Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2016 Team Preview: Klein Constantia

It seems like it will be a yearly tradition for this team to switch headline names every year between all of the holdings of Czech oligarch Zdenek Bakala. In 2013, they were Etixx-iHNed. In 2014, the team was Etixx. This past year, the team switched to AWT-Greenway. For 2016, the Etixx-Quick Step feeder team is changing their name to Klein Constantia, which is a South African winery that is partially owned by Bakala. The company name is derived from the Constantia valley in South Africa, which is known as a wine-producing region.

Vino, Vintage Bakala
2015 was an up and down year for the team. They lost a lot of their core riders from 2014 and they struggled to produce at times. Erik Baska, the Slovakian bound for Tinkoff, was their saving grace with 5 wins but Jan Brokoff was the only other rider to snag a win in 2015. While they might have lacked in the win column, the team did show some stars of the future in Max Schachmann, who was the silver medalist in the World U23 TT Championship, and Michal Schlegel, the Czech all-arounder who was 6th in the World U23 RR and 10th in the Giro della Valle d'Aosta.

A core of only five riders is staying from the 2015 team while the other seven go to new pastures. Rayane Bouhanni (Cofidis) and Baska are the only two riders bound for pro teams while Jan Brockoff heads for Leopard Development, Alexis Guerin & Alvaro Cuadros head to strong amateur teams in France & Spain, and Jakub Novak & Matej Bechyne are off to who knows where. The team now has no riders from 2014 let alone their first year in 2013.

The 5 riders staying include:

Ivan Garcia Cortina (Spain)
Przemyslaw Kasperkiewicz (Poland)
Roman Lehky (Czech Republic)
Max Schachmann (Germany)
Michal Schlegel (Czech Republic)

Cortina showed some potential in the Tour de Bretagne, where he was in the top 6 three times on the way to a top 10 overall finish and 15th in the Piccolo Giro di Lombardia. Look for him in hillier races as well as difficult courses with sprint finishes. Kasperkiewicz was a strong classics rider with 9th in La Cote Picarde and 11th in Paris-Roubaix., well 2016 is a new year. Schachmann and Schlegel, as mentioned above, had some good results this past year and look to be the two cornerstones for the team in the coming year.

The 8 riders joining include:

Jonas Bokeloh (SEG Racing/Germany)
Remi Cavagna (Pro Immo Roux/France)
Enric Mas (Fundacion Contador/Spain)
Nuno Bico Matos (Radio Popular/Portugal)
Kenny Molly (Fundacio Contador/Belgium)
Jhonathan Narvaez (Ecuador/Junior)
Hamish Schreurs (Sojasun-ACNC/New Zealand)
Frantisek Sisr (Dukla Praha/Czech Republic)

There are some very interesting names on this list but let us start with the one that I am most excited to see. Jhonatan Narvaez hails from Ecuador and a tiny town called El Pláyon de San Francisco in the province of Sucumbios, which abuts Colombia and Peru. His town just sits a stones throw away from Colombia but is situated in the middle of nowhere. Why am I so excited so see how this first year U23 gets on? Well he does hold the World junior record for the 3km Individual Pursuit, which he broke earlier this year. While it was at altitude, it is a very impressive feat as it was nearly .5 of a second faster than previous record holder Dale Parker. In 2014, he was 2nd overall in the Vuelta de la Porvenir (Junior Tour of Colombia) and this year, he was 2nd in the Junior Pan Am Games road race. He proceeded to go to the Vuelta al Besaya in Spain and won the overall while racing with a team from Colombia. You can read a write-up on him here, which I highly recommend, but he should be on many people's watch list for 2016.

After a not terrific year with SEG Racing, Jonas Bokeloh is heading for new pastures. While a quiet year can make people forget about you fast, Bokeloh was the Junior World RR Champion in 2014. Only had two top 10 finishes in his first year with a handful of DNFs on his resume but with a year under his belt and a new team, his confidence could be through the roof.

I will say once again that it was a crying shame that Remi Cavagna wasn't chosen to represent France in the U23 ITT this past season. He won the French U23 TT but even after the French had an open spot for Worlds, Cavagna wasn't chosen and the French put forth only Marc Fournier. Cavagna can go pretty well on the road as well too with a 4th in the DN1 round at the GP Pays d'Aix.

While he is New Zealand by birth, Hamish Schreurs rode for Sojasun-ACNC this past year and saw some good success. He won early at the Route Bretonne and then put up some pretty good results all season with the team. He was 15th in the Kreiz Breizh Elites (UCI 2.2) and 4th on the final stage. Look for him on hilly to flat courses that look good for a breakaway.

The Spanish are good at keeping their talent quiet (also thanks to lack of funding) but Enric Mas is pretty legitimate. This year, he was 2nd in both the Vuelta a Bidasoa (where he also won a stage) and the Vuelta a Palencia, which aren't super mountainous but hilly. In 2014, he was 4th in the U23 Zavod Miru and this year, he did make it through Valle d'Aosta in fairly good position without having raced many big mountain races.

Also coming over from Iberia is Nuno Bico, who is the U23 RR Champion of Portugal. At only 21, he already has three Volta a Portugals under his belt. With each being about 10 stages each, it is a considerable feat. He seems to climb fairly well so hillier races could be his game.

A teammate of Mas from Fundacion Contador is coming to Klein Constantia as well but he isn't Spanish but Belgian. Kenny Molly is a one-day rider that has a pretty good turn of speed on him. Molly had stagiaires with AWT-Greenway last year and could be an option in a sprint finish for the team that lacks a big sprinter.

The final new addition is a Czech rider coming from Dukla Praha that could also help with the sprinting issue. Frantisek Sisr has been splitting time between the road and track but it doesn't seem like he will be getting the bid for Rio in the Track Omnium. Sisr is a fairly handy sprinter but he is much more than that as he can get over some hills and can win out of a breakaway.


The development team of the dominant Etixx-Quick Step had a down year last year but with a little bit of luck, they should be able to get back near the level they were at in 2013 and 2014. With Schachmann, Schlegel and some of the newbies, it could be a pretty happy year and there could definitely be a few pro signings out of this group.

Espoirs Central prediction: 8 UCI wins and 11 overall.

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