Worlds Group Ride Wrap

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

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  1. mark

    “…we who begin watching in January (Tour Down Under) and hang in until October (Giro di Lombardia).”

    Or in some cases, we who begin watching in January and continue watching through the next January, as cyclocross picks up where road season left off.

  2. Doug P

    Thank you Robot, for putting my thoughts and feelings into words. There’s a whole world of cycling out there, it’s not just the “boys of summer”.

  3. Author

    @Doug P. – I struggle, as do many cycling fans, to retain my focus on that which is awesome. Doping is this intense distraction, and I sometimes have an intense reaction to it. Other times, times of clarity, I remember what’s good, and I revel in it.

  4. Michael

    it’s about time. I was beginning to fear that my favorite site was becoming all consumed by negativity, cynicism and fear.

  5. Alex

    Excellent and hyper-pertinent point, Robot. Lets not allow the Tour to cloud the diverse, rich and inspiring universe outside the Tour and perhaps all other GTs in general. Thanks for expressing it as you did!

  6. todd k.

    I was only able to read the World Championships live rather than watch them. But I was nonetheless glued to the iphone staying up way too late even though I had a cross race the next day and was coming down with a cold and the start of a hacking cough. I was glad to read Thor get the win despite what seemed like huge efforts by the Belgians and the Italians as well as the Russians (at least I was always reading about them being in the fold) to control the race. It was an unfamiliar, though not entirely unexpected result. A bit unfortunate for Gilbert as he gave it his all and almost pulled off the role of favorite, but it just wasn’t his year to win the WC.

    I had similar thoughts as you Robot. I was thinking after the race, as I tried to fall asleep, that there seems to be a different kind of rider that appears more aligned to the old throwback romantic notion of what it is to be a professional cyclist. Those riders race year around in all conditions and over courses that may or may not cater to their strengths. For them each day they race has the opportunity to be raced as an end game. For them it is not about the sum aggregate of a three week affair that ultimately defines their success. For them it is: carpe diem.

    Cadel raced great this past year as World Champion. Having the World Champion jersey seems to transform some riders, and I do believe it transformed Cadel into a more exciting and complete rider. He was in the mix for several races, even up through the later portions of the World Championships and had some impressive wins. I much prefer Cadel the Classics rider over Cadel the GC rider. I would have never thought it possible for him to succeed as the kind of Classic’s rider I prefer.

    I can’t wait to see if having the World Champion jersey likewise transforms Thor to some degree next spring. Maybe he will go into Roubaix with a new source of strength? If not I am sure he will pop up somewhere else, hopefully entirely unexpected.

    What I like about Cadel and Thor’s wins is the hope for a continued resurgent appreciation for the hard man type of rider who races year around and isn’t afraid to take the opportunity for the day.

  7. randomactsofcycling

    Bravo Robot. I love the Tour, as I am sure you do too but as a cycling tragic, I am becoming much more educated in the nuances of the ‘Season’ and the different qualities needed to win differing races. I don’t want to send this topic off into another direction, but the emergence of the Tour as an all-powerful monolith certainly had a lot to do with Lance and his miraculous recovery from Cancer. It really was a fairy tale and both parties benefitted enormously.
    I think one of my lingering memories of this almost complete season is of Cadel Evans’ stage win at the Giro. Through mud, rain, dirt, cobbles…it was completely inspiring to me.
    If the Pro-Tour was instigated to encourage more of this ‘season long’ riding, I say it is beginning to succeed.

  8. Jim

    I’m a spring classics guy and as a racer love the Giro, which is the racer’s grand tour. The Tour is nice but it is like the Superbowl; a great spectacle, huge, and usually not the best game of the year.

    Chapeaux to Cadel, who wore the Rainbow Jersey honorably this year and in my estimation grew three sizes, akin to the Grinch’s heart. I’m glad that Thor has now won it, and only a Jens or Spartacus win would have pleased me as much. Thor shows us every year what he is made of as the big man turns himself inside out to stay up with the climbers and pick up sprint points on hilly stages at the Tour, and his day-long breakaway on a hilly stage last year to silence Cav made a stronger impression on us than any words could have – Cav’s brash words met with the silent reproach of Thor’s ballsy action. Unlike some riders who one fears will be crushed by the weight of the Rainbow Stripes, I have a strong feeling Thor will grow further with them and bring honor to the jersey. The king is dead; long live the king!

  9. Ron

    Awesome piece! There are definitely some great pros out there that I love watching ride and cheer for. I too wouldn’t mind seeing the TdF trimmed back a bit.

    Either way, I follow as many races as I can and watched a ton of racing this year, including the Worlds.

    Enjoy the stripes, Thor!

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