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The Moment The Race Was Won: Liège-Bastogne-Liège

Valverde Liege

Alejandro Valverde sprints for the line ahead of Julian Alaphilippe and Joaquim Rodriguez. The Movistar rider won the sprint after controlling the final kilometre and outwitting Katusha’s numerical superiority.

The early breakaway took time to form, a flurry of attacks in the first half hour finally ended with a move that didn’t contain any threats. It still prompted Europcar to lead the chase, strange for the wildcard invitees to feel responsible for controlling events especially as they were doing it before the TV coverage started. Things hotted up on the the Côte de Wanne where Astana’s Andriy Grivko took off, launching the first of a series of moves by the Kazakh team. Were they celebrating their continued presence in the World Tour? Probably not and the hilly terrain suits a team that’s built for stage racing and Vincenzo Nibali had started 2015 with two targets circled in red: the Tour de France and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

The sky blue jerseys were swarming on the Haut Levée and Tanel Kangert and Michele Scarponi got away with Esteban Chaves of Orica-Greenedge for company. The trio would stay away for some time with Kangert driving on the flat and he paid for his efforts on La Redoute.

Behind there was a giant stack which took out many as the peloton raced towards the Amblève valley at 70km/h. Dan Martin, cousin Nicolas Roche, Pierre Rolland, Yukiya Arashiro, Simon Gerrans, Frank Schleck, Mathias Frank were among the fallen. Vincenzo Nibali just avoided trouble while Julian Alaphilippe had a mechanical which meant he needed a wheel change and was forced to chase up La Redoute to rejoin the peloton. The bunch though weren’t in a hurry. Years ago La Redoute was a strategic spot and sometimes the winning move could go clear. Not today and the riders were spread horizontally across the road rather than taking turns to attack. A stiff breeze promised a strength-sapping headwind at the top.

Giampaolo Caruso

On to the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons and the climb itself didn’t do much damage. The awkward uphill section after did as Roman Kreuziger went clear and to be joined by Katusha’s Giampaulo Caruso and then later Jacob Fuglsang got across. It marked the end of Astana’s tactical grip as Katusha started to shape the race. The bunch split in the pursuit behind with Giovanni Visconti chasing out of team duty and joined by Romain Bardet, Rui Costa, Alaphilippe and more but it all came back together thanks to a nervous Nibali leading the pursuit.

As the race toured Liège’s rustiest suburbs Zdeněk Štybar was working to bring back compatriot Kreuziger, Caruso and Fuglsang. On the Côte de Saint-Nicolas the trio were in sight and Valverde was repeating his tactic from the Flèche Wallonne of riding up the climb in order to control the pace. Nibali had other plans and perhaps channeling St Nicolas the patron saint of the wrongly-accused (for balance he’s the patron saint of pharmacists too), he attacked but the move wasn’t incisive. It was Alaphilippe who reeled in “The Shark”and The Frenchman, pleased by his catch, persisted in his effort and turned on the power over the climb, a generous effort he might now regret. But at least he was there because by now team mate Michał Kwiatkowski was being dropped.

Riding the cobbled descent into Ans the lead group had three Katusha riders in Dani Moreno, Caruso and Joaquim Rodriguez, Ag2r had two in Bardet and Bardet and Pozzovivo, Astana had Nibali and Fuglsang and Sky also had two in Sergio Henao and L-P Nordhaug. Only Katusha used their numerical superiority with Moreno jumping in the final kilometre. Louis Meintjes of MTN-Qhubeka chased but cracked and there was a brief poker moment as Valverde sat up and the others watched each other. But Moreno wasn’t storming ahead, he was standing on the pedals in the most upright style possible, as if he was on a stair machine and it didn’t help his aerodynamics. Valverde was the first to blink and jumped off in pursuit of Moreno and Rodriguez followed along with everyone else. It meant a sprint from the group and Valverde used his front position to lead and kept it going to the line. Alaphilippe shouldered Rui Costa out of the way to take second with Joaquim Rodriguez taking third.

The Verdict: a predictable win without too much suspense. Astana and Katusha tried to shape the race from far out and this promised plenty but every time they launched someone up the road it had the feeling of a diversion rather than the winning move. A lot of the action happened by the back door with riders being shelled out on the climbs. It was a hard race but not a spectacular one. Valverde’s win wasn’t just down to his final sprint, he took control of the race in the final kilometre, responding to Katusha’s tactical taunts but it was a discreet ride, not for him the bold attacks of Nibali or sometimes too visible Alaphilippe.

Valverde now has three wins to his name here and 2015 wasn’t that far off his 2006 win when he came off a win in the Flèche Wallonne and then sat tight while then team mate Joaquim Rodriguez led for much of the final hour before he won won the sprint from a group packed with fellow clients of Dr Fuentes.

Julian Alaphilippe

Alaphilippe impressed again, finishing second with a theatrical thump of the handlebars and post-race frustration at finishing second when most neo-pros would be going wild about first place. He was annoyed after his second place in the  Flèche Wallonne but his mood turned to joy as well after the race as it sunk in. You can’t get lucky on the Mur de Huy but being able to land a podium in Liège-Bastogne-Liège is a higher level result given the distance and hillier course. Still 22 who knows what sort of rider he’ll become? It’s too early to say if he’s just an Ardennes specialist or if he can flourish in a stage race too. As an amateur he won the summit finish stage of the 2013 Tour de l’Avenir with a solo finish well ahead of Matej Mohoric and Adam Yates although much of this was built on the descent and team tactics. Being French he’ll feel the media pull for the Tour de France, being on Etixx-Quick Step he’s being schooled in one day events.

As for Joaquim Rodriguez he did what he could but was never obvious for the sprint win. Katusha’s trio resemble body doubles, each are tiny climbers. They tried to shape the race but the finish didn’t suit.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • SeeingElvis Sunday, 26 April 2015, 7:40 pm

    Photo caption for the last shown (podium closeup):

    Purito: “Hey, remember when you lost the World’s for me?”

  • Augie March Sunday, 26 April 2015, 7:44 pm

    A substandard field significantly weakened by crashes served up a substandard winner.

    Also, for all the Valverde cheerleaders’ talk of his “classy” riding style, little of this has been in evidence over recent wins, he must be one of the most defensive riders in the peloton.

    Chapeau to Alaphilippe though, great ride.

    • Larry T. Sunday, 26 April 2015, 10:28 pm

      Crashes are part of racing, some have lots while others don’t No fan of the Green Bullet but the guy was the favorite and marked all day, but still came through to win. This Alaphillipe kid’s a real find, from outta nowhere he’s mixing it up with the big boyz. Great for the French! Overall not a stellar spring classics season for me. Paolini and Degenkolb’s never-say-die wins were certainly the highlights, otherwise it was rather dull. Perhaps 2016 will be more interesting? Maybe they should all show up down under at Cadel’s race?

    • Ronin Monday, 27 April 2015, 2:44 am

      I don’t think you’re giving credit where credit is due. That was one piece of savvy racing by Valverde. Moreno attacks and Valverde sits up, I’m sure thinking that if he chases, he’ll just lead someone out. He waits patiently. Of course, it’s obvious soon that no one is going to chase, and so it’s up to him if he wants to win. He times his chase out of the group perfectly, gets a nice gap on everyone else, including Rodriguez, catches Moreno, and has enough strength to hold his lead to the line. Superb.

      • Augie March Monday, 27 April 2015, 5:00 am

        I’m not saying it’s wasn’t a canny bit of riding from Valverde because it was, his positioning was good and he did everything he needed to win the race. What I am saying is that the finish would have been different or least a lot more interesting if Gilbert and Martin were there because they probably would have tried a longer move, and had Gerrans been there Valverde would have been forced to try some sort of attack or settle for second because Gerrans is a lot faster than Alaphilippe, Purito etc.

