I know this hardly seems relevant to Americans, what with Tour de Georgia starting tomorrow and all, but I thought that was a pretty good Amstel they had on Sunday. The bunch stayed together a little longer than I like to see in a classic, probably because some people think they can just wait, sit on, and win the uphill sprint. That’s the problem with these Ardennes classics, same as it’s the problem with pretty much any amateur road race with an uphill finish; put a big hill at the end, and (usually) no one wants to attack ’til then. Boogard, having blown the sprint for the the uphill finish (that was supposed to keep the race from ending in a sprint in the first place, after Zabel’s Y2K victory panicked the Amstel race organizers) two years running, probably studied the heck out of the Cauberg this off-season.
Thankfully, it didn’t do him a lot of good. After a long and spirited chase, his Rabobank squad left him all alone when Paolo Bettini started jumping about like, well, like a cricket. Thus the nickname, I suppose, but proving with much ostentation that you have the best legs with 50k to go is no way to win this event. No, once the home team got through grinding itself into dust, and after the favorite got through channelling Bernard Hinault, and while T-Mobile was burning off its strongest rider so its leader could underperform (forget what the caption says, Ivanov was protected all day but still DFL in the sprint – anyway, it’s kind of a habit for the boys in fuchsia), it was Frank Schleck, shattering the looming specter of another irritating hill sprint finish, who stormed off wildly to victory.
And I do mean wildly. Frank, who’s known to be a bit unstable (see 3k to go) at times, rode across at least one Dutch driveway while overshooting corners on the race’s final descent, but kept it rubber-side down long enough to take the win. The Schleckster was apparently pretty jazzed about it, too, as nearly 20 minutes after the crossing the line, he told an English language interviewer that he looked back at 300 meters and realized “Fuck, I’m gonna win this shit” (from the live video on Cycling.TV; you can’t get access like that on OLN). Also psyched was CSC teammate Karsten Kroon, who got sweet revenge, playing the support role in helping his new squad spank his old one in their home race. Here’s to hoping Fleche-Wallonne is as aggressively raced.