Stuart O’Grady of Leopard-Trek gave his reflections on Paris-Roubaix for Velonews. The Fighting Freckle is a class act, straight ahead guy and the 2007 winner of the Hell of the North.
That said, we had to disagree about his comments about the tactics of Garmin-Cervelo. O’Grady’s remarks: “They rode a fantastic race in the end. They had to lift their game and they did. And they won the race. But I have to admit, some of their tactics were pretty weird.”
Weird? They won the Queen of the classics against a stronger, more dominant rider who was 100% on form, aggressive and confident.
Sure, as Stuey rightly notes, Thor Hushovd on the podium in Paris-Roubaix wearing the rainbow jersey would have been sweet. We also can’t disagree with his feeling that you don’t get that many shots at winning the race and Thor did indeed have a shot.
Still, the “weird” word made us shake our head. Ultimate goal in race: take a victory for the team. Hushovd was the team leader and the ideal choice but race tactics and strategy against a super-human rider like Superman dictated a change of plan and a range of options.
The French always dream of winning with panache or losing in some brilliant and poetic way. Jonathan Vaughters isn’t as interested in those two scenarios as just winning with anybody in a Garmin-Cervelo jersey. So Van Summeren went early, got in the break, then powered away for the solo win. Chapeau, deal done.
A weirder tactic would have been Hushovd helping Cancellara chase down his own man, a guy with fantastic legs on the day, who’d proven to be a skilled cobblestone rider. Anyone who watched Flanders or Roubaix last year or E3 this year or the two massive accelerations Cancellara put in on the Hell of the North this year could never argue truth numero uno: never tow Cancellara anywhere at any time.
The goal isn’t to be the strongest man in the race, it’s to win the race with whatever card you have to play. You could argue weird tactics for BMC and Ballan in a post-race sorta way. But an experienced professional like O’Grady knows the rules of the game.
It might have been unexpected or disappointing that O’Grady’s teammate Cancellara didn’t win this year’s Paris-Roubaix. But it sure as hell wasn’t weird.