So the wintry part of the cycling season comes to an end. We now swap the cobbles, mud and dust for smooth roads and more climbing. The Ardennes classics are coming and riders are now right in the crucial period for the Giro build up. Time for the inner chainring.
A quick look back on the flat classics.
1. Fabian Cancellara has dominated the cobbled classics with his double, a performance that will fill the history books. Note that his team played a big part here, no other team was able to control the racing as much.
2. Tom Boonen didn’t win races but he reached new levels of popular support. His Lambo-crashing cocaine partying ways had distanced himself from the Belgian public but he’s made amends with his gutsy riding.
3. Cycling has been a winner. We’ve had some great racing, with head to head battles. A shame that Pozatto, Boasson-Hagen, Haussler and Hushovd were out at times because of illness but the racing was still competitive, even if Cancellara was on a seperate level.
1. Quick Step didn’t win and they didn’t have the presence they’d once have a in a race. Last year we saw Devolder, Boonen and Chavanel in action, this year only Boonen was kopgroep material and the team didn’t meet the high hopes.
2. HTC-Columbia are discovering that relying on one rider – Mark Cavendish – is a risky business. Mick Rogers has had a decent spring campaign and Eisel had his day in Wevelgem but the team has not achieved the success its budget pretends.
3. French TV: a personal moment, since the classics season has been great so far and there aren’t many losers. But the commentary on the main French TV channel is lame. I live near the Franco-Italian border and can get Italian coverage but RAI doesn’t always cover the classics. So my enjoyment of the classics was tempered by the pathetic efforts of Thierry Adam. Adam isn’t a cyclist but a generalist sports commentator, he doesn’t know his stuff and grumpy co-commentator Laurent Jalabert keeps having to mutter “well not to contradict you Thierry, but…” and add a correction. Jalabert himself plays the know-it-all, too quick to cast judgement. Yesterday Adam spent most of the four hour slot saying “stay tuned, we’re going to get an exciting race, this is going to be massive“, as if he was on commission for the audience ratings. There was little insight. And once Cancellara took a minute’s lead they started to talk about an upcoming rugby match whilst one of the roving reporters broke into song to pass the time. But this was the biggest one day race in France, if they couldn’t talk about cycling in this slot, when could they? Ringard.
Now the season changes. The six week “Tour of Belgium” has ended, for riders suited to pounding over the cobbles their season is almost over. Now comes the time when riders converge, no longer are some riders touring the south of Europe whilst others do the classics, now we will see the likes of Gilbert and Contador, Boonen and Basso all together in the same races.