With cobble season just days away two veterans may have just announced that they are taking no prisoners this year.
Everyone is busy right now looking in the crystal ball for signs about where the season is heading. The weekend saw two results that probably had managers and riders at Omega Pharma, Radioshack and a few other teams to sit up and take notice.
In France Thor Hushovd, who misfired whole last season with some mystery virus that kept him scrambling for form until he finally packed it in halfway through the season, went and took the first stage of the very tough Tour du Haut Var. It wasn't how he did it, in a fairly ordinary sprint, or who he beat. It was the pure fact that he is already at such a level, when many wondered if he hadn't hit the final fade after landing that big-money contract at BMC. Anyone who saw the attitude from Thor this weekend will not be thinking that anymore. Clearly he is going to be a factor, perhaps already this weekend in Het Nieuwsblad a race he won four years ago. With one more threat on BMC that spells big big trouble for the others trying to contain them. And then there's Roubaix.......
Meanwhile in Italy, The Constant Shadow, Pippo Pozzato took the season opener Trofeo Laigueglia. He did so using his team optimally in the finale and overpowering his last km attacking companions Santambrogio and Reda with a huge support effort from new teammate Diego Ulissi. Pozzato came within a hair from winning Flanders last year. Arguably he looked the strongest rider and the rider who relished the new course more than anyone. Had he known just how good he was compared to his opponents he might have ridden more offensively and ended the Boonen-run right there......... or not perhaps since lacking the final willingness to gamble and go all in is perhaps the one thing that has kept him from winning another monument? Anyways, the man is clearly back from his little "intermezzo" last season (a short suspension for working with the infamous Dr Ferrari) and ready for another attempt at throwing a wrench in the triumph-wagons of misters Boonen, Gilbert and Cancellara. I wonder if there is anyone they fear more?
Here is Pozzato winning Laigueglia
The message here is that while we are looking at a bunch of new kids who are ready to challenge this weekend, the biggest threat might come from some crusty old veterans of the game. Also, the depth of the field of favorites is something to behold this year. Cancellara and Gilbert are sitting out this weekend and still the list of favorites is longer than my arm.