Ronde Van Vlaanderen Preview

Friday, 31 March 2017

The greatest one day classic takes place this Sunday. Huge crowds, narrow lanes, rough cobbles, steep hills and more await along the 255km obstacle course. This is an event of national importance in Belgium.

The headlines look to the rivalry between Peter Sagan and Greg Van Avermaet only there are plenty of others in contention. Here’s a preview of the race with the route, riders, TV and more.

The Route: it’s not really a full tour of Flanders as the race starts in Antwerp and then heads south-west to reach the finish town of Oudenaarde after just 95km. From here the race starts looping around the the hills of the Flemish Ardennes. Viewed on a map the route resembles a ball of wool.

The Cobbles and the Climbs: Jacques Brel was wrong. The song about “that flat country that is mine”, Mijn Vlakke Land is right about the grey skies and crackling winds but skips the steep ridges to be found in the Flemish Ardennes. When the race arrives it’s all about positioning and everyone wants to be at the front because if a rider ahead has a mechanical, crash or merely slows it takes a lot of effort to overtake as accelerating on cobbles or uphill uses so much more energy. Watch for the density of riders at key points in race, the racing is fierce just to reach the start of these strategic sections with riders fighting for place, almost a combat sport. The Kapelmuur comes with 95km to go, too early to be strategic but a crowd-pleaser and a leg-sapper. Here are the chief climbs:

Koppenberg

The Koppenberg (45km to go): “discovered” in 1976 when a local informed race organisers about a narrow cobbled climb with a 22% gradient, rough cobbles and often damp on a dry day. It was used every year until Jesper Skibby crashed in the 1987 race and a race car, with the peloton closing in behind, had to drive over his bike with the Dane’s feet still into the pedals. Now it’s made a comeback and features late in the race. It’s probably the hardest climb of the day and if it doesn’t pick the winner it thins the field. Look to see who emerges over the top and how smooth they look on the way up.

Oude Kwaremont (145km, 55km and 17km to go): the odd one out as it’s not short, it’s not steep and it’s not all cobbled. Instead it’s 2.2km long and a meagre 4.2% average; it touches 11% midway. If 2.2km doesn’t sound like much, it’s an effort of more than five minutes of which four are spend on the pavé making it a tiring boneshaker.

Paterberg (51km to go, 13km to go): the Kwaremont is chased by the Paterberg, it’s only 400m long but is short, steep and very cobbled. It’s not a normal road, it was built by a farmer for the fun of it and lined by fans who enjoy a giant screen TV and beers – this is the final climb of the race. It has broken many a rider with 240km in their legs.

The Finish: the last section from Kerkhove to Oudenaarde is eight kilometres long on a flat wide road all the way to the line. The most unremarkable of roads, there are no sharp corners, roundabouts or hills. The featureless nature matters as it’s long enough to allow riders to regroup and offers no ambush opportunities for a late attack. The final kilometre has the tiniest of rises to the line.

The Contenders

Peter Sagan has been central to several races so far this season only to go home empty handed. Forget sideshows about post-race candy and his interview styles, Paris-Roubaix has always been his big goal this spring but here he finds a course to suit him and can look repeat last year’s race where he went clear in a select move before going solo on the final climb of the Paterberg. As long as he can force, or just be part of, the selection in the final 30 minutes then he has the luxury of deciding whether to use his explosive power on the final climb or to sit tight for the sprint to the finish line. He might have lost several races but the long distance and the proximity of the final climbs to the finish makes this race less tactical, there will be less time for rivals to conspire against him.

Greg Van Avermaet is the other top favoriet. He’s been winning left, right and centre across Flanders and after his successful season in 2016 the Ronde has been his big goal, more so since he crashed out a year ago. He’s versatile on the hills, tactically sharp and sprints cleverly from a sharp group plus he’s got a strong team to support him, all of the BMC Racing squad could have their day in a semi-classic but they’re fully behind “GVA”. The rivalry with Sagan is a valid contest, if the two come to the finish it’s a close call in sprint. Sagan has the power but GVA has the guile and after 260km this counts for plenty.

