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Some Classic Moments

Gent-Wevelgem was the stand-out race of the 2015 spring classics campaign and a shoe-in for the highlights of 2015 after the storm made a race that was gripping for hours. Yes it was dangerous but hopefully most enjoyed watching for the long range action where for the tactical scenarios kept changing for over two hours rather than the crashes.

Other races provided plenty of action too and right from the start with the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and along the way there have been revelations, confirmations and a fair-share of post-race polemics.

Things started well with the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and the thrilling finish where Ian Stannard’s overwinning against three Etixx-Quick Step riders was impressive and worth reviewing for the tactics deployed to overcome numerical superiority. Just as some are superstitious about the “Curse of the Rainbow Jersey” there is a smaller curse reserved for the Omloop winner which says triumph in February means blank results after. The rational explanation is that being on top form for February means going stale in the coming weeks. It looked set to be different with Stannard as he didn’t have to ride the field off his wheel but it didn’t work out with his best result 26th in the E3 Harelbeke.

As much as we’d later lament the absence of Tom Boonen he wasn’t looking sharp in the Omloop. Once he’d crashed out of Paris-Nice the idea was that Etixx-Quick Step lacked his finishing skills, that he could go with moves and then boss the sprint. But would he have done this? The Boonen of time past yes but in 2015 it wasn’t certain. When he did the Flanders-Roubaix double in 2012 he won two stages and placed second in the Lusail team time trial in Qatar but this year was only 33rd. Hardly a rock solid point to extrapolate an entire classics season from but all the same what if he wouldn’t have lived up to expectations anyway, was it better to be away? While we all want to see him racing he’s finished the spring classics season with his reputation intact thanks to his Paris-Nice exit rather than facing the ire of the Belgian press over a race lost to Geraint Thomas, Alexander Kristoff or John Degenkolb. The other ghost of the classics was Fabian Cancellara perhaps a better bet for results following his seventh place in Sanremo although this broke a long run of podium finishes. A signal of decline or just a statistical quirk coming to an end?

John Degenkolb

Geraint Thomas, Alexander Kristoff or John Degenkolb were the winners of the cobbled classics and in convincing manner. It’s easy to imagine 2016 as a repeat especially as all three are 28, 27 and 26 respectively. Thomas was also second on the “summit” finish of Paris-Nice. Now don’t confuse it with an Alpine ascent but he finished fifth overall and took the Volta ao Algarve too. It’s possible he could win Paris-Nice and spring classic, a rare combo these days… but so could Michał Kwiatkowski too. Michael Matthews didn’t get the big win but a podium in Sanremo and on the Amstel Gold Race shows him surfing a long peak of form.

If there’s a team mate award then Luca Paolini would be a good pick given he was instrumental in Kristoff’s Milan-Sanremo ride. Giant-Alpecin’s Bart de Backer did a good job with his relay work to set up John Degenkolb’s win in Roubaix and Team Sky’s Luke Rowe was working hard in the late phases of many a race. Ben Hermans finally had his day in the limelight in the Brabantse Pijl. The list of contributions is long and most of this work is often done away from the cameras.

Gent-Wevelgem was the stand out race thanks to the wild conditions. Notionally one of the more boring races thanks to the long run to the line after the cobbled climbs the weather blew the script away. It was survival of the toughest and uneasy viewing at times as riders wrestled with their handlebars in the ferocious crosswinds and others crashed out. As good as it was the worry is that there’s an inflationary trend here where races need something dramatic to hit the ratings jackpots, as if ordinary bike racing isn’t good enough.

Mur de Huy

Which is more likely to see a sprint finish from a large group: a flat race or a hilly one? Normally you’d say the former but the cobbled classics delivered solo breaks and sprints from small groups, think Thomas winning the E3 alone after a late attack, the same for Luca Paolini in Wevelgem. Degenkolb won in Roubaix from a group of six. Meanwhile over 40 riders hit the Mur de Huy for the win, the Amstel had 17 riders in the front group after the Cauberg and 11 were sprinting for Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

Pavé > Ardennes: maybe we needed some dramatic weather to shake up the Ardennes races? For all their difficulties the riders master the course quite well and their later slot in April encourages milder conditions.

