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.
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