Starting in the early season with the Asian Continental Championships in India on 16 March, the Under-23 Nations' Cup came a long way this season, culminating high in the French Alps on 31 August with the final stage of the 50th Tour de lâ€™Avenir. This seventh stage from ChÃ¢tel to Plateau des GliÃ¨res (Haute - Savoie) was won by Julian Alaphilippe and confirmed France as the best nation in the U23 category for the third year in a row.Â
After Iran, Germany and Belgium had all led the ranking, the Netherlands took control with the victory of Yoeri Havik in the ZLM Tour. The Dutch team then led the way until the European Championships held in the Czech Republic on 21 July (won by Belgian rider Sean De Bie). In contrast to last year, the French team did not secure individual success in any of the eight rounds of the Cup.
However, the tricolour squad showed strength in depth, illustrated in the Tour de l'Avenir by Alexis Gougeardâ€™s victory in the prologue followed by Alaphilippeâ€™s stage win. This team effort meant that the French coach, Pierre-Yves Chatelon, savoured the overall victory even more:Â "It hasn't been easy to win. We got off to a mediocre start and didnâ€™t make much impression in the three one-day races."
The Tour de lâ€™Avenir, bringing the season to a close, was a dream come true for Ruben Fernandez Andujar from Spain. The young rider from the Caja Rural team was delighted with his victory in such a prestigious event: "It's the biggest victory of my career. I'm over the moon. At the start of the week, I was targeting the top 10 or even a top-five place but I never imagined I could win." The Spanish rider is the latest young talent on the Tour de lâ€™Avenirâ€™s roll of honour, following on from last year's French winner Warren Barguil who is currently riding the Vuelta for the UCI ProTeam Argos Shimano.