Saturday, 9 April 2016

The hardest one day race of the season for juniors finally arrived. Just a few hours before we gonna watch the battle between Cancellara and Sagan, young riders will tackle the same cobbled sectors in their own battle for glory.


History

Paris Roubaix Juniors has a pretty short history with first edition dating back in 2003 but it's a big event with impressive list of past winners (just to name a few: Geraint Thomas, Guillame van Keirsbulck, Jasper Stuyven or Florian Senechal with Sagan, Debusschere and Demare all finishing second in different editions). Since 2008 junior version of cobbled classic is a part of Uci Nations Cup meaning we will have national teams instead of club teams at the start in Saint Amand les Eaux. This is also a guarantee that we have the strongest possible lineup as all invited teams will bring the strongest possible, in form, team to be competitive and have a chance to fight for a win.

Jasper Stuyven wining the 2010 edition in rainbow jersey
Last year Dutch team had an impressive series of win in classics and confirmed their potential in Roubaix where Bram Welten won ahead of his team mate Pascal Eenkhoorn. Sten Dewulf from Belgium finished third while one of the hot favorites for this year edition, Jasper Philipsen was fourth.

Bram Welten and Pascal Eenkhoorn celebrates their 1-2 in 2015 edition
Route

The route is pretty much the same as last year. Juniors will cover 111 kilometers from Saint Amand les Eaux to Roubaix facing sixteen cobbled sectors. The same ones as last sixteen in elite race. So actually the only difference between elite and junior race is the distance as the crucial cobbled sections are pretty much the same. The juniors will tackle total of 28,9km of cobbles.


The big difference between elite race and juniors is that we can expect big battle and big splits right from the first cobbled sector. The strongest teams and riders will do everything they can to stay in front and control the race. With no punctures and crashes (they will happen anyway) the strongest rider of the day will win the race. 

Favorites 

This is a big event, trust me. It's extremely hard, it's long, it's a part of Nations Cup and every big team brings a possible winner. Also it's worth to note that cobbles in Paris Roubaix are nothing close to the ones that riders faced already this season in races like Kuurne Bruxelles Kuurne or Guido Reybrouck Classic. There are much harder, more irregular and demands raw power to stay in front and fight for a win.

There are three teams which I consider much stronger then the rest of the field. First of them is Denmark. They have no single rider who finished high last year or had impressive results in this year uci races. But without a doubt, they bring the strongest possible team with each rider able to win the race. Anthon Charmig recently finished third in Ster van Zuid Limburg showing good shape, Jakob Egholm already won two races in Danish Junior Cup events while young Julius Johansen won Giro Nortorf earlier this year in Germany and finished third in prologue of Ster van Zuid Limburg. Both Fredrik Madsen and Rasmus Lund pedersen recently trained on track but I think we can expect good performance from both of them on Sunday. The team completes with Andreas Kron, sixth in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne earlier this year.

Jasper Philipsen in leaders jersey during Ster van Zuid Limburg
The second strong team is Belgium despite having three first year juniors in the team. They have a clear leader: Jasper Philipsen, winner of Guido Reybrouck Classic and Ster van Zuid Limburg who was fourth last year. Great sprinter also strong on cobbles with great shape and strong team behind. Jasper Philipsen is the favorite for Sunday. Also watch out for young Wesley Vercamst who was sixth in Gent Wevelgem two weeks ago.

Alexys Brunel winning Gent Wevelgem U19 
Finally French team is also going for a win this Sunday. Six strong riders including Gent Wevelgem winner Alexys Brunel, vice world champion, second in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne Clement Betouigt Suire and winner of Bernaudeau Junior, ninth last year Tanguy Turgis.

There are also two strong teams that are missing their best rider. US team is always a team to watch but Brandon McNulty is currently busy fighting against elite riders in USA and didn't plan to start in Roubaix. The team can rely on Sean McElroy, who recently finished second in Volta Limburg Classic and won GP Frank Vanesser in Dilsen where US team dominated the field and took first five places.

Second one is Great Britian. Ethan Hayter was one of the biggest favorites here but unfortunately he broke his collarbone few days ago and won't be able to compete. It's a big loss to GB team and the whole race as we could expect a great battle between him and Philipsen once again this year. With Hayter missing, I think Gb team can rely on Thomas Pidckock, great cyclo crosser who did pretty well in Gent Wevelgem finishing 16th.

Other strong candidates: Marc Hirschi, Stefan Bisseger, Bas Ottevanger, Sedrik Ullebo, Felix Gall, Michel Ries, Ziga Jerman, Jaka Primozic.

Also it's a race where we can see several first year juniors fighting against big names for the first time. Especially watch out for Til Steiger and Michele Gazzoli, both can really surprise here.

Predition

A lot can happen in such a race as Roubaix but if Jasper Philipsen is lucky enough to avoid crashes and punctures in crucial part of the race he is the favorite.

Startlist

Saturday, 26 March 2016

After an exciting Sunday a week ago with three big races taking part on the same day, rider will now facet one big classic and first race of Nations Cup series, Grote Prijs André Noyelle (aka Gent Wevelgem U19).

History of the race started in 1983 when Reginald Vandamme won the first edition. In 1996 race was named after André Noyelle, the only Belgian Olympic gold medalist in cycling who was born in Ypres, city host of this event . On the list of previous winners you may find some big names like Meersman, Stannard and Devolder. Dutch riders are having a nice memories from this Belgian classic as they have won last three editions (Looij in 2013, Cornelisse in 2014 and Eenkhoorn in 2015). 

