Good morning to one and all. Thanks to those who joined us in Pavé’s live race coverage and commentary, The Feed Zone, for Saturday’s E3 Prijs and Sunday’s Ghent-Wevelgem. Thanks also to guest commentator Inner Ring, who once again shared his knowledge and insight. Without further ado, here’s what stuck with us from this weekend’s Belgian races:
Fabian Cancellara, who won the E3 Prijs in just about the best way you can win a race – attack the field, join a move, tow it to the next move, tow that one to the front break, drop the break, and win. He showed the full effect of the form that he’s only been hinting at and hiding in advance of the Ronde with a performance that was positively Merckxian. The fact that this came after three efforts to rejoin the field after three mechanicals between 80k and ~60k to go make it doubly impressive.
Stuart O’Grady, who demonstrated perfect teamwork by dropping out of the break to help Cancellara chase down the last group on the road. It was a beautiful and selfless move. But did Cancellara need it?
Sep Vanmarcke of Garmin-Cervelo. This youngster impressed at last year’s Ghent-Wevelgem, making the select break and attacking it in the closing kilometers only to get reeled in and still sprint for second. This year, he was the Garmin-Cervelo representative furthest up the road, where he rode with aplomb, attacked the break when it stopped being beneficial. When he was finally reeled in, he stayed with the lead group and sprinted for 4th place. It must be said that Garmin-Cervelo really won the first half of E3 – with Vanmarcke, Haussler, and Hushovd in the three main groups of the race after Andreas Klier set up a crucial split on the Taaienberg, it was theirs to lose.
Tom Boonen. His Ghent-Wevelgem start was a bit of a surprise after a poor early spring for Quick Step led to a schedule reshuffle. However, he stomped the field sprint and picked up a valuable win to put Quick Step on the only scoreboard that matters – the Belgian scoreboard. The Ronde is this weekend – Boonen’s Ghent-Wevelgem should be a nice bit of confidence.
Thomas Voeckler. Is there any race this guy can’t impress in? He was in the break all day at Ghent-Wevelgem, and then, when that crumbled, took up position at the front of the bunch.
Tom Boonen. You may remember him from the “Winners” portion of this post, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that, compared to Cancellara’s E3 performance, Ghent-Wevelgem was a consoluation prize. The two go face to face next weekend at the Ronde, and good lord, did you see what Canc did to the field on Saturday? If Boonen’s not shaking in his Sidis, then he’s a good actor. See also: Pyrrhic victory.
Thor Hushovd and Garmin-Cervelo. There’s no video of Cancellara’s initial attack on Saturday, so we don’t know what Thor did when he realized that Cancellara raised his flag. Thor either missed the move or couldn’t follow it. With Garmin-Cervelo was placed so strongly and looking so in control of the race until this point, this bit of neglect was the first moment of a strong position crumbling. It’s too bad – Thor looked powerful up until that point, putting the hurt on with hard accelerations up the bergs. But missing that move is a black eye.
Furthermore, Tyler Farrar was outsprinted for third behind Tom Boonen and Daniele “Mister Second Place” Bennati at Ghent-Wevelgem. If Thor Hushovd had made the front group when the peloton split, could Farrar have won? Apply a second black eye to Thor for this weekend’s performance; when was the last time he won out of a breakaway?
Sky’s Ian Stannard attacked the three-man move in the closing kilometers of Ghent-Wevelgem as the peloton breathed down their necks. It seemed for a bit that he could hold the gap, but he was sucked up as Boonen, Farrar, et al were opening up their sprint. Verdict: at 2k to go, he went too early, and doomed the trio and himself.
Katusha had three riders in the decisive move at E3 on Saturday, and what did they wind up doing?
Bram Tankink of Rabobank, through no fault of his own. Rather, his facial expressions when he cramped hard, painfully, and almost comically make him deserve a bit of sympathy. Cancellara dropped him like a stone and went on to ride to the E3 finish alone; credit Tankink with another effort to stay on his wheel – but that was sunk with another painful-looking round of cramps.
Stijn Devolder. Another Belgian weekend spent at the back.
Post-finishline crashes. At Ghent-Wevelgem, it was FDJ’s Yoan Offredo, who after an exhausting race and a hard sprint didn’t have time to brake from 65kph or room to maneuver in a tight bunch and struck his leg on a photographer straying into the road. Offredo swung over 90 degrees before crashing hard, which led to this tender but painful-looking moment with Cofidis’s Leonardo Duque. Far be it for me to tell race photographers how to do their job, but it seems that there are a handful cause post-finish-line crashes every year, and that seems unnecessary.
Ghent-Wevelgem. Normally considered a race that ends with a sprinter winning from a small group, it was a fairly mundane affair this year. And this after teams choosing Ghent-Wevelgem over E3 led to rumors of E3’s demise? More on that later this week.
Those are our thoughts – what’d you notice during the race? What impressed you, and what disappointed you? Share your thoughts below.