Hereâ€™s this weekâ€™s Monday Musette:
1. The Tour de Suisse wrapped-up yesterday, officially closing the books on the pre-Tour campaigns of many of this yearâ€™s favorites. Radio Shackâ€™s Levi Leipheimer took a page from Bradley Wigginâ€™s playbook in winning the 9-day event. The American lingered at the top of the standings all week, finishing second atop the Triesenberg/Malbun ascent and third in Sundayâ€™s individual time trial to take the overall win by four seconds over Lampreâ€™s Damiano Cunego. Like Wiggins at the DauphinÃ©, Leipheimer didnâ€™t win a single stage, instead using consistent climbing and an above-average time trial to take his most important victory since the 2009 Tour of California.
2. Now Levi heads to the Tour as a likely co-captain with Chris Horner of a Radio Shack team that will also boast Andreas Kloden and Janez Brajkovic. It will be interesting to see how Johan Bruyneel juggles this one, as both Horner and Leipheimer probably feel justified leading the team while Kloden and Brajkovic will improve as the race progresses. This could get messy.
3. And speaking of Radio Shack, is it just me or does the team have its finger on the pulse of the Portuguese talent pipeline? Paulinho, Machado, and now Nelson Oliviera (Sundayâ€™s fourth-place finisher)â€”give some credit to Portuguese DS and former Bruyneel soldier Jose Acevedo for his terrific scouting.
4. As for Damiano Cunego, what does a guy have to do to win a bike race? Too strong to be left off his leash but not strong enough to win the race overall, one has to wonder if he would have traded a few days in yellow for a stage win or two. Now Cunego heads for the Tourâ€”Stages 1 and 4 especially suit the Italianâ€™s strengths. Regardless, the Little Princeâ€™s first order of business is Sundayâ€™s Italian National Championship.
5. Another rider targeting the Tourâ€™s first week, Philippe Gilbert won the Ster ZLM Toer after winning Saturdayâ€™s Queen Stage in the Ardennesâ€”essentially the same strategy Gilbert used to win the Tour of Belgium in May. But despite the victory, Gilbert still feels as if heâ€™s not at the top of his game. The last time he said that was Aprilâ€”and we all know what happened then.
6. But donâ€™t expect to see Gilbert take home his first Belgian Championship Sunday. While Philâ€™s never one to overlook, the course in Hooglede-Gits is pretty much pancake flatâ€”Tom Boonen and Greg Van Avermaet might be better choices or maybe even Jens Keukelaire or Niko Eeckhout.
7. A sentimental favorite in Belgium this Sunday has to be Vacansoleilâ€™s Thomas De Gendt. The young Belgian won his second stage in an important stage race by taking Fridayâ€™s stage win. Who needs Stijn Devolder when you have a talent like this?
8. Speaking of Belgium, Alberto Contador thinks Jurgen Van Den Broeck can contend for the overall title. Is the Spaniard bluffing or it possible?
9. At the Route du Sudâ€”the Tour preparation event that everyone seems to forgetâ€”Anthony Charteau and Vasil Kiriyenka both displayed some fine form. Will Europcar and Movistar enjoy a banner Tour de France? And will Daniel Martinâ€™s win in the Giro di Toscana be enough for the Irishman to earn his first invitation to France?
10. And last but not least, it looks like Shimanoâ€™s moving forward with an Ultegra version of its Di2 electronic groupset. Weâ€™ve started a conversation about it hereâ€”come share your thoughts.