Monday, September 15, 2014

Miguel Angel Lopez signs with Astana

So many of you have probably seen by now that Tour de l'Avenir winner Miguel Angel Lopez has agreed to a deal with Astana. The Colombian, who in his first European race, lit everyone up in the mountains to claim the overall crown and many teams were after him at that point.

Lopez (right) getting ready to fuck up Brayan Ramirez (photo: El Colombiano)
Claudio Corti and Team Colombia were trying to get him using the home team pull and what I'm sure would be a huge contract of maybe 20,000 bucks. Team SKY was thrown into the mix there but that would be just...no. With that, Astana came calling and through his agent Rafael Acevedo, a deal was done quickly to bring Lopez in for 2015 and 2016 to, and I quote a certain Mr. Alexander Vinokourov, "grow with (Astana)...and be an effective rider in the mountains and at first help Fabio Aru."

I have a bad feeling about this. My feelings are 100% right about 20% of the time but with this one...this one seems bad. Just a few things to note about this transfer...

-The whole transfer went through Lopez' agent Acevedo so the star of the future had no contact with the team during and since the contract. I'm sure Astana hierarchy might call him to the team's lair in Astana but never meeting a team that has a grand total of 1 Spanish-speaking rider in Mikel Landa and no Spanish-speaking staff, that I'm aware of. He will basically be flying solo into his neo-pro season without much of a support system around him so it is going to be a sink or swim scenario. I know Astana and Vino said he can grow with them but you know...they are a bit authoritarian.

-Lopez has had a history with crashes and injuries. He is nicknamed "El Superman" after he was knocked off his bike by robbers but even after being stabbed by them, he fought them off. While that was a bit out of left field, he also had a few more crashes and injuries that has limited his racing in the last few years.

-Lopez hasn't had a lot of racing time the last few years. Just this year, he had less than 30 racing days including the Tour de l'Avenir. The lack of racing might be okay at the U23 level but unless you are training at a ridiculously high level, he will have to have an adjustment period to World Tour level racing and the length of the season.

Speaking of which, Lopez rode his first race since l'Avenir in his home state of Boyaca in Colombia this past week, the Vuelta a Boyaca. He didn't miss a beat by finishing 3rd overall (best U23 by nearly 4 minutes) and in the top 10 on every stage (3rd, 2nd, 4th, 7th and 5th places).

I am just going to be very curious how this plays out with the larger training load, longer races, a more nervous peloton with double the amount of riders he is used to. All of these concerns might just be blips in the rearview mirror if he adjusts well but people need to be realistic before shoveling expectations onto him before he even takes his first pedal stroke in the Kazakh sky blue.

Friday, September 12, 2014

ES Roundup: Transfers, New Teams and more!

In the lead up to the World Championships, the yearly transfer shuffle has been in full swing with riders departing, new teams popping up and some lovely doping reports. Let's crack on...

Asbjorn Kragh fired by Christina Watches

Asbjorn Kragh, who has been one of the only bright spots on the toxic Christina Watches team, announced that he was fired by the team effective immediately and that he would be riding under the support of the Danish Cycling Federation for the remainder of the year. Kragh's last race with the team was at the Volta a Portugal, which the team demanded that he ride. He lasted 6 stages (plus the prologue) before dropping out but he did produce two top 10 finishes for the team.

He rode the Tour de l'Avenir with the Danish National Team but without much of a reason, he was dropped from Christina Watches. This isn't a new thing with CWO because of their buffoon manager Claus Hembo having major issues managing and not letting his director Bo Hambuger direct without interference. They hire ex-dopers like Schumacher, deal with lazy uber-talents like Alexander Kamp and under race young riders. It is a complete shit show so it is a bit of a blessing in disguise for Kragh to get out of there.

Kragh, who has 19 top 10 finishes this year, will not be hurting for a new contract next year.

Lukasz Wisniowski moves from Etixx to Etixx

Pole Lukasz Wisniowski got the call up from the development team Etixx to the World Tour team Etixx for 2015. Well, Etixx-OPQS but I couldn't help to indulge in the wordplay. Wisniowski has been one of the more consistent riders for the Etixx team over the last couple of years and he will be joining his Polish compatriots Michal Kwaitkowski and Michal Golas.

