Admit it, you've spent more time over the past week reading about Leadville than this week's ENECO Tour. It's okay, you're among friends.
I made the same mistake. In my Embrocation column this week, I intimated that the ENECO Tour (among several other August races) doesn’t hold the same amount of prestige (and therefore doesn't warrant much attention) as races in other months. But after following the coverage of the Benelux Tour’s first 3 days, I can’t help but wonder if we might all be wrong. Does the ENECO Tour deserve more respect than it’s getting?
First, take a look at the parcours. Were you surprised to learn the race is 8 days long? That’s as long as Paris-Nice and a day longer than Tirreno-Adriatico. A few stages top 200km and there are two days of individual time trials—albeit short ones. And don’t let those sprint finishes fool you, this race has some hills. Remember those climbs we spent most of April covering? Well, many of them return here: the bergs of Amstel, the muurs of Flanders, and the cols of the Ardennes. For example, the Muur de Geraardsbergen left it’s mark yesterday with about 76km to go, reducing the field with it’s steep cobbled pitch. The Ardennes are yet to come; look for the real GC battle to sort itself out there.
But what really impressed me was the event’s startlist (click "Deelnemers")—it’s quite stellar for an August week-long stage race. Quick Step brought Tom Boonen and Sylvain Chavanel (Chavanel won the race Prologue). Garmin--along with current race leader Tyler Farrar--brought Bradley Wiggins, fresh from his 4th-place in the Tour. And speaking of high finishers in the Tour, how about Vincenzo Nibali? He’s there too. Andreas Kloden took the line for Astana; he would have been a candidate for the win had he not crashed and injured his wrist yesterday. Columbia brought 4 men capable of winning the overall: Tony Martin, Maxime Monfort, Thomas Lövkvist, and Michael Rogers. Edvald Boassen Hagen is there too, looking to continue his good run of summer form. Silence-Lotto took the line with Greg Van Avermaet, Jurgen Van Den Broeck, and Johan Vansummeren—what, no Cadel? Rabobank brings Classics men Juan Antonio Flecha and Nick Nuyens. If this were the Start List for Paris-Nice or the Tour of California, would it be getting more press?
And speaking of respect, it’s also time to give some to the race’s current leader and double stage winner, Tyler Farrar. Young Farrar’s entered 4 races this week (not counting today’s stage), winning 3 of them and finishing 2nd in the fourth. It’s a testament to not only Farrar’s blossoming talent, but also to the confidence that comes from getting your first big win. Tyler’s been ready to boil over since this year’s Tour, when he finished 2nd almost as many time as Mark Cavendish finished 1st. Sunday’s win in the Vattenfall Cyclassics was just the result Tyler and his Garmin teammates needed to top-off their confidence, as their performances in ENECO have clearly illustrated.
So maybe we all need to spend a little less time thinking about transfers and a little more time focusing on the great racing going-on right under our noses.
What are your thoughts? Share them below.