Sunday, April 13, 2008

Paris-Roubaix

I can't help but be amazed by these guys! They rode the first part of the race at an average speed of over 50kph (30mph). Sure it's a pancake-flat course but the extended nasty cobble sections and tiny windy roads should have slowed them down a bit! What the trying terrain did manage to do is cause most of the riders to hit pavement during some point of the race. With all the race crashes, where most of the riders hit the pavement (or cobbles) at some point during the race, it was really hard to keep up with who was up and who was down. I did notice, however, that one of the race favorites Pozzato did an amazing job after his nasty crash that ripped his his shorts to shreds. His effort was not enough, though, because by the time he got to the front, the peloton had just split again.

The cobbles are just so incredibly hard that guys were falling simply by slipping - even when they had perfect view of the road ahead. And when the guys behind would try to adjust their path to avoid riding on top of the guy, they too would fall, causing major pick-up-stix all over the course.

With all the confusion, I only really started to pay attention to the race at 50km to go, when the peloton got down to about 12 riders. Hincapie was part of the group but somehow disappeared. When the camera panned back to him, he looked fine but was not riding very fast. He was getting visibly frustrated by two guys on his wheel. He was trying to wave them past but they wouldn't pass him. Maybe they figured he's George Hincapie so if they stay on his wheel, they will inevitably make it to the front of the race! He must have crashed or had a technical.

Stijn Devolder put in a MAJOR attack on the cobbles at about 45km to go. A few minutes later he was joined by Stuart O'Grady of CSC. (Pretty impressive move for O'Grady who self-admittedly has no form.) When Boonen stood up making a motion to follow O'Grady, Cancellara stood up as well, basically letting Boonen know that if he tries to go, he will be bringing Cancellara with him. Smooth move! Boonen sat back down.

Now that the peloton is down to six guys to bridge to Devolder of Quick Step and O'Grady of CSC, Lief Hoste (Silence-Lotto) who is one of the favorites to win has to chase - WITH Boonen AND Cancellara on his wheel. That must suck. Worse yet, his blistering pace just dropped his own teammate Van Summeren briefly. By the way, we have a Slipstream-Chipotle guy (Maaskant) in the group of 6. If he won, that would be EXCELLENT for the American-based team who have been very outspoken about their anti-drug policy.

Group back together. Boonen and Cancellara are staring at each other. Boonen finally attacks and Cancellara is instantly there, along with ballan in tow. Perfect timing - right before a cobbled section where you can gain lots of time in a short time. Naturally the three instantly make a gap from the chasing group of four with Hoste forcing to chase - again!!! With a quickstep and CSC in the group, that leaves them with only two guys to do the chase to bridge to the three strongest guys in the race. And the other guy from Slipstream-Chiipotle knows that as soon as he does a pull in the front and someone attacks, he can kiss his top 10 in paris-roubaix goodbye!

Well, the playing game got both Hoste and Maaskant chasing devolder and O'grady. All of this while the three front rider continue to work together. The chase group of four are back together.

At the head of the course, Boonen, Cancellara and Ballan are working nicely together except for the periodic attack by Boonen and Cancellara. How can these guys race at 60kph after over 250km of riding.

With 15km to go, they are already starting to play games. Cancellara just elbowed Boonen around and Boonen took his time to make his move to the front. With Boonen and Cancellara staring at each other, it would be funny if Ballan won. If he doesn't, I will just edit this blog to read something else! haha - if i remember to do that!

They are at 11km to go, the three are on the small windy roads, great for a last minute attack. Two of the tree guys must be really feeling the dread of having to choose the perfect moment for an attack that will stick so it doesn't come to a sprint finish. I'm getting exhausted just thinking about how they are going to pull that off...and how much self-inflicted pain that will cause. At least it's not raining.

Ballan just sprayed water on his back. In 10 degree C weather, that can't be a refreshing feeling.

You probably know who I want to win, but just in case it isn't known, of the three leaders I'm hoping for a Boonen win. It is now 4km to go and they are still working together. The track is just around the corner. Maybe the non-Boonens heard what i wrote on my blog and agreed with me that it is just too dreadful to get the nerve to attack Boonen. I bet they are thinking at this moment, "Shit! The track is almost here, less than 3km to the finish, how do i get rid of Boonen? My legs hurt, I'm tired, and even if i attack, Boonen will hunt me down and shoot past for the finish, leaving me in 3rd place. If i wait for the finish, then my legs will hurt for only twenty seconds and i have a chance for 2nd place."

OK, less than 2km left. Boonen just gave Cancellara a nudge to get him in 2nd position while he himself takes the back so he can keep an eye on them all.

It is official, they are on the track together. Suckers. The bell is ringing at 5hr 58 minutes and Ballan is leading the sprint which is 1 lap in distance. Boonen came around both of them on the outside and just destroyed them - DESTROYED them. Not even funny, not even close. He made it look like child's play. OVER twenty bike lengths.

After all the negative talk about him over the recent weeks - rather months - it is great to see him take back his honor using his legs. I also want to note that he was an excellent support rider in this race for Devolder when he attacked earlier in the race. Real class.

Yippee - Maaskant (Slipstream-Chipotle) just rode in for fourth. Great job. O'Grady-5th, Hoste - 6th and Devolder - 7th. I think Hincapie was 9th from what i just heard.

How touching - Boonen is crying...now I am too. Devolder just came over and they hugged and Boonen started crying again. Mind you, this is now seven minutes after the finish of the race. Gosh he looks so incredibly thrilled. He is being interviewed right now by flemish television and - only in Belgium - midway through it both interviewer and Tommeke switched to French.

