Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Quick Team Previews: De Ruskies

Nothing screams the European continental circuit like some hopped up Russians riding into the crosswinds with reckless abandon. The past decade has been marked by nameless riders coming through the ranks, riding like hell and only a few getting the chance to move up to the pro ranks for a year or two before being spit out of the machine.

Itera-Katusha and Lokosphinx are, as of now, the two Russian teams that will be taking up the flag of Putin and going every which way around the continent. Except, you know, English speaking countries. Well except when you get Russians coming over to America to race criteriums in non-regulation kits while your team is under suspension and then mysteriously DNSing races...but that was just one time.

Itera-Katusha is getting some new blood in their management. Well actually, it is more like the now defunct Team 21's management is coming in. Latvian-Russian Piotr Ugrumov, a rider famous for his spiking hematocrit levels and incredible performance in the '94 Tour before fading to black, is coming in to lead the team.

The team is supposed to be a development team for the Katusha World Tour team but it is more of a holding pen for young riders and guys that are on the cusp of the pro ranks but not quite there. Usually one or two get the call up every year with some retiring and others coming back for yet another year of anonymous pedal turning. 

The team has a few strong climbers including Dmitry Ignatiev, Matvey Mamykin and Sergei Pomoshnikov. Ignatiev, who had a very convenient two year lay-off from the sport, was riding like a bat out of hell at the Tour des Pays de Savoie but was overhauled on the final stage by Louis Vervaeke. Mamykin was top 10 twice this year in the Giro della Valle d'Aosta while Pomoshnikov is coming back from a stint with RusVelo and is looking to get back into the pro game.

There are good older riders on Itera including the Samokhvalov twins (both of who can climb), Sergey Nikolaev (sprinter) and the flying Maxims in Maxim Razumov and Maxim Pokidov, both of whom are good rouleurs that can time trial (finished 4th in the Duo Normand).

So who wants to sponsor some Russians for a year to get them to race on the NRC circuit? I would love to see them go up against America's best. Yes, this might sound like the Hell of the West from American Flyers. And yes, Amore & Vita did this with Volodymyr Starchyk when they brought the then Ukranian champ over in 2010 to plunder the Snake Alley criterium.

Prediction: 20 UCI wins...Outside of Russia: 7

Lokosphinx is fucking Loko. The team is headed up by famous coach Aleksandr Kuznetsov, who won a pile of gold medals for the Soviets with Ekimov and others and had to have had very big insight into the Soviet doping regime. The father of pro tennis player Svetlana Kuznetsova leads a team that includes 2 riders that have tested positive for doping, including one in Kirill Sveshnikov that was never really sanctioned by the Russians for his positive Clenbuterol test.

Sveshnikov and Evegeny Shalunov are both classics-style riders that can sprint fairly well. Aleksey Rybalkin showed his promise as a climbing talent with 3rd overall in the Tour de l'Avenir; another Russian I would love to see go to a proper team with proper doping controls to see if he is all he is talked up to be. Shilov is a good all-around rider but has a doping conviction to his name and this is his 4th year surfing the continental ranks with Lokosphinx. How many more years can he do this shit for?

Prediction: 4 UCI wins and one doping positive

I'm sure that I sound like a downer talking about these teams but after hearing stories and the way these teams treat their riders like cogs rather than humans, I'm sure this year will be more of the same from both of them.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Hang 'Em High

With all of this news about Leinders & Rabobank, Zorzoli and the rest of the corrupt fuckers that polluted cycling for the last couple of decades, I am about at my wits end when it comes to doping. When Adam Myerson was on Mike Creed's OpenMic, he had a great line about people having every right to be skeptical about the characters in cycling but once you become cynical, why the hell do you still follow cycling? That was some obvious paraphrasing but lately I have been walking that line of skepticism and cynicism.

I love cycling. I love nearly every aspect of cycling. The drama. The romance. The suffering. The pain. I have put a good chunk of my life into the two-wheeled world but I keep getting a bile taste in my mouth every fucking time that I see a "former" doper living a comfortable retirement. Whether it is Vinokourov, Museeuw, Armstrong, Hincapie...I don't care; when you cheat people out of jobs and money and then try to make even more money of the backs of millions of riders? You and anyone that believes you to be right can go to hell.

There seems to be an issue about what to due with riders that have doped and come back from suspension. Should we hang them out to dry or welcome them back and tell everyone that it was "a different time". First of all, the benchmark for bans should be life. Bicycle racing isn't a right. It is a job for some privileged athletes and if you decide to cheat by taking PEDs then you should not be welcome back. This should go even further by imposing monetary penalties that would go towards funding anti-doping as well as cycling development.

Now that sounds idealistic as a college freshman after their first semester but I'm not finished. While I think that life bans should be the benchmark, if a rider spills their guts and name fucking names then they could be eligible for a ban reduction. For any type of rider on a ban, there should be some sort of monetary penalty.

If a rider dopes, gets caught and refuses to talk? Good riddance. I don't want you around this sport. If a rider dopes, admits their wrongs and tell everything they know? Yeah, you fucked up but at least you see your wrongs and are willing to repent. I'm just tired of having to accept riders back with open arms after they keep their silence after being caught. You have to earn our trust if you want to be anywhere near a race circuit again.

When coming into the sport around the late 00s, I grew up watching gritty riders like Vinokourov and Di Luca as well as super sprinters such as Petacchi and Boonen. As much as I would love to have riders expose doping, I know it is fucking hard. I will not fault a hard working rider for not saying shit to the media so he can protect his job but at some point, riders should be responsible. If you see something, say something. The UCI should have lines dedicated to this sort of shit. See dope? Call them. See a transfusion? Call them. Let them investigate without the rider being hung out to dry and out of a job.

Riders coming up should be looking up to riders who stood up for what is right. If I was my 16 year old self, I would be looking towards guys like Danny Pate, Brad Huff and the like instead of riders that shown hormone levels of young children after major mountain stages in grand tours.

