The Curse of The Great Tombino

Apr 10 2006

Ah, Paris-Roubaix. There is no finer example of bike-racing spectacle. Fabian Cancellara proved once again that the secret to victory is to keep your head up, attack once, and finish alone. Most news reports state that the CSC rider “dropped” Vlad Gusev to make good his escape, but this implies the Swiss rider made specific efforts to do so; a more accurate statement would be that Cancellara flat rode the Russian off his wheel. Walter Godefroot called it perfectly (search “Cancellara”) in selecting the former maillot jaune, as it would have taken a freight train to stop his charge to the finish. And strangely enough, that almost happened. In the end, though, the transient locomotive’s only impact on the race was to annoy Tom Boonen and to disqualify a chase group of Leif Hoste, Vlad Gusev and Peter Van Petegem, who apparently violated a UCI regulation against independent thought by realizing that they could cross the tracks without getting hit by the train

So who was the biggest loser on the day? Oh, there’s almost too many to count. I guess I’ll begin by highlighting that Team Discovery Channel fell victim once again to the “Curse of the Great Tombino”, a bit of Flandrian voodoo that will prevent a Tailwind Sports-owned franchise from ever winning Paris-Roubaix. I’m well aware that Discovery/Postal didn’t actively work to trade Tom away, but forcing Boonen to tow the clearly bonking Hincapie until the hypoglycemic American tumbled into a ditch back in ’01, was an affront to the sporting gods on par with the sale of Babe Ruth to finance a Broadway musical. And despite what Scott Coady tries to tell you, no amount of prayer can attone for this transgression.

The curse is manifest in the aforementioned disqualifications, and a strange parting of the ways between the top and bottom portions of Mr. Hincapie’s steerer tube at 47k to go. A hubris bonus is also awarded to George for making a pre-race prediction so perfectly tragic in its fruition that it could have slipped from a cave opening at Cumae. On a related note, Trek’s Scott Daubert (search “fork”) should be receiving a pink slip any day now for deciding that a more beneficial “axle to crown dimension” justified sending his team captain out into the Hell of the North with Sora-level componentry. If such misfortune had befallen Lance, you can bet Daubert’s testicles would be already be dangling from the trailer hitch of the Texan’s GTO. As it stands, though, Trek shouldn’t take too big a PR hit on this one; most people looking to buy Pilot line bikes wouldn’t know the difference between Paris-Roubaix and Stella Artois.

Many might also extend the Finger of Failure toward heavy favorite Tom Boonen. but the World Champ’s only real mistake on the day was leading the charge across the critical Arenburg Cobbles while his teammates were completely unprepared. Surrounded by a dizzying array of colors (rather than sitting in his accustomed sea of Quick.Step blue), Boonen kept a cool head, did lots of chatting, managed his losses, and got 2nd, with a little help from the race jury. I am, however, more than prepared to dump on Boonen’s teammates, who, just a week removed from utter invincibility at Flanders, missed the critical field split and then scattered themselves to the four winds in a chase remarkable only for its brevity and futility. Perhaps Quick.Step DS Patrick LeFevere also deserves a few demerits for today’s performance, as I’m at a loss how a man with three podium sweeps at this event could let his riders get so out of position.

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