The Moment The Race Was Won: Gent-Wevelgem

Luca Paolini goes solo in the final kilometres, his breakaway rivals only a murky blur behind. He was dropped over the Kemmelberg but kept chasing and eventually latched on to the small group of riders chasing Jurgen Roelandts. Hiding among giants Paolini emerged in the finish with a sneaky seated attack to catch Etixx-Quickstep out once again.

The race started with wild conditions. An early break was promising with powerful riders like Albert Timmer, Alex Dowsett, Alexis Gougeard, Jesse Sergent and Pavel Brutt in the move, all solid riders. But they couldn’t do anything about the wind and as soon as the race stopped its westward procession and turned south it was exposed to crosswinds. The cross wind raged, scattering branches over the roads and bending trees.

See the video from two minutes in. Do not adjust your set, the riders are leaning diagonally as if the road is on a large camber but it’s the wind. Soon riders were being fished out of drainage ditches. Up Mont Cassel and the race was split to pieces. 120km to go and the race was going wild. By now many had crashed out and the race had been reduced to a few groups which started to reform but those behind were only facing further dejection on the upcoming climbs and exposed roads.

Lotto-Jumbo profited from several riders in the front group to sent Marten Tjallingi up the road, the ex-MTB rider took a minute but his task was to force others to chase and he began to slow as the race crossed the Kemmelberg. On the descent Jurgen Roelandts took off with 75km to go. The same tactic from a lottery-backed team? Yes although as solid as Tjallingi is, Roelandts was an outside pick for the win. He probably wanted company but found himself alone.

With Roelandts taking time it was time to act. Stijn Vandenbergh attacked and was joined by Geraint Thomas and Sep Vanmarcke, then Luca Paolini hitched a ride along with Niki Terpstra, Daniel Oss plus Jens Debusschere, team and brother in law of Roelandts. This group worked well and quickly distanced the rest of the race. All are tall riders except for Luca Paolini, 1.74m and the wheel to avoid.

Jurgen Roelandts Gent Wevelgem 2015

Roelandts built up a tidy lead of over two minutes but the weather and the distance took their toll and he was looking more and more ragged. The second time up the Kemmelberg saw Luca Paolini and Daniel Oss distanced but the Italian pair kept chasing for kilometres and Paolini just found the energy and craft to get back to the group while Oss. All day staying upright was a challenge and in once instance Thomas crashed, a spectacular wipe-out where the wind seemed to scoop him up and dump him on the grass verge. He had a soft landing, got a new bike and rode back to the group. With 30km to go Roelandt’s lead fell below a minute as the chase group was working well, everyone taking reasonable turns except for Debusschere who was allowed to sit on. Roelandts was swept up and done for the day.

Gent Wevelgem 2015

The final 20km got very tactical. It’s easy to examine the situation in the cold light of day: numerical superiority for Etixx-Quickstep but neither Terpstra nor Vandenbergh can be counted on a in sprint; Thomas is in top form; Vanmarcke is dangerous but looked to be flagging on the Kemmel; Debusschere must be fresh from sitting on but is still an outsider; Paolini struggled to get back to the group. Only there was no cold light of day, just cold rain and over 200km had been covered. We got a series of attacks, the strongest came when Niki Terpstra punctured, he got a new wheel and rode back to the group who’d kindly waited for him and blasted past. Suddenly the lead six were two-by-two with Terpsta and Paolini leading, Thomas being tracked by Vandenbergh and Debusschere accompanied by Vanmarcke. Thomas managed to eject Vandenbergh off his wheel by using the left gutter. They all came back and we got a series of punchdrunk attacks from the Etixx pair.

