Friday, August 21, 2009

Should E-N-E-C-O Equal R-E-S-P-E-C-T?

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.


  1. Speaking only for myself, the TdF leaves me tired. As a mistress, she demands all my time, not just for the three weeks of racing, but for the weeks prior and post as well.

    I need a break to regain form. The ENECO is excellent, no doubt, but it's asking for time I don't have. Right now I've got to save up for the Vuelta.

  2. "Edvald Boassen Hagen is there too..."

    In my view he should be the main captain of Columbia. I was therefore surprised he had to lead out Renshaw today. If you watched yesterdays stage, Edvald impressed a lot. But I don't think he gets the help he deserves.

  3. That's a terrific point--if Renshaw needed a win this year, his team had several chances at the Tour. Boassen Hagen has certainly earned the right to protected status by now. Never fear though, he's the top favorite for the overall--especially with the ITT on the last day.

    And Da Robot, I hear ya! I'm still a bit lagging following the Tour. Hopefully the Vuelta will get us in shape for Worlds.

  4. I can't fathom this either; he was on the podium in Poland, he won two stages- one of the wins came after leading out Greipel, who couldn't hang on- and he still had to lead out Greipel on the final day.

    Having said that, can any other team match the resources and organization of THC? Should be the perfect place to develop and learn for any aspiring rider. And where is he off to?

    Not saying racing ends at the Champs d'E, but now I mostly look forward to the Worlds (brilliant parcour!) and Lombardy.

  5. Would a discourse on the stupidity and ephemerality of Phil and Paul be possible?

    Their "Head in the sand" approach to doping is one issue, but the ignorance towards some of the lesser teams or nations is disappointing. Would it bother you to look at the spreadsheet and see that Kristoff is Norwegian, not Russian?

    Having lived a year in Delft, Holland, I can grasp some of the Sporza coverage and find it very informative. Eurosport is also good when Sean Kelly is on.

    Thoughts on pundits? All I really care about is live coverage of cycling, but having seen the recaps on Versus; shit man! Phil and Paul sucks!

  6. Pundits, Phil & Paul...all good topics.

    Would you mind letting me know where you found my Kristoff mistake? I admit that I might have made one, but I'm having trouble finding how it affects my rankings as he was not the top point-getter from either country. Feel free to email me directly if you like. Thanks for the keen eyes!

  7. Not you! The error was by Phil Ligget!

    And while Kristoff has a Russian sounding name, I damn well know he's from my shores as I've raced him twice (he on podium, me DNF). Kid's beaten Hushovd three out of five, will be grand to see him in the Worlds U23.

    Love the blog!

  8. Been meaning to add this to the ENECO respect issue - if this tour was respected, wouldn't someone in second place on the second to last day stay for a potential podium or at least top ten creds in addition to his stage wins?

    I thought that was a very disrespectful thing to do by the rider and team management to the race and the team sponsors. It was a short TT, not a 7 hours mountain stage. The only respect lost was to that team, especially in light of this weekends results, or lack there-of.


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