Four breakthrough riders to follow in 2018

Each season, young riders emerge from the peloton with breakthrough victories. Were they one-off blazes of glory? Are they simply prelude to even bigger successes? I picked four riders and neatly pigeonholed them into categories (for better or for worse): Cobblestone classics, Ardennes classics, sprints, and grand tour GC. We can expect big things from them in 2018.

Cobbled classics: Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step Floors)

Yves Lampaert
Yves Lampaert is one of Quick-Step’s rising cobblestone stars. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

If you were sleeping on Yves Lampaert in 2017, I’ll give you a pass. After all, he was riding on Belgian superteam Quick-Step Floors, during the spring when Tom Boonen rode his farewell Paris-Roubaix and Philippe Gilbert returned to glory, winning Tour of Flanders and Amstel Gold Race.

Now, it’s time to forget about those aging Belgians and look to Lampaert, 26, who had an incredible 2017. He won Dwars door Vlaanderen, his first maiden WorldTour victory. Then, he won Belgian national time trial championships. And finally, Lampaert finished the season with a flourish, winning stage 2 of the Vuelta. He appears to be quite versatile, but bet on him to prioritize the classics. He was fifth in the 2015 Paris-Roubaix and won a stage at Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen that season.

What to expect in 2018: Another spring classics win, but perhaps not a monument, a couple stage wins in one-week races.
Dream scenario in 2018: Two second-tier classics wins, the overall at De Panne-Koksijde, a stage win in a grand tour.

Ardennes classics: Dylan Teuns (BMC Racing)

Dylan Teuns
Dylan Teuns had an unbelievable run of victories in late July and early August. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Although Teuns is a Flandrien, it seems the Walloon hills are his destiny. The 25-year-old punched onto the podium in Fleche Wallonne, third to Dan Martin and winner Alejandro Valverde. He was quiet at the Giro d’Italia. Then, Teuns had a magical three weeks in late July and early August. He notched his first professional win at the HC-classified Tour de Wallonie, stage 3, and went on to win stage 5 as well as the overall. He went on to win three more stages and two overall titles in the Tour of Poland and Arctic Race of Norway, both WorldTour races.

What to expect in 2018: Another Ardennes podium, an overall win in an HC-classified stage race.
Dream scenario in 2018: Wins an Ardennes classic, wins a grand tour stage (but probably not the Tour), wins another week-long stage race.

Bunch sprints: Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo)

Dylan Groenewegen
Dylan Groenewegen won the crown jewel of sprinter races: The final stage of the Tour de France. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

He had us English-language headline writers groaning when he won the Tour’s final stage, but really, we’re excited to see a fresh sprinter come to the fore in Dylan Groenewegen. That victory on the Champs wasn’t a one-off, either. The 24-year-old Dutchman was third in stage 10 and second the next day in Pau.

Sure, Groenewegen wasn’t an unknown quantity this season, having won 2016 nationals and a stage at the Eneco Tour. However, his victory on the biggest stage in the world is on the next level.

What to expect in 2018: Wins a spring classic (likely Dwars door Vlaanderen or Scheldeprijs), wins another grand tour stage.
Dream scenario in 2018: Earns 10 victories — two spring classics, a Tour stage, and a handful of stages at major one-week races like Paris-Nice.

Grand tour GC: Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana)

Miguel Angel Lopez
Miguel Angel Lopez won two stages at the Vuelta a Espana. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Like Groenewegen, Lopez showed his stuff in 2016. But the man who won Tour de Suisse and Milano-Torino that year is now a legitimate GC hopeful for the grand tours. The Colombian they call “Superman” won stages 11 and 15 at the Vuelta en route to an eighth-place overall result. If you’re keeping score at home, he was more than 10 minutes ahead of Astana teammate Fabio Aru, who was supposedly the team leader in that race.

If I were running the Astana squad, Lopez would be first in line to lead a grand tour squad — perhaps even at the Tour de France. After all, this year’s route will favor an aggressive climber like the 23-year-old. And wouldn’t Aru prefer to race the Giro anyway?

What to expect in 2018: A stage win and top-10 overall result at the Tour de France.
Dream scenario in 2018: Wins another one-week stage race, two Tour stages, and finishes top five at the Grande Boucle.

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Will Talansky thrive at Ironman? The pros weigh in

Can a pro cyclist win Ironman?