        • gabriele Monday, 27 April 2015, 10:38 am

          In yesterday’s race Gerrans (even 2014 Gerrans) wouldn’t have ever made it to the finish line in the head group, nor probably a Gilbert different from his vintage 2011 edition (if anything).
          Despite the limited front selection (attacks), it was a race strongly oriented towards hard climbing and stamina (back selection), you can tell if you look at the top 10… they’re all good climbers, often with a clearer propensity for stage races than classics (question mark for Alaphilippe, who’s probably simply a possible future champion 😉 ). In other occasions – for example those I named – there always was a couple of classics rider or punchers with little love for stage races, like Leukemans, Van Avermaet, Kwiatkowski (we can compare his results in these two editions), Slagter…
          Below the 1′ mark, we had 22 riders in 2011 (Gilbert), 15 in 2012, 24 in 2013 (D. Martin), 31 in 2014 (Gerrans), and 21 this year.
          Maybe D. Martin could be there, generally speaking, but not this year, even bad luck apart. It really looks like Garmindale got their preparation (no doping implication) wrong, they would have a decent field for hilly classics, but I guess they’re betting on California and the Tour. Hope so.
          Given that you’ll always have some absences, looking at last years’ top tens I’d say the field was well qualified, we probably missed Urán and not so much more.

          • Augie March Monday, 27 April 2015, 11:09 am

            Citation needed on that. I’m afraid your comment reminds me of the online hand wringing that came after the 2012 Milan San Remo, where many tried to insist that despite his win, somehow Gerrans “wasn’t as strong as Cancellara”.

          • gabriele Monday, 27 April 2015, 11:40 am

            Sorry, can’t get your point (linguistic trouble, I guess). I don’t think “Gerrans didn’t deserve” anything, nor have I ever liked the “stronger” arguments (pretty confusing: what is “strength” in cycling? And the point of cycling is that “the strong” is often hindered by race strategies).
            Still, you can not avoid to observe that different races imply different possible winners.
            I think that the data I posted could be enough conspicous (or are you asking for the links to Wikipedia, CN and so?), but you can also compare Gerrans’ results along the years. He’s always been a very good second-line outsider, normally coming in with the second gruppo (agglomerating positions which are a bit dispersed in the final rush, not in pure cronometric terms), even if very often too tired to sprint (or not willing). In a day when the “second” and “first” gruppo come together to the foot of Ans, and the race hasn’t been especially wearing on the climbs, he can express his full potential. Deserved win, since he snatched perfectly a rare opportunity (which I appreciate greatly), but it needed a very specific development of the race, which couldn’t be seen this year (nor in the previous ones, 2009 apart, when a big group came in slowly after Andy Schleck… and Gerrans got his second best result ever).

          • Augie March Monday, 27 April 2015, 11:56 am

            I’m simply saying that “size of group x = rider y automatically ineligible for the podium” does not follow. In other words, your data does not in any way prove your contention. Bike races aren’t algorithms so projecting conjectural statistics onto them is of extremely limited utility.

          • gabriele Monday, 27 April 2015, 12:19 pm

            If you prefer I can say you that I’m practically sure, out of my sheer experience and “colpo d’occhio”! If we want to have a debate about the IFs, which is always complicated, the record of prior events and corresponding Gerrans’ performances is a good element to start with. At least, you’d need some counter-argument. We’re not lamenting Iglinsky’s absence just ’cause he won here previously. Vansummeren and O’Grady hugely deserved wins in Roubaix don’t make them regular top-contenders, even if they’re pretty good on that terrain and in case of helping circumstances they can be dangerous. But we just feel that if the race doesn’t go “that way”, they won’t be there with the best. To turn things the other way around, Nibali’s podium in Sanremo doesn’t make him a Sanremo rider, nor makes present Sanremo a good race for stage racers: I wouldn’t have ever said that if Vincenzo was in better shape, he could make a podium agains this year, for example, it was simply impossible – the race just didn’t go that way (it rarely does, indeed).

    • Cannon Dale Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 11:26 pm

      … and as an unrepentant doper, any victories for Valverde come with a rather unpleasant whiff! … The sooner that cheat is out of the peleton the better it will be for cycling and for better/fairer/more interesting/more believable racing.

      • Anonymous Wednesday, 29 April 2015, 3:46 pm

        Amen!

  • John Liu Sunday, 26 April 2015, 8:16 pm

    Of the crashers, only Dan Martin was a real contender.

    Valverde’s wins today and at Fleche Wallone, and his second in Amstel Gold, belie any thoughts of a substandard performance. He was controlled and didn’t waste energy, wasn’t flashy but was effective.

    Excited to see another young French rider on the podium.

  • channel_zero Sunday, 26 April 2015, 8:19 pm

    Quite a “rogue’s gallery” sprinkled throughout the top-20. Good to see one young guy on the podium.

  • Anonymous Sunday, 26 April 2015, 8:25 pm

    Valverde!! Pure class!!!!!!!!!

    • ad Monday, 27 April 2015, 5:01 am

      Is Valverde suspicious? Gets caught up with Puerto and Fuentes and now is having the best season of his career at the age of 35. Hmm.

      • Anonymous Monday, 27 April 2015, 8:30 am

        Valverde por vida!!!

      • Andrew W. Monday, 27 April 2015, 1:31 pm

        As an unrepentant doper, he’ll always be suspicious.

      • Cannon Dale Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 11:33 pm

        … I presume you’re being ironic? …. One might as well pretend (if one can) that Valverde is not there, if you want to “watch” a proper/fair race. He is and always has been so “dodgy”, that there can never be any pleasure or admiration in watching him win anything. Thankfully, he must surely soon fade depite any “preparation” and cycling can take another step forward in ridding itself of the “master-dopers”.

        • Anonymous Wednesday, 29 April 2015, 3:49 pm

          Amen! once more

  • Rusty chain Sunday, 26 April 2015, 8:26 pm

    Importance of being flexible: maybe if Kwiatkowski rode for Alaphillipe or Stybar EQS would have landed a win. Obviously Kwiatkowski distracted by the Amstel win. Valverde win: amazingly consistent rider but one that shouldn’t be racing professionally- I think UCI is far too forgiving. You can make a mistake and shove somebody in a sprint but systematic doping should be an automatic ban no parole. Cause now we will all say ok he won but did he win or did the drugs?

    • gabriele Sunday, 26 April 2015, 10:29 pm

      “Systematic doping”? What are you speaking about?
      We just know that when he was more or less a neo-pro (22-24 years old) in a team that forced riders to dope (as proved in courts), they were using his blood, too. And nothing more from when he was 25 years old on, like, along ten years! Now, I’m very suspicious about the whole “Banesto” structures, but there’s simply nothing about them – and Valverde – during years. We can happily suppose that’s because they’re very close friends with UCI powers, but it’s mere conjecture, and that kind of wild guess could be applied to much more teams, and riders, and with more compelling reasons…
      The right path has been followed in that case, striking harder the figures who were way more responsible of what happened, doctors and team managers. If doping fight was always managed like that, we would have way less doping in the sport, whereas focusing on the riders has never reduced the phenomenon, as we’ve long seen.
      All the rest is just nonsense.