Wisniowski had a torrid spring where he won the Kattekoers, a stage in the Tour de Normandie and the Circuit des Ardennes within the span of a month. He cooled off a bit as his schedule was a bit lighter over the summer due to his non-U23 status (aged out last year) but he still did well in one day races including a 2nd place in the Top Competitie finale in Templeuve.

Wisniowski should fit in with the classics approach at Etixx-OPQS and with a strong all-around riding style, should be able to adapt in multiple races.

Other transfer news includes...

-Rabobank Development is doing a huge personnel flip with many of their most seasoned riders departing for the pro ranks or other teams. Mike Teunissen and Bert-Jan Lindeman will be going to Lotto-BrandLoyalty (ex-Belkin) while Andre Looij and Ivar Slik will be going to Roompot. Ricardo van Dongen will be moving to SEG Racing while Timo Roosen, Etienne van Empel and Floris Gerts have been confirmed as moving to other pastures.

While Maarten van Trijp will be staying on, there is a huge influx of young riders. Mitchell Cornelisse, Sjoerd Bax, Joris Nieuwenhuis, Siebren Wouters, Peter Lenderink, Antwan Tolhoek, Jan Maas and Hartthijs De Vries have been confirmed moving to Arthur van Dongen's "ploeg" for 2015. All of them except Tolhoek are juniors...7 of them. I mean, they have some pretty good talent but nearly half of the team will be first years. We shall see how they hold up.

-Norwegian junior Kristoffer Halvorsen has signed with Team Joker.

-Team Bissell is undergoing a bit of an overhaul for 2015. Team manager Axel Merckx is going to be securing a new title sponsor for the team and to try and "create a long-term sustainable brand" to create more of a legacy with alumni and drive merchandise/marketing opportunities.

DS Omer Kem is departing the team for a GM role at Smartstop but for the most part, the core of the team stays the same. Tanner Putt and Ryan Eastman age out while Ruben Zepuntke is looking at World Tour/Pro Conti offers. Those confirmed as staying are James Oram, Geoffrey Curran, Dan Eaton, Chris Putt, Greg Daniel, Keegan Swirbul and Tao Geoghegan Hart. Riders confirmed for next year are Justin Oien, who rode for the U23 National Team this year, and junior Will Barta.

Other riders not confirmed on this year's roster are Clement Chevrier, who will most likely be moving to Trek, Nicolai Brochner, Alex Darville, Logan Owen and Nathan Van Hooydonck. I know Darville has been focusing on the track so he might be deviating from the road route and Owen has cyclocross but not sure of the others.

The team also mentioned having a bigger focus on European racing, which might be the best call because even when guys had American schedules, a lot of them would take a timeout to ride with the national teams. That cuts out the middleman for many races and will offer more opportunities abroad.

Also, the article I linked was by Pat Malach,If you could, please read everything that guy writes. He is one of the best reporters on the USA scene and does quality work. Or you can follow him on twitter @ORCyclingAction. Do it.

-Tour de l'Avenir winner Miguel Angel Lopez is signing with Astana. I just...don't think this is a good idea. I know I'm being an armchair pundit here but I have a whole post about this brewing and it just has too much potential to backfire.

New Italian Continental Team for 2015: Velo Club Abruzzo

A new Italian project is getting off the ground for 2015 and is making some interesting signings. Run by Carmine Santoleri and Gabriele Marchesani, the team will be based in Abruzzo (as the name suggests) and has already made some interesting signings for the new year. They brought on Abruzzo's best talent in Marco D'Urbano, who won 3 races in 2014 and was 3rd in the Italian Elite w/o Contract Championship. The team also signed Daniele Cavasin, currently tied with the most elite wins in Italy with 9, former junior World track champion Jordan Parra and Francesco Pedante.

Anything else? Well it will need to wait until a bit later.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Why USA riders need to go to Europe for Development

There was an article posted on Bicycling Magazine's website today by Frankie Andreu talking about development riders on the UCI circuit. The point of the article that Andreu was trying to get across was that because of the high level races on the USA circuit now, riders can ride a USA-centric schedule and make it up to the World Tour level. One of the money quotes is "The road to the World Tour doesn't have to go through Europe." I mean, technically he is right because guys like Chad Haga and Matt Busche made it to the World Tour without riding (much) in Europe but for the vast majority of riders, riding a USA-centric calendar would not propel them to the World Tour.

