Discovery DS Dirk Demol is not a stupid man. “One thing is sure,” he told Eurosport yesterday, “The longer that everybody waits to make the race hard, the better for Boonen”. It’s sound logic, as the best way to upset a heavy favorite is to make things not go smoothly and predictably. What I don’t understand is why Demol never followed up on it.
I guess his first problem was no breaks got clear until 90k into today’s race. Sometimes, I’m told, the field just doesn’t want to let people go. But I find it hard to believe that a rider of Sergei Ivanov’s or Roger Hammond’s cailber committing to a break suicidally early in such a long race couldn’t have gotten clear. Conventional wisdom says you want to save potential contenders for later, but conventional wisdom also says Boonen wins this race at a cantor.
As it happened, though, no group got a noticeable gap until 90k, and even then, it was faily inconsequential – only Schmitz (T-Mobile) represented the interests of a real contender. So you might expect that Disco would try to bridge someone up to the lead group, or ease off completely, giving the leaders a huge margin and daring Quick.Step not to burn matches reeling it back in. But from what I can tell reading the live reports, what followed was 70k of the race not being hard, with Discovery rolling obediantly to the front every so often. And then suddenly, as soon as the race hit the hills, it was Boonen and three of his closest friends dictating the pace.
Where was Disco? Just kinda hanging in, until the the Koppenburg where Tommy Boy decided it would be good to be at the front. Hoste and Hincapie were pretty close, but…oooops…uh-oh! Of course, Hoste was able to chase back on, though his efforts were no doubt eased significantly by Quick.Step realizing it could put four riders in the selection if it slowed up enough to let Baguet and Pozzato on as well.
Then Disco sat up and let Quick.Step work for a bit; makes sense when there’s another team with four guys in a group of less than 20. But playing it “smart” like that like that simply allowed Quick.Step to continue to dictate the action of the race, riding tempo to chew off the weak riders and discourage attacks. As many commentators noted, they never really went all that hard (search “not actually”), and certainly, attacking was possible. But nothing of note happened until Hoste finally got the gumption (or the green light) to attack. Boonen followed, and that was it: race over.
For some reason, the Discovery Channel camp seemed a-ok to have Boonen finish with Hoste, despite George Hincapie’s warning a few days earlier. Hmm, let’s see – Disco rider gets away in final selection of a huge classic with Tom Boonen, and then gets completely scooped out in the sprint…why does that sound familiar? Oh, yeah.
Now, most would say to stick with a two-up sprint when there’s three guys on the other team waiting in the group behind, but a two-up sprint against Tom Boonen isn’t a coin toss unless you’re betting for the nickel to land on its edge. Demol should have told Hoste to swing away Chiapucci-style, or let up entirely; even outnumbered 2:1, Disco’s odds at victory would have been better if they’d tried to shuffle Boonen out of that break.
I should add that it’s not like Demol blundered today. He played a tough hand well, and going 2-3 at Flanders, after losing two riders (Hammond and Berry) to crashes early, is no small feat. And despite claims to the contrary (search “stronger”), Quick.Step definitely had his riders overmatched. But with two top-caliber guys absolutely on form, Discovery had a decent chance to win this race, and just never took the big risk to try and capitolize on it. It’s like my man JPJ said: “He who does not risk, does not win”, and according to two-time champ PVP (search “podium”), at this race, the win is all that matters.
thoughts on “How Not to Try to Win Tour of Flanders – Rant”
You’re absolutely right about Discovery not taking the race to the others — ranted about it specifically in regard to Hincapie at https://catvii.blogspot.com/2005/09/happy-george-hincapie-day.html (read the comments as well).
It did seem like Disco was riding for second place — otherwise why should Hoste have been working to make sure the break goes. It’s understandable that Hincapie stays put in what was left of the front, since attempting to bridge could have brought PVP, Bettini, and Ballan with him. But the bigger question is why didn’t the two Discovery riders attack before that. Especially to try and get away with another Quick Step rider to test how well that would sit with the world champ and hometown favorite. If you want him to crack, you have to at least apply some pressure….
it was one or 2 years ago- in one of the early season races, Discovery had devloder attack the lead group with boonen several times, and boonen chased, killing boonen’s legs. this allowed one of the other disco guys to get away and eventually win. but I can’t remember what race it was. am I crazy or does anyone remmeber that race?
of course NOW no one’s going to be able to isolate boonen.
