30 Apr 2014
This year's season of the Classics saw no real dominating rider, almost always ending with a bunch sprint, easily stifled by excessive caution and tactics among the top contenders.
VALVERDE : a pure class rider, but always too hesitant, he was the only Grand Tour cyclist who did well in the Ardennes classics.
He took the victory at the Fleche Wallonne, setting a new record on the wall of Huy: 2'37" for the 112m of climbing of the last kilometer (VAM = 2568 m/h - 8.56w/kg - 513w) .
Fourth in Amstel (probably not having a good day), second in Liege: he was the strongest on the climbs but he didn't take advantage of it, tangled up in a ruthless control over Gilbert, thus ending up in favor of a better sprinter, Gerrans.
CONTADOR : he did not participate in the Classics, but easily won the Tirreno-Adriatico and the Pays Basque, dominating on the climbs and finding decent time trial performances again (second only to Tony Martin). He seems to have come close to the form of his best years.
CANCELLARA : together with Vanmarcke he was the strongest on the cobblestones, but wasn't able to make such a stark difference as in the past.
GERRANS : a solid quick rider, with excellent endurance skills, who can keep up to the best wheels on many a climb (I remember him winning on the San Luca in the 2009 Giro); after taking over San Remo two years ago, he too the victory in Liege, seizing the opportunity kindly donated by fate (Daniel Martin) and by exasperated tactics between the favorites.
GILBERT : an impressive attack on the Cauberg to take the Amstel, but on slightly longer climbs he showed us his current limitations. Better, however, than last season, showing signs of revival, like other riders (BMC's EVANS on top).
NIBALI : I think everyone, himself too, expected Vincenzo to perform better in the beginning of this season and especially in Liege, the classic best suited to his characteristics of endurance rider and climber. Hopefully it is due to the workload he subjected himself to so far in order show up at his best in the TdF.
FROOME, PORTE and TEAM SKY : far too many and recurring health problems for the top riders in this team, who just last year were swapping places on the podium in all the stage races.
Froome, already too skinny and performing in Oman, has shown issues related to his musculoskeletal system, whereas Porte forced himself to race even though still recovering, resulting in a long break and will miss the start in the Giro d' Italia .
An overall lackluster performance of Team Sky in the classic then: Wiggins was the only good one with a respectable placement in Roubaix.
SLAGTER and KWIATKOWSKI : they are, in my opinion, the great revelations of this first part of the season. The first won two stages in Paris- Nice, but it's his ease of action on the climbs to impress the most.
The Polish further confirmed to be strong rider capable of placing in all the races he took part of: a very good time trialist, he needs to improve on the longer climbs.