Playing the Lotto

Oct 21 2009

evansI’ve been as thrilled as anyone by Philippe Gilbert’s late-season run. I think the Belgian has a great, positive style of racing that combines both tactics and straight-up guts. And like many others, I’m also thrilled to see Silence-Lotto score a couple of wins, after putting in a ton of effort and making a variety of races this season fun to watch.

But I’m not swayed by the notion that this is some sort of “new Beginning” for Silence-Lotto. Let’s not forget that Lotto put two riders in the final break of six at Roubaix this year, and was only derailed by Juan-Antonio Flecha’s crash. The tactics at Paris-Tours played very similarly to the rest of the classics, with Lotto and Quick.Step making probing attacks and putting a man in as many moves as possible. Not to take anything away from the Autumn Double, but luck plays as big a role as anything in the one-days.

As for Lotto’s performance supporting Cadel Evans in the Grand Tours, I think it’s been pretty miserable. Everyone remembers the bumbling wheel change that might have cost the Aussie the race, but no one seems to remember that Evans never should have been so isolated in the first place. Jurgen Van Den Broeck was on career form at this year’s Tour, and burned off most of it up the road in early breaks—not the kind of teamwork that regularly puts riders in Yellow.

Cadel’s biggest win—the World Championships—had absolutely jack-all to do with Silence Lotto. Not only was Evans riding on an Australian National team that contained no one else from his Belgian trade squad, but he also profited immeasurably from underdog status, as the Italian and Spaniard Squads battled to control the race.

The timing and determination of his attack, plus better-than-most support from his team is what brought Cadel the win at Mendrisio. While his support of the sponsorship is laudable, it’s almost disheartening to see Lotto flacking Evans’ gold medal as “their” accomplishment. More cycling commentators should go out of their way to point this out.

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