OK. The race is over and so am I.

Thanks for reading my rendition of Parijs-Roubaix. I would have taken photos but it's just not the same when you take them of a television set.

13 comments:

Michel said...

Hey Christine,

Nice to read your race report!

The guy from slipstream, Maaskant, is only 24 years old, which is pretty young for someone who is performing so well in P-R. He is an ex. Rabobank rider, but switched to Slipstream, because he had more chance to ride for own succes there.

Unfortunately Langeveld, very young (23), Dutch rider from Rabobank hit the pavement too. He performed very well last week in "De Ronde" and I think he could have been with the last few riders. (Hard to say afterwards, but I think he was able to jump away with Boonen, Cancellara and Ballan) He is, in my opinion, the biggest talent we have for the big classics.

The reason, which the Belgium tv gave, for Hincapie to lose so much speed, is that his rear tire slowly went flat and he was waving for support, which, in his oppinion, take to long to come. The guys behind him didn't help him, because they where pretty tired. (Those 2 were Pronk and Kuickx, which where in a 100 km escape earlier that day)

The reason which was given on tv, for Cancellara not doing a last minute attack (or not even trying to sprint) is that he had cramps.

But riding cobbles is almost a fine art. You can lose so much time/distance on them if you don't have the right technique.

Have a nice evening!

Groetjes uit Holland!

Michel

Cheflandria said...

i am crying, too! (happy tears!!!)

oh such wonderful news!

Amy said...

I saw the interview with Tom after the race and that struck me too - the switch - without a hitch - from Dutch to French. I was thinking to myself that that is one of the cool things about cycling - so many of you athletes are multilingual!
See you on Saturday!

PEANUT said...

Hi Amy: dat is waar - absolument!

chr15 tree said...

Hey Christine,

What a race, eh??? Flanders and Roubaix have both come up with the goods this year! And I must say a brilliant précis of the race. you captured some emotion there, almost as exiting as the race itself!

I was out for a long ride in the morning,

according to your calorie calculator (thanks for that - I now know that I can eat a weeks food all today, in the name of recovery :) ) I burned 4389kCal... that either means that I rode for a long time or I am very heavy...

and I caught up with the race with about 50k's to go, Devolder was just going off the front. I was thinking surely not. That really would have been quite the coup for him!

But surely he, and his 'group' once O'Grady had bridged, were reeled back. Both CSC and Quickstep seemed to play it text book, effectively riding out Hoste with that move.

The last 10-20k's were some of the most exciting I've ever followed, by text...

Will Cancellara put the hammer down? Could he put the hammer down? I was expecting him at 10k's to attempt his 'TT' away from the other two, but it didn't come. Was he feeling as Ballan was looking? Surely if he left it to the velodrome Boonen's sprint would be superior?? As it was, with the other two seemingly totally unable to respond.

I love your insight on why they waited. :) Brilliant!

I'm with you on your take on Boonen, I have a lot of time for Cancellara as well, he has really brought some excitement to the races in the passed couple of seasons, stage three TdeF? But Boonen seems the complete package but with out the bravado or 'flashiness' and I like that.

He was a great support rider for Devolder both in this race and holding back on RVV last weekend, whether planned or not he didn't get greedy, or 'pull rank'.

Humbling.

Thanks. Now to put my mind to that distance and those slippery cobbles... :(

chr15 tree said...

PS. Do you race through the summer? or is it strictly 'cross??
Just asking...

PEANUT said...

I just checked another calorie counter that actually awards MORE calories for the same amount of work. I should have used THAT one. Sport burns more calories than people think...the calories continue to be burned after the activity concludes. I must get back to eating now!!
Thanks for all your comments on my version of P-R.
And michel thanks for the details. did you see the Maaskant interview after the race? He was quite thrilled.
Hey Cheflandria: i'm still crying.

Michel said...

No, unfortunately I missed the interview with Maaskant. Although I saw a short interview on the Dutch TV later on.

And tonight, Maaskant en Langeveld will be in a Dutch TV Programme called Holland Sport and they will be interviewed about P-R.

I read on the Sporza website, that Ballan also had cramps in the end, just as Cancellara did. (Just to ad a little bit more information)

Now hoping that a new part for my bike arrives soon, so I can get back on the road too! (Hate to sit still when the weather is relatively nice.)

PEANUT said...

I'm sure Tommeke had cramps too! Lucky for him, though, he knew he didn't have to attack the other two before the finish.
by the way, it's dark and rainy here.

Michel said...

Weather here is indeed better than in Belgium, at this moment.

Most of the rain is passing south of us, although in the lower part of Holland there is some rain too.

But I'm in the middle, so it's dry here all day! Even can see a small amount of blue sky and some sun at this moment! Last week the weather wasn't bad too, acceptable temperatures, pretty dry and even a nice amount of sun, but I can't wait till the real spring weather comes!

Have a calm evening!

En tot het volgende berichtje!

chr15 tree said...

Ha... just I read this it started hail/sleeting... ah spring! Ha!

PEANUT said...

michel - you are in luck! I am posting again today! haha
it is still raining on and off here. It is as if evening arrives, then poof, it's daytime again.

Michel said...

Goedemorgen Christine,

Just a short message from me (again)!

Just want to inform you, that the sun is shining here an can see some nice patches of blue sky! Lovely! :P

Have a nice day, hope the weather will be fine there too!

Cheers!

Michel