Monday, 10 October 2016

Doha, Qatar. Not an ideal place for World Champs, probably you won't deny it. The most important race of the year for juniors are probably gonna held with no spectators which is sad thing. But despite of that I'm still excited to see all the top guys racing against each other once a year. And I'm sure I'm not the only one.

History 

Junior TT World Champs was first run in 1994 when Dean Rogers from Australia won the gold medal in Agrigento. Historically, Germany is the most successive country with six gold medals including two from Marcel Kittel and two in the latest editions with Lennard Kamna winning in 2015 and Leo Appelt in 2016 beating two Americans: Adrien Costa and Brandon McNulty. Apart from Kittel, only two other riders managed to win the gold twice: Fabian Cancellara and Mikhail Ignatiev.
Despite their famous dominance in junior ranks, Denmark have won the gold only once. Mads Würtz Schmidt was the winner is his home race in Copenhagen. In Richmond last year, Leo Appelt put a tremendous ride and set the time that would give him fourth spot in espoirs race. Not bad for a junior.

Route


 Junior time trial, and road race, is going to be held entirely on The Pearl Island. Riders will tackle two loops or nearly 15km circuit which gives a total distance of 28,9 kilometers. You can watch the video recon of the circuit here. Racing on the artificial island means that wind won't affect riders as much as it would if they went through desert as elite riders will. On the other hand, as you could easily spot in u23 TT, the wind can change during the day and early starters might have an advantage. It's not hard to notice that there is crazy amount of roundabouts on the circuit but they shouldn't be a big problem during the time trial. And of course the route is flat, dead flat. The last few hundred meters are uphill but it's less then 1% so riders won't even notice it.

It doesn't mean there are no difficulties at all. Billy Innes, sports director of US National Junior Program shared with me some thoughts about the route: "The course is technical enough that good handling skills will be a plus, but not so crucial. Depending on the how the wind is on race day and how it's channeling through the buildings, that could be a challenge for the later wave of riders. 

He also believes that temperature will be the biggest factor. "It's hot. Very hot in Doha. Managing body temperature will be the most important tactic. If you go out too hard and get too close to the red line then it will be difficult to maintain the pace over the entire distance."

Brandon McNulty, bronze medalist from Richmond and one of the biggest favorites for gold in time trial shares his opinion:  "For both the time trial and road race I think the heat will really play a factor. Everyone reacts differently to heat so the road race may turn into a battle of attrition. Really anything can happen, especially in junior racing" 

Inigo Elosegui, strong rouleur from Basque Country who will ride for Fundacion Eusakdi next year also believes that heat will be more crucial then the wind:  "The course is completely flat, and maybe the wind will not be as decisive as I thought. Of course it will be important to control it, but for example today we have ride in the course and then in the dessert and the course was clearly more covered of wind. There also are many roundabouts that will make the circuit more technical than previously thought, despite it is a circuit with good roads in which you can push hard the pedals. But in my opinion the main problem will be the hot and the dehydration, so more than any other thing it will be essential to drink a lot of water the previous day" 


Favorites 

To be honest I expect pretty unpredictable race. I think there were not many people who picked Marco Mathis as a favorite for u23 race. The wind direction and heat maybe shake the favorites list but that's cycling and you can't be sure how the conditions will affect the race. So my list of favorites is based on the assumption that everyone has pretty similar conditions and the temperature won't affect them that much.

Can't start the list of favorites with any other rider then last year bronze medalist, Brandon McNulty. Young American was already a favorite last year, together with Adrien Costa. McNulty, despite racing a lot on US domestic scene for his Lux Development Team has managed to win three important time trials in junior events. In May he has won Tour du Pays de Vaud TT beating two strong Swiss riders: Stefan Bissegger and Marc Hirschi. Then, less then a month later he won TT and GC during Trofeo Karlsberg putting almost 50 second on second Ethan Hayter and over a minute on third Ian Garrison, his team mate from US team. Brandon is of course current national champion in time trial. With no surprises and no wind change, McNulty is the main favorite for gold.

