Exciting Racing, But Who's Calling The Plays?

May 20 2009

Tactics take a holiday in tomorrow’s long, hilly time trial, and if the first half of the race has been any indication, a lot of the team cars could use a break. While the riders might focus on the gnarly courses, and other fans on the Stage 9 drama, I think the most glaring problem of this year’s Tour has been the nonsense tactics.

It’s difficult to even know who to hand the booby prize to. On the whole, I think Liquigas has done the most damage to itself through its own riding. While I’ve seen the tennis ball train on the front in a variety of stages where they simply had no interest in keeping things together, driving the field over the last categorized climb in Tuesday’s Stage 10 was utterly moronic.

Not only did it take pressure off of a battered LPR Team, which has been burning its candle at both ends, defending DiLuca’s maglia rosa and setting up Petacchi in the sprints, but at the end of the day, it ended up extending DiLuca’s advantage over Ivan Basso. What was the goal of turning up the heat on that climb when all the GC leaders were present. A Pellizotti stage win? Hardly worth the risk of handing a few seconds to a very fit looking Killer.

Astana has shown itself to be as strong as any other team in the race, but to what end? Horner and Levi’s little flier toward the end of Stage 8 could have had potential—if the finish line were about 20k closer to the bottom of the climb. And Lance drove the descent so well today that he ended up briefly gapping Leipheimer while getting clear with Di Luca. Not exactly an ideal outcome for the shakily-sponsored team.

And then there’s Slipstream. Tyler Farrar has had a lock on second place in this Giro, and it’s especially impressive, considering he’s been completely on his own for the last 2k of every sprint stage. Millar and Wiggins might be a bit skinnier than EBH and Renshaw, but they’ve still got the watts to fight them for the front of the field in the closing meters. The current state of affairs, with the two Brits gassing things up from 4-3k, hasn’t yielded dividends for anyone but Petacchi and Cav.

That having been said, I take the bad tactics over an excessively reserved race any day. If a handful of dumb moves are a necessary byproduct the panache that Di Luca showed winning Stage 10, or that Garzelli’s shown bagging mountain points, or that ISD has shown attacking everywhere at every time, so be it. I just hope that tomorrow’s TT intensifies the CG battle, rather than delivering one rider a minutes-long lead, and bringing us a week and a half of boring, negative, break-and-sprint racing.

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