Who do Quick Step back? Whoever is in front surely. There’s no set plan and the Belgian super team will look to have strength in numbers in the final hour. Philippe Gilbert is looking in great shape with two podiums in Dwars Door Vlaanderen and the GP E3 Harelbeke plus the win this week in the Three Days of De Panne so he seems the obvious choice and what better than the Belgian champion to win this national popularity contest? Indeed one big reason behind his switch to Quick Step was to race the Ronde and fill in the Flemish gaps in his palmarès and popularity. Local son of the soil Yves Lampaert has also found winning ways and if Dwars Door Vlaanderen isn’t the big league yet, those who win it often go on to bigger things. Niki Terpstra is the ice cold poker player as usual but since he can’t sprint he’ll probably have to try something long range. Zdeněk Štybar can still feature but he’s 31 and still hunting that big classic. Can Tom Boonen do it? Let’s entertain the dream and more rationally he must be close to peak form since Paris-Roubaix is the following Sunday but he seems less sharp on the climbs and perhaps there’s some workplace politics where he can work for team mates in order to gain their loyalty on the roads to Roubaix?

Alexander Kristoff 2015

Alexander Kristoff is in form only the results haven’t shown it. The 2015 winner says he’s been hitting some of his best power numbers in racing and training so feels a big result is due but so far the Katusha leader “only” has a stage win in the Three Days of De Panne to show, even if he did also win the bunch sprint in Sanremo. Tony Martin and Nils Politt offer support plans. His sprint strength and stamina are his weapons but will also prompt others to attack him in order to avoid him.

Sep Vanmarcke has had two of podium places in the Ronde before and the story had been about finally landing the big win. He still can but after third place in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad he’s had torrid spring with a rib injury from the Strade Bianche which meant missing races and now he’s chasing his form. So perhaps he’d sign today for a podium? Even if he wants the win achieving it isn’t going to be easy, so how Peter Sagan dispatched him last year. Dylan van Baarle and Sebastian Langeveld seem like top-10 options too.

Trek-Segafredo bring John Degenkolb and Jasper Stuyven. The former seems more suited to the course as he’s punchier on the climbs and finishes fast but the pair can play off each other. Fabio Felline has had some top-10s and Edward Theuns took a second place to Kristoff this week in a stage of the Three Days of De Panne. It all points to a strong team but so far the team hasn’t cut through in the cobbled classics, too often the race has ridden away from them.

Team Sky have Milan-Sanremo in the bag but this has masked their absence so far from the cobbled classics with Luke Rowe‘s 6th place in the Omloop their best result so far, bettering his fifth place in the Ronde could be difficult, let alone the win. Ian Stannard and Gianni Moscon should feature and you sense their chances will be better in Paris-Roubaix.

If things are fraught in the Trek and Sky team cars, the anxiety must be even worse over at Lotto-Soudal as they’ve been near invisible this spring although their kopman Tiesj Benoot has had three top-10s so far. Converting this into a win seems hard so he and his team may have to take risks and force earlier selections. Still he climbs very well and so the likes of the Oude Kwaremont suit him. Tony Gallopin has been targeting this race but crashes have been targeting him too so his missed racing and training because of light injuries.

Lotto-Jumbo are another discreet team, a far cry from the Rabobank days but maybe that’s no bad thing given the chronic doping in the team back then; today the story is also of a diminished budget and team leader Lars Boom‘s best result in a classic this year has been 79th place.

Orica-Scott will feel confident with Jens Keukeleire and Luke Durbridge. Durbridge has been in great shape since the Strade Bianche but converting this into a win is a big ask, he probably can’t outsprint many of the names above and doesn’t seem to have the explosive force to zip away either, see how Gilbert got the better of him in De Panne; so “Durbo” could feature and even make the podium but that top step seems very lofty.

Oliver Naesen is the best of the rest, Ag2r La Mondiale aren’t normally a team you associate with the classics but Alexis Gougeard likes the early attacks (whisper it: because he fears fighting for position in the bunch) and Stijn Vandenbergh makes a fine captain. Naesen’s third place in Harelbeke was no fluke but winning De Ronde?

Finally a quick roll call of the others. Arnaud Démare has been out of the results but unlucky with punctures and crashes but this course could have too many climbs for him, Paris-Roubaix is the big goal. Edvald Boasson Hagen gets the copy-paste “due a big win in the spring classics but we’ve been saying that ever since he won the 2009 Gent-Wevelgem and it’s not happened yet” stock comment. Sonny Colbrelli sprints well and can get over a climb or two but after a decent start to the season he’s really suited to the Amstel rather than this. Astana are still searching for a win which suggests their chances of winning in the biggest one day race so far this year are low but Oscar Gatto, Matti Breschel and Michael Valgren are all conceivable top-10 finishers. Among the wildcard invitees Wanty-Gobert’s Guillaume Van Keirsbulck could feature. 2008 and 2009 winner Stijn Devolder is still doing his thing with Verandas Willems and at the other end of the age scale first year pro Simone Consonni impressed in De Panne, he’ll be confident and a top-20 would do him nicely.

