After Johan Van Summeren's victory in Paris-Roubaix some of you probably expect me to eat my words, based on what I said about Garmin-CervÃ©lo playing to lose in Flanders the week prior.
I stand by my words. At Flanders, it was a critical point in the race when Slipstream Sports boss Jonathan Vaughters made the call to his leading men Thor Hushovd and Tyler Farrar not to ride, and asking them to do so, in my opinion, left both poorly positioned leading to the decisive and penultimate ascent of the Kapelmuur.
It could well be that neither had the legs to be with the chase group containing eventual winner Nick Nuyens of Saxo Bank-SunGard. But if they had been told to be attentive, to be near the front, and encouraged to do everything they could to be in that first chase group, instead of the complacent, do-nothing, "wait for the sprint" directive they got, it could well have been a different story for the team. The way they rode in Roubaix, in particular Thor Hushovd, Sep Vanmarcke and Gabriel Rasch, only emphasised they were in good enough form to perform better than they did the previous Sunday.
Still, credit is due to Garmin-CervÃ©lo for their ride in Roubaix, and I recognise and applaud them for that. But let's be honest, too: there were a number of factors, mostly unforeseen, that went in their favour.
First was that Van Summeren, one of two from Garmin-CervÃ©lo in the 17-strong break 70-odd kilometres from the finish, was on a blinder of a day like he'd never experienced before. Assuming the break was captured he was ostensibly there to help Hushovd Ã¢â¬â "we kept telling him to wait for Thor," Vaughters said afterwards, reflective of his "do not ride" mantra the week before. But obviously that never eventuated, and so a combination of great legs and not too much work up front paid handsomely for the two metres tall Belgian.
Second is that Leopard-Trek, notwithstanding the hype, hoopla and metrosexual ambience, is not the Classics team that was Saxo Bank yesteryear, despite the mass exodus from the Goodship Bjarne Riis to a team named after a Puddy Tat, albeit a rather large one.
When push came to shove in Flanders and Roubaix Leopard's numero uno Fabian Cancellara had no one to help him. In Roubaix he had no team-mates in the aforementioned break to disrupt their inexorable flow, nor did he have anyone in the chase to help bring back a group he came within 20 tantalising seconds of closing by himself. Unfortunately for him, his perennially trustworthy lieutenant, Stuart O'Grady, hasn't quite had the spring bounce he's enjoyed in previous years, but that said, he still needed a few others like Stuey; someone like Mat Hayman or Baden Cooke to keep him fresher for the finale.
Third was that neither Hushovd nor Ballan contributed in the chase group containing Cancellara.
Hushovd justified his wheel-sucking by having Van Summeren (previously 5th and 8th in Paris-Roubaix) in the break and Ballan had Manuel Quinziato (63rd in 2010, but 9th and 13th in 2009-08), whose excuse was less convincing. That two of the strongest guys this spring, Quick Step's Sylvain Chavanel and Tom Boonen, who would have surely been in the Cancellara group if not for a wicked spell of misfortune cast upon them last Sunday in CompiÃ¨gne, also contributed to the rare success of the early break.
Car-cam, where are you?
But I didn't just come to talk just about Roubaix per se, which, compared to the thrill of Flanders, I admittedly found a little underwhelming.
I came to express my regret in not seeing any live crosses to "car-cam" that made De Ronde all that more enjoyable. And apart from the fact that Flanders and Roubaix are run by separate entities (respectively, Flanders Classics and Amaury Sport Organisation) I'll hazard an educated guess why they may not be adopted race-wide anytime soon.
You see, car-cam at Flanders was not intended to be a tool solely for the pleasure of the couch potato. The four teams that agreed to participate Ã¢â¬â Leopard-Trek, Quick Step, Omega Pharma-Lotto and Garmin-CervÃ©lo Ã¢â¬â did so because, to use their words, it was about "educating" the UCI on the necessity of two-way communication between riders and their sport directors.
In that way it backfired on them: being privy to the conversations between a DS and their riders was a boon for the audience, but in the discussions that were aired, did they really do or say anything that the riders didn't already know? And, following on from sentiments expressed in my previous blog, did they say things they shouldn't have?
"To be honest, it will benefit guys like myself who have been around a long time," O'Grady told the Courier Mail last week, asked about the prospect of a future radio ban in the World Tour.
"When I first turned pro, we didn't have race radios and it helped me in my career to become a team leader. I don't need the boss in my ear telling me what to do. They can't see how the race feels like. They can't see who's looking good, who looks shattered, which guys looks dangerous.
"I can read the race and I can see what's going to happen. It's one of my strong characteristics as a rider," he said. "I can see how the race unfolds and be in the right place at the right moment."
Granted, O'Grady also stressed, "We need radio communication for safety."
However, if safety's all he needs it for, then the proposition of a one-way radio link between a designated race official and riders Ã¢â¬â which the UCI is considering as a compromise in the debate Ã¢â¬â would take care of that. A second race official (or officials) could then be responsible for managing the convoy of team cars and neutral service vehicles, informing them when a rider requires mechanical assistance, feeding, or otherwise.
My cycling colleague Matt Keenan called me the day after Roubaix and said he hankers for car-cam so bad, he's prepared to see radios used as they are if it means bringing the itty-bitty cameras back.
I said to him: "Matty, let's bring back car-cam but ditch two-way radio communication Ã¢â¬â the conversations we'll hear will be far more interesting, I can assure you that! Let the officials take care of safety and that way, riders with the greatest tactical nous will be rewarded, as they were in the era before race radios."
Anthony Tan reflects on the auspicious milieu surrounding Garmin-Cervélo’s win in Roubaix, and for the TV viewer, the crucial missing element.