Hereâ€™s this weekâ€™s Monday Musette:
1. It was an ironic yet predictable final weekend at Paris-Niceâ€”ironic in that the usually warm and sunny end to the Race to the Sun was marred by cold and wet weather, and predictable in that pre-race favorite Tony Martin held on to his lead to take the first major win of his career.
2. For Martin, the win is confirmation of the young Germanâ€™s incredible Grand Tour potential. One of the best two or three time trialists in the world, heâ€™ll be a force to be reckoned with in July should he continue to develop as a climber. Perhaps even more importantly, this weekendâ€™s poor weather tested Martinâ€™s mental toughness during two days in which many others could barely keep themselves upright. In my opinion, Tour winners need to be able to time trial, climb, and remain mentally tough during moments of adversity. Martin seems to be close to possessing all three.
3. Andreas Kloden gave Germany a 1-2 finish, taking second in a race he won back in 2000. Kloden was also the first of Radio Shackâ€™s three top-10 finishers, a good sign as the team attempts to rebuild after the retirement of Lance Armstrong. Janez Brajkovic finished seventh, an especially positive sign as the 2010 DauphinÃ© winner continues his bid to lead the team at the this yearâ€™s Tour.
4. As for Team Skyâ€™s Bradley Wiggins, his third-place finish was the first good result weâ€™ve seen from the Brit since his win in last yearâ€™s Giro Prologue. In yesterdayâ€™s Feed Zone, some criticized Wiggo for simply following wheels on his way to the podium. But letâ€™s remember, last year he struggled just to do even thatâ€”and itâ€™s not as if he attacked his way to a fourth-place finish in the 2009 Tour de France either. For the sake of himself and his team, letâ€™s hope Wiggins has redefined himself as a rider able to contend in short stage races with long time trials.
5. Another rider who seems to be coming along quite nicely is Cofidisâ€™ Rein Taaramae. While it might be a bit soon to label the Estonian a top-10 contender in a Grand Tour, he does appear to be someone able to challenge for victories in races such as the Tour of Romandie, Catalunya, and the DauphinÃ©. After all, heâ€™s only 23 and has plenty of time to progress.
6. Rabobankâ€™s Baukke Mollemaâ€”another youngsterâ€”took a well-deserved ninth-place overall, a continuing sign of the Dutchmanâ€™s development. Look for him and Gesink to form quite a formidable twosome over the next several years.
7. Tejay Van Garderen might want to think twice before he tweets.
8. Meanwhile, the rest of the peloton is racing in Italy; they contested three long stages at Tirreno-Adriatico since Saturday. In a race that has become a showcase for spring classic contenders, Michele Scarponi and Philippe Gilbert took wins Saturday and Sunday, while Cadel Evans (my prediction to win the GC) has the lead heading into tomorrowâ€™s final ITT after an imposing win today in Macerata.
9. Gilbertâ€™s victory Sunday begs the inevitable question: does the Belgian have the form necessary to disrupt the sprintersâ€™ plans at Milan-San Remo? Weâ€™ll see soon enough, but the way heâ€™s been riding, itâ€™s going to be hard to bet against him. In fact, Iâ€™m starting to think a large, select group might suit him.
10. And what about the rest of the cobbled contenders? Boonen, Pozzato, Ballan, Hincapie, and Cancellara all appear to be right where they need to be for success during the first ten days in April.
11. As for Scarponi, he and Damiano Cunego seem to have quite a good thing goingâ€”Cunego appears to be especially strong heading into the classics and deserves mention as an outsider at Milan-San Remo.
12. Looking ahead to tomorrowâ€™s ITT, Evans, Ivan Basso, Cunego, Scarponi, and Robert Gesink are all grouped within five seconds of one another. Of these five, Evans and Basso are the obvious favorites to take the overall victory, while Vincenzo Nibali, Marco Pinotti, and Tiago Machadoâ€”at :12, :27, and :32-back, respectivelyâ€”deserve mention as well. Iâ€™m sticking by my earlier predictionâ€”Evans gets the win after only his ninth day of racing. As for the stage win itself, look for Spartacus to take his first win for Leopard Trek with
Edvald Boasson Hagen Pinotti right behind him in second.
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