Sunday, 28 February 2010
Are we seeing a new formular to this race? New Team wants to make a big impression on the peloton, New Team wins race, everybody writes lots of column inches and ASO take notice. Job done? Well the pressures on Cervelo Test Team and those upon the SKY Team are slightly different. CTT being Pro Continental and, in many ways, had nothing to prove and in so winning and hitting the podium regularly last year managed the year to be a stomping success. SKY on the other hand are playing in the big boys leauge, and winning this race has great importance as it shows their massive intent for the year ahead. To dominate the Cobbled Classics will take all of the combined brain power and energy of both the riders and the DS's on the day.
I was pretty chuffed to see SKY win, mainly for two reasons. 1. Juan Antonio Flechca, so often the bridesmaid and never the bride. Well thankfully that is over. Over the last 5 or 6 years he has been the most consistent none Northern European rider in all of those races. Hers's my thoughts on the rest of the Cobbled season, podium at the Ronde and Winner at Paris-Roubaix. If SKY choose to run the big powerhouses in the Team, I'm not sure that even the mighty Quick Step will be able to beat them, but that's my punt. 2. Scott Sunderland. He has had a very tough year. With both setting up a whole new structure and all the elements that go with it. Combined with the fact that one of his boys, Tristan, has not been very well provides a whole other bunch of stress and worry. As a parent I take my hats off to them (the Sunderlands), they are great people I love the fact the whole family is enjoying the success. He has always been friendly to this over excited cycling fan and I can't thank him enough for giving me some of his precious time.
Okay to the Race. I only came in with 59km to go. Swimming and a bit of shopping with the family took care of the first 150km so I can only comment on what I saw. Being the first Cobbled Race of the year many of the riders are testing each others form as this year the warmer races in Australia and the Middle East provided a very much needed burn up for the riders who have struggled to get the same quality training in the bag while being based in Northern Europe.
At 52km to go Boonen powers up the climb, riding away easierly from the other riders. I really think Boonen wanted to win today as it is one race missing from his palmares. Looking at how light and strong he is I'd suspect that the Ronde is first on his list, losing that extra 5kg will help him in this years edition for sure. With that surge in pace the gap to the leaders dropped to 1:25. Boonen pedals on but then realises that the group is catching up, knowing that there is strength in numbers he soft taps until they breach the gap to him.
A group of 20 or so riders bridge the 30 second gap to Boonen. His (Boonen) power looks to have remained intact even though he's lost the weight, a scary prospect for any other rider. The classic tactic of firing off a rider one at a time is deployed, this rarely works out with so far to go, but the process wittles down the selection of riders. Gilbet and Roelandts look strong and with Cadel Evan's gone they now can concentrate on being a good Classics Team again.
Sieberg goes at around kilometre 37 to go. At first I thought it might succeed but there was no way Boonen was going to let it go, he really wanted this. Boonen has a puncture at 27km to go which effectively takes him out of the race as he had to swap wheels with a Team mate, which didn't go as quickly or smoothly as it does when a Team mechanic does the job. Maybe next year Tom.
A group of six riders make the break. Noteable mentions have to go to two time winner Gilbert who had Team mate Roelandts with him (for the record I think Roelandts will bag a Northern Semi Classic this year) and Flecha. Sitting at home shouting at the screen only Gilbert or Flecha have the real chance of winning. Flecha goes at 19km to go. A long way out but winning can come from a bold move like this, it reminds me of Devolders attacks in Flanders over the last two years, maybe a dry run for this years addition for Flecha.
Gilbert seems unable to respond and having a Team mate there seems to be doing nothing in bridging the gap. Flecha must have gone deep into the hurt locker as the gap kept opening up. Sunderland manages to get along side him in the Team car and offer words of advice and encouragement. The Spanaird keeps going and the lead continues to build, he's gained 30 secs in 4km. Flecha has 12km to go and with only one sector of pave left (700m long) he has to keep going and not look back.
At this point Cervelo hit the front of the chasing peloton, Hammond and Hunt giving it big potatos to bring Haussler up into contention. Quick Step seem to be asleep today and the Lotto boys have had a much better race on a whole. With 6km to go Haussler hits the front of the chasing group, his left knee heavily strapped after his crash. I think he is using a product called Rock Tape, pop over to their site for the full skinny on this product.
With 3km to go all Flecha has to do is stay upright and not puncture. There's been lots of punctures today, with riders choosing to run regular tyres rather than some of the pave specials that are brought out in a few weeks. Rabobank have had more than thier fair share today, and although SKY are sposnored by Vittoria the tyres they are riding look like the reported pave prototypes that CTT were testing on Thursday. It may be those or maybe SKY has chosen to have some specials made by either Dugast or FMB. Flecha holds on for the win beating Haussler by 18 seconds and Farrar coming in third by a narrow margin. Oh and for the record, Boonen predicted Flecha's win today. I think a great career as a commentator beckons once he hangs up his bike.
K-B-K is today. I think that although the conditions will be less favourable I'd expect that the Quick Step and Lotto team will be in the mix. Not having a Belgian on the podium yesterday no doubt would hurt Flemish pride and I would bet that this will be adjusted today.