We know it's still early on in the season, but we figured we would give our take on the racing so far and a few predictions.
Off the front-
HTC High Road: They just win races! Tony Martin and Matthew Goss have both racked up some nice wins so far in 2011. Tejay van Garderen is showing again that he is a VERY talented rider. He is continuing to grow and develop and we can see a Grand Tour podium in his future.
Rabobank: Some might have questioned letting a multiple Grand Tour winner go, but Rabobank didn't blink. They have Robert Gesink as their GC contender and even Eddie Merckx tips him as a possible Tour winner. The early season form of Theo Bos and Lars Boom make it appear that they made some very good investments.
Spain: Gotta give it to 'em they know how to keep their "star" racers racing. Conta gets the all clear from his home country and has already made the podium in one of his first races. What happens with the CAS time will tell, but he can now always claim he was cleared in his home country.
Jens Voigt and those in favor of race radio: Jens mentioned an incident from a U23 race last year as an example of why Race Radio is needed in his "Open Letter" ( featured on CycleSport's website) . Then this week as if on cue, an ambulance headed the wrong way toward the field in a race. Here is the excerpt from Jens Voigt's "Open Letter":
"Last year in an U23 race in France a spectator ignored all regulations and entered the parcours in the opposite direction of the race. What normally happens is this: the race director puts that news on ‘radio course’, the official communication channel between the race organizer, the UCI and the sports directors. Immediately, all sports directors spread the message amongst their riders over the radio to prevent a potential fatal accident. Now, in that French race there were no radios, which is the case in all U23 races. Try to put yourself into the position of any sports director, that knows there is a car riding towards the bunch. He’s not allowed to drive to his riders and warn them. All he can do is sit and wait. And maybe think about what he can tell the parents of one of his riders if he got hit by the car. Because this is what happened: the car hit a young Dutch rider, who was in a coma for three weeks. Everybody present in that race agreed that the accident could have been prevented if the riders had been wearing radios"
If nothing else, the riders should get a broadcast from the race officials so they can be made aware of dangers ahead. They should also allow team cars a 2 way radio to race officials, so they can communicate any issues they see like a rider that has crashed and is off the road in a ditch, off a cliff, etc.
Andy Schleck: As we have stated before, he really needs Conta to race the Tour to become a champion. If he snags his 1st Tour win without Pistolero in the race, it just won't be the same. So far, it looks like he will get to line up with Contador in July.
Radioshack: Lance retired, right after the Tour Down Under, but Shack has been getting it done without their biggest name. The Robbie's have been mixing it up in sprint finishes and proving they still have some left in the tank. Markel Irizar won Ruta del Sol and Jesse Sergent won West Flanders, so the future looks bright for the Shack.
Cadel Evans: Looks like he is trying the Lance approach from 99-05, trying to minimize his racing days prior to the Tour. We actually like this move quite a bit, as it shows Cadel is not riding for 2nd place. He is going all in for the TDF and is showing that he is not happy with a podium finish. Defending champ Alberto Contador will do the opposite and try to race (and win) all 3 Grand Tours this season. Time will tell if Cadel is making a smart move, but we like it!
Steven Cozza: He has a fresh start with Team NetApp and is off to a solid start on the bike. He won the Sprint and the Combined competition at Mallorca Challenge. We can't wait to see Steven on the cobbles at Roubaix! The other reason we have Steven on this list, is his work off the bike with his Race for Kids fan club. He has a new coloring book with profits directed to help children's charities and the 2011 version of his "Never Give up" tee that we make. If you haven't read much about Steven or his mission check out http://www.stevencozza.com/ .
Off the back-
|The Cobra's cycling career is dead, but we hope he gets help and lives a healthier life off the bike!|
Ricardo "The Cobra" Ricco: The WTF moment so far of 2011! We just wished we had called one this "far out" in our blog "Dopers do suck, but they have great excuses" . Honestly, the thing that comes to mind when I think of Ricco is, when did this start? I keep wondering if they should shift anti-doping so they are testing Juniors and U23 heavier than they do Pros. Much like AA baseball players that are trying "make it", many young cyclists are willing to take the risk of doping to get their shot.
Cav: had a rough start to the year; he found himself on the ground several times. The shoot out Down Under with Greipel didn't actually happen. Cav showed up a bit heavy, and his teammate Matt Goss was the bigger star during that race. The Manx missle has added Roubaix to his race calendar, and we have to say we are bit concerned about Cav on the cobbles. We fear his new grill might be in jeopardy if he ends up wheels up on the Carrefour de l'Arbre section.
LEOPARD TREK: Um...yeah, it's early, but no real headline wins for the most anticipated/hyped team in a decade. They look stylin', and are mixing it up in races, but they don't have any results to speak of. I wonder if the O on their kits stands for 0 as in results. We have to give it to them ...SHARP kit and nice scarves! They will win either Flanders or Roubaix and all will be right.
Taylor Phinney: It's been a rough beginning for Taylor with knee issues and a few crashes. Still a long season ahead, but so far his young gun friends are off to a better start. No doubt he can and will pull off a result this year, he just needs some better luck.
Garmin Cervelo: Their own riders Tweet jokes about taking Team SKY's musettes at feed zones. They need to go to a white base instead of black or add orange back in. They make a race finish very hard to watch. We can't imagine how it feels to be looking to see if your rider is on your wheel only to find a SKY rider. On their own, the kit looks great; add them in with SKY and LEOPARD and it's a mess.
Paris Nice: We will go with Sagan or Tejay van Garderen for the win, but don't count out Jurgen Van Den Broek
The Ronde: Top 3 in any order Fabian, Devolder, and Gilbert
Paris Roubaix: Top 3 in any order Fabian, Hushovd and Boonen
Check out STEVEN COZZA's "NEVER GIVE UP!" tee and the rest of our tees at http://www.hbstache.com/