Shit is going to continued being the same until something major happens. Yeah, there has been a shift to a cleaner sport but where there really isn't an incentive not to dope or much of a disincentive to not dope. Now back to your regular scheduled program.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Quick Team Preview: Hincapie Racing Team

After coming on their most successful season to date, Hincapie Development is set for yet another strong year with most of the core roster back for another season under the direction of DS Thomas Craven.
The team lost a few key riders including Chris Butler, who transfers to Smartstop, and Joey Rosskopf, who impressed in Utah and Colorado and got a ride with BMC. Also departing the team are criterium monsters Alexander Ray and Alder Martz along with Jake King (younger brother of Ben) and Thomas Wrona.
The team returns with a strong core including UCI race winners in Robin Carpenter and Toms Skujins along with Kiwi strongman Dion Smith, Ty Magner, Oscar Clark, Miguel Bryon and Aussie Joe Lewis. Skujins should be aiming at more UCI wins after his overall win in Beauce so look for him on hillier courses. Carpenter is starting what will basically be his first professional season as every year up until now, he has been in school this time of year. He moved to San Diego and should be ripping once spring comes around.  Magner and Smith should take up the sprinting duties while Bryon should be getting into a few of the kicks.

While they lost two big riders in Rosskopf and Butler, they are gaining a good chunk of riders including climber Rob Squire, TT stud Mac Brennan, climber Jonathan Hornbeck, Division 2 Collegiate Criterium winner Charlie Hough and Latvian strongman Andzs Flaksis.

Squire had a rough go of it in Europe with Amore & Vita and Ceramica Flaminia but bounced back nicely with Jamis last year. He could be a GC threat is the stars align. Brennan was 2nd in the North Star GP TT and 5th at Elite Nationals TT. Hornbeck showed some promise in Beauce and Gila has had shitty luck with a shitty team like Kenda. Flaksis had a "down" year last year with Latvian Rietumu but when he is on, he is like a freight train, especially in time trials.

Prediction: 6 UCI wins (15 overall)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

South America News Shorts: Gaviria wins opening San Luis stage; Flores 11th in Tachira

Fernando Gaviria takes upset win over Cavendish in San Luis

Not much else to say that others already haven't said about Gaviria. He is an outstanding track rider and obviously has a brilliant turn of speed on the road. He already showed flashes of brilliance last year in his first full year on the road but what he did Monday was outstanding. And remember, he is just riding with the national team. He has no professional contract for 2015 and seems to be focused on the Rio Olympics.

Jhorman Flores rides to 11th in Vuelta a Tachira

Over the past few couple, I have mentioned to Jhorman Flores and winning the youth classification for the Vuelta a Tachira. Flores is one of the brighter Venezuelan youngsters coming up but without a strong schedule and a lack of a development pipeline, his name hasn't exactly been on the tip of people's tongues when talking about exciting South American talent.

Flores finished on the same time as 10th place Jose Alarcon, which was 5'50" behind winner and professional gnome Jose Rujano. Flores was supposed to be in the Androni talent pool since they struck their deal with the Venezuelan government but he hasn't been able to get much outside of Venezuela in terms of rides. Here is to hoping that he can get a chance to show himself somewhere in a U23 race where he might be able to get a contract for 2016.

Friday, January 16, 2015

In case you forgot, Raimondas Rumsas is still in cycling...

Motherfucking Raimondas Rumsas is still hanging around. Apparently using your wife and mother in law to shuttle drugs over the French border hasn't detered Rumsas from continuing in the sport as a director for the 2nd year Tuscan-based GFDD Altopack Titano. He was riding for this team on the Granfondo circuit only a couple of years ago.

I find the team a bit strange but they have a good amount of talent to work with. Hell even Michele Bartoli showed up to their presentation. They have listed their goal for their first year to be a top 5 amateur team in Italy. Along with Raimondas Rumsas as director, they have Raimondas Rumsas as a rider. His sons Raimondas and Linas are on the team even though neither have done much in terms of any big results.

Also joining the team for 2015 include Belorussian climber Aleksandr Riabushenko, Polish u23 TT champion Szymon Rekita, Luca Ceolan (who won the Coppa della Pace) and Marco Chianese, who is a fairly good climber.

It is just another example of the Italian amateur peloton will never be taken seriously and without a thoughts of doping unless they start weeding out the old dopers running the system.

Here is a link to their press release

Quick Team Preview: Armée de Terre

Instead of writing big long team previews literally going through every rider, I'm going to try a different approach of highlighting a few riders and key points about a team so that I can get through all that I want to cover with greater turnover.

Armée de Terre

Full roster

This team is a Twitter favorite with their camouflage kits but the team, which is literally The French Army, has been one of the strongest on the French DN1 amateur circuit for the past few years and will be making the step up to the Continental level for 2015.
The team has been known for working very efficiently with one another and especially in some lower races, they have stacked the top 10 with the most I've seen is getting the top 7 in one race. While this is a new jump in competition, they have already raced in some French continental races and shown their worth. The squad took 61 wins on the road in 2014 as well as 65 other podium places. They boast alumni in Nacer Bouhanni and Julian Alaphilippe

The team only has a handful of U23s but they are a strong bunch. Bryan Alaphilippe is the younger brother of Etixx-OPQS's Julian and was a strong junior with 13 wins in the final junior season. He had a fairly quiet year last year but is a developing sprinter. Bruno Armirail is a time trial machine that is the current French U23 TT Champion. He isn't consistent but has a big engine. Kevin Lebreton won the opening stage of the Kreiz Breizh Elites and rides well on the French flat. David Cherbonnet was 2nd in a tight sprint in the French U23 RR and seems to ride well on tough courses; always being a rider that can stick around for a small group sprint.

