On its own, but I am fine with Amstel as is

I know this is the least prompt post of the season… It’s a busy time ok? !

However, it would be 100% remiss of me not to go back over the great spectacle that the 2022 Amstel Gold Race was.

2021 was exciting with a hairs breadth separating Wout Van Aert and Tom Pidcock on the open flat space at the top of the Cauberg.

2020 had seen that counter attack from Mathieu Van der Poel. The one where he closed an impossible looking gap in super quick time before joining in and winning the sprint finish.

It might not have the history and cultural attachment of Flanders and Roubaix, but this race has had seen better finishes recently. You might need to whisper that in the low Countries though.

This year we had the same end game. A 2-up sprint after the splintering of a breakaway group. Benoit Cosnefroy and Michal Kwiatowski were the two go ahead riders and they were suitably aware enough of the riders behind them coming back (having probably watched Flanders re-runs)

GCN race highlights

The French rider led out within the last 200 metres and looked to have won. He was even called as such with the tv cameras focusing on the celebrations of him and his team-mates from AG2R/Citroen.

But when the side on shot came on the screen, it was clear that, as with last year, there had been a terrible error calling the winner so soon.

Veteran Ineos rider Kwiatowski had just nudged his wheel over the line first and the tv cut to the Pole and away from the desolate looking Cosnefroy.

You can argue whether its a good look for cycling not to be able to call a winner without changing their minds, but it was another chapter for the Amstel and another indicator that this is a race on the up.

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.

My top 3 cyclo cross courses

It’s the article no-one is asking for, but I am writing it anyway!

If there is one thing that the arrival of GCN+ has given us is wall to wall winter cycling in the form of cyclo cross.

I am old enough to remember some rounds being shown on the BBCs flagship Saturday afternoon show Grandstand. I would then spend the Sunday morning that followed on my Falcon/Banana team issue replica bike on the recreation ground outside my house pretending to be a tough Belgian.

The dismounts and remounts were not so easy. Especially as the 1980s and early 1990s trend was to jam your saddle up as high as possible to show a bit of seat stem.

I also wore a pony tail held in by a rubber band as some sort of low budget Laurent Fignon, or the hipsters version, Soren Lilholt. But that’s straying off the point.

What these last couple of winters has shown us is that ‘cross is very much part of the full cycling experience and will forever be linked to road cycling, the spring classics and the grand tours.

Part of the reason for that is at the moment the best riders on the road also enjoy getting muddy in a Flemish field all winter. They are Mathieu van der Poel, Wout van Aert and Tom Pidcock.

With all of their summer exploits still hurting their legs, the three of them aren’t back on the trails as yet. They are all resting and that has left the door open for Eli Iserbyt to take ownership of the discipline.

He is being chased (literally and metaphorically) by team mates Michael Van Thourenhout, Laurens Sweeck and Trek riders Toon Aerts and Lars van der Haar.

Another grand tour rider in Quinten Hermans (who I tipped on this website as being a star of the future) is getting the Wanty team among those riders above.

The great thing about ‘cross is that its raced in laps with sections that need to be run alongside your bike, steep drop ins and a little bit of road. It has the lot.

So here are my three favourite courses of the regulars that are raced during the season. Let me know if you disagree!

3. Koksijde

This course is best summed up by the video “Cycling in Flanders” shot and you can get that here.

Its full of sand dunes and steep banks which leaves you thinking they are racing through a Eurocamp holiday park. Its utterly bonkers and wonderfully brilliant.

2. Koppenbergcross

This is another chance for me to drone on about how many times I have ridden the cobbled climb that is scaled on every lap of this race. But I wont.

I will talk about a course that has everything. It has the climb as well as steep, sweeping curves through farmland and some tight muddy turns.

This is fresh in my mind as it was raced yesterday. Check out the footage of Iserbyt winning but stay tuned in for some of the wrecked bodies and minds who slump over the finish before getting a Belgian face pack falling over.

It’s brutal and having ridden up the climb a few times I can tell you first hand how hard it is. But I wont!

1. Namur

This might be a hipsters choice from me here. But I love the racing this course produces.

The route is based around the finish of the autumn classic on the road that finishes up the cobbles at the citadel above the river and the town.

Its beautiful to look at but savage if you are racing with all the climbing and tight turns through the woodland.

The recent events have been dominated by Van der Poel but have been famous for a crash that Toon Aerts suffered which left him finishing the race with broken ribs.

Here are the details of the upcoming 2021 event from the website “Cyclocross 24”. there is a video of how difficult the course is for you to enjoy.

With only the Koppenberg round having been completed so far there is some decent racing to look forward to on most weekends now until the Christmas tree is down and we can start to think about Milano-San Remo.

Don’t miss out and enjoy the action this winter!

2021 Worlds a race for the ages

Despite being, what I would call, a cycling buff, there are many instances where I can’t take in all of a race.

I have even written on this very website how the recent trend of tv coverage from flag to flag sometimes can feel like too much cycling.

The first instance of this trend I can remember was the 2015 Paris Roubaix where the first hour of action waiting for the break to form was much more entertaining that what went after it. So the television execs thought they’d hit on a successful formula and it stuck.

But for every race like that, there has been plenty where ‘sleepy’ would still be too active a description for the action.

Its content like that which gives commentators abuse on the internet. They can only call what they see and if nothing is happening the dead air is filled with less quality. Same goes for the racing.

But.

The 2021 world professional men’s road race yesterday was one occasion where if you invested the time at the start of the race, there were massive rewards at the finish.

The French national team rode the perfect race.

Unlike the Belgians who seemed to back both Remco Evenepoel and Wout van Aert before leaving home town rider Jasper Stuyven to content the finale, the raiding team from south of the border had a clear strategy.

They backed the defending champion to the hilt and were rewarded by his retention of the precious rainbow jersey.

From 140kms out Benoit Cosnefroy and Anthony Turgis were a total pain in the Belgians backsides with attacks and counter attacks forcing lots of chasing.

Italy were caught out in the first big split, something that might have contributed to a subdued finale from their main hope Sonny Colbrelli.

Mathieu Van der Poel was very subdued and was content to follow all day without having any impact on the race.

Julian Alaphillippe attacked four or five times to get his win with a number of these digs coming in the last lap and a half around Leuven.

He eventually wore them down with his desire to get clear and with Valentin Madouas working hard to help him establish his lead he was gone and gone for good.

The splinter group chasing him down had neither Van Aert, Tom Pidcock nor Van der Poel within it and didn’t have the power left to make the catch.

You can argue that Alaphillippe is all show and no content, but the wins he is racking up now make that point of view weak.

He is so entertaining to watch and his attack so wonderful to behold that you can’t help but be engaged and excited.

Last year he won with style. This year he won with persistence, style, panache and flair.

It truly was a world for the ages.

RnkRiderTeamUCIPntTime
1 ALAPHILIPPE JulianFrance6003505:56:34
2 VAN BAARLE DylanNetherlands4752600:32
3 VALGREN MichaelDenmark400190,,
4 STUYVEN JasperBelgium325150,,
5 POWLESS NeilsonUnited States275130,,
6 PIDCOCK ThomasGreat Britain2251100:49
7 ŠTYBAR ZdeněkCzech Republic1751001:06
8 VAN DER POEL MathieuNetherlands150901:18
9 SÉNÉCHAL FlorianFrance12580,,
10 COLBRELLI SonnyItaly10070,,
Top 10 from http://www.procyclingstats.com