Friday, 24 June 2016

American rider Brandon McNulty has won 29th edition of Trofeo Karlsberg. Ethan Hayter from Great Britain finished second while McNulty's team mate Ian Garrison was third.

The riders faced traditional route with three road stages and the crucial time trial on second day of racing. The first stage from Völklingen to Herbitzheim was already a heavy test as riders faced wet roads and thunderstorms on the road of Saarland state in southwestern Germany.

We had a move of three riders just before the first bonus sprint. Matteo Jorgenson from US team took off together with Ziga Horvat from Slovenia and Alfred Wright from Great Britain. Behind them a group of eight riders formed with Brandon McNulty. The three leaders managed to keep a minute gap over the peloton and the chasers was finally swallowed by a peloton.
Stage one profile (photo: radsport.ch)
 With no more then 30 kilometers from the finish we had a group of around 50 riders in the main peloton while the leading trio was also caught. Once the peloton was grouped we had another move on sever riders incudling McNulty again but also Ethan Heyter, Michel Ries and Matus Stocek but the peleton didn't let them go too far and despite several attacks in the final kilometers the stage finished with a slightly uphill bunch sprint won by Gerben Thijssen from Belgium. Matus Stocek from Slovakia was second while Ziga Horvat took third. 51 riders were left in contention for the overall title finishing in the front group.

Gerben Thijssen wins the opening stage (photo: Peter Melchior)
The second stage was clearly the easiest one with just one climb and the distance of 79 kilometers. The stage around Homburg ended with a bunch sprint and Gerben Thijssen has won again, this time beating two guys from GB: Fred Wright and Ethan Hayter.

Thijssen narrowly beats Wright on the line (photo: http://trofeo.gersheim.de/)

In the evening we had a 16,9km long time trial from Rimling to Rubenheim which was clearly the crucial stage for the whole race. Brandon McNulty took an impressive win with 46 seconds gap over Ethan Hayter and took the leaders jersey. Ian Garrison was third, 1:14 back. Previous race leader, Gerben Thijssen finished 44th, almost three minutes back.

The three best riders in the time trial also took top three spots in the GC. Before the final stage McNulty leads the GC 44 seconds ahead of Ethan Hayter and 1:16 on Garrison.

Stage three profile (photo: radsport.ch)
The final stage around Reinheim was again a lumpy one with three climbs waiting for the riders. Rico Brucker from Germany decided to go solo and managed to reach over a three minutes gap over the peleton. Behin him, the US team was able to control the field and didn't let any of their main rivals in the GC to get away. Finally Brucker was caught close before the finish on second lap (from three). We didn't have to wait long for another attack as Jakub Otruba from Czech Rep took off and was let by US team to gain a little gap. With around 10 kilometers to go Otruba was caught and we were heading to another bunch sprint.

Matus Stocek wins the final stage (photo: saarbruecker-zeitung.de)

First year junior Matus Stocek from Slovakia was the fastest. Ziga Jerman took another podium spot for Slovenia while Niklas Markl from Germany , another first year junior, finished third. Brandon McNulty finished safely in the bunch and sealed the overall win.

Brandon McNulty wins the GC (photo: USA cycling juniors)
I have spoke to Brandon after his win and asked him to share his thoughts from three days of racing in Germany:

In the first Stage we tried to race very aggressive and were able to split the field a few times, only to have it all come back together. It eventually came down to a field sprint and I finished with the lead group. Stage 2.1 we had a rider in the break all day so it really took the pressure off of us to chase so we were able to stay fresh for the TT later in the day. For the time trial I felt great and was able to establish a large gap and also had a teammate in third which was great. Stage 3 was all about defending and the team road amazing at the front to keep it all together! Getting this victory meant a lot to me, especially after Tour du Pays de Vaud where I didn't get quite the result I was hoping for. It's always great to win, but even more special when it was a real team effort like this one was!
Full results
Race videos

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Niels Eekhoff from the Netherlands won the final hilly stage around Terezin which completed 45th edition of Course de la Paix. Italian rider Leonardo Marchiori finished second while first year junior from Germany, Niklas Markl was third. Christopher Blevins finished safely in the bunch and sealed the overall win.