The team is anchored by older riders including Yoann Barbas, Julien Duval, Yann Guyot, Jimmy Raibaud and Benoît Sinner.

Barbas is a climbing machine that won the Tour des Pays de Savoie in 2013 and was 4th their this past year.

Guyot won 17 races last year including the French amateur RR, a stage in the Tour de Bretagne, the UCI GP des Marbriers as well as the overall classification for the best French amateur rider. He isn't a high mountains rider but will be competitive on nearly any other surface and will be the team's anchor. Sinner is another big winner with 7 to his name in 2014. Sinner formerly rode for Agritubel but after a stint with Armée de Terre, he is back to the pro ranks and will be able to mix it up in bunch sprints.

Duval has spent the last two years at Roubaix - Lille Métropolé with some top 10s in big French races, most of which end in some sort of a sprint. Raibaud won the 2nd round of the amateur Coupe de France at the GP Buxerolles in a two-up sprint ahead of now-teammate Yann Guyot as well as a sprint stage of Rhône-Alpes Isére Tour.

Like most French teams, this team is filled with a bunch of scrappers along with a few gems. Like many others, they will get into the early breakaways and try to hold on valiantly in some races that are over their heads. While their roster is filled with riders that are trying to make a comeback or just even make it in the first place, they have a strong team that could surprise a few in the coming year. I'm sure we will head an on-air orgasm from Carlton Kirby about their kits and something-something "bringing out the big guns" will be said more times than my stomach can handle.

Another plus for the team is that they have hired Jimmy Casper as a sports director for 2015. He will certainly bring a depth of knowledge that they will be needing with the step up to the next level.

Verdict: 12 UCI wins

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

News Shorts: Ndayisenga wins Tour of Egypt prologue

Coming off his overall win in the Tour of Rwanda, Valens Ndayisenga took out the prologue of the back-from-hiatus Tour of Egypt. The young Rwandan, who is seen by this writer as the most talented Rwandan rider yet, beat out Francesco Mancebo and national teammate Janiver Hadi on the 8 kilometer course in the coastal city of Hurghada, which lies due south of the Sinai.

The race itself will boil down to a competition between Rwanda, Morocco and the UAE-based SkyDive Dubai, which is nearly all-Arabic along with Goku Mancebo.

Tour Alsace adds prologue

New for the late July French stage race is a prologue that could prove to be decisive before the always important stage to Le Markstein.

You can read more on DirectVelo

U23s getting their shot in Down Under & San Luis

It is still Tuesday somewhere. The seasons for many pros are just days away and with that some U23s are getting a golden opportunities to bump elbows with, if everything goes well, future colleagues. In Australia, composite and national teams were announced for the Tour Down Under and Herald Sun Tour while in Argentina, a few U23s are getting a chance at the Tour de San Luis.

Tour Down Under

The UniSA team is back with a mix of riders on the 2015 squad including U23 riders in double national champion Miles Scotson, Robert Power, Jack Haig and Alexander Edmondson. They are also joined by ex-World Tour riders Jack Bobridge and Steele Von Hoff as well as nationals bronze medalist Neil van der Ploeg.

Obviously this is just meant to get the younger riders some experience but with some of these riders, you have some riders that can ride in the top 20 overall. Jack Haig was 17th overall last year and best young rider. Robert Power can ride just as well as Jack Haig when he is on form so it would be quite a coup if they could both get into the top 20. This isn't looking at the obviously on-form Scotson, who torched both the time trial and road race at nationals with no one able to hold his wheel. They will be in the breakaways but if they took a stage win? Hell, with the U23 riders and a guy like Von Hoff with a leadout from Bobridge...I'm thinking too perfect world but it would be fucking insane.

Herald Sun Tour

Also announced was the roster for the Herald Sun Tour, which will be taking place from February 4th through the 8th down around Melbourne. For that, there is going to be a National Team as well as a Jayco-AIS team, which will feature riders that you will see in Europe.

The National Team features U23 riders Chris Hamilton, the MTB cross-over who won the U23 criterium title, and France-based Nick Schultz along with the Morton brothers, Von Hoff and elder statesman Cam Wurf. Hamilton hasn't raced much on the road and this will be a learning event for him. Schultz is a good climber so this shouldn't be a bad one for him.

The Jayco-AIS squad will have Haig, Power, Harry Carpenter, Ryan Cavanagh, Jack Beckinsale and Alex Clements. You know about Haig and Power. Haig was 3rd overall here last year thanks to getting into a big breakaway but Arthur's Seat will make it a different ballgame this year. Young team but getting Haig or Power on the podium should be the goal.

Press Release


I'm not crying for you Argentina but I am weeping on the inside about how warm you are and how you are going to have some good racing soon.

Italy is sending a national side that includes U23s Davide Ballerini and Simone Petilli. Ballerini is a good all-arounder that can break away (he won a hard stage in the An Post Ras in 2014) and has a good sprint on him. Petilli can climb well but is still young so will just be looking to finish.

Colombia will be sending U23s in sprinter Fernando Gaviria as well as strong time Rodrigo Contreras. Argentina's national side will be anchored by Lucas Gaday, who just signed with Unieuro Wilier Trevigiani in Italy.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

News Shorts: Mareczko takes 2 (so far) in Tachira

After waking up with a back stiffer than all hell on Monday, having a punch in the face at work and going to the PA Farm Show that night, I had to take a little pause on the blog side of things but a double Tuesday will be making up for that.

Last year, Jakub Mareczko started out nipping at the heals of Nicolas Marini of Zalf-Euromobil but once May rolled around, the Viris-Maserati rider began to trump everyone in the Italian amateur field in the sprints. Mareczko topped the year with the most wins in Italy and signed a pro contract with, what it was known at that time as, Neri Sottoli. Now known as Southeast Pro Cycling, the team took a journey to South America to start the season at the Vuelta a Tachira.

