190k classic in northern Italy with about 70k on gravel/dirt roads. This is not a race for the faint of heart or a rider who is light in the saddle. This is a race of the diesel engine, head down, hardmen of cycling. A Classics rider de jour. One does not finish a 190k race with long sections of gravel/dirt because they are a "good rider". The riders that finish this race are not human, they look like humans, but they ride with otherworldly power and strength. When Pain sees these men, Pain thinks "oh, man this is going to be a long day at the office, I'd better call in sick".
I am a fan, or should I say student of cycling? I love cycling, and I love to learn about it's rich history good or bad. Watching races unfold, seeing the team's tactics, trying to look layers deep to find the nuances, this is what being a fan/student is all about. I am a fan of the Rouleur, the Classics rider, which brings Philippe Gilbert to mind every time I say or write Rouleur or Classics. Yes, there are other names -but I am a fan of Gilbert. To me he epitomizes the Belgian hardman. He will attack a group of sprinters with 1k to go, and never look back. He is dangerous on an uphill finish, and he crushes single day hard stages. What is not to like about this guy?
Gilbert is from the Wallon region of Belgium a French/German speaking area. Philippe started his career with Francaise des Jeux in 2003 and has enjoyed several victories. At the end of 2009 he was on fire and pretty much unstoppable winning Lombardia, Paris-Tours, and the overall at Ster Elektrotoer. One of my favorite Gilbert moments happened in the Vuelta '08 when he and a teammate attacked the field gained a few mins on the peloton and then hid behind a wall, watched the group go by and then reintegrated into the back of the field. Classic. Who says you can't have fun at the professional level?
Anyway, I can't think of a better rider to have won on the Strade Bianche. It was good to see Ballan and Cunego up in the mix. Ballan was a dud after winning the World Champs two years ago, but he is a great rider and I like to see him produce. Plus, he rides for BMC. Cunego has had some bright spots, but the last several years he has been a little lack-luster. Cancellara crossed the line in 5th, can you say "on form"? Take a little trip down the results and you will see at 22nd place Craig Lewis of HTC, more importantly the author of File Under Pain. -One of my favorite blogs. Nicely done Craig.
1 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 4:44:26
2 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) BMC Racing Team
3 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre - ISD
4 Jure Kocjan (Slo) Team Type 1 - Sanofi Aventis
5 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Leopard Trek
6 Angel Vicioso Arcos (Spa) Androni Giocattoli
7 Oscar Gatto (Ita) Farnese Vini - Neri Sottoli
8 Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Farnese Vini - Neri Sottoli
Classics season starts off with a Classic. The weather was perfect, if you like wet and cold. You know it's cold when you see the Belgian hardmen wearing kneewarmers. I love watching the Classics when it is a race of man-vs-man-vs-nature and the hardmen of the sport truly showcase their unique talents. Talents that include being able to slide, bounce, and slip out of control but yet survive hours in the saddle cold wet and battered. There is a reason that 53 previous winners have come from Belgium. Riding and racing in Belgium is not only about being able to ride nasty roads, but in weather that would make most people run for cover in a storm shelter.
This edition of the Omloop was, for lack of a better word ---Classic. Rough roads, punchy power climbs, cobbles, mud, wind, and of course Northern European cold. Just your typical race in Belgium. Who better to win a Classic than a Dutchman? Sebastian Langeveld of Rabobank made a risky move to string out the peloton, but instead his attack put him in the driver's seat of a calculated 50k solo. Maybe the peloton is like you and me and thought who is this guy? We can pull him in no problem. One of the things the Dutch do on a bike well -is ride in the wind. Apparently Langeveld got the memo. Flecha (Sky) was the only rider able to match the attack and joined Langeveld. Flecha won last year and seeing him in the break the smart money would have been on him, plus he was a pre-race favorite. The youngster held onto Flecha and when the finish came he was able to match the acceleration throw the bike and gain the 2cm need to finish first.
1 Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 5:18:03
2 Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Sky Procycling
3 Mathew Hayman (Aus) Sky Procycling 0:01:01
4 Yoann Offredo (Fra) FDJ 0:01:04
5 Luca Paolini (Ita) Katusha Team 0:01:21
6 Niki Terpstra (Ned) Quickstep Cycling Team 0:01:24
7 Martijn Maaskant (Ned) Team Garmin-Cervelo 0:01:30
8 Manuel Quinziato (Ita) BMC Racing Team
9 Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
10 Lars Boom (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
Sorry it has taken so long for me to get some words out to you. I tore myself up this weekend, and I am a hollow shell of the person who loaded up Friday morning for a weekend of racing. I am fighting a cold and right now it is a stalemate, and I just have not felt like doing anything. I know bummer, right?
The weekend was awesome. We had a slight little problem with the Hal 5000 navigation system in Gina’s car. Hal wanted to send us into Fort Worth 5:00 traffic, and we were having such a good time to realize that Hal had not routed us through Lawton and instead chose the “traffic free” route into Fort Worth.
We finally made it to registration, unpacked at the hotel and went to Joe’s Pasta and Pizza. Not a bad place if you are starving, but I do highly recommend the house dressing. Back to the hotel for a few homebrews, number pinning, and readying for battle the next day. Morning came early with Bryan racing the first crit at 7:15am. Jason and I grabbed a ride with Gina and Brooke. The Speed limit in Mineral Wells is 30mph, at least the local constable was only in the mood to write a warning. Yeah, if I had been driving it would have been "haul him off to jail" but, with Brooke driving it's "please slow down, thanks for your cooperation".
We had several categories racing on Saturday and it was a little bit of a logistical mess getting people to the Crit, and dropping and picking-up at the TT. It was a point to point with climbs and a tailwind, so riding back to the start would have been horrible, for lack of a better word. I watched the Cat IIIs and IVs and then raced the Crit myself. Did the TT and then came back to see the finish of the Cat Vs and then watched the Women’s Open, and Women’s IV Crit. We started our day when the alarm went off at 5, and then the last crit of the day was at 5:15 in the afternoon. This made for a long day on and off the saddle. I was done, back to the hotel for a quick shower and off to eat.
Morning came early again, funny how that happens. The RR was about 30miles out of town and our first category guys had to be on the start at 7:10. My start was an hour later. It was cloudy and windy, I was secretly praying for rain. I don't like racing in the rain, but unlike a few people out there I will. The wetter the colder the nastier, as it turns out it was hot and humid. When my race was over the clouds were gone the wind was "hurricane" force and it was hot. The ladies on the team and the Cat V's still had not started. I felt sorry for them, we have all been training in forty and fifty degree weather. 80 degrees is murder, it took it's toll.
The road trip back home was a blur of smoke hazy roads (Texas and OK are on fire), bawdy humor, race recaps, and a close to exploding bladder. I read some song lyrics as poetry, "blinded by the light..." check that one out... it's a little crazy. We also ate at every stop, we tried in vane to find a Taco Bueno. The final stop had us unpacking and then repacking our cars to head for home. Here it is four days since I got back and my bags are still packed, my wife is a little concerned with my abilities to handle roadtrips at this point.