Then with 6km to go Paolini made his move, first a stamp on the pedals which was so obvious it almost had neon lights on it and Geraint Thomas closed him down. But Thomas and the others didn’t ride right up to his wheel. It was here that the guile was executed as Paolini placed a sneaky seated acceleration just as the others were left looking at each other. Paolini was in a big gear and steathily giving it everything and by the time they saw him winding up the gear it was too late, he’d got a gap. The others fanned out across the road, only this time it wasn’t because of the crosswind they were wondering who’d go next. Every second’s hesitation was costing them but who wanted to chase? Paolini was taking time with every push of the pedals and the others quickly resigned themselves to salvaging a podium place.

Once again Etixx-Quickstep miss Tom Boonen. It’s good to have Terpstra and Vandenbergh up front but neither are famous for their sprint. Sep Vanmarcke had a tough time: an off day or part of a trend? His cleat problems in the E3 could explain his struggles on Friday but he didn’t look so powerful today and had to use all his guile to stay with the lead group.

Gent Wevelgem

The Verdict: a superb race although built on cruel conditions which for a while almost got the race suspended. Once the season is done surely we’ll be looking back on this as of the highlights of the year and a day where the word “epic” is at last suitable rather than hyperbole. There are many events where you only need to tune in for the last hour or even the final 15 minutes to catch all the action but this had tension, drama and tactics live on TV for four hours and the hard racing had started before coverage had begun.

Paolini was distanced on the Kemmelberg only to haul his way back to the front group. He probably wasn’t the strongest but he had the wisdom of Athena, covering moves when it mattered and timing his attack just right, a wily seated acceleration allowed him to sneak a few seconds and in the finish the Italian out-Flandriened the Flandriens, in fact the podium was Belgian-free.

39 riders finished. Low and high too alike. Low because it’s a fraction of the field but high because 30 of them were seven minutes down and out of contention. But extra work all counts for the Ronde and Roubaix. Can next Sunday’s Ronde van Vlaanderen be half as good?

128 thoughts on “The Moment The Race Was Won: Gent-Wevelgem”

  1. A fantastic race with a crafty, deserving winner. I’ve ridden around there in those kinds of conditions and it’s no fun at all, some of the guys looked like they were on turbo trainers for all the progress they were making through the wind. The way Thomas was dumped off the side of the road by was amazing – there is nothing quite like the ferocity of a spring day in Flanders! I hope nobody sustained serious injury.

    Thank you for the solid summary, once again.

  2. Of course its hard to say how much the conditions played in the final result. Would Paolini have won, would it have been a bunch sprint, a Belgian winner, etc. All I can think of is what Cacellara, the (former?) hard man of the classics would have made of it, especially after seeing guys fish their bikes out of the drink and ‘G’ take a closer inspection of the grass than strictly necessary. Dangerous? Of course, but then again so are the 100kph descents in the tours. I’m just glad the riders met the challenge and overcame it. It made for a great, memorable day.

  3. What a great race! Paolini, that old fox, doing as little work as possible and saving it all for the end. Fair play. Etixx fail to make the most of numerical advantage yet again. And the “G” man makes it two podiums in three days. Sep Vanmarcke again falls short.

    Geraint Thomas is now my favourite for the Tour of Flanders. If he doesn’t get on the podium it will be a disappointment.

    • I don’t know that criticizing omega-pharma is legitimate this time. They got two guys into the last 10K in extreme conditions and tried to make the podium theirs and it didn’t work out.

      • Its already been said below but Terpstra clearly had some strength left as judged by his 2nd place. Vandenburgh, in comparison, didn’t. He may as well have given his last effort when Paolini went. That he didn’t doomed Terpstra to 2nd at best. I’d guess that Lefevre expects wins when Etixx have 2 of 6 riders. Vandenburgh even dropped back to the car for advice just before the final.

        • But, this is one-day bike racing with people in it. Sometimes the people can have the power but, for whatever reason, don’t seize *that one opportunity* that turned out to be the winning move. The inverse happened to Paolini today. It all worked out.

          Cyclingnews has an interview with LeFevere that IMO, is about right. His guys had a hard enough time making it into the last ~5k and they gave it a good try with what they had.

