This past week saw the first racing of the season with the Tour de San Luis and the Tour Down Under crowning their 2011 champions on Sunday.
1. In Argentina, the week looked as if it were on track to be dominated by Androni Giocatolli and Movistar with Androniâ€™s Roberto Ferrari and Jose Serpa taking Stages 1, 3 and 2 and Movistarâ€™s Xavier Tondo staking his claim on the GC with a win in the ITT on Stage 4.Â Unfortunately, in what is becoming a somewhat disturbing trend for Spanish riders of late, Tondo crashed in Stage 6 while wearing the leaderâ€™s jersey, losing 15 minutes and the overall lead to the unknown Chilean, Marco Arriagada.
2. In Australia at the Tour Down Under, Matthew Goss won the first stage and appeared as if he were on his way to making me look goodâ€”but a funny thing happened on the way to Adelaide as first Robbie McEwen and then Cameron Meyer stole the leaderâ€™s jersey from the Australianâ€™s shouldersâ€”Meyer for good, as his breakaway win on Stage 4 gave him enough of a cushion to give Garmin itâ€™s first big win of the season.
While Goss fulfilled our pre-race expectations, his teammate Mark Cavendish and defending champion Andre Greipel did little to live up to the hype surrounding their first race as official opponents.Â Cavendish crashed heavily at the end of a chaotic Stage 2 and Greipel went home winless from a race heâ€™s owned in the past.
As for Meyer his win was especially impressive as he was one of several riders to hit the deck at the end of the Stage 2.Â His gutsy rideâ€”no doubt boosted by the presence of teammate Matt Wilson in the breakâ€”seems to confirm the promise heâ€™s displayed in the past.
But in my opinion, the most impressive performance of the race goes to Michael Matthews the reigning U23 World Champion and current Rabobank neo-pro.Â The rookie easily defeated Goss and Greipel in a head-to-head uphill sprint to win Stage 3.Â At only 20-years-old Matthews is certainly young, but as Peter Sagan showed last year with an auspicious Australian debut, talent doesnâ€™t seem to care how old you are.Â (Hey Rabobank: give the kid some rainbow stripes for his jersey–after all, he earned them.)
3. Unexpectedly, the biggest news from the Tour Down Under came not from the peloton but from the caravan when it was announced that Garmin-Cervelo DS Matt White had been fired for sending former rider Trent Lowe to a Spanish doctor with a shadowy reputation.Â Why Vaughters waited until now to make the announcement is unknown at this time, but one wonders if a recent string of emails from Floyd Landis prompted the moveâ€”or if Matt Whiteâ€™s rumored involvement with the new GreenEdge project had something to do with it.Â Whatever the reason, Vaughters can continue to say he runs the cleanest ship in the business (despite the skeletons in his own closet).Â As for Matt Whiteâ€™s replacement, Vaughters will step behind the wheel temporarily (which if the rumors are true means bad news for every other car in the race).Â Iâ€™m waiting for confirmation that heâ€™s available, but Iâ€™d hire Hendrik Redant in a second if I were JV.Â Iâ€™m available too if Vaughters wants someone cheap.
4. Speaking of choices, give the ASO credit for picking the right teams for the 2011 editions of Paris-Nice and the Tour de France. Saur-Sojasun deserves the call-up to July, while Bretagne-Schuller gets a week in March to show what it can do.Â The Tour de France is a French raceâ€”it needs French teams to maintain its character.Â And with French riders winning six stages in last yearâ€™s editionâ€”more than any other countryâ€”itâ€™s hard to make a case against more of them being invited.Â As for Geox-TMC, itâ€™s hard to say you deserve an invitation when you have no kit and only one team bike.
5. And last but not least, in case you missed it, last weekâ€™s issue of Sports Illustrated caused quite a stir, with both the Steelers and Packers being picked by SIâ€™s â€œexpertsâ€ to advance to the Super Bowl.Â I mean seriously!Â Who in their right mind would pick a second-year quarterback from USC to find success against Dick LeBeauâ€™s 3-4 defense at Heinz Field?Â And Rodgers over Culter?Â Duh.Â Even my 3-year-old niece got that one right.Â The next time you want to publish something provocative SI, tell us something we donâ€™t already know.Â Geez.
6. A quick word to everyone waiting for us to release our 2011 kitâ€”we havenâ€™t forgotten about you!Â Weâ€™ve had some last-minute supporters jump on board and weâ€™re finalizing the design as we speak.Â I promise this will happenâ€”weâ€™re not Geox for crying out loud.
Thatâ€™s it for this weekâ€™s Monday Musette.
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