Hereâ€™s this weekâ€™s Monday Musette:
1. In what was already a banner year for the grand tours, the Vuelta really outdid itself. The final 3 kilometers of Saturdayâ€™s stage up the Bola del Mondo might have been the most gut-wrenchingly dramatic twenty minutes of racing Iâ€™ve ever seen.
Credit Ezequiel Mosquera for taking it to Vincenzo Nibali when he has to, but credit Nibali for riding within himself to limit his losses.Â You could almost see the moment when he realized that following Zeke would have meant a catastrophic explosionâ€”it was better to the Spaniard ride away, while keeping the gap close.Â Or so we thought.
Itâ€™s been a long time since Iâ€™ve jumped from my sofa, screaming and yelling at the TV, but when Nibali regained contact with Mosquera, I couldnâ€™t contain my excitement anymore.
In the end, we had another grand tour won by less than a minute and a fantastic finish to 3 weeks of great racing.Â More to come.
2. Speaking of great racing, is Philippe Gilbert too strong?Â Like last year, Gilbert used this yearâ€™s Vuelta to put the finishing touches on his form for Worlds.Â But after what happened to Damiano Cunego last year, one has to wonder if a) Gilbert has peaked too soon; and b) heâ€™s put himself in a situation where heâ€™ll be too heavily marked in the Melbourne road race to have a realistic shot at winning.
Regardless, I like how he rode the final week of the race.Â He took a stage win Friday in Toledo followed by a day in the break Saturday.Â Two days, two hard efforts.Â Now heâ€™ll taper, travel, and (hopefully) be ready for the win at Worlds.
3. One rider who wonâ€™t be ready for Worlds is Stijn Devolder.Â Citing poor form, Devolder removed himself from his nationâ€™s roster last week, much to the continued disappointment of is soon-to-be-former general manager Patrick Lefevere.Â We get it Stijn, you donâ€™t want to fly halfway around the World to spend the race working for Gilbert, but after the stink you raised last year, you should be happy to have been invited.
Is Devolder too much of a diva?
4. Staying in Belgium, HTC-Columbiaâ€™s Jan Bakelants finished 2 grand tours this yearâ€”as a rookie.Â Iâ€™m sure there are others who have accomplished similar feats, but Bakelants is certainly one to watch for the future.Â With two grand tours in his legs, look for the youngster to start next season even strongerâ€”does a breakthrough win beckon next spring?
5. Back to Worlds: watch-out for Alexandre Kolobnev.Â He enjoyed a quiet Vuelta and is proven Worlds performer.Â I have to yet to finish my official preview, but rest assured he will be near the top of my list.
6. In transfer news, Garmin has let go of more riders for next season: Danny Pate, Steven Cozza, and Frederick Kessiakof.Â Itâ€™s hardly a surpriseâ€”all three underwhelmed this season, and with the influx of talent from CervÃ©lo there had to be some men on the outside looking in.Â Pateâ€™s already signed with HTC-Columbia, while the other two are looking for work.Â Look for Cozza to return to the USâ€”is there room for him with friend and former teammate Mike Freidman at Jelly Belly?
7. In other transfer news, Nick Nuyens has signed with Saxo Bank, an obvious attempt at replacing some of the Northern firepower the team has lost over the past several weeks with the departures of Oâ€™Grady, Breschel, and Cancellara.
8. As for Spartacus, he bought himself out of his Saxo Bank contract, and is free to look for work elsewhere.Â Tomorrow heâ€™ll decide if heâ€™s riding Worldsâ€”I expect the answer to be â€œnoâ€â€”before settling the matter of his future employer.Â BMC, Fly V, and Team Schleck have been rumored as destinations.Â Where will he land?
9. And last but not least, when will Andy and Frank Schleckâ€™s new project reveal itself?Â Iâ€™m starting to get nervousâ€”itâ€™s a bad idea to start signing riders before youâ€™ve secured your title sponsor.Â We know Trekâ€™s on board, but the big money has to be coming from somewhere, right?Â I hope the men putting their faith in this project know something we donâ€™t.
Thatâ€™s it for todayâ€”share your comments below!