Dylan Van Baarle

Cannondale-Garmin were probably the most invisible squad. In a way it’s OK, they’re not a big budget team and have tilted resources to the hillier races. The cobbled classics just aren’t for them in the same way Movistar aren’t big on the pavé either. The difference is we’ve been used to Movistar for years while “Garmin” has changed targets having used the pavé with success from Johan Van Summeren. You might remember Jack Bauer’s bike throw as the team’s most memorable performance but don’t forget Dylan Van Baarle made the podium in the Dwars Door Vlaanderen, relegating Kwiatkowski to fourth place. The squad missed out in the Ardennes with team leader Dan Martin crashing in the Flèche Wallonne and again on the road to Liège and sit last on the UCI World Tour rankings with just 25 points. For comparison Ag2r’s Alexis Vuillermoz alone has 23 points.

Lotto-Jumbo had a tough time too. Sep Vanmarcke’s career trajectory could be at the tipping point where hope turns to disappointment while the rest of the squad weren’t so visible. Moreno Hofland sustained injuries earlier that probably cost them a morale boosting here or there. But the team almost vanished and sponsorship from a Dutch lottery and the Jumbo supermarket chain is way below the levels seen at Rabobank. The bank fled the sport and Belkin stepped in but much of the funding still came from Rabo honouring its contract; today the modest budget means a more modest squad.

FDJ have focussed around three leaders: Thibaut Pinot, Arnaud Démare and Arthur Vichot. Pinot proved himself in Tirreno-Adriatico but Démare suffered in the cobbled classics while Vichot vanished in the Ardennes forest. Still all three are young and as leaders go Démare and Vichot aren’t exactly threats to Kristoff and Valverde; FDJ themselves say Vichot was aiming for top-15 placings. The team were visible when Séb Chavanel got shunted by the Shimano neutral service car in the Ronde but for a tale of malchance see Paris-Roubaix where the team car punctured and then got smashed after a shunt with a Europcar team vehicle.

You don’t need to speak Slovak to understand that sad puppy look on Peter Sagan for much of the spring classics. He finally got that win in Tirreno-Adriatico but many might remember his 2015 spring for that dignity-robbing image of him having a dump in a ditch. Tinkoff-Saxo had a mini-mutiny as Bjarne Riis was paid-off let go by Oleg Tinkov but they could have had Julius Caesar or Naponleon in the team car and it’s still hard to see how Sagan could have won a classic. Not along ago he occupied the niche of the-sprinter-who-can-climb all by himself with some added bike handling skills but now it’s a crowded space with Kristoff, Degenkolb, Matthews and probably Julian Alaphilippe too. The Tinkov soap opera can be amusing but there’s a serious aspect: if Saxo Bank quit in Riis’ wake then Oleg Tinkov needs a co-sponsor and fast. No pressure Alberto.

For all the flak Etixx-Quick Step got for “losing” races they still had an incredible run, managing to place a rider on the podium in every single one of the World Tour northern classics, ie everything but Sanremo. Patrick Lefevere stood by his team all the time acting as a human lightning conductor to soak the storm of criticism instead of leaving his riders exposed. One rider he did criticise was Kwiatkowski “who doesn’t win often” but he was the Belgian squad’s biggest success with the win in the Amstel. According to The Cycling Podcast the Pole could be installing Sky satellite TV in time for 2016.

Similarly Mark Cavendish won Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, another of the “non-cobble club” to win although the Manxman’s spring campaign didn’t deliver the sprint triumph needed to secure a bumper contract renewal.

