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Ronde Van Vlaanderen Preview

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The Ronde van Vlaanderen is more than a bike race in Belgium, and this year it marks the end of cobbled classics season given Paris-Roubaix’s postponement. It’s all or nothing this Sunday.

The Route: the same as recent editions at255km this year. It’s not a full tour of Flanders, since the race starts in Antwerp and then makes a beeline for the town of Oudenaarde before 100km are covered. From here the race starts looping around a small part of the Flemish Ardennes. Viewed on a map, the route resembles a ball of wool and includes a large finishing circuit.

The Koppenberg (45km to go): “discovered” in 1976 when a local informed race organisers about a narrow cobbled climb with a 22% gradient and rough cobbles. It can often still be damp on a dry day. Dropped for being too dangerous in the 1987 race, it has made a comeback and is featured late in the race. It’s probably the hardest climb of the day, and if it doesn’t pick the winner, it thins the field. Look to see who emerges over the top and how smooth they look on the way up while behind many will wear down the infamous stones with their cleats, with countless images from the past show riders running up because they could not ride.

Oude Kwaremont (150km, 57km and 18km to go): the odd one out as it’s not short, it’s not steep and it’s not all cobbled. Instead it’s 2.2km long and a meagre 4.2% average; it touches 11% midway. If 2.2km doesn’t sound like much, it’s an effort of more than five minutes of which four are spent on the pavé, making it a tiring boneshaker.

Paterberg (54km to go, 14km to go): the Kwaremont is chased by the Paterberg, where it’s only 400m long but is short, steep and very cobbled. It’s not a normal road, and it was inspired by a local farmer who suggested laying cobbles on what was a farm track in a bid to lure the race. It worked, and has been a VIP village of late, a privatised space but this year it’ll be empty again as people are kept away. The 20% slope has broken many a rider with 240km in their legs.

The Finish: 14km from the Paterberg and after the descent, the last section from Kerkhove to Oudenaarde is eight kilometres long on a flat wide road all the way to the line. It’s featureless and can allow a group to mow down any escapees with a small advantage.

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The Contenders: Mathieu van der Poel won the Ronde late last year. His spring classics campaign this season is just a podium in the E3 Prize, after a strong ride in Tirreno which in his own words meant he’s needed extra rest ever since. His presence seems to shape events, and he’ll attack from afar, but partly because he has to, as his Alpecin-Fenix team is good but they’ve got no Plan B for the final hour of the race. With MvdP, there’s a sense of all or nothing, and he hasn’t come to collect ranking points and the sport is all the better for it. Which might explain the quiet Dwars Door Vlaanderen, where a lot of riders avoided going too deep on Wednesday.

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Second last year, Wout van Aert is a safer pick. He has more ways of being able to win and is a touch more calculating in a race. He can go solo, he can win from the sprint, but he can also deploy his team at times even if Jumbo-Visma are weaker than they planned to be, given their injuries and more. He landed Gent-Wevelgem last Sunday, but would surely swap it for the win today.

As thousands of Flemish residents will tell you, “cycling is a team sport, jonge” and so now onto not one rider, but the squad of Deceuninck-Quickstep with Julian Alaphilippe as a figurehead. However, his form seems to have come off a bit and even if he can show up at 100%, how to beat the two “vans” above? The answer is the old Quickstep move of firing riders up to the road and of numerical superiority, so that once a selection is a made, rival team leaders are scared to chase down a move for fear of using up their own forces. So here we can see Kasper Asgreen, Yves Lampaert and Florian Sénéchal in the mix with the first two probably wanting to go solo while the latter might count on his sprint.

Remember Peter Sagan? Normally a top pick in recent years, he’s not exactly under the radar right now but his profile is lower than it’s been for 10 years. That might just suit him perfectly although once the race is underway, nobody will give him much room. Form is still a mystery; yes, he won in Catalonia, but it’s another matter to spend hours in the wind, and he’s tried many times in his peak years and only triumphed here once.

Trek-Segafredo has two strong cards to play in Jasper Stuyven and Mads Pedersen, but how to use them? Both are strong in a sprint but are either confident enough to take on the names above in a sprint? So like Sanremo, using the element of surprise might work well.

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A similar story chez Agr Citroën who two top riders with Oliver Naesen and Greg Van Avermaet but despite being very visible in the final hour of the classics, have nothing to show in the trophy cabinet – not even some wilting flowers from a podium place in a semi-classic, but at least they’ve been around when several other teams have been hard to spot at all.

