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AG

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Spring Classics - what we have learned for Roubaix
« on: April 02, 2018, 03:02 »
So it was only 3 short years ago when we were laughing at the collective wisdom of Quickstep for somehow managing to lose a 3-on-1 ... where Boonen, Terpstra and Stijn Vadenbergh could not overcome the might of Ian Stannard 

and look at us now

Quickstep have won every cobbled race this spring with the exception of Omloop (where Quickstep were off the podium) and Gent Wavelgem (Sagan - Viviani 2nd).

They are finally riding as a team and the others are finding it very tough to combat it.


Omloop
With a finale similar to the old RvV but wtih less km in the legs Michael Vagren was able to get away in the final kms and the others looked at each other as to who was going to chase.

E3 Harelbeke
Terpstra attacked early along with Lampaert to help, and solo'd to victory with Gilbert blocking behind and coming in 2nd.  Greg van Avermaet was the only one to really try much ... but couldnt get anyone to work with him so the chase fell in a hole - something that would happen a fair bit this spring

Gent Wavelgem
The only one that we ended with something of a sprint.  A few attempts to get away on the cobbles, but it really is just too far from home to make it stick - so a group came together at the finish.   Sagan in truth didnt look that strong, but managed to hide enough to not do any work ... and came over the top of Viviani in the sprint.
Dwars door Vlaanderen

de Ronde van Vlaanderen
Everyone watched Quickstep - who did their bit to help make it hard.  The break took 70km to establish, but no real threat went until Van Baarle, Mads Pederson Sebastian Langeveld strike out to find the remainder of the break on the Koppenberg.   The ever diminishing group of favourites stay together though - until Nibali has a dig and Terpstra follows.  The favourites let them go and that will be the last they see of Terpstra until the finish line.  Nibali drops and Terpstra bridges to the front 4 just before the Kwaremont ... and goes straight past.  Only Mads Pederson can stick, and he tries exceptionally hard to stick to the Dutchies wheel.

Sagan strikes out on the Patterberg - but only gets 10 seconds or so by the time they are over the top - and while no one will work with Sagan, there are plenty willing to chase him down ... so he is caught easily enough.

The favourites cant decide exactly who is going to chase .. and with Gilbert, Lampaert and Stybar putting on the block in regular instalments, Terpstra's only real issue is to stay away from the impressive Pederson.


So - what we have learned for Roubaix

1 - Quickstep are a team to be feared.  But PR is a different beast, and Gilbert might not be as prepared to play team mate with the one he desperately wants.

2 - GVA not quite in the form of last year - but he is still strong enough to be there at the end, and if things fall his way he has the will and the strength to make it.

3 - Sagan also not on the form of last year (lets face it - in previous years if he got a gap on the climb, he would have stayed away and been able to catch the likes of 21 yr old Mads Pederson who had been out there for 80km).  With Oss and Burghardt he finally has a couple of domestiques ... but will it be enough.    1 win and 3 podiums from 24 attempts in the monuments is not a good record for someone of Sagan's talent.   

4 - Sep Van Marke hit the deck 3 times and had a mechanical before the race really got going - and then a late puncture put him out of it altogether.  Even if he didnt have these issues - he simply was not strong enough

5 - The field need to learn to work together more if they are to overcome the sheer weight of numbers that Quickstep have.  Can anyone put aside their fears and work with Sagan? 

6 - A couple of the others were very strong, and with the top favourites a touch off this spring, can Benoot or Van Aert or Valgren who are all on the top of their game come up with a big one?
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  • t-72

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    1 - Quickstep are a team to be feared.  But PR is a different beast, and Gilbert might not be as prepared to play team mate with the one he desperately wants.

    I think when we discussed Le Samyn (where Terpstra and Gilbert jointly annihilated #direct Damien Gaudin and won 1-2) I arrived at the conclusion that there are two captains at Quickstep s, and the jigsaw puzzle of personal interests and team interests actually matches quite well for the cobbled monuments:
    • Terpstra had one Roubaix cobble on his mantelpiece, but (until then) only second from the Ronde.
    • Gilbert is on a mission to win all five monuments. This is supported by the team. He has already bagged de Ronde and next Sunday, he will try all he can to put the cobblestone of Roubaix in his bag of monuments too.
    In other words, I think we may see Gilbert wasting chances for Terpstra to win one more cobblestone, and they will be ok with it, they have talked through it and agreed to take the risk to let Gilbert have a go at it. I think #quickstep won't have any trouble with running that risk now, because quite frankly, they already won spring this year - even without a win at the Paris-Roubaix.

