Monday, 28 September 2015

Too Many Chefs May Spoil the Broth


 The World Professional Road Cycling Championship (yes, I know it is now called the "Elite Men's" road title now but this blog will always refer to it as it's much cooler, earlier incarnation!) was run and won last night in Richmond, Virginia, USA, the capital of the old Confederacy for those with a nose for historical detail.

 260 km over quite an interesting course, it was always going to favour the stronger type of single day classics rider. Thus it was that Slovakian, Peter Sagan, arguably the best all-round cyclist in the world at the moment, streaked away from the field on the last little pinch of the race, soloing to victory in a very entertaining battle.

 Sagan has won the points classification in the Tour de France four times running and is a great cyclist in the one-day events and can even hold his own in the less demanding, single week tours as his victory in the Tour of California earlier in the year will attest. His only weakness is the high mountains so we will certainly not be seeing him wearing the Yellow Jersey on the Champs-Elysees any time soon. A great rider nonetheless. Charismatic too. Larger than life and I wouldn't bet on this being his one and only victory in the World Championship road race. There is a lot more to come from him yet.

 Australia had some success in the event with Canberra's own Michael Matthews winning the field sprint for the silver medal a mere three seconds behind the flying Slovakian. Matthew's placing is not without a dash of controversy though.

 Immediately after the race (never a good time to ask a professional cyclist what he really thinks) he suggested that he and veteran Simon Gerrans cancelled each other out to an extent as they sprinted against each other in the finale, Gerrans running into sixth place. It begs the question, why was there two leaders of the Australian team in the first place and, when the race was up for grabs, wasn't a decision made between themselves or by the Australian team director following behind for one of them to sacrifice themselves in an attempt to run Sagan down? It suggests to me that such a decision was too hard for the team management to stomach and rather than biting the bullet and picking a leader they tried to accommodate the ambitions of both men who found themselves at the sharp end of the race. It may have cost Michael Matthews the most prestigious cycling world title of all!

 Simon Gerrans has regularly forced me to eat my words over the last couple of years but surely even he should have realized that Australia's best chance of victory lay with the young gun Matthews and not his own aging legs. Then again, Simon never has been too keen to show his face at the front of the European peloton until the dying moments of a race, a trait that has not endeared him to everyone who follows the sport although it is merely a case of a cyclist racing to his own strengths. He may not have been able to respond to Sagan's attack last night in any case.

 He has had a wretched season, four major falls wiping out 2015 to an extent. I am surprised he went as well as he did considering his preparation.

 The priority of any world championship campaign should be victory. Anything less is really a case of the glass being half full and a lifetime of wondering what might have been. Perhaps in certain situations having dual leaders is an advantage but when a gap needs to be closed in the dying moments of the World Road Championship and you have strength in numbers then a sacrifice needs to be made.

 Things could have been worse I suppose. Belgium had three team leaders on the day for all the good it did them. Italy massed at the front and helped control the race but failed to get a finisher in the top ten. Holland tried hard to no avail and the Spaniards, usually a major force in this race, were seemingly missing in action.

 I have no insight into what was going on inside the Australian team and perhaps there are valid reasons for a situation where two leaders are protected but Michael Matthews did sound a little miffed after the race when recalling how events had played out. Who knows when he may get a chance to win another world title?

 Older champions can often not see when their day may be done. Competitive spirit and desire don't always align with declining physical traits as we get older. I'm sure Simon Gerrans still has some solid victories left in him but it's time to let the young tigers run for Australia at the World Championships.

 Of course it is all speculation. Sagan was far too good on the day and is a very appropriate champion. A committed chase may not have caught him anyway. I look forward to seeing him in the rainbow jersey in 2016.

 Have a nice night.

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