My day of hell on Flanders Sunday…

I thought I would be different and breeze through my Covid vaccination without any interruption to my Easter weekend plans.

The reality was quite different and for those of you still to get the jab it might be worth remembering.

Saturday morning was normal with rugby training before heading to get my injection at 2pm.

As I had walked and not driven I was in and out in less than 5 minutes. The process was very effiicient.

For the remainder of the day I felt absolutely fine with no side effects or symptoms that the leaflet accompanying the Astra Zeneca jab suggested might be present.

Even Sunday morning I felt great and with it being the Ronde I wanted to head out for an hour or so before the action got going in Belgium.

There was definitely a feeling of some power lacking in my legs before I’d even reached the end of the street so I took note and agreed with myself to stay out a minimal amount of time.

This plan was working solidly until I realised I was about 13 miles from home (or anywhere) with a headwind to battle.

It was there that my arms and legs suddenly became super heavy and I literally couldn’t get out of the saddle to either increase or maintain speed.

Those last miles were among the worst I have ever spent on a bike. Mountains, snow, wind, cold, heat, cobbles… all of it. This was up there with it and it was on a reasonably smooth A road in the Lincolnshire fens.

I was travelling from the top of the map down into a south-westerly and you can see the impact in terms of speed from the Mywindsock report.

The blue is above average speed, reds below.

I spent the afternoon shifting between asleep and just about awake on the sofa before going to bed at 6pm.

I watched the last 70km of The Ronde on my laptop Monday morning.

It wasn’t the Belgian beer swilling, burger munching afternoon I had anticipated, but there is a bigger picture here and now that the side effects are gone the thought of being Covid protected means much more to me than one Sunday afternoon in front of the TV.

Stay safe.

Oakley launch new Encoder frames

Oakley Encoder

Launched without the usual blaze of publicity and razmatazz that you would expect from Oakley these beauts landed in online stores a couple of weeks ago without too much press.

The ever reliable Oakley Forum has run a review which you can read here.

The likely retail price is going to be high on these as there is no ability to lens swap meaning there is no after sales market for upgrades and spares.

The lack of a frame is boosted in stability and strength by a strip of aluminium across the top. Cyclingtips got a pair to review and give good detail on that here.

I have to say that compared to the Kato frames we saw briefly on the face of Sam Bennett and Chris Froome in the autumn of 2020, these look much better and less of a leap from traditional to modern.

As you will all know from the sunglasses history post from this time last year, I’d had a clear out of Oakley products.

That list is now horribly in need of an update with some Sutros and M2’s now having arrived at my house!

It will be interesting to see if this frames is the long term successor to the Radar and Radar EV and my eyes will be peeled to GCN+ to see if I can see them on any pro faces sooner rather than later.

Flemish weekend whets the appetite

It was a brilliant weekend of racing in Belgium again this weekend.

With E3 on Friday and Gent-Wevelgem Sunday we got 2 classics in the truest sense of the word. Races fit to stand on their own merit as opposed to being just a practice before the Ronde.

Kasper Asgreen produced the best ride since he won in Kuurne in 2020 with a long lone attack taking in the Paterberg and Oude Kwaremont before looking cooked when the main favourites group reeled him back in.

However as Greg Van Avermaet and Mathieu van der Poel looked to have settled in for a sprint the Dane kicked again.

There was a bit of indecision in that main group. They had just seen Wout Van Aert fly off the front on on the last climb before being taken back and then shooting out the back.

Should they chase Asgreen hard and risk leaving the group disjointed and liable to slow letting Van Aert back on, or try and keep a reasonable tempo that stopped people getting on from behind giving them a better chance of catching the leader but with little wiggle room?

As it happens they kind of chose neither.

The 2nd group didnt get back on but they also managed to ship over 30 seconds to a man who had been out on his own over two of cyclings most hellish climbs.

It was brilliant from Asgreen. Cancellara or Boonenesque. He will now be a real threat in the Ronde at the weekend, no doubt.