Nils Eekhoff wins the final stage (photo: Patress.cz)


Stage results


Overall Blevins finished 24 second ahead of Russian rider Evegeny Kazanov, winner of the queen stage on Saturday and 28 seconds ahead of Jaka Primozic from Slovenia. Thanks to his consistency and final stage win Nils Eekhoff took the white jersey for points classification while former race leader Alexys Brunel won polka dot jersey as a best climber. Andrea Innocenti from Italy was the best first year junior, finishing seventh in the GC.
Chris Blevins celebrates overall win (photo: Patress.cz)

Final general classification



Without Brandon McNulty on the start the race was defiantly wide open this year. Chris Blevins was the most versatile and consistent rider finished up in all three crucial stages. The didn't win any of them but was part of the decisive move on the first stage, rode a solid TT and attacked hard on the queen stage to drop his main rivals. Thanks to a great support from his team he was able to defend the yellow jersey on the final stage. US team brings home second GC win in a row from Course de la Paix.

Rasmus Lund and Alexys Brunel may not be the strongest climbers but they both showed pure class in Czech Republic. Lund scored pretty unique results winning two stages in a row (last one in 2015 and opening one this year) while Brunel rode great in the hilly first stage and time trial but didn't manage to keep the jersey in the high mountains.

I wasn't familiar with name Evgeny Kazanov before but after his impressive win on the queen stage it's now a guy to watch for the rest of the year, especially on the climbs

Jaka Primozic proved that he's one of the most versatile rider in junior category. After fourth place in Gent Wevelgem and fifth in Trofeo Citta di Loano he was third in Peace Race. The big win is right around the corner.

Meet Jasper Philipsen, named "young Flandrien of the year" in 2014, winner of Askö Radjugendtour 2014, Belgian National Junior Champion in time trial in both 2015 & 2016. Winner of Guido Reybrouck Classic, Ster Van Zuid Limburg and E3 Harelbeke in 2016 .



Personally the first time when I head about Jasper Philipsen was at Askö Radjugendtour 2014 where you won three stages and general classification. How do you recall the race from almost two years perspective? 

Everybody included myself were wondering about my performance there. I never thought about winning when I went to there. I just wanted to test myself on the international level. And that ended in a big surprise.

From your earliest years you are racing with Acrog Balen BC team. Can you tell us more about the team and how does it fit for you? 

 I started there because of Tom Boonen who also rode there in his youth years. It was also not far from my home, and the management of young riders is good. And most of everything, the friendship that we have in the team is great. 

In 2015, despite being first year junior, you have managed to win national title in time trial and placed high in big classics like Paris Roubaix and Guido Reybrouck Classic. Do you have any regrets about last season ? And which result was the most important one ? 

Last year I was happy with my progress. Mostly in the time trials, in which I developed better than the year before. My time trial in Richmond where I ended 6th was my most important one. But I also had a few bad moments. Where I expected more from. But that's racing. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. That's good to keep me focused. 

 This year you won Guido Reybrouck Classic, E3 Harelbeke and Ster Van Zuid Limburg, which race was the hardest to win and why ? 

 The hardest races to win are the races that I've lost like Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, Paris Roubaix... ;-) The hardest was Guido Reybrouck Classic, a nice duel between Ethan Hayter and me. 

 In Paris Roubaix juniors where you finished 5th many considered you as the biggest favorite. Can you tell us more about who the race unfold ? Are you happy with the fifth place ? 

 The race stayed long closed. Only a lot of crashes was the subject for most of the race. I was involved twice, but without serious damage. It was Tanguy Turgis and me who turned up the race on the last five cobblestone sectors. Together with Andreas Kron we rode away on Carrefour de l'Arbre. I felt very strong and did a lot of work. But suddenly 10km before the velodrome my light went out. I overestimated myself. So after the finish I was very disappointed. But I learned a lot from the race. 

