Gent-Wevelgem Photo: Jim Fryer / BrakeThrough Media

The Great Equalizer

by / / 32 posts

The wind-swept break in last weekend’s Gent-Wevelgem was a perfect example of the bike being the great equalizer. Stijn Vandenbergh, 2 meters tall and Luca Paolini, 1.74 meters tall were both there. And until the last few kilometers, no one would bet against either.

I’m always cheering for the tall professionals. I’m no pro but I am tall; it’s all I have in common, actually. In a sport where the average professional might be more Van Avermaet than Van Summeren in stature, it really does not matter. Had Nairo Quintana been in that break, he would have been just as much of a threat as any of the others. Not being fat is a given in cycling but beyond that, all bets are off. The question is how fast can one make the bike go? Short femurs, flat feet, no calves, little hands, gibbon-like arms (cough, strack, cough), horsey teeth, all are welcome on the bike.

As much as I have scoffed at Bradley Wiggins’ chances in Paris-Roubaix, mostly due to his twiggo-sized body, he can make his bike go very fast, again and again. He cannot be discounted.

We have all seen the highly unlikely cyclist disappear up the road ahead of us. I’ve learned the hard way to keep my mouth shut and judge no one by their short femurs. The same holds true for old bastards, but that is another article.

Luca Paolini showed what makes a successful racer. As he rolled over the finish line he pointed to his head and his heart. It was mind over matter: crash a few times, change a bike, solo bridge up to the break, get dropped by the break, chase forever to get back on and finally win from a select group that contained two Quick Step teammates. Bravo. Body type in cycling is no matter; it is all heart and mind.

// Musings from the V-Bunker

  1. Yeah, but it is the hills that bring the fatties back to earth so to speak.

  2. Nice one Gianni, yes, there really is no one type in cycling. Being somewhere in the middle of the charts, I think, gives one the option of being an all rounder. But if you are at either of the extremes then you generally might be excluded from one discipline or another… I do not think Nairo would have won the sprint?

    Man that was a fun race to watch. I loved the shots of the peloton canted over like they were on an off camber slope and Poalini took home a great win.

  3. It was a great race.

  4. Vandenbergh may be tall, but he’s got to be one of the least tactically adept riders in the peleton! That’s the second classic EQS have botched where Terpstra has been their strongest rider in the selection, but he & VdB seem unable to work out how to win…not to mention his unfortunate timing when it comes to removing his radio earpiece.

  5. @gianni. I learned about judging others in my first ( and only to date) TT. I was 19, fit lean and had muscles in my piss. I signed on in front of a guy the wrong side of 50 with a jersey on that looked like he did his ironing on an upturned wok. It was a serious beer belly. I smiled inside, safe in the knowledge that I wouldn’t come in last. He caught me for a minute at around the 10 k mark and I never saw him again. He could bang the 53 all day long, like a metronome. I came in last

  6. We have all seen the highly unlikely cyclist disappear up the road ahead of us. I’ve learned the hard way to keep my mouth shut and judge no one by their short femurs. The same holds true for old bastards, but that is another article.

    Went on a ride Sunday with some folks I know through work. Four in the group, 3 looking Mucho Pro and one in sneakers on flat pedals. One of the people asked him if he was riding or running.

    Lets face it, we Keepers wrote the book on judging a book by its cover; but this kid rode like a storm. If he’d been on a bike anywhere near as amazeballs as our collective carbone di2’d-out states of the art (well, I was on Campa 10) he’s have been dropping our asses like yesterday’s paper.

    Fucking kid could lay the hammer down. So fun to see. Judgement repealed.

  7. Body type in cycling is no matter; it is all heart and mind.

    Poetry.

    If you ignore Paris-Roubaix, that is.

    Vandenbergh may be tall, but he’s got to be one of the least tactically adept riders in the peleton!

    If you have ever ridden with me, you might start to draw a connection between being tall and being a moron tactically. Its because drafting makes fuck all difference to us (no use drafting a mouse) so we ride on the front all the time and get confused as soon as the pace changes.

