Here’s this week’s Monday Musette:
1. Elia Viviani gave Liquigas its first win of the season with a sprint win in Saturday’s GP Costa degli Estruschi. The young Italian’s win was aided by fourth-place finisher Peter Sagan, a rider from whom much is expected later this spring. Androni Giocatolli’s Roberto Ferrari took second, continuing his terrific form, and Farnese Vini’s Elia Favilli was third—making Saturday the first time that I can remember seeing two Elia’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, Ag2r’s Anthony Ravard won the 5-day Etoile des Besseges with a canny bit of tactical riding Saturday and Sunday. Ravard went into Saturday’s Stage 4 only one second behind Vacansoleil’s Johnny Hoogerland. Third-place in the day’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 Sunday’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 “official” win today.) It’s clear that the radio issue is to be one of this season’s defining controversies with several key players entrenched on both sides. And while I’m impressed at the riders’ 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 race’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 today’s Stage 1, taking the victory and overall race lead. Boom is reportedly suffering from stomach problems—he missed the move and perhaps his best chance for an important early victory. As for Boonen, he’s clearly out to prove he’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 White’s firing. Unfortunately for PVP, he must answer to the organizers of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and the Tour of Flanders (he’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 Garmin’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 is—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 Germany’s Andreas Klier. If it’s available near you, pick-up a copy of Issue 2 of Peloton Magazine—Jered Gruber’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 Klier’s knowledge and expertise as equally invaluable.
That’s it for today—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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