Days before a race can be awfully quiet...
- VeloNews kicks off its MSR coverage with a list of who isn't there, nabbed off wire services. Maybe we're in overreaction mode here at the Cafe, but you would think La Classicissima would be worth at least a few original thoughts from "the Journal of Competitive Cycling." Is Professor Wilcockson on hiatus? Is the staff all out getting their miles in? I know, race season in Boulder is right around the corner.
- Paolo Bettini's cracked ribs are sucking some of the life out of the Spring Classics. Remember all that off-season chatter about the impending showdown between Boonen and Bettini at the Tour of Flanders? That's two weeks off, and not an easy race to win under the best of circumstances... let alone with the feeling you're being stabbed every time you take a deep breath. Bettini is now likely relegated to where he belongs: focusing on the Ardennes races. And we'll all have to suffer a Ronde that only pits Boonen against Ballan, Hoste, Gilbert, Nuyens, Pozzato...
- Speaking of injuries, good news for once: Magnus Backstedt is cleared for takeoff at the Basque Tour, putting him on schedule to make the Paris-Roubaix start line... though in what shape?
- The same CN notes point out how Liberty Seguros, the sponsor, wants out of Cycling for good. And to the surprise of nobody, it's all about Operacion Puerco.
- Pez is getting increasingly Italian with its MSR previews, including today's where Alessandro extolls the innate, mysterious beauty of the race. If I ever do this, it's time to revoke my US passport. This is a reminder to pseudo-Italians like me: if you can't analogize everything to a woman, you're not really Italian.
- I know my Oscar Freire pick wasn't exactly daring, but it's looking awfully good. Not only do a plurality of you agree, but CN looks at how he's primed himself for tomorrow:
"Everything that I needed to do I have done. What have I done in the last days? I took a break!" laughed Freire. "I have a good team; with me is Leon Van Bon, he is going strong and also is additional threat." Freire will also have the backing of one-day hard-men Max Van Heeswijk and Juan Antonio Flecha.
- Lastly, I am kicking off the Flanders Project, where I harass race media officials to identify some way, any way, for Americans to watch the Ronde van Vlaanderen live. Want to join me? Their website says that if you want information, send an email to email@example.com. Will do.