Monday Musette – Lombardy, VDB, Le Tour 2010

1. Remember back in April how desperate Silence-Lotto seemed? Those days are long gone, following the team’s impressive run from the Vuelta through Lombardy. Saturday’s race seem nothing more than a formality, once Cadel decided to ride for his Belgian colleague; the efforts of all challengers were effectively rendered moot. As I said earlier, Gilbert now has to be considered the early favorite for success in several of next year’s Spring Classics. The question now: which ones?

If I were Marc Sergeant, I’d look for Gilbert to be at 75-80% for Het Volk, then spend the next month or so honing his form with rides in Tirreno and the usual build-up races. Flanders should–and most likely will–be the goal; his team’s eager to break the Quick Step stronghold in the Flemish classics (but Milan-San Remo can’t be ruled-out should he find himself with an opportunity to take it). A trip to Roubaix seems unlikely—look for Leif Hoste to get one more chance here (especially if he rides well for Gilbert the week before). Instead of Roubaix, Gilbert gets a mini-rest in anticipation of a return for Amstel and the Ardennes, races equally suited to his talents. If he’s reunited with an in-form Cadel Evans fresh from the Tour of the Basque Country, look for more wins in a fashion similar to Saturday’s–perhaps with the roles reversed.

2. Sticking with the Classics: I’m not sure about you, but the news of Frank Vandenbroucke’s death hit me harder than I was expecting. I’m not sure why the pathetic death of someone so troubled had such an impact, but the news stopped me—literally—dead in my tracks. The image of VDB climbing the snowy Col de la Republique in Stage of 5 of the 1998 Paris-Nice is forever etched in my memory as the most perfect visual expression of all I love about cycling. Living in Belgium at the time, I was able to bear witness as his exploits unfolded live. Like Jan Ullrich in 1997, once sensed the beginning of a new era; the sky seemed the limit for young VDB. But suddenly, as shocking as Oscar Freire’s upset victory in the 1999 World Championships, the winning stopped and the drama began. A quick perusal of his Wikipedia entry tells the tale. Headings such as “Family Problems”, “Drug Problems”, “Impersonation”, “Suicide Attempt”, and “Death” dwarf the story his “Career” by comparison, unfortunately echoing what most think of when they hear his name today.

The Service Course, Red Kite Prayer, and Sam Abt have all contributed articulate responses on VDB’s passing. I’m sure you can find more. What remains to be seen is VDB’s legacy. Like Mike Tyson, is VDB doomed to live in our memories as a caricature of himself and his own fragile ego? Or will time heal his reputation’s self-inflicted wounds–a reputation that was (for many) damaged way beyond repair?

3. Speaking of Red Kite Prayer, Padraig’s provided a terrific overview of the 2010 route. It looks to be a stunner! And yes, we haven’t overlooked the fact that 13km of pavé are included. It’s a bold, but not unheard of move for the organization. They really seem to be pulling out all the stops to create a more exciting Tour than this year’s. Case in point: no TTT. As Competitive Cyclist rightfully points-out, no TTT works against The Shack, seeming giving Contador—and whatever he team he rides for—a bit of a of cushion before the race has even started. Otherwise, book those tickets now for Stage 3!

That’s it for this Monday. Share your thoughts and comments below!

About Whit

My experiences might easily fit many cycling fans' definitions of “living the dream.” Since getting hooked on the sport watching Lance Armstrong win the 1993 U.S. Pro Championship, I've raced as an amateur on Belgian cobbles, traveled Europe to help build a European pro team, and piloted that team from Malaysia to Mont Ventoux. As a former assistant director sportif with Mercury-Viatel, I've also seen the less dreamy side of the sport – the side rife with broken contracts, infighting, and positive dope tests. These days, I live with my lovely wife in Pennsylvania and share my experiences and views on the sport at Bicycling Magazine, the Embrocation Cycling Journal, and at my own site, Pavé.
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