 What are your plans for the second part of the season ? I guess World Championships in Qatar are the biggest goal ? 

 Now I have still two goals for the next month. Belgian road championship and the Course de la Paix (we spoke at the beginning of May, before those events, Jasper won the time trial again and unfortunately crashed out of Course de la Paix - ed. Tom). Than I will take a brake till the end of July, to focus on my exams and build up for the second part of the season with the main goals: European and World Championships. 

 Who do you consider as your biggest rivals for the gold medal in Qatar ? 

 That's difficult to say. There are a lot of good riders in our age category. You've seen that last year in Richmond. There where three first years juniors on the podium. Also the route is going to be a crucial factor. Hopefully that the wind could play a role. 

 Strong on cobbles, very good in time trial and fast on the line, that's how many people sees you but I would like to ask you what do you see as your weakest point ? 

 I will never become a real climber. But I'm curious to see in which direction I will develop myself. At the moment I like to taste from all the parts of cycling and see which suits me the best. 

 In few months you will end your two years journey as a junior and move to u23 ranks. How do you see your 2017 season ? 

 There are a lot of changes that going to happen in 2017. First of all,  I have to find a team where I can develop myself. Then I will go to university so it's going to be a challenge to combine my studies with cycling. But there are a lot of riders, who proved that it's possible. I'm motivated and looking forward to it. 

 In future, do you see yourself as a cobbled specialists ? Or you would like to focus more on sprints and time trials ? 

That depends on how I will evolve. At the moment I love to ride the cobble classics. I always watched them on television. Those are in Belgium upward degree. 

 Every time when a young Belgian starts to shows sparks of talent, cycling fans and journalists starts to think about "the next Boonen". Do you feel the pressure being the next big hope for Belgium ? 

 No absolutely not! They aren't desperate in Belgium 😉. At the moment there are a lot of good young pro riders in Belgium. My way is still to long to look forward to be the 'next Boonen'. I have to prove a lot. But I will work hard for chasing my dream to become a professional rider.

Thanks Jasper!

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Evgeny Kazanov from Russia won the queen stage of Course de la Paix 2016 from Teplice to Altenberg. Vadim Pronskiy from Kazakhstan finished second while Jaka Promozic from Slovenia took third. Fourth today, Chris Blevins is the new race leader.

Kazanov wins solo (photo: Patress.cz)

Despite many attacks peleton stick together at the bottom of first of two ascents to Komáří Vížka. Kazanov was one of the first to attack and quickly gained a solid gap over shattered group. Behind the Russian group of ten riders formed with Blevins and Pedersen. Leader Brunel was 35" behind the chasers. On the descent two groups combined but Kazanov already had over 2:30 gap.

The final ascent was too hard for both Pedersen and Burnel as they struggled to keep the pace of group who was chasing Kazanov. Chris Blevins attacked after 1,5km of the climb and was joined by Primozic and Pronkisy. The trio worked well together but didn't manage to catch Kazanov who won the stage solo with 11" over Pronvisky and 13" on Primozic. Blevins was right behind them and thanks to attack on the first stage and TT he took the leaders jersey.

Blevins on his way to the yellow jersey (photo: patress.cz)

Alexys Brunel put a great effort but couldn't keep the pace with the best especially with his team struggling with injuries from previous stage. He finished 26th over five minutes down.


In general classification Blevins leads with 24" on Kazanov and 33" on Pronkiy and Primozic. Tomorrow riders face the final hilly stage around Terezin.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Iver Knotten from Norway won the stage 2A in Course de la Paix, time trial around Trebenice. Ilya Gorbushin from Kazakhstan finished second. Mikel Bjerg from Denmark completed the podium. Fifth in the time trial, Alexys Brunel is the new race leader.

