Up popped Dylan Teuns. Third in the 2017 edition aged 25, he looked set to win the race as when a young-ish rider can place, they often return and improve thanks to wisdom and in particular how to negotiate the two last bends.
Teuns is now hot property on the transfer market. Lotto-Soudal are interested, likewise Intermarché-Wanty says Het Laatse News. Not long ago if these teams came calling the former would have been the obvious destination, less so now with Lotto-Soudal looking more like the riskier bet given relegation risk and Intermarché establishing themselves in the World Tour.
The Flèche Wallonne is always an uphill sprint much in the way the Scheldeprijs is always a bunch sprint (ok, not this year) because there are so many teams willing and able to set it up for their leader going into the foot of the climb that it’s almost inevitable. The women’s race over the years has seen more action with breakaways sticking. What if the ever-improving performance and density of the women’s field also means both races become bunch sprints?
Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix was a thriller, up there with… last year’s edition too which was excellent. Perhaps the lack of suspense in the final moments meant this year’s version can’t quite compete alongside the 2016 edition won by Mathew Hayman but that’s a matter of taste and us being spoilt for choice, like picking between the best vintages of a fine wine. The race was so lively, a sense heightened by the hectic TV direction, that even though van Baarle was well ahead by the time he rode onto the velodrome it felt like something could still happen, that the chasing riders could ride onto the track just as he came past the entrance and they’d all collide.
Much has been made of Ineos’s reinvention as a classics team this spring. Surely they’ve always been strong? They’ve won Het Nieuwsblad twice and many times given it everything in Paris-Roubaix: Wiggins and Thomas were in the mix until Terpstra snuck away in 2014 and they had a good time in 2016 and Gianni Moscon could have won last year were it not for that puncture. Perhaps one difference is that in years past they often tried to place riders up front, now they’re more aggressive and not just getting riders into the front group, they’re making more moves. Knowing they don’t have the best rider and changing their tactics to a more risky form of racing is interesting and the big question is whether it can be done in July?
Normally Quick-Step are the team to watch. It’s still too soon to write about their failure in the classics as there’s still Liège-Bastogne-Liège this Sunday. But as things stand, the stats show they’ve had their worst spring classics campaign ever as measured by wins, podium places or top-10s. The signs are not great with Julian Alaphilippe a few pedal strokes slower on the Mur de Huy, a performance not helped by the crash provoked by his own team car in the Brabantse Pijl. But Liège is his big goal, it’s the one that’s got away from him so far and he deliberately avoided some of the cobbled classics to focus on this.
This blog’s praised the idea of teams having development squads and the rules that allow them to draft in “devo” riders into pro races. Lenny Martinez has had a good showing in the Tour of the Alps after making the front group on the second stage. Just 18, he’s the son of Olympic and World MTB champ Miguel Martinez and the grandson of Mariano Martinez, the 1978 Tour de France mountains competition winner. Last year he was duelling with Cian Uijtdebroeks in junior races, now their in the Tour of the Alps which is a handy race to test younger riders with the shorter stages and significant climbs.
Staying with old names and new models, Colnago has a new frame out, the C68 and it’s one of the last brands to offer a rim brake option, the mid-market is getting close to 100% disc brake, with calipers reserved as an option on ultra premium bikes, Pinarello too, or standard fare for basic models.
Finally, staying with new products… of a sort, pharma giant GSK is now seeking regulatory approval around the world for Daprodustat, a pill that “increases endogenous production of erythropoietin”, the hormone that promotes red blood cell growth. It’s EPO in a pill. For too long in pro cycling a lot of riders and team staff dedicated plenty of time, energy and money to acquiring and transporting EPO. Tales of vials being stored in secret compartments, stashed in inside vacuum cleaners and so on to make a furtive cold chain all before it could be injected. Now it comes as a tiny pill, presumably a lot easier for genuine anaemics with a clinical need which is the main point of course. The good news for sport is that it is already on the WADA banned list, in part because of collaboration between GSK and WADA.