A San Remo to Savor

Most of the Rik van Bastard looks like this.
Only without Phil's name on the road
Whew, what a weekend.

8am Saturday was time for TTT time trial training with my new BikeWorks -Flandria teammates.   53x16, 15 rotating for about an 1.5 hrs on a windy 4.5 mile circuit.  Pulse on the upper limit several times.  Well to be more accurate, almost always on the upper limit.  What I'd originally programmed as an 'over-unders' day turned into what fellow flahute Dr. Brad more accurately described as 'over-overs!'

Good hard training though.  Pace line work is still as fun at 50 as it was when I was 20.  Some of the guys were pretty strong.  Tom and Joe in particular were true beasts toward the end.  Good guys, good company.

Sunday afternoon saw a long hilly training ride in Rhode Island's Blackstone valley on an undulating loop from Lincoln Woods I nicknamed the 'Rik van Bastard' about a decade ago.  Why?  Because it's as 'haaahd as a baastid' as we like to say in Boston.  Up and down every steep hill you can string together in the area.  Ideal Tour of Battenkill prep.

Great training ride, but yesterday where no matter which direction you'd turn, the wind was in your face.  You know those rides?   This one was three and a half hours of up and down.  Pretty cold, but at least it wasn't raining.  Felt good to climb.

Hey, it coulda been worse.  It could have been as windy as it was for these guys on this ride in this video.
Nothing like the plaatland for learning how to ride in the wind, to ride echelons.  We had some gusts of wind that were pretty tough Friday, but nothing like this...

In between those outings, and some oversight of my teen son's science fair project on the home front, I of course watched the Milano San-Remo clips later on the web.  Looked like all the action was in the finale anyway, so that plan worked out.

This was one of the best San Remo races I can remember, one harkening back to the Eddy Merckx days where it seemed like almost every year, attacks and splits up and down the Poggio made la Privavera much much more than a bunch sprinters race.  Here's my 2 cents on what we saw Saturday...

Roger DeVlaeminck and Beppe Saronni - Via Roma, 1978. 
Matt's more than a sprinter:   This San Remo was a race for the 'strong men'.  All the guys who made the final selection - except Goss - were not pure 'sprinters'.  Rather it was a break ofstrong rouleurs, many of whom have a good turn of speed.   Matthew Goss gets big props for having the form to stay with this elite selection over the top of the Poggio after 300k.

Personally, I think the most marvelous way for a sprinter to win a race is not to keep it together for a bunch sprint (as we've become accustomed to seeing in too many races in the past 2 decades, particularly in the classicissima), but rather to make it into an escape of strong men, and win it from a more select group.   To be the 'last surviving sprinter' in a selective race of elimination.   To win the hard way, the great way.

It's not always the fastest sprinter who wins big races, rather the one who outsurvives the other sprinters to stay with the best.  We don't see sprinters doing this very much anymore.   But when I started cycling, and following it, it seemed to happen a lot.   Freddy Maertens won lots of his races in small groups, like his Ostuni world championship in '76.   Roger DeVlaeminck beat sprinter Saronni from a group of three in the 1978 San Remo (here).    And 'sprinter' Sean Kelly beat LeMond and Beccia in a break in 1986.    And how 'bout Beppe Saronni?  A former World European silver medalist in the match sprint on the track (behind American Gibby Hatton in 1974!), who later won his Milan San Remo solo.  And also won the Giro d'Italia twice for that matter.  Now that's a sprinter.

All of those guys - Maertens, Saronni, DeVlaeminck, Kelly - were among the fastest.  Hard to argue each was not a pure sprinter, capable of winning the biggest bunch gallop.   Only those guys didn't rely on that, or a massive leadout train like most of today's sprint stars.

And neither did Matt Goss Saturday.   Great ride.

Speaking of Roger...  Sporza did a nice 'at home with the eternally young Roger' clip in Eeklo this weekend, where after watching his son Eddy get a nice assist in a youth soccer game like a good soccer dad, and after drives home to cast his expert commentary on the finale of San Remo right in his own living room.   Check it out here.  You get the feeling Roger wishes he was still in there.  I wish he was still in there.

De Finale Flandrien  - Greg Van Avermaet made the race on the Poggio, with form that bodes well for the northern classics to come.  The former winner of de Flandrien award showed why he's a real one today, let there be no doubt.

