It’s that time of year again when the cycling elite pit their wits not only against the elements and each other, but the truly legendary cobbled route that is the ‘Tour of Flanders’. This is Northern European racing at its gritty best and not for the faint hearted.
Traditionally taking place the week before Paris-Roubaix, this cobbled classic is a fans dream throwing everything at the riders, from steep cobbled climbs, fast descents and tight, sharp twists and turns. The 94th race at 261.9km this year won’t be the longest race in the world (easy for me to say), but the organisers have made some of the most significant tweaks to its course in years and one of the most notable changes is the Molenberg climb, which replaces the Eikenmolen after 217km.
Last years winner – Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) will be looking to make it three in a row this year, but it’s doubtful he’ll get the same leeway as last year to attack and all eyes will be on him to react to any movement. This might mean that Boonen could slip under the radar and get a break away, but with his pedigree on the cobbles, this looks doubtful. Former Tour of Flanders winner Alessandro Ballan and team mate George Hincapie will be expected to do well this year after they joined the impressive looking BMC Racing Team and a whole raft of serious contenders have emerged to make this a prediction nightmare, especially with the home grown Belgian contingency of Nick Nuyens (Rabobank), Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil) and Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) all wanting to impress.
We’ll be studying the form book and sticking a finger in the page with one eye closed as usual to bring you our predictions on Thursday. One thing is for sure however, this will be an absolute cracker with riders keeping one eye on Paris-Roubaix, the ever approaching Tour de France in July and hopefully the road in front!
Cervelo Test Team Documentary on 2009 Tour Of Flanders.
Fifth episode in a series charting the development of Cervélo TestTeam and their first season in the professional cycling world.