Henk Vogels is an Australian with a very Dutch heritage and a long and varied career. We managed to track down the super-experienced rider on the Gold Coast to hear about his past and present. It’s perhaps appropriate that his first big wins came in the Flatlands, where his father was born, and his last victory should come in the New World where he spent half of a career which criss-crossed the North Atlantic.
The Amstel Gold Race normally signals the start of the Ardennes Classics and the climbers come out of the woodwork. Raced over the hills, dales, and forests of south eastern Holland, the course selects its own worthy winner. Twenty-five years ago it was Mauro Gianetti who was making the news.
‘Cycling Weekly’ printed a list of their ‘10 best Classic Races of all time.’ It’s not the usual time of year for ‘retro’ pieces, the Classics should be in full swing but Covid-19 has blown apart a lot of well laid plans this spring. So here’s our top dozen British Classics Rides, in what we see as order of merit...
I love the drive from Gent up to Kuurne for the Kuurne Brussels Kuurne semi-classic... staring out of the car window at the fields, the canals, tree-lined avenues, the steeples, tiny concrete roads that would be great to explore on the bike. There was a little rain on the way up but by the time we got to Kuurne it was a mild, sunny morning; ideal for wandering down the main drag where the busses line up and checking out 2020’s new hardware.
We're roadside at Het Nieuwsblad 2020; since the race went World Tour the start just isn’t the same; the buses used to line up in the street, you could look at the bikes right until start time and brush shoulders with the riders as they pedalled to the sign-on. Not now, whilst some of the buses park up outside, the majority park in the huge 30’s exhibition hall adjacent to the Kuipke Velodrome in Ghent...
Sunday’s Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne UCI 1.1 HC is the bridesmaid to Het Nieuwsblad’s UCI WT bride but it’s a race with a long history dating back to 1946 and has some interesting winners including Roger De Vlaeminck, Patrick Sercu, Johan Museeuw, George Hincapie, Cav – and a certain Patrick Lefevere in 1978.
It is pretty cool to watch the team wagons roll in for the start of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2019, very military - but the diesel fumes aren’t so much fun. The teams do their best to keep saddos like us away from the bikes with those tapes they use outside night clubs – no creds for us for this race, we’re just fans – so you have to make do with the ‘B’ bikes on the team car roofs for...
‘Jake Stewart, Great Britain?’ Second in the u23 Gent-Wevelgem and third in the Trofeo Piva in Italy, strong results – but we know that name... Ah! Yes, he and Fred Wright won the Berlin Six u23 race in 2017 and VeloVeritas was their official photographer for the day best have a word with the man...
Quickstep's win total for the year now stands at 24 with the victories not just down to one man but spread across the team – remarkable. How do they do it? To find out, we got in touch with our old friend and key leadout man in the QuickStep machine, Michael Mørkøv - who was instrumental in Jakobsen’s most recent triumph and similarly ‘pilot fished’ Hodeg to a stage win in the Tour of Catalonia – to get ‘the word’ from the horse’s mouth.
"Ooooohhhhhhh!" The moan echoes around the bar; these boys are aficionados, they all know that solid Astana Dane, Michael Valgren Andersen isn't coming back - he timed his jump to perfection, there was that fatal second or two of hesitation among the frozen men behind him and he was gone, en route to win Het Nieuwsblad 2018.
In the Flèche Wallonne - just for a few minutes, as the much diminished peloton ran in towards Huy and the final gun fight on the Mur - it looked like Canada’s Ryder Hesjedal might just steal it. The 31 year-old Garmin ex-mountain biker in company with Norwegian Sky man, Lars Petter Nordhaug blasted big gears into the foot of the hill.
Sep Vanmarcke instigated the main splits of the day in the Het Nieuwsblad 2012, survived the many crashes on the slippy roads, rode strongly in the breaks and the final winning move, foxed and feigned heavy legs beautifully in the last couple of kilometres and finished the day with a fine accelerating power-sprint win over Tom Boonen and Juan Antonio Flecha.
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.
It was a difficult phone call to make, he picked up on the tone of my voice at once; 'no, don't tell me, please!' But it was best he heard it from me; 'Flecha, he won Het Nieuwsblad well, Viktor, sorry!' 'That's it, I'm finished with Pro Cycling, for good!'
A decade? Surely not? But it was 2007 when we met up with Dave Chapman in London and VeloVeritas headed for the ferry to the 'Hell of the North.' Most of the names we mention have gone from the peloton - Flecha, Boonen, Cancellara, Stuart O'Grady, Backstedt - but Pippo just keeps going, looking little different from how he did on the sunny Sunday, 10 years ago. Have a wee wander down memory lane with us we continue our 'Best of VeloVeritas' Years in The Saddle.'
I didn’t think Kristoff was as ultimately fast as that; I knew he’s a beast of a boy but didn’t think that a straight sprinters’ stage was tough enough for him - but he nearly proved me wrong in Lille at the end of Stage Four. The wily Paolini and strong-as-a-bear Russian Champion Alex Porsev dragged the Katusha Norwegian through the chaos and gave him a clear run – but Kittel was just too strong, again.
Wednesday morning, 09:55 the 'Milano by-pass' average speed around 10 mph. You only think you've seen traffic jams 'til you come to Northern Italy. And it's not helped by the fact that everyone thinks that it's their private fiefdom; the standard of driving is dire. We arrived late on the Monday rest day and after much messing around at the airport deciphered that our hire car was through an agency, so we had to tour the car hire offices 'til we got the right one.
Lotto Zesdaagse van Hasselt 2007. Kris picked me up at Dusseldorf Weeze airport at tea time yesterday (Wednesday), it's actually only about two kilometres from Holland so it wasn't long before we found a frites stand. Hasselt is in the Limburg region of Belgium, Flemish speaking and with a population of about 70,000. The local tourist office brochure tries hard to talk the town up but there's not much to say - a nice-enough place though.
VeloVeritas took the road to Glasgow on Saturday morning - carefully avoiding the road works on the Forth Bridge - to cover the Scottish criterium champs and to meet our boy Evan at the finish of the Tour of Britain 2007.
Six years ago Jason MacIntyre was fatally injured in a collision with a lorry whilst out for an easy ride around his home town of Fort William. Jason had won British Championships in a convincing manner and by doing so - and in the way he conducted himself on and off the bike - he had forced his way into the attentions of British Cycling.
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