PavÃ© would like to thank Laekhouse for supporting our coverage of the 2011 Giro dâ€™Italia.
Hereâ€™s this weekâ€™s (Memorial Day) Monday Musette:
1. Julius, one of PavÃ©â€™s Contributors, is putting together a more substantial Giro dâ€™Italia Wrap-Up, but letâ€™s take a minute hereâ€”at least until we hear otherwiseâ€”and give Saxo Bankâ€™s Alberto Contador some credit for winning what many consider to have been the hardest grand tour in quite some time. Contadorâ€™s greater than 6-minute margin of victory was the largest since Ivan Bassoâ€™s 9-minute win in 2006. Letâ€™s just hope heâ€™s not forced to take a â€œbreakâ€ similar to Bassoâ€™s.
Seriously speaking though, Contador has now won 6 of the 7 grand tours heâ€™s enteredâ€”a perfect 6 for 6 since finishing 31st in his first Tour de France in 2005. So hereâ€™s my question for you: given the controversy surrounding his victory in last yearâ€™s Tour de France, can we rightfully call El Pistolero the greatest grand tour rider of his generation? In other words, to what extent or degree do you take his success seriously?
2. And while I have a feeling Julius will touch on at least a few of them, the performances of several young riders caught my attention at this yearâ€™s Giro. First off, Rabobankâ€™s Steven Kruijswijk rode a spectacular final week to cement himself firmly inside the top-10. Did you know the 23-year-old finished 18th in last yearâ€™s race? Thatâ€™s progression if you ask me. Were it not for Roman Kreuziger, Kruijswijk would have taken home the white jersey as Best Young Rider.
3. Garmin-Cerveloâ€™s Peter Stetina finished 22nd overall, an impressive result for the young Americanâ€”but one that went largely unnoticed anywhere but in the USA. It was his first grand tour too!
4. Finally, was it just me or was Omega Pharma-Lottoâ€™s Jan Bakelants in just about every breakaway? Bakelants drew some attention with a high finish during last yearâ€™s rain-filled stage on the strade bianche and proved this year that his performance was no fluke. A constant animator, itâ€™s too bad he couldnâ€™t score a stage win. He reminds me of a young Philippe Gilbert. Those are some tough shoes to fill, but a pair that suit the young Belgianâ€™s aggressive style.
5. And speaking of Gilbert, the kopman from Lotto took an Ardennes stage win Saturday at the Tour of Belgium, securing his overall victory in the process. By winning his national grand tour, Gilbert alos defended his #1 spot in the World Tour rankings against Contador. Look for Gilbert to try and win his national championship, before shooting for yellow during the first week of the Tour.
6. Gilbertâ€™s win came at a time when every team in the World Tour appears to be interested in his services for next season and beyond. In fact, we could be looking at one of the most interesting off-season markets for classics specialists in recent history with riders such as (my guess only) Gilbert, Boonen, Ballan, Hushovd, and Pozzato available.
7. Speaking of classics riders, someone asked me if Stijn Devolder losing almost 16 minutes in a stage at the Tour of Belgium (a race he won last year) was a bad thing. Yes it is.
8. Did you notice: in the past two weeks, Landbouwkredietâ€™s Lithuanians Egidijus Juodvalkis and Aidis Kruopis won stages at the Tour de Picardie and Tour of Belgium, respectively. Those arenâ€™t bad results considering the caliber of competition. Keep an eye on these two, but donâ€™t worry about learning how to say their names just yet.
9. The Vuelta handed-out its last four invites to Andalucia Caja Granada, Cofidis, Geox-TMC, and Skil-Shimano. Cofidis makes senseâ€”David Moncoutie can rest easy as the second half of his season is now secured. Andalucia has obvious local interests, so theyâ€™re no surprise. But Skil-Shimano and Geox-TMC? At least weâ€™ll get to see Fabio Duarte finally get a big win or two. Mark him down now for a stage win and place inside the top-10 on GC.
10. The Tour of Luxembourg begins tomorrow, with Leopard Trek an obvious choice to dominate the 5-day event. With Frank Schleck, Fabian Cancellara, and Jens Voigt all on board, how could the squad not be? The strongest challenge should come from Radio Shackâ€™s Andreas Kloden, but this is Leopardâ€™s race to lose.
11. Speaking of Radio shack, the team added the 2011 US Professional Road Race title to Chris Hornerâ€™s win in the Tour of California thanks to Matt Buscheâ€™s surprise victory. Then again, the win was no surprise to anyone who saw Buscheâ€™s selfless teamwork on behalf of Horner and Levi Leipheimer in California (too bad they werenâ€™t around to return the favor). Hereâ€™s hoping weâ€™ll see the stars and stripes in the Tour de France this July.
12. And last but not least, thanks to another bout of mononucleosis, it looks as if we wonâ€™t see Skyâ€™s Mick Rogers in this yearâ€™s Tour de France. Heâ€™s not ruling it out yet it seems, but itâ€™s hard to imagine him being up to the challenge. Iâ€™ve never ridden the Tour, but Iâ€™ve had mono beforeâ€”and itâ€™s not fun. Luckily, his team got back to winning ways in the Bayern Rundfahrt, with Gerraint Thomas emerging victorious after Saturdayâ€™s time trial. One of the most talented young riders in the sport, donâ€™t expect Sky to afford Thomas for long.
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