Etixx-Quick Step need to save some Euros to renew Julian Alaphilippe’s contract. He must be the revelation of the classics campaign although loyal readers will have seem him tipped for 2015. Lotto-Soudal’s Tiesj Benoot is a good second choice. The Frenchman completely slipped by every French pro team to join Etixx-Quick Step despite a silver medal in the 2010 Junior cyclo-cross words and the French U23 CX title aged 19. But he’ll now have race with an invisible rucksack laden with the burden of French hope. Originally down to ride the Giro he’ll do the Vuelta later this year. Looking ahead to 2016 it’ll be crucial for Zdeněk Štybar and Sep Vanmarkce to land a win while some new names could include Edward Theuns, Yves Lampaet, Jens Debusschere, Stefan Küng among others. The stealth revelation has been CCC-Sprandi’s Maciej Paterski.

Disc Brakes

As well as new names for 2016 we might well see new looking bikes with disc brakes. It’s unlikely to alter the action but the bikes will look different. For years “what the pros ride” at Paris-Roubaix has a been regular report but as bike technology has improved fewer modifications have been need and even stock carbon rims can be used rather than resorting to antique supply of Sigma Pavé rims. The bike industry should have show in the shop window soon.

With stronger brakes some could have stopped at the level crossing. For all the talk of what’s coming in 2016  we’re not yet done with the past… Paris-Roubaix might seem a distant memory but what if the result gets changed? The UCI is still to report back on the level crossing incident and under its own rules riders who crossed when the barrier is down get disqualified. It’s hard to see the UCI’s own report ignoring this but then again it’s easy to see the UCI fudging and finessing this.

As ever shadows fall across the races. Greg Van Avermaet raced with the Belgian Federation trying to ban him while Astana had been racing since February doused in UCI-grade slurry after the governing body told the world something was so wrong with the team it should be completely removed from the sport… only for the Licence Commission to prove its independence and let them ride on.

The Verdict: it is worth trying to rate the whole classics season in one go? Probably not. Unlike a grand tour, there’s no single (yellow) thread to weave all the races together and besides it’s all so much longer, the spring classics begun in wintry February and the season lasts eight weeks, it’s too easy to forget plenty.

Gent-Wevelgem and the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad are memorable highlights. You could definitely sit down to watch both the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix again using hindsight to see where the riders were placed and review team tactics.

Next up the Tour de Romandie with Chris Froome, Nairo Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali and the glorious Giro d’Italia is just a dozen days away.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Netserk Monday, 27 April 2015, 4:46 pm

    Regarding Boonen: It was a TTT he placed 2nd in, and I’m quite certain he’d have done the same or better this year if it had been a TTT again.

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 27 April 2015, 4:52 pm

      Serves me right for scanning the 2012 results. He did have a very strong race with two individual stage wins. Will edit the above.

      • Netserk Monday, 27 April 2015, 4:58 pm

        Another thing worth pointing out imo is that he hasn’t had a sprint not disrupted by major bad luck since 2012, which makes it very difficult to gauge what his potential top form would be like.

        Last year in Roubaix, even though he wasn’t at his absolute best, he still played a decisive role for his team and the race and I think he could’ve affected the race in a similar way this year too by shaping the race in a way where the team could use their numerical superiority.

        • Netserk Monday, 27 April 2015, 4:59 pm

          sprint=spring

          damn typos.

      • irungo txuletak Monday, 27 April 2015, 7:42 pm

        On Boonen, I don’t know why, but I thought exactly the same as Inner Ring – maybe it was better for his reputation not to be beaten by the likes of kristoff or degenkolb. Flemish press would not have spoken about something else during weeks… Anyway, he is a big champion, and he may still surprise us in the worlds. You never know with such a talent.
        By the way, on such a route as Richmond’s I am curious how he will get along with GVA. Will all belgium team rides for another GVA’s 3rd?

  • Humpty Dumpty Monday, 27 April 2015, 5:02 pm

    That photo of Sagan preparing to curl one out provided me substantial amusement this morning.