Mareczko has been making a name for himself already as he had taken two bunch kicks in 5 stages in Tachira and will be lining up at the Tour de San Luis with Italian National team. If you followed this blog at all last year, you must have gleaned some information about him from it. He has an explosive kick in the finale and has a very low tuck, akin to Mark Cavendish, to cut through the wind. He has beaten Caleb Ewan in a straight up drag race. He could get into the top 5 in San Luis on one of the flatter sprint stages but he will be at the back of the autobus once the climbs begin. A work in progress but could definitely be a threat.

Jakub Mareczko

Nickname: Kuba
Bio: Born in Jaroslaw, Poland but moved to Italy with his mother at age 5.
Coach: Michele Bartoli
Fun Fact: He likes to spend a lot of time with the mechanics to make sure his bike is set up perfectly.
13 wins in 2014

Sunday, January 11, 2015

U23 Cross-over: Roadies Gettin' Dirty

On the weekend of nearly virtually every national championship in cyclocross, some roadies decided to dust off the cyclocross rig and ride around some dirt, grass and tarmac for an hour. Except for some, you might need to dig a little bit deeper in the results.

Perhaps the most impressive ride of the week was by German wunderkind Silvio Herklotz, who managed to ride to 3rd in the German U23 Cyclocross Championship. This isn't exactly surprising as Herklotz is a former junior national champion and was 3rd in the U23 race in 2013. He finished 1'02" down on 2-time Felix Drumm.


It is pretty rare when a rider can take a title on the road as well as in the dirt, especially in a competitive CX country. Fabian Lienhard won the Swiss U23 Cyclocross race on the UCI grounds in Aigle ahead of Thomas Frischknecht's son, Andri. Lienhard, who races for EKZ Racing, was 12th in the U23 World RR Championship and won the Meisterschaft von Zürich.


Rabobank Development's Stan Godrie, who always splits time between the road and 'cross, won the Netherlands U23 'cross race, which to be honest didn't have a lot of competition.


Massimo Morabito won the U23 Cross a field, as far as I can see, was one. Good job buddy.

In the French U23 race, Loïc Bouchereau (Vendée U) finished 5th while in the Men's Elite race, his teammate Lilian Calmejane finished 19th. Both riders did well in the Ronde de l'Isard with Calmejane winning the epic stage 2 while Bouchereau finished in the top 20 overall and 4th in the youth classification.

Stayed tuned tomorrow for when the conclusion of Course-lined Heritage Tree-gate happens in Austin when Logan Owen goes for the U23 crown.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

I'm sick

The title says it all. For your viewing pleasure, the trance song from when Tom Boonen won the World Championship in 2005.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Scotson pulls off the double; wins U23 RR

With 2 more times up the hill on the Ballarat course, SASI (South Australia) rider Miles Scotson attacked his breakaway mates and flew away from any chasers. Spending the vast majority of the race in the early breakaway, Scotson was with 4 other riders including Daniel Fitter, David Edwards, George Tansley and Ben O'Connor.Akin to the U23 TT, Scotson used the hill to launch his bid to victory. Scotson powered away on the rolling course while riders attempted and failed to catch him. First year U23 Daniel Fitter lead the chase but he wasn't able to come to terms with Scotson, who was pulling out nearly a minute, and was eventually pulled back by the chasing group, which numbered 12 by the last lap. Pre-race favorites Jack Haig and Robert Power were not able to do much against the streaking team pursuit rider.

With Scotson able to celebrate the spectacular win alone, his SASI teammate Alexander Edmondson was able to take the sprint out for 2nd ahead of Alistair Donahue (Search2Retain). Nick Schultz, Power, Haig, Ryan Cavanagh and Jack Beckinsale were other notables in the front group, which was 36 seconds down on Scotson.

Scotson might not be riding too much on the road this season but once the Rio Olympics are done, this will be a good example of what he is capable of doing of doing on the road.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Australian & NZ Nationals: Scotson, Oram win U23 TTs

The summer racing in the Antipodes is coming to a climax with Nationals occurring for both Australia and New Zealand. The U23 TT for Australia happened on the 8th and for the Kiwis, on the 9th even though I am typing this on the night of the 8th, still feeling the last bits of a gin-induced hangover.

Miles Scotson wins Australian U23 TT

With defending champion Jordan Kerby graduated to the Elite ranks, there would be a new winner for the Australian U23 TT title. Both Harry Carpenter and Miles Scotson made the podium last year and were two of the favorites to get medals again. I could sit here and go through the entire list of riders but that would be boring for all parties. Only a few riders were in any real contention for a medal and really, only 3 showed they were medal contenders.

Oscar Stevenson set the benchmark ride with a 38'40". The young rider fractured his pelvis just 6 months ago but came back last month to win the Tour of Bright. Stevenson hit the hot seat and got to bite his nails for an hour or so.

Harry Carpenter put on a big show at last year's nationals to get him a ride with the national team in Europe last year. Carpenter put in a strong ride but there was a rider that was focused on his figure in the distance. World Team Pursuit Champion Miles Scotson had passed Jack Haig and Sean O'Callaghan and was plastering himself on the hill on course. Scotson didn't catch Carpenter but he did sneak in 4 seconds ahead of Stevenson to take the green & yellow bands.

Scotson has been a prodigy on the track and this title is just a point that he could transition his talents to the road.

James Oram takes New Zealand U23 TT
Across the Tasman Sea, the New Zealand Nationals got underway "today" with the time trials with 10 riders undertaking the U23 race. It seems slightly odd that James Oram hasn't won a time trial national title since his junior days even though he has been the best, on average, Kiwi time trialist in his class. He was able to turn that around to take the win on the on the Lincoln course with a convincing performance.

In 2nd place was Dylan Kennett, who has been riding with the national track squad and is currently on the team pursuit squad on track for the Olympics. Kennett was able to beat out defending champion Fraser Gough, who was 58 seconds behind Oram.

