Mikel Landa joins the pathetic symphony of Itzulia | Cycling | Sports

Romain Grégoire, in the center, wins in Amorebieta.Tim de Waele (Getty Images)

A banal skid on a killer curve. A concrete drainage channel. Four huge stones that close the entrance to a rural road. A meadow that becomes the scene of a battlefield. Warriors scattered. Wounded. Mourners. The photograph of a hecatomb. The best broken cyclists in the world. Vingegaard, Roglic, Evenepoel… A hecatomb. Nobody remembers anything like that. Thursday, April 4, in the descent at 70 per hour from the small port of Olaeta, a third, the day in which the fourth stage of the Itzulia changed the cycling season, almost history. and the fear that L’Equipe, On its cover, it illustrates with a large photo of Vingegaard fallen, motionless, on his left side in the grass while a doctor examines him.

The next day, Mikel Landa, fallen, injured, removed, stretcher, ambulance, extended the black narrative of the Basque race. Fifth stage, the peloton flies at an average of close to 50 per hour, and at the foot of the climb to Urkiola, kilometer 82, passing through Mañaria, in the Biscayan region of so many cyclists, the Gorospe, the Lejarreta, as if Humbly not wanting his destiny to be different, better, than that of his boss and friend Evenepoel, Landa falls on his roads along with three others, Pelayo, Serrano and Gelders. The four leave. He is the worst off. He breaks his collarbone. Before the start, in his Vitoria, he spoke about the fall the day before: “I knew the curve and I was able to save, the road took others away. A key point, a complicated descent, a climb was chained in a row and we wanted to be ahead.” Also, prophetically, he spoke of Friday’s stage, the one that ended in the ambulance: “It will be crazy. A crazy race. I have to try to do something this Itzulia, finish on the podium. Something can happen. Maybe not definitive, but something will happen.”

A pathetic symphony in the saddest Itzulia, that of the route that betrays its roots, with hardly any cycling interest, so dull, that of the victory in Amorebieta, another sprint, although this one, finally, with the class winner, the young Frenchman Romain Grégoire, 21 years old, arrived with punch in hill finishes. The Itzulia will be decided on Saturday at the arrival in Éibar, also betrayed by the traditional climb to Arrate, in what could be a duel reminiscent of the last Tour of Switzerland between the leader, the Dane Mattias Skjelmose, and the Spanish Juan Ayuso , third overall at only 4s. So little, except for events, has happened in this Itzulia, now without a skipper, that after five stages have been completed, one of them a time trial, the top 23 overall are within a one-minute range.

An ambulance was once again the protagonist of Itzulia. The apocalyptic scene of Olaeta’s relegation, on Friday, the injured in the hospitals, their plans disrupted, their dreams, their objectives, their morale, and the anxiety of the fans, is transformed into apocalyptic reflections, the end of the world as we know it is close, a cycle is over. Three of the four big favorites of the Tour, the major mass of cycling that begins in less than three months, are injured. Vingegaard, in a hospital in Vitoria, his wife Trine next to her, with a broken collarbone and several splintered ribs that have been stuck in her lungs, causing a pulmonary contusion and a pneumothorax. He has not yet made any decision about whether, when, how, where to have surgery. Evenepoel, with his clavicle and right shoulder blade broken, has already flown to the same Belgian hospital, Herentals, where he had surgery on the hip and femur that he fractured in Lombardy in the ferragosto 2020, and in which ten days ago Wout van Aert, another of the great cycling greats of the 21st century, underwent surgery for a fractured sternum. The two, the Danish winner of the last two Tours, and the Belgian who will make his debut with so many expectations, will get to compete in the big one. 40-45 days of recovery await them, say specialists. Before the Tour, the first week of June, they will try to compete in the Dauphiné Libéré. Evenepoel will, however, miss the Liège, the April 21 monument that he won the last two years. He regrets it, and the fans mourn him, deprived for another year of his duel with Tadej Pogacar, who fell last year.

“Cycling is no longer an endurance sport. Now it is a speed sport,” says Matej Mohoric, a Slovenian cyclist famous for the daredevil descent of the Poggio that San Remo gave him two years ago, in an interview.

Oh. The young, crazy, kamikazes, super-competitive, and deaf to the teachings of the old, pedaling bicycles that are a Formula 1 cucumber, perfectly designed, solid, safe, unbreakable carbon wheels, chains lubricated with graphene, friction reduced to the maximum , so aerodynamic that they allow cyclists to move 56-tooth chainrings with 11-sprocket crowns as if nothing had happened, and in no time they go to 60, 70 on the flat, and since they have disc brakes, so good, they just tighten them at the last moment.

“Ah, the young people,” he says in L’Equipe Marc Madiot, old-fashioned director. “They drive the bicycle looking at the screen that shows their watts, their heartbeats, their kilometers, like an Uber driver who doesn’t know the road drives a car, looking at the Waze screen instead of looking straight ahead.”

Only runners from important teams, the best, fell on Thursday. There were 40 kilometers left until the finish line and everyone wanted to be in front, everyone wanted to accelerate, everyone wanted to be first. The current cycling law. If one of the big guys, and three bodyguards with him, is not where he needs to be, the others attack madly. None can be missing. Van der Poel says so, the greatest symbol, the cyclist who personifies everything and last Sunday he won his third Tour of Flanders, rain, wind and mountains with pavés, fastest in history, at almost 45 on average, 270 kilometers. “If you want to win, you have to be where everyone wants to be at the crucial moments,” says the world champion at the press conference prior to Paris-Roubaix on Sunday. “I think the most dangerous element in cycling is the riders themselves. Everyone wants to be at the front in the same place and that is not possible. “A lot of things can be changed to improve, but it will never be completely safe.”

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