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Inside Cycling with John Wilcockson: Why 2011 was the year of the underdog

  • By John Wilcockson
  • Published Oct. 25, 2011


6. EQUAL OPPORTUNITY

Much to Cancellara's dismay, Hushovd was a loyal teammate to Vansummeren at Roubaix. Photo: Graham Watson | www.grahamwatson.com

Seven seasons of racing as the right-hand man for more talented classics riders gave Vansummeren the experience he needed to win a race like Paris-Roubaix. But he would never have gotten that chance if he had remained with a Belgian squad and not moved to U.S.-based Garmin.

There’s a less hierarchical structure at American teams, especially Garmin, which has seen once-upon-a-time team workers like Christian Vande Velde and Ryder Hesjedal given their chance as leaders in the Tour de France. And that was the case with Vansummeren at this year’s Roubaix …

While reigning world champion Thor Hushovd was Garmin’s designated leader for the Hell of the North classic and he was on great form, the Norwegian went along with his new team’s equal-opportunity policy when Vansummeren remained in a breakaway that formed two hours earlier. Hushovd refused to help hot favorite Cancellara close a minimal half-minute deficit with 30km to go … and so the gap grew and Vansummeren had the experience to know when and where to make the winning move against the other three domestiques he was with.

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