      • STS Sunday, 26 April 2015, 11:02 pm

        My thoughts, exactly. I really don’t understand why many observers make a huge difference between guys on the one hand who were caught doping (and sentenced) whom they want to see leave the sport for good and that far bigger number of riders on the other hand who were not caught for their doping and still ride or have moved into another role within cycling. It’s highly irrational to shout for what in fact is a employment ban (which is a very severe penalty) for a first-time offense for those who got caught and close both eyes when looking at all the others who were also doping but not caught. Isn’t that the same blue-eyed attitude of wanting to believe the sport has to be clean which all the LA-fan-boys back in the day were showing and which when the truth came out let it transfer into huge disappointment? Now they seem to be thinking: “At least we have caught some. Let’s punish them as hard as we can” (especially if they do not show any remorse) as some kind of a compensation for all the others who were not caught. Ever thought about the idea that Valverde et al. might have some very good reason not to talk (publicly) about his doping? You might feel better if he did but his life would become much more uncomfortable.
        By making those guys who were caught to persona non grata you will certainly not clean up the sport and the doubts will accompany us for a very long time. It will then only happen over the next decades when ex-riders who were active during the very dark times get out of the sport because of their age.
        Those who complain that only very few riders talked to the CIRC should understand that it is that “They cheated everyone including me as a spectator, get them out of the sport attitude” which is the one big reason why people rather keep their mouthes shut.

        • Ferdi Monday, 27 April 2015, 8:52 am

          I personally feel Valverde’s “non-repentance” more honest and likeable than what I perceive as the completely hypocritical lip-service of a David Millar or a Ryder Hesjedal, and that the special hate Valverde gets from some fans says more about them than about him. Very defensive rider, sometimes, that is true; very clumsy one some other times, too; but clearly one of the very greatest of his time.

          • sam Monday, 27 April 2015, 10:45 am

            Its not ‘non-repentence, so much. It’s more the continuing denial and refusal to MTFU and admit he doped. He was ‘set up’ – apparently.

            Anyway, enough of that.

            Back to the actual race….

          • Runty Wilson Monday, 27 April 2015, 2:11 pm

            I can’t speak for Ryder but I think it’s a bit harsh to call Millar on “Lip Service”. Post doping he set up a clean team to give riders a dope free option, represented cyclists on one of the international sporting panels (I forget which) and has been outspoken about doping in cycling, doing more than most to break the dreaded Omerta.
            Admittedly in his book there were a couple of awkward phrases that seemed like he did not take responsibility for it, but his track record since can’t be dismissed as mere “lip service”.

          • Cannon Dale Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 11:38 pm

            Ferdi … you are obviously a fan of Valverde, so you are bound to wear rose-tinted specs, but ther can be little doubt about what enables him to continue winning. And his protestations are just so “old-school” that that merly reinforce the general opinion of him. Admire him if you wish, but really, he is far too tainted to be taken seriously.

        • J Evans Monday, 27 April 2015, 11:16 am

          I’ve always been one of the people who dislike Valverde – and am very much in favour of life bans – but it is odd that someone like, say, Contador does not garner the same level of opprobrium.
          I think Gabriele makes a very good point about targeting team managers and doctors, rather than riders: more effective (because they can still be affecting many others) and they are ‘more responsible’. It’s also a very interesting point of his: we don’t know what coercion Valverde faced, if any, nor how long he doped for – or if he still is.
          And STS makes a good point about how we regard the people who are caught and yet we look fondly on those of the same era who were not caught/were not doing it (we don’t know). Take Rodriguez, for instance: same age, rode on the same team for some of the time – do we believe that he has had a clean career? But we don’t look at him as we do Valverde.
          But, like Sam, I do think Valverde should just admit it – but that would involve many more questions along the lines of ‘Who gave you it/made you do it?’, etc. It would take a brave man to come out and name all these people. Therefore, if he doesn’t do that, he just faces more and more questions and accusations of not telling the truth.
          That’s why CIRC should have had an amnesty: no-one was ever going to admit anything without it.
          What the sport needs to do is lay down very strict rules – like life bans, banning corticoids, stopping TUEs – and focus on now. The past is done and our chance of finding out more about that didn’t happen.

          • J Evans Monday, 27 April 2015, 11:50 am

            Valverde’s pulling on the front at the end – knowing he was the strongest – in both FW and LBL made a good change from his previous defensive tactics of always waiting in hope that someone else would do the work and that he could win a sprint. Surprised it took him so long to figure out that this would lead to more victories and fewer 2nds and 3rds.

  • J Evans Sunday, 26 April 2015, 8:51 pm

    Would have been really interesting if the five of Bardet, Rui Costa, Visconti, Moreno and Alaphilippe had put in a concerted chase.
    Three followed by five followed by the peloton would have been quite a race. But Visconti and Moreno didn’t want to work.
    Fuglsang and Caruso didn’t seem to work too hard in the front three either.
    Team orders stifled it, unfortunately – unless it was the riders’ choice, but that seems unlikely.
    And I would say needlessly: fair enough, Visconti was never going to do anything, but neither Nibali or Rodriguez were amongst the favourites – nor significantly better than their ‘minions’: not at all in Nibali’s case and Rodriguez could only win by going long (which he didn’t do).
    Some DSs need to be a little more adventurous: all this only favoured one rider; with the possible exception of Alaphilippe, who looks a huge prospect – looked good in previous years, but a massive step up this year – just didn’t quite have the legs (and left it a bit late).
    Valverde rode cunningly – leading the bunch up St-Nic. to help bring back the three – and looked pretty much unbeatable anyway.
    Kwiatkowski was a big disappointment.

    • gabriele Sunday, 26 April 2015, 11:20 pm

      + 1
      Very disappointed by the “stopper” tactic being used so often and so dully in these last races. Keeping Caruso on the front, which implies having him working in the move, would have helped way more Katusha, for example. It’s not like “if he’s working we’re betraying our only captain, Purito”, there are many more ways to interpret a breakaway to take maximum advantage from it.
      Anyway, generally speaking I liked more Liège than Amstel or Flèche, but the week hasn’t been great at all. This new course looks a little better, still it’s the teams’ attitude which needs to change.

  • BC Sunday, 26 April 2015, 8:58 pm

    I agree with Augie March’s post above, that for some reason the field was to a greater extent sub standard. The final 60 kms of the race was essentially dominated by just two or three teams. As for the winner, Rusty chain sums it up for many.

    A rather disappointing last two events, to what otherwise has proved to be an exciting classics season.

  • keith.war.co.uk Sunday, 26 April 2015, 9:23 pm

    Always a disappointment to see unrepentant Valverde win. Just like Vino etc these guys should be gone from the sport.

  • paekakariki pusher Sunday, 26 April 2015, 9:57 pm

    Wonder if Alaphillipe would have had enough in the tank at the end if he didn’t have to pull him self back up the field after his wheel replacement? Seemed to me that it took a long time for him to get one?

  • OJT Sunday, 26 April 2015, 10:25 pm

    Superb summary of the race. I caught the final 85km & enjoyed it more than expected: the diversions you mention, where second string riders forced a reaction from the bunch, were better executed than in previous editions and the weather threat added some tension.

