2011 Dwars door Vlaanderen – What We Noticed

Photo By Luc Claessen/IPSA Photo


Welcome back, Nick! With a fantastic win in yesterday’s Dwars door Vlaanderen, Saxo Bank’s Nick Nuyens resurrected a career—and a classics team—that many felt had been left for dead.  Here’s what we noticed:

1. So let me get this straight: Rabobank signed Matti Breschel—last year’s Dwars winner, to replace Nick Nuyens—this year’s Dwars winner. Funny how that worked out, huh?

2. And speaking of irony, the score is now Saxo Bank 6, Leopard Trek 2.

3. But seriously, let’s give Nick Nuyens credit for his terrific ride today. After breaking the race apart on the Oude Kwaremont, the Belgian bridged with Sky’s Gerraint Thomas to Frederic Amorison and Rob Goris—the final two survivors from the day’s long breakaway—and held-off a charging field that was eager to produce a field sprint. After two seasons of more or less anonymity, Nuyens appears to have found the talent that earned him wins in the Omloop Het Volk and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and finished second in the Ronde.

4. As for Thomas, the man from Wales is someone to watch over the next few weeks—especially in a race like Ghent-Wevelgem where a small group sprint is a distinct possibility.

5. Run without radios, today’s race certainly produced an exciting finish. But you can’t attribute the outcome to the absence of earpieces as Nuyens and Thomas were well within sight of the peloton—they knew who they were chasing and how much road they had left.

6. Speaking of the chasing peloton, Garmin-Cervélo and Quick-Step had the race (more or less) right where they wanted it and came away with nothing to show for it. With each passing race, the pressure mounts on the two super squads.

7. That said, Quick-Step’s Tom Boonen seems to be coming along quite nicely. He put in a few exploratory attacks to soften the bunch and had little to no trouble following the important moves. I think we’ll get a better idea of his form Saturday Sunday, but for now, he looks to be on-track for Flanders and Roubaix.

8. Despite his penchant for playing “caboose”, Stijn Devolder laid down an attack inside the final 30 kilometers—before promptly heading back to his usual spot at the back of the field. Peter Van Petegem made a living gambling at the back of the bunch; can Devolder get away with the same strategy?

9. Even though they didn’t win, Leopard Trek looks as if it’s ready to dominate the cobbled monuments in much the same way Saxo Bank did last year. Four and five riders-wide at certain points during yesterday’s race, Spartacus and his army seem primed for battle.

10. Team Sky rode a terrific race as well—Flecha looks storng and he has a team surrounding him that has the ability to give Leopard Trek a run for its money. Of the three biggest races held in Belgium thus far this season, Sky has a win and two second-places—an impressive record.

11. Greg Van Avermaet is clearly enjoying the form of his life. While BMC is not on the current list for Saturday’s E3 Prijs; Sunday’s Ghent-Wevelgem is a race perfectly suited to the Belgian’s talents. He’s been one of the peloton’s most exciting riders since the start of the season—here’s hoping he ends up with something show for it.

12. Did you see Johan Vansummeren’s move to get himself to the front right before Knokteberg?

13. At what point will Tom Veelers earn himself a World Tour ride?

Well, that’s enough for one race, I guess. What did you notice?

Share your comments below.






About Whit

My experiences might easily fit many cycling fans' definitions of “living the dream.” Since getting hooked on the sport watching Lance Armstrong win the 1993 U.S. Pro Championship, I've raced as an amateur on Belgian cobbles, traveled Europe to help build a European pro team, and piloted that team from Malaysia to Mont Ventoux. As a former assistant director sportif with Mercury-Viatel, I've also seen the less dreamy side of the sport – the side rife with broken contracts, infighting, and positive dope tests. These days, I live with my lovely wife in Pennsylvania and share my experiences and views on the sport at Bicycling Magazine, the Embrocation Cycling Journal, and at my own site, Pavé.
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6 Responses to 2011 Dwars door Vlaanderen – What We Noticed

  1. Mattio says:

    One of the standout moments of the race, for me, was when Niki Terpstra tried to bridge up to Nuyens, Thomas, and Amorison. They had such a slim lead over the peloton for so long, maybe 10 seconds, that it seemed impossible they'd stay away. So Terpstra tried to bridge up, but Flecha got on his wheel, and they shared words when Terpstra realized that Flecha wouldn't pull through. What'd Niki expect there? If Niki Terpstra was trying to bridge up to a 3-man breakaway with my teammate in it, I wouldn't work for him, either.

    Also loved seeing the whole peloton strung out in a line, riding on the super-narrow sidewalks.

    Welcome back to Belgium, everybody…

  2. cthulhu says:

    Wasn't Breschel last year also at Saxobank?

    What I noticed or better what I did not notice were any Lotto riders at the front.

    @mattio: Belgish commentary was of different opinion, 2 out of 5 is a 40% win chance while 1 out of 3 only 33%. Well, that was their reasoning, but I guess I'd done the same as Flecha.

  3. JustJoshinYa says:

    The pros make the Paterberg look like a sunday stroll (well, the guys up front anyway) even if it was gutter riding. When the stragglers in the back rolled through it sure did look like it hurt (as it should).

    I loved watching Flecha ride Terpstra's wheel and laughed when Terpstra seemed to think that Flecha should pull through. Was he crazy – Flecha would welcome the free ride, but help chase down Thomas? I agree with you that Sky could give LeopTURD a run for it's money. I still think it's Boonen vs Cance that is most exciting, but a Flecha upset would not actually upset me so much…

    I think the biggest takeaway for me was how terrible a chase the sprint teams did at the end (Garvelo should have most of the blame IMO). Someone mentioned that Cooke did a nice "block" in the final curve and might have bought Nuyens/Thomas the extra second or two needed to hold off the bunch. I didn't see that turn quite clear enough to validate it – but the chase should have brought them back sooner…IMO…and Garvelo had the best sprinter who clearly had the kick at the end. Major missed opportunity there.

  4. LeBag says:

    Do you think Garmin's troubles can be partly related to losing Matt White behind the wheel, or other conditions entirely?

  5. hamncheeze says:

    Matthew Hayman is really getting his chance to shine this spring with Sky. After almost a decade of riding at the service of others, it is nice to see him get some chances of his own. Agree on Van Avermaet, he was looking super-lean and fit back in January at Qatar/Oman. And Garmin must surely be feeling some pressure now. Wins in Qatar and Oman are nice, but in the one-day races that count so far they are 0 for 5. (Omloop, KBK, Eroica, MSR, DDV). If they come out of this weekend winless the pressure on them for RvV and P-R will be enormous. Ditto Quickstep.

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