Was Scheldeprijs the best cobbled classic of 2022?

Alexander Kristoff produced a great escape from an elite group of sprinters and escape specialists to win this rainy classic.

There was a lot of pressure on Quickstep ahead of this one so it was surprising that they managed to miss the big crosswind split (it went near that tunnel you drive through on the way to Amsterdam!).

There was a bit of a chase but with some considerable distance to race there were some commitment issues in the group behind meaning Fabio Jakobsen was stranded and the mini Quickstep classics drought was set to go on.

Sam Bennett of Bora now looked a nailed on for the win but started to drift off the back as the cold and wet started to set in. His team mates tried to rally him but as with last years Gent-Wevelgem, when Bennett was tired, he was dropped.

The onus moved on to Alpecin who had managed to get both of their days sprinters, Jasper Philipsen and Tim Merlier in the move but with an attacking run in (maybe due to the riders wanting to get in from the cold!) it was Kristoff who made his acceleration stick.

There was a pursuit of sorts but the breakaway starting to fold in on their self and the Norwegian was away.

It was a brilliantly executed moment and his celebratory ride down the finishing straight was the Kristoff of old. It was brilliant.

So with all the new guard winning left, right and centre, this was a moment for us oldies.

Chapeau Alexander!

RnkRiderTeamUCIPntTime
1 KRISTOFF AlexanderIntermarché – Wanty – Gobert Matériaux2001254:06:02
2 VAN POPPEL DannyBORA – hansgrohe150850:24
3 WELSFORD SamTeam DSM12560,,
4 VAN UDEN CasperTeam DSM100500:26
5 THEUNS EdwardTrek – Segafredo8545,,
6 VANBILSEN KennethCofidis70400:28
7 MCLAY DanielTeam Arkéa Samsic6035,,
8 PHILIPSEN JasperAlpecin-Fenix5030,,
9 MERLIER TimAlpecin-Fenix4026,,
10 MULLEN RyanBORA – hansgrohe3522,,

Tour of Flanders 2022 – The world vs Pogacar

With almost a week now to digest the race and craft my post, the first thing I want to say about RVV2022 was that it was a culturual triumph.

After what feels a lot longer than 3 disrupted seasons it was really emotional ( even watching on tv) to see packed kerbsides full of fans watching “their race” go by in a celebration of Flemish culture.

Its something that never leaves you as an experience. Its 6 years since I saw the race in the flesh but on Flanders Sunday I always wear my (now tatty) yellow lion socks for training.

It becomes part of you.

The race was one for the fans to savour. In my view the absence of Wout Van Aert through Covid 19 opened up the race and whilst the early breakaway always felt within catching distance the counter attack that was clear before the 2nd time up the Oude Kwaremont had enough quality in it to make you think.

Ben Turner was the Brit in pole position for a while, before the Paterberg saw Fred Wright power off the front. From a domestic point of view, this attacking kept us engaged as Tom Pidcock didn’t seem to be back to his best.

Tadej Pogacar made one decisive attack which managed to merge a group he created with that front group but on the climbs in the run in it was clear that he and Mathieu Van der Poel were head and shoulders above the rest.

They finally shook off the remaining breakaway riders on the final climb of the Kwaremont. The 2-up they rode up until the final kilometre was one us club riders dream of being able to sit on the back of!

In the final KM though their co-operation broke down with both freewheeling and neither wanting to open up the sprint.

This opened the door for Dylan Van Baarle and Valentin Madouas to zoom up to them and start the sprint. Pogacar wasn’t happy and waved his arms in disgust. Van der Poel concentrated on his sprting and landed his second win in some style and in a race with some finish.

