Thursday, April 24, 2008

Waalse Pijl

AKA La Flèche Wallonne

I have ridden this course once and it is a certifiable bitch. The course feels like one perpetual climb, and the descents are so short that it feels like they're over before you even get to coast.

And Mur de Huy is nothing like most people have ever experienced. Not only is it rediculously steep and neverending, but what really makes it unbearable is that by the time you've reached the base of the climb you have already been climbing a few hundred meters! Oh and the pavement sucks; many sections are riddled with potholes and semi-patches which can be dangerous when you combine it with tight pack riding, wet slippery roads and compromised bike handling due to exhaustion.

The favorites towards the end of the race were looking to be Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Damiano Cunego (Lampre), Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto and one of my favorite riders) .

With 13km to go, Swedish rider Gustav Erik Larsson (Team CSC) took off with such power that it looked like he may just be able to pull it off...if he can get one or two riders to bridge to him and help out. As luck had it, two riders joined him for the painfest. It's amazing how much suffering can occur in such a short distance. The two riders were Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) and Alexander Efimkin (Quick Step.)

Of the three, Larsson looked the strongest. But just like many folks who are extremely talented in one way or another, Larsson had a fatal flaw. His was that he has descending issues. Just before he hit the pavement, he gave us all a scare by almost overshooting a turn. After the scare, we were all glued to the TV praying to the anti-crash gods that he makes it safely to the bottom with the other two so there can be a real showdown on Huy. Unfortunately that was not to be. Wegmann continued solo to Huy while Efimkin, who was delayed by Larsson's crash, trailed about five seconds behind.

Watching Wegmann continue on solo made me wonder what would have happened if he had waited a couple of seconds for Efimkin so they could work together. When I put myself in his position to figure out what I would have done, I realized quickly that would have been a tough call. On one hand, the peloton (of about 2o or so?) may have caught Efimkin and layed off the pressure just enough to give Wegmann those precious seconds needed to ascend to the finish line first. But on the other hand, it's not as if Wegmann would be out of view (think out of sight, out of mind) on a wide open slow-climbing Huy where you can see many seconds up the road.

I suppose Wegmann's decision was a non-factor because the outcome would most probably be the same.

As the favorites were engulfing Wegmann on the Mur de Huy, I'm sure all viewers were doing the same as I - screaming at the TV in an effort to push my personal favorites forward as if they were pawns on a game board. Well, it didn't work for my guy Evans. I suppose the TV screams for Luxembourg's Kim Kirchen (Team High Road) drowned out the Evans screams since he finished 1 second behind for 2nd place.

Not to sound corny, but just to finish a course like that within the time limit (usually i think about 5-20% over that of the winner's time) confirms that rider's status as a certifiable stud.

10 comments:

bikesgonewild said...

...i'd sure like to believe that the playing field is actually being leveled but either way, the racing has been good enough early in the season to help me "kinda sorta" forget about the moronic self-serving, self-centered, back-stabbing behavior between the aso & the uci...
...their sordid little act has been reduced to the back pages, for now at least, by the action on the roads...

...btw...wind, light rain, sunshine, warmth, cold, all part of the recent marin weather report...welcome to global weirding...

...lookin' forward to yer l-b-l report...see ya...

PEANUT said...

I'd have to say two of the major drawbacks a pro cyclist faces is injury and politics. There is nothing worse than not getting to race your bike (ok, well not literally but you get the drift.) And when there is disagreement with aso and uci, the riders really suffer the most. Pity.

Glad to hear you are at least getting some sun and warmth between the rainshowers. Love the "global weirding"!

chr15 tree said...

Once again - nice report!

I saw the last 1000m of teh race on a Belgian website... WOW!
What gear were they in??? It looked high, yet at that gradient!

I was wondering who that was off the front on the lower reaches of the climb, I couldn't make out the kit on the grainy picture and covered in so much road grime it actually looked like Bettini's rainbows! Guess it was the Germany jersey???

L-B-L next...

Have a great weekend

CT
:)

PEANUT said...

No, not bettini but Wegmann in the all white outfit. Yes, German stripes. I don't even think Bettini was in the race.
Not sure what gear they are using but i would guess they aren't using anything easier than a 25 in the rear.
Have a great weekend too! I'm looking forward to LBL. Who's your pick?

bikesgonewild said...

...i think it's a shame any pro racing cyclist has to be concerned w/ the politics at any time but say the off-season...that being said, i felt that last season, the pros showed their true disingenuous colors & perhaps their paranoia by not standing in solidarity regarding the 'unibet' fiasco...they could have made a statement again this year regarding astana...
...they have strength in numbers but as individuals, they're afraid to recognize or use it...i know they're caught in the middle of an ugly fight but they COULD change how it plays out...

chr15 tree said...

You know, I would love to see Schleck and Cunego up there again.

They both have form in this race, as does Bettini (you are right he wasn't in Fleche Wallone - but he is reportedly back at LBL). I've never been a fan of Valverde, don't know why. Plus there is always Rebellin, Voight (how great would that be) et al.

1. Schleck
2. Cunego
3. Voight.

Now I've said, that watch them blow!

CT :)

chr15 tree said...

I think it is a big shame too that Di Luca isn't there.

PEANUT said...

BGW:
Yes, the unibet debacle was unfortunate. But i wouldn't be surprised if Unibet got more publicity by having their names wiped off of the jerseys in some of the races. And in the end the racers pay. It is much harder to make a stand in a sport like road cycling than people realize. Their salaries require that they, for the most part, blend in and not be a "problem." So you nailed it when you said the only way they can do something is better unify themselves. Hope it happens.
Chr15: I love your picks. I think i'll take them as my own. Would have been fun to see di Luca mix it up as well. Less than 24 hrs left before LBL!

chr15 tree said...

9-10k's to go looks like the Schleck boys are puling the old 1, 2...

PEANUT said...

I hope neither schleck wins since i haven't watched the race yet!