The 2011 V Moment of the Year: Paris Roubaix

The 2011 V Moment of the Year: Paris Roubaix

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The V Moment of the Year isn’t an award so much as acknowledgment of the moment during the season when the sport demonstrated the most pure example of spirit of The V. This is more than pushing hard en route to glory; the V Moment is the one point in time at which, despite a rider’s body and mind screaming to sit up in acquiescence, they instead fight on in the face of almost certain defeat.

In the first season in recent memory during which, despite some solid efforts, the story of The Needle and Blood Bank took a backseat to the story of Good Bike Racing, I am glad to report that fists were slammed on the Velominati boardroom table in defence of the many moments deserving this honor. The season saw both the domestique and the star take highest honors in the big races: a Dutchman returned to his machine after being torn to shreds on a barbed-wire fence; an Australian took the first Tour de France for the Antipodes; a Walloon took an astonishing quantity of quality races using the same tactic time and again from the season’s start to end; two riders stood out as the only big names willing to gamble on (and lose) a Merckxian long-distance charge rather than on a last-minute dash. In a season such as this, a unanimous vote was impossible and even as some V-Pints clinked in agreement, ale spilled from others at they were shaken in dissention. Bretto was last seen staggering off to the loo muttering, “Cadel [indecipherable] Galibier [censored]…” That was two weeks ago. I do hope he’s alright.

It’s a classic racing tactic; send a teammate up the road and force the other teams to work to bring back the break while you sit on, sip tea, and nibble on biscuits. In Professional Cycling, nine times out of ten, the break is brought back at the decisive moment of the race and the favorites are let off the leash to play out the finale while the lambs who have sacrificed their day toiling for another’s glory are left to limp to the finish largely forgotten.

Johan Van Summeren is one such rider, usually racing in the service of his team captains. Off to the front with you, Johan – time to bring the break back. Johan, the break has two minutes – you’d better bridge up there solo and get the other teams to chase. Hey, Johan – you don’t climb anywhere near well enough for your weight, why don’t you make sure the break that gets away before the mountains doesn’t get too much time – then beat the time limit over the cols.

Despite his role as loyal domestique, he showed promise on the brutal Pavé du Nord; in the service of Leif Hoste, he finished 10th in 2008 and in 2009 he placed 5th even after stopping and waiting for his fallen captain. And so it was to be again in 2011, though this time for a new captain – World Champion, Thor Hushovd.

The Sector of Pavé known as the Carrefour de L’Arbre is perhaps the most decisive of the race. Though it starts flat, it ends on a slight uphill stretch which makes the particularly brutal stones feel even more antagonizing. As they approached, Van Summeren was told by his team leadership that should the break not yet be caught when they enter the sector, he would be given free reign to ride for himself. They came within 11 seconds of being brought back before they began to pull away again. Sensing his chance, Van Summeren hit the Carrefour sector on the front of his group, put it in the big ring, and rode away from his companions.

His gap never seemed big enough, but he continued to fight even as he felt the favorites’ breath on his back as they overtook the remnants of his group. The story might end there, speaking of a domestique leaving the favorites at the Trouée d’Arenberg to stay away until the finish, and a good story it would be. The underdog had taken his chance and  looked to have gotten away with it when the unthinkable happened. My bike feels slower than it did a minute ago – is my brake rubbing? Aren’t the last sectors of cobbles easier than the previous ones? Then why are they so rough? Indeed, the air was popping out of his back tire for a rest; yet he still managed to hold off a late-race charge from pre-race favorite and reigning World Time Trial Champion, Fabian Cancellara. Into the finish and over the line, he sought not the reporters of the press, but his girlfriend to whom he promptly proposed. (“Most people give a ring, I give a rock.”)

For taking a chance almost 100 kilometers from the line in the hardest race on the calendar, and for holding off the fastest rider in the world while rattling over the roughest road in Europe on a flat tire, Johan van Summeren gave us the V Moment of the Year at Paris-Roubaix. Goed gedaan, meneer.

