They may be veterans – the break included Bert Grabsch (37), Matt Hayman (35), Alexander Kolobnev (32) and Rast (33) – but with that comes a vast wealth of experience. Between them they must have over almost 70 years of racing wisdom, quite a reservoir of knowledge, and yes they may well have been tired after 185 and something kilometers of racing, but wasn’t that an odd, nervy finish?
Seeing Rast attack first I was convinced he was not going to win, a victory he heralded after as “big.” And it was, his biggest on home soil since he won the national championships for the second time in 2006 and his biggest for some time, just reward for a trusty domestique and a local boy at that.
A victory for a domestique is always sweet but it’s so much sweeter on home soil.
If the Swiss carry on like this we’ll have to redefine the terms of their neutrality, perhaps. But back to that finale. When you’re in a break like that, as I mentioned when Voeckler won in the Dauphine from an identical situation last week, the riders’ thoughts suddenly turn from survival to victory and the adrenalin starts to pop as riders worry about two things – how they can win and how they can lose.
Focus on the fear too much and you will have to be very lucky to get that win.
In this case though yesterday the break knew from a long way out that they would stay clear, so maybe that partly explained the nervousness of the finish. Indeed, there were still over 20km to go and the Eurosport commenter Magnus Backstedt was already musing over how the race would end. Rast attacked and got no more than 5 meters as Grabsch chased him down.
Rast knew he had to take on the sprinters in the pack early to get a jump, both literally and figuratively, on their natural speed.
Then Grabsch with 3km to go went and Rast chased him. Surely, I thought, those two are done. Kolobnev is a very cute performer in these kind of situations and looked the real threat, but Hayman was riding the smartest, sitting at the back and biding his time like the seasoned pro should.
But maybe ‘smart’ was actually ‘tired’?
And then Rast went again. And he stayed gone. Now, had any one of the others chased at that very second then the race would not have been won by the Swiss rider, or at least I very much doubt it. Yet he seized on the hesitation of Kolobnev and the indecisiveness of Hayman and bang, he was gone, shipping a few extra Swiss bucks into the rather threadbare looking pot that sits in the Radioshak-Leopard bus these days.
Was Kolobnev too tired to go? No, just too stubborn to toe Hayman along. There are riders who would have given it full gas to bring Rast back only to be beaten at the line by the man they dragged along, but that is not Kolobnev’s game. He’ll give up a win rather than be taken for a mug. And sometimes, if you listen to some rumors, he might even sell one.
With Rast gone there was nothing left but scraps left for the rest with Hayman taking the sprint for 2nd ahead of Kolobnev.
So a plucky and fortuitous win by the Swiss rider and about time that the Luxembourg-based team got something. It’s been a stinker really for everyone on their team this year, apart from their really big Swiss guy.
Any signs of a resurrection for Mr. A. Schleck? Hmm, not looking too good with the Tour just around the corner, and with Cancellara sitting it out as he aims for the Worlds it could be very slim pickings for the boys this July. They might even be wishing they’d hung onto Fugslsang.
Lee Rodgers leads a double life as a pro racer on the UCI race circuit with the Lapierre Asia Cycling Team, competing in the UCI Asia Tour as well as some European events and the likes of the Tour of Qatar and Oman, rubbing shoulders with the best the WorldTour has to offer, whilst keeping up a day job as a cycling journalist. The highlight of his cycling career so far was winning the Singapore National Champs – road race and ITT – as well as claiming the Green Jersey at the 2.1 Tour de Taiwan in 2012, and naturally, writing for PEZ. His writing appears in several magazines and websites and you can catch up with him regularly on his blog, http://crankpunk.com/