2005 Kurne-Brussels-Kurne…George won
from cyclingnew.com: Devolder did his utmost to weaken Boonen, attacking repeatedly while the others watched. It worked, and the Lotto-led bunch clawed its way back to the group with nine kilometres to go. There was no way that anyone wanted a bunch sprint with Boonen there, so the attacks continued non-stop until Kevin Van Impe (Chocolade Jacques) and George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) went in the tailwind with 6 km to go. The only Lotto rider to react was Roesems, but he wasn’t quick enough and the two were away.
It was K-B-K ’05. It went down pretty much as you tell it, with Hincapie winning a 2-up sprint with Kevin van Impe after getting away late. Devolder beat up Boonen so badly with attacks over the last 50k or so that Tornado Tom listed him among his foremost rivals for the rest of the ’05 classics season.
But wasn’t Boonen isolated in Kuurne? Yesterday he had four teammates with him at the head of the race, which pretty much took the impetus out of any attacking. The chances were then that the attacks would go, giving the spoils not to Boonen, but probably to Bettini, etc., etc. And since Disco was the only other squad with multiple riders, if they don’t attack, why should anyone else?
Hoste went off on his own with 3 climbs and 33k to go. This was ‘off -plan’. GH was sole leader per Demol and GH prerace and Hoste said so, too, interviewed at the START (see cn’Live Report’). Can we say ‘Lack of Discipline’? Hoste pre-empted team goals and
plans – got 45 min plus of TV for himself and the ‘glory’ of being the SECOND best Belgian on the day.
QS has been successful this year not just because they have a hugely talented and (most of the time)an intact and healthy team but because the riders have made sacrifices and not necessarily happily in order to carry out team plans and strategies.
I wonder what team Hoste will ride for next year??
It’s the only explanation I can think of that makes any sense. When I looked into GH’s eyes after the race I say a man who was pissed. Maybe DeMol will work for Quick-Step as well! Why wasn’t he driving up next to Hoste and pleading with him to stop pulling (Where is Theo DeRooy when you need him)?? If it were me, I would have been tossing full bidons at Leifâ€™s front wheel before they ever got to the Muur.
The gap should have never gotten above 20 seconds. Hoste still had a chance to win if he would have worked with Boonen for 10 kâ€™s and then sat upâ€”or even if he had allowed Kroon to catch them. Had the gap been small before the Muur, Hincapie would have had a chance to bridge the gap, alone or with PVP, on the Muur. Almost any scenario you can think of is better than the one Hoste committed to. He made such a huge deal about the track-stand with 2 kâ€™s to go, and I was pretty excited when he finally chose to do something half smart. But Boonen could have led that sprint out from anywhere and still won. Tom was never going to let anything bad happen. The race was absolutely over before they got to the Muur. The only possibilities left for Hoste when they got to the Muur were, 1) attack and then get dropped on the counter, or 2) lose the race in the sprint.
Why did Hoste work with Boonen??? Maybe the question should be, â€œwhy did Hoste work FOR Boonen??
I think Hoste’s attack was simply supposed to be one of a series to soften up the QS boys so George could launch an attack of his own. The problem was that Boonen didn’t read the script and went with Hoste… or he did read it and opted for his own re-write. I agree that Hoste should have backed off a *bit more*, make Boonen do ALL of the work, sapping some of the snap from his legs. The lead group may have come back (George showed he was the fastest of the chasers and may have been able to take a tired Boonen in the sprint). The scenario I like was *if* Hoste were to just stop, wait for George to bridge (provided he could drop the other chasers) and work to bridge back to Boonen and then try and work him over before the finish. I know there’s a lot of big “if’s” there but… Maybe Demol’s guarantee of at least 2nd place out weighs uncertainty.
Racing for second should be a non-starter, full stop. Did you read the comment from DeMol: “Johan said we did the right thing.” That was crap. Can you imagine what Lance would have done if he had wanted to win the Ronde. He would have stuck a pen knife in Hoste’s adam’s-apple before the guy could climb the podium. Don’t believe the spin (or the hype). Georgey is the same Georgey we’ve known forever. He is not a killer and I’ll bet he lives a long and happy life with his fam in North Caro-b.f.e. with no stone (or any other monuments) on the mantle. Just think, Jean-Marie Wampers has a stone, Maggie has a stone, and f’in Geusdons has one but Georgey got squat. I’m sorry about all the hate’n, but Disco gotta realize that 20th place is the same as 2nd. That and no person on the rock is going to beat Boonen in a sprint after 260 k’s in the north (brother gave away Sanremo, ohmygod–Eddy gonna bus’ a duece-duece in Tom’s crane for that).
Ok, I’m a little drunk. Go Geo!!!