Weekly Wibble: No April Fools
Stuff and nonsense from the week in cycling. April 2: Team Sky's Classics charge, pet shop boy Björn Leukemans, classic Tour of Flanders videos and more...
Geraint Thomas dishes it out to the Tom Boonen impersonators.
NO APRIL FOOLS
Team Sky have figured out the Classics, and forgotten how to stage race.
No, that’s not a belated, weak April Fool’s joke. This is the same Team Sky who thought that training in Tenerife would prepare its riders adequately for frozen cobbles. The marginal gainers who can hardly stay on their steeds through the neutralised zone, let alone an entire race. The world’s best Grand Tour squad, legendarily useless at one-day races that called for intuition over power meters, are suddenly, say it quietly, one of the best Classics squads around.
This one’s both an exaggeration and an approximation of the truth. We’ve not yet reached the Tour of Flanders, let alone the Ardennes. Even so, it was revealing that Ian Stannard’s win at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad came in a race without radios, where the weather and brutal route combined to give the sort of finish not seen since Barry Hoban was on stabilisers.
Ben Swift’s third place at Milan-Sanremo was even more impressive given the quality of the field, and Geraint Thomas followed it up at E3 Harelbeke by cracking everyone bar a neon bottom-pincher extraordinaire and two Tom Boonen impersonators. The team that likes to control everything have started to thrive on chaos.
The irony is – irony being a central component of the joke, although possibly not something David Brailsford appreciates – that whilst all of this one-day semi-success was happening, Sky’s Grand Tour guys were undergoing an unconsciously uncoupled meltdown.
Chris Froome had a gammy back and turned up at the Volta a Catalunya rusty as a geriatric’s front mech; Richie Porte got sick at the Tirreno-Adriatico and has been MIA ever since.
Meanwhile, Sergio Henao has been banished to the top of a very tall mountain, seemingly as punishment for being born at the top of a very tall mountain. With Alberto Contador back singing from the same hymn-sheet as Tinkov and Riis, Sky’s status as the world’s best Grand Tour team is under threat.
It would be entirely in keeping with this logic-busting spring if Bradley Wiggins, who withdrew from Catalunya with an eye on the pavé, was to blow Omega Pharma-Quick Step and company away at Paris-Roubaix. Tour de France winner turns Carrefour-destroyer? Not even the most gullible of cycling fans could believe that.
It’s just as well then that Roubaix falls on the 13th, not 1st of April…
TWEET OF THE WEEK
Wanty Gobert, the only team to be named after a character from Wacky Races, are head and shoulders above the opposition with this week’s gem.
“@bjornleukemans his @KuotaCycle bike was stolen earlier today after a visit at the local petshop.”
Rest easy. Björn made it home eventually. His hamster is reported to be doing well.
STAT'S THE WAY, UH HUH, UH HUH, WE LIKE IT
100-1 - Alexander Kristoff's original Milan-Sanremo odds before the Pompeiana was removed and the bookies slashed 'em.
11 - Number of times Tejay Van Garderen finished second and third in European races in his career before his first professional win on the continent came on stage four of the Vuelta a Catalunya last week.
We miss you, Muur de Geraardsbergen. Come back soon, yeah?
Jesper Skibby gets run over on the Koppenberg in the 1987 Tour of Flanders. Hear those boos from the crowd.
Edwig van Hooydonck recalls winning the '89 Tour of Flanders and his podium tears. You'd blub too if you'd accomplished what every Flemish cyclist dreams of.