Greg Van Avermaet – that is the only name that matters so far this cycling season. Of the eight single-day races the Olympic champion has entered, he has won four and finished second twice. I don’t think I need to say too much more about those stats, except that these were major races, the Classics, where ALL the heavy-hitters show up. And don’t say, “What about the Grand Tour riders like Froome, Contador and Quintana?”, because they would have absolutely NO SHOT competing on the type of courses faced in Northern France and Belgium. That is why they don’t bother even showing up. Wussies!
Kidding of course, but I’m simply expressing my preference for the spring races, and I still appreciate the “mountain goats” that blast up the Alps and Pyrenees at speeds most folks would be happy maintaining on a flat road. I just like the idea that in the Classics, it’s all on the line for one day - no consideration of time gaps at the finish and how much you might be able to recover in the upcoming days. If you don’t win on that one day, you go home with nothing...well, except with some over-valued U.C.I. points, but that’s a whole other can of worms.
Two things really surprised me about Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix, the first being how calm the racing was compared to past years. I’m sure the cyclists themselves would argue that point, but as a viewer, the event just didn’t have the chaotic crashes and panicky chases that usually dominate the action. Granted Van Avermaet himself had a dicey moment early on after a spill, but he received a spare bike and kept it together as he made his way back up to the lead group reasonably quickly.
Perhaps things may have been different had either of the attacks from World Champ Peter Sagan had stuck. Unfortunately, the Slovak star had a mechanical problem during one and a flat tire in the other, which ruined his big chance(s).
|Stybar and Sagan lead the peloton through the Arenberg Trench.|
I think the main reason for the relative quiet is that all of the main favorites spent so much time at the front, and no major splits occurred between them until the decisive moves were made with less than 20 miles left. Sure, there were some breaks in the race, but from riders who weren’t considered big threats for the victory, and the idea of them being eventually caught was never in doubt. Indeed, the race’s average speed of 28 mph (a record over the 160-mile route), contributed to the inability of any break to stay away!
The other thing that surprised me was that, when Van Avermaet powered away on the notoriously rough cobbles at Carrefour de l'Arbre and only Quick Step’s Zdenek Stybar and Cannondale’s Sebastian Langeveld* could follow, the Eurosport commentators were even considering that anyone but the BMC captain would win. Had they not seen him race the last couple of years? If it is a long, hard race, NO ONE is a better sprinter than Van Avermaet.
The Olympic road race was considered the hardest ever designed for that competition, and who won? As the five-time winner of the Tour de France’s green jersey as most consistent sprinter, Peter Sagan would be considered, on paper, a better sprinter, but in a small breakaway group he has been nipped at the line several times during his career by G.V.A., most recently in February’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
In fact, if a fan hadn’t gotten his jacket tangled in Sagan’s wheel and brought him down directly in front of Van Avermaet, the Belgian may have caught his countryman Philippe Gilbert and won his second career cycling “Monument” within a week!
|A POCs upon you and your team for looking that bad!|
*By the way has anyone else noticed how the Cannondale team hasn’t won diddly squat since they started wearing those butt-ugly POC helmets? Coincidence? I keep thinking of Billy Crystal’s Fernando Lamas impression, “It’s better to look good than to feel good.” I’d argue they are doing neither!
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With so many parts having arrived while I was on my southern trip, I have been polishing off a number of my bike projects recently. I’ll lead off with photos of Brendan’s Sean Kelly Sem-France Loire bicycle...
...and now, the long-awaited completion of the Ciöcc, which actually had a buyer in Brooklyn lined up weeks before I put on the final touches, so you won’t find it in the For Sale page.
I’ll sign off with pics of the Cannondale R1000 Optimo, which hasn’t received a lot of mention since I picked up the frame early in March, but it was a fairly simple collect-parts-and-build-type deal...