Let the Season Begin

OmLoop  photo:cyclingweekly.co.uk
Omloop Finish  photo:cyclingweekly.co.uk

Omloop het Nieuwsblad is fast approaching on March 1st, Strade Bianche goes off the next weekend; finally, ladies and gentlemen, we have a season. For me the racing season really has to start in cold, wet Europe. I like the Tour Down Under just fine, I watch it, but it’s too early, too sunny and too hot to signify the start of the racing season. The races in the desert, though I’m sure they are windy and tough, hold no interest for me. Camels and embrocation do not compute. The endless speculation about Faboo’s lack of perfect February form only means every reporter is bored and has no real stories to write.

The most interesting thing about the racing in the Middle East was seeing that Tom Boonen is whippet thin and ready to bring the pain in 2014. Knowing that Boonen is back lets me sleep better at night. He is lining up for Omloop, his team is ready to rumble on the Taaienberg, all is right with the cycling world. Please let it rain, but don’t let Tommeke get hurt.

I need to see some racers with every bit of wet weather gear on, riding into a hell storm off the North Sea. Cold and wet and in Belgium; that is the way we start the season.

The other thing that is great with the cycling world is the Strade Bianche the following week. A gravel race for the professionals? The race is new, not even ten editions have been raced, but it seems so right. San Gimignano to Siena, rolling up and down across the Tuscan countryside, many secteurs of white gravel, this is a stroke of Italian genius.

Another reason to be excited is Peter Sagan. The wheelie poppin’ curb jumpin’ bad boy comes into this season a year wiser. He has watched both Fabs and Tommeke ride away from him in different editions of the Ronde but they aren’t getting any younger and Sagan is only getting better. The younger generation of riders would like to topple the reigning twin kings of the Spring Classics but Boonen and Cancellara are still there because they are the two best Spring Classic riders of their generation. They aren’t going to go without a battle.

If no one breaks bones in the feed zones or gets infected elbows, this all portends a beautiful spring.

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117 Replies to “Let the Season Begin”

  1. Will be interesting to see how Sky get on after abandoning their ill fated ‘classics’ build up of last year – but can’t see past Boonen, Fabio, Stybar and Sagan for the big ones (can’t wait). If Wiggins is genuinely on it and as motivated as he would have us all believe, could he be in the mix at  P-R?

  2. Bring the pain boys! And I do hope that there’s rain at PR this year. Cold wet snow maybe? Let’s get epic (while I watch from the comfort of my living room.)

  3. Can’t fuckin wait. I might actually try to keep up with VSP this year.

    So help me with the international time thing. Just as a simplified example – If I’m at UTC-9hrs and the race time zone is UTC+3hrs, and the race starts at 10am 1 March in that location, then I watch at 10am-9hrs-3hrs = 10pm on 28 Feb?

  4. @Gianni

    @Harminator ,

    @Mikael Liddy

    you two are aware of this thing called the internet, and on this internet people are able to access streamed versions of sports being broadcast on channels you don’t have access to?

    The racing is inside the computer?

    Damn, that made me laugh.

    I’ll maybe get up at 2 am to stream Strade Bianche but I’ll be sleeping through Qatar and Oman.

    I have a devil machine called Tivo, he lives in his box and records shows at 2 am so I can watch them at a civilized time. Unless they are streamed. And the genius who designs that box, a tivo for streaming video, he shall be hailed as a stud.

    If you also happen to be one of those people who downloads things via torrents*, there’s a lovely site that Frank’s countrymen have set up for a similar purpose – http://www.cyclingtorrents.nl

    *given the less than legal nature of this practice in some/most countries, I in no way endorse this course of action irrespective of any usage I may have got out of said site in the past…

  5. As the start of the “real” season approaches I feel excited but not quite ready, like an overweight 80’s pro; it’s all about to kick off and I don’t have enough K’s in the legs.  @Daccordi Rider  gets my hopes up by hinting that Harmon might be back then @Chris informs me that Het Volk is only on Sky Sports. Then @Darren H further confuses things by predicting that Fabio is one of the favourites? Is he a Italian neo pro? Fuck! It’s almost Super Prestige time and I have no idea what is going on.

