Monday, September 1, 2014

Belgium wins U23 Nations Cup

With Louis Vervaeke and Dylan Teuns stage wins and Vervaeke's 5th place overall in the Tour de l'Avenir, Belgium was able to secure the U23 Nations Cup by a scant 2 points ahead of France, who led the competition coming into the race. (Full rankings here) The French put up a good fight but as French National selector Pierre-Yves Chatelon said with DirectVelo, they lacked riders that could go for stage wins like they had last year in Julian Alaphilippe and Alexis Gougeard so they did what they could.

An interesting tidbit is that since the Nations Cup rankings were first started in 2007, France has been on the podium every year. They have won the overall 4 times and had a 3-year streak up until the Belgians derailed them this year.

Vaulting up to 3rd place was Russia, who rode the strong performances of Alexey Rybalkin and Alexander Foliforov at the Tour de l'Avenir to move from 7th place to 3rd. This is Russia's highest overall placing in the rankings after getting 7th place three times within the past 5 years.

Rounding out the top 5 are Colombia, thanks to Miguel Angel Lopez, and Norway, which held steady in 5th place thanks to Kristoffer Skjerping's stage win in l'Avenir.

There is a reason I'm only listing the top 5 because if you remember back to my World Championships Qualifying story, the top 5 countries on the final Nations Cup standings get an additional rider for Worlds. Now Colombia was already at the maximum of 6 because of Fernando Gaviria winning the Pan-Am Games U23 RR so this bonus does nothing more for them. Belgium, France, Russia and Norway will all be getting an additional rider at Worlds, which means all of them will have 6 on the line in Ponferrada.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Tour de l'Avenir Wrap-up

While Louis Vervaeke did his best to take the overall lead on the final day, Miguel Angel Lopez was able to keep his overall title that he defended with such aplomb for the final 3 days of the race. The Colombian, who was unknown to many before the beginning of the race, was by far the strongest uphill during the race, which was perhaps the most mountainous edition ever. So let us go through as see who stood out in the race and who didn't make an impression. (And yes, I will be publicly shaming them.)

-Miguel Angel Lopez is now the 5th Colombian to win the Tour de l'Avenir and 3rd in the last 5 years to win the yellow jersey. In 2012, Juan Chamorro was 2nd place and last year, Heiner Parra was 7th overall. The Colombians, even without any of the 4-72 riders on their roster, were some of the strongest in the race and should never be counted out here. Lopez had enough support in the mountains from his teammates Brayan Ramirez and Daniel Rozo but was able to look after himself once the action really started.

-Robert Power is an animal. Coming into this race, Power was on an epic tear of form where he won 3 races in 10 days. He didn't just win the race but annihilated his competition and even when they thought they might be able to beat him, he would put it in the big ring and shut them down. He started this race off very well by staying out of any trouble during the sprint stages and was always near the front during the mountain days. Power met his match with Miguel Lopez but 2nd place in the Tour de l'Avenir as a first-year U23 is pretty amazing. It is the best finish overall by a first-year U23 at least in the last 20 years. Speaking of their race, overall they had a good race. Ewan won a stage and Flakemore took the prologue. Jack Haig had a few issues, especially with the super steep climbs, but battled back to provide Power with good support in the later stages.

-The Russian were strong but even with Alexey Rybalkin and Alexander Foliforov finishing in 3rd and 4th place overall, respectively. The Russians have done here well in the recent past with Sergey Chernetskiy in 4th place in 2012, Timofey Kritskiy giving Sicard all he could handle in 2009 and Menchov and Petrov winning in 2001 and 2002. The Russian problem is that while they might be good (or even great) in the U23 ranks but seems to get muddled in the pro ranks and never hit their potential. Be that because of doping (i.e. Novikov) or plain overtraining, the Russians still haven't quite figured out how to transition a U23 rider to a great professional.