          The strongest rider doesn’t always win. That’s good bike racing!

  4. Most of the finishers got some very hard-earned points.

    It’s worth mentioning Roelandts only finished ~2 minutes down in an extreme fitness test! I hope he rides and has a good race next week.

  5. Excellent viewing from the comfort of the settee. Truly grim conditions and thank goodness the temperature wasn’t too low. I have a feeling the Spring weather will not be so kind this year for Flanders and Roubaix. Here’s hoping Stannard can can come good again, it was his kind of weather today. Chapeau Thomas after being blown off, literally.

  6. A proper days racing. Good to see Paolini get the win… But Etixx messed up again, why didn’t Vandenbergh sacrifice himself when Paolini went? Terpstra was clearly strong enough to win.

    • x2. I’m beginning to wonder if there’s problems in the team with either tactics/organisation or unwillingess to work for each other, hence the indecision both here and at Omloop.

      • I think it’s cos when there’s a Belgian involved for Etixx, tactics seem to revolve around the Belgian winning and not the stronger (in this case) Dutchman.

  7. So far this seasons northern races have been remarkable. They make the other early season races look boring in comparison. As Paolini said in the post race interview it was ‘real cycling’!

    • Watch it there matt, you could get lumped in with the curmudgeons like me! 🙂 I thought Paolini would easily catch back on after being dropped but when he wasn’t back in the group as things flattened out I thought he was doomed (like Oss) but the wily old man surprised and delighted me when he had enough left to ride away for the win. Still wish he’d lose the lumberjack facial hair, but BRAVO anyway! Meanwhile I doubt Spartacus was whining too loudly about not being there – he likely would have come up with some excuse about saving himself for Flanders and Roubaix. Is it too early to write-off Sagan now that MegaOLEVomaniac has seized control of Stinkoff? What will the “Donald Trump” of pro cycling do next?

      • There’s no saving me! Im lucky enough to be able to get there next Sunday to watch one of the best races in the world. Ill keep a look out for the great bearded one’s- Paolini and Wiggins.

  8. It looked to me that the group and the Etixx guys in particular were worried about bringing Thomas to 3/4km out and him going solo again. When Paolini went they all looked at each other and wanted Thomas to lead the chase. Maybe I’m a Brit who know believe G can win everything but that’s what I thought.

    Also just a great race all round can’t remember the last time I watched a rave no stop from around 150km out. Well done to all who finished.

    • +1.

      Having been cooked by Stannard in the Omloop, and with Thomas obviously on top form, they blew their chance and let Paolini steal the win. It wasn’t even a 2 from 6 chance, more like 2 from 4 as Vanmarke and Debusschere were cooked (why were they allowed back on?). I think Thomas said that he felt he was a marked man today, and it looked that way – but QS just ended up racing for second.

      Fair play to Paolini, though. He’d done some monster turns for Kristoff in the last few races.

  9. Great day of cycling, and what a season so far. I feel like I just don’t need the Tour de France anymore! Kudos to all those who finished the race. Everybody seemed weak and I loved it.

  10. one questions – with some 20ish to go – Tepstra had a flat, the group waits for him – riding fair – then he gets back at attacks straight away – from the sofa – that looked a bit sketchy – with little knowledge of unwritten rules – is that cool on his behalf??

    • I was tempted to write above that Terpstra punctured and the others kindly waited for him but it was more they were all watching each other and Terpstra was able to get back because Vandenbergh had paused his work and they were hesitating. Attacking when he got back is fair game, if anything he’d used up extra energy just to get back up.

  11. VDB and Terpstra just looked at each other (and everyone else) when Paolini attacked – can’t understand why they weren’t just right on it – with two o them there one should have been chasing.

