Friday, March 11, 2016

It's Spring Classics time! (and also MARCH MADNESS College BB tourney!)

Here we's already the middle of March and the Spring Classics are already underway!

Two of them are already in the history books:

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (back on Feb 27th, won by Greg Van Avermaet of Team BMC), and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne (on Feb 28th, won by Jasper Stuyven of Trek-Segafredo). Stradi Bianchi(won by Fabian) isn't considered a "Classic" as it's only about a decade old...but it's quickly turning into a "Classic" based on the powerhouse field it boasts every year. And I mentioned it because, well...Fabian won...why not?

The "rest" of the official Spring Classics:

3/19 Milan San Remo, which is also the 1st "Monument" of the season. Degenkolb (last years winner) is still out due to his training crash (with a car) back in February. But there are plenty of other possible winners, chief among them is, wait-for-it...Fabian (of course!) Sagan and Matthews will also be in the mix, and I believe I recently read that Kristoff won't be there (I'll have to re-verify this tidbit).

3/27 Gent Wevelgem. Luca Paolini won last years edition. Typically a race for the sprinters...but it takes strong men to win this one. Last year saw winds that literally blew riders to the ground and/or off the road (oh favorite...WIND!) Edvald Boason Hagen was one such rider, who was blown into a bollard breaking his collar bone, and thus ending his classics campaign.

4/3 Tour of Flanders, the 2nd Monument! This race began in 1913, but this year is the 100th edition so it's just that much more special. There are six riders who have won it 3 times, and two of them will be racing it again this year: Boonen and guessed it....Cancellara! (GO FABIAN!!)

Of course, there are literally at last a dozen other potential likely winners and another dozen or more long-shots (and's a bike race...pretty much ANYTHING can happen). Both Boonen and Fabian will be HIGHLY marked and will find it very difficult to win...unless one of them can take a solo flyer escaping the chasers (aka Fabian) and pull off the solo win. It will certainly take a great ride by either of them to pull off a remarkable 4th win. I'll be quite happy if either of them are able to do it. Boonen is, after all, known as the "King of the Classics". He's certainly no slouch, that's for sure...and he does have "home field advantage" being a Belgian (where he is a SUPERSTAR). Fabian missed this race last years due to crash injuries (fractured vertebrae), and with this being his last year he will have nothing to lose going for it.I think he'll be EXTRA motivated!

4/10 Paris-Roubaix: the QUEEN of the classics, and the third Monument. A race so special that some of the roads (and I use the term "road" lightly) are only open the one day of the year. A race with so many wicked sectors of pave that mechanicals play a huge part in who DOESN'T win every year. Last year both Boonen and  Fabian were out, and Degenkolb took the honors. I am assuming that both Boonen and Fabian WILL be there this year, and also that Sagan (who is QUITE hungry for a win this season, let-alone a Monument) will also be on his "A" game. We've still got over 3 weeks till this one, but hopefully all the main players will still be healthy to contest this one. No matter who's not there, it will still (and always) be a race for the ages!

4/17 Amstel Gold:  the first of the Ardennes Classics. This one hasn't been around THAT long, only begun in 1966. But it has become a classic nonetheless and is a good one. Kwiatkowski (say THAT name fast 10 times!) won last years hard-fought edition by a bike-length in the final sprint. And again, neither Boonen nor Fabian was there. They both will have something to say this year, however with the current FANTASTIC crop of young classics riders in the peleton, they really have their work cut out for them in a BIG way!

4/20 La Fleche Wallone, the second of the Ardennes Classics (and just 3 days after Amstel Gold). Last year it was Valverde taking top honors, ahead of the presumed strong-men/sprinters (the repeat climbs of the Mur de Huy along with all the other short but steep climbs typically drop out the pure sprinters). I'd think someone like Sagan will really be targeting this race. A sprinter who can climb has a good shot here. Valverde was a surprise to me, but he is a crafty veteran who knows his limits and when to time a move.

And finally, on 4/24 we have Liege-Bastogne-Liege. This is another OLD race (begun in 1892), and it's also the final Ardennes Classic, and is also THE final Spring Classic of the year (boo hoo). It's also the 4th of the 5 Monuments. Valverde won this one last year riding well after winning Fleche Wallone 4 days earlier. This is a race where Grand Tour winners have a chance, as experience and all-around talent go a long ways. The finish isn't listed as being at the end of a climb, but the end does come at the end of a long gradual rise. After all the other climbs on the out and back route, a strong climber has a good shot here. Being a Monument AND the last of the years Classics, everybody wants to win here.

I'm only sad that I'll likely see exactly ZERO of these races this year (same as last year, and the year before...and the year get the picture). And OH how I WISH WISH WISH upon a falling star that there was TDF type television coverage of these races...wouldn't THAT be something? Alas, I can only dream. And sitting down at my computer to watch them on a weekend...well, that's just not going to happen. Even the Tour stages I typically watch later in the evening off the DVR...can't imagine NOT having that!