    Regarding the winner, I came to terms with his past some time ago, even if he still hasn’t. I don’t like the fact he’s hanging around the sport – let alone winning major events – but he’s allowed to do so. If I really wanted to change that, I needed to be head of the UCI in 1995. Getting upset now isn’t going to help much

  • Anonymous Sunday, 26 April 2015, 10:35 pm

    The two strongest riders end up 1-2. And I assume that even those who were taken out by crashes would not have changed the podium. Being the big favorite Valverde rode a perfect race letting the race come to him, not showing any signs of how strong he must have felt and only starting to act in person when it really mattered. He seems to finally have developed the mental strength and coolness to go along with his outstanding capabilities on the bike. I saw a race worthy of the “classic” attribute where even the best riders who fought for the win were really cooked by the end. Last year many complained about the huge size of the group that fought for the win. This time it was much smaller and although none of them would have a chance against Valverde in the sprint only Moreno tried to avoid watching Valverde win. Not because they did not want to but simply because they could not any more. The modified race finale clearly took its toll and made the race a race of attrition till the very finish. Even Valverde had to turn himself inside out in the finale.
    When you see Katusha featuring with three riders in the finale you might consider they could have done more earlier to create some chaos and lower the probability of Valverde winning. Instead they even helped Movistar to chase back the Astana-led move.
    With EQS it seems like they have a problem with too many riders thinking that they are good enough to win it but then not communicating it when they feel that they won’t make it. With all the experience that Kwia now has he must have known 20 ks from the finish that he won’t win it today if it all comes down to a long sprint up the final climb. Instead of just following wheels he could have initiated another attack after announcing it to his team mates that they should closely and consequently match any pursuer. I mean they still had three riders in a group of … 15?
    Astana at least tried to animate the race although they did not have one rider strong enough to take it. Chapeau to them!
    So I wonder why not more teams tried to bridge across to Scarponi, Kangert and Chavez when their advantage was only 30 seconds. Where they just racing for UCI points? Because with the form Valverde has the outcome was very clear when you let Movistar follow their very simple race stategy.

    • STS Sunday, 26 April 2015, 10:36 pm

      Sorry for unintentionally posting as an anonymous.

  • Gareth Sunday, 26 April 2015, 10:38 pm

    Disappointing in the end. When the Astana riders started going up the road I thought we might see some interesting tactical racing. Instead we got boring tactical racing. How to make it more attacking? I think an easier finish might help. If as a climber you need to drop people with a decent sprint prior to the finishing 5k you would race it harder than relying on your finishing kick.

  • Hammarling Sunday, 26 April 2015, 11:05 pm

    Well i was spot on with a sizable group hitting the final few kilometers together leading to a sprint for the line. However unlike AGR and FW we had some actual racing going on before had. Ok it was mostly tactical plays by teams with superior numbers and none of the late race moves ever looked like full blown tilts for victory, but there were moments of panic in the pack where you felt the race could break up into something special.

    Valverde cements his place as the best Ardennes rider of the last few years, no-one could match him in FW or here today, and you think perhaps he should have had more in AGR. For his skills he rode a tactically strong race and you can’t ask for more from him up against numbers from Katusha or Astana. In fact i still can’t quite believe he made the first move across to Moreno!

    Alpahilippe really is coming on strong. This is no sudden burst either, he’s been building to this through Catalunya and showed his skills from 3rd at the RideLondon Classic last summer with OPQS. 9th at the 2013 U23 Worlds and his Avenir results were just hints at his potential. I hope Etixx take proper care of him because he could be France’s next Monument winner.

    Meintjes was also very impressive coming out of Trentino. He’s a really great talent and a really great guy. His start to the year has been awesome and you wonder what he could do in Grand Tours in the coming years as he is much more of a mountain climber than hilly puncheur. I loved seeing the MTN jersey quite a bit this week in the big races and even Cummings was in good company inside the Top30.

    • The Inner Ring Sunday, 26 April 2015, 11:07 pm

      A good ride by Meintjes. He and others (Bardet, Pozzovivo etc) came from Trentino, not an easy transfer to get to Belgium for anyone, yet alone do a 250km race.

  • Ben Sunday, 26 April 2015, 11:06 pm

    Is that a record for the Quick-Step for the number of second places by a team in a single spring classics campaign?

    Or top two finishes; I can only think of maybe two one day races of stature all spring without one EQS rider on one of the top two steps of the podium.

    Sure, they’ve failed to convert enough of them into wins, but remarkable consistency, from cobbles to the Ardennes via the White Roads…

  • gabriele Sunday, 26 April 2015, 11:07 pm

    Beg your pardon for Valverde’s win 😉
    … and inrng’s pardon for feeling the urge to be a little punctilious (you can read that as: “pain in the ***”).

    In 2006, curiously enough, the group of riders Valverde beated was less “packed of Fuentes’ clients” than we could expect.
    In the top ten we only find Valverde, who was already a former client, Basso and Schleck (Perdiguero was a peculiar character, and we may suspect him, but he eventually retired from cycling untouched and there’s no clear link to Fuentes).

    In the top 30 there was just one more rider, Etxebarria.
    Leinder’s “patients” were 3, Ferrari’s about 4, then a couple were treated in Freiburg, 4 or 5 were with different smaller local doctors or pharmacists.

    In contrast, between 7 and 9 riders can be considered not to have been ever involved in doping cases and some of them are seen as relatively “clean” riders, not just “lucky ones”.

  • Rusty chain Sunday, 26 April 2015, 11:23 pm

    Gabrielle, systematic doping as in you sit down with somebody, develop a strategy for cheating and then implement it. Rider just as guilty as the team managers that let this happen or perhaps encourage it. Surely, you must know that this is plain unfair wrong etc no matter what the competition is doing. And UCI by allowing these guys to return allowed our stupid discussions to persevere every time somebody wins.

    • gabriele Sunday, 26 April 2015, 11:56 pm

      Well, read about what happened in that team and you’ll see as it wasn’t even similar to yours: “you [the rider, I suppose] sit down with somebody”; even less: “develop a strategy for cheating”.
      Riders weren’t involved at all in that kind of decisions.
      The team managers “let this happen”? “Perhaps encourages”? Guess you’re speaking of very different situations (given that they really exist… mostly made up versions to protect the management of the team). In Kelme they were harassing and abusing riders to have them obey the doctors (who were deciding the “strategy” depending on what the managers told them) when the boys weren’t compliant. Not to speak of what happened in case of troubles. It has all gone to courts!
      I wonder if most people have an idea of the kind of absurd psychological situations which do sometimes exist in sport (not just in cycling) in the trainer-coach / athlete relation. Even worse when doctors are involved and tell you what you *need* to do… It’s not always like that, but a large variety of situations exists, including very twisted ones, and it seems people simply don’t know (albeit it was in the press…).

      • Cannon Dale Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 11:47 pm

        … Gabriele …. Your comment is rather convoluted. ,….. I think it is safe to say that EVERYONE actually knows the difference between right & wrong. Any rider who succumed/succums to “pressure” to dope, is guilty and no amount of passing the buck will work. They sell their souls and then wonder why they have a “hollow” career. ….. Imagine how Valverde must actually feel when he goes home after each race. As with LA, I suspect he feels no real satisfaction. … He knows the majority watching him win, simply dismiss him, as they did Vina and LA. ….. No pleasure in winning like that, and no balls to be able to come clean & shop every enabler. …

  • Rusty chain Monday, 27 April 2015, 12:08 am

    gabriele what is your stance on doping exactly? Who is to blame “the system”? R u saying riders had no choice? Didn’t know what was injected in them? Gimme a break… Read the secret race in case you have any disillusions about how much insight riders had. Were they coerced yes do you have a choice – absolutely and some chose to get an unfair advantage and that is why you can’t trust their results. Or you can – up to you I guess. Why do I watch then? Sometimes I ask myself that question

    • gabriele Monday, 27 April 2015, 1:25 am

      I say that there were, and are, a lot of *very* different situations out there (as proven by the huge quantity of material available), and judging as if it was all the same is just lame.
      I don’t know exactly what Valverde’s personal conditions were in that team, he was twenty but he was also a young star rider, so maybe he received a better treatment. Possibly, or even probably, who knows. But I know how things used to work *there* for most cyclists, not in another team, not in cycling “in general”. And I didn’t choose the words “harass” or “abuse” by accident.
      FYI, there was a good number of (especially young) cyclists who indeed didn’t have any idea of what exactly they were being injected, and this isn’t related only to Kelme.
      Now I think we’ll all agree to stop the doping thread, I felt obliged to step in since it was so apparent in various commentaries above, but I guess for most it’s much of an emotive, not “informative”, question. No need to argue any more.

