Any given week, there are oodles of cycling stories flying around in the news. So here’s a quick-hit summary of this week’s happenings, plus my own garbage opinions on each. Much like my gambling advice, these takes are for entertainment purposes only!
This week’s big controversy surrounded that devious black jacket on the Oude Kwarement, which poor Peter Sagan hooked at precisely the wrong moment during Tour of Flanders, sending him tumbling, along with Greg Van Avermaet and Oliver Naesen. I’m not really a baseball guy, but I remember when Steve Bartman ruined the Chicago Cubs’s World Series run in 2003 by interfering with Moises Alou trying to catch a fly ball. Does Flanders have a Bartman of its own now, a person who seemingly stopped “Golden Greg” from winning that elusive monument? Will the Flemish take up torches and pitchforks and try to find this mystery jacket owner? Either way, my suggestion to the owner of the jacket is to flee the country. Now!
This week on the VeloNews Show, we heard from defending Paris-Roubaix champ Mathew Hayman about what it took to beat Boonen last year, his memories from the race, and above all, how to speak Australian! Hayman didn’t mention that he won the world’s toughest race on a standard (uber-stiff) aero road bike with no gloves, no extra padding, and zero cushion. Former Roubaix champs have used suspension stems, cushiony inserts and even (gasp) suspension forks, but not Hayman. That’s why Hayman is our Belgian guy of the week. If Hayman wins another sprint in the velodrome, we might know the reason why. Is it possible to out-Belgian a Belgian? We may find out on Sunday.
Quick-Step mechanics in the hot seat
Speaking of people who probably had a case of the Mondays after Flanders, Tom Boonen lost a chance at the win due to a mechanical right before the Taaienberg climb — ironically, the climb he loves to attack so much it is nicknamed the “Boonenberg.” We still do not know exactly what caused the mechanical calamity. Did all the tears from his emotional send-off in De Ronde mess up the chain? Was there another black jacket on the course that wasn’t captured in race footage? It’s probably time for Quick-Step’s mechanic to start updating his Linkedin profile, maybe putting out some feelers to other teams for a new job. He’d do well to start with some teams that aren’t Belgian, however.
Greg Van Avermaet really dragged the Muur in a pre-race interview, saying the new route was “not very attractive,” and that the Muur wouldn’t be decisive. Well, it turns out that Philippe Gilbert wasn’t reading that story, because he made the select group on the Muur, and then rode a long-range move to victory after attacking on the Oude Kwaremont. Seems to me like Van Avermaet angered Belgium’s cycling gods with his lack of respect of the iconic hill. Plus, he was also up against the “witch’s curse” that ensures no winner of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad will go on to claim Flanders in the same season. We’ll know Greg is taking things seriously when he starts wearing one of Fabian’s amulets — powerful juju.
After stunning fans and proving me wrong with a Tour of Flanders win, Glbert says he’d like to try winning all five cycling monuments. So far he’s won Flanders, Liege, and Il Lombardia. That leaves Paris-Roubaix and Milano-Sanremo. By my estimation, Quick-Step will have to devote all of this resources to this wild idea: Pack the Sanremo peloton with sprinters Fernando Gaviria and Marcel Kittel, so Gilbert has a shot with an attack on the Poggio (sorry Julien Alaphilippe!). And for Roubaix, they will equip Niki Terpstra with a tow-rope and put Gilbert on a bike with even more Specialized FUTURE SHOCK suspension gizmos. I’ve been wrong about Gilbert before, so if he toes the line in Milano next spring, all bets are off.
We got a look at the special bike (a Specialized, no less!) that Boonen will ride in his final race, his final Roubaix. Specialized went to great lengths to set up this bike — ordinarily disc-brake specific — with rim brakes for Sunday. But the chain, guys, remember the chain! Will this start a spate of speculative stories about how disc brakes might have kept Boonen’s chain on in Flanders? Maybe instead of disc brake rotor guards, road bike companies should find a way to integrate something like this:
Our own Gregor Brown pointed out some uncomfortable facts in his latest Sagan story: By age 27, Boonen had won four monuments. Sagan is 27 now, and he has only won one. Maybe it’s time to go easy on cycling’s most entertaining man. So maybe he won’t be the most prolific rider ever. No big deal right? I’m sure he’ll understand if Bora cuts his reported 6 million euro contract a little for next year just to take the pressure off a little, right?