Wednesday’s Flèche Wallonne was a classic case of old-school cycling nations failing to learn from their progressive Anglophone counterparts, writes Anthony Tan.
By
7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:36 PM

"I thought with 500 metres to go he [Alberto Contador of Astana] had it
but it's not the first time I've done this race and I used it to my
advantage today.

"I think it's my sixth or seventh Flèche
Wallonne, but I've never done a course reconnaissance.


"Yesterday, [team BMC] directeur-sportif John Lelangue took us
out for a course reconnaissance and I looked at the climb from a
different perspective – I thought I always raced here with the wrong
tactic."

That this year's Flèche Wallonne champion Cadel Evans
had never - never! - done a course reconnaissance before his
emphatic, ecstatic, fantastic victory Wednesday atop Belgium's Mur de
Huy says two, salient things.

The first is that it's a bloody
disgrace that his former team (now called Omega Pharma-Lotto) and his
team before that (Team Telekom) never offered – nor encouraged – a
bona-fide contender of the Ardennes Classics the opportunity to scout
the parcours of such a decisive race finale.

Said Evans
of his winning move, "I waited till the last moment – I had a good
position at the start – but waited till the final and took them
[Contador and Joaquin Rodriguez of Katusha] in the last 100 metres… And
that was the way to do it."

Had his former team sport directors
done what John Lelangue believes to be a formality before any major
race, Evans may well have become the first Australian to win an Ardennes
Classic two years ago, when he finished second to Kim Kirchen in the
2008 edition of La Flèche.

"I wasn't enjoying the way things
weren't being effectively planned and carried out [at
Davitamon/Silence-Lotto]. That made life a bit difficult for me," said
Evans at a team press conference before the race.

"I noticed
that there was as bit of change in the team towards me after I lost the
[2008] Tour de France to Carlos Sastre. I did what I could, and in my
mind it was the best Tour I'd ever ridden. After that, I felt there
wasn't a lot of confidence in me."

Good riddance to them, I say.


Second thing – which is both symptomatic and consequential of the first
– is that old-school European teams still lag well behind the
Avant-garde approach and mentality of their Anglophone peers – namely,
HTC-Columbia, Garmin-Transitions, Team Sky, RadioShack; be it with
regards to race preparation, anti-doping, technology… Everything.


That the majority of Belgian, Spanish, Italian and French teams still
can't get their heads around the importance of modern technology (such
as regular wind-tunnel testing to make improvements in the time trial or
using super-cool clothing for extremely hot days) and modern coaching
methods (such as reconnoitring decisive sections/finishes of one-day
races and key stages in major tours) astounds me.

As Cycling
Central's editor Phil Gomes reminded me, think back to last year's Tour
de France team time trial in Montpellier.

Despite the behest of
Evans, Silence-Lotto's omission to adequately reconnoitre the technical parcours
('it's only 39 kilometres, what are you worried about?' they
probably said) cost them over two-and-a-half minutes to winners Astana –
then directed by Tour mastermind Johan Bruyneel.

And that was
only the fourth stage.

If Contador's team had done what Lelangue
did for Evans before Wednesday's race, the two-time Tour de France
champ may have got the better of his Australian counterpart.

He
was just as strong – but not as smart, or at least well-informed.


However, I don't think we can say from this that Contador will be at
Evans' – or anyone else's – mercy come the Tour. He's a quick learner,
so far has never made the same mistake twice, and come July, will be
much better prepared.

As for that misguided myth about the curse
of the rainbow jersey… We can throw that one out the window.


Bring on Liège. Bring on the Giro. And bring on the Tour!