Written by Dan Kauffman of Hub City Cycling
The Critérium La Provence is the final Division 1 Classic of Year 46. Its 203 kilometers sends riders through beautiful French scenery, much of it rolling up and down one mountain or hill after another. While it slightly favors the top climbers, it's a race that a well-rounded rider, strong in climbing, downhills, hills and flat roads, can excel in without needing to be the absolute best in any one category. And that will be how I analyze this race, with the top contenders and their combined score in those four attributes listed, as well as what their teammates are bringing to the table. (Note: I wanted to get this posted before knowing for sure who would be in top form or what everyone's DP numbers would be. Obviously those things could make a big difference.)
Going team by team in alphabetical order …
Calvino Motolinia (275) is exactly the kind of well-rounded rider who can make a dent in this classic. Ezequiel Montolio (250) brings serious climbing and flat road chops, Everardo Echave (222) is a strong climber and downhiller, Jaime Celades (201) is a quality flat road and hills presence, Norberto Pretel (200) is a solid climber and downhiller, and Patricio Corvalan (190) gets up and down hills like a fat kid eats cake.
This absolutely loaded team has Peder Sivertsen (287) dreaming of a victory, and for good reason. With Rudy Heems (268), Happy Jibiliza (268), Hernandez Busques (258), Orelien Chevalier (257) and Sepp Gorgi (254) -- all 200-plus climbers -- behind him, the sky literally is the limit.
Jorg Meyer (291) shapes up as an absolute beast in this field, with at least a 66 in each of the four attributes most required. His support is outstanding, too, with Jurre Bekkers (255), Ward Engelbert (255), Mariusz Haber (246) and Orlando Kacciavurian (236). The “weakest” of the team, Gustaw Banas (233), is its strongest pure climber (96).
Another loaded squad -- although not quite as strong as Andeby -- gives likely captain Ricardo Bernaldez (278) hope for a result. His domestiques are all 200-plus climbers: Kerrian Gervais (261), Julian Lontscharitsch (258), Vlad Yenotin (252), Montez Galanti (251) and Ki-jun Dongbang (243).
Ludvik Chvojka (275) and Tyler Boyle (270) form a formidable 1-2 punch with no weaknesses. Alexander Nyegard (261) isn't far behind as a standout climber and downhiller, and added support comes in the form of standout climbers Landry Keefer (235) and Bruno Hacin (219).
Cycling and kebab
Ulises Gavaldon (274) should get the captain's nod with a superb 226 climbing score. The support includes Ludo Oelemans (248), Denniz Hojgaard (243), Emannaq Pauloosie (238), Felicjan Adamczewski (235) and Remi Eliassen (214). This squad is lacking some flat road chops.
You can mark Narcis Agiu (292) down as a top individual threat, with no score lower than 64 in any of the four main attributes and a 92 in climbing. Behind him is a rock-solid group of teammates in Lucio Cesar (272), Zou Yandong (257), Philip Eskesen (245), Annan McLennan (236) and Nicola Viena (236). The last three are 200+ climbers.
Ludvig Karlsen (286) is up there with Meyer as someone you have to circle as a championship contender instantly. He has a great squad working for him, with Lennox Morton (265) — who I want to keep calling Lexxon because I can't freaking type (thank God I can proofread) — and Guy Lesley (262) among the top domestiques, Jim Luysen (248) supplying 218 climbing chops, and Bond Speller (228) and George Dumitrache (227) also strong climbers.
Add Keith Brew (288) to the list of championship threats — and one who brings one of the top support groups, with Jayden van den Kroon (267), Leino Pukk (266), Andre Marinho (264) and Abdul-karim Al-Attrar (263) forming what could righty be considered an all-star squad. The “weak link”, Jurgen Krohne (213), is a flat engine extraordinaire.
Speaking of all-star squads, holy crap, is this team LOADED. Either Roland Perk (289) or Bradley Adam (287) could rightly be the captain, and both are championship contenders. Nathan Buderus (269), Glen Styris (267), Storm Magnussen (260) and Jesse Goossens (245) are fantastic domestiques. The climbing ratings for these guys are off the charts: Adam 238, Buderus 237, Perk 223, Styris 215, Magnussen 204 and Goossens 197. They don't have a great flat road guy (Perk leads the group with a 66), but that's picking nits.