  8. @Mikael Liddy

    Vandenbergh may be tall, but he’s got to be one of the least tactically adept riders in the peleton! That’s the second classic EQS have botched where Terpstra has been their strongest rider in the selection, but he & VdB seem unable to work out how to win…not to mention his unfortunate timing when it comes to removing his radio earpiece.

    Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory !

  9. @frank

    Body type in cycling is no matter; it is all heart and mind.

    Poetry.

    If you ignore Paris-Roubaix, that is.

    Vandenbergh may be tall, but he’s got to be one of the least tactically adept riders in the peleton!

    If you have ever ridden with me, you might start to draw a connection between being tall and being a moron tactically. Its because drafting makes fuck all difference to us (no use drafting a mouse) so we ride on the front all the time and get confused as soon as the pace changes.

    If you ever came to the right side of the equator I might have a chance!

  10. @Mikael Liddy

    @frank

    Body type in cycling is no matter; it is all heart and mind.

    Poetry.

    If you ignore Paris-Roubaix, that is.

    Vandenbergh may be tall, but he’s got to be one of the least tactically adept riders in the peleton!

    If you have ever ridden with me, you might start to draw a connection between being tall and being a moron tactically. Its because drafting makes fuck all difference to us (no use drafting a mouse) so we ride on the front all the time and get confused as soon as the pace changes.

    If you ever came to the right side of the equator I might have a chance!

    Perfect time to get a commitment from @frank and @Gianni and all to come for the TDU and associated Cogals. Of which there WILL be two.

    Surely the KT2015 wouldn’t have sucked much cash out of the holiday budget !?!?

  11. @Barracuda

    @Mikael Liddy

    @frank

    Body type in cycling is no matter; it is all heart and mind.

    Poetry.

    If you ignore Paris-Roubaix, that is.

    Vandenbergh may be tall, but he’s got to be one of the least tactically adept riders in the peleton!

    If you have ever ridden with me, you might start to draw a connection between being tall and being a moron tactically. Its because drafting makes fuck all difference to us (no use drafting a mouse) so we ride on the front all the time and get confused as soon as the pace changes.

    If you ever came to the right side of the equator I might have a chance!

    Perfect time to get a commitment from @frank and @Gianni and all to come for the TDU and associated Cogals. Of which there WILL be two.

    Surely the KT2015 wouldn’t have sucked much cash out of the holiday budget !?!?

    perhaps not, however the impending double arrival has ensured that the holiday budget doesn’t exist!

  12. Title photo showing some great whale shark action also @Gianni

  13. As we were watching that race I said to my cycling buddy Tim that I’d come to the conclusion that even in a box of hammers Vandenbergh would not be the sharpest.

  14. Love that picture. GT looks fucking cool.

  15. @frank

    Body type in cycling is no matter; it is all heart and mind.

    Poetry.

    If you ignore Paris-Roubaix, that is.

    Vandenbergh may be tall, but he’s got to be one of the least tactically adept riders in the peleton!

    If you have ever ridden with me, you might start to draw a connection between being tall and being a moron tactically. Its because drafting makes fuck all difference to us (no use drafting a mouse) so we ride on the front all the time and get confused as soon as the pace changes.

    I used to have 2 riding buddies well over 6 foot and near 50% heavier than me. Drafting them for me was great, for them drafting behind me was near useless. Hills were my domain but in the wind it was a different matter. I’d get blown all over the place like a fallen leaf and they would be rock solid (pun intended).

  16. @Teocalli

    @Teocalli

    @frank

    Body type in cycling is no matter; it is all heart and mind.

    Poetry.

    If you ignore Paris-Roubaix, that is.

    Vandenbergh may be tall, but he’s got to be one of the least tactically adept riders in the peleton!

    If you have ever ridden with me, you might start to draw a connection between being tall and being a moron tactically. Its because drafting makes fuck all difference to us (no use drafting a mouse) so we ride on the front all the time and get confused as soon as the pace changes.

    I used to have 2 riding buddies well over 6 foot and near 50% heavier than me. Drafting them for me was great, for them drafting behind me was near useless. Hills were my domain but in the wind it was a different matter. I’d get blown all over the place like a fallen leaf and they would be rock solid (pun intended).