Next comes a long tail of potential contenders. Play word association with Sep Vanmarcke and replies might include “unlucky”, because it often seems if it wasn’t for bad luck, he wouldn’t have any luck at all, but on his day he’s among the very best on the cobbles. Dylan van Baarle with Tom Pidcock as a wildcard for Ineos, where the Dutchman’s a regular in the top-10 here but unlikely to get much room for another solo breakaway like last Wednesday. Michael Matthews and Luke Durbridge make for a textbook tandem tag team as one can sprint and the other can go solo. EF Education-Nippo bring Alberto Bettiol and Michael Valgren, but few results so far between them, where the Italian’s struggled with Covid-19. DSM, which has options with Tiesj Benoot, Søren Kragh Andersen and Nils Eekhoff, but need to exploit riskier situations, to send talent up the road early rather than count on going up the Kwaremont for the last time and overpowering everyone else. Lotto-Soudal are locals, but as said before here several times, have really struggled to win cobbled classics over the years, so Tim Wellens or John Degenkolb would be a big surprise. Less surprising is a bunch sprints of sorts, though it sounds unlikely, but has been threatening to happen over the years and Alexander Kristoff (UAE Emirates) has won the sprint behind the leaders several times now and got on the podium twice in the last two years because of this. Anthony Turgis keeps racking up top-10s for Total Direct Energie, but winning is quite another thing, yet still, he’s even been working on his sprint and the longer the race, the better he does and he was fourth here last year. By contrast, Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) looked great in Dwars Door Vlaanderen but has a tendency to fade in races longer than four hours.

The Weather: the mini heatwave has gone, where it’s back to normal conditions with a top temperature of 12°C and almost no wind to speak of, with the slightest of tailwinds for the final 8km to the finish.
The Weather: the mini heatwave has gone, back to normal conditions with a top temperature of 12°C and almost no wind to speak of, the slightest of tailwinds for the final 8km to the finish.

Wout van Aert
Mathieu van der Poel
Kasper Asgreen, Jasper Stuyven, Peter Sagan
Alaphilippe, Lampaert, Sénéchal, Vanmarcke, Van Avermaet
Kristoff, Pedersen, Naesen, Matthews, Pidcock, SKA

TV: live from start to finish on Een/Sporza and RTBF for locals and VPN users, otherwise on Eurosport/GCN for most of the rest of the world. The race starts at 10.15am CEST and the finish is around 4.40pm CEST.

Then after there’s the women’s race and there’s a good preview over at procyclinguk.com

{ 88 comments… add one }
  • David Saturday, 3 April 2021, 1:11 pm

    Spot on analysis as usual; I just can’t see WVA not winning with his team and form.

    • J Evans Saturday, 3 April 2021, 7:21 pm

      Nizzolo looked like he might have beaten WVA in the sprint at Gent-Wevelgem, had he not – inexplicably – started his sprint right from the back, rather than making sure he was near WVA. Unlikely for it to be him on Sunday, but others can certain challenge WVA.

      • Morten Reippuert Saturday, 3 April 2021, 8:39 pm

        Agree, i have no idea why he let himself drop that far down. He was clearly the faster one.

  • J Evans Saturday, 3 April 2021, 1:20 pm

    The key for DQS in the Ronde is not to put all of their eggs in the Alaphillippe basket. Their strength is in attacking with numbers, in varying scenarios. They’ve used this tactic so many times, to such a great advantage, and they shouldn’t only back only one rider in this race. Even in Boonen’s day DQS employed this tactic, and his team mates would win big races (including the Ronde). E3 showed how they can do it well, while Gent-Wevelgem showed what happens when they don’t.

    The E3 also showed van der Poel and Van Aert that if you do all the work, no matter how good you are, you won’t have the energy at the end. WVA seemed to have learned from this in Gent-Wevelgem – I’m not convinced MvdP will have. They’re still two of the three big favourites, obviously, but they have to ride smart to beat DQS.

    • Ecky Thump Saturday, 3 April 2021, 2:53 pm

      I agree with that.
      The lack of wind, and especially a headwind, could prove crucial too.
      When it’s windy, it induces nerves and conservative riding in the peloton which DQS can play on very well and make their numbers count.
      Typically you can see them making moves in the final 50 km or so in such a scenario.
      When the weather is calmer, they can be more aggressive and move from further out.
      Asgreen would be your man for this, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go from anywhere between 90 – 50 km from home?
      They’ve got Van Aert and MvdP to contend with, and the obvious counter to their strengths is to make them work, which they will all too willingly do.
      Sagan could be the dark horse here, it’ll be interesting to see how he plays it.