Oram was able to take the the first win for Axeon Cycling, Axel Merckx's new squad. If you haven't heard of them, then by all means, you should read my preview of the team.

News Shorts: Hamilton solos to Crit Title; Verandas Willems announces roster

Chris Hamilton wins Australian U23 Crit Title
Coming into a race where he figured he would have no shot whatsoever, Chris Hamilton (Avanti) launched an attack in the final 200 meters to overhaul breakaway mate David Edwards (CharterMason) to take the win in the Australian U23 Criterium. Hamilton, who doesn't touch a road bike very often, got himself into a breakaway with 13 laps to go and worked quite well together. With 3 laps left, it was only Hamilton and Edwards out front together. The peloton was not able to bring them back and with Hamilton's late attack, he sealed the win in Avanti colors. Hamilton currently sits 3rd overall in the Elite Men's national MTB rankings in Australia and was the junior cyclocross champion in 2013 so he might be the most versatile rider in the U23 pack. He seems to be in some good form and might be a good bet to steal a podium in the road race.

Jesse Kerrison, in his inaugural race for BMC Development, took the bunch sprint for 3rd over Alexander Edmondson (SASI) and Luke Parker.

Verandas Willems (aka The Land of Misfit Toys) announces their roster

This team seems to be one of those teams that is either a one year stop for a journeyman or a team for riders that just can't quite get over the hump to a stable Pro contact. Their roster for 2015 includes:

Gaetan Bille
Joeri Calleeuw
Dimitri Claeys
Dries De Bondt
Thomas De Trocht
Jérôme Gilbert
Jerome Kerf
Daan Myngheer
Olivier Pardini
Christophe Premont
Kai Reus
Joren Touquet
Elias Van Breussegem
Sten Van Gucht
Stef Van Zummeren
Emiel Wastyn

So while not all of the riders on this team are household names, there are certainly some riders on here that seem to be out of place. Kai Reus? Ever since his terrible accident in 2007, it seems like he will get close to a breakthrough and then get pushed back again. Now on a Belgium continental team, will he be able to bounce back or is this the end of the line? Gaeten Bille, Dimitri Claeys, Jérôme Gilbert and Christophe Premont all have ridden on professional teams at one point. Joeri Calleeuw has dozens of wins in regional and national kermesses but can't seem to break out for some nice pro results. Hell, they even signed Dominique Cornu, the former U23 World TT Champion that seems to be floating around the continental ranks as he still harbors velodrome dreams. Combine this with some pretty strong young talent with the likes of Daan Myngheer, Jerome Kerf and Elias Van Breussegem. It is an interesting team to say the least and if everyone gets motivated and the stars align, then some heads could turn.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Spezialetti to lead GM Cycling Team - Shit Never Changes

New for 2015, GM Cycling Team will be taking on some of the older riders that had been floating around the Italian amateur ranks as well as some younger U23 riders. Being an Italian Continental team, they had to sully the team by hiring an ex-pnro rider that had multiple run-ins with the doping authorities. Alessandro Spezialetti was involved with the Oil for Drugs scandal and was arrested during the investigation. Some people would be pissed about this but I doubt anyone will at a fucking eye. Some shit will never change. This guy cheated and stole from his peers and yet, people think it is smart to give him influence over riders that could move up into the (true) pro ranks. If Brian Cockson did one more thing as the UCI master puppeteer, it would be to ban any rider who gets suspended for a doping violation from ever being able to be a team director or in any role that influences riders. 

Other dopers (or doping masterminds) now directing or managing continental teams include...

Pavel Padronos - AWT-Greenway

Piotr Ugrumov - Itera-Katusha

Andriy Pryshchepa - Kolss Cycling (manager)

Aleksandr Kuznetsov - Lokosphinx (famous Soviet cycling director with the likes of Ekimov)

Mirco Lorenzetto - Roth-Skoda-Felt (named in wiretaps from Mantova investigation)

Mario De Clercq - Sunweb-Napoleon Games

Alberto Elli - Team Idea

Olaf Pollack - Team Stuttgart

This is just from a brief scan of about 15 minutes and could be even more expansive. I'm tired of people using the excuse of "it was a different generation". Fuck that. Doping should be unacceptable now. No more slaps on the wrists. If any rider dopes under the direction of Spezialetti, he should be stripped of command unless there is without a shadow of doubt that the rider as a lone wolf.

Top 5 Firsties for 2015

With the new year upon us, a fresh crop of U23s has been harvested and taken to the pro ranks and beyond while another batch of youngsters comes in from the junior ranks. Every year, there are a few juniors that get their feet quickly in the U23 ranks and flourish. Matej Mohoric, Caleb Ewan, Robert Power, Merhawi Kudus and Danny van Poppel are just a few recently that have shown us that you don't need 4 years to be pro ready. Here are 5 riders that will be making their U23 debuts this year that you should keep an eye on (among many others).

Lennard Kämna (Germany - Stölting)
When Adrien Costa crossed the line in the Junior Worlds TT in Ponferrada, he seemed to have a very good feeling about his ride and was thinking he had a shot at gold. Within minutes, his dream was dashed by an aero-tucked German who beat Costa in 2nd place by 44 seconds. Lennard Kämna was the star time trial rider of 2014 in the junior ranks with wins in the German junior national TT, the European Junior TT & the Trofeo Karlsberg TT and the World title in the time trial. Hell, he even won the German junior hill climb championship.

With the World title, Kämna will have expectations laid on him like former Germans that won the junior Worlds TT such as Marcel Kittel and Patrick Gretsch. He comes from RSC Cottbus, which is a club that have produced many professionals including Heinrich Haussler, Danilo Hondo and Olaf Pollack. Kämna will be joining Team Stölting, the team who had to abort a move to the Pro Continental ranks because of lack of funds, and will be able to join Silvio Herklotz and director Jochen Hahn.