Both Swiss riders Marc Hirschi and Stefan Bissegger are main opponents for McNulty. Hirschi, current vice European champion in time trial would probably prefer much harder course but with his current shape and all impressive results in TT this year you can't rule him out. Hirschi won time trial during GP Rüebliland Juniors where he has beaten some of his main opponents for tomorrow: Mobach, Philipsen, Bissegger and Eekhoff. He's also current national champion. Also it's worth to notice that Hirschi is one of the riders who decided to start early tomorrow. He will begin his TT effort over two hours before McNulty. He may benefit if the wind will change later on.

Bissegger, current World Champion in the individual pursuit on track, will start his effort as one of the last riders and the course should suit him perfectly. On the hilly course in Plumelec he was fourth and he's the only guy who has managed to beat McNulty this year on European soil as Bissegger won the prologue during Tour du Pays de Vaud. Last year Appelt managed to combine IP on track with TT during the Worlds perfectly and won gold medal and rainbow jersey in both competitions, Bissegger, who has beaten world junior record in IP, can follow his path.

Alexys Brunel, current European Champion in time trial is another strong contender. Same as Hirschi, I believe Brunel would prefer harder and hillier course but on a good day he may fight for a medal. Also, French team has another interesting rider for tomorrow, Florentin Lecamus. He will be one of the first riders to start and it could be one of his benefits. Lecamus is tall, strong rider so dead flat road and windy conditions in Qatar should suit him perfectly.

Iver Knotten from Norway is another strong contender. Knotten, current national champion in TT, has won three important time trials during this season, two of them were part of Nations Cup events against very strong field. First in May he won TT during Course de la Paix beating guys like Brunel, Primozic and Bjerg. Later that month he won again during Trophée Centre Morbihan beating Kazakh Gorbushin once again but also Flicke and Bjerg who are going to be his opponents tomorrow. Just a month ago in Plumelec he finished third in time trial and won bronze medal.

Apart from McNulty, the highest placed rider in Richmond who's going to start tomorrow is Jasper Philipsen, sixth last year.  Future classic contender is also a great rider in TT. I think the main goal for Philipsen is going to be the road race on Friday where he can sprint for gold but I think good result tomorrow would give him confidence before the road race. Current Belgian champion in one of my favorites for tomorrow.

Finally, I have to mention the Germans, especially after what they did today in u23 TT. As I mentioned at the start, Germany has one no less then six gold medals in junior time trial. I doubt they have such strong contender for tomorrow as they did in previous years but I think Bastian Flicke, bronze medalist in IP on track and also won TT during Cottbuser Etappenfahrt while doing OK in every other TT he did this year in the biggest junior races. If he prepared especially for tomorrows effort I believe he may surprise many.

I have asked Billy Innes about the favorites for tomorrow: "I'm always worried about the Germans after getting beaten by them two years in a row and of course Hirschi and Bissenger from Switzerland, Brunel from France and Knotten from Norway are all excellent riders and major threats to McNulty and Garrison." 

Inigo Elosegui shared his opinion:  "In my opinion the main contender for the gold medal will be Brandon McNulty, as he has prove in the last to years how strong he is in time trials, but we can´t forget riders like Brunel, Knotten or Bisseger, that have proved to be in a really good shape and they have a course for pure time trialists. But, despite the circuit doesn´t suits him, I can´t forget about Marc Hirschi, that is very strong in all terrains and it is a good contender for the medals, same as Phillipsen who will surely will want to improve his last year´s result. 

Other names to watch:  Mikel Bjerg, Julius Johansen, Ian Garrison, Jarno Mobach, Jaka Primozic, Nils Eekhoff, Andreas Laknessund.

Startlist
Web
Live timing

As the race is going to have live coverage tomorrow don't forget to check my twitter tomorrow for some live tweets.

3 comments :

  1. Thanks for the preview mate. Quality stuff again <o/

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks very much indeed. I hope Harry Sweeny will prove tomorrow he should've been named as well.

    ReplyDelete