If riders have ambitions for the World Tour, it is still important that they go over to Europe for racing time. It isn't just for the racing time either. If you are an American, living in Europe is a much different experience. Think of the stress moving to a new apartment...now double that by moving to a new continent, perhaps not knowing the language and having to get your water and heat turned out, get groceries, etc. and still being expected to train 25 hours a week and be on top form. It is hard work. Just look at Tejay van Garderen's experience when he moved to Italy with HTC-Columbia, as an example. Moving in winter, he had to take cold showers after training rides and live without heat until some teammates were able to help him get it turned on. While that is extreme, going over to Europe at a young age gets you used to the routine and being able to see if you can handle living in a foreign place.

Mike Sayers, the USA U23 National DS, says it all in just a few tweets.



In terms of the racing, unless we are racing on roads that would be in the Tour of Backwoods West Virginia, racing on big open highways doesn't prepare guys for the narrow roads of Europe that will spit out of without remorse. When Europeans come over to race in America, it is like a vacation for them because of how large our roads are. The climbs in the USA, that are used in a lot of the major races, have highway grades that don't allow them to have big changes in pitch which can be more commonly seen in Europe. The Tour de Georgia had some nice climbs that mimicked this but sadly, that race is no more.

Riders can race well in America. They can get some very good results against strong riders but once they hit the European peloton full-time, it can be a very different story. Example here is Evan Huffman. He rode for Cal Giant and won the TT at the Tour of the Gila in 2012 ahead of Rory Sutherland, Joe Dombrowski, Lawson Craddock and others. He has been with Astana for the past two years and doing some yeoman's work, just scrapping by.

The vast majority of American riders getting results in Europe have come from the development program that took them over there as juniors and u23s. Nearly every rider in Andreu's piece was racing in Europe before their "big American results". Lawson Craddock was racing in Europe since he was about 16 and got immense development there before. Dombrowski? He proved himself as a future GT racer by his GiroBio win

The article continues to list riders like Will Routley and Jure Kocjan, both of whom race domestically but have been on World Tour and Pro Conti teams in Europe. Also including Freddy Rodriguez as an example of a continental rider breaking the stranglehold of the World Tour riders at Nationals.

My whole point being is that American races alone will not a great racer make. You might be good, even great, on big wide open highways but once the racing gets tighter and the packs get a little meaner, will you be able to handle the heat? How many American races will prepare you for World Tour races going down single lane mountains roads at 80 kph?

This is more of a ramble than anything but Andreu over-simplifies everything by sticking to the American-centric line that Bicycling pushes. Yeah Phil Gaimon got onto Garmin by pushing his way through the continental ranks but now? He barely races in Europe. And when he has? Mash your pedals as hard as you can and hold fucking on. You don't have to go through Europe to be a strong professional rider but if you dream of going World Tour, it is highly suggested because at least right now, sticking to an American diet of racing won't get you all the way there.

Monday, September 8, 2014

World Championship Provisional Startlist

Time is ticking to the Ponferrada World Championships and start lists have been trickling out for the U23 men and will be continuing for the next week or so. Here is what I have as of right now...

Africa

South Africa

RR: Louis Meintjes, Willie Smit, Kevin Patten, Jayde Julius

Rwanda

RR: Bonaventure Uwizeyimana, Valens Ndayisenga and Jean Bosco Nsengiyumva

Oceania

Australia

RR (long list): Rob Power, Caleb Ewan, Harry Carpenter, Alexander Clements, Campbell Flakemore, Jack Haig, Jordan Kerby, Robert-Jon McCarthy, Nick Schultz and Sam Spokes

New Zealand

RR and TT: Dion Smith and James Oram

Asia


Americas

USA

RR: Tyler Williams, Tanner Putt, Robin Carpenter, Alexey Vermeulen and Logan Owen

TT: Robin Carpenter and TJ Eisenhart

Colombia

RR: Miguel Angel Lopez, Brayan Ramirez, Fernando Gaviria, Rodrigo Contreras, Juan Molano, Carlos Ramirez