    As a plan B they might leave Terpstra as chief of police in the chase group with Stybar or maybe even Viviani for the sprint. Viviani is a track ace - probably the best in the peloton and I think it will be hard to beat him if he gets to the velodrome on time, but that is a very big IF  :)
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  • just some guy

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    That an Angel dies every time Nikki wins?
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  • Of course, if this turns out someday to be the industry standard integrated handlebar-computer-braking solution then I'll eat my kevlar-reinforced aerodynamic hat.

    Larri Nov 12, 2014

    Francois the Postman

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    That an Angel dies every time Nikki wins?

    I think you are getting your wires crossed. Mellow Velo drowns his sorrows by polishing off another Flemish "devil"



    when Niki wins, not

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  • L'arri

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    Lovely OP.  :cool

    Boonen's retirement has been good for #quickstep. I'm not sure how much all this "wolfpack" management-speak nonsense makes a difference but riding with a plethora of leaders is certainly working for them.

    However it does mean that Gilbert will probably have to ride the Ardennes to get his big win this Spring.

    Elsewhere I think that nobody else seems quite at the level they need to be or else they are neutralising each other too willingly instead of collaborating to counter the threat.

    QS' win rate will slow after Spring, as it inevitably must, but this has been a fabulous year already.
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  • Cycling is a Europe thing only and I only watch from Omloop on cause I am cool and sh*t
    RIP Craig1985 / Craig Walsh
    RIP KeithJamesMc / Keith McMahon / Larry Sarni

    Caruut

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    I don't think anyone quite had the strength to impose themselves on the race apart from Terpstra, and maybe Gilbert. Sagan, Van Avarmaet and Benoot all looked almost strong enough to escape Gilbert's clutches. If the three of them had gone clear together behind Terpstra, I think they would have caught him.

    QuickStep
    QuickStep are probably most vulnerable when they have a rider up the road who is the weakest in the group, there's a slight paralysis. On CN, Lefevre said, of Dwars, "Stybar attacked on the Taaienberg, he was alone for a while, then on the Trieu, Tiesj Benoot goes with Van Avermaet and Stybar is dropped. If he's not dropped, they are away with three – would that have been a good case for us? Probably not.". Look to be favouring Gilbert the way he has ridden the rest of the spring, but with the way their riding has improved now they aren't so obviously committed to Boonen that might not be so good.

    Another thing they have yet to really be troubled by this spring is mechanicals and crashes. I suppose they have the numbers and committment to make their own luck to an extent, but that can all change at Roubaix. What do they do if Gilbert punctures on or just before the Arenberg, for example? More than enough distance to get back, but also possible to lose the race if the other teams cooperated against you, which they might after the QS sweep this spring.

    I think the Gerardsbergen diversion also played to their hands, meant they came into the final 60km with all of their team completely together rather than scattered in different groups across the road. Might not be possible to maintain that unity at Roubaix.

    Sagan
    Sagan seems to either do all the work or none of it, he never seems to just get on the front just for the sake of getting a bit of order in the group. It's a shame as there are riders in there - Benoot and Van Aert in particular - who seem willing to ride if others are, even to their own detriment. But in the end you have it that the group seemed to gel and work together only once he was off the front of it.

    It is a bit remarkable after all these years that he still hasn't quite got the team to properly compete at the classics, a lieutenant who can act as his foil. I suppose Oss was meant to be that guy, but it's not quite there. Part of me wonders if Sagan has the maturity to lose to someone from his own team. Nibali's cameo got me wondering if he might be an ideal lieutenant and road captain for Sagan if he decides he's no longer able to compete as a GT GC guy. Their skillsets overlap well - Nibali needs to be on the attack to win classics - and a true champion like Nibali who he has known for a long time might be someone Sagan could actually defer to. Nibali might also be a rider a little more adept at peleton diplomacy than Sagan, too, which I suspect is another of his problems.

    GvA
    Not at last year's level, but that was one of the finest classics seasons in history, so it's forgiveable I'd say. Still looked dangerous on the Taaienberg but couldn't quite make the split he wanted. Team look pretty good, but they do fade in the very final. Needs to race on the front foot in the last 40km, similar to the move he made at the Ronde and hope it sticks.

    Vanmarcke
    There or thereabout despite a tough day at Ronde and to be honest I think Roubaix is more his race. He's the strongest rider who isn't being gameplanned for (as Sagan, GvA and QS will be), so takes his perennial place as the dark horse of our hearts. Maybe that push on Carrefour de l'Arbre will stick this year.

    Others
    Kwiatkowski looked very strong one minute and then faded towards the end. Moscon looked good but burnt a lot of matches, and Stannard always seems to be a feature of Roubaix without troubling the leaders in Flanders, so Sky are looking almost like a mini-QS if all three of their captains are at their best.

    Pedersen very impressive, doubt he will find that much space to play with in Roubaix after that. Stuyven also lurking around the top 10, 3rd in the small bunch sprint after Greg and Sagan.

