Breaking down the Tour of Flanders

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What is the Ronde van Vlaanderen? It a monument of cycling, one of the five that includes Italy’s Milan-San Remo, France’s Parsi-Roubaix, Belgium’s Liege-Bastonge-Liege and Italy’s Giro Lombardia.

They have their nicknames, la Primvera (The spring), Vlaanderens mooiste (Flanders Finest), l’Enfer du Nord (Hell of the north) la doyenne (the oldest) and la classica delle foglie morte (the race of the falling leaves) respectively.

And each nationality likes to win their respective races – the Italians love to win Milan-San Remo and Giro Lombardia, the French and Wallones want to win the Paris-Roubaix, and the Dutch and Flemish want to win the Tour of Flanders and Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

Of course any professional cyclist dreams about winning any of them.

Before Australian Stuart O’Grady won the Paris-Roubaix, he had dreamed of winning the race as a youngster.

But the Tour of Flanders, with approximately 257km of racing including 16 hills and 14 or so sections of cobblestones, many combined with the hills, is a race that all riders would like to win.

Matt White, in an interview with cyclingnews.com, stated that Sebastian Langeveld is the main frontrunner for the Tour of Flanders, but GreenEDGE will be racing to give everyone a chance.

Who is in for a shout in this race? As Steven Bradbury showed in Salt Lake City, you have to be in it to win it.

But is is looking like a two-horse race between Tom Boonen from Omega Pharma-Quick Step)and Fabian Cancellera from team RadioShack-Nissan-Trek. Peter Sagan from team Liquigas-Cannondale had a good showing in Gent-Welemgem, but the Tour of Flanders is a much tougher race.

BMC with Philippe Gilbert has never really had success on a cobbled event like the Tour of Flanders, he is more suited to the Ardennes classics and the ever-present George Hincapie might be getting too old. Two-time winner and Flanders local Stijn Devolder, from Vacansoleil-DCM, is a wildcard.

In Australia’s GreenEDGE team the main contenders are O’Grady, Simon Gerrans, Baden Cooke and Matt Goss. Stuart O’Grady said in a recent interview that “a race is a hard as you race it” and “you never know who will has a chance to win until you’re on the road”.

Punctures, mechanicals and falls dictate a race as much as the talent of the riders. So this in essence is the key to GreenEDGE’s ability to win races. As shown in Milan-San Remo, GreenEDGE gave Simon Gerrans a free rein to race with breaks on the short steep climbs leading into San Remo, and the Australian team won that race.

Sebastiaan Langeveld stayed with Matt Goss in the Gent-Wevelgem and so if things went pear-shaped he was there. Leading into the penultimate climb in Milan-San Remo, GreenEDGE had a phenomenal four riders at the pointy end of the race.

On Sunday, I assume that GreenEDGE will be in the same position. I will choose some nationalistic rhetoric and history to predicts what happens for GreenEDGE – that is the Canadian wild man Svein Tuft and uber-domestique Matt Wilson will have dug themselves into a hole for the Flanders.

Thomas Vaitkus will do what all Lithuanians have done for centuries – fought, persevered, and survived. Captain Stuart O’Grady will be leading the troops over the trenches, at the front showing the young ones how to roll.

Jens Mouris will have pushed himself to the limit to allow his brother-in-Arms Sebastian Langeveld to be protected. Baden Cooke and Matt Goss will be the Aussies in the battle who won’t retreat and will be there at the end.

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