Seems like a good time to take a look at recent race results. We are poised at the beginning of the Commonwealth Games, of course, but also now well into the European pro season.
Alessandro Petacchi has won the last stage of Tirreno Adriatico with 'Dekker the younger' (ie Thomas!) taking the overall GC. Petacchi has taken a swag of firsts in this race, with his teammate Erik Zabel picking up many of the 2nd places (but not this time). Zabel seems to be Petacchi's prime lead out man - and perfectly positioned to mop up one of the remaining podium places for Team Milram. So we can say that both Petacchi and Zabel have some good tactics, form and confidence early in the season. With Classicissima Milano-Sanremo coming up fast that's important.
We should mention that Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto) and Paride Grillo (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) got second and third on the line in this stage - an indication in Robbie's case that his form is OK. Rabobank's Thomas Dekker won overall with Liberty Seguros's Jörg Jaksche missing out by only 14 seconds. So it's a good start for the young guys, too.
Factors to consider: it's been cold, not everyone rides well in the cold! It's early in the season: not everyone is at 100% and some teams are still discovering how new riders fit in. Shows how important the pre-season team building is, and how early-season prep can pay off. But will the hot guys last the season, or will they go off the boil in a month or 2?
Mustn't forget that until he crashed in stage 3 of TA, Bettini was also unstoppable in the uphill sprints. It would have been a different race if the Cricket had raced to the end.
Pez has a good rave about the TA here and Cyclingnews covers the race as well.