Friday Group Ride #109


Today, at work, we talked about whether it was really still possible to go away on the Poggio, to wreck the day for the sprinters at Milan-San Remo. Oh, sure, any group sprint after 290km isn’t the cut and often dried affair it is during the first week of July in France.

But that’s neither here nor there. There is no answer. It’s the perfect discussion for a Friday afternoon at work.

This time of year is special. Milan-San Remo. Flanders. Roubaix. The Ardennes races. All year long we wish for these days to come, and then they’re upon us. They rush up like a German Shepherd off its lead, and then we’re away and down the road.

The Giro makes a pretty good consolation for the end of Classics season. And then you’re sliding into the Tour de France. What a total fucking carnival that is, eh? I mean, I’m not going to wax poetic about the Tour. Better men have done that job.

But oh, when the Tour ends, though there are still so many good races left, you start to feel a little desperate. The season is slipping away. Imagine how the riders feel? No. Imagine how the riders who haven’t won anything yet feel. You don’t want to show up at Lombardy worried about your contract.

This season has only just begun, but I can already feel some of that sadness that sets in the when the leaves fall and the wind first smells of wood smoke. It’s bullshit, but it’s there. Can you feel pre-sad?

This week’s Group Ride asks the stupid question: Which race, when it’s over, do you miss the most? I suppose it’s a bit like asking which race is your favorite, except it’s not. I love Flanders and Roubaix, but I feel sadder when Liege-Bastogne-Liege is done. Things change then.

Hell, sometimes when I’m sure I’ve outrun the German Shepherd I wish he’d come back. Cycling is funny that way.


Image: Photoreporter Sirotti

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  1. grolby

    What I really want to know is, where do you work that you can shoot the shit about cycling on a Friday afternoon? And are they hiring! (I’m winking, but in kind of a desperate way).

    Anyway, for me it’s Liege. The end of the Classics. I love the Tour, and I love the Giro, but there’s something special about those one-day races. By the time the Grand Tours are winding down, I’m ready for it. I’m nearing the end of the story. In the Classics, it feels like there’s so much more that could be told, but too few kilometers to fit it all in. But then, that’s part of what makes the Classics so beautiful. No time for for mediocrity. Not even it me for the merely good. Time only for greatness.

  2. SusanJane

    I can tell you what I don’t miss when it’s over… the Tour. I am unashamedly exciting when it starts. I sit day after day with my butt getting wider watching the whole stage only to go upstairs and read what everyone had to say about it. By the time of the last time trial I starting to feel the let down. I had belonged. The race was mine, too. The final podium is grand. But. I hate the silly season. So maybe that’s it.

  3. armybikerider

    Like Grolby, I would love to have coworkers that wanted to discuss, or even cared to know about anything related to bicycle racing. They think I’m crazy for commuting, think I’m insane when I explain the helmet tan line on my face and neck and when I relate the miles that I ride they shake their heads and walk away.

    I love Paris-Roubaix. It’s like a Thanksgiving Day feast – Anticipated for days (or longer), savored deeply and when it’s over I’m left feeling deeply satisfied. Video footage recalling the events that I can view later are like leftovers to be enjoyed at leasure.

    I hate the end of the Giro di Lombardia the most I think. Not for the race being over, but for what it signifies. It’s the end of the season, arm warmers are back out in the peloton and cold weather is creeping back. Seems the older I get, the more I dislike the cold, especially on my bike.

  4. Jody

    It would have to be “Lombardy” for me because the race season is over and that makes me sad. It also means foul windy weather to train in even sadder. Only good thing is Football season is on. I do wish I worked with folks I could talk cycling with. They all think there is something wrong with me. I know there are a few closet cycling fans but they won’t admit it.

  5. CaptainH

    It’s the Tour. It’s a tradition in the house to watch the (DVR’d) early morning coverage and share the day’s excitement with Paul and Phil with dinner. All of us (kids too). What can be better than your daughter turning around from the TV to tell you that the chase group is in a “spot of bother” ?

  6. Brad

    There is a definitive disappointment for me when the Spring Classics are over. I love the Tour, but in some ways I almost dread its arrival. The three week process for determining the victor is agonizing for me. Whereas with the Spring Classics, they come in rapid-fire succession, each with their own build-up and frenzy. There is no holding back by the riders. One day, give it everything you have and see what happens. Rinse and repeat a few days later. Its the real deal for me.

    1. Padraig

      Likewise, the day after the Tour is over is a dark day to me. It feels as if summer itself is drawing to a close. The exception to this was on those occasions when either Greg LeMond or Lance Armstrong won. I can remember feeling elated the day after the Tour ended, as if I, myself, had won. Also, the day after Lombardia; so begins a long purgatory that ‘cross can’t fix.

      BTW: We’re giving Charles the day off for a family trip. He’ll be back with The Explainer next week.

  7. Shawn

    It’s the Vuelta that I miss most and not because I love this ugly stepchild of a grand tour. It marks the end of summer and is simultaneous with that start of school feeling in the pit of my stomach which I will probably always feel on the 1st cool day of August. (In contrast, Lombardy’s conclusion just brings sheer depression.)

  8. Paul I.

    Agree with the Shawn on the Vuelta. Once that is over, then you know that summer is just about done. There’s still Lombardy to come, but the season is really winding down.

    And to answer the question that Robot started with: it would seem that the answer is yes, as long as you have Cancellara to tow you to the line 😉

  9. Robot

    @Paul I. – Poor Fabian. Damned if he tows them to the line. Damned if he doesn’t. Because honestly, if he sits up and doesn’t ride, that attack doesn’t stick. So he rides, and then Gerrans noses him on the line. Poor guy.