    • Morten Reippuert Saturday, 3 April 2021, 3:37 pm

      MVDP and WVA didn’t do all the work in E3, pretty sure the guy who was out in front for 54k solo did more work, and he won anyway.

    • hoh Saturday, 3 April 2021, 6:56 pm

      You can say MvdP was trying to do that last Gent-Wevelgem, and WVA came out sassy about it.

  • Adi Saturday, 3 April 2021, 1:30 pm

    Hoping the race is more Strada Bianche than E3 and perhaps the lack of Paris-Roubaix will encourage the main players to leave everything on the line.

  • cp Saturday, 3 April 2021, 4:40 pm

    “Jumbo-Visma are weaker than they planned to be given injuries and more.” What’s the “and more,” if I might ask?

    • Fringale Saturday, 3 April 2021, 7:10 pm

      Tom Dumoulin was supposed to race the classics.

      • The Inner Ring Saturday, 3 April 2021, 7:57 pm

        Yes, that’s what I meant

        • cp Saturday, 3 April 2021, 8:31 pm

          Doh. That feels like 6 years and 1500 masks ago that he stopped riding.

  • jc Saturday, 3 April 2021, 5:23 pm

    Not convinced either MvdP or WvA are on peak form, it might all be kidology but even for them there is only so much energy available, maybe better to focus your efforts. One of the DQS pack seem to be the obvious pick, but there is a lot of pressure to deliver in Belgium, sometimes the “all for one, one for all” tactics work spectacularly but not always. I have a hunch it will be someone not at the top of anyone’s list, just like Dylan Van Baarle the other day.

  • Watts Saturday, 3 April 2021, 6:34 pm

    Van Aert for the win.
    SKA for the podium.
    Alaphilippe out of the top 10.
    You heard it here first.

    Thank you for the piece. I’ve been checking in all week for it!

    • morten reippuert Saturday, 3 April 2021, 8:46 pm

      Kragh has struggled with illness the past week, he wont win.

  • Digahole Saturday, 3 April 2021, 7:37 pm

    I’m really hoping we see Sagan back to full form.

    Because he’s a champion, because it would add such a great twist to the narrative of the “new generation”, the “big three” etc… and because I got him at 35-1 😜

    True that still nobody will give him room to move, but he’s suspiciously low profile, there’s less focus on him than ever before and if he can keep his powder dry and hang in there after the others have started taking chunks outta each other, he might be able to pull a plain sight surprise.

    Anyway, just seeing by him back to his best and in the final group contesting the win would be a cherry on top of the amazing state of cycling right now

    • Bern Saturday, 3 April 2021, 9:40 pm

      Valerde* stepped up today to show Sagan how it’s done, old guy style…

      *Irrespective of how one feels about him, the peloton and the tifosi seem to appreciate him…

  • Richard S Saturday, 3 April 2021, 7:45 pm

    With what MvdP has said it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if he was sandbagging and he goes the first time up the Kwaremont! Him and WVA are favourites but, like others have said, must be getting tired. Next up I’d say are Pedersen, Stuyven, Sagan and any of Asgreen, Alaphilippe, Senechal and Lampaert. The AG2R duo seem a little behind these. If I was forced to at gun point I’d be tempted to put my money on Asgreen.

    • Ecky Thump Saturday, 3 April 2021, 8:09 pm

      Did I read somewhere that Van Aert is doing the Ardennes races?
      Presumably MvdP as well?
      Regarding Sagan’s role tomorrow, if he could replicate what Van Avermaet did in his golden season he could profit in the way that Van Avermaet played percussion to Sagan’s lead guitar.
      Keeping a rhythm with the two young punk rockers is not easy though 😀, never mind when Quick Step play their half-hour prog rock solos.

      • cp Saturday, 3 April 2021, 8:38 pm

        Re: Van der Poel. He’s apparently stopping road riding for a bit after Flanders: https://cyclingtips.com/2021/04/mathieu-van-der-poel-will-take-a-break-after-tour-of-flanders-daily-news/

      • Richard S Saturday, 3 April 2021, 8:55 pm

        Van Aert has said he’s doing Brabantse Pijl and Amstel. Hopefully he’ll decide to do Liege too. MvdP is having a rest after Flanders to concentrate on the Olympics mtb race I believe.

