Don’t call it a comeback! Outsprinting an on-form Luca Paolini to take the first stage and the GC lead of the Tour of Poland yesterday was none other than 2003 TdF maillot vert Baden Cooke, back for his first pro win in 18 months. Though many bad journalists described yesterday’s stage as “glitch marred,” it was actually only delayed, following the late arrival of two spanish teams: Illes Balears and Euskatel. After that, it ran smooth as butter until a crash 300 meters from the line, which the aforementioned bad journalists failed to even mention. I suppose that’s what happens when you just copy reports verbatim from AFP.
So how did the Cookie Monster fare today? Well, thanks to a live video feed from the Tour of Poland home page, I was able to see all the action: Steve Zampieri (Phonak) and Luca Bortolami (Lampre) were the early break ahead of an FdJ-controlled peloton. The duo lasted until 4k to go on a wickedly technical final circuit, where Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) and Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) each tried their luck solo. But Quick.Step gobbled them up one by one, leading to a group sprint won convincingly by Ballan’s teammate Daniele Bennati. Cooke was in the Top 10, but on completely the wrong side of the road for the final 50 meters. No idea yet on whether he’ll stay in yellow (that’s why I didn’t call it a comeback.)
So what was up in that other bike race today? Alessandro Petacchi’s attempt to win yet another field sprint was foiled by none other than Paolo Bettini. Both riders responded to a an early jump by Sammy Sancez in the final 500m, but Petacchi was unable to come around the swarthy little bald man. But you all knew that already from reading the live reports.
In rider news: Oscar Periero is going to Illes Balears next season, but his team leader Floyd Landis has elected to stay on with Phonak, leaving team management scrambling to find three more riders to remain qualified for a ProTour license. Juan Miguel Mercado, the most recent rider not to live up to Patrick Lefevre’s Grand Tour expectations is rumored to be moving to French up-and-comer Agritubel, while Frank Vandenbrouke (yes, that (scroll down) Frank Vandenbroucke) is back in the spotlight after winning the GP Zwevegem. VDB, who currently rides for the Mr. Bookmaker Squad, and who has gone through a head-spinning 6 teams in the past 5 years, claims to be entertaining 2006 job offers from a number of sources, though (in his words) “certainly not from any of the current Belgian ProTour teams.”