I guess Iâ€™m still a bit jet-lagged from my trip out west. Hereâ€™s the weekâ€™s Musette:
1. The Giro has blown wide openâ€”sort of. Monte Zoncolan and the Plan de Corones have started the reshuffling of the general classification, but thereâ€™s still some ground to be made up if the men favored to win the race are to assume their places at the top of the classification. Caisse dâ€™Epargneâ€™s David Arroyo has proven to be a stubborn maglia rosa, fighting valiantly to maintain his lead. Donâ€™t forget: Arroyo finished 10th-overall last year, and only needs to react to maintain his placing. If he takes the race one day at a time between now and Sunday, following attacks and riding within himself to limit his losses if dropped, we might have a surprise winner come Sunday.
Ivan Basso and Cadel Evans appear to be the biggest threats to Arroyoâ€™s lead; they sit 2:27 and 3:09 behind the Spaniard. That said neither of the two seem willing or able to take the race by the horns, so to speak. Evans lost some time Sunday, but regained it yesterday in the mountain ITT. This might come all the way down to Sundayâ€”an ITT that favors Evans; or it could come down to the rider with the strongest teamâ€”Basso and Liquigas. And while weâ€™re at it, letâ€™s credit Richie Porte for a fantastic ride. He sits in 3rd-place at the moment; should he make it through Saturday without losing too much time we could see him use Sundayâ€™s ITT to score a final placing inside the top-5.
As for Italy, the nationâ€™s hopes lie with Basso and his talented Liquigas team. Theyâ€™ve turned things around since Pozzatoâ€™s stage win, taking 3 impressive wins in the mountains. That said, with Basso hitting his top form at the right time, anything less than an overall title will be a disappointment.
2. Heading West, we got the Tour of California we thought we would, with Michael Rogers taking a close win over David Zabriskie and Levi Leipheimer. The race proved to be more animated than expected, making it ideal training for several stars looking for a good Tour de France this July. I was in California for the first few days of the raceâ€”look for a bit of a report sometime soon.
3. Did you hear that Denis Menchov dropped-out of todayâ€™s first stage of the Tour of Belgium? Talk about feast or famine. When Menchovâ€™s on, heâ€™s really on; but when heâ€™s off, itâ€™s almost embarrassing. If we donâ€™t see anything by the end of the DauphinÃ© I think itâ€™s safe to write him off as a threat in this yearâ€™s Tour.
4. And speaking of the Tour of Belgium, Philippe Gilbert won the rainy and windy Stage 1. Looks like heâ€™s picking up right where he left off in April. I smell a new jersey in his future as Champion of Belgium.
5. From racing to doping: Iâ€™m still trying to wrap my head around the Landis accusations. Joe Lindseyâ€™s done his usual fine job of putting some thoughts down over at the Boulder Report. It looks like this is going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better. The Feds are involved now, and theyâ€™re talking about fraudâ€”a word thatâ€™s not thrown around unless someoneâ€™s taking Landisâ€™ story very seriously.
As for me, I was a Floyd supporter when he tested positive in the 2006 Tour. I knew him well at Mercury-Viatel in 2001 and found him to be a clean, honorable guy. My colleagues and I silently wondered what his move to US Postal would do for his career. I had hoped his preparation wouldnâ€™t changeâ€”clearly I was wrong. Itâ€™s a shame he didnâ€™t have the courage in 2006 to say what he said last week; he might have been spared the skepticism heâ€™s currently facing.
7. And take a look at this video. Does anyone else wonder if Lance is playing it up for the camera? Can he really be this insecure? Notice the photographer grabbing the WSJ money-shot right as Lance scrapes himself off the deck.
8. Last but not least, Iâ€™m thinking of getting a new bike. Any suggestions?
Share your comments, insights, and feedback below. Who is your pick for Giro? What did you think of this yearâ€™s ATOC? And what are we to make of Landis and Armstrong?