The Amgen Tour of California Crystal Ball Gazing
The Amgen Tour of California wraps up and what does it predict for the Tour de France 2012?
Like I mentioned in last week's column, cycling fans' attention has been divided between the Giro d'Italia and the Amgen Tour of California. Robert Gesink (Rabobank) took the well-deserved overall win in California and Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) won an amazing five stages and a second place on the Big Bear stage. This edition was billed as the toughest in its seven year history and gives us pundits a chance to do some crystal ball gazing.
As expected the overall winner was going to come from the penultimate Mount Baldy stage. Gesink attacked and only Garmin-Barracuda's Tommy Danielson was able to follow. Later Danielson told me that he'd cramped in those last five kilometers, but regardless Gesink was on fire. He outsprinted Colombian Jhon Atapuma for the stage win and the golden leader's jersey.
Last September in an accident while training the Dutchman broke his leg in four places. This can be a career ender, or at the least an incident that a rider never fully recovers from. The now retired Robbie McEwen broke his leg, and while he returned to the professional peloton, never won a grand tour stage again. Thankfully this doesn't seem to be the case with Gesink.
"In January I still had to learn how to walk. Now I'm back," said Gesink.
For the Tour de France, Gesink needs to be on the long list of favorites. Yeah, I'm not getting carried away and predicting a Dutch win, but a top five seems like a strong possibility. He finished third in the Bakersfield time trial under hot conditions. The stage was one that favored a power rider (no surprise that David Zabriskie won the day followed closely by Jens Voigt in second place). The course wasn't technical and instead rolled up and down. The riders were hitting over 30 miles per hour going out due to a tailwind, and it became a headwind on the return leg. Gesink showed that the strength has returned.
Chris Horner of RadioShack-Nissan was also a pre-race favorite, but a poor time trial killed that chance. However, I have to give Horner major props for going on an "all or nothing" attack on the Baldy stage - that was gutsy! It showed he wasn't satisfied with finishing top 10. He wanted the win or why bother? When the peloton crossed the finish line in downtown Los Angeles the defending champion finished eighth on the final general classification, 2:49 behind Gesink. What happened to the five-star favorite?
To put it mildly, team RadioShack-Nissan hasn't gelled together like they had hoped. Someone close to the organization said that basically they are a first year team all over again, which is code for, "the riders are still getting used to the new boss."
Speaking of the new boss, Johan Bruyneel flew from London to California for apparently only a few days and then returned. That's odd as it is a long way to fly for such a short stay. The rumor was he was subpoenaed on his arrival to the States, spoke to whomever he had to,