The lack of writeups out there was making me wonder if I wasn't going crazy or slipping yet again into one of those cracks in time. How could we be two days out from what a good chunk of the Cycling world considers the year's greatest one-day race [OK, don't say that in Flanders] and have so little discussion going on?
But things are picking up...
- Sign of something big about to happen: Pez finds an obscure Anglo to recall past exploits. Whew! [For a better memoir, see TC's diary, to your right.] Update [2006-4-21 18:40:21 by chris]: Here's Pez' regular preview too.
- Sign #2: Professor Wilcockson checks in. Sure, he steals my "young guns" theme from two days ago, but in this case it's an honor. Update [2006-4-21 17:36:56 by chris]: After much deliberation, the explosion of young studs will be referred to as "the U27 Project"... I love the note about how their final preview will be out tomorrow. What more is there to add? And what good is it to put out internet content on a Saturday? I think the problem with VeloNews -- common to organizations staffed by Cyclists -- is that everyone thinks their primary job is getting in their miles.
On the jump: the Italian connection, and more handicapping...
Interesting sub-story to Liege, which Eurosport's typical half-assed blurb preview suggests: that there's an unusual connection between La Doyenne and Italians. After 90 years of near-futility (one win), Italians have reeled off 10 wins in the last 24 years (and the same number of wins at La Fleche). For perspective, Belgians have only three (!) Liege wins in this time, tied with the Swiss for second. For even more perspective, it took until 1949 for the second non-Belgian win.
Apparently there are also a large number of Italian ex-pats in the region... don't ask me exactly where (Bettini insists Liege itself is "Little Italy"), but they moved in to work in the Wallonian coal mines in the late 19th century (begging the question, exactly how bad were things at home?). I can't find the precise history online, although I did discover that apparently these folks experience high rates of thrombosis. But I digress.
Anyway, this year's Giro d'Italia starts in Seraing, on the outskirts of Liege, and snakes across Wallonia via Charleroi and so forth, before il plotone jet back to Italy for the rest of the race. I seem to recall this was done in part to bring the corsa rosa to this outpost of the Italian Diaspora. Can a stage from Brooklyn to South Philly be far off? Doubtful.
How this Italian obsession with southern Belgium pays off this year, one cannot say, but they're loaded for bear as usual. Damiano Cunego is parachuting in, fresh off his overall win today in Trentino. Danilo DiLuca, last year's primavera hero, passed on defending his Fleche and Amstel titles to focus on Liege. Ivan Basso is there to do more than bide time to the Giro. Simoni can't be ruled out. And Paolo Bettini, with two wins here already, is the favorite of none other than... Paolo Bettini.
[With this Italian theme in mind, BiciRace's preview is a must read.]
The problem with this group is that it doesn't fit the theme of the spring, where every race is won by a twentyish classics rider. Cunego is the only Italian contender who fits the age dynamic, but he fails on the second factor: lack of Grand Tour ambition. Anyone here for a Giro tune-up will get exactly that and nothing more. Look for a separate predictions thread in about two seconds for the official call.