Robyn’s Rutland Review: The CiCLE Classic 2018

“’Why would people tune in to watch a race other than the Tour de France?’ The answer is simple. We in the UK don’t make races look special enough. You go abroad and there’s so much razzmatazz and activity around it. TV companies in Belgium are vying for every event! [They’re] so attractive, it gets the crowds out. That’s what we have to do [at the CiCLE Classic] when it comes to road racing.” – Colin Clews to Always Riding.

___________________________________

You’d be right to associate the ‘Spring Classics’ with Belgium or France, perhaps even Italy, anywhere but the East Midlands of England.

The Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, all legendary events which are held on foreign soil. But during one day in April for men, and one day in June for women and juniors, winding stretches of road, combined with bergs and sectors, à la some of the famous one-day races in cycling, are awoken. Make no mistake, the Rutland-Melton International CiCLE Classic being in Britain rather than France or Belgium doesn’t make it any easier. Take 2012 for example, torrential rain had caused roads to be flooded, the race to be re-routed numerous times, and the ruined course was littered with trees and remnants of banners. Only 22 riders finished that day.

The inclusive creation of Colin Clews (the race features UCI Continental teams alongside national and club teams, with a mix of ages in a multinational peloton) relies heavily on twisting, tight roads accompanied alongside uneven road surfaces, sectors, and sharp climbs. Just like at Roubaix, the sectors are classified through stars. This includes the Barleyberg (Sector 11) with its 5-star severity, a new addition in 2017 alongside the 4-star StaplePark, whose brutality is juxtaposed with the beautiful scenery of yellow flora covering the side of the roads. The StaplePark is scaled twice (Sector 3 and 1), along with the 5-star Somerberg (Sector 7 and 4).

IMG_1294

 

I did a lot of work for the UCI, over in Belgium. You see the races and you think to yourself “Well, what’s different?” And the answer actually is nothing is different, apart from the actual will to do something and make a race look good! – Colin Clews.

 

Despite somehow enjoying watching races that seem incredibly difficult to ride, I’d actually never been to Rutland-Melton before. The 188km race had eluded me, always falling when I was back home in Lancashire, until now. My friend and I, along with her father, travelled up to a bunting-covered Oakham town to catch the start – where the weather was warmly welcomed in stark contrast to a gloomy Chorley Grand Prix just one week prior. After watching the team presentation and witnessing a somewhat awkward recollection of events last year (with the mentioning of the, quote, “finger situation” on the finish line from Hayden McCormick as One Pro took to the stage), we watched the flag drop and headed to the sectors.

 

 

On arrival at Newbold, the scenery for Sector 10 looked interchangeable to that of a Spring Classics race abroad; Clews had previously compared the CiCLE Classic to Flanders in an interview with Always Riding, and it’s easy to see why. A vast countryside that seems at odds with the punishing drama that occurs within it; the choking dust kicked up from bikes and car wheels, the loud sound of gears shifting, the shouting for riders to change or keep position on the bike from teammates. As the cyclists passed through – some looking like they’d rather be anywhere but on the bike – we crossed the road to see Sector 9 and Sector 8. The road surface for Manorberg seemed tougher in comparison to Newbold, with more uneven patches and even a slight spot of rain to contend with. At this point, the combined fighting forces of the leading quartet (Morvelo Basso’s Mottram, Kenway from Vitus Pro Cycling, Guerciotti’s Rodríguez Gil and Kibble of the Wales national team) was enough to maintain a gap of around 3 minutes. Yet, seeing the determined Moses-led peloton speeding around the bend onto this sector meant their time at the head of the race would soon come to a close. Following being shrouded in a cloud of dust, mechanicals and the designated ‘last vehicle’ travelling through, we advanced to one of the three feed zones.

 

 

This was situated between the two attempts that riders would pass through the Somerberg sector, and it was clear here that riders were becoming more drained. Dust-covered faces were looking pained, and some climbed off at this point, through injury, fatigue or facing more mechanicals. We soon made our way to the finish in Melton Mowbray, where the sprint finish would take place, and even more importantly to some, the winner of the prestigious pork pie would be announced.

 

 

Melton’s streets were lined with eagerly awaiting spectators behind barriers, children banging inflatables together, and an air of suspense as the race was reaching its climax. Cullaigh for Wiggins led the break onto the final lap around Melton Mowbray, and while One Pro’s Domagalski was close to a repeat of his Chorley Grand Prix win last weekend, Cullaigh proved the strongest in the two-up sprint to the finish line.