Pascal Eenkhoorn winning 2015 edition (photo:Kenny Desaever)

Route

The route has been essentially changed comparing to last year's edition. Two things didn't change: the race will still start and finish in Ieper and the key point of the route will be famous Kemmelberg climb. The race is much longer then last year, 120km compared to  96 kilometers from 2015 edition. Riders will face less cobbled climbs but they are closer to the finish and will have a bigger impact to the race tactics, especially that all cobbled sections will be held with the final 50 kilometers of the race. From five hellingens, both Kemmelberg and Monteberg will be tackled twice with the last pass over Monteberg is just 12km from the finish.

Race profile (photo: kattekoers.be)
Favorites

For the first time the race will be held as an Nations Cup event which means we will have nation teams instead of club teams on start line in Ieper. Apart from sixteen nation teams we will also have several regional teams from Belgium, Netherlands and France plus South East Team from GB. Before I mention some of the favorites it's worth to notice two big missing on the startlist. First of them is US junior team which have chosen alternative start of their European campaign and decided to ride in Ster Van Zuid Limburg. Second notable miss is Jasper Philipsen who will also ride in Ster to prepare for the Roubaix.

For a cobbled classic in Belgium, we have to start with Belgian national team. The team, despite lacking Philipsen is very strong and each of their rider can win the race for sure. Personally I have picked Arne Marit, winner of Nokere Koerse u19 and Wesley Vercamst who finished in top10 on both Kuurne Brussel Kuurne and Guido Reybrouck Classic. But it could also be Trystan Five, third in Guido Reybrouck Classic last Sunday.

Almost as strong as the Belgians is French team. Here we have a clear leader in Clement Betouigt Suire who was second in Guido Reybrouck Classic. Other strong candidates are Alexys Brunel and Mathieu Burgaudeau.

Great Britain team looks pretty strong either with clear leader, Ethan Hayter. He really impressed me in Kuurne Brussel Kuurne beating two pre race favorites. Last week, he made a crucial move in Guido Reybrouck Classic and Jasper Philipsen was the only one that could follow him. If nothing goes wrong, Hayter will be the man to beat on Sunday.

Another nation that is always strong in this type of races in Denmark. The team is clearly not the strongest one as some of the top guys who rides for Team Kelberg Roskilde (full name from in 2016: Team Børkop Cykler - Carl Ras Roskilde Junior) are riding in Ster van Zuid Limburg at the same time but they can still surprise the top favorites. Fredrik Jensen was sixth in GP Bob Jungels and should be a team leaderon Sunday.

Finally the Dutch team can rely or Jarno Mobach who won Zepperen-Zepperen few weeks back beating Quaterman and Burnel and recently finished fifth in both Grand Prix Bob Jungels and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. If not, Dennis Van der Horst, recently third in GP Jan Bergé, is also the man to watch, especially for sprint from a bigger group.

Other notable starters: Moreno Marchetti, Michele Gazzoli, Michel Ries, Sedrik Ullebo, Ziga Jerman, Reto Muller, Marc Hirschi and Thomas Pidcock.

Website
Startlist
Roadbook

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

French rider Tanguy Turgis representing team US Métro Transports won 23rd edition of Bernaudeau Junior finishing alone in La Tardière. Second place went to his teammate Matthieu Legrand and third to Tristan Montchamp (Pôle Espoir de Saint-Etienne). 

Tanguy Turgis celebrates his solo win (photo: Simon Bourmaud twitter) 

Frenchmen Antoine Gibert from RVC85 and Florian Rapiteau from CD Loire Atlantique was the first attackersof the day. They managed to get over a minute gap but after the Côte du Fuiteau (500m long, avg 13%) they were joined by several counter attackers.

With 70km to go they had over a minute on a peleton. Behind them, ten riders attacked from the peleton and managed to join the front group. After that, we had a group of 22 leaders with over a two minute on peleton. But the big group didn't let them go and the gap was slowly coming down. With 30 kilometers to go the leaders had just 15 seconds over counter attack of 17 riders and 1:10 over the peleton.

After the second pass of the finish line the counter attack managed to bridge to the leaders. 39 riders had a gap of one minute over the peleton. Mathieu Legrand and Daniel Rodriguez Davila managed to breakaway from the leading group and with 13km to go they had a 30 seconds gap over the chasers. They were brought back with just 6kms to go. Soon after that Tanguy Turgis put the crucial move and managed to get away solo. He quickly gained 30 second and finished solo in La Tardière.

Bernaudeau Junior 2016 top three: Legrand, Turgis, Montchamps (photo: @RVC85 twitter)
Results

Full results

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Two weeks after Kuurne Brussel Kuurne junior racing speeds up with three one day races held on Sunday.
Each of them has 1.1 uci category and will be a good indication about riders form just one week before first big event of the year: Gent Wevelgem juniors.

1st Grand Prix Bob Jungels

In Luxembourg we have a very first edition of Grand Prix Bob Jungels organized by UC Dippach, his former team (and many other riders from Luxembourg including legendary Charly Gaul of more recently Laurent Didier or Alex Kirsch).

The race is 130,8 km long with 12 laps 10.8km each with start and finish in the city of Dippach.

Lap profile (photo: http://ucdippach.lu/) 
Last three kilometers of each lap is mostly uphill which should produce numerous attacks and quite demanding race in general. The list of starters is pretty good considering it's just first edition and we have two other big races on the same day. Local heroses from UC Dippach will do everything they can to win their home race, Michel Ries could be their main man, otherwise look for Colin Heiderscheid or youngster Tristan Parotta.

Other notable starters: Tom Peters, Gilles Borra, Stijn De Molder, Dennis Van der Horst, Jarno Mobach, Alessandro Vandromme.

Website: http://ucdippach.lu/grand-prix-bob-jungels/
Startlist: http://ucdippach.lu/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Startlist160316.jpg
Tech guide: http://fr.calameo.com/read/003792072773d61aa6559


Guido Reybrouck Classic

Belgian one day race held in Damme will have it's second edition with uci category 1.1. previously it was held as an amateur event. Last year edition won Bram Welten after a solo attack with five kilometers to go. His breakaway companions completed the podium: Jasper Philipsen finished second and Merten De Wever was third.

