On Sunday Boonen equalled Roger de Vlaeminck's record of winning
Paris-Roubaix four times. He also became the first man to win the Tour
of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix double twice and the first man to win the
quartet of cobbled classics in the same season: E3, Gent Wevelgem, Flanders and Roubaix.
Legendary stuff by any measure but today comes
news that de Vlaeminck thinks Boonen's Paris-Roubaix victory came
against a peloton he regarded as "third-rate".
Why? Because of
the absence of one man, Fabian Cancellara, and a group of chasers that
he claims was not up to scratch on the cobbles.
"I hope Cancellara participates next year, then we see a different race," de Vlaeminck said to Nieuwsblad.be.
"I knew beforehand that he (Boonen) would be next to me (in career
victories). Tom can not help it that this time he had no opposition.
They were not second, but third-rate riders."
De Vlaeminck then went further.
Pozzato, if you want to win, your task for the last hundred kilometres
is to stick within an inch of Boonen's wheel. The competition provided
Ã¢â¬â¹Ã¢â¬â¹him with no obstacles and they probably couldn't have done any better
than they did. For the Belgian fans, it was fantastic, but for the
average, foreign cycling fans there was nothing to be seen, which is a
sad affair. When he (Boonen) was 20 metres ahead, I already knew the
Not to blow our own horn, but we at Cycling Central also agreed that was the moment Boonen won Roubaix.
But we were not as disappointed as de Vlaeminck. As foreign fans we
loved the audacity of the move and loved watching a true practitioner of
the cobbled craft, almost always a Belgian, take it to the peloton in a
masterclass of racing on the stones. It was a win for us too.
But this morning, my first reaction to de Vlaeminck's comments was this tweet.
You know the drill, old guy from a bygone era says things were tougher and better in his day.
But then I had a bit of a think, maybe de Vlaeminck is right. And who better to make those comments anyway?
We love the cobbled classics like tennis fans love Wimbledon, but maybe
it's time to take a hard look at what they are in danger of becoming, a
branch of the sport that represents a black and white era and one where
the modern day practitioners are no match for those of the past - except
A Wimbledon of cycling where today's winners don't have the beautiful game to
navigate the surface lumps and divots.
De Vlaeminck may be
right. Races like Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders could be in danger of becoming
one or two-man races with declining skill sets among the rest of the
peloton, over time.