I’m following the progress of three Classics specialists in 2012: BMC’s Philippe Gilbert, the top-ranked rider in the world last year, Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s former world champion and Tour de France green jersey winner Tom Boonen, and Garmin-Barracuda’s Koldo Fernandez. Here’s a quick summary of how they’ve started their season.
Philippe Gilbert (BMC)
Races: Tour of Qatar, Tour du Haut Var.
Results: 22nd in Qatar. 15th at Haut Var.
It was something of a cruise around the middle east for Philippe Gilbert to start his season, as he finished 22nd in the Tour of Qatar. His best personal result came on stage three, where he finished 16th.
At last weekend’s Tour du Haut Var he finished 30th and 16th on the two stages, to end up 15th overall. He may have eased his way in to the season in Qatar, but before Haut Var he stated he’d like a good position in the two-day race, although it didn’t seem he was going all-out for victory at this early stage in the season:
If I can win without wasting too much energy, I’ll do so. The race is close to my home in Monaco and some friends will be watching along the course.
Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step)
Races: Tour de San Luis, Tour of Qatar, Tour of Oman.
Results: Won one stage in San Luis. Won the overall classification, points jersey and two stages in Qatar. 43rd in Oman.
Unlike Gilbert, Tom Boonen has started the season like a house on fire, already winning three stages and one overall classification.
He started his season in Argentina at the Tour de San Luis, and helped his teammate Francesco Chicchi to the opening two stages, before winning one himself on the final day of the Tour.
He then headed off to Qatar, and took two stage wins, meaning he won the race for the fourth time.
Finally he raced the Tour of Oman, finishing 43rd overall. He made it clear he was taking it easy, and wasn’t going to be in for a stage win. But he’s delighted with his start to the season:
The most important thing is that I’m back in shape, am riding well right now. The team has grown much stronger compared to last year too. There’s a group of friends again and working hard has become fun again.
However, he’s not thinking about winning the Classics:
I can’t think about the major Classics, not just yet. Of course I would like to win Flanders or Roubaix again, but I no longer see it as something compulsory. We’ll see where the next few weeks take us.
Do you believe him? I’m not sure I do … [Looks like Tom is ‘managing expectations’ somewhat! – Ed]
Koldo Fernandez (Garmin-Barracuda)
Races: Tour Mediterraneen, Vuelta ao Algarve.
Results: 114th in Tour Mediterraneen. 109th in Algarve.
Fernandez started his Garmin-Barracuda career at the Tour Mediterraneen. The sprinter finished 114th overall, with the highlight being a seventh place finish on the second stage.
He then moved on to the Vuelta ao Algarve, where he again showed his quality in the sprints, finishing inside the top eight on stages two and four.
Fernandez will now go on to ride Paris-Nice, Milan-San Remo and the Tour of California amongst others – let’s hope many more high finishes await!
Twitter: @tomboonen (inactive)