Monday, April 27, 2015

GP Liberazione: Gaday steals win from Consonni

It basically came down to this on Saturday in the 70th GP Liberazione. On the left is Simone Consonni (Colpack) and the right is Lucas Gaday (Unieuro Wilier). First, the gap that these two have on the rest of the pack is impressive. That is probably 4 bike lengths back to 3rd place. Consonni got the initial jump on everyone and it was only Gaday that could hold his wheel in the sprint. Once Consonni got a bit tired, Gaday was able to come to terms with roughly 100 meters and nipped him in the sprint.

There really isn't much more to say about this race. The racing was hard but for the last 25 kilometers, it was all together and nobody was able to break it up. The start list for this race was horrible this year compared with recent years because of the lack of funding the race had. It was on the verge of being cancelled last minute before being saved but with a dearth of foreign teams and even the best Italian talent, it just seemed lacking compared with recent times. Plus it is straddling the divide between a road race and a criterium with a length of only 138 kilometers.

The full results are here. Gaday is a pretty decent rider but certainly was benefitted by the shorter course and the pack staying together on the circuits around the Baths of Caracalla. It was an exciting finish by I'm nonplussed by the race as a whole.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Weekend Preview: Bretagne, GP Liberazione and more

The weekend is upon us and there are big time races starting, ending and happening all over the place. The two biggest races happening this weekend include the 70th edition of the GP Liberazione and the Tour de Bretagne but that isn't all.

GP Liberazione

Saturday will see teams take on the roads around the Baths of Caracalla in Rome for the 70th edition of the GP Liberazione. Uber nationalist Francesco Moser has a special place of hate reserved for this race as he finds the race to be organized by "those communists" and "always favored the Russians". Basically, Moser is some grumpy old man who believes in the fictitious state of Padania, which is basically the top half of Italy, and can't stand anything remotely red.

The race itself celebrates the fall of Mussolini's fascist government and is always held on April 25th, which is a national holiday in Italy. This race was one of the first western races to open up competition to Eastern Bloc riders as early as the mid 1960's with Czechoslovak riders coming over first followed by Soviets and Yugoslav riders. The race was always a feature in the spring but it became to be something bigger when riders such as Gianni Bugno, Konyshev, Bernd Gröne and other strong young riders were winning the event.

The race itself involved 23 twisting circuits around the Baths of Caracalla (one of the most brutal and disliked emperors in Roman history) along with some short but punchy climbs that tend to break up the race at times. While the race itself is just 138 kilometers, the last true bunch sprint was back in 2010 when Sacha Modolo beat Michael Matthews, Fran Lasca and Michal Kwiatkowski. Every year since then has seen a small breakaway rule the day with riders such as Ilya Koshevoy (now Lampre), Matteo Trentin (OPQS) and Enrico Barbin (Bardiani CSF).

If it comes down to a sprint? Simone Consonni (Colpack) is a strong bet but there are others here like Xhuliano Kamberaj (Cipollini Ale), Marco Maronese (Zalf-Euromobil) and Marco Corra (Mastromarco). I have a feeling that these guys will be sprinting for 2nd or 3rd...

Someone plucky with a big engine will be the one to breakaway for the win. Marlen Zmorka? The Ukranian on Pala Fenice has undergone personal tragedy with the civil war back in Ukraine but he has the potential to sneak away here. In the same mold is Davide Martinelli (Colpack) who has the power to stay away and sprint in a small group. Maybe a cheeky rider like James Knox (Zappi's) has the power after a strong start to his season in Portugal.

In any case, here are links to the course map and a start list for your enjoyment. Alas, there are no Russians here in the first time in forever it seems like.

Tour de Bretagne

On the craggily coast of western France, a 7-day stage race will be testing riders on how high their level is on dealing with shit weather and being gutter fodder for hours on end. There is no stage that is the true queen stage as they will all have their points that will put a little bit of self-doubt into most riders. 7 stages of rolling hills and french flat that will see some of the strongest riders crack into a few pieces on the side of a small Breton road in the middle of God knows where.

Speaking of Soviets, this was another race that accepted the Commies in the early 70s and saw them dominate for a time. Here are the complete list of winners.

