WorldTour Wrap: who needs kidneys, anyway?
Philippe Gilbert and Sonny Colbrelli victorious in the Ardennes
They're weird aren't they, the Classics? It’s possible to lose one based on something so innocuous as the placement of a waterproof coat upon a metal crowd barrier, and at the same time, Phil Gilbert can win one with a torn kidney.
That’s right, a torn kidney.
You don’t need me to remind you that a kidney is typically found on the inside of one’s body and as such it takes quite some doing to tear one. And yet, tear one Big Phil did – in a crash early on in this year’s Amstel Gold Race – before going on to win the whole darn shooting match, a scant 130km later down the road.
I’m no doctor, but I reckon kidneys are quite important for winning bike races. Sure, they’re not top-tier bike racing organs like your lungs or heart, but they’re definitely a vital member of the lineup.
They’re the unseen domestique on the team, the ones doing loads and loads of grimly boring work on the front of the peloton to reel in a break that’s half an hour up the road, all so their sprinter can have a pop at the finish. If your lungs are Peter Sagan, then your kidneys are Shane Archbold and Jan Barta.
Speaking after winning the race in a beautifully-timed one-on-one sprint against Michal Kwiatkowski, Gilbert explained he had felt something smarting when he’d initially come off his bike in the crash.
"When I crashed, I felt pain, but once I remounted and continued the race things became better and better and the pain disappeared. Unfortunately, after the finish, the lower back pain returned, so together with the team doctor I decided to go to the hospital for a check-up. Fortunately, it's nothing serious, and if everything goes well, in a week I will start training again."
So yeah, nothing serious. If you tear your kidney, no biggie. It’s just like stubbing a toe. Except I cry actual tears from my face when I stub my toe.
What then does Phil Gil consider a ‘serious’ ailment? Explosion of the trachea? Prolapse of the frontal lobe via the nostril? Total eclipse of the heart?
In the face of such throbbing machismo it was a wonder Michal Kwiatkowski managed to stick with Gilbert at all – never mind launch a searing attack right before the finish line. It was perhaps a little ill-timed though from the Team Sky man, leaving Gilbert enough time to recover, catch, then overhaul the Pole for the eventual, definitive, record-breaking fourth win at the Amstel Gold Race.
Michael Albasini won the sprint for third from a group including some other seriously heavy hitters, which means, with his annual outing out of the way, we can expect not to see the Swiss again this season until he springs up driving the bunch along at a Grand Tour in the service of one or more Yateses.
NOTE: We are hearing reports that Gilbert’s body has now succumbed to the rules of modern medicine and he will take no further part in the Ardennes Classics.
Breakaway bollocking brings Bahrain’s boy big boons at Brabantse*
Brabantse Pijl is a very fun bike race to try and pronounce, as well as being a bit of an overlooked gem in terms of entertainment value for the spectator. For Sonny Colbrelli it turned out also to be a very happy hunting ground – the Italian continuing his excellent season by taking the top spot here last Wednesday.
Colbrelli was not just the fastest sprinter on paper by quite some distance in the break, he was also the only rider to have a teammate with him to share the work. It was he and Grega Bole who counter-attacked to force the winning break, after the day’s first escape was caught with 40km to ride.
Unsurprisingly, there was some reticence from companions Dries Devenyns (Quick-Step Floors) Bert-Jan Lindeman (LottoNl-Jumbo) and Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal) about working with Colbrelli and Bole, with the men in the golden helmets left to do most of the pacemaking.
Eventually Colbrelli tired of this and – being about as far from a shrinking violet as Oleg Tinkov is from being a classy and compassionate human being – the Italian delivered a sound dressing down to those with him in the breakaway.
Amazingly, this seemed to have the desired effect, with the other riders starting to take turns in pulling on the front.
This sort of cooperation with a clear favourite flies in the face of all known racing tactics and effectively paved the way for Colbrelli’s relatively easy sprint win.
Even the arrival of defending champ Peter Vakoc and Benoot’s teammate Tim Wellens, after bridging over to the front group, could do nothing to prevent him crossing the line with more than a bike length to spare.
*Do they give Pulitzers for subheadings?