The Cobbled Classics Revelations

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With the cobbles done and dusted for another year, a quick retrospective on some of the new names who emerged during the season.

A big Danish rider who seems to be able to ride all day and finished second in the Tour of Flanders? It could be Mads Pedersen from last year, now it’s Kasper Asgreen of Deceuninck-Quickstep. A late substitution in the Belgian team’s squad for De Ronde, Asgreen was working away on the front of the bunch for much of the early to middle phase of the race only he was there in the end too and managed to escape the front group to get second place behind Alberto Bettiol. It was a strong ride just to have the energy to do this and impressive. Pedersen is the cautionary tale, for the Trek-Segafredo rider impressed last year and duly had a weight of expectation on him only to have a quieter time.

Dries Van Gestel didn’t have a star role but he did make the front group of the Tour of Flanders too and in finishing 13th, got the best ever result in the race for the Sportvlaanderen-Baloise team and he had a solid spring too, in the attack the E3 for example. The squad is a development team that exists to bring on young riders, a staging post between the U23 ranks and the World Tour and Van Gestel is likely to join the likes of Tim Declercq, Jelle Wallays, Oliver Naesen and many more in a bigger team soon.

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Team Sky had a poor classics campaign, very similar to last year when they got a podium in the Omloop thanks to Łukasz Wiśniowski and then another at the end of the campaign with Chris Lawless in the Scheldeprijs. This time Owain Doull at least got things off to a good start thanks to a strong ride in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and then a podium in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne before Lawless got another podium in the Scheldeprijs. Doull’s shown gradual improvement, his first cobbled classics season in 2017 didn’t seem crack the top-100, 2018 was stronger and for 2020 he could stake his claim to be a peer of Luke Rowe, with whom he shares a similar parth, from near neighbours in Wales to Olympic success on the track and now the classics.

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Is Mathieu van der Poel a revelation? Loyal readers will know this blog’s been tipping his road racing skills since 2013, he’s the current Dutch national champion and has won plenty of professional road races so he’s no new name. But this was his first time in the cobbled classics so let’s include him among the cobbled classics revelations. His ride in the Tour of Flanders was huge, down but never out and he took fourth place. His father Adrie, a crafty rider in his time, says he tried passing on advice about positioning and energy saving but the message didn’t get through and more importantly Mathieu has a different concept of racing, he wants to enjoy it and “play” rather than see it as work and about winning, or worse, UCI points. So far it’s working and the spring classics were just a game for him, a diversion between cyclo-cross, which has already made him a millionaire, and the personal goal of the mountain bike race in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and he’s also signed a long term deal with his Correndon-Circus team, underpinned by Canyon bikes. It’s possible we see a Wout van Aert scenario where he’s bought out of the contract but equally he doesn’t seem in rush. He is exciting to watch but remember that he’s 24 and that at the same age Peter Sagan – who solely focussed on the road – had won classics, the green jersey in the Tour de France and more. Still “MvdP” has started later but won plenty.

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Last year Tanguy Turgis was the last rider in Paris-Roubaix, now he’s retired after a heart condition was detected. The Turgis are a big cycling family, brother Jimmy is a pro with Vital Concept and the parents help run one of the Parisian region’s largest clubs. 24 year Anthony Turgis had a great season with second place in Dwars door Vlaanderen to MvdP, one of those results where coming second is still a good line on the CV and he beat some big names like Bob Jungels too. Niki Terpstra crashed out of the classics but the surprise signing still delivered two podium finishes and crucially passed on experience and raised the team’s ambitions with Turgis rising to the occasion. So much that Cofidis manager Cédric Vasseur blasted his team staff about riders like Turgis leaving their team and improving once they’ve left. He won the French season opener the GP La Marseillaise and rode the Tour de France last year, reportedly with a 55T chainring.

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Cees Bol won the Nokere Koerse and got Team Sunweb’s first win of the year, a much needed result given they were the last of the World Tour squads to get a win this year. Bol delivered a powerful spring and joins the club of first year pros to win a race. A tall and powerful rider, Bol was a good U23 rider but more consistent than prolific and we’ll see if he becomes a winner, a classics contender or a lead-out expert in the coming years.

