Thursday, January 17, 2013

Belgian Succession

It is hard to believe, but Tom Boonen is aging. The Belgian boy wonder from east and north of Antwerp is already 32 years old, he may be at the peak of his prowess but he's ridden for 11 seasons. Just like his former mentor and teammate Johan Museeuw - whose career overlapped with Boonen's in near-perfect synchronous sequence - Boonen has become a much more focused rider than he was in his younger days. The overlap between the aging Museeuw and then-surging Boonen spoiled us fans in more ways than we realized then. We never had to look for a Belgian hero of the cobbled classics, for a new Lion of Flanders.

Tom Boonen in 2012, from Creative Commons under license CC BY-SA 2.0,
photo taken by Angelo Giangregorio.

This natural succession also benefited Patrick Lefevere's QuickStep team, who always had a popular icon to stand behind. Even in Boonen's leanest years of 2010 and 2011, when he merely won  Gent-Wevelgem and merely reached the podium in both editions of de Ronde. As we know, cycling is a team sport, therefore having such icons as Museeuw and Boonen helped the team secure sponsorship which in turn enabled the retainment of a royal retinue, a merry band of Belgians and Italians whose job security and raison d'etre revolved around those few sacred weeks in April.

Who shall succeed Tom Boonen as the Belgian kaseinfretter?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Can Old Dogs Learn New Tricks?

Several retired pros have gone on to have illustrious careers as team coaches and directeurs sportif (DS). Raphael Geminiani comes to mind: as a rider he won the King of Mountains jerseys in the 1951 Tour de France and Giro d'Italia, yet he is perhaps best remembered as the DS and team manager of the mercurial Jacques Anquetil. Not only was he the DS who could manage the tempestuous Anquetil to incredible feats, he was a business innovator who side-stepped restrictions on team sponsorship.