Bram Welten winning solo in 2015
The route is the same as last year. It's basically flat with a total of 82 kilometers around Damme. Riders will face six cobbled sectors, each of them run twice. The short one is 300m and the longest one is 1800m. Also the finish in Damme is pretty hard and run on the cobbles. Here you can watch the video of last year's edition: http://www.focus-wtv.be/video/nederlander-welten-wint-guido-reybrouck-classic

Notable starters: Ethan Heyter, Charlie Quaterman, Jasper Philipsen, Jordi Meeus, Nils Eekhoff, Maxime Gressier, Merten De Wever, Lewis Bulley, Alexyr Brunel,

Website: http://www.grclassic.be/
Tech guide: http://www.grclassic.be/printversies/juniores.pdf
Startlist: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CdwkM6bW0AA5g0i.jpg


La Bernaudeau Junior

As the race website is dead a day before the race it's pretty hard to gather the details...
The race route should be similar to last year. It's 130km long with five laps of 6,9km each at the end.

Last year, Pascal Eenkhoorn won solo after attack with two kilometers to go. Behind him, Enzo Berard won sprint from the bigger group for second place. Kevin Perret finished third.


Notable starters: Clement Betouigt Suire, Johan Delalaire, Mario Poldervaart, Mathie Burgaudeau, Ronann Vivier, Tanguy Turgis, Quentin Founier,

Website (currently dead): http://www.labernaudeaujunior.fr/
Startlist: http://www.directvelo.com/actualite/49540/la-bernaudeau-junior-les-engages

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne is the first uci rated race of the season for juniors and first important test for all the big names that will look to open the winning count. This year's editions is the sixteenth one. Last year, Dutch Yannick Detant won the sprint from elite group beating Frenchmen Mathieu Rigolot and Alan Riou. Winning such a big race was for sure one of the reasons why Detant is now racing in SEG Racing Academy, one of the best development teams in the peleton.


Despite it's the first race of the season and on the startlist we can find teams mostly from Belgium and the Netherlands the race is a big one. The list of previous winners include guys Like Moreno Hofland, Barry Markus and Geraint Thomas. In recent editions, most of the strongest juniors looking for glory in classics start the season here. Last year, Pavel Sivakov and Pascal Eeenkhoorn missed the crucial move and didn't contest for the victory but showed first sights of great form which they both later confirmed during the season by winning the big races. In the end, both of them are now riding for BMC Development Team. Who will take their place ?

Yannick Detant winning 2015 edition (photo: Joeri De Coninck)

The course is slightly different then last year and riders will tackle one more hellingen then last year. The race is 120 km long and starts in Kuurne before heading to Oudenaarde for the most important part of the race with all the hellingens. The big change is including famous Oude Kwaremoont in the middle of the race. The first difficulty, just like last year, will be Edelare Top (1,5km long, avg. 4,2%, max 7%) after 30km of racing. The next 55 kilometers is the crucial part with all the bergs that will surely split the field. Riders will tackle one after another: Stokstraat (38km, 1.1km, avg. 5%, max 8%), Kanarieberg (47km, 1km, avg. 7.7% , max 14%), Hotond  (53km, 2.7km, avg. 3% , max 7,5%), Oude Kwaremont (63km, 2.2km, avg. 4% , max 11,6%), Tiegemberg (74km, 0,75km, avg. 5.6% , max 9%) Holstraat (78km, 1km, avg. 5.2% , max 12%) and finally Nokereberg (85km, 0,35km, avg. 5.7% , max 7%) which ends 45 km from the finish line. After that, riders will head back to Kuurne on flat roads with one 15 kilometers lap at the end in Kuurne.

Map (photo: kuurne-brussel-kuurne.be) 


The big change is obviously addition of Oude Kwaremoont in the middle of the race. It's very hard climb, well known from cobbled classics. It's long and cobbled which will definitely have a big impact on peleton. We can expect a big move here from the favorites. If not, peleton will be shattered and crucial attacks may happen right after the Kwaremont. The race usually decides in the flat section after the cobbles. Peleton is often divided and strongest riders are still able to get away. Expect similar scenario tomorrow.

Profile and hellingen list (photo: kuurne-brussel-kuurne.be)

Jasper Philipsen, who recently finishes training camp on tenerife, is the first name to watch. Last year, with his first race as a junior he fnished fairly back (53th) but just a few weeks later he was already third in Guido Reybrouck Classic and fourth in Paris Roubaix proving his talent for classics. Philipsen is also one of the fastest guys in the peleton is going to one of the top favorites if the race finishes in any kind of group sprint. He's riding for Balen BC, clearly one of the strongest teams in Beligum which will be a big advantage for young Flandrien.

The second favorite is Clement Betouigt Suire, vice world champion from Richmond who will ride for French National Team. The big Frenchman managed to beat Philipsen several times last year in sprint finishes ( like in Trophée Centre Morbihan and Ster Van Zuid Limburg) and his performance in World Champs was clearly a prove that he can win a big classic this year. If he will do well on hills he will be a big threat in sprint.


Avia W Cup Team bring a strong team with few candidates to win. Merten De Wever had a pretty good first year as a junior with great performance in Guido Reybrouck Classic where he finished second. Also watch out for youngster Tom Peters who has some impressive results in u17 category and now starts his journey in juniors.

 Next riders that deserves a mention is Alexys Brunel from Dunkerque Littoral Cyclisme team. Frenchman impressed in the second part of the season last year with a big solo win in Philippe Gilbert classic and huge ride in the Worlds where he attacked in final kilometers. He's one of the top guys to watch this year and I'm really interested how he will start his season tomorrow.

