Another good finish, but man—what a stinker for the first 295k! Well, no. I suppose that’s a bit harsh, but you’ve got to admit, there was a definite lack of late-race fireworks. I counted no attacks on the Cipressa and a mere two on the Poggio: a seemingly half-hearted tug from Davide Rebellin that barely strung out the field, and a second, more convincing effort from Pippo Pozzatto that did manage to break things up a bit, but came so close to the end of the climb as to be irrelevant.
Vincenzo Nibali tried to open things up on the descent, and Luis Leon Sanchez took a go just outside a kilometer, but no one gets far when they’re spending that much time looking over their shoulders. George Hincapie came to the front just inside a K to go and cranked for a solid 30 seconds, before Hushovd’s lead-out man Heinrich Haussler jumped at 250 meters to go. Had Haussler been trying to win the race at any point in the preceding 300k, he might have just held out to the line, but the burst that won Cavendish TdF stages four times over last July just manage to eclipse the German’s early gap.
But ugh, before that finish… Michele Scarponi burying himself to no apparent purpose on the Cipressa. Liquigas and Caisse D’Epargne hammering between the two final climbs in support of what? Some breakneck descending and a late stage attack so brief Sanchez didn’t even have to to shout “Hola, Mama!” at the camera moto. I realize that the ethic of leader an supporters is deeply ingrained in this sport, but it’s entirely possible to support someone by making an attack. Jens Voigt made a career out of blowing races to pieces in the name of teamwork, and has a couple of yellow jerseys to show for it.
It seemed to me that in leaping across the gap so late to snatch Haussler’s slipstream, Cav showed a gutty from the belly panache that I’d like to have seen more riders today emulate. Even over the creaking of the 37-year-olds knees, you could hear the peloton lying in wait for Rebellin’s attack. It’s seizing tiny windows of opportunity like the Poggio that lets unknown talents—and the occasional fluke—come away with big races, and let the big names take their most legendary victories.