Alexys Brunel on his road to the yellow jersey (photo: Patress.cz)
Alexys Brunel takes a yellow jersey after finished fifth in the time trial. Dane Rasmus Lund Pedersen was eleventh in the TT and dropped to the second place in GC, eight seconds behind the leader. Chris Blevins from USA sits third, 38 seconds back. Jury decided to modify results of the first stage. Peleton lost 1:18 instead of 18 seconds. The change have a big impact on the GC as now it will be much harder to beat Brunel and Pederesn in fight for the GC.
Stage 2a winner Iver Knotten (photo: Patress.cz)
Tadej Pogacar from Slovenia won the second stage of the day, 62,4km long around Roudnice nad Labem. Ludvik Holstad from Norway was second and Laurens Huys from Belgium finished third. The trio attacked in the final kilometers and managed to keep the small gap over the peleton. Alexys Brunel finished safely in the bunch and retains the yellow jersey before the queen stage tomorrow.

Tadej Pogacar sprints for the win (photo: patress.cz)
Alexys Brunel is ready to fight for the overall win:

"I'm very happy. Today was successful day, but I did not arrive at the Peace Race to taste the famous local cakes. My wish is to win it. Tomorrow will come the hills and for those I'm well prepared. Regardless of what our team suffered as unpleasant crashes, I want finish our goal and win the race on Sunday. Yes, every bruise cost us a lot of energy, but the Peace Race is for us a much bigger prize thanks to his peace mission so because of that we will fight until the end"

 Stage results

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Danish rider Rasmus Lund Pedersen won the opening stage of 45th Course de la Paix. His breakaway companion Alexys Brunel finished second. Jonas Rutsch from Germany finished third twelve seconds behind.

Pedersen beats Brunel on the line (photo: Patress.cz)

The stage started with an attack from Kazakh rider Ilya Gorbushin. He managed to gain over four minutes gap as no team wanted to take responsibility for a chase. Final on the climb Rasmus Lund and Alexys Brunel attacked on Mukařov climb and quickly bridged to Kazakh rider. Gorbushin wasn't able to keep the pace with two leaders and was dropped to the main group.

From the peleton four chasers tried to counter attack: Niels Eekhoff, Chris Blevins, Jonas Rutsch and Andrea Innocenti. On the descent there was a series of crashes, with Felix Gall being one of the affected riders, luckily without serious injuries. The four chasers finished just twelve seconds behind Pedersen and Brunel. According to US team the peleton came around 1:30 behind but because of another crash in the final three kilometers they were give just about the same time as chasers.

Podium after the first stage (photo: Patress.cz)
Here's what the stage winner said after the stage:

"It was a very difficult stage, but I wanted to try to attack and I am so happy because I avoid crashes in the final kilometers which involved some of my colleague. The race will continue tomorrow with the time trial. After that I'll know how far I can go in this race."

Results

1. Rasmus Lund Pedersen
2. Alexys Brunel
3. Jonas Rutsch +12
4. Nils Eekhoff +12
5. Chris Blevins +12

Full results

After exiting classics campaign the best riders in junior category now starts the second part of the season with one of the most important and prestigious races of the year, Course de la Paix.

The four day event which start on Thursday is usually considered as a Tour de France for juniors. First because of being part of Nations Cup which is a guarantee for strong international lineup. Second, because it's a difficult race with time trial, mountains, sprinters stages and uphill finishes. All what you really need for a proper stage race. Finally, the race has a long history and tradition, not only as junior event. The first junior race was held in 1965 and is running every year since 1974 with impressive list of previous winners like Cancellara, Kwiatkowski (twice), Kreuziger or Velits.

Final podium: Costa, McNulty, Ilichev (photo: Patress.cz)
 Last year, American team dominated the race scoring 1-2 in time trial, queen stage and GC. Brandon McNulty won the whole race surprising many as he didn't have any big results on European soil before. Adrien Costa confirmed his status as future GC contender, won the queen stage and finished second in time trial and general classification. Nikolai Ilichev from Russia completed the podium.

