Here’s this week’s Monday Musette:
1. The Criterium du Dauphiné—the first of two important pre-Tour stage races—wrapped-up yesterday with Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins taking the most impressive road victory of his career. While unspectacular, Wiggo’s win is an important morale booster for the rider and his team as both attempt to shrug-off a rather lackluster showing in last year’s Tour de France.
The win was rather Indurain-esque. The Brit used a powerful time trial to forge his lead, and then defended it methodically in the mountains, following the wheels of his closest rivals all the way to the end. Wiggins looked quite lost after last season—one in which he fell far short of what was expected by his fans and his team. A win in the Dauphiné is no small accomplishment as it comes at a time when many riders are putting the finishing touches on their form for July.
2. Then again, it was apparent that many of the Dauphiné’s best riders were clearly there for training and reconnaissance. For example, Cadel Evans—second overall by the end of the race—looked content to let others set the pace, saving himself for the Tour de France. And after a relatively trouble-free build-up and a season in which the Aussie seems to be riding as well as at any point in his career, is it once again time to consider BMC’s captain a Tour-contender?
3. Benelux hopefuls Jurgen Van den Broeck and Robert Gesink appear right on schedule as well (don’t be fooled by the 11+ minutes Gesink lost on Friday—he was arguably the best climber in the race Saturday and Sunday). Both were pleased with the their results in the Grenoble time trial and they displayed no apparent difficulties in the high mountains. As the more aggressive of the two, I rate Gesink a bit higher heading into this year’s Tour, but at the rate they’re progressing, I wouldn’t be surprised to see both riders on the podium in Paris.
4. Quieter but no less positive performances were put in by Radio Shack’s Janez Brajkovic and Euskaltel’s Samuel Sanchez. Only Brajkovic managed a finish inside the top-10, but given that the Tour is still less than 3 weeks away, that’s little cause to worry.
5. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Liquigas’ Ivan Basso. The Italian never figured in the results, limping home to a 26th-place finish after a rather unspectacular race. Basso seems to be struggling to come back from a training crash that required 15 stitches. And while there have been cases where riders have come from off the radar to find a place the Tour’s final podium (Denis Menchov finished third in last year’s Tour after a shaky build-up), Basso certainly hasn’t done himself any favors. He’ll need a few days in the mountains—and a relatively easy first week—if he hopes to contend for a high overall placing at the Tour.
6. Meanwhile, the Tour de Suisee kicked-off Saturday with Fabian Cancellara taking the victory in the opening stage’s short ITT. Lampre’s Damiano Cunego currently sits atop the GC over Movistar’s Juan Mauricio Soler (remember him?) and Rabobank’s Bauke Mollema. Things should settle down over the next two days, but an hors categorie summit finish awaits the riders Thursday.
Cunego’s biggest competition will likely come from Mollema, Leopard Trek’s Jakob Fuglsang, HTC-HighRoad’s Tejay Van Garderen, and Radio Shack’s Levi Leipheimer as all of these men can climb, time trial, and have strong teams backing them. Of course, a win would help Cunego’s confidence greatly, but I have serious doubts as to whether he’ll prove able to hold off the rest.
7. Switching gears, there’s more news on the transfer front as BMC has announced itself as a major player in the Philippe Gilbert Sweepstakes and Tom Boonen has said that he will announce his team for 2012 by the Belgian National Championships.
This is indeed an interesting development as Boonen is certainly forcing teams to give him their best offers without knowing the future whereabouts of Gilbert. So if indeed BMC covets Boonen’s services as well as Gilbert’s (something I pondered weeks ago), they’ll have to make a decision about one or the other sooner rather than later. I wonder if Boonen’s not too confident that his asking price will remain intact after the Tour de France.
8. And speaking of sooner rather than later, GreenEdge is inching closer and closer to becoming a reality as several riders—namely Sebastian Langeveld, David Millar, and Mathew Goss—have been linked to the Australian squad. Millar’s denied any connection, but Langeveld made his intentions known long ago, and Goss—well, I think it’s safe to say he’s on his way out of HTC-HighRoad given how silent he’s been on the topic.
So that’s all for me—what’s on your mind?