 

 

Of course, one of the most interesting aspects of the CiCLE Classic are the unique prizes received at the end. Cullaigh won the day, the yellow jersey, and also a gargantuan pork pie for leading into the final lap, while Kenway was King of the Bergs for Vitus. Sprints winner Mottram won his weight in beer, while ‘lanterne rouge’ Orr of Memil CCN was awarded a bottle of wine after arriving to the finish 18 minutes down. Pretty rewarding, no matter your result, isn’t it?

After being unable to see the CiCLE Classic before this year, it’s certainly an event I wouldn’t want to miss out on again. There’s something special about witnessing a classics-style race without having to travel to a different country, and Rutland-Melton looks a perfect match under the control of Colin Clews. I, for one, can’t wait to see the day the race gains the attention to which it deserves, TV presence included. Also the direction it takes – will there be opportunity for expansion? Only time (and sponsorship) will tell. I hope the CiCLE Classic gains as much prestige in Britain as the Belgian Classics one day, but without the loss of UCI Continental and club teams to the UCI World Tour.

Advertisements

Robyn’s Roubaix Review

“It’s bollocks, this race! You’re working like an animal; you don’t have time to piss; you wet your pants. You’re riding in mud like this; you’re slipping. It’s a piece of shit.”

[“Would you ride it again?”]

“Sure! It’s the most beautiful race in the world!”Theo de Rooij, after abandoning Paris-Roubaix in 1985.

___________________________________________

The Queen of the Classics. L’enfer du Nord. A Sunday in Hell.

What’s in a name?

No race has the ability to sound more intimidating than that of Paris-Roubaix. While some are lucky to have nicer nicknames, take E3 Harelbeke as “the little Tour of Flanders” for example, there’s no niceness for the “Hell of the North”.

How could anything that sounds so tormenting be so enjoyable to watch? Take horror movies – not too far off watching Paris-Roubaix. We can vicariously experience one of, if not the, toughest races to ride; we get the drama, the adrenaline rushes, the enjoyment, all through the safety of our own homes. Yet this changed for me this year. I got to witness the juxtaposition of such brutality and beauty on the roadside, with my friend and her father.

À la our travelling for the Tour of Flanders the week prior, we made it to the Eurotunnel on the Saturday afternoon. This time we had the luck of sitting behind two adorable dogs in our carriage, which certainly delighted us for the half an hour journey through the Channel Tunnel. Despite losing an hour due to time zones, there was still enough daylight to check out certain sectors of the course that the riders would face. Our starting point was the Trouée d’Arenberg.

___________________________________

#RobynsRoubaixRecon: Atmospheric Arenberg

From the very first time I watched Paris-Roubaix on TV, I questioned how anyone could enjoy riding this race; it was so long, and I’d never seen so many crashes in a few hours of each other, or so many riders barely recognisable from being covered in dust. Skinsuits were ripped, skin was bleeding, and yet, strangely enough, riders were adamant on returning the next year. I also picked up on the prominence of the Arenberg. One of only three pavé sections that obtain the hardest ‘five-star’ rank, it appears torturous to ride. A then-dominating Museeuw shattered his kneecap on this sector in 1998, gained an infection, and could have ended his career in the process – an amputation was almost on the cards. Mitch Docker has no memory of his high-speed crash here in 2016, during which he broke several teeth and his nose, cut his tongue in half, temporarily lost his ability to taste and could have lost his eye. Look at this way: the previous race director, Goddet, wanted to make the race more difficult in 1967, but not Arenberg levels of difficult. He took an extreme amount of persuasion, and the section was even pulled during 1974 – 1983.

DaMzQuMWkAE5lol

On the Arenberg. Photo by Chris Price, @TheWorstTrip.

In theory – it’s just one straight road of cobbles, but combined with the legacy of the 2.4km passage, the dark forest that envelops it, the trepidation riders have on approach to the sector, and the relief when they pass through relatively unscathed, the atmosphere is dramatically heightened into something almost unexplainable, had I not been to witness it for myself. Even with a few people riding the course as we walked along it, and standing in broad daylight, the apprehension just for this one stretch was evident.

