Philippe Gilbert is simply brilliant. He’s now won the past 4 major races in a row: Brabantse Pijl, Amstel Gold, Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. And he’s done it in a number of different ways – sheer power, tactics, even a sprint. If you’re unfamiliar with Gilbert, I did a short write up on the Amstel Gold HERE. Belgians, and Gilbert in particular, are on a tear this year.
When you’re done watching the final 4 minutes of the race posted in the video above, head on over to Red Kite Prayer to read a great write up on this monumental race.
Below, here’s a great insightful video from Leopard-Trek’s resident leg-breaker, Jens Voight, on what makes Liege-Bastogne-Liege unique and what Andy and Frank Schleck needed to do…turns out they were there in the end but maybe too much wasted energy led to their demise? Then again, they wouldn’t have been there together in the end if they hadn’t made the race like they did. Either way, according to Jens, it all comes down to taking a chance and being “brave.” No question the Schlecks rode bravely but in the end another man was simply stronger.
The Amstel Gold was on Sunday and another Belgian won. Amstel is the Netherlands biggest pro bike race and begins what’s called the Ardennes classics. These series of spring races, named for the Ardennes mountains and forests that make up northern Belgium, France, and Luxembourg, include the monument Liege-Bastogne-Liege and also Fleche Wallone (coming up in a few weeks)
Ridiculously narrow roads. Road furniture that comes out of nowhere. Steep, punchy climbs and a crazy uphill finish. That’s Amstel Gold. The beauty of these spring classics (Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix + a host of smaller races) is that they all have their own quality and character and they generally favor different kinds of riders. Every few generations, we may see a Fabian Cancellara that can compete in all of them but for the most part San Remo favors the sprinters, Flanders takes a strongman able to burst over short climbs, Paris-Roubaix is sheer power and guts, and Amstel Gold takes an incredible all-arounder with a massive uphill sprint.
In this year’s edition, the rider with the number one on his back as defending champion, Philippe Gilbert, chased down Andy Schleck and powered his way up the finishing climb to reassert himself as a man for the classics. Gilbert is from the French speaking region of Belgium, but hey he’s Belgian, and the Flemish have adopted him as one of their own.
So just in case you’re counting this spring, that’s FOUR BELGIANS that have won the past FIVE classics/semi-classics: Tom Boonen at Ghent-Wevelgem, Nick Nuyens at Flanders, Johan van Summeren at Paris-Roubaix, Philippe Gilbert at Brabantse Pijl, and again Gilbert at Amstel Gold. Belgium is smaller than Indiana and they’re kicking the crap out of the rest of the world in the toughest races on the planet. The legendary toughness of Belgian bike racers is well-earned.
Almost makes me want to go train for 4 hours in the freezing rain. Almost.
Every so often, I’ll post video of daring and seemingly impossibly attacks from the world of pro cycling. Attack videos are cataloged HERE.
Do you remember this race? The 2006 edition of the Giro di Lombardia (the final of the 5 monuments) saw Paolo Bettini line up at the start just a few days after his brother passed away. The 2x World Champion (in back-to-back years no less) was well suited to the parcours but had a big target on his back. He attacked on the final climb and pulled away on this descent like a madman. Take a look at how close he gets to the guardrails and stone walls. Unbelievable. The moto has a difficult time keeping up! All the emotion of a win dedicated to his recently departed brother came pouring out as he crossed the line. Beautiful.
Here’s a companion video to my previous post The Subtle, Devastating Attack. In the previous post, we see Fabian Cancellara simply riding away from heavy hitter Tom Boonen on the decisive climb in last year’s Tour of Flanders. In this video from the 2010 edition of Paris-Roubaix, we see Spartacus riding away once again (at the 2:10 mark) from the strongest riders in the world. Poor Boonen could only watch as he was sitting too far back in the field to respond. To give chase would only mean pulling the entire break up to Cancellara…assuming he could. My guess is that he would have if he could but he didn’t. My favorite moment comes around the 6:20 mark when Leukemans, sitting on Fabian’s wheel, literally just sits up because he can’t follow the pace any longer. He rode the final 46k solo. Spartacus bulldozed the field.
The first video includes the Bulldozer Attack. The second video takes you to the finish of one of the most dominating Roubaix wins in the modern era.
De Ronde and Roubaix are coming up in the next 2 weeks. Can’t wait to see what fireworks go off this year!
In 2001, George Hincapie was in perhaps the best form of his life when he lined up for Paris-Roubaix. Earlier in the week, he took the win at the semi-classic Ghent-Wevelgem and was poised to be the first American ever to stand on the top step in the Roubaix velodrome. After a few hiccups and mechanicals earlier in the race, George found himself in the winning break alongside 3 Domo-Farm Frites riders including the Lion of Flanders himself, Johan Museeuw. And George got Domo’ed. A lone rider even of George’s strength couldn’t possibly cover all the moves as the Domo boys launched one treacherous attack after another. It’s agonizing to watch.
[tweetmeme only_single=false source=”artofgroupride”]
Long before cancer, 7 Tour wins, rock-star girlfriends, ubiquitous advertising, doping scandals, and comebacks, Lance was a young triathlete-turned pro bike racer who won a World Championship in 1993 before his 22nd birthday. He was the youngest professional to ever earn the rainbow jersey. 200 riders lined up at the start in Norway and roughly 50 finished. It’s difficult to imagine the kind of guts it took to not only hang with the best riders in the world that day but eventually attack them in those conditions that far from the finish line. It may have seemed impossible at the moment of downshifting and jumping but somehow the impossible became reality.
Guts. It seems like some days, just getting out on the bike this winter takes lots of ’em. Here’s to hoping this video of a young and hungry bike racer helps you find just a little bit more.
[tweetmeme only_single=false source=”artofgroupride”]
There’s a new rule in men’s professional bike racing. Beginning with this past summer’s Tour de France, UCI-sanctioned races now x-ray scan bicycles for electric motors. The reason? A silly internet rumor that went viral claiming that Spartacus used a motor in his Paris-Roubaix and Tour of Flander’s wins. This is what happens when a rider this powerful doesn’t so much attack as simply rides away from the strongest bike racers on the planet.
Consider what had to happen for him to even be in the position in this video from De Ronde: all 200 or so riders at the start are looking at him (and Tom Boonen). The leash was as tight as it ever could be on a single rider. And yet, there he was with only 16k to go at the base of the decisive climb with just one other rider (Boonen, the other favorite). After a bike scan following his prologue win at the Tour, FC replied, “It’s a sad and really outrageous story. Believe me, my feats are the result of hard work. After the race, they scanned my bike, and I said to them, ‘You better scan me, because I am the motor, not my bike.’”