The big stage early on to watch out for will be stage 3 from Baud to the extreme west of France at Cleden - Cap Sizun in Finestere. Cap Sizun is the peninsula jutting out in Finistere that makes up part of the Cornwall region of Bretagne. You can't get further west unless you want to end up in the ocean. The wind off the coast will batter the rides while the hills will be coming one right after another in the finale. If you are a climber that can weather a storm, you might be in for a treat on Monday.

Stage 6 from Perros-Guirec to Le Quillio has been announced as the queen stage. Just 149 kilometers, the stage features some very steep climbs in the middle part of the stage while the end 30 kilometers looks like a sawtooth with relentless climbs but enough flats to really stretch out an advantage. When the race organizers say that Bernard Hinault approves of the stage then you know it will be trouble.

Even the final stage, a circuit stage around Liffré, has a ton of short hills peppered across the course and will be no procession and could even see some GC moves if the pack is close together.

Here is a start list for the race from directvelo. My pick for the win? Uhhhh Floris Gerts. Wild guess.


Other races happening over the weekend include the Zuid Oost Drenthe (probably a sprint), the conclusion to Joe Martin and the Tour Bohemia. And The Rutland. And the conclusion of the Vuelta de la Juventud Colombia. So you better be taking notes because I'm working and I will be asking a lot of questions.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Riders of Olivano Locatelli

With the suspicion of Fabio Aru possibly being snared by the biological passport growing and his excuse of a viral infection having holes poked through it, I think it is a good point to bring up that the man who "discovered" him was famed (and infamous) Italian director Olivano Locatelli.

For those that want more background on Aru himself, you can direct yourself to Podium Cafe and the article I wrote back in 2013 when Aru was coming through the ranks. Hailing from Sardinia, Aru started riding on the MTB and cyclocross circuit in his junior ranks before Locatelli showed up at his house in 2009 asking if he wanted to go on the road with his team Palazzago. While Aru was a bit of a project as he had no pack skills to speak of, he certainly emerged as one of the best U23 riders in 2011 and 2012 after two wins in the Giro della Valle d'Aosta, a win in the Toscana Terra di Ciclismo and a podium in the GiroBio.

Locatelli has been around cycling for decades now and while he was a decent amateur rider, his major success came as a coach and director. Locatelli mostly worked on the amateur level but he did have stints on Mercatone Uno, Saeco and Landbouwkrediet.

While Aru's doping is still just rumors at this point, Olivano Locatelli has been a proven facilitator of doping in the past and many of his riders have turned up positive over the years. Daniel Friebe, one of the cycling's best writers, says that some in Italy swear up and down that Locatelli has changed. For someone with this history, I find it quite hard to believe especially with cycling's reputation for broken promises. In any case, I have compiled an incomplete list of riders that have been under the direction of Locatelli. This is not meant to be an implication of anything but just a nod to how far Locatelli's reach has been during the last 20 years in cycling.

Amateur ranks include:
Giovanni Lombardi
Fabio Casartelli
Dario Frigo
Paolo Savoldelli
Wladimir Belli
Ivan Gotti
Giuseppe Guerini
Marco Milesi
Lorenzo Bernucci
Leonardo Giordani
Paolo Tiralongo
Volodymir Gustov
Yaroslav Popovych
Volodymyr Bileka
Yuri Metlushenko
Tomas Vaitkus
Giampaolo Caruso
Sergey Lagutin
Santo Anza
Alberto Loddo
Matej Mugerli
Domenico Pozzovivo
Maurizio Biondo
Davide Vigano
Alessandro Bisolti
Branislau Samoilau
Stefano Pirazzi
Fabio Aru
Diego Rosa
Daniele Ratto
Simone and Luca Sterbini
Marlen Zmorka

On Mercatone Uno and Saeco, Locatelli directed the likes of:

Mario Cipollini
Michele Bartoli
Francesco Casagrande
Adriano Baffi
Eros Poli
Max Lelli
Gian Matteo Fagnini
Eddy Mazzoleni
Roberto Petito
Davide Cassani
Toto Commesso
Giorgio Furlan
Alexandre Moos

He brought Popovych to Landbouwkrediet and brought a whole Italian-Ukranian contingent with him before he was ejected in 2003 after being caught in wiretaps by Italian police regarding doping conversations. Riders he brought the Landbouwkrediet include...