  6. No wonder Langeveld won that race.  The V is emanating from the faceplate of his stem.

  7. @Beers

    Can’t fuckin wait. I might actually try to keep up with VSP this year.

    So help me with the international time thing. Just as a simplified example – If I’m at UTC-9hrs and the race time zone is UTC+3hrs, and the race starts at 10am 1 March in that location, then I watch at 10am-9hrs-3hrs = 10pm on 28 Feb?

    Who the fuck knows? That sounds like one of those IQ questions in an in-flight magazine. Where it tells me my IQ is 40. Is that bad?

  8. @Darren H

    Will be interesting to see how Sky get on after abandoning their ill fated ‘classics’ build up of last year – but can’t see past Boonen, Fabio, Stybar and Sagan for the big ones (can’t wait). If Wiggins is genuinely on it and as motivated as he would have us all believe, could he be in the mix at P-R?

    Wiggo…I’ve been thinking long and hard about his chances at P-R and I don’t like them. In his favor: he has done the race a bunch of times, he has a huge motor, he understands the full gas concept for each secteur. But, those skinny-ass twiggo legs, something about them that makes me think he will get the shiet bounced out of him, and not be able to float (no one is floating) over the stones. Cancellara has intimated that the grand tour riders are too light for P-R. I hope Twiggo proves me wrong. I usually am.

    Der Boss Hogg should be killing it at P-R, he seems a better man for that race. Was he not the great white hope a few years back?

  9. @Gianni Yes, it should be clear that by even asking such a question I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, 40 sounds good to me?

  10. @Gianni

    I’ll maybe get up at 2 am to stream Strade Bianche but I’ll be sleeping through Qatar and Oman.

    If only. I’m not getting up a 2am to watch 3 hours of racing. I’ve got a training ride leaving from my front gate at 4:30am.

    There is something that prevents me from paying for televsion, it just doesn’t seem right. Sort of like paying for sex. It might be good, even better than the free stuff but it leaves you with dirty feeling (so I am told). Besides, think what extra cycling goodness can be bought with the money paid for pay-tv.

  11. Another take… the gap after Sagan’s hop and roundabout surge. Uran chasing Sagan.

  12. @Beers

    Can’t fuckin wait. I might actually try to keep up with VSP this year.

    So help me with the international time thing. Just as a simplified example – If I’m at UTC-9hrs and the race time zone is UTC+3hrs, and the race starts at 10am 1 March in that location, then I watch at 10am-9hrs-3hrs = 10pm on 28 Feb?

    If you have a smart phone just set the timezone as an alternate clock and it will do it for you.

  13. @Puffy

    @Gianni

    I’ll maybe get up at 2 am to stream Strade Bianche but I’ll be sleeping through Qatar and Oman.

    If only. I’m not getting up a 2am to watch 3 hours of racing. I’ve got a training ride leaving from my front gate at 4:30am.

    There is something that prevents me from paying for televsion, it just doesn’t seem right. Sort of like paying for sex. It might be good, even better than the free stuff but it leaves you with dirty feeling (so I am told). Besides, think what extra cycling goodness can be bought with the money paid for pay-tv.

    If free sex meant you got a wobbly partner of dubious quality who stopped just before the crucial moment to tell you all about how to consolidate your debts and what car you should buy… I’d pay.

  14. @ChrisO

    @Puffy

    @Gianni

    I’ll maybe get up at 2 am to stream Strade Bianche but I’ll be sleeping through Qatar and Oman.

    If only. I’m not getting up a 2am to watch 3 hours of racing. I’ve got a training ride leaving from my front gate at 4:30am.

    There is something that prevents me from paying for televsion, it just doesn’t seem right. Sort of like paying for sex. It might be good, even better than the free stuff but it leaves you with dirty feeling (so I am told). Besides, think what extra cycling goodness can be bought with the money paid for pay-tv.