Greg Van Avermaet, Peter Sagan
Philippe Gilbert, Alexander Kristoff
John Degenkolb, Sep Vanmarcke, Oliver Naesen
Stuyven, Benoot, Theuns, Rowe, Durbridge, Keukeleire, Felline

Weather: (updated Sunday AM) sunshine and a top temperature of 16°C. A light, swirling 10km/h breeze means the weather looks unlikely to be tactical.

TV: the race starts at 10.30am CET and the finish is forecast for 4.55pm CET. There’s pre-race coverage starting at 9.30am with footage of the roll out on Belgian TV (Sporza) and then various look-ins. Live coverage will resume at 1.30pm and the Kapelmuue will feature around 2.40pm. The crucial Oude Kwaremont-Paterberg-Koppenberg trippel is forecast to start around 3.40pm.

Women’s Race: there’s an expert preview over at cyclingtips including details of TV coverage – the final 90 minutes are supposed to be live – and the locations of the free, unrestricted livestream.

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Des March 31, 2017 at 10:28 am

Thanks for the roundup. On my way to belgium to watch and cant wait! Likely timings for the kwaremont are especially helpful, thanks inrng.

Yodi March 31, 2017 at 1:04 pm
Des March 31, 2017 at 3:24 pm

Cheers for the link.

J Evans March 31, 2017 at 10:48 am

I love that a farmer made the Paterberg.
I’d love to see Gilbert win.
‘The greatest one day classic’ – a bold statement. Close second to P-R for me.
I think this race suits Sagan far more than P-R and he’s got to be the favourite the way he went up the Kemmelberg. How to beat him? A quick bodycheck at a crucial moment?
Good to see that the women’s race is being shown properly – that’s how to promote women’s racing (the women’s Strade Bianche was one of the best races I’ve seen all season). Less good to see that Sporza are promising to show highlights during the men’s race. That’s no way to watch a bike race: show a chunk here or there and the race has no meaning to the viewer. And there’s always a chance that you miss something vital in the race you chose to watch.
I’m just glad – for his own sake – that Jack Bauer isn’t riding.

gabriele April 2, 2017 at 2:14 pm

J Evans, those internet broadcasts are worth thousands of viewers, most of them already passionate – that’s not a way to *promote* women’s racing.

To *promote* it you need to have ignorant fans watch and try to make them understand what they’re watching and why it’s worthy. The male race is a good opportunity, if properly managed.

In track and field (a decent example of minimal respect towards fermale sport) you’ve got women competition in the same event & TV broadcast, even if that sometimes means that you won’t be shown live a – male or whatever – discipline you were more interested in if the two happen to be going on at the same time. And, yes, depending on the TV director’s skills, you might be losing some live great moment in order to follow something else (be it a male or female discipline, it works both the ways around).

Note that bad production can spoil a great live moment with just one race running, and it’s happening more and more often.
You might argue that two races make that twice as probable, but I’d say that the main factor are the quality of the production and a proper timetable organisation (there are some very probable “dead” moments, like feeding zones and others, which you can try to match with key moments on the “other” race).
However, it’s not like I don’t get your point. I just think that other priorities might prevail, especially if you don’t really need to sacrifice much of the men’s show – just a little, most of it as a “risk”, not an actual loss.

gabriele April 2, 2017 at 4:10 pm

And the airtime women cycling “steals” during Flanders’ live broadcast can be sold to sponsors etc.

gabriele April 2, 2017 at 4:13 pm

Plus, the airtime women cycling “steals” from men’s RVV broadcast can be sold to sponsors…

J Evans April 2, 2017 at 5:46 pm

Showing the race properly encourages you to watch.
What we saw today wouldn’t encourage anyone.
At a major point in the race, just when you’re thinking ‘Is Sagan going to get back on to that front group?’ we get to enjoy the last 1.5km of that race we hadn’t been watching at all, in the midst of an important point of a race we had chosen to watch.
You can’t watch two races at the same time – show a small bit and it’s a meaningless sprint and nothing more.
It’s purely so they can say ‘Look, we’re not sexist’. It’s false and it’s BS.
The women’s Strade Bianche was probably the best race I’ve seen all season – I’d have been furious if they’d arbitrarily shown a bit of the men’s race in the middle of it.