-Louis Vervaeke tried his heart out to try and steal the overall back but he needs some credit for his ballsy move to go all the way from the Col du Molard, over 2 more huge climbs and still move himself up to 5th overall. The Belgians had an up and down week. I'm sure they would have liked a podium placing overall but after Tiesj Benoot fell ill, they will be happy with 2 stage wins and 5th overall.

-Pierre-Roger Latour wasn't exceeding expectations with his 6th overall but he did attack when he could so can't fault him for not trying. The rider who I'm most impressed with on the French team was Jeremy Maison. Relatively unknown heading into the race but a strong rider on the French amateur scene, Maison was outstanding is a support role for Latour and even attacked a few times to relieve the GC pressure. On the mountain stages, he was always in the top 15 and finished the last stage in 8th place. While the French didn't get a stage win, they were always active in the breakaways and showed themselves well with a 2nd place in the team classification.

-Some other nice surprises here were in the form of Emanuel Buchmann (Germany) and Joaquim Silva (Portugal). Buchmann is a pure climber and while he had some pretty good results in the last couple of years, his performance here was his best to date. Buchmann kept getting better as the days went by and was 7th on the final day, which bumped him up to the same place overall. Silva was recently 25th overall in the big-boy Volta a Portugal (4th in the youth classification) and came here with strong form. He wasn't the designated leader but won it on the road as he kept performing better than his teammates Ruben Guerreiro and Ricardo Ferreira. 9th place overall for a rider that has not ridden outside of Iberia frequently is a very good sign. I hope he doesn't waste away on the peninsula in the sea of Portuguese continental teams.

-Kazakhstan was saved by Ilya Davidenok's stage win on stage 4 but other than his strong ride there, they were quite anonymous. Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev was a shadow of his last year's self and looked nothing like the 4th place overall rider from just a year prior.

-I touted Norway as one of the strongest teams here but they took a beating, at least in terms of their GC riders. Oskar Svendsen couldn't go out of his own way and had lots of issues along the way. Odd Eiking crashed once and while he finished 3rd on stage 5, he fell to pieces on the final stages and dropped all the way to 25th overall. Sindre Lunke was the saving grace...sort of. He finished 10th and 11th on the final 2 days to save an 11th place overall for Norway. Kristoffer Skjerping's win on the first stage and time in the KOM jersey was the highlight of their l'Avenir.

-So Silvio Herklotz has a lot of work to do in the high mountains. It might be where he is most limited. Herklotz made a few moves but when the climbs got too steep or too long, he would be back in the 2nd group. He can ride pretty much any terrain but the Alps are not his friend it seems.
-Tao Geoghegan Hart and Sam Oomen get a thumbs up for their strong GC rides as first year U23s. Geoghegan Hart lurked for the whole week in that 10th-15th place area on the stages but his consistency paid off for a 10th place overall. Oomen got into the big breakaway with Ilya Davidenok on stage 4 and while he didn't win the stage, his 2nd place on the stage vaulted him to 2nd on GC. Oomen held on to 2nd on stage 5 but cracked spectacularly on stage 6, losing 6 minutes. He limited his loses on the final stage to keep 13th overall but that was a stout ride.

-The Italians got a raw deal when Giulio Ciccone, who had been climbing pretty brilliantly, dropped out on the final stage after sitting 6th overall. Davide Martinelli survived the mountains to claim the points jersey by one point on Colombian Fernando Gaviria. The rest of the Italian crew was fair to disappointing.

-Some of the more anonymous teams did have a few bright spots. Michael Gogl (Austria) finished 5th on the 2nd stage and continued to go beyond expectations to snag 15th overall. Great job for a rider whose name I barely recognized. The USA has a good learning experience here but once again, Jeff Perrin went on the attack a few times and even though he didn't come out with a stage win onr even a top 10 placing, he laid it out there and tried.

