Velominati Super Prestige: Gent-Wevelgem 2012

Tom Steels takes his second G-W victory in 1999

Gent conjures up images of the quintessential Flemish city. Age-old medieval architecture rising from the river’s edge is classically Belgian. Gent is also firmly tied to Belgium’s greatest gift to the world, cycling tradition. Many a pro-expat cyclist has relocated to Gent with the hope of testing their mettle in the seat of cycling’s soul. Brad Wiggins and Tyler Farrar are two current stars who come to mind who emigrated to Gent. It is where Wouter Wylant hailed from and I believe it’s where Andrei Tmchil calls home. Wevelgem, while I’m sure a very fine place, boasts only an old German airport constructed in WW1 and a pair of Miss Belgiums (2007 and 2011). But the countryside in between is the ideal place to hold one of cycling’s classics, Gent-Wevelgem.

Some may see it as a semi-classic. That argument held more water when the race was placed in between The Ronde Van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix in April. Now that it’s been given it’s own weekend on the calendar leading up to Cycling Week, I think it’s fair to say that, while not a Monument, it deserves full classic status. Just look at the list of winners – Van Looy, Merckx, Van Springel, Godefroot, Maertens, Steels, and Boonen. And those are just a smattering of the Belgians. Throw in a few Cipollinis, Mosers, Kellys, and Hinaults and the winners list is a who’s who of hardmen.

That is all well and good but what is really getting me excited about Gent-Wevelgem this year is the Kemmelberg. The Kemmelberg factors virtually every year in the race but what’s different for me this year is the Keepers Tour is staying in Kemmel, very near the fabled climb. I imagine striking out on a morning ride just days after the race to have a go at the climb myself with the other blokes on the tour. I just hope I don’t have to unclip and walk up the damn thing and thank Merckx I don’t have to do it twice if I don’t want to (The racers will complete the climb twice).

There is no such thing as a VSP that is easy to forecast but this one can be particularly tricky. It’s usually one for the sprinters but rather than ending in a bunch gallop it often ends with a sprint from a small selection of riders who make it over the Kemmelberg intact. What does this mean for Mark Cavendish after his dismal day last weekend? Additionally, riding a bloc in this race could risk a premature peak for The Ronde the following week. In which case, maybe you look to guys like Sagan, Haussler, and EBH who are strong and likely to factor in the Monuments but may (and have) lay it all out for a day of Flandrian glory as they plot their up-and-comer status.

Here’s some great footage of the Kemmelberg and many of the other climbs being contested in 2010. It’s all good but if you want to skip to the Kemmelberg it’s featured at 7:30.


There are many dudes who seem to be going well right now so get your picks in before 5am PST. Here’s the challenge – think for yourself this time, don’t follow the herd, and you just might put yourself in position to increase your tally for the Shop Apron awarded at the end of the season. Start list here.

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329 Replies to “Velominati Super Prestige: Gent-Wevelgem 2012”

  1. So was the upshirt gal…excited for the breakaway lads and wanted to congratulate them? Or…was she a Boonen fan and wanted to distract them?

  2. @Steampunk

    He might not be the fastest guy in the peloton anymore, but tell me: is there anyone who can dig into The V and hold on for that long? He seems to have an extra 50-100 metres on just about everyone right now…

    He said that in the interview as well – said he really had to dig deep and hold on for a long time; he was completely empty. It didn’t look it from the pictures!

    I also notice he’s only doing the one-arm salute these days. Love it. Its all Merckxian. I wonder if its because he doesn’t want to risk a careless crash before the big races.

  3. @paolo


    Is it really a surprise? When your only race winning strategy is to get towed to somewhere around 100 or 200 meters from the line and unleash a sprint and that plan fails you’re left with shit. As @frank pointed out above – this was a proper mano-a-mano sprint. Had Cav been at the pointy end and stayed there under the power of his own guns he probably would have won but you can’t bank on lead-outs in the classics like this.