gabriele April 2, 2017 at 7:34 pm

Agree with what you say about this not being the best format (far from it), but it’s visibility, both for sponsor and awareness – which is a start. They need to work better on the format, not to drop it.
Your point makes totally sense, but doesn’t bring us any nearer to a solution. Cycling has got a problem of sexism which goes beyond other sports and needs to tackle it. I don’t like pinkwashing, but that sort of BS, albeit “false”, means acknowledging that a problem is actually there, besides informing people about the existence of women races.
To look for something in order to watch it, you need to know that it exists. That might be the case here: maybe in following years somebody will start to think about watching live the women race, fully or partly.
The broadcasters could and should show more of the women race before: until the last kms before Muur there wasn’t that much to see among the men (and we’ve always been used not to be able to see whatever happened in those phases).
I tend to love the first hour of a race (not that relevant today), but the second or so could be easily replaced in broadcasting terms with the last hour of a women race and I’d probably appreciate – it would also be the fairer and best policy, IMHO.
I’d agree that having the women’s finale around the Muur time wasn’t the best idea ever: I don’t know if they were late, the men were fast or if nobody just thought about it. For sure, it’s fine if you can place women’s finale near any sort of hotspot, to raise audience, but you need to sort out your schedule pretty well.
Personally, I watched the women’s RVV until the end, switching on men for the Muur and the immediate thereafter, then back to women: unless it wasn’t an accident (a crash or the likes), whatever was going to happen after the Muur was a matter of tens of minutes, not four or five.

J Evans April 2, 2017 at 7:48 pm

I think either you give people the option of what to watch, or you schedule the women’s last hour to be in that 1.5 hour gap where Belgian TV talks about the men’s race whilst not showing it. Unfortunately, that might mean the women’s race starting ridiculously early. Having the women’s race on the Saturday might be a better bet – I’d watch and so would a lot of cycling fans (and no-one else is going to anyway). Show the last 1.5km and nobody is going to care – show me any last 1.5km of any race and I don’t care. Show it within what is considered the ‘big’ race, at a crucial time, and you’re going to counterproductively annoy a lot of people. People are already sexist, why give them an excuse to justify their nonsense?

gabriele April 2, 2017 at 8:06 pm

Saturday makes little sense. It’s too good to have the women race with the big cheering public by the roadside. Again, I think you underestimate the importance of the visibility factor for the sponsors.
Women cycling might “go tennis” when and if it grows much more, now it needs to “go track & field” (or “swimming”).
Something very important is at stake, and not just in order to reduce sexism (which would be a more than significant task in itself!) but also to have a stronger sport as a whole when the fanbase is concerned, economic aspects included (practice of cycling is growing among women – a female pro sport isn’t necessarily needed but it helps).
OTOH, we haven’t been losing anything *that* meaningful. Would I have watched every second if I hadn’t had anything else to watch? Sure! But I also like the fact that cycling can do without some images… just on narrative recaps and so.
I’ve long watched the last hour or so of races because that was all we were offered: now I’m a big fan of whole live races, but I can’t see the opposite as a tragedy (if anything, because in six hours you’ll lose some moment of the race for whatever reason 😉 ).
A better TV production is required, not a radical separation of the two broadcasts (for now, I mean: if women cycling grew big enough, the Saturday option might be interesting… or a whole different month, perhaps, to supply more Classics where the calendar might need a taste of ’em – yet, this is fantasy, for now).

I won’t insist, but this whole thing is about comparative gains and losses, not about a perfect setting – think about it.

Magicreme March 31, 2017 at 10:58 am

Hello,

What about Imanol Erviti ? Top 10 last year in both the Ronde and Roubaix, with the same program as this year : no races in Belgium but Cataluyna and Paris Nice. Which seems odd as he showed last year he could contend on the classics and he seems to be the only guy at Movistar that can.

One Man Grupetto March 31, 2017 at 12:00 pm

He’s on the start list – and he’s had virtually the same race programme as last year when he did Catalunya and P-N before making his first Classics appearance here.

Ablindeye March 31, 2017 at 12:26 pm

…and he’s Ten Dam’s dark horse pick as he felt he was super strong in Catalunya…A repeat of last year would be good work though.

Ron March 31, 2017 at 11:00 am

Great preview! I’m bummed that I can’t watch the race subday.
Kinda missing Stybar and Terpstra with rings. Both shown more then half of the other riders getting 1 or 2 rings.
I think it’s Sagan – GvA, then Phil with 4. Underneat that a big gap with loads of riders.

Anonymous March 31, 2017 at 11:15 am

Great to see Pip Gilbert on sparkling form, “wasted” years at BMC finally over. My outside bet is Kristoff, been on a slow burn this Spring but looking closer to the action at 3 dags. May push the boat out on him and put half a Euro each way. Must say thoroughly enjoyed the racing so far, Belgium really is the place to see proper racing as oppose to the hideous July show.

