Cafe Roubaix

Despre ciclismul de azi şi cel de altădată

Rider of the week

When he wants, Alejandro Valverde can be one of the most exciting cyclists in the world. Problem is he doesn’t choose that path too often, opting instead to have a defensive approach in the key moments, which lead to to many missed opportunities throughout the years in one day-races, including the World Championships. On the other hand, the same tactic has helped the Spaniard establish himself as one of the best Classics riders of his generation, with some impressive results in his CV, especially in the Ardennes.

Actually, Valverde’s love affair with those Classics has started exactly a decade ago, when he had the opportunity to ride all three races and his best result was a 13th place in Amstel Gold Race. Once he got the taste of it, the one they call “El Bala” came back every single year and it didn’t take much to pull his first win, in the 2006 Flèche Wallonne, which was followed just a couple of days afterwards by Liège–Bastogne–Liège, a double that has helped him join the elite group of riders – Ferdi Kübler, Stan Ockers, Eddy Merckx, Moreno Argentin, Davide Rebellin, Philippe Gilbert – who won both races in the same season.

In 2015, he came at the start of the Ardennes week as one of the favorites, but people didn’t rate Alejandro Valverde as one of the main favorites, not even when he finished second in Amstel Gold Race. Things changed after Flèche Wallonne, where he controlled everyone on the steep gradients of the Mur de Huy, before unleashing a powerful sprint, which allowed him nab his third win there and equal the record held by such cyclists as Eddy Merckx and Moreno Argentin, real legends of the Ardennes.

After that success, it became clear that Valverde will be the man to beat in Sunday’s Liège–Bastogne–Liège, so people were expecting an aggressive ride from his rivals in order to put the 35-year-old Spaniard under pressure, with the hope that he’ll eventually crack. As this didn’t happen, it wasn’t difficult for the Movistar cyclist to manage the race, especially in the last kilometers, cover the attacks and eventually claim his third victory in “La Doyenne”, which helped him achieve the prestigious Flèche Wallonne – Liège–Bastogne–Liège double for the second time in his career, a performance only Kubler has accomplished in the past.

Dan McLay: “I grew in love with the Classics from very early on”

I wrote about Dan McLay in the past, so if you want to know more about his first years in cycling and the results he scored, just check this piece. A neo-pro this season, the young rider of Bretagne-Séché has quickly found his place in the peloton, winning a stage in the Tropicale Amissa Bongo and riding some of the biggest World Tour events of the calendar, including some Classics, which he dreams of winning in the future. Having already 27 racing days under his belt, the 23-year-old Brit is now preparing for the 51st edition of the Tour of Turkey, which starts this Sunday and will give plenty of opportunities to the sprinters.

Just a couple of days before heading there – after a two-week break following the conclusion of the Spring Classics – Dan McLay sat down and talked for Cafe Roubaix about his start to the season and the goals he has for the next months.

– Dan, after a couple of seasons in the U23 Lotto-Belisol team, you choose Bretagne-Séché to turn pro. What stood behind this decision?

Well, to be honest, there weren’t a lot of teams fighting over me so it wasn’t as if I could sit back and deliberate, as I didn’t receive any solid offers on the table. However, Bretagne-Séché provided a great opportunity to have chances to race for myself even in my first year as a pro, a great race programme and a relaxed environment.

– Do you feel you’ve blend in at Bretagne-Séché?

I think I need to learn French. Otherwise, everyone is very friendly and supportive though and it’s a good atmosphere in the team.

– Your first win came maybe sooner then expected, in just your second race with the team, the Tropicale Amissa Bongo.

Indeed. I was trying to lead out in stage three and eventually I finished first, but otherwise I think in that race I knew I should be fast enough to win at least a stage. It was an interesting experience for sure and overall it was fine. It was a lot like other races; aside from one or two little bits of disorganisation and a lack of wi-fi, there wasn’t so much different really.

– Although a neo-pro, you got to do some big one-day races. Was this the plan from the beginning of the season, or was it something that came along?

Yes, it was the plan. I wasn’t scheduled to ride Paris-Nice at first, but everything else was in the plan.

– Two weeks ago, you raced Paris-Roubaix. How was this first encounter with the “Hell of the North”?

