Saturday, August 16, 2014

GP Capodarco: Power goes 3 of 3

For those that are going to be lining up at the Tour de l'Avenir, they are going to have their eyes fixed on the white, green and yellow kit of first year U23 Robert Power. Someone is going to have to come out of left field because just looking at the last couple of weeks, Power has been putting out some serious powwwwaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh.



Sorry. Moving on. Today was the GP Capodarco, one of the best Italian amateur races of the year and seemingly always a great race. The race dates back to the 1970s as has a list of winners that includes Davide Bramati (OPQS director), Wladimir Belli, Fabio Casartelli, Moises Aldape, Marco Bandiera (Lampre), Peter Kennaugh (SKY), Enrico Battaglin (Bardiani), Matteo Cattaneo (Lampre) and Gianfranco Zilioli (Androni). The course itself those is the big draw, at least for me. Going through the old town of Capodarco, a hamlet of Fermo just minutes from the Adriatic coast in Marche, the race takes in a brutal ramp right before the finish line. With an old finishing town, a very steep wall and rural charm, it ticks all the boxes for a great Italian one-day. In that regard, it is very similar to the GP San Giuseppe, which is also in Marche.

The 180 kilometer race started off quickly with a few breakaways trying to get away before ascending the Capodarco "wall" for the first for 8 times. A breakaway of 5 got away and on the first wall, a group bridged up to them including Alessandro Tonelli (Zalf) and Pan-Am Champion Fernando Gaviria (Colombia). The breakaway was kept in close check and riders were coming to and fro but after 80 kilometers, everything was back together. A breakaway with more firepower was soon established and included Tonelli and teammate Gianni Moscon, Giulio Ciccone (Colpack), Andrea Vaccher (Marchiol) and 3 Colombians including Gaviria. A few more riders bridged including Diego Brasi (Pala Fenice) bridged and the 17 rider breakaway was finally pulling some time out of the Australian National Team-led peloton.

The group served as a carrot for the Australians, who were one of just a few team that missed the breakaway. The gap hovered around 1'30" for most of the time while there was a chase group of 6 with Giacomo Berlato (Zalf) and Davide Orrico (Colpack) dangled in between. Once the race hit 2 laps to go (roughly 30 kilometers), the heat was on. The breakaway, now just 14 men, only had 30 seconds but by the time they hit the wall for the 2nd to last time, the breakaway imploded and the remnants of the breakaway were joined by pair of green and yellow streaks..

After the penultimate trip up the wall, a group of 8 leaders had formed. Jack Haig and Robert Power (Australia) had bridged up to Tonelli, Moscon, Ciccone, Vaccher, Moreno Giampaolo (Vega-Hot Sand) and Albanian Karmelo Halilaj (Team Named). During the final lap, the group kept a very slim lead on the chasing group. On the climb up to the wall, Jack Haig just started to drill it for Power. The breakaway proceeded to come to piece with Moscon being the only one to keep on terms with the two Australians at the base of the wall.

Once Haig pulled off, Power turned on the jets. Moscon held on for the first few millimeters before Power just flew away up the cobbled climb, dancing on the pedals while his upper body rocked to try and get as much power through to the wheels. Once the climb leveled onto the final straight, Power  hit the afterburners. In Capodarco tradition, Power raised his hands in victory and confetti was shot off and rained down on the young Australian.

Get used to this pose because it could be happening for a long time coming.
Photo: Italiaciclismo
Gianni Moscon, who put up a valiant effort after being in the day long breakaway, came in 8 seconds down in second while Moreno Giampaolo finished strong in 3rd ahead of Haig, Ciccone and Gennaro Giustino.

I don't know of a more fitting surname for an explosive rider than Power but for the 3rd time in 10 days, Robert Power put on a display of force that many others, pro or amateur, wouldn't be able to match. He showed his short-term power with explosive efforts in both Briga Novarese and here in Capodarco but showed off his breakaway power with his 30km solo effort at Poggiana. Those that have to go against Power at l'Avenir, you have been warned. Take a deep breath and prepare for a searing sensation across your body that may last for many hours.

