Archive for February, 2010

Pic of the Day No.8

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Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne not a lot of fun.

What a day to ride a bike race, it looked like hell on wheels. Once again Team sky were to the fore with Ian Stannard doing a sterling ride for third place.

When I tuned in the leaders were Stannard and Dutchmen Bobbie Traksel and Rick Flens. A fallen tree was blocking the cote du Trieu and the race was shortened by 20km which must have been popular with the riders. Also missing were the inflateable arches that the organiser considered to be a potential danger in the high winds and rain. He complained about the loss of advertising revenue but said that he must put the riders’ welfare first- that will be a first.                                                                                                                                About twenty riders was chasing the Stannard break at about a minute. Well they weren’t really chasing so Thor Hushovd and Jeremy Hunt (both Cervelo) just rode off the front to be joined by Hayden Roulston (ex Cervelo now HTC Colombia). This group of three began to gain on the Stannard group and were at just 35 seconds when Roulston did a hard pull in to the wind up a slight ramp and Hunt just started freewheeling. Less than a minute later Hunt was off his bike and climbing in to a Shimano support car! I have never seen anything like it, one minute Hunt has, in theory, a fair chance of winning the race and the next he had climbed off.

Hunt’s abandonment put paid to the chaser’s hopes and shortly after Hushovd was dropped by Roulston. Up front all three were still working together with Stannard doing the strongest pulls. With 8km to the finish Flens attacked and Traksel cleverly let Stannard bridge the gap. There was then a series of attacks with Stannard seeming ever more desperate and never gaining more than a couple of bike lengths. Traksel won the sprint with ease and Roulston finished alone a minute later.

At the post race interviews Stannard could say little more than he was trying to keep warm and he did seem frozen stiff. In fact the only lucid interview was with Traksel’s charming partner who was carrying a very young baby. Although I couldn’t understand her it was clear that she had a great deal to say, possibly about the race, possibly about the joys of motherhood, who knows.

Sky did not quite achieve a famous Spring Double but they can be more than satisfied with the opening of the real racing season.

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Flecha superb, Guesdon amazing, Haussler good

Juan Antonio Flecha points towards the heavens in a tribute to his former team mate at Fassa Bortolo the late Frank VDB

It is something I thought I would never see, the manager of a British team hugging the winner of a major race. Juan Antonio Flecha crossed the line in Gent with his trademark bow and arrow victory salute then grabbed the Sky logo on his jersey and finally rolled to a halt beside a stunned looking David Brailford.

I watched the last 70km of Het Nieuwsblad on the computer and it was all good stuff. Boonen launched a massive attack on the Taaienberg to get a good gap and then cruised up the Molenberg to allow a select few to rejoin but there was then a general regrouping. A number of the favourites suffered misfortune including Nick Nuyens who punctured and later had to wait a long time for a bike change when in the Flecha group. Phillippe Gilbert slid off on a corner and Boonen punctured and took a wheel from a team mate. Eventually we had Gilbert, Roelandts (both Lotto), Flecha and the amazing Frederic Guesdon who had been away in a four man break since km ten at the front. On the last section of cobbles Gilbert attacked but Flecha got across and then jumped the Belgian who was later rejoined by Roelandts and Guesdon.  In the bunch, which was just 40 sec. behind Flecha with 10km to go, only Haussler wanted to race. He put a little team mate on the front pulling the bunch along for miles and then Haussler attacked after Gilbert etc were caught. He gained a few seconds but was re-caught in the finishing straight but still hung on for a podium place.

Flecha’s race was flawless, he did everything just right and Haussler was truly impressive if, as usual, unable to conserve his energy. But for me the man of the race was Guesdon. In the finale there was no evidence of his race long exploit and he was at least the equal of Roelandts and probably Gilbert also.

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