Reading the tea leaves… or not

The weekend’s races dictate that every cycling blog in the world must write about one thing this week: the deity that is Fabian Cancellara.

[Spartacus]( produced another performance that would have been described as ‘shockingly brilliant’ if we all weren’t so used to his shocking brilliance. He attacked, he dropped everyone, he was beset by mechanicals, he attacked again, he dropped everyone again, then he soloed to victory. I have fantasies less outlandish than this.

Predicting how the rest of the spring will turn out is less a case of ‘reading the tea leaves’ and more like reading the instructions on a packet of microwave popcorn. Step 1) Fabian Cancellara starts racing. Step 2) Fabian Cancellara wins the race.

How can anyone else hope to compete in the cobbled classics? Has the world of Pro cycling become, dare I say it, boring and predictable?

Cancellara is now a marked man. Riders are going to figuratively glue themselves to his [generously sized behind]( Obviously, the sprinters’ teams, including the powerhouses of Garmin-Cervelo and Quickstep, will not let any Canellara-based break to edge up the parcours without a serious fight. I can almost guarantee that this will not be enough.

The Ronde Van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix are unpredictable and dangerous races. Riders throw their bikes in the gutter because the surface in there is safer than that of the roads. This is not an exaggeration. Watch [this]( video if you want to have a semblance of understanding of what wind is. Then remember that Henri Pélissier, a black & white legend of cycling, said “what we wouldn’t do to mules, we do to ourselves.” These races are hard, and what is more, Cancellara is a master of recognising when an opponent is about to break and then mercilessly crushing them. No amount of speculative attacking or determined chasing is going to change this fact.

I refer you to my second piece of ( evidence. Bram Tankink couldn’t have responded to Canellara’s attacks even if he had wanted to – coincidentally or not, his body gave up just as Cancellara began pedaling in anger.

What is left for the rest of the peloton? Perhaps just a hug and a [cuddle](

A more realistic possibility for other riders is that Cancellara could attack himself into the ground, as he did at this year’s Milan-San Remo, or the World Championships two years ago. Or a group of contenders including the likes of Thor Hushovd, Stijn Devolder and Phillipe Gilbert could collude to press Cancellara out of the break. The newly formed Leopard-Trek team has yet to show that it can compete tactically with the more established outfits of the peloton. Stuart O’Grady maybe an great asset to Cancellara, but can we honestly say that he would want to rely on Joost Posthuma when the excrement passes through the Dyson Air Multiplier™?

Quikstep’s Sylvain Chavanel could prove to be a major player in this race. David Millar [(aka St Millar of Varese)]( played an absolute blinder in last year’s Ronde, and could again prove a handful over the pavé. If this proves to be the case, Cancellara will have to keep an eye on more than twenty riders capable of stealing his glory, whereas twenty riders will only have to keep their collective eyes on one man. it is lonely at the top.


There are five good things in [this]( video. 1) Mark Cavendish’s hissy fit shortly after he gets rear-ended. 2) Ian Stannard being only 120 metres away from winning with an audacious solo attack. 3) Tom Boonen using his head as much as his legs when picking his sprinting line. Spectacular. 4) A photographer causes a crash shortly after the finish line. 5) Apparently, ‘spurt’ is Flemish for sprint, so I now have an excuse to shout “SPURT, SPURT!” at a bunch of tightly-clad athletes.

There has been a series of bike thefts from Pro Teams: [here]( and [here](

[Priceless]( “I’m Dave Zabriskie, baby, boooyah.”


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