Crafty Kasper – A Flanders retrospective

RnkRiderTeamUCIPntTime
1 ASGREEN KasperDeceuninck – Quick Step5002756:02:12
2 VAN DER POEL MathieuAlpecin-Fenix400200,,
3 VAN AVERMAET GregAG2R Citroën Team3251500:32
4 STUYVEN JasperTrek – Segafredo2751200:33
5 VANMARCKE SepIsrael Start-Up Nation2251000:47
6 VAN AERT WoutTeam Jumbo-Visma17590,,
7 VERMEERSCH GianniAlpecin-Fenix15080,,
8 TURGIS AnthonyTeam Total Direct Energie12570,,
9 SÉNÉCHAL FlorianDeceuninck – Quick Step10060,,
10 VAN BAARLE DylanINEOS Grenadiers8550,,
From http://www.procyclingstats.com

The big 3 favourites for all of the big 2021 races were outsmarted by the Danish Champion, Kasper Asgreen, in another epic edition of the Tour of Flanders on Easter Sunday.

(Click here for an excellent gallery from procyclingtips)

With the mornings suicidal breakaway managing to get close to a quarter of an hours lead, the finale of this race was always going to be fast and slightly ragged. At key points in the race, there was a real chance they would stay away.

As the race hit the finishing circuit and got into the meat of the climbs there was a merging of the main favourites and the break led by a Julian Alaphillippe attack.

From the front group, Paris-Nice revelation Stefan Bissegger of EF seemed the most capable of hanging on.

However the French world champion didn’t have the legs to see it through and when Asgreen went clear with Mathieu Van der Poel and Wout van Aert (although he was soon distanced) there was some head scratching from the experts.

That disbelief turned to open frustratin as after the last ascent of the Paterberg, Asgreen made no attempt to drop Van der Poel on the run in.

It was as if Quick-Step had conceded the race and MvdP was going to get back to back wins in the race without competition.

Still Asgreen took his turns and the two of them marched on towards Oudenaarde and the finish.

Greg Van Avermaet launched a desperate attack out of the chasers with just over 3km to go, but it was a move for the podium rather than the win.

The sprint for 1st place seemed to take an age to get going and Van der Poel got ahead of Asgreen before something quite remarkable happened.

Superman became human and the Dutchman sat back down as the Dane surged past him for the win.

Yes. Asgreen had been imperious in his cobbled classic wins over the last year or so, but that hadn’t been the level of the RVV. This was a real step up for him and a tactical masterclass by his team.

As the race watched Alaphillippe he kept himself to himself before only launching his attack when absolutely neccessary.

It’s a shame we didn’t get to see round 2 at Paris Roubaix last weekend, but fingers crossed there will be futher encounters between these guys across the summer so the pot is still boiling come the autumn and the re-scheduled Hell of the North.

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?