The Spring Classics season is over. And now that I’m done crying in my espresso over it. It’s time to shift the mental gears for Grand Tour time. Ignore that grinding sound. My mechanic said it would work itself out, eventually.
And so, let’s take the Group Ride away from race predictions. Who really feels predictively competitive about the Tour of Romandie?
No. This week, in the aftermath of Alexander Vinokourov’s win at Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Mark Cavendish’s profane victory salute in Romandie, I’m thinking about character. I am looking at today’s pro peloton and wondering who the real good guys are. Who, amongst our champions, has the character to go along with his victories? Who has the poise? Who has the class?
Of course, we’ve always had our villains, and I believe they’re a necessary part of the equation. They bring brashness and audacity (Cavendish). They play as foils (Vinokourov) to the good, clean talents pedaling for glory. The bad are often more entertaining than the good, and we all like to be entertained.
What I want to know this week is who you admire? Who will be remembered, not just for their palmarés, but also for the manner in which those victories were won?
My mind goes immediately to a rider like Jens Voigt, the breakaway artist loyal to his team, who suffers with a smile on his face, who makes the hardest parts of bike racing look like fun and respects the riders around him for their power, intelligence and effort.
Then there’s Phillipe Gilbert, outspoken about clean racing, a hard rider on a weak team, an intelligent and humble champion, who can beat stronger riders with his mind, rather than his radio.
There are other worthy riders, of course, but I’ll let you name them.
Image: John Pierce, Photosp0rt International