The final kilometers:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_XHQpVavWU[/youtube]

// Awards // Defining Moments // Nostalgia // Racing // The Hardmen // Tradition

  1. @JC Belgium

    @frank
    why not ‘Merckxiaans’ like in Dutch? After all, he is still a Belgian (and bilingual Dutch-French) (I’m sorry, but I don’t know the French word for sure, I think it’s Merckxian). actually, Belgians refuse to use the word, because no rider will ever achieve what Eddy Merckx did… they doubted to use it for some incredible performances of Sven Nys or Philippe Gilbert. however, mostly journalists say (and now I translate): ‘we could call it Merckxiaans, this is almost Merckiaans, à la Merckx’. I think we should respect this and call Johan’s performance ‘almost Merckxiaans’…

    I love it! Settled, then.

    @Buck Rogers

    It’s written in Dm, which I find to be the saddest of all keys. It has people weeping, instantly.

    Its very pretty.

    Its just simple lines, intertwining.

    What’s it called?

    This piece is called, “Lick My Lovepump.”

  2. @wiscot

    @frank
    Yup, it’ll be interesting to see how Faboo deals with it this year. He’ll be expecting it and team tactics may be deployed accordingly. Unless Thor wants to become the new Pozzato (in the wheel sucker sense) he’d better show his face at the front a bit more.

    And Hushovd, moving to a new team, will have the service of Hincapie. Here’s hoping Hincapie pulls a Van Summeren.

    Note: I am seeing conflicting information on Johan’s name, it being written both as Van Summeren and Vansummeren. Seems to me that Van Summeren is the more “correct” way, but as a guy who’s name is Frank but pronounced Frank, I’m not going to make a call like that. Anyway, if someone knows something firm on that, I’d love to hear it. The Flemish don’t always do things the Dutch way when it comes to language. Or anything else, for that matter.

  3. @minion

    @frank

    @marcus

    @MinionOn behalf of your country, please explain this.I always thought Kiwis weren’t very fast at shearing sheep because they never want to share a sheep with anyone?

    Wow. Just…Wow.

    Lets get back on topic please Frank, back to cycling. The Mods will get you for off topic chit chat.

    You’re just trying to dodge something that I don’t blame you trying to dodge. But I’ll have none of it. We need an explanation. And if you ever visit, stay away from my dogs and chickens.

  4. @frank

    @Buck Rogers
    Same here. It’s been a while since I saw it. Believe it or not the first time I did see it was in high school senior year in my English lit class.

  5. JVS is a great choice. No Hoogerland mentions here? Or did I miss them?

  6. @RedRanger

    @frank
    @Buck Rogers
    Same here. It’s been a while since I saw it. Believe it or not the first time I did see it was in high school senior year in my English lit class.

    Ha, my first viewing was in college, about the same time I saw A Clockwork Orange and Buckaroo Bonzai. Got to love those weekends at college, eh?

  7. @frank

    Vansummeren-Van Summeren, wow, I never doubted about that, and I found both too.
    On his official website, out of ancient times though, it is written Vansummeren, one word. (http://www.johanvansummeren.tk/) On the UCI site 2 words, on the Garmin site 1 word. But on Belgian state television and sports channels, they write Vansummeren. so I dare say one word…

    The Flemish don’t always do things the Dutch way when it comes to language. Or anything else, for that matter. –> haha, so true! Although we both put mayonnaise on fries, Belgian fries of course…

  8. @frank
    Exactly. Like Vegas, what goes on behind locked farm gates, stays behind locked farm gates.

  9. @Anjin-san

    JVS is a great choice. No Hoogerland mentions here? Or did I miss them?

    He got my vote (see quote #14) and there was a lot of love for him in a few of the responses.
    Vansummeren’s ride made me want to be a better rider.
    Hoogerland’s made me want to be a harder rider.

  10. @Buckrogers.