I had some bad luck, having to change both wheels on the section prior to the Arenberg Forest, which really left me out of the race before it even started. I did feel good beforehand, but it’s so early it’s hard to tell. I punctured a couple of times after as well and then had to call it a day.

– You have a particular affinity to the Northern Classics. Why is that?

I think they are the biggest races someone of my type of rider can win. I grew in love with them from very early on.

– Paris-Roubaix or the Tour of Flanders? Which would you like to win in the future?

I don’t know, I think that Paris-Roubaix maybe suits me better, but I don’t know which I would prefer to win. For me you have to throw Milan-Sanremo in the mix as well, as it is such a beautiful finish with the balance being so fine as to who can win.

– With what thoughts are you going to the Tour of Turkey?

I feel good, I don’t know my role yet, but if I am sprinting I want to win or if I am leading out I want to do that perfectly each time.

– Is a Tour de France start on the table?

It’s not been talked about much, but I think it’s unlikely at the moment. I hope I can maybe change that with a good performance in the Tour of Turkey. But there’s still a long way to go until July. Right now I’m focused on Turkey, then the Tour de Picardie and World Ports Classic.

– And do you have any more personal goals for the rest of the season?

I want to win a race of a good standard with some big sprinters there.

2015 Liège–Bastogne–Liège Preview

Liege-Bastogne-Liege 2015

The Spring Classics are ready to draw the curtain on the 2015 season, but not before “La Doyenne” – the last race of the Ardennes triumvirate – gets its time in the spotlight. Created in 1892, which makes it the oldest of the Monuments, Liège–Bastogne–Liège was a race for amateuers until 1894, when Leon Houa got his third win in a row. The next two decades were on and off, with the Classics not being run for 13 years after which it was sometimes open only to amateurs and semi-professionals. World War l was another reason for Liège–Bastogne–Liège being put on hold, before finally resuming in 1919.

Throughout the years, Belgium established itself as the dominant nation of the race, thanks to the victories nabbed by the likes of Fred De Bruyne, Alfons Schepers and Eddy Merckx, who holds the record for the most wins. But in the past four decades, “La Doyenne” became a more open affair to riders outside of Belgium, a consequence of the emergence of some huge cyclists in other countries, all this while the host struggled to find a new star to lay his mark on the race.

Also, thanks to its hilly parcours, the race became one of the Grand Tour contenders’ favorite, alongside the Giro di Lombardia, so the line-up always saw a nice mix of climbers and puncheurs who battled it out on the tough, long, double-digit climbs of Wallonie. This year, they will all fight to join the illustrious roll-call of the race, where we can find the names of such riders as Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Roger De Vlaeminck, Bernard Hinault, Moreno Argentin, Michele Bartoli or Paolo Bettini.

The course

The forecast for Sunday says heavy rain, so although the race is 10 kilometers shorther than the 2014 one, it should be much more difficult. The opening half of the Classic isn’t very hard, with just one categorized climb along the way – Côte de La Roche-en-Ardenne (2,8 kilometer-long, 6,8% average gradient). After 107 kilometers, the peloton will reach Bastogne and will prepare to turn back to Liège, and this change of roads will signal the real start of the race. Côte de Saint-Roch, Côte de Wanne and Côte de Stockeu should lead to a selection, with the top favorites keen to send their teams at the front and up the rhythm before the decisive part.

After a leg-sapping 216, 5 kilometers of racing (which will include seven climbs), the pack will hit Côte de La Redoute (2 kilometers, 8,9% average gradient), where is impossible not to have any attacks, considering its strategic importance. A change from last year’s edition comes from the fact that Côte des Forges – which used to play a decisive part in the race’s outcome more than three decades ago – isn’t on the parcourse anymore – and this should give the cyclists some time to catch their breath before they hit the penultimate obstacle of the day, which comes after 16 kilometers from La Redoute.

First introduced in 2008, Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons – the climb where the race can be won or lost – has played a big role in the outcome of the race, with the contenders choosing it to launch what often ended up being the decisive attack. In the past, Andy Schleck (2009) and Alexandr Vinokourov (2010) made their move on the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons (1,5 kilometers, 9,4% average gradient), while Vincenzo Nibali (2012) waited for the descent to attack and build a good gap, before getting caught with 1,2 kilometers before the finish.