      • Matthew Sunday, 4 April 2021, 1:08 am

        I reckon GVA is chainring too high… all that gold must give his rivals extra motivation to follow if he makes a move or ensure he doesn’t win. Fair play for winning the Olympic RR, but if it was a bit more subtle, then maybe he could ‘slip away’ a bit easier???…Sagan might benefit from this – wearing just ‘standard’ team kit

        • J Evans Sunday, 4 April 2021, 10:26 am

          As you say, it’s generally not a great idea to make yourself more visible. Personally, I’ve always found the gold helmet a bit tacky. He seems to have really milked that win, with gold bikes, etc. At the very least, he could have got rid of it once the Olympics were cancelled: it seems kind of embarrassing now, as he’s only champion because of a virus.

          • Steve Sunday, 4 April 2021, 2:50 pm

            He’s champion because he won the Olympic road race, and no one else has done it since. Ergo, he remains the reigning Olympic RR champion. He can’t give up the title until someone else wins it. That’s how events and titles work. Hell, he could wear a golden toga if he wanted and it wouldn’t bother me in the slightest.

          • David Monday, 5 April 2021, 9:48 am

            It would bother me – I’d be worried about it catching in his chain.

          • John Sunday, 4 April 2021, 11:30 pm

            A Belgian journalist commented on the Cycling Podcast a couple of episodes ago that GVA doesn’t like the gold bling but is obliged to wear it because of sponsor requirements.

          • J Evans Sunday, 4 April 2021, 11:46 pm

            Interesting. Thanks, John.

    • Morten Reippuert Saturday, 3 April 2021, 8:44 pm

      Mads P wont win. He is simply not ‘there’ on the mur’s this year & he needs to pass a PCR test this evening in order to be able to ride (and may still be declined to start).

      Asgreen is the man to beat tomorrow, not Alaphillipe, MVDP or Wout van Who..

      • Richard S Saturday, 3 April 2021, 8:53 pm

        Not that you’re biased or anything though Morten eh..?!

        • Morten Reippuert Saturday, 3 April 2021, 10:02 pm

          As is Tom Boonen.

          Im just observing what i have seen for the past weeks.

        • Steve Sunday, 4 April 2021, 2:52 pm

          You wouldn’t back them at the bookies, would you. Unlike INRNG , who is probably quids in over the years.

      • Digahole Sunday, 4 April 2021, 8:11 am

        The trouble for Asgreen is that his only option is to repeat one of the attacks he made at E3 and again have no one follow. If it’s a sprint or a berg attack, he’s out of the picture so harder to win

        • Bern Sunday, 4 April 2021, 4:26 pm

          or…maybe not…
          Stunning victory

          • Morten Reippuert Sunday, 4 April 2021, 5:15 pm

            Asgreen has always been fast in a sprint …check Tour of California 2019.

            Usually his skills been used in in favour of Viviani, Jacobsen, Alaphillipe, Bennet and Ballerini…

      • Watts Sunday, 4 April 2021, 4:25 pm

        Chapeau Morten for the prediction!

        • Morten Reippuert Sunday, 4 April 2021, 5:11 pm

          Friday my comment was ‘How to ‘out-van-der-poel’ Mathieu Van der Poel.

          Feel like repeating it… while drinking Mikkler beer.

          • Digahole Monday, 5 April 2021, 8:13 am

            Sipping a Mikkeller Belgian ale as he crosses the line… that’d be some high level beverage pairing

      • Digahole Sunday, 4 April 2021, 5:50 pm

        Chapeau Morten!

        Right down to 100m to go i still thought it was an MVDP lock!

        • cp Sunday, 4 April 2021, 6:05 pm

          That was quite amazing. I thought he was toast when he had decided not to attack from a bit of distance.

          The man sure doesn’t win small: “only” 8 victories but they include Flanders, E3, Kuurne and two national titles?

          • Morten Reippuert Sunday, 4 April 2021, 7:29 pm

            A mountain top stage in California, and 3rd GC after Pogachar & Huigita (all them where new pros). He also won a mass sprint for 4th in front of true sprinters…

          • Richard S Sunday, 4 April 2021, 10:39 pm

            Morten taking the credit for my prediction is the cycling forum equivalent of being that rider who doesn’t do a turn all race then nips around to take the win.