Finally I would like to mention Charlie Quaterman who rides for South East Cycling Team (the same team in which James Shaw won the race in 2014). Young Brit already had a big win this season in Spain where he won the season opener, Circuito Guadiana. Riders from UK has a nice history in this race and Quaterman can continue this tradition.

Other names to watch: Jarno Mobach, Robbe Debuyck, Sasha Weemaes, Mathieu Burgaudeau, Michel Ries,

Startlist: http://www.kuurne-brussel-kuurne.be/deelnemersJuniores.php?jaar=2016
Schedule: http://www.kuurne-brussel-kuurne.be/files/juniores/2/wegwijzerjuniores2016.jpg
Roadbook: http://www.kuurne.org/PR/TGjuniores.pdf
Website: http://www.kuurne-brussel-kuurne.be/juniores

Friday, 25 September 2015

The final junior road race event of the year is right around the corner. Uci World Championships in Richmond will conclude the junior season and with all the top riders from under 19 category on the start line we may be witnessing a fascinating battle for the rainbow.


The route

Circuit profile (photo: richmond2015.com)
 As the official website describes: "All road races will take place on a challenging, technical and inner-city road circuit. The peloton heads west from Downtown Richmond, working their way onto Monument Avenue, a paver-lined, historic boulevard that’s been named one of the “10 Great Streets in America.” Racers will take a 180-degree turn at the Jefferson Davis monument and then maneuver through the Uptown district and Virginia Commonwealth University. Halfway through the circuit, the race heads down into Shockoe Bottom before following the canal and passing Great Shiplock Park, the start of the Virginia Capital Trail. A sharp, off-camber turn at Rocketts Landing brings the riders to the narrow, twisty, cobbled 200-meter climb up to Libby Hill Park in the historic Church Hill neighborhood. A quick descent, followed by three hard turns leads to a 100-meter-long climb up 23rd Street. Once atop this steep cobbled hill, riders descend into Shockoe Bottom. This leads them to the final 300-meter-long climb up Governor Street. At the top, riders face a 680-meter false flat to the finish." 

Adrien Costa during the recon ride on 23rd Street (photo: Nick Davis)

Riders will face eight laps, 16,2km long each. The first twelve kilometers are basically flat and quite easy with just a few technical turns. Then, the real racing starts, we have three hills in the last four kilometers of each lap.

The hills:

Libby Park, 215 meters long, avg. 8%, max 9%
23rd Street, 185m, avg. 12%, max 13%
Governor Street, 295m, avg. 7%, max 8%

Detailed climbs profile
These are the official gradients but actually the Libby Park, according to the riders is little bit easier, mostly 6-7% while 23rd Street is actually harder with the max gradient reaching 20% at some point. The descent after  23rd Street is technical so even a small gap at the top of the climb might be enough to get away.


Libby Hill
Asked few riders what do they think about the course and possible race scenarios.
Pavel Sivakov says "It is gonna be a hard race. Two cobbled climbs, the first without a big grade, around 6-7%, 300m climb. The second is shorter but with a big grade around 15-16%. And after the top it's the same road as in time trial. All climbs are in last 4km so it is really good for late attacks."

"Course is very interesting. Mostly flat with a few sharp turns which makes position in the bunch important. More important though is the final 4km really tough with a technical downhill... I predict utter chaos if wet. Governor street climb and the drag to the finish I think is the hardest part of the course after fatigue from the two cobble climbs" says Keagan Girdlestone.

Tobias Foss from Norway expects a stressful day: "I think it will be a hard race.. It is going to be hard into the hills, because everyone wants to be at the front.. So it is going to be an intense race that needs a lot of concentration and the riders not only get tired physically, but also mentally.. I think it is going to be like the classic races. A lot of stress and a hard course"

Jasper Philipsen hopes it will work well for Belgium team:  "I think a nice route for the Belgium riders with two cobbled climbs. We start with a strong team. I hope a sprint in a smaller group but it can go in all directions I think."

Billy Innes, DS of US junior team expects "Big splits. Small finishing group. It's F1 the whole last five kilometers of every lap. It'll split for sure."


The favorites

If we look at the profile only, without taking care about the weather conditions, tactics and the fact it's the Worlds, the biggest favorites should be Aleksandr Kulikovskiy from Russia. He's silver medalist from last year and a specialist in sprints from reduced group. He's extremely fast on the line and can survive the hills for sure. A year ago in Ponferrada he has already proven that if the race went the way he wants, he can fight for the victory.

Same goes with Serbian rider, Dusan Rajovic. He's fast and capable of surviving the hills. If he will be there with the best at the bottom of Governor Street he might end up with gold medal for sure. Rajovic recently won the final stage of Grand Prix Rüebliland. But it's worth to point out that Rajovic starts alone as the only Serbian rider. It will be extremely difficult for him to stay off the wind and follow the right attacks. If anything goes wrong, like crash or puncture it may be over for him at any moment.

The more possible scenario is that the strongest teams will make the race hard and split the bunch, especially if it rains. Then, it's possible that a late attack of one or few strongest riders will stay away. As the strongest teams of the race I would point: USA, Denmark, Netherlands and Belgium of course.

American team is extremely strong. Each of their rider can win this race, trust me. Adrien Costa may not be the sprinter or hills specialist but he's a pure talent so better not give him any space in the final lap or he may sneak out and you will see him again on the podium with rainbow. The other favorite has to be Brandon McNulty, he proved this year that he can sprint if needed and I'm sure he will be up there in the race final. In Driedaagse van Axel cobbled stage he managed to jump across to the elite group of rides, all by himself proving that the classics and cobbles is something that really fits him. He's definitely one of the top favorites.