If the last 10 kilometers will see a group at the front, then the riders will have one last opportunity to go clear and take a solo win on the Côte de Saint-Nicolas (1,2 kilometers, 8,6% average gradient), the “Italian hill”. After a short descent, the road will rise again in the last 1,5 kilometers, where the average gradient is of 5,5%. There are two scenarios here: either a cyclist has enough power for one more attack, as Daniel Martin did in 2013, catching Joaquim Rodriguez and nabbing the win, or a small group will go together to the line, where the winner will emerge after a sprint, as was the case last year, when Simon Gerrans brought Australia its first success here.

The favorites

On Wednesday, Alejandro Valverde made it back-to-back victories in Flèche Wallonne, controlling the finale and powering away from his opponents. Just like last year, the Spaniard has entered the Ardennes week in top shape and will start Liège–Bastogne–Liège as the outstanding favorite, a win putting him on par with Fred De Bruyne, Leon Houa and Alfred Schepers, the other riders who scored three victories. Valverde has it all: he can climb, accelerate and sprint from the peloton, but there’s one thing he is missing – the willingness to go at the front and be aggressive, thus shaping the race to his own liking. In too many occasions, he lost big wins because he decided to stay in the defensive, and this scenario could repeat on Sunday, if the winner of the 2006 and 2008 “La Doyenne” will not change his tactics.

Katusha was left empty handed after Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallonne, two of the team’s most important goals this Spring, and the Russian squad will be keen on making amends for those disappointments in Liège–Bastogne–Liège. In Giampaolo Caruso, Daniel Moreno and Joaquim Rodriguez, Katusha has a strong team, with the latter being the absolute leader, as the parcours suits him and he has a good record here, with two second places, in 2009 and 2013. Although he was below par in the past days, “Purito” Rodriguez shouldn’t be ruled out by this rivals, because he is capable of a big move that can land him the win.

Vincenzo Nibali is aiming at the Tour de France, but his form over the past days has been improving significantly and the rider they nickname “Il Squalo” will start the race as a top favorite, hoping to get a first Monument under his belt after years and years of being in the hunt for one. A very likely scenario for Nibali is to send a teammate at the front somewhere in the last 50 kilometers, before finally attacking from afar, on the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons or on the subsequent descent, and then flying solo, as he has to avoid a sprint finish.

For four years now, Philippe Gilbert is dreaming of another “La Doyenne” win, especially as this is his home race and he knows the route as the back of his hand. Unfortunately for the former world champion, he crashed heavily in Flèche Wallonne and was left out of contention, so there’s a big question mark concerning his fitness. Another problem for Gilbert is that he’ll be heavily marked by the other contenders, but on the other hand, this could play into BMC’s advantage, which can try to send Ben Hermans or Samuel Sanchez on to the attack and thus give the slip to the other riders.

Michal Kwiatkowski saved Etixx-Quick Step’s Spring by winning Amstel Gold Race, but things didn’t go as planned a couple of days later, on the Mur de Huy, where he struggled and was off pace, although it is true that the finish didn’t quite suit him. It should be a different affair in Liège–Bastogne–Liège, where the world champion will look to become Poland’s first Monument winner. What works in his favor is that he has many options for the finale, which include an attack on one of the last climbs, as well as waiting for the sprint, the Pole being one of the fastest riders in the race. Another thing worth mentioning is that Michal Kwiatkowski will have a very strong team alongside, which includes Julian Alaphilippe, Maxime Bouet and Zdenek Stybar.

Who else can be in the mix at the 101st edition of Liège–Bastogne–Liège? One name that comes to mind is Sky’s Sergio Henao – 2nd in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco and 7th in Flèche Wallonne – who has a strong chance of notching Colombia’s first win here. Also Lotto-Soudal should be among the protagonists, as it lines up three powerful cyclists – Tony Gallopin, Jelle Vanendert and Tim Wellens – capable of attacking and lighting up the race, and also very dangerous if given some rope, especially as they aren’t the top contenders and have nothing to lose.