Results - GP Capodarco
  1. Robert Power (Australia)
  2. Gianni Moscon (Zalf-Euromobil) +8"
  3. Moreno Giampaolo (Vega-Hot Sand) +13"
  4. Jack Haig (Australia)
  5. Giulio Ciccone (Colpack)
  6. Gennaro Giustino (Delio Gallino Colosio Eurofeed)
  7. Emanuel Buchmann (Germany) +28"
  8. Alessandro Tonelli (Zalf-Euromobil) +32"
  9. Andrea Vaccher (Marchiol)
  10. Marco Bernardinetti (Malmantile)

Friday, August 15, 2014

51st Tour de l'Avenir Preview

Wait...this shouldn't be happening this early. There is no way that we are just days away from the granddaddy of them all...well in terms of U23 stage racing anyways. The Tour de l'Avenir kicks off in just 9 days...9. Maybe because I'm spending my time just doing a job to get by instead of doing something I really love, time just seems to slip by like a blur. Or maybe it is my age. Or maybe I'm going a little bit into my personal issues. Stepping out of my mind and back to the racing, let us look at the Tour de l'Avenir course and see what these kids will be racing on.

Prologue - Saint-Flour - 4.45 km

Picturesque Saint-Flour
(Photo:WikiCommons)
The race kicks off on August the 23rd in Saint-Flour, a small city in the Cantal department of Auvergne in southwestern France. Not much in Saint-Flour except for very nice cityscape and a cathedral that contains a black Jesus.

The prologue itself is just under 4.5 kilometers and features a nice rise that the race has categorized as a cat. 4 climb. It definitely won't be a prologue for only the specialists and GC riders will need to be on their toes so they either gain some advantage or don't lose time like water through a colander.

Stage 1 - Saint-Flour to Brioude - 144.6 km

This is a stupid stage. Stupid. Who in their right mind would be like, "Yes, let's put 5 climbs in the first half of the stage and then have a long downhill followed by 50 kilometers of flat terrain to finish the stage off. This is going to be great racing!"

Now the last 50 kilometers are filled with some of those small, sharp rises that can definitely sting the legs a bit but should be any issue. Still though, it would be nice if they could spread the climbs out a bit. In the first 33 kilometers, the race goes over 3 categorized climbs. Now, I can imagine that a breakaway might form early, especially those interested in the KOM classification, and get away to allow the pack to get off to an easier start. Or there could be a team that drills it from the beginning over the climbs in the attempt to shed some sprinters.

5 climbs in the first 63 kilometers sounds awesome but right after that, there is a downhill that gradually descends for the next 30 kilometers excluding a plateau section of about 5 or so kilometers. Once the descent is over, the chase will be on. 50 kilometers of flat to sorta flat terrain that finishes with 3 finishing circuits in Brioude.

Saint Julien Bascilica; largest Christian church in the region
Photo: WikiCommons
Brioude is situated in the Haute-Loire department of Auvergne and is famous (I guess) for having the largest Christian church in all of Auvergne. Also, the hometown of Romain Bardet.

Stage 2 - Brioude to Saint-Galmier - 142.6 km

This is looking to be a cracker of a stage with 3 categorized climbs as well as a few uncategorized kickers that will certainly break things up in the finale as well as a slightly uphill finish. It is going to be gooooood.

There is 6 kilometers of neutral before the race goes uphill for the next 40 kilometers to the Cote de la Chaise-Dieu. Nothing too steep but just a consistent drag up to the summit at 1045 meters. Then the race takes on a saw-tooth profile; up and down, up and down. The race takes a sharp descent before going right back uphill on the Cote de Medeyrolles, a category 2 climb. Another descent leads them into the rolling lunch for the day before another short but steep climb, the Cote de la Chaulme, before descending into the valley to Saint-Galmier. The race calms a bit before hitting an uncategorized climb on the Saint-Galmier city circuit. This is followed by a descent that leads into a little kicker to the finish line, which will most likely suit a small breakaway or some punchy sprinters like Luka Pibernik, Silvio Herklotz or about half of the Australian team.

Stage 3 - Montrond-les-Bains to Paray-le-Monial - 150.7 km

This is the best opportunity for the sprinters to get a clean bunch gallop before the major hills begin. Beginning from the small town of Montrond-les-Bains in the Rhone-Alpes region, the race heads due north  to Paray-le-Monial. The is only one small bump along the way, a cat 4 climb that is just a kilometer and a half long. Expect a breakaway to get away for a long time before being caught headed into the finale. The peloton must beware though. With small teams, they must be on their toes and not let a dangerous breakaway get up the road because the long ride might lull the chase to sleep for a bit too long.

