Warm-up for National Racing Calendar start in Redlands
The start of the USA Cycling National Racing Calendar is just over a
week away, and as usual, the San Dimas Stage Race will serve as an
important tune-up for series opener, the Redlands Bicycle Classic.
Most of the top teams will be present for the race in the small
Southern California town of San Dimas. The event favors the climbers
with a 4.25 mile uphill time trial on Glendora Mountain Road on Friday,
followed by the undulating Bonelli Park road race on Saturday. The fast
and flat downtown San Dimas criterium completes the three-day race.
The race will have new champions this year, with last year's men's
winner, Janier Acevedo graduating to the World Tour, and women's
champion Mara Abbott moving over to UnitedHealthcare, who will not be
participating in the race.
There are a number of riders on the start list: the race will be the
first test for new Jamis-Hagens Berman recruit Daniel Jaramillo, a
promising young Colombian climber, and veteran Spanish rider Eloy
Teruel. Last year's criterium winner Juan Jose Haedo will also be back
in action with the team.
It will also be Jake Keough's nascent outing with his new 5 Hour
Energy/Kenda team. Expect Keough to target the road stages, while
another new acquisition, Chad Beyer, will be a threat for the general
Jelly Belly-Maxxis will have a strong team comprising former Garmin
rider Jacob Rathe, Serghei Tvetcov and Mexican champion Luis Lemus.
On the women's side, former San Dimas champion Amber Neben will make
her return with the FCS|Zngine p/b Mr. Mr. Restore team. Neben has spent
nearly a year rehabilitating injuries sustained in a dramatic crash at
the Tour of California women's time trial in San Jose last May.
Neben's former team, Specialized-lululemon, will line up with a
strong squad behind former US champion Robin Farina, climber Taylor
Wiles, and Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies will be formidable with
current US champion Jade Wilcoxson, Brianne Walle and new recruit Amber
Pierce. Team TIBCO will field a young team under the guidance of veteran
Team Sky rider reflects on track at Rio Olympics, Paris-Roubaix and the Hour Record
Bradley Wiggins was in a reflective mood after finishing third in the Tirreno-Adriaticotime trial, hinting to Cyclingnews that this year's Tour de France
could be the last of his illustrious career before he switches focus to
the track and riding the team pursuit at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro
Wiggins desperately wants to be part of Team Sky's squad that will
line-up in Leeds for the Grand Depart and is ready to work for Chris
Froome in a key lieutenant's role. However, his ambitions to win a fifth
Olympic gold medal, his age and the end of his major contract with Team
Sky seem to be aligning to mark the end of his often difficult
relationship with Le Tour.
"After the Tour de France, we're 18 months out from the Olympics and
that's really when you've got to get back on the (track) programme. It
could be that this is my last Tour. If it is, I'd better make it a good
one," he told Cyclingnews, with his usual self-effacing irony.
Wiggins seems ready to sacrifice riding the Tour de France for one last campaign on the track.
"It's likely I'll be on Team Sky for the next couple of years, even
if I'm on the track programme, because that's what the team was created
for: to help the track guys. But in what capacity I will race could
change drastically as I put on more weight for the track and specialise
for it," he explained.
Wiggins has seen how poorly the Great Britain men's team performed in the recent track world championships [a young team finished 8th in qualifying and did not make the finals -ed] and believes he can again help the national cause.
"I think I can get in the team. Look at what they did in the Worlds. I
don’t think it's going to be a tough team to crack into," he explained.
"It'll need a few guys coming back, people like Pete Kennaugh and
others but perhaps Geraint won't come back because his road stuff is
coming on so well. But I'm not going to take it lightly. I could even be
back on the track this winter for the qualification process."
No Hour Record attempt planned
The track is Wiggins' first love and is likely to be his last as a
professional athlete. He does not see himself going for the Hour Record,
despite Fabian Cancellara's planned attempt reviving interest in the
"I don't think so," he told Cyclingnews. "It's something I
could look at doing but I haven't given it any thought. The thought of
riding around the track for an hour doesn't do anything for me."