-The course this year was pretty amazing. The flat stages were fairly interesting and were a total bore while the mountains weren't slog-fests with short but intense stages keeping everyone on their toes. I also approve of the race using less well known climbs such as the Plateau Solaison as well as big giants like Cormet de Roselend, La Toussuire and Croix de Fer. Perhaps my only critique? Put a mid-mountain stage on the final day to spice up the race a little more. Would Lopez be able to handle the heat if say, Foliforov went up the road on a lumpy stage that had a few stinging hills in it but a downhill/flat finish? Would Lopez be able to cope with no teammates? Could someone pull a coup? In any case, this is me day dreaming. This year's course was the best in years.

Tour de l'Avenir: Vervaeke takes the lonely road; Lopez triumphs

At the beginning of the Tour de l'Avenir, Louis Vervaeke was the odds-on favorite to win the race overall, with good reason too. Vervaeke won both the Ronde de l'Isard and the Tour des Pays de Savoie overall this year and even went pro with Lotto-Belisol halfway through the season. While he might have been the favorite, Vervaeke fumbled during the first mountain stage and thanks to a 20 second time penalty, he was on the back foot and honestly, didn't seem to have the muscle to go against Rob Power and Miguel Lopez. Today, the last day of the Tour de l'Avenir, was going to be different. There was only one way to possibly take back GC and with only 95 kilometers on tap, he was going to have to be bold.

Before the first climb, the Col du Molard, and a breakaway got away including Guillaume Martin and Loic Chetout (France), Loic Vliegen (Belgium), Soren Kragh (Denmark), Manuel Senni (Italy), Marc Soler (Spain), Piotr Brozyna (Poland). Up the Molard, Louis Vervaeke launched an attack out of the peloton with Jeremy Maison (France). It was very early with the rest of the climb and then 2 giants still left but after Vervaeke ditched Maison, he bridged up to the breakaway in no time at all.

Over the top of the Molard, the breakaway thinned to just 5 riders including Vervaeke, Vliegen, Kragh, Soler and Kasperkiewicz (Poland). Pierre-Roger Latour, who was sitting in 5th place overall, tried a move on the descent with his teammate Quentin Jauregui. Latour and Jauregui got within 30 seconds of the breakaway but once they hit the Croix de Fer, their move stalled. Up front, Vervaeke went solo near the base and began to freight-train up the Croix de Fer, the highest climb in the race. By the time that he reached the top, he had a gap of 1'55", which was enough to put him in the provisional lead. Behind, the peloton was spitting out riders left and right and it was race leader Lopez that led the chasers over the top of the Croix de Fer, closely followed by 2nd place overall Rob Power.

Vervaeke was no stopping for anyone. He continued to go forward and down the Croix de Fer descent, he even extended his gap and by the time he started the final climb to La Toussuire, he had a gap of nearly 3 minutes. He wasn't going to take this lying down. Vervaeke, while tired from the effort, kept going on with his gap being slowly chipped away at by an elite group including Lopez, Power, Brayan Ramirez, Jack Haig, Emanuel Buchmann, Joaquim Silva, Latour, Maison and the Russian duo of Rybalkin and Foliforov.

In a repeat of yesterday, El Superman attacked with 10 kilometers to go and the only one initially to go with him was Robert Power. These two are clearly the best from the week but tired legs saw them joined by Rybalkin and Foliforov, the latter of whom was surprisingly consistent this week and defied my thoughts that he would spectacularly crack in the mountains. With 3 kilometers to go, Vervaeke's dreams of winning the overall were dashed as the gap went under 1'49" but the future Belgian star had enough of a gap to not worry about being caught on the line. While the quarter behind him took his lead down to just 34 seconds on the line, Vervaeke had enough time to sit up and celebrate.
Behind, Foliforov and Rybalkin lead the chase across the line with Lopez being able to sit up and take the overall win ahead of Robert Power. Lopez, who I knew was a talent but not this big of a talent, thoroughly dominated the race and deserves this win. El Superman might be heading to a pro contract next year and I do not know if he will be back at the Tour de l'Avenir next year but he certainly got his point across.
I will have a wrap-up post out later with some analysis of the overall standings and the race itself but I would like to take this time to give a message to everyone.
As important as this win was for Vervaeke, this was a win for Belgium. Igor DeCraene, last year's World Champion in the Junior TT, was found dead this morning. This was one of Belgium's golden children that had his whole life ahead of him. Rest in Peace, Igor.