Bol was joined on the podium by UAE-Emirates Jasper Philipsen who had a quietly strong debut. Thrust into the limelight after his Tour Down Under stage win, he rode most of the classics and had two top-10s.

Team Sunweb’s Marc Hirschi gets a mention too, 10th in the E3 BinckBank Classic but crucially he was in the early breakaway and when they were duly caught he had the energy and stamina to stay with the breakaway and hang out with the likes of Oliver Naesen and Matteo Trentin, impressive for a 20 year old rider. But he’s got pedigree, he’s the reigning U23 European and World champion. He’s from Ittingen, the same part of Bern as Fabian Cancellara but is far from the same rider, he’s at ease on the climbs too.

Finally a few more names, it’s not quite a cobbled classic but Vital Concept-B&B Hotel’s Patrick Müller won the Volta Limburg classic with a photofinish on the cobbled finishing straight ahead of Justin Jules, a strong result for a non-sprinter over a sprinter. Cofidis’s Hugo Hoffstetter has some strong moments culminating in fourth place in the Scheldeprijs.

Any more names impressed you? Share in the comments below…

29 thoughts on “The Cobbled Classics Revelations”

  1. I am curious why Alberto Bettiol, who won the biggest prize was given only a passing mention.
    Is it because he has been discussed at length by others due to the prize he won?
    Or his other performances were less than impressive?

    • I guess mainly because he’s not really a revelation. He’s been thereabouts before, usually a bit too early in the finale to actually come home with a top result but nonetheless I’d argue he was a bit of a household name already in the spring classics.

      • Exactly, he’s been around for a long time, a revelation in 2016 with second in Plouay, third overall in the Tour of Poland and with results and a lot of ranking points over the years now, just not a win. The piece is more looking at the U25 riders.

  2. I imagine if MvdP stays at Corendon-Circus they’ll effectively become a World Tour team as they’ll be invited to pretty much everything. It is true I suppose as well that at 24 he has turned up ready made, rather than a raw 20 year old like Sagan or teenager like Evenepoel. Probably the result of some sensible planning from his family who seem to know a bit about cycling! I don’t really see the point of him going back to cyclocross though, other than for fun, he’s already essentially unbeatable with nothing else to achieve.

    • He’s in a luxurious position and taking his time, no rush. He and his team were invited to Paris-Roubaix but said ” no thanks” to ASO in order to keep him fresh for the Amstel Gold Race this weekend where he’ll be on “home” soil with the Dutch national champion’s jersey etc (home as in he’s Dutch, but I think he’s lived all his life just over the border in Belgium).

      • Nice to see someone like MvdP mixing MTB and cross into his program throughout the year. I understand at some point he may focus solely on the road, but it is very nice to see someone who seems to really just enjoy bike racing in different forms. It is fun to see him mix it up against Nino Schurter one weekend, then Philippe Gilbert the next weekend.

        I know there are a handful of other worldtour riders who still do cross or 6 day events on the track, but this seems to be the exception these days!

        • This he’s a prodigious talent, seems to work ludicrously hard, and his view on racing seems fantastic, do what he wants to do and just enjoy it. If he never wins again he’s got a career to be immensely proud of I’d say that the pressure is off!
          Certainly his ride on Wednesday was that of somebody looking like they were just having fun on a bike rather than anything else.
          I also can’t see why he’d move team if he’s happy with equipment and the setup he’s effectively going to get the team invites to everything and actually could be a default third Canyon world tour team…
          Who’d want to be the marketing guy who lost that talent as he’s effectively selling three lines of bikes!

          • One would hope he’d stay were he is at Corendon-Circus; and both can grow organically. They know him, and he knows them – and it works. They allow him to concentrate on CX, then mix up MTB & Road in the spring/ summer. And it seems to work – so why change a successful formula?
            Moving to a WT team would likely mean less, or no off road racing; and you’re losing what makes him a successful rider. Classics in the spring but a super domestique in the GTs….really? That would be a waste of talent.

  3. It will be interesting to see what the “revelation” Fons de……….Mathieu van der Poel can do Sunday as the big favorite. For a guy supposedly so playful and fun I guess I’ve just missed all the smiles and joy? One thing I have noticed is how few of his fellow competitors come over and congratulate him on a win compared to a guy like Sagan who the entire peloton seems to like and respect.
    No argument as to the man’s current talent, but OTHO he’s far from someone I’ll be rooting for.

