Can Quickstep Floors’s Tom Boonen, King of the Cobbles, in his final race, in his storied career, go out with a record- beating fifth Paris-ROubaix win?
There has been much heated debate, odds-making and prognostications. The Hell of the North throws up all sorts of craziness and on occasion the wild card winner. Lieutenants and domestiques such as Stuart O’Grady, Johan Vansummeren and last years’ winner Matthew Hayman prove that even long shots can hoist the rock trophy if Lade Luck smiles on them.
Dark horses sometimes take the victory but in the ultimate hard-man race, it’s the hardest men of all that generally make their mark. SO where does that put Boonen’s changes of a fairly tail ending to a famous career.
To answer that question you can look at rider form, experience, team strength, weather conditions and potential tactics. However, at Twisted Spoke we prefer a different kind of metric, best describes as What Are The Cycling Gods Thinking?
While we can’t read the minds of the Cycling Gods, we can possibly sketch out their thought process, the ins and outs, pros and cons of Tom Boonen’s bid for cobblestone immortality and storybook narrative.
In general, the Cycling Gods don’t work with analytics and data sets. They’re Gods after all, they don’t need that shit. They rely on celestial vision, karma, virtue and sin and the delicate balance of fate and the grand story of cycling history.
If we feeble-minded humans should begin to think on this elevated cloud of knowledge, then perhaps we’d have an inline how how the Gods shall rule on Sunday in Paris-Roubaix.
So we offer this small ledger, this tiny window into their thoughts as we approach “L’Enfer du Nord.”
There are several factors pointing to a Boonen win on the velodrome in Roubaix. First, he is in powerful form as we witnessed a week ago as he drove the front of the race, paving the way for his teammate Philippe Gilbert to take a fantastic win. The Cycling Gods appreciate his hard work and more than that, his willingness to sacrifice for the good of others. Karma is on the side of Tommeke.
In addition, Boonen has acclimated massive karma capital from his classy and generous sportsmanship in last year’s edition of Paris-Roubaix. He was full of respect and congratulations for Matthew Hayman when the Aussie barely denied him his firth win. The Gods looked down on Boonen that day and smiled in admiration.
There is also Boonen’s long track record in the sport as a friendly and approachable star who makes time for fans and the media. The Cycling Gods concern themselves with fundamental issues of good and evil and Boonen is firmly in the good camp.
Another factor in his favor is his warrior spirit. The Cycling Gods take note of those mortals who reach for the stars, who drag themselves out of the mud and fight to the end, the warriors who fight with great strength for justice and beauty and greatness. Boonen can certainly check that box.
The Cycling Gods also have a deep appreciate for suffering. Boonen’s Spring campaigns have often been disrupted or ruined by injury and his terrible crash in Qatar, where he sustained significant and percent hearing loss, is just the latest travail he has endured.
Finally, the Cycling Gods are suckers for the dramatic ending, the amazing performance, the heroic effort. A magical and record breaking win by Boonen in his final race is just the kind of amazing spectacle the Gods like to see.
Bonus point in Boonen’s favor: The Gods have taken a distinct dislike to four-time Paris Roubaix winner Roger de Vlaeminck. The Belgian has exhibited a consistent petty and negative opinion of Boonen’s quest. Few things would please the Gods then having Boonen break the tie with De Vlaeminck and shut him up forever.
Now, the downside. What make possibly induce the Cycling Gods to take their hands off Boonen’s back and stop pushing him to victory. Well, here’s the thing: Gods ain’t perfect and just because they’re up there somewhere in the celestial atmosphere doesn’t mean they don’t have their own imperfections. They can be fickle and irritable and yes, for all their godly skills, they can be arbitrary and given to oversight.
In the end, the argument against the Gods supporting Boonen comes down to this: the race is bigger than one man, even a hero, even a good and deserving man, even when a fairly tale ending would please the majority of fans. Because the higher argument is this: the Cycling Gods like to shake shit up. Paris-Roubaix is an epic race build on legends, happy and sad.
The Cycling Gods know that Tom Boonen losing Paris-ROubaix in the heartbreak of his final race is just as defining and magnificent a story as a victory. There is the rub.
Still, all scores tabulated and evaluated, Tested Spoke believes that the Cycling Gods shall look kindly on Boonen’s efforts. And those of Van Avermaet and Peter Sagan and a host of other riders. For sometimes, the Cycling Gods step back and simply watch the carnage from afar.