FGR#19 Wrap

Let’s just get this one thing straight before we go any further. Alberto Contador does NOT hug teammates he doesn’t like. If the 2009 Astana saga didn’t teach us that, then we learned nothing at all. So, all you conspiracy-theorists who think Vinokourov attacked his teammate when the aforementioned teammate wasn’t expecting it, I’m sorry. Circumstances on the ground just don’t confirm that theory.

If anything they suggest that Astana and Contador have now learned how to use psychological misdirection to spring a surprise on the peloton. Be afraid, Johann Bruyneel. Be very afraid.

Right, so now, onto the race.

Wow! Even watching the emotionally flat, Sporza web-feed in Flemish I was excited by this year’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege. There were the Schlecks mixing it up at the front of the race. There were attacks galore from all and sundry. There was Alejandro Valverde sucking on Phillipe Gilbert’s wheel. And Gilbert! Was anyone NOT rooting for this guy to catch the break?

Alas, he just left it too late.

Even as they came inside 2k to go, I thought maybe Kolobnev was going to pull a Tchmil on Vinokourov, storming away at the death in that impassive Russian way. But no, instead we got Vinokourov, some people’s villain, whipping the crowd into the sort of frenzy usually reserved for professional wrestling events.

It was a beautiful race, if not a wholly pleasing result. Despite all that, we’ve gotten 24 solid hours of hand-wringing drama out of it, so, to my mind, a fitting end to the Spring Classics season.

No one predicted a Kazakh victory, so we remain awash in stickers at RKP HQ. No worries. There will be plenty more opportunities to win.

As to the many recovery solutions you proffered, some were funny, some were old-school reliable and a few had the novelty of a new group from Campagnolo: attractive, yes … but reliable? We’ll let you know how a few of these work out. Not trying the milk bath, though.

Next up is what I’d call the season’s taint race, the Tour of Romandie. It taint a classic, and it taint a Grand Tour, a dubious distinction indeed.

Image: John Pierce, Photosport International

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  1. Henry

    I’m liking this version of Astana a lot more then last years. Contador isn’t playing it safe and marshaling his resources for one race. He doesn’t care if he is puncturing his aura of invincibility by competing in races that are not perfectly suited to him. He respects the history of the races and seems to love the sport. Vino is always fun to watch and Contador seems to be having a good time with his Kazak team mates. They are shaping up to be quite a squad.


  2. grolby

    Yeah – consider my comment on Contador and Vino from the previous discussion redacted. I hadn’t known about the hug. Contador really wears his heart on his sleeve when it comes to his feelings about teammates.

  3. Cedrik

    I missed the actual FGR#19, but I recently (some months) started using compression calf sleeves when I do back-to-back long workouts. I’m so amazed by their efficacy I brought them on a multi-day ski tour and will bring them on multi-day backpacking trips this summer.

  4. C.Monaco

    Getting people suspicious by stating the ‘training’ intent of the ride, then attacking as expected, only for it to be a strong, strong tactical move to set up Vinnie was a staggering display of foresight, with the guts and legs to pull it off.

    Much as I have enjoyed Vinokourov’s return to cycling, I would have loved to see Kolobnev take the victory. His showings the past two, two-and-a-half weeks have been a delight and just incredible. It seems as though he has been a set-up man, though, and he could certainly go far with some further support.

  5. SinglespeedJarv

    You know mis-direction and Vino and Contador…consider that point made in the Group Ride.

    Utterly disagree about the race being any good, irrespective of the outcome. La Redoute was the niggest anti-climax ever, they rode up like it was a club-ride. Then on the Roche-aux-Faucons, it looked like we were finally getting some action only for it to all come back together. The single highlight was willing Gilbert to get across and steal the win, but despite the dodgy time-gaps you knew in your heart that even Vandenbroucke at his loaded best would have struggled to get across that gap.