  • Dave R Monday, 27 April 2015, 1:03 am

    The moment the blog was won: “… channeling St Nicolas the patron saint of the wrongly-accused (for balance he’s the patron saint of pharmacists too)…”

  • Schwitau Monday, 27 April 2015, 4:44 am

    Perplexed by all those who say it was a lackluster spring season or a yawn. What are you guys complaining about? I thought it was fantastic. New winners, old winners etc etc. If you are so bored of the tactics and racers …. Perhaps you should a) become a top pro b) get selected by your team to ride the classics c) animate the race in such a way as to impress dudes all over the world on their respective couches.

    • sam Monday, 27 April 2015, 10:48 am

      We’re cycling fans. We have to moan and diss. Its what we do.

      🙂

  • Schwitau Monday, 27 April 2015, 4:56 am

    One can call Valverde’s tactics “defensive” or whatever you want to call it ….. But homeboy cleaned up the podiums. Just like he “defensively” won so many races last year. And the year before (all through the season mind you) and with a few different tactics. Sometimes solo from way out.
    What does one want him to do? ….. start taking irrational moves? useless moves? Just to “excite up” the race for the couch-masses. He won! And that’s enough.
    Do we jump on Kristoff for always winning in a predictable blazing sprint? Or was Gilbert lame for always winning in a late race, blistering, “berg” attack?
    V rode smart and most certainly took over the last late Ks when the race could easily have gotten away from him. From what I saw …. He reached out and grabbed that win.

    • Augie March Monday, 27 April 2015, 5:35 am

      I was only using “defensive” to refer to some of Valverde’s apologists who run the line “sure he is an unrepentant former doper but at least he’s an exciting rider” when he isn’t. Kristoff on the other hand actually does light up races and win, his move in Tour of Flanders from almost 30 km out was unexpected for a sprinter, but he proved his chops as a classics rider by taking it to the finish.

    • spicelab Monday, 27 April 2015, 7:25 am

      Valverde only ever breaks from his defensive mould when he knows beyond doubt that he’s the strongest rider in the race.

      There’s no shortage of race footage floating around which demonstrates this, but the final stages of the 2012 worlds is one of the most widely known examples.

  • Nicktarios Monday, 27 April 2015, 8:43 am

    Valverde is very polarising, no doubt about it. You either like him or hate him it seems. I wasn’t a huge fan, but he is starting to change my mind in the last year or so. Part of the reason he’s accused of being defensive or negative/indecisive is he’s predominantly at the business end of everything he races in, so he draws more comments/criticism because he’s in the mix constantly. Throughout the season. I’m not sure what people want from him sometimes, they can’t get past the doping, rightly or wrongly. He rode this race brilliantly, did the work when he needed to and still rolled them. If Gerrans was in the race at the conclusion he may have rode differently, or not, but that shouldn’t matter. Inside the last few kilometres if you are probably in the top 3 sprinters you will ride for a group finish, and hope some luck plays out against those slightly quicker than you and you might win. If anyone would draw criticism from this race it would be Purito in my opinion, how did he think he was going to win in the last kilometre? The flip side of that is they’re all knackered, and you can’t just press a button and go, even if you want to tactically. Valverde would have to be the best overall rider in the world, consistent across GT’s and week long races, and cleans up one day races. Unrepentant or not, he’s winning today.

  • noel Monday, 27 April 2015, 9:03 am

    I was sad when Nico Roche went down… would have been interesting to see if he could have been in the mix

  • Kupepe Monday, 27 April 2015, 9:12 am

    Great ride for Louis Meintjes of MTN-QUebeka. Just 23 yo and up there with the big boys at the final climb … 11th overall …

  • clove mitchell Monday, 27 April 2015, 9:12 am

    Thank you for : “Nibali had other plans and perhaps channeling St Nicolas the patron saint of the wrongly-accused (for balance he’s the patron saint of pharmacists too)” very funny.

  • Richard S Monday, 27 April 2015, 9:19 am

    It would have been interesting to see what Stybar would have been able to do in the finale had he been a protected rider. He certainly seemed to have plenty of beans when he ripped that massive turn on the front through the (exceptionally ugly) outskirts of Liege. At a couple of points he’d distanced the field by a few bike lengths. He’s a very impressive, incredibly versatile rider and the only rider of the current generation (except maybe Geraint Thomas) who would conceivably have a chance of winning all the monuments. He has featured at the sharp end in all of them so far this year. Interesting/dissapointing that Sky decided to field a team of nobody’s rather than take Thomas for what I think could be his strongest monument. He’s probably stuck up a mountain somewhere prepping for being Froome’d workhorse rather than trying to win one of the biggest races of the year. I’m always shocked how willing riders are to skip major races to prepare for a particular goal (Cavendish beating nobodies in Turkey and California rather than doing the Giro being another example). They only get on career and a lot can go wrong if you put all your eggs in one basket.

    Anyway I digress. Honourable mentions from me for Caruso and Fuglsang who I thought looked very strong but unfortunately had to sacrifice themselves. And of course Alaphilippe, I really hope he isn’t a flash in the pan.

    • Augie March Monday, 27 April 2015, 11:03 am

      Thomas has already done 29 race days this year including four stage races and all the cobbled classics, so is probably taking time off before combing back for the Tour. Probably Sky were backing Roche until he crashed, although Henao’s placing gave them some credibility.

      • J Evans Monday, 27 April 2015, 12:12 pm

        Thomas would be better off focusing on all of the monuments than on stage races. He might win the Eneco, but other stage races always have too many climbs for him. It would be good to see someone – and I think GVA and Stybar might be te only other ones – go for the lot.

        • gabriele Monday, 27 April 2015, 12:29 pm

          And maybe Sagan… if he can climb back out of the pit he’s descending. GVA and Stybar, being 5 years older, in theory have got 5 years less than Sagan to go and try (and GVA probably has already expressed more or less what his potential is). And focusing on the Tour isn’t helping Sagan at all, for a project like that.

  • DJ Monday, 27 April 2015, 9:30 am

    It seems to me that people who like to quote Hennie Kuiper’s :’RACING IS LICKING YOUR OPPONENT’S PLATE CLEAN BEFORE STARTING YOUR OWN’ (better in Dutch where it is about eating rather than licking your opponent’s plate but I’ll stick to the most used translation) start complaining when the see a rider who masters this technique to the utmost – ie Valverde. Well positioned, not in crashes, not burning unnecessary matches and perfect tactics in the final km. I’d rather have seen another winner too but one cannot argue with the quality of Valverde.

    Btw the 2006 results show Rodriguez on Saunier Duval and Valverde on Cd’E, so not as teammates.

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 27 April 2015, 10:02 am

      The results listings are wrong, he moved to Caisse d’Epargne for 2006. You can see him and Boogerd lead the race in the Youtube clip linked to above.

      • DJ Monday, 27 April 2015, 10:10 am

        Should have trusted you more than the listings 😉

  • Tricky Hawes Monday, 27 April 2015, 9:45 am

    re “Sky decided to field a team of nobody’s [sic]”. Henao is hardly a nobody (and indeed finished top 10). They’ve gotta give different riders a chance to lead the team in different races (and LBL is surely better suited to Roche and Henao).

