The Breakthrough

Column
25 April 2016

The 6th of July, 2012 is a day in the life of Wout Poels that he will never forget. It is the third stage in the Tour de France. With 25 kilometres to go, there is a big crash in the peloton. Wout Poels lies on the ground. He is in pain. His chest hurts like hell, but he is determined to go on. After 10 kilometres on the bike again, he stops. He is unable to ride on. In the hospital the doctors discover that his injuries are bad: a ruptured spleen and kidney, three broken ribs and bruised lungs. Dutch doctors told him that his career was over. But ‘Woutje’ is a tough one. After three months of recovery he got on his bike again. Just like he had to learn to walk again, he had to learn to ride a bike again. In the year after his crash, he fought to get back at his level again. However, at the end of 2013, his team Vacansoleil announced that they could not find a new sponsor. Poels moved to Omega Pharma-QuickStep for a year. In the Giro d’Italia he was riding solid in the mountains. Team Sky saw it too. In 2015, Poels went to the team of Chris Froome to support him in the Tour de France and to ride for himself in small races. He went to a training camp with Chris Froome himself and learned a lot of his teammates at Team Sky. He proved that he was getting in shape with a stage win in Tirreno – Adriatico in 2015 and the overall win in the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana a couple of weeks ago. Poels was almost there where he wanted to be. Back on a high level again, racing with the best riders of the peloton.
The 24th of April, 2016 is a day in the life of Wout Poels that he will never forget. It is the day of his breakthrough. It is the day that he wins Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He almost cannot believe it, but after a heroic race with sun, rain and snow he wins the sprint of three other riders. Wout Poels wins his first Spring classic. He smiles on the podium, polite and friendly as always. After the ceremony, he goes to the press conference and after that he takes a shower. Then he leaves in a car. Alone. He likes to be alone for a while. He will think about the crash, his comeback, his first Monument, how proud his dad would have been. He will know that this is his breakthrough in his comeback story.

Poels LBL podium Watson
© Graham Watson

Woutje LBL Han Cock
© Han Cock

Dancing in Croatia

Dance moves are rare in cycling. The riders usually don’t dance before a race or after winning a race. They wave sometimes or act funny (remember all the ‘wheelies’ from Peter Sagan?), but we don’t know anything about the dancing skills in the peloton. Of course, there are some exceptions. The Australian rider Michael Matthews already showed his dance moves to the fans in 2011. A few years later he showed it again in another video. This time with some of his teammates from Orica-GreenEDGE. Nevertheless, Michael has some serious competition from now on. It comes from the Norwegian rider Sondre Holst Enger. He won the last stage in the Tour of Croatia today. He was happy with the win and on the podium he celebrated this by doing a little dance. Well, a little dance? He made quite a show of it. It looks like he has been practising to do this for a long time. Maybe some of the other riders in the peloton will see his dance moves too. Maybe it will give them some ideas about how to celebrate a win. I will not be surprised if there will be some more dance moves from other riders this season. Bring on the dance moves!

Photos Amstel Gold Race 2016

Amstel Gold Race 2016 / 17 April / Maastricht-Vilt

The Amstel Gold Race started in the centre of Maastricht. At 9 o’clock in the morning, the buses of all the teams arrived. Before the race all the teams were presented on a podium on the Grote Markt. It is the only Dutch classic and therefore many people in Holland travel all the way to the south of Limburg to cheer for the riders. Not only in Maastricht, but on the whole course many fans are cheering on the riders. It is particularly crowded on the Cauberg in Valkenburg, where the riders pass four times before they finish in Vilt.

The breakaway of the day consisted of 11 riders: Laurens De Vreese (AST), Tom Devriendt (WGG), Laurent Didier (TFS), Alex Howes (CPT), Matteo Montaguti (AGR), Matteo Bono (LAM), Kévin Réza (FDJ), Larry Warbasse (IAM), Josef Cerny (CCC), Fabien Grellier (DEN) and Giacomo Berlato (NIP). Orica-GreenEdge and Team Sky were at the front of the peloton for most of the day to chase down the breakaway.

At 65 kilometres from the finish, a group of riders tried to get away and ride to the few riders that were still in front. This group included Tosh Van Der Sande (LTS), Gianni Meersman (EQS), Niccolo Bonifazio (TSF) and Bjorn Thurau (WGG). With 30 kilometres to go the peloton chased them down and also caught the riders of the early breakaway. Tim Wellens (LTS) tried to escape on the Bemelerberg, but the small peloton caught him on the last climb of the Cauberg. Enrico Gasparotto (WGG) was the strongest rider on the Cauberg, managed to cross the finish line first in Vilt, and win the 51th edition of the Amstel Gold Race.

Enrico Gasparotto (WGG) won the Amstel Gold Race for the second time in his career. In 2012 he also proved to be the strongest attacker on the Cauberg. He dedicated his victory to his deceased teammate Antoine Demoitié. Michael Valgren (TNK) became second, just after Gasparotto. Sonny Colbrelli (BAR) won the sprint of the peloton and became third.

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Photos Brabantse Pijl 2016

Brabantse Pijl / 13 April / Leuven-Overijse

The 56th edition of the Brabantse Pijl started in the centre of Leuven, a city in Belgium. It is the final race of the Flemish Spring and the final ‘Flanders classic’. After this race, the Ardennes classics will take place. Michael Matthews (OGE) was one of the favorites for the win, after he became second in 2014 and 2015. Mathew Hayman (OGE) started also in this edition. The winner of Paris-Roubaix was riding around with a big smile in Leuven. Many spectators were shouting his name, tapping him on his shoulders or giving him an applause.

