American Neilson Powless closed out the Tour de l’Avenir in style Saturday, winning the eighth and final stage of cycling’s premier under-23 showcase on the challenging Col de la Croix de Fer. The 19-year-old launched an attack on the early slopes of the climb and held out all the way to the line to take the victory.
“It was a crazy hard stage, but really fun,” said Powless. “Just after the one-kilometer-to-go arch, I thought for sure I wasn’t going to make it. The gap was at 15 seconds and my legs were hurting so hard that I could not even pedal around one of the switchback corners. I looked back with 800 meters to go and saw an Australian rider coming up. Fortunately, I didn’t cramp up from there and made it.”
Powless’ compatriot Adrien Costa, meanwhile, capped off a strong showing in the race with a fourth-place result in the stage to finish the French race on the overall podium in third. Costa’s GC campaign was highlighted by a stage victory of his own in the stage 4 time trial, a day that saw the United States go one-two, with Powless nabbing runner-up honors. The pair have ridden together all season at the Continental level with Axeon Hagens Berman, though Costa began a stagiare period with Etixx – Quick-Step at the start of the month.
David Gaudu of France, a stagiare with FDJ, took the overall title Saturday after finishing third on the stage behind Powless and the aforementioned Australian, Lucas Hamilton. Italy’s Edward Ravasi claimed second on GC.
With two stage victories and an overall podium, the American squad proved among the most impressive in the race, a promising sign for the future. The Tour de l’Avenir has always been a strong indicator of up-and-coming talent, with Greg Lemond and Miguel Indurain among the many stars who took overall wins in the race as up-and-comers.
In recent years, Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Esteban Chaves (Orica – BikeExchange), and Miguel Ángel López (Astana) nabbed GC wins as youngsters before developing into talented pros, while Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) and Andrew Talansky (Cannondale – Drapac) both count second-place finishes on their early palmares.