Monday Musette – Swiss Wrap-up, Crashes, Protests, and (Un)Invitations

School’s finally out for the summer, so expect to see Pavé back to a more frequent/regular post schedule. There’s also a new site design in the works, so keep checking back for changes, updates, and possibly a new address (don’t worry, I won’t surprise you with that). As always, your constructive feedback are always appreciated—I want to make the site as user-friendly and accessible as possible.

Without further ado, here’s this week’s Monday Musette.

1. Have we discounted Lance Armstrong’s chances in this year’s Tour a bit too much? Following a solid 2nd-place finish in last week’s Tour de Suisse, it’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 Armstrong’s a bit closer to his ceiling than many of the other favorites, his performance last week indicates that he’s at least capable of remaining relevant in July—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 two—plus Dauphine-winner Janez Brajkovic and Pais Vasco-winner Chris Horner—give Radio Shack the deepest team in this year’s Tour. While inter-squad tactics might hurt the team’s best chances for a yellow jersey in Paris, there’s a strong possibility the team prize will be theirs.

In other Tour de Suisse news…

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 stage’s individual time trial. If Martin continues to develop as a climber, thus limiting his losses in big mountain stages like Thursday’s, he’s certainly a rider HTC can build around for grand tour success—and Germany’s first legitimate grand tour contender since Jan Ullrich. Look for him to take the first white jersey of this year’s Tour in Rotterdam—and if beats the men he defeated yesterday—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 form’s not quite there yet, but with three weeks until the Tour’s first mountain stages—and four before the race hits the Pyrennees—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 next—Schleck’s win might have been enough to seal whatever prospective deal he’s had in the works.

5. Roman Kreuziger’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 Thursday’s stage to La Punt, he think he’ll be fine in July. Unfortunately, he’s still not guaranteed the leadership of his Liquigas team—especially with Ivan Basso training well and Vincenzo Nibali winning races. All in all, there’s enough going-on for the men in green to make Liquigas’ choice of a team captain one of the Tour’s more intriguing sub-plots.

6. Stijn Devolder seems to have just enough fitness to have tricked himself—and at least several thousand Belgians—into thinking he can pull a top-10 result in this year’s Tour. Don’t drink the Kool Aid though—Devolder would fare much better hunting for stages wins. That said, look for him to impress this weekend in the Belgian national championship—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 Saturday’s breakaway, ultimately falling to Caisse d’Epargne’s one-two punch of Da Costa and Rojas. He followed that up with an 8th-place finish in yesterday’s time trial. Let’s hope Monfort gets a chance or two to ride for himself in the Tour—I’d love to see him take a stage.

8. Was Christian Vandevelde even racing last week? If Garmin’s smart, they’ll be putting the majority of their eggs in Tyler Farrar’s basket next month—he’s a much safer bet for success. I’d take a stage win or two over another mid-top-10 finish anyway.

9. We can’t finish the conversation about this year’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, it’s hard for me to assign 100% of the blame to Cavendish for causing Tuesday’s crash. Haussler and he were both sprinting at a bit of an angle—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 pavement—as has been reported—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 attention—positive and negative—that he seems to crave.

10. As for the rider protest to Start 5, it’s a shame the riders have more courage to police their ranks than the UCI—the sport’s governing body—does. Maybe a little peer pressure will help Boy Racer become Man Racer—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 Shack’s exclusion from this year’s Vuelta, but I’m less supportive of the organization’s decision once I became able to take an objective look at the situation. While the Vuelta’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 year’s “winner”?

Spain has long been considered one of the dirtiest countries in cycling—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 sport’s most cutting-edge “preparation” methods. Letting Radio Shack bear the brunt of recent allegations only emphasizes the disparate methods by which information is revealed and dealt with. It’s not the job of race organizers to punish teams for their alleged unsportsmanlike activities—it’s the job of the UCI and the various other “professional” 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.) don’t have to? It’s an answer they’ll need to answer soon—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 wouldn’t have to take matters into their own hands.

That’s enough time on the soapbox for one week.

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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6 Responses to Monday Musette – Swiss Wrap-up, Crashes, Protests, and (Un)Invitations

  1. Kevin says:

    Great post as usual. I'm most interested in the idea of "the sports own governing body…handling brats, cheats, and hypocrites." The NFL is one governing body that has found a way to have a players union and still address concerns (including unseemly behavior off the playing field, even when no charges are filed) in what appears to be an effective manner. It seems like both of these things are needed in professional cycling – a riders organization that has more teeth and a governing organization with a literal backbone.

  2. Touriste-Routier says:

    I think the Vuelta organizers have every right to exclude any team they want to; it is their race, their money, and their public to appease.

    Radio Shack is not part of the magic 16, so do not have guaranteed entry at any race; they knew that when they started the team. They have a right to be disappointed, but perhaps they'd be better received if they'd park their egos for a while.

    That said, it would be nice if the Vuelta were more forthright with their explanation; everyone knows the not competitive enough rationale is BS. At least ASO is honest when it comes to potential doping scandals (and retaliation).

  3. Eddy says:

    1. I like the revised format, it makes reading the site easier.
    2. I too was was surprised by Amrstong's Suisse result, but having watched every stage it kind of reminded me of Zubeldia – never getting dropped but also never instigating. Doesn't make for exciting racing.
    3. Don't even think Tony Martin needs to work that much on his climbing, just needs to be given the respect of a team leader – he was pulling in the front of Cav's sprint train in the last 4K last week, and he was doing the same in last years Tour. It's like HTC want to have their cake and eat it too.

  4. Big Mikey says:

    I'm still not sold on the concept that Radio Shack was omitted b/c of doping allegations, although it isn't necessarily a bad reason. I suspect it has more to do with Team Bruyneel's treatment of AC in last year's TdF (and subsequent media war).

    LA's showing in the Suisse tour was surprising, but it's a far cry from the TdF. We'll see.

  5. WSY says:

    Great stuff everyone!

    I'm not entirely sold on Lance either. I think a podium in Suisse is far cry from the TDF. I'm wondering at what point Kloden's going to get tired of riding for someone–and then there's the Brajkovic factor. Should be interesting to see how it progresses. Maybe Lance passes the baton–one last publicity opp.–and then gracefully eases into management?

    As for the Vuelta, do you really think the organizers care that much about how Contador was treated? It's not like Contador's gone out of his way to ride his home tour lately.

    And yes, T-R, the organizer does have a right to pick and choose who rides, but they also have a responsibility to the fans to provide the best possible line-up. Leaving out Vacansoleil's one thing, but Radio Shack would have contended for and possibly won the overall. If you're going to draw a line in the sand, that's fine–but draw it for everyone.

    Great comments–thanks to all!

  6. WSY says:

    Great stuff everyone!

    I'm not entirely sold on Lance either. I think a podium in Suisse is far cry from the TDF. I'm wondering at what point Kloden's going to get tired of riding for someone–and then there's the Brajkovic factor. Should be interesting to see how it progresses. Maybe Lance passes the baton–one last publicity opp.–and then gracefully eases into management?

    As for the Vuelta, do you really think the organizers care that much about how Contador was treated? It's not like Contador's gone out of his way to ride his home tour lately.

    And yes, T-R, the organizer does have a right to pick and choose who rides, but they also have a responsibility to the fans to provide the best possible line-up. Leaving out Vacansoleil's one thing, but Radio Shack would have contended for and possibly won the overall. If you're going to draw a line in the sand, that's fine–but draw it for everyone.

    Great comments–thanks to all!

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