No, not that kind of test…
Not sure if you saw it, but with about 10 km to go in Sunday’s Stage 15 of the Giro, Cervelo’s director, Jean-Paul Van Poppel made a questionable call. Serge Pauwels was in a two-up breakaway with Leonardo Bertagnolli. The 2 had a time gap of about 2:30 on the chase group including the maglia rosa and various other favorites—including Pauwels' team leader, Carlos Sastre. The problem was that pesky Ivan Basso who had broken away on the previous climb Stefano Garzelli. The two were clinging to a lead of about 25 seconds that out Sastre’s 5th place on GC in danger.
Universal's coverage clearly shows Pauwels conferencing with his DS and promptly hitting the brakes to go back (more than 2 minutes back, mind you) and help Sastre defend his 5th place. (A decision the commentators clearly find reasonable.)
Unfortunately for Pauwels, as soon as he loses contact with Bertagnolli, Basso and Garzelli sit-up and return to the group with Menchov and Sastre.
What was Van Poppel thinking? Maybe he didn’t read the road book and see that the run-in to the finish was mostly downhill. Maybe he forgot the remaining 3 summit finishes? Maybe he forgot that Sastre’s using this race for training? Maybe he thought—oh heck, I’m not sure what he thought!
The icing on the cake? Pauwels blowing the doors off his 3 competitors in the sprint for 2nd.
After the race, here's Van Poppel: "It was bad timing for us. It's not easy for a small team like ours to try and put a rider on the final podium in the Giro. Sacrifices have to be made to make that happen, but everybody agreed that was our goal at the start."
A "small" team? Is he serious?
Of course, after yesterday’s win by Sastre, everyone (at Cervelo) seems to think Van Poppel’s gaffe was a masterstroke of genius and foresight. I’m not buying it. Had Pauwels dropped back to Sastre’s group, pulled him back to Basso, and then shielded him to the finish maybe I would I change my tune. But for now, it just seems like Sastre saved his DS from some more embarrassing questions.