Friday, April 6, 2012

Gloves off

Easter is right around the corner, and Paris - Roubaix is just two hangovers away.  With the smell of Belgian frites and Ale, that is more alcohol than water, wafting in the air it is a good time to start a fight.  Roubaix is in France -if you did not know.  It is flat, but it is super long and the roads are, for lack of a pretty word, Crap.  Made by conquering Romans millions of billions of years ago out of big freaking rocks.  Let's ride bikes on them.  Great idea.  Vlaanderen is in Belgium, and is not flat and has crappy roads also.  Vlaanderen has a kick arse flag.  Roubaix has a concrete velodrome.  Vlaanderen is long and has crazy wind.

Which is the "harder" race?  That will start the verbal fists flying.  I love them both.  I have a favorite, so I am biased out the wazoo.  I think that Vlaanderen gets so overlooked because people "just don't know".  Roubaix is way more popular and gets a ton of press.  Both races are hardman races.  One has to be a different breed of rider to win these contests.  Merckx, Museeuw, Vlaeminck, Moser, Boonen are a few names that have turned themselves inside-out, broken themselves down, and crushed souls over the harsh roads of Northern France.  Who is the Best Roubaix winner?

Who is your favorite for this edition of the race?  Is it going to be a new winner of l'enfer du nord? Or are we going to have a repeat?  Will the winner of Vlaanderen have that special touch and be able to pull off the Vlaanderen - Roubaix double?  Can George pull off a top 100? 50? 25? 15?  Is it going to be another win by a darkhorse?  Are you bold enough to make a prediction?  Who is going to be standing at the side of the road waiting and waiting and waiting for the team car?

Fighting words:

My favorite: Tom Boonen
2012 Roubaix winner: Not bold enough, want to see Tom make it a double (2005) again and to get his 4th.
Best ever winner: Sorry Eddy, Vlaeminck did it 4 times
Ronde van Vlaanderen is the harder of the two in my opinion

Monday, April 2, 2012

Belgium's finest

Champions are formed and Men's souls are crushed

Ronde van Vlaanderen recap

Let me start off by saying that Ronde van Vlaanderen was everything that I had wanted and then some.  Not to say that I wanted Fabian to crash out with injuries, I wanted the battle to be one of pedals turned in anger.  Tom even said that it would have been better to win with Fabian still upright.  Seeing Langeveld collide with what was surly a tourist, a Belgian would have know better, was sickening.  His front wheel exploded off the fork and was sent tumbling.  Except for the carnage and injury, this was a beautiful race and a fantastic ending.

I would love to say that Boonen was my "pick", but I was never bold enough to come out and choose my favorite.  I did want him to win, so I guess it is a win win situation for me.  Omega Pharma QuickStep is a Classics force, always have been, and put three riders in the top ten.  Steegmans, Chavanel, Terpstra all rode an incredible race in support of Tom and made it his to lose.  At one point I thought that if Tom faltered, Terpstra was sitting in a pretty good position to take over.  And, my boy Chavanel was so impressive yesterday, he and Boonen look to have kissed and made up.  Last year Chavanel looked stronger than Tom, but yet had to ride in support.  Yeah, that would make any mortal angry.  All is good in the OPQS camp and the cross-hairs are set on Roubaix.

I have always been a fan of Pipo, but he has been very unimpressive the past few years.  This year he has found that new spark and seems to be riding better than of old.  Pozzato was a negative racer in the past and would just place himself in Tom's pocket or just become a shadow.  As of late he looks to have changed his style and seems to be taking more risk.  He is still shadowing Tom, but isn't everyone?

I bad-mouthed Ballan just a few days ago and now have to eat my words, his move became the winning move.  BMC is less than stellar and Ballan has been part of the lack-luster.  Yesterday was the exception.  Ballan and teammates looked to be riding in support of the once stellar Gillbert who never materialized.  Van Avermaet has always impressed me and yesterday once again I think BMC is riding for the wrong guys.  Yes he is young, but he can ride.  Let him loose and ride for this guy already, he will win you races.  He finished just off the podium behind Ballan.  I'll give BMC a little credit for getting a podium and fourth.

1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quickstep 6:04:33
2 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Farnese Vini - Selle Italia
3 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) BMC Racing Team 0:00:01
4 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team 0:00:38
5 Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale
6 Niki Terpstra (Ned) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
7 Luca Paolini (Ita) Katusha Team
8 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar
9 Matti Breschel (Den) Rabobank Cycling Team
10 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
11 Grégory Rast (Swi) Radioshack-Nissan
12 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Katusha Team
13 Fabio Sabatini (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
14 Björn Leukemans (Bel) Vacansoleil-Dcm Pro Cycling Team
15 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha Team

Can't forget the likes of Peter Sagan.  22yrs old and a horse, a really strong fast horse.  He looked really strong, might have been a little tired from racing most of last week.  Liquigas doesn't have much of a Classics support team (besides Ted) that can really do work for this kid.  Put a OPQS like team around Sagan and he would crush, or should I say will crush.  Tommy Voeckler.  Where did this guy come from?  Is he still on form from last year?  You have to love Voeckler for his bdassery, this guy is tenacious.  It was good to see him doing work, and then get a top ten.

One of my dark horse favorites, Leukemans was able to squeeze out a top 15.  Gregory Rast of Radioshack was the only bright star for them after Fabian went down with injury.  Rast is one to watch out for the next couple of weeks.  Always always good to see Freire battling it out, he and Paolini could be dangerous.  Big losers on the day have to be Sky.  All that firepower and nothing to show for it.  EBH?  Where are you pal?  With Cav out of the line-up, throw Bernie a bone and work for that guy.  I don't think we will ever know the true strength of Bernie the super domestique.  Heck work for Flecha, that guy can finish when put in the set-up.  Garmin?  We are going to work for Vanmarcke.  You guys have problems, putting Tyler in the early break?  Why?  If I saw Tyler in a break I would not have my team work. Useless.  You work for Vanmarcke and Haussler finishes better, you work for Haussler and Vanmarcke-Vansummeren finish better.  ????????? Come together on this and get a team of monkeys to formulate a plan.