Conclusions to be drawn from last week's seven-day Amgen Tour of California, won by Robert Gesink of the Netherlands:
"The course has been ... pretty much the same thing every day," noted legendary sprinter Robbie McEwen, after Sagan made it four in a row. "Hard enough to get rid of real fair dinkum sprinters" -- McEwen is Australian, clearly -- "but not hard enough for the climbers to make an impact. So you're getting the same result, literally, every day."
Sagan now has an astounding 22 professional stage victories. While he will never win a grand tour -- he seems a trifle too big to be an elite climber -- McEwen, who retired after the race and will become a coach for the Aussie squad Team GreenEdge, sees him as a potentially dominant rider in Europe's one-day classics. Sagan is what Italians describe as a
Van Garderen's 21-year-old teammate Taylor Phinney, meanwhile, was overseas contesting in the Giro d'Italia, in which he wore the race leader's pink jersey for four days. Like Sagan, Phinney has a gleaming future as a classics rider. The one-time world champion in the individual pursuit, he is custom-designed to win prologues and flat time trials. But the kid is always going to have trouble getting his 6'5", 180-pound frame over the mountains in a grand tour. As the Lance Armstrong era fades into history and as Horner, Levi Leipheimer, 38 and Christian Vande Velde, 36, push further into the twilights of their careers, Talansky and van Garderen are the young Americans best positioned to ascend the podium at the Tour de France.
For the second straight year, the Tour of California featured a women's time trial, held on the same course the men would ride later in the day. Armstrong, the reigning Olympic champion in the individual time trial, finished in 39:48; her time was less than four minutes slower than the time posted by Zabriskie. He crushed the men's field and finished in 35:59, 23 seconds ahead of the next competitor, averaging nearly 31 miles per hour over the 18.4-mile course.
Olympic selections will take place by mid-June and currently, the question seems to be not so much whether Armstrong makes the team, but if she competes in both the time trial and the road race. While Armstrong dominated a largely domestic field in California, she's raced well against international competition this year, coming second in the women's Ronde van Blaanderen, and winning three stage races.
"I feel great about where I am internationally, said Armstrong. "I've done several time trials against the best in the world ... so far I've been on a winning streak."
Captain America (Zabriskie wanted to be a superhero growing up, "but unfortunately there was no crime where I lived") was motivated during the time trial by the desire to punch his ticket to London. To do that, he put in plenty of offseason homework. "I came out in the winter, rode [the course]." He and his wife Randi and their two children made the recon a family affair. "There's a nice petting zoo on the course," reported Zabriskie. Having videotaped the time trial circuit, "I watched it many times. Knew where I wanted to go hard: soccer field, petting zoo, make it to the tree line. I had a real plan going into this race."
He took the race lead that day, but lost it to Gesink on the slopes of Mt. Baldy two days later; Zabriskie now has four second-place finishes in Tour of California. If they gave the trophy to the guy who's the best quote, Captain America would be undefeated.