The weekend’s racing threw up some interesting things. The Giro looms big but don’t let the anticipation overshadow some interesting stories from neo-pros succeeding to old dogs having their day over the weekend.
First to Frankfurt, the Germany city that styles itself as Mainhattan, where a sleepy town meets global finance and skyscrapers. The traditional 1 May Grand Prix, these days known as the Tour of the Financial Square Eschborn – Frankfurt, a bit of a mouthful. I preferred the older name, the Henninger Turm, named after the local brewery’s visible grain silo. The race heads to the Taunus hills but it can come down to a sprint finish. As we saw yesterday several big names get ejected by the climbs, in particular in Mammolshain and it came down to a bunch sprint but not after several names got left behind.
This might be a bit mean but it was lucky John Degenkolb won. Why? Well go through the other 68 riders in the group and you’ve probably not heard of many of them. Even the top-10 isn’t quite star-studded.
1 John Degenkolb (Ger) HTC-Highroad 4:50:49
2 Jerome Baugnies (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator
3 Michael Matthews (Aus) Rabobank Cycling Team
4 Davy Commeyne (Bel) Landbouwkrediet
5 Laurent Pichon (Fra) Bretagne Schuller
6 Marco Marcato (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
7 Laurent Mangel (Fra) Saur – Sojasun
8 Simon Geschke (Ger) Skil – Shimano
9 Andreas Dietziker (Swi) Team NetApp
10 Danilo Hondo (Ger) Deutsche Nationalmannschaft
Now this isn’t to knock the guys who did this, more that the sport is struggling in Germany and a win by a promising German talent will provide a lot of satisfaction compared to a Topsport Vlaanderen winner nobody had heard of. Germany is Europe’s largest nation by population and one of the wealthiest countries too. Cycling needs Germany and a nice result like this will satisfy the media and organisers alike.
Business aide note the mild rivalry between Degenkolb and Michael Matthews goes on, both survived the climbs but the Aussie was a little bit far back in a chaotic sprint and couldn’t get through to challenge Degenkolb. Both reminded us just how versatile they are.
Note the double bonus for Erik Zabel on the day. He has several jobs, one of which is a consultant for HTC-Highroad so he was delighted to see Degenkolb’s win. But earlier in the day his son Rik won the U-19 version of the race, soloing away for an impressive win. It’s too early to even say Zabel Junior will turn pro but he’s certainly on track.
From one European financial city to another
The Tour of Romandie finished in Geneva yesterday, home of discreet private banking for the world’s billionaires. Fittingly for a team backed by a family of media billionaires, Team Sky’s Ben Swift won. A neat victory as the team got him to the finish line with perfect timing, something that hasn’t always been so. He’s won four sprints this year but in many other races the team seems to go too early, to the benefit of other teams.
Cadel Evans took a deserved win thanks to consistent riding in the week and a big time trial performance. His “lite” race schedule is keeping him fresh for races to the point where each main race he’s done, he’s won. I’m wondering if 2011 will be his year, should Alberto Contador find himself sitting at home in July then Evans must be a top favourite already.
Romandie is like that. We tend to look at the riders via the perspectives for another race. But it’s still a solid race and it was good to see the likes of Evans, Vinokourov and Tony Martin trying to win; all too often I get frustrated with riders aiming for the top-10 in a grand tour but unable to take a smaller win. Evans banked the win in Geneva and good for him.
More than the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia looms, now just five days away. What can we take from Romandie? Well I’d be careful since some riders will have been holding back. For example don’t be fooled by Roman Kreuziger, he may well disappoint in the weeks to come but I’m pretty sure he’s been easing back. For me, I’d look at the form of others who will play smaller roles. Alberto Contador is the favourite to win but I’ve been wondering about the strength of his team compared to Nibali’s lime green Liquigas squad. But Chris Anker Sorensen seems ready, he has been working hard and took the mountains jersey; Richie Porte did a great ride in the time trial to suggest he’s coming into form. Marco Pinotti was a great fourth, I just hope he hasn’t peaked too early because the killer stages of the Giro are three weeks away.
One to watch
Another thought goes to Andrew Talansky. Garmin-Cervélo took the team prize and Talansky was the best young rider. Competent on the bike, he needs to practice his podium protocols. When it came to kissing the girls he was a nervous as a boy on his first date, not sure what to do.
Finally if Talansky had a good day, spare a thought for Taylor Phinney. His father Davis Phinney won the final stage into Geneva in 1988 but this time around, Taylor was on team duty. After working to keep the pace high, Phinney was ejected on a climb and with the race vanishing over the hills, found the riders around him climbing into their team cars. Not wanting to quit, despite injuries from a crash, he kept going only to have the number pulled from his back. He got a map from race officials and kept going. He might be sitting on the fattest contract a neo-pro has ever seen but he’s not the type to sit up. Good for him.