I was listening to The Move, Lance’s podcast, when he began talking about sprinters, the speed of Gaviria and in the process, completely writing off LottoNL-Jumbo’s Dylan Groenewegen as any sort of stage contender for this year. I thought to myself, “Dude, what are you talking about? Groenewegen won the Champs-Élysées last year and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne this spring!” It’s interesting, that podcast, as it’s his charming side on display, with terrific insights such as falling behind on accumulated hydration as a major concern for GC contenders, but it’s clear that Lance doesn’t do much pre-show research. His Ed McMahon asks the “common man” questions which is great for the newcomers to cycling, but I find that there’s a missing element. What is certain is the Lance has a Howard Stern-like ability to hawk product on-air and keep the audience listening in the process. That ability made Howard’s fortune and will serve Lance in good stead as well.
In doing some research (ahem) on Groenewegen I found out something that opened a floodgate of memories for me: The Dutchman comes from an old Amsterdam cycling family, and his grandfather was a frame builder named Ko Zieleman. When I was a teenager in the early 1970’s, Dutch bikes were the cool ones. Presto, RIH, Zieleman, Harry Hartman (AKA The Harry Hard On), these were the no-nonsense bikes that represented the polar opposite of the beautiful and oh so refined Italian machines, more farm tool than objet d’art. They were roughly finished – Zieleman the roughest of all, but strong, straight and lively.
My friend Tim Maloney (a cyclingnews founder and former editor) had one, and I used to leave my home in Bucks County, Pa, as a 16-year old, with, obviously, no cell phone, maybe five bucks in my pocket, on tubulars with a spare that might hold air – or not – and meet him 50-miles from home in Central Jersey, where we’d continue on to his place on the Northern Jersey shore, 100+ miles in all. I’d ride home a day or two later. It was a marvelous way to spend one’s teenage years, and I’m so sorry that our GPS-tracked, over-scheduled and pressurized kids of today will never experience that wonderful sense of freedom and adventure.
What’s becoming clear is that the old generation of sprinters is rapidly fading out. Cavendish is clearly afraid now, and missing speed in the process. Degenkolb ditto, and Sagan’s vicious slam of the German into the barricades (“just dare to DQ me after last year!”) on the stage into Quimper – think it was that one – has given Degenkolb a case of the willies. As I pointed out in my first blog post, there are a lot of problems surrounding Kittel (cyclingnews has a most interesting article about him today) and Greipel, although still performing, is up and down. We’ll see today, which is surely to be another sprinter’s playground, but if any of the aforementioned want to salvage their Tour and career’s in the process, today is one of their last chances to do so.
John Eustice, is the organizer of the Thompson Bucks County Classic in Doylestown, Pennsylvania and a long-time cycling analyst who has contributed to ESPN, ABC Sports, Time Magazine, and CNN among others. The Bucks County native resides in New York City. He was a pioneer on the European racing circuit and is a two-time United States Professional Champion.