Photo: Ster ZLM Tour

Greipel Ster ZLM

A heavy week with the recent news dominated by a triathlete. But the racing goes on and so here’s a mention of actual sport for balance. Earlier today Andre Greipel outsprinted Mark Cavendish and Mark Renshaw in Stage 2 of the Ster ZLM Tour in the Netherlands. Look closely and you can see team mate Greg Henderson celebrate. Cavendish might have finished second but he is now in the overall lead after finishing third yesterday.

As of today Greipel now tops the victory rankings with 13 wins, one more than Peter Sagan. It bodes well for the Tour de France. It’s easy to think of the overall classification, of Wiggins, Evans and the rest but the first week is reserved for the fast finishers with a mix of flat and uphill arrivals.

Whilst Mark Cavendish has dominated the Tour de France’s sprint finishes in recent years he might find things harder. Assuming he rides, he’s going to have less support from his team as Sky commit riders to supporting Bradley Wiggins in the high mountains. Meanwhile Greipel is looking very strong this year and we’ll also see Marcel Kittel and Peter Sagan as well as others in the sprint.

Sometimes the sprint finishes can be boring, hours of television reduced to 30 seconds once the sprint starts. But the wider competition should bring even the flattest stage alive. I’ll be interested to see which teams will work to set up the sprint. As already mentioned Sky won’t bring many wagons for the sprint train. But the same for Greipel and Lotto-Belisol who will come with Jelle Vanendert and Jurgen Van den Broeck and others; Skil Argos Oil-Shimano will also have a mixed team whilst Liquigas-Cannondale come with Vincenzo Nibali, Ivan Basso and others who won’t go near the front of the bunch for the first week.

37 thoughts on “Photo: Ster ZLM Tour”

  1. Regarding you “Sky won’t bring many wagons for the sprint train” comment. I can’t remember the last time we had the Top sprinter and GC favorite on the same team at the TDF. I wonder if for that reason teams, especially the top GC squads, will sit back to force Sky to do a lot of extra work. Sky may not bring a lot to the sprint trains but how much work will they have to do to bring back breakaways and Cavendish to the front of the race? What happens if we get a repeat of ’01 when Francois Simon won out of the break and had a large lead for several days? Things to ponder in the next 14 days..

        • McEwen was a very self-sufficient rider, able to sprint without a lead out. He’d spring from nowhere, a bit like Oscar Freire.

          It worked at Telekom but they often relied on other teams to do the work and then Zabel won the sprint.

      • I had forgotten about Zabel. In was so use to his later years when he would win the green jersey but seldom win a stage. After looking it up I see he won stage & the green jersey with Riis in ’96 and Ulrich in ’97.

    • I’m sure it’s not intentional (? :D) but Cavendish not winning stages in ZLM has probably done him and Sky a big favour in pursuading other teams to chase in the first week or so.

  2. Ha, mention the Texan and risk coming up on the radar!

    I wonder if Cavendish has already been quietly informed that his Olympic gold attempt and as much support as he wants in races outside of the ’12 Tour de France is the plan? His extra effort to capture the Maglia Rossa might be evidence of lowered Tour expectations this season?

    This season has also highlighted what a fantastic train HTC High Road strung together last year..

  3. @Inrng – perhaps you long for the return of their jersey as I do but sadly Skil-Shimano are Argos-Shimano these days!

    I was just thinking the same thing earlier today – the tour this year is going to be an absolute classic sprinters tour, there’s just so many high class sprinters these days! Cavedendish, Sagan, Greipel, Goss, and Farrar just to name the main contenders, and plenty of high quality ‘outside chances’ as well. Can’t wait!

    • I agree! I’m actually looking forward to the sprints this Tour! Also, the GC battle looks very interesting/open this year. Wiggins and Evans look good, but there’s always someone that nobody expected to challenge for the win that pops up. Who’s it going to be this year? Gesink? Heshedal? Leipheimer? Kloden? F. Schleck? Valverde? If this year’s Tour is half as good as last year’s we’re in for another treat! Let the speculations begin!

  4. I am really looking forward to this tour!
    I don’t see Cav even sticking around for the whole tour, so I doubt Sky will take much of a train for him. This will be the Gorillas chance for green. Or Sagan. Either way, 14 days to go!!!

  5. Basso is going to the Tour? Are you sure? Liquigas will be riding for Nibali for GC, and if he falters then perhaps Sagan for Green. I don’t see Ivan as a domestique …

  6. You gotta give Cav credit. He waited until the media was completely absorbed by a doping accusation to lose to Greipel. Smart planning.

  7. It’s interesting that Griepel has the most number of wins, he certainly appears to be winning a lot, however Lotto-Belisol are only 15/18 in the UCI team rankings. I wonder if this diminishes the importance of the wins Griepel got or just an indicator that other teams don’t just rely on one person for wins…

  8. “The first week is reserved for the fast finishers”. That’s saying perhaps a bit too much, isn’t it? Many things can happen with regard to the GC in the first week. and I have a hunch that they will, because too many teams are interested in sending the race out of control.
    As for Cav’s defeat in this slightly minor race, it looks like a statement: “look, I won’t win every sprint, I’m just like you guys, I’m not the all-conquering sprinter of this generation, so won’t your team help mine control the race?” …i wouldn’t buy it.
    By the way, the Vuelta a Colombia, the Tour de Suisse and the Route de Sud are taking place now.

