Here’s this week’s Monday Musette:
1. This weekend’s World Cyclocross Championships have come and gone, and while I’ll leave the bulk of the commentary to Mattio, I do have two comments.
First of all, winless this weekend, Belgium has been shut out at Worlds for the second-consecutive year. Pre-race favorite Niels Albert was nowhere to be seen. Sven Nijs did his best but was simply overpowered by a stronger Stybar. A for the rest of the team, they did a respectable job filling in the rest of the podium—and 5 of the first 10. That said, for a nation so used to winning world titles, there is some rumbling as to what needs to be done.
2. As for Stybar, he capped the week in which his transfer to Quick Step was officially announced with a successful defense of his 2010 title—making him the first to repeat as champion since Belgian Erwin Vervecken in 2006-2007, and the first non-Belgian to win-back-to-back titles since Albert Zweifel won four of them from 1976 to 1979. Now Stybar embarks on a path similar to Lars Boom, the 2008 World Champion.
But here’s the question: can a rider whose best results on the road were a win in the Prologue at last year’s Tour of Slovakia and a second-place finish in a stage at the 2007 Tour of Qinghai Lake be expected to perform well at the sport’s highest level on the road? Quick Step will certainly give him some time to develop, but considering how Lars Boom—a rider with more talent, in my opinion—has yet to win a major race on the road, it’s hard to see Stybar setting the world on fire any time soon. As Sven Nijs learned several years ago, cross dominance doesn’t always translate well to the classics—especially with every eye in Belgium watching you closely.
3. Moving to Italy, Lampre’s Daniele Pietropolli took his second Giro della Provincia di Reggio Calabria Sunday, after winning Friday’s first stage and holding-off challenges from Jose Serpa and Daniel Oss with top-10 finishes in the race’s final two stages. While Pietropolli’s victory will likely soon be forgotten by all but the rider himself—at least until next year’s event—the performances of Oss and Francesco Gavazzi bode well for the classics still to come. Watch for them both in Milan-San Remo.
4. In Marseille, FDJ’s Jeremy Roy won the Grand Prix d’Ouverture with a powerful solo attack to take the win by almost three minutes over Big Mat’s Sylvain Georges.
The field from Marseille will remain more or less intact as it travels to Beaucaire for Wednesday’s start of this year’s 2.1 Etoile de Besseges. Last year’s winner Samuel Dumoulin returns, backed by a Cofidis squad including Rein Taaramae and Nicolas Vogondy. FDJ’s roster might be France’s best though, with Pierrick Fedrigo making his debut alongside Yauheni Hutarovich, Benoit Vaugrenard, and Marseille-winner Roy.
AG2R has upped its ante from Marseille, bringing Nicolas Roche along with Lloyd Mondory, Martin Elmiger, and Maxime Bouet, while Europcar hopes Thomas Voeckler can bring the team its first home victory. As for Saur-Sojasun, they’ll be hoping Jimmy Casper can earn the team a win in one of the race’s several flatter stages.
And last but not least, Vacansoleil brings another talented group, led by 2010 double-stage winner Borut Borzic, along with Bjorn Leukemans, Johnny Hoogerland, Marco Mancato, and Stijn Devolder—in short, the bulk of the team’s classics squad.
Look for someone to sneak away and take a stage one day with enough of a lead to overcome the sprinters. My pick? Jimmy Engoulvent.
5. Largely unnoticed when it was announced this past December, the 2011 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad has some new tricks up its cobbled sleeve including not one, but three passages over the infamous Haaghoek cobbles. With nine of vlaanderen’s mooiste climbs and nine sections of pavé, it looks as if this year’s Omloop will be one of the best yet. I can’t wait!
6. Last but not least, are you riding April’s Ronde Sportive or the Paris-Roubaix Challenge, but have no idea how to get yourself in shape for them? Well, a former teammate, university classmate, and very good friend of mine named Mike Kuhn has started a company called Power On Coaching and is offering an exclusive training plan designed to prepare participants for these two legendary events.
Power On’s 10-week program includes schedules, workouts, notes, and other suggestions to help you make the most of your training time between now and April with sensible expectations for those of us with other responsibilities. Even better, Mike’s offering a 15% discount on the $99 plan to anyone who mentions Pavé. For more information, email Mike directly (firstname.lastname@example.org) or head over to the Power On Coaching website for more.
That’s it for today—enjoy your week. Come back soon for the start to our 2011 Team-By-Team Season Preview. I’ll be counting down the sport’s top-20 teams for 2011, beginning this week and ending two days before the season properly begins at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
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