 

#RobynsRoubaixRecon: Coarse Cobbles

After taking in as much atmosphere as we could handle, we headed south to Maing. Sector 22 was a three-star ranking in comparison to Arenberg’s five, and 2.5km in length, with the dusty cobbles travelling through exposed fields and lying in heavy contrast to the last sector we witnessed. There was no-one around on the part we were exploring, and as the sun was setting to paint Hauts-de-France in golden hour lighting, I have never experienced such a ‘calm before the storm’ feeling. There was a real sense of tranquillity here, in comparison to the expectation of a speeding peloton and roaring crowd to expect the next day.

 

_____________________________________

“Paris-Roubaix is the last test of madness that the sport of cycling puts before its participants…. A hardship approaching the threshold of cruelty.”

– Jacques Goddet, former Race Director.

As someone who wakes up and spends a while scrolling through their phone, checking Twitter like it’s a newspaper and preparing myself for the day, I saw a tweet in the morning that I wasn’t really expecting. It was from Matilda’s dad, Chris, saying that there was… rain? That couldn’t be right. Sure enough, I dared to look out the window, and there it rudely was. Rain. On Roubaix day. Not exactly a mixture I was hoping for. Nevertheless, the show must go on, and we made ourselves some coffee and eventually decided on an area to head to. I was definitely excited, my favourite one-day race of the year was here and I was seeing it, in person, for the first time. Better than being a child on Christmas morning right?

Fortunately, the weather improved the further south we travelled. Clouds were completely replaced by blue sky, and we parked up and walked through sector 25, the three-star Saint-Vaast, which was muddy from the rain, and slippery for those of us not even on bikes. Black on black wasn’t the smartest clothing choice for an abroad race that I’ve ever made, but even I knew despite this – the weather was boiling. As a pretty pale Brit, I would go so far as to say scorching, even. We settled on a grassy roadside with a large banking, on sector 26, passing the time before the caravan came through. This particular pavé was still 150km from the finish line, but held a harder ‘four-star’ ranking. (By the way, none of our predictions for the race came true. Not even on the podium. Maybe not even top-10. Oh well.)

 

Then came the joy of cycling races we all know and love – the caravan. The troupe of music-blaring vehicles that come before the main event, who hand out throw out hats and Haribo’s as they pass by. That filled a solid 15 or so minutes, as we still had to wait a couple of hours before seeing the break. But technically I was on holiday, so I didn’t mind.

Finally, along they came. You can always tell when the race is getting nearer, and it’s the approaching noise of the helicopter that gives it away. Then suddenly, it’s above you, and the break speeds past as if they haven’t been riding for 112km already. The peloton followed around 5 minutes later, and we ran back to sector 25. I’ve never had to climb through barbed wire before to experience a cycling race, but maybe I wasn’t being adventurous enough. They rode by once more, the break chased by the peloton, which had broken up even further as mechanicals and crashes had befallen riders; bike changes occurred just before us and ripped skinsuits were littered throughout the fragmented groups. One of the main things I love about this race is that everyone gets cheered with such passion. Sure, I know riders who have been dropped get cheered in other races, with their resilience to get back on something of an incentive for the crowd to be even louder, as if their voices could possibly carry them to the line, but it definitely felt stronger here.

 

So when the final cyclists rode through, we ventured back over cobbles and muddy roads to the car, making our way north this time – all the way to sector 2 – the last one before the Roubaix velodrome. Hem is a three star, 1.4km long section that only lies 8km from the finish. While waiting for the riders, it turned out we had beat the caravan here, so along came more hats for the waiting crowd on a now-cloudy sector.

 

It was certainly a sight to see the rainbow jersey-donned world champion, Peter Sagan – as well as the attacking force that was Dillier – leading after 54km on the front, still keeping the chasing groups away. The race was to be decided from this duo – Sagan sped away from Dillier in the final bend of the velodrome, claiming his first win in this Monument. Terpstra was the winner from the 4-man chasing group behind them, distancing the likes of 2016 winner Van Avermaet and ‘always-the-bridesmaid-never-the-bride’ Vanmarcke for the final spot on the podium.

And just like that, it was all over; my first Paris-Roubaix had finished. Want to re-live it with me? You’re in luck – Tilds and I vlogged it, which you can find here:

 

Has Roubaix further solidified its place as my favourite one-day race of the year? Definitely. Will I be going back? Absolutely. It truly is a race like no other.

Lastly, I would like to finish this blog post by saying RIP to Michael Goolaerts. I’ll be thinking of his loved ones and his team, Veranda’s Willems-Crelan.

