Monday Musette – Caisse Says Goodbye, Chemistry, Monkeys in Heat

1. Some bad news broke last week when Caisse d’Epargne announced it would no longer sponsor a professional cycling team following the 2010 season.  Saxo Bank, Milram, Caisse d’Epargne—that’s 3 Pro Tour title sponsors.  I said it once and I’ll say it again: this is not good.  I know that we keep seeing new sponsors enter the sport, but when programs of such stature lose them, there are bound to unexpected side effects.  

In this case, here’s one: I still think the reason Alberto Contador was willing to ride another year for Astana was because he knew he would have a safe landing place in the form of Caisse d’Epargne in 2011.  By then—assuming the Caisse were still around—Valverde would have exhausted his team’s dwindling hopes for Tour de France success and a frustrated-by-playing-second-fiddle Luis Leon Sanchez might have left for greener pastures, paving the way for Contador to play messiah.  No chance for that now—unless a new sponsor is found—quickly.  Maybe this is just the excuse Fernando Alonso needs to take the plunge?  Gosh knows, Unzue has the infrastructure necessary to run a team at the sport’s highest levels.  Why would Alonso start from scratch when he can buy his way in at the top?

And don’t forget Quick Step.  How ironic would it be for Contador to have a bad year with Astana, no Spanish safety net, and end-up with Quick Step–riding an Eddy Merckx?

2. When I was in high school, I was obsessed with Chemistry class (at least as much one can be while still trying to get dates with mildly attractive girls). At the time I remember being incredibly impressed with the Periodic Table of Elements—how could such seemingly disparate elements fit together so neatly to form one tidy little diagram?  It boggled me then and still does now.

I’m not sure if you read Cyclocosm (if you don’t, you should), but this wowed me in a way that takes me right back to Mr. Rea’s 10th grade Honors Chem. Class.  Nice job, Cosmo.  Although I do have some ideas…

3. Every once in a while, someone somewhere gets a little too “poetic” with a race recap.  Case in point: VeloNews’ report on Saturday’s Stage 5 of the Tour Down Under.  Here was my favorite over-the-top use of figurative langugae:

“…his [Sanchez’s] victorious right arm circling like a lasso and left hand beating the Caisse d’Epargne logo on his chest like a monkey in heat”

Like a monkey in heat?  What’s that look like, VeloNews?  Oh wait, we’ll never know—because you deleted it.

4. And speaking of the Tour Down Under, the race ended yesterday with another circuit race victory for Team Sky.  All in all it was a fantastic event for all who took part; inspired racing, great weather, and only a handful of abandons meant everyone is going home happy—especially Andre Greipel, the first leader of the Pro Tour Ranking.

5. And how about Liquigas’ new wunderkind: Peter Sagan?  Was it me, or was he in just about every major breakaway?  It will be interesting to see how he performs back on the Continent—the European one, that is. The kid’s got pedigree too: in 2008 he won the Junior World XC Mountain Bike Championship and took silver in cyclocross. Look for him to continue to impress come Classics-time.  Liquigas is looking more and more like one of the most loaded teams in the peloton.

6. It was a good start for my prognosticating too—Andre Greipel was an easy pick for the overall, but even my dark horse got in the act when Chris Sutton won the final stage.  Not too shabby—for January.

That’s it for today’s Musette.  What’s on your minds as January closes and February beckons?

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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