            ***joke comment***

  • Brent Sword Sunday, 4 April 2021, 5:46 am

    I am hoping for good rides from my 2 perennial almost could win favorites for tonight. GVA and Vanmarcke but i think these days they are better suited to roubaix which rewards endurance a bit more than brute horse power in comparison to flanders.
    Other than that i will be interested to see if the non quickstep riders have learnt the lesson from E3. “If you don’t have any team mates and quickstep has 4. Use your brain and stop doing turns and wait for your team mates to catch back up to even the numbers.”
    If they have learnt then i think there is a good chance quickstep will struggle to win. The tactic of firing a rider up the road too early can back fire if the other teams are smart and organised (and strong enough) as the other teams just have to chase a lone rider and the quickstep riders are unable to attack and use there numbers as they have a rider up the road already. Quickstep need to employ this tactic a bit closer to the line after the other teams have been separated.

  • Irungo txuletak Sunday, 4 April 2021, 9:08 am

    I am very happy to see JA participating to this race, also when the calendar is back to -almost- normal. I am not a very big fan of the segmentation kassei/ardennes specialist. Seeing how he did last year in the moskesstraat of brabantse pijl, I think that in good shape he would be able to drop anyone on a climb as the Pater.
    Let’s’now just hope to see wva and mvdp in liege… With no roubaix in the legs, it looks in the range of the former at least.

    • Ponebrewed Sunday, 4 April 2021, 10:27 pm

      The issue, now more than ever with the rise of Strade Bianchi extending the window an extra two weeks, is how do you maintain peak form for eight weeks? As MVDP and Van Aert have shown it’s difficult to keep that top end form for five weeks, let alone push it another 3.

      • Larry T Monday, 5 April 2021, 10:18 am

        Don’t want to be mean but your spelling error threatens to become mainstreamed. STRADE BIANCHE translates as WHITE ROADS while Bianchi is a popular bike brand founded by a man named Edoardo Bianchi 🙂

        • Andrew Tuesday, 6 April 2021, 10:38 am

          But, living in Italy, you should know Larry, that bianchi is also a plural form of bianco – just not the one that matches strade. So an easy mistake to make…

  • RQS Sunday, 4 April 2021, 9:36 am

    Having watched the Dwars Door Vlaanderen I think there was some serious sand bagging and feigning of form before today. The most prominent of that was MVDP’s hard pull and then virtual abandonment.
    Today is likely to be the changing of the guard from the old to the young. I’d like to see Sagan do something, but unless he’s out to win a new contract I can’t see him competing at the sharp end.

  • Anonymous Sunday, 4 April 2021, 4:38 pm

    Schar disqualified for throwing a bottle TO a fan!! how utterly utterly ridiculous!

    • The Inner Ring Sunday, 4 April 2021, 4:58 pm

      It’s a stupid rule but it’s been in the rulebook since winter, there have been briefings, presentations etc… feel for Schär but he ought to know by now… and think he knew right after doing it.

      More importantly the whole the peloton did a good job on littering today, though the habit of dropping wrappers would be harder to change.

      • cp Sunday, 4 April 2021, 9:53 pm

        I wonder how they distinguish between Schär’s bidon toss and Asgreen’s at the end. That would have been a rather dramatic DQ…

        • cp Sunday, 4 April 2021, 9:57 pm

          Self answer: just read that there was a littler zone with 2 km to go…

      • J Evans Sunday, 4 April 2021, 10:25 pm

        For about 10 minutes following Schar’s expulsion, I watched to see if other riders littered.
        Cobrelli and Laporte both dropped their bidons on the ground while having their wheels changed (at about 105km). Now, of course, the people in their team cars might pick those up (we couldn’t see if they did), but if ‘rules are rules’ then those riders littered because clearly Schar’s bidon was going to be picked up by the fan who asked for it – we even saw the fan go for the bottle. Plus, Schar was riding totally alone, so it wasn’t a danger to other riders.
        And then, at 100km to go, rider 147 of Cofidis (in the break) tossed his bidon to the side of the road, next to a field, no people around.
        I gave up looking after that, but still noticed a few more bidons being jettisoned from the bunch outside of littering zones, and WVA dropping a wrapper at 24km to go, for instance.
        That’s the UCI, though: rigidly enforcing rules if there are a few replays of the incident on the TV.

      • dft Monday, 5 April 2021, 12:08 am

        It’s going to be hard for those of a certain age to adjust. Old dogs, new tricks etc.

