling. It is one of the places where a rider from a poor family can still, quite easily, ride a bike and perhaps make a living for themselves. Now it would be unfair to say that all riders from Colombia come from the dregs of poverty, such as what people claimed with Nairo Quintana after his emergence on the professional scene, but many kids on bikes in Colombia have fire in their belly.

The Vuelta de la Juventud Colombia is the U23 version of the Vuelta a Colombia and it is one of the more hotly contested races in the amateur ranks. Careers have been started by strong rides in this race. The race has been won overall by the likes of Daniel Jaramillo (Jamis), Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Sergio Henao (SKY), twice by Fabio Duarte (Colombia) as well as Juan Mauricio Soler, Mauricio Ardilla, Ivan Parra, Oliveiro Rincon and Alvaro Mejia. That is just in the last 25 years and only the bigger names. This races dates all the way back to the late 1960's and truly highlights how far ahead Colombian racing was at that time, even though it was more or less ignored by the dominant Europeans.

The race itself this year centered around Boyacá, a state in Colombia that sits at a fairly high altitude and has produced some spectacular riders such as Nairo Quintana, Fabio and Ivan Parra, Mauricio Soler and many others. Cycling Inquisition, one of the best cycling blogs going and the go-to place for anything regarding Colombia, wrote a great intro piece on Boyacá so go there for some further details on the region.

The race began with a prologue in the city of Duitama, the site of the 1995 UCI World Road Championships. Brayan Ramirez (Movistar America) took out the prologue by 5 seconds over Miguel Angel Lopez. His win wasn't a surprise as Ramirez is one of the strongest TT talents in Colombia having been in the top 20 in the World U23 TT last year in Firenze and has hit the podium in previous Colombian, South American and Pan-Am Championships. Brayan Ramirez...put him down in your notes.

Sebastian Molano (Coldeportes Claro) won stage 1 in a two-man breakaway with teammate Fernando Gaviria. The pair were the lone survivors from an 8-man breakaway that had dominated the race. The peloton, led in by their Coldeportes Claro teammate Jhonathan Restropo ahead of last year's overall winner Cesar Villegas and Brayan Ramirez, came in 6 seconds down. It was a impressive ride for the Boyacánese Molano but Ramirez was able to hold onto the leader's jersey by 1 second over Molano. For those taking notes, Molano won a stage at the Junior Vuelta a Colombia in 2012.

Stage 2 went into the proper Boyacan mountains and the riders went up into the mist on the Alto Blanco de Combita, where the race hit an altitude of 3070 meters (10,069 feet). A breakaway of 24 got away early and dominated most of the race. On the Blanco de Combita, it was Brayan Sanchez (Ag. Antioquena) who took the maximum points over the top of the climb ahead of Jonathan Touissant and local Boyacan Wilmer Rodriguez. The 2nd climb of the day was the 19 kilometer long Alto da Garavito, which summited with just 19 kilometers to go in the race. Hugo Horacio Cabrera, who hails from a small farming village in the state of Cundinamarca (where Bogota is), attacked the shredded breakaway on the Garavito and began to chug away on the slight gradients. Farm-boy Cabrera soloed away from Rodriguez and over the flat final 19 kilometers to the line, he was able to pull out 30 seconds over Rodriguez by the time he raised his arms on the line. A group of the remnants of the breakaway and GC favorites rolled in 1'38" down. It was an incredible win by Cabrera, who rides for the Hotel Villa Alegria team which is led by 4-time Vuelta a Colombia winner Jose "Chepe" Castelblanco, and he slipped into the yellow jersey by 22 seconds over Rodriguez and 45 seconds on Brayan Ramirez.

The rolling time trial course proved not to be as decisive as one might think as but the time trial favorites stacked the top placings. The 23.3 km course only had a few rises in it and it was the Pan-American TT Champion Rodrigo Contreras who set the fastest time on the day with an average speed of 45.4 km/h while double 2013 Juventud stage winner Jhon Restropo was in 2nd, just 6 seconds back, and Brayan Ramirez in 3rd, just 9 seconds back. The strong ride by Ramirez slotted him back in the leader's jersey ahead of two Boyacán riders Miguel Angel Lopez and Hernando Bohorquez, both on the Boyaca Lottery team. The mountains loomed.

