By Andrew Hood
The Americans bring a highly competitive team to the 46th Tour de l’Avenir, which clicks into gear Saturday in northern France in one of the most important U-23 races of the season.
The preliminary start list reveals an impressive lineup of emerging American talent, with Tejay van Garderen, Peter Stetina, Alex Howes, Daniel Holloway, Kirk Carlsen and Chris Barton leading for the Stars ‘n’ Stripes as 18 national teams line up for the race. Chris Butler and Bjorn Selander are listed as replacements.
The American squad should be right in the heat of the battle for the overall title of the prestigious Avenir race.
Organized by ASO of Tour de France fame, the nine-stage race hugs northern and eastern France, avoiding the Alps and Pyrénées.
Starting Saturday in Dreux, the route passes through Picardy, the Ardennes and the Vosges, before ending in Besançon on September 13. It’s a challenging course where aggressive riding and a strong time trial performance should tip the winner.
Since its inception in 1961, the race has changed format several times of the years. Initially developed as an amateur race to attract teams and riders from the Eastern Bloc which could not send professional riders to the major pro European races such as the Tour, the Avenir has since evolved into one of the top amateur stage races of the year.
The Avenir has often tipped future success in the pro ranks with a host of future Tour de France winners, including Felice Gimondi, Laurent Fignon, Greg LeMond and Miguel Indurain, among the list of Avenir victors.
Since 2007, the race has been organized as a clash between national teams, consisting of six-man squads of riders under-23.
Race director Christian Prudhomme says he’s happy with the latest format.
“The Tour de l’Avenir has found a new lease on life,” Prudhomme said. “Inviting national teams to participate has given greater soul to the race. These apprentice champions, who are already used to flying the colors of their team, can now experience the thrills of wearing their national jerseys. The energy that we have seen attackers, the leaders or their teams pour into the race in the past two editions has convinced us that the values of cycling have reached a higher plain.”
46th Tour de l’Avenir
Stage 1, September 5: Dreux-Dreux, 130km
Stage 2, September 6: Dreux to Tourville-la-Campagne, 138km
Stage 3, September 7: Le Thuit-Signol to Compiègne, 189km
Stage 4, September 8: Magny-lès-Compiègne to Sedan, 197km
Stage 5, September 9: Sedan to Guénange, 166.5km
Stage 6, September 10: Chateau-Salins to Gérardmer, 146km
Stage 7, September 11: Gérardmer to Ornans, 182.5km
Stage 8, September 12: Ornans-Ornans (ITT), 27km
Stage 9, September 13: Besançon- Besançon, 116.5km