Blazin' Saddles

Cobbled kryptonite

Blazin' Saddles

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With it being spring classics season, Saddles obviously only has one person to talk about - and a third Spartacus-themed blog in succession will look at Fabian Cancellara's self-proclaimed Superman status ahead of defending his Paris-Roubaix crown on Sunday.

"It looks like on paper I will win Paris-Roubaix," a modest Cancellara said this week. About his third-place in the Tour of Flanders, the Leopard Trek maestro bigged up his near-flawless performance: ''I am not frustrated. I am not disappointed. I have done an amazing race. I don't see any mistakes. I was targeted by 95 per cent of the bunch. That still makes me happy to finish in third.''

To be fair to Fab, Nick Nuyens' surprise win last Sunday saw Switzerland's answer to Clark Kent play down his comic book cult, claiming: "Superman wasn't super strong. Superman had a weak point. I had kryptonite somewhere."

Unlike his caped alter ego, cycling superman's ultimate weakness was not a green radioactive ore from the planet Krypton - instead it was something more prosaic: cramps and a lack of fluids.

"I did the maximum that was possible. Okay, I had these cramps. People saw me as human and not as Superman or someone who comes from the moon," he said, also rubbishing claims that he was the inspiration for the second single from REM's acclaimed Automatic for the People album.

Doesn't sound so immortally impressive though, does it? Can you imagine the real Superman asking the power-mad, evil scientist Lex Luther for a time-out during a decisive tussle because of a sore appendage: "Hang on, Lex, give me five - my leg's seized up and I could murder a cola."

And yet while Cancellara must take the flack for losing a drinks bottle and not taking on enough replacement fluids, his plight was made no easier by mechanics from opposition teams, who allegedly refused to give Spartacus any water when his Leopard Trek team car was held up in traffic.

Talk about using all the devious tricks in the book - it seems that the rest of the cycling world are prepared to slay Spartacus by hook or by crook.

Opposition mechanics refusing to give Cancellara some of their fluids was a tactic brandished "scandalous" by Belgian classics legend Roger De Vlaeminck this week. In an intriguing interview with Gazzetta dello Sport, the man named monsieur Paris-Roubaix (he won it a record four times) expressed his admiration for Cancellara, a rider who "attacks and races with panache".

De Vlaeminck also saved some choice words for compatriot Tom Boonen, stressing that if the Quick Step powerhouse was "the God of Belgian cycling, then I'm the devil". The angelic old-timer also called himself, bizarrely, a "bandit" before labelling Filippo Pozzato "too good looking to be a rider" - indirectly explaining just why Blazin' Saddles is rarely seen on a bike.

In Belgium, you're either a fan of Boonen or Philippe Gilbert, the gregarious quotesmith De Vlaeminck explained before stressing he was a supporter of the latter as opposed to the three-time Paris-Roubaix winner.

Of the man who wore a shiny gold suit to his own wedding, De Vlaeminck said: "I like Gilbert far more than I do Boonen. He's a nice guy, kind and not at all big-headed."

With Gilbert choosing again to pass Paris-Roubaix in anticipation of the upcoming races in the Ardennes, the focus looks set - yet again - to be on Boonen and Cancellara.

While Spartacus can compare himself to Superman, his rival Tornado Tom was content to compare his own toned chassis to that of a car ahead of the big race.

"There are some bruises in the bodywork but those should be fixed by Sunday," said Boonen after a couple of midweek spills.

And Saddles' prediction? Like last week's Ronde it's hard to look beyond the big favourites. Indeed, since 2005, the race has been dominated by both Quick Step or Bjarne Riis's CSC or Saxo.

But Nuyens proved that outsiders can win races as big as these spring classic blockbusters. There's a lot of talk in the Australian press about the prospects of Team Sky's Mat Hayman at Roubaix - especially since fellow Aussie Matt Goss's surprise win in last month's Milan-San Remo.

Three years ago Hayman won a bravery award in his native Australia after he saved a man caught in a rip off Mollymook on the New South Wales south coast. The little-known Mollymook is a gem of a beach - and seeing that BS visited it just a few weeks back, he has a little soft spot for Hayman.

Follow Blazin' Saddles and Paris-Roubaix on Twitter @saddleblaze

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