Tour de l'Avenir: What happens after you win this race?

The Tour de l'Avenir is talked about in such high regard because of the riders that have competed in the race and their accomplishments during the race. The best young racers going head to head without worry of shagging bottles for their big-time team leaders but just going as hard as possible. This is where riders made their name; where big contracts were made; where riders could go from zeros to professionals over the course of a week. So let's say a rider does this...they win a stage or place high in the overall and perhaps win it. Where does there career go? Is this the launching point or is this the climax?

In the race's history, only 8 riders that have won have gone on to win a Grand Tour. These riders are, in order from most recent, Nairo Quintana, Denis Menchov, Angel Casero, Laurent Fignon, Miguel Indurain, Greg Lemond, Joop Zoetemelk and Felice Gimondi. From 1981 to 1992, the race was open to professionals so that is why Fignon won it in 1988, way after he won his two Tour wins. Marc Madiot and Johan Bruyneel won the race during that time when it was called the Tour of the European Community. Lemond won his edition of this race by a massive 10 minutes (on Robert Millar and Lucho Herrera!) in 1982 and while he was already a full pro with Renault-Elf, this was the place to beat down everyone. So obviously some riders are able to transition their Tour de l'Avenir rides into at least one Grand Tour win. The race did go to a U26 platform after 1992 and then to all U23 in 2007.

Let's go to some of the bigger disappointments. Fedor Den Hertog was the strongest amateur of his time and was able to win with relative ease. This included an Olympic Gold Medal in the Team Time Trial as well as overall wins in the Milk Race, Olympia's Tour and the Tour de l'Avenir. Den Hertog was a perpetual amateur who refused to go pro for the longest time because he wanted to be a leader and have the freedom of choosing his calendar. The year that he won l'Avenir, the course was not nearly as mountainous as this year's edition and was filled more with small hills spread across 10 stages. Den Hertog won the race by 19 seconds on successful amateur Ivan Schmid, who would go on to win a Tour de Suisse stage. The rest of his pro career? A shell of his amateur career because he was so viciously marked by riders that he was never able to get away and while he went on to win a Tour and Giro stage, it was nothing what was predicted for him. He died in 2011 of prostate cancer.

Other riders who never hit their expectations from this race include Evgeny Petrov, who won the overall in 2002 after an incredibly U23 career but then never matched those successes; Sylvain Calzati won the 2004 edition ahead of Thomas Lofkvist and Christopher Le Mevel...well that podium just never reached expectations. The later two faired better and Lofkvist even won a few big races but was always hyped-up much more than he ended up producing. This critique isn't just reserved for GC men. Guido Van Calster won 4 stages in 1977 but never really panned out as a pro. Sebastian Chavanel won 5 stages over the course of 2003-04 in l'Avenir but he has been known better for being Sylvain's brother.

There is the "what could have been?" category. In 1978 and 1979, Sergei Soukhoruchenkov came to the race with his Soviet teammates and threw down the gauntlet. They were in their prime and the Europeans, who hadn't had too much contact with them, got their asses handed to them. In 1978, Soukho and the Soviets won 9 stages and swept the first 4 places and he has a 3'30" gap to 2nd place. In '79, he won by an even bigger gap. After winning the Olympic Gold Medal in the RR in the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, Soukho was denied a 3-peat in l'Avenir by upstart Alfonso Flores and the Colombians, who were making their first appearance in l'Avenir. Communists are among the biggest what could have been contenders because they never really got to race a full European schedule against all of the big teams until after the Wall fell. Olaf Ludwig was already 30 by the time he was able to join Panasonic. Before that, he had won 5 l'Avenir stages and the overall (among a shit ton of other things) but if only he was able to turn pro at 25.

