Ah, La Fleche-Wallone, quite possibly my least favorite one-day race. Since 2004, it’s been decided by a moronic group sprint from the bottom of the at-least-entertainingly-steep Mur de Huy. The winner this year, as then, was Davide Rebellin. Score another major ’07 win for Gerolsteiner (and German teams in general), and another victory for predictable, stupid racing: the podium was filled out by the previous three years’ race winners.
The dearth of uproar over the repetitive racing at Fleche really shows how Mario Cipollini and the invention of the “pure sprinter” has terrified cycling purists. One group sprint finish at Amstel Gold: “Holy cow! Better crap our pants and put the finish waaaaaay up on top of a hill so Cipo’ can’t win it.” Several group sprint finishes at Milan-Sanremo: “I guess it’s ok if sprinters can win this one, but maybe we should add another hill so it’s harder for them.” Five group sprint finishes in 6 years at Fleche: “[deafening silence]”.
Just because riders might finish a second or two apart doesn’t mean it’s still not a group gallop. For all the photogenic tooth gritting and body English the Mur provides, it simply doesn’t require the pain cave toughness of a move at Flanders or Roubaix. And for the discerning analyst (or anyone with a VCR and a rewind button), it’s far less interesting to watch a contest of (max power-fatigue)/mass, when you could see ((max power-fatigue)/wind resistance) x (will to live/urge to win) x (lead out train – opponents’ lead out trains) x (bike handling) x (reaction time) + positioning.
Of course, the Eurocrats who run this sport (much like their progenitors, who once staged a “War to End All Wars” only to catastrophically repeat the nonsense 20 years later) aren’t big on doing things logically. ASO, for example took its pound of Fleche (tee-hee), refusing to let Unibet start today’s race despite a court order to the contrary. This Old World douchebaggery also surfaced LNDD’s explanation of why a Landis representative was barred from viewing the cyclist’s “ultra positive” B-sample testing:
“Preliminary agreements had been concluded between the two parties (USADA and Landis) to make sure that no single party would be present inside the lab without the other one being present, too. By refusing the representatives of the rider the entrance on Monday, with USADA being absent, too, the lab director, professor Jacques de Ceaurritz, merely respected this agreement. And that is normal.”
So…nobody was observing testing procedures? Awesome.