The Moment The Race Was Won: The Tour of Flanders

Sunday, 6 April 2014

400 metres, 300… 250… 200 metres to go. Suddenly the four riders launched the sprint and Fabian Cancellara accelerated, took the lead and kept it to celebrate as he crossed the line. This was the moment the race was won.

The finishing straight was a nail-biter but anyone who watched the race live would have felt the tension for much longer, the quartet’s late sprint for the line was only the final act in a race of tension, drama and surprise.

There were umbrellas at the start in Brugge but it was only a light mist. Once the race started the early break wasn’t an early move, a nervous start saw many moves shut down until 11 riders got away including Orica’s Daryl Impey and BMC’s Taylor Phinney, two big beasts whose presence seemed out of place. But why not and besides, it shows that as great as this race is, some might use it for training ahead of Paris-Roubaix.

Nervous? Several riders had left the race before the break had gone including Luke Durbridge and most worryingly Johan Vansummeren who collided with a woman; she was taken to hospital and remains in a very serious condition. The lottery-sponsored Jürgen Roelandts fell and abandoned, one of many to fall from this team alone to go long before the action started and testament to the tension and danger in a race where many more crashed out.

It was windy. The race didn’t split into echelons but it was bound be much harder. The yellow “Lion of Flanders” flags sprouting every spring like Forsythia but if they convey a political message they told a simpler story as they fluttered hard in the breeze. Even the Molenberg windmill was spinning despite a lack of sails, saluting Tom Boonen’s short effort. But Tommeke’s move seemed out of place, more out of anxiety than confidence? It was certainly too early to move.

As the crashes kept falling the bunch was nervous in another way too, it refused to let the lead group get much of a lead. Six minutes was all Phinney and Impey would get. Behind OPQS seemed to be on the front all the time, their tall riders resembling pallbearers with their sombre kit and stoic faces. But as much as we saw OPQS we hardly saw Boonen, Niki Terpstra and Zdeněk Štybar who were well hidden behind their workers. Little did the team know they were the ones who’d be buried alive later on.

90km to go and Peter Sagan and Fabian Cancellara both stopped for a leak; upfront some riders tried a move on the Valkenberg but it was later when Manuel Quinziato, Matteo Trentin and Bernhard Eisel went clear on the Kanarieberg, the first counter-move to meaningfully change the race. Onwards and the second time over the Oude Kwaremont the lead group was now down to three riders, Phinney, Impey and the impressive neo-pro Stig Broeckx, Lotto-Belisol’s only comfort all day. Meanwhile we’d been expecting a big effort from Stijn Devolder but he was relegated from protagonist to victim, reduced to chasing efforts after crashing three times.

The Koppenberg kopmen
It sounds god-like but it’s the geography that allows the race organisers to drag and drop the infamous Koppenberg climb into a later position in the race, this time 45km from the finish. Short and brutal the climb was cobbled alchemy. In went the tired trio of Phinney, Impey and Broeckx and out came selection gold with Terpstra, Cancellara, Boonen and Sagan at the front. We had a few skirmishing attacks which came to nothing but kept the pace up and condemned dropped riders. Stijn Vandenbergh drifted off the front with Edvald Boasson Hagen and Dries Devenyns but if they were clear they were going nowhere and Vandenbergh backed off, presumably a radio-controlled move.

Up the Taaienberg, down the Taaienberg
Greg Van Avermaet counter-attacked on the Taaienberg but was reeled in. As they rode on, the lead group slowed after a junction and took a breather before a descent… this was exactly when Van Avermaet attacked and he was covered by Vandenbergh. The OPQS giant sat behind “GVA” without doing a turn. It was a brave move by Van Avermaet who has a fast sprint and could have waited for alternative events to unfold but he took off to shape the race.

OPQS Force Five
It was looking ideal for OPQS with a man up front getting a tow and five team mates in the group behind getting a free ride as they forced Peter Sagan and even John Degenkolb to chase. On paper OPQS were the strongest team but as anyone who has tried to wipe their rear with a cobblestone will know there’s a big difference between paper and pavé.

OPQS’s reluctance to commit suddenly meant Luca Paolini bridged across to the Boonen-Sagan-Cancellara group and then a large bunch rode across. Cannondale hit the front to chase to the Oude Kwaremont. As they went up the climb for the last time it was Fabian Cancellara who attacked, taking Sep Vanmarcke with him. The two were clearly the strongest in the race, riding away to establish a sizeable gap and leaving Peter Sagan floundering, his chase efforts being closely marked by Štybar and Terpstra.

