Flanders ends the monument season on a high

Oude Kwaremont

I am not sure if I am just so grateful to have bike racing at all, that I am enjoying all it at the moment.

The RVV last Sunday was a case in point with drama and brilliant racing well into the last 50 metres of the event.

But before the big 3 favourites became the big 2 and slugged it out on the overpass running into Oudenaarde there was lots to admire.

The days early break were as strong and committed as you would want for a race of this stature. They went quite deep into the race which meant a full peloton behind them had to be mindful and aware of where they were on the course.

There were plenty of crashes which you don’t like to see, of course, leading to Sep Vanmarcke having to produce one of the rides of the day to get back on before the start of the finishing circuit.

As has been the case far too often over the years for Sep he was producing his best work behind the race rather than using that effort to go off the front and yet again it was a story of what might have been.

When the race winning move did go it was driven by the world champion Julian Alaphillippe who put the hammer down. Wout van Aert and Mathieu Van der Poel were alert to the danger and with Elegant/Quickstep and Jumbo/Visma the two big teams having riders in the move that was day done for the majority of riders.

There was one big twist to come with Alaphillippe riding into the back of a slowing race motorcycle before landing hard on those unforgiving Belgian roads.

We had a big debate in our house about the crash. The bike did slow but Alaphillippe wasn’t looking where he was going. He’d been scrolling through his Garmin a number of times looking for data and information and whilst the bike shouldn’t have been travelling at that speed as the breakaway caught it, you do have a level of responsibility to be looking where you are going.

This left the former ‘cyclo cross dominating duo’ alone together again for the final bergs.

I suffer up the Paterberg

After marking each other out of Gent Wevelgem last weekend they were always going to collaborate to make sure they go to the finish of this one and that they did.

The sprint was neck and neck with Van der Poel just getting the drop of his rival for a win full of emotion and drama.

Let’s hope that we only have to wait until April for the next edition.

RnkRiderTeamUCIPntTime
1 VAN DER POEL MathieuAlpecin-Fenix5002755:43:17
2 VAN AERT WoutTeam Jumbo-Visma400200,,
3 KRISTOFF AlexanderUAE-Team Emirates3251500:08
4 TURGIS AnthonyTeam Total Direct Energie275120,,
5 LAMPAERT YvesDeceuninck – Quick Step225100,,
6 CLAEYS DimitriCofidis, Solutions Crédits17590,,
7 NAESEN OliverAG2R La Mondiale15080,,
8 VAN BAARLE DylanINEOS Grenadiers12570,,
9 DEGENKOLB JohnLotto Soudal10060,,
10 BENOOT TiesjTeam Sunweb8550,,

If this is to be the end – Cav a tribute

Where to start on this guy eh?

I won’t be writing about all the obvious stuff, the wins and the worlds and the record breaking feats.

I won’t be writing about the tantrums and the crashes, the road outside Betty’s in Harrogate and the heartbreaking interview with Sporza from the weekend.

Instead I am picking examples of ‘Cavtastic’ moments that won’t have registered with him but have made a massive contribution to my love of cycling.

If it is the end for the great man, what a career it has been.

I meet my hero in Brakel at the Primus Classic 2017

2007 – London – Tour de France prologue – Buckingham Palace

Our club hired a coach to take in this once in a lifetime experience and we were dropped off in The Mall with a nice view of the Palace and the straight away from the Queens home.

Most of us were there to cheer David Millar as his rehabilitation into the sport continued but there was a fresh faced youngster from the British track programme who was getting a debut with T-Mobile at this race.

At the time it was great for us Brits to have another rider to cheer on home roads. With hindsight we were privileged to have been on the roadside on the opening day on the Tour de France for our nations most successful ever rider at the event.

He showed plenty of the sparkiness and commitment on the 2nd day of that Tour around Kent and we wouldn’t have to wait long before he got his hands in the air on the worlds biggest race.

2008 – Tour de France Stage 5 – Chateauroux

My experience of Cavs first Tour de France stage win wasn’t in central France. My then girlfriend (now Wife) and I were headed to the Lincolnshire coast for a bag of chips and a walk on the beach.

Whilst travelling up the A16 and through Boston she wanted to listen to songs on the radio but I wouldn’t move the dial from BBC 5 Live and the updates from France.

Simon Brotherton called the Manxman home causing scenes of fist waving and screaming in the traffic jam into Skegness that day.

He went on to win 4 stages in that Tour.

