I hate to say it, but Lampre (along with a few other teams) might be proof that the World Tourâ€™s automatic grand tour entry policy might need some tweaking. Yes, the team won two stages and the green jersey in 2010, but any team whose grand tour prospects hinge upon Alessandro Petacchi might need to reevaluate its roster.
Damiano Cunego led the team during last yearâ€™s Tour, but the former Giro champion did little more than follow wheels on his way to a sixth-place finish. One canâ€™t help but wonder if a stage win or two might have been a worthier goal (in fact, the same question can be asked of Cunegoâ€™s Giro performance this year).
This year, Lampre will be relying on Alessandro Petacchi to regain his stage-winning form from two years ago. At 38, Petacchiâ€™s a bit long in the tooth; but he did win three stages at the Bayern-Rundfahrt in May. Still, the Tour de France is not the Bayern-Rundfahrt (no offense to the raceâ€™s organizers). The last time I discounted Petacchiâ€™s chances though, he won two stages and the green jersey. It all goes to show that anything canâ€”and willâ€”happen in a field sprint.
More interesting than Petacchiâ€™s participation is Lampreâ€™s somewhat surprising inclusion of Michele Scarponi. After finishing a disappointing fourth in this yearâ€™s Giro, the Italian seems eager to redeem himself in the Tour de France. Of course, it would be a stretch to say that Scarponi might challenge for the yellow jerseyâ€”the race Tour has too few summit finishes and too many time trialsâ€”but a stage win or two would certainly help Scarponiâ€™s case in the eyes of the tifosi.
Man of the Hour
Your guess is as good as mine. Scarponiâ€™s a logical choice. Maybe riding a grand tour without the pressure of being a race favorite will help the Italian win a stage or two. In fact, several stages remind me of Tirreno-Adriaticoâ€”a race in which Scarponi has performed well in the past. Could we see a Scarponi-Gilbert-Evans rematch of the 2011 â€œRace Between Two Seasâ€ during the Tourâ€™s second weekend?
Grega Bole took the biggest win of his career at last yearâ€™s GP Ouest-France in Plouay. This year, the 26-year-old Slovenian is primed for a stage win at the Tour and will likely have several chances to ride for himself during the second and third week.
On the Hot Seat
It might already be too late, but Alessandro Petacchi needs to win a stage or two if he has any hope or remaining in the World Tour.
Iâ€™ve been riding a Wilier Triestina Cento Uno SL for about 3 weeks now and itâ€™s easily one of the best bikes Iâ€™ve ever owned. Wilier doesnâ€™t have the press machine of some of the sportâ€™s bigger companies, but theyâ€™ve been making terrific bikes for years now.
Follow Whit on Twitter at @whityost