Re-Examining the One-Week Race

Jun 14 2010

Jani Brajkovic on his TT bikeRight—so it’s taking longer to get squared away than I thought. Curtain rods need to be hung, boxes need to be returned, broken iPhones need to be repurposed, etc., etc. I have video from the L’Alpe stage at Dauphine, but realized halfway into production, that still have no mic; fortunately, I also have no job, so I’m thinking the HTRWW on that will be out tomorrow.

But returning to the Dauphine—I’ve been pretty ambivalent about one-week stage races in the past. They always seemed like the Euro-Pro equivalent of Tuesday night training crits, where the real leg-smashers work to hone form while only a handful of widely-derided second-tier riders take them seriously.

Maybe it was the rare treat of getting to watch (almost) every stage, but this year’s Dauphine went a long way toward changing my mind on that. For starters, it was a course without mercy; the Cat 3 climb in the finish circuit, the day after L’Alpe du Huez, was some pretty serious agony—and thanks to Christophe LeMevel and Edvald Boasson-Hagen, viewers were rewarded with some pretty serious racing as well. Try getting that on the final day of a Grand Tour.

One-week stage races might also go a good way toward appeasing fans who can’t get over the “boring” first week of Grand Tours. There wasn’t a whole lot of fodder for the flatlanders at the Dauphine, and with the field cracking over the final climbs at theSuisse stages both yesterday and today, it may be that the other popular Tour tune-up will be similarly tough sledding for the sprinters.

I suppose the one-weekers also provide a fair amount of off-bike drama as well. For example, would you seriously consider leaving a guy who reeled in Alberto Contador on L’Alpe more times than I can count off your Tour team? Especially if your team had be left out of the Vuelta? It sure looks political when your TdF favorite finishes well off the pace in different event on the same day.

Despite Armstrong’s sensational wet weather performances in the past (Luz Ardiden and the final TT at the ’03 Tour, the Olso worlds a decade earlier, etc.), I’m still inclined to believe the wet weather hesitation story. First, because the time splits apparently backed it up, and second, because if the Texan’s Tour prep takes another hit, he’s can almost certainly kiss contending for the overall good-bye—no point in training risk as well as fitness. But I can almost guarantee that his tendency to “pucker up” in the rain will disappear come the Tour de France.

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