The Tour de l'Basilica continues with this one from Paray-le-Monial
The Sacre-Coeur (Sacred Heart) was built as a replica of the famed Cluny Abbey, whose monks were the lords of
Paray-le-Monial at the time. Photo:WikiCommons

Stage 4 - Saint Vulbas to Plateau de Solaison - 165.3 km

Finally...the mountains. Everyone better be ready because shit is going to get very hard quite soon. Departing from Saint Vulbas' not very exclusive International Meeting Centre, the race goes takes it easy for the first half of the race, only going up the cat. 4 Cote de Premeyzel. The race gradually takes in a few more hills including the 4-kilometer Cote de Cruseilles. Of course, these are just appetizers for the main event, the climb up to the Plateau de Solaison.

So majestic. Ram on the Plateau de Solaison
Photo: WikiCommons
The climb is nearly 11 kilometers long and while it technically the summit is a bit further up the climb, the race will take in the majority of the climb. The hardest section is the beginning with the first 5 kilometers of the climb proper averaging 10 percent. The climb levels off slightly but it is still pushing 8 percent. It is a tough climb that is pretty relentless but it is fairly steady so if you are able to get a rhythm then you might be able to do alright. Read the great Cycling Challenge blog by Will, who is a) a great guy and b)  doing his best to impersonate a tiny French climber, for more info and pictures on the Solaison climb.

In any case, the racers better be on their toes so there is not another situation like last year, i.e. Ruben Fernandez, where a rider sneaks away on the first mountain stage, takes advantage of other riders looking at one another and takes a stranglehold on the overall GC.

Stage 5 - Bons-en-Chablais to Les Carroz d'Araches - 101.6 km

After the slog up to Plateau de Solaison, the race will be going with the shorter but faster approach. Only 102 kilometers in length, the course is lumpy and features 2 categorized climbs including the cat. 2 Col de Saxel and the mountain top finish on Les Carroz-d'Araches, which is considered a cat. 1 climb.

The Col de Saxel isn't very tough at all at under 5% average for the duration of the climb. Following the descent, the race goes over some bumpy stuff on the way to the Les Carroz-d'Araches climb. It is a two-part climb with the first part going uphill for about 6.5 kilometers before leveling out. The next part kicks up again at Araches La Frasse, where it goes uphill for the next 3.3 kilometers at about 5.5% to the village of Les Carroz. Should be a nice romp in mountains but won't kill the legs with anything too steep.

------

The next two days are just 200 kilometers combined but they will be the crux of the Tour de l'Avenir. They feature 6 category 1 or hors category climbs and include climbs like La Toussuire, le Col de la Croix de Fer and the Cormet de Roselend. It is going to be some explosive stages, that is for certain.

Stage 6 - Saint-Gervais to La Rosiere-Montvalezan - 108.4 kilometers

Leaving the town of Saint (Ricky) Gervais, the race goes up a slight 3 percent grade for the first 10 kilometers to the hamlet of Megeve before heading downhill to the base of the first big climb, the Col de Saisies. The Saisies (profile) is around 14 kilometers in length and while the average is only 5%, the gradient does fluctuate and has ramps that hit 10% in spots.

Following a long descent down to Beaufort, the race goes up the Cormet de Roselend, a hors (beyond) category climb that is a certainly a drag at 20.3 kilometers and a 6% average. Just like the Saisies, the Roselend does tend to jump around with gradients with spots that go up to 10% while others are a pedestrian 5%. The race says that the Roselend tops out at 1915 meters but the climb proper goes up to 1967m so the race will pass somewhere between there.

What comes after a 20km long ascent? Of course. A 20 kilometer long descent. The riders plunge back down into the valley to the hamlet of Bourg-Saint-Maurice and almost immediately start going back up to the summit finish at Montvalezan. The finishing climb is over 15.6 kilometers in length and is hard in the middle and easier on both ends. The middle kilometers reach averages over 9% in gradient while the climb finishes with kilometers between 4 and 6%.

To review, that is a total of roughly 50 kilometers of climbing in 108 kilometers. And there is still one stage to go...

Stage 7 - Saint-Michel de Maurienne to La Toussuire - 95.1 kilometers

This is it. There is no turning back. It has been a long week and there is just one more test. 3 big ass climbs with a finish that gives the best pros a run for their money. Many will have such wooden legs that they will need to get an ax and splitter to be able to coax their legs to get onto their bikes.

The organizers added 11 kilometers of neutral to the stage to be able to let the riders get a little warm up because once the flag drops, the racing will be going balls out.