Paris-Roubaix: 2017

“Paris-Roubaix is the last test of madness that the sport of cycling puts before its participants…. A hardship approaching the threshold of cruelty.” – Jacques Goddet, former Race Director.

__________________________________________

The 115th Paris-Roubaix wrote its way into the history books in unforgettable style, with the fastest edition of the Monument yet, culminating in a five-man sprint won by Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) with an average speed of 45.2 kilometres per hour – the delayed start due to a three-quarter tail wind not slowing them down.

20170409386_091721-2-b

Photo: ASO/P. Ballet.

The majority of the fanfare before, during and after the 257.5km Queens of the Classics went in the direction of Tom Boonen (Quick-Step), who placed 13th in his final race before his retirement. The Belgian announced his plans to hang up his cycling shoes in July last year, but pencilled a new contract that would take him to the finish of the 2017 Roubaix. With his last race on his home soil of Belgium just 4 days’ prior with Scheldeprijs, Boonen had been receiving ample attention recently from fans, media and various professional cyclists acknowledging his large career. He was aiming for a 5th Roubaix win, but this dream was not to be. Hindered by a lack of support with injured teammates, Terpstra crashing and abandoning with 115km to go and Declercq later reported as abandoned, and missing an important split caused by Trek, Quick-Step then relied on the experience of Štybar, 2nd placed in the 2015 edition of Roubaix.

Kramon_Roubaix2017_R-5398.jpg

Source: CyclingTips.

“It was only at the 5km to go mark that I began thinking, ‘these are the last kilometres of my career’”. – Tom Boonen (Quick-Step Floors).

The first break of the day took a while to construct, and by the first hour in the saddle many riders had tried and failed to go clear of the speeding peloton. Eventually Martinez (Delko Marseille) and Wallays (Lotto Soudal), found themselves clear alongside Belgian Delage (FDJ) before the first cobbled sector at Troisville. They could never establish enough of a distance to impact the race however, and were reeled in. Many of the ‘smaller’ teams found themselves fighting at the front for sponsor airtime. Speaking of which, despite Boonen being a prominent name in Roubaix, and the recent success of Gilbert at the Tour of Flanders, Quick-Step Floors sponsorship is still set to finish at the end of the year – with no sponsors signed on for 2018. However, their manager Patrick Lefevere is sure the team will be in the peloton next year.

“Nothing is certain… I have always planned for the worst case scenario. My deadline is June 30 and I will honour that. The talks are going in the right direction. The team will be in the peloton at the start of 2018.”

While the “Hell of the North” is frequently used to discuss Paris-Roubaix, with its iconic unsmooth road surfaces and cobblestones truly a hell for riders, it did not earn this name from the beginning of its induction in 1896 – when most roads were derived of cobblestone. L’enfer du Nord was derived from the impact of the First World War, with the majority of Northern France ravaged in 1919.

To describe it as “hell” was the only word. The little party had seen the hell of the north – in this particular case, the French administrative region of the North in which Roubaix stands. And that’s how they reported it in their papers next day. But hell was the post-war condition, not the state of the roads. Nobody thought the roads were hellish because that’s just how roads were. But come 1944 and liberation from the second world war, recovery brought better, smoother and straighter roads. And something curious happened. Just as in the Tour of Flanders, people began grew nostalgic for the bad old days. What was the point of Paris-Roubaix if all it had were fine, restored highways? – Taken from Autobus.CyclingNews.com, Tales of the Peloton, April 18, 2006. The Real Hell of the North.

With the year prior seeing crashes impact favourites like Cancellara (then Trek) as well as force 2 Team Sky riders to hit the ground, the 2017 edition was expected to be just as unforgiving. A high speed crash involving the likes of Naesen (AG2R) and Dougall (Dimension Data), as well as birthday boy Durbridge later (Orica) taken down. While Bewley (Orica) abandoned after giving Durbridge his bike in true teammate fashion, Naesen dusted himself off and ferociously fought back, being a looming figure at the front of the race and finishing 31st, despite a broken derailleur, a crash and four punctures. Even a 2016 3rd placed Stannard (Sky) now found himself caught out, and with a back wheel puncture he relented to stop during a cobbled section as the peloton drove forward, refusing to lose any precious time. Most significantly, Van Avermaet found himself in trouble just kilometres before the Arenberg. A replacement bike needed after a crash just before the Wallers section of cobbles, he was stranded with a minute behind him and Boonen, who was subsequently kicking up the pace at the front of the peloton. While he was shouting down the radio desperately, conveniently for BMC, Kristoff punctured. As the peloton hit the symbolic cobbled section of the Arenberg, legendary time trialist and TT World Champion Tony Martin (now Katusha from Quick-Step) took over the reins. While they reached the other end surprisingly unscathed, Kristoff and Van Avermaet were fiercely cutting the deficit, soon reattaching themselves to the main group.

