Only 1 day to go until one of my favorite races of the year (which I probably won't get to watch because of university classes...grumble) and while the course around Copenhagen might seem to be destined for a sprint, it won't exactly play out that way, especially when U23 riders are racing. With there being a maximum of 6 riders allowed for the big teams, usually teams are not big enough to control dangerous breakaways without some cooperation. So even on a course such as this one, don't be surprised to see a break take it to the line.
The history of this race isn't very long, with the UCI only breaking from an amatuer World RR championship to the U23 in 1996, it has provided some a springboard for rider's careers and landed some riders with so much hype that it sinks their careers. Take for example 2003 in Hamilton...a breakaway took it to the line and Sergey Lagutin took the sprint over Johan Van Summeren and Thomas Dekker but when you look at who else composed the breakaway you see names like Jens Renders and Alexander Bazenov (both have been retired for quite a while now). As an extreme, you can have a race like 2005 in Madrid where the top 4 was Dymtro Grabovskyy (came close to killing himself with alcohol and was fired by ISD in '09 then resigned in '10, crashed badly and booted back to the Continental team...hasn't raced this year), William Walker (Aussie who had to stop racing because of heart problems), Evgueni Popov (never made if out of the Continental ranks with Rabo or Katusha) and Carlo Westphal (rode with Gerolsteiner for a bit then retired at 24). The point of my rant being don't put too much stock into a rider as a U23 before he shows it in the pro ranks.
Anyways, 155 riders will be taking the line from 41 nations in what is sure to be a great race...did I tell you how excited I am?!? :^) Anywho, on the flip you will be getting a detailed breakdown of the contenders and my take of how the race will play out!
With there being so many guys that have a shot at winning or getting into the medals, this might come down to who is in better form (if the race breaks up) or if it relatively stays together, who has the fastest sprint overall. So here is the breakdown of favorites and guys that have a shot at the medals...
Australia: *Michael Hepburn* (though they have 3 other options)
The Aussies are going to want to break up the race because while Hepburn is very fast, there are guys that are faster in a big bunch...they have one of the strongest teams with TT champ Luke Durbridge and fast guys like Rohan Dennis, Tom Palmer and Richie Lang.
France: *Arnaud Demare*
The Frenchies probably have the biggest favorite for the win in Demare...He is one of the gems of this U23 class and has all ready signed with FDJ for next year; 8 wins this year including La Cote Picardie, 2 stage wins at Coupe des Nations in Canada and Le Ronde Peveloise (over Hutarovich no less). He has another strong sprinter in Adrien Petit (Cofidis) who should be right up there with him in the final k's
Italy: Sonny Colbrelli & Filippo Fortin
Both riders are capable of getting a medal on the Denmark course just probably depending on who is feeling better...I haven't seen any articles regarding leadership but I would say that Colbrelli is number 1, depending on how his form is, because of his good results this year and 6th place in the sprint last year
Belgium: Tim..ahhhh wait no..Sean...perhaps Tosh...uhhh well let see...
Belgium has a lot of talent, lets put it that way and perhaps gs or someone can inform better about their intentions but they have a lot of guys that can sprint and win from breaking away...I'm going to say that they are pulling for Tosh van der Sande because he possesses the best pure sprint but don't rule out guys such as Jelle Wallays (8th at ToB and 3rd in Belgian Champs) or Sean De Bie (nephew of cyclo-crossers Danny and Rudy)
Great Britain: *Luke Rowe*
Along with Demare, he is one of the really big favorites for this race...Rowe is a future one-day star with a very strong sprint; winner of the ZLM Tour and stage in the Thuringen Rundfahrt, he should be able to make any splits that could happen in the peloton and be ready for the end...He also has a strong team including Andrew Fenn (OPQS for next year) and Simon Yates (l'Avenir sprint stage winner)
USA: Jacob Rathe
Third at Roubaix U23, stage winner at Volta a Portugal, 2nd at U23 Nationals (he let his teammate win after they did a 2 man TT for the last half of the race), Rathe is a budding star and the flat course should suit him to a T though he wouldn't mind it possibly being hard enough to shed some other sprinters
Russia: Alexei Tsatevitch
He will need a more selective sprint but Tsatevitch has a boatload of speed to use and when you include some stud teammates like Anton Vorobev (4th in the TT) and Vyacheslav Kuznetsov, he can do something big if he is on his game.
Spain: Jordi Simon
He will need a breakaway to launch from and a tougher course would help BUT the incline at the finish line will help his cause. He does have a good sprint that he showed off at l'Avenir so Spain should be hopeful for a good spot
Netherlands: *Jetse Bol and Wouter Wippert*
Not that there is any hint of favoritism for PdC-er Jetse but he and his Dutch cohorts are brimming for a BIG win. If the race breaks up over the technical course, Jetse, in my book at least, is a lock for the podium. He has a sprint that is dynamite and just look back to how he won the Olympia's Tour...he and 2 other Rabo Conti teammates (Sinkledam and Dumoulin) broke away with 2 others (Bauer and Ludvigsson) to form a break high on horsepower and he stole the overall from the Australian duo of Hepburn and Durbridge. If it does not break up, the Dutch have an almost equally strong man in Wouter Wippert...stage winner at l'Avenir, he could pull a massive coup in the sprint
Others who could pull a nice result:
Kazakhstan: Arman Kamyshev Coupe des Nations stage winner and 2nd overall...would like to see selective sprint
Germany: Rüdiger Selig (4th ProRace Berlin)
Canada: Guillaume Boivin (T-3 last year but hasn't seemed to been able to recapture form)
Latvia: Toms Skujins and Andris Smirnovs (future classics men that will be attacking til the death with Skujins being better out of a break and Smirnovs having a better sprint)
Norway: Dueling Vegards (Stake Laengen and Bugge Robinson)
Ethiopia: Tsgabu Gebremaryam Grmay...He is the real deal but isn't his preferred terrain..just though everyone should know East Africa means business =]
Sweden: Jonas Ahlstrand (won recent Belgian race...2nd at Tallinn-Tartu GP to 2nd place by an inch at Paris Tours Angelo Furlan)
Ireland: Sam Bennett (GP Stad van Geel winner over lots of fast dudes like Wippert)
New Zealand: James Williamson (6th at Philly Champs, good Belgian results)
Argentina: Daniel Diaz (signed with Geox for next year)
Algeria: Youcef Reguigui...Really, don't think I am joking about Africa, he is a sprinter and has good results in Europe
I think with a combination of the small teams, technical course and possible wind that there will not be a big group deciding it for the win. I'm being bold (and possibly stupid) and going to say that a breakaway gets caught by a small peloton within the last 10km and a sprint of around 25 decides the race
1. Luke Rowe
2. Arnaud Demare
3. Jetse Bol
Your thoughts? I think its going to be a great race...I had goosebumps last year watching Mathews jump out and hearing the crowd erupt and it makes me wish U23 racing was more televised (along with women's!) because of how damn exciting it is.