Life definitely doesn’t slow down much this time of year, which is a bummer, because I’d like to get off now please. This year’s kid birthdays-Hannukah-bits of Christmas deluge came along with a broken leg — my older son, a.k.a. DS Medium Bear, became the latest victim of the Evil Trampoline Monster that is threatening to consume us all. He’s fine as far as these things go, but I (and even more so Mrs. PdC) have spent a bit too much time in hospitals in the last month. Also, even when he was completely self-sufficient my boy is the kind of kid who bugs his parents every five minutes, so you can imagine how he is as a helpless trampoline victim. My younger son disappears for hours at a time, which may not be a good thing, but for now it’s a godsend because I am already down to my last five minutes a day of being able to think about cycling.
And as it happens, there’s a lot going on! No, not that Froome nonsense, the details of which I have been quite literally unable to invest myself in, though I’m not as clueless as I would be had I listened to Lance Armstrong’s podcast where he apparently took salbuterol in order to generate some sort of insight into what Froome might or might not have done. It is possible to take in things that will literally make you stupider, and I managed to at least not do that. So I have that going for me.
Mostly I want to talk about cyclocross, but I can’t get there without first trying to process the announcement from today that cycling’s newest heartthrob, Tom Dumoulin, is planning to ride the Giro d’Italia. Now, don’t get me wrong, if the sport has suddenly evolved to the point where the Giro can finally take its place atop the sport, pushing aside the bloated Tour de France, then I certainly won’t question it. But I don’t quite think that’s it.
No, I think the Tour de France is still the greatest race in the world, and probably will be for a while. So I am trying really hard not to turn on the caps-lock button when I say this, but for the love of god, go win the Tour de France! Froome is hung up on the ridiculous Double plan, and now his entire season is in jeopardy. If Dumoulin goes to the Giro, he’s investing the bulk of his energy for the season in beating Esteban Chaves, the Yates brothers, and sure, Geraint Thomas, for a repeat title in Italy, while leaving the world’s most prestigious title to the Usual Suspects of Nibali (I know), Bardet, Quintana, Porte, Aru and so on. The Tour is a plump, juicy pear, better than any old apple, and that pear is hanging lower and lower to the ground. Dumoulin is so money and he doesn’t even seem to know it.
At NOS, Dumoulin is quoted rather cryptically as having struggled with... something last year. The implication is that maybe he didn’t enjoy his new status in the world, or something else of a personal nature. Maybe the Giro showed him the money. I’m sure he has his reasons. But let’s not pretend for a second that they are the best purely competitive choices. If he wants to be the top dog (an open question, it appears), then the route to the roof of the doghouse goes via the Tour.
I don’t get it. Seems like this story is still evolving. Stay tuned.
The Cyclocross scene is heating up, big time, as the Kerstperiode comes upon us. Last Saturday Mathieu van der Poel extended his dominance over the sport with another win at the Schedecross, but in the process he caught a cold (or at least a “cold”) that limited him the next day in the Citadelcross in Namur. That predicament ran up against the return of World Champion Wout Van Aert from a training period in Calpe, Spain, where he supposedly dropped a few pounds, and the result wasn’t pretty, with Van Aert delivering a decisive victory. There was a lot to say afterward...
- Was this just a perfect Wout course? Yes it was. And was van der Poel under the weather? So they say. Maybe it doesn’t mean much.If Van Aert has kicked his form up a notch, then the season is about to (finally) get interesting. Before he left he complained about things not going well on the team; maybe that’s been fixed up some. If it’s not Christmas yet, then we can still say what’s past is mere prologue. Van der Poel hasn’t truly won anything yet.
- Most importantly, van der Poel’s run of dominance is out of step with the lengthening history between the two, where they are separated by microscopic margins that alternate back and forth. It’s been a truly great rivalry in that nobody has had the upper hand for long, and as much as I’m a Dutch homer, it’s good to see Wout maybe back in command of his season. This is going to be a hell of a week.
- The discussion of the women’s race being shortened by a lap was a good moment of progress, maybe one of those times when it’s darkest just before the dawn. The men’s elite race ran long, making the decision to chop off a lap from the women seem even more ridiculous. And, uh, I don’t know about Belgium but in the US there’s something of a movement where women aren’t going to accept anything that smacks of sexist bullshit right now. My point is, the decision to shorten the women’s elite race to something shorter than what us old fat guys ride really blew up on the organizers. Hopefully this makes people wake up a bit more about the need to treat women cyclists with a little more respect.
- Speaking of portents of change, do any of you follow the British Teenager Scene? Because if you did, you’d probably be able to explain to me just how significant it is that we are seeing so much young talent exploding into the sport right now. Tom Pidcock has been brought up a few times recently as the Next Big Thing, and while we don’t get to watch the juniors or U23s much (or at least I don’t), the numbers don’t lie. At age 18, he’s already under contract with Telenet Fidea Lions, and is winning U23 races regularly, including at Namur where he topped his main rival, Belgian Eli Iserbyt, for his sixth win of the year at that level.
- But that was merely the (predictable) appetizer, for the women’s elite race went to Evie Richards, the reigning women’s U23 World Champion. Now, I said teenagers above and in fairness Richards is now 20, so I stretched the truth a bit there. Still, this was a monumental win, her first on the World Cup elite level and at one of the year’s more demanding courses. Richards’ stature meant that she had to start a bit back of people like Sanne Cant and Sophie de Boer, but she chipped away at her deficit and made contact with the leaders on the penultimate lap, eventually pulling away to win by 15 seconds. A British Invasion would be quite something on the continent, but these kids look like they have the talent and desire to make something happen. And frankly, the sport could use a bit more competition.
OK, stay tuned, our next big CX race is Tuesday in Zolder. It’s a World Cup event, and while Zolder is a bit gimmicky as courses go, it’s good fun anyway. Hup!