Who says cycling is boring? Well, I mean, not me, or probably any of you, but I think it’s an opinion held by most Americans. Certainly, though, yesterday’s ProTour racing action proved those Chevy-drivin’, war-hawkin’, couch potatoes wrong. First off was Stage 2 of the Vuelta a Espana, which was one of those “maybe so, maybe no” stages for the sprinters. A late Cat 2 climb (25k to go) looked like it would split the field, but with some of the strongest sqauds in memory at this year’s Vuelta, fresh legs in the fast men, and a decidedly downhill profile, a group sprint certainly wasn’t out of the question.
Or at least it wasn’t out of the question until a group of 12 roleurs representing most of the major teams dropped the hammer over the top of the climb. Attacks and tactical riding thinned the herd to 7, and with the Golden Jersey safely in his back pocket (after a strong performance in the prologue), Brad McGee led out the sprint, trying open up as big a time gap as possible over the main field, some 30 seconds back. The tactical move of the day went to Leonardo Bertagnolli of Cofidis, who had realized this some moments earlier and was parked securily on the Aussie’s wheel in the final meters, and sprinted past him to win by a bike length at the line. Exciting racing all around.
Exciting in a different way (kind of like Days of Our Lives to the Vuelta’s Die Hard) was the GP- Ouest Plouy, won by George Hincapie in a 65-man group sprint on what everyone knew from the get go was going to be a sprinter’s race. Or, rather, what everyone thought was going to be a sprinters race, as numrous high profile riders (Ullrich, Vino, DiLuca, others) made aggresive moves in to closing stages. Sadly, no one seemed willing to commit to a move, including FdJ’s Freddy Bichot, who was ordered not to help(!) in a last lap two-man move(!!) with Sylvain Chavanel(!!! – Chavanel almost won a Tour stage in a similar move with Chris Horner) so that teammate Philipe Gilbert could take 13th (!!!!) in the final sprint. This dramatic but ultimately dissapointing riding, combined with the revelations of Armstrongate made for a pretty frosty reception for Hincapie on the podium, despite his attempts to curry local favor with this chapeux tres belle. Now if you think that’s boring, I don’t really know what to tell you.