There were others that used this race to make people say, "Oh he is going to be a kick-ass professional." Erik Zabel won 4 stages in 1994. He would win Paris-Tours later that year and then 6 straight Tour de France green jerseys starting in 1996. Edvald Boasson Hagen won 3 stages in 2006 as just a first year U23. Miguel Indurain won two stages in 1985, including a time trial, and then won 3 stages on his way to the overall win in 1986.

I could go on for weeks analyzing every Tour de l'Avenir since 1961 but that isn't the point. Just because a rider wins this race in spectacular or dominating fashion does not make them a champion in the professional peloton. This race might be the Tour of the Future but more likely than not, the guy that wins this race will not go on to major glory. Granted, that is including a whole lot of years where this race barely included mountains and in more recent years, specialized riders that have at least won a stage here have gone on to great things. For example, every rider in the 2009 edition that won a stage is on a professional team now and 9 out of the 10 from the top 10 are in the pro ranks right now. In any event, use the Tour de l'Avenir rider as a guide but for the love of everything that is sacred with cycling, do not dump the expectations onto them the moment after they win the race...because that is how you get a Romain Sicard.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Tour de l'Avenir Stage 6: "El Superman" takes the day

Today was the day where it was put up or shut up. If anyone was going to go up against Miguel Angel Lopez and take down his overall lead, it would most likely have come today. 3 huge mountains in just 108 kilometers with barely any flat road during the whole time. It was pure hell for some while others were in their natural habitats.

The day began with the announcement of a few DNFS including Magnus Cort, Michael Carbel and Felix Großschartner. Tiesj Benoot dropped out soon after having dealt with some illness issues for the whole race. 9 more riders ended up dropping out including another Dane, Mads Würtz, as well as stage winner Dan McLay, Iuri Filosi, Marc Soler and others.

Before the first climb, the Col de Saisies, a breakaway of 8 got away including Martijn Tusveld and Lennard Hofstede (Netherlands), Jeff Perrin (USA), Oskar Svendsen (Norway), Dylan Teuns (Belgium), Fabian Leinhard (Switzerland), Guillaume Martin (France) and Oscar Gonzalez (Spain). The group was able to get a minute on the peloton, which was controlled by Colombia and Lopez, but while they got over the top of the Saisies, which Hofstede won, their gap diminished to just 25 seconds before the biggest climb of the race, the Cormet de Roselend. Jeff Perrin was the last rider to stick it out before being swept up by the peloton at the base of the Roselend.

On the Roseland, Jeremy Maison (France), who has been one of the breakouts of the race, accelerated and was able to stay solo for nearly all of the 20 kilometer climb. Maison passed over the summit solo with a 45 second gap back to the Colombian led peloton but on the descent, he was soon joined by teammate Loïc Chetout and Sam Spokes (Australia). At the base of the descent, Chetout attacked and went solo onto the final climb of the day, La Roseire, while a chasing group including Maison, Jaime Roson (Spain) and Lukas Zeller (Austria) were behind ahead of the Colombian train, which was picking up speed.

Hitting the turn that would take them up to Mont Valezan, race leader Lopez decided to flex his muscle and with 10 kilometers of climbing left, he attacked the race and only Australian Robert Power, who was sitting in 3rd overall, could hold on. In no time at all, the duo had gone by the chasers and Chetout and were out in front. The leading group members were chasing in vain with Pierre-Roger Latour and Giulio Ciccone making counters to try and bridge, both unsuccessful.