"I remember seeing Boardman do it in 2000 and it looked horrible and
not something you'd take on lightly. Especially if you have to sit in
that traditional position."
"Just to warrant the time it needs makes it so difficult. There's so
much other stuff going on. I think the only way to do it is to come off
the Tour de France and treat it like the Olympic time trial. As a
project you'd have to dedicate eight to ten weeks and I think it'd be
difficult for riders to do."
Focusing on Paris-Roubaix
Wiggins is currently focused on preparing for Paris-Roubaix.
Fabian Cancellara scoffed at Wiggins' chances of winning on the pave
when speaking to the media at Tirreno-Adriatico, but Wiggins is
genuinely keen to be part of Team Sky's assault at success in northern
"Fabian is a bit like that. He's like a big kid at times," Wiggins
said, putting the Trek Factory Racing rider firmly in his place.
"I think it’s his way of dealing with the pressure and a way of
getting the respect he thinks he deserves as someone who has dominated
"At Roubaix, you can't under estimate anybody and there's been some
surprise winners in the past just as there's some clear favourites like
Tom Boonen and Fabian. It'll be interesting; that's the beauty of
Roubaix. I've ridden well at Paris-Roubaix in the past and I think I'm
strong and part of a better team this time."
Wiggins is ready to be a team player along side his teammates Ian Stannard and Geraint Thomas.
"It's not a case of me being team leader. Ian and Geraint both deserve that role with the form they've got," he said.
"But having several riders up front after the Forest of Arenberg is
important. My goal is to be with those guys and be in the selection.
After that it's about having the legs, so you can do something or help
your teammates. You never know it could split early, like when Van
Summeren won. We want to be in that position and then play it out on the
Jason Richardson was still racing w hile he pursued his doctorate.
Jason Richardson was five years old when his big brother started racing BMX bikes in the late 1980s.
“I wanted to do it, too,” Richardson said. “I was terrible when I started. Terrible. But my brother was good, so I didn’t have to be.”
Through most of his BMX career, Richardson, who is now a licensed Psychologist and Doctor with an MBA and a business built around inspiring people, businesses and athletes to rise to their potential, never expected he would one day be a BMX legend. He didn’t forecast a 1994 World Championship or a 2007 Pan American Games victory.
He just liked racing and kept looking for ways to stay on the bike until he retired in 2008 as the oldest racer in the sport at the time.
From the beginning, Richardson’s future as one of the best BMX racers in history was not fated or obvious.
Richardson’s brother was almost five years older and he had a lot of success early on.
“He was getting a lot of notoriety and winning and getting sponsorships.”
The boys grew up mostly in New Jersey with their mom, but first discovered BMX bikes while visiting their dad in Las Vegas. He lived near the Desert Surf skate park.
The boys borrowed a bike that first year of racing and each got their own bikes when they visited their dad for Christmas. It was pretty exciting.
Richardson said he was never very good but loved going to the races.
Getting into it
“I didn’t start coming into my own until I was 14 or 15,” he said.
It all changed because he was bored one summer. He was going into eighth grade when he asked his mom if he could ride his bike to the track, which was about five miles from his house. He rode nearly every day that summer.
“The first local race that season I won and everyone was really surprised,” Richardson said.
He won several amateur events that year and decided he wanted to get into the national racing scene. Around that time, he moved to Las Vegas to live with his father.
“I’d won kind of haphazardly back in Jersey and started to create this expectation for myself,” he said. “I wanted to race and get sponsored and get to the point where I was one of the winning guys in the amateur class.”
Richardson’s dad supported his BMX goals, but wanted to see him commit fully to the sport.
“My dad said if I wanted to race he needed to see me training – well, we called it practicing then,” he said.