It’s a question that cyclists and triathletes have mulled for decades. Swiss rider Karin Thurig balanced both disciplines simultaneously, winning a five Ironman races and two UCI world time trial championships in the mid-2000s. Steve Bauer won Ironman Lake Placid in 2001 after retiring from his decorated pro cycling career. Chann McRae, Rolf Aldag, Kai Hundertmarck, and even Laurent Jalabert all gave it a try over the years.

Andrew Talansky is the latest pro cyclist to try his hand at triathlon. Talansky recently revealed his plans to race Ironman in 2018, having competed in cross-country running and swimming as a child. So how will he fare? I spoke with two of the strongest cyclists in Ironman, Andrew Starykowicz and (now retired pro) Chris Lieto, to get their takes.

How will Talansky’s strength in cycling shape his Ironman?

Lieto: He will be strong of course, but I think it may take some time to get used to the bike effort. Chann McRae came in and everyone thought this Postal guy is going to kill it, and it didn’t happen. He was a lightweight climber and the Ironman effort was different. The road guys are accustomed to riding hard for four or five hours. There’s a lot of cruising. When you’re done, you’re done.

Starykowicz: The current Ironman rules say the no-draft zone is 12 meters. No matter what anybody says, you can feel the pull at 12 meters. So in a big professional race, you have guys riding 10-15 meters apart, and those guys are getting towed along. If Andrew has a bad swim, he will be playing catch-up and pushing his own wind. So his advantage may be negligible if there are 40 guys riding together.

Where will Talansky struggle?

Lieto: So much about Ironman is how you manage your nutrition. During a five-hour bike race, when you’re sitting in, you have time to take in calories. You can drink, you can eat a sandwich or a bar, and that plays a huge role in your effort. In Ironman, you’re at your limit for four or five hours, and that’s just on the bike. Your heart rate is at a level where consuming calories and fluid is tough, and you always end up being in a deficit. So that’s a whole different ballgame for how you’ve built your energy systems as an endurance athlete. We’ve seen some cyclists come in and they don’t know how to dose those efforts.

Starykowicz: For him, he may be used to having a director giving him tactical information in his ear. Ironman is a really different world. You get zero feedback on where anybody is in most races. So you have no tactical information, especially if you’re the leader. You just gotta go. You’re going by feel instead of direction by the information that is being given to you.

How much time can he lose in the swim and still be competitive?

Lieto: If he can’t get good at swimming, then it’s all over. If he’s more than five minutes behind the top guys then he’s always going to have a hard time. Just because he’s a great cyclist doesn’t mean he can catch them. That is the key factor. The top [Ironman] guys are no joke. They can ride. If he’s within 2-3 minutes of the main group in the swim then watch out.

Starykowicz: We’ve seen [Mirinda Carfrae] lose a ton of time in the swim and still come back to win. On the guy’s side it’s different. If he’s five minutes back then he’s out.

Where will Talansky have an advantage?

Lieto: He’s 28 so he’s actually really young in Ironman years. I didn’t ride a bike until I was 25. I had a swimming background with no running. I started from zero, and by 29 I started doing well. I didn’t hit my prime until 37 or 38, and I would have continued to get better if I didn’t get hurt. Andrew already has a lifetime of doing endurance training. I could see him do relatively well in that first year. It will then depend on what shape his swimming background is in.

Starykowicz: I don’t know if he will have an advantage. The top guys at Ironman have been training at loads that far exceed what he’s been doing. Just racing cycling may have handicapped him because your body can only cycle so much. If you’re doing biking, swimming, and running, you can do far more combined work with all three. He will have a big engine relative to age groupers. But compared to professionals? I don’t think so.

What factor will determine his Ironman success?

Lieto: It just takes time. If he has time to put into it, then I think he will adapt. He can get there quicker, depending on coaching. It may take him two years. He has good muscle mass, so I’m sure he will adapt quickly. He has that running background, so that will also play a huge part.I’m not worrying about his skill set. He’s amazing at climbing and time trials, so the question is whether his engine can cross over.

Starykowicz: I’m honestly worried about the guy’s health. The marathon is hard, and he’s going to have to train for it slowly. If he doesn’t have a ton of running under his belt, he could get injured in a bad way. He will be able to train at a high level, but it’s all about whether his body can take it. We’ve seen talented people get taken down by injuries and not be able to show their potential. There’s a high probability of overdoing it, especially if he is super motivated right away.

