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Posts tagged ‘Tom Boonen’

Splitsville at Paris-Nice

It’s so hard to resist making wind puns. Gone with the wind. Blowing in the wind. Is there an answer? Never on Mondays.

During today’s second stage of Paris-Nice, the wind split the field and quite possibly ended the hopes of the riders left behind. Bradley Wiggins, who finished one second behind prologue winner Gustav Larsson, made the split and grabbed the yellow shirt. No doubt he is hoping to hold it all the way to Nice. Levi Leipheimer, Tejay van Garderen, Alejandro Valverde, and Sylvain Chavanel are among the pre-race favorites who also made the split. I’m being a bit over-generous there calling Chavanel a favorite, but hey! He’s French! And it’s a bike race in France! So.

Prologue winner Gustav Larsson, Tony Martin, Fränk and Andy Schleck, and Jèrôme Coppel all missed the split and sit more than 2:30 down in the general. In an eight-stage race? That might as well be several time zones. Thomas Voeckler also missed the split, but he probably likes it back there. More breakaways, more funner, or at least, that’s what it always seems like with Voeckler. Stage-hunting time, anyway for him.

Today’s win-driven split could mean this Paris-Nice is a four-rider race: Leipheimer, van Garderen, Valverde and Wiggins. On team support Wiggins and van Garderen seem to me to have the advantage. But both Valverde and Leipheimer will enjoy that final crono up the Col d’Èze. Also, somewhere along the road to Nice, the wind could blow again, or someone could get crafty and twist around all our expectations. Really, I can’t help but hope that somebody does.

Meanwhile, Tom Boonen took out another sprint victory today. He’s taken to bunch sprinting again, it seems, and with some success. Boonen won the overall at Qatar. Too bad for him Sep Vanmarcke had the faster finish at the Omloop. Anyway, it’s nice to see Boonen winning bike races again. I feel like it’s been too long, really.

Really, I’m not sure where Lars thought he was going here. Er, dude, there’s not really a gap there? Boonen’s ass, not that small. Bzzzt, try again next time.


So it was Sep day on Saturday. Sep Vanmarcke took out his first big victory at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. It was a good weekend for Garmin, actually, what with the Omloop and Dave Z’s win over in Langkawi. I still have hopes for Heinrich Haussler there at Garmin, but this weekend wasn’t his race. Vanmarcke called his shot, and nailed it.

Watching the race unfold, it was hard to remember that Vanmarcke is only 23 years old. Those were two big boy moves he put in at crucial points in the race. First, Vanmarcke put in a big acceleration on the Molenberg that left Thor Hushovd and Matti Breschel scrambling. The two chasers (achtervolgers! so awesome, this Flemish) never did make it back to the lead group. Then inside 20 kilometers to go, Vanmarcke went again as the race hit the cobbles. It was a similar move to the attack that won Loes Gunnewijk the women’s race actually. This time, only two riders could follow Vanmarcke – Boonen and Flecha.

That was the bike race: Vanmarcke, Boonen, and Flecha. No slouches in that group. It’s not like Vanmarcke beat out a bunch of B-listers. After the race, Boonen said he wasn’t totally on form, but that shouldn’t take away from Vanmarcke’s big day out.

Boonen created the initial split with his attack on the Taienberg. Which, was one of the more what-the-fuck moments in the race, actually. Lars Boom tried to go up the gutter and crashed cartwheel style into Boonen’s rear wheel. Where did Boom think he was going? Anyway, the Bulgarian judge liked the landing.

Boonen, he can never sit on in these Belgian races, for no one is going to give him a free ride. Despite having a teammate in the break in Devenyns, Boonen spent a good portion of the race in the wind, but after the Taienberg never put in another attack. Maybe he didn’t expect that original attack to go anyhere. Certainly in past editions of this race, he has made a habit of riding hard over the climbs without ever really racing to win. This time, Boonen definitely put his race face on, but Vanmarcke played the race-maker with his two decisive attacks.

Though BMC put in a solid late race chase for Gilbert, the leading three had plenty of time in hand for the sprint. And oh did they use it. C’mon, enough already, just gooooo!!! I confess to some impatience with the last kilometer gameplay. Flecha did a half-assed wind up. Boonen jumped hard, but Vanmarcke overtook him with room to spare.

Sometimes understanding a bike race is as simple as saying that the strongest rider won. This time? The strongest rider won.

All Fall Down!

Quite the comedy of errors in the finale at Paris-Roubaix. You don’t really expect the lead group to crash themselves out, but crash they did.

A bit of history for you: In 1929, four riders comprised the lead group. One rider flatted out, leaving Georges Ronsse, who won in 1927, Aimé Déolet, and Charles Meunier, who finished 3rd in 1928. All three rode for Automoto, one of the strongest teams of the era. Sponsored by a French frame-builder, Automoto won four Tours de France during the 1920s (Pelissier, Botecchia twice, and Buysse). As a previous winner of Paris-Roubaix, Ronsse held the role of team-leader. The three team-mates arrived at the Velodrome together. But then came disaster. Ronsse crashed, taking Déolet down with him. The last man standing, Charles Meunier, won. The 1929 win marked the highpoint of Meunier’s career, a one-off win. Thanks to Dutch cycling historian Benjo Maso for posting this story.

Unlike in 1929, this year’s winner was not a one-off. Despite the crashes, the strongest rider won, Tom Boonen. Bike handling, so essential to playing the cobble game. You have to stay upright to win.

One of the more bittersweet moments came when Manuel Quinziato tried desperately to bridge alone to the winning move. The camera angle showed just how close he came. And yet, so very much road he had to cover. Those last few bike lengths hurt the most, the legs failed to match his ambition. He arrived alone in the velodrome just ahead of Matti Breschel, the last survivor of the Saxo Bank-led chase.

And spare a thought for George Hincapie whose race ended so early. A flat at the wrong moment, the world’s longest wheel change. Surely, the QuickStep mechs train hard for the Paris-Roubaix wheel changes. They were that fast. Hincapie vows to return. I want to see more of Edvald Boasson Hagen. But that’s just me.

Ardennes time!