Over the Paterberg and the Van Avermaet finally shook Vandenbergh to go clear. Vandenbergh was lucky, dropped he was able to crest the climb just as Cancellara and Vanmarcke came across. All that was left was for the four to ride to the finish but they were each avoiding too much work. Briefly it looked like Alexander Kristoff would bridge across but he blew. By now OPQS had gone from control to spectators, nobody could follow Cancellara and Vanmarcke.

Three Vans and one motorbike
So who would win the sprint? Here’s the poker mix to read with a cool head, imagine it after six hours of racing:

  • Vandenbergh was the easiest to discount, yes he’d been sitting on the wheels but he was clearly the slowest, something confirmed by his attacks on the run-in
  • Van Avermaet’s normally very fast but had done the last 30km solo, at least with Vandenbergh for a saddlebag and as they came to the finish he seemed to be pushing a big gear, a sign of fatigue
  • Vanmarcke is fast he too was looking tired and remember he’s lost to Cancellara in a sprint when the two rode the Roubaix velodrome this time last year
  • Cancellara isn’t reputed as a sprinter but was still the second fastest behind Kristoff in Sanremo and who’d discount him after such a long day?

I thought it would be close with the odds tilted towards Sep Vanmarcke…

…but one late attack saw GVA and Vandenbergh ride away. Poker time as Cancellara refused to tow Vanmarcke across, the Swiss pedalling but in no hurry to move. The gap grew.

Eventually the Belgian’s nerves went and he jumped, allowing Cancellara to slot in behind and get paced back. Did this effort allow Cancellara to rest while Vanmarcke burned a match? Yes. Did it affect the sprint? Probably, but whether it determined the result is for debate.

And so the metres counted down, the finish line in sight but nobody was sprinting until the last moment. They jumped and Cancellara seemed ready in a relatively low gear that allowed him to accelerate all the way to the line

The Verdict
Unwatchable… you almost wanted to look away as the four came to the finish, such was the tension. Vandenbergh was cooked but the others were playing poker right to the end and the winner wasn’t obvious until the final two seconds.

It wasn’t just the excitement in the final metres. A series of moves and selections in the last hour saw changing scenarios and uncertainty reign for a long time. Just as you got used to one group it would be joined by more riders or someone would counter-attack. Moving the Koppenberg seems to have made a positive difference, prompting a better selection in the final hour. Is the course perfect? Not without the Kapelmuur but it allowed for some great racing. But the real drama was the tactical tension as OPQS exploited their numerical superiority only to fold in the final 20km and Peter Sagan found the final climb of the Kwaremont too long for his liking.

Fabian Cancellara won but with a gamble, a sprint instead of a solo raid. Greg Van Avermaet stands on the podium again and Sep Vanmarcke is becoming a regular, almost a certainty at this level. All three would have made a worthy winner. Alexander Kristoff’s fifth place is impressive but, for preview readers, predictable, no?

The TV production did linger on the losers too often, for example replaying Europcar’s Pichot when he wobbled off the road instead of relaying the action up front. But overall it was well-filmed and the in-car cameras are a great addition, perhaps the swing argument to keep race radios?

Any sporting losers? If Lotto-Belisol had bad luck, OPQS had a very bad day. Fourth place isn’t much for the team that places a lot of its recruitment and identity on this race and they’ll already be plotting revenge for Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix. Another team that will need a new plan is Team Sky with Geraint Thomas crashing again but then again so did Sep Vanmarke too). Meanwhile it was a collective national failure from the Italians and French, not one in the top-10 and apparently this hasn’t happened since 1989. Paris-Roubaix does allow for corrections but the cobbled classics are drawing to a close.

1 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Trek Factory Racing 6:15:18
2 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team
3 Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Belkin Pro Cycling Team
4 Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step
5 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha @8 seconds
6 Niki Terpstra (Ned) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step @18s
7 Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step @35s
8 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky @37s
9 Björn Leukemans (Bel) Wanty – Groupe Gobert @41s
10 Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) Garmin Sharp @43s

Steppings April 6, 2014 at 6:56 pm

Enjoyed it tremendously. What better way than to have a four up sprint and decide the winner with only 20 meters to go. Fascinating to watch are those tiny little indications that a rider is tiring ( Sagan, Boonen etc.) Not keen on the drag strip finish, but as said with a four up it made it a great finale.

