Weekend Preview – ENECO, Melinda, and Plouay

2010 Tre Valli Varesine - Alessandro Ballan

Fotoreporter Sirotti

Here’s a quick run-down of this weekend’s major events:

1. The 2010 ENECO Tour continues this weekend with two longish stages in Belgium and the Netherlands.  Saturday’s 214.4km stage from St. Lievens-Houtem (Belgium) to Roermond (Holland) should be a good day for the sprinters, with few real difficulties on tap.  Look for Robbie McEwen and Andre Greipel—and possibly Edvald Boasson Hagen—to fight it out for the win.

Sunday’s stage from Roermond to Sittard is a bit more interesting though, with a 204km berg-filled stage that resembles a mini-Amstel Gold Race.  HTC’s Tony Martin is the current race leader; if men like Stijn Devolder, Lars Boom, and EBH wish to replace him at the top of the GC, they’ll need to start their assault here.  Monday offers another mini-Classic, with a 205km trip through the Belgian Ardennes, including a trip over the infamous Muur de Huy.  Should Martin make it through these two tough days relatively unscathed, Tuesday’s final time trial will be a mere formality.  We’ll check back in Monday and see where things stand.

2. Moving to Italy, Saturday’s 1.1 Trofeo Melinda features a largely Italian start list containing some Italian stars and a few men looking ahead to next weekend’s opening of the Tour of Spain.

ISD-Neri’s Giovanni Visconti returns this year to defend his title from last year, this time wearing the tricolore as Italian champion.  He’s supported by the German Patrick Sinkewitz, a rider returning to the sport following a doping suspension.  Liquigas brings some talent to the event in the form of Ivan Basso and Vincenzo Nibali; the latter’s certainly hoping to put the finishing touches on his Vuelta fitness.  The same can be said of HTC-Columbia’s Tejay Van Garderen and Garmin’s Tom Danielson, two American’s hoping for top-10 finishes in Spain.  HTC’s roster also features Michael Albasini, Marco Pinotti, Konstantin Siutsou, and Maxime Monfort—all four are capable of taking the Italian event should they find themselves in the right break.

Androni Giocattoli brings Michele Scarponi to the race, as well as 2008 Melinda-winner Leonardo Bertagnolli.  Alessandro Bertolini’s also on the team’s roster for Saturday—he’s always good for an August win in Italy.  As for the rest, the race features the usual mix of Italian Pro Continental teams, as well as “foreign” squads Vorarlberg-Corratec, Miche, Amore Vita, and Katusha’s U23 squad—a win Saturday would certainly be one of the high points of their seasons.

3. And finally, Sunday brings Normandy’s traditional summer Pro Tour event, the Grand Prix Ouest France-Plouay.  A 248km race run entirely on the parcours of the 2000 World Championships, Plouay features thousands of eager fans and aggressive summer racing.  This year’s start list offers several intriguing options:

Australian Simon Gerrans leads Team Sky in his bid to become the event’s first back-to-back winner since France’s Jacques Bossiss in 1976 and 1977.  Gerrans has the full support of a squad including Bradley Wiggins, Sylvain Calzati, and Serge Pauwels.  BBox brings 2008 Plouay-winner Pierrick Fedrigo, a rider hoping to continue his successful run this season, while Rabobank looks to Nick Nuyens to get himself back on track with an important victory.  That said, Lampre might have one of the stronger teams in the race, with Damiano Cunego,  Grega Bole, and FRancesco Gavazzi eager to take the win.

French teams AG2R, Cofidis, and FDJ, bring the usual mix of homegrown talent and foreign imports, with Maxime Bouet, Rinaldo Nocentini, Remi Pauriol, Anthony Geslin, and Christophe Le Mevel the best of the bunch.  Caisse d’Epargne brings veteran Frenchman Christophe Moreau and the young sprinter Jose Joaquin Rojas.