RnkRiderTeamPntTime
1 CAVENDISH MarkTeam Columbia1005:27:52
2 FREIRE ÓscarRabobank ProTeam70,,
3 ZABEL ErikMilram50,,
4 HUSHOVD ThorCrédit Agricole40,,
5 COOKE BadenBarloworld32,,
6 HUNTER RobertBarloworld26,,
7 DUQUE Leonardo FabioCofidis, le Crédit par Téléphone22,,
8 MCEWEN RobbieSilence – Lotto18,,
9 CHICCHI FrancescoLiquigas14,,
10 DEAN JulianTeam Garmin – Chipotle10,,

2017 – Primus Classic – Brakel Belgium

In the middle of a brilliant weekend of cycling in Flanders with Fendrien we were delighted to see that Cav was down to ride the Primus Classic that weekend.

So we made the very short hop up the hill from Oudenaarde to Brakel and confidently strolled into the start village.

It was great to see the BMC’s and Cervelo’s in the paddock area and we hung around until the riders started to emerge from their buses and gather in the square.

Then it happened, there was a build up of sound and more feet padding around us as Mark Cavendish appeared to sign on.

As he left the podium there were babies thrust in his direction and lots of people shouting for selfies. I remembered that I’d read an interview where he had indicated that polite manners were the only way he’d agree to a picture so after lots of please’s and thank you’s he came over to the friendly English accents and posed for the picture at the top of this post.

He also chatted about his form, not getting picked for the worlds and what he hoped to achieve on that day.

It was a brilliant moment and one i will treasure, even more so if this is to be the end of his career.

As the results show he wasn’t a factor in the finish but we did get to see him on tv that afternoon before his work was done and he dropped out of the front group.

RnkRiderTeamUCIPntTime
1 TRENTIN MatteoQuick-Step Floors2001254:36:03
2 DRUCKER JempyBMC Racing Team150850:08
3 GREIPEL AndréLotto Soudal125600:18
4 GAVIRIA FernandoQuick-Step Floors10050,,
5 PASQUALON AndreaWanty – Groupe Gobert8545,,
6 CARDIS RomainDirect Energie7040,,
7 VERMELTFOORT CoenRoompot – Nederlandse Loterij6035,,
8 JANSEN Amund GrøndahlTeam LottoNL-Jumbo5030,,
9 RICKAERT JonasSport Vlaanderen – Baloise4026,,
10 GIRAUD BenjaminDelko Marseille Provence KTM3522,,

Whilst I hope this isn’t the end for Mark, its clear that coming back to the level he previously was is going to be nigh on impossible now and Sunday could have been the realisation of that fact.

Let’s see what happens now and where he goes from here. I wish him the very best of luck and would like to thank him for all the memories that go alongside the ones charted above.

What a weekend!!! Belgium hits the spot with excitement on both days

Without even touching on the Giro D’Italia starting this weekend saw the best racing of 2020 by far.

Saturday

After a stop start race with a missed day and re-route thanks to the new Netherlands Covid protocol, Mads Pedersen looked to be in a good place to win the Binck-Bank Tour.

However with 2 full and 1 partial ascent of the fearsome Muur to go (see my attempt below!) Mathieu Van der Poel took flight.

The Dutch champion was a bit more rapid over the 17% cobbles than I was and soloed away.

A select group of chasers formed behind but still VdP pressed on getting all of the maximum bonus seconds in the golden kilometer, an innovation that this race has stuck with over the years.

Soren Kragh Andersen got himself in prime position to win the race overall but only if Van der Poel was caught.

As the race headed in Geraardsbergen for the final time and a finish just above the market square it was clear that wasn’t going to happen and the boy wonder hung on for the final metres and took the overall race win along with the stage.

It was a really exciting finish and shows that wind, rain and cobbles makes for the best racing. Full Stop.

Sunday

After Marc Hirschi winning Fleche Walloone in the week the man of the summer (c) was part of the key break in Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

So much happened though that I had to make notes and here they are showing my disbelief as the race unfolded.

  • Not too far after halfway a crash takes out Greg Van Avermaet, he looks badly injured. Maybe no Flanders? The likes of Sep Vanmarkce and GvA won’t ever win it.
  • La Redoute is the big climb of the race but its fairly neutral with Quick Step setting the pace.
  • Julian Alaphillippe crashes.
  • Alaphillippe attacks on the Roche aux Faucons climb. Only Michal Kwiatkowski, Hircshi, Primoz Roglic and Tadej Pogacar can go with him.
  • Van der Poel is leading the chase behind… he couldn’t get across could he?
  • Kwiatkowski is dropped.
  • Into the last KM and they are playing a few games with each other. Matej Mohoric is flying across from the group behind.
  • Mohoric goes past and opens up the sprint. Alaphillippe and Hirschi collide and the Swiss pulls his foot out ending his chances.
  • Alaphillippe throws his hands in the air but Roglic goes past him to win!!!
  • Van der Poel wins the bunch sprint for 5th.

