Velominati Super Prestige: Luik-Bastenaken-Luik 2012

Velominati Super Prestige: Luik-Bastenaken-Luik 2012

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I thought I’d take this opportunity to move en danseuse on Rule #89 and to refer to Liege-Bastogne-Liege by its less-common Flemish name. It also draws into sharp relief that fact that while Dutch may be every bit as expressive and subtle as French, it certainly sounds less sexy.

Some races seem to foster a romanticism that other races of equal difficulty simply can’t match. Sometimes it is due to the parcours of the event, but many times it has to do with its history and the tales of superhuman effort that capivate our imaginations and builds on itself. The last few editions of this event have left something to be desired in terms of its legend, with the event falling to riders with less-than-pristine records. But that probably only means we’re due for another epic, so buckle in. Perhaps snow is in the forecast, or perhaps the hearts of the early break foil the computers dictating the pace to the field and it stays away. Or perhaps we wind up with a nail-biting sprint finish between the big names. One thing is for sure; the final of this race is perhaps the most difficult of any race on the calendar, with a combination of kilometers and climbs taking its pound of flesh from any who venture towards the line.

La Doyenne is a monument, and as such the winner of this event will win the customary symbol pack and earn the right to comment for the remainder of the season with the LBL Winner’s comment badge. Check the start list, watch the countdown timer, and try not to Delgado this beautiful race. Bon chance.

// Velominati Super Prestige

  1. Sheer luck got me on the top step, with the two odds-on favorites not featuring.
    I do like my little Belgian flag-colored Belgium icon, though. Unité fait la force!

  2. Hmmm, squeezed in to the top 20…

  3. @JC Belgium

    Are you joking ?

    Gasparotto – 30 years old, won a couple of Giro stages 5 years ago and suddenly turns around with a win and a podium in one week.
    Iglinsky – 31 years old, never podiumed at a classic let alone a monument.

    If we have learned anything from the doping years it is that unbelievable results are just that – unbelievable.
    Unless it is through tactical reasons riders in the later parts of their careers do not suddenly switch from also-rans to top dogs.

    Rodriguez I would not lump into the same category, although I would not be susprised to be wrong, given his history of riding with suspect teams. Rodriguez has the riding and wining history and we know the Fleche finish is perfect for him. Which is also why I don’t suspect Boonen.

    In their case even if they are using something it isn’t a case of turning a donkey into a thoroughbred.

  4. @ChrisO
    c’mon, don’t be so cynical. Iglinsky may not have doped.

    He might have won it Kazakh-style by simply buying the win.

    Disclaimer: I love Vino. Sorry Vino.

  5. @JC Belgium
    I think @ChrisO says it very well here; whether Boonen is on the juice or not, he has now been at the top for a decade by my count, with a steady rise up. He’d won three Roubaix, two RVV’s, a Worlds, the green jersey, and races in every season and in (almost) every stage race I can think of. His amazing season my have been fueled by something, but this is not a case of incredible transformation.

    The Astana team’s rise this spring was, on the other hand, astounding, to say nothing of their winning riders. They came out of nowhere, when their team has already had a positive test and in the midst of reports of new drugs being around.

    Personally, the doping thing is very complicated, and it’s hard to find a line to stand on with the matter. In the end, for me, what bothers me is the donkeys into thoroughbreds thing and riders who perform like this. How much time did he take on nibbles in the last 5km? Was it 45 seconds? Whatever it was, it was a lot to take out of one of the best riders in the world.

    @ChrisO
    J-Rod has really only been *this* good for two seasons. And his rise was quite sudden, if I’m not mistaken. But a few more years and I’ll change my tune; for now, though, he’s a bit Chiapuccian. Another rider I loved, by the way. (accusing someone of doping is not the same as saying I dislike the rider.)

    @Marcus
    I didnt like Veinos LBL win, but I like that doping little fuck as well. He’s got panache and loads of V. And we all know you can’t dope for V – that stuff comes from the heart.

  6. @frank

    @ChrisO
    J-Rod has really only been *this* good for two seasons. And his rise was quite sudden, if I’m not mistaken. But a few more years and I’ll change my tune; for now, though, he’s a bit Chiapuccian. Another rider I loved, by the way. (accusing someone of doping is not the same as saying I dislike the rider.)

    JRod’s potential was recognized before he broke out; the problem for him was that he was toiling in Piti’s shadow at Caisse d’Epargne. Given their overlapping characteristics, it’s no wonder he wasn’t getting results. Having said that, I have a hunch that he doesn’t naturally have the engine to win monument-length races. But that’s nothing more than speculation on my part.

  7. @frank
    How much time did he take on nibbles in the last 5km? Was it 45 seconds? Whatever it was, it was a lot to take out of one of the best riders in the world.

