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BREAKDOWN: Cobble Classics Scorecard

Mid-Week Takeaways: Cobble Classics Scorecard: UAE Looks Unstoppable While Quick-Step Flounders: Spencer Martin breaks down takeaways from Omloop, Kuurne, Le Samyn, and Laigueglia, and why Jumbo-Visma & UAE are poised to overturn Quickstep’s Spring domination as we head into this weekend’s Strade Bianca.

– This article is an excerpt from the Beyond the Peloton newsletter. Sign up here for full access. –


Watch the most comprehensive live & ad-free coverage of the Strade Bianche 2022 on GCN+. Go deeper and get interactive with live polls & quizzes, plus rider profiles, race updates, results & more – plus stream original and exclusive cycling documentaries. Watch it all with GCN+ on any device.


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First win for Wout

The first month of the pro cycling season might have been dominated by small teams facing relegation, but the past week has seen the rise of the new era of superteams; Jumbo-Visma and UAE Team Emirates. Together, these two squads have won six out of the last seven ‘major’ (rated 1.1 or higher) races, with the seventh win going to the team that used to rule the Spring, Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl.

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Vingegaard was confident in La Drôme

But after Jumbo took the victory at the seasons’ first cobbled Classic with Wout van Aert and Jonas Vingegaard flexing his newfound confidence at La Drôme, the sport’s biggest races have been almost exclusively the domain of UAE. The well-funded team, which until recently was just a star vehicle for Tadej Pogačar, is reaping the rewards of their aggressive transfer season moves over the last two off-seasons. They might currently lack a powerhouse top-tier cobbled classics talent, but at this point in the season, it is clear they have made strides in one-day races when Pogačar is absent.

Laigueglia
Polanc and UAE dominated Laigueglia

Trofeo Laigueglia & Le Samyn Takeaways

Trofeo Laigueglia
Today at the Italian one-day classic Trofeo Laigueglia, UAE’s Jan Polanc ended a five-year-long winless streak by blitzing up behind a puttering three-man lead group, which included two of his teammates in Juan Ayuso and Alessandro Covi.

1) This was both an impressive performance from UAE to sweep the podium at a race with a fairly talented start list, but the final few kilometers, where they appeared lost at times and even seemed to attempt to chase down their own rider, highlighted the inexperience among many of their young riders.

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Le Samyn
At Tuesday’s cobbled Le Samyn, UAE’s Matteo Trentin, who has struggled to find his pre-2020 dominance in recent seasons, finally gets a win while QuickStep’s cobbled struggles continued.

2) Trentin finally gets his first sprint win since the 2019 season

  • While this is a big win for him and UAE, his attempts to get free before the finish makes it clear that he has lost confidence in his once-mighty sprint.
  • But, this might not be the worst thing since after sitting in and waiting for sprints only to lose out to faster riders throughout the 2021 season, these attacks show he has adjusted his riding style and is prepared to instead lean on his endurance, skill, and strength going forward.

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All a bit last minute for Quick-Step and Jakobsen

3) Quick-Step seemed caught on the back foot yet again

  • Leaving the pace-setting to UnoX in the finale shows us they either felt extremely confident in their rider in the front group, Bert Van Lerberghe or simply didn’t have the firepower to pull things back for Jakobsen.
  • But the fact that they sat back and seemed content with the outcome of letting Bert Van Lerberghe attempt to get away clean to win the race solo shows that they are either underestimating or simply finding themselves outgunned by their rivals.
    Van Lerberghe had the right idea by attempting to attack inside the final kilometer, but his tantrum after the others wouldn’t let him ride away for the win and his outburst is likely a symptom of simmering tensions inside the team.

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Quick-Step tried to control Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, but…

Bigger Questions:
Is Quick-Step Still a Cobbled Classic Power?

The extremely passive riding we’ve seen recently from Quick-Step raises the question as to whether team principal Patrick Lefevere has finally cut too many corners when it comes to spending to build out the team and the team’s core competency is suffering as a result.

Despite a risky transfer season strategy that saw them lose a WorldTour-worst 2,201 PCS points, they still have an extremely talented squad capable of winning plenty of stages and one-day races. This is borne out when we look at the current win, podium, and top ten totals.

breakaway

But, when we narrow this down to just the cobbled races, where Quick-Step has dominated for over a decade, they have clearly taken a step back and currently sit slightly below UAE, and roughly equal to Jumbo, in wins and top tens.

Granted, these results can’t be considered a disaster, it is still early in the season and UAE likely lacks the muscle to hang in the longer, more rugged events. But, as I pointed out in Monday’s post, these results appear to be a symptom of Quick-Step falling behind in the cobbled talent race. After all, outside of Kasper Asgreen, they mainly rely on an aging core of journeyman specialists, versus a team like Jumbo, who has built a team of talented support riders like Tiesj Benoot and Christophe Laporte to back up one of the world’s best classics riders in Wout van Aert.

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Van Aert – King of the cobbles, so far

Current Cobbled Classics Scoreboard:

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
Jumbo: 1st, 24th
UAE: 9th, 36th
Quick-Step: 9th, 62nd

Kuurne – Bruxelles – Kuurne
Jumbo: 8th, 14th
UAE: 7th, 64th
Quick-Step: 1st, 74th

Le Samyn
UAE: 1st, 19th
Quick-Step: 8th, 24th
Jumbo: 21st, 28th

UAE: 1 Win, 3 top tens

Jumbo-Visma: 1 Win, 2 Top Tens

Quick-Step: 1 Win, 2 Top Tens

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Was Mike Woods disadvantaged in the Gran Camiño TT?

Is Leading a Stage Race Going Into The Time Trial a Disadvantage?
After the ageless wonder 41-year-old Alejandro Valverde came from 16-seconds down to overcome Mike Woods with two stages remaining at the brand-new Gran Camiño stage race over the weekend, a reader pointed out to me just how billowy and loose-fitting Woods’ race-supplied leader jersey was compared to Valverde’s team-supplied form-fitting jersey.

And sure enough, we can see in the image below that Woods is dealing with extremely flapping from his club-fit threads.

breakaway

This detail might seem trivial, but a flappy jersey and/or jacket can essentially void hundreds of thousands of dollars in aerodynamic research and product execution. And even when the leaders’ jersey might appear to fit better, like Woods’ skinsuit on the stage 4 time trial, the race-supplied material is likely far slower than the team’s own highly aerodynamic optimized skinsuits.

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This is a good reminder that while holding a race lead heading into a final time trial is technically an advantage, the race-supplied jersey can come with a not insignificant aero penalty. And considering Woods lost a crucial 17-seconds to Valverde in the final time trial, this is more than a theoretical concern. This question is, would any team and rider ever be truly bold enough to purposely lose time to enter the final time trial with their own skinsuit, and if so, how much time would they be willing to give up in exchange for their preferred race garment?


The ‘Old Man’ still has it


# Spencer Martin is the author of the cycling-analysis newsletter Beyond the Peloton that breaks down the nuances of each race and answers big picture questions surrounding team and rider performance. Sign up now to get full access to all the available content and race breakdowns. #


Watch the most comprehensive live & ad-free coverage of the Strade Bianche 2022 on GCN+. Go deeper and get interactive with live polls & quizzes, plus rider profiles, race updates, results & more – plus stream original and exclusive cycling documentaries. Watch it all with GCN+ on any device.


 

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