Friday Group Ride #61

Klöden leads Armstrong on the climb to Bagneres du Luchon

The professional racing season is underway in Europe. The pro peloton are all racing to the sun in France or from sea to sea in Italy, and there are finally more articles about actual racing than about the Contador case. At last, Paul Sherwen and Bob Roll are doing their best to enliven the first few hours of television coverage, when the peloton’s main business is riding through gray-ish tan villages, hucking empty water bottles at small pockets of people just out of the café for a few minutes.

And while certain bits of the story are running to script the racing has already offered up some surprises.

For me, the biggest has perhaps been the riding of Thomas de Gendt at Paris-Nice. The Vacansoleil rider came out of nowhere to win Stage 1, engineering his win from a three-man breakaway with Jeremy Roy and Jens Voigt. The Belgian then kept the jersey through the Stage 2 sprint, but lost it on Stage 3 by just two seconds. Not content with his performance up to that point, de Gendt found his way into another successful breakaway and pulled the golden fleece on again. Not a threat for the overall, de Gendt has still been able to light up the race with the sort of smart and swashbuckling riding every fan likes to see.

Of course, another big surprise was Andreas Klöden’s win on Stage 5, out sprinting Sammy Sanchez of all people. In doing so, he put enough time into de Gendt to take the leader’s jersey as well. Klöden won this race 11 years ago, but did ANYONE mention his name in any of their previews as a possible overall winner? Answer: no.

This is not to focus all our attention on the Paris-Nice. At Tirreno-Adriatico, the sprinters are all tuning up for Milan-San Remo. After the opening Team Time Trial (TTT), won, shockingly by Team Rabobank, Tyler Farrar took a win in Stage 2, and then JJ Haedo took Stage 3, just denying Farrar the double. Of course, the name missing here is Mark Cavendish, who has finished well down the order on both sprint stages.

This week’s Group Ride asks the question: What has been the biggest surprise of the week for you, and why?

1. Mark Cavendish’s failure to win yet at Tirreno-Adriatico.

2. Andreas Klöden’s win at Paris-Nice.

3. Thomas de Gendt (who?) in the yellow jersey at Paris-Nice.

4. Team Rabobank’s TTT win at Tirreno-Adriatico.

Image: John Pierce, Photosport International

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  1. randomactsofcycling

    The biggest surprise for me has been Paris-Nice and Thomas de Gendt…. Who? after Googling his name I now know he had a couple of results last year, but still…Who?

  2. grolby

    I didn’t see de Gendt coming, but I’m actually not that surprised. Every year, it seems, there’s someone we haven’t heard of making a big result, especially in the early season, and especially when they are young. How many of us had heard of Peter Sagan before he won 2 stages in PN last year? The pattern is similar; people with their ears to the ground had been talking up these promising young riders already, but they had not arrived in the mainstream consciousness of cycling until hitting it big with a couple of big results. PN is a very prestigious, hard-fought race, but it’s also early enough to allow for some wild cards to turn up. By its nature, it’s a less predictable race than the Tour.

  3. Alex

    Well… my 2c:

    1. I have the impression that Cavendish takes a while to warm up to the season and start winning (but once he does…). So that´s not really a big surprise to me.

    2. Klöden was way down on the fave´s list I agree, but he´s always a contender – again IMHO. A bit like Voith, Gilbert… I for my part may pick other favorites for A or B race but these guys are never out of my radar for… pretty much anything they enter! A surprise yes, but shouldn´t be.

    3. Hmmm… de Gendt wasn´t a surprise, but as you said Robot, the way he raced was good and fresh news on the racing front. OK, him wearing yellow was more of a surprise than Klöden but I´d be really surprised if he won PN overall.

    4. Now, Rabo winning the TTT, THAT really shocked me more than the others! Not that I thought they couldn´t, but it was totally unexpected to me all things considered.

    I have to add that it was a good surprise as well, this season is shaping up quite good and exciting, and my interest in pro racing has gained new life with this and some other faces and facts.

  4. Marco Placero

    Wondering why Mark Cavendish isn’t kickin’ the finales out of P-N, but I don’t see that as failure, a maturing sprinter might measure his effort. Bet he’s got warmer days in his sights.

  5. Michael

    Cavendish not being top of the charts doesn’t surprise me – he has already stated he is riding all 3 grand tour’s this year. Why would he be in the same shape as guys targeting MSR? That would make no sense. Armchair pundits need to give their collective heads a shake.

    My surprise is the show of form Thor Hushovd is putting on lead out duties for gc. Normally the big guns for MSR, Flanders and Roubaix try to camouflage form on the run in to the classics. If his showing today (riding Farrar off his wheel!) is any indication he is in dangerous form.

  6. ben

    I agree w/ all of these surprises, but then I’m still not one to know of the younger/unknowns that lurk just beneath the surface and then find their wins like de Gendt.

    Thor looks amazing form wise. After re-watching Friday’s stage (when he rode Farrar off his wheel) I found myself hoping (w/ full knowledge of the result!) Thor would just ride it full gas to the line and see where the chips might fall since Farrar had lost the wheel. Not sure he could have. I’m sure he buried himself in that final K. and what about Thor on the hills today. Not too shabby.

    Thor for Flanders?

  7. Dave

    Rabobank has been having a pretty good early season, but I still was surprised to see them win a team timetrial. For me, the pleasant surprise has been Thomas Voeckler winning two stages at Paris-Nice. (Is that four wins already this season?) I love attacking riders, so I am really happy to see things coming good for Voeckler! Getting some high profile wins for a new sponsor also is a good thing.

    1. Padraig

      Word. Voeckler epitomizes the best of French cycling. He’s brave. He has panache. And he will try on almost any course. He makes “unexpected” a selling point.

  8. jurgen

    1. i dont like cav so i will not comment on him
    2. kløden, hincapie, voigt never forget guys like these.
    3. ask about thomas in britain and you’ll find answers. he is a attractive rider was in the tob 600km in breakaways. winning a stage in tour of wallonie in also a succesfull breakaway. som 2nd and 3th places in succesfull breakaways such as fleche brabanconne, enecotour, and this year in tour down under. in TDU he was in the break stage 3 to lead the overal in points. stage4 he was yet again in the atack this time succesfull beaten by cameron meyer, trackworldchampion.. thomas is moving up, finishing his first MSR yesterday in the second group. he makes the race, thats what we like.
    4. rabobank wasnt a surprise, they have one of the strongest teams this year. in this TT clearly the strongest.

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