  12. It was brutal out there today, I’m some 150km north of Gent but similar weather. Just walking with my kids across a car park was uncomfortable, kudos to all who finished this race. And what a race! Twists of faith, tactical considerations, suffering, everything that makes cycling a unique sport.
    Roelandts was on a mission impossible, yet his unwillingness to give up made sense, because every km he stayed in front Debusschere could keep dodging turns. But clearly just holding the wheels was all he could do. And then the EQS ‘failure’? It was ironically similar to Terpstra’s Roubaix victory. Someone takes off from a small group in the finale. Everybody looks to the team with two riders in the remaining group to chase. But one of those wants to win and the other one is too tired to catch the strong rider at the front. 3.. 2.. 1.. game over for the chasing group. Awesome.

    • I think today it is fair to say the obvious: cycling is the greatest sport, bar none, when it is very, very, very hard and uncontrollable.

      • I’ve only been watching PRO cycling for a few years, but I love the spectacle and the excitement. Never would have thought I’d watch people ride bikes on t.v. Growing up I watched traditional American “ball sports,” which I cannot be bothered to watch at all these days. Have lost interest (for various reasons) but I can’t get enough cycling.

  13. I agree with what Brian Smith said about Etixx squad – they all want to ride for themselves. Yes they attacked and yes they were as dead as the other guys but neither Terpstra or Vandenbergh put in an absolute monster attack. As noted, neither chased Paolini.

    • Boonen could have been the difference. Sep would now know how to win in Paris Roubaix. Tresptra will be unpopular within the Etixx team

    • There was no monster attack because everyone in that group was toasted. One Eurosport commentator said something like “they are all on their knees.” There was no little extra bit there at such a distance in such horrible conditions for such a prestigious event.

      At some point Paolini got a gap and it worked out this time. The other 99 times in 90 races are not remembered.

      • There are 2 truths here – firstly,everyone was absolutely shattered and didn’t have the energy to play any tactics. Secondly, Quickstep are an absolute shower and even if Tom Boonen was there they would have found a way to shoe it up.

  14. Truly epic indeed. I feel a bit guilty about enjoying it so much.

    Geraint Thomas seemed pretty pissed off when he crossed the line but I love his expression in the podium picture. Looks like he’s plotting something bigger (just FFS stay on the bike)!

    Perhaps appropriate that Paolini’s weathered features should triumph. Can the next two weeks live up to this?

  15. What a fantastic day’s racing. As jaded as I have become over the years it’s days like today that keeps me coming back.

    The lead photo of Paolini shows an angle I hadn’t seen. No souplesse here, just mashing the pedals against the elements.

    The angle of the bars and levers is a million miles and 30yrs away from my first exposure to cycling with Sean Yates and his dropped levers and bars parallel to the ground.

  16. Forgot to mention above what an excellent job the moto GP riders and camera crews did. The lack of a helicopter during early coverage meant a lot of close ups from around and within the leading groups, giving a real idea of the effort involved. I think I even heard Heinrich Haussler yell something about a, “f***ing wheel” at one point as he pulled over in Cassell!


  17. Just as Eddy Merckx predicted back at the Tour of Oman, when the weather turns bad in Belgium, there is no neutralization or cancellation. Extreme weather protocol? Those words don’t exist when it comes to the northern classics.

    Moving on to juicier topics, can we talk about Luca Paolini and his “une affaire de dopage” now?

  18. Seniors Day.

    So Paolini wins, as does Piti on the stage in Catalunya. Add to that Peraud in the Criterium International and a 3rd for Davide Rebellin in Italy.

    What have they all in common?

    Answers on a postcard….

  19. Great to see Paolini win it this way–the hard man’s win! After all the grunt work he does for Kristoff, he truly deserves this. And don’t lose the beard!

  20. Inrng love your insight and write ups. My feeling on San Remo, Dwoors and now Gent is not so much that the race was won as it was lost. These are incredible efforts in extraordinary conditions but the winner seemed to be decided by indecision or lack of commitment as much as the push of the actual winner. I don’t get being in a breakaway all day and then watching the winner ride away hoping somebody else will chase. Of course hindsight is 20:20. Etixx seem particularly vulnerable to letting the win slip even if Thomas is having his best moments.