    • some guy Monday, 27 April 2015, 5:41 pm

      funny comment, particularly coming from a guy named ‘Humpty Dumpty’… ok, back to more serious matters!

    • weeclarky Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 7:26 am

      I nearly had the same problem myself this morning…! I’m surprised we don’t see it more often

  • Beno Monday, 27 April 2015, 5:05 pm

    Thanks for an excellent round-up INRNG!
    Tjallingi was also visible for Lotto-Jumbo.

  • SilverSurfer8 Monday, 27 April 2015, 5:06 pm

    Kristoff’s win was the highlight of the classics for me. I prefer a ‘brute force’ win over a ‘tactical’ win, for these races. Valverde’s win in L-B-L was impressive because he had to put himself in the wind and tow his competition to the finish. (But I’m not convinced he’s clean)

    This year it seemed like everyone followed the same formula; stay out of the wind, hang in there until the end, and whomever is the freshest (and smartest) wins in the sprint. This is where I missed Fabian and Tom. Having one or two riders that can ride you off their wheel has a huge impact on the race dynamics, and it was missing this year. I would have thought that Vanmarke and Sagan would have stepped in as the ‘dominators’ but it seems everyone has caught up. Is this the new ‘parity’ of the post-EPO era?

    Now that everyone has figured out how to ride these races, it might be time to change them up a bit. Why not not change them up every year? If the courses varied a bit more every year, that might shake things up. But who knows? They’ve been ‘perfecting’ these races for about a hundred years!

  • J Evans Monday, 27 April 2015, 5:59 pm

    Bit of a disappointing spring – all the more so for me because the one race I missed was Gent-W.
    It’s not the parcours that makes a race – often.
    Another disappointment: Eurosport UK not showing Romandie… but showing ‘Tour de Yorkshire’ (seriously? ‘de’?) and Turkey. ‘Home of Cycling’.

    • Anonymous Monday, 27 April 2015, 6:32 pm

      I think Eurosport UK is slowly going downhill. Even Hatch and Kelly seemed somewhat lifeless yesterday. Been watching for over 20 years and it’s not progressing much. No Romandie!! whats all that about.

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 27 April 2015, 6:52 pm

      Presumably someone else has bought the rights to Romandie. Yorkshire is an ASO race so part of the package for any channel buying the Tour de France.

      Whether it’s on TV or a web stream Romandie is worth following with a good field.

      • MikeF Monday, 27 April 2015, 9:20 pm

        I can’t find any UK broadcaster saying they’ll be showing Romandie (you’d have thought there was one obvious candidate to show it…)

        I suspect I’m going to be resorting to the internet and my non-existent grasp of the Dutch language to follow the race.

        • The Inner Ring Monday, 27 April 2015, 9:28 pm

          Look at Romandie it was on Sky Sports last year for UK viewers, BeIn for US viewers.

        • J Evans Monday, 27 April 2015, 10:32 pm

          I’ve learned kop de wedstrijd is leader of the race.
          The annoying thing is that you can’t watch highlights at night on streams – from what I’ve seen: unless anyone knows better?

          • Anonymous Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 11:06 am

            YouTube and CyclingTorrents – you may need to wait a little longer and it might all be in foreign, but it’s free and if you turn up a decent race report eg. CyclingQuotes, then you’ll learn more than many a commentary on Eurosport anyway.

      • Megi Monday, 27 April 2015, 9:37 pm

        British Eurosport didn’t show Tour de Romandie last year either. According to Steephill, Sky Sports have the rights this year, but have yet to announce when they are showing it. It being the end of the football season, soccer has the first, second, third and fourth call on their available channel time.