Some strong time trialists struggle initially with the distance of the u23 ranks and it could take a few months to see some results. Could he be the next Tony Martin? Doubtful but only the road can tell the truth. 

Edoardo Affini (Italy - Colpack)

I just talked about Affini in my preview of Colpack, which can be found here, for 2015 but I will touch on him again briefly. Affini has been a strong one day rider and was the most successful Italian junior in 2014 with 9 wins including the European junior RR, Trofeo Buffoni and Trofeo San Rocco. He seems to be a well balanced rider with wins in small sprints, breakaway and solo. He will be mainly on the Italian amateur scene for 2015 but might get a few UCI call ups as well as some national team rides in the Nations Cups.

Daniel Felipe Martinez (Colombia - Team Colombia)
This pick is my joker for 2015 but it is a long shot since it is incredibly hard to make the jump from the junior ranks straight to the Pro Continental.

Martinez started turning heads at just 17 when he won the Pan-Am Junior TT and spent all day in the breakaway in the World RR before hanging onto 15th place. He got the attention of the UCI World Cycling Centre and got an opportunity to train their this season. He won the Colombian Junior TT (he won the RR in 2013) before coming over and winning the Tour de Tarentaise, a French national race with some riders nearly twice his age.

His move to the pro ranks might seem premature but it isn't the first time that Claudio Corti has brought someone straight from the junior ranks. I'm sure he will get some racing time with the national team and in Colombia but will be limited with the Pro team. If Miguel Angel Lopez is anything to go by, Martinez could be another revelation in the U23 world.

Enzo Wouters (Belgium - Lotto-Belisol U23)
No matter if Belgian riders sweep the classics for the entire year, it is inevitable that old, fat men smoking in a cafe will be talking about the next generation. The Belgians are always spoiled with talent and seem to have a ton of it coming up through their ranks and actually producing.

Enzo Wouters is the newest rider to get the weight on his shoulders of being the next big thing after winning 15 races in his 2nd junior season with wins in the Belgian junior RR championship (small group sprint) and 5 UCI stage wins, the majority of which were in sprint finishes. I won't mince words...he can blow the fucking doors off people in a sprint. He got the blood up for Belgians watching the youth ranks after a 3rd place in Paris-Roubaix, which was basically 2nd in a bunch sprint that caught the breakaway Magnus Bak Klaris on the line.

While Wouters is proved his bunch sprinting skills in the junior ranks, the key will be to see if he develops into more of a classics rider that can sprint here and there or as a pure sprinter that can make it through a classic. Tom Van Asbroeck and Jens Debusschere are probably the closest Belgium have to pure sprinters at the moment but even then they can't beat the fastest sprinters. Wouters could fill a needed gap that hasn't been filled since..well really when Tom Boonen was a bit younger. Or you know, he could just follow the dreams of nearly every young Belgian cyclist and go for De Ronde and Roubaix.

He will be joining a stacked Lotto-Belisol U23 and while the crowd and media will have pressure on him, Kurt van de Wouwer and his ploeg will try to eliminate the stress as much as possible. 

Rayane Bouhanni (France - AWT-Greenway)

While Nacer Bouhanni's career has been flourishing, his younger brother Rayane has been making a name for himself and will be moving to a non-French team in Czech AWT-Greenway, which is the feeder for Etixx-OPQS.
As I have already discussed him before in my preview of AWT-Greenway, I will be briefer this time. Rayane is more versatile than his muscular brother; being able to climb hills and make breakaways. He won the French Junior RR in a two-up sprint and thanks to his time trailing skills, he was able to finish on the podium of three international stage races including his win in the Tour de l'Abitibi.

Instead of going the route of many French riders, Rayane will forgo a French amateur team to get into the development pipeline of Etixx. A smart move if he doesn't get too homesick and he could be joining his brother in the pro ranks soon. I just have this strange feeling many people will unknowingly be like "oh, Bouhanni's brother? He must be another sprinter!", which is well...false.


So I have a penchant for not sticking too rigidly to top 5 lists and this is happening yet again. There is an omission from this list that will be seeing some people scratch their heads seeing as he was one of the most successful juniors in 2014. I will add him to this list but he comes with an asterisk, which I will explain.

6. Magnus Bak Klaris (Denmark - SEG Racing)**

Klaris was a fine racer in the junior ranks with classics and all-around capabilities with some sprint savvy thrown in for good measure. Normally, this would mean a fast track to the pro ranks and a good shot at a nice career. My only hang up with Klaris is that he is Danish and in recent years, the Danes have been prolific in the junior ranks but once the transition to the U23 comes, many of them have a drop off. Be it injuries with riders like Niklas Eg or just not performing up to standard like in the case of Mads Wurtz Schmidt. Klaris might benefit as he will be with a Dutch-based team and it could be good to get him out of the insular Danish environment.

Like others on here, I wrote about him before in the SEG Racing team preview so you can always go there too.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

January 4th News Shorts

Already regretting this commitment to make a post a day, especially during the times when news is hard to come by, but fuck it.

Caleb Ewan wins again

I hope Paul Sherwan is ready to be hit with a deluge of man love Phil Liggett is going to have for Caleb Ewan at the Tour Down Under. The young sprinter took his 3rd win in a row at the Bay Crits in the fucking difficult Portarlington circuit. Ewan outsprinted Steele Von Hoff and U23 track star Alexander Edmondson with relative ease. The U23s did well with Edmondson in 3rd as well as fellow trackie Miles Scotson in 4th, Ryan Thomas in 5th and junior Keagan Girdlestone in 8th. (Girdlstone is the younger brother of Dylan Girdlestone, who signed with Drapac.)

SEG Racing confirms roster

While I did a preview on SEG for 2015 already, the team added 2 more to their roster for this coming year. Joining the team from the Giant-Shimano World Tour team is Malaysian Sea Koeng Loh while the team also picks up Zhi Hui Jiang of China.

