A Serious Flanders Post on April First

Apr 1 2010

It’s not that I consider myself above the phenomenon best described as “Internet Jackass Day“—I used to participate, back when I wasn’t very good at Photoshop, apparently—but I am up against the friggin’ wall in terms of free time.

I’m going to ignore the impact a two-weeks-on, two-weeks-off approach is having on my fitness and focus instead on the fact that for many year-round cycling fans, this is the most important week (or kinda two weeks, now) of the season.

Given my relative lack of productivity, what you should have been reading was Chris from Podium Cafe, who is actually in Flanders, doing a fine job with the set of press credentials he procured prior to his arrival.

I can’t link to all his reports—because SB Nation apparently doesn’t support categories(?!)—but their internal search is solid and “dateline” seems to precede all the Belgian posts. He’s also got a modestly-stocked Flickr account but has applied a license that will prevent you from doing anything awesome with the photos without breaking the law.

Anyway, today is the last day of fiddling around before the meat of the cobbled classics season—Flanders and Roubaix. Tyler Farrar has taken a stage at DaPanne, but success at the event doesn’t necessarily into a great Flanders or Roubaix. Yes, Ballan doubled up in ’07, but neither George Hincapie nor Stijn Devolder were able to do much after their DaPanne wins in ’04 and ’05, respectively.

While I’d be psyched to see any American energize the fair-weather crowd with a win in the one-days, Farrar tellingly tried and failed to make a bridge to the winning move around 40k to go on Sunday. It reveals that the Garmin rider has a great nose for racing, but also that he might not have it yet on the steep stuff.

After watching three riders pop out of the elite move during his pulls on a false flat on Sunday, I think George Hincapie is still the best American classics hope. However, his poorly-thought-out-if-well-intentioned strategy in the Wevelgem finale indicates that if he’s going to win, he’ll probably have to do it alone.

That said, you’d be nuts to have anyone but Tom Boonen down as a favorite for Sunday. Say what you will about his string of second-places, his under-performing teammates, or whatever this is all about—Boonen’s attacks in Het Nieuwsblad and E3 Prijs showed that he’s on a different level than the rest of the field this spring. On a course like Flanders, Boonen won’t have to make the selection early and hand his rivals the final 40km of flat roads in which to plot against him.

Instead, with climb after climb peppering the business end of the race, Boonen will probably power an elite group off early—on the Taaienberg at 60km to go, if the season to date is any indication—and then make a decisive solo attack whenever he feels strong enough to go full gas the remaining distance. I feel like a rapidly thinning group of rivals only makes this outcome more likely.

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