Let's go back to Will at Cycling Challenge to give us a look at Col du Mollard and the Col de la Croix de Fer. You can clump the climbs together and create a beast with two summits over 40 kilometers in length. The climbs gain 2067 meters and both have some pretty steep bits with the Croix de Fer hitting some averages near 9% late on the climb. Ouch.

After another half hour worth of descending, the racers will hit their final challenge of the race. The hors categorie La Toussuire. La Toussuire, used twice in the Tour de France, is 19 kilometers in length and has 1145 meters in elevation gain. The elevation gain is fairly steady and at this point, it will be a test who hasn't cracked yet. With 60 kilometers of climbing on tap and over 3000 meters of climbing on top of 7 stages from the week prior, any GC rider will be on call.

-----

Well there you have it. The 8 days of the Tour de l'Avenir. I must say, this is one of the most impressive editions of the race in recent years and it is great to see it back to form.

Here is the link to all of the stage profiles for the Tour de l'Avenir from their official website.

The teams for the 51st Tour de l'Avenir include:

France (Chetout, Latour, Maison, Martin, Jauregui and Gouault)
Switzerland (Bohli, Chavanne, Kung, Spengler, Schir, Leinhard)
Belgium
Denmark (A. Kragh, S. Kragh, Cort, Carbel, Wurtz, M. Pedersen)
Norway (Eiking, Skjerping, Bystrom, Svendsen, Lunke, Roinas)
Netherlands (Teunissen)
Russia
Kazakhstan
Austria
Great Britain (Doull, Dibben, D. Pearson)
Italy
Spain (M. Gonzalez, O. Gonzalez, Iturria, Aristi, Roson, Soler)
USA (Eisenhart, Perrin, Owen)
Luxembourg (Kirsch)
Colombia (C. Ramirez, M.A. Lopez, Rozo, Contreras, Gaviria, B. Ramirez)
Germany (Schachmann, Buchmann, Herklotz, J. Koch, Plarre, Vogt)
Australia (Haig, Power, Ewan)
Portugal (J. Silva, Ribeiro, Matos, Ferreira, Reis, Magalhaes)
Slovenia
Poland (Kasperkiewicz)
UCI Mixed Team

Full roster on the Tour de l'Avenir website. Now time to work out the favorites...

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

World Championship Qualifying

So it is a bit early to be talking about the World Championships but the deadline for the UCI points that go towards the number of riders a country can select for the U23 World RR Championships is on August 15th. While every member nation can send a maximum of 2 riders to the individual time trial, there is a whole points system for how many riders can be sent for the U23 RR, which is detailed here by the lovely people at the UCI.

Below, I have broken down the countries that would qualify riders under the current UCI rankings that date back to July 25th. These are not final by any means and could change a little bit before the final rankings in a few days time.

Africa

5 riders- Eritrea (possible +1)
4 riders- South Africa
3 riders- Morocco, Algeria, Rwanda

America

6 riders- Colombia (+1 for Pan Am)
5 riders- Costa Rica, USA
4 riders- Guatemala, Chile, Venezuela
3 riders- Brazil, Mexico, Jamaica, Puerto Rico/Ecuador (tied for 10th...not sure of any tiebreaker)

Asia

6 riders-  Kazakhstan (+1 for Asian Champs)
5 riders- Malaysia
4 riders- Iran, Macau
3 riders-Hong Kong, South Korea, India

Oceania

5 riders - Australia (possible +1)
3 riders - New Zealand

Europe

6 riders- Switzerland (+1 for European Champs)
5 riders- Denmark, Netherlands, France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Norway, GB, Austria, Russia, Romania, Turkey, Slovenia, Spain, Poland
4 riders- Portugal, Georgia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Albania, Slovakia
3 riders- Latvia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Belarus, Ireland, Serbia, Finland, Luxembourg

Also included (and not included yet) in those rankings were some countries that received a bonus rider as well as others that automatically qualified due to scoring Nations Cup points. A country can field a maximum of 6 riders in the U23 RR.

The bonuses or automatic qualifiers include:

-A nation finishing top 5 in the UCI Nations Cup Ranking. Currently, those nations are France, Switzerland, Belgium, Denmark and Norway. All of these countries would receive an additional rider unless they are already at their maximum of 6. These rankings will not be final until the end of the month when the Tour de l'Avenir is over.

