Tomorrow we turn the page -- quickly -- to the subject of all subjects, the Flemish classics, so before doing so I thought it'd be nice to run one more reset on MSR. There is some (OK, a ton of)) great analysis in the post-race thread, but I wanted to look in on some of the teams and how things played out. We all know Matt Goss rode a fantastic race for the win, and I may have a longer analytical piece on him soon, given that Gent-Wevelgem is in a week (hold me).
As a lead-in, let me say that this was the best MSR since 2006, in my opinion. Cancellara's win in 2008 was fun, but you'd have to go back a couple more years to find a race so thrilling for so long. And frankly, 2006 was in the same league as this but not better; you'd have to go back even further than that to find a better race. To I don't know when. Anyway... teams:
Rabobank: Probably had the worst day of any major team, without a single rider in the big split that happened on Le Manie. The reason is simple enough: horrible luck. Freire went down and needed serious help. The team car was blocked for a bit, and they don't carry spare shoes in the neutral service vehicle. Leezer and Tjallingi were called back from the lead group to help. In hindsight that wasn't the right choice, but when the gap was 30" or less, it seemed smart enough.
HTC: Hard to complain when you win. I suspect there was a lot of "why don't you pull?" going on in G2, but I didn't see them on the front much. Goss was one of the two leaders they'd spoken of publicly, so they were comfortable with him up the road, even all by his lonesome. The speculation about Cavendish's form will probably go on for a while, though I'd expect to see him at the Scheldeprijs once Goss and Eisel are done tearing up the bigger races.
Garmin: Arguably they were in the same position as HTC but with the wrong guy. Of their three team leaders only Hushovd could have had a chance in the late-stage attacks, or at least so it appears in hindsight, though I would have thought Haussler was well prepared too. Anyway, as it happens, Haussler was the perfect guy for the bigger sprint that never happened. Farrar said afterward he botched the Manie descent when he got caught behind. Not his favorite race, I'm guessing.
Omega Pharma: Things unfolded well for them, with Greipel, Gilbert and Roelands in the front group. In hindsight Gilbert should have tried harder to dump Goss on the Poggio, but I get that the other climbers were sitting on him on the climb, and I think everyone was a bit surprised that Goss didn't melt off the pace anyway. The dust-up over Pozzato is academic; once Goss survived over the Poggio, only a crash could stop him.
Liquigas: No way am I saying anything bad about these guys. Oss was out; Sagan was coming off a bad week; and their response was to have a grand tour winner on the attack in a "sprinters' monument." Hell, Nibali even sprinted it out at the end. They arrived with one hand tied behind their back, and departed having treated the race with the respect it deserves, and reminded the fans that the monuments aren't for specialists, they're for the best riders. Period.
Lampre: Smart tactics pay off. They are the only team who had someone of consequence in the front group and yet still decided they needed to take action to improve their chances. On the Cipressa Scarponi attacked and eventually made the solo juncture -- always an inspiring sight. But he wasn't done, attacking in the finale and winding up sixth for his troubles. Someone in the team car looked at the situation and figured out that an attackers' race was unfolding, and Petacchi wasn't the man for the job.
Quick Step: Seemed to have things in hand, but as Boonen goes, so go the Boys in Blue. Boonen got dropped on the Poggio, which doesn't bode well for the next few weeks. Not sure why Chavanel didn't do more, but it was good to see him in position.
Sky: Were they blocking on the Cipressa? Surely Boasson Hagen knew by then he didn't have it. You could make an argument that they had a worse day than Rabo.
Leopard: Excellent day for the Luxembourg outfit. Cancellara is kind of a one-man wrecking crew, so their crowd of riders in the finale gave them options they didn't necessarily need, though there was a slim chance of a big bunch sprint where Bennati could have hope. Other than blocking Goss, there wasn't much more they could have done.
Saxo Bank: Once the Haedos missed the sprint, they were outnumbered, even with Tosatto up front.
BMC: Nobody's tactics were better than BMC's, a team that has come alive after some initial struggles last year. Their top three guys were all up front, and the aggressiveness by Ballan and Van Avermaet was impressive. About the only complaint would be that perhaps they could have swapped roles, so that it was Van Avermaet sprinting in the last 200 meters, but that's pure hindsight and not necessarily better. A healthy, springy Ballan has made a huge difference for them so far, as they head into the portion of the season which suits all of them better than MSR. But a reborn Van Avermaet is equally big news.
FDJ: Last entry here for the team that kicked a ton of ass up and down the Poggio. Neither Chainel nor Offredo had the firepower to survive that crew, but putting your two guys up the road on the final ascent in a very threatening mini-break was a fantastic try.