Velominati Super Prestige: Paris-Roubaix

Servais Knaven, he earned that sweet shower plaque Crédit photo : DPPI

Let us pray for rain.

The Sunday after Ronde Van Vlaanderen brings us to Paris-Roubaix. The Holiest of Holies. There are no bergs to ride over, instead, accelerate to maximum speed to be in the top 20 to start each cobbled section, bring power up to flank to float over broken treacherous farm path crown, gutter or ditch or all three at the same time as required. Recover once back on the tarmac. Repeat 26 more times.

This Sunday’s edition of Paris-Roubaix will have Velominati moaning, staring through half empty bottles of Chimay, burning candles to Saint Ludo of Dierckxsens (the patron saint of Flemish V), begging for a sign. The winner won’t be a first timer to this race, he needs experience on these stones, he will also require equally experienced teammates who can hang tough close to Roubaix. He must be massively fit. He must be tough as nails. Andy Schleck will not be out here on Sunday, not because he is not tough (OK, he is not tough enough for this) but racing on such terrible cobbled farm tracks is a skill only a certain subset of professionals develop. All around tough bastard Bernard Hinault, aka The Badger, thought it was an insane lottery, unworthy of his attention but he did ride it twice and won in 1981. In 2011 you could do worse than roll up to the start on your 1980 steel Merckx ride as today’s bikes, used just for this one race, have a lot of old-school about them: 27mm profile tires, huge inner chain rings, 3-cross laced wheels, longer rake front forks, longer chainstays. These bikes go back into storage when this race is over. Insane bikes, riders, fans and of course, throw in some bad weather and we have a real race.

Finally Fabian Cancellara has shown himself to be human, a really strong human. Tomeke Boonen is showing signs of past greatness. Garmin-Cervelo has been hammered from all quarters, they are under pressure and Thor has always said this is the race he wants to win. Gilbert is fit, ready and Belgian (news flash, he may be ready but not to race P-R, coward). Chavanel is fit, ready and French. Could Ballan be the new Moser? No. Not ever. Team Sky, with nary a Belgian still has a shot with a Spaniard, an Englishman and a Welshman.

The spinning wheels of Fortuna could play havoc on the best laid bets like it did in 2001. Dutchmen Servais Knaven won it all. Knaven, with teammate Johan Museeuw was part of a select group closing in on Roubaix. Being the dutiful domestique he attacked to force Museeuw’s adversaries to chase but no one could.  He was a tough guy and rode away with a beautiful victory.

Let us pray for rain.


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277 Replies to “Velominati Super Prestige: Paris-Roubaix”

  1. Bridge up vs attack… Yeah you are right. Call it an attempted bridge. Tomeke did the same thing last week. I guess it’s the race within the race – if you’re small fry and go off the front to chase a break, you bridge. If you’re a big hitter, guaranteed to generate covering moves and counter moves, is it still innocently trying to bridge up?

    Under either description (unless you happen to have the heat in your legs that Fabian can generate) if a big hitter bridges to a break, they’re dooming the break to failure. The original move will be covered, or those that missed the gun will respond and shut it down as soon as they can organise. Shades of Cadel being abused (by Fabs) for trying to get in a break on a stage of the Tour in ’09 was it?? Can’t remember.

    I still reckon if you follow the code of not chasing/attacking/bridging to the break that your team is in, then you follow that code. You don’t try to chase the break then stop.

  2. Perhaps I should not be going for Sylvain again… similarly to the curse of the commentator, not even a hard man like him can escape the curse of Nathan :S Geraint too…

  3. @all funny, I was thinking of the grit and dirt on his teeth, not the thick spit, but really, there must be multiple components to (and several different proprietary blends of) that good old Belgian toothpaste. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to work on my own secret formula.

  4. Huge props to VanSummeren for the win but I was massively disappointed with the race overall. Quickstep was aboslutley cursed by the gods of the pave and Chavoonen never had a chance to get rolling… Everyone else rode, once again, to beat Fabian instead of to win the race. I’d like to see someone have the balls to just say fuck it and ride it out with him, man up enough to go toe to toe regardless of how strong Fab might be. Even if ‘superman’ burns you in the end, I’d rather blow myself up trying to ride with him and finish 50th than ride like a scared schoolgirl and come in 6th or 8th…

  5. @Leroy

    Even if ‘superman’ burns you in the end, I’d rather blow myself up trying to ride with him and finish 50th than ride like a scared schoolgirl and come in 6th or 8th…

    Absolutely. Someone posted a comment from Durand along those lines – I’d rather die trying than no try at all. That’s what the Italians call grinta.

    Regarding Hushovd not working, Garmvelo tried to have it both ways, which is a losing game for the most part, and totally lame. Van Summeren was playing the team role and rode an amazing race – nothing to be taken away from him AT ALL. But you can’t have the guy up front saying “I’m waiting” and the guy in the back saying “I’ve got a guy in the break.” One or the other, fellas. Otherwise it’s dirty, simple as that.

