Hereâ€™s this weekâ€™s Monday Musette:
1. Elia Viviani gave Liquigas its first win of the season with a sprint win in Saturdayâ€™s GP Costa degli Estruschi. The young Italianâ€™s win was aided by fourth-place finisher Peter Sagan, a rider from whom much is expected later this spring. Androni Giocatolliâ€™s Roberto Ferrari took second, continuing his terrific form, and Farnese Viniâ€™s Elia Favilli was thirdâ€”making Saturday the first time that I can remember seeing two Eliaâ€™s on a podium. An interesting note: 5-time winner Alessandro Petacchi was nowhere to be seen over the weekend, perhaps an ominous sign considering the rumors of his drug use last season.
2. In France, Ag2râ€™s Anthony Ravard won the 5-day Etoile des Besseges with a canny bit of tactical riding Saturday and Sunday. Ravard went into Saturdayâ€™s Stage 4 only one second behind Vacansoleilâ€™s Johnny Hoogerland. Third-place in the dayâ€™s first intermediate sprint in Saint-Aamboix brought Ravard level with the Dutchmen heading into the final day. Ravard must have been super-motivated to take the win; he won Sundayâ€™s first time bonus and took third on the stage, cementing his place atop the final podium.
But while Ravard deserves all the credit in the world for seizing control of the GC in the last two stages, the question has to be asked: what happened to Vacansoleil? With the strongest team in the race and not one, but two riders finishing on the final podium, one has to wonder if the team has too many cooks to stir the pot.
3. The peloton made a statement at the first race of the Challenge Mallorca Sunday by defying the UCI and racing with radios. But while the officials left for the beach, the race organization and the riders honored their commitment to fans and sponsors, putting on quite a show with Tyler Farrar taking his first win of the season for Garmin-Cervelo. (He followed it up with another â€œofficialâ€ win today.) Itâ€™s clear that the radio issue is to be one of this seasonâ€™s defining controversies with several key players entrenched on both sides. And while Iâ€™m impressed at the ridersâ€™ defiant display, I have a hard time believing they would have done it at a more important event.
4. Finally, the 10th edition of the Tour of Qatar kicked-off Sunday with Lars Boom employing his cyclocross skills to win the raceâ€™s opening Prologue on a technical, cobbled 2.5-kilometer circuit. Interestingly, Boom decided after several test runs to let some air out of his tires, giving him a bit more grip and stability over the uneven surface. Attention Zdenek Stybar: you now have your first target for 2012.
5. Unfortunately for Boom, his lead would not last long as Tom Boonen made the Garmin-led split at the end of todayâ€™s Stage 1, taking the victory and overall race lead. Boom is reportedly suffering from stomach problemsâ€”he missed the move and perhaps his best chance for an important early victory. As for Boonen, heâ€™s clearly out to prove heâ€™s still one of the best riders in the sport after an injury-riddled season in 2010.
6. Speaking of Garmin, the squad is apparently talking to Belgian classics legend Peter Van Petegem about filling the DS vacancy created by Matt Whiteâ€™s firing. Unfortunately for PVP, he must answer to the organizers of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and the Tour of Flanders (heâ€™s the race director of both events) and perhaps more importantly, his wife (he helps her run a bed and breakfast in the Flemish Ardennes). The move is a clear indication of Garminâ€™s desire to find success at both the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, races Van Petegem knows all too well.
And should he make the switch, I hope Peter remembers the little people who helped him get where isâ€”like that young American DS who gave him some good advice before winning a stage at Paris-Nice.
7. That said, should the team fail to sign De Peet, they can rest comfortably knowing that they might just have the next best thing in Germanyâ€™s Andreas Klier. If itâ€™s available near you, pick-up a copy of Issue 2 of Peloton Magazineâ€”Jered Gruberâ€™s interview with Klier is worth the purchase price alone. Klier is clearly one of the most experienced classics riders of his generation and he owes much of his knowledge to Van Petegem, his mentor at Farm Frites during the beginning of his career. While Hushovd and Haussler might be higher profile signings, I consider Klierâ€™s knowledge and expertise as equally invaluable. ï»¿
Thatâ€™s it for todayâ€”enjoy your week. Team-By-Team Season Preview continues tomorrow, starting with team #16, and ends two days before the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
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