Loh won the Jelajah Malaysia in 2013 along with stages in the Tour of Thailand and Tour of Singkarak. He got the step up to the World Tour level last year with Giant-Shimano but it was a rough transition to the new level of racing. Loh has gotten a lot of praise as being a consummate teammate and while he might lack something in talent, makes it up with professionalism and grit. He should be a good addition to the young team as a mentor and road leader.

China hasn't exactly matched their export production with their meager cycling production. There has still only been one World Tour Chinese rider in Fuyu Li but continental level has been flourishing. Jiang has been one of the bright young riders that now dot the Chinese cycling landscape and is getting an incredible chance with SEG. He has done well in the Chinese continental races and even made it through the Tour de Langkawi and Tour de Korea, the latter of which he got 3rd place on a stage. China is still a huge untapped cycling market and if SEG can capitalized with Jiang, there could be more investment flooding into Chinese riders.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

News Shorts

January means different things to different people. In America, some people are getting the last bit of their rocks off for cyclocross nationals in Austin. In Europe, dirt lovers are still in the middle of cyclocross season while road riders have either gone into hibernation in the velodrome or to the southern points of Europe to rack up the mileage. And in the land down under, it is the middle of summer and everyone thawing out from a frozen training ride is racked with jealousy.

It is almost like I can hear Phil Liggett's boner growing for Caleb Ewan. Ewan has won the first two stages of the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classics and I just know that Phil will be building a big orgasm then speaking about the young New South Welshman.

Ewan won the first stage in a two-man breakaway over Greg Henderson and then took out stage two in a sprint finish after a powerful lead out from Mitch Docker and Michael Hepburn. U23s Jack Haig, Harry Carpenter and Miles Scotson hung on for top 20 finishes.

Some riders are avoiding the Bay Crits just to stay healthy for Australian Nationals that happen next weekend in Ballarat. Here are the startlists via Peloton Watch but expect some more mentions from me within the next few days.

In New Zealand, the Tour de Vineyards has everyone turned out before Kiwi Nationals. Paddy Bevin took the overall after a stage win into Moutere and protecting the yellow jersey from Joe Cooper, who took out three stage wins. The other rider to win a stage was U23 rider Hamish Schreurs, who is joining Sojasun Espoirs-ACNC for 2014 after spending a year with Veranclassics-Doltcini. out-sprinted Liam Aitcheson and Adam Bull to take his 2nd stage in the Tour de Vineyards in as many years. To not make this place a recycling center of other people's interviews, go to for a good interview with Hamish Schreurs about his 2015.

That is all for now. Until tomorrow.

Friday, January 2, 2015

On Resolutions

Yet another Gregorian calendar has flipped and after a healthy portion of vodka, I woke up to a bright, cold day with expectations for the year on my mind.  I will be hitting my quarter century point the day before Amstel Gold and for the last few weeks, I've been wondering what fucking direction I want to go with my life. A seemingly annual conversation I have had with myself before settling into comfortable ways but I'm tired of comfortable. I want this year to be uncomfortable. I want to be swept off my feet, knocked to my knees and be begging for a brief pause.

This last year was great in many ways. I moved in with my lovely girlfriend and have been able to financially support ourselves while still being able to have a semblance of a social life. The blog had a successful sophomore season with lots of new readers. On the other hand, I have had a love-hate relationship with my job. Some days are great but more and more, I've been getting the questions in my head of "what the hell am I doing?" and been trying to figure out an escape plan. I haven't been riding my bike. If myself from 5 years ago saw me now, he would have broken down. I've gained weight. I've went through stretches of depression about my body and my well being. I can be so happy about where I am but still find myself looking out through an imaginary porthole window still wanting more.

While I doubt this is "the year", I want to get on my hands and knees and make a foundation that I'm happy with so I'm not 45 and wondering where the hell my life went, trying to furiously live some dream I should have done when I had the time and energy.

Some personal resolutions for myself for the next year:

- Continue to improve on my relationship with my girlfriend. She is pretty amazing and quite patient (it turns out that I'm a very annoying person to be around) so if I want to succeed, I need to do what I can to make her happy and help her succeed herself. I love her and couldn't do this without her.

- Start riding on a somewhat regular basis and get and stay under 200 lbs. I want that craving to get out on the road and make myself hurt. I've been eating like I've been riding 15 hours a week without riding at all and my body is showing it a bit.

-Read at least 10 books. Because fuck it.

Cycling/Blog resolutions:

-Write at least 1 post per day (on average) for the entire year. Hey, I've already gotten through 2 days so what is another 363. I mean, I've only done ~285 posts since I opened up shop here in February 2013. So that would only mean doing about 130% more this year than I did in nearly 2 years combined.

- Get paid for this. I have spent a lot of unpaid hours doing this because I enjoy it but I'm getting to the point where I would like to see some compensation for the fruits of my labor. I would feel a bit pretentious setting up a Patreon and GoFundMe type thing because frankly, I don't think many people read this and/or care about the success or failure or this blog. So if you are the lucky editor of a major or even somewhat successful cycling publication, I'm sure you cannot wait for an email in your inbox with a pitch about the next big unheard of rider and will be willing to pay me $1000 for every article I write.

-Go to Richmond to watch and report on U23 Worlds. I don't just want to watch the race. I want to talk to the riders and write articles that thousands of people will read. I'd also like to go see Philly, Bucks County and some stuff out at Trexlertown.

Shoot the Moon goals

I read a cycling training book when I first started riding in earnest by some guy that doped junior cyclists that said it is good to have a few shoot the moon goals in case you ever need some more motivation. Like a naive 13 year-old taking a wine cooler from a strange-smelling potbellied man in a van, I will put down a few goals to make myself chuckle.

-Make enough money from writing and other odd jobs to quit my full-time job. I would accept getting a part-time job if it meant I could make at least $30,000 to have more freedom and not feel like I'm spinning my wheels with my life.