D5A_9268-e1491877388471

Van Avermaet on the chase before the Arenberg. Source: CyclingTips.

Trek’s tenacity on the Hornaing cobbles saw them employ all the bodies they could to break the spirit of many riders struggling. The split they created managed to catch out Boonen, who had to utilise a lot of his energy to catch up. Acting on this, Sagan (BORA) attacked with just under 80km to go alongside teammate Bodnar, BMC’s Oss and Trek’s Stuyven. While Bora’s plans were short lived – a back wheel puncture for Sagan saw both him and Bodnar stop – Oss and Stuyven carried on. Catching them were Roelandts (Lotto Soudal) and Claeys (Cofidis) and Moscon (Sky) – the latter of this trio impressing once more at Paris Roubaix.  Whilst in the 2016 edition, “Il Trattore” saw himself crash on a cobbled section in the front group, he stayed upright this year to clinch 5th in a determined show which saw many wondering just how exciting this Italian’s future will be.

Hayman’s fairy-tale story in the 2016 Roubaix was not to be repeated this year, yet Orica had found Keukeleire in contention when Hayman missed the move on Mons-en-Pévèle, but the 27 year old from Belgium found himself in trouble after crashing into nettles and puncturing on the Mérignies à Avelin section.

“I knew I needed to be at the front there and for whatever reason … Jens [Keukeleire] made it, I think there were 15 guys. For whatever reason I missed that, I had a bad patch. Jens had a bit of trouble and then we came back to Boonen’s group, but those guys [Van Avermate and Stybar] had already gone.” – Mathew Hayman, Orica Scott.

Meanwhile, Sagan was still not finished. Attacking once more, he attempted to bridge, yet another puncture saw the World Champion unfortunately silenced. Van Avermaet rode past him to join his teammate Oss, alongside Langeveld, Moscon, Roelandts, Stuyven and Štybar. Job more than done for the day, Oss started slowing as the leading group showed no sign of relenting.

With 15km until the famed Roubaix finish line inside the Vélodrome André-Pétrieux, Van Avermaet ignited on the Carrefour de l’Arbre, with Štybar (Quick-Step) and Langeveld (Cannondale) joining before breaking and staying away, with the duo Moscon (Sky) and Stuyven behind them. The favoured Belgian Boonen was once again caught at the wrong point as this split occurred, yet stayed to the fore in the group behind Moscon and Stuyven to make sure he finished his last Paris-Roubaix in 13th place. His teammate Štybar’s persistence in refusing to work on the front while Van Avermaet and Langeveld picked up the slack for him ultimately did not pay off for either teammate Boonen or himself, as despite conserving energy, the Czech finished 2nd on the velodrome once again. It was a fierce contest, with the trio playing a dangerous cat and mouse game which saw them slow so much the duo rejoined them once more. Looking for his chance and unable to allow Boonen the chance to catch up, Moscon launched his attack with Van Avermaet crucially staying in Štybar’s slipstream to launch himself over the finish line first.

VAN-AVERMAET-Greg105pp.jpg

Photo: Yuzuru Sunada.

“In the end I was a bit afraid of Štybar because he wasn’t working with us. I’m really happy to have finally won a Monument because I’ve had a long wait for this. I had a bit of bad luck before the Arenberg but the team did good work. Everybody was in the right place for me and Daniel Oss did really good work and everything came together for me.” – Greg Van Avermaet after winning the 2017 Paris-Roubaix.

As quickly as the riders seemed to finish the race, Paris-Roubaix came and went, another Monument in the cycling calendar gone. With Greg Van Avermaet having a sensational season so far – winning Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in February, E3 in March and Gent-Wevelgem just two days’ after, it is any surprise the Classics King for 2017 (so far) would snatch a Monument this year too?