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Worlds video: What you missed in the final 4km

Cycling fans everywhere experienced an excruciating four kilometers of racing Sunday during the climax of the men’s world road race championships. Were they suffering through a max interval on their home trainers? Did the dog knock a scalding cup of coffee into their lap? No — way worse. The TV moto feed cut out. No pictures. Just commentators left guessing and fans left in the dark.

Prior to the Great Bergen Blackout, we were watching a nail-biting chase. Italian Gianni Moscon was off the front with France’s Julian Alaphilippe. Former world time trial champion Vasil Kiryienka (Belarus) was chasing with Giro wunderkind Lukas Postlberger (Austria).

And then, we had nothing, nothing but a fixed-camera shot of Bergen, Norway’s quaint harbor and the throngs of salmon-eating fans. The announcers were devastated. Twitter had a melt-down.

Finally, with one kilometer to go, we saw Denmark’s Chris Juul-Jensen appear alone, only to be swallowed up by the field. The sprint between home favorite Alexander Kristoff and Slovak Peter Sagan was thrilling. But what happened before then?

Thankfully, we have the Internet. CyclingHub posted the helicopter footage from the final kilometers. I noticed two key moments.

Moment #1: Sagan sneaks up the road

Overall, Sagan rode a quiet, calculated race. This was to his advantage, but when the cameras cut away he got a bit frisky. Ben Swift (Great Britain) attacked up the right side. What looks to be Kazakhstan’s Alexey Lutsenko follows the move, and Sagan hops on his wheel. A fourth rider, Fernando Gaviria (Colombia), joins. The peloton hits the panic button and closes the gap.

Before long, they catch Kiryienka. Postlberger returned to the peloton just before the fireworks kicked off. More importantly, the frantic pace brings them closer to Moscon and Alaphilippe.

Moment #2: Gaviria goes again

For being such a reliable sprinter, it was surprising to see Gaviria riding for a breakaway in the final kilometers. He didn’t spend a ton of matches to follow Swift’s attack, so he goes again soon thereafter. Sagan again closes a little gap to the Colombian.

However, the move that seals the breakaway’s fate — and Sagan owes Gaviria an overpriced Norwegian beer for this one — comes right before the final kilometer. Gaviria goes yet again, and this time he’s accompanied by Juul-Jensen. They catch the move, bringing the peloton within shouting distance of the front. The Dane keeps going in a bid for solo victory. But the Italians are intent on a sprint finish with Moscon caught. Alberto Bettiol leads out the bunch, and the rest is history.

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Bergen worlds power rankings: Elite women’s road race

UCI World Road Championships head to Bergen, Norway this weekend. Here are our top-10 picks for Saturday’s 152.8km elite women’s road race.

10. Kirsten Wild (Netherlands)

Kirsten Wild
Photo: TDWsport.com

As one of the world’s top pure sprinters, Wild isn’t an outright favorite in Norway. The course is likely too hilly for the Dutchwoman. However, a race is only as tough as the riders make it, and there are occasions when world championships are easier than expected due to a tentative peloton. If that’s the case, Wild will be a rider to watch in the sprint.

9. Gracie Elvin (Australia)

Gracie Elvin
Photo: TDWsport.com

Elvin came close to a few major wins this spring at Dwars door Vlaanderen and Tour of Flanders. In both races, she ended up second. Her results through the second half of the season have been modest, but the 28-year-old could be an underdog favorite if she finds herself in the right breakaway.

8. Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands)

Annemiek van Vleuten
Photo: TDWsport.com

Recently crowned world time trial champion van Vleuten is opposite Wild when it comes to the course. Bergen’s circuit probably isn’t hilly enough for the Dutchwoman, who won La Course atop the Col d’Izoard. However, she’s clearly got winning form and is surely brimming with confidence now that a rainbow jersey is hanging in her Norwegian hotel room. The Netherlands has many cards to play. It might do well to send van Vleuten up the road for another time trial.

7. Elizabeth Deignan (Great Britain)

Elizabeth Deignan
Photo: TDWsport.com

The 2015 world champion had a strong start to 2017, with three second-place results in Ardennes week. More recently, Deignan was second in La Course and won GP de Plouay. The Brit isn’t a pure sprinter, but if the field gets whittled down on the hilly Bergen circuit, she’d be a good wheel to follow in the rush to the line.

