Place 9 - Ramunas Navardauskas
Type of rider: Allrounder
Biggest success: 1st Liege-Bastogne-Liege U23 2010
Team/Club 2010: VC la Pomme Marseille
Team 2011: Garmin-Cervélo
Best Mock List Ranking: new
On paper Ramunas Navardauskas’ career seems to go all downhill in recent years. 2007 he raced for the quite serious Belgian-Lithuanian continental team Klaipeda-Splendid, in 2008 a Kazakh team named Ulan was formed from this team. This folded at the end of the year, and Navardauskas’ new 2009 team Piemonte stopped after a few months due to financial problems. This season the Lithuanian raced for an Amateur team, the VC la Pomme Marseille. And there at last Navardauskas could show his potential and developed into the “terreur des rangs amateurs en Europe cette saison”, as cyclismag named him.
Since age ten the Lithuanian races bicycles and had successes already as a Junior: he was Lithuanian champion in the Junior time trail in 2005, won a stage at the traditional Junior tour in Polish Grudziadz and in 2006 was prologue winner at the Tour du Pays de Vaud in Switzerland. With these successes Navardauskas dared to move to a Belgian continental team even in his very first Under 23 year in 2007. There he mastered the hard school of Belgian Kermesses, Top Competitie-races and small amateur races (hopefully he didn’t take teammate Dave Bruylandts for an example then). Beside top ten results at the Olympia’s tour (2.2) and at the Tryptique des Berrages (2.2) one result has to be noted: at age 19, Navardauskas wins the sprint of a small breakaway group to become Champion of Lithuania, not only in the Under 23 category, but in the Elite class as well! Later in the season the Lithuanian places second on a stage and overall at the Tour de Liège in hilly Wallonia and shows his abilities as a tour rider.
In 2008, now racing for the Kazakh team Ulan, Navardauskas is rarely seen at Under 23 races, but instead takes part in smaller tours and one-day-races in the Benelux and in Eastern Europe. Notable are a 4th places at Estonia’s Tallinn-Tartu GP (1.1) and at the Lithuanian time trial championships. In his first start at the time-trial World championships Navardauskas is quite off the pace, placing 26th. His contract with team Piemonte gave hope for a varied race calendar in 2009, but even after the first race at the Giro di Sardegna the team came to a halt: the sport directors left, later came the official suspension from the UCI. Navardauskas was left empty-handed. He does a few races with the national team and places on the podium in the Lithuanian time-trial championships, but more or less this season was ended before it had truly begun.
So 2010 was the year of the last chance. The last Under 23 year had to be used to recommend himself for a Pro contract. Together with fellow Lithuanian Evaldas Siskevicius Navardauskas went to VC la Pomme Marseille, the talent team on the Mediterranean coast, where also Daniel Martin, Rémy di Grégorio and Alexandre Geniez started their careers. His first race in the VCLPM jersey Navardauskas promptly won. His second, too. Without any adaption problems the Lithuanian became a winning rider in French amateur races, who proved his abilities most of all in the Coupe de France des Clubs, which is the most important race series for French amateur teams and the equivalent of the Pro Coupe de France. As the only rider Navardauskas scored in each of the first seven races of the series and lies first in the overall ranking, uncatchable. Even more excitement was created by his successes in international Under 23 races. Most of all his Belgian results, when Navardauskas placed 4th in the Under 23 Ronde van Vlaanderen (1.NCup) and won the Under 23 version of Liege-Bastogne-Liege (1.2U) in a solo move within a week, give hope that the Lithuanian may be one of the rare riders who could perform well both in Flanders and in the Ardennes. And also Navardauskas has not to be afraid on the third spring-classic terrain, the cobbles: at the Under 23 edition of Paris-Roubaix (1.2U) he reached the Velodrome at the Hell of the North in 8th place. No other rider could place top ten in those three races in 2010.
But Navardauskas, who characterizes himself as an absolute fair-weather rider, still is capable of more: mountains for example, as he proved at the Ronde de l’Isard (2.2U). Beside a stage win in a flatter stage the Lithuanian climbed to a top ten finish on the Plateau de Bonascre and secured 5th place overall. Additionally the Lithuanian, who lives in Aubagne (revealingly base of the Foreign Legion) near Marseille, won a stage at the flat Boucles de la Mayenne (2.2) and two stages at the Vuelta a Bidasoa in Spain. The usual podium places at his national Championships (road and time trail) came for granted. At the European Championships in Ankara Navardauskas races for the win, but like all top favourites is surprised by Polish rider Gawronsky’s attack. In the sprint for the further placings he only reaches 9th.
At present time Navardauskas shows 29 (!) Top Ten places in 2010, among them 8 wins and has not to fear what the future brings. He had offers from Geox and Garmin, and it seemed that Navardauskas signed a two year contract at Garmin. After the fusion of this team with Cervélo there is barely room left - it seems that the Lithuanian will be racing one more year with the Garmin-Cervélo talent team in 2011 (then a continental team). It will have to be seen if this team isn’t already too small for Navardauskas. You have to watch out for him in each race he participates in – his versatility is his greatest strength and possibly unrivalled in the Under 23 sector.
nominated by ocana, gardener, Offi, chreezer & ogkempf, written by gardener, translated by bugno