Richardson rode up Lone Mountain Road nearly every day to train. He thought it was a pretty big hill until he moved to San Diego as an adult and realized his Vegas training ground had been pretty mellow.
He figured he would have to give up his BMX biking once he went to college. That, combined with the knowledge he wouldn’t be able to amass enough points in his age group to win a meaningful title, convinced him to go pro. He just wanted to be able to say he’d been pro before he gave it all up.
“I didn’t really have any plans to make it a career,” Richardson said. “I was just going to have fun and hopefully make a little money before college.”
He raced single A because he never really considered getting into AA.
His sponsor, Auburn, would pay for just five races. He was in his freshman year at the University of San Diego and he didn’t have a car, just his bike.
He didn’t shine in his first two pro races. And he didn’t do well on the first day of his third race in Phoenix. But it rained that Sunday.
“I don’t know what happened, but something just clicked and I won,” he said.
He did OK in Bakersfield. El Paso was going to be the last race his sponsor covered. He almost had enough winnings to turn up to AA, but not quite.
“I figured if I’m going to have this be my last paid race, I’m going to turn myself up and hopefully have my sponsor pay.”
Auburn paid to bump him up to the next level and he nailed it – finishing in the top three. While his sponsor didn’t cover any more races, Richardson used the winnings from each race to pay for the next one and had a complete season.
The next year, TNT Bikes sponsored him and he was training, racing and going to college full time.
“I was on a roll,” he said. “The sponsorships picked up and racing had turned into a job.”
He won a world title in 1994 – one of his proudest moments in racing. His friends from college were all looking for work and he already had enough money in the bank to buy a house after he graduated in 1997.
Planning for the future
He negotiated a great sponsorship with Giant and everything looked pretty great.
“But I felt like – wow, I’m lucky. And also, I could lose all this. At the end of the day, it’s someone else’s decision if they want to pay me to ride my bike.”
So, Richardson decided to get his Masters in Business Administration. He studied and raced full time. And he just kept racing. There were some ups and downs with the sponsorships, but they were usually there and Richardson kept riding.
He broke his femur in 2006. Haro was his sponsor and they took care of him, giving him a coaching roll while he was off the track for six months.
“I didn’t want to have that be the way I went out,” he said.
So, he went back to racing that year as one of the oldest riders in the sport.
“My second race back after I broke my leg, I sat on the plane next to a couple – they were psychologists,” Richardson said.
He asked them a lot of questions about what they did and what they liked about it. He had been to sports psychologists before and was a philosophy major. It seemed like a good fit. Dr. Richardson
“Literally, when I got off the plan that October I was researching programs and I was back in school by that January,” he said.
Richardson kept racing while he pursued his doctorate and had an opportunity to ride in the Pan American Games in 2007.
“I wanted to win it,” he said. I was so far along in age for a racer and I knew it was one of those races that go down in the history books. People might not know about cycling, but they’ve probably heard of the Pan American Games. There was some ego and legacy stuff in there.”
That’s why the Pan American gold medal win in 2007 is one of his most memorable and proud BMX moments.
He retired from racing after that in 2008 and finished his doctorate in 2011. Today, he works with athletes and offers training and motivational workshops for businesses. He’s a sought-after speaker and has found a lot of enjoyment and success in his new profession. He helps people identify and work toward their goals, something he finds tremendously satisfying.
He and his wife have two boys, who are 5 and 9.
“They know how to ride and they have great equipment,” Richardson said about his kids. “But I don’t know that they’re as into it as I was. They’re both athletic and talented. I just don’t think biking is their thing.”
Lloyd, Rathe and Rodriguez open new options for American team
team manager Danny Van Haute has the type of problem this year that all
managers hope for; his 2014 roster is so flush with talent that he
might have trouble deciding which card to play on any given day.
