An Early Perspective on the 2007 Season
Two months ago the early season opened with the riders and perhaps pro cycling
testing its legs for 2007...
By: Andrew Kappes
Two months ago the road cycling season started in Australia with
many questions. Would the rift between the UCI and the grand tour organizers
bring a halt to the season? Will Operation Puerto bring any indictments and
suspensions? How will fans react amidst all this controversy? Fast forward two
months, the Earth is still revolving and cyclists are still racing on the road.
Ivan Basso, Paolo Bettini and Fabian Cancellara at the start of the tour of
California stage 7. Photo c. Vaughn Trevi and
The first question has been dealt a good answer, for the moment with a the GT
organizers and the UCI. The agreement that was
reached earlier this month is only temporary, but it quite possibly saved the
2007 cycling season. Operation Puerto was seemingly ended by a Spanish judge,
and it brought no indictments, or suspensions; though other investigations may
come in the future. As for the third question, any
cycling fan who hasn't been living under a rock knows that the support for
cycling is still high and strong.
The first live televised race I watched this year happened to be the Tour of
Qatar, a tiny country that protrudes out of the Arabian peninsula into the
Persian Gulf. What a beautiful race it was, the desert setting provided
perfect scenery for the year's first winter cycling race. All of that in a
country that has only had a race for the past few years. North Americans were
treated to the Tour of California in mid-February. Over one million fans
flocked to the roads of California to cheer on some of the top Pro Tour teams
in the world. Cycling is indeed alive and well here in the United States, even
after the Lance Armstrong retirement. Not only did the fans see some of the
top Pro Tour and American continental teams, they witnessed a battle between
two of the top teams, CSC and Discovery. We all know how it ended, but one has
to believe that this isn't the last we have seen of the rivalry this season.
Leipheimer stayed in yellow the entire race despite strong attacks from CSC.
Photo c. Vaughn Trevi & www.dailypeloton.com.
The Pro Tour calender kicked off last Sunday with Paris-Nice, and David Millar
showed you really can race (and time trial) clean. You almost have to root for
a guy that is still standing after cleaning up his career. After Discovery's
Alberto Contador climbed the GC with Gerolsteiner's Davide Rebellin, we saw
glimpses of the old Discovery/US Postal, where this team absolutely took over
the race's pace. The pace that sailed the likes of Lance Armstrong and Paolo
Savoldelli to grand tour wins. The confusion of no GC leader that was brought
on by the departure of Lance is a distant memory. If the last stage of
Paris-Nice is any indication on what the rest of this season is going to be
like, we all better strap on our seatbelts.
Alberto Contador battled all week with Rebellin (behind), this Stage win put
Contador in white, and the Stage 7 win put him in yellow. Photo
c. Fotoreporter Sirotti
While Paris-Nice was winding down, Tirreno-Adriatico was just heating up. With
crashes and injuries hindering Italian staples Paolo Bettini and Ivan Basso, a
new Italian star emerged. Riccardo Riccó of Saunier-Duval won two stages, many
think this young Italian could be the next great thing in Italian cycling.
Indeed hopes are high for the young gun Riccó, who has been referred to as the
future Pantani by Italian journalists due to his climbing acumen in the last
two years. In
the end, Andreas Kloden overpowered the field and got his first big win for
his new team, Astana.
This could be the beginning of great successes in the Pro Tour for Riccó.
Photo courtesy Fotoreporter Sirotti.
With only two Pro Tour races in the books, we can honestly say this season is
still in yet to explode, but you have to think of the excitement that is looming if
the first two races are any indication of what's to come. I guess, at this
point, all we can do is just stay tuned.
Be sure to tune in for the www.dailypeloton.com live coverage of Milan - San Remo
on Saturday morning as the first real Spring Classic reveals who the
pretenders and contenders are.