Other than one standout hiller (Ton Minh Tran), there isn't much to talk about here.
This is a solid squad top to bottom even though it doesn't boast an individual you'd immediately circle as a championship threat. As a unit, Kibwe Kiaku (259), Paul-Edouard Tassard (246), Tor Overland (245), Robbie Lyon (240), Naldo Lizaur (226), Oscar Florimo (224) might be able to grind out a top-nine finish. Their top flat road rating is Tassard's 63, which could hinder them.
If this was a pure climbing stage without significant flat stretches, these guys would be pretty scary. But the highest FR rating on this unit is a putrid 35. Maybe they can overcome it, led by Furulyas Arpad (266) and supported by Johan Klinjstra (247), Maks Bednarski (244), Xavier Gicquel (229), Gianfranco Zubczuk (225) and Christopher Skov (207).
With a 1-2 punch like Jaspar Vandenbosch (283) and George Jessen (278) leading the way, don't count this team out for a nice result (even if their top flat road rating is Jessen's 61). Rock-solid climbers Bryson Cronin (250), Ethan Hampton (247), Arnold Urbanowski (226) and Chris Symonds (225) round out the group.
Yet another absolutely amazing squad that will likely team up for Alfred Vinkie (284). Eric Britt (271) provides a very good flat engine (79) that some teams don't have here, Steven Gillies (269) is a well-rounded teammate, Adrian Durakovic (266) is a sensational 239 climber, Anselmo Zubizarreta (259) is a 226 climber and Walery Nycz (246) checks in as a 216 climber.
Yet another staggeringly good squad, with an amazing four riders scoring at or above 270 -- Zdislav Kynci (284), Daniel van der Leeqte (279), Jaspar Cornu (275) and Jordi Wautiers (271). If not the captain, Van der Leeqte will be critical in a support role with his 82 flat road score. Rudy Rousseuw (263) is a 220 climber and Casimiro Angeloz (241) is a 211 climber.
Sal Dambrosio (309) is the odds-on favorite, scoring no less than a 69 in all four featured categories. He has a superb squad behind him in incredible climbers Theo Hobbs (271) and Thyge Udbye (269), talented climber-downhiller Rene Sundby (257), 218 climber Boris Ponchikov (251) and 206 climber Tjorven De Moor (240).
Kenneth Eikeland (137 CL + DH) and Viggo Odden (127 CL + HL) are the top riders on an otherwise irrelevant squad here.
Tobiasz Lukaszewicz (296) is a major championship threat, with superb ratings in climbing (87), hills (72) and flat roads (89). Alexander Seefeldt (272) is arguably the best climber on the planet, and Gudmund Lorentsen (260), Gabriel Herman (256), Jeremiah Gamel (250) and Mauritio Salinas (239) are standout climbers in their own right. Another amazingly loaded team.
Talk about having options for captains, any one of this team's top four -- Leslie Kiprotich Kenel (275), Samuel Espinosa (271), Goddard Reichard (270) or Ronny Eldem (265) -- could get the nod. It will probably depend on who (if anyone) is in top form. Harold Hall (239) in an incredible flat road engine (94). However, Natanael Astarloza (174) is a weak spot.
On a better overall squad, Hilario Pizarro (279) would be more of a threat as a talented all-around rider. Maybe he can produce a top nine anyway, although it will be tough. Abigail Veliz (222) is a 187 climber, Jesus Crespo (201) sports a 94 in climbing, Rufio Masoliver (200) has an 86 climbing rating, Fido Rabal (196) sports an 82 on hills, and David Garza (125) ... well, he can carry water bottles!
Doncan Cutress (254), a stout climber and flat road engine, and Alden Dymoke (259), a 227 climber, lead a squad that otherwise has little to offer climbing-wise but will provide some additional flat road help.
Here's a late entry that can make some noice. Kane Laporte (270) is a 220 climber and has a chance at a result. Behind him, Timothy de Reyck (251) has a 92 in climbing and adds some flat road power, Ulrik Nordstrom (241) is a 211 climber, Willem Graham (240) is a 208 climber, Jorma Graberg (230) has climbing and downhill chops and Klas-Goran Fredriksson (207) is an 83 climber.
Aside from a trio of strong flat roaders (Cadel Fittler, Keegan Watrous and Freddie Krammer), this has the look of a training run for this climbing-starved unit.