Tag Archives: Spring classics 2012

The unstoppable Thomas Boonen

If his victory last week at the Tour of Flanders didn’t quite cement his place as the worlds number one cyclist so far in 2012 and perhaps the finest classics rider of his generation, then his solo win — for the fourth time in his career — at the infamous Paris-Roubaix certainly did. Boonen has now won the Gent-Wevelgem and Tour of Flanders to go with his Paris-Roubaix win and he’s quickly making the accomplishments of Philippe Gilbert twelve months ago look nothing out of the ordinary.

Coming into the race a few had been critical of Boonen over the fact he only had to follow moves knowing that he could outsprint his rivals when it got down to the final two-hundred yards, but Boonen put that theory to bed when he attacked with 52 kms to go and rode solo to victory by 1-39 over Sébastien Turgot in second place and Alessandro Ballan in third.

Boonen won’t be any kind of favourite for the Grand Tours this year, it’s not his style of riding, but just as they are geared for a specific type of cyclist, so to are the one day classics races and Boonen is proving to be better at his discipline than anyone else is at theirs. Until you go broadly across the spectrum of cycling disciplines and meet the dominance of Chris Hoy on the track, Boonen stands alone in 2012.

Winning Paris-Roubaix for that fourth time makes Boonen the king of the cobbels. His previous victories at Roubaix came in 2005, 2008 and 2009 and it ties him for the most wins at the Hell of the North with Roger De Vlaeminck. Sadly De Vlaeminck was far from content to see someone level his record describing Boonen’s rivals as “third-rate”.

“I hope Cancellara participates next year, then we see a different race,” de Vlaeminck moaned. “I knew beforehand that he [Boonen] would be next to me [on the list of all-time career victories]. Tom can not help it that this time he had no opposition. They were not second, but third-rate riders.”

Next up is this weekends Amstel Gold Race followed by Le Flèche Wallonne the following Wednesday and the Liège – Bastogne – Liège the weekend after that to conclude April’s classics. Boonen won’t be racing at the Flèche Wallonne though who could rule him out of winning or or both of the other two. My money is on a big result at Liège. It’ll be fascinating to watch how the others try to stop him.

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Boonen back to his best in what is clearly his favourite race

The Gent-Wevelgem, also known as the Tom Boonen classic, took place this weekend. One of cycling’s popular spring classic races taking place in the heartland of cycling — Belgium — the race is a big notch on any good cyclists resume. Former cyclist turned cocaine sniffing party boy, turned cyclist again, Tom Boonen, took the win for the second year in-a-row and third time in all. It was his seventh race win of the season for a man really looking like he is back to his best. He out sprinted a group of 13 men including Peter Sagan, Oscar Freire, Edvald Boasson Hagen and Fabian Cancellara to take the glory, or at least that’s how the result sheet suggests it was won.

I sadly didn’t get to see it myself as I had hoped. Time and other stuff didn’t allow for it which is a shame because I’d have liked to have seen the video shots of Gent, a beautiful city that I’ve spent a good bit of time in over the years and of which i have many fond memories.

2012 Olympic Champion, Mark Cavendish missed the break and could only finish in the large second pack in which he didn’t feel there was any pride to be gained by sprinting for 37th place.

“I’ve found back my sprint,” cheered Boonen after the race. “I’m not the fastest man in the peloton — that’s probably Mark Cavendish — but if everybody is tired then I’m one of the best.” And Boonen makes a good point. It’s only worth being the fastest man on the planet if you’re at the stage of the race were being the fastest is most important. Granted, Cavendish often is, especially on those flat stages or in last years World Championship and British hopes are being pinned heavily on him being in the mix with 200 meters to go at the upcoming Olympics.

The Olympics though isn’t an out and out flat course however and that’ll be Cavs biggest challenge. There’s been talk that one day the man from the Isle of Man will one day amend his racing style to become more a classics rider and perhaps hang in over some of the tough climbs to put himself in contention by the finish, but right now he’s going to have to find a way to stick in there in the Olympic race in a way he couldn’t at Gent-Wevelgem.

Still, a big win for Boonen in what is becoming a big season for the Belgian. With three of the big Monuments just around the corner in the Tour of Flanders, the Paris-Roubaix and the Liège-Bastogne-Liège Boonen must surely be a favourite to win at least one of those.

Evans in yellow again

Following last years Tour de France it is clear that Cadel Evans is getting used to wearing a yellow jersey and holding a cuddly toy upon a podium. The defending Tour champion won the Critérium International by eight seconds over Pierrick Fedrigo and fellow countryman Michael Rogers, spelling out the Australian’s good form heading through spring. Given the nature of the 2012 Tour de France Evans will be confident about retaining his title, and wearing the Maillot Jaune on the top step here will only remind him of the pleasure.

A tip of the hat to Albasini

A tip of the hat to Swissman Michael Albasini who came from relative obscurity to take Green Edge’s first ever overall victory by winning the seven stages of the Volta a Catalunya. He thumped second place man Samuel Sanchez by a good 1-30 to take the general classification as other such cycling hero’s Daniel Martin, Damiano Cunego, Denis Menchov and Tom Danielson could only battle it out for third place from which they all finished on the same time, 1-32 behind Albasini.