Week littered with cycling highlights on track and road

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    Tom Boonen just keeps getting better (Image courtesy Wikimedia)

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    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.

    Tim Renowden
    Tim Renowden

    Tim Renowden has been following professional cycling closely since Indurain won his first Tour. An ex-runner, now a club grade bike racer, Tim tweets about sport at @megabicicleta.

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    The Crowd Says (17)

    • April 10th 2012 @ 9:34am
      Justin Curran said | April 10th 2012 @ 9:34am | ! Report

      I was pumping for Thor the whole way, and he was looking good until an untimely fall resulted in curtains for him. Given Boonan’s outrageous form, it seems unlikely Thor could have gone with him anyway. Hopefully Gilbert can strike some form in the Ardennes classics.

    • April 10th 2012 @ 11:57am
      Bob said | April 10th 2012 @ 11:57am | ! Report

      I think Boonen’s win was the best by far. That was an exceptional ride to really put the icing on a wonderful career. It was a really ballsy ride that will intimidate his rivals for the next eleven months. With the Flanders win, Boonen has joined the greats. After Roubaix, he’s cemented his place.

      Next best would be Pendleton in the match sprint.

      • Columnist

        April 10th 2012 @ 12:23pm
        Tim Renowden said | April 10th 2012 @ 12:23pm | ! Report

        Pendleton is nowhere near my highlights list. Firstly, because she only won because her opponents kept getting relegated for very minor infractions, and secondly because I simply can’t abide her butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-her-mouth attitude.

        • Columnist

          April 10th 2012 @ 12:58pm
          Felix Lowe said | April 10th 2012 @ 12:58pm | ! Report

          Rules are rules, mind (ha, you can tell I’m a Brit!!). That said, you’re right about Pendleton’s demeanour… she certainly likes to play the victim card a little too much for my liking.

          • Columnist

            April 10th 2012 @ 1:13pm
            Tim Renowden said | April 10th 2012 @ 1:13pm | ! Report

            It’s the combination of “poor little innocent me” while verballing her rivals that gets to me.

            I spent a few years living in the UK and I can smell a patronising “you dreadful unsophisticated colonials” backhander a mile off. Pendleton dishes them out like a pro.

            I don’t like to see contests decided by the judges, unless there’s a clear interference/contact.

    • Columnist

      April 10th 2012 @ 12:17pm
      Felix Lowe said | April 10th 2012 @ 12:17pm | ! Report

      No mention of Chris Hoy’s astonishing move to win the men’s keirin final, breaking through the narrowest of gaps to come back from fifth place around the final bend? Even the Australian crowd in Melbourne were off their feet and applauding the Flying Scotsman!!

      • Columnist

        April 10th 2012 @ 12:23pm
        Tim Renowden said | April 10th 2012 @ 12:23pm | ! Report

        I confess I didn’t see it live, so perhaps my excitement was dimmed.

        Hoy is a machine.

        There were many other awesome races this week that I just didn’t have time to mention, too.

      • April 10th 2012 @ 6:15pm
        liquorbox_ said | April 10th 2012 @ 6:15pm | ! Report

        that was the best ride of the week and certainly a highlight.

        I think that Anna’s immense speed was also telling, she has the speed to beat every woman she competes agains, and in London I think she will win everything she competes in. Tactics make a difference, but her speed is something you cant buy

    • Columnist

      April 10th 2012 @ 12:28pm
      Tim Renowden said | April 10th 2012 @ 12:28pm | ! Report

      Ben Swift’s scratch race (and the charge for the finish from the South African) was another cracker.

    • April 10th 2012 @ 1:26pm
      Downisthenewup said | April 10th 2012 @ 1:26pm | ! Report

      1. Boonen
      2. Hoy Keiren win.
      3. Meares whole week.

    • April 10th 2012 @ 1:31pm
      Glen Maher said | April 10th 2012 @ 1:31pm | ! Report

      Boonen’s win is one for the ages. For the guy who can outsprint all the contenders to decide to go out from 50km and do it comfortably is astounding. The field was much weaker this year, with Cancellara injured and other contenders not in form, but i doubt anyone could have beat Boonen this week.

      I didn’t see much of the world championships, but Cameron Meyers win in the points race was thrilling viewing. It was that close in getting the lap, and he got the successful attack just in time. That kid has such a bright future, and it’s fantastic he’s on the greenedge squad. He is so versatile and it will be interesting to see where he targets his talents in the next few years.

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