|King Phillippe, the fourth. (Getty Photo.)|
Hail, the King of the Classics.
Sunday, cafe favorite Phil Gil confirmed his destiny, sweeping all four Ardennes Classics in a fortnight, with a victory in the home race of his dreams, Liege Bastogne Liege.
In the finale, it never really seemed in doubt, did it?
He took everything the Schlecks could throw at him in stride, never coming under pressure. The spurt? A formality. A new Cannibal? Seems that way to me.
I didn't understand the Schleck brothers tactics in the final few k though. Why didn't they take turns attacking? From my vantage point, it seemed a little like they caved, just riding to the line having conceeded the victory. I found that a little disappointing. Hey, it's a top pro monument, you've got to try, don't you? They said after that there was 'nothing they could do', that Gilbert was 'too strong.' That they couldn't go any harder.
I frankly found that a little bit hard to fathom. On Saturday, I was personally at the point of not being able to go any harder. I was draped all over a bike, stiff armed, sucking in air like a badly tuned lawnmower engine, barely able to hold my line, and getting so dizzy I collided with another desperate guy in the same position. That's not being able to go harder. I know, I'm just a schmoe, but the point is, I know that Andy and Frank were nowhere near at the same level of dead in the final 3k of LBL. They were still pedalling smoothly, lightly holding the tops of the bars. Not at ten tenths. Ten tenths is staggering. Alexis Arguello on the ropes against Arron Pryor. About to go down for the count.
I think they could have tried to attack Gilbert. They should have at least tried. C'mon man, it's 2 on 1. One goes, then the other. Textbook. You've got to try at least, right? It's like not taking the shot because you think the goalkeeper is too good. Not done.
Instead, they led him to the finis...er... I mean his coronation. It looked like a black clad honor guard for the royal wedding. All it needed was a trumpet fanfare.
|Remouchamps in full Phil-Fest Sunday night.|
Eddy Merckx is saying that Gilbert could be a factor in the grand tours. I'd love to see this old-school champion do just that. A guy who still rides on 'sensations,' without all the science. Who eschews radios, and power meters. Who was taught his metier as an amateur in a team directed by another Belgian Liege Bastogne Liege winner, Dirk de Wolf. A rider who was mentored in his early pro years by French cyclisme's 'classic old-school retro conscience', FDJ's Marc Madiot.
I think it's been long time since we have seen another classics king like this, hasn't it? Since Merckx. Or Sean Kelly. A true Cannibal, competitive on all fronts.
A guy for whom this success didn't come quickly, but from the fruits of years of hard work. A by-all-reports squeaky-clean rider who stayed motivated through years of 'cyclisme a deux vitesses', losing to guys later caught for juicing.
Hail, Philippe. Belgium's King of the Classics.