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.

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1 comment :

  1. My husband is a big fan of cycling race, he bought a bike 3 years ago and had been really serious about it and planning to join a race.

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