6. Chloe Hosking (Australia)

Chloe Hosking
Photo: TDWsport.com

Like Wild, Hosking is a top sprinter who would light up a bunch finish if the peloton takes a tentative approach to this world championships. The Aussie, who won La Course on the Champs-Elysees in 2016, won stage 2 at Tour of Norway in August and was second in stage 4 at the Boels Rental Ladies Tour. Plus, Hosking might be racing with something to prove after being left off Australia’s initial worlds team. She appealed, as did Rachel Neylan, and both were given spots on the squad.

5. Lotta Lepisto (Finland)

Lotta Lepisto
Photo: TDWsport.com

Lepisto is having the best season of her career with six major victories. Plus, the Finnish champion recently won the Crescent Vargarda Women’s WorldTour race, so her form is coming around. The 28-year-old does well on hilly circuits with fast finishes — she won Dwars door Vlaanderen and Gent-Wevelgem this spring. Her only weakness might be her team, which is not as deep as others in the race.

4. Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands)

Anna van der Breggen
Photo: TDWsport.com

Much like van Vleuten, van der Breggen is more at home on hilly courses. She swept the Ardennes classics and won the Giro Rosa this year. However, don’t forget that this year’s Giro was far less mountainous than other editions. The Olympic champion stayed in the mix on many of the tricky finishes and having just won a silver in the worlds TT, she is powerful enough to get away and stay away.

3. Coryn Rivera (United States)

Coryn Rivera
Photo: TDWsport.com

As an American publication, we were reticent to put Rivera in the No. 1 spot on this list … What if we jinxed her? Based on her win at Tour of Flanders, the Californian is a top favorite in Bergen. The course’s moderate climbing should be no problem. Her fast finish will be key. The only question is whether the tactics will play out in her favor. To win worlds — or at least earn a medal — Rivera needs a moderately sized group to come to the line for a sprint. She’ll have a few options on the American squad to support that goal, but they don’t match the firepower of the Netherlands.

2. Jolien D’hoore (Belgium)

Jolien D'hoore
Photo: TDWsport.com

Belgian D’hoore is coming off a sprint victory at the Madrid Challenge at the end of the Vuelta. That flat circuit is far easier than the Bergen course, but make no mistake, D’hoore can handle some climbing. She’s won consistently all season long on a variety of courses, ranging from Omloop van het Hageland on home turf in February to China’s Tour of Chongming Island in May and to the Giro Rosa in Italy this July.

1. Marianne Vos (Netherlands)

Marianne Vos
Photo: TDWsport.com

Wait, Vos? Yep, we’re serious, and here’s why. Not only does she have the world championship and Olympics pedigree, she’s hitting her form at the right moment. Vos recently won the Ladies Tour of Norway and stage 1 at the Lotto Belgium Tour. She’s also the reigning European champion. The Bergen course is great for her combination of climbing chops and sprinting savvy. Plus, as we’ve been alluding to, the Dutch have an embarrassment of riches in the women’s world championship race. Vos should be able to sit back in the peloton while other favorites try long-bomb attacks. If the race comes back together on the final lap (which a number of teams will want), Vos will be ready to pounce.

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Bergen worlds power rankings: Elite men’s road race

UCI World Road Championships head to Bergen, Norway this weekend. Here are our top-10 picks for Sunday’s 267.5km elite men’s road race.

10. Rui Costa (Portugal)

Rui Costa
Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Costa hasn’t followed up his 2013 world championship victory with many wins of note, but the Portuguese rider is still an outside favorite in Norway. A strong climber with a decent kick, Costa won the Abu Dhabi Tour in February and was second in two stages at the Giro d’Italia. He’d need to find the right breakaway move for a shot at a medal.

9. Lars Boom (Netherlands)

Lars Boom
Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Former world cyclocross champion Boom is finding form right on schedule for a tilt at road worlds. His win in stage 5 at the BinkBank Tour was marred by a rather rude victory salute. However, the Dutchman made good in the OVO Energy Tour of Britain, winning the stage 5 time trial and the overall. Boom will be hoping that the climbers don’t make the race too hard for him on the Bergen circuit’s primary climb, Salmon Hill.

