Lee’s Lowdown: SanRemo Redux!
Now that ‘La classicissima di Primavera’ has been fought for 2015, Lee Rodgers gives his thoughts on Milan-Sanremo, which riders were impressive and who’s not firing on all cylinders, just yet (Vincenzo). Degenkolb comes out on top in Lee’s list for form, control and power – man and machine in perfect harmony.
What a difference a year makes. Last year Degenkolb suffered a flat here that put him out of contention for the win and he was understandably gutted as a result.
If ever there was a truism that’s true specifically for the guys on the way up cycling’s slippery ladder it’s that you’re only as good as your last race. Win Paris-Roubaix? Flanders? No worry how lacking the limelight is the rest of your career is, and there are a few who will attest to this, you’ll still be a winner.
Win a Grand Tour or three and even though your star may lose its lustre with a downturn in form or injury, history will remember you kindly – unless of course your ten year old blood or urine sample gets retroactively tested and you get busted, or some dodgy doctor spills the beans and the same happens.
Denis Menchov, anyone? Remember him? Denis ‘Stealth’ Menchov, right under the radar.
But I digress. Degenkolb! What a cracking sprint that was, and as a coach I’m always enthralled to see a rider smashing it with ‘pure’ form, as he displayed in that finale. If you watch the last 200 meters you can see the moustachioed German bobbing his head up and down, smashing through the pedals and looking a little odd as he does so, but in fact he’s just about the most controlled guy there, in terms of getting the power in his body through to the pedals.
Many folk think of the bike as the machine and the rider as, well, the rider, but in fact it’s all one machine, the human being the engine, the legs the pistons. In his sprint Degenkolb’s machine moves side to side less than the other sprinters, his legs getting a greater degree of force from leg to crank.
The only other rider there with a stiller bike is Kristoff but he is seated, faltering and weary by the looks of things – and he was, as he didn’t have his usual turn of speed.
One great clip of a man holding form that I can watch over and over again is this from Jan Bakelants from the 2013 Tour de France in Corsica. See how he holds his head still as he can here as he stays seated, wringing the power from his legs yet maintaining the sprint without falling apart. It’s a great lesson to be learnt.
The sprint was a bit mad towards the end as was the action preceding it, but what caught my eye was the power being put down by Luca Paolini over those closing 15km, as he ploughed the furrow for Kristoff behind him.
Even up over the Poggio he looked not to be breathing, nor even when he finally peeled off the front just before the sprinters took over. It was a performance that had me thinking about buying an aero helmet – those things must work wonders!
Team Sky’s jaunt off the front was almost very clever though it did result from a crash set in motion by Sky rider Salvatore Puccio as they came down the Capo Berta. I say ‘almost’ very clever as Geraint Thomas put in a good dig along with BMC’s Daniel Oss but the pair were really never going to stay away from a pack full of sprinters that had the scent of victory in their flaring nostrils.
Ian Stannard would have been a better bet for that kind of finish.
It was a shame to see Ciolek, a former winner of course, go down in a crash when he looked good. His body language said it all really, and not surprising he was upset. This race is so long that it’s crueler than most when you crash so close, and it’s also the real sprinter’s Classic.
One rider who seems to be peddling on fumes is 2014 Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali. He looks like a man who’s squandered a fortune at the race track: sullen, grumpy and proper out of sorts. In a way he has, really, having been on top of the world just a few months ago and now in a team that even the UCI has had enough of.
‘But it’s not his fault’, you may think, yet think about it. He signed to a team run by one of the most controversial figures in the sport at the helm, a team with a pretty healthy doping record and one that many – including the authorities – have been suspicious of for years.
Again, this is the sport we love and this is the state it is in. What do we expect? And you are quite right if you are wondering where he could have gone that would have been much different, there aren’t too many safe cubby holes out there.
In any case, Vincenzo doesn’t look like his old self.
And so another year, another winner at Milan-San Remo. The Old Dame put on quite a show this time around. Roll on Gent-Wevelgem, the next biggie.
Lee Rodgers is a former professional road racer on the UCI Asia Tour circuit now racing MTB professionally around the world. His day job combines freelance journalism, coaching cyclists, event organizing and consulting work. You can keep up with his daily scribblings over at www.crankpunk.com.