Venezuela

RR: Carlos Gimenez, Xavier Quevedo, Roniel Campos, Andres Soto

Europe

France

RR: Thomas Boudat, Loic Chetout, Jeremy Leveau, Kevin Ledanois, Quentin Jauregui and Pierre Roger Latour

TT: Bruno Armirail and Remi Cavagna

Belgium

RR: Loïc Vliegen, Dylan Teuns, Tiesj Benoot, Floris De Tier, Jasper De Buyst

TT: Frederik Frison, Ruben Pols

GB

RR (long list): Owain Doull, Scott Davies, Tao Geoghegan Hart, Hugh Carthy, Dan McLay, Tom Moses, Dan Pearson and Alex Peters

TT: Scott Davies and Jon Dibben

Netherlands

RR: Mathieu van der Poel, Sam Oomen, Mike Teunissen, Timo Roosen, Lennard Hofstede

TT: Steven Lammertink

Ireland

RR: Ryan Mullen, Conor Dunne, Jack Wilson

TT: Ryan Mullen

Denmark

RR: Magnus Cort, Michael Carbel, Mads Pedersen, Soren Kragh, Asbjorn Kragh

Italy

RR (long list): Simone Andreetta, Seid Lizde, Gianni Moscon, Alessandro Tonelli, Federico Zurlo, Davide Martinelli, Iuri Filosi, Luca Chirico

Spain

RR (long list): Mikel Iturria, Mikel Aristi, Marc Soler, Imanol Estevez, Mario Gonzalez, Miguel Angel Benito

TT: Juan Camacho

Portugal

RR & TT (long list): Carlos Ribiero, Gaspar Goncalves, Joaquim Silva, Luis Gomes, Nuno Bico, Rafael Reis, Ricardo Ferreira, Ruben Guerreiro

Norway

RR: Sven Erik Bystrom, Odd Eiking, Sindre Lunke, Sondre Holst Enger, Kristoffer Skjerping, Markus Hoelgaard

TT: Andreas Vangstad

Switzerland

Being announced on September 11th. Expect Kung to be on the RR and TT squad.

Slovenia

RR: Luka Pibernik, Domen Novak, Luka Kovacic, Rok Korasek and Gasper Katrasnik
TT: Martin Otonicar and David Per

Luxembourg

RR: Alex Kirsch (unofficial)

More to follow...

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sunday Roundup: Hoelgaard goes #2, Roe wins dramatic Gippsland and more

It is a boring Sunday at work so let's do a nice roundup, shall we? We are taking a tour around the world so please fasten your lap belts, put your chairs in the upright position and put your trays back. Onwards, dear friends.

Okolo Jiznich Cech

Czech is a language I have been trying to wrap my mind around but as a English speaker, it just looks like random letters thrown together. In any case, races in Central Europe seem to fascinate me for some reason and this one is no different. The Okolo Jiznich Cech goes through Southern Bohemia, which looks absolutely fantastic in pictures.

I briefly touched on the race earlier this week when Daniel Hoelgaard (Etixx) took the first stage for one of the home teams and on Sunday, he was able to take his 2nd stage win of the week in a mass gallop ahead of Top Competitie winner Kenneth Van Rooy and Michael Kolar, who is riding with the Slovak National Team.

Also in U23 news, Emanuel Buchmann (Rad-Net Rose) won the queen stage on stage 3 to continue a fine late season push, which the tall rider from Baden Wurtemberg is hoping to turn into a pro contract.

On the GC, Norwegian TT Champion Reidar Borgersen won the overall after winning the TT and then conserving his lead while Buchmann finished in 3rd overall. Fellow U23 Alexis Guerin finished in 5th overall to cap off a successful week for the Etixx team.

Tour of East Java

Tabriz Petrochemical strikes again. The notorious Iranian team that I love to poke fun at once again dominated an Asian stage race by going 1-2 with Ghader Mizbani and Amir Kolahdozhagh on the queen stage in East Java. Mizbani took the overall on the two-stage event while Kolahdozhagh finished in 3rd behind Danish John Ebsen (CCN). They only reason I'm mentioning this at all is that Kolahdozhagh is a U23 that doesn't get many chances to ride against big U23 talents because of the big troubles with Iranian riders getting visas to European countries so he is having to make due by riding the Asian scene with Tabriz. If Iran is able to get a team to Spain for the U23 World Championships, Kolahdozhagh should be on the roster but that is a big if.