    • Two things:
      #1: In bicycle racing, someone is always trying to get someone else to do the work or take advantage of someone else’s work, or trying to get themselves into the most favorable situation for the finish.
      Sitting on Thomas’ wheel was smart. You know Thomas has the power and he knows he has the power to podium in the race. So, you wait for Thomas to panic and ride his wheel to the line, ideally beating him because he used what little was left to close the gap, not win the race.

      #2: A second or third is as hard fought as first. Try putting in 6 hours on the bike, pretty much full speed and non-stop, in horrible conditions, getting into the unlikely scenario of being in the lead group,attacked, dropped, fight to get back on, get attacked by someone else, fight some more, making decisions with no time to consider alternatives while other guys just hang on your wheel.
      Do that at the beginning of the 6th hour of riding race pace and then we’ll ask you when and why you decided to “let” the winner get away.

      • I replied but somehow don’t see it showing up. Second attempt… Don’t mean to take away anything from these riders – I could not stay on their wheel for a mile. Not sure if you could either. Conditions were epic- I acknowledged that. Now bike racing is about winning – how much glory is their in second place ask Pete Sagan. I believe being on the podium is still notable but I was just making a point that some of these races were decided by cycling chess rather than inability to follow. Part of the appeal of the sport but Kwiatkowski, Sagan/Stybar and today’s group can ask themselves what if we chased. And seriously today Etixx let Paolini get away – well deserved win. The guy rode his wheels off for Kristoff. One mans opinion agree with all your points.

        • “bike racing is about winning”.

          Maybe. Unless first spot is up the road and you don’t think you can chase yourself to win. You race with your head as much as your legs.

          Feel free to disagree. But first check out the UCI points system.

          • The one who is prepared to give the balls-out attack will win. Maybe the guy with the least to lose. My point is that Thomas could/should have won but Paolini wanted the win more and was prepared to do what Thomas, on that day, was not. Etixx imo simply did not have the chops, the race was between 2 people and one wanted it a bit more than the other.

  21. I found it odd to say the least that Stijn Vandenbergh attacked when Stybar punctured. He had his earpiece out and only put it back in after the others joined him. Is this a sign that EQS is less than harmonious?

  22. I couldn’t help but notice that despite the absurd wind, moderately deep wheels were the norm, and the winner was on DEEEEEP dish wheels. Contrast that with photos from as little as 5 years ago, where box section alloy wheels were still very common. Even teams with options for shallower wheels did not seem to take them. I wonder how much that had to do with the crashes?

    • It seems that the newer elliptical section wheels do get a bit of propulsion from cross winds, and don’t stall easily, so there’s the temptation.

  23. Notice even Sagan at around 4:35 of the footage nearly loses his front wheel after a gust/collision with the Bora Argon 18 rider his is sitting on

  24. Wonderful race. Hope the next two Sundays bring similar excitement and suspense.

    Hat tip to all the riders for enduring the conditions, and creating such outstanding sporting event.

  25. Sagan was keeping an eye on Vanmarcke’s wheel but when Vanm. and then a bit later Thomas accelerated to bridge the gap to VDB’s group Sagan didn’t react. What was he thinking? or perhaps he was simply cooked (long before the grande finale). Oleg must feel frustrated if not betrayed. Maybe Bjarne could see the writing on the wall and decided to walk away before it’s too late.

  26. Disapointing that Wiggins just seems to be cashing in for his last few weeks with Sky. Either does not start opr does not finish. hardly the trpe of build up you would expect from someone whose target event is 2 weeks away.

    • He was ill for most of the week and racing in those conditions doesn’t help recovery. He wasn’t alone. Another 137 didn’t finish. Were you disappointed by them?