The 4th stage was the queen of the bunch and while there were 3 KOM's on tap, it was really two big mountains, the final of which topped out at 3240 meters (10627 feet) in altitude on the finishing climb to Villa de Leyva. It turned into a duel between leader Brayan Ramirez and Miguel Angel Lopez, the latter of whom is from the region and whose lithe body is better suited to the finishing climb than Ramirez. It was pretty evenly matched for a while and Ramirez was able to match Lopez for a while but the Boyacan but in one too many attacks and went away a few kilometers from the finish. Lopez flew up the climb as the air got thinner by the meter. The remnants of the leading group had exploded with 2013 winner Cesar Villegas being the first chaser to come across after Lopez while Ramirez came in a few seconds behind Villegas in 4th, 52 seconds behind Lopez.

Miguel Angel Lopez is still just 19 years old and his ride on Villa de Leyva should have turned more heads than it did. A kid from the heartland of Colombian cycling rides away from the yellow jersey and solos to a stellar win that seals the overall of the most important race for under 23 Colombians.

For the final two stages, the race left Boyaca and traveled to the Cundinamarca state (again, think around Bogota). The 5th stage went over a few smaller climbs but with Lopez's lead nearly unassailable, a breakaway would rule the day. With Cesar Villegas off the overall podium, two of his teammates leapt off the front for a day. Alejandro Ceballos and Jader Betancur, both of the Ag.Antioqueña-Lotto Medellin squad, took off before the final climb and the duo soloed to the line over a minute ahead of the chasing lead peloton. Ceballos took the win, his first ever on the national level, and his teammate Villegas lead the peloton in for 3rd place, 1'12" down.

The final stage saw the race take a circuit through Zipaquira. The town is known for having a Salt Cathedral, which is built underground 200 meters underground from a hallowed out mine, as well as being the birthplace of Efrain Trivino, the winner of the first Vuelta a Colombia in 1951. At only 91 kilometers and a rather flat circuit, it had a sprint written all over it. Coldeportes-Claro decided to swap the first stage results and it was Fernando Gavira who took the sprint win over teammate Sebastian Molano with Villegas in 3rd. Gavira was a double junior World Champion on the track (madison and omnium) and including the Pan-Am U23 RR win, this was his 6th win of the year.

Miguel Lopez locked up the historic win and took his biggest (and easily most memorable) win to date. I would say this would set him up with a possible date with the Tour de l'Avenir but seeing as 4-72 Colombia and the National Federation are feuding, it seems like there will be no Colombian team in France this summer. For being so light, Lopez isn't a shabby TTer and given the track record of former winners of this race, I wouldn't be surprised to see him in the pro ranks soon enough. Brayan Ramirez should be satisfied with his 2nd place overall as it confirms that he can climb and that he has a future by going after GC wins for right now. If he keeps on with Movistar America, he could see himself taking on a stagiaire role with the big team. Hernando Bohorquez's 3rd place has added to a great U23 career that has included multiple Vuelta de la Juventud stage wins and a 7th place in the U23 World RR in Valkenburg.

So do these results truly carry much meaning outside of Colombia? Maybe. We will have to see if many of these riders even get out of South America to see if Colombia's version of the Tour de l'Avenir churns out Colombia's big talent of tomorrow like the Tour de l'Avenir seemingly does yearly. It really depends on how big a rider's desire is, I guess, because the riders that are able to make an imprint here are capable of great things. More than anything, I wish there was a race with the infrastructure to bring riders from Europe, USA, Australia, Asia, etc. to race in Colombia against the best homegrown talent. Oh how I wish...

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Week in Review (sort of): Luxembourg and Mayenne

It is summer vacation for many U23s so while there are many that are racing, there aren't any properly big races for another week or so. I decided to go on vacation from the blog but I'm back now so don't leave.

Tour de Luxembourg: Herklotz Gone Wild

There is a dearth of any stories, besides this wonderful blog, in the English speaking cycling media about Silvio Herklotz. I'm sure when Mr. Herklotz signs a big pro contract there will be a little blip on Cyclingnews or somewhere but if he was British/American/Australian, you would know that there would already be multiple stories about him. Not to say that Germans aren't marginalized in cycling but it is just another reminder that there are not too many people out there that truly cover U23 racing.