Andy April 6, 2014 at 7:01 pm

Great race. I was very impressed with Cancellara – not sure if he had the strongest legs but he was super-strong tactically and mentally. Vanmarcke will be having nightmares about Spartacus again….

I was surprised to see Sagan not quite as strong as expected. 2 years back I would have guessed he’d have won 4 monuments by now, but you can hardly say he’s a dissapointment. Do we just expect too much?

And I can’t help thing that OPQS will be wishing it was Terpstra that went after Van Avermaet rather than Vandenbergh… Or Tommeke, of course…

Michael April 7, 2014 at 12:09 am

No offense to you Andy, but if two years ago you thought Sagan would have won 4 monuments by now, then yes, your expectations are too high.

Kjetil April 6, 2014 at 7:05 pm

Kristoff 5th was indeed predictable, but the way he did it was not. His move off the front of the chasing group on the Paterberg was almost Fabianesque, no?

Dodge2000 April 6, 2014 at 10:24 pm

Great effort, with all of the tactics of the front four in that last few hundred metres I thought he might have just caught up with Terpstra and taken the sprint in a surprise attack.

At one point the camera was on Paolini and it looked at first that it was he who was bridging the gap. When the camera came from the front I thought that the team car had administered a quick shave as Kristoff seemed to appear from nowhere and go on a Paoline type attack

John April 6, 2014 at 7:08 pm

what a race! it was absolutely nail biting to the finish! cancellara was definitely prepared to lose in order to win…and what a surprise when he sprinted to win! was expecting van avermaet to take it…too bad he wasted too much energy solo if not i think this year’s should be his. but cancellara sealed and confirmed his legendary status in being one of the all-time greats in the classics even if he doesn’t win in paris roubaix…

ShortsNL April 6, 2014 at 7:13 pm

“On paper OPQS were the strongest team but as anyone who has tried to wipe their rear with a cobblestone will know there’s a big difference between paper and pavé.”

Bloody brilliant.

Kjetil April 6, 2014 at 8:01 pm

Indeed.

CritKing April 6, 2014 at 10:33 pm

Had a good laugh after reading that

Bundle April 7, 2014 at 12:10 am

Classic.

djconnel April 7, 2014 at 5:10 am

Indeed, the whole article is brilliant, way better than what’s available on the commercial websites. Excellent analysis as well as brilliant writing. Thanks!

Brian April 6, 2014 at 7:13 pm

I think that second to last picture it was where the race was won. Fabian took the risk of losing at that moment and Sep didn’t.

(Plus it put Fabian in 4th wheel and allowed him to get a brief run on everyone.)

Will A April 6, 2014 at 8:14 pm

If you watch again, I think he’d moved back up to second wheel when GVA launched the sprint.

noel April 8, 2014 at 1:54 pm

+1 – not sure what choice Vanmarke had at that point. Cancellara has been on the podium too many times in monuments to care, so it’s first or nothing for him now. And he had basically towed Vanmarke out of the bunch up to the front 2, so I think he had a right to say ‘come on your turn Son’.
Interesting comment from GVA hinting that the 3 Belgians should have ganged up on the swissie. I’m not sure how delighted his team/sponsors etc would have been if he’d let the two other guys ride away…

Larry T. April 6, 2014 at 7:41 pm

Excellent report, I felt I was watching it all again while reading. Spartacus won this one with his head as much as with his legs. Took the chance to lose rather than tow faster rivals to the line, only to get pipped. One has to wonder if Van Avermaet had marked Spartacus, instead of putting so much energy into the escape, would he have had enough to win a sprint to the line? Looks like everyone will be in fine form for Paris-Roubaix and a rematch.

Mats April 6, 2014 at 7:42 pm

What a race! Enjoyed it from the beginning to the spectacular end. My only gripe being we didn’t see Devolder attacking on the Koppenberg. He spent the day cruising in the back of the bunch and was asking himself lots of troubles. Tommeke was suffering as I expected but did a good race anyway. Eddy Boss saved the day for Sky. I didn’t see Wiggo one time! Van Avermaet did a fantastic race by using brute force. What a great show he did! Vanmarcke rode the race very carefully and so did Cancellara. We’ll see them mano-a-mano again in Roubaix, I believe. Sagan must have been the greatest loser today. He doesn’t seem to plan ahead at all and it looks like he’s riding a junior race jumping around and wasting all his energy for nothing at all. I think his team needs one or two more experienced riders to guide him through races.

channel_zero April 7, 2014 at 12:55 am

Sagan had zero help. None! OPQS was negative racing so when attacks went, Sagan had no choice.