RnkRiderTeamUCIPntTime
1 VAN DER POEL MathieuAlpecin-Fenix5002756:18:30
2 VAN BAARLE DylanINEOS Grenadiers400200,,
3 MADOUAS ValentinGroupama – FDJ325150,,
4 POGAČAR TadejUAE Team Emirates275120,,
5 KÜNG StefanGroupama – FDJ2251000:02
6 TEUNS DylanBahrain – Victorious17590,,
7 WRIGHT FredBahrain – Victorious150800:11
8 PEDERSEN MadsTrek – Segafredo125700:48
9 LAPORTE ChristopheJumbo-Visma10060,,
10 KRISTOFF AlexanderIntermarché – Wanty – Gobert Matériaux8550

Build up to the Northern Classics wins me over

Le Samyn – Matteo Trentin

Nokere Koerse – Tim Merlier

GP Denain – Max Walscheid

Koksijde Classic – Pascal Ackermann

We will cover Milan San Remo when the dust about seat post droppers subsides a little, but as we head into the Flemish classic season proper the above preparation races have been superb this spring.

Every year I watch Le Samyn and as they pass that village green before the worst set of cobbles (underwater again this year) I promise myself I will make it to that beautiful old looking bar for a Bornem or similar one year.

Dour is the name of the finishing town and the weather generally reflects that. But the race is always excellent. Trentin was a worthy winner.

The Nokereberg is a set piece finish with those heavy cobbles offset with lovely restaurant frontage and ornate street lighting.

This one didn’t quite hit the heights of previous years but Tim Merlier, a growing force in Flanders racing, got to throw his hands in the air.

Although its in France, Denain had a spectacular finish. The field was strong as a result of the cobbles used being used in the Tour de France this July.

We saw Primoz Roglic and the Ineos team really take the race on and they were only caught in the last 3km after an epic chase. The Cofidis revival, as alluded to on this website (!) continued with Walscheid winning the sprint.

Koksijde finished this batch of racing at the end of last week with a sprint finish after an attacking run in.

You truly know the spring races have arrived when watching the peloton heading to the coast past the sand dunes with a right turn taking them alongside the tram route.

It generates emotion that the weather will be on the turn soon (hopefully!) and that the season proper is here. I associate this with fewer layers when going training and daffodils in the garden. Its engrained in the calendar.

2022 is shaping up to be a superb season of racing. I am thoroughly enjoying it.

Fenland Clarion Velogames league

Not sure if there is much interest in fantasy cycling games but I just joined the Velogames classics one. Really easy to join but hard to pick a pick within budget.

I am hoping this line up will get me from Strade to Liege without having to make transfers.

I have started a FCCC league so feel free to join in..

https://www.velogames.com/ < to register

League code to join is 140233727

Too much racing, can’t compute!

Last week it was 1/2 term for school kids down here in the Midlands of England.

We took the opportunity as the country unlocked to get away for a few days.

However with Ruta del Sol, Algarve, Tour of the Alps Maritime and other races going on I am now finding myself glued to GCN before work, lunch breaks and even on the turbo in the evening.

I have so much race viewing to cram in ahead of opening weekend that I wonder if I will still be in Portugal or watching the end of the cyclo cross season instead of Het Nieuwsblad?

Time will tell. But being a cycling fan since the 1980’s this is a much better way of watching and keeping up with the sport compared to the old format of waiting a month to read about it in “Winning” magazine.

And that is no reflection on that particular publication.

procycling stats has new cyclo cross site

Fendrien loves procyclingstats. It’s a brilliant website covering both the Womens and Mens pro pelotons with all the races, results, live updates, rankings and the predictor and procycling-game.

It really is the best cycling thing on the internet.

So to see their CX website launch has given me a great deal of joy and a website to check daily in the road off season!

https://cx.procyclingstats.com/index.php

Here is the link to bookmark.

Namur delivers

The Namur cyclo cross race yesterday delivered as it always does.

Despite there not being a British winner in Tom Pidcock the race was still box office from tape to flag.

Micheal Van Thourenhout was the semi-surprise winner keeping it wheel side down in a race that saw Pidcock and long time race leader Toon Aerts go over.

The course had that perfect mix of cobbled climbs, steep wooded downhills and deep slippy mud.

If this race doesn’t whet the appetite for the busy Christmas cyclo cross period then nothing will.

Riders of the year 2021

Here are my top 3 mens riders of the 2021 season.