Silvio and his Stolting team were at last week's Tour of Luxembourg, which is one of my favorite races that I wish was televised. The prologue was very successful on the U23 front. 20-year old Danny van Poppel (Trek) won the 2.55 kilometer test in Luxembourg while homeboy Alex Kirsch (Leopard) finished 3rd and Herklotz finished 6th, which was a good test for the German whose weakest link is his TT abilities.

Stage 1 saw Phil Bauhaus get 6th in the bunch sprint behind Andre Greipel. Bauhaus, who is just 19 until July, has been getting into the top 10 a lot this year and even had two top 5 placings in the Bayern Rundfahrt. He is knocking on the door to be yet another German sprinting talent.

Silvio Herklotz emerged again on stage 2 when Matti Breschel, who is looking to be in spectacular shape heading in the summer, punched in on the bumpy finish and the young German was able to finish in the front group in 4th place behind Breschel, Jempy Drucker and Sergey Lagutin.

Perhaps Herklotz youth was his downfall on stage 3 as he missed the split that included Breschel, Lagutin and Rudy Molard, who made the stage 2 split as well. Herklotz, as well as his Stolting teammates Christian Mager and Thomas Koep, finished in a group 18 seconds behind Breschel, who won the small group sprint for the stage win again.

Herklotz was once again on his game when the peloton was chasing the streaking Andre Greipel on the final stage. The German put in a few digs of his own during the finally but was able to hang on for 4th in the bunch sprint behind the solo Greipel. Herklotz ended up 6th overall on GC and 2nd in the youth category behind 25-year old Rudy Molard by 14 seconds. Herklotz is right on the cusp of something big.

Looking back at that, it seemed like I was just jerking off Herklotz because I gave him so much praise but he really does deserve it. Doing what he has as a 2nd year U23 just shows how much talent he possesses.

Boucles de la Mayenne

Mike Teunissen is really fast. So he goes on a long breakaway at Paris-Roubaix and then goes solo for the last 15 kilometers. He climbs, he sprints and he rides across dirt with the best of them. He isn't superman...just a Dutchman. Seriously though, the last two weeks he has been on fire and it continued at the Boucles de la Mayenne.

The prologue was won by evergreen Jimmy Engoulvent while the next 3 places were taken by U23s Florian Senechal (Pro Continental but whatever), young buck Mathieu van der Poel and Teunissen. Teunissen proceeded to act like a pro and came out swinging on stage 1. He rode himself into the breakaway that included Armindo Fonseca, Reiner Honig and Kevin Seeldraeyers among others. Teunissen finished 4th but more importantly he finished with a gap of 35 seconds over the main chase group, which allowed him to slip into the overall lead.

Teunissen lost his lead as quick as he got it. The next day was up and down, up and down and included a hill that had a grade of 22% on it, which saw many dismount. Eliot Lietaer took his first pro win after spending time off the front with teammate Tom Van Asbroeck and Stephen Rosetto, among others. Rosetto slipped into the leader's jersey while Teunissen finished in a small group a bit over 50 seconds behind Rosetto. Teunissen fell to 3rd and wouldn't be able to recover from that.

Teunissen finished 6th in the final day bunch sprint behind winner Yoann Gene. Teunissen was able to hold onto his 3rd place overall and he continued to showed off one of his major traits, consistency. Except for his grand Paris-Roubaix win, Teunissen is a rider that is always there but never seems to get the win. He might take the youth classification or best U23 rider but it is rare that he pulls off a big win like his Roubaix ride. Also an important note...Teunissen is currently contracted by Rabobank Development through 2015 so if he doesn't jump ship, he will be riding on the continental level for another year while he continues his cyclocross ambitions. Also, Mathieu van der Poel finished 14th overall. Van der Poel has ridden the Tour of Belgium and Boucles de la Mayenne and has ridden well in both for just being a year out of the junior ranks. BKCP has him locked down through 2017 and the Dutchman has made it clear that he will be focusing on cyclocross for a while so his appearances on the road will be limited to summer for a while.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

U23 Peace Race Roundup

The U23 Peace Race went off this weekend and while I was busy playing with my parent's new puppy for the majority of the weekend, I did pop my head in to catch some of the action. Last year when the race was in its first edition, there was some serious firepower in attendance. CULT, Leopard-Trek, Radenska, Tre-For, USA National, Polish National...pretty much every big U23 team was in attendance. This year...a little bit different story. I don't want to take away from Sam Spokes' big ride that he had here but it is undeniable that the competition, even with some strong riders in there, was a step under last year's competition.