FWIW, I’m glad things turned out so poorly for OPQS. There is *great* talent on that team, but with race strategy like that, I’d rather they be bumped-down so they can race negative on small-budget teams and bore the few viewers.

Nice to see some of the lower-budget teams represented in the sharp end of the race.

Adam April 7, 2014 at 5:28 pm

Wiggins did a good job for the team. He spent a fair bit of time on the front early on, brought Thomas back to the group after his crash and was also marshalling him pretty well towards the end.

I’d like to see him lead Sky in PR this Sunday, but I doubt he’ll get anywhere near the podium.

Tovarishch April 6, 2014 at 7:46 pm

Not so sure it was a bad day for Sky, although their tactics seemed all over the place. I think they might do something next weekend with both Thomas and Wiggins not that far off the pace.

Dave H April 8, 2014 at 12:20 pm

Much as the reflexive Wiggins-bashing is annoying – anyone criticising him for his ride on Sunday wasn’t paying enough attention – I can’t see him getting anywhere near the podium in Roubaix. Sky still don’t have a rider who can compete with the very best on pave. Thomas, EBH and Eisel are all good but not good enough. Stannard might have been able to do something, especially if the weather was attrocious, but sadly we will never know if he could have carried his form from Omloop into these races.

noel April 8, 2014 at 6:04 pm

spot on Dave.
I guess you might argue that PR might suit a ‘heavy’ Wiggins a little better than RVV?

Adrian April 6, 2014 at 7:54 pm

Absolutely love this race every year!!!

John April 6, 2014 at 8:27 pm

Great report. Felt like I’d watched it live. You really do know how to report bike races. Many thanks.

Simon E April 8, 2014 at 10:43 pm

Yes, it’s certainly the most readable report I’ve seen. I watched the last hour or so live and Inrng has described everything I saw better than any of the others.

I’ll not be checking the usual sites again next week, just wait for the report from this site. Top marks Mr Ring.

Birillo April 6, 2014 at 8:33 pm

Best Flanders for years. Probably the best monument for years.

Scott April 6, 2014 at 8:34 pm

Degenkolb was a legitimate contender up until the final climb.
He must be on the watch list for next weekend.

Rooie April 6, 2014 at 8:41 pm

A monument of a monumental race

Calypso_King April 6, 2014 at 9:03 pm

‘Three Vans and one motorbike’ is genius!! As ever a wonderful description of a truly fantastic race! On a side note, does anyone seriously think Sir Wiggins is going to feature next Sunday?

Euan Rennie April 6, 2014 at 9:26 pm

Not a chance Wiggins will feature next Sunday, with Stannard injured Thomas is there only hope of a result. If he wasn’t a previous TDF winner going on his recent form there would be no chance he would be given a place in the team for next week let alone a team leader.

Sam April 7, 2014 at 10:54 am

He won’t be leader – why do people think this? Where have you read the team saying he’ll be leader? EBH, according to Thomas yday.

Sam April 7, 2014 at 10:56 am

EBH will be leader on Sunday, according to Thomas yday.

And given that Thomas hurt his back yday and will need physio through this week, no, I dont think Thomas is the team’s best – or only – hope for Sunday.

Steppings April 6, 2014 at 9:26 pm

No.

The Inner Ring April 6, 2014 at 10:59 pm

Hat tip to Velonews Andrew Hood who came up with the three vans reference on Twitter.

John April 7, 2014 at 1:37 am

Well he finished 32nd today, only 20secs behind Sagan and Degenkolb, on a course that didn’t suit him and as a late replacement.

He’s been training specifically for next Sunday. If people are tipping Phinney for a good ride based on today, why not Wiggins?

Hugh Williamson April 6, 2014 at 9:18 pm

Great report. The OPQS result – 3 in the top 10 but none on the podium – probably reflected the strength of their individual riders. Perhaps if they had played a few more cards they could have beaten the odds (easy for me to say).
Oh, and that’s two races in row where the TV commentator has said “this will come down to whoever wants it the most”. No, it won’t.

