Shenandoah, the US 'Tour de l'Avenir'?

In under one week from now several of North America's top cycling pros and some of the best under-25 riders will descend into the Shenandoah Valley to test their mettle against each other on one of the toughest stage race courses in the country. From April 25-30, the six-day, the seven-stage Tour of Shenandoah will blaze through the mountainous roads of Central Virginia in a bid to become North America's version of the Tour de L'Avenir.

At one of the leading U-25 road stage races in the USA, pro mountain bike Trek/VW are planning to dominate Shenandoah's infamously leg-pounding mountains with Harrisonburg native, Jeremiah Bishop, being the obvious local favourite. An impressive 5th overall and two third place stage finishes at the 2005 Tour of Shenandoah make Bishop a candidate for the podium, as well as his teammate, Chris Eatough.

Team R.A.C.E. (Race Against Cancer Everywhere) under the direction of 1988 fourth-placed at the Tour de France Steve Bauer, primarily a U-25 team, will send four athletes including Ryan Roth, U-23 National Road Champion and ITT silver medalist from the Canadian Championships in 2005.

Another outfit to watch will beTeam AEG-Toshiba-JetNetwork: Consistently ranked alongside the likes of Health Net and Discovery Channel, the team is sending an international squad with riders hailing from the U.S., Canada, and, most notably, Serbia: Predrag Prokic, 24, is from Belgrade, Serbia and now resides in Charlotte, North Carolina. Prokic is the Under-23 Balkan Champion 2003, and placed 8th in the Tour of Greece.

Fellow Serbian, Viktor Laza is the 1999 Yugoslavian Junior National Champion Road and Criterium. He also placed third in the UCI World Junior Points Classification that same year. In 2005, Laza won the South Carolina Championships.

More competition will be coming from Team LSV/Kelly Benefit Solutions with Matt Cooke and Nick Waite, as well as from Team Right-Aid, formerly Snow Valley, that will be lining up with Zach Bell, the 2004 and 2005 Canadian National Pursuit Champion. The 23 year-old sprinter is a nine-time Canadian National medallist.

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