Monday, May 7, 2012

Back in the Saddle

With the cycling season fully underway (I understand there were the Spring and Ardennes Classics. I watched them, but didn't post on them because of school. With that said, I have to give big ups to Big Jonny over at Drunkcyclist for being able to keep up with law school and continue to post. Either he is much better at time management or can operate effectively on less sleep than me, but now that I've lived through my first year of law school I can't comprehend putting in the effort needed at school and in the cycling blog world - and being successful at both. Anyway, what an early season for Tommeke! I am very pleased to see him doing so well. I'm hoping he pulls on a rainbow jersey at the end of this year.) with the start of the first Grand Tour, I figured now is as good a time as any to get back into the swing of things here at 50-34. Saturday brought us the prologue from Herning, Denmark. The Giro normally sees some pretty big names, and this year is no different. The prologue saw Cavendish, Fränk Schleck, and last year's recently crowned Giro champion Michele Scarponi.
In what was a big surprise, not only did Schleck not outright lose the prologue, he actually beat Scarponi. Needless to say (hence the reason I'm typing it and not saying it), Scarponi was lost for words when he was informed of the news that not only had he lost a lot of time to the stage winner, but that he had also been beaten in a TT by one of the Schleck brothers.
Look at that face. Scarponi, rightfully, is in disbelief. Being beaten by a Schleck in a TT is like losing a pull-up contest to a one armed man. It's possible, but not really likely. Actually, the more I think about it, losing a TT to a Schleck is like losing a pull-up contest to a Schleck. Have you seen the guns on those guys? In stage two, as expected, there was a bunch sprint. And, as expected, it was won by Mark Cavendish.
I find sprint finishes, even ones where it is almost inevitable Cav will win, exciting. But what was even more exciting was that Phinney lost his chain with about 8 kilometers to go. Instead of panicking, Phinney (in a seasoned veteran move at the ripe age of 19) calmly waited for assistance from a team mechanic and then began to time trial his way back to the bunch. Eventually some teammates dropped back and BMC used the unfortunate event as some practice for stage four's TTT.
Ridiculously, Phinney and his teammates made up something like 35 seconds in less than four kilometers. It was a showing of power that I did not think I would see. After he dropped his chain, I turned to my wife and told her, "He's never going to catch them this late in the stage," only to have her mock me when he did. I'll take a mocking when it is the result of some amazing riding like that. Today, another stage for the sprinters, showed how to perform a lead out train for the team's sprinter.
It was all for not though as Orica-GreenEdge took control at the end and delivered Matty Goss to the finishing line first.
It seems whenever a Grand Tour departs from points on the northern coast, there are some spectacular crashes. This year is no different. In today's third stage, a crash caused by Roberto Ferrari not only took down race leader Taylor Phinney, but took him out. Unlike Cavendish, who was the first victim of Ferrari's actions, Phinney was unable to carry his bike across the line. Behind Goss's impressive win, Androni's Ferrari created a wake of destruction that left multiple riders on the ground including Cav and Phinney. In racing there are times when wheels will touch and crashes will result. There are also times when openings appear and you have to make split second decisions that may determine if you win the stage or finish fifth (yes, first or fifth - those are the only two options when you are confronted with such decisions). Ferrari saw one of those openings today and attempted to shoot the gap, only to come across Cav's front wheel and begin the domino affect that is so common in finish line crashes.
Phinney crossed the line in an ambulance, but according to Cyclingnews will be able to continue in the Giro, which is a good thing for BMC as they get to start stage four's TTT with a powerhouse rider in their group. Hopefully the rest day gives Phinney a chance to recover a bit before Wednesday's stage. It's good to know that like me, Phinney is back in the saddle.