Preben Van Hecke (TSV) surprisingly became the national champion on the road in Belgium last year. He is currently riding for TopSport Vlaanderen – Baloise, a team with young Belgium talents. Although Van Hecke is already 33, he is the road captain of the team. Because of all the experience he has gained over the years, he is an example for his younger teammates.

Tom Dumoulin (TGA) started in the Brabantse Pijl to test his legs after a lot of training hours on his bike. He said before the race that he does not feel as good yet as he felt in last year’s Vuelta. He placed one attack during the Brabantse Pijl, but he could not follow the other riders on the last climb of the race. He became 22nd on 39 seconds and stated afterwards that he was happy with this result.

Petr Vakoc (EQS) won the Brabantse Pijl for the first time in his career. With an impressive jump on the last climb he got away from the peloton and crossed the finish line solo. Enrico Gasparotto (WGG) became second, after he placed several attacks during the race. Tony Gallopin (LTS) became third, just like in 2014.

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Hayman, The Legend

Column

10 April 2016

It is his favorite race. It is by far his favorite race of the year. In the peloton everybody knows that Mathew Hayman lives for only one race: Paris – Roubaix.
He is in his 17th year of his career and he finished Paris – Roubaix 15 times. One time he finished out of the time limit. But he did finish the race. Because that is what you do. It is out of respect to one of the most beautiful Spring classics.

Since 2000, Hayman is a professional cyclist. In each Paris – Roubaix he participated in, he was mentioned by commentators, people aside the roads and the fans in front of the television. His way to ride in ‘the hell’ was to attack. Sometimes he had some bad luck. A crash, a flat tire, a mechanical problem. Still, he never gave up. He fought for his position until the end of the race. Nevertheless, he was never the leading man in Paris – Roubaix for a team. There was always someone else in the team that was supposed to be ‘the one to look after’. He accepted his role in all those years with gratitude. It made him a loving character in the teams and in the peloton. He was there to help out his teammates, making them comfortable. He brought them back to the front, kept them out of the wind, gave them his last bottle of water. One time he got real close. That was in 2011. He became 8th. He never came as close as this again.

Mathew Hayman Results Paris – Roubaix 2000 – 2015
2000: 65 2001: 49 2002: OTL 2003: 26
2004: – 2005: 78 2006: 23 2007: –
2008: 113 2009: 20 2010: 24 2011: 8
2012: 10 2013: 52 2014: 41 2015: 76

The 10th of April, 2016 changed his life. He will never forget this day. One break away. One chance. One sprint. In Paris – Roubaix there are no second chances. There are favorites for the win, but an outsider has just as much luck. The moment Hayman survived Mons-en-Pévèle, he knew he was in the final. With nine others he went on to the big test: the Carrefour de l’Arbre. On this cobbled road he could stay with Boonen, Vanmarcke, Stannard and Boasson Hagen. They were the five strongest riders of the day. All five were tired. Attack after attack was placed in the final five kilometres by each one of them. Then Hayman took off. Boonen got in his wheel, but it took some time. Together they were riding to the Velodrome of Roubaix. On the course, Vanmarcke and Stannard chased them down. A spectacular sprint followed. Stannard did not have the power anymore, Boonen gave it all, but could not get past Hayman. Hayman won. He threw his arms up. He screamed. He turned his head around. Was he really the best rider in Paris – Roubaix? Did he just beat the Belgium hero Tom Boonen? He got off his bike. He was walking up and down on the grass. He could not believe that he just won his all-time favorite race. He, Mathew, a normal bloke from Australia. Staff from his team were telling him again and again that it was really true. He covered his eyes with his hands. It was true. He was the winner of Paris – Roubaix 2016. He smiled. He gave Tom Boonen a hug, he gave his teammates a hug. It was unbelievable, but true. Hayman, the hero. Hayman, the legend.

Bryn Lennon Hayman Roubaix
© Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

etixx quickstep hayman boonen
© Etixx – Quick Step

Francois Lo Presti (afp) Hayman Roubaix
© Francois Lo Presti/AFP

paris roubaix 2016
© Paris – Roubaix (@Paris_Roubaix)

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© TDW/  TDWsport.com

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© TDW / TDWsport.com

Paris – Roubaix: Sean Kelly

Paris – Roubaix, 1986. On the 13th of April it was raining. The roads in the north of France were slippery and muddy. In Compiègne, 179 riders took off for the 84th edition of Paris – Roubaix. Favorites for the win were Bauer, Van der Poel, LeMond, Moser and Kelly. For the first time in fourty years the race would not finish in the Velodrome of Roubaix. Instead it would finish in the town of Roubaix. The reason given for this decision had to do with sponsoring and the fact that the organisation thought that the Velodrome wasn’t suitable anymore. It was raining all day and a lot of riders dropped out of the race. With 18 kilometres to go there was still a big group together at the front of the race. This group consisted of thirty riders, all favorites were among them. Suddenly Greg LeMond was standing still on the side of the road, holding up his hand. There was a mechanical problem with his bike. He had to wait long for his team car. He was determined to get back to the front. But it already was too late. Sean Kelly noticed that LeMond was gone. It was the perfect moment for the Irishman to place an attack. Three other riders could follow. Rudy Dhaenens, Ferdi van den Haute and Adri van der Poel. Greg LeMond was not far behind, until more bad luck crossed his way. A closed level crossing. A train was approaching. The four leaders of the race got through, but LeMond had to wait and lost even more seconds. The four leaders were now entering the streets of Roubaix. They were preparing for a sprint.  Van den Haute made the mistake to start the sprint too early. He was hoping that the other three were too tired. He was wrong. Van der Poel got him back, but Sean Kelly was the strongest of all.  He went past van der Poel and won the ‘hell of the North’ for the second time in his career. Kelly made himself pretty clear after the race. He stated that “Paris – Roubaix is a horrible race to ride, but the most beautiful one to win”. And so it was, a beautiful win.