    And as for Cavendish “beating nobodies in Turkey” – tonnes of sprinters have gone there (Greipel, Modolo, Ewen, Ruffoni, Bos….). There’s more to cycling than European races nowadays. And Cav has plainly decided that if he wants to compete and win at the Tour, he has to sacrifice the Giro nowadays. Fair enough – they’re human, not supermen.

    • Tricky Hawes Monday, 27 April 2015, 9:46 am

      (Sorry – was meant to be a reply to Richard S above.)

    • Nicktarios Monday, 27 April 2015, 1:14 pm

      Henao is nobody in a classics sense. What’s he won? Top 10 is solid but can still be a long way from winning, more than the place indicates.

      • Nicktarios Monday, 27 April 2015, 1:17 pm

        Actually same same for Roche. He’s a domestique, super at best.

      • sam Monday, 27 April 2015, 1:32 pm

        Runner-up 2013 Fleche-Wallonne

        Take a few minutes to check up on riders’ palmares before calling them nobodies. Save yourself from looking foolish.

        • Anonymous Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 1:45 am

          It’s a comment section on the innernet, everybody makes mistakes, give it a rest..

          • Sam Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 2:19 pm

            Internet Forum People, eh

        • Nicktarios Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 11:04 am

          Second in a race that basically is a bunch finish up a 3 min climb. Like I said, he’s a non factor in classics in my opinion.

          • Anonymous Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 2:18 pm

            so now we have the Nicktarios Race Rating Scale

            Excellent!

          • Nicktarios Wednesday, 29 April 2015, 3:11 pm

            Yeah, internet forum people indeed. I was commenting on the race and riders and I got personally ridiculed because Sam and Anonymous didn’t like my opinion. Cheers.

          • J Evans Wednesday, 29 April 2015, 3:34 pm

            You’re right: one person is making sensible comments – the others are sniping at strangers.

    • Vitus Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 2:30 am

      By the time when Greipel won few stages in Turkey, some Cavendish commented “nah, he’s only winning shitty races”. So they only become “unshitty” if Cav wins them?

      • STS Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 1:39 pm

        Cav wants to be an a..hole, he even publicly claims it sometimes and seems to be proud of that bad boy status he has achieved. So maybe it’s best to not even think about what he utters because he might just say it to add to his a..hole status or provoke any bad reactions which obviously motivate him. Is it coincidental that when he became a husband and father with some hopefully happy family life in Tuscany he became so much less successful?

  • Dani Monday, 27 April 2015, 9:52 am

    I’m really amazed that people keep whining of an obscure case based on a bag with blood extracted in 2004 when Valverde was just in his second year as a pro, and above of that, with no doping substance whatsoever involved in all the investigation?
    Should he be punished for his whole life for what it clearly was not a decission of his entirely?

    Come on, get over it, he’s one of the most interesting riders of the last 10 years, winning all kind of races/stages in all kind of ways and some of you still pulling the same tiresome story?

    • Gargatouf Monday, 27 April 2015, 10:42 am

      You have to admit that when a bag of your blood is found in the fridge of one of doping’s “guru”, it can only be suspicious.

      I quite enjoyed the race yesterday. Unlike FW where Valverde really dominated the Mur de Huy and did not look like losing the race, I thought that LBL was a bit like AGR where there was still a big group at the end and it could have been anyone’s, especially when Moreno attacked and looked like he managed to have a decent advantage (at least on TV), then next thing you know, the pack had caught him.
      Really glad about Alaphilippe, especially as he was riding for Kwiatkowski again, then had his mechanical and had to chase on La Redoute. He has quite a strong sprint so it would have been interesting to see what would have happened if he hadn’t burnt so much energy chasing back. really hope we have a future Monument winner on our hands.

      Also, not trying to stir things up, but what happened to Henao’s biological passport anomaly? He came back to race but haven’t heard anything since then. Is it like Kreuziger’s case where we going to have to wait ages for any update?

      • sam Monday, 27 April 2015, 10:50 am

        Henao wasn’t the subject of a UCI case. It was a team review – which could have stayed purely internal. A bit unlike Kreuziger’s case – for which you will have to wait until the CAS hearing and subsequent decision.

      • Anonymous Monday, 27 April 2015, 3:23 pm

        you consider 10 riders as a big group?

    • Vedrafjord Monday, 27 April 2015, 1:01 pm

      “Obscure” – no, Puerto was probably the biggest doping case of the last 15 years.

      “in 2004” – no, the blood was most likely withdrawn at the very end of 2005, when Valverde was 25, had left Kelme, and had been a pro for 3 years.

      “with no doping substance whatsoever” – wrong again, the bag tested positive for EPO.

      Valverde annoys people for lots of reasons – despite being caught red handed he nearly got away with it thanks to a spineless Spanish ADA, then when he came back he was stronger than ever, which doesn’t say much about the likelihood that he’s clean. He’s a boring, defensive cyclist who rarely animates races, but mops up podium places left, right, and centre – places that are by definition stolen.

      • Nicktarios Monday, 27 April 2015, 1:21 pm

        He’s too busy winning to worry about animating races. There’s no substance in being animating for the sake of it, winning with panache is cool but opportunities for it for anyone are rare. You’re living in fantasy land.

        • Vedrafjord Monday, 27 April 2015, 1:34 pm

          No, I was responding to a comment calling him “one of the most interesting riders” and to others asking why he’s disliked. His style is clearly effective in an era when so many riders are so closely matched, but equally it’s obvious why neutrals wouldn’t want to cheer for him.

          I have nothing against defensive riders per se – keeping out of the wind is the most basic and fundamental tactic in cycling – but Valverde goes beyond that by frequently wheelsucking even when it’s not in his best interest to do so. There are plenty of occasions like last year’s Lombardia, where Valverde could have tried to bridge across to Martin at the end but kept looking around waiting for someone to tow him up instead.

          Someone in another comment asked why Valverde is disliked more than Contador – Contador always tries to win.

          • J Evans Monday, 27 April 2015, 1:49 pm

            Yes, as I wrote on another post, that’s certainly my reason for – quite illogically – finding Contador hard to dislike.

          • Nicktarios Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 11:08 am

            Fair enough points. Contractor tries to win all the time because he’s not up there as much in every type of race, as he cant sprint. But I agree, he’s better to watch than Valverde.

      • BenW Monday, 27 April 2015, 1:28 pm

        INRNG and others, on the subject of Puerto: have the blood bags been destroyed yet or is that all still rumbling on?

      • gabriele Monday, 27 April 2015, 1:45 pm

        First and third paragraphs absolutely true.
        Second paragraph: “most likely withdrawn at the very end of 2005”. Interesting… on what basis? All I’ve read about the investigation speaks of 2004. There have been ill-founded rumours on the web because of the confusion with Basso, referring precisely to late 2005.
        The only possible doubt concerns, at most, the date of April 7th, 2005 which has been object of a large and complicated debate in the TAS, eventually assessing the possibility of that event. Nevertheless, police sources (reported in the Catalan press, where I’ve read it, now quoted in Wikipedia) – not the “friendly judges” – consider that such date, found on a separate sheet, was probably not referred to Valverde (too much incoherences) and the bag is really from 2004. As it’s quite logical if one knows something about Fuentes, Unzue, Belda, Saiz etc.
        Last paragraph: freewheeling words.

        • J Evans Monday, 27 April 2015, 1:52 pm

          What is TAS?
          As for the Spanish authorities being ‘spineless’ – mentioned by someone else above – spineless or deliberately favouring their own rider?

          • Nick Monday, 27 April 2015, 2:06 pm

            TAS = Tribunal Arbitral du Sport = the French name for CAS.

          • J Evans Monday, 27 April 2015, 2:31 pm

            Ta Nick – could only find Tasmania on google.