    In front JVS was telling the break he couldn’t work because he had a rider bridging up (Hushovd). This to me was legit. But Hushovd – the team leader – not working because he’s got a man in the break seems like utter bullshit. The team tactic was to put JVS in the break FOR THE VERY REASON that Hushovd would come up and have a man on his side. It wasn’t because Garmvelo was betting the farm on the break getting up the road. That’s small team thinking. Garmvelo is a big team now. You are sacrificing that man for another, and hoping that if the guys behind eat themselves up and don’t bridge up, maybe you still have an option.

    Not attacking a break with a teammate in it is indeed Racing 101. We’re way the fuck past Racing 101 here. You can hide behind these types of tactics, but this is the Pros, and the little fish get eaten by the big fish. Even Van Petegem said it himself: JVS was to wait for Hushovd until the Carrforre sector, then he had carte blanche to try to salvage the day, which he did amazingly well.

    Garmvelo won by the dumb luck of having a BigRingRider in the break who absolutely was not going to let up until he broke himself in two.

    By the way, if this was an isolated incident, it would be one thing, but this tactic to get others to do the work pervades everything this team has ever done since it’s first year in Europe. It’s fine when you’re trying to break in, but come on. It’s time to step up and act like the big boys they are. I want to love this team, but they need to start racing from the front. Race smart, but do your part.

  6. You’re right, you can’t have it both ways: If Thor had chased down JVS and been beaten by Cancellara (or anyone else) he would have been pilloried. And both JVS and Thor were riding or sitting entirely to Van Petegem’s plan, by their own words (and in Hushovd’s case during the race, obvious frustration). That plan worked out pretty well, so the rest is just pure fantasy and/or sour grapes on the fans part.

    And to those of you didn’t enjoy the race I’d respectfully suggest that’s because you have lost some objectivity, and your personal expectations were dashed. Personally, I thought it was superb and thrilling…

  7. Yeah, best P-R in ages, absolutely fantastic. And JVS is way fly. And Faboo is a stud for still making something of his chances.

  8. @Cyclops
    Had not seen it. Fucking powerful. Now I am totally ready to head out this afternoon and ride in the rain that is forecasted!

  9. @Cyclops
    Is it just me, or was that a tad melodramatic?

    It’s a damn bike race, not the Normandy invasion.

    Sorry Cyclops, no offense, but that did not do it for me.

  10. @Buck Rogers

    All that shaking stirred my bowels…

    I guess I’m yearning for a lighter touch, more “Dukes of Hazard” than “Schindler’s List”. Bike racing is hard, but it’s supposed to be fun on some level too, right?

  11. @sgt
    Agreed. Bike racing is fun. Merckx knows we have entirely too much fun on this site. But there’s a time and place for all kinds of coverage in bike racing. This one was great, IMHO.

    Here’s my idea of funny: Use the same cinematic style to film Will Ferrell and Jack Black curling.

  12. I liked the video too, but I’m a sucker for black-and-white, slow-motion artsy-fartsy shit.

  13. mcsqueak :
    I liked the video too, but I’m a sucker for black-and-white, slow-motion artsy-fartsy shit.

    Sgt: My wife always tells me that I can go a bit overboard with my passions in life: I will often wax all dramatic when describing an amazing scene from one of my favorite old foreign films, or when describing a passage from one of my favorite novels or lines from poetry that I love. For me, cycling is indeed fun, but it also truly gets almost reverential at times and, to some, I do get a bit too much, but it truly is so much more than just pedaling to me. I realize that that can sound pretty corny, but it is true. But I also just love to get out there and RIDE at times as well!

  14. After a few days to reflect here are some obervations:
    – Lay O pard might be the “No 1 team in the world” but they aren’t much of a classics team.
    – This really hurt Cancellara’s classics campaign, O’Grady’s efforts aside.
    – With all respect to Hushovd’s fans he’s not a race maker if you don’t count log break aways for green points he wins in bunch sprints or prologues. Based on this I don’t think he will be a major classics contender. We were therefore expecting too much.
    Motorcus (I love that new nickname) is starting to suffer from Cadelephantitis and maybe is starting to take himself a little too seriously. He wasn’t the only really strong guy at Flanders (Gilbert) and Roubaix had several v. strong protagonists.
    – Maybe Motorcus shouldn’t have shown his hand quite so emphatically at E3, it did make him the mother of all marked men.
    – Tomeke’s tactics at Flanders seem questionable. If Chavanel really was a leader then why attack at all, protecting him should have been the order of the day.
    – Garmin’s tactics I’m afraid centre around delivering a bunch sprint without chasing all day like HTC do, that’s why they have this weird no-ride thing going I think. Agree with earlier posts that they need to start behaving like a top team and not a underdog.
    – How exciting is the next generation of classics riders, really spoiled for choice?!
    – It was very satisfying to see Van Summeren take the win, nice things do happen sometimes and it was a most enjoyable race to watch.

    Now, I can’t wait for the Ardennes!

  15. …actually when I mentioned Cadelephantitis I meant the pre-rainbow’d Cadel. Sorry I didn’t realise it had been defined already :)
    Is there a word for pre-worlds attitudes of Cadel?

  16. Ah! Forgot to say that the photo of Servais above, is simply great!

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