      • Anonymous Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 1:03 am

        its on the second channel of the french-speaking branch of swiss tv. http://www.rts.ch/sport/cyclisme/tour-de-romandie/?display=archives. but its beyond me if and how you can actually watch it from outside switzerland

  • Dai Bank Monday, 27 April 2015, 6:23 pm

    I have quite enjoyed the spring season albeit with a few caveats. Had high hopes for Vanmarcke after he showed so well before the untimely puncture at Het Nieuwsblad. Really thought he would have picked up a win ot two but was not to be.
    I think Sky have definitely picked up their one day spring and really wanted G to come away with a result at Flanders or Roubaix after having screamed at the TV that friday for E3. Don’t claim to be a fanboi of Sky but I reckon a clear improvement in 2015 with still some way to go.
    EQS so consistent but lacking that certain something-luck, killer instinct, race savvy, who knows but it could have been so much more succesful than it undoubtedy was.
    Two real stars in waiting in Alaphilippe and Benoot, two coming to realise their talent in Kristoff and Degenkolb and Kwiatowski easing the “curse” of the rainbow jersey.

  • Nick Monday, 27 April 2015, 6:48 pm

    A small point, but “Rabobank… fled the sport”? They’re still sponsoring a women’s team, aren’t they? Perhaps fairer to say “fled the men’s sport”.

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 27 April 2015, 6:51 pm

      Fair point and in fact they sponsor a lot of the sport in the Netherlands, from the Dutch U23 development team to grass roots clubs.

      • j Monday, 27 April 2015, 8:30 pm

        Because it’s only the professional men who dope.

        • J Evans Monday, 27 April 2015, 8:30 pm

          Unintentional semi-anonymity.

        • Blinkyblueeyed Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 12:05 am

          Comment meant ironically I guess?

          Doping amongst the female peloton is not unknown but certainly _nowhere_ near as prolific as within the professional male peloton of the past years. Money was/is probably a big driving factor there. When you or your team hardly earn enough to even get to races, doping simply doesn’t/can’t come on the radar for those more inclined to cheat.

          I’m guessing Rabobank weren’t naive in that respect but felt continuing to sponsor the women’s team didn’t hold much risk in comparison to the men’s team of the past and therefore brought more benefits than disadvantages.

          • J Evans Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 9:28 am

            There’s also their continued sponsorship of U23 men – certainly previously, this is a group riddled with drugs use.

  • gary Monday, 27 April 2015, 9:34 pm

    Romandie had been on sky in the UK the paste couple of years. Can’t remember if Eurosport showed it as well.

    • barington levi Monday, 27 April 2015, 10:47 pm

      be weird if sky start buying loads of races, could be the master plan of starting a team and winning the TDF?

      • J Evans Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 9:29 am

        That’s long been my fear. And then you pay Sky £40 to watch online instead of paying Eurosport £4.
        Ergo, I never cheer on a British rider – the last thing I want is cycling to become popular here.

        • J Evans Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 9:39 am

          – Because Sky will only pay for it if it’s worth their while, i.e. popular enough to shunt off some football.

          • Disgruntledgoat Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 12:01 pm

            What’s the point of sponsoring a cycling team and then ensuring only people who already buy your product can see the advertising?

          • J Evans Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 1:26 pm

            Good point, Disgruntledgoat – I live in hope.

        • Sam Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 12:54 pm

          How funny.

          • J Evans Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 1:38 pm

            Perfectly reasonable, I think. I couldn’t care less about a rider’s nationality, so I have no more reason to cheer a British rider than, say, a Dutch rider – whereas – I think – I might have a reason to want the British riders not to win.
            If Sky are showing Romandie (as stated above – I don’t know), they must believe they have reason to show some cycling.

          • DisgruntledGoat Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 2:22 pm

            Further to my earlier point, if Sky’s objective is to show all the cycling exclusively, for some reason, then twirl their moustaches and laugh maniacally that nobody can watch E3 Harelbeke anymore they’ve gone a funny way about it.

            For less than 1 years worth of operating costs of a huge professional cycling team they could buy the broadcast rights for the entire world tour for about 5 years and advertise the bejesus out of it on their 6 dedicated sport channels. Also if this was their evil plan, then you’d think they’d have invested in some actual broadcasters and, you know, shown some cycling.

