Written by Dan Kauffman of Hub City Cycling
The first Division 1 Classic of season 47 is a doozy, perhaps the OCM's premier mountain test — the 232-kilometer Alpe d'Huez Classic in France, with climbs over the Col de Galibier and the Col de la Croix de Fer before the finishing summit of the legendary Alpe d'Huez itself. This is a race in which only the fittest and finest climbers will be left battling for the title — but of course, the support they get in getting to that final monstrous climb will be critical.
Defending champion Roland Perk of DZWF is back, and he will attempt to become the first repeat winner of this event. Other former champions in the field include Nefal's Thyge Udbye (season 44) and Jubalon ProCycling's Jaspar Vandenbosch (season 42). Perk could also join the list of two-time winners of the event, which includes only Ejnar Rosenborg (seasons 27 and 30), Zack Davie (seasons 18 and 21) and Ingeman Kristiansen (seasons 3 and 7).
A team-by-team breakdown of the field (numbers in parenthesis are the climbing, downhill and hill climb ratings for the rider, in that order):
AK PRO RACE
This squad brings five capable climbers to the dance, led by Kurt Tielemans (83-84-50) and backed by Hubert Dalsgaard (81-59-65), Ernest Suarez (82-64-69), Arie Bekooy (88-65-45) and Isidoro Soldan (86-75-28). Their sixth rider, Ferdinando Pais, is a non-factor. How much will that hurt?
The worst CL score on this six-man unit is an 83. The worst overall climbing score (combining CL, DH and HL) on the team is 202, and that guy (Spencer Beaulieu) could be on top form come race day. I would define that as “loaded” (of course there are other loaded squads here, too). Sepp Gorgl (98-67-58) will probably get the captain's nod, although Peder Sivertsen (91-71-54) is in that conversation. Orelien Chevalier (87-64-69), Robert Reitan (83-55-71) and Rudy Heems (85-51-84), along with Beaulieu (84-64-54), provide stellar support.
I could see the captaincy going in multiple directions here. As pure climbers go, Gustaw Banas (96-72-27) would get the nod. On overall score, though, Jorg Meyer (82-68-75) would rate higher due to superior hill talent. And Jurre Bekkers (85-82-53) can make a case due to his outstanding downhill credentials, which factors more heavily than hills. Ward Engelbert (82-53-55) is a fine domestique, Salvatore Inbovina (62-71-51) will provide downhill support and Marceli Urban (93-32-47) can get up the big climbs superbly.
Not much separates this squad's top five riders. On cumulative score, Kerrian Gervais (97-55-61) would get the captain's nod by a hair over Ki-jun Dongbang (85-67-55, plus one of my favorite last names in the game), Vincenzo Zaia (85-55-66), Julian Lontscharitsch (96-54-55) and Heine Birkeland (95-55-52). The “weak link”, Dimosthenis Dotsis (71-84-41), provides strong downhill help.
The (very) good news: The pure climbing scores for this squad average out to a 93.8! The not-so-great news: The DH and HL ratings for a lot of the guys are not strong. The rider who would make the best captain is probably the one with the lowest CL score — go figure — in Alexander Nyegard (86-83-47), who has by far the best downhill chops. Ludvik Chvojka (94-58-55) and Landry Keefer (99-34-74) are the best of the super-climbers, followed by Bruno Hacin (98-32-59), Jens Rustad (93-48-31) and Khaled Dbagh (93-30-41).
CYCLING AND KEBAB
Right off the
bat, circle Ulises Gavaldon (94-72-60) as a title contender. He should get plenty of help from Vadim Dolha (82-69-53), Remi Eliassen (81-69-36), Denniz Hojgaard (73-74-62), Felicjan Adamczewski (75-76-51) and Ludo Oelemans (82-41-72). Not the strongest team here, but very capable nonetheless.
While not the strongest team in the field, I like this unit's top two in likely captain Henk Houtman (96-72-62) and Carsten Kronborg (91-55-74). Rupert Bacilieri (89-67-30) and Sem Pangnark (85-67-42) are solid climbers, Barry Van de Plas (76-69-74) is a great all-around talent and Timofei Anokhin (61-92-35) will lead the way down the descents.
Here's another squad whose pick for captain could be interesting. Is it Jacky Nguyen (92-74-32)? Is it Jim Luysen (84-77-58)? Is it Guy Lesley (92-55-65)? Whoever it is will have a fine group backing him, including Bud Severns (87-64-41), Bond Speller (89-56-52 … I imagine this guy standing at a chalkboard writing “Bond” over and over again. Maybe it's just me), and Sebas Zorge (83-59-33).
This squad's overall climbing scores range from 226 to 208, with the lowest — Abdul-karim Al-Attrar (87-61-60) — potentially riding on top form. Jayden van den Kroon (87-75-64) is most likely to get the captain's nod if not Al-Attrar. Andre Marinho (87-52-79), Beniamin Chrzanowski (84-65-67), Keith Brew (84-66-64) and Leino Pukk (75-75-61) round out this talented unit.
