Races of the week:
Four tasty races:
- Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the 4th Monument, a grand lady a bit down on her luck
- La Fleche Wallone, the George W Bush of the spring classics
- Tour of the Alps, a star is born
- Tour of Croatia, spunky
Team of the week:
First named rider is the rider of the week and if a rider has a number in parentheses after their name it means the number of times they have made the select Team of the Week here.
First, the four winners
1. Julian Alaphilippe. Normally I put the Monument winner first but this time, its got to be Ala. Won La Fleche Wallone over Valverde and it was his presence that caused the final pack to hesitate when his teammate Jungels attacked, never to be seen again. Still got 4th at LBL. In addition for the whole Ardennes week he finished the best: 1st, 4th, and 7th. He gets some time off after scoring 968 points for his spring season-a fine step up over previous seasons. We’ll see him again at the Dauphine.
2. Thibaut Pinot. Solid Tour of the Alps winner. Faced serious competition in defending his lead and passed with flying colors and so is on the short list of Giro contenders.
3. Kanstantsin Siutsou. Follows up his Tour of Georgia win with this Tour of Croatia win. ;) Being a domestique we don’t know yet where he races next but if Bahrain doesn’t put him in the Giro working for Pozzovivo, they gotta be crazy.
4. Bob Jungels - So...he’s not listed to start the Giro?
And the rest:
5. Domenico Pozzovivo. 2nd @ Alps, 5th @ LBL. Der Pozzowagen’s on form.
6. Miguel Angel Lopez (2). If I have to pick the best GC climber at the Alps Tour, I’ll pick Superman. Some odd race tactics either by him or his team possibly prevented him from winning the race overall.
7. Alejandro Valverde (4). Coasted into 13th @ LBL but had that 2nd place @ La Fleche and is the leading FSA-DS points leader at the end of the spring with 1554.
8. Michael Woods. All spring he seemed not quite right, always losing out decisively at the business end of the important climbs but at LBL he found his form (and 2nd place) just in time for the Giro.
9. Roman Kreuziger (2). Fine Ardennes week: 2nd @ Amstel, 4th @ La Fleche, 8th @ LBL. I guess its best there’s not another couple of Ardennes races since he’d be placing 16th, 32nd, 64th, 128th, 256th. 512th, 1028th etc. But after Ala he was the next best placed overall Ardennes rider. Kudos.
Team of the Week- Quickstep (4)
Two Ardennes wins gives them the nod for the 4th time in 9 weeks. 2nd best team, Astana, just dominated the Alps Tour-except for the win.
Reverse Survivor Game:
Doom and D-Mart are on the board! Or off the board! Whatever: they’ve scored! We are down to four. Gaviria, Bouhanni, Porte and Chaves remain scoreless.
FSA DS Team of the week
Let’s honor Team Salbut-Sumol, ds’ed by Gruppettoss. This team had Ala and Jungels; Fuglsang and Woods and Oomen in the Ardennes plus some change from Ciccone in the Alps.
A Star is Born- Tour of the Alps
I’ve found it odd. The Tour de France has a set group of prep races. Three of them are World Tour stature. (Which makes no sense to me at all but as long as UCI takes any race that wants to give them enough money in return for World Tour status, well...) Dauphine is #1 prep race. Suisse is #2. California is sort of a long term prep race. Route Du Sud always has a couple of GC guys who want a lower key race. Its all very Baroque. It all fits together.
The Giro? I guess that for all the years that that Grand Tour was mostly an Italian affair then Trentino served that purpose, sort of. And some time ago Romandie could sort of be counted as a prep race too. But that’s it. The Ardennes, mainly LBL aren’t really decent prep races due to their single day action being different. Turkey? HAHAHAHAHAHA. But this decade says that all of the above races did not really serve as serious Giro prep races on the level that the Tour had its prep races. For example, Tom Dumoulin last year had a very low key spring, not really being competitive except for today’s LBL-and one could say that today Doom didn’t try too hard to contest the finale. Prior to last year Contador’s and Quintana’s last pre-Giro prep races were Catalunya, 5 weeks before the Giro. The last Giro winner to even appear at Romandie was Ryder Hesjedal in 2012 and he was in 39th place when he elected not to do the last stage. Obviously he was just putting in the miles. No, Romandie is not a Giro prep race these days, if it ever really was. That’s what makes it interesting: the GC riders there are racing for that race and not another bigger race.
But still, there’s a hole in the racing calendar for a proper Giro prep stage race. It would have to end a couple of weeks before the Giro. It would have to be mountainous though not the really high mountains as snow is still there. And now that the Giro is more international in its peloton, it needs to be more than a SSR Italian stage race like Trentino was. Given that RCS doesn’t have a race like this, the window was open for some smart race organizer to take advantage. And two races have stepped up with one seeming like the winner. The first to do so was/is the Tour of Croatia, which took a shiv to the Presidential Tour of Turkey’s aspirations and through that race into the wilds of October. And by all accounts Croatia is a step up from Turkey. Decent climbs; good sprinter stages. Just not quite what’s wanted. Maybe it will grow in stature but right now it looks like the equivalent of Route Du Sud in stature.
Enter the reinvented Trentino: the Tour of the Alps. Travels to Austria. (I can imagine Slovenia in its future.) Mountainous. Ends early enough that riders could even do LBL if they want (and Pozzovivo did this year). Not a race for sprinters: its for serious GC guys.
And its working! The last few Trentino pelotons had like 2-3 World Tour level teams and a whole lot of meh pro conty and conty level Italian teams. But with the name change and course change last year the number of World Tour teams jumped to seven and this year nine. And those World Tour teams are throwing their A-list Giro GC boys at the race too. The stages are exciting which is due to both the riders really testing themselves and the course. That only being five stages long works too: its practice unlike the Swiss Tour’s 9 stages which are a bit too much for Tour prep at that point on the calendar. (Yeah I know the Suisse Tour looks to be its own thing. how cute!) I can imagine this race (Alps Tour) attracting more World Tour teams in the future and moving up to FSA-DS cat 3 status like the week long World Tour races are.
A new major race is born.
Previewing the week to come- Romandie
Just one race on tap next week, the last week of the spring portion of the calendar, and so this team of the Week thingy will be more of a mini Tour of the Week (just a couple of riders) with a look at The Team of um the Current Generation. Something like that: the best riders of recent times, with recent times being defined as riders who made their mark mainly from 2006 on. I’ll have a first and second team for you to be disgusted with as well as a team of the emerging future!