  10. Chuckles

    Don’t say “Poor Guy” about Cancellara. Most racing cyclists, even those pros who suck his draft to the line, want to be him…wish they could inflict pain like he does. Whether he wins or not, he is universally and consistently feared, envied and awed. I’d take such a position over being kissed on the cheek every so often for a sprint win.

  11. melbin_rider

    umm, no he doesn’t. gerro rode fair and square, took enough of a turn only to prevent the trio being caught and but still leaving enough in the tank to cross the finish line first (the point of racing, no?). faboo undoubtedly provided the platform, but nothing should be taken from gerro.

  12. Mark Adam

    I actually get quite excited after the Tour ends. It means that the silly season is on its way. I enjoy witnessed the trading of sponsors and players to new teams and organizations. It also means the World Championships are on the way. An old coworker of mine, Jon Wike, once told me that if I wanted to learn anything about race tactics to rent or buy ever DVD of past World Championship races. He was right. Amazing races. This year, we are lucky to be fans during an Olympic season. Two incredible late season races.

  13. Paul I.

    @melbin_rider — you are correct. Nibali didn’t have to do anything, because if they were caught the race would be Sagan’s to lost. Similarly for Gerrans, he knew that Goss was in the pack behind. Cancellara was on his own, he had a slim chance of winning if he kept going, no chance at all if he sat up. And you get a lot more UCI points for coming second in a Monument than for finishing in the bunch.

    All credit to Gerrans. He was the only one who had the position and the legs to follow Nibali. Well raced.

  14. armybikerider

    To Gerran’s credit he in no uncertain terms has stated that Sparticus was the strongest of the three. I think that the Greenedge rider called him a “motorbike.” And to Cancelarra’s credit, he was gracious in the #2 position as usual.

  15. Cat4Fodder

    To me it is the Vuelta, the world;s and then the Giro di Lombardia. In Colorado, is really coincides with the end of the nice weather riding up on the Peak-to-Peak Highway (without having to deal with heavier riding gear).

    Quite frankly, the Tour is almost always a let down (last year and sadly, Landis’s year most recently were the exceptions). The Vuelta is becoming more like the Giro…i.e. – you do not win fans with sprint stages).

    However…the Tour of the Fallen Leaves to me really saddens me. It kind of marks the end of the season…sorry China…and for those who pick an earlier date…it is only because they are not paying attention. But after Lombardia, the season really is over for the “A” riders.

    But rather than fret over the end of the season..let’s relish the fact we have an Olympic year of racing. One more awesome race….

    And BTW – if you care about Cross or Track….well, the season really never ends.

  16. Eddie

    For me it has to be Roubaix, It seems like the season has just started and already the best part is over. I get the same feeling when the Daytona 500 is over. I know it is rare for a cycling fan to also be a NASCAR fan, but what can I say I was raised in the South.

  17. Author

    Gerrans did exactly what he was supposed to do. He won the race. There’s no moral victory there if he lets Cancellara win. First, he had the legs to go with Nibali. Then he had the legs to hold onto Spartacus. Finally, he had the nous to let Cancellara lead him out. Brilliant. If you can ride that race after 250+km you deserve to win. Full stop.

  18. ben

    My favorite races are the Ardennes…especially Liege.

    As for MSR…Fabian’s problem in that race was the same he had @ Flanders and Roubaix last year…no team strategy. Both Gerrans and Nibali had their teammates behind to go for the win and weren’t obliged to do any pulling.

    Team Radio-trek needs to figure out how to play the game in these 1-day races b/c the same tactics will likely play-out in the coming weeks. Of course they (Leopard-Trek) had the ideal scenario in last year’s L-B-L and blew that so…

    BTW the headlines today are stating that the MSR organizers want to make it hillier/more selective. What do y’all think? For me, I like MSR the way it is. It’s not an Ardennes-type hilly race, and it’s not a cobbled classic. There is a certain way to ride MSR that makes it unique and opens the door to a variety of types going for the win. In the top 3 you had a fast-man(Gerrans), strong man/TT specialist (F.C.), and an all-rounder/GT-winner (Nibali). I don’t think we’ll see that type of rider-diversity on the podium for the rest of the season!

  19. The_D

    Chuckles: that’s it exactly. Cheers for that!

    That’s just why I think it’s right that fans will recall Cancellara’s legendary ride with awe, and it’s equally right that we commend Gerrans for playing the winning hand in a great bike race. This is like (but not exactly like) those occasions in popular US sport when we can’t remember who won the game, but still remember the breathtaking Barry Sanders run or the physics-warping Blake Griffin dunk.

    Seriously, the last 7K of MSR are available online. Such a show of overwhelming force by Cancellara, I was actually marvelling at Gerrans and Nibali for staying (mostly) on his wheel. I am also pretty sure I could sense the fear in everyone else.

  20. Vandenberg

    The_D: While great, I didn’t see Fab’s ride as legendary. Legendary would’ve ridden Gerro and Nibali off his wheel… It’s more likely to be remembered as another missed opportunity for Fabian, and a stunning win for Gerrans. my 2c.

  21. henrietta

    Y’all should watch Sean Kelly chase Moreno Argentin down the Poggio in 1992. Kelly then sits behind Argentin for over a kilometer before creaming him in a sprint. That’s legendary.

    Cancellara didn’t ride them off his wheel this time, but he’s done it before and he’ll do it again.

  22. Ron

    This is only the second or third year that I’ve followed races beyond the TdF. I’m still a budding pro tour fan, so I love all the races. When things quite down after the Worlds and Lombardy, I don’t really feel too sad – I love fall riding & am already looking forward to the Tour Down Under.

    Can’t wait for the races coming up! I also followed cross pro races this year for the first time as well. That was awesome!

    So, too much for me to look forward to on the calendar & much less to be pre-sad about!

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