September 26 - Weekly RapBy Rick Scott
We are literally all over the globe this week as the international and domestic pro pelotons hit Britain, Poland, France, Belgium, Germany and the good ol’ U. S. of A. No airports or passports are required so enjoy the ride in The Weekly Rap!
Tour of Britain
For the first time since the Tour of Britain was revived in 2004, a Brit wore the yellow leader’s jersey. T-Mobile’s young sprinter Mark Cavendish isn’t regarded as a time trailer, but he used his track background and explosive power to win the 2.5 km opening prologue. Cavendish took the stage 1 win in a pack sprint with panache, which was the 22-year-old’s 10th victory in his first season as a pro. However, that’s where the youngster’s yellow reign would end as he finished ten minutes down on a hilly stage 2. After traversing 169 kms, the finale was a mess as a slew of riders hit the deck in the final 150 meters. Emerging from the carnage unscathed were CSC’s Luke Roberts and Tinkoff Credit System’s Nikolai Trusov who battled to the line. The Russian Trusov snatched the stage and the GC lead. A break of six riders finished six minutes ahead of the peloton in stage 3, but the leader’s board didn’t change when CSC’s Matt Goss took the win. Adrian Palomares (Fuerteventura-Canarias) used stage 4’s final climb to attack with two men glued to his wheel. But he was not to be denied. Palomares earned the win and inherited the GC lead. Cavendish demonstrated that he’s more than just a fastman on the 170-km stage 5 when he got into a break with Russian Alexander Serov (Tinkoff Credit Systems). Serov dropped the Brit on the final climb to ace the stage, but Cavendish’s efforts were rewarded with the sprinter’s jersey lead. Great Britain’s Paul Manning won the final stage when he took flight from the break in the last kilometer and soloed to victory. The real excitement came in the battle for the overall. Out on the 156-km course, Frenchman Romain Feillu (Agritubel) pocketed a 3-second time bonus sprint, which put him less than half a second ahead Palomares. That ended up being Feillu’s margin of overall victory, the closest ever in the Tour of Britain.
Tour of Poland
Rain marred the 3-km team time trial that opened the Tour of Poland, a ProTour event. Lampre put up the winning time, but since the course was technical and dangerous in the rain, race officials sensibly gave everyone the same time. Young Pole Lukasz Bodner (Action-Uniqua) rode away from the pack early in the 202-km second stage and swiped all the time bonuses en route to building a lead of over 14 minutes. Lampre led the chase and Bodner was caught and dropped when the peloton started the three finishing laps. Rabobank’s Graeme Brown got the big pack sprint win to claim the leader’s tunic. Bodner was active again the next day in a long break with Nicolas Rousseau (AG2R), who initiated the move. This time, Rabobank and Lampre combined to nullify the eight-minute gap the two men arduously built. In the final 2 kms, some riders were led off course at full speed, but thankfully they got back on without incident. Gerolsteiner’s David Kopp had the winning kick, but Quick.Step’s Wouter Weylandt’s 3rd place was enough to put him into 1st place overall. Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner) and Murilo Fischer (Liquigas) soldiered onto a 10-minute advantage in stage 4 and this time it was Lampre and Quick.Step that erased the lead with 13 kms to go. T-Mobile’s other young sprinter, Germany’s Gerald Ciolek, tried to squeeze through a small hole in the final approach and went down when he hit the arms of some overzealous fans. Unfortunately he also took down a few riders with him. Italian Danilo Napolitano (Lampre) got the win and with the bonus seconds he earned, he also put on the leader’s jersey. The fifth stage was a long 255 kms and again Bodner was an animator of a long escape, this time with fellow countryman Adam Wadecki (Ceramica Flaminia). CSC went to the front, lifted the tempo and impressively blew the peloton to smithereens with the aid of the crosswinds. Eighteen riders, including six from CSC, made the front group that reabsorbed the two leaders. Lampre and Liquigas drove the chase and they were able to get back to the front group, which swelled to fifty. Napolitano’s teammates led going into the last corner in the final kilometer when a massive pile-up ruled out everyone except for nine sprinters. Fischer, while wearing the mountain leader’s jersey, had the legs to out sprint Napolitano. The climbers finally got their turn to inflict pain upon the sprinters on stage 6, which featured three climbs. Attacks and counterattacks were fast and furious all day long over the 181 kms, but none of them managed to stick. With a long run-in to the finish after the last climb, there was ample time for the stragglers to catch back on. Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) was the victor of a three-man duel. Pozzato’s teammate Fischer took over the GC lead with the very hard Queen stage remaining. The riders faced six laps and six challenging climbs into Orlinek, including an uphill finish. Predictor-Lotto’s Johan Van Summeren launched an attack with 20 kms remaining. Three passengers held on, but when the Belgian hit it again with 3 kms to go, it proved to be the stage and race winning move. Skinny Robert Gesink (Rabobank) fought back and passed two men in the final 1200 meters to take 2nd with T-Mobile’s Kim Kirchen nailing 3rd. The three finishing positions on the stage mirrored the final GC standings.
