PavÃ© would like to thank Laekhouse for supporting our coverage of the 2011 Giro d’Italia.
Hereâ€™s what was on our minds prior to yesterdayâ€™s tragedy at the Giro dâ€™Italia:
1. The Giro opened Saturday with HTC-High Road winning the 19.3 team time trial in Torino. As expected, Marco Pinotti was the recipient of the raceâ€™s first maglia rosa, an emotional moment that obviously meant a lot to the Italian National ITT Champion.
Of the main contenders for the overall victory, Vicenzo Nibaliâ€™s Liquigas team had the best day, finishing third and giving Nibali an early edge on his rivals. While time gaps were small to men such as Lampreâ€™s Michele Scarponi (2-seconds) and Saxo Bankâ€™s Alberto Contador (8-seconds), other men such as Geox-TMCâ€™s Denis Menchov and Carlos Sastre, Katushaâ€™s Joaquin Rodriguez, and Euskaltelâ€™s Igor Anton all lost over 30-seconds. While not insurmountable, every little bit helps.
2. Speaking of Anton, heâ€™s now claiming that heâ€™s not in Italy to make a run for the GC. Which in my book, all but proves that he is.
3. And speaking of every little bit helpsâ€”or hurtsâ€”Carlos Sastre lost another 53-seconds to the rest of the overall favorites yesterday. While harmful to the Spaniardâ€™s overall prospects, a bit more of a gap might help his chances to take a stage win or two.
4. As for Sundayâ€™s second stage, Alessandro Petacchi has apparently discovered the fountain of youth, winning both the stage and the points jersey. Right now, Petacchi seems to be the only rider in the world not especially intimidated by HTCâ€™s Mark Cavendish (Sundayâ€™s recipient of the pink jersey after placing second to Petacchi in the field sprint).Â A mind game more than anything else, winning field sprints is one area where a mental edge can make more of difference than just about anything else. And while I have no doubt Cavendish will win his share of stages, Petacchiâ€™s clearly his top challenger.
5. In Dunkirk, Thomas Voeckler is probably the best cyclist that nobody talks about. With an aggressive ride to win Stage 4 of the French HC event, Voeckler took over the pink jersey as race leader and defended it Sunday to earn his eighth win of the seasonâ€”one more than Philippe Gilbert.
The current leader of the UCIâ€™s Europe Tour, the French Champion seems to have an affinity for collecting jerseysâ€”a trend heâ€™ll look to continue in France this summer. His run makes even more glaring the fact that his Europcar team was omitted from the Ardennes Classicsâ€”one has to wonder if he would have had the legs to challenge Gilbertâ€™s supremacy. (I doubt it, but it would have been fun to see anyway.)
6. As for Skil-Shimanoâ€™s Marcel Kittel, the young German won every stage of the 5-day eventâ€”except for the one that mattered. Regardless, 4 out of 5 stages is an impressive haul for any 22-year-old. I wonder how long before he signs with HTC.
7. And now for a topic we tend to avoid here at PavÃ©â€”not because weâ€™re blind to it, but simply because itâ€™s so heavily covered by everyone else. The National [American] Football League (NFL), in a new attempt to try and break the bargaining stalemate that threatens to jeopardize the 2011 season, is now rumored to be contemplating handing over the testing of its athletes to WADA. Go figure.
Personally, I have long been frustrated by the glaring hypocrisy of most American sports fansâ€™ attitudes regarding doping. In the USA, a football player is a hero for getting a shot of cortisone at halftime and returning to lead his team to victory in the second half, while a cyclist is a dirty cheater for using the wrong kind of antiseptic gel and testing positive. Iâ€™m not saying that cyclists deserve to be idolized when they cheat, but I do feel that all drug testing in all sports need to be treated the same.
Iâ€™ll be watching this situation closely. Should it go through, Major League Baseball might be nextâ€”the testing of minor leaguers is up to the league office, but in the major leagues, testing has to be bargained.
And then thereâ€™s FIFA. Iâ€™m not touching that with a ten-meter pole.
8. Last, but not least, if you have the time and the money to spare, hereâ€™s a unique opportunity to get an intimate, behind-the-scenes look at the life of an aspiring professional team. Itâ€™s an interesting conceptâ€”let us know if you decide to check it out.
Enjoy the rest of your weekâ€”share your comments below.