      • Not sure the other 137 riders have stated a final road hoorah to be a win at Roubaix. So far in 2015 he has DNS Challenge Mallorca, 75th at Qatar, 44th at Niuewsblad, DNS Paris Nice, DNS E3 and DNF yesterday. Was he ill for those also?

        • You want him to produce sicknotes for you for 44th at Het Volk and 75th at Qatar?

          Wow. Tough crowd.

          Whatever gives with his run up to P-R, the evidence will be apparent on the road. On the day. Good or bad.


        • He worked all week for Porte & Thomas at Paris-Nice but did not start the final TT. You may have seen him on the front of the peloton for kms at a time.

    • I think his PR target is rapidly becoming a joke! He should be riding for Thomas and while he is at it shave that stupid beard off.

      • A month ago people were shouting that he should be riding for Stannard at P-R.

        Please make up your minds, people.

        Back on Planet Reality, any team like Sky or EQS, who have several riders with firepower to give them options, will want as many guys as possible up front for when the decisive moves and final selection are made. You don’t go into a race like P-R when you do have realistic options with more than one card to play, and say ‘we are only going to ride for one rider’. That’s just stupid. Trek has been an exception because Cancellara has been their only realistic shot (and what a rider to have as your shot).

        • I’m sorry for the dig.

          I do try, but slagging Wiggins off in a blur of mashed keys just gets old, INRNG.
          I’m not saying he’s beyond critcism by any means but equally I wouldn’t say it advances anything either. It’s some people’s default setting though, and it’s tiresome.

          Some people just can’t stand Wiggins, there’s just this lingering distaste for him that some people have, the likes of which is rarely seen for other riders. If he does well, there’s cohorts raising their suspicions. If he does badly, more of the same except now he’s a wimp or whatever. I don’t know what it is – his character maybe?

          I’m not just saying this as a fan of Wiggins either. I get bored of the same old stuff about Simon Gerrans being a wheelsucker, for instance.

          I try and remain objective about the sport, as you manage so well. It’s quite remarkable how I’m yet to detect any particular allegience to a rider or team, or your nationality. It’s a shame some of the so-called “proper” journalists can’t manage it.

          • actually to Tovarishch’s post I think that’s part of the problem. The mainstream (British) sporting press seem to think that road cycling begins and ends with Wiggo and Cav. Hence every statement gets picked over and blown out of proportion, which then generates the internet exasperation… I guess they just give a better quote than a Froome or Stannard, but I’d like to see a feature on future prospects Rowe/Fenn/Swift/Dowsett/Yates etc etc rather than just another ‘I’d love to win Roubaix…etc etc’ Even G’s win last week got very little comment.

          • Tovarishch, he takes most cycling things seriously; personally that’s why I do like the man because he’s grown up loving the sport for what it is and its history, rather than just because he happens to be good at riding a bike. I’m not saying everyone should be a student of the sport and know it in-depth, but I do get the impression that some riders would much rather be doing other sports but aren’t. (I’m mr_wicksy over on the Graun, by the way, I’ll say hello or something! haha).

            Noel, you’re right – it’s become cliche over there but The Guardian seem to believe we only know about 5 cyclists. They’ve barely written about Dowsett’s crash that scuppered The Hour and when they did they had to frame it around Wiggins by saying that he will be doing it too at a later date.

  27. Outstanding afternoon of racing, what with the wind, the rain and the falling debris blowing riders off course.
    I have to say the G man showed some balls getting back on his bike and getting back to the group after his conversation with the soil. Things like that make the Spring Classics so rewarding to watch.
    Well done to the old man, Luca Paolini, and hard luck to G who looked as though Friday’s efforts in the E3 may have taken their toll. Chapeau!

  28. 1) Why deep section rims with this wind? How riders can protest about weather and then do nothing to prevent it from harming them

    2) This one was an amazing race: who could not finish it jumped in a car. No stupid protests.