-If a nation is not qualified through UCI but they have scored Nations Cup points, then they are eligible to put 3 riders (out of 6 picked) in the U23 RR. Currently, this applies to Finland and Luxembourg. Both scored UCI Nations Cup points thanks to Alex Kirsch (U23 Ronde) and Matti Manninen (European Championships). Luxembourg is currently tied in 27th in the European rankings with Serbia but will get 3 riders in any case. Finland got lucky with a Manninen qualifying them because they don't have a deep talent case.

-If you have the outgoing Continental Champion, then you get an additional place on the team. The three continental championships on the Nations Cup Calendar are European, Pan-Am and Asian. The three countries that would get an additional rider include Switzerland (K√ľng), Kazakhstan (Galayev) and Colombia (Gaviria). Now, I am not certain if this includes Africa and Oceania because they happen off-season but if they do, it would cover Eritrea and Australia.

-The organizers nation gets an automatic 5 starters. So Spain, you might be lackluster in your economics but you are getting a little boost here. Now let's see if you can do much with that gift.

Another facts is that these countries *MAY* start these number of riders. Even though Finland got three starters for the U23 RR, they may only end up sending one. Macau, Georgia and Guatemala sending four riders? I somehow doubt that will happen. You might see some countries just sending a single rider. In any case, the official stuff will be out in a couple of days and then I can really begin my speculation.

**Some countries on the outside looking in for the RR include Ukraine, Sweden, Czech Republic, the three Baltics, Argentina and Canada, among others.

**EDIT: As of 8/15, these rankings are now official. The only way that countries can gain any additional riders or still qualify for the World Championships are by being in the top 5 of the Nations Cup ranking (gain 1 additional rider) or scoring any points in the Nations Cup. Really, the only countries that the latter could apply to are perhaps some of the rider's nations on the UCI Mixed Team.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Simone Andreetta and Alessandro Tonelli sign with Bardiani-CSF for 2015

Rekindling an old flame, Italian Pro Continental team Bardiani-CSF have announced the signings of Simone Andreetta and Alessandro Tonelli, both of Zalf-Euromobil-Fior, for 2015 on two-year neo-pro contracts. The move isn't surprising because of the riders they signed but because these two are the 6th neo-pros that Bardiani-CSF have announced from 2015. Now there are ways for circumventing paying them the neo-pro minimum through personal sponsors and whatnot but that is a lot of new blood to take on for one year.

Prior to these signings, the team has already signed Luca and Simone Sterbini (Pala Fenice), Paolo Simion (Mastromarco) and Luca Chirico (MG.Kvis-Trevigiani). While Bardiani-CSF is continuously one of the youngest Pro Continental teams, it is strange to see them pick up so much talent when they are already stacked with young riders. It means that some riders will probably be moving up and, inevitabily, riders will be getting the ax.

Andreetta has had his best year yet as a U23 by winning the Giro del Belvedere as well as the Bassano Monte Grappa mountain climb for the 2nd year running, a race won by the likes of Fabio Aru, Damiano Cunego, Gilberto Simoni and Gino Bartali. Andreetta recently finished 4th in the GP Poggiana where he and his Zalf teammates were punched in the gut for the 2nd time in a week by Robert Power.

Tonelli is a strong one-day rider who has 3 wins this year on the Italian circuit including the U23/Elite version of the Trofeo Matteotti. He is a constant presence in the top 20 in the U23 Italian one-day races. He also finished 8th in the Peaches and Nectarines overall so he is a solid all-around addition to Bardiani-CSF.

If you look at Bardiani's roster, you will see a bevy of former Zalf-Euromobil-Fior riders including Francisco Manuel Bongiorno, Enrico Battaglin, Nicola Boem, Marco Canola and Sonny Colbrelli. If you look through all of the years the Reverberi family, the czars of the Bardiani-CSF team, have had some team in the pro ranks, Zalf-Euromobil riders have been present. Sella, Baliani, Dall'Antonio, Pozzovivo, Modolo, Brambilla, etc. In more recent years, the connection has dimmed a bit but with 3 more Zalf alumns coming on (Simion was on Zalf for 3 years), the connection is now as bright as Paolo Simion's ginger red hair.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Stagiaire Roundup

So while the U23 peloton keeps on with a plethora of races, let's take a look at the guys that got a stagiaire role and see what they are up to.

Tour of Utah

Nothing like a crazy hard mountainous stage race for getting your first tastes with a true professional team. While Bissell and Hincapie Development were present, some teams brought along stagiaires with them. Stagiaires attending included:

Gavin Mannion (Garmin-Sharp)
Ilya Koshevoy (Lampre-Merida)
Andrea Vaccher (Lampre-Merida)
Dylan Teuns (BMC)
Clement Chevrier (Trek)
Ryan Eastman (Trek)
Alex Kirsch (Trek)
Brendan Canty (Drapac)

U23s got off to a strong start on the week. Robin Carpenter (Hincapie Development) took the mountains classification on the first day and Tanner Putt (Bissell) got two top 10s on the first two stages.