    If free sex meant you got a wobbly partner of dubious quality who stopped just before the crucial moment to tell you all about how to consolidate your debts and what car you should buy… I’d pay.

    +1 and nipple lube. I suspect porridge is going to be much arder to get out of my keyboard than coffee.

  15. @Gianni

    @Darren H

    Will be interesting to see how Sky get on after abandoning their ill fated ‘classics’ build up of last year – but can’t see past Boonen, Fabio, Stybar and Sagan for the big ones (can’t wait). If Wiggins is genuinely on it and as motivated as he would have us all believe, could he be in the mix at P-R?

    Wiggo…I’ve been thinking long and hard about his chances at P-R and I don’t like them. In his favor: he has done the race a bunch of times, he has a huge motor, he understands the full gas concept for each secteur. But, those skinny-ass twiggo legs, something about them that makes me think he will get the shiet bounced out of him, and not be able to float (no one is floating) over the stones. Cancellara has intimated that the grand tour riders are too light for P-R. I hope Twiggo proves me wrong. I usually am.

    Der Boss Hogg should be killing it at P-R, he seems a better man for that race. Was he not the great white hope a few years back?

    I was of the impression that he was planning to bulk up a bit as part of his shift back to the track for the Rio Olympics.

  16. @Gianni

    @Darren H

    Will be interesting to see how Sky get on after abandoning their ill fated ‘classics’ build up of last year – but can’t see past Boonen, Fabio, Stybar and Sagan for the big ones (can’t wait). If Wiggins is genuinely on it and as motivated as he would have us all believe, could he be in the mix at P-R?

    Wiggo…I’ve been thinking long and hard about his chances at P-R and I don’t like them. In his favor: he has done the race a bunch of times, he has a huge motor, he understands the full gas concept for each secteur. But, those skinny-ass twiggo legs, something about them that makes me think he will get the shiet bounced out of him, and not be able to float (no one is floating) over the stones. Cancellara has intimated that the grand tour riders are too light for P-R. I hope Twiggo proves me wrong. I usually am.

    Der Boss Hogg should be killing it at P-R, he seems a better man for that race. Was he not the great white hope a few years back?

    I suspect that if any of the Sky boys are going to do something at P-R it’s going to be Geraint Thomas.  He seems to love the race, has got previous form there and looks to be going pretty well.  Boss Hogg seems to have parked his huge early potential and settled for domestique duties.  Shame really, cos although his baby face kinda freaks me out and I hate his almost effeminate victory salutes, he was shaping up to be a hell of a rider. It’d be interesting to see what he did with another team.

    No-one is mentioning Hushovd these days. Lurking quietly in the wings or lost forever???

  17. @Mike_P

    No-one is mentioning Hushovd these days. Lurking quietly in the wings or lost forever???

    How can you say that, he had a storming year in 2013, winning the Arctic Race of Norway.

  18. @Chris

    @Mike_P

    No-one is mentioning Hushovd these days. Lurking quietly in the wings or lost forever???

    How can you say that, he had a storming year in 2013, winning the Arctic Race of Norway.

    Sorry, I’m clearly not keeping up with the most significant race results of the season.

  19. @Mike_P

    @Gianni

    @Darren H

    Will be interesting to see how Sky get on after abandoning their ill fated ‘classics’ build up of last year – but can’t see past Boonen, Fabio, Stybar and Sagan for the big ones (can’t wait). If Wiggins is genuinely on it and as motivated as he would have us all believe, could he be in the mix at P-R?

    Wiggo…I’ve been thinking long and hard about his chances at P-R and I don’t like them. In his favor: he has done the race a bunch of times, he has a huge motor, he understands the full gas concept for each secteur. But, those skinny-ass twiggo legs, something about them that makes me think he will get the shiet bounced out of him, and not be able to float (no one is floating) over the stones. Cancellara has intimated that the grand tour riders are too light for P-R. I hope Twiggo proves me wrong. I usually am.