Danish team is always strong in junior events. No matter how the course is, Danes will be up there in front on the race finale. Same as in US team, each rider is capable of winning. My personal pick is Mathias Norsgaard. Big guy, classic specialist and great puncher can sprint or try a late attack in the final kilometers. He was pretty unlucky this year with few crashes and injuries but lately he showed good form finishing sixth in Grand Prix Rüebliland. In August he won a stage in Le Gleize before riding well in the two Italian classics (Trofeos Emilio Paganessi and Pietro Marelli) where he was up there with the best.

The Netherlands brings Pascal Eenkhoorn who had a superb start of the season winning two big classics and finishing second in Paris Roubaix. Lately, he was eighth in Grand Prix Rüebliland and ninth in Pietro Marelli Memorial so he's clearly in shape. If the race ends with a sprint from a bigger group it should be a chance for Bram Welten to shine. Less then a month ago he won Omloop der Vlaamse Gewesten after sprint from elite group which proved that he's ready for the Worlds.

Belgium team is as strong as the US for sure. If it comes down to a sprint it will be a chance for Robbe Ghys or Jasper Philipsen. If we see a late attack it should be either Stan Dewulf or Aaron Verwilst. Dewulf didn't manage to score a win this year despite being close few times this year in the biggest races, maybe in Richmond he will finally rise his arms crossing the line.

Germany brings the newly crowned gold medalist in time trial, Leo Appelt. Germany TT champion proved that he can sprint well after a hard race like in the opening stage of Niedersachsen-Rundfahrt where he has beaten all the strongest riders of the race in small group sprint. Other strong German riders are sprinter Max Kanter and puncher Martin Salomon.

Switzerland brings two possible winners. Gino Mader, fifth in time trial, recently finished second in Grand Prix Rüebliland after impressive performance on the opening stage where he broke away together with his team mate, Marc Hirschi. They took over a minute gap and the race for GC was over, Hirschi won and Mader was second.

My personal outsider is Clement Betouigt-Suire. Big Frenchman had difficult second part of the season with injuries and I'm not sure how he feels but if he's ready he can win the race. He showed this year that despite being first year junior he can sprint against the best and win races. If we have a difficult conditions with wind and rain and Clement feels good he may surprise many and win the race.

Prediction?

Actually you can't predict how it will finish. There are so many possible scenarios and with all the best riders at the start there are at least twenty names capable of winning. Most of the riders I mention above can win the rainbow but if I have to pick a few I bet on Kulikovskiy, McNulty and Norsgaard.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Leo Appelt from Germany is the new World Champion in time trial after brilliant performance on course in the city of Richmond. Adrien Costa and Brandon McNulty, two American riders and biggest pre race favorites, finished second and third respectively.

Final podium: Adrien Costa, Leo Appelt, Brandon McNulty (photo: Tim de Waele)

Leo Appelt completed the 30km time trial in time of 37:45 which would give him fourth place in under23 race held a day before. Adrien Costa lost 17 seconds while Brandon McNulty lost 59.

Ilya Gorbushin, first year junior from Kazakhstan, was the early starter that surprised many by riding below 40 minutes as the first rider. He was the leader for quite a long time finishing on the ninth place in the end.

Leo Appelt on the road for rainbow (photo: Tim de Waele)
Leo Appelt also started pretty early and right from the first checkpoint it was obvious that he is riding for podium spot. He set amazing time at the first split, 8:17 which was only one second slower then Mads Wurtz in u23 race the day before. He managed to keep the amazing pace, especially in the final part of the race and took the lead with almost two minutes gap on Gorbushin. Another strong performance from the second wave of riders was Alexys Brunel ride, first year junior and vice champion of France in time trial, who managed to finish just behind Gorbushin and was tenth at the end of the day.

Brandon McNulty (photo: steephill.tv/sirotti)
McNulty was the late starter in second group of riders. Tension was rising as American was coming to the first checkpoint but the huge gap we saw (almost thirty seconds behind Appelt) was a sign that it's going to be extremely hard to beat Appelt that day. McNulty managed to keep Appelt's pace in the middle part of the course but in the final part it was just a little bit too fast for Brandon and he finished 59 seconds behind Appelt. Second place at the moment and bronze medal at the end, still amazing result for first year junior.

The third wave was all about Keagan Girdlestone and Jasper Philipsen. Two totally different riders, climbing prospect from South Africa (or New Zeeland) and future classic specialists and first year junior was riding pretty equally on the whole course until the final split where Girdlestone managed to speed up a little and took the second place on the line, behind Appelt. Philipsen started earlier and was dropped to third place at the moment, finishing the time trial on sixth spot and second highest ranked first year junior, behind McNulty.

Jasper Philipsen (photo: @JSaulsky)
The final group of nine riders was filled with the favorites. First one was Tobias Foss who managed to keep the good pace on whole course and finished the day on eighth spot. Right after him, we had two riders who managed to set great time at first split. Both Niklas Larsen and Gino Mader was close to McNulty on all three checkpoints. Mader even managed to ride faster then McNulty on third checkpoint and took his second spot for the moment. But in the end, both riders faded and Mader finished fourth (fifth in the end) and Larsen was seventh in the final standings.

The last rider who could beat Appelt was the final starter, Adrien Costa. Possibly the biggest talent in
Adrien Costa (photo: steephill.tv/sirotti)
his age category, surprisingly being overshadowed by McNulty's performances this year, started pretty slow and was only sixth at the first split, already 26 seconds behind Appelt. The battle for gold was over ? Thought so. But Costa proved to be an amazing rider and managed to get closer to Appelt on the next two checkpoints. At the finish of the first lap he was just 17 seconds behind and at the third one only two seconds were left! But Appelt was simply unbeatable at the last part of the course, Costa lost 17 seconds and in the end and took silver medal, once again after finished second last year in Ponferrada.

