Monday Musette – Wrapping-up the Ronde

Photo by Luc Claessen/ISPA Photo

 

Two Monuments down and two to go so far this spring—can it get any more exciting?

Here’s what we saw during yesterday’s Tour of Flanders:

1. With his fantastic win yesterday, Saxo Bank-Sunguard’s Nick Nuyens joined the upper echelon of contemporary Belgian classics stars, adding the Ronde to a resume that already includes the U23 Tour of Flanders, Het Volk, Paris-Brussels, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, and Dwars door Vlaanderen. He’s also the first to win Dwars and the Ronde in the same spring since Johan Museeuw in 1993. That’s good company!

2. Nuyens and Saxo Bank clearly benefitted from an abundance of more-favored teams, letting other sqauds control the race while waiting for the right move. Baden Cooke deserves special mention—he’s clearly the man Nuyens can count on most to get him where he needs to be when he needs to be there. Don’t rule them out Sunday either.

3. And at what point will Bjarne Riis receive at least a little bit of credit for picking talent and reinvigorating seemingly dead careers? If I would have said in January that Nuyens would be a more than adequate replacement for the loss of Fabian Cancellara and Matti Breschel you might have called me crazy. Now Nuyens has given his team two important Belgian wins and its second-consecutive Tour of Flanders.

4. There’s been a lot of criticism already regarding Quick-Step’s tactics, but I think it’s a bit overblown. They did their best, but just came up short in the end—let’s not read too much into it. Chavanel rode a textbook-perfect race in support of his teammate Tom Boonen, covering moves and doing his best to keep Cancellara in reach of Boonen’s chase group. In the sprint, yes he was boxed-in, but I doubt he had the legs to overcome Nuyens anyway—after all, he was off the front since the Kwaremont. He’s another contender for Roubaix Sunday—and might find success playing a similar role within his team.

5. As for Cancellara, he’s clearly one of the classiest riders in the peloton. A victim of cramps during the finale of a race held in unexpectedly warm, sunny weather, the Swiss champion refused to take anything away from his colleagues afterwards. “Even when you’re strong, you’re beatable,” he said in a post-race interview. Some claim hubris as the reason for Cancellara’s “loss”. I blame dehydration.

6. Tom Boonen’s fourth-place finish isn’t bad—especially with a teammate in second—but it’s still a far cry from what many had hoped. Let’s be honest: Boonen never really looked to be a major contender yesterday. He tried to follow Cancellara’s attack on the Leberg and did his best to bring the race back together heading into Meerbeke, but never looked as if he were one of the race’s best. His team claims he’s a week away from top fitness—I have my doubts.

7. Fifth on the day went to Sebastian Langeveld, Holland’s future classics star, and sixth went to George Hincapie—an impressive result for the American in his penultimate Tour of Flanders. Perhaps more important for George, his BMC team was the most well-represented at the end of yesterday’s race, a good sign heading into Paris-Roubaix this weekend. It just goes to show what a little positive reinforcement can do, I guess.

8. Hello Bjorn Leuekemans, it’s nice to see you again.

9. It’s nice to meet you too, Staf Scheirlinckx!

10. Philippe Gilbert finished the day ninth after a late-race attack that sent fans everywhere to the edge of their seats. I wonder what he might have done had he not attacked on the Bosberg. Would he have had the legs to follow the final move? Gilbert gets a break now, then heads back to action at Amstel and the Ardennes.

11. As for Team Sky. Geraint Thomas rode one hell of race on behalf of Juan Antonio Flecha, then beat his captain in the “sprint” for 10th. Britain looks to have a pretty serious star on its hands. And Flecha?  He never looked in it to win it yesterday—maybe Roubaix will suit him better?

12. Garmin-Cervélo proved to everyone that it’s hard to win a race when you’re racing for third. With Thor as the team’s undisputed captain for Roubaix—he looked good at many points Sunday—there’s still hope. Too bad the Scheldeprijs doesn’t count as a Monument.

13. Other big losers yesterday: Filippo Pozzato finished 38th; Liquigas-Cannondale’s first rider came home 95th; and Stijn Devolder proved unable to respond to his critics.

14. Speaking of racing for third, we wouldn’t know about Garmin’s strategy had the organizers not put microphones and cameras in several team cars. I applaud the move and hope we’ll see more of it in the future. From Wilfred Peeters claiming that Cancellara was too strong to Saxo Bank’s unabashed elation, the new perspective is a welcome one.

15. And last but not least, for those of you keeping track in the constructor’s race, that’s now Paris-Nice, Milan-San Remo, Dwars door Vlaanderen, and the Tour of Flanders for Specialized, and the E3 Prijs and the Criterium International for Trek (and Camelback?).

Hope you enjoyed the race—share your comments and observations below.

And please, if you have the means, take a minute and support Pavé by ordering some of our 2011 team kit. Every little bit helps, and we appreciate those who have ordered so far.

