Thursday, 25 May 2017

After an exciting editions of Course de la Paix and Trophee Centre Morbihan, we are heading to Switzerland for Tour du Pays de Vaud, race made for climbers.

Tour du Pays de Vaud first edition was held in 1967, won by Arthur Dahinden. On the list of previous winners we may find quite a long list of current pro's including Michael Schar, Ian Stannard, Chris Juul-Jensen or Moreno Moser. In recent years, US juniors has a quite impressive winning streak with four consecutive wins between 2012 and 2015. Adrien Costa who won in 2014 and 2015 is one of two riders in race history who managed to win twice. Second one was Italian Stefano Bertolini in late 1980s. Last year, Marc Hirschi didn't win a single stage but was up there with the best on all stages and was a part of crucial attack on day two which gave him overall win ahead of Kazakh Dinmukhammed Ulysbayev and world champion, Felix Gall from Austria.

2016 race podium (photo tpv.ch)
 Route

This years route is definitely one for climbers, especially with two hard stages on third day which should be decisive in terms of GC. The race starts as usual with a late evening short prologue which should create first gaps in GC as we have a short hill in the first part of 3,5km long time trial in Montricher.

On the second day of racing riders will face 113km long stage between Concise and Cottens with three categorised climbs. The last and longest climb, Dizy (5,7km) is 20km from the finish and it should be a good opportunity to attack.



The third day of racing is a crucial one with two road stages with uphill finishes in Saint‐Cergue. The morning 65km long stage 2A starts in Ballens. After 25km of racing riders will face first long ascent, Le Saugex, which is 8km long. Once over the top, we have twenty kilometres of hilly terrain before a descent to Saint‐Cergue where we start 10,7km long climb to the finish. If we have a big group together at the bottom, the strongest climber should win it.

The evening stage is a typical "course de côte" stage which is a basically short road stage going uphill to Saint‐Cergue once again. We start in Nyon and after 10 kilometres of flat riders will face the well known climb from the morning stage. Will be interesting to compare these two stages results as we climb the same mountain twice on the same day but on two different stages.



The last stage from Gollion to Vullierens is 90km long with two categorized climbs in the middle (Mont d’Orzeires & Col du Mollendruz) and lots of smaller hills through the whole stage. With GC pretty much set up after stages 2A & 2B we can expect plenty of attacks and the winner could come from a breakaway.

Favorites: 

Switzerland might find it hard to defend last year title but Valère Thiebaud, winner of Tour du Leman, should lead Swiss team in their home race.

Danish team is strong as always and I think it's worth to keep an eye on Mattias Skjelmose, who crashed on first stage in Course de la Paix and couldn't show his full potential. Jakob Hindsgaul was on GC podium in Course de la Paix heading to final stage where he crashed too so with more luck he might be one of the favorites in Tour du Pays de Vaud.

Matteo Jorgenson who finished second in two stage races in USA, Valley of the Sun and San Dimas Stage Race, should lead US team together with Ruben Saatjian who won San Dimas Stage Race and Subaru Sea Otter Classic.

With amount of climb we face in 2017 edition, Karel Vacek has to be one of the favourites to win the race. First year junior from Czech Republic showed his climbing skills with impressive solo win in queen stage of Course de la Paix. Just a few days ago he added another win in Trofeo Enzo Magliore in Italy thanks to his climbing skills.

Norway arrives with a very strong team which includes Course de la Paix winner, Idar Andersen and one of the best time trialist in junior category for now, Andreas Leknessund who finished second in both Course de la Paix and Trophée Centre Morbihan. He has also won time trials in both races. Favorite for the prologue.

Other names to watch: Thibaut Ponsaerts, Jacob Eriksson, Ken Conter, Fabio Mazzuco, Igor Chzhan, Theo Nonnez.

Website
Startlist
Roadbook

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

After an exciting classics campaign top riders in junior category now starts the second part of the season with one of the most important and prestigious stage races of the year,  Závod míru juniorů aka 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 of a strong international lineup. Second, because it's a difficult race with time trial, mountains, sprint 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 a 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 Peter Velits. Most recently, after four consecutive wins by Denmark, American juniors won it twice: Brandon McNulty (2015) and Chris Blevins (2016).

Last year, Blevins managed to win the race without winning a single stage but he was a part of crucial move on first one and finished fourth on the queen stage which gave him an overall win. Blevins is currently racing for Axeon Hagens Berman team.

Chris Blevins receiving his yellow jersey (photo: Patress.cz)

Route

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 crucial in terms of GC as the strong riders went away a lots of pre race favorites lost over a minute.

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 speed over 50 km/h. Two years ago,  Brandon McNulty was very close with a average speed of 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. Tadej Pogacar from Slovenia 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 Evgenii Kazanov won the stage with Chris Blevins finishing fourth and taking the yellow jersey. Big gaps were made on the first climb already.


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 reduced bunch sprint and Nils Eekhoff was the fastest on the line.


Favorites

The list of favorites starts from US team as usual. This time I would say they have a strong, aligned team capable of winning the overall once again. Camden Vodicka might be the first option. Racing for the same team as McNulty last year, Vodicka won Valley of the Sun Stage Race earlier this year thanks to a win in time trial. Cole Davis and Conor Schunk are other possible protagonists, both with solid results in US domestic races this year. All three, together with Bjorn Larson were a part of impressive show of strength in Molenstede, Belgium where US team grabbed 1st 3rd, 4th and 5th dropping everyone bad Bjron Vandebeek from Acrong Balen team.

Denmark had an impressive series of wins in GC here with four straight yellow jerseys between 2011 and 2014 and I believe they have a team that can aim an overall win, especially with a duo from Team Børkop Cykler – Carl Ras Roskilde, Mathias Larsen, third in Paris Roubaix recently and Mattias Skjelmose who is yet to prove his level on international scene but had some nice results in Denmark this year and several wins last year as an u17 rider.

Italy brings a very strong team with Samuele Manfredi, one of the favorites for the overall. Manfredi was impressive in u17 category on national scene winning impressive amount of races in last two years. His transition to junior category went better then anyone could expect as Manfredi already had three wins and fourth place in Trofeo Loano (first behind three escapees). He's yet to prove his level in race like Course de la Paix but I strongly believe he may aim for overall win here. Filippo Zana, recent winner of Piccolo SanRemo, might be another strong contender while Davide Ferrari can aim for a stage victory on sprint stages

Dutch team can rely on Maikel Zijlaard, winner of Ronde Van Vlaandren, who was also a protagonist in almost every one day race on international level he entered this year while Belgium favorite for GC should be Sebastien Grignard, recently crowned national champion in TT who had a very consistent classics campaign this year.

Czech Republic may surprise many this year with strong team including Richard Holec who is racing in USA with LUX Dev team ut already managed to gain seventh place in Paris Roubaix this year and can aim for a strong ride in TT. Karel Vacek is another prospect who impressed in u17 category last year winning smaller races in several countries and also Course de la Paix for cadets, called GP Matousek.

Other names to watch: Nik Cemezar, Jeremy Montauban, Igor Chzhan, Andreas Leknessund, Jacob Erkisson.

Website
Roadbook
Startlist