Yet another post I could recycle from last year, though with some important differences in the course it probably bears re-writing. Bottom line: AEG rocks. If they'd planned the post-Iraq war pacification process, Sunnis and Shiites would be hugging each other in the streets of Baghdad by now.
As for the particulars, let's start with the misses:
- Stage 4's route was too long. We've covered this before; Gavia suggests that it may not be all that easy to shorten the route without starting or ending in the boonies, but AEG's planning abilities should not be underestimated.
- The weather. Whaddyagonnado?
That's it. Now, for the hits:
- Stage 3: the addition of Mount Hamilton succeeded in transitioning a tough stage into a real climbers' battle, uprating the entire ToC to 2.HC (does anyone have a UCI ratings glossary handy?). This had several beneficial effects: the fans were treated to some real action, beyond what we've seen the past two years. The larger splits meant that the overall win was hanging in the balance, forcing teams to brandish their tactical prowess. And the riders got to let the throttle out and see where their fitness is at.
- The overall balance of the course: Stage 4 kind of got in the way of the race's rhythm, but a prologue, two rolling stages, a big climbing effort, a roller, a time trial, and two more rollers... I think the number and caliber of riders coming here says all you need to know about the parcours. To my amateur eyes, this looks like a chance to really open up and race, but stages 3 and 5 are hard enough to make guys run out of matches to burn if they're not careful.
- The usual suspects: great scenery, great fans. Chappeau!
- Young riders: As the author of the U25 post (scroll back 6 weeks or so), I love watching top young talent, and guys from that category were out in droves. Rabo's Robert Gesink was the big star, but High Road's kids (Cavendish, Ciolek, Boasson Hagen) were in effect constantly, as were numerous others I can't look up because I'm at a hotel breakfast patio in Mexico. Also, I'll spare you the Cancellara worship redux, but just so you know, that could easily be another bullet here, IMHO.
Overall, I'd rate AEG's planning a 9. And I can't think of anything wrong with the execution either... maybe people who were there would know more.