RnkRiderTeamUCIPntTime
1 ASGREEN KasperDeceuninck – Quick Step4002254:42:56
2 SÉNÉCHAL FlorianDeceuninck – Quick Step3201500:32
3 VAN DER POEL MathieuAlpecin-Fenix260110,,
4 NAESEN OliverAG2R Citroën Team22090,,
5 ŠTYBAR ZdeněkDeceuninck – Quick Step18080,,
6 VAN AVERMAET GregAG2R Citroën Team14070,,
7 VAN BAARLE DylanINEOS Grenadiers12060,,
8 HOELGAARD MarkusUno-X Pro Cycling Team100501:28
9 VERMEERSCH GianniAlpecin-Fenix80461:30
10 HALLER MarcoBahrain – Victorious6842,
from procyclingstats.com

Gent-Wevelgem was a slightly more cagey and less attacking affair in the final.

The main group of favourites was away with around 70km to go and despite some forming and reforming of the peloton behind them that was about that.

It doesn’t mean there was no excitement however. Van Aert was keen to put E3 behind him and was key in driving the breakaway.

It was a sprinters paradise with Sam Bennett, Giacomo Nizzolo, Matteo Trentin, Sonny Colbrelli and Michael Matthews all present.

Lots of teams were covered and had no interest in chasing behind and that looked like it was that.

But.

Bennett had some issues with his last feed and was sick. He was dropped from the front group and shot back through the chasers with no strength to hang on.

Deceuninck now found themselves going from the position of close to 100% certain to winning the race if it came to a spring with Bennett to not having a rider up front.

Their fierce chase couldn’t reduce the gap so late in the race and Yves Lampaert was their top finisher in 14th place.

The riders up top had settled for a sprint and all looked really tired.

When it came to the finish Van Aert was a lot fresher and faster having had Nathan Van Hooydonck in the group with him to do some of his turns.

It was a great win and bodes well for this weekend.

Who’s your money on?

RnkRiderTeamUCIPntTime
1 VAN AERT WoutTeam Jumbo-Visma5002255:45:11
2 NIZZOLO GiacomoTeam Qhubeka ASSOS400150,,
3 TRENTIN MatteoUAE-Team Emirates325110,,
4 COLBRELLI SonnyBahrain – Victorious27590,,
5 MATTHEWS MichaelTeam BikeExchange22580,,
6 KÜNG StefanGroupama – FDJ17570,,
7 VAN HOOYDONCK NathanTeam Jumbo-Visma150600:03
8 VAN BAARLE DylanINEOS Grenadiers125500:52
9 TURGIS AnthonyTeam Total Direct Energie100460:54
10 VERMEERSCH GianniAlpecin-Fenix85421:25
from procyclingstats.com

Decathlon launches refurbished bike online store

After a few weeks of waiting and wondering, Decathlon has hit its UK customers up with a mailer to launch “Second Life” its 2nd hand refurbished store.

With supply nowhere near the level of demand at the moment, refurbished bikes are a great option for those looking to get into the sport.

Click here to have a look at their current road bikes for sale.

The hell up North in France ends hopes of spring Roubaix

The rising tide of Covid wave #3 across mainland Europe looks to have ensured that Paris-Roubaix will not happen in its traditional April slot this year.

The race didn’t happen at all in 2020.

This will be a real blow as it was going to be a double header of female and male racing to the famous velodrome.

However cases of a Paris variant near the start and high infection rates in Lille which is close to the finish look to be key in putting paid to that.

Nothing has been officially confirmed yet but there is a chance of an October date.

Stuyven upsets the holy trinity in San Remo

That there was a Belgian winner of the first monument of the season, Milan-San Remo was no surprise.

That it was the under rated Jasper Stuyven was.

The Trek man rode the perfect final remaining hidden all along the Capi before hanging in with the attacks on the Poggio.

As Tom Pidcock tried to force the pace on the downhill Stuyven waited and waited before launching the winning attack as the road flattened out.

He was briefly joined by Soren Kragh before timing his sprint so that the fast finshing Caleb Ewan came up just short.

