Paris-Roubaix. Comfy couch observations

;

Cancellara rocks again.

;

1) Fabian Cancellara’s third win in the Hell of the North was more impressive than his other two victories. He came in injured from a crash in Scheldeprijs and a hard tumble during the Roubaix recon just days ago and he was heavily marked.

At less than 100% in the toughest race on the world, he wins not with his usual dominant acceleration on the cobbles but with experience and guile against a younger opponent on the banked oval of the famous old Roubaix velodrome. A masterpiece of strength, willpower and cunning.

When the race looked to be slipping from his grasp, he powered away from his chase group with 30K to go. It wasn’t full turbo but he got the job done. Then with 23k left, he hammers again, dumping BMC’s Van Avermaet and dragging cyclo-cross star Stybar across to the two race leaders Vanmarcke (Blanco) and Stijn Vandenbergh (Omega-Pharma Quickstep). As Cancellara said after the race, “I went over my limits like never before.”

When both Stybar and Vandenbergh clipped spectators on the right side of the road, it was down to the Swiss star and an extremely confident Vanmarcke. Cancellara didn’t trust himself to win that sprint and tried a bold move using a road divider for an ally. Bolting out the the saddle he swept left just meters in front of the oncoming divider, hoping to force the Belgian to brake to avoid crashing into the concrete curb. It almost worked but Vanmarcke was on his wheel in a flash.

Forced to win the race in the velodrome, Cancellara used his experience to maneuver his rival to the front, then when Vanmarcke went a little early, he powered to the line. Spartacus simply dug deeper than the man who was eight years younger.

“I tried to play the game on the track, the last thing I wanted to do was lose in a moment like that,” said Cancellara. “We did it like a track stand. The only moment I was a bit scared was when it went slow on the banking, but I tried just to do it. I had the full cramps all over and then I just pedaled as hard as I could.”

In the end, Cancellara mastered every setback, every tactical scenario and every rider to take the Flanders and Paris-Roubaix double. A dazzling and impressive triumph.

2) Omega-Pharma Quickstep did everything right and still failed due to astonishing bad luck. Patrick Lefevere’s boys appeared to be in a strong position for the win with two riders in the four man lead group that would fight for the podium.

It was a tactical gem until disaster struck not once but twice in less than 5k. First, Vandenbergh clipped a spectator and crashed, then Zdenek Stybar was also knocked by a fan crowding the edge of the road. Stybar careened from the right to the left side of the road, his left leg kicked straight out of the pedal. It was an amazing display of bike handling skills but the damage was done. As Stybar said later, there was no way he could catch back on.

Poor Sylvain Chavanel was stuck in the second and third chase groups unable to advance with teammates up the road. Sure, Niki Terpstra slipped in for third place but it felt like a booby prize when so much more was in their grasp. Two spectators essentially destroyed the chances of the Belgian squad.

3) Sky came into the race with a lot of pressure and left the race with even more. Geraint Thomas’s disastrous run of misfortune continued as he had a crash in Roubaix to match his crash in Flanders. He just never figured in either race, the TV highlights mostly of the Welshman laying on the ground.

Post-race, Thomas used the word “frustrating” a dozen times. “Obviously last week, there was nothing I could have done about it but today I should have been further forward. I learnt the hard way I guess,” said Thomas. “It’s just frustrating.”

Ian Stannard and Edvald Boasson Hagen made a show of force early but not when it mattered most. If things had gone Sky’s way, then having diesel Matthew Hayman out front could have been a huge benefit but events conspired as they often do at Roubaix. The experienced Bernhard Eisel rode a savvy race but 12th place isn’t going to make team boss David Brailsford write any bonus checks.

4) We had to laugh when Filippo Pozzato hit the deck. The Cycling Gods are sick of the lying and cynical Italian after his pathetic excuses on Dr. Ferrari. His classics season is over and he has squat to show for it. Get ready for the woe-is-me routine and how he was on great form except …. (you fill in the blank). Sometimes there is poetic justice and bad things happen to the right people.

5) What to make of the BMC Racing classics campaign? Well, not much. Taylor Phinney looked like the boss man early on and we made the mistake of assuming he’d be in the final mix. Thor Hushovd flatted twice and seemed to struggle to regain the main chase group. We kept waiting for the Norse hard-man to make a move but he never did — even old man Juan Antonio Flecha rode Hushovd off his wheel. He finished 3:30 behind Cancellara in his “beloved” Roubaix and if 35th place is his season highpoint, he’s in trouble.