__________________________________________

Talking Points:

  • Where would Sagan have placed if he hadn’t punctured twice?
  • If Boonen was on the right end of the split, would he have finished any higher?
  • If Kristoff didn’t need service just before the Arenberg and Martin hadn’t controlled the peloton, what would’ve happened to Van Avermat’s Roubaix hopes?
  • If Quick-Step had more riders in contention by the Hornaing cobbles, could they have challenged like Trek and split the race?
  • Where will Greg Van Avermaet go from here?

 

Ronde van Vlaanderen: 2017

 “I will remember every second”Philippe Gilbert, Ronde van Vlaanderen 2017 winner.

_______________________________________________

The 101st edition of the Tour of Flanders, Ronde van Vlaanderen, De Ronde, or simply “Vlaanderens Mooiste” (Flanders’ Finest) truly produced one of the finest cycling races this season.

Flanders was Etixx’s race to lose, with their three-prong style attack providing them with 2 of the podium places at the end of the day, with only Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) separating them. Philippe Gilbert stood atop the podium, his impressive solo ride from 55km from the ascent of the Kwaremont, while the looming figures including Sagan (BORA) and Van Avermaet chased him down. A crash at 17km to go impeded any chance they had of catching him, and were only seen in the distance as Gilbert walked over the line, bike in the air, smile on his face. But where were the other favourites? How could one rider be left on his own for 55km during De Ronde?

GILBERT-Philippe391p

Source: Cycling Weekly.

The Muur

“It all started on the Muur. I was riding on Tom Boonen’s wheel and it went on from there.” – Philippe Gilbert.

After 5 long years, the Muur returned. Not in its usual, towards the end of race position, when riders are tested once again, line almost in sight, as they brave the [Flemish] “wall”, but 100km from the finish. While Cancellara attacked him on the climb in 2010 to take the win, the 2017 edition saw Boonen upping the tempo as he led the peloton over the top while teammates Gilbert and Trentin followed. A large majority of the peloton were caught out by this attack, but with the Etixx men were riders the likes of Vanmarcke (Cannondale), Rowe, Moscon (Sky) and Kristoff (Katusha). However, with 50km to the finish, Vanmarcke appeared to ride over a seam in the concrete on the road, crashing and taking down Rowe with him.

Oude Kwaremont

Philippe Gilbert launched his winning attack with 55km to go, on the ascent of the Oude Kwaremont, leaving the rest of the chasers far behind, with Sagan and Van Avermaet catching up to his teammate Boonen. What happened to Boonen? His chain slipped at the bottom of the Taaienberg climb, and his second chain on his second bike slipped moments after. When Boonen managed to gain Terpstra’s bike, this was too small, and his Flanders chances were over.

“At the end of the cobbles [Paterberg], I looked back and saw that I had a big gap. I called back to the team car, and they just said to keep going. I was worried because it was still a long way to go.” – Philippe Gilbert.

Trio’s Tumble

The last 10km of De Ronde were quite possibly some of the longest in Philippe Gilbert’s life. The trio of Sagan, the World Champion, and Van Avermaet, 2017 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Gent–Wevelgem and E3 Harelbeke winner, as well as Naesen, 3rd placed in E3 Harelbeke the same year, were closing in behind him. It was stated that as long as Gilbert had a minute on the trio by the time they hit the last climb of Kwaremont with 17km to go, Gilbert would be very likely to win. He had exactly a minute, but disaster struck for the chasers. Sagan chose to ride to the side of the road with Van Avermaet and Naesen in tow, but he has since stated it was the jacket on the side of the barrier that brought him down. The three crashed while Cannondale’s Dylan van Baarle rode past on the other side, eventually finishing in 4th.

Crash809pp

Source: Cycling Weekly.

The 101st edition of the Tour of Flanders had perhaps, one of the most dramatic, eyes-glued-to-the-TV wins produced. While it can be easy to dwell on the “what ifs?”, (what if Vanmarcke attacked with Gilbert on the Kwaremont? What if Vanmarcke didn’t crash, not taking out himself and Rowe? What if Van Avermaet was further up the road when Boonen lit up the race on the Muur? What if Sagan, Van Avermaet and Naesen didn’t crash?), it is impossible to take this well-deserved win from Philippe Gilbert. After all, who else would brave an attack in De Ronde with 55km to go? With no mechanical, no crash and no bad weather impeding him, the 101st Tour of Flanders is Gilbert’s.

gilbert

08d36a4f977031c4e19c81d71cec067d
Source: TDWSports.com.