    I’ve oft longed for deep-section wheels. They just look so pro. But with some of the crosswinds I have to put up with, some of my rides might end just like Hoogerland’s didn’t. I’ve finally found a sport where my (lack of) size is generally an asset, but riding in a crosswind is just no fun.

  17. check these, superb photography http://www.yarak.cc/gentwevelgem

  18. Best race I’ve seen in a long while – absolute cracker!

    Paolini was this fucking close (holds thumb and index finger 1mm apart and peers through the gap) to being dropped! And the little shit held on to bring it back and then his move to break away from the group was just so slick – like a Michael Jordan stutter step followed by a drive through the lane. Loved it!

  19. Etixx really do need to sort their shit but their embarrassment of riches is not always an easy problem to deal with in the classics. We’ve seen plenty of teams lose races from a numerical advantage because its so much harder to shift tactics when Plan A gets wobbly and you have second guess a team mate’s sensations. Maybe Terpstra would have won G-W and the Omloop if he was alone in the selection. Maybe Vandenbergh would have too. I thought he looked awesome in G-W and could have been a threat if he wasn’t looking around for Terpstra.

  20. 1.72 meters here, so I gotta love a win by Paolini. Or Gerrans, Pozzivivo, Nairo, or one of the other vertically challenged PROs. Coming from a childhood of mainly U.S. balls sports, where size was a big factor, I’m thrilled to now be a part of a sport where height isn’t a big deal. Oh, and I also love Paolini (and Cavendish!) because no matter how skinny they get, they always look a bit stout and barrel-chested. That’s me. No matter how slim my waist, I’m just not a skinny dude. Slim, maybe, but I’m never going to look like a Schleck or Wiggins.

    Also, on the topic of Mr. Vandenbergh’s intelligence, can I bring up his camouflage station wagon? What would Clark Griswold think about a non-wood paneled family truckster?

  21. @ChrisO

    As we were watching that race I said to my cycling buddy Tim that I’d come to the conclusion that even in a box of hammers Vandenbergh would not be the sharpest.

    Seemingly…yet, I’m going to pick him to win either P-R or Ronde. He is always at the end of these races, maybe if all the other QS teammates are in the ditch and he gets the go-code. He might be better at crushing souls that puzzling out team tactics. He might just have the correct amount of Dumb. I like this guy.

  22. @Ron

    1.72 meters here, so I gotta love a win by Paolini. Or Gerrans, Pozzivivo, Nairo, or one of the other vertically challenged PROs. Coming from a childhood of mainly U.S. balls sports, where size was a big factor, I’m thrilled to now be a part of a sport where height isn’t a big deal. Oh, and I also love Paolini (and Cavendish!) because no matter how skinny they get, they always look a bit stout and barrel-chested. That’s me. No matter how slim my waist, I’m just not a skinny dude. Slim, maybe, but I’m never going to look like a Schleck or Wiggins.

    Also, on the topic of Mr. Vandenbergh’s intelligence, can I bring up his camouflage station wagon? What would Clark Griswold think about a non-wood paneled family truckster?

    I fucking love his station wagon! That’s what made think this guy was a badass.

  23. Can we expect you to be cruising the big island in one some day soon? Or DSing for Frank next year on the Big H. Climb?

    Also, how about Peeters and his huge head and slicked hair? That guy is looking more and more like he’s in the Belgian mob.

  24. @frank

    If you have ever ridden with me, you might start to draw a connection between being tall and being a moron tactically. Its because drafting makes fuck all difference to us (no use drafting a mouse) so we ride on the front all the time and get confused as soon as the pace changes.

    I must say that riding with you was a nice change for me, since most people I come across on the road (that aren’t my biological brothers) aren’t nearly big enough to poke a hole in the breeze for me (1.87m).

  25. @Gianni

    @ChrisO

    As we were watching that race I said to my cycling buddy Tim that I’d come to the conclusion that even in a box of hammers Vandenbergh would not be the sharpest.

    Seemingly…yet, I’m going to pick him to win either P-R or Ronde. He is always at the end of these races, maybe if all the other QS teammates are in the ditch and he gets the go-code. He might be better at crushing souls that puzzling out team tactics. He might just have the correct amount of Dumb. I like this guy.

