Monday, March 9, 2009

Paris - Nice Stage 1

The biggest news in cycling this year is the return to the peleton of Lance Armstrong, 7-times Tour de France winner. And the question on everybody's lips is who will be the leader of the Astana team come July? The reason for that, is that Astana is also the team of one Alberto Contador, winner of the Tour de France in 2007, and the only (in my opinion) deserving winner since Lance's retirement after the '05 edition. Lance has stated that it will be whoever has the best form, and he doesn't mind riding in support of Contador.
What has this got to do with Paris-Nice? Well Alberto Contador surprised even himself in the opening 9,3km ITT when he blew away the rest of a very quality field in treacherous conditions. Persistent rain fell on the field, as Sylvain Chavanel's early lead was trounced by Britain's prologue specialist, Bradley Wiggins from Garmin-Slipstream. However, none could match the pace of Contador as he took 7 seconds out of Wiggins' time.
Watch out Lance fans, if this is a sign of Contador's form, Lance may just be riding in that support role.
General classification after stage 1
 1 Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana                            11.05
2 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin - Slipstream              0.07
3 Luis-Leon Sanchez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne               0.09
4 Tony Martin (Ger) Team Columbia - Highroad            0.11
5 David Millar (GBr) Garmin - Slipstream                     0.14
6 Joost Posthuma (Ned) Rabobank                             0.18
7 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step                           0.19
8 Antonio Colom (Spa) Team Katusha                           
9 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Team Katusha                      0.21
10 Rémi Pauriol (Fra) Cofidis                                     0.22

The Argus
On the local front, South Africa's biggest cycling event, the Cape Argus Pick 'n Pay Cycle Tour (or just "The Argus" for most people) took place yesterday, Sunday 8 March. Held in deadful conditions, with the south-easter pumping, it was Arran Brown of Team Medscheme who took the sprint, despite the dominance of Team Barloworld throughout the 109km race.
However, far more important than the overall winner, was the performance of the approximately 35,000 entrants in this race. Seeing the weather conditions, with gale-force winds (reportedly gusting at up to 140km/h!), I wouldn't have blamed anyone for staying at home, but officially 25,600 made the effort. I know I was glad I had stayed at home this year, but if you were there, I would love to hear about you experience.

Thanks for reading.