For an unprecedented fourth time, including three-in-a-row, Predictor-Lotto’s pocket rocket Robbie McEwen dashed to win the 87th Paris-Brussels. The final kilometers were blazing fast, which made it difficult for any team to control. On the slight uphill finish, Credit Agricole’s Thor Hushovd was a bit overanxious and started his sprint too soon. McEwen knew the finish well and was able to bag the prize.
Tour of Missouri
The inaugural Tour of Missouri is the third of the “Grand Tours” in the United States after the Amgen Tour of California and the Tour of Georgia. The 137-km mostly flat opening stage started in Kansas City where Toyota-United’s Ivan Dominguez surprised himself to take the win after suffering at the back each time up an unexpected climb during the finishing circuits. Stage 2 proved to be decisive when a 12-man break finished almost fourteen minutes ahead of the field, which meant one of a dozen riders still had a chance to win the GC. George Hincapie won the sprint finish setting the stage for his Discovery Channel team, racing in their last event on American soil, to end their storybook history with a storybook ending victory. But plenty of racing remained, including the 29-km time trial on stage 3. Amgen Tour of California winner Levi Leipheimer raced to victory for Discovery Channel with only HealthNet’s Nathan O’Neill finishing within a minute of Leipheimer’s dominating time trial ride. O’Neill, the Australian time trial champion, was only sixteen seconds in arrears. Hincapie’s strong 6th place helped pad his GC advantage. Saunier Duval-Prodir’s sprinter Luciano Pagliarini sprinted from far back to snatch the large pack gallop after 214 kms on stage 4. Dominguez was 3rd and the two speed demons were tied for the sprinter’s jersey. HealthNet’s Jeff Louder got in the early break to score points in his pursuit of the king of the mountains title. He was back at it the next day to seal the deal after getting in an eight-man break that went the distance in the 204-km stage 5. Team Slipstream’s Danny Pate got a long overdue victory after he attacked his breakaway companions and rode home alone. With Toyota-United riders dropping like flies all week, they were thrilled when Dominguez won the closing stage sprint, which enabled him to win the sprinter’s competition. Hincapie proudly collected the stage race win, his first since 2004. The battle for 3rd place overall ended up being a thriller. Going into the stage, Saunier Duval-Prodir’s David Canada had a one-second lead over Kodak Gallery-Sierra Nevada’s Dominque Rollin. Out on the course, Rollin won a time bonus sprint that made him equal in time to Canada. It would come down to the finishing sprint. Rollin scored 3rd and earned his 3rd place spot on the podium with finesse.
Can you think of a more memorable way to celebrate your 21st birthday than by winning the first stage of a race in your own country? That’s how Ciolek will remember his monumental day after he won the pack sprint that opened the 3-Lander-Tour for his eighth triumph of the season. Another rising star, Thomas Dekker, sprinted to victory and into the GC lead in stage 2 after a six-man break finished almost twelve minutes ahead of the peloton. The overall winner would now likely come from one of the attentive six. After an early 12-man break was caught in stage 3, four men leapt with 25 kms until the finish, including T-Mobile’s Marcus Burghardt. The 24-year-old didn’t fancy his chances in a sprint so he lit up the final kilometer of an uphill finish to take the win. Dekker notched his second stage win and added to his GC lead by winning the 23-km mostly flat time trial by eight seconds over veteran hardman Jens Voigt (CSC), who trailed the youngster by sixteen seconds in the overall. The race shattered in the final stage, the 192-km Queen stage that included four category 3 climbs and one category 1 ascent. Six escapees bolted on the first of two finishing circuits with Clement Lhotellerie (Skil-Shimano) off on his own. On the final climb, Burghardt caught and passed the Frenchman for his second stage win. Dekker held onto his GC advantage over Voigt to take home the win.
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Rick Scott is president of Great Scott P.R.oductions, an entertainment and sports public relations, marketing and management boutique. He can be contacted through www.greatscottpr.com.