FGR #16 Wrap

The Monuments—capital M—are supposed to be more than just bike races. They are the kings of the Spring Classics, races that transcend the riders who contest them. They are the days that we hope for mythic battles, crucibles that illustrate the constants of the universe, like how you never show your hand before the call.

Done right, the Monuments pit the very finest riders of the peloton against one another in a battle that kills off all the pretenders before the plus-size gal hits the stage. Occasionally, an interloper steals the show, and while that may seem to spoil the fun, it’s the grape seed that gives the wine its body.

Witness Jacky Durand’s victory at Flanders in 1992. His early escape was the mandatory suicide break meant to get Castorama some TV time, no more. Somehow, the plucky Frenchman stuck the break and rolled to the finish screaming, “Je gagne! Je gagne!” (I won! I won!) in one of the great displays of utter disbelief.

It is just such a win by Durand that made the 2010 Ronde Van Vlaanderen one for the ages. On the one hand we had two-time victor Tom Boonen coming off a very fine second place at Milan-San Remo and showing a renewed focus to his craft. On the other was the man who seems to be ticking off world-beating accomplishments like a grocery list: World Championship (2), check. Olympic Gold Medal, check. Paris-Roubaix, check. Milan-San Remo, check. Next up: the Tour of Flanders.

Fabian Cancellara came into the race declaring that if he won only a single race this year, he wanted Flanders. Those who witnessed Cancellara’s stage 3 victory in the 2007 Tour de France or his stunning descent to catch the breakaway in the Olympic road race that led to his bronze medal are familiar with the will power of the man they call Spartacus.

This one was the quintessential battle—McLaren vs. Ferrari. Say what you want about Garmin-Transitions’ Tyler Farrar, Omega Pharma-Lotto’s Philippe Gilbert, even the unexpected performance of Bjorn Leukemans of Vacansoleil or the brief shining light of Farrar’s teammate David Millar—they were all pretenders on the day.

We got a number of great comments, but the one that struck me as the most eerily true was Lachlan’s observation that the average group ride more closely mimics Flanders and Roubaix than they do actual amateur races. He’s onto something with that. It explains to a great degree my decision to stop racing, and is yet another insight into why the Gran Fondo experience is increasingly attractive to riders.

I’ve seen a few different numbers bandied about for Cancellara’s two attacks and whether he was turning 550 watts or more than 600 watts isn’t even close to the point. If you were to compare the average amateur racer to a V6 engine, Cancellara was a V12.

My absolute favorite quote on the day came from runner-up Tom Boonen who was nothing but complimentary of Cancellara’s victory and put the winner’s success into perspective by saying, “I was riding 55kph and I wasn’t getting any closer.”

What of our other predictions and hopes? While I thought it a pipe dream that any English-speaking rider might win Flanders, U.S. riders had, arguably, the best day they’ve ever had at Flanders by placing both fifth (Farrar) and sixth (Hincapie). And let’s give Vacansoleil rider Bjorn Leukemans big props for pulling out just the sort of ride that can embarrass the ASO; no one said anything about a Vacansoleil rider even finishing the race, let alone being part of a three-man break that dumped David Millar on the muur. Nice piece of work, that.

As for the other big names: Flecha, Hushovd, Devolder, they just weren’t in the class of Cancellara and Boonen.

So what do these performances do for Roubaix? Well the odds makers have taken note. Maybe Boonen won’t be so quick to say, “When you race me, you race for second.”

Images: John Pierce, Photosport International

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  1. randomactsofcycling

    Flanders was some of the most exhilarating racing I have ever watched. Truly, it was edge of the seat stuff when the two favourites finally stepped up at the same race. Nose to nose. I am glad my predictions were proven false as it was great to see why these two had earned such favouritism.
    If forced to pick from only Boonen and Cancellara for Roubaix I would have to go with Spartacus. Boonen’s been on form for a while and I feel Cancellara may recover the better of the two.
    But it’s only Tuesday, so I’ll ponder some more and wait for the Friday group ride.

