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!

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

Tour ’20 – Stages 18&19 – Kwiatkowski gets his reward

Polish domestique deluxe Michal Kwiatkowski got due reward for his years in service of Tour de France winners when he took stage 18 after a long breakaway.

With team mate Richard Carapaz, they took flight from the days break along with serial escapee Marc Hirschi of Sunweb.,

The most active rider of the race was keen to add to his stage win last week but crashed on a descent leaving the Ineos pair alone at the head of affairs.

With the gap big enough and the favourites not interested in attacking they had the luxury of sorting out who was going to win on the run in to the finish. It was brillant to see a clearly emotional Kwiatkowski cross the line for a rare, but really popular win.

Stage 10 saw Soren Kragh Andersen win the stage after a day that was only brightly animated by Remi Cavagna in a long lone breakaway that was always doomed but was entertaining enough to avoid switching the TV off.

Late in the stage a breakaway did escape including a number of good classics riders. Luke Rowe , Nils Pollit, Tim DeClercq and the king of Flanders Greg Van Avermaet made the split.

However Andersen was able to repeat the feat as he did on the way into Lyon escaping to win his 2nd stage of the Tour.

All eyes now move to the final weekend of the race and its opening and only time trial.

It’s been a really decent Tour so far so let’s hope for an exciting final weekend of action.

Tour ’20 – Stages 16&17 – Kamna fulfills the promise whilst Superman flies

After a quiet few days at the start of last week, the Tour de France has been really exciting at the start of this culminating in yesterdays stage finish at the top of a new purpose built cycleway in the sky.

The two alpine stages have been going over new ground and exploring, whilst retaining the tradition of scenary and toughness that makes them the best part of the race (for me at least).

The first of the most recent two stages saw Egan Bernal dropped again before abandoning and Jumbo taking the opportunity to let breakaways go.

In fact the Tour de France 2020 has become the year of the lone winner with the likes of Marc Hirschi, Soren Kragh Andersen, Lennard Kamna and now Miguel Angel Lopez.

Kamna was part of a stage 16 breakaway that included Richard Caparaz and Julian Alaphillippe before he gave the Ecuadorian a fake suffer face and then attacked him.

Villard de Lans will always be about 1989 and Laurent Fignon for me so it was a real trip down memory lane for the race to finish their again.

Kamna was a worthy winner to honour that history pulling away on downhill, flatlands and climbs to make sure he won.

Carapaz and Alaphillippe looked to get over the disappointment by being in the next days breakaway on stage 17 only to be caught by the GC battle.

Meribel put on its finest display for the race arriving and as the Bahrain led peloton sped through the town to get tot the new finish at Col de la Loze it felt like we had the real race back again. For a few minutes there were cheering fans and despite their masks it was a brief moment where covid wasn’t on my mind.

The new bike path looked amazing despite its fluctuating gradient and it had the desired effect on breaking up the GC leaders including Bahrains leader Mikel Landa meaning all their work was not rewarded.

‘Superman’ Lopez got away and behind him the likes of Richie Porte and Rigoberto Uran started to fade.

Then it was the leaders turn with Primoz Roglic putting some daylight between him and Tadej Pogacar as the road got over 20% in steepness.

However Pogacar wasn’t gone for good and he battled back to limit his losses to 15 seconds meaning he is 57 down now against the yellow jersey.

This race is most definitely not done and I am enjoying every minute of it. Let’s see what today brings.