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.
thoughts on “Fleche-Wal-*yawn*, More Euro Idiocy”
All this crap happening with the sport and with the poor tv coverage we are getting these days in the US has me seriously thinking about becoming a bullriding fan, although fishing might be another exciting option to study.
Waahh! Not every April race gets to be dead flat. Nice way to drum up hits on your blog, I guess.
Check the top-20 for Fleche this year and last; it may surprise you to learn there are some different names in there.
It seems like the Puerto thing has your chamois in a twist. Go out and take a spin in the rain. You have a bike with fenders?
Flanders isn’t flat. Neither is Liege or Amstel. Even Gent-Wevelgem has the Kemmel. So “Waahh!” yourself: that there’s only one “April race” (if by this you mean “April classic”) without a significant climb in it (Roubaix).
My problem with Fleche is that it ends the same way each year. My problem with Amstel is, now that the finish line is on top of a hill (instead of a flat sprint, preceded by a descent, preceded by a sharp climb) is that it’s turning into Fleche.
I like Liege, because after the Cote de Saint Nicolas, there’s a good 500 meters of flat, meaning the winner must be an adept climber, sprinter and tactician. I think, however, it might be good to extend that finishing stretch a bit, if possible, to keep its parcours sufficiently differentiated from the other two events.
Compare the winners at Flanders/Wevelgem/Roubaix to the winners at Amstel/Fleche/Liege over the past few years, and I think you’ll see the problem.
I don’t see a problem with the winners – I see a demanding course at Fleche that weeds out some some of the (larger) tough guys.
There will be plenty of sprint-fests in the Giro, in the Tour and the Vuelta ( and look at Petacchi this week going up against the also-rans, excepting Ciolek).
I don’t think changes in Amstel came from Cipollini winning once. Are there public citations from the promoter whinging about that?
One last thing: Rebellin definitely was in the ‘pain cave’ on the finale of Huy – Pez has a great shot, from Cor Vos, I think.
Who do you like for Liege on Sunday?