Philippe Gilbert taking a successful form of Classics solitary confinement
AMSTEL GOLDEN OLDIES
We all have our own idiosyncrasies when watching professional cycling. My personal preference when it comes to the Spring Classics has always been solitary confinement, shut away in a darkened room with only the Cauberg, La Redoute or Arenberg Forest for company.
I certainly never imagined that one day I’d be explaining the intricacies of the Ardennes races to my grandparents. Only this year, the Amstel Gold Race fell smack bang on Easter Sunday, which meant sharing my annual Limburg vigil with Jesus, lamb, and two people who think that snooker and golf are sports.
My grandpa was born in the year that Firmin Lambot won the Tour de France – look it up, it’s rather a long time ago – and my granny only slightly later. So, in fairness, at 49, the Amstel Gold Race is at least two generations too young for them.
When we turned the telly on, there were only about 20 kilometres to go.
“Teddy, who’s that?”
“That’s Thomas Voeckler. He’s known as Chouchou, because French housewives love him.” Number one mistake around old people: never volunteer any unnecessary information. See also: discussing the morality of doping.
We flicked through a few other programmes till, with utmost wariness, I switched the race back on with about five kilometres remaining.
“Who’s that in front?”
“That’s the Australian team, Orica GreenEdge, Gran. They’re protecting their team leader Simon Gerrans, only he doesn’t wear the team strip because….”
My heart sank again, this time faster than an Andy Schleck CQranking graph. Explaining the intricacies of cycling’s jersey system to an octogenarian is far too much work on top of a roast dinner.
Onto the Cauberg we went, the two senior citizens and I, when Samuel Sanchez attacked, hard, then fell away. “He’s working for Philippe Gilbert,” I muttered darkly.
But as Gilbert surged towards the finish, there was no comment from the armchairs behind. Perhaps my grandparents were as baffled as me by Alejandro Valverde’s half-hearted chase. Perhaps, unbeknownst to me, they harbour deep, Operación Puerto-themed resentment. Maybe they had a tenner on Jelle Vanendert instead of the bingo.
No, no and no. They had both fallen fast asleep. True cycling fans, those two: I’m sure they knew all along that Amstel is just a longer Flèche with a more boring finishing climb. I just hope they wake up in time for Liège…
Words by Teddy Cutler.
25 years – Philippe Gilbert and Jelle Vanendert finished first and second at the Amstel Gold Race: the first time Belgium has achieved an Ardennes Classic one-two since the 1989 Amstel Gold when Eric Van Lancker and Claude Criquielion did it.
The most exciting finish on the Mur de Huy of recent years – Evelyn Stevens versus Marianne Vos in 2012:
It’s the Flèche Wallonne, Jim, but not as we know it. The year is 1983 (two years before the Mur finish was introduced), Spandau Ballet are about to go stratospheric, and Bernard Hinault hoofs to a five-up sprint win on, apparently, an underpass in Huy.
Bradley Wiggins turns 34 on Monday so here he is, biffing his bike in Trentino. Couldn’t do that again if he tried.
April 16: Silly Season
April 9: Braking Away
April 2: No April Fools
March 26: Vincenzo NIbali and the 43 Eunuchs
March 19: Modern Life Is Rubbish
March 12: Black on the Chaingang
March 5: Holding On
Feburary 26: True Racing Returns
February 19: Just Deserts?
Did this wibble make you wobble? Did your grandmother shrewdly put an each-way bet on Jelle Vanendert for Amstel? Got a favourite Youtube video to share? Get in touch @rouleurmagazine on Twitter or email@example.com by email.