All the top riders gave their first thoughts to Directvelo journalist:
Leo Appelt was surprised about his result: "I do not believe that I won the World Title. I am also a little surprised at my victory. I tried to keep a constant speed throughout the thirty kilometers. And finally, I'm the fastest. Nevertheless, it was very tight until the end with Adrien Costa. Stay on the "Hot Seats" for nearly two hours was also very difficult. Now I am free and I have no pressure for the road race on Saturday. "

Brandon McNulty was more then happy about his performance: "I knew that against the clock to thirty kilometers was very long before taking the start, especially for me. First we had the tailwind and we reach to 60 km / h speeds. I therefore preferred not to give everything from the start, especially as we had a headwind in the second part. I wanted to give everything in the lump. I just did the same in the second round. It's great to be my first medal for the World Championship and especially in the first year Junior. Now I hope I can fight for the title next year. "

Adrien Costa won a silver medal once again: "I wanted to win. But I finished two years in a row on the podium, so I can't be disappointed. I was highly motivated. The crowd really helped me, encouraged, especially in the last climb."
About Saturday's road race:  "I tried not to think about it. Now I'll start to concentrate on Saturday. I will be very interested, but collectively we have a very strong team,"

Keagan Girdlestone finished fourth in the hardest time trial of his career:
"It's amazing to realize such performance for my first participation in the World Championships."
"Quite a stressful time, but enjoyable to go through." he said about sitting on "Hot Seats" for quite a long time. "It was the biggest battle against the clock of my career. But I rarely perform thirty kilometers of individual effort. It was therefore painful. There was also a lot of wind, especially headwind at the second pass over the bridge." 
About atmosphere and Saturday's race: "There is a great atmosphere here. The people are very welcoming and will not hesitate to support us on the side of the road. I'll take a rest and concentrate fully on the road race where I also hope to achieve a good result " 

Results
Full detailed results with time splits and each checkpoint can be found here:Tissottiming

You should also check great stats prepared by @Velofacts showing how strong was Appelt at the first and last sections: Velofacts stats

Monday, 21 September 2015

After a long break which was caused by both a lot of work and long awaited holidays, I'm back right in time for the most important junior event of the year, World Championships in Richmond, Virginia.

The route


Juniors will tackle two laps of 15 kilometers circuit in the city of Richmond. As the official document describes "Racers will head west from downtown to Monument Avenue, a paved-lined historic boulevard that’s been named one of the “10 Great Streets in America.” From there, the course makes a 180-degree turn and continues in the opposite direction. The race then cuts through the Uptown district before coming back through Virginia Commonwealth University and then crossing the James River. After a technical turnaround, the race comes back across the James and works its way through downtown Richmond, eventually heading up the 300-meter-long climb on Governor Street. At the top, riders will face a false flat 680 meters to the finish"


Time trial lap map (photo: richmond2015.com)

Time trial lap profile (photo: richmond2015.com)



The Governor Street (avg. 7%, max 8%) will definitely soften the legs, especially at the second passing right before the finish. As I expect pretty close battle for the win, this might be the crucial point of the race. The route is described as technical but apart from few difficult turns riders will pass mostly across wide, almost highway like, roads where pure power and aerodynamics will be the most important.


The favorites


Obvious is obvious. Brandon McNulty won every time trial in junior category he entered this year. The big wins was for sure at Course de la Paix where he crushed the opposition including Adrien Costa and won with a big gap and at Driedaagse van Axel where he has beaten some of the other favorites like Mader and Storer. He is also current US champion in time trial where he won just a seconds ahead of Costa. Same goes with Tour de l'Abitibi Desjardins time trial where he also won ahead of his team mate and the biggest rival. I could tell you a lot about how versatile rider Brandon is but let's keep that for the road race preview. Can he handle the pressure ? If yes, and if his form is as good as we already seen few times this year, McNulty is the hot favorite. The only disadvantage I can find is that this will be the longest TT he rides this year and he doesn't have the experiance from last year's Worlds like the other favorites has.


Adrien Costa is silver medalist in time trial from Ponferrada and for sure is a hot favorite to win another medal this year in Richmond. Apart from three second places behind McNulty this year, he also finished second in Trofeo Karlsberg where only Niklas Larsen was fastest and won the time trial during Tour du Pays de Vaud beating Mader by quite a margin. Costa is one year older, more experienced and for sure motivated to win. If someone is going to beat McNulty it will probably be Costa.

The only rider that was able to beat Costa this year and wasn't named McNulty was Danish rider Niklas Larsen. Apart from his big win in Trofeo Karlsberg, Niklas also won time trial during Grand Prix Rüebliland earlier this month showing signs of good form right before the Worlds. But it's also worth to note that Larsen won the same TT in Rüebliland a year ago but few weeks later wasn't able to ride that fast in Ponferrada and finished twelfth. He will be up there with the top10 being almost certain but form of the day will decide if he can fight for the medals.

Last year third, Michael Storer is another strong contender for the podium. Current Australian road race champion showed strong form lately winning the queen stage in Aubel - Thimister - La Gleize just a day after he was second and won the sprint of elite group in the previous stage. He was also second in time trial during Niedersachsen-Rundfahrt only beaten by local star, Bastian Flicke. Earlier this year he was third in Driedaagse van Axel just behind McNulty and Mader.

The last from the biggest favorites for the time trial is Swiss rider Gino Mader. Swiss champion in time trial was close to win in all three big time trial tests he entered this year. He was second in Driedaagse van Axel, second in Tour du Pays de Vaud and fourth in Grand Prix Rüebliland lately proving he's in shape right before the Worlds. Last year in Ponferrada he was nineteenth as first year junior but I am sure that Mader is able to finish on podium this time.

