So…as many of us familiar with February in NorCal had feared since the race was first announced five years ago, the rain and weather have been less than pleasant. I know bike racers are tough but there must have been a lot of complaining going on between Davis and Santa Rosa.
Apparently, Chris Horner was the only rider to renew his MENSA membership and realized that Paco Mancebo was in danger of riding away with the entire race on the first road stage. Summoning the troops with sketchy time splits. Astana began to pull back the deficit with the confused help of a small but strong group, coming into the circuits of downtown Santa Rosa a little over a minute behind the solo Rocker.
Here’s where it gets really strange. Apparently the brain trust at the AToC decided to neutralize all of the finishing circuits and count final times upon the first finish line crossing. It’s difficult to say who actually knew of this decision out on the road but it is certain that this info was not provided to the media during coverage of the finale. So instead of a ferocious chase, we ended up watching the group almost soft-pedal around while Mancebo slaughtered himself off the front. Seeing the chase group go from a long line to a slightly bunched up training ride was confusing at best for those watching.
Here is a sampling of my confusion:
“Why the hell aren’t they chasing?” “Come on, you pulled for 50 miles to get him back, why give up now?” “Do they really want to let Mancebo have over a minute?” “Why isn’t anyone else working to pull him back?”
Well, it turns out that there was really no need to do any more work once they got onto the circuits since the course was neutralized. What was even crazier though, was that Vincenzo Nibali and Jurgen Van de Walle then took off and easily bridged up to Mancebo, seemingly putting themselves in excellent position for both the stage and the overall.
Here is another sample of choice comments:
“What the hell are they doing?” “If it was that easy for two solo guys to bridge, you’re telling me they couldn’t have pulled hard for another lap and caught everyone?” “You’re just going to sit there and give a minute plus to Mancebo and Nibali?” “Does anyone from the US want to win this race?”
Ultimately, both Van de Walle and Nibali got jobbed because not only did Mancebo end up taking the sprint for the stage, the officials ended up giving them the same time as the first chase group that finished over a minute down because of the neutral circuit judgment. Wait…what? Yeah…I know, try explaining that one to them after 4+ hours in the cold rain.
Anyway, it remains to be seen just how strong Mancebo and Rock Racing are so the race is surely not over. It will be a wild one now for sure. Hopefully Stage 2 from Sausalito to Santa Cruz will be a little clearer – both in weather and official race functions. And hopefully BJM or one of the other NorCal kids can represent and then go get some cotton candy at the Boardwalk.