      • Sam Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 12:53 pm

        Umm….no. Starting a road trade team as part of a grand master plan to buy into the money in cycling broadcasting, where so few races are actually profitable and where the conditions attached to the big races like the Tour are that the coverage is made available to free-to-air TV in each country? Nah.

        There’s little money to be made in broadcasting road cycling.

        • Anonymous Wednesday, 29 April 2015, 2:56 am

          Broadcasting would be profitable if if cycling were popular with the punters…

          Gambling is a popular investment with Russian organized crime…

  • Ron Monday, 27 April 2015, 10:16 pm

    Maybe it’s just that I haven’t been watching the PRO peloton nearly as long as many of you, but I’m rarely disappointed with the races. There is always something exciting, if nothing more than bikes taking up the roads and there not being any stupid cars out there (unless it’s one of those cars that somehow slipped through…).

  • Othersteve Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 1:11 am

    Thanks for the nice one day race rap up.

    Now on to stage racing and a few different cast of characters.
    Nice to possible see Garmin in the mix.

  • Larry T. Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 8:50 am

    Two “never-say-die” performances highlighted this segment of the season. Luca Paolini and John Degenkolb get my highest honors. Not so sure about the bike industry comments though. Back-in-the-day of Merckx and Maertens the Gios, Masi, DeRosa, Colnago, etc. built bikes (no matter whose name was on the downtube) of the stars were not much different than those used the rest of the year. They were good for everything. These days there are lots of gimmicky, marketing-driven “features” like rubber bits stuffed into holes in the frame, “shock absorbers”, hinged seat tubes, etc. but none of this played much of a part in who won on any given day. Certainly MORE technology, but I’m not so sure it’s IMPROVED unless you consider the manufacturer/importer’s bottom line.

  • J Evans Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 9:24 am

    ‘Geraint Thomas, Alexander Kristoff or John Degenkolb were the winners of the cobbled classics’.

    ‘Geraint Thomas’ should read ‘Luca Paolini’. GW is the ‘classic’; not E3.

  • J Evans Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 9:40 am

    Alaphilippe most needs to ignore the French press entirely. Focus on the classics and don’t be pressured to become yet another ‘next French winner of the Tour’.

  • Disgruntledgoat Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 12:05 pm

    My moment of the classics was the TV interview after Omloop. Stannard was asked to sit there being ignored whilst Boonen described the entire race, laughing and joking . Terpstra sat there with a face like thunder until asked what he thought

    “te praat over het is makkelijk. Rijden is moelijker” (It’s easy to talk about it. Riding is harder). The only words he would speak for the whole 10 minutes. Excrutiatingly great TV

  • Sam Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 12:57 pm

    Stannard’s win was a highlight for me, as was Degenkolb’s at P-R and G’s E3. The final 15km of the Ronde, I watched already knowing the result – but the path to that point was entertaining enough. The Ardennes races left me a bit cold. MSR was cracking as I was roadside on the Poggio.

    • Disgruntledgoat Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 1:28 pm

      “The Ardennes races left me a bit cold. MSR was cracking as I was roadside on the Poggio.”

      That left you even colder, I should think? HONK!

      • Sam Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 5:54 pm

        Ha! Every one’s a winner!

        Me even more so as the blue sky and sun appeared just in time for my jaunt on the Poggio…too warm for a jacket, so it was, Goat 🙂