Other names to watch: Nikolay Ilichev, Tobias Foss, Matteo Sobrero, Pavel Sivakov, Anthon Charmig, Leo Appelt and Michael O'Loughlin.

Prediction?


I'm on McNulty. He will win again proving to be the best junior rider of the year. Costa and Storer will get silver and bronze, just like last year. If anyone can really surprise and beat this guys it will be my dark horse pick: Keagan Girdlestone.



Start order and times (for Europe time, add six hours)

09:30:00 57 PHONARJTHAN Patompob THAILAND
09:31:00 56 BATSAIKHAN Tegsh-Bayar MONGOLIA
09:32:00 55 MANO Yuttana THAILAND
09:33:00 54 ROSTOVTSEV Sergey RUSSIAN FEDERATION
09:34:00 53 MONTEIRO MARTINS Pedro BRAZIL
09:35:00 52 STANNARD Robert NEW ZEALAND
09:36:00 51 PORTILLA Bryan ECUADOR
09:37:00 50 MANSOURI Oussama ALGERIA
09:38:00 49 SAWADA Keitaro JAPAN
09:39:00 48 EL KOURAJI Mouhcine MOROCCO
09:40:00 47 GORBUSHIN Ilya KAZAKHSTAN
09:41:00 46 DEWULF Stan BELGIUM
09:42:00 45 TAYLOR Joel CANADA
09:43:00 44 MONTOYA Javier COLOMBIA
09:44:00 43 DE VINK Gregory SOUTH AFRICA
09:45:00 42 GAMPER Patrick AUSTRIA

10:20:00 41 BRUNEL Alexys FRANCE
10:21:00 40 APPELT Leo GERMANY
10:22:00 39 CONCI Nicola ITALY
10:23:00 38 O'LOUGHLIN Michael IRELAND
10:24:00 37 SLEEN Torjus NORWAY
10:25:00 36 CHARMIG Anthon DENMARK
10:26:00 35 SIVAKOV Pavel RUSSIAN FEDERATION
10:27:00 34 BISSEGGER Stefan SWITZERLAND
10:28:00 33 SWEENY Harry AUSTRALIA
10:29:00 32 MCNULTY Brandon UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
10:30:00 31 CHUA Merrill Jern-E SINGAPORE
10:31:00 30 YERI MINGO Santiago ARGENTINA
10:32:00 29 D. KOVACS David Gabor HUNGARY
10:33:00 28 PESSOA DE OLIVEIRA FILHO Marcio Jose BRAZIL
10:34:00 27 GAVARS Eriks Toms LATVIA
10:35:00 26 BARAC Antonio BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

11:10:00 25 FOUCHE James NEW ZEALAND
11:11:00 24 ANDERSSON Gustav SWEDEN
11:12:00 23 ALONSO Pablo SPAIN
11:13:00 22 SIERRA Erik ECUADOR
11:14:00 21 MANSOURI Islam ALGERIA
11:15:00 20 OTRUBA Jakub CZECH REPUBLIC
11:16:00 19 ISHIGAMI Masahiro JAPAN
11:17:00 18 SAJNOK Szymon Wojciech POLAND
11:18:00 17 CHOKRI El Mehdi MOROCCO
11:19:00 16 PRONSKIY Vadim KAZAKHSTAN
11:20:00 15 PHILIPSEN Jasper BELGIUM
11:21:00 14 GEE Derek CANADA
11:22:00 13 CARDONA Julian COLOMBIA
11:23:00 12 GIRDLESTONE Keagan SOUTH AFRICA
11:24:00 11 GALL Felix AUSTRIA
11:25:00 10 LOUVET Louis FRANCE

12:00:00 9 SINGER Max GERMANY
12:01:00 8 SOBRERO Matteo ITALY
12:02:00 7 TUOMEY Simon IRELAND
12:03:00 6 FOSS Tobias NORWAY
12:04:00 5 LARSEN Niklas DENMARK
12:05:00 4 ILICHEV Nikolay RUSSIAN FEDERATION
12:06:00 3 MADER Gino SWITZERLAND
12:07:00 2 STORER Michael AUSTRALIA
12:08:00 1 COSTA Adrien UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Monday, 13 July 2015

Next week LEADout Academy from South Africa starts their journey in Europe and for most of their juniors it will be the first time to taste European racing. Read my interview with one of them, Aidan Van Niekerk

Hello Aidan, for the start, could you give us a small introduction about yourself?

I'm Aidan van Niekerk, an 18-year-old cyclist from George, South Africa. I've been a massive cycling fan since I was about 11, but only started cycling with serious intent when I turned 14. Most of my cycling thus far has been racing on our MTB marathon scene, but since the beginning of the year I've had a more serious focus on road racing. I love all kinds of climbing - but being quite a small guy, I'm pretty sure it's the only terrain that suits me.

How did you start cycling?

Contrary to popular belief, we don't actually live in grass huts and ride around on elephants here in the RSA, so sorry to disappoint if you're expecting a story of where I was forced to ride 30km to and back from school everyday! My parents actually started MTBing to improve their health (and probably because of a mid-life crisis), and being a little 11-year-old, I followed suit. As the years progressed, I discovered my competitive nature and started taking things seriously.

I know you are now riding for LEADout academy in South Africa. Can you tell us more how did you get there and how is the academy working?

Well, I guess Barry Austin (LEADout Principle) was impressed by something I did in race and I got a call from him offering me the opportunity. LEADout academy is actually "restarting" this year after a few years of absence. The academy aims to develop young riders and give them the opportunity to get some exposure against the best juniors in the world when we race in Europe. It was previously know as "ACL" and its alumni include Louis Meintjes, Johann van Zyl, Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg, Jacques Janse van Rensburg, John-Lee Augustyn, and Jaco Venter. This year LEADout will be sending a 6-man junior squad over to Europe with Barry Austin and John-Lee Augustyn as our managers.