Michael Schär got everybody’s attention when he bridged to front runners Steegmans and Matthew Hayman (Sky) but once Cancellara amped things up, he was gone. It goes without saying that Nearly Man Greg Van Almost — sorry, Van Avermaet — came in fourth. Congrats for nothing.

6) Europcar is getting to be a bad-ass classics squad. Last year at Roubaix it was Sebastian Turgot (Turbo) shocking le monde with second place. This time around it was again Turgot and the French version of Cancellara, Damien Gaudin, animating the race. Gaudin is built like Spartacus only nowhere near as smooth — his head and shoulders rocking back and forth as he pummels the pedals. He ain’t fluid but he’s got the right attitude: put the hammer down hard and don’t look back. The French can sing with joy after putting two riders in the top ten even without Chavanel. A dusty chapeau, fellas.

7) We were feeling pretty smart when Lars Boom, our Man from Blanco, came barreling through the Mons-en-Pévèle sector of cobblestones with Cancellara and eleven other tough guys. He looked fast and with his world champ cyclo-cross resume, nobody doubts his chops on the rocks. Then Cancellara forced another selection and Boom went boom, as in, he blew.

8) Poor Yoann Offredo (FDJ) provided the highlight of the race with his high speed crash right into a sign on a traffic island. In what can only be described as a silent film comedy skit, the French takes his eye off the road and looks behind a split second before the peloton splits right and left to avoid the island. Offredo hits it full speed, bike and body flying through the air and smacking down on the road. If he’s walking tomorrow, it’s a miracle.

;

;

;

;

;

;

;

;

;

;

;

;

;

;

;

;

;

;

;

;

;

;

;

;

;

;

;

;

;

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook Email
  • http://twitter.com/nummerdavid David

    Slightly unfair on Terpstra and Boom, who both got a flat which made it easier for Cancellara to ride away from them and bridge the gap.

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com walshworld

      I wish Boom had had a bit more luck. With a name like that, you gotta live up to it. Matt

  • cappuccinoexpress

    Paris-Roubaix is always an exciting race
    I really liked the ride by Vanderbergh and Stybar. It’s a shame that they had a lot of bad luck.

    Stybar looked very strong and when the fan knocked him he was in a perfect position, with Terpstra in the group behind and ,so, no need to push.

    Vandenbergh had an amazing season in the cobbled classics, he rode always in front. In the team with Boonen, Chavanel and Terpstra, he was the most consistent rider in my opinion.
    And if we consider that he always rode as “domestique” the results that he obtained are even bigger.

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com walshworld

      I actually thought Stybar might win this race — he looked so strong and events seemed to be conspiring for another Roubaix miracle. WHen you’re a great champion you make your own luck and that’s what Cancellara did. In the video he just ducks under the fan chaos that knocked Stybar off. It’s a question of milliseconds and fate. Matt

  • The SuperStorm

    Spartacus, aka Fabian ‘The Librarian’ checked out the book on the ‘Spring Flings’ and hidden in the chapter on Paris-Roubaix, found his Golden Ticket. He proved so much, that proper ‘recon’; even if taking a spill or two proves knowing the course and your opponents abilities wins races. Vannmarke, and Niki ‘The Tapestry’ Terpstra manged to stay away but were merely along for the ride as 2 and 3. Van Avermet managed to slip away too and Weekend@Bernie’s, The ‘Hoss’, ‘Boom Boom Chanel’, and ‘Sylvain Learning Center’, should’ve worked together and chased the ‘Librarian’ down. They had time, but didn’t. The ‘Kid’ was back gaining more experience and babysitting frequent flatter Hushovd and neither were a threat. I too felt a little sorry for Stybar. He was rattled after the ‘knockdown.’ Our ‘man about town’ was well over 8 minutes back. I still pull for Tyler, but he just can’t find his mojo. All things considered it was a spring shindig of the likes of yesteryear.

    Thanks Fabian…

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com walshworld

      Damn, Super, your poetry is both impenetrable and brilliant. I cried and yet I was confused. The room, the room, the room is on fire. Indeed and yea verily. Matt