      • Duesseldorf Monday, 27 April 2015, 10:39 pm

        Valverde is not a defensive cyclist at all. Its not even 3 months ago when he raced 30 km solo against the wind in the Mallorca Cycling Challenge. He won many big races solo, including a Tour De France mountain stage in 2012. Do you know the Tour de France? Please do a little research if you make statements like the ones above

      • Cannon Dale Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 11:53 pm

        … spot on!

      • Cannon Dale Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 11:55 pm

        Vedrafjord ,…… spot on! …. Good to see a clear statement of the cheating life of Valverde, that some fans would have us believe was a mere “blip” of a youngster.

      • Dani Sunday, 3 May 2015, 9:07 pm

        As @gabriele said, most sources state that blood test was from 2004, and as far as i know, the case of Valverde was related to blood transfusions, and not EPO or any other doping substance. But i admit i may be wrong, since i am not an expert on the case.

        As @duesseldorf very rightly said, i think you have not watched Valverde a lot, because yes, he’s won races using control (i don’t really know what is wrong about it) but he’s also won races in an incredible way, going forward without looking back (TDF), using team tactics breaking the race, or working as a domestique and finally winning (last Vuelta).

        Anyway, i don’t pretend that everybody likes Valverde, but pulling the hate-he-should-be-in-jail-for-life story is already a very worn out thema.

  • BC Monday, 27 April 2015, 10:47 am

    Well at least you got the ‘tiresome story’ part right !

  • sam Monday, 27 April 2015, 10:52 am

    Alaphilippe is class. No question. Fantastic spring campaign for him.

  • Anonymous Monday, 27 April 2015, 10:55 am

    It’s always nice to see such a talented rider like Valverde get up with what his palmarès should be.

    It’s even nicer to see all the hypocrite anglos with their hands on their faces.
    “Oh my god, this Spanish guy involved in a doping scandal 10 years ago has won!”

    See you in 5-10 years time when we discover that Sky, Orica etc were doped to the gills (like every other WT team btw)…

    • Cameron Monday, 27 April 2015, 2:16 pm

      And when they are I’ll lambaste them. But little point getting sanctimonious about people with no evidence that they have doped when there are unapologetic dopers like Valverde still winning in the sport.

      • Anonymous Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 11:26 am

        Well, the same argument can be said about Valverde post-Puerto and he is lambasted hard here (even saying that having him winning is bad for the sport?)

        Having known cycling for many years, I’m not going to fall into the delusional claim that its a Cleans vs Dopers battle. They all dope, and the UCI knows it, the need of controls is to try to guarantee something near to a level playing ground between teams.

        For me it’s all about credible trayectories vs riders who are nobodies at 27 but win GT’s at 28…

        So its Contador, Valverde, Nibali vs Wiggins, Froome, Rodríguez etc

        • Anonymous Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 11:50 am

          Hah!

        • Anonymous Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 11:51 am

          I’ll add: ludicrous.
          Not worth further comment or debate on something so lacking in knowledge, but claimed as fact.

    • Augie March Monday, 27 April 2015, 3:25 pm

      Actually in my experience of reading internet comments on pro cycling it’s usually the exact opposite. All English-speaking/Anglo riders are treated with hostility and suspicion when the Spanish, Italians etc continue to be swooned over no matter how hard they doped or how tedious they are on a bike. Hence hearts that flutter for Valverde seem obliged to sneer at riders like Simon Gerrans or David Millar. Maybe it’s the toxic legacy of the Armstrong years, or maybe it’s resentment that “outsiders” are “intruding” into what was until not that long ago an almost exclusively Western European sport.

      • gabriele Monday, 27 April 2015, 4:02 pm

        This all thread makes little sense, from its trolling start on…
        That said, I usually read internet comments in English, Italian and Spanish sources, and I can grant that, for example, Wiggins is vastely more appreciated by Italian commentators (there’s a certain unanimity favouring him) than English-speaking ones – maybe you noticed if you’ve read these same pages lately. The likes of Cavendish or Evans are for some reason loved in Italy and they’re no less “anglo” than Gerrans or Millar (well, Cav is a Manxman, Millar was born in Malta, that’s a draw). And I’m not so sure that those who criticise Gerrans or Millar are all Mediterranean… nor that they are the same persons! Paolini is disliked by many, in Italy, as are Cunego, Basso, Aru, even the same Nibali.
        How all that goes with the “racial theory”?
        In Italy the national angle is very *relative*, in cycling fans at least.
        Thomas and Matthews are less known, but they’re unanimously appreciated by more attentive fans, despite the second being (obviously, and till now) more of a “defensive” rider.
        Speaking of USA, Phinney is adored (because of TV, I guess), Talansky is appreciated… Garmin is generally liked (I don’t, but I’m the exception, I’d say), BMC, too, even if more thanks to Gilbert, Evans and GVA than for USA riders.
        There’s a certain hostility, and that’s quite true, about Team Sky, while Froome polarises opinions, with a minority of strong fans and much people turning up their noses.
        The kind of resentment you presume regards, if anything, the UCI. There’s indeed, an hostility which can be related to national factors. But I think that we can thank good old Pat and his declaration for creating the perception of such a conflict: the suspects they raised – coming from a character like him – are hard to dispel.

        • Augie March Monday, 27 April 2015, 4:38 pm

          Interesting to hear and thanks for the info. Obviously I can only comment on what is written in English that I read. As I hope I made clear, I don’t think it’s a “racial” thing, I think it’s a cultural thing. You also get Anglo fans objecting to Anglo riders coming in and making “their” previously niche sport more globalised. Hence the opposition to races outside of Europe you get from many, including, it has to be said, some who comment regularly on this blog.

          I can tell you why Cadel Evans is loved in Italy. His wife is Italian, and there’s also this: https://youtu.be/LmbJ3b7wChQ

          Nibali is probably disliked by many in Italy for being Sicilian, but I’m sure they appreciate him winning Grand Tours none the less.

          • J Evans Monday, 27 April 2015, 4:58 pm

            Opposition to races outside Europe is often because these new races result in the traditional races losing quality riders – and sometimes stopping altogether.
            I’ve nothing against races like Qatar/Oman/Dubai (although the ethics of these regimes is another question), whereas I always had a special loathing for the Tour of Beijing: low quality parcours for a WT event (that’s the other complaint about new races) and it took WT riders away from a true classic, Paris-Tours.
            It’s not being anti-Anglo, wanting the sport to remain niche or being anti-globalisation (although the majority of people who are pro-globalisation are actually pro-money), it’s the protection of the sport’s heritage.

          • gabriele Monday, 27 April 2015, 5:01 pm

            Well, incredible it may sound, no… many aren’t satisfied with him winning the Tour. It’s not at all about him being Sicilian (there’s been an interesting change about that in Italy in the last 25 years or so, but that’s another story).
            First of all, I’m speaking of cycling fans, not general public, who just reacts to TV and press. Anyway, apparently, the problem is: that he has lost his old all-year-around attitude, that he has become more ill-tempered, that he’s obeying what Astana tells him about race program (especially Lombardia and the Worlds), that he’s not a true leader (whatever that means), that he doesn’t ride the Giro, that he has won GTs out of sheer luck, that he expressed some “views” against colleagues caught doping. Some of that makes vaguely sense, some not at all.
            I simply think many people didn’t like him for his supposedly not very flamboyant style, and they got angry when he won bigger and bigger, then angrier and angrier when they had to endure the constant sanctification in generalist media.

          • Sam Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 11:27 am

            ^interesting stuff re Nibali – thanks gabriele

            Cycling fans the world over are never satisfied…and getting huffy over general media eulogising over a rider who’s won big seems to be a common thing in a number of countries….

