Highlights of 2013 – Part I

I’m going to pick five moments from 2013. They are a personal choice. With any list you often omit more than you include but I’ll explain each moment. They’re presented in no particular order.

The 2013 edition of Paris-Roubaix was a fine edition to watch live. Glance at the results and you’ll see Fabian Cancellara won ahead of Sep Vanmarke. It was the Swiss rider’s third win and he dispatched a promising Dutch Belgian rider. It was a result that was predictable before the race and expected after it but day was packed with surprise and action.

Cancellara had a great spring campaign. Third in Milan-Sanremo and wins in the E3 Prijs and the Tour of Flanders made him the obvious pick for Paris-Roubaix, more so since Tom Boonen was out of the classics and nemesis Peter Sagan did not start either.

The race was splitting up early with the Arenberg forest taken at speed. But it was on the wrist-cracking Mons-en-Pévèle sector that the race came alive. Stijn Vandenbergh (OPQS) and Sep Vanmarcke (Blanco) took off from the lead group. As they crossed the Bourghelles à Wannehain pavé Cancellara went for it and only Zdenek Stybar (OPQS) could hold his wheel. Stybar sat glued to Cancellara’s real wheel because team mate Vandenbergh was up the road. Cancellara had to tow a rival up to the front even if it meant being outnumbered.

But Vandenbergh was flagging and Stybar crashed out on the Carrefour de l’Arbre, he was exploring the edge of the cobbles and tangled with a fan, both were probably at fault. This left Vanmarcke and Cancellara to ride to Roubaix together, each tried an attack on the way. The suspense lasted until after the bell rang out the last lap on the velodrome. Cancellara’s lost several sprints whilst Vanmarcke’s won races with ice-cool finishing but in the end the favourite won.

Why the highlight?
If the result was predictable it was watching how it was achieved that made it compelling. It was the equivalent of an action film like Die Hard or James Bond, you almost know who will win but still sit down to watch for two hours to see how he does it. Only this was not a staged production but real.

Sometimes Paris-Roubaix can feel like a circus, a lottery as selection can be forced by chance and misfortune rather than form and experience. But this year’s edition had plenty of natural selection. In the end Cancellara’s only crash came from fatigue when he fell off the bike, to tired to dismount.

39 thoughts on “Highlights of 2013 – Part I”

  1. My highlight for the year without a doubt. As an Aussie who made a flying stop in Belgium to take in the Ronde and Roubaix sportives, it was great to see P-R in the flesh.

    We went to the velodrome on the Sunday, and the weather was just warm enough to enjoy the afternoon in the sun. We were on the opposite side to the video screen and were struggling a bit to work out what was happening. At one stage we thought Stybar was soloing to victory.

    It wasn’t until about 4 Kms to go we knew it was Fabian v Sep. The finish was brilliant. The only downer – we had padlocked all our bikes together against a fence. There would’ve been 30-40 bikes there. Whilst everyone was watching the finale, some punk got the bolt cutters and stole one of my mates’ bikes. They didn’t know much about bikes, they could’ve taken their pick; they chose the cheapest bike.

  2. Nice choice; this win is evidence supporting the statement “Cancellara is a great cyclist.” Catalano’s clips, despite and because of the side of extra ham, are a lot of informative fun.

  3. Watching live was superb, but I did wish Stybar had made it to the end. He tucked in so closely to FC that he’d have put in far less effort by the velodrome sprint.
    Aside from the collision itself, his bike handling was masterful as well.
    If Boonen is back next year, OPQS will be flooding the front group.

  4. Very good choice. The drama of Vandenbergh and Stybar both out by colliding with the spectators, and then the sprint finale. I was rooting very much for Vanmarcke. I thought he could win the sprint, since he won against Boonen previously, surely he could manage Cancellara. Recently I watched it again, and I wonder whether it was a matter who had more in the tank, or the moment when Cancellara forced Vanmarcke in front of him was more important. Any thoughts?

  5. Good to remember this race. Which again shows that the value of a race is not the fun you have while watching but how it grows inside of you when reminiscing and talking (or writing) about it.

  6. Stybar was “exploring the edge” just like Cancellara, on whose wheel he was sitting (just as Fabian was on Sep’s wheel)… and the fan moved in an arm, a camera or something like that, in the worst moment for Stybar, therefore I’d say it wasn’t anyway deserved. Unless we are saying that the correct strategy should be “not” to follow those two riders that are drafting top speed… don’t think so. Bad luck played her part as always. With three riders on the road, it would have been a very different game.

    Moreover, I was someway disturbed by the way Fabian urged the young Vanmarcke – who was collaborating even too much, indeed – to take turns; from any other rider it may have been more or less normal, but when you’re “the sheriff” Cancellara, and you know that, and you know that the other guy knows… it’s kind of bullying. The worst point was touched when Vanmarcke asked Fabian to take his turn, since he was waiting just a little too much (…), and Cancellara attacked right out!
    I respect the winning hunger of champions, but that’s so mean… It looked like the typical Sunday cockfighting between cycling club rivals, with Fabian playing the sneaky fellow :-S

    • I def don’t agree with your second paragraph on the bullying etc., but you do raise an intersting point in your first paragraph.

      At the time, many said Stybar’s inexperience cost him a chance of winning P-R. They said he was riding far too close to the edge, etc.

