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Countdown to the Cobbles: Fastmen Edition

Very little in the way of helpful news today...

3. Argyle Club Premium

Way_of_the_cross_mediumAs an ex-Bostonian, it's hard to hear something like this -- the name for Team Garmin-Transitions' premium access thingy -- and not imagine yet another snooty blueblood club meant to exclude people (like me) who actually regard membership in such clubs as a form of slow death. Fortunately, Team Garmin-Transitions couldn't differ from that world more starkly, though if upon leaving Cycling Tyler Farrar takes over Goldman Sachs, Dave Zabriskie becomes president of Harvard and Christian VandeVelde gets a seat on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, it probably won't seem quite so funny. Anyway, I missed the end of Tirreno-Adriatico today and am not sure why Farrar managed a mere 13th on the stage (slight uphill finish??). However, I did watch some of last night's replay on Universal while hitting the trainer, and got a little whiff of confidence from the Argyle Army, continually patrolling the front of the race with the intention to set up Farrar for the sprint. The opportunity didn't materialize when Linus Gerdemann snuck away for the win, and except for tomorrow you might not see Farrar challenging for a stage until the decidedly flat finale next week.

There's a lot of talk (from wags like me) that Farrar's chief competition is generally Mark Cavendish, and maybe that's true. Farrar would undoubtedly love to challenge for supremacy in all the classics, even the up-and-down stuff, but while I wouldn't put it past him, Farrar's record so far indicates that his ceiling is more Gent-Wevelgem than de Ronde. Tirreno-Adriatico is a chance for Farrar to hunt for stages where the conditions challenge the sprinters to stay strong (or for that matter in contact), much the way the Flemish races do. With Cavendish off the back, scrambling to get caught up on his fitness, Farrar can instead hunt for stages against guys with longer resumes: Tom Boonen, Daniele Bennati, and Robbie McEwen. With a slew of top fives but no wins, it would overrate Farrar to suggest he's ready to catch and pass Boonen in the sprints, let alone the classics. But if Farrar can break through in Italy, it will set him up nicely for a result somewhere in Belgium this spring. So his progress over the next few days is worth monitoring.

2. Damn the Torpedo

Speaking of Boonen, does he look like a rider possessed or what? After today's win, his fourth this year (compared to two at this stage of 2009), Boonen commented that he ordered his team behind him while he sat on the Liquigas train, rather than asking a teammate for a leadout. Sitting on Daniele Bennati's wheel instead of a teammate's is a pretty good indicator that Boonen knew he would have no difficulty coming around Benna for the win. Which he did. Which tells you that Boonen just might rip the legs off of everyone this spring. Oh, sure, there are plenty of other possible outcomes, but this is one.

Oh, and Stijn Devolder finished 114th today in Tirreno-Adriatico, an improvement over yesterday's performance by 11 riders. With Devolder, however, there is little you can say about his form before Driedaagse de Panne, where he has tipped his hands each of the last two years by running third in the time trial, a pretty good indicator of strength.

1. 'Roo-naissance

Do mine eyes deceive me, or is Robbie McEwen looking a bit spry for his age lately? McEwen ran fourth in today's difficult finale. Don't go looking for a return to the glory years, which are pretty far in the distance now, but there's still a place in the world for a fearless, fast, veteran guy who set up shop in Belgium ages ago and has wins in Dwars door Vlaanderen and the Scheldeprijs.

[Update] 0.5. Actual News

According to the team website, Heinrich Haussler's withdrawal from today's stage of Paris-Nice was a combination of miseries: soreness in a knee after a crash in stage 1 and nasty weather that only aggravated things more. Look for more extensive coverage of Haussler's condition here very soon.

Cobbles' Corner!


"Two years from now everyone in this article will be fighting for the wheels of Peter Sagan and Jens Keukeleire. So, have fun old guys, while it lasts. Time and sprints wait for no man."