    Der Boss Hogg should be killing it at P-R, he seems a better man for that race. Was he not the great white hope a few years back?

    I suspect that if any of the Sky boys are going to do something at P-R it’s going to be Geraint Thomas. He seems to love the race, has got previous form there and looks to be going pretty well. Boss Hogg seems to have parked his huge early potential and settled for domestique duties. Shame really, cos although his baby face kinda freaks me out and I hate his almost effeminate victory salutes, he was shaping up to be a hell of a rider. It’d be interesting to see what he did with another team.

    No-one is mentioning Hushovd these days. Lurking quietly in the wings or lost forever???

    Boss Hog has definitely stalled hasn’t he – needs a big 2014. G Thomas is definitely due some luck after going down in just about every race he entered last year and I hope Stannard does okay (6th in MSR last year was a great result for him). Perhaps Wiggo will ride for G (but I doubt it). How do OPQS play it with both Boonen and Stybar – I hope it’s every man for himself if they’re in the mix with 40km to go!

  20. It was only two years ago that I was intro’d to Paris Roubaix and watching one badass Belgian ride the hell out of his bike and run away with the race. The next year I was intro’d to a big Swiss cat that proved to be awfully precise at the end. Man there is something to be said for high def and big screen. I don’t know if I’m lucky just to be discovering this stuff or unlucky to have missed out on the beauty for so many years. To see these guys and the wheelie poppin’ green hulk bike riding youngster in the mix should be a blast. Along with some GC contenders ?? Oh yea. cheers all, RC

  21. My gosh, Sagan is looking slimmed down this year, but with bigger guns. Sagan, Cancellara and Boonen…things are going to be fast this spring.

    Classement. Yup, I’ve heard that one. No tv here, I watch all races online. I haven’t watch cycling on tv since espn used to broadcast the Tour when I was in middle school.

    Gianni – yep, those skinny damn legs, and body, make me think Wiggins has zero chance of doing well at P-R. He just seems to fragile.

  22. @wilburrox There are so many Classics I’ve missed, too — my youtube history is now just hours and hours of blocky vhs footage of amazing races.  When I’m working from home, I can have it going on a second monitor and time my breaks for the finales if I can.  Kelly coming down off the Poggio leaving motorcycles in his wake to take M-SR had me constantly checking my mic was on mute for a telco I was in, though.  Moser’s and Cav’s wins there were also awesome.  I was stupidly happy to see I’ve come far enough to realise the guy I was watching win the cyclocross worlds was the same guy I saw in the P-R get bumped out of the lead three by a spectator last year.

  23. Couldn’t agree more Gianni, I’m just not feeling the love for the TDU or the desert. Omloop is the season opener for me.

  24. @Teocalli

    @Beers

    Can’t fuckin wait. I might actually try to keep up with VSP this year.

    So help me with the international time thing. Just as a simplified example – If I’m at UTC-9hrs and the race time zone is UTC+3hrs, and the race starts at 10am 1 March in that location, then I watch at 10am-9hrs-3hrs = 10pm on 28 Feb?

    If you have a smart phone just set the timezone as an alternate clock and it will do it for you.

    Brilliant!

  25. @Nate

    The best 6 weeks of racing of the year are about to start.

    http://fuckyeahcobbles.tumblr.com/

    Interesting. A young Pippo in the background saying, “Ah, so that is how you go hard and fast in the Classics. Looks tiring. But, getting tattoos and riding jerseyless in the sun…easy!”

  26. @Ron

    @Nate

    The best 6 weeks of racing of the year are about to start.

    http://fuckyeahcobbles.tumblr.com/

    Interesting. A young Pippo in the background saying, “Ah, so that is how you go hard and fast in the Classics. Looks tiring. But, getting tattoos and riding jerseyless in the sun…easy!”

    The closest Pippo will ever get to winning PR is washing Tom Boonen’s bike. Moser has more style and class in his pinky than Pips will ever have.

