What was the highlight of the week in cycling? Between the track world championships in Melbourne and Tom Boonen’s spectacular victory at Paris-Roubaix, it’s difficult to pick a single moment, such was the quality of racing we’ve seen.
In Melbourne, the ongoing rivalry between the British and Australian track cycling squads built up even further, while the French and Germans popped up to remind the Anglophones not to get cocky.
While finishing on top of the final medal tally is a great result, the sand in the oyster for the Australian squad is that the British team had the better of the events that feature in the Olympics.
For my money, Anna Meares was the outstanding athlete of the week. Meares is a non-stop highlight reel on fast-forward. Her relentless desire to win, overcoming early disappointments in the team and individual sprints to finish with two gold medals (Keirin and 500m time trial) and two world records, was inspirational.
Cameron Meyer’s astonishing ride to win the points race, taking a lap off the field in the nick of time, despite being heavily marked, was enough to get GreenEDGE fans salivating. The guy is so talented it’s almost scary. Another contender for highlight of the week.
Now, I was lucky enough to be in the velodrome to watch the men’s teams pursuit final, a pulsating battle between Australia and eventual winners Great Britain. Both teams went under the previous world record. Only one of them could win. It was epic (even if I was forced to listen to God Save The Queen).
The team sprints were also compelling viewing: the Australian women’s team was beaten by a seemingly shocked German pair who also broke the world record (twice).
The Australian men won their gold medal by the closest possible margin: finishing a mere one-thousandth of a second ahead of France. This event will be incredibly closely fought between Australia, France, Germany and Great Britain at the Olympics.
Glenn O’Shea’s victory in the omnium was also immensely promising, as was the Hepburn-Bobridge double act in the individual pursuit. It’s a crying shame that the IP is no longer an Olympic event.
Now, onto the road.
In last week’s column I asked, “Can anyone beat Boonen at Paris-Roubaix?” and went on to waste 500 words discussing the potential challengers to the Belgian. In hindsight, I could have just written “No” and put my feet up, such was the dominance of his victory.
Although it made for something of a one-dimensional race, there was joy in the knowledge that we were witnessing one of the great classics performances of the decade as Boonen simply destroyed his rivals over the pave.
Surely Boonen is getting sick of winning?
The good news for everyone who isn’t Tom Boonen is that next Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race, the first of the so-called Ardennes Classics, is a very different race to Paris-Roubaix: hillier, and without the vicious cobbled sections.
After this week’s endless series of highlights, it may be a little easier to choose a best moment next week.