Just a quick post on a rare day off -- from work, kids, etc., (translation: ride!) -- to ask the question that is on a lot of minds in the peloton just now. You can bet it's on Damiano Cunego's mind right now. He is well acquainted with the strength of Cadel Evans at the moment: Cunego was one of the protagonists struggling desperately to bridge up to Evans, in vain, over the last 3km of the Mendrisio course. Cunego, or his teammates, saw Evans riding strongly at both the Coppa Sabatini, where he set things up nicely for Philippe Gilbert, and the Giro dell'Emilia, where the World Champion was the best man after the three escapees. Cadel might see his form head downhill at any moment, after the Tour and Vuelta, the physical and emotional expense of becoming world champion, and two more weeks of hard work. But if Evans can hang on to that blistering form for one more week, he's holding a few cards.
Same too for Phil-Gil, sitting on some form so utterly combustible that he won his last two starts, in two countries over four days, by outsprinting Giovanni Visconti Thursday (on his home turf) and Tom Boonen Sunday. Gilbert has never been too far down on the Totem pole of sprinters, but for him to ace out Boonen says as much about the former's form as the latter's transition away from elite sprinterhood. The Wind-Up Doll of the Pro Tour is now about to hit 80 racing days for 2009 (he did skip the Tour this year) and is showing no signs of slowing down.
Meanwhile, the team has climbed back into the top ten in CQRanking points -- not bad for a squad whose victory totals were on par with Milram entering the month. Suddenly they have two options for Saturday whom they can deploy as conditions dictate, along with a core of support that can handle the one-day event, led by Johan Van Summeren. Gilbert has almost no history at Lombardia, preferring to concentrate his late season on Paris-Tours, but anything is possible, including the elusive "Autumn Double" last achieved in 1963 -- ancient history by pro cycling standards. Evans will be the leader, make no mistake, but he isn't likely to stop a stronger Gilbert from going for it, given Evans' lack of both a sprint and a massive enough ego for him to insist on a shot. Whoever has the legs will be Silence-Lotto's man that day, a strategy that will be all the harder for Lampre and their expected tactics to counter.