Thursday, July 25, 2024

Cancellara broke our hearts at the Ronde van Vlaanderen


HomeDiariesCancellara broke our hearts at the Ronde van Vlaanderen

Fabian Cancellara rode a clever race to take his first Ronde van Vlaanderen this afternoon, making sure he was always in the important part of the peloton, biding his time perfectly, and attacking with such force that only Tom Boonen could go with him.

Then, once clear, he made sure Boonen had to ride hard; having to work at even getting past Cancellara to take his turn at the front. When Fab went again on the Muur, Tom had no answer.

Scottish club Ayr Roads CC member Christopher Johnson was in Belgium visiting family over the weekend, and managed to enjoy an epic day out on the bergs at the Ronde…

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Tom congratulates Fabian on the podium. Image©

– Words & images contributed by Christopher Johnson –

More used to reporting on the trials and tribulations of Ayrshire’s finest road club (Ayr Roads CC, for those of you who don’t read the Ayrshire Post) it comes as a welcome change to write about the pro-peloton. The Ronde Van Vlaanderen here I come!

However, my journey starts not in Flanders, but Wallonia, with the good lady’s family.

Friday’s flight gets us into downtown Tournai with enough time to go ride my favourite training circuit – a few km south west, crossing the border and smashing across the Paris-Roubaix’s famous Pavés de justice, de L’Arbre and back in across the sections Duclos-Lassalle and Quatre Chemins before dinner.

After L’Arbre, the latter two sections ride feel like riding on a smooth carpet of pine needle carpet! The race signs are up and out, and I can feel that twinge of excitement, Roubaix is coming!

With mandatory attendance at a family feast, my planned participation in Saturday’s Flanders Sportive is overruled.

Lucky escape! The rain is lashing the windows as I head out for a ride up L’Escaut (aka the Schelde) and back over the Mont Saint Aubert. I’m quickly soaked through and my fingers are numb with cold. But a little over an hour later I’m enjoying an apperetif in the comfort of indoors, wondering how I would have coped with another 5 hours. As a hailstorm turns the garden white it’s a good omen like la Riene, le Ronde is well suited for a good storm.

Thirteen year old younger brother Martin wants to join me for the big day; very useful for his skills in Flemish, but despite being a good little Belgian he knows nothing of cycling.

A little over an hour later I am satisfied that he is sufficiently immersed, being able to recognise and identify both Tommeke and Philippe Gilbert.

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Wee Martin is ready for the Ronde.

Race Day!

Sunday arrives! Out of bed at seven, into the car and blast up the A17 to Brugge. No need for maps, we just follow a Team Katusha car to the start.

The weather is wet, grey, windy — its everything you expect from a Belgian classic. The team compound is fully barricaded, open only to VIPs and those with money.

Of course, having money increases your appreciation of cycling… I find it a little disappointing, La Doyenne doesn’t need barriers, so why does the Ronde?

However, we draw the lucky lottery ticket as we watch the Quickstep bus pull in right in front of us (before we are crowded out by Tommeke fans).

Lefevre conducts a quick interview with tv station RTBF. No smile – I wonder if the noose is tightening around Devolder?

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Lefevre has been critical of his big riders recently.

The kit on display doesn’t disappoint. Wheel choice especially is important. Quick step wheels are badged Fast-Forward, but look suspiciously like Ambrosio sprints to me.

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It’s normal to see equipment rebadged for sponsorship reasons.

Belgian’s know how to put on a bike race. The band plays as the riders sign on, the fans enjoy a morning refreshment, and we all know its going to be an epic day — perhaps even rivalling Kenny Armstrong’s victory in the Ayr Roads Hill Climb!

Presentation interviews are quickly conducted with Gilbert, Eisel, Cavendish, Boom, and Johann Museeuw, before Cancellara give us a little demonstration lap.

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A good crowd watches the presentation of the teams.

But it’s Boonen that draws the biggest crowd.

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Cancellara does a lap of the town square.

There is a mass cry of relief, awe and anticipation when the Belgian wonder-kid arrives to do his thing. 0945, the bells ring, the band plays louder, the 2010 Ronde is underway!

We make our way through the crowds and head for the hills.

Again directions are easy, just follow everyone else. There is a strong police presence to deter dangerous spectators trying to race across Belgium to catch every sector, and the stress of running about can spoil a good day. So we plump for the Koppenburg – and are not disappointed.