McNulty and Costa celebrates their impressive 1-2 in Zinnwald (photo: Patress.cz)
The four day event brings a traditional route which is pretty much the same as last year. On the first day riders will face 102,5 km long stage around Litomerice featuring two categorized climbs: Sedlo after 14.2 kilometers and Mukarov after 69.4 km. Last year, the stage was five kilometer shorter and in crash marred bunch sprint Russian track specialist Sergey Rostovcev won ahead of Bram Welten and McNulty.


On the second day riders will face two stages: morning time trial in Třebenice which is always a crucial event in terms of GC and hilly stage around Roudnice nad Labem with uphill finish in the afternoon. The morning time trial is usually around 11 kilometers long and run on the same course each year. In 2008 Michał Kwiatkowski was the first and only rider who managed to set time with average over 50 km/h. Last year Brandon McNulty was very close with a time 49,979 km/h

In the afternoon riders will ride a big loop around Roudnice nad Labem which is flat in comparison to the other stages with a total distance of 62,4 km. The last kilometers is slightly uphill, around 4% avg and may cause some splits in the main bunch. Aleksandr Kulikovskiy from Russia won last year. Peter Sagan won the same finish back in 2008.

Third day brings a queen stage of the race. Riders will start in Teplice and finish in German town Zinnwald facing two difficult ascents to Komáří Vížka and a total distance of 100 kilometers. The end of the second climb is around ten kilometers before the finish line. Last ten kilometers are slightly uphill with last 800m kicks harder again. Last year Adrien Costa caused big splits on the climb and still managed to hang on with the race leader, McNulty. The duo finished together aiming one of the greatest wins of the season.


The final stage from around Terezín is also a difficult one as riders will have to pass a GPM three times before heading back to Terezín for a flat finish. Last year the stage ended with a successful breakaway. Rasmus Lund won ahead of Vadim Pronskiy. Bunch sprint for the third place won Leo Appelt.


Favorites

This year we have a totally different situation in the favorites lists. The American team does not bring the last year winner Brandon McNulty (who will join the team for the next block of racing including Pays Vaud and Karlsberg). For me the leader should be Chris Blevins who showed his climbing abilities in Tour du Pays de Vaud last year working for Costa. Also, I would take a look at Cameron Beard as he had some impressive results in US domestic scene and lately has won a one day race in Nieuwerkerken.

Denmark had an impressive series of wins in GC here with four straight yellow jerseys between 2011 and 2014. Last year no one could compete with the duo from USA but as those guys are not here I would say Denmark should be back as top favorites for the overall win even tough there is Tour de Himmelfart held on the same time and some of the top juniors from Denmark starts there (like Johansen and Charmig). Rasmus Lund won the final stage last year and I think he could improve his tenth place in GC this time. If not, maybe Jakob Egholm who has recently won two events of Danish Cup for juniors will prove his level here and fight for the victory.

World Champion Felix Gall is also here. He was already 11th in GC last year and seventh on the queen stage and lately this year he did well already in Piccolo SanRemo where he finished sixth.

Dutch team can rely on Niels Eekhoff. Dutch rider recently finished second in Tour de l'Eure in France and did great in Roubaix earlier this year when finished second.Last year as a first year junior Eekhoff was very consistent in stage races and scored several top tens. This race could be his breakthrough and first big win.

Finally Tadej Pogacar, recently seventh in Piccolo SanRemo from Slovenia who finished seventh in GC last year could aim to improve his result.

Also watch out for Niklas Markl from Germany. First year junior could surprise many here. He can climb and time trial but now it's time for him to prove it in junior category.

Other notable starters: Alexys Brunel, Dinmukhammed Ulysbayev, Aynur Galeev, Jacob Eriksson, Jakub Otruba, Sedrik Ullebo

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Roadbook
Startlist

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

After over two months of action junior spring classics campaign has come to an end. Let's take a brief review of the five most important races and their winners. Below is the first part with a review of first two classics: Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne Juniors and Guido Reybrouck Classics.

Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne


Season opener, Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, was a strong indication of who will impress in the whole classics campaign. The 120km race included Oude Kwaremont for he first time and it was a crucial point of 2016 edition. The biggest favorites of the race: Alexys Brunel, Jasper Philipsen and Clement Betouigt Suire were part of the elite group formed after the Kwaremont. 

