Fabian Cancellara will attempt to muscle his way to another Flanders-Roubaix double this Sunday. It’s difficult to imagine who would possibly be stronger on the cobblestones.
Spartacus earned his Ronde victory pretty much solo. Yes, he won the four up sprint — three up because who is really counting Stijn Vandenbergh (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step)? The big Belgian was a lumbering passenger in every sense of the word.
The point is, Cancellara won despite minimal team support after both Stijn Devolder and Yaroslav Popovych crashed out for the Trek squad. He thanked his boys after winning but that was simply a nice gesture from a smart leader.
The Swiss champion was isolated in Flanders when it counted but he was still stronger mentally and physically than anybody else in the race. We felt terrible for BMC’s Van Avermaet who brought the race to life and for Belkin’s Sep Vanmarcke who was the only man to stick with Cancellara on the Kwaremont.
It was a fantastic performance from both riders but neither had the force of will to beat Cancellara. Just as he did last season in besting Vanmarcke on the velodrome track in Paris-Roubaix, Cancellara demanded his legs deliver one last acceleration. Nobody else could reach that far down into the furnace of pain.
Van Avermaet deserved to win, Vanmarcke hoped to win but only Cancellara demanded the win. Besides, he’d promised his wife that he would bring her the winner’s flowers and he hates to disappoint Ms Spartacus.
On to Paris-Roubaix where Cancellara will again be the overwhelming favorite. Boonen admits to missing a percentage point or two, Vanmarcke insist he’s a level below Cancellara and top rival Peter Sagan (Cannondale) says he was “disappointed” with his Flanders performance. In fact, Sagan’s team manager Roberto Amadio indicated that the Fastvakian “lost a bit of morale when he was dropped.”
That doesn’t sound like three star riders who are confident enough to beat Cancellara on Sunday.
The Hell of the North is a crazy race where most anything can happen. That is rock-solid, cobblestone truth. But the bigger truth is that the strongest man almost always wins Paris-Roubaix. Ms Cancellara will have another nice big rock for the fireplace mantle.