      But when you look at him hitting the spectator, he was essentially directly behind Fabian. They were riding the same lines. We’ll never know exactly what happened, but you can easily imagine some fans standing on the side of the road [if that is what you can call it], waiting for the action, they see Fabian, get all excited and perhaps one fan points out to another there he is.

      You think back to Fabian prevailing over Sep by a matter of inches. But really there were just a few inches in it between Cancellara winning and perhaps being brought down himself.

      Luck is certainly a fickle thing.

      • Thanks, Michael H. The way you formulated your reply, focusing on the word “bullying”, makes me feel the need to rephrase or something… I’m afraid there’ s a linguistic false-friend problem on my part, that is, “bullying” isn’t probably what I mean. Well, sorry for my English!

        What I mean is that when you’re Cancellara and you’re asking a 24 years old to do something… it’s not like saying “please”. Whether deliberately or not, you’re using certain “authorithy” (which, besides, partly derives from a very-well-known inclination towards holding a grudge against some other colleagues, with in-race consequences).
        It’s really far from being blackmail, or intimidation or mobbing, but I nevertheless feel that such “authority” should be used if your opponents are behaving someway “unfairly”, not if they’re taking their share.
        I’d like to stress that I think that this is totally legal (obviously) and – I’d dare to say – a fascinating part of cycling; it could even be considered “respectful” to use “any means” to get an advantage over the supposedly weaker rival. However, in my opinion you’re showing hunger and not “greatness” (in that particular moment).
        I should add that quite obviously (as, I think, any cycling fan) I deeply appreciate Fabian and I feel lucky to be able to see his rides live, maybe I’ve just seen too many times that peculiar “Italian style” in Moser, Cipollini and the likes, so that I’m kind of bored.

        Speaking of Italy, I’d like to point out something curious: in the Italian context (tv commentators, newspapers, web), nearly everybody agreed that Vandenbergh’s problems were due to exhaustion, whereas in the case of Stybar everyone just blamed bad luck (his ability not to fall down even shows a quite clear mind). For this reason I was surprised reading inrng’s considerations… It’s funny that the interpretations of race “facts” can vary so much depending on national/linguistic context. I’d like to know what Belgian say about it 🙂

        • (Oh, well, and attacking when someone’s asking you to take your turn it’s just aesthetically ugly… nothing will ever convince me of the contrary)

        • “We”? …
          But that’s not something that the typical cyclist racing on a competitive level would ever say…
          …as the countless charms and little rituals to avoid bad luck, to which pro racer are addicted, show very well. Cancellara is very “scaramantico”, to name one.

  7. I wasn’t able to watch it live but recorded and watched it a few days later. I enforced a strict media ban for the two days and refused to ride with anyone so I was able to sit down and without knowing the result.
    Great race and the pic of Cancellara falling off the bike at the end and Vanmarcke in tears summed up a fantastic day

  8. I still have this on my v-box; the only race I kept this year. Was really cheering for Vanmarke too; as said previously, gotta love an underdog. And the great ‘what-if’: Stybar not getting knocked off.

    But Fabu showed pure class: the best race by far this year

  9. The Worlds & Ronde aside, P-R is always amongst the best, if not the best, 1 day race of any year. There’s a reason it’s known as the queen of the classics. This year’s was a banner edition. Being a big cx fan, I was crestfallen when Stybar hit the cobbles. I believe he will one day stand atop the podium in Roubaix!

  10. Sep Vanmarcke is Belgian AND Flemish.
    I do take offence.
    Being Flemish has nothing todo with being Dutch. We’re two completely different people.
    Inner Ring should know that.

    • Yes Frank – we are all aware of that.

      Obviously it’s an error, an oversight. I am sure it will be fixed in time.

      I suggest if you take offense at that, you stay of the website for a few hours until it is fixed.

      Don’t sweat the small stuff mate.

    • Frank, chill out mate. It’s been said a thousand times, but this is a blog (albeit a bloody good one). The guy is not a journalist who has an army of sub-editors checking his content. In fact inrng encourages us to point out his errors so he can put them right. I’m sure as soon as he gets back from his hols he’ll correct it.

  11. Yep, a bit frosty at the moment and the real winter has yet to come.
    I hope the weather will be better than last year for the spring classics

    • Yeah, we found it absolutley freezing. It tried it’s best to snow on us during the Ronde sportiv. Roubaix wasn’t too much better.

      We spent just over two weeks riding from Amsterdam down through Belgium, and then through to Lille. I don’t think it got above 8 degrees in that time. But we still think we were fortunate; it never rained on us once whilst we were riding 🙂

  12. Great recap, it really was like an installment of ‘Die Hard’ wasn’t it?

    My favourite part of the race actually went unmentioned here. With about 35 km to go, he dropped back to the team car from a group of 15 or so. Terpstra, Boom, and Eisel were so intent on marking him that they dropped back w/ him to the car so they wouldn’t lose his wheel. Then of course, after a quick bluff and chat w/ the DS, he takes off on his ‘moto’ and leaves them for dust, never to figure in the race again….looking like completely useless thugs….just like a good ‘Die Hard’

  13. Really was a thrilling Roubaix. As impressive as it was to see Boonen accelerate away with 40km to go last year, the drama of that final four was brilliant. Had to say, I thought Stybar was looking remarkably strong until the crash, especially considering the work Cancellara had put in bridging across.

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