    Seems Lefevre doesn’t quite share your confidence in the big man, here’s what he had to say after Sunday’s race.

    Lefevere didn’t feel comfortable with having only Vandenbergh in front. The giant Belgian isn’t known to be a strong finisher and Lefevere had other cards to play in the other groups.

    “We had Stijn in front but he never won a race [Vandenbergh won a stage and the overall in the Tour of Ireland in 2007]. In the next group we had Trentin, Stybar, Terpstra and Nikolas [Maes]. With Stijn we were chanceless. With Terpstra in the group our situation improved.

    Source – http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/terpstra-makes-the-best-of-a-challenging-gent-wevelgem

  26. @Mikael Liddy

    @Gianni

    “We had Stijn in front but he never won a race [Vandenbergh won a stage and the overall in the Tour of Ireland in 2007]. In the next group we had Trentin, Stybar, Terpstra and Nikolas [Maes]. With Stijn we were chanceless. With Terpstra in the group our situation improved.

    Source – http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/terpstra-makes-the-best-of-a-challenging-gent-wevelgem

    Ouch. Doesn’t pull any punches.

  27. @frank

    Another good article posted just precisely as when you intended it (of course). Visualize the vision, do the vision. I did move my saddle and seatpost this past Tuesday, 5mm up and 10mm forward. Feels as though I gained some unlocked potential energy — over the spindle. The rails are now at the max position line on the rear. I may evolve to 0 setback this year. Experiment.

  28. @RobSandy

    @Mikael Liddy

    @Gianni

    “We had Stijn in front but he never won a race [Vandenbergh won a stage and the overall in the Tour of Ireland in 2007]. In the next group we had Trentin, Stybar, Terpstra and Nikolas [Maes]. With Stijn we were chanceless. With Terpstra in the group our situation improved.

    Source – http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/terpstra-makes-the-best-of-a-challenging-gent-wevelgem

    Ouch. Doesn’t pull any punches.

    Jesus, that is cold. I might have to rethink my bold VDB choice for the Ronde or P-R.

    It is good Boonen is out, QS has a few potential winners already. It does confuse things when three guys on your team could win a classic. Trek needs to hire one. They are flat fucked now.

  29. It is good Boonen is out, QS has a few potential winners already.

    When Tomke went down, I immediately said Stybar is smiling, he will win Roubaix now.

  30. @gilly

    @gianni. I learned about judging others in my first ( and only to date) TT. I was 19, fit lean and had muscles in my piss. I signed on in front of a guy the wrong side of 50 with a jersey on that looked like he did his ironing on an upturned wok. It was a serious beer belly. I smiled inside, safe in the knowledge that I wouldn’t come in last. He caught me for a minute at around the 10 k mark and I never saw him again. He could bang the 53 all day long, like a metronome. I came in last

    I remember when I started racing I didn’t rate the older grey haired guys (been young and fit myself ) but I soon came to respect the wily and cunning riders they were. What they didn’t have in fitness they made up for in experience and doing just enough work in a bunch. I learned a lot watching how they rode (especially when I was the one being dropped)!

  31. @Kieran

    @gilly

    @gianni. I learned about judging others in my first ( and only to date) TT. I was 19, fit lean and had muscles in my piss. I signed on in front of a guy the wrong side of 50 with a jersey on that looked like he did his ironing on an upturned wok. It was a serious beer belly. I smiled inside, safe in the knowledge that I wouldn’t come in last. He caught me for a minute at around the 10 k mark and I never saw him again. He could bang the 53 all day long, like a metronome. I came in last

    I remember when I started racing I didn’t rate the older grey haired guys (been young and fit myself ) but I soon came to respect the wily and cunning riders they were. What they didn’t have in fitness they made up for in experience and doing just enough work in a bunch. I learned a lot watching how they rode (especially when I was the one being dropped)!

    Luckily @kieran it’s a lesson that’s learned quickly!

  32. Used to do a lot of riding in the ever present wind of Oklahoma… It wasn’t fun but being 1.9m and “big boned” and climbing hills in SE PA is no fun either…

Leave a Reply

Skip to toolbar