Let's get to it. (The numbers in parentheses are the team's rankings from the first, second, and third polls.
1. Astana (12,6,3)
Three different races
Three different riders on the podium, one for each race
One win in the biggest race.
The best winning move in all three races: the 1-2 by Contador and Vino at LBL.
And that's not even counting a 4th rider winning Strade Blanche. Coincidence? I think not. The world is truly a marvelous place.
No one saw it coming but they win this poll going away.
And now they get to go Grand Touring.
The rest of the rankings on the flip.
Places 2 & 3 are really close. Do you go with the team that has two seconds or the team with the best rider but with a win? I go...
2. Katusha (1,2,2)
I go with Katusha because they managed to place a rider in the finale of the most important race, LBL. All week we saw this team attacking relentlessly at the business end of each race. They came this close to winning two of them. So I think its time to retire the meme that this is a disorganized team; a team that has money as the only thing keeping it together. Last year most of us compared them very unfavorably to the other new team, Cervelo and for good reason. They definitely made some mistakes in putting together their team, but I think they are at least equal to Cervelo now. Both are solid teams and its great to have a team based to the east of the core pro cycling area,
3. Omega Pharma Lotto (5,1,3)
The best Classics rider in the pro peloton today is that Omega Pharma Lotto rider. I think it was telling, the remarks of Gilbert after LBL, noting that his main helper Van Den Broeck, was probably too tired to help at the end-yet still JVDB came in 19th. That was just a hellaciously fast finish to LBL.
4. BMC (7,7,4)
Satisfying week for Evans, if not for Kroon and Santambrogio. I am already wondering what moves BMC might do in the off season to further support Evans. Any guesses? Put 'em in the comments.
A gap opens up before the next three teams who cross the line together...
5. Garmin (11-17 group, 4, 6)
Garmin, Saxo, and Radio Shack are in a tight group here but I am going with the only one of the three that produced a podium, Hesjedal's 2nd at AGR.
Speaking of idle speculation on transfers, wouldn't Roman Kreuziger be a nice addition to this team if they find Bert too expensive? That would immediately move them up in these standings.
6. Saxo Bank (2,3,8)
I'm done panning them. The are a good team. I could say it's amazing how much a team can change in a year, but really we are just talking about the results being just slightly worse. This year they didn't get the breaks in the Ardennes. Last year their trouble was on the Cobbles. That's life. As Ferris Bueller said,
Life goes by pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
And I have no idea how that quote fits in to my narrative. Moving on...
7. Radio Shack (13-17 group, 12, 10)
Nice solid form as a team and individuals. The old guy (that would be Horner) is having his career year. Who expected that? Myself I am very happy he's having this success before he retires in a year or two as it hasn't been the easiest road for him.
Another few seconds tick by until...
8. Lampre (9,6,6)
Cunego! Wins the Zubeldia Prize for anonymous decent showings: 6th, 5th, and 21st. Doesn't it feel like his star power diminished this past year? If every one of these races he was near the front at the end. But was there ever a moment that you thought to yourself that he might win?
A minute back the last two of the top ten cross the line...
9. (tie) Rabobank (4, --,--)
I'm sure Gesink's 23rd, 15th, and 16th place finishing in the three races are disappointing to his fans (like me) but in thinking of Bobo, I don't really think he did worse than we should have expected. He's still very young. Yeah, it would have been great to see him get another 4th place at AGR, but I've noticed that he fades at the end of these races. He doesn't quite have the stamina. But yeah, overall, this team should be much higher ranked.
9. (tie) Euskaltel (--,--,--)
Igor Anton-Classics Stud! Who knew? Follows up his 4th at La Fleche with a 7th at LBL. Those results must be the most surprising for the whole week. It also shows just how fine a line it is between 1st and 100th. Let's see if he can hold his form through Romandie.
Also rans: Liquigas, Landbouwkredeit.
These races go by so fast: one whirlwind week. You can now feel the momentum for some serious stage racing and we'll all get caught up in that. But when the next hilly Classic comes around, we'll remember how fun these races are, how little they have to do with infighting and politics and have everything t do with riding one's bike fast to the finish without worrying about the next day's stage. Until then, this is Txirla (What? You think this is she-bear?) saying see you in three months and four days!