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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11 Responses to Monday Musette – Wrapping-up the Ronde

  1. robot says:

    Whit,
    Excellent wrap. I only disagree a little on QS' tactics. I think they were perfect in plan and execution, BUT I think they took too long to let Chavanel go. Once he held Cancellara's wheel after Cancellara dropped Boonen, et. al. it showed who had legs and who didn't. By the time they let Chava go freelance, there wasn't enough room left to take advantage of Cancellara's cramps, which Chava would have know about by holding the Saxo man's wheel while he discussed it with the team car.

    It's a quibble though. Second and fourth is a damn good day.

    Robot

  2. thebaldbiker says:

    What a great race. Great recap as well.

    A few things stuck out for me:

    1. Cancellara has class, continuing to ride at the front after being caught, even pushing the pace.
    2. I don't think anyone want the Ronde more than Gilbert.
    3. Quick Step: WTF? When you're 100 meters ahead of your leader with less than a km to go you sprint. Stop looking back for Boonen to bridge and then sprint. Go for it!
    4. Stijn Devolder would have answered his critics but they were at the front of the peleton. Zing!

    All in all a great race, can't wait for Roubaix. I'm calling it "The Rumble on the Cobbles." Be there, be there, be there! Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

  3. Gadi says:

    First – most enjoyable piece – once again – as was joining you all guys yesterday !
    As for Cancellara , I wonder what would have happened if Spartacus didn't reveal his cards (form) week before at the E3 ? . As for PG – his performance yesterday reminded me last year Worlds , and I can't avoid thinking that he's missing the x something regarding the necessity of taking a deep breath before he is making his moves .
    It was some race yesterday !!!

  4. Beeline says:

    I think some claim hubris because he says things like, “Even Superman can have a weak moment.”

  5. Aguirre says:

    Great recap. Phenomenal race to watch, not many races are worth getting up at 4:30 for but watching RVV develop into a true 'classic,' was indeed worth it. Chavanel was awesome, would have been great to see a Frenchman win. Personally I have never held Cancellara in higher esteem, a truly amazing effort and nothing but class all the way. Don't think Boonen has it, would have loved to seen a healthy Yoann Offredo out there mixing it up and IMHO Garmin got the 13th place they deserved. Well done Mr. Nuyens.

  6. Touriste-Routier says:

    What a fantastic race; we will be oh so lucky to have another one like that this season! It had a great combination of predictability (Cancellara going early after being set-up by Boonen, and later Gilbert attacking on the Bosberg), and the unfathomable (Cancellara desperate for a bidon, followed by rocking and rolling before the Muur, then recovering to go on the attack again in the closing Kms). You just never knew how things would play out. In the end, patience was the winning virtue for Nuyens.

    @Beeline, I don't think i is fair to label Cancellara's statements as hubris, as I believe he only uses the term because others (including the media) describe/label him as Superman. I thought he was actually quite humble in the post race interviews.

    • Beeline says:

      “I am the only man in the world who can make an attack like the one in Flanders, or in Roubaix in 2010. Everybody knows that if I’m at 100 percent they have to fasten their seatbelts, like on an aeroplane.”

      “I’m very happy: there were fifty of them behind a gladiator…. And in the end the one who was always in the wheels won. Congratulations to Nuyens, but for me [winning] like that has no value.”

      He's like school in August. NO class.

      • Touriste-Routier says:

        I didn't see or hear those words, nor do I know the context they were stated, but I will admit that they are mighty bold. I was referring to the "Superman" statement. In the post race interview on Sporza, he was quite humble, and as Whit pointed out in the original post, didn't take anything away from the others.

  7. Kevin says:

    I think though Boonen catches them at the line if the race is 200m further. THey played the right tactic to slay Cancellara.

  8. Simon says:

    Great recap. I don't have issues with Garmin's tactics – I'm not sure what other call JV could have made with the cards he had to play. Farrar isn't Jens, or Chavanel. I think the question should rather be why so many of their top guys just don't seem to have form – or are they another team guilty of backing the wrong horses? It's not like they're lacking in depth for the classics, after all – but the team just doesn't seem to be firing. It's been great to see some of the young brit riders coming through with Sky. Ian Stannard has done a couple of exceptional rides on the cobbles and seems to have something in his legs, don't be surprised to see him up there helping Flecha and Thomas towards the end come Saturday, and I recall Steve Cummings doing some mighty turns on the tour stage to Arenberg last year…

    Fabien will be shouting with his legs come Saturday. I'm not sure anyone will be able to neutralize him this time. If they do, I think the suspicion that Riis was the DS for him might just gather some moss. Gilbert seems to be coming into form, and if Quickstep defy my expectations, learn from their mistakes and cut Chavanel free, I reckon those two might just provide us with a classic Liege this year…

  9. adam says:

    Robot,
    A point I’ll make here in response to criticism of QS not letting Chavanel ride his own race – it all comes down to sponsorship dollars.
    Yes, Chava was stronger that day. But right to the very end, Boonen was never out of contention and to a Belgian team with a charismatic Belgian leader, a win for Tom is simply more valuable. Lefevre did the same thing in 1996 at PR. The Lance and Alberto battle of 2009 wasn’t about who was better – clearly Pistolero – but there’s no argument no matter what your stance on Lance that win #8 by big Tex would bring in more money. It’s the same reason that Greipel is riding with Lotto this year and Menchov is with Geox.

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