Dwars Door Vlaanderen
The list of perilous things that can really ruin a professional cyclist’s day is a long one.
There’s crashing for a start, and all the chains, cogs and asphalt that come with that. Then there are those unseen things, like ditches, which as Trek’s Kiel Reijnen discovered today, you might drop into at any second. Finally there are those things you can predict, but might not want to think about. Like being shouted at by Philippe Gilbert.
Playing the lead role in Dwars Door Vlaanderen, Belgian road champ Gilbert had decided this was going to be Classic win number something, even if that meant he had to drag everyone else to the finish line with him and subsequently let one of them win instead.
As part of a front group of riders with 72km to race, Gilbert, wearing his national colours (and two odd shoes, presumably to appear slightly unhinged), demanded others move forward to take a turn. Lack of co-operation usually spells the end of breaks like this. Gilbert was having none of it.
If the others pretended not to understand, Gilbert removed any doubt with some hand gestures. Afraid perhaps of being singled out for personal abuse, the other riders began coming forward, with Gilbert waving them through, like a zealous firewarden, eager complete the office fire drill in record time.
Then, to be certain, Gilbert dropped to the back, adapting the rare strategy that states that if you can’t drag people towards the finish line, you may as well push them.
Meanwhile, 38 seconds behind, Trek rider Edward Thuens was having the same idea, waving forward the chase group like an ambitious new lieutenant on a rescue mission, who usually gets men killed.
But what failed for Tuens seemed to work for Gilbert, who now sensing glory, demanded with equal vigor that Yves Lampaert keep up with him, so they could take on Luke Durbridge (Orica-Scott) and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), the only riders left at the front, together. What’s more there was the sight of Zdenek Styber and Niki Terpstra, summoned from way behind to race up towards the chase group, like an escaped Madison team, linking up to spoil any efforts to ruin Gilbert’s day.
Durbridge and Lutsenko knew that Gilbert had the perfect lead out man in Lampaert, but missed that it made Gilbert the perfect decoy for Lampaert.
Without Gilberts help to chase Lutsenko and Durbridge found they hadn’t the legs to reel him back. To make matters worse Gilbert pulled away to take second, far enough ahead at least to spare them the jubilant shouts coming from his direction.
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