The choice for captain will probably come down to whether the downhill score of Alfredo Infante (90-77-33) or the hill score of Francesco Joinoe (89-59-63) is valued higher. (I'd probably go with Infante, but I'm a n00b so what do I know?) Eelco Oosterhof (89-67-38) is a solid domestique (and maybe the only rider in the game who has two matching vowels at the start of both his first and last name?), as are Maks Zak (72-76-63) and Rickon Bett (72-71-69). Nemesio Margas is a weak spot, though.
It's hard to imagine Perk (87-82-54) not getting the captain's nod in going for the repeat, and he does have the best CL + DH score of the squad. But if one factors in hills, you could make a case for Nathan Buderus (81-80-76) or Bradley Adam (78-81-79). Still, Perk has to be the captain, no? Glen Styris (84-68-63), Storm Magnussen (91-66-47) and Jesse Goossens (89-51-57) round out this formidable unit.
This looks like a practice day for a group of six riders better suited for a hill stage than a mountain one. (With an average downhill score of 30.3, I'm picturing this team flying off a mountainside at 80 kilometers per hour like brainless lemmings. It's a funny thought.)
This is a sneaky solid squad with no riders below a combined 198 climbing score. If it were up to me, I'd tag Paul-Edouard Tassard (92-73-46) as the captain, as he has the top CL + DH score. But it's a close call, with Vincent Currie (85-70-53), Joel Carter (88-66-52), Naldo Lizaur (83-61-54), Robbie Lyon (82-58-70) and Bastian Jakobsson (90-64-46) all quality in their own right.
Who gets the captain's nod here? Geomar Nibali (82-83-45) might be the preferred choice given his much stronger downhill rating, but a case can be made for Alonso Giorgio (90-57-72). Support comes from Rizal Mawawl Rasdl (87-66-45), Csopaki Tamas (77-79-31), Grant Nicewander (72-69-27) and Edward Bierens (75-34-87).
This is another interesting decision between Furulyas Arpad (85-70-76) and Johan Klinjstra (90-73-51) for the captaincy. Arpad has the highest overall climbing score (and at 231 is among the game's best), but Klinjstra is stronger in the two most important categories — though Gavio Andrade (88-74-46) isn't far behind. Strong support comes from Maks Bednarski (73-82-60) and Xavier Gicquel (76-51-77), and Lonzo Moscoso (74-39-77) should contribute as long as he doesn't go hurdling off the side of a mountain downhill.
JONAS PRO CYCLING
This is a practice run for these guys, unless Blaine Gainey pulls off the breakaway effort of the millenium.
Can Jaspar Vandenbosch (88-82-58) join the elite ranks of two-time winners of this event? He's got a deep and talented squad around him, including Lars Bjorndal (82-82-50), who would get the captain's nod on a lot of teams (and there's a non-zero chance he could get it here). Rounding out this unit are Ethan Hampton (86-74-58), Patrick Winther (83-73-53), Bryson Cronin (84-65-56) and Suylven Van Gysel (88-63-34).
Like Vandenbosch, Thyge Udbye (95-70-54) will try to add his name to the two-time winners' list. Boris Ponchikov (89-62-67) is a very good No. 2, and Tjorven De Moor (84-64-58), Theo Hobbs (90-41-78), Kjarten Bye (82-57-72) and Rene Sundby (83-31-86) round out this powerful squad of 200-plus overall climbers.
On this underdog squad -- which will probably be satisfied with any result -- Geronimo Valenzuela (90-57-44) will probably get the captain's nod. Ricky Ronning (83-58-40), Dante Perez (75-48-51), Basilio Molina (73-44-44), Incendio Meolans (66-50-59) and Eric Hultoft (60-31-81) round out a unit that may struggle on the treacherous descents.
As if it needs said, Alexander Seefeldt (81-82-80) is a major title threat (I'm surprised he hasn't won this already. I suppose his pure climbing score is a little lower than others). Gabriel Herman (87-77-62) and Gudmund Lorentsen (88-70-66) are fantastic domestiques who would captain numerous other teams. Though his hill score isn't great, Mauritio Salinas (90-76-39) actually has the squad's top CL + DH score. Keaton Aiello (83-69-63) is another talented all-rounder and Basilio Molina (73-44-44) will provide some help up the early mountains.
Migel Villalobos (72-59-37) is the only "threat" on this squad, and even he is a serious longshot.
Gregory Rivera (96-54-54) probably gets the captain's nod here with his climbing prowess, supported by Timothy de Reyck (92-52-44), Ulrik Nordstrom (88-48-75), Jorma Graberg (77-87-33), Willem Graham (75-75-59) and Chan Yew Rajan (55-81-59).
Birk Backe (96-74-47) will probably get the captain's nod, with Jorn Guldahl (94-61-51) and Tommy Haller (91-52-73) providing excellent support. Caspar Gardner (84-56-46), Vance Kellar (85-56-26) and Marco Chytil (74-75-31) round out the squad capably.
THE BROAD BACKS
Milton Cafe (95-76-46) will likely be the choice as captain here, leading a very strong squad of 200-plus overall climbers that includes Mamadou Ngamokouba (82-74-65), Gladian Ledingwane (87-71-56), Declan Utz (93-67-43), Enoch van Staren (83-74-50) and Taji Olokonyango (83-67-58). Also, I'd love to use some of these last names in a Scrabble game.