On Wednesday, Daniel Martin hit the deck and sustained some injuries which will make his life tough on the arduous climbs of the Ardennes. Because of this, he’ll start as an outsider, just as his Cannondale-Garmin teammate Tom-Jelte Slagter, who can provide an important option to the US squad, which is in desperate need of results after a poor start to the season. In the Giro del Trentino, Domenico Pozzovivo took an impressing win in stage three, that ended in Fierozzo, and this makes him a dangerous cyclist for Liège–Bastogne–Liège, a race he came close to winning last year. Finally, other riders to be watched are Roman Kreuziger, Romain Bardet, Jakob Fuglsang, Bauke Mollema (who has improved on this type of climbs in the past year), Julian Alaphilippe, Rui Costa and Enrico Gasparotto, although they all need a little bit of luck and also to be underestimate by the peloton in order to succeed.

Race stats

– The first edition took place in 1892 and was won by Leon Houa

– Eddy Merckx holds the record for the most wins: 5, between 1969 and 1975

– The same Merckx has the most podiums: 7

– Belgium leads the nations standings, with 59 victories, followed by Italy (12) and Switzerland (10)

– Seven riders have won both Flèche Wallonne and Liège–Bastogne–Liège in the same season: Moreno Argentin, Philippe Gilbert Ferdi Kubler, Eddy Merckx, Stan Ockers, Davide Rebellin and Alejandro Valverde

– No U23 winner went on to take the victory as a pro

– Four cyclists from outside of Europe nabbed the win: Simon Gerrans (Australia), Tyler Hamilton (U.S.A.), Maxim Iglinskiy (Kazahstan) and Alexandre Vinokourov (Kazahstan)

– Since Bernard Hinault (1980), no other active Tour de France champion has won the Belgian Monument

–Moreno Argentin, in 1987, was the last rainbow jersey wearer to finish first

– Biggest winning margin was recorded in 1893, when Leon Houa came home half an hour ahead of his fellow countryman, Michel Borisowski

– The inaugural edition had 33 riders at the start, with only 17 of them getting to the finish

– Besides Belgium, Italy got to place three cyclists on the podium, at the 2005 edition of Liège–Bastogne–Liège

– The race has been affected by snow in 1919, 1957 and 1980

– Until 1973, ten editions have finished on the Stade Vélodrome de Rocourt, a 40 000-seat arena

– Since 1992, the race ends in Ans, a suburb of Liège

– Longest dry spell without a Belgian victory was between 2000 and 2010

– In 1957, two riders finished were awarded the win: Germain Derycke and Frans Schoubben

– Youngest ever winner is Victor Fastre (18 years and 362 days); oldest one is Alexandr Vinokourov (36 years and 223 days)

– 25 teams (17 World Tour and 8 Pro Continental) will line-up for the 101st edition

– Three of these teams haven’t scored a win this season: Cult Energy, LottoNL-Jumbo and UnitedHealthcare

– Four former winners are at the start of the 2015 race: Philippe Gilbert, Simon Gerrans, Daniel Martin and Alejandro Valverde

– The cyclists who will ride the 2015 edition have won a combined total of 6 Monuments, 3 world titles, 6 Grand Tours and almost 90 Grand Tour stages

– France is the country with the most riders in the race – 31 – followed by Belgium (26) and the Netherlands (21)

– Matej Mohoric (20 years) is the youngest rider who will line-up in Maastricht, while Bjorn Leukemans is the oldest one (37 years)

– Liège–Bastogne–Liège marks 2381 days since the last Italian win in a Monument

– Five winners of the U23 race will race the 101 st edition: Jan Bakelants, Rasmus Guldhammer, Anthony Turgis, Michael Valgren and Tosh Van der Sande

– 12 neo-pros will make their debut in “La Doyenne”: Simone Antonini, Emanuel Buchmann, Clement Chevrier, Floris De Tier, Huub Duyn, Alex Kirsch, Patrick Konrad, Christian Mager, Dylan Teuns, Anthony Turgis, Sjoerd van Ginneken and Louis Vervaeke

Liège–Bastogne–Liège 1980: Hinault, învingător printre fulgi de zăpadă

Mulţi oameni au spus în 1980 că vremea din Liège–Bastogne–Liège a fost cea mai dură din istoria clasicei, comparabilă cu cea de la ediţia din 2010 a Milano-San Remo. 174 de rutieri s-au prezentat la start, însă după ceva mai mult de o oră, peste jumătate dintre concurenţi au abandonat, din cauza unei teribile furtuni de zăpadă care a lovit Ardenii în acel an, pe 20 aprilie, la jumătatea primăverii.

