A Stage For the Grandkids

May 15 2010

Pippo Pozzato gets a new nickname after today’s stage: Cassandra. He predicted the action pretty much to the letter (Evans winning, Sastre, Basso losing time) but was unable to do anything about it himself—possibly, some have suggested, because the weather was too grim. At any rate, the nickname is certainly inline with scope of the stage, which drew Gavia comparisons pretty much from the word go.

While I took in today’s action in a slightly atypical fashion, I’ve got to say, I was thrilled with what I saw. GC riders and stage contenders took chances throughout the day: Dario Cioni made an ambitious first move, then Linus Gerdmann came through with an aggressive climb-and-descent attack, during which a dreaded spike in PSL took out race leader Vincenzo Nibali, who was in a fairly select pack pursuing the break.

Nibali was slow to remount and lost time on the day, ceding the GC lead back to Alexandre Vinokourov. This lead to some criticism of Vino’s post-crash aggression in the press. While I may have been watching in non-ideal conditions, my visibility wasn’t cataract poor by any means, and it’s my assertion that Evans drove the race as much, if not more, than Vinokourov.

In fact, Evans’ rainbow-clad dictation of the closing kilometers was one of the high points of the race for me. In a very tricky final climb, descent, and narrow, cobbled, uphill sprint, the World Champ went to the front and essentially said “If you want it, you’re gonna have to take it from me.” Watching him stomp away from Damiano Cunego—no slouch at this sort of finish—and calmly point to his jersey after finishing with a three-second gap was a pretty class effort, and only added to the enjoyment of a stage I won’t soon forget.

The day was not without its detractors, though—Vinokourov, despite his successes over the take-no-prisoners parcours, questioned whether stages like this should be in Grand Tours, calling it “harder than Paris-Roubax“. I think think, despite the rough conditions, that the stage’s single DNF barely puts it in the same sport as Roubaix, let alone the same league.

As a racer, stages like today’s (scaled down to my humble abilities, anyway) are the races I love the most—all the more so if the weather’s bad. Granted, I’m not firing them off for twenty days running, but if the tweets of most of the riders I follow are any indication, it was a rough day at the office, but hardly unbearable one. It’s rumored that some may even haveenjoyed themselves.

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