Highlights of 2014 – Part III

It’s easy to see the Ronde as one of the sport’s best races but it doesn’t automatically deliver the best racing. This year’s edition had solid action through the final hour and suspense right until the end.

What’s your favorite spring classic? Many will pick Paris-Roubaix but you don’t have to chose. Watch them all. There’s something about De Ronde though, the enormity of the event.

This year’s edition was starting to simmer with 100km to go but hit boiling point on the dreaded Koppenberg. The remnants of an early breakaway started the climb but by the top, a matter of meters, a new group of fresh attackers had taken the lead.

But it was on the Taainberg that Greg Van Avermaet rode away, using the descent to surprise the others, except OPQS’s Stijn Vandenbergh who sat tight on his wheel. “GVA” has a fast finish so this attack wasn’t needed. But that made them race more enticing. Behind several other riders wanted to move but couldn’t do much because OPQS had so many riders, if they moved they’d use energy, thus increasing OPQS’s strength.

Fabian Cancellara attacked on the Oude Kwaremont and only Sep Vanmarcke could follow. The two strongest riders in the race? But they left it late with GVA and Vandenbergh still up the road. Would it come together? Yes but it meant four riders each in with a chance.

The following images show the crucial closing moments. Cancellara dips his head and refuses to tow Vanmarcke. So Vanmarcke goes himself and finds Cancellara tracking him. Did this mean Cancellara saved just enough energy to win?

Why the highlight?
250km and hours of action and the winner wasn’t known until the dying seconds.

27 thoughts on “Highlights of 2014 – Part III”

  1. My favourite race of the year…. by far. The last hour was riveting, and the sprint at the end had my holding my breath and screaming at the computer screen. This race showed maybe even more tactical brilliance by Cancellara than last year’s Roubaix did. What a win!!

  2. Roll on next years edition. By far the best race of the year for me. Roubaix is great but too much of a lottery, too easy to get taken out by misfortune/other riders mistakes. Bit like comparing the Grand National to the Derby If you want a horse racing analogy!

  3. I’ve read complaints that Cancellara doesn’t race “smart” and so pulls his competition to the line, so this was neat to see.

    Also, afterwards, I read an interview where Cancellara said he’d been training for sprints, and it was great to see that pay off.

  4. I watched the race alongside GVA’s aunt in a bar in Oudenaarde’s market place – lovely lady, didn’t even seen that upset when he lost out, unlike the rest of the town…

  5. That was two classics in a row where Cancellara played the naive Vanmaercke. He should never of pulled Cancellara across like he should never have pulled him into and around the velodrome at Roubaix in 2013.

    • I don’t think Vanmaercke was naive, he’d been sitting on Cancellara’s wheel and the remaining gap was small enough that putting in some work there insured that he’d be in the winning group instead of playing chicken and watching the front two ride away from them. There was still time after closing that gap for Vanmaercke to set himself up, traditional thinking would put the GVA as the most dangerous in a four man sprint not Cancellara.

  6. @Kevin, I wouldn’t call Vanmaercke naive but rather stuck in a shitty situation. He doesn’t have the same palmares as Cancellara. When Cancellara pulled off, he was racing to win rather than fighting for second or third. I think Gerrans proved that to win, you have to be willing to gamble in a situation like this.

    • I agree with Kevin. Vanmarcke doesn’t have Cancellara’s palmares, but he isn’t as “old”, either. He can *win another year*, and, even more important, he isn’t going to win anyway, racing like that, so his palmares won’t improve nonetheless.
      The funny thing is that Cancellara went on complaining about this kind of half passive half tricky riding style when it was used against him himself, who, at the end of the day, is presently the biggest name in Spring Classics; and then, he rides like that against… a 24-25 years old guy, however talented?
      It’s totally ok, for me, that he rides that way, it’s full cycling spirit of the ol’ times, but he should keep silence when anyone else does the same thing to him.
      And, sometimes, a different way to ride can be refreshing, especially from a champion: when Boonen worked together with Cancellara in 2010, even knowing that this meant lower chances of victory, it was quite a good show and left me with a lasting impression of greatness in the defeat. The same goes with Cancellara in a couple of Sanremo he finally lost but in a spectacular fashion… that was just before he started saying that “he didn’t like to be f***ed like that”.

  7. The Ronde is by far my favorite classic. Better than Roubaix, Milan San Demo is exhaustive. The combination of cobbled bergs and the tight roads of races in Belgium make it wonderfully fascinating. The fights for position, obvious nervousness in the peloton, the always delivered smack down on one of the cobbled climbs, and the intense crowds make it something special to me. Hoping to watch on the Paterberg next year.

  8. I was hoping for a Van Avaermat win, but his tireless work to make something happen, sapped his strength. Still, a great race and I rode the course a day before (which was great fun)… The cyclo event beforehand is well worth it!

  9. Another good pick INRNG. Seeing Cancellara take the win by a sprint was a very nice surprise–and gratifying too, after seeing him tow so many to the line only to quip him at the end in several prior races over the years.

  10. Totally agree: best race of the year.

    The Ronde is my favourite race but it doesn’t always deliver: 2010 & 2011 were vintage years, then we had 2 editions (2012, 2013) where good winners saved a poor race. But this one was brilliant, with sub-plots and crashes (hello, Stijn Devolder!) aplenty.

  11. GVA deserves a bunch of big wins. Been so close a number of times. Saw him interviewed by LeMan and Stefano after a TdF stage this year. Guy is awesome. Well-spoken, good dude, father and family who were sportsmen, and also played futbol. Nice!

    He’s a dude I’d like to share a ride with and chat.

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