    “errr coins, keys, tuning fork, got to stay in tune you know…”

    pulls out aluminium foil wrapped cucumber from underpants.

    Love that movie.

    Tough to debate the result. It was a delightful win for JVS but if ever a year deserved to be a draw, this is it. Cuddles dogged chase up the Galibier OR the insane kerb jumping TT he followed it up with were equally worthy winners IMO.

    @Dr C – didn’t that driveway claim a few other victims? Most amusing, probably less so for Tommy at the time.

  11. @Spearfish

    @Anjin-san

    JVS is a great choice. No Hoogerland mentions here? Or did I miss them?

    He got my vote (see quote #14) and there was a lot of love for him in a few of the responses.
    Vansummeren’s ride made me want to be a better rider.
    Hoogerland’s made me want to be a harder rider.

    So true, so true.

    @JC Belgium

    The Flemish don’t always do things the Dutch way when it comes to language. Or anything else, for that matter. –> haha, so true! Although we both put mayonnaise on fries, Belgian fries of course…

    Beer and Frite…two things the Belgians do better than the Dutch! But you can’t touch our kroketten!

  12. @frank

    I think i’m starting to win you round on this one, is it too late to appeal the decision? Probably so.
    I would have been captain of my college debate team, but I was out riding at the time.

  13. @marcus

    @frank quite unsurprisingly, i agree with Bretto. Van Summeren’s victory was a great win for the common man, but c’mon, can you really compare it to Cadel’s entire Tour, with the higlight being his ride up the Galibier?


    C’mon! Cadel’s entire tour was pure radio racing. Taken by itself, he rode an unexciting race and stayed on the wheels of his competitors. They (Shleck, Cuntador) lost the race on their own or due to circumstances (a la Vladmir Karpets). I would have liked to see Cadel lay down some serious attacks and not just wait for the TT to gain his time.

  14. @BrianG
    Cadel’s diesel climbing is very frustrating…no acceleration, just slowly claw back and – because there’s no acceleration, drag everyone else with him. True enough, classic radio riding, but his ride up the Galibier was impressive nonetheless.

    @marcus

    @frank
    quite unsurprisingly, i agree with Bretto. Van Summeren’s victory was a great win for the common man, but c’mon, can you really compare it to Cadel’s entire Tour, with the higlight being his ride up the Galibier?
    Can’t help but think you went with JVS because of his Dutch-sounding name.

    The problem with Cadel’s ride up the Galibier is no more impressive than Andy’s 60km ride on the same stage. Deciding which is the better ride is comes down purely to which rider you like more. And in both our cases, I think we know who it is.

  15. @BrianG

    @marcus

    @frank quite unsurprisingly, i agree with Bretto. Van Summeren’s victory was a great win for the common man, but c’mon, can you really compare it to Cadel’s entire Tour, with the higlight being his ride up the Galibier?

    C’mon! Cadel’s entire tour was pure radio racing. Taken by itself, he rode an unexciting race and stayed on the wheels of his competitors. They (Shleck, Cuntador) lost the race on their own or due to circumstances (a la Vladmir Karpets). I would have liked to see Cadel lay down some serious attacks and not just wait for the TT to gain his time.

    With all due respect, Fuck off!

    Remember any of the early stages? 2nd only to Gilbert on Stage 1, victorious over Cothodor & all others on Stage 4, taking time on the Swivel Bros when they decided that going down hill fast shouldn’t be part of a Grand Tour…any of these ring a bell?

    What do you want him to do? Try a hail mary from 70k’s out? It’s a sure way for him to lose the race & when he tried that a few years back he was derided by all & sundry.

  16. @Mikael Liddy

    @BrianG

    @marcus

    @frank quite unsurprisingly, i agree with Bretto. Van Summeren’s victory was a great win for the common man, but c’mon, can you really compare it to Cadel’s entire Tour, with the higlight being his ride up the Galibier?

