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!
With classics season starting in a matter of days, it’s time to start recognizing riders for pulling tough-guy moves, like true Belgians do. It’s only natural that the first “Belgian Guy” nod goes to a real, honest-to-god Belgian guy, Tommeke! Tom Boonen shrugged off a high-speed crash in Tour of Oman stage 1: “I was furious. Not because of the crash, but because I couldn’t sprint.” Oh, and also, let the record show that Boonen was riding a disc-brake bike, and he did not fret about scorching hot, razor sharp brake rotors. “It’s a small setback,” he shrugged about the patch of road rash on his back.
So Andrew Talansky is now a mellower, less agro “Pit Bull.” I too can be a grumpy guy sometimes, so I can sympathize, and I also know that you need the right friends to help you stay chill and happy — it’s a process. So my suggestion to the Cannondale – Drapac sports psych staff is to have Talansky and Taylor Phinney room together. Phinney is possibly the most laid-back dude in the peloton. Surely that’ll help keep Talansky in the right state of mind for the Tour. Added benefit: If a little bit of Pit Bull persona rubs off on Phinney, he might go on a tear in the spring classics!
Ahead of this week’s Tour of Oman, Alexander Kristoff told us that he’s ready to return to the top form that won him Tour of Flanders 2015, explaining that illness kept him off his game last season. The Norwegian gave a little hint about how he’ll stay healthy and fit in 2017: “There is a lot of German at the dinner table, especially in my group. I don’t understand what they say!” If Kristoff can’t ask Rick Zabel to pass the potatoes, he is probably reducing the risk of catching a flu bug at dinner. Maybe he’ll just start eating alone? Plus, he’ll lose some weight — it’s a veteran move, since Flanders added the fearsome Muur climb back to the route this season.
Armstrong tried to get the U.S. government’s $100 million lawsuit against him thrown out, but a judge decided it must go to trial. I won’t hazard a guess on how the trial will go. I will, however, wildly speculate about what happens if Lance gets slapped with that massive penalty: Expect his “WeDu” event series to go nationwide so he can start digging out of that financial hole. Remember our story from awhile back about how USA Cycling wants to expand to not-so-competitive events like fondos and gravel rides? Yep, you guessed it: In a bizarre twist of fate, Lance could once again give USAC a pick-me-up.
Has the world gone mad? The hilly Amstel Gold Classic flattened its final kilometers by eliminating its last trip up the vaunted Cauberg, and Paris-Roubaix has added an uphill cobblestone sector (gasp), Solesmes, to its pan-flat parcours. What’s next — will the Tour de France become a one-week series of criteriums? Will they all be riding disc brakes? Is nothing sacred!?
With Tour of Qatar cancelled and Tour of Turkey on the rocks, the UCI’s new additions to the men’s WorldTour aren’t looking so good. That’s two out of 10 races in trouble, if you’re keeping score at home. Knowing the longstanding beef between Tour de France organizer ASO and the UCI (a little over a year ago, ASO threatened to withdraw its races from the WorldTour), I have to imagine a nice glass of Champagne was smugly swigged somewhere in Paris Wednesday night.
Who’s to say Thibaut Pinot doesn’t read VeloNews? Unlikely, yes, but the same day we published a story about how Romain Bardet is France’s golden boy, Pinot turns around and wins the Ruta del Sol queen stage ahead of Contador. Maybe a little motivation for Pinot? A little rivalry developing? Don’t worry Thibaut, we still remember your podium finish at the 2014 Tour, and hell, the French drought at the Giro — back to 1989 when Fignon won — is almost as long as that in the Tour. Pinot is focused on the Italian grand tour, not the Tour de France, this season. Maybe this is his year to prove that he’s France’s true GC man. Bon courage!