On Sunday, the Tour Down Under wrapped up with Andre Greipel taking his 100th professional victory after yet another dominant lead out by the Lotto Belisol team. Mark Renshaw tried to hit him early, but when it comes to power output on stages such as this, he was no match for The Gorilla.
This was a great start to the 2013 professional cycling calendar, full of excitement and intrigue, especially regarding the relatively unknown Tom Slagter of Team Blanco. Here are some comments I have from last week’s racing.
Who are Tom Slagter and the Blanco Pro Cycling Team?
During the You-Know-Who-induced turmoil in the offseason, the former US Postal team members came clean about their pasts. This, coupled with even more riders being linked to the doping master Michele Ferrari, convinced Rabobank, the Dutch bank that had been a sponsor in the sport for many years, that they had been duped when they were told repeatedly the sport had cleaned itself up. However, a year remained on their contract with the team, so they are still providing support for the team, which they have renamed “Blanco.” A powerful statement, it will serve a constant reminder to fans of the destructive power of the sport’s doping culture.
Tom Slagter’s overall win came as a surprise to pretty much everyone. I had never heard of him before, but with his impressive finish on Stage 3, shutting down world champion Philippe Gilbert, I knew he was (and is) a rider with talents to be reckoned.
In 2011, his first year with the World Tour level Rabobank squad, he crashed out of the Giro and rode to an inconsequential placing in the Vuelta.
2012 saw healthy growth, but nothing that stood out too much beyond his 30th overall placing in the Giro.
After apparently working hard in the offseason, Tom Slagter has indeed grown tremendously with abilities very similar to Philippe Gilbert and Peter Sagan (shorter climbs, long uphill sprints). I’ve very excited to see what he brings to the Classics season, in particular the Amstel Gold Race.
Parked Cars on Course
What surprised me the most about this race was that organizers didn’t move the cars off the side of the road in the run in to the finish on Stage 4. This, according to some of the racers, caused one of the massive pileups in the final kilometers of the stage.
As a bike racer, it would be absolutely dreadful going 35-40 mph past parked cars. One slightly wrong move would result in you or someone around you getting messed up pretty bad. Not only that, but the riders behind you would have no exit strategy to get around the pileup, resulting in more bodies on the ground.
It just seems very amateurish that the race organizers wouldn’t move the cars. Even most of my races manage to take care of this detail, knowing how threatening it is the safety of the cyclists.
Beyond that incident, I thought the TDU went quite well and makes me very excited for the major classics of the season!