The first big test was stage 4 to Powder Mountain, where the young guns got a smack in the face about racing with some World Tour folks. Clement Chevrier was the best young rider on the stage with 16th place, nearly 5 minutes behind stage winner Tom Danielson. Right behind him were other youngins including Dion Smith (Hincapie Devo), Keegan Swirbul (Bissell) and Koshevoy (Lampre-Merida).

Smith and Alex Kirsch both placed in the top 10 the next day on the stage that went over Bald Mountain before ending in a mass sprint. Gavin Mannion was so excited to race he was doing flips.

On the 6th stage up Guardsman Pass and finishing on Snowbird, it was Koshevoy who was showing some fine form by staying with his leader Chris Horner for a long time before cracking a bit on Snowbird. The Belorussian, who won the GP Liberazione last year, was still able to finish 11th, 49 seconds back. Swirbul and Teuns came in together with a minute gap over Clement Chevrier, which allowed Teuns to gain time on the Frenchman in the young rider's classification.

On the final stage to Park City, which was the opposite of a procession, Teuns was doing all he could to take the young rider's jersey for good. He was able to stay in the front group with his BMC teammates Yannick Eijssen and Ben Hermans and while his teammate Cadel Evans was descending to win the stage, Teuns came in 25 seconds back with Koshevoy not far behind. Clement Chevrier came up in the following group with Trek teammate Matthew Busche but the Frenchman had lost his lead in the young rider's competition by a paltry 14 seconds to Teuns.

All in all, it was a good race for the U23s and the stagiaires. Local boy Dan Eaton (Bissell) got into a lot of breaks and Carpenter was very active in the KOM hunt, where he finished in 2nd place to teammate Joey Rosskopf. Swirbul was climbing quite well until he was sidelined by knee tendonitis. Bissell and Hincapie are bringing similar teams to the Pro Cycling Challenge that starts next Monday the 18th. The PCC will see the appearance of stagiaires Patrick Konrad and Gregor Muhlberger (both NetApp-Endura) and Rasmus Guldhammer (Tinkoff-Saxo).

Elsewhere...

-Tiesj Benoot, who is stagiairing with Lotto-Belisol, was showing himself quite well at the Tour of Denmark. Benoot finished 3rd on stage 3 which catapulted him to 2nd in the overall classification. Benoot had a okay TT and finished well on the final stage to hang on for 10th overall, which is damn fine for your first pro race.

-Loic Vliegen, who moved up from BMC Development to the pro team as a stagiaire, put on a stellar performance at the Prudential Ride London to finish 7th in the one day race. Vliegen made the race winning split with his teammate Philippe Gilbert, Ben Swift, winner Adam Blythe and fellow stagiaire Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge). Vliegen hung on for a while but was dropped during a flurry of attacks. He was able to recover to come in with Stef Clement just 13 seconds down on winner Blythe. Ewan hung on for as long as he could in the escape but was inevitably dropped and finished back in 44th.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

GP Poggiana: Robert Power drops a bomb; 2nd win in 4 days

Earlier this week, Australian Robert Power went up against a trio of Zalf-Euromobil riders (and many more) on the Muro di San Colombano in Briga Novarese and while the chips were stacked against him, he just went, "Meh." and proceeded to drop everyone for the win, with the Zalf trio of Moscon, Milani and Toniatti left in his wake.

The best aware you can get in Italy...a polite golf clap from an older Italian gentleman
(Photo: Italiaciclismo.net)
You would think that after that kick in the teeth, Zalf and everyone else would be on high alert for the big showdown on Sunday, the GP Poggiana in Riese Pio X. On the day commemorating the death of the saint San Lorenzo, cyclists descended on the Venetian town for one of the most acclaimed U23 races in Italy. The hilly race has a history to explode the race and in past races, breakaways making it to the finish have been a common occurence. And the race did just that.

Going through the undulating Colli Asolani, the race blew up as attacks sent racers scattering for wheels just to try and hold on. Giacomo Berlato (Zalf) was the one that sparked the big split that saw 25 riders go off the front of the main peloton. From that group, a quartet including Tilegen Maidos (Astana CT), Simone Andreetta (Zalf-Euromobil), Felix Grossschartner (Gourmetfein-Simplon) and Power broke away and just rode away from the chasers. On the larger circuits, the quartet pulled out a big enough gap to where they had more or less assured one of them could win.

