The Classics season is just two races in but has already told us plenty. Writes Anthony Tan, what happened this past weekend is a portent of things to come this European Spring.
Saturday at Het Nieuwsblad, Tom Boonen's leg-testing attack on the Taiienberg may have been enough to demoralise his adversaries in his mid-2000s heyday, but now 34, the once King of the Cobbled Classics is no longer perceived as infallible; the same goes for his team.
Still, with 43km remaining, when teammate Stijn Vandenbergh went full throttle on the Haaghoek pavé and took Boonen, Niki Terpstra and Ian Stannard with him, making it three Quick-Step against one Sky, many including myself thought, 'Wake me up with 1,500 metres to go, will you?' By riding as hard as they did, Etixx-Quick-Step (EQS) took two of their most serious threats in Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) out of the equation, notwithstanding Zdenek Stybar in tow. However Vanmarcke, who missed the move due to an untimely puncture, and Van Avermaet, who ironically found his name on the front page of the newspaper that backs the race the morning of the event and for all the wrong reasons, were not prepared to give in so easily, and in riding as hard as they did, EQS gradually self-imploded.
In the same vein that the USADA dossier was a watershed moment, the UCI's request to withdraw the WorldTour licence of the Astana Pro Team, should it be carried out, is equally groundbreaking. However, the job of its president is far from complete, writes Anthony Tan.
To date, the UCI, ever since a much-awaited change of leadership but little to show for it, has been viewed as a toothless tiger.
Late last year, when the Licence Commission was reviewing which teams should receive a WorldTour licence for the 2015 season, before granting Astana entry into cycling's Major League, Brian Cookson - despite saying he was "certainly not happy" with the decision - was at pains to state the governing body could not influence the Commission in any way: "It is a very frustrating time for all of us but we have to abide by the procedures that are laid down. I think that the Licence Commission did its work thoroughly and professionally and, I emphasise, independently of the UCI. We are happy and support the decision in that sense but I think that we have to bear in mind that this is an ongoing saga," he said in an interview with Cyclingnews.com.
Last Sunday, in Saint Quentin-en-Yvelines, Anna Meares became the greatest female track cyclist of all time.
That line at least led Cycling Australia’s release shortly after her breathless performance in the Women’s Keirin, where at 31, she shrugged off her competition to win her 11th World Title, a mark that’s never previously been surpassed in track cycling. Meares has taken world records, Olympic, Commonwealth and World Championship titles, she’s had a longevity, that’s made her a force over more than a decade, and, she could well do more before she retires. In short, she’s an extraordinary athlete deserving of all the praise she’s afforded.
But I’m always reticent to get swept away with the greatest, the best, particularly when it's further qualified, by the classic, 'of all time'. Comparisons, between sports, between athletes, between eras, are unsatisfying in their determination to simplify something down to a better or worse. They're compromised in their simplicity. More often that not weighted in the present, in what an author has seen and experienced - quickly forgetting history, ignoring context.
Rather than reminisce about one of his favourite 1980s Australian pub rock bands, Anthony Tan borrows its name to describe an increasingly familiar modus operandi when it comes to the stage race milieu in professional road cycling.
What most pundits took out of the recently compeleted Vuelta a Andalucía was that archrivals Alberto Contador and Chris Froome, the eventual winner by two seconds, are at a similar level, which bodes more excitement for the months ahead.
The Spaniard, who this season is attempting the rare (at least by modern day standards) Giro-Tour double, says he's a maybe little behind compared to the same time the year previous. The Kenyan, or Brit, or Kenyan-born Brit, who is seeking redemption after he and Contador left last year's Tour prematurely, and is targeting Le Tour and only Le Tour, says he's right where he needs to be.
There's few things worse than doing a job you're told to do, despite your capability or desire being amiss, writes Anthony Tan.
Have you ever been, or heard of someone, who's in a job not because they want to do it but because someone's told them they'd be good at doing it, or worse still, told them to do it regardless of their ability or wont? Or maybe they were good at it and wanted to do it at first, but as time has progressed, no longer exemplify the characteristics, or possess the capability or desire to fulfil the position to their previous potential?
"I never was a bunch sprinter - and I kind of said that when I was going there," Matthew Goss told me at the Herald Sun Tour, reflecting on his decision to join Orica-GreenEDGE for the 2012 season after the closure of HTC-High Road, the team he rode for previous.