    Astana looked good too, but this isn't Valgren's terrain as much I guess.

    Demare getting better but don't think he has the level just yet.
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  • Echoes

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    It did seem to me that the most active in the chase group were Tiesj Benoot and Wout Van Aert: two riders who had no reason to do so much work but again Sagan fanboys/girls would make you believe that he is ALWAYS the poor victim of his group mates' bad will. That's becoming really tedious. I'm really amazed by Wout Van Aert. I'm not (anymore) a supporter in cross but I've always rooted for crossers when they make cameos (sic) on the road and the great thing is that he's planning to combine both cross and roads for the coming years. Nys is even encouraging him. Good for the sport.  :cool
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  • "Paris-Roubaix is the biggest cycling race in the world, bigger than the Tour de France, bigger than any other bike race" (Sir Bradley Wiggins)

    Slow Rider

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    The main thing I have learned is that any one of Gilbert, Terpstra, Stybar, Vanmarcke, Benoot, Sagan, Kristoff, Stuyven, Van Avermaet, Kwiatkowski, Van Aert, Naesen, potentially even Lampaert, Van Baarle, Demare, Degenkolb, Langeveld or Moscon could be the strongest in Roubaix.

    In the Boonen-Cancellara years, they were always the dominant force. Anyone else could win through luck, tactics or circumstance, but those two would always be the strongest riders. Now, who will be the strongest is anyone's guess.

    That could mean a really exciting race where all the favourites face eachother openly and aggressively, with the best man winning. Equally likely though, it could mean all will fancy their chances and thus wait for a late attack.

    I hope for the former, but fear the latter will be more realistic.
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  • Slow Rider

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    It did seem to me that the most active in the chase group were Tiesj Benoot and Wout Van Aert: two riders who had no reason to do so much work but again Sagan fanboys/girls would make you believe that he is ALWAYS the poor victim of his group mates' bad will. That's becoming really tedious. I'm really amazed by Wout Van Aert. I'm not (anymore) a supporter in cross but I've always rooted for crossers when they make cameos (sic) on the road and the great thing is that he's planning to combine both cross and roads for the coming years. Nys is even encouraging him. Good for the sport.  :cool

    Honestly you are the one who keeps bringing the conversation back to Sagan with your claims about what his fanboys are supposed to have said. Which is, indeed, quite tedious.

    But I do agree, both Benoot and Van Aert are great for the sport. Van Aert did much better than I expected here, he seems to be handling the distance surprisingly (to me, at least) well. He might even succeed at winning a big spring classic after having done a full cross season somewhere in the coming years - which would be great news for both disciplines.
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  • AG

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    Its interesting - there were quite a few times I noticed Verandahs Williams on the front.  Much more so than would be expected from a Pro Conti team with a guy who has never won a classic ...  and Van Aert did them proud.  I too thought that the distance and difficulty would be just a bit much for him this year, but I freely admit to being wrong there.  He was great, and will be a force in the next few years.

    Oss / Sagan - I think Sagan is so used to not having a team that he doesnt really know what to do with one.  He doesnt know how and when to deploy his guys and when to hold them back.  A few reasonable guys and 2 strong ones in Oss and Burghardt should be plenty - but you have to use them effectively, and Sagan did not.



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  • L'arri

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    Its interesting - there were quite a few times I noticed Verandahs Williams on the front.  Much more so than would be expected from a Pro Conti team with a guy who has never won a classic ...  and Van Aert did them proud.  I too thought that the distance and difficulty would be just a bit much for him this year, but I freely admit to being wrong there.  He was great, and will be a force in the next few years.

    It's a win-win for Nuyens, who looks like being every bit as canny in management as he was in racing. Only a couple of months ago there were all sorts of negative rumours about the team and it has all turned around now (although I notice they're not riding on Felt frames now since VDP Jr switched to Canyon).

    The win-win is surely because, as long as WVA continues to combine disciplines, the team will attract invitations. ASO for Roubaix we could have expected, but I thought it was really nice to see one come from RCS for Strade Bianche and how WVA paid back the favour there was marvellous.

    Nuyens won't be able to grow the team fast enough for WVA's inevitable permanent switch to the road (where the youngster will also obtain his financial value) but the team can certainly benefit from the hype.

    VW has the best publicity train ever with this kid.
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  • search

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    what we have learned today... better watch out for potential red lights on Sunday :D

    http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/demare-groenewegen-disqualified-from-scheldeprijs-for-ignoring-level-crossing/
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  • "If this is cycling, I am a banana"

    L'arri

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    what we have learned today... better watch out for potential red lights on Sunday :D

    http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/demare-groenewegen-disqualified-from-scheldeprijs-for-ignoring-level-crossing/

    Yeah, that's also what I thought of when I saw it. Except nobody got busted in P-R because "too many" did it.
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