First up, I am sure some of you will be surprised that there are notes written ahead of blog posts!

Secondly, it was a terrible mistake by Alaphillippe in sight of the line but with him relegated for his wonky sprint into Hirschi it didn’t affect the outcome of the race as Roglic would have won anyway.

Thirdly, after the manner of his defeat in the Tour de France, no-one could begrudge Primoz his win in this race and I have to admit that despite having nothing against Alaphillippe I did punch the air and cheer when it was clear the Slovenian had got the win.

Right Flemish semi classics this coming week… beat that!

Fenland gets its flag

Apologies if this is old news but our home region is pushing to have its own Fenland flag recognised.

You can read about it on their Facebook page here, and if there is enough interest, national team cycling kit for the region (if that makes sense) will be available to order.

We think you will agree that the kit is a cracker.

If there is sufficient interest a run of kit will be made.

‘Chasing Rainbows’ – 2020 World Cycling Championships…

The last minute, re-arranged World Cycling Championships were very good considering all of the stress and alterations to the venue in the run up.

Naturally it was a shame not to see U23 competitions and the team time trial (especially seeing as how controversial it was when it came in). But the events we did get to see where entertaining and with deserving winners.

RnkRiderTeamUCIPntAvgTime
1 VAN DER BREGGEN AnnaNetherlands35010047.15740:20
2 REUSSER MarlenSwitzerland2507046.8670:15
3 VAN DIJK EllenNetherlands2004046.5610:31
4 BRENNAUER LisaGermany1503046.2960:45
5 BROWN GraceAustralia1252545.9981:01
6 NEBEN AmberUnited States1002045.6481:20
7 NORSGAARD Emma CecilieDenmark851545.6121:22
8 KRÖGER MiekeGermany701045.4481:31
9 STEPHENS LaurenUnited States60945.2321:43
10 BUSSI VittoriaItaly50845.1781:46

Anna Van Der Breggen was a narrow winner of the Womens TT with Marlen Reusser at only 15 seconds and Ellen Van Dyke only a second away from a 30 second blanket being able to be thrown over the podium.

RnkRiderTeamUCIPntTime
1 VAN DER BREGGEN AnnaNetherlands6002004:09:57
2 VAN VLEUTEN AnnemiekNetherlands4751701:20
3 LONGO BORGHINI ElisaItaly400140,,
4 VOS MarianneNetherlands3251302:01
5 LIPPERT LianeGermany275120,,
6 DEIGNAN ElizabethGreat Britain225110,,
7 NIEWIADOMA KatarzynaPoland175100,,
8 LUDWIG Cecilie UttrupDenmark150902:41
9 BRENNAUER LisaGermany125803:08
10 REUSSER MarlenSwitzerland10070,

The road race was less close with Van Der Breggen doing the double. Special mention must go to her team mate and rival Annamiek Van Vleuten who came home for a silver medal despite recently suffering a fracture of her wrist.

As with the womens events, the mens were dominated by the big names of the sport with Fillipo Ganna winning the time trial ahead of Wout Van Aert (who bagged a pair of silver medals) and Stefan Kung who had left the Tour de France early to prepare for this event.

The weather was unpredictable with howling wind and cloud closing in and pulling out all through the event. At one point a cloud burst looked inevitable and this would have given an advantage to the early starters. But it didn’t materialise.

It was interesting to see that despite a pretty bland circuit and shortened distance the riders made the event and that was exactly what the championships needed to be successful.

RnkRiderTeamUCIPntAvgTime
1 GANNA FilippoItaly35025052.98135:54
2 VAN AERT WoutBelgium25019052.3490:26
3 KÜNG StefanSwitzerland20014052.2770:29
4 THOMAS GeraintGreat Britain15011052.0860:37
5 DENNIS RohanAustralia12510052.0380:39
6 ASGREEN KasperDenmark1009051.8490:47
7 CAVAGNA RémiFrance858051.8260:48
8 CAMPENAERTS VictorBelgium707051.7320:52
9 DOWSETT AlexGreat Britain606051.4051:06
10 DUMOULIN TomNetherlands505051.2211:14

The final event of the weekend was the mens road race which I settled down to watch with a beer after 80km of hard, windy riding of my own Sunday morning.

The breakaway were kept at a suitable arms length going into the latter stages of the race before Tadej Pogacar rocketed out of the front of the pack with a lap and a half to go.

He managed to get a good distance before fading, but it was a clear plan to soften the race up for his team mate Primoz Roglic.

