The week that was, July 8, 2008
For the past week everybody in the cycling world has been gearing up towards to Tour de France. Most of the favourites raced their respective National Championships to polish their form for the open road stage, which for the first time since the sixties would decide the first yellow jersey of the race.
Spain's new champion Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) has been threatening to win the Tour's opening stage since he outsprinted Thor Hushovd on the Dauphiné Libéré's opening stage. With the entire world glued to their television screens in anticipation for his attack with 250 meters to go, Valverde didn't disappoint. In fact, much like Fabian Cancellara's (CSC-Saxo bank) final attack in Milano-Sanremo this year, it seemed that the only ones who didn't get the memo of Valverde's planned attack were those sitting around him in the bunch.
Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) fared well too. After putting his entire team on the front in the final 10 kilometres, the Australia hit the front with around 500 metres to go. The move surprised nobody more than Evans, who looked around as if to say: "What? No, no, I don't want to be on the front, I only wanted to stay out of trouble."
Who said Evans never attacks…even if he didn't intend to.
Now if Valverde is to follow his Dauphiné Libéré approach, we should see him take the final overall victory in Paris. Let's just hope for Evans' sake Valverde's winning margin is by more than one second.
Come Stage 2 at the Tour and we were back to more familiar first week territory. Hot favourite for the green jersey Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) burst across the line in first place, pulling a face that may possibly be an ancient Viking victory salute. Either that or he was using it as balance.
Poor old Kim Kirchen (Team Columbia), the only rider to attempt to disarm Valverde, tried his luck again, but only came away with the green jersey.
Everything's for sale in this world
That Denis Menchov re-signed with Rabobank in the lead up to the Tour was certainly no surprise. What was a surprise was that the softly spoken Russian actually attended a press conference and spoke at length about the deal.
Quick Step lead-out man Gert Steegmans was straight on the phone to his manager about contract negotiations this week as well. The Belgian read in Le Equipe that he was to receive more than double his current salary at his new team. "Their official name is still unknown, but normally it will be Tinkoff. The contract is normally two years," Steegmans said of his new squad.
Strange though, I could have sworn that Tinkoff already exists. Maybe it has just never raced in Belgium...
Rain? In Austria? Never!
Quick Step's Tom Boonen, who must be kicking himself for blowing his chances at another green jersey with an off-field indiscretion, was making headlines again. This time it was only because he happened to be the last to finish the 1.5km prologue at the Tour of Austria.
Organisers decided to cancel the prologue due to bad weather. No too unusual about that, right? Oddly, the leader's jersey was still awarded to the fastest timed rider to have completed the stage. We originally wondered if organisers would start the rest of the field 1.5 kilometres behind those who finished the prologue on Stage 1 to even things out, but that wasn't the case.
Using the hype that surrounds the Tour, both American teams - Garmin-Chipotle and Team Columbia - used the week leading up to the event to present their new sponsors to the world. Was anyone surprised that they did so? Not really. It's about as predictable as McDonalds releasing a new burger to commemorate the Olympic Games; hang on, come to think of it, didn't Chipotle release a new burrito in honour of its team's participation in its first Tour?
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the week that was...
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