Monday, April 11, 2011

Who Won What?!? a season of surprises

Bike races are like a box a chocolates, you never know when its going to get crunchy, or gooey, or crashes you out from a sudden drop in blood sugar. You just hope to grab the best one before anyone else takes it. (Not what you were expecting?) This year, the big spring classics have been full of surprises. The crashes, the mechanicals, the individual injuries, even the team tactics have been somewhat surprising. The biggest surprise of all has been the winners. None of the monuments were won by a guy named as a favorite before the race. Sure Goss and Nuyens were on the "outside chance" lists of some writers. But they were both longshots. Van Summeren wasn't even the #3 option for Garmin. He had the last number in the team start order signifying "domestique". No one can deny that each of these racers is talented and deserving. Yet, they were the darkest of dark horses. Every bike race has a fair measure of good luck for the winner. You can not win on good luck alone, but you certainly can not win with out it. Crashes dashed the chances of many team leaders in la Prima Vera, and as usual in Paris-Roubaix. A couple of dropped bottles likely cost Cancellara his margin on the Muur. Boonen's jammed chain in Arenberg was the beginning of his end. The lack of good luck cost all the big favorites their shot at glory. Goss, Nuyens, and Van Summeren had more than luck on their side. They each had directors & teams that supported them in the race. (something Chavanel might have liked at the Ronde) They all had the strength and smarts to be in the right position. They each believed in themselves enough to finish first. None of their wins were by chance alone. Perhaps the leason of this year's classics is that the conventional wisdom isn't always so wise. The odds on favorite can always have a bad day, leaving the flowers for someone else. A good racer is ready for opportunities, and a good team director supports that guy when the race plays out for a "non-favorite". These races have been very exciting for all the upsets. We can hope the Ardenes and the Grand Tours will be just as dramatic.