Favourites Tour of Flanders
Can Superman dominate the cobbled classics again or will age finally catch up with him? Cancellara won a Flanders-Roubaix double last year to repeat his 2010 feat. The intervening years rarely saw him off the podium but he was often beaten to the win by faster men, like Nick Nuyens in Flanders in 2011, or stronger team tactics, like Van Summeren of Garmin a week later in Roubaix.
A slow build up this year but often seen towards the front, he will look to be hitting top form by the end of March and it would be no surprise to see Spartacus soloing into Oudenaarde with his hands raised again.
A tough 2013 where Boonen (image) never really got going after his arm infection during the winter. A fall in Flanders put him out of the race but it’s safe to say Tommeke didn’t stand a chance against the form of Sagan and Cancellara.
2014 has started much like 2012 when Boonen took a Flanders-Roubaix double. His team dominated in Qatar with Boonen taking 2 stages and he then went on to win Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne after his team again decimated the field.
It could be the first year since 2010 where both Boonen and Cancellara will be in top form and competing in the finale….
The man that the above 2 will fear most, besides each other, and who seems primed to take their place when age catches up with them. Will it be this year? Sagan was not far off hanging onto Cancellara’s wheel on the Paterberg last year.
Sagan creates an interesting dynamic and will surely be a protaganist. To win, he will either a) need to hang on to a steamrolling Cancellara or b) out-sprint an in-form Boonen. Neither option sounds appealing but it is not an impossible task for the ambitious young Slovak. The recent win in E3 will only serve boost his confidence further.
3rd last year after cleverly attacking ahead of Cancellara and Sagan so that he could hang on to them when they caught up. It was a tactical masterclass but Roelandts had no hope of holding the wheels on the Paterberg. He arrived with Sagan but was too tired to sprint. He may have some escapees willing to join him this year to take the race to the favourites.
Threatening a big breakthrough, a natural on cobbles, Vanmarcke will be looking for a big result this year after 2nd in Roubaix last year. For once he has been injury free in the build-up, what that means to his chances remains to be seen.
Brilliant in Roubaix last year, Stybar crashed into a spectator whilst in the front group and never recovered the ground lost. He has impressed this year already and could be sent up the road by Omega Pharma-Quick Step to ease the pressure on Boonen. As Stijn Devolder will tell you, you can also win the race from this position.
Ditto for Terpstra. Omega-Pharma-Quickstep have so many cards to play that in the midst of the tactical warfare it could be the Dutchman Terpstra who emerges victorious. Was the best in recent Dwars door Vlaanderen.
Greg van Avermaet
A devastating 2nd in Omloop, Van Avermaet will likely lead a strong BMC outfit at Flanders. A lot of big results and clearly a brilliant classics rider, it’s difficult to see how he could shake the attentions of the big favourites.
Chavanel slammed his handlebars in 2011 when Nuyens outkicked him for the line. It was as if he knew this would be as close as he would get to a Monument. Now riding with IAM Cycling, Chavanel will not be playing second fiddle to Boonen like in recent years. But he is stuck in a difficult position where he’s far too dangerous to allow up the road and not dangerous enough to pose a real threat in the finale. It will take a fine tactical performance for him to pull off a shock.