The best day of the sporting year so grab a beer and relax taking it all in…
It was a brilliant weekend of racing in Belgium again this weekend.
With E3 on Friday and Gent-Wevelgem Sunday we got 2 classics in the truest sense of the word. Races fit to stand on their own merit as opposed to being just a practice before the Ronde.
Kasper Asgreen produced the best ride since he won in Kuurne in 2020 with a long lone attack taking in the Paterberg and Oude Kwaremont before looking cooked when the main favourites group reeled him back in.
However as Greg Van Avermaet and Mathieu van der Poel looked to have settled in for a sprint the Dane kicked again.
There was a bit of indecision in that main group. They had just seen Wout Van Aert fly off the front on on the last climb before being taken back and then shooting out the back.
Should they chase Asgreen hard and risk leaving the group disjointed and liable to slow letting Van Aert back on, or try and keep a reasonable tempo that stopped people getting on from behind giving them a better chance of catching the leader but with little wiggle room?
As it happens they kind of chose neither.
The 2nd group didnt get back on but they also managed to ship over 30 seconds to a man who had been out on his own over two of cyclings most hellish climbs.
It was brilliant from Asgreen. Cancellara or Boonenesque. He will now be a real threat in the Ronde at the weekend, no doubt.
|1||ASGREEN Kasper||Deceuninck – Quick Step||400||225||4:42:56|
|2||SÉNÉCHAL Florian||Deceuninck – Quick Step||320||150||0:32|
|3||VAN DER POEL Mathieu||Alpecin-Fenix||260||110||,,|
|4||NAESEN Oliver||AG2R Citroën Team||220||90||,,|
|5||ŠTYBAR Zdeněk||Deceuninck – Quick Step||180||80||,,|
|6||VAN AVERMAET Greg||AG2R Citroën Team||140||70||,,|
|7||VAN BAARLE Dylan||INEOS Grenadiers||120||60||,,|
|8||HOELGAARD Markus||Uno-X Pro Cycling Team||100||50||1:28|
|10||HALLER Marco||Bahrain – Victorious||68||42||,|
Gent-Wevelgem was a slightly more cagey and less attacking affair in the final.
The main group of favourites was away with around 70km to go and despite some forming and reforming of the peloton behind them that was about that.
It doesn’t mean there was no excitement however. Van Aert was keen to put E3 behind him and was key in driving the breakaway.
It was a sprinters paradise with Sam Bennett, Giacomo Nizzolo, Matteo Trentin, Sonny Colbrelli and Michael Matthews all present.
Lots of teams were covered and had no interest in chasing behind and that looked like it was that.
Bennett had some issues with his last feed and was sick. He was dropped from the front group and shot back through the chasers with no strength to hang on.
Deceuninck now found themselves going from the position of close to 100% certain to winning the race if it came to a spring with Bennett to not having a rider up front.
Their fierce chase couldn’t reduce the gap so late in the race and Yves Lampaert was their top finisher in 14th place.
The riders up top had settled for a sprint and all looked really tired.
When it came to the finish Van Aert was a lot fresher and faster having had Nathan Van Hooydonck in the group with him to do some of his turns.
It was a great win and bodes well for this weekend.
Who’s your money on?
|1||VAN AERT Wout||Team Jumbo-Visma||500||225||5:45:11|
|2||NIZZOLO Giacomo||Team Qhubeka ASSOS||400||150||,,|
|3||TRENTIN Matteo||UAE-Team Emirates||325||110||,,|
|4||COLBRELLI Sonny||Bahrain – Victorious||275||90||,,|
|5||MATTHEWS Michael||Team BikeExchange||225||80||,,|
|6||KÜNG Stefan||Groupama – FDJ||175||70||,,|
|7||VAN HOOYDONCK Nathan||Team Jumbo-Visma||150||60||0:03|
|8||VAN BAARLE Dylan||INEOS Grenadiers||125||50||0:52|
|9||TURGIS Anthony||Team Total Direct Energie||100||46||0:54|
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.
