Schoolâ€™s finally out for the summer, so expect to see PavÃ© back to a more frequent/regular post schedule. Thereâ€™s also a new site design in the works, so keep checking back for changes, updates, and possibly a new address (donâ€™t worry, I wonâ€™t surprise you with that). As always, your constructive feedback are always appreciatedâ€”I want to make the site as user-friendly and accessible as possible.
Without further ado, hereâ€™s this weekâ€™s Monday Musette.
1. Have we discounted Lance Armstrongâ€™s chances in this yearâ€™s Tour a bit too much? Following a solid 2nd-place finish in last weekâ€™s Tour de Suisse, itâ€™s beginning to look like perhaps we have. Lance rode with the main group of favorites on the tough mountain stage to La Punt, hung-in on a surprisingly difficult transitional stage Saturday, and then cemented his place on the podium with a respectable time trial. While I still have a hunch that Armstrongâ€™s a bit closer to his ceiling than many of the other favorites, his performance last week indicates that heâ€™s at least capable of remaining relevant in Julyâ€”but just how much so remains to be seen.
2. Lost in the Armstrong hype were the top-10 performances of Andreas Kloden and Levi Leipheimer. These twoâ€”plus Dauphine-winner Janez Brajkovic and Pais Vasco-winner Chris Hornerâ€”give Radio Shack the deepest team in this yearâ€™s Tour. While inter-squad tactics might hurt the teamâ€™s best chances for a yellow jersey in Paris, thereâ€™s a strong possibility the team prize will be theirs.
In other Tour de Suisse newsâ€¦
3. While Tony Martin missed the overall win I had predicted he would earn, he still performed solidly all race, beating Fabian Cancellara and David Zabriskie to take the final stageâ€™s individual time trial. If Martin continues to develop as a climber, thus limiting his losses in big mountain stages like Thursdayâ€™s, heâ€™s certainly a rider HTC can build around for grand tour successâ€”and Germanyâ€™s first legitimate grand tour contender since Jan Ullrich. Look for him to take the first white jersey of this yearâ€™s Tour in Rotterdamâ€”and if beats the men he defeated yesterdayâ€”the first yellow one too.
4. Andy and Frank Schleck seem right on track for the type of Tour de France we expect from them. With a stage win and the overall title, older brother Frank should be perfectly content in dedicating all of his energy toward helping Andy. As for Andy, his formâ€™s not quite there yet, but with three weeks until the Tourâ€™s first mountain stagesâ€”and four before the race hits the Pyrenneesâ€”he should be firing on all cylinders when he needs to be. I also have a hunch that Bjarne Riis will be announcing a brand new sponsor before the starts the Saturday after nextâ€”Schleckâ€™s win might have been enough to seal whatever prospective deal heâ€™s had in the works.
5. Roman Kreuzigerâ€™s another rider who appears to be peaking at just the right time for a good Tour result. While I expected a bit more from him during Thursdayâ€™s stage to La Punt, he think heâ€™ll be fine in July. Unfortunately, heâ€™s still not guaranteed the leadership of his Liquigas teamâ€”especially with Ivan Basso training well and Vincenzo Nibali winning races. All in all, thereâ€™s enough going-on for the men in green to make Liquigasâ€™ choice of a team captain one of the Tourâ€™s more intriguing sub-plots.
6. Stijn Devolder seems to have just enough fitness to have tricked himselfâ€”and at least several thousand Belgiansâ€”into thinking he can pull a top-10 result in this yearâ€™s Tour. Donâ€™t drink the Kool Aid thoughâ€”Devolder would fare much better hunting for stages wins. That said, look for him to impress this weekend in the Belgian national championshipâ€”a second title is well within reach.
7. At what point is Maxime Monfort going to get the win he deserves? He rode his butt off in Saturdayâ€™s breakaway, ultimately falling to Caisse dâ€™Epargneâ€™s one-two punch of Da Costa and Rojas. He followed that up with an 8th-place finish in yesterdayâ€™s time trial. Letâ€™s hope Monfort gets a chance or two to ride for himself in the Tourâ€”Iâ€™d love to see him take a stage.
8. Was Christian Vandevelde even racing last week? If Garminâ€™s smart, theyâ€™ll be putting the majority of their eggs in Tyler Farrarâ€™s basket next monthâ€”heâ€™s a much safer bet for success. Iâ€™d take a stage win or two over another mid-top-10 finish anyway.
9. We canâ€™t finish the conversation about this yearâ€™s Tour de Suisse without discussing the now infamous crash at the end of Stage 4. While I love bashing him just as much as the rest of you do, itâ€™s hard for me to assign 100% of the blame to Cavendish for causing Tuesdayâ€™s crash. Haussler and he were both sprinting at a bit of an angleâ€”Cavendish just deviated from his the most.
On the other hand, if he really did spit on Haussler as they were picking themselves up off the pavementâ€”as has been reportedâ€”then Cavendish deserves every bit of the flack he received from the rest of the peloton. As long as Cavendish makes himself the center of attention, he should expect to receive all the attentionâ€”positive and negativeâ€”that he seems to crave.
10. As for the rider protest to Start 5, itâ€™s a shame the riders have more courage to police their ranks than the UCIâ€”the sportâ€™s governing bodyâ€”does. Maybe a little peer pressure will help Boy Racer become Man Racerâ€”credit the riders for trying.
11. But while riders policing riders is one thing, races policing teams is another. At first I felt a bit of schadenfreude upon hearing the news of Team Radio Shackâ€™s exclusion from this yearâ€™s Vuelta, but Iâ€™m less supportive of the organizationâ€™s decision once I became able to take an objective look at the situation. While the Vueltaâ€™s organizers might be said to have had the best of intentions in leaving Bruyneel and his men at home this autumn (who knows where the federal investigation will be by the time late-August arrives), they are acting hypocritically in singling them out this time. Have we already forgotten the name of last yearâ€™s â€œwinnerâ€?
Spain has long been considered one of the dirtiest countries in cyclingâ€”from a doping standpoint at least. Once France and Italy began cleaning house (as best they could), the Iberian Peninsula became a hotbed for the sportâ€™s most cutting-edge â€œpreparationâ€ methods. Letting Radio Shack bear the brunt of recent allegations only emphasizes the disparate methods by which information is revealed and dealt with. Itâ€™s not the job of race organizers to punish teams for their alleged unsportsmanlike activitiesâ€”itâ€™s the job of the UCI and the various other â€œprofessionalâ€ organizations charged with ensuring the sport is as clean and as fair as is humanly possible.
All this begs an even more important question: when will the UCI start policing the ranks so the rest of its stakeholders (riders, organizers, fans, etc.) donâ€™t have to? Itâ€™s an answer theyâ€™ll need to answer soonâ€”especially if Landisgate becomes as big a scandal as some think it might be. If the sports own governing body could do a better job in handling brats, cheats, and hypocrites, individual interests wouldnâ€™t have to take matters into their own hands.
Thatâ€™s enough time on the soapbox for one week.
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