|A Look at the best riders and races in cycling in March
Pavel Brutt wins GP Chiasso photo c. Fotoreporter Sirotti
The month’s cycle racing started in Switzerland with the 9th GP Chiasso and a fine win for Pavel Brutt. As Andy McDobbin commented at the time
Certainly, Tinkoff Credit Systems have had a superb start to the seasons, with wins and top-three finishes in almost every race they've entered. Moreover, it's been the young Eastern European guns who have shone as much as, if not more than, the established names. If they keep this up though, men like Pavel Brutt, Vasili Kiryienka and Mikhail Ignatiev will be the established names in the squad. Their invitation to the Giro d'Italia is looking more and more deserving with every passing race.
Davide Rebellin , Pavel Brutt and Luca Mazzanti GP Chiasso photo c. Fotoreporter Sirotti
Every picture tells a story and for Davide Rebellin, the succession of second places continues. The rider who announced he will retire at the end of 2008 was later to have to settle for the second step in Paris Nice.
However Luca Mazzanti move up two steps on the podium the following day to win the 61st Gran Premio di Lugano The man from Bolonia obviously likes the Swiss air.
Meanwhile further North it was Liquigas' Filippo Pozzato “the blond angel”, benefiting from great team work from the Liquigas team all race, made a perfectly timed attack with 500 metres to go and became the third Italian to win the 62nd Het Volk
While in Spain it was another Italian grabbing the headlines with Giuseppe Muraglia (Acqua & Sapone) taking an un expected win in the 22nd Clásica Almería
No real surprise at the winner of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne although Gert Steegmans, the final man in the Quickstep train drove so hard for the line and it was with some difficulty that Tom Boonen passed his team mate, but then moved up anther gear to take a comfortable victory.
Jose Luis Jaimerena and Alejandro Valverde at the start of the final stage of Vuelta a Murcia ((Foto Abarca Sports))
In Spain Indurain’s successor or for some pretender, Alejandro Valverde won a windswept 22nd Vuelta a Murcia courtesy of his ability not to loose any foolish seconds on the sprinters stages and a dominant display in the 23 kilometre Time Trial.
Of course cycle racing is never far away from one controversy or another, but for a change it was not dopage but rather organisation that saw an ongoing dispute between the major Tour Organisers and the UCI with Unibet.com in the centre of the dispute. All of which saw the Unibet.com riders out to prove a point, with Jimmy Casper leading the way in Le Samyn
The Killer strikes in Torino photo c. Fotoreporter Sirotti
Meanwhile back in Italy it was “the Killer” Danilo Di Luca who after a comparatively miserable 2006 season started 2007 by winning the 92nd edition of the Milano Torino
Milano-Torino, the oldest cycling classic of his home country, and the world's most ancient cycling competition still raced.
Of course the only way to catch up with who will be the next Di Luca (or for that matter Armstrong or Merckx ) is to read Fabio’s Young Gun Reports
The 65th Paris Nice
, proved to be one of the most exciting editions in recent years and it was partly a tale of two teams, young Alberto Contador leading a Team of all talents Discovery Squad, and good ol’ Davide Rebellin leading a very youthful team of Gerolsteiner’s sparkling water boys.
Despite, or maybe because of the closeness of the general classification situation the race was notable because of the number of solo victories, Alexandr Kolobnev (Team CSC), Popovych (Discovery Channel) Luis Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne) all succeeded in solo bids for glory.
Contador still a youngster in the white young riders jersey photo c. Fotoreporter Sirotti
At the end of the day Contador, with two scintillating attacks on stages 4 and 7 was a worthy winner, but one could not help feeling sorry for Rebellin on the climb of the Col d’Eze, isolated and alone and watching his leaders jersey disappear up the hill.
If Paris Nice was a tribute to tough racing the 42nd Tirreno-Adriatico was a tough battle between Astana and T Mobile. The "Race of the Two Seas" ("corsa dei due mari" in Italian) also threw up some new names to consider.