Unul dintre cele mai puternice caractere pe care le-a avut ciclismul vreodată, Bernard Hinault a decis să continue, în ciuda temperaturii extrem de scăzute. Francezul câştigase o dată cursa, în 1977, atunci când îi învinsese pe André Dierickx şi Dietrich Thurau, la doar doi ani după ce îşi făcuse debutul ca profesionist. Acum, cel poreclit “Le Blaireau” spera să obţină o a doua victorie, care l-ar fi transformat în cel mai de succes ciclist din Hexagon în “La Doyenne”.

Cursa a fost animată pe Côte de Stockeu, cu aproape 100 de kilometri înainte de final, atunci când germanul Rudy Pevenage şi belgianul Ludo Peeters s-au desprins de pluton şi au reuşit să dezvolte un avans ceva mai mare de două minute. Această acţiune a avut darul de a-l înfuria pe pe Hinault – rutier obişnuit să se afle mereu în faţă şi să dicteze ritmul – care a accelerat imediat şi a plecat în urmărirea celor doi.

Alături de ciclistul echipei Renault-Elf-Gitane au venit italianul Silvano Contini şi belgianul Henk Lubberding, însă contribuţia acestora a fost aproape inexistentă, deoarece Hinault a vrut să stea doar el la trenă. Roadele muncii sale s-au văzut după numai 20 de kilometri, când joncţiunea s-a produs. Acest lucru nu l-a oprit pe francezul în vârstă de 25 de ani, care a continuat să meargă în ritmul său, neperturbat de frigul tăios şi de zăpada aşternută pe drumuri.

Orgolios, Bernard Hinault nu s-a gândit nicio clipă la abandon, deşi până la sosire mai erau 80 de kilometri. Parcă imun la durere şi la condiţiile meteo, Hinault s-a desprins de ceilalţi oameni, care nu l-au mai văzut de la un moment dat. Astfel, ciclistul din Hexagon a ajuns primul la final, unde a fost întâmpinat de colegii săi de echipă, ce se aflau la Liège de câteva ore, după ce abandonaseră în prima parte a cursei.

Avansul învingătorului faţă de următorii clasaţi, olandezul Hennie Kuiper (campionul olimpic din 1972) şi belgianul Ronny Claes (aflat la cel mai valoros rezultat din carieră într-un Monument), a fost unul uriaş, 9 minute şi 24 de secunde. În afară de aceştia, doar 18 dintre cei 174 de rutieri plecaţi la drum în dimineaţa zilei de 20 aprilie 1980 au încheiat clasica.

Condiţiile dificile de atunci s-au reflectat şi în media orară, cea mai scăzută din 1971 până în zilele noastre, 34,72 kilometri la oră. Peste toate aceste date, rămâne însă performanţa uluitoare a lui Bernard Hinault, care a intrat în istorie cu una dintre cele mai impresionante evoluţii avute vreodată de un ciclist într-o cursă de o zi, deşi nu fără urmări, în condiţiile în care şi-a pierdut sensibilitatea la două degete ale mâinii drepte, urmare a vremii teribile pe care a înfruntat-o.

Flèche Wallonne Stats

Historical stats

– The first winner of the race – created in 1936 – was Belgium’s Philemon Demeersman

– Moreno Argentin, Marcel Kint, Eddy Merckx and Davide Rebellin share the record for the most wins, 3

– Belgium leads the nations standings, with 38 victories, followed by Italy (18) and France (8)

– Cadel Evans is the last rainbow jersey wearer to take the victory at Flèche Wallonne (2010)

– Lance Armstrong (U.S.A.) and Cadel Evans (Australia) are the only riders from outisde of Europe to win the race

– Bastogne, Binche, Charleroi, Esneux, Huy, Liège, Mons, Spa, Tournai and Verviers have hosted the start of the race, while Charleroi, Huy, Liège, Marcinelle, Mons, Spa and Verviers got to host the finish at some point

– Longest edition took place in bith 1937 and 1938 – 280 kilometers

– In 1961, Willy Vannitsen won the shortest edition – 193 kilometers

– Last Tour de France champion to nab the victory in the Belgian Classic was Bernard Hinault, in 1983

