What a weekend! Cross Worlds, European season openers, and–as always–some other interesting bits to discuss:
1. The obvious weekend story was the East-West showdown at Cyclocross Worlds in Tabor, Czech Republic. Yes, the Wall has fallen, but a quick rundown of the results indicates a beating reminiscent of Rocky IV (the beginning of the movie—before the funky training-in-a-barn to the sound of “Eye of the Tiger”).
In the Elite Men’s race, the pre-race favorite, Zdenek Stybar continued his dream season with a resounding win before a home crowd. While Stybar’s result wasn’t much a surprise, the way in which he won might have been, as the Belgian contingent seemed to have little response to the Czech’s display of power.
That said, the bigger shock came in Saturday’s U23 race, where another pre-race favorite, Belgium’s Tom Meeusen, went down quicker than Apollo Creed to not one, but two Polish riders–brothers no less! Meeusen–who the winner admitted is a better rider–could muster no better than 4th on a day that began with the young Czech Tomas Paprstka taking the first Rainbow Jersey of the weekend–a taste of bigger things to come for the Czechs.
When it was all said and done, the only world title heading West belongs to Holland’s Marianne Vos, who stormed away from her competition early in the race—winning her second consecutive World Championship in the process.
While the traditional powerhouses—okay, let’s be honest, we’re mainly taking about Belgium—still have reason to be optimistic about the future, it’s clear that Stybar has a long and successful career ahead of him. Belgium’s toughest competition might finally come from somewhere other than Belgium.
But don’t worry, my fine Flemish and Walloon friends—you’ll always have beer. Or will you?
2. In other racing news, the European season is officially underway in France and Italy. Look for weekend previews to reconvene here every Friday—particularly as we draw closer and closer to more important events. For now, I find it interesting that 2 new teams—or redesigned teams—took wins over the weekend with Jonathan Hivert punching Saur-Sojasun’s card, and Matteo Montaguti taking a win for De Rosa-Stac Plastic.
3. And by the way, I’m officially submitting Saur-Sojasun as an example of a team with kit I actually like. That might not be saying anything, considering the overabundance of—let’s call a spade a spade—ugly designs filling the peloton this season. Regardless, I like it—the Gitane’s are a nice touch too.
4. Moving-on, here’s another article from VeloNews on the “therapeutic” merits of PRP Therapy (platelet-rich-plasma). Unless I’m reading it incorrectly, WADA seems to consider this method okay—for now. Maybe I’m missing something, but how is this not considered performance enhancement? Where is the line here?
5. On Friday, I wrote about what might be considered a looming crisis in French cycling. One of my astute readers mentioned that the same could be said of Spain. Footon-Servetto, Euskaltel, and Caisse d’Epargne are Spain’s three Pro Tour teams this year (one more than France). However, Caisse d’Epargne has already announced that this season will be its last, and Mauro Gianetti seems to struggle every year to put his team together. And bikes? Spanish makers BH and Orbea back two of the Spanish squads, but from there the list gets smaller. Riders? Aside from Alberto Contador and Carlos Sastre, Spain’s doing a better job than France of keeping its home talent at home—at least from a Grand Tour perspective; Alejandro Valverde, Samuel Sanchez, and Luis Leon Sanchez all ride for Spanish teams. Classics-wise, the best Spaniards ride for teams more suited to their talents: Juan Antonio Flecha and Carlos Barredo come to mind.
So is the situation in Spain the same as it is in France? Not quite, but with a major team set to dissolve if a new title sponsor cannot be found, the landscape could change quickly.
6. Not sure where it fits in today’s post, but Belgium Knee Warmers published a terrific article on Het Nieuwsblad. We’re less than 4 weeks away!
7. From Belgian racing to Belgian bikes—sort of. I met Craig Gaulzetti through my contributions to Embrocation Cycling Journal. If you didn’t read his piece on VDB, you missed perhaps one of the greatest pieces of writing from 2009. He’s also a talented frame builder who has recently received some very favorable press for his efforts. Aluminum’s his preferred frame material, and the style is all-Belgian. These bikes are tools of a trade and are built to last accordingly. Aluminum doesn’t have the cachet of other materials currently in vogue, but when you’re building something to be raced in an environment of incessant foul weather and bad roads, “en vogue” is not what you need.
Perhaps I’ve said too much—I hate sounding too “precious” about things like this. Regardless, check-out Craig’s work—if you’re the right person for it, you won’t be disappointed.
8. And speaking of bikes, El Cyclista has a terrific new piece about the current color palette of team bikes. Of the 4 images he includes, it’s tough for me to tell which I like the best. Aw heck, I’ll just kill two birds with one stone and say “Ridley”.
Thanks for reading! As always, share your comments below.