Ok, so Fabian did the Ronde - Rubaix two step, and in the process hoisted the cobble for the third time. Now we can all get caught up in the hoopla that Mr. Swiss Miss has poured out, or we can look at what really happened in the Queen of the Classics.
Biggest losers on the day are Omega Pharma (OPQS), yes they did get the last step on the podium with Terpstra. Don't get me wrong I don't want to take away from what Niki did, he rode an excellent race and had the best luck of the whole OPQS squad, and most likely would have been higher up if he had not been playing the teammate in the chase groups that he found himself. First off, how about Stybar? Where did this guy come from? CX, that's where. That is where just three years ago he was running all over Belgium wearing the Rainbow jersey of the World Champ, and then Quick Step snatched him up and put him on the road. Someone knew what they were doing when they drew up that contract. Zednek rode hard for the team and then clawed his way on to the charging Spartacus until a hapless collision with a spectator sent him to the showers in a solid 6th place. Not bad, I would like to use the word Awesome. Vandenbergh!!!! Ah, he was en fuego! I thought he was going to run away with it and make the Belgians proud, but a twist of fate or should I say handlebars -caused by a spectator sent his cobble hoisting dreams into a dusty, dirty, and bloody nightmare of First to chase to a 20th place. Heartbreak. Lady luck is a B!&(#.
One word... Chavanel. My favorite and my pick, looked to be in the cat-bird seat all day. Team all around doing work controlling the race and just being in the right place at the right time. Perfect day to be on the Northern French roads for the Frenchman and I'm sure he could taste the Champagne, right up until he felt his rear tire go soft at the worst possible time. Dream over, damage control, time to chase for scraps. Gert, the workhorse that he is did his job to get the team where they were and he made it look easy, and even with burning himself up for the team, finished the race smack in the middle at a respectable 55th -for a super diesel engine worker only 6mins off the leader. Love Steegmans.
Oh and I guess I should mention my boys at Lotto Belisol, well they had worse luck than OPQS, 24th was the highest they could manage with Sieberg. Shame, their team is a Classics wrecking ball, instead of being the ball they have been getting smashed by it lately. They still have L-B-L and Amstel...
Biggest winners of the day, not named Fabian. Have to tip the cap to Sep. In the shadows on Garmin, gets a transfer to Rabobank (now Blanco), and then the second step in the Roubaix Velodrome. I am so happy to see a great young talent, such as Vanmarcke get the chance to showcase his ability. Smart move Blanco. You also have to hand it to Sep for his guts to trade pulls with the strongest cyclist on the planet. He could have easily set on Fabian's wheel all the way to the finish, but he chose to roll the dice and extend their gap. I can't say that is was the wrong move, all I can say is that I have so much respect for that kind of move. Stand up, classy move. More people should take note.
Another note worthy talent that is way overshadowed by big names on his BMC team is Greg. Van Avermaet is always on my shortlist for Darkhorse Winner in big Classics races where his teammates are going to suck. Just off of the podium and well off the radar. Greg needs to be on a team that will use his talent in the way it should be... put a freaking #1 on his back and work your asses off for him, or not. What do I know? Oh yeah same boat, as in the HMS OVERLOOKED, Bernie Eisel. I'm talking to you Sky. Bernie is a superstar, a superstar domistique, but more importantly he can destroy Classics races. Unyoke this legbreaker and work for him, or transfer him to a team that will give him carte blanche.
I would be remiss to not mention JAF. Juan Antonio Flecha. The Spanish have a special hatred for the cobbled classics, but few thrive. (just look at the DNFs) Juan rode with such panache, I would say that that guy was switched at birth and should have been from the Low Countries. If you make a fantasy Classics team, never never never overlook JAF, he will deliver.
Ok, so what is up with Europcar? These guys are starting to look legit. Stop Laughing, I'm being serious. Gaudin is for real, and Turgot is impressive. It is almost like these guys are taking a page out of Voeckler's book. They are riding with the vigor of Thomas' reckless abandon, and they are getting results. Is this the first "real" French team to become a contender? I've got my eye on those green and black jerseys aboard their Colnagos. Oh yeah and most of Europcar rode CX bikes, just a little tech bit for you.