        • Anonymous Monday, 5 April 2021, 9:52 am

          throwing to a fan is recycling.

  • J Evans Sunday, 4 April 2021, 5:04 pm

    Schar threw his bidon to a spectator – who had specifically asked for it even.
    Throwing a bidon to a fan is not littering – they’re going to pick it up. It’s not like throwing a gel wrapper, and it’s not like lobbing a bidon into a hedge/field/garden/river/etc.
    Fans want bidons. We all know this. I can’t believe there is any single person on this site who would think otherwise.
    And yet the UCI, as always, gets it totally wrong.
    Having littering rules and litter areas are excellent ideas, and yet the UCI ruins their otherwise good idea by applying it with incredible stupidity.
    They have such a long history of not applying their own rules – from doping to riding on pavements, and everything in between – and they’re equally bad at applying their rules without any common sense.
    They manage to take a great race – which they have nothing to do with – and taint it with their imbecility.
    A terrible, terrible organisation – and it has been for decades.

    Why are women’s races kept at such short lengths?
    That team boss who is under investigation for harassing his female riders – why is he not suspended during this investigation?
    Because cycling is run by gumptionless buffoons stuck in the 1950s.

    • D Evans Sunday, 4 April 2021, 6:35 pm

      Can’t argue with any of that, especially the suspension; as I understand it, the investigation is done, just waiting for the disciplinary board to decide what to do. No way these people should be allowed access to the riders when they’ve been found to have been abusing them.

    • Ferdi Monday, 5 April 2021, 6:32 pm

      What infuriates me is that Sénéchal was not disqualified for pushing Küng to a crash over the Oude Kwaremont. Why the hell did the commissaires not act upon this?

      • J Evans Monday, 5 April 2021, 7:29 pm

        For me, Kung swerved into Sencechal.

        • Ferdi Monday, 5 April 2021, 9:04 pm

          https://www.rts.ch/play/tv/cyclisme%5B….]larrivee?urn=urn:rts:video:12098643
          Take a better look, man.

          • J Evans Tuesday, 6 April 2021, 12:20 am

            I just did, a number of times, and I’d honestly say that they moved into each other an equal amount – Kung just bounced off the DQS guy and fell over.

  • oldDAVE Sunday, 4 April 2021, 6:50 pm

    most I’ve enjoyed a Flanders recently – can’t enjoy it as much as Strade Bianchi most years in the recent past but today was good.

  • Steppings Sunday, 4 April 2021, 8:38 pm

    In the women’s race a rider in the leading group ditched both her bottles with a few Km’s to go, but no Disqualification? So what is the rule there?

    • Brent Sword Sunday, 4 April 2021, 11:11 pm

      There was a bottle disposal area from about 3 – 2 km to go.

    • Nick Tuesday, 6 April 2021, 12:58 am

      Letizia Borghesi got DSQ’d and fined. And so we learned that, while the UCI may not be able to insist that prize money is equal for men and women, they are able to insist that the women pay equal fines.

  • Cycling Nut Sunday, 4 April 2021, 11:42 pm

    It looked like MVP and WVA are believing the hype that they are supermen. They are riding like they are the supermen in a cyclocross race, which they are. But this is a higher level of competition and smarter. Both need to conserve their strength more in the classics.

  • Anonymous Monday, 5 April 2021, 12:50 am

    The Schär-thing? He knew the rules. If not, he should have and will from now on.

    Look, not everything is about emotions or morality or anything. Sometimes it simply is about being sensible (dare I say:grown up?) and getting on with the task in front of you the best way. If you put rules in place, you have to look also into how you will be able to enforce them. And if you allow littering in the form of „ a rider can throw a bidon or whatever at fans in the road“, you make that rule of no littering virtually impossible to enforce. Every rider will say: No, I was not littering, I was „gifting“ it a fan. Especially as some riders really hate having a bidon on their bike, when they go into their big effort and would use any excuse in such cases.

    All this permanent judging with the personal, emotional point of view as the sole point of reference is so boring, so tiring. And it actually is really destroying our world right now, because we do not have anymore a shared reality. If everybody thinks, that their reality is the only worthy, ethical and real one, permanent warring is the result. And this is where we are right now.

    So please, people keep your self in check.

    • Anonymous Monday, 5 April 2021, 9:57 am

      What ‘actually is really destroying our world right now’ is people mindlessly going along with what those in authority say, regardless of how wrong it is. Thus environmental collapse, mass poverty and murderous imperialism by one dominant nation. All down to the capitalism that those with power tell us is ‘the only system that works’.

