Here’s the week’s Monday Musette:
1. BMCâ€™s Cadel Evans won his second mid-major stage race of the year yesterday, overcoming a late-start and an eighth-place finish in Saturdayâ€™s time trial to win the Tour de Romandie over Astanaâ€™s Alexandre Vinokourov and HTC-High Roadâ€™s Tony Martin. All three men on the podium used Romandie as part of their Tour de France preparation, but for Evans, one canâ€™t help wondering what the Australian could achieve were he to focus exclusively on one-week races and hilly classics. Heâ€™ll likely ride either the DauphinÃ© or the Tour de Suisse in Juneâ€”could a victory in either (especially BMCâ€™s â€œhomeâ€ tour) prove more impressive and valuable than seventh-place in the Tour de France?
2. As for Martin, Romandie did not offer enough high mountains for us to get a true sense of just how improved the Germanâ€™s climbing is, but the Paris-Nice winnerâ€™s consistency is nonetheless impressive. The Tour de Suisse will likely be his final pre-Tour test as well. And donâ€™t rule out the Tour of Californiaâ€”a race the future star might very well win.
3. Of the men using Romandie to put the finishing touches on their fitness for the Giro dâ€™Italia, HTCâ€™s Marco Pinotti was the best in fourth place overall. The popular and articulate Italian is a good bet for a top-10 finish in Italyâ€”if he can avoid coming undone by the mountainous parcours.
4. Looking down the rest of the top-10, Benat Intxausti made me look smart with a fifth-place finish for Movistar while American Andrew Talansky took ninth for Garmin-Cerveloâ€”after losing nearly a minute due to a crash earlier in the race. Taylor Phinney might get all the press, but Talanskyâ€™s quickly proving to be the future of American stage racing.
5. As for Saturdayâ€™s time trial, David Zabriskie finished first on the dayâ€”a good result for the American and a win that has many wondering if the Garmin-CervÃ©lo rider (and one of the most quirkily enigmatic men in the peloton) will finally win the Tour of California. Considering DZâ€™s track record in the mountains, I wouldnâ€™t count on it.
6. And speaking of the Amgen Tour of California, Iâ€™ll be there for the first half of the raceâ€”drop me an email or hit me up on Twitter if youâ€™ll be there too.
7. Moving to Germany, HTC-High Roadâ€™s John Degenkolb took the biggest win of his young career at the Rund um den Finanzplatz Eschborn-Frankfurt (why donâ€™t they just call it the GP Frankfurt?). His third win of the season, Degenkolbâ€”one of Erik Zabelâ€™s protÃ©gÃ©sâ€”is clearly one of the sportâ€™s hottest up-and-coming young sprinters and yet another reason why Mark Cavendish might find himself riding elsewhere beyond 2011.
8. Even more interesting is the budding rivalry between Degenkolb and Rabobankâ€™s young sprinter, Australian Michael Matthews. After terrorizing the U23 ranks before signing World Tour contracts before the season began, Degenkolb and Matthews know one another well. As they progress, their game of â€œAnything You Can Do I Can Do Betterâ€ should be exciting to watch.
9. In Turkey, the Presidential Tour of Turkey wrapped-up with Alexander Efimkin taking Team Type 1â€™s first win as a Professional Continental team. Efimkinâ€™s victory is sure to boost the teamâ€™s confidence ahead of the Tour of California and the Tour de Suisseâ€”especially when one considers what the squad has already overcome this season.
10. Farnese Viniâ€™s Andrea Guardini won two stages in Turkeyâ€”the Italianâ€™s quickly becoming one of the fastest sprinters in the peloton. Which begs the question: why isnâ€™t he riding the Giro? I know throwing young talent into a Grand Tour is usually frowned upon, but Guardiniâ€™s a sprinter. I say let him ride the first week and then pull him before the climbing begins. After all, heâ€™s by far the teamâ€™s best hope for a stage win.
11. Moving away from the races, last weekâ€™s biggest news surrounds what has quickly become a very public divorce of Omega Pharma-Lotto. While itâ€™s still early in the process, rumors are already rampant as to the various possible destinations of both the sponsors and key riders involved.
A big question remains if one of the sponsors will end-up with Quick-Step to form what some are already calling the next Belgian â€œSuper Teamâ€. Lottoâ€™s an interesting option; Quick-Step boss Patrick Lefevere worked with Lotto in the mid-2000â€™s. However, it seems as if the Belgian lottery is heading in a different directionâ€”past co-sponsor Adecco has been mentioned frequently as the most likely partner.
As for the riders, not much is clear other than the fact that Omega Pharma wants to retain the services of Philippe Gilbert and Jurgen Van den Broeck. With Tom Boonen at the end of his contract and the lack of a true Tour de France GC contender, could we see an Omega Pharma-Quick-Step team headed by Gilbert and VDBeke in 2012?
One thing remains certain: the transfer season seems to start earlier with each passing season.
Share your thoughts and comments below.