Thereâ€™s been a bit on my mind lately, which means itâ€™s the perfect time to dust-off the Monday Musette. (Please excuse my rusty drivetrain.)
1. Perhaps like many of you, Iâ€™ve been scratching my head at Sep Vanmarckeâ€™s decision to leave Garmin-Sharp after his contract expires at the end of the season. This is certainly a strange situation as there were no public conflicts between Vanmarcke and Garmin-Sharp management and the young Belgianâ€™s talent is without question. One would assume that a Belgian team such as Lotto-Belisol has made Vanmarcke an offer he cannot refuse, but he says thatâ€™s not the case. As a result, Vanmarcke was left-off Garminâ€™s roster for the Vuelta and competed in his final World Tour race of the season this past Sunday in Plouay. As for his new destination, my moneyâ€™s on Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank or Team Sky.
2. Realizing that Heinrich Haussler, Tyler Farrar, and Johan Van Summeren might not be the best answers to Garmin-Sharpâ€™s cobbled classic needs, GarminSharp General Manager Jonathan Vaughters is close to signing 2010 Tour of Flanders-winner Nick Nuyens. The move makes a lot of sense: Nuyens is a cerebral and talented rider who has a relatively consistent track record in the hillier cobbled classics (at least when heâ€™s healthy). His English is impeccable and he brings a wealth of experience to the table. In short, heâ€™s a perfect fit. Expect Nuyens to be the protected rider for Flanders, with Vansummeren getting the nod in Roubaix. Farrar will have his chance in Ghent-Wevelgem, while Hausslerâ€”if he ever finds his legs againâ€”will play the â€œjokerâ€.
3. As for Stijn Devolder, the winner of back-to-back Rondes has fallen out of grace with Vacansoleil and after two disappointing season with the Dutch squad, the former Belgian Champion is now on the lookout for a new team. Rumors suggest (as I did years ago) that Devolder is headed to RadioShack-Nissan and a reunion with Johan Bruyneel and Dirk Demol. That said, Devolder did little classics-wise with US Postal/Discovery Channel from 2004-2007 other than win the Three Days of DePanne. (Which is odd considering the revelations regarding the teamâ€™s methods of â€œpreparationâ€.)
4. Last but not least on the Belgian front, BMCâ€™s Philippe Gilbert finally won a race this seasonâ€”almost a year after taking his 18th victory of 2011. Whatever the reason for the Belgianâ€™s lack of results in 2012, itâ€™s good to see him back in top form and perhaps ready to challenge for a World Championship on a course that (finally) suits him. I think most Belgians would be satisfied with a two-win season for Gilbertâ€”if one of them brings with it a Rainbow Jersey.
5. Moving to Spain, does anyone else wonder if the 2012 Vuelta a Espana is giving us a sneak preview of the 2013 Tour de France? Rumors abound that the 2013 Grand Boucle will be one of the hilliest in recent memory with a course well-suited to the likes of Alberto Contador, Chris Froome, etc. The aggressive racing weâ€™re seeing in Spain makes me especially excited for those rumors to prove true.
6. As for the race itself, I have little faith in Joaquim Rodriguezâ€™s ability to win the race overallâ€”despite his current lead. I suspect that Rodriguez has targeted the early summit finishes more so than the rest (as he did in the Giro) and heâ€™ll certainly lose at least a minute or two in Tuesdayâ€™s time trial. Expect the race to come down to a battle between the Spanish Grand Tourâ€™s two best all-rounders: Contador (who foolishly â€œgave awayâ€ a stage win Saturday) and Froome (the eventâ€™s best time trialist and captain of its strongest team).
7. In France, Team Skyâ€™s Edvald Boasson Hagen won the GP Ouest France in Plouay. Is it just me or does EBH seem to specialize at winning races during lulls in the one-day racing calendar? With Juan Antonio Flecha heading to Vacansoleil, will the 25-year-old Norwegian come through in next yearâ€™s Spring Classics?
8. In other news, it looks like Tony Martin has a clear shot to defend his World Time Trial Championship in Holland next month. The German appears to be getting in some solid training at the Vuelta, and his two main challengersâ€”Bradley Wiggins and Fabian Cancellaraâ€”have both announced they wonâ€™t be competing in the event. Iâ€™m sure Tony would prefer to win another title by beating the worldâ€™s best in the discipline, but hey, a rainbowâ€™s a rainbow.
9. Did you know? Since turning professional with HTC-HighRoad in 2010, Tejay van Garderen has eleven top-10 stage race overall finishes on his resumÃ©â€”and no wins.
Share your own comments and musings belowâ€”it will be nice to hear from again!