8. Fernando Gaviria (Colombia)

Fernando Gaviria
Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Like Boom, Gaviria will be hoping the peloton stays mostly intact for a fast finish. The 23-year-old Colombian is known as a superb sprinter, but he can survive over small climbs, as evidenced by his fifth-place result in Milano-Sanremo and ninth-place finish at Gent-Wevelgem. After four stage wins in the Giro, Gaviria got back to his winning ways in stage 4 at Tour of Britain, followed by a win at the UCI 1.1 Kampioenschap van Vlaanderen race in Belgium.

7. Diego Ulissi (Italy)

Diego Ulissi
Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

The Italians have a number of cards to play in Bergen. But none of them look to be outright winners. For our money, Ulissi is the most promising rider toeing the line Sunday. He’s coming off an emphatic win from the breakaway at Grand Prix de Montreal. Also, he was second at Memorial Marco Pantani back home in Italy. Much like his Montreal win, Ulissi will be a threat if a small breakaway stays off the front.

6. Julian Alaphilippe (France)

Julian Alaphilippe
Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Twenty years after France’s last world championship title, Julian Alaphilippe may be the man to break the drought. Well, maybe. The 25-year-old has a nice blend of climbing and sprinting talents, but his rivals (more on them in a moment) may be just a bit quicker. We’ll see how the Frenchman feels after a full three weeks of racing at the Vuelta a España. If he can harness the form that he rode to victory in stage 8, Alaphilippe may do his predecessor Laurent Brochard proud.

5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway)

Edvald Boasson Hagen
Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

If worlds were in any other place, Boasson Hagen wouldn’t be ranked this high on our list. However, the 2017 championships are on home soil for the Norwegian. That should provide extra motivation. Don’t forget that Boasson Hagen finished second to Philippe Gilbert at 2012 worlds. He’ll have no trouble with the 2017 course’s climbs and, judging by his sprint win in stage 8 at Tour of Britain, may be quick enough to claim another medal.

4. Michal Kwiatkowski (Poland)

Michal Kwiatkowski
Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Can Kwiatkowski keep his amazing season rolling in Bergen this weekend? The 2014 world champion won Strade Bianche and Milano-Sanremo and then proceeded to rip the Tour de France peloton to pieces on behalf of teammate Chris Froome. Oh, and just for kicks the Pole won Clasica San Sebastian at the end of July. He helped his Sky team to a bronze medal in team time trial worlds, so it seems Kwiatkowski may have a few matches left to burn. Hopefully we’ll be treated to another exciting matchup between him and Peter Sagan, like the finale in Milano-Sanremo six months ago.

3. Michael Matthews (Australia)

Michael Matthews
Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

The double stage-winner in this year’s Tour de France has found the podium at worlds before. Matthews was second on the hilly Richmond course in 2015. The 26-year-old Aussie is on form as well, riding with his Sunweb team to the outfit’s first team time trial world championship title Sunday. That said, he couldn’t quite match the pace of rivals Greg Van Avermaet or Sagan at the one-day races in Canada at the start of September. Matthews would need to play his hand perfectly to win a rainbow jersey, or he’d need a bit of luck — and you never know who might have a bad day, a crash, or a mechanical.

2. Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium)

Greg Van Avermaet
Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Olympic champion Van Avermaet is as good a pick as any for a worlds title. Should he be No. 1? Perhaps, but he wasn’t even close to out-sprinting Sagan in Grand Prix de Quebec. Overall, he never rediscovered the form that won him E3 Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem, and Paris-Roubaix earlier this season. The Belgian had a listless run at the BinkBank Tour prior to the Canadian WorldTour races. Perhaps he’s yet to hit his autumn peak. If he times it right, he’ll certainly have a strong Belgian team to back him up in Bergen to boot.

1. Peter Sagan (Slovakia)

Peter Sagan
Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

No one has won three consecutive world championship titles. Only four men have won three rainbow jerseys. This year, Sagan might join the likes of Eddy Merckx, Alfredo Binda, Rik Van Steenbergen, and Oscar Freire. By now, we all know he doesn’t have a beefed-up team to support his worlds endeavors. We also know that doesn’t stop him from out-classing those who do, whether they are Belgians, Britons, or Australians. Despite being controversially ejected from the Tour de France, the Slovak looks to be on pace for worlds, having just won in Quebec, his 100th career victory. If he wants his 101st win to be adorned with rainbow bands, he’ll want a tough race with an explosive sprint finish. Too much cat-and-mouse play and Sagan might get burned by tactics, faced with — for example — the Italian team, which has several cards to play.

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