  • Richard S Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 1:27 pm

    Highlight of the spring was undoubtedly Gent-Wevelgem, it was a genuine epic. Milan-Sanremo was also pretty good, as were Flanders, Strade Bianche and E3. I thought Roubaix lacked a spark and the Ardennes week was unfortunately as predictable as predicted! I think the finals of these races definitely need a tweek. Amstel Gold should go back to its finish at the top of the Cauberg in my opinion, its predictable but quite spectacular. The quick decsent followed by the relatively quick climb at least happens at high speed. It’s current finish is far from the worst though and at least involves a few riders opting for different approaches (go with Gilbert, or gamble on saving energy for a sprint). Fleche Wallone is the most obviously predictable, I think it and Liege-Bastogne-Liege should abandon the hill top finish idea and go back to flat finishes to mix things up a bit and involve a few different types of rider. You might then get the likes of Stybar, van Avermaet or even Matthews challenging the feather weights if they have a chance to track them down. It might also force climbers to attack. A slow motion sprint of non-sprinters after 200 odd km’s is a pretty strange watch really! If you think back to the last couple of Worlds road races and the last few additions of Giro di Lombardia they have had pretty excited finishes with a small bunch contesting a sprint. Ideally you want someone to try their hand over the last climb or two and marginally stay away (Kwiatkowski worlds last year) or get caught a few hundred metres from the line by a small group of chasers (Rodriguez 2013 worlds). At least there is a little uncertainty in that. Currently Fleche Wallone is far too predictable and while LBL isn’t the worst it could be better, even if there was just a 2-3km extension downhill after Ans somewhere to include a wider range of rider. I know riders are more specialised in general nowadays and target a smaller number of races but Liege never used to be an out an out climbers classic, technically there’s never been any such thing, barring maybe the earlier years of Lombardia.

    • J Evans Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 1:46 pm

      I’d change LBL to a flatter finish – for all the reasons you give, but keep FW as it is – it’s a pretty unique race (if not the most exciting at times).

      • irungo txuletak Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 7:02 pm

        Completely agree with you.
        The mur de huy cannot be removed, it is too legendary, even if it makes the race predictable. What might be tried instead is to put a very steep hill (there are some around huy much better than cherave) just before climbing it.
        On Liège, drop the post industrial suburbs of Saint Nicolas and Ans and maybe put another hill in the ourthe valley after roche aux faucons before going down to central liège.

  • Alpen Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 2:30 pm

    Absolutely agreed on Gent-Wevelgem being the stand out race. When trolling through the youtube to decide the entertainment for my rollers last night, it was the obvious choice!

  • Darren Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 10:14 pm

    I also noticed the ‘shadow’ team of Cannondale-Garmin, or should I say, struggled to.
    Kind of reminds me of how their previous merger, with Cervelo TT, did not mesh so well,
    prompting Hushovd to make a few ‘Nordically-veiled’ comments in the media before shifting
    his ass onto a BMC-sponsored saddle!

    I wonder what style-guru Vaughters has up his sleeve/non-sleeve with his new and improved formula!
    However, the wondering is not that ‘strong with the Force’!

    Too much other action this Spring to keep me entertained, such as the confidently-dominant Kristoff, Paolini & Sons!

  • Phil B Wednesday, 29 April 2015, 10:06 am

    Cannondale Garmin are victims of bad luck but also possibly they have a roster that is not as it was, in terms of depth of talent. Their stars are either fading (Hesjedal), or permacrocked because they can’t ride a bike properly (Dan Martin). I feel for Dan Martin, as he clearly has a tonne of talent, but he’s not the most adept Peloton rider. having won a couple of one day races and with considerable Panache, he maybe needs to find a better team?

    • Darren Wednesday, 29 April 2015, 10:53 pm

      When South Africa returned to international sporting competition after the sanctions had been dropped, circa 1989, they engaged the services of sports psychologists to deal with any feeling of inferiority the sporters may have had after a few decades being out of the elite level. The results spoke for themselves!

      Race in the time-machine to the present…world tour teams, with riders suffering from a lack of self-confidence, etc, have still not caught onto the power of mind-over-body!

      Kinda sad really! It has been suggested that the sensation of feeling butt-hurt (sucking in your own plug-hole) from constantly not winning can become addictive (a weird sensation that is mildly warm and comfortable, much like ‘comfort food’)!

      Last resort is to do a ‘Lefevre’; diverting attention from one’s own team poor performance or poor tactical nous by blaming other teams for performing ‘too’ well!