      As for littering in cycling, the UCI commissaires can use a bit of simple common sense, and when a bidon is evidently thrown to a spectator, they can let that go.
      Also, many riders were visible in yesterday’s race throwing bidons outside of littering zones. The UCI commissaires didn’t act because unlike Schar the incidents were replayed over and over. That is not fairly applying a rule.

      • Anonymous Monday, 5 April 2021, 10:00 am

        *unlike Schar the incidents were not replayed over and over.

  • Anonymous Monday, 5 April 2021, 3:08 am

    This isn’t complicated. The rule, as it relates to bottles, is asinine. Riders should continue to toss bottles near fans and force the judges to DQ them all or, hopefully, ignore that aspect of the rule.

  • Larry T Monday, 5 April 2021, 10:27 am

    My hope is the punter’s littering will stop as fast as the use of Spinaci bars ended once they were banned in mass-start pro events. Isn’t that the goal? Enforcing the rules in races is a challenge but if they start making exceptions for tossing things when spectators are around the arguments about whether that was the case, how far away they were, did a fan ask for it, etc. will be endless.
    Just like the silly super-tuck, if everyone is required to follow the rules nobody gets an unfair advantage and they all can simply remember to toss stuff they no longer want in the zones provided and clearly marked, the same way they remember to look at the course profile taped to their stem or (gawd!) look at the info shown on the screen of the electronic gizmo on their handlebars.
    As they say, “This ain’t rocket surgery!” 🙂

    • J Evans Monday, 5 April 2021, 10:54 am

      I think it would be an unnecessary rule, as tossing a bidon to a fan is fine – and commissaires make subjective judgements all the time, e.g. disqualifying two riders at the start of yesterday’s race – but if it was applied consistently, that would be one thing.
      However, yesterday, it wasn’t. I looked out for littering for just 10 minutes of the race and saw three riders (all of whom’s numbers were visible – Wallays, Colbrelli, Laporte) dropping bidons in non-littering zones. Schar was DQ’d solely because his infraction was replayed two or three times.
      The UCI has a long history of not applying its rules, and I’m sure that will continue – with the odd exception so that they can claim they’re doing something.

      • Larry T Monday, 5 April 2021, 11:43 am

        Not sure what you mean with: “.. think it would be an unnecessary rule, as tossing a bidon to a fan is fine..” as you’re then opening the argument not to whether something was tossed/dropped outside the designated zone but going to intention, which is a big ol’ can o’ worms. Do we need more of those?
        I think this entire situation will take some time to settle down with riders knowing what they can likely get away with (same as in sticky bottles, riding back through the cars, etc.) and what they can’t.
        But IMHO the point and goal is to have anything tossed/dropped ONLY in designated areas rather than just trashing the roadside – which is (sadly) then imitated by far-too-many punters who have ZERO reason do to so, just as they had zero reason to ditch their Spinaci bars, which so many explained to me were the greatest thing ever and I was a fool not to have them…until their heroes could no longer use them in races. There must be thousands of those things hanging in garages/sheds all over North America and maybe worldwide?

    • jc Monday, 5 April 2021, 11:58 am

      Absolutely agree, there are bound to be a few “stupid” decisions at first but the riders will very quickly get the message about not chucking rubbish willy nilly all along the route. I am sure there will be a few disappointed kids (there was one with a “bidon” sign standing by the road yesterday) but in general it is a positive move.

      • Larry T Monday, 5 April 2021, 3:19 pm

        Does anyone think the “trash zones” will not be noted on all the pre-race publications in newspapers and online with the details of the course and projected times the riders will pass?
        I assume plenty of souvenir-hungry folks already show up at the feed zones to collect the cast-off musettes, bottles, etc. available for the taking, so now they can also show up at the “trash zones” as well and make the clean-up easy.
        OTOH, watching on TV the tossing of all this stuff in one small area made me wonder how long before we see someone hit-the-deck in one of these zones (like G. Thomas at the Giro last year) after hitting someone’s errant bottle or other garbage hurriedly dumped before the end of the zone?