  2. Robot

    What I really liked about this years’ Flanders was that all the decisive moves were obvious. The Cancellara, Boonen, Flecha, Hincapie, et. al. group went away, and you could see the winner would come from that group. And then Cancellara and Boonen went away, and you knew one of them would win, and then Cancellara went away, and it was clear he was going to the line.

    That’s what made it so curious to me that Hincapie talked about having good enough legs to follow, but hesitating when he saw Cancellara go. Why would you do that? It was so transparently the move to make, and yet…

  3. SinglespeedJarv

    As previously noted, another podium that made a Monument worthy of that tag. A huge improvement of the days when Bortalami won from a massive group of nobodies in ’01. Or Steffan Wesemann…rally, he won Flanders? I’m glad I wasn’t paying attention that year.

    Flanders was genuinely exciting, even if I was onoly “watching” on Twitter. There seemed to be a genuine bunch of “contenders”, maybe not on Cancellara and Boonens level, but had they won would have been considered worthy. This year it does’t seem like there are going to be seperate players for Flanders and Roubaix, it seems that everyone that matters is heading t France, something that does’t always happen. We could well see Roubaix turned into a battle of sorts, there are enough top riders going well enough to affect the result, they are factors that Boonen and Cancellara, no matter their strength, can’t control.

    The comment that I took note of most after Flanders was Cancellara saying that he wanted to win allfive monuments. Now that is some statement of intent and I wouldn’t want to bet against him.

  4. mark

    “That’s what made it so curious to me that Hincapie talked about having good enough legs to follow, but hesitating when he saw Cancellara go. Why would you do that? It was so transparently the move to make, and yet…”


  5. Jonny

    This one is going to be on my DVR for a while, an incredible race.

    I agree Robot that it was nice to the decisive moves play out. I think that Saxo Bank as a team has a amazing ability to impose its strategy on the peloton, Stuart and Matti were awesome.

  6. dacrizzow

    beautiful race. Boone pulling on the hills? and yet again we see break and big george just watches it go. what makes these guys think that when Boonen makes a break on Flanders or Paris-Roubaix that he’s going to give anything less than all he has. what a stylish win from Cancellara, ‘cross style bike switch and all.

  7. Touriste-Routier

    What was great was that we didn’t see the negative racing of last year, when Boonen and Pozzato neutralized each other. This year had potential for a repeat, with Boonen and Cancellara, especially considering how on form Breschel is.

    Sure the moves were obvious- but they went earlier than most would have anticipated. You knew Cancellara would have to try to dump Boonen rather than tow him to the line, but who would have predicted that he would just ride away on the Muur? I figured that would be the first blow, but that a later attempt on the Bosberg would have been the one with greater chance of success.

  8. Dr Codfish

    “That’s what made it so curious to me that Hincapie talked about having good enough legs to follow, but hesitating when he saw Cancellara go. Why would you do that?”

    Hincapie might have had what it took but for one thing; he does not know how to win, he only knows how not to win. It smashes my finger in the door every time he does this. I doubt I want to see him win more than he does but I would certainly celebrate more.

  9. Jim

    Late to the party, but wow. Lots of George haters. George is the new Lance? From beloved loyal domestic to whipping boy of the cognoscenti.

    What’s lost is his comments is something readers of them don’t understand: he was pissed to have missed the move, simple as that. We sit here and judge but tell me–who in the world has enough to bridge up to the two guys who have won everything one day between them and who both are on fire?

    Next time Big George rolls by why doesn’t someone bridge across, preferably uphill, and tell him he missed a move.

  10. Big Mikey

    Jim, settle. The comment was that GH said he had the legs, but still didn’t follow the move. And he’s a guy that has made a living missing moves.

    Did it look to anyone else that Boonen was caught in too big a gear when Cancellara made his effort? It seemed like he was seriously bogged down getting up that hill.

  11. Jim

    Big Mikey, no my comments are in response to some other comments. He’s missed moves and lost on the Monuments level, made them and won on smaller stages. Let’s be frank: at this point in his career he doesn’t have the legs of TB & no one has the legs of FC. He’s not a champion, but one of the best of the rest.

    Boonen said he cramped, the reason it looked so dramatic.

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