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|