Accountability time. Yes, I'm the guy who called for Tyler Farrar to flirt with greatness yesterday, causing him top crash out and maybe putting him on the shelf for a few weeks. But not all was lost. Let's reflect on what the more interesting teams were actually up to yesterday.
Quick Step: The key to everything was Boonen's powerful finish, but he was hampered by cramps, leaving Davis to sprint it out with the bunch. I'm guessing this message got around to Chavanel et al, and they chose to take their chances in what was shaping up as a sprint finish. Fourth place for Davis is about what you'd expect in a full pack gallop.
Serramenti: Rebellin and Scarponi were both seen at the front on the Cipressa and Poggio but the general tactics didn't split things up enough for their efforts to have much chance. It's not easy to drop 50 guys on a modest incline, particularly when everyone knows what you're thinking.
Cervelo Test Team: My best call?
There is nobody on the roster who you'd point to and say "that guy can't lose in the right conditions..." If the race is bunched up just enough so that team tactics matter, you can write them onto the podium someplace.
Not gloating; this was as obvious beforehand as after: they had aces to play. But the consensus in the comments (see Sminer's fanpost) is that tactics require familiarity and practice, the achilles heel of any brand-new team. On an unrelated note, while Heinrich Haussler certainly sounds like a German name, he did mention "bloody Cavendish" in post-race comments. Oy!
LPR: Seems like they played it conservatively, hoping for Petacchi to win from the bunch. DiLuca tried countering attacks, but in hindsight it's probably a bit early in the season to expect anything more. Anyway, the race unfolded for the sprinters, which ordinarily would be fine, except Petacchi's leadout train wasn't there. Ongarato missed the split, and DiLuca and Bernucci couldn't find the front.
Katusha: Pippo Pozzato expressed some regrets about not driving things up La Manie and shedding more sprinters, but he shouldn't take it too personally. Despite his attempts at a late escape, it wasn't meant to be.
Lampre: As Mirco Lorenzetto's immunities went, so went the team's chances. Neapolitan Flu 1, Lampre 0.
Columbia-High Road: Despite some sandbagging, Columbia never wavered from the plan to get the World's Fastest Man into position. Hincapie was apparently immense in that role, prior to the Poggio (so says Cav), and winding things up in the last KM. This is the difference between Cervelo's tactics and those of a team that have been working it out for three years.
Liquigas: I dislike their lineup a bit less in hindsight. Basso worked hard to control the race for Bennati, who rewarded the effort with a pedestrian sixth place. Liquigas probably don't regret investing in Benna, a classy rider, as long as he can bring home the ciclamena (points jersey) in May, but you can see why they felt they needed Basso. Benna simply isn't the elite of the elite.
Rabobank: Nice race for the Orangemen, placing Langeveld, Flecha and Nuyens in the first group. Had the bunch disintegrated enough for some classics-style shenanigans... not unthinkable. They are clearly ready for Flanders, and are still the team that interests me most right now.
Speaking of which, if you didn't think it was underway already, the Northern Classics Season starts... now.