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!
The big story out of Sunday’s Gent-Wevelgem was how Peter Sagan and Niki Terpstra butted heads over tactics in the winning break, and essentially cut off their noses to spite their faces. Last week I mused about the bad blood between BMC and Movistar after the Catalunya TTT. Now it’s Sagan stirring things up with Quick-Step. I get it. He is frustrated. His team is sub-par. But Flanders and Roubaix aren’t going to be very fun if Sagan is on Quick-Step’s hit list. Here’s an idea: He could invite them over and cook dinner for them on his fancy Bora stovetop. We’ve all enjoyed his recent cooking videos — maybe a nice plate of venison would mend fences? If Tom Boonen and Philippe Gilbert get a case of the trots on Flanders Sunday, we might know who’s to blame.
Orica-Scott’s Mitch Docker sat down with Fred Dreier this week in Belgium to talk about racing, Esteban Chaves, and — holy wow, his impressive mustache/mullet combo. If you’re like me, you feel pretty puny when you go to the gym with your T-Rex cyclist arms. Well, Docker has cracked the code for us cyclists. He says that his mustache gave him instant intimidation power in the gym — an Australian gym, no less. I think we’ll see a lot more ‘staches in the peloton as word spreads. I wouldn’t recommend this for the ladies, however, as it might tip off the anti-doping authorities, among other reasons.
Watch out, Strade Bianche, Flanders Classics likes dirt too
Let’s connect a few dots. Earlier this week, Gent-Wevelgem organizer Flanders Classics was in the hot seat for adding dirt to the race route — sacrilegious! Then, on Thursday, news came out that Flanders Classics was making moves to push Driedaagse De Panne out of its traditional spot on the calendar. Sounds to me like the Flanders folks have a taste for dirt, and they aren’t afraid to throw their weight around. If you start hearing rumors about Flanders Classics trying to pinch out upstart Strade Bianche (known for dirt roads, organized by RCS Sport), don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Greg Van Avermaet is on a tear, winning Omloop Het Nieuwsblad back in February, E3 Harelbeke last Friday and Gent-Wevelgem Sunday. He said in a story this week, “I feel like it’s my turn” to win Flanders. With all due respect Mr. Olympic champion, that is not how “turns” work. You’ve gone two turns in a row — technically speaking, Sunday is not your turn at all. It’s Sagan’s. Or maybe Boonen’s (his teammate Gilbert just won De Panne, so you know, not his turn). If Van Avermaet wins on Sunday, we can (almost) confirm that he’s not the type to wait in line for the pasta buffet at the race hotel.
Philippe Gilbert and his Quick-Step team are stoked for cobbled classics — his manager Patrick Lefevere went so far as to say that Gilbert is “back where he belongs” on the cobbles. This is such a ‘Belgian guy’ move it borders on parody. Lefevere is telling us that Gilbert, one of only two men to sweep all three Ardennes classics in the same year, a world champion in 2012, and twice winner of Giro di Lombardia, belongs on the cobbles? Sure, he had a handful of wins like Omloop twice and De Panne this year, but come on. Gilbert will have to win Flanders on Sunday to convince me that this is anything more than pre-race gamesmanship to take pressure off Boonen. Even that video of him dropping the kid in sneakers isn’t convincing enough.
Chantal Blaak rolled her eyes at our reporter Kristen Legan when asked why Boels-Dolmans has not dominated this year’s Women’s WorldTour. Blaak heads to the Tour of Flanders as the team leader. If Blaak is annoyed, if her team is annoyed, they are going to shred the race apart and put to bed this notion that Boels 2016 is a much finer vintage than 2017. So to the women’s peloton: We are sorry that Kristen had to go and make Chantal mad.
This week Jarlinson Pantano was heralded as the key climbing lieutenant who will help Alberto Contador win big this July. He’s Contador’s new best friend! Just gives you the warm fuzzies, doesn’t it. But ipso-facto, doesn’t that make Pantano Chris Froome’s worst enemy? Boy, Sky is going to have a lot of Colombians to keep track of at the Tour this year between him, Nairo Quintana, and others. Maybe time for the Brits to brush up on their Spanish curse words?