Matt April 6, 2014 at 9:26 pm

Thanks inring, sounded like a fantastic race, sad to have missed it but your report made it feel like i was watchin it live! Tension sounded emense

Anonymous April 6, 2014 at 9:28 pm

Maybe because Carlton Kirby talks bo**ox.

Anonymous April 7, 2014 at 1:48 pm

He is rubbish, isn’t he. Rob Hatch commentated on the race for Sky’s coverage and did a much better job, as he always does. Please God, don’t allow Europsort to give Grand Tours to Kirby. I wish I knew the full story behind the parting of the ways with David Harmon.

Adam April 7, 2014 at 5:35 pm

+1 He’s worse than Liggett and Sherwin put together.

I know it must be hard to commentate almost non-stop for 4-5 hours, but he has some really annoying traits. Like shouting ‘oooooh’ every time anyone gets out of the saddle and filling the dead air with ‘eeeerrrms’ every time he gets confused.

I hope they’ve got Magnus Backstedt on next weekend.

Calypso_King April 7, 2014 at 7:40 pm

Largely agree with you, but for me there is no way he is worse than Liggett and Sherwin and that is what compelled me to post. It’s easy to dismiss him because he is so excitable but now I’m used to it I do actually feel it brings something to the spectacle. Maybe not what he actually says, his stream of consciousness frequently goes awry, but the tone of voice often seems to reflect my own emotions. Perhaps it’s a case of Kirb your enthusiasm. Luckily Sean Kelly is on hand for a dose of reality.

I think the Rob Hatch guy is good.

Steppings April 7, 2014 at 11:56 pm

I don’t at all mind Rob Hatch and the other guy Declan (?), also Matt Stephens is very good and seems to have a real knack for commentating, I only hope Eurosport feel the same way. Kirby’s mistakes and lack of just watching what;s happening is beginning to really annoy. The sport deserves better.

Adam April 8, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Yeah, in hindsight he’s not *that* bad actually. I think I’m just getting old a cantankerous and everything annoys me now!

Another thing that annoyed me was Eurosport frequently cutting to adverts when one of the commentators was in the middle of talking. But I suppose that’s nothing new either, their production team are hopeless.

Darren April 6, 2014 at 9:36 pm

Gutted! Our local boy Greg should have won…would have won if VanDBerg had worked with him.
Van DBerg would argue team orders, but then how many greats over the years ignored team
orders resulting in spectacular results!
As for the crashes caused by public getting in the way…awful! Especially Van Summeren’s smash with an old woman, who is still in critical condition. I hope she gets out in one piece. However, it seems the public do not learn! Look at last year when Sebastian Langeveld crashed into a supporter, and then the supporter looks down at Langeveld and just shrugs!

RocksRootsRoad April 7, 2014 at 6:08 pm

Your thinking of 2012 no?

Langeveld went over to the bike path and that’s why the crash happened. Exactly why the UCI introduced the new rule…

Darren April 7, 2014 at 9:03 pm

You’re right Rocks, 2012?!
It was the blasé attitude of the spectator that really got me!

jkeltgv April 6, 2014 at 9:38 pm

I have the impression that Tomeke always puts an early big dig in….a kind of leg stretcher and he’s done it times he’s won and other times he’s lost. In Flanders, Roubaix and others.

Am I wrong? I haven’t the time to go and view all the races but I just thought “oh here we go again… Big Tom wants to see how he feels….crest the top and have a look at the damage he’s done”

Berk On A Bike April 6, 2014 at 10:09 pm

Sep Vanmarcke’s initial reaction in full…

https://twitter.com/sepvanmarcke/status/452893147329462272

noel April 7, 2014 at 2:23 pm

surely this guy wins a hatful of RVVs and PRs once Canc and Boonen start to creak a bit. Time is on his side.