RnkRiderTeamUCIPntTime
1 STUYVEN JasperTrek – Segafredo5002756:38:06
2 EWAN CalebLotto Soudal400200,,
3 VAN AERT WoutTeam Jumbo-Visma325150,,
4 SAGAN PeterBORA – hansgrohe275120,,
5 VAN DER POEL MathieuAlpecin-Fenix225100,,
6 MATTHEWS MichaelTeam BikeExchange17590,,
7 ARANBURU AlexAstana – Premier Tech15080,,
8 COLBRELLI SonnyBahrain – Victorious12570,,
9 KRAGH ANDERSEN SørenTeam DSM10060,,
10 TURGIS AnthonyTeam Total Direct Energie8550,,
From http://www.procyclingstats.com

The so-called “Holy Trinity” of Mathieu Van der Poel, Wout Van Aert and Julian Alaphillippe were outwitted by the winner after their attempts to attack were nullified on the final climb.

To be fair Van der Poel had looked slightly off the pace all day and was a way back on the Poggio.

Van Aert was able to follow the attack of Alaphillippe but the Frenchman certainly didn’t have the kick of previous years when he went.

More questions than answers from this race?

I would say yes. The coming weeks will be really interesting and could we have all be premature in calling those three amigos as unbeatable and miles ahead of the rest of the peloton?

Roglic’s “No gifts” approach causes his latest catastraphe

On the final “tough” stage of Paris Nice last weekend we saw a new more ruthless Primoz Roglic snatch a first world tour win off Gino Mader in the final 50 metres of the stage.

Roglic had such a commanding lead in the general classification and was ahead of his rivals at the time.

In the old world of unwritten cycling rules, he would have got to Mader to maximise his time gains on those behind him but not taken the stage from the youngster. Even with a time bonus available.

But he did.

He flew past the Swiss who had been out in the days breakaway before celebrating as his crossed the line. Mader threw his hand to the sky with his final energies to say “why the hell did you do that?“.

In the post race interviews Roglic was clear that there would be “No gifts” anymore. No need to let others win here to get favours and broker deals later in the season. Lance Armstrong used the same phrase and now has as many wins in the Tour de France as me. And Roglic for that matter. That number being zero.

But less than 24 hours later in a final stage that was wild and uncontrolled Roglic was humbled. Really humbled.

He crashed twice and whilst the peloton respected the yellow jersey and the rule of not profiting from a crash for the race leader the first time. The gloves were off the second.

No gifts remember Primoz?

The teams with most to gain drilled it on the front and the erstwhile leader was distanced by minutes. Riding in alone and dropping from race leader to 15th overall on the last day.

Ironically his demise let Gino Mader (remember him?) into the top 10. You couldn’t make it up!

Max Schachmann was the beneficiary to win his second edition of the race. He has now won consecutive years but due to Covid related changes has never actually made it into the finish town of Nice!

The other main statistic being that Roglic has now lost the last 2 major stage races in France from a winning position on the last day.

When does this anomoly become a trend?

We saw him almost lose his maiden Vuelta win by getting caught out by crosswinds with Madrid on the horizon and of course he was totally outclassed by Tadej Pogacar on the final racing stage of the Tour de France in the autumn.

Drama and calamity seems to follow him and despite being totally dominant in this race, he didn’t win.

So if I were Primoz going forward I would be looking to build bridges with other riders rather than trying to be all dominant. You never know when you might need the rest of the peloton to help you out.

RnkRiderTeamUCIPntTime
1 SCHACHMANN MaximilianBORA – hansgrohe50025028:49:51
2 VLASOV AleksandrAstana – Premier Tech4001900:19
3 IZAGIRRE IonAstana – Premier Tech3251600:23
4 HAMILTON LucasTeam BikeExchange2751400:41
5 BENOOT TiesjTeam DSM2251200:42
6 MARTIN GuillaumeCofidis, Solutions Crédits1751101:14
7 HAIG JackBahrain – Victorious1501001:18
8 JORGENSON MatteoMovistar Team125901:29
9 PARET-PEINTRE AurélienAG2R Citroën Team100801:31
10 MÄDER GinoBahrain – Victorious85701:32
11 VANHOUCKE HarmLotto Soudal70601:41
12 O’CONNOR BenAG2R Citroën Team60551:44
13 VAN BAARLE DylanINEOS Grenadiers50501:49
14 BARGUIL WarrenTeam Arkéa Samsic40451:55
15 ROGLIČ PrimožTeam Jumbo-Visma35402:16
Results reproduced from Procyclingstats.com