Stage 1 (Jesenik to Rymarov)

It was a breakaway that ruled the day as the remnants of the early breakaway were able to survive on the rolling course to Rymarov. VL Technics riders Tom Bosmans and Elias Van Breussegem joined Tadej Hiti (Radenska), Pryzemyslaw Kasperkiewicz (Bauknecht-Author) and Adam Vales (SKC Tufo) got away and got a gap of nearly 2 minutes on the short stage. Bosmans and Kasperkiewicz attacked the breakaway and with 6 kilometers to go, they had a 45 second gap but it was falling fast. In the end, they were able to hold on by 9 seconds ahead of the peloton with Kasperkiewicz taking the sprint ahead of Bosmans with Frantesik Sisr taking the bunch sprint for 3rd ahead of Luka Pibernik.

Stage 2 (Glucholazy to Praded)

A proper uphill finish marked stage 2 as the race took off from the Polish town of Glucholazy right on the Czech/Polish border. The race was only 93 kilometers in length and was dominated by the summit finish on the Praded mountain, which is the highest mountain in the Hruby Jesenik range and the 5th highest in the Czech Republic. Etixx controlled the peloton for the majority of the day, especially towards the tail end of the day when some small breakaways were attempting to stay away. Sam Spokes launched in the final kilometers with Bram Van Broekhoven (VL Techniks) and the duo leapt away on the slight grade (last 3 kilometers averaged 5%) and got a good gap. Interestingly enough, the finale saw the riders on there own as there were no cars or motos allowed on the final kilometers of Praded due to some protected plant life. Spokes accelerated away for the win with Van Broekhoven coming in 2nd while Bartosz Warchol just beat out the main chase group, which came in 35 seconds down and included riders such as Alvaro Cuadros and Markus Hoelgaard (Etixx), Alexey Vermeulen (BMC Development) and Robert Power (Australia).

Stage 3 (Jesenik-Jesenik)

The final stage was a rolling affair that featured a steep kicker in the finale to the Hotel Priessnitz, which is a spa located on the ridge just above Jesenik. Maximillian Keun (Gebruder Weiss) struck out solo early on and was joined by Kiwi U23 Champ Hayden McCormick (Lotto-Belisol U23) and Michael Cools (VL Techniks). The group was able to work well together over the lumpy route but once the last KOM was crossed, everything was brought back together.

Going into Jesenik, TJ Eisenhart (BMC Development) and Kenneth Van Rooy (Lotto-Belisol U23) attacked with 17km to go and got a gap of nearly one minute but the flat valley course was going to end in a steep wall, which was not good news for the breakaway.

The duo got to 500 meters before the final climb up to Priessnitz before being swept up by the front group. Sam Spokes proceeded to do a repeat of stage 2 and attacked on the steep ramp that touched grades over 12% and beat out Van Broekhoven once again into 2nd as well as a select group including Alexey Vermeulen and Luka Pibernik.
Spokes wrapped up the overall the overall by 12 seconds over Bram Van Broekhoven and 47 seconds on Bartosz Warchol. It was the Australian's signature win to date and definitely showed his strength on the uphills.

I still can't help but think that this weekend showed that there needs to be revisions to the UCI calendar. There were about so many races going on at one time including Roubaix, Peace Race, Gironde, Fleche du Sud, Tour de Berlin and Italian one-days and others that pulled away U23s including the Tour des Fjords and the Bayern Rundfahrt. That is too much racing for Europe to have at one time and while I know there are a lot of teams that would love to race, there should still be a focus on the quality of races and the fields that are in attendance. If that means that some races need to shift or disappear then so be it but when you have 10 races happening at once just in Europe, that is not progress.

Thanks to Vojtěch Jírovec for his great live reporting on the race.

