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.
If you have been with Fendrien since the outset you will know that 1989 was the second Tour de Francce I followed and its conculsion was enough to ensure my love for the sport would remain undiminshed (to date) over the decades.
Greg LeMond came back from incredible adversity to win the race by a mere 8 seconds from the late Laurent Fignon.
That summer seemed to be warmer and sunnier than any other I can remember and it made me save up for some Oakley’s and a Dawes Impulse road bike.
It’s fair to say Greg has had an interesting and not altogether positive experience with the sport since he retired in the early 1990’s. He incurred the wrath of Lance Armstrong amongst others but is making a comeback.
He has been a Eurosport pundit and has relaunched his own label bike brand after it had been dumped by Trek.
Imagine my delight then when Cyclist magazine recently uploaded a two part podcast with the great man covering all manner of topics, not just ’89.
We will be taking about those attacks from Chantal Van den Broek-Blaak and Mathieu Van der Poel for years to come and thanks to some of the big cycling news websites out there we can relive the race via some great images.
The world champion Julian Alaphillippe almost pulled off a typcially swashbuckling move to take this one before getting caught on the Muur in Geraardsbergen.
He had, however, taken enough sting out of the legs of his opponents leaving the man of the early season, Davide Ballerini to easily take the sprint finish.
The perennial locally based classic contenders such as Oliver Naessen, Greg Van Avermaet and Sep Vanmarcke were left in his slipsteam and in my view look even less likely to land one of the big April races between them.
Having said all that, if you take the British sprinter Jake Stewart out of the top 10, the results could well have been from 2017 with Heinrich Haussler and Phillippe Gilbert rolling back the years.
It was so nice to see narrow Belgian farm tracks back on the menu and even from all the way over here in the UK, my fillings were clattering around my mouth remembering some of those crazy sectors that they had to ride over!
Aka the Mathieu van der Poel show (again). There were over 80km left to ride when MvdP went surging out of the front of the peloton.
He attacked with further to go to the finish than Alaphillippe 24 hours before to start the pre-Tour of Flanders mind games.
Jhonathan Narvaez of Ineos was his unlikely co-contributor, a rider more suitable to the mountains than the bergs but both sped across the gap to the days no-hope breakaway making contact before we got our first glimpse of the Oude Kwaremont for 2021.
This cobbled beast has a special place in my heart, and not just because I enjoy the beer from the bar half way up!
After that we saw the race settle down a lot with a flatter run in and circuits around Kortrijk. A new group with some original breakaways and Van der Poel seemed to be living a charmed life off the front at about 17 seconds but with only 3km to go it looked enough.
However a long drag of crosswind was enough to let what was left of the peloton get back on.
The sprint finish saw former rainbow jersey Mads Pedersen of Trek win easily. Worthy of note was Tom Pidcock making his Flemish debut for Ineos getting up for for third place.
There will be those who say that 2 sprint finishes and the mild weather will not make this a memorable opening weekend of classic racing but I thoroughly enjoyed it and now look forward to seeing Mark Cavendish in Le Samyn tomorrow.
This is a race which has a brutal finishing circuit and finishes in the town of Dour… which looks a bit bland!