In the past, the team went with the one card that most of the
Continental squads have to play when competing against the WorldTour and
Pro Continental teams that show up for North America's high-profile UCI
stage races: infiltrate the breakaways tp get the TV time that the
But with a roster that now includes three former WorldTour riders -
Matthew Lloyd, Jacob Rathe and reigning US road champion Freddie
Rodriguez - along with a core group of over-achievers from last year,
Van Haute and team director Matty Rice will have some tough decisions to
"I think we have the guns to do more now," Van Haute told Cyclingnews
recently from the team's training camp north of San Diego. "So we have
to think strategy now. So if this scenario happens what do we do here.
Let's do this, let's do that. So I think our team meetings will be a
little longer this year."
Lloyd, who won the mountains classification and a stage of the 2010
Giro d'Italia, is an obvious GC threat for the team, and he'll have help
from fellow climbers Kirk Carlsen and Luis Lemus. Meanwhile, Rodriguez
will benefit from the lead-out experience of Rathe, who over the past
two years was often near the front of the Garmin-Sharp train and was the
last man in line to drop Tyler Farrar off for his stage win at the 2013
Amgen Tour of California.
Add into the mix 2013 Cascade Cycling Classic overall winner Serghei
Tvetcov, Nature Valley Grand Prix stage winner Sean Mazich, two-time
Mexican road champion Lemus, Ian Burnett and Nic Hamilton, and the team
is raising expectations for the upcoming season.
"Our goals are set high," Van Haute said. "In the past I think our
goals were set a little bit low, but you have to adjust that with the
riders that you have. So this year, finally, we're pretty confident that
staff-wise, rider-wise, we're pretty confident that when we're at the
Amgen Tour of California, when we're at USA Pro Challenge, Philadelphia,
Tour of Utah, we're contenders.
"That's how we all feel," Van Haute said. "We can go into these races
now and, yeah, put somebody in the break like we always do, but we also
have an opportunity to win a stage or maybe a good showing in the GC."
Van Haute said that although the team is targeting the big North
American UCI races this season rather than trying to be the top team on
the National Race Calendar, all of the events Jelly Belly enters will
will be fodder for wins and stepping stones toward greater success.
"Is Gila a goal? Absolutely," Van Haute said. "Is Redlands a goal?
Absolutely. They all are in a line, and we're building and building
until we get to Amgen, until we get to USA Pro Challenge, until we get
to the Tour of Utah. Those are all little steps to getting there, and
before you know it we're winning a lot of races."
Lloyd will start his season with the team at Gila, where he will fine
tune his form after coming over from his home in Australia, but his
first big goal will be California.
"We don't really need to have him shine at Gila, because we have Luis
[Lemus] who can climb, we have Kirk [Carlsen] who can climb, which is
nice when you have three guys who can support each other," Van Haute
said. "We don't have the pressure on Luis every day like last year. He
was our only climber. Now we have two or three guys. So let's change it
Van Haute is also looking forward to finding out what Rodriguez is
capable of achieving with a proper lead out, something Van Haute
admitted was weak last year.
"The best we could do last year was maybe bring Freddie to the 1km
mark," he said. "Now I think we can bring him to the 400 meter mark. Now
we can bring him to the line, and maybe that's what he needs to win a
After a warm up at the Tour de Murrieta following team camp, Jelly
Belly will hit the San Dimas stage race, the Redlands Bicycle Classic
and possibly the Sea Otter Classic. After the Tour of the Gila and Tour
of California, the team will focus on the US pro championships, the
North Star Grand Prix [formerly the Nature Valley Grand Prix] and the
Philly Cycling Classic. Then Jelly Belly will head across the border
into Canada for the Tour de Beauce and the Grand Prix Cycliste Saguenay.
"Then we'll take a big break - about four weeks of not doing anything. Everybody goes home and relaxes," Van Haute said.
The team will start the second half of the season at the cascade
Cycling Classic, where Tvetcov will get a chance to defend his 2013
"Then we hope to get invites to Utah, USA Pro [Challenge] and Tour of
Alberta," Van Haute said. "And then we'll go into our Asia phase. I've
applied for some races there - some races in Japan and some races in
China. If we get the invites we'll go, if not, our season is pretty much
done in September."
