With Armstrong out of Paris-Nice, it appears the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team has turned their attention to Tirreno-Adriatico. Belgian Stijn Devolder came close to taking a stage win in Tivoli [Stage 2], but couldn't hold off the crafty Oscar Freire Gomez (Rabobank), Angel Vicioso (Liberty Seguros), or Laurent Brochard (Bouygues Telecom), who took the first three places.
"Stijn continues to make his big step forward in the sport," said directeur-sportif Dirk Demol to ThePaceline.com. "He worked very hard last winter and started the season in very good shape. He already was the best rider in the opening weekend in Belgium and played a big role in George's win at K-B-K [Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne]. Stijn likes to make the race hard and likes to attack, it's just his character. If he has a chance, he always likes to go for it."
"As I said before, taking time in the sprint bonifications will be key to who wins the race," added Demol. "Stijn just missed out on gaining some time, as the top three got 10, 6 and 4 seconds as a bonus."
Demol also noted the excellent form of Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne winner George Hincapie and ever-improving Max van Heeswijk, who is coming back from a stomach bug. Both are using the race in an effort to be in top shape for next weekend's Milan-San Remo.
Max is a funny rider," said Demol. "He's either flying or he's not. When he is not feeling great and suffering in the races, he loses morale easily. But when he is riding well, look out, his whole personality changes."