There were two winners at Sunday’s Tour of Flanders. Fabian Cancellara used his dominating power to beat wunderkind Peter Sagan and Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Belisol) rode a perfect tactical race to take the final podium spot. Of the many hopefuls who could only dream of third place, the Belgian made all the right bold moves.
So how did all the other favorites and contenders fare in the Ronde?
Poor Tom Boonen’s luck went from bad to goddamn miserable. His season already compromised by an arm infection, illness and crashes, last year’s winner in Flanders only made it about 20k out of Bruge before hitting the pavement hard. Last season it was Cancellara who crashed in the feed zone, this time it was Boonen and road furniture. A terrible shame and yet more proof that pro cycling is a brutal, nasty sport, mentally and physically.
Boonen’s teammate Sylvain Chavanel looked to be in the ideal position once Boonen went down. Instantly elevated to Omega-Pharma Quickstep captain, Chava rode smartly in the front group, skipped his usual aggressive moves and saved himself for the decisive moment. With teammate Michael Kwiatkowski riding strongly in the break, Chavanel had to be feeling pretty confident about his chances. However, when Cancellara ramped things up on the Kwaremont and Paterberg, the Frenchman said au revoir to the podium. He finished an unlucky 13th.
We once read some quote from an Italian coach about Filippo Pozzato floating over cobblestones, his back perfectly flat, like he was born to ride the rocks. Floating and winning are two different things. Hard to miss Master P in his bright yellow Lampre-Merida kit but 44th is pretty invisible. The Italian will attempt to redeem himself at Roubaix but ever since his sleazy excuses about working with the evil Dr Ferrari, we’ve put a hex on Pozzato and it seems to be working.
Along with Chavanel, it was Luca Paolini (Katusha) leading the doomed chase of Sagan and Cancellara. We all know how that worked out because once Fabian gets his gap, he ain’t never coming back. Paolini faded back to 23rd place. Hey, you got a nice win in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad early this season so no complaints, right?
The classics boys at Team Sky were prepared to die for their man Geraint Thomas. Sadly the Welshman crashed on the second time run-up to the Paterberg and while he managed to rejoin the main chase group, he was now officially dead.
Teammate Edvald Boasson Hagen was often seen up front and looked to be on a good day but he fooled us again. Seems like the former “Eddy Junior” is in some kind of funk. Remember a few years back — pre-Sagan — when people said he could win everything? The jury is still out on the Sky decision to skip races and train specifically for the classics on the island of Tenerife. Right now, you’d have to say it hasn’t been a massive success and the hotel food was dangerously bad.
Old man Juan Antonio Flecha of the Sunny Vacationeers had mechanical problems in Flanders. His bike, not his old cranky old body. He chased back through the cars and that was largely his race. We never heard his name mentioned again. On to Roubaix for another pointless dark-horse routine. Time is up my good friend Juan and all the arrows are gone.
We were pulling for Lars Boom, the Cyclo-Man from Blanco. He didn’t have much to show for the early season results but sure enough he put in a good ride today. We just like writing stuff like Lars Lowers Boom and Boommuthafugga! He nearly made the top 10 so all in all, a good performance from Lars.
Italian Oscar Gatto (Vini Farnese) suffered two flats in the race and wasted his energy chasing back on. Cats have nine lives but two punctures isn’t going to help much when the pace is flat out.
Last year’s winner in Liege, Maxim Iglinsky (Astana) was pitched as a possible darkhorse. He was often visible up front in his pale blue kit but a crash knocked him off his game. No miracle for Max.
Heinrich Haussler talked up his chances before Flanders and that was a nice sign of confidence for a guy who seems reinvigorated by his switch from Garmin to IAM Cycling. IAM back, IAM fast again, IAM a force to be reckoned with. Now, Heino just needs to get his good luck back. A 6th place is nice but he had visions of grandeur.
Two years removed from Johan Van Summeren’s magical upset win over Cancellara in Roubaix, Garmin-Sharp was just trying to do something respectable in Flanders. Well, you tell me — is getting JVS into 20th place respectable? Don’t think so. Like Sky, Garmin-Sharp is a stage racing squad that is still trying to decide if classics success is worth the effort. They sure missed having Sep Vanmarcke on the roster and anyway he crashed again, too.
Last but not least, the gentleman from the BMC Racing team. Close but no cigar. BMC was one of those squads that “animated” the race but the results didn’t measure up. Nearly man Greg Van Avermaet took seventh and largely seemed along for the ride. Oss made it home in 12th which isn’t a big yahoo. This is a group that really needs a bigger result in Roubaix with Hushovd or it will be up the Philippe Gilbert to carry all the burden of the super team.
Special props to Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), Matthieu Ladagnous (FDJ) and Sebastien Turgot (Europcar) for taking 4th, 5th and 8th place. These guys kicked ass in Flanders and we salute them.