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Belgium nears worst Classics crisis since 1945

Alasdair Fotheringham
April 18, 2013, 11:18,
April 18, 2013, 12:19
Second Edition Cycling News, Thursday, April 18, 2013
Liège - Bastogne - Liège
Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team) blew his chances on the final climb

Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team) blew his chances on the final climb

  • Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team) blew his chances on the final climb
  • Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma QuickStep) crashes out of the Tour of Flanders
  • Jurgen Roelandts leads the Lotto Belisol squad down the Arenberg trench

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No wins in Classics or semi-Classics for host nation

Belgium is one race away from having its worst Classics season since 1945, with no Classic or semi-Classic wins for the host nation of most of the spring’s top one-day races.

Belgium did not win any of the top seven Classics in either 2007 or 1997, but it won at least one semi-Classic. In 2007, Tom Boonen took E3 Harelbeke and Dwars Door Vlaanderen, whilst in 1997, Hendrik Van Dijk won E3, Johan Museeuw won Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne and Peter Van Petegem took Het Volk. This year, though, with the honourable exception of the GP Pino Cerami taken by Jonas Van Genechten (Lotto-Bellisol), Belgium is heading towards its biggest dearth of top results since World War II.

“For the Belgians this spring is heading slowly towards disaster,” Belgian newspaper La Derniere Heure solemnly warned in its sports editorial on Thursday. And indeed, only a Belgian victory in Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday can now end an unheralded run of poor results for the local riders.

Brabantse Pijl, curiously enough, is the race which has often ‘saved the day’ for the Belgians in terms of local victories. From 1967 to 1984, the one-day hilly Classic had an unbroken run of local winners, from Paris-Roubaix winner Roger Rosiers to Ronny Van Holen. Adrie Van Der Poel then broke the Belgians’ near 20-year stranglehold on the Brabantse Pijl in 1985.

This year, however, a combination of factors has made it far tougher for the home nation. Tom Boonen’s crash in the Tour of Flanders was one, given his run of four successive wins from E-3 to Paris-Roubaix last year. The rise of Peter Sagan (Cannondale) is another, and the return of Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack) to top condition has had a major knock-on effect. So too has Philippe Gilbert’s string of near-misses in the Ardennes Classics, a series he dominated in 2011 as strongly as Boonen did the cobbled Classics of 2012.

Spain’s increasing Classics success, with Dani Moreno’s win the fourth for Spain in the Fleche Wallone since Igor Astarloa broke that country’s ‘duck’ in the Ardennes Classics in 2003, is also clear, while riders from other nations like Great Britain, the USA, the Czech Republic and Colombia are also making their presence known.

Belgian can perhaps take some sort of consolation from the fact that they are not the only nation with a huge Classics tradition fallen on hard times in recent years. Italy has not had a win in a major Monument since Damiano Cunego claimed the Tour of Lombardy in 2008.

bikerbruce More than 1 year ago
"Crisis"..."disaster"? ...yeah, life as we know it is about to end.
Pignone Fisso More than 1 year ago
Gilbert will deliver at L-B-L.
Mondrian More than 1 year ago
No mention of up and coming talent with near misses such as Jürgen Roelandts?
no crostis, no party More than 1 year ago
Last couple winters, a lot of people were complaining, or worried, that Belgian dominance of cross was hurting/would hurt 'veldrijden'. Maybe Belgium not winning a classic/semi classic is good for the sport overall, getting some new blood onto the road scene.
sublimit More than 1 year ago
Its all about the wins! Vanmarke rode well to be fair at PR so all is not lost
velogeek More than 1 year ago
So did Stybar, which speaks to crostis' point.
devlin More than 1 year ago
Van Avermaet anyone? Most consistent rider of the Spring for sure. Not winning but surely worth cheeing for.
Maiken Hesjedal More than 1 year ago
Hah? I must be sad.