Three Vans and a Can at Flanders
On top tubes of their bikes, riders often tape messages. Some are inspirational – like remembering a loved one or a hot model (otherwise known as the Cipo motivator) which give the rider that extra gear in the moment of need.
Others top tube messages are informative reminding the rider where a climb is located or, in the case of a stage race, the time splits of your rivals. In Sunday’s Tour of Flanders I can only imagine what the four breakaway riders of Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin Pro Cycling), and Stijn Vandenbergh (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling) may have had taped to their top tubes.
As defending champion and race favorite, Spartacus knows his way around the Flanders region. Sure the course has changed from previous editions, with the Koppenberg climb now following the Kwaremont and the Paterberg hills, just 45 kilometers before the finish. Fabs might have posted to the top tube of his Trek bike the distance to the climbs, but I like to think he had other messages.
“Re-apply hair gel after fourth climb. Good hair day = podium.” Or maybe he was thinking of the 2013 Milan – Sanremo and had the message, “Don’t be a dumbass and give everyone a free ride to finish line” affixed on the top tube. Or maybe something was written in his native tongue of Fabianese, “You makeit better sprint than anyone! Spartacus!!!”
BMC Racing Team’s go-to guy for the Spring Classics is Van Avermaet. Looking at his 2013 results it’s no surprise: 3rd in Gent-Wevelgem, 7th in Flanders, and 4th in Roubaix. So no surprise to see the guy who deserved the “Most Aggressive Rider” award at Flanders, off the front early in the race. Also, no one was going to argue with you if you said the Belgian could win. But what may have been taped to Van Avermaet’s top tube?
“Second place is first loser,” might be a reminder that he’s been the bridesmaid one too many times in April. Maybe thinking back to the shit-show that was BMC’s recent Milan-Sanremo finish, “Don’t pull a Gilbert and sprint too soon.”
The other Van in the break was Stijn Vandenbergh. When I saw he had made the move I cringed. Not because I didn’t think he was just a lucky limpet that had sucked his front wheel onto the early break. No – it was because one of my cycling buddies is going to ask me about the race and I’m going to have to pronounce his name. Seriously – who gives their kid a name that includes a “j” followed by an “n”?!? Anyways, I digress...
At six foot, six inches, the Omega Pharma-Quick-Step rider towered above the rest of his companions. Is it me or does Omega Pharma-Quick-Step recruit a lot of over six-footers? Boonen is six foot three, Alessandro Petacchi is six foot, Andrew Fenn at six foot, Tony Martin six foot one inch, Gert Steegmans at six foot three inches. In fact, out of the OPQS Flanders squad only Matteo Trentin is below six feet at five foot 10 inches. Mark Cavendish only proves the OPQS height rule is true by stopping the tape measure at five foot nine (I suspect much like everyone’s driver’s license that’s an exaggeration). Anyways – back the Vanderbergh.
Other than being just a tall drink of water, Vanderbergh had a strong 2013 Classics season with a second place at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and an eighth place finish in Gent–Wevelgem. This year hasn’t been too bad either with a fourth place finish in the recent E3 and him finishing fifth in Kuurne–Brussels–Kuurne.
Regardless of Vanderbergh’s past accomplishments, the Quick-Steppers were focused on getting Boonen to the line first – that’s why his race bib ended in a “1” letting everyone know who was the leader.
It was a smart team-move to get the Stijn into an early move – the pressure is off the team to chase any breaks. Sit back, stay out of trouble – easy peasy. Boonen gets a free ride, courtesy of the other teams, and sprints by to take win number four.
I imagine the messages taped to Stijn’s bike were, “Get in early break, wait for Tommeke to bridge and take win. Enjoy cray cray after-party ;)” or, “Hulk smash!”
Sep Vanmarcke rounded out the break and was also on the short list of possible race winners. Already this year he has finished in the top five of Omloop, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, E3 and Gent-Wevelgem. In pre-race interviews he was cagey about his chances, putting the pressure of Belgium squarely on his country’s Golden Boy, Tom Boonen. When Fabian applied pressure on the Kwaremont it was no surprise that Sep was the only one who could go with him.
Cannondale’s Peter Sagan, also a huge favorite, could only look at the duo disappearing over the summit of this iconic climb and look down at the message taped to his C’dale, “No matter what – STAY WITH FABS!!!”. I’m also betting he has a photo of Kate Upton on the stem because that’s how he rolls.
With the finish line just 300 meters in front of them Cancellara started his sprint, taking what pundits call his best Tour of Flanders victory so far. It’s looking like a smart bet that Trek Factory Racing gambled on Fabs being the star rider rather than the Schleck brothers, because Classic victories are a bigger bang for your publicity buck than finishing top 15 in the Tour de France. Oh yeah, I went there.
Next up is the Queen of the Classics – Paris-Roubaix. Cancellara was already a strong favorite in this Northern French race. With his Flanders victory he’s going to be marked so hard by his rivals that Boonen might accidently follow him into the Trek Factory Racing bus.
Now the question is, what message will Cancellara tape to his tube for Roubaix?
While we wait for this year’s Paris-Roubaix, are you looking for a new top tube to tape something onto – or do you need other cycling gear? Buy new gear for your spring rides in our bike shop and help us spread the word about Roadcycling.com on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.