Analysis of Boonen's success, Team Sky's racing and the indication for Flanders
1. Radio-free Europe Tour
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, so the truism goes, is not the Tour of
Flanders. It’s 50 kilometres shorter, the final climb is much further
from the finish and no serious Ronde contender is at peak condition a
month out from the big day. On Saturday, however, it was a more recent
difference between the two races that stood out.
When Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) went clear with Lars Boom
(Belkin) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky), it looked like the
winning move, but then a curious thing happened. Terpstra opted to sit
up, calculating that Tom Boonen
would have a better chance of winning from a large group than he would
of beating Boasson Hagen in the sprint himself. There was one major
drawback: by that point Boonen was no longer part of the chasing group,
and the only Omega Pharma-QuickStep rider remaining was noted non-sprinter Stijn Vandenbergh.
Terpstra had no way of knowing that Boonen had been dropped, because
as a non-WorldTour race, radio earpieces are not permitted at the Omloop
and his team car was still behind the chasing group. Boom’s subsequent
puncture meant that the move may have struggled to stay clear
regardless, but the point remains. If Terpstra found himself in a
similar situation at E3 Harelbeke or the Tour of Flanders, for instance,
he would have been instantly updated on Boonen’s whereabouts and taken a
very different decision. There are deeply entrenched views on whether
radio earpieces make for better races or worse races, but one thing is
clear – they certainly make for different races.
2. No Pompeiana? No problem
On the eve of the Belgian opening weekend came confirmation that the
climb of Pompeiana will not feature in Milan-San Remo after all and the
race will revert, for this year at least, to the pre-2008 route. You’d
get a very different opinion from the likes of Joaquim Rodriguez and
Philippe Gilbert, of course, but the riders canvassed in Belgium over
the weekend made little secret of their pleasure at that development.
“The oldest course is the nicest one,” Boonen said of Milan-San Remo,
and the action at Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne supported
that old adage that it is the riders themselves, rather than the route,
who make a race.
The last climb at Het Nieuwsblad is almost 40 kilometres from the finish
line, while Kuurne is traditionally written off as a sprinters’
benefit. Yet the absence of a decisive hill in the finale did not
diminish either of the weekend’s races; quite the opposite. Set-piece
climbs in the latter stages of major races often serve only to calcify
riders’ inhibitions and the relative inertia of the favourites before
the last Kwaremont-Paterberg double at the past two Tours of Flanders is
a case in point.
At Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne, by contrast, there is no set “script”
in the finale. Their flat run-ins are instead like blank pages, and
allow plenty of scope for invention and creativity. Since 1982,
Milan-San Remo’s Cipressa-Poggio combination has served a similar
purpose – neither too difficult nor too easy, it is familiar but still
always open to new interpretations. As Omloop and Kuurne showed this
weekend, that’s never a bad recipe for a classic.
3. A change of approach at Team Sky?
Ian Stannard’s Het Nieuwsblad victory is an early-morale booster for
Team Sky’s often-maligned classics unit. Although it should also be
noted that they have performed strongly on the opening weekend in each
of their previous four seasons only to fall flat over longer distances
and at higher stakes in April. However Team Sky delivered a very
cohesive team showing on Saturday, with third-placed Boasson Hagen, Luke
Rowe and Bernhard Eisel all playing their part in support of Stannard.
Initially – and externally, it should be added – much of the blame
for Team Sky’s low-key classics display last year was placed on their
decision to train at Mount Teide rather than race at Tirreno-Adriatico
or Paris-Nice beforehand. Yet although that experiment will not be
repeated this year, the team’s riders and staff insist that it was not
the root cause of their woes on the cobbles.
Directeur sportif Servais Knaven pointed to the fact that many of his
riders fell ill before the Tour of Flanders as mitigation for their
performance, while Ian Stannard made an interesting observation during
the recent Tour of Qatar when he wondered whether the team’s policy of
approaching the classics with multiple leaders, all on an equal
standing, had proved counter-productive.
