FGR #11 Wrap

If the Group Ride were an actual race, and Padraig was the RKP DS, then I’d be climbing up the stairs of our lavishly appointed bus right now and apologizing for letting the team down on the opening day of the race season (in Belgium). Clearly, I mistimed my attack, launching the Het Nieuwsblad prediction thread only a few short hours before the race rolled out of Ghent, leaving almost no time for you, the peloton, to chase it down. Don’t worry. I’ll round into form as the season goes on.

Having said that, what a great weekend of racing. Juan Antonio Flecha busts one off with 20km to go and makes it to the line, ALONE IN PHOTO, the best way to finish. Heinrich Haussler, that yapping terrier of a rider, broke the tape second, ahead of a sprint won by Tyler Farrar, for third place.

Gee, that’s funny, no Belgians in the top three. How embarrassing.

I wonder if it has anything to do with all those Flemish hardmen spinning their wheels in the South of Spain in advance of the season, instead of in the wind and cold of their native land. Ironic, then, to be beaten by a Spaniard.

Flecha was all class, not only in winning, but also in paying tribute to his fallen friend Frank Vandenbroucke, a cheater, yes, but a cheater with a flare for the dramatic and a heart of fool’s gold.

Of course, Sunday held the survival race-themed, 2010 running of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, the weather in Belgium turning from “good” to “hellish” overnight. The storm that tore across the northern lands even had a name, “Xythia,” straight out of the Chronicles of Narnia. 195 riders were on the start list. 26 finished. That’s 13% of the peloton you might call “tough.”

Apparently, temperatures in the 40s with wind gusts to 60kph are too much for the pros. Having commuted in those conditions I can confirm that they’re sub-optimal, but really boys, aren’t you being paid to race?

Bobbie Traksel (WHO?) raced and won for Vacansoleil, the Pro Continental squad’s second big win of the year after Wouter Mol took the GC in the Tour of Qatar. Kinda makes you think the smaller investment sponsorship in a Pro Con team might make more sense than the big money Pro Tour ticket, since, to this point, the top purveyor of European camping vacations has garnered more positive press than most, if not all, of the lower level Pro Tour teams.

RKP props to Thor Hushovd and Sylvain Chavanel who were among the few big names who bothered to finish K-B-K. Will it take a Norwegian and a Frenchman to teach the Belgians what it means to be hard again?

There is, of course, time for redemption. We’ve only just begun. Are you listening Tom Boonen?

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  1. Lachlan

    there is a fine line between “hard as nails” and “soft in the head” when it comes to riding. But its true that us cyclists have always liked to think our classic guys, the Belgians in particular managed to be both in a charming and impressive kinda way.

    Yesterday did on the surface seem to suggest otherwise… but then I wasn’t there, and many people (50 at current count) were actually killed by the same storm, and thousands of homes destroyed just a little south in its path along the french coast, so maybe, just maybe it really was that bad…

  2. Amityskinnyguy

    Leave it to a Norwegian to not back down in “Arctic” conditions. Is it just me or are a lot of pro riders turning into whiners?

  3. SinglespeedJarv

    I might be nominating KBK for race of the year, it was such an intense race I doubt any other race else will come close. I’ve not seen hardmen like Hunt and Hushovd give up the chase when in such a prominent position. The three “no-marks” who fought out the win fully deserved it, they weren’t a suicide break, they were in the move anyway and then took their chance and none of the “names” could follow. Good for them, hopefully their gutsy ride might mean they aren’t “no marks” in the future. All three of them should feel justified in thinking they can play a part in the rest of the Belgian classics.

    Boonen and Lefevere are sounding increasingly bitter. Globalisation, is what they wanted, so why is it a surprise when someone other than a Belgian wins a Belgian race? Quick-step used to be the No.1 team, but have been sliding down the rankings since Bettini retired – not that Bettini retiring was a bad thing for cycling – Devolder wants out and sponsor are quitting. Maybe it does have something to do with budgets, but if it is, how much has Boonen’s waywardness cost the team?

  4. Michael

    you are all elevating Thor a little too quickly, it took a hell of a lot of convincing from the team car and a kick in the ass from Dom Rollin to get him to tough it out. he needs the miles in his legs anyways after being sick most the late winter.

    wnow Dom Rollin? that top 5 was something special given from how far back he attempted to bridge up. pure hard man class on his part, he is going to be an interesting wild card and/or team player at Flanders and Roubaix.

    He is my big dark horse for a result of some sort this spring.

    1. Padraig

      Lachlan: That storm did sound serious. I’m not going to second guess how bad it was.

      Amityskinnyguy: I, too, have a perception that some riders quit more easily than they used to. For a PRO to quit a race because of weather just blows my mind. I want to admire these guys for nonchalantly riding through stuff that I wouldn’t walk to my car in. I blame stuff like Qatar for making them soft.

      SinglespeedJar: Interesting point. I think when a sponsorship is delivering on all cylinders companies will always find the money to stay in the game.

      Michael: Like you, I want to see Dominique Rollin win something big in the worst way. I want him to solo the last 100k of Flanders in the rain or something like that. That guy has the potential to slay dragons.

  5. Souleur

    well, all I can say is what a weekend!

    A class act wins Het Volk, and a bad ass whipping for a spring semi classic warm up, promises what I hope to see more of later when we get to the Queen! I have been waiting oh so patiently for a nasty slippery mudfest for paris-roubaix, and I hope this year we get it.


  6. grolby

    Very impressed by Rollin, for sure. He’s a hard man for bad weather… remember what sort of conditions his AToC stage win was made in?

  7. Champs

    Slightly offtopic, but I’ve found it frustrating to watch Versus… in general… but especially when Phil talks about the early season form of “Spanish riders” like they are genetically incapable of winning before May. It may not be on the level of saying black people can’t swim because they “lack buoyancy,” but noteworthy wins of Freire, Contador, and Valverde this year would suggest that it’s a false statement.

  8. Robot

    I am certain that it was a horrific storm, that conditions were really, really terrible. BUT…if this had been the Ronde or PR, do you think so many would have dropped out? K-B-K is a smaller race, less prestigious. They had raced Ghent-Ghent the day before, booked their race miles for the weekend. There was more good reason just to let it go, but…are we not men?

  9. Doug

    Tommke was a hardluck man Saturday-not a hardman. But as Cadel would probably say, best to keep your mouth shut when you have bad luck. The Spanish have kicked so much ass in the Grand Tours it was only a matter of time before they kicked the classics as well.

  10. Souleur

    its a real dichotomy of sorts, racing in races like K-B-K in these conditions, and wanting to race later. All things considered & assuming risks, perhaps I can let them by with this one, hoping they would stick it out for the Queen of the classics and the other majors.

    Also, its a bit off topic, but mentioned. I think the badger mentioned it last year, that if racers were paid to race, results would change. Of course, he was referring to the hiatus that the Frenchman have made from the podium, but it still applies to all.

  11. Touch of Wheels

    no mention of Dom. Rollin’s result? Not a big name in Europe, but good to see a hard man from north america in the top 10. Canada is close enough to USA to claim him.

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