|Philbert Phinally Phinds his Phorm. Photo credit: Steephill.tv/sirotti incas you can't read it on the photo itself.|
It's over. The long drought suffered by current World World Champion Phillipe Gilbert has finally come to an end on todays Stage 12 of the Vuelta à España. He's been close before on a number of occasions but hasn't had the chops to get it done ...until today. On the fast and technical lead in to the line in Tarragona things got dicey and it looked like it could go a number of ways, but with under 1km to go Eddie Boassen Hagen dug deep and took a flyer that neutralized the sprinters plans and nearly held the lead to the line. I say nearly because the Champ put in a heroic pull to overtake the Norwegian to the line and claimed a victory that was arguably as important as the WC win itself.
There is a belief by many who follow the pro peloton that the beautiful rainbow stripes worn by reigning world champions harbor a curse that leads to nothing but bad things the following year. History is riddled with stories of riders whose seasons, careers and even lives have been turned upside down in the year following their wins. Stephen Roche developed chronic knee problems and team issues that started immediately afterward and his career was never the same. Legends Luc Leblanc and Freddy Maertens also had precipitous falls in career success that began within months of their wins. Paolo Bettini sadly lost his beloved brother Sauri in a traffic accident only 10 days after donning the stripes, but the worst stories belong to Stan Ockers, Jean Pierre Monseré and the great Tom Simpson who all tragically died in the year following their career crowning victories. The list goes on and on.
I don't know if I believe in the curse, or if Gilbert's one nice win in the third most important grand tour of the season means his version of it has been broken, but I'm happy that the Belgian has finally wrestled the monkey from the home that it had made on his back. Hopefully it leads to a return to form and performances closer to his magical season of 2011 than to the mostly forgettable editions in 2012 and 2013... prior to today at least.
Take a look at the fantastic finish of today's stage here.