– Two years later, the organisers came up with the idea of the race finishing on the Mur de Huy

– Largest winning margin was recorded in 1950, when Fausto Coppi finished 5:05 ahead of Raymond Impanis

– Last lone breakaway to succeed came in 2003, when Spain’s Igor Astarloa took the victory thanks to an attack launched before the last hill

– Youngest ever winner is Eddy Merckx (21 years and 320 days in 1967), while the oldest one is Pino Cerami (38 years and 21 years in 1960)

– Rik Van Steenbergen holds the record for the biggest time span between the first and the last win: 9 years (1949-1958)

Race stats

– 25 teams (17 World Tour and 8 Pro Continental) will line-up for the 79th edition (Waremme – Huy, 205,5 km)

– Three of these teams haven’t scored a win this season: LottoNL-Jumbo, Roompot and UnitedHealthcare

– Four former winners are at the start of the 2015 race: Philippe Gilbert, Daniel Moreno, Joaquim Rodriguez and Alejandro Valverde

– The cyclists who will ride the 2015 edition have won a combined total of 9 Monuments, 6 world titles (RR+ITT), 7 Grand Tours and almost 90 Grand Tour stages

– France is the country with the most riders in the race – 36 – followed by Belgium (25) and the Italy (24)

– Matej Mohoric (20 years) is the youngest rider who will line-up in Maastricht, while Rinaldo Nocentini is the oldest one (37 years)

Rider of the week

What a difference a year makes! In 2014, Michal Kwiatkowski came 5th in Amstel Gold Race and was left to rue the tactical mistakes he made in the finale, when Samuel Sanchez attacked, paving the way for Philippe Gilbert, who then blew everyone else off his wheel and got to the finish alone. Fast forward a year later, and the young Pole makes a perfect race all day long in the Dutch Classic, staying at the front, watching his opponents and studying every important move, before ending up winning it in one of the most spectacular finishes seen this season.

What was really impressive in Kwiatkowski’s display was seeing him all the time in the first ten riders of the peloton and staying composed throughout the race, just like in Ponferrada, where he took the world title, last Fall. Not even when Philippe Gilbert put on a fierce attack, to which only Michael Matthews could respond, the Pole didn’t panic and after being briefly distanced, he came back in his own rhythm, joining the others and patiently waiting for the sprint. On paper, Michael Matthews and Alejandro Valverde were the favorites there, but they were both overhauled by Kwiatkowski, whose legs were stronger and fresher after 258 arduous kilometers, “sprinkled” with no less than 34 hills.

On Sunday, Michal Kwiatkowski became just the fourth World Champion to triumph in Amstel Gold Race, following in the footsteps of Eddy Merckx, Jan Raas and Bernard Hinault. Now, with Liège–Bastogne–Liège just around the corner, he could reach another important milestone, by becoming the first rainbow jersey wearer since Moreno Argentin, in 1987, to notch the the win in the oldest Monument. Considering the top performance he’s had last week and his incredible level of consistency, a victory in “La Doyenne” looks very likely.

Lucky Room 11

As a pro, Yvo Molenaers won the Tour of Luxembourg, as well as stages in Paris-Nice and the Tour de Suisse. Then, after retiring, Molenaers (who is also Valerio Piva’s father-in-law) opened the Hotel Malpertuus, in the Belgian town of Riemst, not far of Liège. With time, one of the hotel’s rooms – Room 11, to be precisely – became a talisman for the riders, many of the ones who have slept there going on to take a big win soon afterwards.

Thanks to Emile Molenaers, Yvo’s son, I got to make a list of the cyclists who stayed in the famous Room 11 and their victories.

Year Race Won Winner Team
1990 Flèche Wallonne Moreno Argentin Ariostea
1991 Flèche Wallonne+ Liège–Bastogne–Liège Moreno Argentin Ariostea
1993 Amstel Gold Race Rolf Järmann Ariostea
1994 Amstel Gold Race Johan Museeuw GB-MG
1997 Liège–Bastogne–Liège Michele Bartoli MG-Technogym
2002 Amstel Gold Race Michele Bartoli Fassa Bortolo
2002 World Championships Mario Cipollini Italia
2008 Flèche Wallonne Kim Kirchen Team Columbia
2010 Eneco Tour Tony Martin HTC-Columbia
2012 Flèche Wallonne Joaquim Rodriguez Katusha
2013 Flèche Wallonne Daniel Moreno Katusha

