Let the Swiss champion sum up Strade Bianchi, the race over the White Gravel, the Italian ode to Flanders and Roubaix, in four simple words: “I ride to win.”
Almost sounds like another champion named Philippe Gilbert of megasquad BMC — but he only finished 48th and only third in his own red and black. He has some explaining to do and we look forward to the rationales.
No, Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan Trek) showed a return to his dominant form by smoking everyone with two legs who dared show up in Tuscany. He won solo, he won without question, he served notice for the near and ferocious future.
The move, with about 12k to go, was definitive and there was very little argument. One moment Van Avermaet was, as the cycling cliche goes, “animating” the race and then a moment later he was “spectating” the race.There is a big and painful difference.
We won’t be the first observer to note that Cancellara lacked a certain Je ne sais KILL, he rocked on the pedals and it wasn’t a replay of his Flanders-Roubaix double of two years ago but it was close. If you’re Hushovd, Gilbert or Boonen, seeing Cancellara “close” to form is scary. He turned the big gear, he didn’t look back, the pretenders flailed with their bikes to no avail.
Twisted Spoke sends out the Renshaw award to Max Igilinsky who basically elbowed and body slammed Oscar Gatto (Farnese Vini) out of second place. We were a little surprised the commissars let that one pass. And double surprised that Oscar the Cat barely acknowledged the relegation from second to third. Buddy, you were sleeping in that final corner, wake up. Russians don’t hand out freebies.
Once again the BMC monster juggernaut was shut out and there is nothing worse than the fourth and fifth spots, the almost podium positions. Van Avermat and Ballan drove the race but couldn’t close the deal. From here on out, we’re tagging the Italian with Wrong Way Ballan. If Big George Hincapie was riding alongside, that never would have happened. That’s the value of experience: shouting LEFT, LEFT, LEFT!!!!
If you could sum up Strade Bianchi in one word instead of Cancellara’s four, the word would be “ominous.” After a series of frustrations and almosts and marked-outs, Cancellara is showing signs of a return to dominance.
That’s exciting news for us fans but a terrifying development for every man who thinks he can ride the cobblestones really really fast.