The gap extended from 15 seconds to 35 seconds and the panic had set in with the chasers. With 4 kilometers to go, Alexey Rybalkin (Russia) attacked and was actually gaining ground on Lopez-Power train and after Rybalkin flew the potato farm, his Russian teammate Alexander Foliforov attacked and also started gaining time. Rybalkin reached Lopez and Power in the final kilometer but he was wasted from the chase and was not going to be any concern for the stage. Latour launched in the final kilometer to try and salvage some time while the chasing group containing Haig, Buchmann, Vervaeke, Ciccone and Lunke kept doing their best to limit the loses.
According to Lopez post-stage, he wanted Power to take some turns but he was too tired. In the end, Lopez launched the sprint while exhausted Power had to settle for 2nd place and Rybalkin in 3rd, 3 seconds down. Foliforov came in 4th, 20 seconds down, while Latour came in 38 seconds down.

"El Superman" is here. Thanks to @CyclingUptodate on twitter, I learned that Lopez suffered from multiple crashes that limited him in both 2012 and 2013 but when he was active, he was destroying the competition. Also, he got the nickname because he was attacked while out training one day and thieves trying to take his bike stabbed him but Lopez fought them off and got away. Don't fuck with Miguel Angel Lopez. He will beat you silly in the mountains and then fight you off at the same time.

The race is still not over but I will be surprised if Lopez is overhauled tomorrow. It seems like he and Robert Power, who is just going incredibly, are on a similar level and unless something sudden happens, it looks like the maillot jaune from the Tour de l'Avenir will be heading back to Colombia.

Full stage results here

GC has bounced around a bit. Lopez's lead is now at 27 seconds to Robert Power, who took over 2nd place after Sam Oomen cracked hard on La Roseire and lost 6 minutes, while the Russians Rybalkin and Foliforov sit 3rd and 4th with French hope Latour in 5th, 1'05" down. Past Latour, Giulio Ciccone is doing very well in 6th place followed by Emanuel Buchmann, Louis Vervaeke, Joaquim Silva and first year U23 Tao Geoghegan Hart.

Full GC results here

One conclusion we can draw at this time is that Silvio Herklotz, while a brilliant rider, doesn't seem made for the high mountains.

Tomorrow is the final day of the 51st Tour de l'Avenir and while only 94 kilometers long, it features 3 big cols including the Col du Molard, the Col de la Croix de Fer and a summit finish on La Toussuire.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Tour de l'Avenir Stage 5: GC stays status quo; Breakaway takes it again

This year's Tour de l'Avenir has been quite fortuitous for breakaway riders with 2 stages already behind won by day long breakaways. Today had a similar story albeit the breakaway wasn't out there from kilometer 7 to the finish.

At just 101.6 kilometers, the stage was short but sweet and around a very comfortable 25 Celsius. It was fast from the depart in Bons-en-Chablais and didn't let up until the race hit the sprint point on the day, where Davide Martinelli took the win ahead of current points leader Fernando Gaviria (Colombia). The win got Martinelli back into the lead by one point but the two will still need to fight out the sprint points to see who will potentially win the overall.

Following the sprint, the race hit the Col de Saxel and a breakaway was allowed to get away but only just. Quentin Jauregui (France), Gabriel Chavanne (Switzerland), Mikel Iturria (Spain), Floris De Tier (Belgium) Sven Erik Bystrøm (Norway), Lennard Hofstede (Netherlands) Lukas Pöstlberger (Austria), Manuel Senni (Italy), Dan Pearson (GB) and Viktor Okishev (Kazakhstan). They were able to clear the Saxel, which Bystrøm won ahead of Pöstlberger, and following the descent with just 24 kilometers to go the break had a gigantic gap of...1'05". Colombia was on the front of the peloton protecting their leader Miguel Angel Lopez, who seemed quite comfortable in the lead.

After Quentin Jauregui attacked to spice things up a bit before the final climb, it would just be him, Pearson, De Tier, Bystrøm, Hofstede and Pöstlberger. They were fighting a lost cause and while making their way up the climb, they were caught up within the last 10 kilometers. When the climb had leveled out, the peloton was still huge.