For a few minutes, I thought he was going to solo in for a Belgian win, 30 years after Fons de Wolf in 1981 (photo left)   I know I'm a little biased, but I think that would have been schweeet!

In fact, I don't ever recall anybody having such a big gap over the top of the Poggio (pretty much outta sight ...maybe 10 seconds?) but getting pegged back on the descent.    Nibali and Cancellara must have really been driving that chase at motobike warp speed.   The gap this escape put on the rest over the top and down shows that they were going frighteningly fast.

Eddy's 'Hindsight is 20-20' analysis:  Now over to last year's flandrien of the year winner.  I just love watching Phillipe Gilbert race, he's such a generous all-around beast.  For a brief shining moment, Phil's attack with 2k to go looked like a winning move... until his Monaco neighbor, Italiian hair-boy Pozzato pegged him back.   (Looks like things are going to be a mite chilly at the cafe in Casino square this week...)  

I couldn't help but think that once Phil was clearly pulled back, he kept driving for just a little too long in his final desperate, last ditch effort to 'break' the rest with his tremendous power.    I know the tactic textbook says to just keep drilling it until they're clearly on your wheel, but Phil was going like it was all or nothing for pretty long after it was clear they'd basically made the juncture.   Despite that do or die effort, it turned out he still had a strong sprint left at 500m, but not enough juice to beat Goss.    I couldn't help but wonder if he had not driven those last extra 200-300 meters of his escape, and sat up / freewheeled earlier when it was clear he was caught, if those extra matches could have been the difference?   Hindsight being 20/20 we'll never know.

'Beste Phil:'  Phil - I know you were disappointed at your 'friend' Pozzato' being the one to pull you back, but last time I checked, this is a professional sport, one of the biggest classics (for an Italian in particular), and both of you were 'in it to win it.'  Or was it a tongue in cheek remark?  Great ride, you've got nothing to regret.  You'll kill him on the Muur.

Will the real superteam please stand up?   Off day for the super-hyped Garmin and Sky juggernauts.   Neither got anybody in the move.

My pick for team of the week?  The American-Swiss BMC squad.   VanAvermaet's move was super.  And Ballan is back.  His 4th place was a great ride from the former world champion, his form coming there just in Time for Flanders.   They'll have Georgie there too.  He was 22nd at only 27 seconds down, so the grand old man of the classics has the form he needs for a final campaign on the stones of Flanders and France.    And let's not forget that Cadel Evans won Tirreno Adriatico.   Och's boys are looking strong.  Add Taylor Phinney to the mix, you've got quite a team.   Imagine if they'd successfully lured Spartacus from Leopard den?

And speaking of the Swiss... Watching the post race interviews on RAI was interesting.  A bittersweet Fabian Cancellara was getting verbally bombarded by a machine gun staccato tag team of over-caffinated Italian announcers.  I was impressed by how professional and articulate he was.  Spartacus was so close, clearly disappointed, but professionally philosophical.   Another who'll get his revenge in a few weeks, very likely. A class act.

Non e possibile!  Che Tragedia?  O potrebbe Disastro?  Quiz wielersupporters.  Just what do you call it when there are four Italians in an 8-man finale of Milan San Remo, and they finish 4th, 5th, 6th... and 8th?  Your comments welcome.

 It's been 6 years now since an Italian (Pozzato) last smiled in the Riviera sun.  No panic though, they'd experienced a much longer drought in the fifties and sixties.  Hard to believe, but no Italian won on the via roma  between Coppi's Bianchi team sprinter Loretto Petrucci in 1953 until a tearfully and dramatically celebrated solo by Molteni's Michelli Dancelli broke the jinx in 1970 (photo left, story here).  A win that inspired the birth of one of cycling's greatest brands.  Dancelli's framebuilder and team mechanic was a guy named Ernesto Colnago, who immediately started marketing his frames under his own name, choosing a 'flower logo' to remember the 'city of flowers' (la citta dei fiori).

Aaahh, Primavera.  Spring is here, even if our local weather (snow today) doesn't reflect it.   Get out and ride!


  1. Agree with your sprinters comments. When did you ever see Cippolini or for that matter Cavendish in a break! Pure sprinters seem to be a product of the last 10-15 years; riders who only win from staged team trains at the end of a race.

  2. TTT training? I didn't get the memo


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