The rest day

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Tomorrow sees the greatest one day race of the year, the Tour of Flanders. Organisers say 600,000 to 800,000 people will line the roads, L’Equipe even says one million could turn out, making one tenth of the Belgian population.

This does not mean that the race will have you perched on the rivet of your armchair for hours as like many events, sometimes anticipation can exceed reality. But ahead of tomorrow’s race here are a few things to consider.

Rest day: those racing tomorrow will have had an easy if not boring day today. A short ride this morning. Studying the route. Massage. Lunch. Studying the route. Maybe surfing the internet and a phone call home. If Sunday is the traditional day of rest for “civilians” in the Western world, Saturday is the cyclist’s day off.

No sleep? I wonder if race boss Wouter Vandenhaute will sleep tonight. With the Kapelmuur gone from the route if the race doesn’t deliver a theatrical final hour then many will be blaming him. There’s already a “I hate Wouter Vandenhaute” Facebook group. In reality races are like fine wines, some years deliver vintages that delight but you can also get a few sour editions too.

Ronde Durand: many cyclists were in action today. The Tour of Flanders has a cyclotourist event where thousands and thousands of people can ride the route the day before the professionals do it. Belgians love their cycling and all sorts come out on the roads, from ambitious racers to seniors dusting off their vintage ride. 1992 race winner Jacky Durand was amongst the crowd, he managed 6h40m when he won and did it in 8h30 today. When Johan Museeuw won the race in 1998 he revealed afterwards that he phoned one of the cyclos to ask for information on the course. Museeuw knew the roads of course but gleaned extra information on the wind direction and more.

Early movers: when the race is on tomorrow look to see who is in the early breakaway. It will suit several teams to place riders in the move. Often you expect the smaller teams to stick some men in the move knowing they will be invisible during the final hour of the race. Their only way to show the team jersey is to go in the doomed move, a rational decision. But with everyone talking about Boonen and Cancellara I think some squads will aim to place a few half decent riders up the road. Like a poker game, if you start playing some good cards early then things can get even more lively towards the end so watch to see if the big squads place riders in the early move.

Spare a thought for Philippe Gilbert: almost invincible in 2011, he’s almost invisible this year. If it wasn’t for the distinctive Belgian champion kit he’d hardly be noticed. Then again note he was out-sprinted in Milan-Sanremo, failed in an attack in the Tour of Flanders. And if he was winning in the 2011 early season his winning streak only really took off once the cobbled classics were finished so he still has two weeks to prepare for the Amstel Gold race.

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{ 8 comments }

jkeltgv March 31, 2012 at 11:24 pm

based on what happened to Fabu last year after he showed everyone how strong he was at E3 i wouldn’t be surprised in Phil the Gil was foxing…..

Owen B March 31, 2012 at 11:57 pm

As one of the ‘thousands and thousands’ who ( in my case very slowly) cycled the route today I’m still waiting for the call from one of the pros to ask for my opinion on the wind direction. I will say that the 12 km or so between the Paterberg and the finish line there was a fierce block headwind. This might make it difficult for a lone rider to escape from a chasing group. We’ll find out tomorrow.

JimW April 1, 2012 at 3:44 am

I’m so excited for tomorrow!
So many serious contenders.
After reading Pippo’s cyclingnews interview I would like to see him make the podium or spoil the party all together. An interesting character that I have been liking this season more so now.
If it has to be a Belgian Vanmarcke is my man.
It had better be a Belgian win for Mr. Vandenhaute’s sake. Otherwise he may need to be coptered out of there!

Owen B’s comment is what makes cycling so special. Thanks!
What other sport allows access like that? I’m half a world away but have this tiny bit of insider knowledge that will have me paying extra special attention at that juncture and feel that much more connected for it. There are so many different levels of interaction within cycling that it is always interesting on one level or another. Something for everyone.

Is it me or has this been a really good spring season so far?

The Inner Ring April 1, 2012 at 10:52 am

jkeltgv: I can’t see it myself. When he races, he likes to win. It’d be a big change for him to sit back. Still, you never know…

Owen B: well done. Apparently the wind has shifted so it’s a 3/4 headwind. As you say it’ll be hard for a lone rider but if a few riders are chasing they must work together otherwise the slightest weak pull means the others will ease up and the lone rider is gone.

JimW: thanks and I went to read the interview. A good read. Pozzato plays on the image of a playboy but in fact he lives at home with two messy dogs, he’s a much more normal guy than you would think if you just read the press.

JimW April 1, 2012 at 4:35 pm

Bravo Pippo! Bravo!

Awesome race!
Tomeke is happy.
Pippo is happy.
BMC is happy.
Mr. Vandenhaute is Flanders approved.
What a day.

Thanks for all the great lead up INRNG.

MT Dave April 1, 2012 at 5:03 pm

Thanks for the Pozzato link. That is one of the best interviews I’ve read and it definitely changed my opinion of him. He did great today, and if I had read the interview beforehand I certainly would have been cheering for him.
What can you say about Boonen, smart and strong. Pleasure to watch him win.
As a side note: my 3ry old now calls Sagan Peter Rabbit and he’s learned to do the ‘Voeckler’ tongue. Mum thought that was funny.

Roadie61 April 1, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Tornado Tom rips up the sprint! The Belgian’s got his mojo back for 2012, is there any doubt?!
…and the new Flanders route designers can now exhale…

The trio played out the cat-and-mouse game perfectly, and Tomeke’s legs had the juice to out-sprint Pippo (!), with Ballan finally giving in. Bravo to the Belgian and two Italians!

Not without dramatic crashes, Cancellara goes down with a broken collarbone and/or a broken hip (!) — I’ve read both? It didn’t look good as he lay still on the pave. Langevald’s front wheel clipped a fan on the side and went down really hard (hope the best for him) and Johan Van Summeren ate it at the corner of the Patenberg climb. I wish these guys all the best.

And finally, Peter Sagan rode his heart out but couldn’t bridge the gap soloing it — he needed more team support, a tailwind and a good mentor to know when to chase…his time will come in Flanders as his talent is awesome!

Fantastic race today…can’t wait for Paris-Roubaix (!)…with Cancellara out, the picture changes quite dramatically…and the beat goes on…La dee da dee deeee, La dee da dee daaaa…

God, I love this sport!!

Rufio April 2, 2012 at 3:04 am

Great interview with Pozzato. I definitely need to rethink my opinion of him.

Tommeke is absolutely on fire this spring! Watching him race is pure joy.

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