Words by Cycle Sport staff
Our cover star this month is Tom Boonen. Bear with us, but we’ve never been convinced that Tom Boonen is a sprinter. He’s more of a powerful Classics rider, who happens to be so strong he can still ride fast enough to win sprints. He lacks the high-end jump of the pure sprinter.
So we felt ever so slightly vindicated when Boonen said in his interview with Alasdair Fotheringham that his sprinting days were more or less over. The accumulated stress of a career’s-worth of crashes have dulled the desire to risk everything for a possible win. Instead, Boonen is refocusing on the Classics, and making the Copenhagen World Championships, later in the season, his big target.
Boonen’s last one-day win, formerly a speciality, was in the Belgian national championships in 2009, and his last one-day win against an international field was Paris-Roubaix, the same year. He’s no longer the automatic favourite for Paris-Roubaix, but it would be fitting if he broke his drought at that race this year.
Also in the magazine…
Eddy Merckx is undisputedly the greatest cyclist in history. Edvald Boasson Hagen is arguably set to become one of the modern greats. We decided to sit them down together for a chat, in our feature When Eddy Met Eddy. What followed was a fascinating chat between champions former and present, moderated by our very own Ellis Bacon. Boasson Hagen took the opportunity to pick Merckx’s brains, while Merckx himself good-naturedly ribbed the Norwegian about his weight.
We’ve gone Inside the Head of Dave Brailsford, in a wide-ranging and revealing interview with the Team Sky boss, conducted by Lionel Birnie. At times last year, Brailsford looked like he was spinning two very valuable plates – British Cycling’s Olympic programme, and Team Sky. As Birnie points out, “it’s more like he was trying to balance two extremely large bowls that have been filled to the brim. And the moment he spills a drop, someone is ready to seize on it as a sign that he’s losing his grip.” Brailsford is an interesting character – he’s analytical and logical, but at the same time driven to the point of being a workaholic, although he says, “For us, it’s not work. We’re consumed by it.”
Brailsford also revealed to us how he and the Sky staff chose their riders, using graphs plotted out according to criteria including the points system devised by the Cycling Quotient website (www.cqranking.com). Sky may have ruffled a lot of feathers by trying to do things differently, but whether their methods are better or worse, they are certainly fascinating.
We look forward to the biggest one-day races of the year by speaking with seven former winners in our Ode to Paris-Roubaix. Fabian Cancellara, Tom Boonen, Bernard Hinault, Merckx, Stuart O’Grady, Frederic Guesdon and Servais Knaven all explain what the Queen of Classics means to them, share their experiences of winning the race, and tell some fascinating anecdotes about their days on top. In Bernard Hinault’s case, his pre-race team-bonding anecdote is almost unprintable. Almost.
We also look forward to the Tour of Flanders by printing a unique Map and Guide to the Ronde by our resident artist Simon Scarsbrook. Normally, the Tour of Flanders route map looks like a badly-organised plate of spaghetti, but our map simplifies it, points out the best places to watch the race, and shares the essential survival tips gleaned from years of being at the race (basically, drink Belgian beer and go to the Ronde Van Vlaanderen Museum).
Francesco Chicchi may well be the fastest sprinter never to have won a Tour stage. Gregor Brown interviewed the Italian, who has recently moved to the Quick Step team, about his plans to change that. When Chicchi turned professional in 2003, on the back of a sprint win in the 2002 Under-23 world championships, he was expected to be the next Mario Cipollini. Fellow professionals acknowledged the speed of his jump in the bunch sprints. But something went wrong between then and now. Will 2011 finally see Chicchi confirm his promise?
One of the most surprising off-season transfers was that of our next interviewee, Danny Pate, from Garmin to HTC. The American was part of the Garmin team from its days as a development squad, but he found himself marginalised in 2010 as the squad grew. Pate, one of the most thoughtful and intelligent characters in the peloton, seemed to find distance in a once-close relationship with Garmin boss Jonathan Vaughters, and moved to HTC. Vaughters spoke highly of Pate to us while we were researching the interview. However, he also expressed regret that he felt Pate could be one of the best riders in the world, but that he hadn’t pushed himself to find his limits.
We sent photographer Andy Waterman to Belgium, not as punishment, but to get us the very best images from Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. It was good weather for Classics and photographers, with freezing rain falling on Het Nieuwsblad, and still-cold temperatures the next day for Kuurne. The racing was entertaining, and Andy came back with some stunning images, which capture the essence of Belgian cycling culture.
Our Great Races series continues with a look by Lionel Birnie at the 1992 Tour of Flanders, one of the most surprising editions in the event’s history. We’ve spoken to all the main protagonists – winner Jacky Durand and runner-up Thomas Wegmuller, who spent almost the entire day off the front of the bunch, plus third-placed Edwig Van Hooydonck, who gives us the view from the peloton. Our interviewees have shared some fascinating insights and unique anecdotes about how the race developed, and we’ve dug up some brilliant contemporary photography.
Iconic Places pays a visit to the Tour de France’s first ever high mountain, the Col de Peyresourde in the Pyrenees. Chris Sidwells details the history of the climb since it appeared in the infamous Luchon-Bayonne stage of 1910 (as ridden by Cycle Sport on the occasion of its centenary), and talks to some of the riders whose exploits on its slopes have made it such an important place in Tour history. Merckx and Van Impe both laid the foundations of Tour victories on its slopes.
Finally, Pro Performance has picked the brains of Juan-Antonio Flecha and Sean Kelly, with input from Eddy Merckx, to find out the Secrets of the Classics. From pre-race rituals and preparation, through the races themselves, our experts reveal what it takes to win the biggest one-day races in the world. Flecha shows an almost mystical understanding of Paris-Roubaix, saying “Arenberg Forest changes a lot every year. The stones move, so I feel more comfortable if I’ve ridden them [in advance].”
Plus…All our regular features – Shop Window, with flamboyantly shiny bike bits; Graham Watson shares his best pictures from Qatar and Oman; Broomwagon – Quick Step continue to set new standards in rider PR, the UCI Travel Company, and True Photoshopping by Team Leopard; Q&A with Tejay Van Garderen, in which he predicts the outcome of a wrestling match between Bert Grabsch, a bear and a lion; the top 10 race faces; Geraint Thomas’s regular column, and much much more. That’s 11 extravagantly high-quality features, plus all the extras, for the irrationally reasonable price of £4.25.
Cycle Sport May is on sale in the UK from Wednesday April 16, and will be available later in the US.
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