What do we count as the biggest sporting day in Australia? Is it the AFL grand final? Maybe the NRL grand final? What about Melbourne Cup?
Two years ago when the rich and shiny Luxembourg based Leopard-Trek Cycling Team came onto the world scene, Fabian Cancellara, the Schleck brothers and a few other World Class Hitters from the temporarily shrivelled Team CSC excited the cycling world.
When Bjarne Riis got one back on all those who kindly left him behind in the 2011 Ronde Van Vlaanderen, I was delightfully surprised.
Nick Nuyens, who probably started the day with odds at about 99-1, latched onto a powerful attack by Fabian Cancellara with 4km to go and swiftly opened up his Oxford Standard to the pages of ‘cunning’, ‘crafty’, ‘patient’, and ‘balls of steel’, then he decided what tactics he should use.
The remainder of the riders in the group had formed through several explosions and implosions of a larger group on the penultimate climb of the day – Muur Du Gramont.
This group caught Fabian Cancellara and Sylvain Chavanel half way up the Muur after they had been off the front for a long time, and Fabian Cancellara decided he was a little bit bored.
Without relinquishing the front of the race to anybody (even though a large group had just caught him half way up the Muur after 250km of racing), he counter-attacked himself and created a selection of five guys over the top.
Chavanel, Gilbert, Ballan, Cancellara and Leukemans were then joined by about five others to form ‘the goods’, ‘the ball-sack’, ‘the essential ingredients within the recipe of How To Win The Tour Of Flanders’ to make a group of 10.
This group then attacked themselves senseless before the ever-calculus Fabian Cancellara unleased what seemed to be a four million watt explosion and dragged Chavanel and Nuyens away with him.
With the previously most-aggressive Gilbert having missed out, as well as all the other ‘King’s Men’, it turned into a three versus seven-man Teams Pursuit.
Tom Boonen hit out with about 500m to go with a gallant effort to come from behind and rejoin the leaders, but Cancellara’s love affair with lactic acid was too much as he started his lead-out (for himself) very early.
Nick Nuyens was the one who had reserved the most energy in the final 4kms and it was he who grabbed victory in the 2011 edition of the Ronde Van Vlaandaren, just etching out the apparently boxed in Sylvain Chavanel.
The top 10 riders of the 2011 edition of De Ronde will go down in history, as it usually does, as one of the most dynamic and pragmatic of late generations.
Meanwhile, here is a teaser for next Sunday: