TOUR de l’AVENIR (UCI 2.2, u23 Nations Cup)
STAGE 7 – SAINT MICHEL de MAURIENNE to La TOUSSUIRE, 95.1km
West Australia’s Robert Power has made history, becoming the first Australian to have ever made the overall podium at the Tour of l’Avenir in France.
Power finished second overall while the team also won two stages with Campbell Flakemore (prologue) and Caleb Ewan (stage 2).
Report by Jayco-AIS World Tour Academy and Australian under 23 coach James Victor.
What can you fit into 95km of road racing in the French Alpes? Ooooo lah lah lah lah….
With the best in the world of under 23 road cycling talent, ambitions of professional contracts, eighth day into a torturous stage race in the French Alpes that finishes with four mountain top finishes.
Most young cyclists don’t get the chance to venture into the French Alpes for this unique opportunity to race over some of the most arduous and spectacular mountains normally only experienced during ‘that’ three weeks in July.
Robert started today in second overall and as we discussed pre-stage, “we can’t afford to risk 2nd overall to be too adventurous in chasing the overall win.”
Robert’s best chance to challenge for the win always remained in the last 5-10 kilometres IF the opportunity presented itself.
The “Col du Molard” started after four kilometres and should have been the warm-up for the three hours of intense up and down and up again. 10 riders were quickly into the lead group with the French putting riders up the road early like they had plans to move their best-placed GC contender up on the classification.
The gap was holding comfortably at 1 minute 30 seconds for most of the first climb.
Then the “attack of the Tour” came from Belgium Louis Varvaeke, bridging the gap in less than five kilometres and continuing solo up the Croix de Fer to crest alone in front at 2 minutes to the remnants of the peloton (20 riders) with 52 km to go.
Campbell had shown good signs all week of his progressing strong form and crested with the yellow jersey group in good support of Rob’s plans to challenge late in the stage.
Jack chased hard and crested not long after to join back into the main chase group. Australia and Russia were the only teams with three riders represented and with only 50km to go,
there was still a mountain of work to get through to retain Rob’s overall standing and nullify any challenges.
Caleb, Alex and Sam had worked superbly through the week to support both Caleb’s stage chances and Rob and Jack’s overall opportunities and closing in on the stage finish, were finding their respective groups and endeavouring to get to the finish of the stage to be classified as finishing.
Between the top of the Croix de Fer, the long fast technical descent and onto the start of the Tour’s final climb to the finish at “Montee de la Toussuire” (35km), the Belgium had increased his lead to the chasing group of 17 riders to just over three minutes. This was going to be a seriously taxing ascent of 18km to the finish line.
To his credit, the Belgium gave everything and produced the best move of the Tour.
The gap at 10 kilometres to go was still two minutes and 40 seconds virtual lead on the road with all being tested for their overall classification right to the finish.
Eventually at 5km to go, the gap was slowly reducing with team cars following on the edge of their seats.
By stage and Tour finish, the Belgium had earned a well-deserved second stage win for his team. With the gap down to 34 secs, Robert lost a couple of more seconds with the frantic sprint for everyone to keep their GC places.
Robert finished fifth on the stage and retained his second place overall.
A great job and well supported by a strongly motivated team effort.
Robert also finished 2nd in the Mountains Classification, 4th in the Points Classification but more impressively showed his composure and unlimited potential for the future as a major Tour Contender – and only 19 years old.
Australia’s only ever GC Podium at the Tour de l’Avenir ! ! !
Jack pushed through to stage’s end with a well-earned 12th overall GC.
The Aussies secured two stages wins for the week, equal at the top with the Belgium team and we moved from 19th to 9th overall for the Nations Cup rankings – the final ranking for 2014.
So a very successful tour and rewarding experience for a unified group looking forward to the final four weeks of preparation to the Road Worlds.
Back in Italy – Buona note!