    Hmmm a tad unfair because we’ve all seen him win without lead outs. He’s a canny lad and knows how to ride a wheel with or without team mates.

    I am just suprised to hear him blame someone else for losing a wheel on a climb. When you can’t climb for shit it seems unfair to blame being gapped on someone elses ability to hold a wheel. That might be the first time I have heard him be less than honest with himself.

    I think Marko isn’t saying he can’t win without a leadout, Marko’s saying he can’t win without getting an armchair ride to the finish. I could be wrong, but I’ve never seen him tow himself up to a group or bridge up solo. Even Cipo did that to win Wevelgem.

    The problem Cav has right now is a combination of expectation and talent. He’s as fast as he is in the sprint because he’s specialized in it, and he’s more or less a one-trick pony. Good on him, but that comes at the cost of being a worse sprinter. Even if you see him on his bike, he’s so far forward, not very good for climbing.

    I also find myself thinking the same thoughts I think re: the Schlecks in terms of him just not learning to climb just as they can’t seem to learn to TT. But in fairness, he would lose some of his top end if he diversified. Its a matter of priorities.

    But I agree – his speech blaming someone else for letting the wheel go is lame. Ride your race and take responsibility. Simple as that.

  4. @frank

    Good points all…can’t argue with that. Never seen Cav close down an attack or a gap on his own.

    It seems like quite a few one trick ponies are going to have to come up with something new if they want to win.

  5. @frank
    You should have seen his fight to get back up with the leaders in the Commonwealth Games RR – it was ultimately unsuccessful, but not for want of trying!

  6. @frank
    Why do you say being forward isn’t good for climbing? It’s common for climbers to sit forward on their bikes, especially short ones. If they aren’t standing they are sitting on the noses of their saddles.

  7. 0730 started watching the feed on Sporza, and started sampling Belgian Beers.

    Needless to say I needed a nap by the time 1130 rolled around. But now I am able to fix some wheels…

  8. @Buck Rogers


    @Buck Rogers
    We’ll be on those roads in less than a week for the KT and can look her up.

    See if she’s available for late June in Vermont. I’m sure we could take up a collection and make it worth her while. Just imagine the motivational uplifter it would be if we had her standing every 60 to 80 k’s along the route!

    I was thinking we should have her run backwards up the climbs.

  9. Ah, I see where I went wrong and missed this: I only checked the latest article yesterday. Damn.

    Couldn’t even watch the race, but would’ve loved to. I mean, an Euskaltel rider on the front? On COBBLES?

  10. @Oli

    Why do you say being forward isn’t good for climbing? It’s common for climbers to sit forward on their bikes, especially short ones. If they aren’t standing they are sitting on the noses of their saddles.

    Seven seconds on Google for a climber who fits both your points: Pantani – rockin’ back in the saddle for power like a badass.

    [dmalbum: path=”/”/]

    But without being facetious, I’m certainly not saying you can’t be forward to climb well – and anytime any of us are on the rivet we’re forward (as the phrase suggests) – but I’m talking about the regular position. His natural position is very far forward, like a triathlete almost. Have a look at some of the side shots from MSR. Maybe he’s got an odd physiology, but its very unusual. He certainly doesn’t climb well, that’s for sure. Granted, Fuentes was also rather far forward, and he could climb well enough, but its definitely not a common position for a climber to be THAT far forward. That’s all.

  11. @frank
    For what it’s worth, I shift forwards when climbing – it’s always been most natural to me. I’d say I climb well, but I’ll leave the ‘for my weight’ bit out – at 65kg, I’m probably expected to dance up the ascents a fair clip faster than I actually do.

  12. @frank
    Your third shot demonstrates my point, as it shows him sitting forward and shows also his customary steep seat angle. Not to mention that Pantani was of course famous for his in the drops attacking style, reminiscent of a sprinter at times.