Ricco Rocks! photo c. Fotoreporter Sirotti
Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval) with two stage victories (and another later in the month at Settimana Int. di Coppi e Bartali) emerged as a force to be reckoned with. The 25 kilometre Time Trial saw Stefan Schumacher take the stage and the leaders jersey, but close behind were the awesome duo of Kloeden and Vinokourov for Astana and Kim Kirchen for the T Mobile team.
Stage Six saw another great solo effort and Matteo Bono take a great win, but behind despite Kirchen putting time into Kloeden, the German rider did enough to take the leaders jersey.
Kirchen, Kloeden and Vinokourov photo c. Fotoreporter Sirotti
The 98th Milano - San Remo proved, as always to be a race of beauty, charm, guts, desperation and talent. For the first time since the early 1990’s Sanremo was not the sunshine holiday resort, rather it was raining and this added another dimension to the dramatic finale, as riders struggled to keep their balance on slippy roads, with tired legs.
Oscar winning performance photo c. Fotoreporter Sirotti
Oscar Freire, became the second Spaniard to win the race twice. An honour he now shares with the legendary Miguel Poblet, who is indeed the only other Spaniard to have been first on the Via Roma.
The 22nd Vuelta Ciclista a Castilla y León looked like being another battle between the heavyweight teams of Caisse d'Epargne and The Discovery Channel. In part this turned out to be true with Karpets taking the early lead against a very solid Discovery team effort.
However it was the red birds of Saunier Duvall who took up the fight with Discovery, with “Fast Fran” Ventoso taking three stages and with Koldo Gil and Juan Cobo finishing in second and third spot on the podium.
Once again, Alberto Contador, proved to be a very worthy Captain of a super strong Discovery Team and took a stage victory and the leaders jersey home.
Over in Italy the Settimana Coppi & Bartali saw 5 days racing throw up an unlikely race leader Luca Pierfelici of the small Arum Hotel Team try and hold onto his jersey against the bigger teams. Riccardo Riccó (Ita - Saunier Duval) and Michele Scarponi (Ita - Acqua & Sapone-Caffé Mokambo) also had serious ambitions for the leaders jersey and these two men waged battle royale on the final stage.
Riccó attacks Scarponi at the summit photo c. Fotoreporter Sirotti
Riccó took the final stage but Scarponi had done enough to take the winners jersey from Luca Pierfelici and add another success to Acqua & Sapone-Caffé Mokambo’s good season so far.
Daily Peloton Man of the Month
A difficult choice, how can anyone not pick Oscar Freire, winner of Milan Sanremo who must surely have put Poblet’s past victories in the shade and is now the best one day racer that Spain has ever produced?
Contador takes the victory! photo c. Fotoreporter Sirotti
But it is another Spaniard who pips Oscar to the post. Alberto Contador showed a maturity and class beyond his years and also displayed some considerable panache in the process.
The last , and only Spaniard to win Paris Nice was “El Rey” Miguel Indurain when he achieved back to back victories in 1989 amd 1990, before going on to dominate the cycling scene (Giro, Tour de France and World Hour Record) for the next six years.
Alberto Contador has had a mighty month of March and is the Daily Peloton’s Man of the Month.
Team of the Month
An easier choice, Saunier Duvall have been attacking on all fronts , Millar, Riccardo Riccó, Fast Fran , Koldo Gil and Juan Cobo all excelling for the red bird team.
The red bird can sing photo c. Fotoreporter Sirotti
Photo of the Month
An easy choice too. The combination of the falling of the old guard as young blood takes it’s spring time place is perfectly captured by this photo. The joy of victory (Contador) has a tinge of sadness (Rebellin) and perfectly reflects not only the delicate balance of the Paris Nice Race, but also the essence of bicycle racing.
Contador !photo c. Fotoreporter Sirotti