    • Perhaps the stages later in the week, and there’s one along the coast which could be lively if it’s windy but the first week has a lot of flat finishes for the sprinters.

      And yes, lots of racing on. There’s also the Tour of Slovenia and the Giro Bio with today’s stage finish on the Gavia. The Tour de Suisse and Route du Sud also have their day in the mountains.

      • Yes, and lots of interesting things happened on those mountains. Route du Sud gave us what can easily become the race of the year, where the Tourmalet was made justice, and with serious gaps in the finish. To think that Quintana is not pre-selected for the TdF…

  9. Greipel has history of starting the season well and not lasting through to the Tour though doesn’t he…

    That said, I think this will be his best chance to pick up some Tour stages (and Kittel).

    I think Sky will chase two rabbits and end up with none. Brailsford may be a genius on the track where what matters most is Watts, but to win the Tour you have to have tactical sense as well and I don’t see much evidence of that in Sky. It’s big step up from Paris-Nice and Romandie to the Grand Tours and they have yet to get one right.

    • You might be right! This is the first in what, three years that his pre-Tour preparations have gone smoothly. Climbs well, time trials well. Would love to see him do it! It’ll be interesting to see who emerges as Garmin’s best GC hope-Tommy D, Ryder or CVV. And I have to admit, I like the Tour better without Contador.

  10. I dont believe that Sky will be chasing 2 rabbits and going in from the start to target green and yellow. All of the signs are that the top priority is yellow. I think the game plan will be that if sprint wins can be picked up in the first week, great, but then its all about yellow. I think Cav’s no 1 goal is the Oly RR. Green can always be targeted next year.

    BTW has anyone clocked what happened today? Cav came second to Boom on a parcours that was absolutely not designed for pure sprinters – Ardennes hilly course, took in la Redoute and had a steep uphill finish…put it like this, the likes of Griepel and Renshaw came in many minutes later.

    I’m telling you, the game plan for Cav this year has his climbing chops massively improved. Although he lost to Griepel and Kittel this week, I truly dont think honing bread and butter sprints are the priority this week. He was sharp enough in the Giro, aside from misjudging the sprint that Guardini won.

    • It’s obvious you are a Cav fan but no need to discount Guardini’s victory. Cav was beat soundly from behind cleanly with a bike length between them. He wasn’t the fastest man on the day.

      The sprints this year will be exciting for a change and that is exciting news to me.

  11. I notice from the picture that it’s not yet necessary to wear cling-wrap over your helmet to win a sprint, which I personally think is a good thing…

  12. Cav doesn’t look to be that disappointed to have lost that one. He is normally pulling faces, banging the handle bars etc.

    Me thinks things are not as they seem…

  13. I think Sim has come closest to what I believe this week.. I think Cavendish has completely changed his focus and is looking more towards the Olympics than the Tour. He’s been on a diet, dropped several kg’s and also finished the Giro knowing that he wouldn’t take green, he’s clearly been focussed on his climbing (as taking the GC here confirms) -he may have sacrificed his top end speed as a result but if he can drop the pure sprinters on the climbs he has a better sprint than most classics guys and that gives him a fair shot at gold if he can stay with the bunch over Box Hill in the road race

    It also takes a lot of pressure off Sky for the Tour. Already this year we’ve seen 90% of the peleton sit back and let them do the work to close the break in any race with a possible sprint that’s featured Cavendish, this will no longer be the case if Cav is riding in support of Brad (strange concept I know, but we’ll see..) and save them a lot of steam for the mountain stages. Shame if this happens though, as it would have been very interesting to see an in form Cav take on the likes of Sagan, Kittel and Greipel!

    I’d love to see Sky go for green and yellow, but at this moment in time it makes too much sense not to. Brailsford and Sky have essentially come from a track/Olympics background and you can see with the likes of Geraint Thomas sitting out the Tour exactly where the British focus is this year (apart from Brad of course, he’s done all that!)

    • Ta Dave 🙂

      I think another driver for Cav improving his climbing is to reduce the drain on the team to get him though the mountains and make the time cut – sometimes its not just been Bernie, but other team mates such as Danny Pate who’ve have had to help out. Is it conceivable that he’s preparing to do without Bernie on the Tour to make it the Dauphine 8 squad+himself? Sky have a hell of a job leaving out one of Pate, Knees or Siutsou – all 3 have been immense this year. Leave Bernie behind and no need…

      Agree re your point about taking the pressure off Sky. If points were awarded for how much time teams have been spending on the front, Sky would win hands down – sometimes they’ve been rewarded, sometimes they’ve been missed out. I think this is likely to be something that’s feeding into their game plan. They simply cannot spend day in day out pulling the peloton.

      Like James, I think there may be something else going on…everyone knows Cav loathes losing a sprint, and he was bouncy to say the leasr.

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