    Sitting back in the saddle does help you drive into the pedals using your femurs, glutes and hammies of course, but it’s more usually a style for those who push the big gears – spinning climbers in general tend to sit forward on top of the gear. Look at Lucien van Impe, for example.

    Anyway, I’m not arguing that it’s bad that people sit back, but against your statement that sitting forward is “not very good for climbing”, which is patently untrue. I’d argue that it’s more common for climbers to sit forward than back.

  13. @frank
    Actually, the first shot doesn’t demonstrate your point either – he’s clearly going quite fast around a shallow uphill corner, so he’s in a cornering position almost like he’s descending.

    The second photo on the Ventoux almost helps you out if you take the nose of his saddle as a reference, but he’s still clearly pulling himself towards the ‘bars. Look at his arms and where his nose is in relation to the stem, he’s clearly forwards.

    The danger of using still photos is they don’t show how dynamic position is…

  14. @Oli
    I don’t agree with your interpretation of the photos and honestly I don’t have time to discuss it further as I’m packing to get on the plane to Vlaanderen.

    Just as a note, you’re missing the point in that I’m not suggesting it bad to be forward – I’ve already said that several times. I’m suggesting Cav rides very far forward, more so than anyone I’ve seen outside triathletes or Fuentes.

    You too, not bad to be forward. That’s where the term “on the rivet” comes from. We all go forward during an effort. Cav is very far ward, relative to normal.

    That is all.

  15. Bit gutted that Cav didnt take the win but pretty pleased that I backed a Boonen, Segan one two.

  16. Steegmans and Boonen. I’d be very wary of those two: Also, after BMC’s incredibly quiet season to date, I’d watch out for them in the TDF.

    How the hell did I get 1 point? I’ve entered 2 VSPs so far, and three of my picks were Bretto, Oli and Hincapie. WTF I should be on negative points by now for picking Hincapie at all.

  17. Yeah, Thor & George & Taylor & Fast Phil all seem like they are resting softly and waiting for just the right time. Keep your eye on BMC for sure.

    Or, just keep the eyes on Tom B. and Gert and the lads; they’re making moves.

  18. @frank
    You’re so funny when people disagree with you! I was just responding to your words!

    Anyway, I wasn’t saying it to bait you or to drag you into yet another debate where you defend the indefensible; I understand you’re busy getting ready to hit the Land of V. Best wishes for a fantastic trip.

  19. The problem with Cav is Sky… not his attitude, attributes or aesthetics.

    Plenty of people said that going to Sky would be a bad move because at HTC he had a team built around him.

    In G-W he had what, two guys back there to help him ? The other teams are attacking early on in these races precisely because they know they can knock Cav out. Last couple of years they wouldn’t have tried because they knew it wouldn’t work.

    I know in the end he didn’t have a choice after HTC folded but maybe he should have gone somewhere without such divided aims.

    Sky is split in the classic between EBH and Cav, and will be split in the Tour between Wiggins and Cav, with the added bonus of the Tour/Olympics – there is enormous pressure to do well in the Olympics at any cost and he could end up with no green jersey and no medal either.

  20. @Oli

    @frank You’re so funny when people disagree with you! I was just responding to your words!Anyway, I wasn’t saying it to bait you or to drag you into yet another debate where you defend the indefensible; I understand you’re busy getting ready to hit the Land of V. Best wishes for a fantastic trip.

    Oli the Kettle meets Frank the Pot. Death Match of the irresistible force versus the immovable object.

  21. Yeah, but I am usually right and Frank is usually wrong. I like that you think I’m irresistible though… :blush:

  22. @Oli

    Don’t worry Frhonk, I got this.

    Oli, what you said but the opposite. In a plausible kind of way. Star wars reference, swear word, photo of 19 feet of seatpost/Pantani/bartape to prove a point, more disagreement which everyone suspects is just because it’s Oli, more swearing for good measure.

    Unrelated response to someone else.

    How was that?

  23. Ugh, that hurts. I had three of the top five right, just in the wrong damn order. Grr.

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