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Click here to enjoy reliving a super Sunday.
The second best one day bike race (after the Ronde) takes place this weekend for the first time since 2019.
The 2020 Paris Roubaix, or Hell of the North, was cancelled in the April of that year as the Covid pandemic raged. It was provisionally re-scheduled for the end of that year but a surge in cases around the races finish area in Lille saw no race and much sadness for fans.
April 2021 saw more challenges in that area of Northern France and whilst the Flemish classics just over the border in Belgium took place, the Roubaix velodrome was again left silent.
But we do now have an event with a firm date for this Sunday, 3rd October 2021 and what’s more both the men’s and inaugural female events will both be hitting the cobbles.
This feels like a massive moment for cycling and a real sign that things are coming back to some level of normality and we will have a full set of one day monuments to look back on (unless something terrible happens in Italy to affect Il Lombardia).
My favourite memory of Roubaix was the 1994 edition where Andrei Tchmil survived the rain, mud and snowy blizzards the best. He was able to make the velodrome finish and take home the coveted cobble as his prize.
I remember a classic shot from the tv motorbike as Tchmil got away and the back drop was some old mining pulleys and towers with the cloud behind them the likes of which I’d never seen before.
The snow followed soon after and it was clear this would be a race we would talk about for years. I know I still am!
Since 1994 we have only seen one truly wet event, in 2002.
The forecast for this Sunday isn’t great with showers and 24kph winds anticipated on the exposed roads north of Paris.
If that doesn’t whet your appetite for this great event then nothing will.
Enjoy the race.
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.
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.
|2||VAN BAARLE Dylan||Netherlands||475||260||0:32|
|5||POWLESS Neilson||United States||275||130||,,|
|6||PIDCOCK Thomas||Great Britain||225||110||0:49|
|7||ŠTYBAR Zdeněk||Czech Republic||175||100||1:06|
|8||VAN DER POEL Mathieu||Netherlands||150||90||1:18|
It’s the start of the winter season already and cyclo-cross starts this weekend with the Rapencross in Belgium (where else?!).
Coverage is on GCN+.
The excellent Cyclocross Social website has the full calendar and you can read that by clicking here.
With my recent holiday leaving me miles behind on postings on this site (sorry!) I thought I would fill in with the link to the Rouleur photo gallery.
You can get there by clicking here, and rest assured some Vuelta analysis is coming soon.
There is an overused word to describe the feelings riders and fans have towards the Vuelta.
People often write or speak of the specific relaxed, end of term vibes of the Vuelta. It’s a unique ambience they say.
It certainly works for me.
I spend many a happy hour watching the Vuelta imagining life as a hardened pro cyclist getting to the end of their season and riding round the humid, windy interior of Spain to get a nice tan to take into the winter.
The first week of this year’s race has certainly done nothing to diffuse that stereotype.
There were a couple of flat stages where the organisers prayed for high winds to get the echelons forming. But there was barely a breeze and the riders enjoyed the sun and several sprint finishes.
Where there have been climbs there has been excitement. But Primoz Roglic is in control with rivals such as Egan Bernal clearly going backwards.
Hugh Carthy is sadly at home in Preston by now after abandoning.
Alessandro Valverde suffered a terrible crash before being forced to quit the race. It will be interesting to see how the race develops with his bickering team mates Enric Mas and “Superman” Lopez battling to lead Movistar in his absence.
Sadly, it appears there is no series 3 on their fly on the wall documentary on Netflix. The episode featuring this week’s racing would be a must see.
If this was the Tour de France and if it was Tadej Pogacar in the lead of the race, I would be declaring this one over in terms of a GC battle.
But Roglic has previous (see 2020 Tour, 2021 Paris-Nice) of grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory.
He might be going for a hat-trick of Vuelta wins but in both 2019 and 2020 he was close to losing the race in the closing days. Once through a needless crash when Movistar pushed on and once on the final summit finish when Richard Carapaz went after him.
For those of an English and Ineo bias, the race seems to be slipping away.
Carapaz is fading after his Olympic road race glory and with Bernal losing time on the last summit finish before yesterday’s rest day it might be that Adam Yates gets the responsibility of leading the team now.
However, he is over two minutes behind Roglic and that seems very unlikely a gap that he will cross. Even with two weeks of racing left.
