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The Season of Failed Escapes

That was quite the heartbreaker for Nibali yesterday, wasn’t it? Trying to win Liège-Bastogne-Liège solo from the Côte de la Roche-aux-faucons is going big, though no doubt Nibali would have loved to have had company on his long escape. Two riders, they could have made the finish. But Nibali solo, that was a pretty big ask right there.

The solo break has been one of the recurring patterns of this season’s one-day races. It’s a strange thing to see a group of riders just look at one another as a favorite goes up the road.

Of the solo escapes only Boonen succeeded at Paris-Roubaix. Boonen to the world: I don’t need no stinkin’ breakaway partner.

When Freire went up the road at the Amstel Gold Race, he had hoped to have company. At the finish, he said it was impossible to win solo, and he was sorry no one had come along with him. That’s a hard sell, of course. Who wants to go to the line with a sprinter like Freire?

It was stranger still to see no one join Nibali’s move. The Italian is a talented rider against the watch and a stellar climber, but he’s not known for his finishing speed. Join a move with Nibali, and you’re at least in with a chance at the win.

The Season of the Failed Solo Escape – that’s what I’m calling it, anyway.

But really, I thought Nibali had this one. The teeming horde behind him never did get organized. And is it me, or does it feel like everyone’s been so busy watching Philippe Gilbert that they’ve forgotten how to race their bikes? People! Stop looking at Gilbert! The race, it’s going up the road. Maybe you should think about joining it?

Credit to Astana for recognizing that Nibali was riding away with it, and organizing their own chase. Iglinsky timed his escape perfectly to catch Nibali inside the final kilometer. Nibali looked crushed to see it all come undone so close to the finish. Iglinsky had fabulous form, and he benefitted from picture perfect team riding at Astana.

If there’s an award for Best Team Without Winning, it would definitely go to BMC. How many kilometers have the BMC riders ridden on the front this classics season? Too many, really, for the results they’ve gotten for it. It’s hard to imagine where Gilbert’s form has gone, but it certainly is not in his legs at the moment. Gilbert’s lack of form has put BMC in the position of race-makers without a finisher. They’ve made the race hard and forced the selections all along the way, but they’ve gone home with little to show for it. Bittersweet, that.

On the subject of team riding, did you yell at Pierre Rolland to work with Dan Martin like I did? I mean, I totally know why he didn’t. He was marking Martin for Voeckler who was behind in the chase group.

But still, I wanted Martin and Rolland to just go for it already. With Rolland sitting on, Martin’s chances were slim of staying out there. Of course, Martin too had a team mate behind in Ryder Hesjedal. All the same, when Martin went up the road with Rolland, I so wanted them to put their heads down and ride for it. Tactics, shmatics.

In truth, I never imagined I’d see Voeckler so close the podium at Liège. Amstel Gold Race winner Enrico Gasparotto took Voeckler at the line to give Astana a second rider on the podium. Big day for Astana right there.

So it’s good-bye for now to the one-day races, as the calendar sends us careening toward Italy for the Giro d’Italia.

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