Mark Williams April 6, 2014 at 10:13 pm

I really liked the route this year as it left you guessing right until the end. I was not surprised by Sagan as he always seems to run out of gas in the longer races that are over 250km, a bit like EBH for Sky. I felt sorry for Devolved as he looked in great for and he crashed three times. He even finished the race which shows how much this must have meant to him (I also had a cheeky but on him to podium). Bring on Roubaix!

denominator April 7, 2014 at 9:23 am

Which concerns this year you are right, but a year ago Sagan was 2nd both in Sanremo (OK, somewhat shortened due to snow) and Flanders – so it seems to be rather a matter of this year than a general feature. Was something wrong with his training? Shouldn’t have go to 3 days de Panne? The more hilly route yesterday than a year ago and cold rain in Sanremo? I don’t know. Next Sunday he tries another 250+ long race, where he is absolutely no favorite, than we can judge definitively.
From the final four I wished the win of Van Avermaet, as he did the most work on attack and I was glad that Vandenberg stayed out of podium because of his (and OPQS generally) tactics.

Redeye April 6, 2014 at 10:40 pm

I really enjoyed the race today – the last hour was a really tense and exciting finale. Fair play to Cancellara – today he was (unusually) perhaps not quite the strongest rider but he raced smartest. He knew he probably only had one big surge in the tank, made the break to shed as many as he could then used his head to win the race. I have a hunch he’s been working on his sprint a bit, he’s got a very good record in them recently and it gives his rivals plenty to think about – don’t let him go up the road and make sure he’s not with you if it comes to a sprint.

I think Sky might feel they missed a trick. Both EBH and Thomas looked strong, but both missed the crucial break. Still, by previous standards it was a huge improvement for them. I’m pretty sure I saw Wiggins still in the thick of it until Cancellara attacked too. It’ll be interesting to see how they go next weekend – I think it’ll suit EBH and Thomas much better (and Wiggins though on current form he’s surely only a domestique). Such a shame Ian Stannard is out as he was probably their best bet, especially on his current form.

Elle April 6, 2014 at 10:42 pm

Fantastic report, INRNG, thank you! I was only able to follow the race on twitter but your account is so vivid I now feel I’ve watched it live. We are so lucky that you do this.

STS April 6, 2014 at 10:42 pm

An even greater report than your usually great reports, Sir! Thanks a lot, really enjoyed reading it.
It seems to me you liked what you saw this afternoon – except for the crashes – as much as I did.
I was wet in sweat at the end of the race as if I had ridden it on my own.

Another telling showing of Fabian’s evolution from someone relying on his sheer strength to the perfect racer who combines outstanding physical abilities with extremely clever racing. He did not have to apply as many mental tricks as in last year’s P-R but his cleverness and experience nevertheless saved him this win, today.

If he wins again next Sunday and continues to race afterwards – which I hope he does – he must also be a real master of self-motivation because there remains nothing more to prove for him.

His competitors will be glad when he finally leaves the scene but I will miss him dearly.

melbin rider April 7, 2014 at 12:31 am

exactly. my thinking was the headlines would be ‘Faboo adds fast finish, rest of pack now officially racing for second’… such a supreme racer!

as for the motivation, you can see how much it means to him when he wins. has anyone done a double-double before (flanders+roubaix 2 years running)?

Bundle April 7, 2014 at 12:12 am

Tremendous race, for surem and very good chronicle. One thing, though: Van Avermaet was stronger than Vanmarcke. Bigger engine for very long races, I think.

Steve Potts April 7, 2014 at 12:29 am

A very exciting day’s racing. I feel a little sorry for van Avermaet, he’s in danger of becoming Raymond Poulidor…….

Steve

The Inner Ring April 7, 2014 at 9:16 am

Poulidor won plenty, whereas Van Avermaet has only one World Tour race to his name, a stage in the Vuelta from 2008. But nobody else is a regular as GVA, so many podiums.

Steve Potts April 7, 2014 at 4:00 pm

True, though Poulidor is known as more for his second places (in the TdF) than his wins. GVA is giving a similar impression. Maybe he can go one better this spring?

Steve

Tom April 7, 2014 at 12:32 am

Fabs is a conscientious Swiss. While in Belgium, he made sure to clean everyone’s clock today.

Kelly's Bidon April 7, 2014 at 1:11 am

Your first paragraph, Sir, captures the essence of this edition of the Ronde perfectly. However, when the hammer went down on the final main drag of the Oude Kwaremont, referencing your excellent (earlier post) comment re: GVA and second places, I believe that all well-versed cycling fans knew that the race was only heading one way. Come in (RVV) number 3, Spartacus, your time is up.

Chris April 7, 2014 at 3:56 am

I know he was on the winning team but I feel sorry for Stijn Devolder .. he was on super form and to rip through the bunch after that last crash was super stuff. One of the video collection that race !