At 3 kilometers, the peloton had thinned out to about 40 but still a bit large for finishing on a mountain. A few attacks were shooting off the front but it wasn't until Dylan Teuns (Belgium) attacked with 1.5 kilometers to go that something was able to stick. Teuns, who pulled a similar move in the Giro Valle d'Aosta and Tour de Bretagne, zoomed off and took advantage of a sleeping front group.
Teuns was able to hold an 8 second gap to the line where Alexander Foliforov (Russia) beat out Odd Eiking (Norway) and Robert Power (Australia) for 2nd place. Leader Miguel Angel Lopez stayed safe in 5th overall and GC stayed relatively the same with only 2nd place Sam Oomen losing 6 seconds.

Full Stage Results

Full GC Results

Also, it should be mentioned that France has been doing very well with Pierre-Roger Latour, Guillaume Martin and Jeremy Maison. All finished in the top 11 today and yesterday, all were in the top 18. Also, Portugal has been surprising consistent as they are sitting 2nd in the teams classification now after Joaquim Silva, Ruben Guerriero and Ricardo Ferreira finished 10th-19th on the last two stages.

Tomorrow is going to be short but brutal. The stage is only 108 kilometers but half of that is uphill and finishes on a steep mountain, La Rosiere.

Who is Miguel Angel Lopez?

Since most do not know much about the Colombian rider that is currently leading the Tour de l'Avenir, let us take a moment to learn about Miguel Angel Lopez. And trust me, it won't take long because I haven't found out much about him after hours of searching.

Lopez hails from Boyaca, which is one of the bastions of Colombian cycling. If you don't know anyone from Boyaca, just think about Juan Mauricio Soler, the Parra brothers, Felix Cardenas, Oliverio Rincon and of course, Nairo (and Dayer) Quintana.
Hailing from the town of Pesca, Lopez took the Colombian U23 scene by storm this year after winning the queen stage of the Vuelta de la Juventud (basically the Vuelta a Colombia U23) and taking the overall title as well. The winners of the race are a who's who of Colombian cycling and his win there cements him into some great company. Just this year alone, Lopez, who rides for the Boyaca Lottery, has won 8 races in Colombia including an uphill time trial in the Clasica de Fusagasuga where he beat none other than non-repentant doping scumbag Oscar Sevilla. Just for doing that, I like him.

Results are a bit scarce for me to find about Lopez from last year or even as a junior. The Tour de l'Avenir is his first big international event but I was able to turn up a nice gem from 2012, Lopez' last year as a junior cyclist. In the prologue of the 2012 Clasica del Meta, Lopez beat out recent Vuelta a Colombia champion Felix Cardenas by a few milliseconds. While it wasn't pure uphill or even a long effort, it definitely shows Lopez talents. All that I'm able to find about him are a few different results as a junior from 2012; not even anything from the Vuelta de la Juventud from 2013. His rise seems to be meteoric and if anyone out there has any more informations, please feel free to let me know.

This is a fun thing I like about cycling. Finding out all of the facts and what not is what I obsess over but when next to nothing is known about someone when they come out of know where, I always create fictions in my head about where they came from and their burning passion. Like if Lopez saw a bike race when he was 6 and dedicated himself to cycling or if he just casually picked it up and never took it too seriously until he was 18 or so. Perhaps he trained drafting off trucks or had to pedal at night because of school or working commitments? I don't know. But I'd love to find out about him more.

Edit: So I've gotten a few tips from people and I've gotten some more information about our Tour de l'Avenir winner.

-Lopez entered into a local race as a junior and it was electric and as he puts it, "he just went from there."

-Lopez has a nickname of "El Superman" because he was attacked while out training one day. Thieves tried to take his bike and during the scuffle, Lopez was stabbed but fought off his attackers.

-Lopez has had a few injuries in his career that have kept him under the radar. He did not participate in the Vuelta a Colombia U23 last year and he got over a knee injury earlier this year before going to win the Vuelta a Colombia U23 overall.