Sergey Adyeyev
Mikhail Timochine
Santo Anza
Lorenzo Bernucci
Oscar Cavagnis
Claudio Lucchini
Domenico Romano
Salvatore Scamardella
Ruslan Gryschenko
Vladimir Duma
Tomas Vaitkus

There are more names that I could list with Locatelli but many of his amateur riders ended up being burnt out and never lived up to their potential as he drove them into the ground as U23s. Even though he has stated in recent years that it is stupid to start going for races in February, Locatelli has ruined many careers by trying to extract the best from his riders as U23s and leaving them dead for the transition to the pros. Leonardo Giordani won the U23 World RR in 1999 as well as the Giro della Regioni. He proceeded to race for 14 more years amongst various Italian teams and never registered a win during his entire career. Obviously he had the potential to do bigger things but alas, he never built off his U23 Worlds win.

The last few years he seems to have softened and tries to look for talent that were not big winners in the junior ranks and has stated that he doesn't care about winning. While this is a redeemable quality, I think that he lost his chance in this sport long ago. Olivano Locatelli might be a nice guy and could be a good coach too but he doesn't belong coaching young, impressionable riders.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Truls Engen Korsaeth: The Next Big Norwegian?

The last few weeks have shown that a boy from Lillehammer has some immense talent for riding on 2 wheels. Yet this is a rider that few English speakers knew anything about and even I, king nerd of the U23 realm, was sat scratching my head when Truls Engen Korsaeth nearly caught the duo of Alexander Edmondson and Gianni Moscon in the finale of the U23 Ronde van Vlaanderen.
I was a bit dumbfounded by Korsaeth as he continued to put in strong rides after attacking the finale of the La Côte Picarde and an all-around strong ride at the ZLM Roompot Tour where he was only let down with his national teammates in the team time trial where they ceded 2 minutes. To finish off this week of brilliance, Korsaeth finished 2nd in the Ronde van Noord Holland in a big bunch sprint behind Dutchman Johim Ariesen, whose build resembles that of a brick.

So who is this Truls Engen Korsaeth and why they hell should you remember his name?


He comes from Lillehammer and his background in sport didn't start with road cycling. As with many from central Norway, skiing was his first sport. Korsaeth has competed in the famous Birkebeinerrennet multiple times and has finished in the top 200 three times, the last time of which was in 2012.

Before concentrating on the road, Korsaeth was a strong MTB rider. He rode as a junior as rode on the international level as an 18 and 19-year old with varying success. He had many races ruined by mechanicals and a chance at another World Championship after breaking his wrist in a lead-up race in Britain. He was 2nd in the Norwegian Elite MTB Championship in 2013 and was 6th in the Bundesliga U23 Bike the Rock round in 2013 as well.

Korsaeth began to split time on the road as a U23 and put out a warning shot with a 5th in the Norwegian Elite TT in 2012 as a first year U23. He moved up one spot to 4th in 2013 at just over 1 minute back from winner Edvald Boasson Hagen. He proved to be a bit skittish in the pack (not new for riders with big engines if you look to Oskar Svendsen and Rasmus Quaade) and the majority of his results came in time trials.

2014 saw the onset of mononucleosis and Korsaeth's season was derailed. He was able to come back for the tail end of the season where he finished 11th overall in the Okolo Jiznich Cech as well as winning the two-man Duo Normand with teammate Reider Borgersen. A battling spirit and a marked improvement with his pack skills.

Korsaeth left it a bit late in U23 RvV but put in a damn fine ride
The national team director Stig Kristiansen put it simply when he described Korsaeth as "a brutal rider." Korsaeth's background makes him set up for races with small hills and hard courses with a lot of wind. His skills in the peloton seem to be improving by the race and if he isn't feeling comfortable? Well, he will just attack.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Sugar rush: The Danish attack

At times, I take Danish riders with a grain of salt. Many times they are very strong riders at home and show well in the junior ranks. Those that transition to the u23s, many end up fairing so-so with most not living up to their junior expectations. Some in recent years have chosen an early retirement. While I still have my reservations about the Danes, what they did in the ZLM Roompot Tour was amazing.