    3) Is anybody upset that the race developed under crazy conditions? I saw a great race with stunning men.

    UCI instead of approving guidelines on extreme weather should prohibit carbon rims with rain and deep section wheels with wind….

  29. Nobody mentioned the Tractor boys, a veritable frenzy for the agricultural vehicle lover. They did seem to love the bike racing too.

        • how can that be irritating? it looked like it made a fantastic atmosphere riding through the avenue of tooting tractors! they get to make their point, and add to the colour of the race… a win/win surely?

        • I loved the tractor boys. They may have been protesting but they were giving the riders some hell of support, though I suspect some riders could have done with a few aspirin after the race.
          I thought the race was epic entertainment. Dirt, grime, winds, tactics, swearing, cussing, accidents and twists and turns in the plot. Certainly didn’t need to turn to Netflix yesterday afternoon. Shame the Etixx boys weren’t a bit more up for it as I think the closing stages could have been even more gripping. Just have to wait for “Flanders the sequel” now. Cheers Mr Inrng for another excellent article and summation. I lived it again via your superb prose.

          • Couldn’t agree more. Thanks INRNG for clearing that up, watching the race with Dutch commentary and our only linguistic skills being English, I did wonder how they managed to gather so many tractors in one place !

  30. On a side note, one thing that does concern and slightly annoy me is the amount of motorcycles in around and ahead of the action. At one point the main camera bike could not see the escape because they were hidden by bloody motorbikes. I don’t think there is a race I watch without thinking, that was close or god that looked dangerous. I appreciate that there are roles to perform but It seems to get out of hand at times. Rant over.

    • one of the moto drivers writes for cycling weekly (I think) and said that the chaos meant they could pretty much go where they wanted without being ordered about by officials!

  31. Blimey felt tired watching that from the sofa. One thing I’d like to ask, what happens to all those who abandon, in this race well over 100 riders did not finish, how do they logistically get back to bus / hotel etc. Apologies for ignorance perhaps it could be the subject of a post ?

  32. What a phenomenal race! Despite all the talk of neutralizing the race and dangerous conditions, I have the impression that the number of riders crashing out with serious injuries was no higher (maybe even lower) than in other races this time of year – last friday being a good example – or the first stages of a grand tour. Probably the conditions were so selective that it was effectively less dangerous, with small echelons riding at moderate speeds rather than a huge peloton at 50+ kph.

    • My thoughts exactly. Whoever is drafting an extreme weather protocol for the UCI should first get someone who knows statistics to establish the correlation between injuries and weather conditions in bike racing. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was no correlation at all. Tightly packed groups fighting for position and high speeds, that’s where the real danger lies.

      • Very true. And very sad that, for example, CN is pushing hard towards a restrictive protocol, which wasn’t really needed in most occasions when people called for it. More like a sort of lobbying than informed and fact-based debate.

  33. “the chase group was working well, everyone taking reasonable turns except for Debusschere who was allowed to sit on.”

    I saw Paolini take one turn, and even then, it only lasted about 5 seconds. And he admitted that when he dropped back, it wasn’t because he was tired, it was because he had too much pressure in his tyres to attack the cobbled climb as he was on his 3rd bike of the day. He knew he’d catch back on when they hit the tarmac.

    So I’m not saying it wasn’t a good win, or a deserved win, I’m just curios as to why nobody is calling him a wheel sucker. Is it just because he’s a popular rider and a loyal domestique? Because if it was, say, Valverde, winning in that manner, he’d be getting slated.

      • The wheelsucking occurred to me whilst watching live, however your right, Gerrans would have been run out of town for it! Something I find highly amusing from keyboard warriors. (Long may they be wound up I say ha ha)

    • He did more than one turn, but certainly after Debusschere who was sitting on for legitimate reasons Paolini was certainly the one working the least. I suspect his chase back made some think he was tired and lucky to be on the back of the break; perhaps he was telling them this too.

