It’s June, that magical time of year where a one-week stage race comes to the fore in cycling, not because its victor will be showered in prestige and paychecks, but because it’s seen as an important warm-up for the Tour de France. And yet somehow, this event, where a win rates mere side-show status, maintains a position in the highest tier of road cycling events, while other races, which many of the world’s best cyclists fight tooth and nail to win, are excluded. I won’t state here whether I think this more reflective of the TdF’s influence or the UCI’s idiocy – just that if Pat McQuaid wants to loosen the Grand Tours’ grip on professional cycling, he might consider downgrading some of their tune-up races.
But on to results, vis a vis Stages Prologue and One of this year’s Dauphine. Dave Zabriskie, under the auspices of the CSC Team Leader’s dossard, TT’d to victory during the prologue, while another American potentially ascendant to the role of Grand Tour GC threat, Disco’s George Hincapie, rolled in two seconds back. In Stage One, it was a sprint battle of perennial opportunists Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues) and Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) out of a four-man, late race break, instigated somewhat inexplicably on the final climb by Ag2r’s Paco Mancebo. The German took the win and the overall lead, leaving Frenchman to console himself with yet another spotty jersey pro temps .
Loss of the GC lead not withstanding, some have made jovial and rather suggestive note of CSC’s recent run of luck. After all, who can forget CSC director Bjarne Riis’ sudden ascendency (WikiSkeptics should be silenced by a quick check of those citations) in a swirl of allegations against his Gewiss team and personal trainer Luigi Cecchini. And with this latest dope scandal, a few connections have been drawn between Dr. Fuentes and Riis’ latest protege, Ivan Basso – with the latter not being especially direct in his refutation. Is this wording simply Basso’s attempt to maintain the dignity expected of a Grand Tour champion? Or a Clintonian turn of phrase, engineered with flexibility lacking in a complete denial? And, most importantly of all, will time ever reveal to us the answer to this questions? In a bitter twist of irony, we can only wait and see.