Monday Musette – Paris-Nice Wrap-Up, Sad News from Poland, & One Great Ride

Here’s today’s Monday Musette:

1. Let’s begin with yesterday’s completion of Paris-Nice, where Astana’s Alberto Contador kept his cool to survive an onslaught of attacks from Caisse d’Epargne to win his second Paris-Nice. Give me some credit for predicting the top-3—even though I had Contador and Valverde in the wrong positions.

Here’s what we noticed:
–Astana and Katusha work well together. Maybe it was just a coincidence, but I found it interesting to see Katusha—not Astana—setting the pace at several points during yesterday’s stage. Were they trying to place Joaquim Rodriguez higher on the GC? Maybe, but more likely a deal was made where Katusha offered support to Astana for a favor to-be-named-later.

–Peter Sagan’s for real. At one point, I thought he was going to win a third stage on Saturday. Liquigas heads to Milan with perhaps the strongest overall team for Saturday’s La Primavera. If they’re smart, they’ll work to keep the young Slovakian tucked safely near the front of the pack, ready for the attacks on the Cipressa and Poggio, as well as a possible small group sprint. He’ll be one of my top favorites in Friday’s Milan-San Remo Preview.

–Where was Levi Leipheimer? If you’re Johan Bruyneel, you’re worried.

–The French rode a respectable race, taking two stages and placing two riders in the top-10. Cofidis’s Reim Taaramae might be Estonian, but he rode a fantastic race as well—I might have learn how to spell his name as we could be seeing more of it.

–Watch-out for Sylvain Chavanel when we get to Belgium. He put in some attacks here and there during the week and is certainly hoping to be peaking in 10-days time. With Stijn Devolder conspicuously absent down in Italy, Chavanel looks to be Quick Step’s #2 man for the cobbled classics.

–Nicholas Roche appears closer and closer to earning a big win—he finished 11th in Paris-Nice. Look for a top-10 result this Saturday—if his team’s up to the challenge of keeping him in contention.

2. Moving to Tirreno-Adriatico, the action over the last 3 days has been pretty exciting as we’ve seen some difficult finishes. As we expected, Michele Scarponi and Stefano Garzelli seem to be waging a two-man civil war for the GC, while Cadel Evans lurks in 3rd. We’ll let the race finish tomorrow before making our final judgments, but for now I’ll say this: the next 3 weeks should be very exciting.

3. I wasn’t surprised to hear of the Szczepaniak brothers testing positive for EPO at Cyclocross Worlds this past January. And while I smirked at how obvious their transgressions were after the fact, I’m saddened to have heard the news of younger brother Kacper’s suicide attempt following the news. First of all, let’s hope the kids get some help as clearly they have bigger problems than giving back their medals. But the bigger question remains: when will we learn that doping goes beyond just being a cheater. It’s like faulting a student for failing an exam without considering the fact that they can’t read. Maybe there’s a better analogy, but at some point I hope the UCI, WADA, and the IOC devote some money to not only catching dopers, but also to researching why they do it in the first place.

4. Here are two great sites I found recently—one from New Zealand and one from Italy. They’re connected, but I’ll let you read to find out for yourself. Great stuff!

5. Thanks for finding this video, BQ. Close your eyes if you’re squeamish.

6. And finally, I don’t talk about my own riding too much, but yesterday I participated in a ride that was too good not to share. It’s called the Philadelphia Spring Classic; it’s unsanctioned, unadvertised, and unlisted—but if you know someone who knows someone, you can get the details. Occurring over 3 weeks, the Classic incorporates some of the dirtiest, narrowest, and craziest roads, trails, and paths Philadelphia has to offer. Each week is about 55 miles in length—If you ride all 3 “stages” you’ve completed the equivalent of a “real” classic and have earned the right to enjoy a cold stout and a warm cigar upon crossing the finish line.

Due to NAHBS and some family commitments last weekend, I was only able to partake in yesterday’s final stage—luckily the wind, rain, and cold temperatures arrived to celebrate my participation. What ensued was several hours of some of the most fun I’ve ever had on my bike including one crash (not me), several flats (not me), at least two flasks of hooch (okay, I had a little), several cans of sardine “nourishment” (not quite there yet), and one leg-cramping ascent up The Wall in Manayunk.

I’ll be certain to make arrangements for next year’s event well in advance—those cigars looked mighty satisfying.

As always, thanks for reading—share your 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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