Sigh... the cycling season winds down strangely these days. Sort of like climbing the Muur and the Bosberg, only to find that there are 12km left to the finish, but when you get there you have to ride in a criterium around the streets of Ninove for UCI cat 2.1 points. I had a dream like this once and the screaming woke up my wife.
“What’s wrong? Are you OK?!”
“They made the end of the Tour of Flanders into a meaningless circuit race!”
“It was all a dream. That could never happen.”
Pretty sure this was in 2011 some time. Anyway, you get my point. Lombardia was pretty cool, if formulaic, but Vincenzo Nibali continues to pad his hall-of-fame palmares, which I personally am cool with. That led into the Tour of Turkey, which I haven’t bothered watching, and will eventually take us to the Guangxi Tour and Japan Cup, though not without a stopover in Zeeland for the TACX Pro Classic. It’s strictly a sprinters’ affair, and if Dylan Groenewegen stays upright, he should win. There, I’ve now previewed the Ronde van Zeeland.
In Turkey, Diego Ulissi grabbed hold of the lead on the climbiest stage of the Presidential Tour, at least until tomorrow’s affair which should shake loose all the pretenders bunched up behind Ulissi on the GC.
Frankly, I don’t know what constitutes “presidential” anymore, but I’d vote for this stage over some of the other choices right now.
Or Vincenzo Nibali. He’d make a good leader. Nibali sat down with CyclingNews and got asked about his season, which he eventually converted into a referendum on Chris Froome’s cycling IQ. Basically, Nibali opined that he didn’t need to win a grand tour to have had a successful season because Froome’s success was tied to having a strong team, and anyway he would never have won four Tours without his team because he sucks when he’s isolated.
This is a dream interview, by the way. Just start off “So, how are you?” and sit back making sure the tape is rolling. Nibali can seem prickly at times but the sport is way more interesting with him in it.
Anyway, I’m not sure he’s calling Froome a schmuck, but at a minimum Nibali is saying that Froome’s team protects him from the kind of difficulty that causes guys to lose grand tours. That’s one of the sport’s accepted notions, but he goes a little closer to the edge when Nibali suggests that Froome’s weakness is that perhaps he doesn’t know how to race in situations where he doesn’t have that team. It’s obviously sort of true that Froome hasn’t had to go there and thus we don’t know what he can do (he’s been isolated at times in his career, but generally not early on). It’s something else to say that Froome has a low tactical IQ. Nibali has a high tactical IQ, I’d say, though it’s written plenty of checks that his legs couldn’t cash. Still, he’s probably in a better position than most to call out Froome’s tactical nous, if that is what he just did.
So... is Froome a crappy tactician? I don’t know for sure. His team has put him into aggressive moves but I’m not sure how many of those Froome himself thought of. He comes from an odd background for a cyclist, not unlike growing up in central Washington in terms of how ingrained in the sport it was possible for young Froome to become. Froome is a late-bloomer with a huge engine and enough of everything else, including some obvious high-level discipline, to execute a winning plan.
But Nibali comes from the scrappy Italian road scene, where young riders undoubtedly have to think on their feet a lot to survive. Is there a culture war between the people who grew up in places like Belgium and Italy, deeply immersed in the sport, and people who came up through the less serious scenes in Seattle or Johannesburg or the Isle of Man? Or does Nibali just not have all that much respect for Froome?
Either way, I’m making popcorn.