If you’re a frequent visitor to Pavé, you might have noticed a rather interesting conversation taking place via the comments to my Flèche Wallonne Preview. Apparently Cadel Evans’ rainbow jersey was not enough to convince many of you that a renaissance might beckon for the temperamental Australian. Unfortunately it’s not always possible for me to respond to reader comments from work, so I was forced to suffer the slings and arrows of your discontent from the sidelines—until Evans won, that is.
Here’s what else we noticed:
1. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve never been a big fan of Cadel Evans either. But that doesn’t prevent me from giving credit where credit is due. Evans timed his sprint to perfection, catching and passing a fading Alberto Contdor just meters from the line. I liked that Evans gave credit to his DS, John Lelangue, for insisting that he pre-ride the climb despite the fact that Evans has raced it several times in the past. Now the question remains: just how well can Evans do Sunday in Liege?
2. As for Alberto Contador, yesterday’s 3rd-place finish should be filed under “tactical mistakes”. While we can forgive Euskaltel’s Igor Anton for his suicide move up the Mur de Huy; Contador deserves criticism for overestimating himself and underestimating the climb. I feel like I can actually see the moment when he realizes, “S***, the line’s not where I thought it was!” Contador gets a shot at redemption Sunday, but for a man not known as a master strategist, a victory might prove to be just out of his reach.
3. Katusha’s Joaquin Rodriguez atoned for his poor showing last Sunday with a fine 2nd-place in Flèche. That said, given the aggressive rides by Sergei Ivanov and Alexandr Kolobnev, one cannot help but think the Russian squad wanted more. Credit Ivanov and Kolobnev for doing their best take matters into their own hands on several occasions. Kolobnev’s move was reminiscent of his last gasp attack in the waning moments of the Amstel Gold Race. Two races, two riders, two identical tactical displays—will things fall into place on Sunday?
4. Damiano Cunego went one better than his 6th-place in the Amstel Gold Race, an indicator that he might have timed his form just right for Sunday. It’s hard to believe, but Italy has yet to win a classic this year. That could change Sunday if Cunego gets his way.
5. The first “group” crossed the line 11 seconds behind Evans, including major favorites Philippe Gilbert, Alejandro Valverde, and Andy Schleck. These men are right on schedule for what looks to be one of the most exciting battles of the season on Sunday. Chris Horner and Ryder Hesjedal were in this group too—could a North American score an upset Sunday?
6. Landbouwkrediet’s Bert De Waele deserves praise for another fine result following his 4th-place ride Sunday in Amstel. With another top-10 performance this Sunday this Belgian might find himself in the Pro Tour next year—even at the ripe old age of 34!
7. Vincenzo Nibali climbed-in with Gilbert’s group as well—might I have underestimated his abilities in races of this sort? As long as Roman Kreuziger continues to race like a hyperactive junior, Nibali will have free rein to play his cards in race finales.
8. Robert Gesink and Daniel Martin arrived with the next gruppetto, 19 seconds back. I’m beginning to have less and less faith in Gesink’s abilities in major one-day races. As for Martin, he could prove a valuable asset to Hesjedal Sunday—the Irishman is clearly a super-talent.
And that’s that. As for the parcours, I guess some things never change—the Mur de Huy has always had an uncanny ability to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Oh gosh, I’m starting to sound more and more like Phil Liggett.
Have a great day–share your comments below.