It was a tricky stage for sprinters and GC riders alike in Romandie but in the end the final climb/descent didn't shake too many of the pure sprinters (read: only Cavendish was dropped) and the feared downhill attack never materialized. So Sky were able to hold it together for Froome to finish safely at the front while the teams could set up their sprinters for the stage win. Problem is with these kinds of races like Romandie and Pais Vasco, where even the sprintstages are semi-mountainous that the teams aren't really built for sprint set-ups. Meersman was one of the pre-stage favorites but that was mostly based on the peloton getting decimated to a more select group on the climb. As it turned out the large majority made it over and he was still able to pull it off. There were attacks in the finale but no one as ever let have a decisive gap by a fast moving peloton. Jeremy Roy and Matthias Brändle were left dangling off the front for a while but the outcome was never in doubt.
Omega Pharma did a good job of setting Meersman up in the end even if they weren't capable of mounting a traditional train as such. Apparently the plan of the day was to wait and see if Cavendish could make it over the climb. If he could, they would have ridden for him and if he didn't Meersman was their guy. Luckily Meersman is more of a freelancer than Cav and he excels at taking disorganized sprints like the one today. Taking over Meersman last minute from Lotto-Belisol is starting to look like one of the best transfers of the year. He's a guy who can keep OPQS relevant in some of the stageraces where they have struggled in the past. Now together with Tony Martin Meersman is turning those races into their forte and when the GT's come around, Cav is waiting in the wings.
Sadly we didn't see any GC action today but with just 10 days to the Giro d'Italia much of my attention is on looking for signs of life from the riders doing their last prep here in Romandie. Robert Kiserlovski was perhaps the biggest exclamation mark at yesterdays prologue. Radioshack brought him over from Astana specifically with the Giro in mind. The Croatian has long been one of the better mountain-domestiques but being on stacked Liquigas and Astana teams he hasn't had many opportunities for himself. This year however he has been given freedom to prepare for the Giro and he looks to have struck form just in time. He will be interesting to follow, especially to see if his timetrialling can take a step up when he needs it to fight for his GC position. In the past it has been fairly lackluster.
Another eyebrow raiser yesterday was the two Blanco lieutenants Kelderman and Kruiswijk both finishing ahead of their Giro-captain Gesink. What's that about? Seriously Bobo, this Giro is too important to mess up. Not only is he long overdue to live up to his promise in a GT but Blanco desperately need some visibility in this Giro to attract a new sponsor for next year. Things have been eerily quiet on that front lately. The kind interpretation of course is that Gesink is wisely cooling his jets this week, just riding with the aim of quietly building form for the important (and brutal) later weeks of the Giro.
On a Rabo-blanco related note can anyone figure out the Orica plan for the Giro (and in general) at the moment? Right now they look like this years version of the watered down squad that Rabo sent to the Giro last year. Is the idea that Goss will suddenly start winning again or do they have some secret ace in the hole that I'm not seeing? Because if Goss is the plan then they look to be in for a slim May because today's effort from the team was another serving of meh. Without much visible assistance from the team in the end Goss was flapping about and ended up seventh, never looking like he had the superior finishing speed he used to. For a team without too many other superstars Orica need to get this organized and quick. Right now they look like the team with the lowest return-rate on their sprinting talents with Goss and a guy like Matthews not really looking to be firing on anywhere near all cylinders. Does anyone have the remedy for all this?
Today's Top 10 in Romandie:
- Gianni Meersman, OPQS 4.29.09
- Giacomo Nizzolo, RLT s.t.
- Roberto Ferrari, LAM s.t.
- Luca Mezgec, ARG s.t.
- Kevin Reza, EUC s.t.
- Francesco Gavazzi, AST s.t.
- Matt Goss , OGE s.t.
- Rui Costa , MOV s.t.
- Gaetan Bille , LTB s.t.
- Marco Marcato , VAC s.t.
- Chris Froome , SKY 04:42:24
- Andrew Talansky , GRS +6 sec
- Robert Kiserlovski , RLT +13 sec