Paris-Roubaix Espoirs: Teunissen lights up everyone to win Roubaix

There is the stereotype that all cyclocrossers tend to excel in Paris-Roubaix. Roger De Vlaeminck was a champion cyclocrosser and kicked ass in Roubaix. Sven Nys rode on Rabobank's pro team seemingly just to be able to ride Paris-Roubaix. In recent times, Zdenek Stybar, Steve Chainel, Jempy Drucker and Roger Hammond have had good rides at Roubaix. It isn't a hard and fast rule as there is Francis Mourey who is a kick-ass cyclocross rider and was 20th overall in the Giro last year. So when Mike Teunissen was just 19, he rode the Paris-Roubaix Espoirs and finished 8th. Pretty damn good for a first timer. So while the Paris-Roubaix Espoirs was cancelled for 2013, the U23 World Cyclocross Champion was chomping at the bit to get back to Northern France. He got his wish on Sunday.

In a post-race interview, Teunissen mentioned that he noticed in his first U23 Roubaix that getting in the early break was very helpful and it only took 21 kilometers to have the race-defining breakaway get away. Teunissen and his teammate Ricardo van Dongen were joined by countryman Gert-Jan Bosman, Logan Owen and Greg Daniel (USA), Alexis Guerin (Etixx), Bas Tietema and Tyler Williams (BMC Development), Amaury Capiot (Lotto-Belisol U23), Wout Franssen (AnPost-ChainReaction) and a few others and the race truly began. A 30 second gap became 1 minute and then 2 minutes.

With Greg Daniel down, it was a group of 16 that was plowing ahead. By plowing ahead I mean 4 minutes ahead. The peloton must have had a moment where they were like "uhhh guys? Are we going to chase or just ride around this cobbled hell?" A group of 18 broke away from the peloton before the Wandignies cobbles to try and make a dent into the leading breakaway. It didn't really work as they were brought back in and by the Warlaing cobbles, the gap was still at 3'50".

With 68km to go, the gap was still over 3 minutes and Ignazio Moser was struggling to maintain contact with the peloton. Lord, the kid is disappointing when he has showed some brilliant rides before. With around 60 kilometers to go, Teunissen told Van Dongen to watch out for counter attacks and he hit it just before the Mons-en-Pevele sector with only BMC Devo riders Tyler Williams and Bas Tietema being able to follow. It was a group of 3 up front and while there was still 60 kilometers to go, the race was between three.

The breakaway of 3 plowed through the cobbled sections while the chasing group behind had stopped riding for the time being. The main peloton was making no inroads into the breakaway as they kept staying around 3 minutes even when 4 CC Nogent-sur-Oise riders were on the front desperately chasing. To be honest, it seemed like Teunissen was toying with the other two until they hit the Carrefour de l'Arbre. On the first corner of the sector where the cobbles are quite rough, Teunissen punched it on Tyler Williams and a gap was formed quickly. Only 15 kilometers from the line, Teunissen was salivating for the win here. Behind, the peloton finally began to speed up but it was a case of too little, too late.

While Teunissen was speeding away, Williams and Tietema were just trying to hold on. Teunissen entered the velodrome solo and had time to soak in the victory while Williams held on for 2nd place, coming in 1'15" down on the Dutchman. It was an impressive result for the American, who is only a 2nd year U23 and should be on the classics radar with this ride. Bas Tietema just held on for 3rd place over a sprinting peloton, which was a great ride for the 1st year U23 on BMC Development.

  1. Mike Teunissen
  2. Tyler Williams
  3. Bas Tietema
  4. Ricardo Van Dongen
  5. Fabian Grellier
  6. Gert-Jan Bosman
  7. Amaury Capiot
  8. Logan Owen
  9. Wout Franssen
  10. Cederic Verbeken
Ricardo Van Dongen led in the remnants of the breakaway to make it a Rabobank Sandwich in 1st and 4th place with a BMC Devo filling. Champion cyclocross racer Logan Owen capped off a great spring with the USA National Team with an 8th place after riding in the breakaway all day. Leaders like Stefan Kung (BMC Devo), Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Belisol U23) and Ruben Zepuntke (Bissell) lead the peloton in but it was too little too late for the majority of riders.

Bad luck for Nathan van Hooydonck here. The Bissell first year broke his wrist after a hard fall and it will be a long downtime for the Belgian who finished 2nd in the Junior Paris-Roubaix in 2013 behind Mads Pedersen.