  • plurien Monday, 5 April 2021, 11:44 am

    Last week at Catalunya and every week before when riders raced through tourist board countryside they were chucking bidons all over, seemingly looking for points-scoring opportunities off viaducts and over walls, as if a bidon out of sight is not litter. They do not decompose (we keep reusing AG2R bidons from 2014 that say ‘plant based disposable’. They go through the dishwasher like new) and are just litter. Anything bright or unusual in a field will get any livestock’s attention and, really why should anyone have to put up with picking up someone else’s rubbish? that was spread about on live TV??
    It can’t be that hard to change the habit of chucking stuff out of a moving vehicle and it would be nice to say at the end of a few months how procycling made this change, and so can you all;- drivers who chuck out the vast quantities of branded roadside rubbish seen along any roadside.
    But yeah the UCI made itself look stupid by excluding a rider who’d actually given a bidon on request of a fan who would pick it up. Better to have waited to nab the first one chucked into a field.

    • J Evans Monday, 5 April 2021, 12:07 pm

      I absolutely agree: seeing riders lob their garbage everywhere is disgusting, and this is – in the main – a very good rule. But it was applied very badly in this instance, and unfairly throughout the race. (They could have waited just 6 or 7km in order to catch rider no. 147 – Wallays, I think – throw his bidon to the side of the road, next to a field, with no-one around to pick it up.)
      Apparently, some riders are complaining on social media that they were told that they could throw bidons to fans – no idea if that’s true.
      If you apply a rule badly, the rule will quickly become castigated and the overall positivity of the rule will be lost.

      • Ecky Thump Monday, 5 April 2021, 2:08 pm

        If we see all the littering on television, why can’t the UCI television steward/s?
        You could almost run through race footage, freeze frame at every littering incident and identify said rider, and mass fine them all?
        It really needs to stop, as Plurien pointed out, the bidons and wrappers do not compost down quickly.
        Wrappers can be eaten by livestock, especially with remnants of sweet gels on them, and both items just very slowly release yet more micro plastics into the environment.

        • J Evans Monday, 5 April 2021, 2:28 pm

          I agree there is nothing to stop retrospective actions based on video evidence. However, I think that they should be banned from whatever the next race is – riders and teams accept fines, whereas that would be an actual deterrent.
          Also, Schar was banned from a race, so they should be banned from a race.

          The two obvious points here are:
          a) Rules should be applied equitably.
          b) In all walks of life, including cycling, rules are often applied via subjective judgements. This can be done with throwing bidons to fans too.

        • Ponebrewed Monday, 5 April 2021, 4:48 pm

          Do the commissaires have access to the producers’ feed?

          • The Inner Ring Monday, 5 April 2021, 6:52 pm

            There’s a video commissaire who does have access to this… but the video truck can’t be at every race, nor do they have a skilled operator available all the time (a commissaire gets economy travel expenses, lunch and a small daily payment, there’s no queue of people) and when there is it’s still one person inside a truck rather than a jury, they might be called on to look at something else. They do monitor social media, Twitter, for real time info as well.

  • davidk Monday, 5 April 2021, 12:14 pm

    Bidons – rules by their very nature have to be simple and enforceable, and on the surface may appear to be ‘stupid’. The bidons should be collected from drop zones and if not reused, later distributed to the fans.

    • Anonymous Monday, 5 April 2021, 12:40 pm

      Many times yesterday the UCI did not enforce their rule. One time they did.

      • The Inner Ring Monday, 5 April 2021, 6:49 pm

        The TV images of Wallays throwing his bottle was inside a dedicated waste zone.

        • J Evans Monday, 5 April 2021, 7:38 pm

          (Original comment was me.) The rider I saw was no. 147 – I assumed this was Wallays, but I don’t know – and it was at 100km to go. It looked like a farming area and was very shortly after Schar had been ejected, so I assumed it was not in a waste zone. My apologies to Wallays if I was wrong.

  • Anonymous Monday, 5 April 2021, 2:59 pm

    Has Belgian TV got a new director? Because the coverage has been comparatively poor throughout the cobbled races. Whoever is in charge of the pictures doesn’t seem to know that the bits before and after the hellingen are almost as interesting, and when the main contenders are charging towards or racing away from those, we want to see it. Happened on virtually every single climb in the Ronde.

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 5 April 2021, 6:48 pm

      Was wondering about that too, not as good as before. France TV has the same problem too, a new director and they’re not as sharp as the now retired previous director.

      • J Evans Monday, 5 April 2021, 7:40 pm

        (Original comment was me – I often forget to put my name) Do we know if the director has changed? It just seems weird that a Belgian wouldn’t know this.

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