Amstel Gold Race Stats

Historical stats

– The first edition took place in 1966 and was won  by the French rider Jean Stablinski

– Jan Raas has the most triumphs, 5, between 1977 and 1982

– Together with Michael Boogerd, Jan Raas shares the record for the most podiums, 7

– The nations standings is led by the Netherlands, who nabbed 17 victories so far

– Bernard Hinault is the last rainbow jersey wearer to win Amstel Gold Race, in 1981

– Since Bjarne Riis, in 1997, no other Tour de France champion has finished first in the Dutch Classic

– Only cyclists from outside of Europe to take the victory are Phil Anderson (Australia) and Alexandr Vinokourov (Kazahstan)

– Largest winning margin was recorded in 1976, when Freddy Maertens finished 4 minutes and 29 seconds ahead of Jan Raas

– The inaugural edition was the longest one – 302 kilometers; 1976, 1977 and 1978 are the years in which the shortest edition was recorded, just 230 kilometers

– Davide Rebellin has the most starts: 17 (including the one in 2015)

– Gerrie Knetemann is the youngest ever winner (23 days and 44 days in 1974), while Joop Zoetemelk is the oldest (40 years and 153 days in 1987)

– Same Gerrie Knetemann holds the record for the biggest time span between the first and the last win: 11 years (1974-1985)

– Last cyclist to win here after taking the victory in a cobbled Monuments was Jan Raas (1982)

– Maarten den Bakker is the rider with the most races completed, 15

– Cauberg – the iconic climb of Amstel Gold Race – is 900 meters long and has a 7% average gradient

– Since 2013, the finish – which comes 1800 after the Cauberg, at Berg en Terblijt – mirrors the one of the 2012 World Championships

Race stats

– 25 teams (17 World Tour and 8 Pro Continental) will take part in the 50th edition (258 kilometers) of the race

– Five of these teams haven’t scored a win this season: Bardiani, Cult Energy, LottoNL-Jumbo, Nippo-Vini Fantini and Roompot

– There are seven former winners at the start: Damiano Cunego, Enrico Gasparotto, Philippe Gilbert, Roman Kreuziger, Davide Rebellin, Frank Schleck and Stefan Schumacher

– The cyclists who will ride the 2015 edition have won a combined total of 15 Monuments, 6 world titles (RR+ITT), 5 Grand Tours and more than 90 Grand Tour stages

– Italy is the country with the most riders in the race – 34 – followed by Belgium (30) and the Netherlands (28)

– Matej Mohoric (20 years) is the young cyclist who will line-up in Maastricht, while Davide Rebellin is the oldest one (43 years)

World Tour standings after Paris-Roubaix

Individual

1 – Richie Porte – 303 points

2 – Alexander Kristoff – 237 points

3 – John Degenkolb – 232 points

4 – Geraint Thomas – 184 points

5 – Nairo Quintana – 168 points

6 – Zdenek Stybar – 152 points

7 – Greg Van Avermaet – 148 points

8 – Niki Terpstra – 140 points

9 – Domenico Pozzovivo – 136 points

10 – Peter Sagan – 136 points

Teams

1 – Sky – 629 points

2 – Etixx-Quick Step – 590 points

3 – Katusha – 527 points

4 – Movistar – 423 points

5 – BMC – 380 points

6 – Giant-Alpecin – 302 points

7 – Tinkoff-Saxo – 278 points

8 – Orica-GreenEdge – 236 points

9 – Astana – 221 points

10 – Lampre-Merida – 217 points

Nations

1 – Australia – 588 points

2 – Spain – 457 points

3 – Netherlands – 435 points

4 – Colombia – 428 points

5 – Italy – 359 points

6 – Belgium – 346 points

7 – Great Britain – 266 points

8 – Germany – 241 points

9 – Norway – 237 points

10 – Czech Republic – 156 points

Conclusions after the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix

With Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen absent, a new rivalry seemed to emerge in the Spring Classics, one which has John Degenkolb and Alexander Kristoff as protagonists. The German rider showed his potential since making his debut in the Monuments, netting a 5th place in Milan-Sanremo and a 19th place in Paris-Roubaix. A couple of years later, he took the wins in both, helped not only by a very strong team, but also by a great tactic, a courageous one that led to him attacking and taking his faith in his own hands. As for Kristoff, he too has two wins in the Monuments and the past month showed that he’s one of the strongest cyclists around and has the potential, just like Degenkolb, to be one of the dominant riders of the following years in the first three Monuments of the Spring.