Four American teams take the start Sunday, with Radio Shack, BMC, HTC-Columbia, and Garmin-Transitions all coming to Normandy.  BMC’s Alessandro Ballan, HTC’s Matthew Goss, and Garmin’s Tyler Farrar, Ryder Hesjedal, and Daniel Martin are the highlights, with Farrar and Goss the top favorites should the race come down to a sprint.

Belgian squads Omega Pharma-Lotto and Quick Step bring some star power as well Sunday, with Lotto’s Philippe Gilbert and Greg Van Avermaet and Quick Step’s Sylvain Chavanel and Jerome Pineau all participating.  Chavanel would love to give the home fans one more taste of his July exploits.

As for Liquigas, Peter Sagan races Sunday in an event that suits him should he have regained some fitness following his abandon from the Tour of Poland.  Milram’s hoping Niki Terpstra and Fabian Wegmann can make one last-ditch effort to prove the team worthy of a new title sponsor.  And last but not least, Vacansoleil brings another strong team to France, hoping to make an early bid for a 2011 Tour invitation—Bjorn Leukemans, the Feillu brothers, and Johnny Hoogerland, and Matteo Carrara are the team’s main hopes Sunday.

4. That’s it for the races, here are my picks:

ENECO Tour Stage 4:

1. Greipel

2. McEwen

3. Boasson Hagen

ENECO Tour Stage 5:

1. Lars Boom

2. Daniel Oss

3. Boasson Hagen

Trofeo Melinda

1. Visconti

2. Nibali

3. Scarponi

GP Plouay

1. Ballan

2. Bole

3. Terpstra

And what about you—who are your picks for the weekend?  Share them 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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4 Responses to Weekend Preview – ENECO, Melinda, and Plouay

  1. Michael says:

    Eneco — I’m going to continue on the Tuft-ification of my previous post. I would not count Sveiner out of the running for a final podium spot. Today’s stage was a little bit tougher than tomorrow or the day after. I think the climb profiles suit his characteristics more.

    For anyone who has had a chance to ride out here in BC or watch the Tour de White Rock, those 135km are probably the toughest 135 of any race in North America. Just absolutely relentless, steep after steep – just the type of parcours that is coming up in the next couple of days.

    He’s a big boy, but with the amount of watts he can push he can get up and over the bergs ala Cancellara.

    It all depends on how deep he wants to go so far out from World’s!

    Plouay – Hesjedal has been taking it easy since the tour but one wonders how he will use this race moving towards the 2 canadian Pro Tour races. Given they are a couple of weeks away I think we will see him active to rev up the engine a little bit. Podium? nope. In a break for a good part of the day? I get the sneaking suspicion he is going to try ;)

    Trofeo Melinda – I kind of wish that Garmin had left Dan Martin in Italy to keep on teaching those boys some racing lessons ;)

  2. Michael says:

    oh and though you made no mention of it this Friday (perhaps because last weeks outing was a little too much on the art house size), the Rapha flick “2 broad arrows” was absolutely BRILLIANT!

    Distilling the essence of cycling to it’s very core in multiple facets – from the racer using negativity as life-long fuel towards success (cause to be honest, the vast majority of champions, regardless of sport, use negativity and perceived slights as fuel to channel their inner rage into forward momentum) to the simple joy of the freedom that a bike provides.

    Brilliant stuff, I had goose bumps. It’s a shame that this will cease to exist online after today.

  3. domesgique says:

    You can still find it on Vimeo. Rapha has taken down their links to it for some reason. And its the internet. Nothing ever really disappears there. :-)

  4. kalb says:

    oh and though you made no mention of it this Friday (perhaps because last weeks outing was a little too much on the art house size), the Rapha flick “2 broad arrows” was absolutely BRILLIANT!http://www.keironmccammon.com/blog/2010/08/the-6-needs-of-a-startup-a-roadmap-for-innovation/cpage/1/#comment-1540

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