"A man for the Classics" the phrase goes - and they all say it, or write it - Phil, Paul, Sean, Andrew, cycling journalist of every accent and ilk. But the question eventually rises to the surface, just like the Cancellara cream last Sunday in Flanders - to be a MAN for the Classics don't you have to win one of the bloody battles? Better yet a couple of them?
Fabian was fabulous in Flanders on Sunday - period - full stop. His victory was storybook. The kind of win freckle-faced Flanderian kids lie awake at night an dream of - attack on the Muur and solo to the line. He said, "The way I won, for me, it's quite special." and, "When I get old and I can say to the young riders: 'I won the Tour of Flanders alone and I attacked on the Muur,' it's a perfect scenario – the gladiator won the battle." Attack on the Muur, solo to the line - it's the final pitch grand slammer over the green monster at Fenway in the world series, the buzzer beating trifecta in the NCAA national championship - it was why they made the movie Breaking Away. As Fabian said, "it was one of those days your legs feel 100%, so in your head you feel even stronger."
And a Man for the Classics has to be smart - there is no tomorrow - no opportunity to get a few minutes back on GC - Fabian knows that, Classics are two-handed surgical wins, a tactical scalpel in one hand, a laser-knife conviction of confidence in the other; Fabian wheeled them both: “If I could have stayed with him, then I think I could have beaten him in the sprint, and I think he must have known that,” Boonen said. “He was never planning on going to the finish with me. The only place where he could attack me is where he attacked me, and he put me into difficulty.”
Georgey Porgy -
“I’m disappointed,” he said. “I had good legs on the Molenberg and I hesitated when Fabian and Tom went. That was a big mistake, and from then on everyone in the chase was watching each other. I got a little caught behind the breakaway guys we were catching on Molenberg, and that was a big mistake. I really think I could have gone there, but it’s Flanders, and you have to be 100 percent focused at all times. It’s really unfortunate, I think I could have gone with them. I had really good legs today.” from VeloNews.
In an article over on CyclingNews entitled "Hincapie regrets missing Cancellara and Boonen attack", George did some whining. It's like 6:30 Am, I've been up since 5 watching this, with a cuppa tea and dose of hope, watching to see if George can finally make his fate. Then it happens, the camera angle is perfect, staring into the face of the contenders, the cobbles are dry, all the "Men for the Classics" are there, Cancellara strikes up the right, Boonen negotiates wheels and accelerates through the leftside and they are gone, up and over the Molenberg - GEORGE WHERE ARE YOU????????
George resigned himself to sit-in and hang for the final sprint for fifth place. He finished sixth, behind fellow American Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions), first time Flanders rider Tyler Farrar (hang on folks, Farrar wins Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen this kid could be a Man for the Classics).
This is crazy, George Hincapie has placed 10 times in the top 10 of Flanders, six times in the top 10 at Paris-Roubaix, not to mention a host of other spring northern Classics, so, the power is there, the opportunity is there, the experience is there, so what isn't there?! What is it you don't get? Maybe we have all been drinking the American-cycling-media cool-aid. Or maybe our perspective a bit too distant from this side of the Atlantic. As the broadcaster on Eurosport online offered during the race, somewhere around 35kms to go and George still looking for someone else to take up the chase - "...is he really a man for the Classics? Or is this just American marketing?"
All I know for certain is there were definitely two men for the Classics Sunday - they took matters and the race into their own hands, Boonen was brilliant, but Fabian was Fabulous. Three down and two to go - Liege and Lombardia - watch Cancellara reinvent himself.