TheDude April 7, 2014 at 4:32 am

Meh. Cancelara. Again. :-( With his “sour” commentary the last few years, it is difficult to enjoy his talent and feel excited as an armchair spectator regarding his compounding Flanders victories. It seems the finale would have been much more “classic” with the 3 Van’s fighting it out.

Sam April 7, 2014 at 10:57 am

I’m not a big Fabien fan myself, but the strongest and smartest guy did win yday.

peter April 7, 2014 at 4:32 am

“as anyone who has tried to wipe their rear with a cobblestone will know there’s a big difference between paper and pavé.” Loving your work.

Got to go watch next year, fab race.

John Liu April 7, 2014 at 5:55 am

Last year at Paris Roubaix, I wondered if Cancellara could have won without crashes chopping the foursome down to just him and Vanmarche. This year’s Ronde gave the answer.

The Inner Ring April 7, 2014 at 9:12 am

He’s often lost out in sprints and made a few mistakes, eg sprinting on the brake hoods but there’s all that power. Since Roubaix he’s been working on his sprint and after defeat in Sanremo he’s more spent time working on the sprint.

adam April 7, 2014 at 9:11 pm

While it’s fair to wonder that, I also think that Stybar only 3 or 4 seconds in his crash. Considering he’d been only a passenger for the last several k, it gives you an idea of how strong Fabian was going that he couldn’t bridge back up.

Joe K. April 7, 2014 at 6:17 am

Fabulous Fabian! One of the best finishes in a long while! Kinda wanted to see the perennial second, GVA (the hardest working man in pro-business), take the sprint thinking that Spartacus would not be able to sprint, as usual. It’s good that life is full of surprises. Now for the next course Paris-Roubaix. Bring it on, baby!!!

Paul Gorman April 7, 2014 at 9:36 am

That was a superb race: right up there with the 2011 Ronde; maybe even better, with all the crashes adding up to an absolute epic. The last 2 years we’ve had great winners of a poor race but this was perfection. I love the Ronde.

Prashanth Bhat April 7, 2014 at 11:23 am

For the first time, I was able to see the roll out of any race. Thanks to those links to live streaming. Good race. Spartacus was at his best again. I am waiting for the coming week end and the Velodrome at Roubaix….

Tricky Dicky April 7, 2014 at 11:37 am

I agree that it was a fabulous race. That was the first time I have ever seen Cancellara close to being dropped in the finale of a classic: when have we ever seen Fabian unable to close a gap? I don’t think he was bluffing (he claims he wasn’t). If the other three had kept the tempo up rather than turning it to a “track-stand”, I think Fabian was gone at that point and that was “where the race was lost”.

Great rides by GvA, Kristoff, Leukemanns and Impey I thought. Lefevre is being rather graceless in rebutting GvA’s critism of team orders. I would have been very embarrassed if I was Vandenberg (sorry on the spelling!) just sitting on like Goliath behind little Greg.

Jon L April 7, 2014 at 11:38 am

Can only echo the comments above, such a great race.
The racing was full board from the start, with such a high pace. Cancellara seemed isolated towards the business end, with Devolder having crashed so many times, but he doesn’t need team mates, he’s that good, where as I’m not sure Sagan is quite in his league, maybe Sagan is struggling to define where he is best – jack of all trades master of none?

OPQS were the big surprise though, they looked so good, so confident early on, but had nothing at the end, I’m sure their plan never involved Vandenbergh being in the final group.

Lastly, so many crashes in the race, especially those involving spectators, is never good to see. The spectator’s being so close is a great part of the race, but I just wish they had more common sense, i’m especially referring to the lady in the coat who brought down Popovych. (Obviously wish the best for the lady who was involved in the crash with Vansummeren, hopefully she recovers fully).

The Inner Ring April 7, 2014 at 12:37 pm

Seems OPQS were playing the Boonen card until late. Vandenbergh was told to sit on GVA so that if it came back, Boonen could go solo or win in the sprint. But when Terpstra led the chase up the Oude Kwaremont in pursuit of Cancellara and Vanmarcke he found Boonen was cracking.

Tricky Hawes April 7, 2014 at 12:31 pm

@Mats, re “Eddy Boss saved the day for Sky. ” Just to note – Thomas finished 8th (vs EBH in 22nd, 50 secs down on him).

