One of the great things about the Belgian classics season is that the races are so accessible to fans from the UK and there was a mass exodus of cycling enthusiasts clamouring onto planes, trains and ferries to get to the Queen of the Classics, Paris-Roubaix. One of my favourite Twitter pals, Jon Baines, chased the race from Arenberg to Carrefour and captured the flavour of the weekend through his lens. Continue reading
The first part of the season for my three superstars was successful in all kinds of ways: Spartacus vanquished all in his path, That Boy Phinney stole everyone’s hearts, and Purito may have found the key to derailing the Sky-train in May.
Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard)
- 4th at Strade Bianche,
- 3rd at Milan-San Remo.
- Won E3 Harelbeke.
- Won Ronde van Vlaanderen.
- Won Paris-Roubaix.
WorldTour ranking: 1st, 351 pts.
After Cancellara’s year of #unluck last year, he has taken this season by the scruff of the neck and shaken some impressive victories out of it. He started the year in the desert races, took fourth in Strade Bianche after being marked out of contention, made the last podium step in a treacherous Milan-San Remo, then hit his stride in the bitter cold of Belgium and northern France.
He took E3 Harelbeke by attacking on the Kwaremont and leaving the rest of the field in his jet vapours while he soloed 35km to the finish. On Easter Sunday, he was finally able to use his team to keep the pressure on during the Ronde van Vlaanderen until he picked his moment to attack his nemesis Peter Sagan on the Paterberg and rode solo 15km for the win. Then as overwhelming favourite and with the echo of ‘one-trick pony’ in his ears perhaps, he rode a subtle and cunning Paris-Roubaix, bluffing about his form before he caught all the breaks and came into the velodrome with just one rival, Sep Vanmarcke. He’s learned patience as he played the perfect tactics by forcing Vanmarcke into the weaker position, then took the win in a sprint. Yes, a sprint. Spartacus is back and at the moment sitting in the number one spot in the WorldTour rankings.
Taylor Phinney (BMC)
- 3rd overall, best young rider and won the team time trial at Tour of Qatar.
- 7th at Milan-San Remo.
WorldTour ranking: 45th, 30 pts.
Taylor Phinney’s results on paper don’t have any bearing on the results he’s achieved with fans during this season so far. A gargantuan talent who hasn’t quite hit his stride yet, Phinney has nonetheless been the talking point of races that he has come nowhere near winning. A case in point was his DNF in stage 6 of Tirreno-Adriatico – a brutal stage that Phinney ended up finishing alone and outside the cut-off time. But it was his tweets about why he finished that stole the stage’s story.
During Milan-SanRemo he was pictured with an ice-covered helmet, was thought (wrongly) to have abandoned, then came out of seemingly nowhere to take an impressive seventh in another brutal race. Citing a knee injury, he opted out of the Ronde to start Paris-Roubaix fresh and, although he was tipped as a favourite to win and led the charge through the Forest of Arenberg, he said himself that he had gotten “too excited” and couldn’t sustain the effort, to place 23rd. Last year’s Giro is where Phinney really started to shine and here’s hoping he’s back in the pink in May.
Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha)
- 4th overall and won one stage at Tour of Oman.
- 5th overall and won one stage at Tirreno-Adriatico.
- 2nd overall and one 2nd place at Volta a Catalunya.
WorldTour ranking: 5th, 144 pts.
After the UCI’s climb-down on the licence row with Katusha, Purito could concentrate on his season and he started with a fourth overall in the Tour of Oman, after an impressive stage four victory over a stellar field of race-ready contenders, including Chris Froome, Alberto Contador and Alejandro Valverde. Placing fifth overall in Tirreno-Adriatico, including winning stage five, he then went on to take the second podium spot in the Volta a Catalunya, which could be significant in that one of the main GC contenders for next month’s Giro, Bradley Wiggins, was also in this race and placed fifth.
Purito will certainly want to take the maglia rosa this year, after losing it in the final time trial last year by a handful of seconds. His explosive climbing and attacking style should stand him in good stead against the metronomic Sky train.