2013 was The Year of the Anti-V. In every other year, the Velominati Cogclave to decide the V and The Anit-V awards is full of curses and thrown pint glasses, usually in defense of each of our chosen V-Moments. 2013 saw the same scene, except this time it was for us having too many competing Anti-V Moments and when it came time to discuss the V-Moment, we sat around, staring at our cogs like we were first learning to shift gear.
Was there actually a V-Moment of the Year this time around?
It was a year that started strongly with The V. It flowed through the early season races, and as we made our way to the first Monument of Milan Sanremo, it unleashed its fury upon all those who dared start the race. The V can be an intangible thing, manifesting itself in other Rules as it did that day in the form of Rule #9.
As The V is wont to do on some occasions, however, its ferociousness drove back the intensity of the racing and the finale was almost anti-climactic to the scenes witnessed during the race. Then we were into the cobbled classics and again we were witness to the iron fist of The Nine, though this time in the form of cold but dry weather. Brett and Frank were there along with Pavé Cycling Classics and the Keeper’s Tour 2013 attendees to feel its awesome might first-hand. Cold cobblestones are less forgiving than warm ones, in the sense that the Emperor is less forgiving than Darth Vader.
The classics closed with excellent but forgettable racing in the Ardennes Classics, even if Dan Martin won a magnificent Liege. But then the season faltered; first with the Giro which was a complete snooze-fest, starting with Brad Wiggins guzzling a bottle of expired Anti-V before riding a slip-n-slide down a mountainside, then with Nibali riding so well we had not choice but to resent his dominance.
Then the Tour warm-up races passed under the radar as they normally do before Froome put us all to sleep at the Tour in the same manner Nibali did at the Giro. Both Nibali and Froome’s wins came at no fault of their own, but let me momentarily show some dirty Schlecky Love and state that both those brother better meditate extensively on the V and Nibali better show up fit at the Tour because the lap around France really needs some competition for the top step – I’m tired of resorting to watching the fight for second and third to try to find anything interesting.
A few mid-season races followed before what would have been an absolutely gripping Vuelta were it not for the fact that it was the Vuelta and only a handful of us even noticed that a 41-year-old American wound up winning. A Pacific-Northwestener, no less. That gives the good ol’ You Ess of Aye a win in every Grand Tour. But because of its unfortunate nature, no one gives two shits about the Vuelta – not even enough enough shits to garner the victor a contract for 2014.
Then the Worlds rolled around and the Anti-V was once again in full bloom. The Brits, whom you would think could ride in the rain, all fell off and called their mothers to bid them a good day before retiring to the team car. Then the Spanish had things dialed in before they all dropped the soap and let a Portuguese rider become the least-deserving World Champion since Ale Ballan.
I don’t want to sound too negative, but that’s a lot of Anti-V, right there. Loads of it.
In the final analysis, it comes down as usual to the Cobbled Classics. I was buying frites in the field by the Oude Kwaremont when I looked up and saw Boonen riding a wheelchair out of a hospital. Bugger that, I thought. Probably some sappy retrospective. Nope, Tom boned a fucking signpost and ruined his season. But then Fabs and Sags went shoulder to shoulder on the Paterberg, which was a pure, unadulterated showing of the V. Two men well versed in suffering and pain, drag-racing up a near-vertical cobbled lane. After the race, Fabian stated that he didn’t really attack Sagan; they had both gone full gas up the hill – he had just gone full gas for longer. That’s an “Instant Classic Hardman Quote” if I’ve ever heard one.
Then it was on to Roubaix the next week. Fabian crashed a few times in training, which is really embarrassing, especially if you’re Swiss and you know chicks are looking at you. The race itself saw an awesome fight, with Faboo off his best and the field knowing it. They took the fight to him, and he was outnumbered all the way. Omega-Pharma Quickstep entered the critical Carrefour de l’Arbre with two riders – Vandenbergh and Stybar – in the four-man group with Fabs and Sep Vanmarcke each to fend for themselves. Sadly, the drunken crowd accidentally intervened and knocked both OPQS riders out of contention.
From the Carrefour emerged two riders, and they fought it out in the famous Roubaix velodrome.
We are often witness to Cancellara laying down the V, but we are rarely witness to him laying on the ground after an effort. He was Off Form but On V that day; he raced with his mind and used it to get what he needed from his body. Into the Velodrome, he didn’t lead as is customary for him. He played cat-and-mouse like every other intelligent rider might. He waited. He even used the banking of the velodrome to his advantage.
He had an imperfect body that day, but he was more determined than any other rider to win. And, through a near-crippling application of the V, he prevailed against stronger riders who had the courage to take the fight directly to him. That, my fellow Velominati, was the V-Moment of the Year.
And, Coppi New Year to everyone.
The Runner-Up Moment: Fabs drops Sagan in a drag race up the Paterberg.