On Monday, the U23 men will roll off the start ramp at 14.00 local time to contest for a gold medal that has been dominated in recent years by English speaking riders. The past three champions have been Luke Durbridge (Australia/Orica-GreenEdge), Taylor Phinney (USA/BMC Racing) and Jack Bobridge (Australia/Orica-GreenEdge) and this year, another Australian will be the hot favorite for gold.
And let me vent y frustrations now...I am mad and upset beyond belief about the decision by NOS and also the UCI to not broadcast either the junior or U23 races at the World Championships. These are some of the most action packed events and you cancel them? Are you kidding me? I'm going to lay most of the blame on NOS for not even bothering to put cameras out for the races, which I attribute to them wanting more money. The UCI should enforce any production crew to shoot all races at the World Championships. This rant is done for now but I will not forget...
Anyways, let us make the jump and there will be a course preview and a rundown of the contenders, where hopefully I can match my success from last year.
Starting in the municipality of Landgraaf, home of the largest indoor ski run in Europe, the course will run a total of 36 kilometers and finish up in Valkenburg, with the climbs of the Sibbergrubbe (2.1 kilometers at 4.1% average) and the historic Cauberg (1.2 km at 5.8% ave) back to back before the false flat run-in into town. Overall the course is rolling with the only real difficulty being the two hills at the end though for most they will not be a problem.
Here is the map and profile
The Riders and Favorites
The hot favorite for the gold medal this year can be no other than Garmin recruit Rohan Dennis (Australia/Jayco-AIS). The silver medalist in the track cycling team pursuit from the London Olympics has scorched nearly every time trial he has entered this year. Earlier this year, he won the prestigious Olympia's Tour TT and the TT in the important Thüringen Rundfahrt. In the last two weekends, Dennis won handily both the hilly Memorial Davide Fardelli, over countryman Damien Howson and Anton Vorobev of Russia, 4th place last year at Worlds, and the Chrono Champenois, over Russian standout Sergey Chernetskiy and Dane Rasmus Christian Quaade, silver medalist at Worlds last year. Barring a mechanical or last minute illness, it would be a huge upset to see Dennis go down
Past Dennis (the Menace), there are a lot of guys that could get into the top 10 but there are 5 more guys that can possibly snag a medal.
Rasmus Christian Quaade (Denmark - Blue Water Cycling)
Quaade had limited road results this year because of his focus on the Danish Olympic team pursuit squad. Quaade had a fantastic year last year by becoming the Danish Elite TT Champion over Jakob Fuglsang and then was able to score a silver medal in the U23 TT in Copenhagen with only 'Turbo Durbo' Luke Durbridge going faster. Right after the 5th place by the Danish squad in London, Quaade was able to take that form and parlay it into an U23 European TT Championship over Luxembourger Bob Jungels. Quaade went 3rd at the recent Chrono Champenois so the form is there. The main concern that I see with Quaade are the hills that lie near the end, an area where he doesn't exactly excel.
If it wasn't for an unfortunate crash in Geelong in 2010, which caused him to DNF, Quaade will have been in the top 10 in every U23 Worlds TT, barring an unforeseen incident on Monday. Quaade blogged that he was thinking about going to get his degree so the future is up in the air for the Dane.
Anton Vorobev (Russia - Katusha)
Vorobev has been a TT talent over the last few years, so much so that he gained a stagiaire role at Katusha this year. Last year, Vorobev was one of the only riders to stay with Luke Durbridge, Michael Hepburn and Quaade in TTs. Vorobev finished 4th in Copenhagen last year and to his benefit, he can go pretty well in the hills. Vorobev finished 3rd at the recent (and hilly) Memorial Fardelli behind Dennis and Damien Howson (by only 6 seconds). With the Limburg course being a rolling course before the two hills at the end, Vorobev might be able to break into the medals.
Damien Howson (Australia - Jayco-AIS)
The 2nd year espoir Howson has had a solid year on the Jayco-AIS squad and has had a great summer with a great Tour de Alsace (7th overall + 2nd in the TT), 2nd in the hilly Memorial Fardelli and then 4th in the Chrono Champenois. Howson went 9th at Worlds last year in his 1st year in the U23 class and should be a lock for the top 6. Howson is also the Oceania U23 TT Champion two years running so he certainly has the pedigree. Howson is also good on the hills, which matches him up well with Vorobev with both having a good chance at a medal.
Sergey Chernetskiy (Russia - Itera-Katusha)
Chernetskiy is a bit of a mystery seeing as he hasn't ridden many TTs but if he is on form...well that is a guaranteed medal. Chernetskiy is a former team pursuiter that began to focus his full attention on the road last year and this year is his first uninterrupted road season. I went on about his stage race exploits in my l'Avenir preview thread but he has had one of the most consistent seasons in the U23 field and his 4th overall at l'Avenir proved that. His inclusion in this medals preview comes on the back of a 2nd place in the Chrono Champenois, only 18" behind Rohan Dennis. There is no doubts that Chernetskiy will fly on the final two climbs so if he is on form...well he might be the closest challenger to Dennis.
Bob Jungels (Luxembourg - Leopard-Trek)
Ah yes, Mr. Jungels...one of the biggest talents that has hit the U23 circuit in recent years. The only problem he has is that he needs to figure out what type of rider he is. Jungels spent a lot more time this year focusing on his climbing but ironically, he obliterated the U23 Paris-Roubaix, winning handily. Jungels forte has been the time trial and as a former junior World Time Trial Champion, he deserves mention in this list. Jungels won the TT at the Fléche du Sud (rolling), Luxembourg TT champ (meaningless), 2nd in an uphill prologue at Giro Valle d'Aosta and then went 2nd to Quaade at the Euro Championships, duplicating his result from last year. He slipped down a bit at the recent Chrono Champenois with only a 7th place. He has the talent to go top 5, if not medal, on a course like this but only the watch will tell us.
There are others that could get into the top 10 with good rides... Americans Nathan Brown (Bontrager-Livestrong) and Larry Warbasse (BMC) both went well at the Chrono Champenois last weekend so they should have a good shot at the top 10. Argentinian Eduardo Sepulveda (FDJ stagiaire) has had a great year and beat Brown at the Pan-American Games this year and has had a great year in Europe. Sepulveda went 8th at the Chrono Champenois and should be able to get into the top 10. Ukranians Marlen Zmorka and Oleksandr Golovash (Kolss) went 5th and 3rd overall at the European Championships and Zmorka was 4th at the Memorial Fardelli. James Oram (Bontrager-Livestrong) was a silver medalist in the junior World TT in Copenhagen last year and was 10th at the Chrono Champenois. He is a good climber so the end part could suit him. Frenchmen Yoann Paillot (La Pomme Marseille stagiaire) and Johan Le Bon (Bretagne-Schuller) both had dissapointing Worlds last year, going 13th and 20th overall. I say dissapointing because Paillot was the European Champion while Le Bon was 6th at Euros and was French U23 champion. This year, Paillot was 3rd in the French Elite TT behind only Chavanel and Roy while Le Bon was U23 champion again. While they should be able to create top 10 rides but 1 day events can be tricky for some. Finally, German Jasha Sütterlin (Thüringer Energie) and Austrian Andreas Hofer (Vorarlberg) are both U-23 Champions of their respective countries and have good pedigrees with Sütterlin being a former Junior Worlds silver medalist behind Jungels and Hofer was the Austrian Elite TT champ last year.
There you have it...I think I previewed about half of the field for you so everyone can get a good look. There are also guys like Tom Dumoulin and Tobias Ludvigsson here, both of whom ride for Argos-Shimano, though I don't buy them getting into the top 5 seeing as neither has had a strong TT year.
1. Rohan Dennis (Australia - Jayco-AIS)
2. Sergey Chernetskiy (Russia - Itera-Katusha)
3. Damien Howson (Australia - Jayco-AIS)
4. Rasmus Christian Quaade (Denmark - Blue Water Cycling)
5. Anton Vorobev (Russia - Katusha)
6. Marlen Zmorka (Ukraine)
7. Bob Jungels (Luxembourg - Leopard-Trek)
8. Jasha Sütterlin (Germany -Thüringer Energie
9. Jasper Hamelink (Netherlands - Vacansoleil)
10. Nathan Brown (USA - Brontrager-Livestrong)
11. Eduardo Sepulveda (Argentina - FDJ-BigMat)
Well that is my selection...I know that I will have at least one right. Coming up later in the week (or early next week), a preview of the U23 Road Race: Can Australia Do the Double?