Classics Interlude Update

With the cobbled classics in the books and the Ardennes classics yet to begin, it seems like a good time to look back at the last month here at the Service Course and see how some of the subjects we’ve explored have developed.

On March 21, we took a look at victory salutes, and pointed out that rule number one was to never, ever raise your arms until you were absolutely sure you’d won. Clearly, Tom Boonen (Quick.Step) did not read that particular article, because at this morning’s Scheldeprijs (a.k.a. the Grand Prix de l'Escaut), Tornado Tom threw the guns in the air just a bit early, allowing Mark Cavendish (High Road) to squirt by him. Feeling a bit invincible after Paris-Roubaix, are we?

Even further back on March 10, the Service Course discussed the industry spat du jour, the Cannondale versus Specialized war of words, which played out in a highly discussed Cannondale advertisement. People seem to enjoy a bit of industry polemics, and the dispute gave us hits from a number of people Googling things like “Shannon Sakamoto Specialized” and “Specialized stealing Cannondale engineers,” so the ad did have some effect in raising awareness if not necessarily swaying any loyalties. That was all quite awhile ago now, but apparently the hurt feelings have yet to heal. Evidence comes in the form of this article on the Bicycle Retailer and Industry News site today. I say less whining, more designing.

Speaking of Google-y ways people get to this site, the most interesting search to lead to a hit last month was undoubtedly “Museeuw hair piece.” I don’t believe the Lion of Flanders’ follicular status has been addressed here, but I guess we had enough of the terms to make that little aberration happen. And if that wayward reader happens to stop back by, I’m pretty sure Johan has plugs, not a piece. The installation of said plugs may have lead to the regrettable do-rag incident at the 2000 Paris-Roubaix. Or maybe not, but it’s hard to imagine a classics specialist embracing Marco Pantani as his style maven unless there were extenuating circumstances. And besides, he’s retired – leave the poor man’s hairline be.

March also found us wondering if, after changing the name, the location, and the date of a race, you can still claim that it’s the same event. And on April 11, we got our answer: it doesn’t matter, because there’s not going to be a race anyway. Yes, the U.S. Open of Cycling, previously slated for late May in Rhode Island (previously known as the U.S. Open Cycling Championship held in April in Virginia) won’t be held anywhere, at any time, under any name in 2008. But we look forward to hearing the plan for 2009.

In a more recent entry discussing the plight of Spanish classics riders in the wake of Oscar Freire’s (Rabobank) Gent-Wevelgem win, I speculated that part of the reason Spain doesn’t turn out a great many such riders is that, after they’re forced out to foreign teams, the Spanish media doesn’t report much about their exploits. Freire’s teammate and fellow expat Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) reinforced that theory the very next day in this little snippet on Seems that his podium place at Flanders getting footnote billing under the daily results from Pais Vasco miffed Flecha a bit. After getting left for dead by his team at Paris-Roubaix, he’s not in any better mood a week later.

Finally, just prior to the start of the cobbled classics, I offered some suggestions on what to drink as you enjoyed whatever coverage you could squeeze out of the internet and Versus. There was some wiggle room in those suggestions, depending on whether you wanted to go for an authentic spectator experience or go a bit more upscale. With the coming of the first Ardennes classic, there is really no choice. It is, after all, the Amstel Gold Race. But apparently those wily Dutch don’t think that Americans will tolerate a fully caloried beer, so unfortunately, our only choice stateside is the ubiquitious Amstel Light. I’m not sure if that means that news of the American obesity epidemic doesn’t make it to CNN International, or that it does, and the Dutch are trying to do us a favor. Either way, the combination of a beer sponsorship and a race route that looks like it was laid out by a drunk trying to find his house after last call just feels right.