Welcome to another installment of PavÃ©’s Monday Musette. This morning, we’re chewing on a weekend full of National Championship races and eyeing the form of dominant riders as we all head into the Tour de France.
1. In Belgium, Phillipe Gilbert finally claimed a win (video link) after finishing second in four prior editions of the race. By all accounts, he thoroughly controlled the race, initiating the decisive move with 100k to go, organizing the lead group, and finally, attacking on a slightly uphill section of cobbles inside the 3k-to-go mark. He’s likely to trade this jersey for the Tour’s yellow jersey after Stage One, though – be surprised if anybody can overpower him on Saturday’s uphill stage finish.
Surprisingly, Stijn Devolder – the two-year Belgian champion who has been getting well acquainted with the hind end of the peloton this year – finished 6th in the race.
2. And now we head o France, where another springtime hardman, Sylvain Chavanel, claimed a big win with a 25k solo move, riding in roughly thirty seconds ahead of Anthony Roux and Thomas Voeckler. Watch the video as he crawls up the final climb in the closing meters as French fans pound the barricades in salute. Chavanel had a fine spring, notably finishing 2nd in the Ronde, but this victory is the biggest feather in his cap this season. Can he parlay his form, and that strange alchemy that happens in July to people wearing French colors, into a Tour stage win? I’d guess yes. As psyched as all of us here at PavÃ© are for Chavanel, thought, it’ll be strange to see Voeckler wearing Europcar’s green kit.
3. Next up: Italy, where many of the studs sat out of the race due to a new Italian Federation rule restricting the participation of convicted dopers. In a race that lacked Danilo Di Luca, Alessandro Petacchi, Michele Scarponi and Ivan Basso, among others, Giovanni Visconti took his third tricolore. BMC has three men in the lead group – Alessandro Ballan, Mauro Santambrogio, and Ivan Santaromita, each of whom tried to overwhelm Visconti, trading attacks and forcing him to chase, but Visconti clung to the lead group and bested them in the sprint, proving that there are exceptions to every rule of numbers. A fine win for him – it comes in his native Sicily.
4. The award for most nail-biting finish goes to the Ireland race, which saw Matt Brammier and Daniel Martin ride to the line together in a finish that required the use of an expert line judge, and just possibly some computer techs – “Enhance… enhance… enhance…” – struggling to figure out whose front wheel actually crossed first. Dan Martin looked, for a moment, like he thought he won – he began to lift his hands from the bars as if to celebrate before stopping to wonder, while Brammier stopped after the line to look at the officials and point to himself, questioningly. When word came down, it was Brammier on the top step for his second championship in a row. Would Martin have won if he sprinted from the drops instead of the hoods?
5. In the Netherlands, Pim Lighart took the victory in a race that must have been as embarrassing for Rabobank as it was triumphant for Lighart. Rabobank dominated the race with five riders in an 11 man breakaway, but saw Theo Bos and Laurens Ten Dam get dropped and Robert Gesink abandon, diminishing their control and putting the pressure on Bram Tankink, who wound up second.
6. Spain saw Alberto Contador bested in both the time trial and the road race, with Jose Rojas taking the road race win – a fine feather in the cap of Movistar, who’s been beset by some bad luck lately.
7. In Switzerland, everybody’s favorite Switzerman won, and Fabian Cancellara will wear the white cross once again. There are a few riders who look out of place in anything but their nation’s champion’s jersey, and Fabian Cancellara is one of them.
8. Great Britain – Unsurprisingly, Team Sky won this race, taking the first four places after controlling the race by puting 6 men in a 12-man breakaway. It was Bradley Wiggins who crossed the line first, beating Geraint Thomas and all his other teammates after word came down from DS David Brailsford that the race amongst themselves was on. Eyes will be on Wiggins at the Tour for sure – will the British road and time trial champion and recent Dauphine winner rise to the pressure? What’s his track record on that like?
9. Luxembourg – one of the Schlecks won. Which one? The skinny one with the goofy expression on his face.
10. In Germany, Bert Grabsch defeated Tony Martin in the time trial, and we’re still awaiting word from the Road Race.
11. Lastly, there are lots and lots of nations we haven’t been following closely, but you might be. Cyclingnews has a fair roundup of men’s women’s, U23 results for weekend’s road and time trial National Championships.
How do this weekend’s results strike you as pre-Tour form-checks? Any surprises or disappointments that we haven’t covered? Let us know below.