Hayter and Philipsen on attack on Oude Kwaremont (photo: ethanhayter Instagram)

Once the leaders were almost caught by 30 men peleton, six riders went clear again: Jarno Mobach, Mathieu Burgeaudeau, Clément Betouigt Suire, Jasper Philipsen, Etthan Hayter and Andreas Kron. This was the decisive move with just 17km from the finish. When everyone was already looking forward to another sprint duel between Philipsen and Suire, Ethan Hayter attacked with six kilometers to go and quickly gained a gap over the five chasers. The strongest guy of the day, Ethan Hayter from Great Britian Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne 2016 with 47 seconds over Betouigt Suire who managed to beat Philipsen on the line.

Ethan Hayter wins solo (photo: directvelo)


Ethan Hayter shared his feeling with Directvelo after the race

"It's fantastic, I really do not expect it. I was hoping to do a good race, but not to win! The day was really tiring, with a wind that was sweeping the roads. Especially after the Oude Kwaremont, when the race was shattered. At five or six kilometers to go, I decided to try my luck. The rest of the group hesitated a little, and then I continued my effort. I really thought to be gone too soon. But I could finally get my greatest victory, after failing to second place in the Junior Keizer last year. I hope now pick selections for the World Cup. Both on the track and on the road. "

Ethan Hayter surprised many but his win in Kuurne was just a start of his amazing (and unlucky in last part) classic campaign. Jasper Philipsen and Clement Betouigt Suire confirmed that they are not only the fastest guys in junior category but also impressive on cobbled classics.

Race podium: Suire, Hayter, Philipsen (photo: directvelo)
 Results

Guido Reybrouck Classic 

Few weeks later second important cobbled classic took part in Belgium, this time in Damme. Guido Reybrouck Classics was affected with strong winds which caused a lot of crashes and pretty defensive racing. Big group reached the local laps in Damme.

Riders going through the cobbled section (photo: Joeri De Connick)


Despite crashing on the first lap, Jasper Philipsen not only managed to came back to the peleton but also made a move with six other riders. finally, after several attacks group of just two riders went clear: Jasper Philipsen and Ethan Hayter. Philipsen was the first to attack and half a round later he was joined by Hayter. The duo worked well together and it was clear that one of them will be the winner. Hayter tried to attack with three kilometers to go but Philipsen managed to respond. On the finish line Belgian rider was faster and won the race. Tristan Five won the bunch sprint from the peleton ahead of his team mate Jordi Meeus. Impressive ride by whole Acrog Balen BC team, three riders in top 4.

Jasper Philipsen spints to the win (photo: Joeri De Connick)


After the race winner shared his thoughts with cyclingsite.be:


"At the start of the race was quite hectic. Because of that, there were many crashes and punctures. It took a relatively long time for the race to be splitted. There were several strong attacks but it was hard to force something as the wind was blowing. So we came to the local rounds with an almost compact peloton. The first local round I've fallen through my own fault because I wanted to take a water bottle from another team and so on the wet cobblestones The crash gave me an extra adrenaline and I made a move with six riders and managed to broke alone. Half round later I was joined by Ethan Hayter and we were able work well together. I relied on my sprint and proved that it was the right choice "

I have asked  Ethan Hayter to share his thoughts on the race:


"I didn't have good legs at the start. The race also started with very fast pace which obviously didn't help! I stayed in the group for a long time and then started getting involved. I followed and bridged to a couple a moves but they didn't stick. Then there was a group of six of us but they weren't strong enough and after some attacking it ended up me and Jasper away. I then attacked him later with 3k to go when he didn't expect it, but he was strong enough to close the gap. It came down to the sprint and I wanted to close him but left too much space and chose too big a gear, and he got the jump and that was it. Happy with my second place."

Podium: Hayter, Philipsen, Five (photo: Joeri De Connick)
 Results


 

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)
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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.

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