Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Dwars door Vlaanderen Preview

"Northern Europe is about to be invaded—again. Racing on more than 1850 km of some of Europe’s harshest roads, the world’s best cyclists are about to…"

      Forget that. Too cheesy…

"Beginning tomorrow, the world’s greatest athletes will begin tackling the world’s hardest and most dangerous bike races!"

      Nope. Too much hyperbole…

"Their blood and sweat mingling with the mud and grime from the road, tomorrow begins what many call, the Northern Massacre."

      Nah. Too Tarantino…

      Ok, I’m done trying to come up with a dramatic introduction. Besides, as I’m sure we all agree, the Classics need no introduction. The races, the riders, and the countries hosting them have spoken for themselves over the past 100 years.

      For me, the best part of these races is that as a whole, they create an experience that completely transcends the sum of it’s parts. Yes, each race provides its own heroes, villains, triumphs, and tragedies. But when looked at as an entire oeuvre, a great story is told—a story with themes composed for a much larger stage.

      But here I go waxing poetic again. Maybe I should just get on with it…

      Tomorrow’s Dwars door Vlaanderen takes the riders over 200km and 12 climbs, including the Berendries, Valkenburg, and Oude Kwaremont (among others). Usually, a break or small group emerges, but bunch sprints are not uncommon. Two 15 km finishing laps in Waregem give the spectators ample time to see their favorites and drink some pintjes.

      Looking over the start list on the race website, Quick Step has the past 2 winners in Sylvain Chavanel and Tom Boonen. Look for them to try and control the race from start to finish; they have a line-up that can win in a variety of scenarios.

      Silence-Lotto is desperate for it’s first win of the season. For that reason, I think they might be more prone to let Greg Van Avermaet burn a few more matches than they might like—if he’s in a position to win. Same goes for Katusha with Pozzato and Steegmans.

      I’m waiting to see Rabobank’s Nick Nuyens show-up at some point this spring; he’s been relatively quiet to now. His teammate Sebastian Langeveld impressed many during the classics last year, and he could be a rider ready to take another step.

      Cervelo has another solid line-up even without O’Grady and Hushvod. Is Haussler’s form ever going to stop? He’ll be out for blood following his near-miss on the Via Roma.

      Finally, don’t discount the chances of Vacansoleil. Baden Cooke won this race in 2002 and was second in 2003. His teammate Bjorn Leukemans could also pull-off a surprise. I know I keep bringing this team into the mix, but I'm confident that soon they'll reward my faith.

      Who do you think will win on the streets of Waregem? Leave your comments so the debate can begin!

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