And real races this weekend (there are races of course, but none of the big ones...just the ones with names I've never really heard of and would never remember). I'm hoping Boonen and Cancellara stay healthy this year and are both hot in the mix along with the young wippersnappers. And it's no secret that I'm hoping Spartacus has his best Classics season EVER...this being his last. Losing Jens and now Fabian? I'll be LOST! Who on earth will I ever root for? I'll have to slowly start working on liking some of the up-and-comers.

Nah...that can wait till next year.

And HEY! Not that I'm a basketball fan, but it IS March Madness time! Although I do really like College football, I LOVE the fact that theoretically ANY college basketball team in the country has a shot at winning the National Title! I can't think of any other major College sport where that is true. It's certainly not in football. That game is still rigged for the big schools with big budgets. So as always I hope to catch some BB when I it seems EVERY game in "The Dance" (the 64 team tournament) is a good one. And as always, I'll be rooting for the under-dogs to take out the top-dogs. That's just my way. I LOVE a Cinderalla Story!

And so...GAME so many ways!


PS: in full disclosure, I got most of my info on the Classics from Velo News and/or Cycling News...just want to be sure to give credit where credit is due..those are 2 fantastic sites of cycling information!

And as of today (Happy St. Pattys day everybody!) the DANCE brackets are complete..64 teams all with a shot at the National Championship!

I've filled out my bracket, though I have far less than a snowball's chance in hell at getting it right...(technically I blew it yesterday already when Holy Cross beat Southern....but IMO that doesn't count cuz they kind of added 4 teams for a pre-tourney tourney. So Holy Cross goes on to play #1 Oregon...good luck there (you're doomed). The other crazy matchups are #1 Kansas plays #16 Austin Peay, #1 NC plays 16 FGCU (who was another one of the "First Four"), and the last #1 seed Virginia plays #16 Hampton. I'd LOVE it if one of these 16 seed teams could knock off a #1...but so far it's never happened (but you know what they say...there's always a first time for everything!) Also longshots are all the #15 seeds play all the #2 seeds (there have been those upsets before), and the #14's play the #3's, #13's play #4's, and on and on. Any way you look at it tho, it's sudden death play...lose 1 and you're done. So as of right now, ANY one of those 64 teams has a chance.



  1. First thing: I did pretty good in the first round of my NCAA College Basketball Tournament bracket...I picked 12 of the 16 games played (the first half of the first round) the last 2 days! (pure luck btw, as I really know nothing of basketball). Today are the next 16 games...we'll see how I do.

    And TOMORROW is Milan San Remo! GO SPARTACUS!!!! I'm really REALLY hoping Fabian can pull this out...he is in great form, and is as wiley a veteran as there is in this game! Of course, it would have to be a raw display of power as he will be quite heavily marked...and IF it comes down to any sprinters left in the final group he won't beat he needs to get away from the lead group. Got my fingers crossed for you...knock it out of the park!

  2. Crazy finish in MSR this weekend! FDJ rider Demare crashed at 30k out, and not only rejoined the peleton but won in a sprint finish! There have been a few riders coming forward claiming he took a "tow" from the FDJ team car over the Cipressa climb, but he has posted his STRAVA data to silence the critics. He did however win the KOM (fastest climb of all) over that climb ever recorded thus far on Strava. Doesn't really silence the critics IMO. IS the the fastest climber EVER on that climb, on his own? He claims he had a Commissare's car with him after the crash, but the racers who are claiming he towed past them on the climb at double their speed said that wasn't so. We have yet to hear from the Commissare who Demare said was with him...that would shut up the critics.

    There was a short video on Velo News yesterday showing a crash just before the finish where both Cancellara and Sagan showed some AMAZING bike-handling skills as the crash was RIGHT in front of them. Their juking moves did slow them down at a critical time though and neither was in for the sprint...but they didn't go down. Sagan actually went sideways briefly and pulled right out of it to try to catch the disappearing front end.

    And as to the NCAA Basketball tourney...hey Susie! Your turtles are still in it, going to THE SWEET 16!!! Sadly they now play #1 ranked Kansas. I'm rooting for them tho, LOVE to see them pull it out! Not to many big upsets thus of the biggest was probably #7 Wisconsin beating #2 Xavier.

    As to who I'm rooting for to win it all, I have to say I'm gunning for 11th ranked Gonzaga to pull it off! They already took out #6 Seton Hall in their first game (probably the other biggest upset)...and then they took out #3 ranked Utah in their 2nd game (OK..I was wrong...THAT is the biggest upset thus far...way to go GONZAGA!!!)

    Never really been a big BB fan, but I do like March Madness. Oh...I'm also rooting for Duke...I've always liked their coaching and team. Sadly they play #1 ranked Oregon next...that would be a huge upset too...but I'm rooting for them. I'd also like to see UVA (Virginia) to go far in the tourney...into the final 4 would be awesome!