At Long Last: Het Volk & KBK 2008!

Mar 3 2008

Ah, finally, good cause to ignore all the piddly little races that have filled up the cycling calendar so far. Not that I haven’t ignored them up to this point, of course, but now I have an excuse

In 2006, Phillippe Gilbert broke out onto the international cycling scene by taking his first Het Volk. Classy victory though it was, Gilbert took it largely though pluck and tactical nous, plying a weakened and out-classed breakaway group, and a heavily marked Quick.Step Team to his advantage.

Saturday’s win, on the other hand was a brash and ballsy, the kind of counter-intuitive high-risk attack that you simply don’t see outside the one-day events (and certainly not at the Tour of California). While comparisons to Merckx might be a bit overstated, I don’t think likening it to Fabian Cancellara’s victory at the ’06 Roubaix would be too far a reach.

On Sunday, Quick.Step’s DeJongh became the second two-time winner on the weekend, thanks to some devastatingly concerted work from the rest of his team. Any time you get five men in a move of eleven, the psychological advantage alone makes the result almost inevitable. My only worry for the Q.S boys: WTF Tom Boonen losing a sprint to Matthew Goss?

If you’ll recall, Quick.Step pulled similar rebounds in 2007 and 2006, after essentially making the race most of the day at Het Volk, but missing out entirely in the final hands. Discovery Channel did the same thing in 2005. While one-day turnarounds are historically suspicious, it’s important to note these HV/KBK 180’s involve a team being strong both days, and just more motivated – or more lucky – the next.

Final assorted notes on the weekend – French reign of terror continues. Even if Gilbert is just a francophone Belgian, his squad is unquestionably of the Hexagon. Also impressive was Slipstream-Chipotle, making their presence felt through hard-man breakaways and moves that matter, rather than simply the suicide publicity attacks one used to see from the wild card squads at these events.

All in all, a promising weekend of racing – let’s hope the cheery outlook holds through the rest of the month.

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