“Always a bridesmaid, never a bride” – is an idiom that seems to apply to two of the most strongest Classics rider in the peloton, Greg Van Avermaet and Sep Vanmarcke. At the beginning of every season, both are among the favorites to land a big win, but this doesn’t come, so Van Avermaet and Vanmarcke are left thinking of what went wrong. With Tom Boonen close to retiring from the peloton, his countrymen are seen by many as the riders who should replace the Belgian legend, but the task is tougher than expected. This is why, at the moment, is back at the old drawing board for Greg Van Avermaet and Sep Vanmarcke, whose winter will again revolve around the cobbled races. For them to succeed, it will be important not to put too much pressure on them, because this, combined with the failures they endured in the past two years, could finally get to them and create a mental block which will be very difficult to overcome.

For Peter Sagan, 2015 marked another disappointing Spring campaign, as he failed to win the Monument he desires so much. Sagan has had a below par display in all the important races – Milan-Sanremo, E3 Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix – his best result being a 4th place he got in De Ronde, but even that came after a poor finale. What was even more striking than seeing the Slovak without any energy left in the key moments of the races was that he lacked the killer instinct that became his trademark in the previous seasons. At 25, Sagan is still young, but has many things to improve, from his physical attributes to the tactics he should deploy in the big races, because he is still far from fulfilling his potential. Until then, he needs an excellent Tour de France – with stage wins and another green jersey – in order to save this season.

A couple of weeks ago, Patrick Lefevere asked for patience, saying that his team should be judged only after April 12th. Now the time has come and all that Etixx-Quick Step has after these past two months is the victory of Mark Cavendish in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, a race many have already forgot. In the Monuments, the Belgian outfit scored two second places – with Niki Terpstra and Zdenek Stybar – but the general impression is that it missed on the wins because of its poor and sometimes awkward tactics, especially as it had the most powerful squad. Failing to win the Ronde will be a cause for inquest in the Etixx-Quick Step team and people shouldn’t be surprised if decisions will be taken concerning some of the riders in the near future.

Paris-Roubaix was Bradley Wiggins’ swan song, but it just wasn’t made to be for the time trial world champion, who had hoped to go out with a bang in his final race for Sky. The “Hell of the North” has a special place in his heart since he was a child, so his wish was to win it and get a place among the honor book, but all that the 34-year-old Brit could do was to attack with 30 kilometers remaining, a move that didn’t have a future, as the others bridged up to him. Then, in the later part of the race, Wiggins ran out of steam – which was kind of surprising considering the way he prepared to peak for this Classic – and he eventually had to settle with 18th place, half a minute behind the winner.

Many were intrigued by the fact that the “sprinters” are laying their mark on the Classics, but they’re wrong, because both John Degenkolb and Alexander Kristoff have done more than just sit in the pack and wait for the finish. The German and the Norwegian came at the forefront, attacked and shaped the race according to their view and plans. This is what the other contenders didn’t do. Every time they had the opportunity, they looked like they were scared of this and even after accelerating and getting a gap, they slowed down and allowed the others to come back and neutralize the race. Actually, there’s a feeling that there are just a few hard men left in the peloton for the Classics, and two of them are Kristoff and Degenkolb. This should give food for thought to the others.

The Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix are races for experienced cyclists, and we can see that looking over the riders who finished on the podium. Still, there are some young ones who have impressed and delivered some outstanding results, despite not being their team’s prime picks for these Classics. Who are they? Tiesj Benoot, Alexis Gougeard, Yves Lampaert, Florian Senechal, Jens Debusschere and Luke Rowe, all cyclists that made themselves noticed during the past two week-ends and found the consistency that has helped them elevate in the eyes of the teams and other riders, making the 2015 Spring campaign a turning point in their career. All these are reasons to watch them in the future, as they are coming strong from behind and could play a major role from now on in De Ronde and Roubaix.

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