    Although people (The Sprinters) argue that Milan-San Remo isn’t a bunch sprint and you have to be able to climb to get to the finish, Liege has serious hills that you’d never expect to see Cavendish or Hushovd get over with the lead group. So why does Liege so often come down to the lottery of what s effectively big bunch sprint, if not for the win then for the lower podium places or the top-5. The race has become one of the most predicatable ever, everyone sits tight until the Cote de la Roche-aux-Faucons. Then the favourites attack and everyone who can’t climb as well as them then chase back on the descent with everyone coming together around the red kite. It’s as if most of them just aren’t really trying.

    I just feel the race is losing it’s attraction as a ‘Monument’.

  6. randomactsofcycling

    SinglespeedJarv, I hear you. But it is not often that riders have the legs of Cancellara or Boonen to get away from the rest. I don’t think we’ll ever see a Contador or Evans (I’m trying to think of guys that are strong time trialers) make a break in this race and hold it. The terrain, though at times steep, is not as decisive as cobbled races. I think the smoother roads lend themselves to co-operation and therefore more chance of a bunch finish. At the most there is 2-3% difference in ability between most of these guys. That makes staying away almost impossible if the terrain doesn’t help.
    On another note, why is Vino so popular amongst his fellow riders? I’ve never quite understood. Even back at Telekom, when he clearly raced for himself despite the presence of Jan and Erik, he was everyone’s friend. Is he actually a great guy, despite his ‘training’ habits?

  7. randomactsofcycling

    Having just read Vinokourov’s open letter to the Press, I understand a little more why he appears to be so likeable. He’s certainly not one to hide!

  8. MattyVT

    When Puerto broke and Vino couldn’t start the Tour because his team didn’t have enough riders I felt terrible for him. Then he went on to beat Valverde at the Vuelta I thought he had redemption, but all of that changed when he failed the drug test at the ’07 tour.

    Much like Ricco, my problem is that he never felt the need to sincerely apologize or show remorse until he was pressured heavily to do so. Even then it seemed insincere and forced.

  9. todd k

    I found myself quite enthusiastically sucked into LBL despite myself. I think after the domination of Cancellara during the earlier portion of spring, I was relieved to find LBL a lot less decisive for a more significant portion of the race. Though Cadel, Valverde and Gilbert were unable to bridge, I was able to suspend disbelief until the final k.

    I concur with Robot, Contrador seems to really like his Astana team and team mates this year. How much of that is motivated by it simply not being team Armstrong, who knows?

    I also see that post LBL the Contrador-Vino duo have messaged they now taking the show to the Giro. I think he found the way things turned out in LBL very favorable for him to make that decision so quickly post LBL. Interesting decision. The ultimate conceit? Hoping to throw a Giro/Tour double at the Armstrong camp? Or ride for Vino just to undermine the TOC?. Or just stick it to Cadel? I’ll give Contrador some props for having the moxie to seemingly continue to throw caution into the wind with respect to modern day conventions regarding Tour prep. He must feel pretty good about things in the Astana camp these days indeed!

  10. jza

    A byproduct of clean(er) racing is that the races are less entertaining. Most anyone who has raced a bike knows that once truly broken, there’s no coming back. And even the best (clean) pro’s may truly crack after 230k.

    In a totally clean race, the guys who can ride at 400 watts after 230k will simply pull away from the guys that can only do 380. Drugs distort a natural power curve and allow riders those 5th, 6th and 7th winds that characterized dramatic comebacks over the past 10 years.

    Ultimately, it looks more like amateur racing. In the local Pro/1/2, it’s pretty clear who’s Alpha and who’s just hanging on.

  11. SinglespeedJarv

    I’m not saying that I want to see Cancellara riding away from the field in every race, but my understanding of racing was that unless you were a sprinter it was always better to get away ina group and the smaller the group the better. Now look at LBL, you have your big favourites, such as the Schlecks, Valverde, Contador, Gilbert and Evans, but who else is going to be able to match them mano et mano on the latter climbs? No-one, so if you end up at the foot of the Roche-aux-Faucons in a big bunch and the favourites are there, big probability is that you have already lost the race.

    Take Cunego for example, a rider who can win classics, but doesn’t look like he has what it takes to go up against the favourites, or Team Sky, if you’re a half-decent climber, then why not attack on La Redoute? At least then it forces the favourites or at least their teams to respond. It means you take a hand in shaping the race, rather than just following everywhere.

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