Though agree Eddie lit up the race more. Looked strong, briefly – just didn’t time it well.

mick tarrant April 7, 2014 at 3:15 pm

EBH usually does NOT time it well. Always promises much but when it gets to the finale, always comes up short. No idea what Geraint Thomas has to do to get the support of the team as undisputed leader but there again, same thing happened to Stannard for years when he was for sure Team Sky’s best bet. Thomas can ride cobbles but have read he will ride Roubaix in support of EBH and Bradley Wiggins. I find that strange.

Sam April 8, 2014 at 10:59 am

Thomas was the sole leader last Sun. EBH was working for him, as was the whole team. EBH went off the front in that trio, so that Sky had a presence at the front of the race and because after his second crash that did for his back as well as his face, Thomas was struggling. He’d hurt the left side of his back, and he was clearly in discomfort throughout the race after that crash.

Thomas has to have physio through this week so that he can race on Sunday.

Actually, EBH looks better this season on the cobbles than since he won G-W in 09. He’s there in the final 30km of the longer classics this year, which has been a major problem over the last few years.

mick tarrant April 8, 2014 at 11:58 am

Thanks for the the well researched clarification, re EBH and Thomas. Both have good form but still see Thomas as a better bet, his bad luck streak has got to end soon.

THUNK4U April 7, 2014 at 3:19 pm

“Cancellara isn’t reputed as a sprinter but was still the second fastest behind Kristoff in Sanremo and who’d discount him after such a long day?”

He also finished 4th to Cav, Goss, and Griepel in 2012 RR Championship. Best “non-sprinter”?

Kris April 7, 2014 at 3:53 pm

A thriller, indeed. Van Avermaet rode the race of his life, and confirmed he still seems to have improved slightly compared to previous seasons. Does Allan Peiper have anything to do with GVA’s new level of self-confidence? Note that Van Avermaet punctured right before second Paterberg, it was where Devolder crashed into GVA’s BMC teammate Lodewyck. On top of Paterberg, he was still 1’20” behind. He more or less had to chase the leading group by himself, and as soon as he got back he attacked still before the Taaienberg! Who is to say but chasing the leading group after the puncture and across the Koppenberg most likely did not help his finishing speed in the sprint.

Bradley Wiggins: I am positively surprised! He crashed and yet finished the race, and even not that far (1’42”) behind the main contenders, i.e. in a small group before the bigger groups arrived. So he does still have some grit left in him. I do not believe many people had expected Wiggins would finish RVV yesterday.

Daz555 April 7, 2014 at 6:25 pm

Wiggo is not a PR contender I don’t think but I was genuinely surprised about his ride on Sunday – worked early on and helped G from what I could see. Like many was held up in the crashes but on the final climbs he looked very strong as was at the right end of things – I expected him to be dawdling at the back or in the shower after 4 hours. First time he has looked interested in a road race in a long long time.

Feel bad for G – blimey that lad has a stupid amount of crashes. Hurt his back apparently and to be honest looked uncomfortable the whole race.

Froogle_Jimmy April 7, 2014 at 7:50 pm

This is exactly why I watch cycling!!! Awesome race. Amazing Tactics by Cancellara. WOW

adam April 7, 2014 at 9:17 pm

What can we say about GVAs next contract talks? He’s 28 and moved to BMC to escape Gilbert’s shadow, then spent the last 2.5 years riding for Gilber, Hushovd and Ballan only to be the last one standing. Now with results in all the Monuments and semi classics how valuable is he to other teams looking to poach a leader?

Dave April 8, 2014 at 10:34 am

Great report INRNG! Brings back the atmosphere of my Sunday afternoon at the big screen at the Oude Kwaremont fanzone!

“Three Vans and one motorbike” – nice!

Nolla April 9, 2014 at 4:10 pm

It was a great and exiting race. As a Norwegian cyclist from Kristoffs hometown I was hoping for Kristoff. I think he fell victim to his own statement and mental preperations. He told media beforhand that if Cancellara attacked on the Kwaremont, he would not be able to follow (it might have been a lie and not his tactics) but then it happend. I am sure he could have followed, he looked really superstrong, and Cancellaras attack was not as strong as last year and died out after the first surge. But his mind was made up not to follow., that cost him the race.. Still it was priceless to watch the small outbreak of panic in Canca an the Vans, when they were told that Kristoff was coming:-) Like small fish beeing chased by a Shark…

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