How would you sum up this season so far ? Are you happy with your results?

Up to this point I'm quite happy. I really aimed to win a national title, but that didn't go as planned. That being said, my biggest aim is obviously when we head to Europe next month, so I'll evaluate my season based on what I achieve there. In January, I didn't even dream about going to Europe, so having been offered that opportunity I can already view this season as a success.

Next month, you are heading to Europe. Which races are you planning to ride ?

We'll be based in Oudenaarde, Belgium for the most part and will do a few kermesses in the area to keep us race-ready. Our UCI race schedule is as follows:
- Oberöstereich Juniorenrundfahrt
- Internationale Niedersachsen Rundfahrt
- Ronde van Vlaanderen Juniores
- Aubel-Thimster-La Gleize
- Ronde des Vallées

Are you going to ride as national team in Europe or as LeadOUT academy ? I've noticed that none of the races are from Nations Cup calendar, why is that ?

We're representing LEADout Academy in all of our races and not acting as a national team. Quite honestly, I'm not quite sure why there's no South African representation at some Nations Cup events because we have quite a few capable riders who are already in Europe. There's too much politics involved, I guess.

Does the national federation support your trip to Europe ? Seems like an important part in developing future champions!

Unfortunately there's no structured development system like the well-oiled machine that the Americans have. We have to go about covering all our expenses at our own cost (luckily LEADout helps with subsidising certain expenses). For example, bringing my TT bike with us just creates a bigger logistical nightmare and extra expense, so it's staying behind. If it wasn't for LEADout and their work, I'm really not sure how SA talents like Meintjes, Van Zyl, etc., would've got the necessary exposure as juniors. Sure, we might not be a cycling nation like Belgium or France, but there are a lot of young South African juniors who have the talent and work-ethic to become professionals. All they need is the high-level exposure in Europe and they're good to go. It's a pity that many talented guys will never get that opportunity because of the financial constraints of traveling abroad for weeks. It's definitely something that is lacking on the part of Cycling South Africa, and I would love to see that change for the good of our national development.

MTN-Qubeka seems like a team focused on developing African riders, they have u23 team but what about juniors ? Does young riders in SA get any support from MTN team ?

There's no development team for juniors. We don't receive any direct support or assistance, but the feeder team does a very good job at developing the u23 African riders. For this season, they signed a few juniors from last year and, if anything, it's an incentive for juniors to perform.

I have heard you never rode on cobbles! Is that true ?

Another aspect lacking in South Africa is cobbled roads! Besides for a few driveways, there are no cobbles in sight. We do, however, have some really shitty roads which could pass for cobbles - and I spent some time on gravel to get used to a different kind of surface to tar. But I'm looking forward to tackling the pavé in Flanders!

What are your expectations before heading to race in Europe ? Any specific race that you would like to perform well ?

It's my first time ever riding at such a high level and I expect to get my ass handed to me at every race! That being said, I am in the best shape yet, so maybe I won't be too useless. The biggest aim would be to learn as much as possible to build a platform to come back in the coming years. I'd like to target climbing races and stages, most probably Oberösterreich and La Gleize.

Which race was the highlight of your career so far ?

Having never had the opportunity to race internationally, I can't really say I've had any major results. Grabbing a podium at SA TT champs was probably my best ride. It was my first-ever proper TT and considering I was mostly a mountain biker up until then, I can view it as a nice surprise.

In few months you will end your career period as a junior. What are your plans for the future ?

I've never planned on turning pro, despite loving the sport and racing, because riding in Europe was more of a fantasy. With LEADout I now have the opportunity to head to Europe in the coming years as well, which has opened a lot of doors. I'll be studying in Stellenbosch (which is SA's cycling-Mecca) and will hopefully return to race in Europe during July-September of every year. Guys like Chad Haga, Adam Hansen, and Romain Bardet have convinced me that studying and a cycling career can be combined. Perhaps I can do a post-grad course in Europe and turn full-professional in that year. It is a cliché, but we can never be sure what the future will bring, can we?

Do you have a cycling idol ? Or a rider you are cheering for ?

I draw a lot of inspiration from the South Africans on Team MTN-Qhubeka. I can relate to them a lot and have a lot of respect for being able to get where they are. Seeing Louis Meintjes ripping it up on the mountain slopes is definitely something to cheer for too.

Last question: who will win Tour de France 2015 and why ? :-)

Mmm... I think it may be Quintana's year. He's been trying to keep a low profile so far and that may be with good reason.

Thanks for your time!

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Swiss rider Marc Hirschi won 68th edition of GP Général Patton in Luxembourg. German rider Georg Zimmermann finished second and Bjorg Lambrecht from Belgium was third and won the mountains classification while Zimmermann won the points jersey.

Final race podium (photo: swisscycling)

The first stage from Ettelbruck to Troisvierges (102 kilometers)  finished with a successful breakaway that splitted on the final kilometers. Slovenian rider Ziga Horvat won solo just two seconds ahead of National Belgian road race champion Bjorg Lambrecht and Marc Hirschi from Switzerland. The peleton was shattered by a fast pace on climbs and windy conditions. The breakaway consisted 16 riders and it's certain that the overall winner will come from those 16.

Ziga Horvat wins the first stage (photo: Herve Dancerelle/ Directvelo)
Results



The final stage around Wincrange (97 kilometers) won German rider Martin Salmon after an attack in the final kilometers. Italian Nicola Conci tried to go with three kilometers to go but Salmon managed to counter his attack and won solo. His teammate Georg Zimmermann finished second and Andre Carvahlo from Portugal was third. Thanks to his fourth spot Marc Hirschi won the overall. Ziga Horvat lost almost a minute on the second stage and dropped to seventh place overall.

Results


Final GC