It’s Milan-San Remo, it’s Italy and passion and screaming tifosi so it is any wonder there’s a soap opera element?
John LeLangue, the head man at BMC Racing, used the term to describe the media froth around whether his classics star Philippe Gilbert was ready for MSR. Gilbert wasn’t a big factor in Het Nieuwsblad, failed to make an impression at Strade Bianchi and pulled out of Tirreno-Adriatico with a fever. Three strikes and you’re a daytime Italian TV show.
“At present, it doesn’t serve any purpose to make a soap opera out of it,” Lelangue told La Dernière Heure. “Philippe has now gone calmly to Imola, where we are all going to get away for a couple of days before San Remo.” Let’s hope BMC has enough money to create a media-free zone in Imola.
Hey, you buy up Phillipe Gilbert and Thor Hushovd in one mad off-season shopping spree to make your own superteam and that brings plenty of media attention. There are time honored storylines that must be followed: that riches don’t always buy wins and the clash of big egos makes for good reading.
So there’s no escaping the soap opera — in Imola or anywhere else. This week the buzz has been about BMC still missing their first win, Gilbert’s slow start and Van Avermaet’s bad heel. It’s not all terrible news because at least Alessandro Ballan hasn’t been in the headlines again over operation Mantova — the endless Italian doping instigation that never goes anywhere.
Right now, the burden of team leadership at BMC falls to Thor Hushovd, who has a good track record at Milan San Remo with four top tens and two podiums. He knows how to get over the Poggio in the front group of thirty.
Hushovd is a no-nonsense Norwegian who doesn’t watch Italian soap operas so his take on Gilbert is low on excitment. “For my part, I have nothing to say about whether Gilbert will compete or not. We’ll probably be able to make a powerful team, anyway.”
Nobody except Gilbert has the answer to the “is he ready” question. After his amazing dominance the last two years, he’s a marked man and those guys try to keep a low profile and encourage low expectations. This could be sand-bagging on Gilbert’s part or he’s simply off to a slow start and he’ll be working for Hushovd.
“I’m still not worried,” Lelangue said. “Everybody talks all the time about his fever, but it’s not the only important element in the case. That’s why we’re calming things down. Dr. Testa wants a few days to observe how Philippe’s health develops overall. On Thursday, we’ll check on his progress with the medical staff and a new bulletin will be relayed.”
We at Twisted Spoke look forward to the bulletin but even more to the post-bulletin soap opera. That’s Italy and passion and Milan-San Remo.