    Yeah it was but Nibbles bonked. There was a big bunch only 15s behind him.

  8. @Frank
    With J Rod I wouldn’t put the house on him – anyone who rode with Saunier-Duval and Caisse d’Epagne in the last 10 years has to be looked at carefully, and obviously Katusha is now added to the list.

    Having said that, I wouldn’t say he had made a sudden rise from nowhere. He’s got pretty consistent Ardennes form going back through to 2008, four top 10 finishes at grand tours, three Vuelta mountain jerseys and a bronze in the world championships.

    In fact I’d almost say it suggests he’s not doping – if he had been then he would probably have done even better.

  9. We should just assume that anyone who ever wins a race must be on the juice, and the rest of the field is squeaky clean.

  10. @Oli

    We should just assume that anyone who ever wins a race must be on the juice, and the rest of the field is squeaky clean.

    Unless the winner is Belgian – because then they’re obviously at one with the V.

  11. @Oli

    We should just assume that anyone who ever wins a race must be on the juice, and the rest of the field is squeaky clean too.

    Comic value of your post aside, I fixed a technicality with it.

    And here we get into the greasy underbelly of Cycling as entertainment (not sport): with a lack of evidence showing decreasing speeds, I think we have to assume the juice is still flowing. So then it comes back to Fignon’s beautiful statements about drugs “then” and drugs “now” – in his day, there were drugs that could win someone a race, but there were no drugs that could turn a domestique into a champion. Modern drugs do that, and that bothers me.

    I like watching two riders fight for a win; I like for them to show weakness, and to overcome it. I like to see them battle and have one come out the winner. I don’t like to see a rider just walk away with a win without having to really suffer to get it. Its hard to see from television, of course, but thats what makes great racing for me.

    In the end, I prefer that they don’t dope, but I’m not a Pro, I’m not in the environment, and I know enough about drug testing to know a lack of positive tests doesn’t mean they’re clean. Those things all tell me I can’t comment or make a judgement on whether they are doping, clean, or what. I can only judge the quality of the racing.

    Moving past LBL, Roubaix is a great example. Faboo won a few years back in similar style to Boonen, but in my view, Boonen’s win was fantastic and Faboos was lame. Part of that is my preference for Boonen, but part is also the fact that Boonen struggled – he didn’t make much ground up for much of the break and even lost ground on the Carrefour secteur. It wasn’t until the riders behind decided they’d been beaten and started racing for 2nd place that he opened up a big gap. Faboo, for all his strength, just rode away – kept opening a bigger gap, and the race was over. It wasn’t exciting racing. Boonen’s win was nailbiting to the end, depsite the longer breakaway.

  12. @frank
    Boonen may have lost time at Carrefour (I thought he gained there?) but he eked out seconds on almost every other secteur – on the whole his time was stable on the tarmac and the gap opened every time he hit the cobbles, although I agree with you the gap did open up at the end there when the chasers realised they weren’t catching him.

    I don’t see how that makes Cancellara’s win “lame” though, even though I understand your “logic”. I am getting used to your oddly fanciful way of viewing racing though.

  13. @frank
    Disagree. The race was over as soon as Boonen went. No more suspense. All over. Same as Fab, but we all know he had a motor to help.

  14. @frank
    @Oli
    @brett

    Watch the moment of the break again. Boonen didn’t go, Terpstra did and Boonen followed his wheel. The fact that Terpstra exploded in the process shows how hard he went off, but I feel like he hasn’t received any kudos for picking just the right time to jump (just as Pozzato rolled off the front, so he would find it hard to latch on) and going so hard…

    It was a beautiful move.

  15. @Marcus
    I agree. And the fact that the others all looked at each other gave them the first 18-20 seconds…

  16. @Oli, @Marcus
    Fair enough; by the time I watched it, I had already been at the roadside, so my objectivity is even more suspect than usual. I’ll concede the point.

  17. @frank
    You always write well on the subject of doping, Frank. I think most of us “prefer that they don’t dope” and also that we like to see tough, close racing or definitive displays of strength or fight.

    I think its a significant problem for us (and the great masses) if we can’t believe in the integrity of “the man in the arena”. For the riders…its staggering (to me) if they haven’t learned that lies kept for years, then exposed, are more damaging than lies exposed immediately. Eg Ullrich. I expect this year’s samples will be kept until more advanced testing is available to determine their cleanliness. Gasparotto and Iglinsky know this as well as Goss and Boonen.

    But I have a bigger problem with the ease in which we suspect riders depending on their nationality and team. The stats aren’t convincing and they don’t exactly present a case of “what has been will always be”. Individuals are capable of acting on their own, regardless of team and country.

    JVS, Nuyens, Goss = no suspicion VS J Rod, Gasparotto, Iglinski. All unexpected yet we’re happy to call wheelsucker before doper. Why do Boonen and Gilbert raise no serious suspicion?