Whether Roglic didn’t feel too great I don’t know. But he didn’t seem capable of getting out of the wheels when the likes of Tom Dumoulin and Greg Van Avermaet went off up the road.

The attack that did stick came from Julian Alaphillippe who went clear on the penultimate climb before following the Pogacar blueprint from previous laps and digging in on the plateau and rolling section of road.

He then made good on the decent into the Formula 1 circuit before stretching his narrow lead in the final kilometer as the chasers started to disfunction and settle for the lower places.

RnkRiderTeamUCIPntTime
1 ALAPHILIPPE JulianFrance6003506:38:34
2 VAN AERT WoutBelgium4752600:24
3 HIRSCHI MarcSwitzerland400190,,
4 KWIATKOWSKI MichałPoland325150,,
5 FUGLSANG JakobDenmark275130,,
6 ROGLIČ PrimožSlovenia225110,,
7 MATTHEWS MichaelAustralia1751000:53
8 VALVERDE AlejandroSpain15090,,
9 SCHACHMANN MaximilianGermany12580,,
10 CARUSO DamianoItaly10070,,

Van Aert came home second as previously mentioned with man of the month Marc Hirschi finishing off the podium places.

We now have a really short break before the Eneco Tour this week, Ardennes Classics on Wednesday and Sunday and the Giro starting Saturday.

Bring it on!

Beers of Belgium CC – 24th September

I have taken a trip to the dark side (Walloonia!!) when in the West Country recently.

Whilst my family were loafing around the Home Bargains in Bude I found some Belgian beer for 75p a pop.

I wasn’t convinced it would be up to much but as a barbeque accompaniment it was ok.

Anyone else tried Belgica before? Some of the review apps love it and some hate it, but I quite liked it.

Some Belgica Beer

Tour ’20 – Stages 20 and 21 – Roglic folds under pressure from Pogacar

Regular readers of this website will remember that my preview of this years race was based around my memories of 1989. Something that hindsight has proved to be good punditry!

There was little sign of what happened on stage 20 coming to pass, even as the two main protagonists, Tadej Pogacar and yellow jersey Primoz Roglic warmed up ahead of the start of their time trials.

But Pogacar was gaining time from the start and at the first unofficial GPS tracking check was already 12 seconds closer to his Slovenian counterpart.

This fast start from his opponent seemed to freak Roglic out and he was starting to fold before our very eyes.

As they both started to climb the Planch des Belles Filles and swapped bikes there was very little to choose between them on GC time. This was pheomenal as Pogacar had had to go a minute quicker to that point to get back level.

Once the guy in 2nd had overhauled the erstwhile yellow jersey to take the race lead he kept that pace up and stretched out almost another minute which was enough to leave him a comfortable winner in GC.

Maybe it wasn’t as close as the 1989 finish as I led you to believe then!

The pictures of Roglic struggling up the 20% gradient to the finish line with his face all sunken in and his crash helmet wonky to the point of looking comical was sad to see.

He rolled alone over the finish line before Tom Dumoulin and Wout Van Aert tried to comfort him. Just along the road from this sad sight Pogacar also has his head in his hands, but in disbelief and joy.

I feel a mighty amount of sympathy for Roglic to lose in this way and for him to go to bed without his yellow jersey, but with a broken heart. It was wretched for him and I wonder where he goes from here.

It says a lot about him as a man though, that he congratulated the man who beat him so soundly and that he was front and centre riding into Paris on Sunday. A much lesser man would have hid.

The final stage was less about drinking booze on the run in to Paris, another feature of this Covid world. Sam Bennett was the winner proving that his green jersey was thoroughly deserved (as if we doubted him!) and that he was the fastest man of the race.

Sorry Caleb and Wout!

So that’s it for the 2020 Tour de France, thanks very much for sticking with my coverage of the race. I really hoped you enjoyed reading how I saw it, please tell your friends and buy a Beers of Belgium CC jersey (using the store password of “FENDRIEN” ahead of the classics !

Here is the final top 10 on GC from www.procyclingstats.com

RnkRiderTeamTime
1 POGAČAR TadejUAE-Team Emirates87:20:05
2 ROGLIČ PrimožTeam Jumbo-Visma0:59
3 DOOR RichieTrek – Segafredo3:30
4 LANDA MikelBahrain – McLaren5:58
5 MAS EnricMovistar Team6:07
6 LÓPEZ Miguel ÁngelAstana Pro Team6:47
7 DUMOULIN TomTeam Jumbo-Visma7:48
8 URÁN RigobertoEF Pro Cycling8:02
9 YATES AdamMitchelton-Scott9:25
10 CARUSO DamianoBahrain – McLaren14:03