Tour of Gippsland

It was quite a cracker of a stage on the final day of the Oil Lakes Tour of Gippsland, the 7th stop on the Australian NRS circuit. On the final stage, Raphael Freienstein (Charter Mason) started in the leader's jersey but he was closely stalked by Joe Cooper (Avanti), Cameron Bayly (Search2Retain) and Tim Roe (Budget Forklifts), who were all within 10 seconds.

A breakaway got away early including Bayly, his teammate Paddy Bevin, Alexander Edmondson and a few others a got a gap that was hovering around 15 seconds, enough to but Bayly in the provisional lead. Former Bissell rider Bevin was burying himself for Bayly while behind, it was Charter Mason trying to control the gap for Freienstein. About halfway through the race, Tim Roe hit out as hard as he could on the climb and while Freienstein tried to chase, the former BMC rider was able to bridge across to the breakaway. Roe had a 5 second gap on Bayly heading into the stage so after bridging, he only needed to worry about Bayly winning the stage for him to be able to usurp him on the GC.

Back in the pack, Charter Mason was running out of men and Freienstein was isolated in his attempt to bring the breakaway back. It wasn't until 2 laps to go in the races that Avanti, who had Joe Cooper, moved to the front because they also had Mitchell Lovelock-Fay up in the breakaway.

In the sprint, it was Australian pursuit champion (and U23) Alexander Edmondson who took the win ahead of Paddy Bevin and Lovelock-Fay. Edmondson has had a quieter year on the road and this was a nice win for him as he won the same stage last year. Bayly and Roe finished on the same time, which ended up being 11 seconds ahead of the peloton. Roe secured the overall win ahead Bayly by 5 seconds while Freienstein hung on for 3rd overall.

Roe was able to redeem himself here as he lost the 2008 edition on the final stage to Bernard Sulzberger but this is also a return to form for Roe, who spent an injury plagued 2 years with BMC before spending a year on their amateur team last year. Roe has been consistently strong on the NRS circuit and could be a threat in some autumn Asian races.

Just out of the U23s Brenton Jones still holds the NRS overall by 4 points ahead of Joe Cooper and 7 points ahead of Roe and Jesse Kerrison with 4 rounds left to race.

Elswhere...

-Dan McLay finished 7th on the opening sprint stage of the Tour of Britain behind Marcel Kittel.

-Phil Bauhaus (Stolting) took his 5th win of the season in the Kernen Omloop in a bunch gallop. Bauhaus was being courted by a few teams but seems to be set on staying with Stolting for 2015 as the team is planning to step up to the Pro Continental level.

-Ilya Koshevoy took his 6th win of the season on Sunday in the Coppa 29 Martiri di Figline. Belorussian Koshevoy has been going quite well this year and Lampre will be very pleased to have him in 2015 for hillier races.The Coppa Figline is actually a fairly good race historically for Belarus as Kanstantin Siutsou won in in 2004 and Vasili Kiriyienka was 2nd in 2005. It actually has a very strong winners list, which you can view here courtesy of the race winner himself.

-In transfer news, Mads Wurtz will not be returning to CULT Energy for 2015, when the team plans to move up to the Pro Continental level. Wurtz, a very strong junior, has had an up and down beginning as a U23 and was hoping to move on with the team but the Skelde family, who runs the team, say they will be keeping in close contact with Wurtz to possibly bring him back in the future.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Saturday Ramble: Quaade, Gippsland and more

They news is a bit slow these days but never fear, there is always some good stuff to ponder. Let us begin with an enigmatic Dane who, up until this season, has struggled to ride in the peloton but was able to finish 6th in the World TT Championship last year, just 2'36" behind Tony Martin, on a herculean 57.9 kilometer course.

Rasmus Quaade is back


This blog might be called Espoirs Central but I take great interest in all of the continental scene and I have a few riders that I have been constantly tracking over the last few years. Rasmus Quaade is one of them. His lazer focus on time trials is so great that they even made a documentary about him. In this documentary, Moon Rider, Quaade says about his intense riding style that "Just like a drug addict that needs a fix - I want to get a close to dying as possible." He came close to greatness in 2011 as a U23 when he won the Danish Elite TT over Jakub Fuglsang and then finished 2nd in the U23 World TT Championship to Luke Durbridge in his home town of Copenhagen. He couldn't race for shit in a pack but once a time trial came, he could take nearly anyone. Last year proved that he was one of the best time trial riders in the world but could he do anything more?