    • Jealousy, perhaps? He’s just staggeringly talented. He’s sort of the Dutch equivalent of “The Boys from Brazil”, genetically.

    • Maybe seeing what you want to see. I wouldn’t say MvdP is noticeably unpopular, or that the cult of personality surrounding Sagan extends to the peloton. Both seem to be treated as anyone else would be.

      • I agree with Richard S. If you missed all the smiles and joy, you have not watched all the Belgian mini documentaries about cross about him and his fellow competitors, or you have not paid attention to post finish footage and interviews. Alaphilippe congratulated him right away after the Brabantse Pijl. Although he’s certainly capable of smiling, Wout van Aert is quite serious compared to MvdP who seems quite spontaneous and lighthearted for a pro athlete. Doing a wheelie to his campervan, dancing wildly in his underpants, dirt jump practice… He does not seem to act like the showman, like Sagan sometimes does. I’d like to see him race Sagan in good shape a lot, because they share some rare traits: A very strong finish, the capability to go long and enough of a climber to drop the real sprinters.

        • You are correct – I have NOT watched all the Belgian mini-documentaries canonizing the man. That’s why I call him Fons…he’s (so far) in roadracing a huge talent that has yet to be realized. I’m not a panting fan boy (or even a Belgian) but more a guy whose heard (and read) all this before a time or two. How long IS the list of “next Eddy Merckx” these days?

          • So you’ve got both feet on the ground. That’s OK. Maybe it’s because I speak Dutch, my interpretation of what’s in the media is different. At first, he was just part of a succesful CX generation and the coverage was mainly about that. Then he made waves on the road and everyone was sceptical. “Wait till he meets some real competition”, “Wait till he has to do full monument distances”. That tells you he is not viewed as the next Eddy Merckx. People simply ask themselves where his limits are, which is a good question. MvdP surprises again and again, which is why he draws a lot of attention. I don’t think he’ll win Amstel – too much climbing. But who knows?

      • Really? Did I “see what I wanted to see” as a whole bunch of competitors congratulated Sagan after winning the rainbow jersey a couple of times? Contrast that with the Green Bullet’s reception last year. And then contrast MVdP’s line up of competitors offering congratulations post-race – I counted only Alaphilippe. No question the guy has staggering talent….just like Fons did.
        Only time will tell if MVdP is lauded as the new Merckx or lamented as just another DeWolf.
        My money’s on the latter.

        • Let’s not compare the reception of a well arrived athlete after a few years of succes to someone completely new in the Pro Tour ranks. Sure, vdP has a lot to prove and a lot to live up to. I personally do not care who he’ll compare to – I just enjoy the style of racing he’s bringing right now. I simply do not see why you would try to bring the negative image that’s in your first post, when all we have is TV footage. It simply says a lot about the interpreter of the stories and the footage if all you can is criticize.

        • Was it MvdP’s fault that there weren’t too many riders around to congratulate him immediately after crossing the finish line?:-) Matthews seemed pretty unhappy and was probably too preoccupied with feeling frustrated. So that leaves us with 1 out of 2 (or maybe 2 out of 2 if the TV cameras simply missed it or Wellens couldn’t really get close enough for all the cameramen and interviewers?

          The trouble with us older men is that we’ve seen it all before and that we then proceed to see it all before we’ve really seen it all:-)

          • “The trouble with us older men is that we’ve seen it all before and that we then proceed to see it all before we’ve really seen it all”

            Ha! Brilliant!

    • I’m confused by your comment. What is this opinion based on? I saw Alaphilippe go right up to him and congratulate him. He’s quite new, mind you, having only raced 4 worldtour races, so it’s not like he has lots of friends.

      Just last year Peter Sagan said had never even heard of MvdP.

  4. Nice to see some loyalty to the team from MVdP rather than the immediate jumping off the ship at the first sign of big money from the big teams. Shows some character, even if he is already a millionaire. Quite different from the typical pro athlete.

  5. Bob Jungels merits the odd sentence though, even if he isn’t quite as novel as Asgreen the friendly ghost, his was still a ludicrously capable showing on the stones

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