  34. It was a great race with a gutsy & worthy winner. More expected negativity about Wiggins, probably won’t win P-R but so what, he has had a truly great career & has achieved most of his goals.

  35. A really gripping and tough condition race amongst many of the Belgian Classics through the years. All the finishers will remember this one. Probably G will look back at this as one of his best finishes so far – irrespective of 3rd on podium. Very well done mate. You are a true pro and could/maybe would have won far more events had you not been detailed to nursemaiding prima donnars ?? You remind me of ‘Major Tom’ in those far back days.
    To the newcomers to the sport – no, winning is not the final account. If you thinks so, you do not know Belgium. Roelandts ride will live on forever in folk memory. Long after the winner Paolini on this event is not forgotten but no one can readily remember exactly when ? That is how pro cycling is in many European countries, not widely understood in U.S. or by newomers in U.K.. Given time they will catch up to the ‘passion’ of the sport and that is what it is all about.

  36. A really gripping and tough condition race amongst many of the Belgian Classics through the years. All the finishers will remember this one. Probably G will look back at this as one of his best finishes so far – irrespective of 3rd on podium. Very well done mate. You are a true pro and could/maybe would have won far more events had you not been detailed to nursemaiding prima donnars ?? You remind me of ‘Major Tom’ in those far back days.
    To the newcomers to the sport – no, winning is not the final account. If you thinks so, you do not know Belgium. Roelandts ride will live on forever in folk memory. Long after the winner Paolini on this event is not forgotten but no one can readily remember exactly when ? That is how pro cycling is in many European countries.

  37. The big difference between the tours and one-day races is in the one-day races, if you drop out, you’re no worse off than if they canceled. On the other hand in the stage race if you drop out you lose out not only on that one day’s result (which would have been lost with cancellation) but additionally all remaining stages and the final classifications are lost.

    So these conditions in a stage race? Cancel, obviously. But in a one-day race riders can “cancel” themselves by getting off their bikes. As long as there wasn’t explicit danger, and there wasn’t (is the danger less in a bunch sprint?) then there was no reason the race couldn’t happen. And the result was epic and memorable and with a very worthy winner.

  38. Geraint Tomas’ devotion to physical comedy is impressive. Someone must have told him ‘Look son, you’re going to have to stop the Frank Spencer tributes if you’re going to win any races’. And Geraint’s obviously replied ‘I’ll show you. I’ll show you that I can win races AND still showcase my quite considerable talent for slapstick.’

    Ok, so he didn’t win but bloody hell was it funny. The way he completely deadpanned it was brilliant. Easily the funniest crash I’ve ever seen. I think losing his sidekick EBH has been a benefit – he now has the freedom to experiment with his craft. EBH was holding him back, he’d never have had the bottle to try something as subversive as that before. It would have been some tame pile-up. Now we’re seeing true flair and creativity.

    And the race! Oh the race. G’s moment was when he pulled up to Paolini and Terpstra and had a moan that Terpsta didn’t pull. If he’d gone again then, only Paolini would have followed him and G would have had him heads-up. He was hurting bad at that point, but he didn’t quite realise how much everyone else was hurting. From then it was over for him, he’s on mega form and everyone was marking him hard. Kind of Sagan-like marking tactics. The prie you pay for good form I guess.

    As for Paolini, dude’s a warrior. One of my favourite riders – he’s a guy like Stannard, or Chavanel – when he goes, he puts his absolute soul into it. A genuine hard man with super talent. When the race gets hard, they fly. One of the top sights in cycling is him at the business-end of a hard classics-style race, on the font with 4km to go, annihilating everyone. And rarely for himself.

    Sometimes the hard races like that come down to who wants it more. I drew a small comarison with the Commonwelth games that Thomas won – horrible, awful conditions, and once it came down to the final selection there was only going to be one winner. On Sunday, Paolini wanted it that small bit more.

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