        • Dodge2000 Monday, 27 April 2015, 7:29 pm

          INRNG has often been the place where non-anglo contributers can add some context and perspective and one of the reasons I enjoy the comments.

          The ‘traditional’ nations of Spain, France, Italy and Belgium have a long heritage and for each a ‘type’ of rider that is held in the highest regard. Why one rider from a nation is held in high regard whilst another (even if more successful) is not seems to be down as much to their character and style

          Those riders that seem to epitomise the national ideal are taken in as one of their own and is why you see Kristof fan clubs in Belgium and Wiggo getting love from the Italians. I dare say that Froome might get some grudging love in Spain for his Vuelta mountain battles with Contador.

          The great thing about cycling is not just the here and now, but the century of retained history, folklore and the unique environments these are played out in. Whatever the reason, some riders are easier to dislike and it doesn’t matter where they come from. For those riders they’ll be given little tolerance for mistakes, so Pantini will remain a hero, whilst there are very few who will still be wearing a Livestrong bracelet.

        • Dani Sunday, 3 May 2015, 9:11 pm

          I love it when someone reads something he don’t like and in no time use the Godwin Law of forums with the “tr*ll” word.

          • gabriele Sunday, 3 May 2015, 9:26 pm

            “Godwin’s law itself can be abused as a distraction, diversion or even as censorship, fallaciously miscasting an opponent’s argument as hyperbole when the comparisons made by the argument are actually appropriate.”
            Wikiwisdom 🙂
            Tr*lls happen. And the anonymous author of the post which started this particular thread made every possible effort to be labelled as such… even if the two of us, that Anon & me, would probably agree about of Valverde.

  • paddydunne Monday, 27 April 2015, 10:55 am

    Gee is down to ride Romandie. I can think of a handful of guys from the British Isles, ahead of Geriant who are more likely to have a chance of winning L-B-L!LPN, Nico and Sergio were a good call for the men in black.

    • Sam Monday, 27 April 2015, 12:25 pm

      Agreed – all 3 of those guys were the best choices for the team.

      • Tovarishch Monday, 27 April 2015, 1:43 pm

        I’m surprised they haven’t given Ben Swift a chance in the Ardennes. With a bit of experience I think he could be a competitor. The Tour de Yorkshire is, of course, more important.

        • Sam Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 11:31 am

          Maybe AGR…but Swift had problems at Pais Vasco, Tovarishch – no energy, legs AWOL, had to abandon after st 2 (IIRC). So I guess a recharge was called for – and now he’s into full Tour of Yorkshire mode inc a shedload of media stuff this week, given that he’s the biggest name from Yorkshire riding the race.

    • J Evans Monday, 27 April 2015, 5:03 pm

      Who are these riders, other than Dan Martin?
      I think Thomas would have a reasonable chance in LBL: he can do the distance and can climb. I’d put his chances up there with Norhaug and Henao, and above Roche, who has little or no record in one day races.
      Thomas isn’t (yet?) a monument specialist, but it seems that he’s more likely to have success in those than in World Tour stage races (barring the Eneco) – they have too many climbs that are too long.

      • Sam Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 11:34 am

        Given that G likes to start his season in Jan in Oz and goes full bore through to P-R, he’s on his knees by the time P-R is done and traditionally takes a break before getting back into the fray. I think until/unless he changes his early season race schedule, LBL is a race too far for him.

        • J Evans Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 11:49 am

          That’s my point – in my opinion, he should skip TDU and other stage races and focus entirely on the classics. He’s more likely to win LBL than Paris-Nice, I’d say. And which would you rather win?
          Might need to change team to do that, though.

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

            It comes down to the fundamental choice he has to make about whether to go the stage race route vs the classics – at the moment, he’s trying to do both without burning any bridges one way or another. Paris-Nice isn’t a goal in its own right, but a step along the path he’s trying to follow. LBL aint. Simple as that.

  • gabriele Monday, 27 April 2015, 11:18 am

    The funny thing is that even if I greatly appreciate Valverde’s class (which is not just the way you behave in a race but also as you ride your bicycle, or how you manage a single move, i.e. not just strategy but also tactics: excellent example, the delayed timing to close on Moreno yesterday, totally preventing a Purito counterattack because he would have just ended up being a lunchpad for the sprint), all the same, I really don’t root as much for him as for the same Rodriguez, for example. The 2012 Worlds were a real shame, Valverde did it on purpose (nonsense considering it a “defensive” ride, it was more of a “kamikaze”… or, better said, “friendly fire”), just because he preferred a friend and teammate to win than his old gregario taking a win he couldn’t catch. I’m quite worried by his desire to ride this year’s Tour, I’m not sure it will be good for Quintana…
    All that said, I can’t avoid to see that he’s a great rider, probably a champion, and if you like cycling as such you can not be less than impressed. War movies may not be your thing, but Full Metal Jacket or The Big Red One or The Thin Red Line or Apocalypse Now are great movies, so if you like cinema, you’ll admit they’re great, even if maybe you’ll rent something else for the night.

    As for his (generally undeniable) “defensive” attitude, he recently played excellent offensive rides in San Sebastián or in Giro del Lazio (“Roma Maxima”, ugh), or, many times, in the Balearic races, but it’s not strictly true that he does so only when he’s clearly the strongest in the field, since *he did* in this year’s Strade Bianche, too, or in the GP Nobili, and so he did when he won his first Tour stage back from the sanction. And in may other occasions. In fact, the comparison with Kristoff is a bit curious: to date, Valverde for sure attacked in his career way more than the Norwegian (who, for instance, didn’t think he need to go on the attack in Roubaix). Nevertheless, it’s a very interesting suggestion, since it shows that much depend on what we expect, and on another aspect of Valverde’s style: he risks the less when it matters the most. Whether he’s maximising his options or throwing them away is open to debate (different answer from race to race, I guess). Memory retains more the big races… and that sensation of “could be” he often delivers.

    • J Evans Monday, 27 April 2015, 1:41 pm

      Good points, Gabriele.
      If I was Valverde – and indeed Rodriguez – I’d miss the Tour and focus on the Vuelta. That’s the one that is likely to have the least strong riders this year and neither are going to win the Tour unless all of the top four drop out.

  • irungo txuletak Monday, 27 April 2015, 11:44 am

    … Lots of comments on Valverde… Don’t really like the guy, mostly after the “purito case” in firenze’s worlds, but I have to recognize that this was an impressive win. Both in Saint Nicolas en Ans, he was in control. Now, I don’t know why the hell Purito is not just in Valverde’s wheel when Moreno attacks. His only possibility to win against valverde was an uphill attack, just at the moment it became clear that Moreno was not making it. Now he came back to Valverde just on top of Ans, there was no more room for anything.
    A pity Gilbert was injured. I think he would have been able to be at least annoying for valverde. He was able to drop Valverde in the Cauberg and he looked thinner and better in climbs than other years.
    Kwiato confirmed what I thought last week: he was not on his best in this year classics’ campaign, and the Amstel’s win was a bit lucky.
    Very strong ride from alaphilippe, it seems that french cycling is resurging.

  • noel Monday, 27 April 2015, 1:10 pm

    +1 about Purito… and most of the rest of that group actually (Henao etc etc). I guess they just didn’t have the oomph after 250km…

  • MultiplexRant Monday, 27 April 2015, 2:35 pm

    Not the best race of the season. My highlight was (as so often) Sean Kelly’s mispronunciations. “Ala-philly-beep” being the favourite.

  • Ron Monday, 27 April 2015, 10:03 pm

    Shortest L-B-L podium since…?