Some said the Worlds Road Race course in Melbourne favored the sprinters. Others said it was more for the rouleurs. As it turned out the best sprinter of the rouleurs, Thor Hushovd, took the rainbow jersey, after first the Italians and then the Belgians tore the race apart. Hushovd won in a bunch sprint executed clinically and also with the patience one would expect of a world champion.
Fabian Cancellara, a titan in his own right, took the time trial for the fourth time, but was unable to make an impression on the road race. Hushovd and Cancellara together represent 12 wins in 2010, including Paris – Roubaix, Ronde van Vlanderen, Tour stages and prologues, a Vuelta stage, the E3 Prijs, national championships, etc. All big races. All year long.
We have been fortunate to have Cadel Evans as world champion for the last year, the Australian riding a season of courage and combativity in the rainbow stripes, and now that Hushovd takes over the shirt, it is fair to expect another great year from the sport’s designated king.
This brings up one very salient point for me.
At a time when le dopáge continues to damage the Tour de France, and we’re nearly to the point of farcical irrelevance now, we are seeing the return of a very special kind of rider. For years, fans and pundits have been asking if the Tour was too big, too important, as its drama and controversy seem to suck all the air out of the cycling universe year after year. Certainly to the casual fan of the sport, pro cycling is little more than those three weeks in July.
But we love cycling, we who begin watching in January (Tour Down Under) and hang in until October (Giro di Lombardia). We can wring our hands and gnash our teeth over the composition of Alberto Contador’s urine, but perhaps it’s just a better choice to revel in the brilliance of riders like Thor Hushovd, Cadel Evans, Fabian Cancellara, Philippe Gilbert, Sylvain Chavanel, etc., etc.
Maybe it’s ok for the Tour to die a little, to have its branches trimmed, so that its sheer size doesn’t leave the whole of cycling in its shadows. Because bicycle racing is good. There are still heroes to watch. There is still inspiration to be gleaned from the performances of those who ride hard in January, March, May, July, and October.
We have new world champions, and they are worthy.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International