Friday, January 13, 2017

Devo à la française: And now, for everyone else... Pt. 1

After going through the revamped Chambery CF line-up, it is time to get a taste of the up and coming talent in the French amateur ranks. With three divisions of the Coupe de France, it is nigh on impossible to give full previews of each team so let's just focus on the U23 talent through the first division plus some select picks after that. After you...

AVC Ax-en-Provence

The Energizer bunnies (one of their main sponsors) of the PACA region are back once again with a mix of younger and older riders, many of whom are focused on climbing including non-U23s like Yoann Barbas and Alexis Dulin. A club since 1925, the Elite team has a U23s to keep an eye on in Brit Alex Braybrooke. The reserve squad also includes an interesting talent in Masahiro Ishigami, a Japanese rider who had a rough introduction into the U23 ranks but showed promise as a junior.

CC Etupes

One of the perennial contenders in the Coupe de France, the team from the far east (of France) currently has 12 former riders that are now professional (World Tour and Pro Continental) including two from last year's team, Leo Vincent (FDJ) and Fabien Doubey (Wanty Groupe-Gobert). A big signing for them was junior standout Alexys Brunel, who was the European Junior TT Champion along with winning the Chrono des Nations. Brunel can also climb fairly well and he used his time trial abilities to solo to a win in the Gent-Wevelgem Juniors.

After a couple of seasons with Division 2 squads, UK-born Irishman Mark Downey moves up to Division 1, where he will take his all-around talents to the road, where he seems to always do well in the GC of French national races but is still searching for a breakout result. He is a talent on the velodrome where he has a penchant for the points race, where he was 2nd in the European U23 Championship and won the latest World Cup in Apeldoorn.

Past these two, Paul Sauvage is coming over from CR4C Roanne and while his 2016 was a bit off from his strong 2015. He does well on flat to hilly courses and should get plenty of opportunities with Etupes.

CC Nogent-sur-Oise

This team is not as strong as they have been in previous years after losing riders like Corentin Ermenault, Marc Fournier, Benoît Daeninck and Turgis brothers over the last few seasons. They don't really have any standout U23s talents but do keep an eye on Julien Van Haverbeke, who had a few good results in sprints.

CC Villeneuve Saint-Germain

Located up in Hauts-de-France, CCVSG has a high percentage of U23s (14 to be exact) on their 18 man roster but they are going to have an uphill road to turn around their next to last finish in the DN1 standings last season as they lack experience. One of the notable signings was Finnish Niklas Henttala, the brother of Team Type 1 rider Joonas. He did pretty good in the Ukranian UCI races so he could provided the team some much needed results.

CR4C Roanne

While Roanne might be most famous for Salmon & Sorrel from La Maison Troisgrois, gastronomy isn't the only thing happening there. The team didn't have a ton of turnover from last year, only losing three and gaining three back. One of their better non-U23 riders is Lucas Papillon, who has ridden well in both the Ronde de l'Isard and Tour du Pays de Savoie the last couple of years.

Simon Guglielmi, Louis Pijourlet and Julien Roux are probably the best U23s the teams have. Guglielmi had a very good last year with only one win but 27 top ten finishes in mainly national races. Pijourlet is a good time trialist and has been rotating with the French national track squad, where he got a bronze in the team pursuit at the Apeldoorn World Cup. Roux is a developing climber who should like some of the hillier stage races like l'Isard and Savoie.

The other U23 to watch is Valentine Deverchere, who won three times in the early summer and finished high on GC in a few races, including the Tour du Pays Roannais.

Creuse Oxygène Guéret

After finishing 2nd in the DN2 classification, Creuse Oxygène is making the move to the DN1field in what will be only its 5th season in the entire Coupe de France. They are going to rely on Maxime Le Montagner, Kevin Fouache and Nicolas David for results.

In terms of U23s, Lucas Grall had some good sprint results at l'Abitibi last year. Theo Menant is a former French Junior RR champion who had a pretty good ride at Roubaix with 26th that he will be looking to improve.

