Kicking the race off Friday was a short stage from Jesenik to Rymarov with just 122 kilometers on the docket. Jeremy Maison (France), freshed off his strong performance at the Ronde de l'Isard, got away with Evgeny Zherkov (Russia) early in the stage. The duo worked well together with Zherkov gaining the maximum KOM points to take the mountains jersey for stage 2. Once they got into Rymarov, the race came back together and it wasn't until the 2nd of the three local circuits around Rymarov that a move got together. Daniel Turek (Czech Republic) got away with Gabriel Cullaigh (GB), German Chavez Torres (Colombia) and Marko Pavlic (Slovenia). Turek attempted a last kilometer attack but Cullaigh came back and sprinted for the win with Pavlic and Turek in 3rd. Rok Korosec (Slovenia) won the sprint for 5th followed by my pick for the win Frantisek Sisr (Czech Republic) and Lucas Gaday (Argentina).
If I had to pick 10 riders that I thought could win the opening stage of the 2015 U23 Zavod Miru, or Peace Race for those that aren't good with Czech, I would not have picked Gabrial Cullaigh (GB).
Cullaigh is a first year U23 and came from a track background as a junior. He got three medals at the European junior track championships with 3rd in the Points Race as well as 2nd in Scratch and Team Pursuit. This year, Cullaigh has continued with the British Development Program by splitting his time between the National Team and the 100% ME team, which British Development riders ride with in amateur races in Belgium and such. He got a win in the Esplechin kermesse in a two-man breakaway and after riding the Tour de Yorkshire, Tour de Berlin and Paris-Arras Tour, Cullaigh came in with some form.We're as pleased as @GabzCullaigh is after his #CourseDeLaPaix stage win! http://t.co/PuOLNVZrXl Well done that man! pic.twitter.com/teyxaAxwT5— British Cycling (@BritishCycling) May 29, 2015
Starting on the border town of Glucholazy, Poland, the 2nd stage was quickly back into the Czech Republic with 113 kilometers that finished with a summit of Praded, the highest tallest mountain in the Hruby Jesenik range and 5th highest in all of the Czech Republic at nearly 1,500 meters.
Once again, it was Zherkov who took off but this time it was with Colin Joyce (USA). Zherkov, in search of mountains points, got the maximum points and got the most aggressive rider of the day prize. The duo got a maximum gap of 3 minutes but coming into the final climb of Praded, they were brought back by a group of roughly 20 riders.
The race split up gradually as they went up the climb and near the top, it was a group of 4 including Gregor Mühlberger, Laurens De Plus, Loïc Vliegen and Odd Eiking.
As you can see, Mühlberger was able pull away from De Plus and won by 2 seconds on top of Praded while Eiking and Vliegen came in 7 seconds down. A group of 5 came in 14 seconds down led in by my pick for the stage win Ildar Arslanov then Lennard Kamna, Matvey Mamykin, Mark Padun and Gianni Moscon. Mühlberger took the leader's jersey to the final day for a long circuit around Jesenik.
The final stage was a hilly one that really didn't have any true breakaway get away. Basically the race stayed together with small groups trying to get away but with no success. Heading into the finale, a group of 5 favorites split off the front in front of the Hotel Preissnitz.
In the finale, my pick for the win Loïc Vliegen (Belgium) came good with my promises and took the win in his 2nd to last U23 race ahead of Odd Eiking, Gianni Moscon (Italy), race leader Gregor Mühlberger and first year U23 Lennard Kamna (Germany). Josef Cerny (Czech Republic) led the chasing group in for 6th.
Mühlberger held off Vliegen and won the GC on stage countback with Odd Eiking in 3rd overall followed with Laurens De Plus and Gianni Moscon.
Mühlberger took the points classification while Zherkov handily took the KOM classification.
-Mühlberger took his 3rd win of the year here. He was a stagiaire with NetApp-Endura last year and it is entirely plausible that he could join Bora-Argon 18 this year, especially since they are focusing on German speaking riders.
-First year U23 riders that made an impact this year include German Lennard Kamna and Ukranian Mark Padun. Kamna was the World Junior TT Champ last year and finished 13th in the Bayern Rundfahrt before coming to the Zavod Miru. Padun is a bit of an unknown but was the Ukranian Junior TT Champ last year and seems to have a good motor under him.
-This is the 2nd stage race in a row where Loïc Vliegen won the final stage but finished 2nd overall.
-Denmark has taken a commanding lead on the U23 Nations Cup with a 10 point leave on Norway and 13 points on France. After Great Britain in 5th place at 41 points, it is a long way down until Russia at 6th place at 22 points.