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.
|1||CAVENDISH Mark||Team Columbia||100||5:27:52|
|2||FREIRE Óscar||Rabobank ProTeam||70||,,|
|4||HUSHOVD Thor||Crédit Agricole||40||,,|
|7||DUQUE Leonardo Fabio||Cofidis, le Crédit par Téléphone||22||,,|
|8||MCEWEN Robbie||Silence – Lotto||18||,,|
|10||DEAN Julian||Team Garmin – Chipotle||10||,,|
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.
|1||TRENTIN Matteo||Quick-Step Floors||200||125||4:36:03|
|2||DRUCKER Jempy||BMC Racing Team||150||85||0:08|
|3||GREIPEL André||Lotto Soudal||125||60||0:18|
|4||GAVIRIA Fernando||Quick-Step Floors||100||50||,,|
|5||PASQUALON Andrea||Wanty – Groupe Gobert||85||45||,,|
|6||CARDIS Romain||Direct Energie||70||40||,,|
|7||VERMELTFOORT Coen||Roompot – Nederlandse Loterij||60||35||,,|
|8||JANSEN Amund Grøndahl||Team LottoNL-Jumbo||50||30||,,|
|9||RICKAERT Jonas||Sport Vlaanderen – Baloise||40||26||,,|
|10||GIRAUD Benjamin||Delko Marseille Provence KTM||35||22||,,|
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.
When my phone pinged with an update from Flanders Classics this afternoon I was expecting more bad news.
But contrary to that belief it was the publishing of a new set of dates with both Gent-Wevelgem and the Tour of Flanders pencilled in for mid-October.
Now there is a hell of a lot of water to pass under a hell of a lot of bridges before we get to these dates but its something to focus on and look forward to in the coming weeks.
I hope with every part of me that we will see these classics on these dates.
10th October – Amstel Gold Race
18th October – Tour of Flanders
Just imagine that for a moment. A autumnal journey through the bergs and the cobbles with that cold wind coming in off the North Sea and post harvest time mud splattered farm tracks.
I am chilling a Leffe in readiness.
This weeks show is all about Flanders. We talk the Ronde this weekend analysing who has been going well in the recent warm up races.
We also talk culturally and how this race defines a nation within a nation.
In praise of the Molenberg
There are such a large number of climbs in the Ronde Van Vlaanderen
that it’s impossible to try and pick a favourite…
But I will try.
The big three are of course, the Koppenberg, Oude Kwaremont
Famous, popular and lined out with casual riders most days,
and supporters on race days, these are the hellingen that define the most
popular one day race on the planet.
I have always been different though.
For me the big three were experiences never to forget but I
rode averagely at best on all of them.
So I looked back over my data to see which of the 17 I had
the best performances on with the idea of making a case for the once I bonded
with the best.
It was a close toss-up between Berendries (although as it
has no cobbles, I discounted it), and the Molenberg.
So I chose the latter.
It has the standard start of a Flemish climb. A tight right
turn off a wider road onto a steep cobbled climb with a narrow road and grassy
banks to the side. Its steep and the cobbles are poor, uneven and jagged.
But then, something special happens. The road levels out
ever so slightly and despite the road still retaining its narrow width, the
pave ends and it opens up between two fields.
You then get your first glimpse of the famous windmill as
the road snakes left and right. At this point I started to find my legs and
overtake a number of groups as they struggled in the right hand lane.
I passed a rider with the city of Lincoln plastered on his
kit, exchanging a hello as I went. It was the most comfortable I felt in terms
of pace, power and form on the whole day on the road.
When I watched Andrei Griepel power away on the climb, the
next day I kind of knew how he felt. Kind of.
In researching this piece I found this brilliant video on
Youtube where the first few seconds tell you all you need to know about the
My dream day out on a bike… last time I mention it, promise.