Hereâ€™s the weekâ€™s Musette:
1. On Saturday Rabobankâ€™s Robert Gesink successfully defended his title at the Giro dell Emilia, breaking free from a lead group of 14 on the uphill finish to take the win from Garminâ€™s Dan Martin.Â Unfortunately for Gesink, the win was likely his last of the season.Â Heâ€™ll miss Saturdayâ€™s Tour of Lombardy to be at the side of his father, who is in bad shape following an accident while mountain biking.
2. For Martin, Saturday was yet another impressive result in what has become somewhat of a breakout season for the young Irishman.Â Next year heâ€™ll certainly be given more leadership responsibilities in some important races.Â Were I Matt White, Iâ€™d start Martinâ€™s season with a peak for Paris-Nice, a race suiting his talents.Â From there, I would send him to Pais Vasco before tackling the Ardennes classics.Â After a brief rest, Iâ€™d continue his build with Romandie, the DauphinÃ©, and before tackling his first Tour de France.Â Youâ€™re welcome, Matt.
3. Saturdayâ€™s peloton remained more or less intact for Sundayâ€™s GP Beghelli, won by Quick Stepâ€™s Dario Cataldo.Â Saxo Bankâ€™s Jakob Fuglsang finished second after a solid eleventh-place Saturdayâ€”heâ€™s one to watch this week in Piedmonte and Lombardy.
4. Rabobankâ€™s successful weekend continued Sunday with Oscar Freireâ€™s win in Paris-Tours.Â For Freire, his first win in Tours filled a conspicuous vacancy in Freireâ€™s otherwise impressive field sprint palmares, simulataneously salvaging a season that began with high expectations following his third victory in Milan-San Remo.Â It now looks as if the 2011 season could be Freireâ€™s last.
5. Aside from Freireâ€™s win, I found myself most impressed with the performance of Topsport-Vlaanderen.Â Sep Vanmarcke was the first to try his luck inside the final ten kilometers (he then sprinted to a 15th-place finish), followed by teammate Jerome Baugnies. Â Not to be outdone, Klaas Lodewijck took fourth on the Avenue de Grammont, capping-off a fantastic day for Walter Plankaertâ€™s boys.
Give Plankaert and Christophe Sercu credit for establishing an impressive and credible pipeline of Belgian talent.Â 5 riders from this yearâ€™s team have signed with Pro Tour squads for 2011, and theyâ€™ve already begun to replenish by signing the winner of Sundayâ€™s Paris-Tours for Espoirs, Jelle Wallays.
6. I donâ€™t know about you, but I find myself siding with Philippe Gilbertâ€™s take on Pippo Pozatto.Â Itâ€™s one thing to chase a rival because you want to attack yourself; itâ€™s another to do so because you donâ€™t have the strength to get a gap on your own.
7. Did you hear the rumor that Specialized will be backing HTC-High Road in 2011?Â Itâ€™s an interesting idea on several fronts.Â Scott has apparently jettisoned HTC for the assumedly cheaper option to support the soon-to-be-announced squad organized by Pegasus Racing.Â Either HTCâ€™s bill became too rich for Scottâ€™s blood, or they simply felt they had hit the glass ceiling with Bob Stapletonâ€™s squad.Â I guess weâ€™ll find out.
As for Specialized, you donâ€™t have to think hard to see their next move.Â With Cancellara, the Schlecks, and popular riders like Jens Voigt and Stuart Oâ€™Grady leaving Saxo Bank and Alberto Contador looking likely to get popped for doping, Specialized is suddenly hurting for marquee names to feature in their glossy full-page advertising campaigns.Â HTC offers a bevy of options, including the chance to get bikes under the fastest sprinter in the world, Mark Cavendish.
8. Which brings me to my next topic.Â Cavendish is bringing a bit of the NFL to professional cycling by whining about his next contract before his current one has even expired.Â What more do you want, Mark?Â They already cut ties with Greipel; itâ€™s obvious youâ€™re â€œthe guyâ€.
I wonder if Cavendish is feeling less than secure about HTCâ€™s future.Â Columbiaâ€™s gone. Scottâ€™s gone.Â Extensions are not coming easily.Â Is trouble ahead for Bob Stapletonâ€™s juggernaut?
9.Â Speaking of equipment, a question came to mind the other day: will Garmin stick with Shimano next season, or will CervÃ©loâ€™s presence mean SRAM gets the nod?
10.Â Back to Cancellara: he announced that heâ€™s announcing his 2011 destination in two weeks.Â With whom do you think weâ€™ll see him ride next season?Â And will we ever learn the title sponsor of Team Luxembourg?
11. And last but not least, you might have missed the announcement of the return of tan sidewalls to Vittoriaâ€™s line of open tubulars.Â I canâ€™t wait.
Enjoy your weekâ€”share your comments below!