On Saturday, Team Sky appeared to enter the race with a more fixed
hierarchy than normal, whereby Stannard was the acknowledged leader and
the fast-finishing Boasson Hagen his foil, and it will be interesting to
see if a clearer demarcation of roles leads to significant improvements
at Flanders and Roubaix. Incidentally, Stannard’s win also marks out
his territory on the team for Paris-Roubaix, where Bradley Wiggins is
set to make his first appearance since 2011.
4. Being Tom Boonen
Boonen’s Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne triumph was the 22nd classic or
semi-classic victory since he got off the mark by winning E3 Harelbeke
ten years ago. In that time, only two springs – 2010 and the injury-hit
2013 – have gone by without a Boonen victory on the cobbles. It’s a
remarkable record, all the more so considering that he has been under
the unrelenting focus of his home media and public throughout.
Gazet van Antwerpen’s Guy Van Den Langenbergh recently sat Boonen and
Fabian Cancellara down together for an interview, published this
weekend, and one exchange offered some insight into what life is like
for Belgium’s most famous sportsman.
“I don't go to the supermarket because everybody is always looking at
what I am buying when I go there,” Boonen said, to the horror of
It’s the kind of attention that has proved far too much for more than
one young Belgian rider over the years, and Boonen has experienced his
own share of turbulence during his career, but he has also shown
remarkable endurance and resilience. At 33 years of age, he is still
winning, still smiling – and still the man to beat on the cobbles.
5. The Empire Strikes Back
“The Tour of Qatar is not the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad,” Sporza
television co-commentator José De Cauwer said when it emerged that Tom
Boonen had been dropped on Saturday afternoon, suffering in the cold
conditions. Indeed, on a disappointing afternoon for Omega
Pharma-QuickStep, Niki Terpstra was one of the few to perform to his
expected level and it left some wondering if the team’s domination in
Qatar had been over-stated.
The Omega Pharma-QuickStep response arrived a day later at
Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne and in emphatic fashion. Stijn Vandenberg set a
fierce pace on the Oude Kwaremont, and by the summit there were five
black jerseys in the leading group of ten. Over the next 60 kilometres,
with help from a strong Belkin trio, they held off the chasing peloton
and Boonen – inevitably – won the group sprint.
Team Sky directeur sportif Servais Knaven noted that the best teams
have their riders in the right position before crucial climbs nine times
out of ten, and after their Omloop disappointment, QuickStep were not
going to miss out again. They don’t always win the classics (though they
often do), but year after year, QuickStep set the standards that
everyone else much match. It would be a surprise if that wasn’t the case
again in 2014.
6. How soon is now for Van Avermaet?
Greg Van Avermaet’s failure to beat Ian Stannard at Het Nieuwsblad
will only give further succour to those who look to dismiss the Belgian
as a nearly man – his 2011 Paris-Tour victory, still a classic no matter
what the WorldTour calendar might say, is often and unfairly overlooked
– but there are still some positives to be drawn from his second place
In the finale, Van Avermaet showed more confidence and initiative
than he has done in such situations in the past. He forced the pace on
the Leberg, led the chase of the Terpstra-Boom-Boasson Hagen group, and
then seized the chance to launch the winning move with Stannard.
For the second year running at Omloop, however, the devil was in the
detail. Last season, he suffered an untimely fringale on the run-in to
Ghent. This time around, like many others, Van Avermaet was short of a
layer of clothing when the heavens opened after the midway point, and
short of a glove come the finish. Small but vital details that decide
races. “My body didn't react anymore as I thought it would react,” he
said of the sprint, where he was surprisingly beaten by Stannard.
7. Vanmarcke and Belkin bubbling under
didn’t come away with a win from the opening weekend in Belgium but he
did enough over the two days to suggest that he will be a major factor
at the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix this year.