So, let’s enjoy this weeks stages, some sleepy looking towns and wave lashed beaches with the riders swooping past. All mirrored Oakley’s and sun cream as they get through the final grand tour of the 2021 season.
|1||1||–||ROGLIČ Primož||Team Jumbo-Visma||20||34:18:53|
|2||3||▲1||MAS Enric||Movistar Team||0:28|
|3||4||▲1||LÓPEZ Miguel Ángel||Movistar Team||1:21|
|4||7||▲3||HAIG Jack||Bahrain – Victorious||1:42|
|5||6||▲1||BERNAL Egan||INEOS Grenadiers||1:52|
|6||10||▲4||YATES Adam||INEOS Grenadiers||2:07|
|7||11||▲4||CICCONE Giulio||Trek – Segafredo||2:39|
|8||8||–||KUSS Sepp||Team Jumbo-Visma||2:40|
|9||2||▼7||GROßSCHARTNER Felix||BORA – hansgrohe||3:25|
|10||14||▲4||DE LA CRUZ David||UAE-Team Emirates||3:55|
Wednesday night was a real landmark occasion for me.
It concluded the season of local club time trials that came 30 years after my first.
This season ended with cold weather which was very much in keeping with how the series started back in April.
Back in 1991 I was a teenager on a Dawes with some bright yellow Scott TT bars that my hero Greg LeMond used.
My hair was long and under my Bolle glasses was a young kid trying to find his way in a tough, unforgiving, grown ups sport.
The Bluebell series is a local cycling institution. It has run in this format for decades with a name evoking the early season flowers that add a blanket of colour to the heath which the race both starts and finishes on.
My first time was 30:08. No-where near the first page of the results I seem to remember but it was a start point and benchmark for my 10-mile career. The next week I was 2 minutes faster and with the handicapping system managed to build a healthy series lead across that summer.
I seem to remember the weather being warm and sunny every Wednesday evening of the series and I was comfortably in the 26s before the final round.
It was mentioned in the local paper and I was super nervous.
On that golden August night, I recorded a 27:30, one of my worst of the season but just clung on to take the trophy by the skin of my teeth.
For that reason, the Bluebell is the competition that I love the most and feel most passionate about. It brings people of all shapes, sizes, and abilities together to bomb around a beautiful course before (post covid) a nice chat and a brew on the heath.
Fast forward to 2021 and as I rode home from the event Wednesday with the daylight fading to the extent you could see my lights starting to take effect, I took some time out (ok a train was coming on the crossing, so the gates were down) to ponder my life in cycling.
There have been downs as well as ups, and my geography has meant that despite it being 30 Bluebells since I started riding, its probably only 23 that I have taken part in (winning again in 2004).
But despite everything, this is something that we can cling on to and cherish as a little piece of sporting history of our own and on our own doorsteps.
With so many other factors in my life to come in to play, its too early to say whether there will be a campaign from me to celebrate 31 years after my first. But wherever you are, please support you club local weekly 10-mile time trial.
Forget about the crucial revenue it generates for the club and the competitive racing it provides. Think more about the camaraderie, friendship, and benefits for the soul.
Its been a while since my last update on how using the Rouvy app is going, so I thought I would pen a few brief thoughts.
Across the summer I have used it a lot less due to the hot weather. Yes, even here in the UK!
But there has been a number of updates for stability and the launch of the new group ride feature which is out to rival Zwift on that score.
I have yet to join one, so I won’t pass comment until I do, but the feedback in the Rouvy Facebook group has been broadly supportive.
As I am not riding regularly indoors I have stepped away from the levelling up process. Last winter I was keen to get a couple of grades up and really enjoyed the racing needed to get there.
The rides needed to be completed in TT mode though are quite long and the thought of 2-3 hours indoors on a trainer whilst the sun beats down isn’t one I wanted to contemplate.
But you can still rack up points (based on your suffer score on a ride) without needing to complete mandatory routes. So the fun remains.
I have also been riding some routes regularly enough to be able to insert the virtual me’s to try and beat, something that helps me find more pace.
I don’t want to lose to the early season less well trained version of me!
I think the app will continue to come into its own over the winter months. I am planning to race again this winter and use Rouvy to keep me out of the rain and cold.
There are of course plenty of alternatives to do that, but I like riding the augmented reality riders on a real world video. It works for me.
One negative has been the ongoing issues getting it to work with a tablet. You do need to check the high specs needed to run the app by clicking here. Fortunately the family laptop and my mobile phone rescued me when the Samsung tablet wasn’t able to run the software.
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