First impressions

mmmmmmm, Lampre kit - David Mariuz

The season is four stages old, we still have 10 days to go before there is any racing on european soil, but there are already some intriguing stories.

- First off, Simon Gerrans is going to be a favorite for a lot of races this spring, most of all Milano-Sanremo. That will probably hold true even in a year when both Sagan and Gilbert have marked La Classisissima as a top goal in their calendars. Gerrans who more and more is emerging as the Orica superstar, as others like Goss have faded into the background, should perhaps even be on the A-list come Ardennes week if he is as good this year as the first days indicate. Speaking of Goss, this is a contract year for him and he has announced that he is going back to the type of buildup he used in his HTC years so maybe we will see him as a factor again? It would be most welcome even if I don't see him challenging in the big sprints anymore, whatever form he manages to put together.

- Diego Ulissi also just announced that he is ready for a major breakthrough year. He started off last year shepherding Pippo Pozzato but somehow I doubt he will be stuck doing that this year. His major problem might be the arrival of Rui Costa who has a really similar skillset but with any luck (for Ulissi) Costa's Tour-focus should open up opportunities for the Italian. In case I wrote this to subtly in FSA DS terms then here is another version: buy Ulissi, sell Costa.

- Are Movistar out of their minds?  The season is started and they haven't given their superstar (no, it isn't Balavarde) the go ahead to plan for the season yet. Maybe Nairo is doing the Tour, maybe he's doing the Giro/Vuelta, who knows?  Apparently it's up to the sponsor to make the call? Now, I'm perfectly fine with that, let a good sponsor have a say in how you create exposure over the season. If a rider isn't happy with the outcome of that process he's free to move on when his contract is up but in the end creating exposure where it matters for the sponsor is what pays the bills, not whether he wins or not. Bit, come on these kinds of calls should be made long ago especially if Movistar are going to have any chance of competing with a Team Sky that excels in getting their riders in optimal shape for the important (stage)races. Which race should Quintana do then? Giro of course! What am I, stupid?

- Garmin has had a looooot of turnover in their roster this winter so this is a really uncertain season. They're going to need a bunch of guys to step up if the season is to be a success. Haas and Steele von Hoff look to be doing just that Down Under but you can't escape the feeling that Garmin have a roster built to pull off lots of honorable top 10s but not necessarily many wins. I sort of hope I'm wrong on this though.

- Robbie McEwen is the future of TV cycling-commentary.

- Caleb Ewan is the future, plain and simple.

- Danilo Di Luca is out on a campaign to make the Giro as proud as possible of their decision to include his old team (in their new Yellow Fluo guise) in the race this year instead of ambitious teams like MTN and IAM. Good call, enjoy the next few days of exposure after Di Luca has spewn his bile all over Italian TV.

- Apparently Carlos Betancur used the winter to get chunky, Tom Boonen did not. Will this matter in April, who knows? Prep races are prep races for a reason even if the PR people tell us otherwise. It's not by chance that the FSA DS starts with the Omloop .

- Natnael Berhane is also the future. He took the traditional Europcar win in the Amissa Bongo which perhaps isn't a huge indicator but it does confirm what we saw in Turkey last year wasn't a fluke. This could be a big year for African cycling.

- On a negative note people are so eager to get the season started that they can't even wait for the traditional slaughter in Qatar to break their collar- and assorted other bones. Victims so far include Thomas Voeckler with a broken collarbone, JJ Rojas with a broken scaphoid, CJ Sutton (broken wrist), Rafael Valls Ferri (broken humerus) and Giovanni Visconti who broke his tibia (shinbone) . That's a pretty impressive list for less than one week of racing.

- This is going to be the Year of the Sprinters. As exciting as Chris Froome is, the battle between the German giants, Sagan, a Cavendish obsessed with wearing the Yellow jersey and assorted other is going to be the most interesting storyline this year.

- And then there's only ten(-ish ) days until we kick off the FSA DS game. Ten more days of chances to lure Ursula into dropping the prices on your favorite riders. This is when he is at his most sensitive, with buyers remorse as he's staring at his finished price lists. His nerves raw and frayed every time he opens Cyclingnews to find some piece of vital new information THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING. This is your chance to exploit his weakness.

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