    C’mon! Cadel’s entire tour was pure radio racing. Taken by itself, he rode an unexciting race and stayed on the wheels of his competitors. They (Shleck, Cuntador) lost the race on their own or due to circumstances (a la Vladmir Karpets). I would have liked to see Cadel lay down some serious attacks and not just wait for the TT to gain his time.

    With all due respect, Fuck off!
    Remember any of the early stages? 2nd only to Gilbert on Stage 1, victorious over Cothodor & all others on Stage 4, taking time on the Swivel Bros when they decided that going down hill fast shouldn’t be part of a Grand Tour…any of these ring a bell?
    What do you want him to do? Try a hail mary from 70k’s out? It’s a sure way for him to lose the race & when he tried that a few years back he was derided by all & sundry.

    +1

  17. @frank
    Granted he’s never going to explode up a hill a la Contador or Andy, but did you complain when Jan climbed like that?

  18. I’m rewatching stage 18 up the Galibier.

    One hundred years ago the roads were quite rough and it was mostly goats and donkeys. Monks would offer bottles of beer to fortify the riders on their way up.

    Verified by Phil. Beer in the bidon 100 years ago.

  19. @Mikael Liddy

    @frank
    Granted he’s never going to explode up a hill a la Contador or Andy, but did you complain when Jan climbed like that?

    I did, actually. It didn’t cloud my love for him, but it most certainly infuriated me! Year after year, Pharmy would ride away from him using the same tactic, and year after year, Ulli would sit there with his butt on the saddle and not be able to accelerate.

    Like the Schlecks in the TT, I always felt Ulli should work on his acceleration because it was clearly his weak point – Armstrong would get up the road a ways, and then they’d be going the same speed for the rest of the climb.

  20. @Mikael Liddy

    Meh. His TT won the tour, period. It’s quite frustrating to see some incredible racing in the mountains be neutralized by a TT on the penultimate stage. His strategy of doing enough to be with his competitors each stage and then TT his way to victory is not the way I personally like to see grand tours play out, but it did work so I can’t take it away from him.

  21. @BrianG
    What rubbish. @Mikael Liddy is completely correct. If it was just down to the TT those other losers should have done much more much earlier to take him out of contention. Oh, that’s right – they couldn’t because they weren’t good enough.

  22. @BrianG
    I don’t understand why the ITT gets so little respect in certain quarters. They’re the best way to really sort the wheat from the chaff. It simply defies logic to suggest that Cadel can only follow wheels and then TT to victory. Whose wheel is he following on TT day? The reality is that the GC guys mark each other super closely all tour. They’ve only got a limited number of ‘max’ efforts to call on in the three weeks. Whether they use up a max effort on a mountain stage or an ITT is totally their choice.
    And the ITT is great to watch IMHO. The coverage is usually close enough that you can see so much in detail. From bike set up and riding position to changing form, sweat, suffering and the mask of pain. The recent world champs were top viewing. Tony Martin turning some massive ring like a steam train, Faboo getting ragged under the presssure….

  23. @harminator
    Not to mention that all the greats of cycling have won Grand Tours at some point by relying on their TT performances – LeMond, Anquetil, Coppi and, yes, even Eddy Merckx – so does that make it a shit tactic that renders trivial all the mountains that preceded the TT redundant? If all you got out of the 2011 Tour GC result was that Evans won it in the final time trial I think you missed a great race.

  24. @Oli
    Agreed – I think all this talk of panache and style can cloud the minds of fans. We are discussing professional bike riders who are paid to win. Nothing more.

    That being said I think Cadel’s riding was very exciting all tour.

    If people like subjective measures there are always sports like gymnastics figure skating and diving!

    I bet a lot of cycling fans who value panache are also the ones who talk about their own. “brave” bike racing performances where they led the crit field around for the first half of a race.

    Anyway Gerro will win the TDU today without winning a stage. It will be terrible

  25. Haha! The redundant was redundant!

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