Not that we have a plan, but as you can tell this site will be pretty thoroughly devoted to the first Grand Tour of the year, the Giro d'Italia, which begins Saturday in (of course) Belgium. Today, I thought it might be fun to take a look back at last year's Top Ten. Warning! Missing from this list are just a few names of interest, like Ivan Basso, Damiano Cunego, and Tom Danielson, so take this exercise for what it is, a look back, not forward... on the flip:
10. Emanuele Sella, Ceramica Panaria-Navigare
It's not easy keeping up with the Continental pros, i.e. guys riding for top pro teams that didn't make the 20-team Pro Cycling Tour cut. All I know is, Ceramica made the start list, Sella finished with the leaders before losing the sprint in last week's Giro del Appennino, and his lieutenant Paride Grillo just bailed with bronchitis.
9. Maurizio Bruseghin, Lampre
A lieutenant who found himself up there in GC, for reasons I don't have time to trace here. He was 12 minutes back in the Giro del Trentino and 4 minutes back of Sella in the Appennino... but he's one of Cunego's lieutenants, and with a sane team and healthy general, I'm sure he's looking forward to this year's Giro.
8. Pietro Caucchioli, Credit Agricole
He's still with CA, and rode Romandie, but isn't on the start list. I'm sure there's a logical explanation. A great team like CA would never leave its top threat home.
7. Vladimir Karpets, Caisse d'Epargne
Another member of the U27 Project, Karpets hasn't been seen much lately. I'm not an encyclopedia of news, so if he's nursing an injury these days, it got past me. Another explanation is that this year's climbfest isn't his ideal, and he'll do better to support Valverde's run at the Tour.
6. Serguey Gonchar, T-Mobile
a/k/a Serhiy Honchar, and not to be confused with the defenseman for the Capitals. At times like this, I feel very underpaid. Anyway, G/Honchar stood out with continental Domina Vacanze last year, but jumped to T-Mobile, where he will be one of their crowd, doing whatever it is they do.
5. Juan Manuel Garate, Quick Step
He left Saunier Duval for the big payday and to join Quick Step's two-man Grand Tour tandem, soon to include Jose Rujano... after the Giro. Serge Baguet wears the top number, and Paolo Bettini will be the elephant in the team bus. But Garate will be around in this climbfest, for sure.
4. Danilo DiLuca, Liquigas
He's put all his focus on the Giro, which seems crazy since his record in the high mountains is, um, secondary to his Classics exploits. But you never know til you try, and DiLuca probably doesn't want to wait around for a better route.
3. Jose Rujano, Selle Italia
Last year's breakout sensation will be this year's enigma. He couldn't wiggle out of his contract before the Giro, since Selle Italia needed him around to ensure an invite. But the whole thing has blown up, and Rujano enters the Giro with no races in his legs and allegedly headmanning a team he hates. Frankly, I'm surprised he's on the start list.
2. Gilberto Simoni, Saunier Duval
He's freed himself of the Lampre mess to join a team that will feature him in the Giro, his only real objective. It's a good course for him, and he's got decent support and no internal competition... all he can ask for short of lopping a few years off his birth certificate.
1. Paolo Savoldelli
He eeked out a riveting, spectacular win last year over a tough course, but the course and the competition both got tougher, especially for a guy who hangs on in the climbs. But he's got better support this year (since it couldn't be worse), and only an idiot would ever even think of underestimating il Falco and Bruyneel.