A few thoughts about Amstel besides the cold beer:
Peter Sagan, at 22 years of age, is a huge talent who is tactically lost. He just can’t seem to decide — is he a sprinter who conserves his energy over the climbs and then launches a blistering sprint for the win? Or is he an aggressive all-rounder who selects the critical moment of the race, jumps onto the winning breakaway and then finishing off the win with a powerful sprint?
Right now Sagan — and his confused brain trust at Liquigas-Cannondale — can’t seem to figure out his best race strategy. As Ed Pickering of Cycle Sport magazine noted, Sagan has tallied a second, third, fourth and a fifth in the 2012 Classics. That is a testament to his strength and talent but not to his race tactics. Twisted Spoke suggests Sagan take a Tactical Secrets of The Pros course in the off-season from the masters — Chris Horner and Alejandro Valverde.
What’s wrong with Edvald? We’ll admit we’re a bit baffled by the shy young man from Norway. At one point two years ago his teammates were calling him Eddy Junior after the Cannibal himself. They don’t call him that anymore.
On the plus side he scored two stage wins in the 2012 Tour de France. Many riders would be happy to end a career right there but so much more has been expected. Is he stalling, battling an unannounced illness, is he lost at Sky? He hasn’t accomplished anything in the classics and rolled in 62nd at Amstel. The raw talent from Colombia, teammate Sergio Henao, riding his first Amstel, beat Boasson Hagen by 40 places. Something just seems confused with Edvald.
Is last year’s dominant rider, Philippe Gilbert, finally back in form and ready to win a race? After illness, dental problems and crashes, Gilbert finally rode at the front and put in his attacks. He finished sixth and says he’s “pleased to ride at an competitive level.”
That’s good to hear because BMC management was about to put a hold on the paychecks. We suspect it may be too little too late for Liege-Bastogne-Leige, which takes place in one week. No question Gilbert will be a prominent factor in the race and well-marked. However, we think he’s still missing that last 5% and that deficit will keep him off the podium. That is also bad news for Cadel Evans because Gilbert is going to need that Tour de France stage win and will freelance to get one.
Where is Andy Shleck? While Frank the Elder claimed he was one of the strongest riders at Amstel, the younger Andy is still a mystery in progress. He finished a quiet 91st — over five and a half minutes down — on Sunday. At the beginning of the season, the storyline was that tough guy Johan Bruyneel would not be so casual about Schleck’s Tour build up. The argument can be made that arch rival Cadel Evans is also having a slow, stop-start season so far — he was a DNF at Amstel. But so far with Bruyneel at the helm, the results for Andy don’t look any better than last year at Leopard. Still plenty of time before the throw down in France but as a progression, it’s nothing to shout about.
Props to old man Oscar Freire. The 36 year old sprinter from Spain now rides for Katusha, the Global Russian Cycling Shindig, but still does a fabulous job. Who knows where on the podium he would have landed at Milan San Remo, if Fabian Cancellara hadn’t decided to tow Simon Gerrans and Alessandro Ballan to the finish-line. At Amstel, it was Freire who blew the race apart with his attack seven kilometers from the line. A fourth place that came within 100 meters of a monster win.
And finally, a chapeau to another old pro Rinaldo Nocentini of AG2R-Mondiale for his 9th place at Amstel. We’ve been a fan of the Italian rider ever since 2009 when he jumped in a Tour de France breakaway and earned himself the yellow jersey for eight days. The man could not stop smiling for the entire time. He was the happiness man in France and maybe the entire planet.
On the Liege-Bastogne-Leige. Gilbert is back but we predict he won’t make the podium.