-Ride enough to warrant myself getting a custom set of wheels with White Industries hubs.

-Take my girlfriend to Texas. Because money.

-Go to the Tour de l'Avenir. Because a boy can fucking dream.

-Get my German back to a proficient level and start learning Spanish or French. Because I'd like a back-up incase this shit falls through.

We will all see how this goes. Hopefully when we get back to this spot in our annual rotation of the sun, I will have checked off this whole damn list and be working on a book about the Tour de l'Avenir. Don't be shy so if you every want to pick my brain about U23 anything, please give me a shout. -Chris.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2015 Team Preview: Team Colpack

(Foto Rodella)
While Zalf-Euromobil reigned over the Italian amateur scene for the past two seasons, 2015 could see the tide swing from Veneto to Bergamo, where the headquarters of Team Colpack are located. For the last few seasons, Colpack have been nipping at the heels of giants like Zalf and Trevigiani with star riders such as Davide Villella, Nicola Ruffoni, Gianfranco Zilioli, Edoardo Zardini and more. They never led the Italian amateur ranks in wins but they have been in the top 3 for the last 3 seasons. With Zalf on the rebound and the continental Italian ranks growing, Colpack could see their win total soar for 2015 if the stars align.

The big losses for Colpack will be in the form of Manuele Senni, who is heading to BMC, and Iuri Filosi, who is going to Nippo-Vini Fantini. Senni showed himself to be quite the climber with back-to-back stage wins in the Giro della Valle d'Aosta along the way to 3rd overall. Senni put in some strong one-day performances with a handful of 4th places in Palio del Recioto & Giro del Belvedere as well as a great breakaway attempt at Worlds that was halted by a crash on the descent. Filosi has brilliant flashes that made you think he was the next coming but then his form would suddenly leave. He won 4 races including the GC at Peaches & Nectarines and he was an outstanding 6th in the U23 Worlds RR. And yes, he is named after communists. Others leaving the team are ex-pro Andrea Di Corrada, climber Davide Orrico, Pietro Andreoletti (leaving for rival Zalf), Davide Manzoni, sprinter Luca Pacioni and Manuele's not quite as talented brother Michele.

While they are losing two big bullets, they still have a few left in the chambers with more being added. Davide Martinelli and Giulio Ciccone are the two biggest names returning for the Bergamo squad. Martinelli is a time trialling stud who I think could do something akin to Marcel Kittel and turn into a fantastic sprinter. I had been on that bandwagon since early this year and expect more of it in 2015. For those out of the loop, Martinelli is the son of Giuseppe Martinelli, who won stages in the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana and is the current manager at Astana though he has signaled that he would like to work with an Italian team in the future, according to at least one Cyclingnews interview.  Martinelli was the Italian U23 TT Champ this season as well as 2nd in the European U23 TT but fell flat at Worlds with just 19th place. He also won the Tour de l'Avenir points competition.

On the other hand, Ciccone is a gifted climber and is currently Italy's best hope in the U23 ranks to become a GC threat. Ciccone was 7th place heading into the final stage of the Tour de l'Avenir before a crash on the Col de la Croix de Fer saw him have to pull out of the race. He was also 6th in Valle d'Aosta overall, which was up from 12th in 2013, and won the KOM competition in the same race. He is already slated to join Bardiani-CSF in 2016 and will look to take a big GC win in the U23 ranks at some point next year.

Fausto Masnada and Edward Ravasi will be with Ciccone in the mountains. Masnada is a pure climber that has been fairly anonymous the past two years with no huge results after a big 2012 including 6th overall in Valle d'Aosta and 5th in Bassano-Monte Grappa.

Leading the sprint train for the squadra nera is Simone Consonni, a winner of 5 races in 2014 as well as a strong track rider who was 3rd in the Italian Elite Men's Omnium. Consonni can make it through a more selective race than some of the bunch sprinters and will be looking to make the step up to larger race wins in 2015. Joining him in the sprint train once again includes Francesco Lamon and Damiano Cima. New for 2015 are some fresh talents including the highly touted Riccardo Minali, son of Nicola Minali and a speedster on the road and track; Attilio Viviani, who is the brother of Elia from Garmin-Cannondale, has won Italian and European championships on the track. Ahmed Amine Galdoune is a Moroccan, which you do not see much in European cycling but he rode with Colpack's junior development team in 2014 including taking a couple of wins in Italy.

Coming over from Zalf-Euromobil are the duo of Seid Lizde and Andrea Garisio. Lizde is a up and coming TT rider who was Italian junior champ in 2013 and 2nd in the Italian U23 TT in 2014. Outside of Italy, he was 7th in the European U23 TT championship. Garosio seems to be a decent climber that isn't a pure climber but might be a decent one-day rider including a 5th in the Alcide Degasperi and 16th in the Piccolo Giro di Lombardia.

The cream of the Italian junior class from 2014 had to be Edoardo Affini. With 9 wins, Affini won the European U23 RR Championship in a two up sprint and also the UCI rated Trofeo Buffoni (three-up sprint) and the Trofeo San Rocco (solo). He finished off his season in 4th place at the World Junior RR Championship. He seemingly can do a bit of everything but if he is anything like star Italian juniors in recent years, he will take a while to find his feet.

Umberto Orsini comes over from Mastromarco and has some pedigree to him that might give him some recognition. Orsini is the nephew of former Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix winner Andrea Tafi. Orsini won the Italian Junior RR in 2012 but he has been more or less anonymous since then.

Simoni Bettinelli and Francesco Rosa are back again to provide some all-around support. They can sprint a little, they can climb a bit...they can get into the top 5 without you even knowing. Not that many pay attention to Italian amateur cycling results.

Also on the team is Oliviero Troia and Filippo Zaccanti but I didn't really have much to say about yeah, they just get a mention.


Wins: 3 UCI wins (40 wins overall)