This year started out slow but he was able to once again grab the Danish TT crown before heading to the Post Danmark Rundt, which is where he started to turn a few heads. Instead of his usual 99th and 112th placings, Quaade was staying in the peloton. Granted when the going really got tough, he faded a bit but he finished 2nd in the TT by just 1 second and then made the breakaway on the final stage. He followed this up by dropping Magnus Cort at a Danish Post Cup Race to take a win there before heading to Italy and the Giro della Regione FVG.

In the Giro della Regione, Quaade was the most consistent rider in the whole race. On the 6 stages of the race, Quaade finished no lower than 13th, which had a small breakaway gain a handful of seconds. Also, for the first time, Quaade was showing some climbing abilities. He was 2nd to Simone Andreetta on the so-called queen stage of the race that finished at Castelmonte. While he wasn't able to challenge for the win due to the 2 riders in front of him being in a long breakaway on stage 1, Quaade finished 3rd overall.

The secret to all of this success? He has lost 4 kilograms this season and his team director, ex-pro Allan Johansen, says this has helped his confidence in the peloton. He continued saying that Quaade used to hope that the team car would get a shitty position so he could just coast at the back but now he seems to be comfortable moving through the pack. If he could keep this confidence going, then the sky could be the limit. And no, that doesn't mean he should go to SKY.

Tour of Gippsland

It might just be the Australian National Racing Series but many riders have been produced from here so it is always good to keep an eye Down Under.

The man I like here is Jesse Kerrison. The sprinter for Budget Forklifts has two stage wins already here, which brings his tally up to 9 for the season. He is only 20 years old and doesn't get many chances to race overseas. If he gets into the late season Asian races, watch out for an explosion of wins.

Also showing themselves well here are a few other young guys. German ex-pat Raphael Freienstein (Charter Mason) won the 5th stage and took over the leader's jersey heading into the final stage. Aussie Point Race Champ Scott Law (Avanti) also took out the 1st stage of the race. Both are riders just a year out of the U23 ranks but have been having strong seasons.

And everything else...

-Colombia and the USA have announced their rosters for the U23 World Championships in Ponferrada. I'll do a whole post on rosters in the coming week so I won't go into much more detail.

-U23 Nations Cup looking to expand for 2015. A new Italian one-day race, Trofeo Almar, has been approved for next year. The race is named after the sponsor Almar, which makes showers, and will be in Varese on July 26th, tentatively.

It also looks like the U23 Peace Race will be joining the U23 Nations Cup calendar while the ZLM Tour, currently on the calendar, is looking to extend to a 2nd day that would included a team time trial. All of these are good updates because frankly, the currently calendar was much too short and even more so meaningless.

-A new development team is coming for 2015. SEG Cycling, a sports agency that represents riders like Niki Terpstra, Sep Vanmarcke, Dan Martin and many others, is dipping into the development side by creating SEG Racing Development. The team has 3 current signings in Steven Lammertink, Robert-Jon McCarthy and Ricardo Van Dongen. Another devo team is a welcomed sight especially in the Netherlands, which has been a bit monopolized with Rabobank.

-Kevin Ledanois and Maxime Cam have signed with Bretagne Seche for 2015. Ledanois is a current stagiaire with them that proved himself in spades in the Arctic Tour. Cam was 5th in the Kreiz Breizh Elites.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

U23 Roundup: Zepuntke wins, French & British U23 Worlds rosters and more

Zepuntke wins in Alberta

Following a non-selection by the German National Team for the Tour de l'Avenir, Ruben Zepuntke has been riding out of his skin in the Tour of Utah, the Professional Climb-Tour of the Rocky Mountains in the State of Colorado and now, in the Tour of Alberta.
On the brutal circuit race around Lethbridge that involved cold weather and torrential rain, Zepuntke, a rider who self-admittedly likes the cool and wet weather because of a few extra pounds on him, capitalized on some great team work by his Bissell Development team. Teammate Dan Eaton was in a late attack that was brought back in the final two kilometers. Kiwi James Oram piloted Zepuntke into the final kilometer with a group of about 35 riders. Oram motored until the final 300 meters when Zepuntke came around him to take a photo finish ahead of Garmin Honey Badger Ramunas Navardauskas. Zepuntke is putting together a very strong late season and I hope pro teams are noticing.