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That’s the Koppenberg in the distance. Steep, isn’t it.

Its awesome — steep, steeper, a wee bit steeper again. And cobbled.

Sporadic reports come via the radio. With bad French and no Flemish I rely on Martin for updates. A group has nine minutes, then seven, then two. Saxo is chasing and Lars Boom is off the back.

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The anticipation builds as the race approaches.

Then the helicopters arrive, the crowd roars, and les coureurs arrive. A Skil Shimano rider warms us up.

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Floris Goesinnen (Skil Shimano) did a great ride, in the break for much of the race.

Then the real show arrives. Cancellara has put the hammer down, and Boonen is ‘enjoying’ the ride. You couldn’t call these two graceful, but they do demonstrate brute strength and determination. Cancellara seems to be making easy work of the gradients (we see a story later which may explain how…).

Behind riders struggle to get on terms, and struggle with the gradient.

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Fab leads Tommeke and the race is on.

You can just reach out and push the riders as many fans do. The noise, the colour, the sound, is amazing. With no cars and just the motos we can hear the suffering, pain, and struggling mechanics of the peloton.

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At this stage, there’s a lot of riders still in the race.

The riders stream past, on and on, its a big field.

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The slightest delay ahead, means the riders loose momentum and end up hoofing it.

The ambulance passes. We think it’s all over, the crowds start descending back to the cars, when there is a mighty roar of encouragement the sea parts and Belorussian champion Floris Goesinnenbrings up the rear.

A magnificent feat, his bike rocks in slow cadence as he hauls himself up the cobbles, eyes tugging on the metres ahead. Pain and glory, and the crowd are here to ensure he is rewarded.

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More suited to flat sprints, Yauheni Hutarovich (Blr) Francaise Des Jeux was last on the road at this point, but didn’t finish.

Then i’ts over, just as soon as it begun. We try to get to the big screens at Oudenaarde to catch the finish, but the road in towards it is blocked.

So instead, we head cross county to Ronse, looking out for any potential tv viewing spots on the way, and find ourselves gatecrashing the Canyon bikes’ corporate party.

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The Canyon bikes corporate gig.

Just in time, the final hour. Boonen and Cancellara get clear on the Mollenburg.

Boonen picks a terrible line up the Muur, Cancellara rides off into the sunset breaking our collective hearts. Boonen bravely soldiers on for second place. Philippe Gilbert (riding a lovely Canyon bike) sprints ahead of Bjorn Leukemans for third.

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We catch the finale on a portable tv.

What a ride! We so wanted Tommeke to do it, but as Martin’s mother reassures us when we get home, there is always “la semaine prochaine” [next week]. And as we head out to the friterie for dinner, boy do we hope so!

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Top Ronde souvenir-limited Primus beer can.

* * *


1 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team Saxo Bank 6:25:56
2 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step 0:01:15
3 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:02:11
4 Bjorn Leukemans (Bel) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team 0:02:15
5 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin – Transitions 0:02:35
6 George Hincapie (USA) BMC Racing Team
7 Roger Hammond (GBr) Cervelo Test Team
8 Maxim Iglinsky (Kaz) Astana
9 Danilo Hondo (Ger) Lampre-Farnese Vini
10 William Bonnet (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom
11 Johnny Hoogerland (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team
12 Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Team Katusha
13 Mathew Hayman (Aus) Sky Professional Cycling Team
14 Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
15 Matti Breschel (Den) Team Saxo Bank
16 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Team HTC – Columbia
17 Steve Chainel (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom
18 Frédéric Guesdon (Fra) Française Des Jeux
19 Maarten Wynants (Bel) Quick Step
20 Marcus Burghardt (Ger) BMC Racing Team
21 Roy Sentjens (Bel) Team Milram
22 Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) Rabobank
23 Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Team HTC – Columbia
24 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step
25 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Quick Step
26 Sébastien Hinault (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
27 Lance Armstrong (USA) Team Radioshack
28 Daniel Oss (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo
29 Leif Hoste (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
30 Simon Spilak (Slo) Lampre-Farnese Vini
31 Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Team Katusha
32 David Millar (GBr) Garmin – Transitions
33 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team
34 Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Sky Professional Cycling Team
35 Alessa