3. Julian Alaphillippe

I am trying to avoid using the standard cliches to describe this guy. Swashbuckling for example.

However, its really hard when the two stand out wins of his season were gathered in that typical… umm… swashbuckling style of riding the race off his wheel.

Stage 1 of the Tour de France had been marred by crashes but was set up for Mathieu Van der Poel to win with an uphill finish and the weight of history driving him on. But that moment in the spotlight would have to wait as our Julian rode away from the whole of the race having surfed through the carnage on the road behind him. Carnage that ended the challenge of Primoz Roglic, Chris Froome and others.

He never seemed to get so far away that the peloton didn’t believe he was catchable, but he was never close enough for anyone to bridge. It was timed perfectly.

After waiting what felt like a lifetime for the Tour to be back and to have fans on the road side, this was the start that both France and the race needed. It also took the spotlight off a certain placard waving fan a little…

He then backed this up at the end of the season by retaining the world champions rainbow jersey by using his team 160km out to make the race uncomfortable for the home town Belgian team.

As the race entered a crucial period he was simply too fast for the riders remaining in the peloton and was justifiably a back to back world road race champion.

2. Mathieu Van der Poel

It feels like this guy had his best moments early in the season. He was thoroughly dominant at Strade Bianche with an uphill power packed attack sending him clear of the peloton. It was a truly wonderful display and the best individual piece of riding of 2021. Bar none.

He backed that up with a brilliant performance in Tirreno Adriatico in the filthy weather. He proved that his cyclo cross background didn’t make him solely a 60 minute racer.

VdP left the peloton behind “to keep warm” with over 50 km to go and would have won by miles if Tadej Pogacar hadn’t thought about the overall win and chased him hard.

But that ride did seem to do more damage than good, with him short and Milan-San Remo and then outsprinted at Flanders by Kasper Asgreen.

He did show his champion credentials in his Tour de France debut. Stage 1 was a disappointment for him missing out in a kit designed to mirror that his grandfather wore in the race. The Mur de Bretagne was different. He attacked first time up for the time bonuses before riding clear to win the stage and take the yellow jersey on the second ascent. It was great to see him get the jersey and then honour it to the Alps.

You have to love VdP for the way he rides and the way he makes cycling like it was in the good old days. Long may this level of performance continue.

1. Tadej Pogacar

The first rider in living memory to win the Tour and 2 of the classic monuments in a season. This lad has it all.

Whilst the Tour de France was in his pocket by the end of week 1 making the overall battle redundant, you can’t help but be impressed by his style and power on the bike.

Before we even got there he’d outsprinted the generations best classic riders to take Liege Bastogne Liege.

That was followed up with a dominant performance in Il Lombardia which is rapidly becoming my second favourite single day race of the year, where he took Fausto Masnada of Quickstep to the finish before smashing him out of sight in the race to the flag.

Aside from the results there is a quiet confidence and dominance about this guy where his presence at the head of a race seems to break the others before he even attacks.

The Ventoux stage was the only one where he looked like shipping any time but I still look back at that day and think he was focused on making Richard Carapaz put his nose into the wind rather than his being in genuine trouble.

Is his dominance good for the sport? For now I would say yes. It means the other teams will need to show greater innovation and creativity to isolate and then beat him, although his team has stocked up on domestiques so far this winter.

But what a talent. A poster boy for cycling for the 2020s.

Amazon brings brewing belgian beer to our tv screens

Click here to watch.

I will resist taking the easy way out and pound on James Blunt for being on this show. He has taken enough punishment over the years and despite being a little wooden here, holds the fort on ‘Beers Masters’ well enough.

The show is your typical format of having 5 teams competing against each other to brew the best new beer as judged by a panel of experts.

Show 2 was tripel and show 3 abbey style. So there is plenty of interest for us enthusiasts of those types. No-one gets eliminated they just take a beer forward from each episode to the final.

For those of us who are really stuffy about our beers there is probably not enough depth to the show. I, however, learned a lot from the show and understand the types of beer being brewed a lot better now.

Whether it will help my home brewing efforts remains to be seen!