He seemed one of the strongest men in the race on Saturday, and was
equally prominent at Kuurne, where he was a driving force in the
Belkin/QuickStep alliance that decided the race before helping himself
to third place at to finish.
His cameo on the Taaienberg during Omloop was particularly striking.
The climb is Boonen’s traditional early-season test site, but this time
it was Vanmarcke who issued the silent statement of intent by hammering
his way up the smooth gutter on the right hand side of the road and
stretching the peloton. Eight years Boonen’s junior, Vanmarcke seems the
man most likely to inherit his crown as Belgium’s top classics rider –
although Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne showed that there is no abdication
planned just yet.
Lars Boom was already in fine shape at the Tour of Qatar and but for
his untimely puncture and an agonisingly slow wheel change, the finale
of Het Nieuwsblad could have had a very different complexion. Belkin’s strong team display at Kuurne and young Moreno Hofland’s second place finish are further encouraging signs for the Dutch squad.
8. FDJ.fr an emerging classics force
Some WorldTour teams have the tendency to treat the Belgian calendar
as though it contains fixtures to fulfill rather than races to win, but
as befits a double Paris-Roubaix winner, FDJ.fr manager Marc Madiot has
never made any secret of his predilection for the cobbled classics.
Prior to his retirement, Frédéric Guesdon was always a redoubtable
presence on the pavé but he often seemed to be ploughing a lone furrow
at FDJ. This year, it seems as though Madiot is finally on the cusp of
developing a classics team commensurate with his ambitions.
FDJ’s young guns probably still a couple of years away from
challenging for the Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix, but they were
audacious at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Yoann Offredo (who at 27 is
admittedly no longer a classics neophyte) and Arnaud Démare both had the
legs and the gumption to make it across to Terpstra and Boom’s attack,
while former junior world champion Johan Le Bon exceeded expectations
with his aggressive showing. “Before, we used to be spectators, but now
we’re actors. We’re in the game more,” Madiot told L’Équipe.
9. Phinney takes a step forward
When Taylor Phinney (BMC) said in January that he had just enjoyed
the best and most consistent winter of his professional career, it could
easily have been dismissed as the kind of thing every cyclist tells the
press – and perhaps tells themselves – at the outset of every new
However the young American’s performances since have borne out his
assertion. Already the winner of the time trial and general
classification at the Dubai Tour last month, Phinney was very much to
the fore at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday.
Phinney’s brief was to work for Greg Van Avermaet. He was
instrumental in helping to set up his teammate’s attack in the finale
and his eventual seventh place capped off his best display on the
cobbles since turning professional. Crashing out of
Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne took some of the gloss off the weekend. He needed
six stitches in his knee but x-rays showed he did not fracture any ribs.
He will no doubt face a painful week before starting Paris-Nice but his
spring cobbled Classics campaign remains on track.
It now remains to be seen what progress Phinney can make in April as
part of new manager Allan Peiper’s more streamlined BMC classics squad,
where there are fewer potential leaders than before but perhaps a
greater sense of purpose.
10. Not quite a dress rehearsal
More than one team manager this weekend described Het Nieuwsblad as a
dress rehearsal for the Tour of Flanders but it’s worth noting too that
a number of the leading players are saving themselves for the big
occasion. Fabian Cancellara, Peter Sagan and Filippo Pozzato were among
the contenders for April honours to miss the Opening Weekend, mindful
perhaps that the last man to win the Omloop and a monument in the same
year was Johan Museeuw in 2000.
Meanwhile, the riders who did show up were not yet in full voice, at
least according to Boonen, who said: “If you are 100 percent for Omloop,
you can forget about the Classics later. You can be up to 80 or 85
percent of your possibility, that is all.” Not so much a dress rehearsal
for the classics, then, as much a teaser trailer. Three weeks from
Milan-San Remo and five from the Tour of Flanders, there is still plenty
of scope for late rewrites to the script.