Another criminally boring stage saved by a beautiful finale with Cav making it 30 stage wins – there are few superlatives left for the Manxman. Good to see Kristoff in second spot; the remarkable Sagan was right there in third spot and very nice to see John Degenkolb up there in fourth spot. Kittel got it wrong today and Greipel was again off the pace. And, erm that’s about it...
'How's it goin' Shane?' we ask Skyman Shane Sutton as we cross the car park in search of Michael Barry for a rest day interview at the Le Tour de France 2010. 'Been better, mate!' he fires back between hard draws on his fag - it's difficult for a man who wears his heart on his sleeve to 'spin.'
It was Vik (for those who don't know, our pal pedalled the hard roads of Belgium in his day, still trains hard and is our outspoken elder statesman, observer and 'critic in chief') who was first to spot the Kiwi’s potential as his name edged up the results in the heartland's kermises. So the call came; ‘you should be talking to that Manchester laddie, Jack Cousins, he’s doing well!’
The David Rayner has been helping young riders realise their continental dreams since 1995 with David Millar one of the first to benefit, and Theo Hartley from Bolton in Lancs will be one of the grant recipients in 2018. He'll be joining the Belgian Illi Bikes squad, run by long term Six Day soigneur and track aficionado, Etienne Illegems and his son Ken who was for a time a mechanic with Team Sky but could get round a tough kermis on his good days.
And so the warm weather (excluding Tour of the Med) precursors to the bike season proper have concluded. Down Under, Qatar, Oman, Algarve, etc have all had their brief moments in the spotlight, Langkawi has kicked off with a win to Zab in the time trial (no surprises that Zab is nowhere near the Classics! Not a sketchy conditions type of rider is the great DZ.)
Now we head to the heartland of the sport and the portion of the season where the hardmen have their moments to shine.
Yesterday we alluded to the fact that a ‘break might stick’ and ‘Froome in yellow?’ We got the first one wrong but even we didn’t realise how spectacularly right we’d be on the second one finishing into Ax3 Domaines.
There’s a man from Berlin who has to be viewed as a podium possible for the 2014 Worlds in Hoogerheide; 26 year-old Philipp Walsleben (BKCP-Powerplus). This winter has seen him consistently on the podium in the World Cups, rubbing shoulders with the very best – Nys, Albert, Van Der Haar and all the rest. Philipp took time out from the hectic Xmas/New Year ‘cross frenzy’ to talk to VeloVeritas.
John Atkins is Britain’s greatest ever cyclo-cross rider; 13 times a British champion and still the nation’s best ever finisher in the Worlds – and at a time when ‘cross gods, the de Vlaeminck brothers were at their zenith. He lives quietly in retirement in Wales, doesn’t ‘do the internet’ and isn’t a man for the ‘stats.’ He was surprised we wanted to speak to him but gave freely of his time and anecdotes. Here’s what John had to say to VeloVeritas just after young van der Poel had won the Worlds in Tabor.
It was Sean Connery's character in the film "The Untouchables" who suggested you don't bring a knife to a gun fight and it was clear that the weapons of choice at the opening classics weekend in Belgium would contribute to the outcome and individual's performance. Having wandered around the teams at both the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne it became clear there was a lot of nice kit being readied to race.