Weekend Preview: Eneco, Utah, and Transfer Season

Fotoreporter Sirotti

This weekend sees the culmination of two races on opposite sides of the globe, the Eneco Tour, and the Tour of Utah. Both wrap-up on Sunday.

The Eneco Tour has given flatlanders an opportunity to test post-Tour or non-Tour legs alike. Perhaps the biggest news coming out of Eneco was the prologue victory of Taylor Phinney. The youngster on BMC has had a topsy turvy start to his professional career, and he recently admitted to the newsmedia that for much of the year, he hadn’t worked very hard – his injuries, he claimed, had been a result of overstressing underprepared legs. However, he’s gearing up for his first Grand Tour, this year’s Vuelta a Espana, and his form is obvious: in the short 5.7km prologue, he beat out a host of big-name short-course time trialists including Edvald Boasson Hagen, David Millar, Lars Boom, Phillipe Gilbert, and Geraint Thomas.

Phinney held the race lead through two sprint stages, both won by Omega Pharma Lotto’s Andre Greipel – credit Phinney with guts for reeling in 6th- and 7th-place finishes in both stages to keep the race lead. With a time trial victory as well as the ability to stay at the pointy end of the race in the closing kilometers, it’s seems apparent that Phinney’s talent runs deep and that his potential could turn in any of several directions. With a Grand Tour in his legs, next year should be an exciting year for Phinney, and I wouldn’t rule him out for a fine showing in some semi-classics.

Phinney’s leader’s jersey was taken by Phillipe Gilbert on a spikey Stage 3, and today’s 14.7-km time trial saw rainy, difficult conditions that didn’t offer Phinney an opportunity to ride himself onto the podium – especially with this weekend’s Stages 5 and 6 lurking. However, Phinney’s ride is already an impressive top-ten showing for the youngster, and notable riders keeping him company on the GC are Gilbert, Boasson Hagen, Millar, and QuickStep’s Dries Devenyns – coming off of several impressive top tens in Tour stages. Not bad company to keep.

Moving across the globe, the Tour of Utah has gotten underway, in one of the United States’ few international professional races. The first three installments have included a short uphill prologue and two mildly hilly road stages, and this weekend’s final three stages are a circuit race, an individual time trial, and a road stage with a 20km finishing climb. With a good number of Tour de France riders on the start list, the final climb should be a good glimpse at who’s coming out of the Tour strong, and who’s coming out of it tired. Look for American riders to put on some fireworks on their home soil, and look for riders with expiring contracts to take one last shot at securing employment for next year. With an uncertain layout of ProTour teams – with HTC folding, Lotto looking elsewhere after the QuickStep/Omega Pharma merger, and rumors of Vacansoleil losing its ProTour license due to subpar showings – it’s possible that the market is contracting.

Elsewhere in transfer news is the report that Thor Hushovd has not been named to Garmin-Cervelo’s team for the Vuelta a Espana. Given that Thor’s signed to BMC, it doesn’t come as a surprise – and neither does news that Cadel Evans isn’t too keep on taking Thor to the Tour in 2012, prefering a full squad built around his GC aims. Which leads me to wonder if Thor Hushovd could be a bit better about choosing his teams – earlier this year, he claimed that Credit Agricole (his team from 2000 to 2008) inhibited his Classics development, and after two years at the Cervelo Test Team, found himself dissatisfied at the post-merger Garmin-Cervelo. Is Thor headed into another sticky situation of power struggles and support dissatisfaction?

But most importantly, does Cadel Evans really consider Hushovd a sprinter? I’m of the opinion that anybody who still calls Hushovd by “the S-word” hasn’t paid attention for the past several years.

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9 Responses to Weekend Preview: Eneco, Utah, and Transfer Season

  1. MW says:

    Think someone has a bit of a man crush on Taylor Phinney, he will need more than a win on a 5.7km prologue which suits his track background perfectly and being able to ride near the front in a bunch finish when he has been listed as a sprinter before for me to proclaim;

    "it’s seems apparent that Phinney’s talent runs deep and that his potential could turn in any of several directions. "

    • mattio says:

      Let's see… I'm going to defend myself on this one. There are two things you could be taking issue with:

      Apparent that his talent runs deep: as the World IP Champion, the U23 ITT WC, USA Nat'l TT champ, two 1st places in the U23 Paris-Roubaix, I don't think it's a stretch to say that that's some pretty deep talent. It's a far cry from predicting that he'll win the World Championships this year, but that doesn't mean he's not talented.

      His potential could turn in any of several directions: well, it COULD. I could go off on a screed about people with time trialing and sprinting ability who can develop into really interesting roleurs and Classics specialists, but I won't bother. I'll just leave you with the fact that I said "could," and if you can't proclaim that then it seems you'd be proclaiming that his potential couldn't turn in a couple different directions, and that seems silly.

      • MW says:

        If you had mentioned his amateur career in your article I would be more inclined to agree with you but the article reads like you are using this race as some sort of proof of his potential to develop into a very good rider when I think all it shows is what we already knew that he can go fast in short TTs.

        Maybe it's just the American bias in the article that's irking me when another promising youngster Sergio Henao who is currently leading the ToU and has also had a stellar amateur career doesn't even get a mention.

        • mattio says:

          What can I say – sometimes we miss something or somebody. Personally, my ability to absorb cycling news is limited by the fact that I only speak (and read) English, and by the fact that I also work several jobs. We here at Pavé write about what and who captures our attention, but at the end of the post, it's an open forum and we want people to chime in and to let us know why Sergio Henao or anybody else is worth our (and everybody else's) attention.

          • Brian says:

            I guess Henao IS news, since he just signed with SKY. But it is also true that the ToU is a little bit of a joke. I've been watching the stages online and some of them don't have any commentary and you have to watch from a mile overhead from a chopper lol. I mean, cycling's cycling and each race is as good as the riders make it, but it's still kinda funny to me. Unfortunate that cycling isn't as big in the U.S. as it is in Europe.

  2. Nora says:

    Apparently there has been some misunderstanding of what Cadel Evans meant in his comments about Thor. In his twitter (@CadelOfficial) he says:
    "Checking the news….. I so want Thor #godofthunder on our Tour team next year…. Why do people say otherwise?"

    • mattio says:

      I saw that. Interesting. I wonder if his comments were about not wanting a team built around supporting sprint interests, and it was completely blown out of proportion by the newsmedia with headlines like "Cadel warns Hushovd to shove off," implying that he didn't want Thor on the team.

      • Mike Hensen says:

        I think Cadel said exactly what he wanted to, and then backtracked when it became politically expedient. Yes he would like Thor on his squad, he brings power and classics, no he doesn't want a split-up tour team with a train for Thor, but like you said, that isn't Thor's style anyways.
        Cadel would like to repeat so he figures his best shot is an LA style all for one, and one for, uh, one. No freelancers required.

  3. Julius says:

    It will be interesting to see how Henao adjusts to the much higher level of competition next year. Somehow I am reminded of JJ Haedo, who was tearing up every US race, but had to take some time to adjust to the European circuit.

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