With all due respect to the riders at the Franco-Belge and the cyclo-cross stars taking part in the first round of the World Cup in Treviso, the big match-up of the weekend pitted Vuelta champion Alejandro Valverde against a six-dog sled team under the direction of champion "musher' Ismael Piñol. The result? A convincing victory for the canine sextet, who reached a speed of 60kph along the main straight on the course laid out for the traditional October criterium in Valencia.
Valverde had been heavily backed to edge the contest given that the 30-degree heat didn't exactly suit dogs more used to below-freezing temperatures and snow. Piñol had them kitted out in fabric booties to protect their paws against the sizzling black tarmac, and that seemed to do the trick as the dogs left Valverde trailing from the start.
Italians Ivan Basso and Stefano Garzelli then asked if they could be given the chance of revenge in a two-up challenge against Piñol's dog team. Despite having to water his dogs down to keep them cool, Piñol took up the challenge. Sadly, this became a non-contest when the dogs ran out of juice at the halfway point and opted for a lie-down.
Thousands turned out to watch the event, which also saw the streets of the Spanish city closed to motor traffic and given over to cyclists. Basso clinched victory in the two-part criterium thanks to success in the points event and second place to Valverde in an elimination race.