The Discovery Channel team has continued to show its strength over the past two weeks of racing. In
Spain, at the stage race Castilla y Leon, Egoi Martinez started off a good week for the team with a third place podium finish in stage 1. Yaroslav ?Popo? Popovych quickly followed suit by winning the stage 2 Time Trial beating out teammate Jason McCartney by only 1 second. Manuel ?Triki? Beltran went on to impress the team in the uphill finish of stage four by finishing 2 nd while teammate Jose Luis ?Chechu? Rubiera rounded out the week finishing 3 overall on general classification. Team Discovery also captured the overall Team classification win.
While the riders racing in Spain have many of their big objectives later on in the season, the guys racing in the battle ground of northern
Belgium have been honing their fitness as they prepare for the team?s first major objectives of 2006, the Spring Classics. At the Three Days of DePanne, a 3-day four-stage event, the Discovery Channel Team flexed their muscles against the world?s best heading into the Classics. Leif Hoste took the prize for overall ?tough guy? by not only winning stage 1 in a three man sprint but also winning the stage 4 individual Time Trial as well as the overall race victory. His victory overshadowed the stellar performances of teammates George Hincapie and Stijn Devolder who took second and third respectively in the stage 4 Time Trial, with Hincapie also finishing fifth overall. The team also won the overall Team classification. And for me, well, I was lucky enough to arrive in Belgium on Thursday and watch the race on TV and then later that evening share in a glass of champagne with the team upon their return to the hotel in
Kortrijk. Stijn Devolder and soigneur Geert Tibergijn both commented on how Leif?s win corresponded with my arrival in
In a quick sidebar, I have a story for those of you wondering what the guys do with some of their race trophies and prizes. At about 10pm Thursday night, after a celebratory dinner, the guys had a hunkering for something sweet. What to do? Well, why not dig into Leif?s massive stage 1 chocolate trophy, or at least what was left of it. Apparently the hotel staff had also enjoyed some of it too- Leif had given them the green light to ?help themselves." Not to worry, there was more than enough to go around. The excessive chocolate consumption even kept Aussie Matt White up a bit later than he hoped and apparently woke him up a bit early the next morning as well. "Whitey" explained to me as I walked into breakfast at 7:45am that, ?I just couldn?t sleep mate. I don?t think Jolly Roger- his nickname for roommate Roger Hammond- appreciated me making a racket either. That chocolate was really good though, huh?? Oh well, so goes life on the road as a professional cyclist. But he was right, the chocolate was