Much better article and interview with Ruben Zepuntke by Pat Malach on Cyclingnews

France names their U23 Worlds roster

After their good ride at the Tour de l'Avenir, French National Team selector Pierre-Yves Chatelon has announced his selection for "Les Blues" team at the World Championships in Ponferrada.

For the road race: Thomas Boudat, Loïc Chetout, Quentin Jauregui, Pierre-Roger Latour, Kevin Ledanois and Jeremy Leveau

After not being selected for l'Avenir, Boudat is now featuring in the Worlds roster and could be one of the favorites for the race because he can get over some hills and he has a wicked sprint on him. He was 4th in the European U23 RR where he won the field sprint ahead on the heels of the 3-man breakaway. Boudat will be France's counter to Australia and Caleb Ewan if it does come down to a sprint.

 Chetout and Latour will be primed to do well on the course. Jauregui has shown himself well in the pro ranks with top 10 finishes in races like the Tour du Finistere and La Poly Normande. Ledanois had a spectacular Arctic Tour where he finished 6th overall; he is definitely built for a course that has some hills but nothing too dramatic. The big surprise here was the selection of Jeremy Leveau ahead of Liege-Bastogne-Liege winner Anthony Turgis. Leveau won the French U23 RR in Saint-Omer and he was selected because of that and his work he did earlier this year in the Nations Cups. Turgis was left off because of his lack of form recently.

For the TT: Bruno Armirail and Remi Cavagna

Armirail is the obvious choice as he is just focused on time trials and he is the current French U23 TT championship. While he wasn't too good at the European Championship with an 11th place, Armirail is a good shot for a top 10 place.

Cavagna is just a first-year U23 but he was 2nd in the French U23 TT Championship but he beat Armirail in a French amateur TT earlier this year and would probably be pleased with a top 25 placing.

Read Pierre-Yves Chatelon's full reaction on DirectVelo

GB announces U23 Worlds RR long list and TT spots

The British are coming...soon. The GB Federation announced their long list for the U23 Worlds RR, which looks like they have a threat for pretty much every situation.

RR long list: Hugh Carthy, Scott Davies, Owain Doull, Tao Geoghegan Hart, Dan McLay, Tom Moses, Dan Pearson and Alex Peters

McLay is obviously the best bet for a bunch sprint but Doull can get a over a few hills himself. The list is chock full of climbers with Carthy, Geoghegan Hart, Davies and Pearson. Now only 5 will be selected from this list but I have a feeling that Doull, Geoghegan Hart and McLay are locks.

TT: Scott Davies and Jon Dibben

Davies is the current U23 TT Champion while Dibben won the TT at Triptyque Monts et Chateaux earlier this year. I thought Doull might get the nod but I think GB will be happy if they get one in the top 20.

GB Federation announcement

Everything else...
-Piotr Havik won the opening stage of the Vuelta Valencia with the Dutch National Team after he attacked his 5 breakaway mates over an overpass and powered to the line with a 3 second back on Sergio Rodriguez and Artem Samolenkov.

-For those that might have missed it, Kenneth Van Rooy sealed up the Belgian U27 Topcompetitie overall at the final round in Templeuve with a 14th place behind Olivier Naesen, who is a Lotto-Belisol stagiaire and bound for Topsport Vlaanderen next year.
-Daniel Hoelgaard (Etixx) won the opening stage of the Okolo Jiznich Cech with a sprint win ahead of Jo Kogstad Ringheim, Riccardo Bolzan and Van Rooy. 3rd win for the Norwegian this season who will probably be on the Norwegian team at Worlds.

-At the Ronde van Midden-Nederland, Wim Stroetinga won the mass bunch sprints ahead of two U23s, Eduard Grosu (Vini Fantini-Nippo) and Andre Looij (Rabobank Development).

The Giro della Regioni Friuli is going on right now but let's wait till week's end to talk about it, k? Good.