  27. @seemunkee

    There is an article today in the Washington Post about the 2015 Worlds being in VA. http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/othersports/richmond-ready-to-host-the-2015-uci-road-world-cycling-championships/2014/02/25/e66183a2-9e72-11e3-9ba6-800d1192d08b_story.html

    Has anyone looked into volunteer opportunities?

    I read about this yesterday. My gf and I are interested in going – we live about four hours from Richmond, VA (on MD’s Eastern Shore). We were both really excited about the Worlds 1) Coming to the US and 2) It being on the East Coast. Looks like it’s going to be a great course that will favor the Classics riders. I haven’t been to the Richmond area for years, so it would be cool to hang out there as well.

  28. wiscot – Ouch, that’s a strong statement, but one that is hard to think is not quite true. It happens in life, and sport, but rather frustrating and depressing when someone has the talent (or intelligence) to do something more, but seems to lack the heart or commitment.

    I know top-flight racing is insanely competitive and everyone is gunning for wins, but he does seem content to just be good, not better.

  29. Yes, at last! I can forget about the decline of Manchester United and get me some real sport contested by real hard-men. My favourite races of the year! I fancy Boonen for P-R (although I think Stybar may go well another year on). My outsider for Flanders is Roelandts – worth 50p each-way! I love the point in these races where they suddenly explode – that ‘now or never’ point!

  30. Nieuwsblad is certainly satisfying the early season cravings. Bad weather, attacks splitting the field… it’s all happening.

    Terpstra looking strong.

  31. Chose VAN AVERMAET in 1st and VANMARCKE in 3rd, so I missed both by one position.

  32. Yeah so pasting twitter embeds doesn’t work so well.  Anyway, I’m bloody happy for Stannard, as is David Millar; there was a good profile in Rouleur 37 where he talked about the Classics and I’ve had a soft spot for him since.

  33. Large lashings of the V. Great result for Stannard and what were we saying about Eddy Boss in the week? I don’t take it all back, but good to see him do a ride.

  34. @Mike_P  Love that photo. Great result for the beast that is Stannard, although he looks nearer 40 years of age than 26 years he is – I suppose that’s what lashings of the V do to a man!

  35. @Mike_P

    Large lashings of The V. Great result for Stannard and what were we saying about Eddy Boss in the week? I don’t take it all back, but good to see him do a ride.

    This picture sums up perfectly what we’ve been waiting for. Here’s hoping there’s more to come!

  36. Picture of the year? Big guys, gurning, covered in shit, straining for the line. It’s what Belgium’s all about.

  37. Paolini should have said ‘fuck it’ the first time he rode the bunch off his wheel with 2 laps to go and tried to bridge while he had the chance. No wonder he’s frustrated: he looks to be the strongest man in the race. Sometimes no race radios results in less dynamic racing.

  38. Should still be a good finish coming up.  I guess radios might have changed the race in other ways and could have made it less dynamic in other ways; I’d rather see them without.  Greipel will be ropeable tonight.  Sky probably don’t mind too much after yesterday, though OBH would probably have something to say.  Belkin took a big gamble early and made it pay — depending who gets the win, of course, but they’ve had a hell of a day.

  39. Oh, I’m not suggesting that wasn’t a fantastic race, just that the Katusha team plan needed to change once it was clear Belkin and Omega were not going to be caught. Radios surely weren’t going to prevent what Belkin and Omega did to shred the race to bits, but might have allowed Luca his chance to at least try.

  40. Frank after yesterday’s race:

    Ah, Boonen finished back in the second group. Good, because winning Omloop would mean he’s coming into form too early. You can’t win this race and Roubaix.

    Frank after KBK:

    FUCK YEAH BOONEN! Coming into form nicely! Well on track for winning Roubaix.

    The most beautiful thing about being a fan is its the one place in life where being reasonable or rational has nothing the fuck to do with it.

  41. @frank

    The most beautiful thing about being a fan is its the one place in life where being reasonable or rational has nothing the fuck to do with it.

    That’s just brilliant.

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