Highlights of 2017: Part I

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Time to look back at the 2017 season and pull out a few highlights. First up is the Tour of Flanders which is such a great race that the fear is the action on the day won’t live up to the high expectations. Only it did thanks to the return of the Kapelmuur and the comeback of Philippe Gilbert.

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The Moment The Race Was Won: Amstel Gold Race

The Amstel Gold Race is a race of repetition. Repeat enough small climbs and you get a total vertical gain close to an Alpine stage of the Tour de France. The Cauberg is climbed repeatedly. And today Philippe Gilbert repeated exactly the same move that won him the world championship road race in 2012. On the last time up the Cauberg he attacked hard on the inside of the bend, the steepest part of the climb and immediately distanced everyone else and over the top he had a tailwind to help speed him to the finish line.

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The Spin: Il Lombardia Preview

la classica delle foglie morte

A duel between Alberto Contador and Philippe Gilbert on some of the most beautiful roads of Europe? The scenery is guaranteed but we could have a wider cast fighting for the win. An exceptionally hard course with difficult conditions forecast means this race is going to test condition, handling skills and the mind.

Here is a preview of the route, the contenders, with TV times and details of a free stream, the weather forecast and more.

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The Moment The Race Was Won: The Worlds

Gilbert holland

After 260km a large group of riders started the final climb of the Cauberg together. The Italians set the pace but Philippe Gilbert accelerates and nobody can match him. His eyes are fixed the road ahead whilst behind Edvald Boasson Hagen hunches low on his bike and Alexandr Kolobnev cannot follow. Gilbert reaches the top of the Cauberg first and, aided by a tailwind, speeds at 6okm/h to win solo. This was the moment the race was won.

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Flèche Wallonne: The Moment The Race Was Won

Joaquim Rodriguez attacks on the Mur de Huy with 350m to go. Normally riders sprint when they are this close to the finish line. But this isn’t a normal finish and Rodriguez put in a powerful attack to go clear. This was the moment the race was won.

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Tuesday shorts

I’ve been away for the last two weeks and catching up with news from cycling. Here are a few things that have caught my attention so far.

Willunga Hill

Four weeks to go
The 2012 season is now less than four weeks away as the Tour Down Under starts on 15 January 2012. The race has grown on me over the years. Some label it a training race in the sunshine but if was only that it would be great as it marks the end of the winter off-season, we get to see the new kit and bikes abd with internet streams, the racing too.

But the rising importance of UCI Pro Tour points and the haul on offer mean the race is no holiday, there is now too much at stake for riders and teams. The overall winner takes 100 points. That’s the same as winning Paris-Roubaix or the Tour de Suisse and it is substantial enough to alter the team rankings. The top-3 teams in 2011 were separated by fewer than 100 points.

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Sunday shorts

Tour of Rwanda
The overall classification was won by the USA’s Kiel Reijnen of Team Type 1 but Joseph Biziyaremye deserves a mention too. That’s him above in Pierre Carey’s photo, just look at the crowd’s reaction as he crosses the line. L’Equipe’s Philippe Le Gars tells the story better than me but if you want it in English, here goes.

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Five of the best

Vélo d'OrPast Vélo d’Or winner Alberto Contador

With the pro road race season finished, now is the time to look back and reflect on the past season. I don’t want to spend winter doing endless retrospectives and lists of the best this and that. But hindsight does allow us the chance to review things.

Soon Vélo Magazine will publish the winner of the Vélo d’Or award (“golden bike). In football the Ballon d’Or prize is one of the most prestigious awards and this sister prize too must be one of the best awards in cycling. They ask cycling journalists around the world for their best five riders of the season and add up all the contributions to see who has come out on top. It is hard to pick five riders from a cast of thousands but for the fun of it I thought I’d see who I’d rate right now.

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BMC get Gilbert… but what next?

Gilbert BMC
Phil prepares to tow a BMC car up to the bunch

If the headlines are about Gilbert, I just wanted to ask some questions about the move and the future of the BMC Racing team. Because if the answers are hard to come by, thinking aloud does allow some reflection on the matters ahead.

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Can Quick-Step and Omega afford to let Gilbert go?

UCI rankings

That’s the current team standings. Note Omega Pharma-Lotto are sitting in third place whilst Quick Step languish in 17th place. A lot of this is down to Philippe Gilbert. As of Sunday he held 568 points, meaning that if you subtract his 568 points from Omega-Lotto then the Belgian squad would be in… 17th place.

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