GSC Blagnac VS 31

The main team from the southwest, GSC Blagnac VS 31 lost two important riders in Romain Campistrous and Alexis Guerin but they are brining on a good host of riders incluing Brit Stefan Bennett, Boris Zimine and Yoan Verardo

The notable U23 is Maxence Moncassin, who is the son of former pro Frederic Moncassin, who is joining the team as a DS this year.

This team isn't looking quite as strong as they did in the past few years so they will be looking to get some nice surprise results in big races.

Guidon Chalettois

This team is lucky they are still in the DN1 after a year where they scored only 40 points (the winners Chambery CF scored nearly 1000) but that doesn't mean that they are completely dead in the water. They have some "older" riders like Ronan Racault and Stephane Duguenet that can produce while they signed two Moroccan riders in Anass Ait El Abdia and Medhi El Chokri.

He isn't a U23 anymore but Ait El Abdia finished 22nd in the Elite Men's World Championships in Doha, which is probably the definition of punching above your weight. If he concentrates on the DN1 events, he could be a big part of the team moving up the table. El Chokri is a great non-traditional U23 talent. The Moroccan finished 5th on the opening stage of the Zavod Miru U23 Nations Cup as well as finishing the Tour de Bretagne, Tour Alsace, Tour de l'Avenir as well as 2nd in the Tour de Cote d'Ivoire.

I have a feeling this team won't be repeating their last place from this year.

Occitane CF

The other team from the Pyrenees is still a bit of a work in progress and will be looking to get out of the basement of the DN1. On the non-U23 front, new signing Bruno Armirail will be looking to find his time trial form that saw him win the French U23 title a few years ago. On the U23 front, the have the Cabanel twins, Thomas and Vincent, who had some decent results last year so here is hoping.

Océane Top 16

While they are located in the Nouvelle-Aquataine region, I am saying that they are more west central France than the southwest. Past that picadillo, this squad is losing a big name in Mathias Le Turnier, who is moving on to Cofidis, but they do keep Yoann Paillot, the time trial phenom who should most likely be on a professional team, and Clement Saint-Martin, who is good on a variety of terrain. They aren't adding a bunch of talent though non-U23 Jayson Rousseau looks interesting with a lot of top 10 finishes.

Stay tuned for Part 2 from the rest of the French Division 1 classification

Friday, January 6, 2017

NZ Championship: Gough takes U23 TT; Gaze finishes 4th

After concentrating on the Rio Olympics for the past few seasons, Regan Gough is finally able to put some effort into the road and he came good. Riding for the now youth-focused AnPost-Chain Reaction squad this year, Gough put in a sizzling ride on the Napier course to beat first year U23 James Fouche, who was twice 2nd in the Junior National time trial the last couple of seasons. Jake Marryatt continues his improvement in the Nationals by coming 3rd, just 22 seconds in arrears, after finishing 6th and 7th the past two seasons, respectively.

Gough has spent a considerable amount of effort on the velodrome but with the Olympics 3 years away once again, he has time to shift his eyes to the road. He is the current National Criterium Champion and he actually did well in the AnPost Ras last year finishing 26th after spending most of the year training for the Team Pursuit. It will be interesting to see how he does on a bigger European schedule with AnPost.

The big surprise from this race was U23 MTB XC World Champion Sam Gaze finishing 4th. He doesn't race on the road much these days but when he does, he can turn heads. Its his first proper time trial as a U23 and to finish 4th, it was pretty darn good but he will actually be an outside threat for the U23 RR, where his smaller body and big power could see a surprise result.

The U23 RR takes place on Sunday in Napier.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Australian TT Nationals

Callum Scotson won the Australian U23 TT Championship in the same way that he won it last year. He stomped the competition on the rolling Buninyong course with Robert Stannard (Delta Rotterdam) being the closest rider to him at 58". Scotson is the first rider to go back to back in the Australian U23 TT since Mark Jamieson did the double in 2004 and 2005.

It really was no surprise to see Scotson take the win as he was in a league of his own but to see Stannard get 2nd is an accomplishment as it is his first U23 race and first in an Australian Championship, having been born and bred in New Zealand.

The 3rd place for Michael Storer is a good sign as he will need to continue his strong time trial performances to compete in longer tours including the Tour de l'Avenir.

The U23 men's road race takes place on Satuday, January 7th.