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