Team Ineos are bad at cobbled classics because Team Ineos aren’t Belgian

Dig out your thermal base layers and your SealSkinz gloves, winter is sorta, kinda, almost over and the Spring Classics are underway. They race in Australia, they race in the Middle East, but the road racing season only really starts with the Omloop and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne (even if they’re not technically top-ranked events).

We know what to expect here. It is fairly predictable.

When it comes to the cobbled classics, the main difference between men’s and women’s races is whether half the top ten is Belgian or half the top ten is Dutch.

This is obviously not a huge difference because as I’ve observed on this website before, the Dutch can be pretty damn Belgian

On Saturday, half of the top ten in the men’s Omloop were Belgian. One of them, Jasper Stuyven, won the race, with another, Yves Lampaert, second.

In contrast, world champion Annemiek van Vleuten won the women’s race with Italian rider Marta Bastianelli looking decidedly out of place in second ahead of three more Dutchies.

For their part, Team Ineos were almost exactly as unsuccessful as they are successful in the Grand Tours. Only three of their riders finished the Omloop and then the next day Gianni Moscon was disqualified from Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne for throwing a bike at someone because he was in a ditch and in a bad mood.

In a somewhat bizarrely worded response to this, former pro cyclist and now boxer, Zico Waeytens, tweeted: “If you ever throw a bike again to a friend, I will put you between your frame and it will take me exactly 6sec.”

I am very much taken with two elements of Waeytens’ message: firstly, the threat to put a person ‘between your frame’, and secondly the very specific timeframe for carrying out that threat.

Moscon is kind of a tit. In 2017 he was suspended from racing for six weeks for racially abusing the FDJ rider Kevin Reza. He was then accused of deliberately causing Reza’s team mate, Sebastien Reichenbach, to crash later in the year. The Swiss rider reckoned it was retribution for calling Moscon a big old racist.

A year later, the Italian got slat out of the Tour de France for backhanding another rider inside the first kilometre of stage 15. 

So, to recap: bit of a tit.

Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne was won by Kasper Asgreen. Somewhat jarringly, Asgreen is Danish, but he does ride for Deceuninck-QuickStep, which is kind of like being an honorary Belgian.

As a general rule, if a race is taking place in Belgium and features cobbles, the Deceuninck-QuickStep team will provide as many favourites as the rest of the peloton combined.

What’s next?

This opening bout of cobbles was just a teaser really with the really big one-day races still a few weeks away.

This is what’s coming…

Saturday March 7: Strade Bianche, the one-day race on Italian gravel roads.

Sunday March 8 to Sunday March 15: Paris-Nice, which is part one-day classic warm-up and part Tour de France sighter but also a big stage race in its own right.

Wednesday March 11 to Tuesday March 17: Tirreno-Adriatico, which is essentially the Italian Paris-Nice, only the guys racing to win it are probably doing the Giro d’Italia later in the year rather than the Tour.

Saturday March 21: Milan-Sanremo, the first one-day Monument of the year.

The three weekends after that are then all cobbled races of escalating seriousness: Gent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

Addendum

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