For the first time, the ZLM Roompot Tour became a stage race after years of being a one-day race along the windy dikes of Zeeland. Stage 1 was a morning race of just 122 kilometers but what it lacked in distance was made up with bombs that detonated all over the peloton from the wind. In the final kilometers, a group of six riders including Soren Kragh Andersen & Mads Pedersen (Denmark), Daan Myngheer (Belgium), Jon Dibben (GB), Nico Denz (Germany) and Tom Bohli (Switzerland) were holding a slender lead on the reduced peloton, who numbered just 40 riders. Two riders from this group, Kragh and Myngheer, tried their luck and attacked the front group. The two established a gap while the remainder of the breakaway was swept up by the front group just off the front of the peloton.
In the sprint, it was Kragh Andersen who was the stronger of the two and just rode Myngheer off his wheel to take his first win of the season. Kragh Andersen was just 19 years and 364 days when he finished 4th in the Post Danmark Rundt time trial last year and was even 3rd in the La Côte Picarde Nations Cup last year.

Behind, it was Owain Doull (GB) taking the sprint for 3rd at 11 seconds after passing Michael Carbel (Denmark) in the final meters.

While Kragh possessed the lead for the time being, his advantage would only get bigger.

Originally, the time trial portion of the ZLM Roompot Tour was meant to be a two-man time trial that would only count towards team GC and not affect the individual classification. This is a fairly unique idea but it was shot out of the sky by the teams, who had their misgivings about such a one-off event.
In any case, the Danish team decided to make this race as much of a blowout as possible. With the sun setting across the flat, dike-ridden landscape, the 6-man Danish team managed to but 25 seconds into the Russian squad and 36 and 37 seconds into France and Italy. The next team back from Italy was GB, which was 1'17" back from the flying Danes.

Kragh Andersen had a gap of 17 seconds back to teammates Michael Carbel and Mads Pedersen while Mamyr Stash (Russia) was sitting in 4th place at 42 seconds. Were the Danes going to sit by and control the pack for a basic sprint finish? No thank you. They got their herring sandwiches ready and decided to wreck everyone's legs.

The final day followed the more traditional ZLM Tour route out that makes a big loop around the region including a trip over the Netherland's longest bridge, the Zeelandbrug, and circling the majority of the perimeter of the Oosterschelde tidal basin. The race was whittled down as the day went along but before the run in to Goes to start the city loops, a crosswind section took the peloton from roughly 60 to 20 with 4 Danes present. The 3 laps around Goes and the surrounding area go on and Kragh Andersen sat comfortably while the race played out as he had over half his team working for him in the front group.
The Danes cranked it up in the final kilometer and it was CULT Energy teammates Mads Pedersen and Michael Carbel that led out the sprint and they proceeded to take a 1-2 over Daniel Hoelgaard (Norway) while race leader Kragh Andersen coasted over in 4th place to take quite an impressive win.

This article might be lacking in some detail about the race itself but what else is there to say other than the Danes came out for blood and won every stage and took the top 3 spots on the general classification. I said before that I have my reservations about these riders every making it through to the pro ranks and making a big impression on the biggest stage. But holy hell, do they have potential to be incredible riders. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

U23 Schedule SNAFU

I think someone at the UCI got a little too buzzed before giving the all clear on the UCI schedule for this weekend, mainly in regards to the U23 racing. This Friday and Saturday, the ZLM Roompot Tour is on the UCI Nations Cup calendar, which determines the number of spots a nation can get at the U23 World Championships. Also scheduled for this weekend on Saturday is the non-Nations Cup race but still very important Liege-Bastogne-Liege U23.

Now you may be right in thinking that these races do not have a ton of overlap seeing as the ZLM Tour is on the dikes of Zeeland while LBL takes place on the endless hills of southern Wallonie. Yet having these races overlap is utter bullshit and just another reason that the UCI fails to have foresight to make a cohesive schedule to expand racing audiences and allow teams and countries to be able to get the best out of their riders.

I wonder why one of these races couldn't be pushed one week later? In all honesty, the Nations Cups should be drawing the biggest and best talent from the respective countries as well as including the best races. While I know that this is  a more complicated question that I am making it as there are UCI license fees and other hoops to jump through to be able to be apart of the Nations Cups circuit  but why couldn't Liege-Bastogne-Liege join this circuit? Anyways, I'm getting away from my original point.

Is it that hard to schedule these races so that you aren't overlapping them and compromising them? No, it isn't. Yes, national teams and trade teams are always going to have an interesting relationship but don't make it an even harder decision for them, UCI.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

La Côte Picarde: ¡Vince Consonni!

The northern coast of France took on an Italian look today during the 2nd of the season's U23 Nations Cups. 27 nations toed the starting line in Crotoy for 180.7 kilometers of fun along some windy and mainly flat French coastline.
The day started out with an attack trying their best to get established but it wasn't until nearly an hour was done that 1st year U23 Eddie Dunbar was able to get clear and the pack was willing to let him go. Dunbar, a very talented junior who now rides for the British NFTO team, was restless in the pack and decided to go for it and a cheeky move turned into a nearly all-day breakaway.
With a free pass from his Belgian DS, Dunbar got a lead that max out at over 7 minutes on the peloton. Federico Vivas (Argentina) tried in vain to chase down Dunbar but had no luck in doing so. He was briefly joined and subsequently passed by Kazakh Grigoriy Shtein, last year's junior Asian RR Champion. Shtein could only make it within 5 minutes of Dunbar before running out of steam.

With 60 kilometers left, Dunbar still had over 4 minutes on the peloton but soon after, a counter move by Massimo Morabito (Luxembourg) and Juan Curachet (Argentina) got out of the peloton. Shortly after, they were joined by Jonas Koch (Germany) and the trio began to steadily chomp at Dunbar's advantage. The pace of the breakaway and peloton began to ramp up but Dunbar still had an advantage of over a minute on the chase after being out front for over 100 kilometers.

The chase group was finally able to make a junction with 30 kilometers to go and the quartet plowed on trying to avoid a seemingly inevitable fate. Dunbar showed strength beyond his years as he and Koch broke away from the other two on the rolling hills on the finish circuit and continued towards the line. It wasn't until 18 kilometers to go and the beginning of the final circuit that Koch and Dunbar, who had been out front for 124 kilometers or roughly 3 hours of racing, were brought back into the fold. For his hard work, Dunbar brought home the KOM trophy and got a nice handshake from Eddy Merckx on the podium.

It was Soren Kragh (Denmark) that lit the touch paper on the final lap as he took the KOM on the final circuit. Jack Haig made a small move but was followed closely by Gianni Moscon (Italy), who had a few kilometers of freedom before being brought back. The only true attack in the finale that had the peloton sweating was started by a two man move by Austrian Felix Großschartner and Dane Mads Pedersen, who got off the front with just after Moscon was brought back. Soon after it was Ronde van Vlaanderen U23 Truls Engen Korsaeth (Norway) who bridged up to the duo and with 5 kilometers to go, they were nursing a 10 second advantage. Korsaeth has been a revelation this week and was using some secret herring-aided strength to power the move but it was for naught as they were brought back just before 3 kilometers to go.

Consonni looks like a Stretch Armstrong but his sprint is masterful
Photo: Courrier Picard/
Into the finale kilometer, my pick for the win, Daniel Hoelgaard, was looking good for the win but Simone Consonni of Italy (Colpack during the rest of the year) timed his sprint to perfection and wearing some ridiculous POC sunglasses, the Italian took a huge victory ahead of last year's Ronde winner Owain Doull and Hoelgaard.

  1. Simone Consonni (Italy)
  2. Owain Doull (GB)
  3. Daniel Hoelgaard (Norway)
  4. Yoann Verardo (France)
  5. Aksel Nömmela (Estonia)
  6. Mads Pedersen (Denmark)
  7. Colin Joyce (USA)
  8. Jan Dieteren (Germany)
  9. Pryzemyslaw Kasperkiewicz (Poland)
  10. Lucas Gaday (Argentina)
Full Results can be found here

-This was the first edition of this race to finish in a true bunch gallop since 2011 when Arnaud Demare won ahead of Alexei Tsatevich and Tosh van der Sande. This is only the 2nd true bunch sprint in this race since 2005.

-Consonni's win along with Gianni Moscon's performances the last two races have shown that Italy has come to play this year. The last couple of seasons have seen Italy fall a bit flat in the Nations Cups while succeeding at home against domestic competition. These two come from two different programs in Colpack and Zalf-Euromobil but Consonni has proven himself as an impressive sprinter at just 20 years old while Moscon can get it done on nearly any type of hilly terrain.

-Italy takes the lead in the Nations Cups overall by 7 points on Norway and 11 on France.

-Truls Engen Korsaeth? Didn't really know the name before last weekend but I will be remembering it for certain. After strong performances in the Ronde van Vlaanderen and here in Picarde, he is on the form of his life right now.

-A little underwhelming so far this year? Jon Dibben.
-Above, a wild Kazakh mechanic seems to be contemplating life out of the car window while in the caravan.