I’m late with this, what a surprise. What a big win for George Bennett. I’m very happy to see him win. He could have used a win like this and it came in pretty cool fashion. He was very upset he didn’t do anything or come up with the goods on Mt. Baldy, but the next day he somehow randomly rides a great TT and takes the win as no one was talking about him. Majka is a big scalp to take, and beating Boswell, Talansky, Morton, and anyone from BMC was a pretty good list too. I think this is a great step in Bennett’s career, hopefully he goes to the Dauphine or Tour de Suisse and builds on his success heading into the Tour.
Speaking of the Tour, Lotto NL may be the team I am most excited to watch at this year’s Tour. They are quietly pretty damn legit this year. Bennett adds this World Tour stage race victory to their palmares; we’ve already seen Steven Kruijswijk last year in the Giro–apparently we’ve all learn he’s had a broken rib this year which is why he’s not performing at the highest level; Groenewegen is maturing into a very good sprinter, I expect him to go well at the end of this season just as he did last year; and my favorite Lotto NL rider of all: PRIMOZ ROGLIC! I love that dude! I can’t wait to see what he throws down at the Tour, he’s been on all season. Besides Brian Smith, no one knew his name until last May and this year he wins Algarve and is making noise in Tirreno, Basque Country (or was it Catalunya? Or both?), and Romandie! TT’s and mountain stage wins. He has to be gunning for Yellow in Dusseldorf, and I think he’ll do it just like Dennis did in 2015 in the Netherlands. We should see Roglic, Bennett, and Groenewegen all there: that’s a very versatile team, I don’t even know how you go about picking support guys for them, but they should have opportunities everywhere! Which means they should be fun to watch! Then again its the Tour and everyone’s conservative so they may disappoint.
Ok, back to California, the second best team of the week was easily Rally. Two stage wins!!! That’s niceeee. Honestly, I thought for the first one the peloton played too much poker and screwed up the chase; and the second one, most of the stage was downhill so 5 or 6 guys up the road had a chance if they had any sort of lead. What I’m saying is, originally I thought Rally was kind of lucky, I take that back! Once, sure maybe luck, twice, no they worked for it, that’s impressive. Great job to these guys stepping up on the World Tour level. I like and dislike the composition of WT to (Pro) Continental teams at this race. For bumping up to WT status, California did not draw enough World Tour teams. Movistar couldn’t send a team? Paul could not stop talking about how the race reminded him of the Vuelta. But I enjoyed that teams like Rally and Jelly Belly could still make the cut. It wouldn’t be a proper American race without Jelly Belly, their jerseys are fun to see as they animate the race!
Finally, I have decided: the exact problem with this race is that the finishes of these stages are BAD. They are too easy, too much stretches of road to get them from decisive climbs to cool/scenic finishing towns. That San Jose stage, I tuned in earlier than most people who have the NBC Sports Gold app would have and they were still already on the descent. Stage 4 they talked about how brutal that last climb was, I watched the last 20 Miles and they were already on that drag to the finish where Rally won from the breakaway. That last stage, well that was competing with an excellent Giro stage and a sunny Sunday so I didn’t watch much of that. But still I watched the last 25k and the entire thing was a descent already! The peloton was greatly widdled down, I would have liked to see how that happened! That’s probably just a true issue here in America, I’m certain our small towns (which are actually near decisive roads) are not nearly as scenic or accommodating or even practical as in Europe. I don’t know what you do about that, but the key points in these stages need to come later into the race, these finishing run-ins are too long! And also our roads are so obnoxiously big the riders have more space to spread out so the positioning fight isn’t as big. Thus the race travels slower and just from the cameras of the wide roads LOOKS slower.
I think I said it before, California COULD host its own grand tour, I’m not saying it should. But what about this thought: riders love races like Tour Down Under because its hub and spoke: same hotel, stages based around a center. What if California did that: first week’s stages are all based out of LA, second week stages all based out of San Fran? Third week, I don’t care take your pick, maybe don’t even have a third week? That could be a big draw for riders, I still don’t think I’d love it. I like it when a Grand Tour is actually a TOUR of the country instead of just 21 races in 21 different places throughout the country, but this is something I would watch if the riders enjoyed it and therefore raced harder during it. I have better ideas than this though, that I’ll share in future posts.