On what was quite a warm day, Robert Power decided to put the broiler on high and attacked the other three on the difficult Mostaccin climb. The group had a 2 minute gap on the peloton but Power wanted to put a stamp of authority on this performance. Flying away with 35 kilometers to go, Power was solo for the remainder of the race, in full TT mode. The chasing trio was eventually swept up by the remnants of the peloton but they were way too late to make any dent into the young Australian.

Look at that gun...
Photo: Scanferla/Italiaciclismo.net
 Power came onto the final straight and with 300 meters to go, he was able to finally breath and celebrate his 2nd win in 4 days. He might only be 19 years old and a first year U23 but Robert Power is the real deal. He has been the bane of the Zalf-Euromobil team this past week, having beaten them at their usual game twice. 
 Behind, it was Andrea Toniatti (Zalf-Euromobil) who led the pack in ahead of Luca Chirico (MG.Kvis-Trevigiani) and then Simone Andreetta and Gianni Moscon (both Zalf-Euromobil). For the 2nd time in 4 days, Zalf stacked the top 5 with three riders and couldn't come away with a win. Ruh roh, looks like DSes Rui, Faresin and Bertolini will need to figure out a formula to beat the wily Australian.

  1. Robert Power (Australia)
  2. Andrea Toniatti (Zalf-Euromobil) +1'25"
  3. Luca Chirico (MG.Kvis-Trevigiani)
  4. Simone Andreetta (Zalf-Euromobil)
  5. Gianni Moscon (Zalf-Euromobil)
  6. Tilegen Maidos (Astana CT)
  7. Jack Haig (Australia)
  8. Luka Pibernik (Radenska)
  9. Giulio Ciccone (Colpack)
  10. Paolo Bianchin (Delio Gallina)
Power, his teammate Jack Haig, who was 2nd overall in the Tour Alsace last week, and Australia are looking very good for the GP Capodarco, the Tour de l'Avenir and Worlds. Power's one-day form has been off the charts this past week and now people should really be putting wagers on how soon a pro team will snap him up.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Know Your DS: Luciano Rui and Zalf-Euromobil-Fior

After going through the murky past of Oliviano Locatelli, it is time to look at the 2nd DS in this series. This is another name that many of you might not know but over the last 23 seasons, he has lead the Zalf-Euromobil-Fior team to over 800 wins and has produced a slew of future pros. 6 world champions and a slew of Italian national championships and yet we know next to nothing about the man that directed them to many a glory.

Rui (center) celebrating Matteo Busato's Italian U23 RR win

Luciano Rui wasn't a spectacular racer but he did have some talent. Rui won a stage of the Giro della Valle d'Aosta in 1980 and proceeded to start both the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France but after 1982, he hung up the wheels for the DS car. He first started with the MG Boys in the mid-eighties and joined Zalf-Euromobil in 1991. At that time, Zalf-Euromobil had been around for nearly a decade and had the amateur world champion, Mirco Gualdi, and star cyclocross rider Daniele Pontoni (named in Ferrara Case for taking EPO/busted in 1998 for cocaine) on its roster in 1991.

In those years, Zalf was a strong team but by no means a world class team. Cristian Salvato won the World Championship in the TTT for Italy in both 1993 and 94 while Pontoni kept winning in cyclocross. It was in 1995 that the Castelfranco, Veneto-based squad began to turn out some world beating talent just like it had in the 80's with Maurizio Fondriest and Gianni Faresin. 1995 saw the team bring on Paolo Savoldelli and Marzio Bruseghin but Luciano Rui and owner Luciano Camillo scored a huge prize with Giuliano Figueras, who was seen as the next big Italian star. They plucked him from Naples and brought him north to Castelfranco and while he had to finish up some military service, Figueras went to win the World Military RR Championship ahead of Russian Sergei Ivanov.

In 1996, Zalf was becoming one of the best teams in the world. They signed Ivan Basso, who had won so much as a junior, and while they lost Savoldelli to the pro ranks, they signed Italian U23 Champion Palumbo along with Gorazd Stangelj, Denis Bertolini to join Figueras and Bruseghin. They won an incredible 42 races with just a roster of 15 riders and Figueras won the U23 World Championships in Lugano after the Italians dominated the race, taking the top 4 spots.