    I’m an idealist. Give me a pos+ test and I’m happy to change my mind. Its the completely unsubstantiated speculation that bugs me.

  18. @harminator
    The main trouble is that history has shown us comprehensively that the testing doesn’t work. Most of the rides who are considered dopers have never returned a positive test. Most riders who have admitted to it have never returned a positive test – or if they did, they had passed countless tests before returning a positive one. The system doesn’t work, so all we have left is speculation.

    I also think we’ve seen enough about the systematic doping regimens at teams and know enough about the histories of the team management who set the tone inside a team to not be outside reason to point at certain teams – especially the ones with recent (as in this season) doping cases – to suspect the other riders in the team. Certainly when we also know there are new drugs available. Can they act individually? Absolutely and I personally believe everyone is responsible for their own decisions. But we also know enough to realize that they often don’t act alone and are subject to peer pressure and cultural complacence.

    And, as I said before, since we’re not in the system (most of us aren’t, anyway), we just don’t know and we aren’t informed to pass judgement on it. Which isn’t to say we don’t or that we don’t have opinions on the matter.

    To your point, I think JVS is not subject to undue suspicion (aside from any normal amount you choose to or choose not to place on the peloton at large) because he has shown year after year to be close in Roubaix, but always in the service of another rider. Last year just happened to work out for him, but it didn’t show any atypical performance from other years.

    Nuyens, on the contrary, is for me the typical example of who either does not dope at all or dopes a lot – I can’t decide which. His performances are very erratic with brief bursts of brilliance.

    I have no opinion on Goss. Seemed to be in the right place at the right time, nothing crazy unusual. The rider doesn’t inspire me and I don’t think about him a lot.

    The jury is out on J-Rod; I feel his rise was abrupt, but others have made other arguments and we’ll have to see if he holds on for a few more years or fades away.

    Gasparotto, Iglinski – well, I think we’ve said enough about them and why we suspect them more than others. On the surface, they are classic examples of doping, but I certainly admit it is possible they just got it absolutely right and had amazing form and had their tactics perfect. That would be awesome.

  19. @frank
    Sure. All good points. I’m not pointing the finger at you, Frank. In the absence of fact I guess it comes down to the viewer. I guess I’m more comfortable with being wrong as a naive believer. Cynicism never appeals to me – It doesn’t seem particularly clever or classy.

  20. Oh yeah – I believe in la Volupte!

  21. @ChrisO
    claiming they came out of nowhere, is not really thought trough. Vansummeren, Nuyens, Iglinsky, Rodriguez, Gasparotto… they were always there in their fields of racing. but not all are equally talented, clever, witty or lucky enough to win, especially if you have to face Boonen, Cancellara, Gilbert… what s more, they were first lieutenants of Vanpetegem, Hoste, McEwen, Hushovd, Farrar, Boonen, Valverde, Vino, Contador and had to sacrifice themselves completely.
    Boonen is indeed at the top for a decade, and also had to come to surface at some point. was his first victory a surprise? he had been riding in the peloton for over two years and had shown great talent. Gilbert on the other hand slowly grew towards an exceptional form and dominance. whatever he wanted to win, he mostly did win. Cancellara is just a beast on a bike – the motor history is ridiculous.
    sometimes it s just a matter of being in great shape at the right time on the right spot (Nuyens in RvV, JVS in Roubaix, Iglinsky and Gasparotto now.) all needed elements were combined and it worked out well for them.

    I wont put my hand in the fire for them, as for any other sportsmen. However, I also would not accuse any rider of being on the juice. Everyone is innocent until proved guilty…

    btw, I did not even remember my post, as I was on the beerjuice and I definitely tested positive (over 0,000000000000000000000000000000000000 5)

    @frank
    you should participate in the US elections, now Romney and Santorum are out. the way you write, convinces people (though I still think the same about the false(?) doping allegations).
    You d have my V-ote!

  22. thought through that is… overload t’s o’s u’s and h’s

  23. @harminator

    @frank
    Sure. All good points. I’m not pointing the finger at you, Frank. In the absence of fact I guess it comes down to the viewer. I guess I’m more comfortable with being wrong as a naive believer. Cynicism never appeals to me – It doesn’t seem particularly clever or classy.

    That is awesome. Hold on to it as long as you can!

  24. @JC Belgium

    thought through that is… overload t’s o’s u’s and h’s

    Its ok, they are pretty letters.

  25. @Frank:

    The sudden jump in performance argument was LeMan’s argument as well. When he asked a certain COTHO this very question in a press conference, he was essentially threatened with legal action. Omerta. This is a deeply interesting, complex, and unsolvable issue.

    There should be a Rule about dpoing analysis, discussion, conclusions, opinions, etc.

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