This success obviously must have been because of the Italians training so hard and just being so naturally gifted compared to everyone else in the world.

1997 saw 45 wins but they lost the World Championship jersey to a wily Norwegian. So what is a team to do? Of course, just call him and sign him for 1998. And like that, Kurt Asle Arvesen joined Zalf-Euromobil-Fior for what was one of their finest teams ever. Basso won the World Championships in Valkenburg in a solo breakaway while the team took 41 victories. These were riders like Michele Scarponi, Manuel Quinziato and a young Alessandro Ballan along with shining stars like Fabio Mazzer and Raffaele Ferrara.

Down years for Zalf were when they won a paltry 25 races. Riders kept coming through the door and then through to the pro ranks. Damiano Cunego, fresh off a Junior World Championship, joined the team. So did Emanuele Sella and Daniele Pietropolli. Let me just name some more for you: Daniele Colli, Tiziano Dall'Antonio, Oliver Zaugg, Andrea Moletta, Paolo Longo Borghini, Davide Vigano, Domenico Pozzovivo, Oscar Gatto, Davide Malacarne, Daniel Oss, Simone Ponzi, Gianluca Brambilla, Manuele Boaro, Enrico Battaglin...and that is not a full list by any means.

Luciano Rui has been with Zalf for the last 23 years. He has seen some of the biggest and brightest talents in Italy rise and fall. And he has also been around for drug busts, court cases and cycling being dragged through the mud because of rampant doping. The Italian amateur peloton, for the majority of the last two decades, has been a cesspool for doping, cheating and basically flouting any rules. Those years where Figueras, Basso, Di Luca and co. just rode away from everyone in the U23s before heading to the pro ranks...what the fuck do you think they were doing. And through this whole time, Luciano Rui has remained untouched, like nearly every other Italian DS that has piloted a team during this time. Just look at the damn list above and at how many of those riders have been involved or rumored to be involved in drug rings? A telling fact.

In more recent years, Rui has been joined by Gianni Faresin in the car. Faresin was a former Zalf rider and was also involved in doping practices in the 1990's that included his Giro di Lombardia win. So what goes well with an older DS that slips through the anti-doping net? A former rider who blood doped, of course! To top it off, Bertolini is a convicted blood doper and was named as a client of Michele Ferrari. These three guys are in charge of Zalf-Euromobil-Fior's riders, who are currently the most winning team in Italy with 41 wins. Getting past the bullshit of "that was the past" and "it was a different time", they are in charge of impressionable youths. Bertolini only quit racing a few years ago and now he has some of the finest talent in his team including

The team this year includes one of the fastest Italian sprinters in Nicolas Marini, one of the biggest talents in Federico Zurlo and some great riders in Simone Andreetta (winner Bassano-Monte Grappa and Giro del Belvedere), Alessandro Tonelli, Gianni Moscon, Simone Velasco...and pretty much everyone on the roster. Now it is a damn shame that these riders need to be associated with Faresin and Bertolini. The latter two might be nice guys but there shady past and no signs of remorse lead me to think that they shouldn't be involved with young riders. Luciano Rui might not have been running drugs for his riders and had a program for them but he also could have turned a blind eye to riders doping for many a decade and that is unforgivable too.

Compared to Pala Fenice DS Oliviano Locatelli, these guys look much better. They haven't been caught trafficking drugs or telling riders how to avoid doping controls. They are also much better at creating a successful pro than Locatelli as many riders from there squad, doping or not, have gone onto many wins and long careers. Rui seems to be an affable character that isn't too hard to get along with and he and Faresin have made a good DS team. Rui, in an interview with cicloweb.it, talked about the importance of vacation and how some rest does wonders for riders.

While it isn't much harder to be cleaner and less dictatorial than Oliviano Locatelli, they are still tainted. 2 of them are dopers and the 3rd, Luciano Rui, might express how he wants to clean the sport up but guess what? In 2002, Oliviano Locatelli said the same fucking thing. Luciano Rui wasn't there telling Emanuele Sella or anyone else to avoid doping at any cost. He is still a part of the problem. You, Luciano Rui, might run a fine team that trains well and dominates the scene but you were a big part of them problem in the 80s, 90s and 00s and the fact you are still here makes me think that we will never have a generation that is truly clean.

I know for the next one of these posts, I want to venture away from Italy and I have a few in mind so stayed tuned to learn a bit more about the DSs and teams that I talk about so much.