J Evans March 31, 2017 at 11:24 am

Always did seem a bad decision of BMC’s not to let GVA and PG both ride in the cobbled and Ardennes classics – looks even more so after the early part of this season. As Quick Step’s history shows, having more than one strong rider in a race can win you a lot of races – see Devolder and Terpstra’s RVV and PR wins, with Boonen in the pack behind.
Totally agree with you on the July procession as well – plus unless there has been some radical change at Sky it doesn’t look like Froome can lose it if he stays upright.

Richard S March 31, 2017 at 11:32 am

Yeah I wonder who’s call that was, it seems ridiculous that Gilbert hasn’t done Flanders for 5 years bearing in mind he has finished 3rd there twice and nearly got away to win in 2011. I seem to recall reading something in an interview with Alan Peiper when he took over at BMC that he was looking to ‘modernise’ BMC and that Gilbert needed to have specific targets rather than just racing all the time. That worked out well didn’t it, in their time together GVA and Gilbert adding precisely no monuments and only a couple of other classics.

The Inner Ring March 31, 2017 at 12:18 pm

BMC probably needed Gilbert for the Ardennes/Amstel and could cover the cobbles with GVA, Burghardt and Oss. It’s said one reason to ride for Quick Step was to focus on the cobbles again, ironically his win in the 3 Days of De Panne wasn’t supposed to happen though as it wasn’t on his program but with his form he/they decided to do it.

Ron March 31, 2017 at 12:42 pm

I think it was GvA’s call. In one of the post race interviews last week. GvA said Gilbert is the same rider as him. That they always wanted to go on the same moment and have the same style, which made it impossible to race against with each other, but perfect the perfect opponent to race against.
BMC probably failed at managing the team by not getting those 2 lined up to work together. If you see how QS makes use of all those strong riders working together, it’s a huge advantage.

Ron March 31, 2017 at 12:43 pm

Small correction. Impossible to race with each other in the same team*

J Evans March 31, 2017 at 12:59 pm

Seems very unlikely that it would have been GVA’s call – seeing as Gilbert was the much bigger rider, joining BMC after his incredible 2011.
Seems like BMC tried to keep the two riders happy by giving each their allotted races. But the riders’ happiness shouldn’t be the focus – and neither got the results all would have hoped for from the situation.
Maybe BMC didn’t think that Gilbert could sustain his form from RVV to LBL – we’ll see this year, but they’ll look more than a bit silly if he does well in both.

gabriele March 31, 2017 at 2:21 pm

I think that Ron is totally right.
It was GVA’s call.
Gilbert hasn’t done the Ronde for *four* years, not five: when he arrived at BMC in 2012 he was allowed, obviously enough, to race what he preferred.
But since his results on the cobbles weren’t as good as GVA’s, the latter was favoured and Gilbert’s cobbles programme was reduced.
In 2013 he couldn’t race Flanders but he was allowed to race Gent and E3, both with disappointing results, while Greg looked clearly like a rising force.
Gilbert was racing both cobbles and Ardennes, and he was evidently doing better on the côtes (top-tenning all around, albeit not winning): hence when GVA *asked* to have Gilbert forced out, the team supported Greg’s stance, perhaps thinking that Gilbert’s results in the races which supposedly most suited him were going to improve.
Apparently, that worked: in 2014, avoiding cobbles, Gilbert won Amstel and Brabantes Pijl. But that magic was over in following years. He expressed constantly the desire to race on the cobbles but was only allowed to Omloop. GVA’s was more clearly than ever the first choice for Flanders Classics, and the fact that he required Gilbert to stay away had a reasonable weight, even more so because the whole thing *apparently* had proven to hold some logic.
I never liked the whole story, I don’t like a rider calling a teammate out (let the DSs decide that) and I always thought that maybe Gilbert himself would have gone back to the cobbles if he noticed that the Ardennes were becoming to explosive or whatever.

Richard S March 31, 2017 at 2:55 pm

It would seem strange if BMC effectively downgraded Gilbert on the back of a request from GVA. Around the time they went all in for GVA his results weren’t anything to write home about. He got that 2nd place in De Ronde in 2013 but that’s not much to hang your hat on. Plenty of people have got one off podiums at big races. For BMC to go in all in for him in the way that they did he must have been ‘hitting the numbers’ in training in a way that Gilbert wasn’t. Its still a big call for BMC to have put all their faith in him because for all that he is an outstanding favourite for Sunday he still hasn’t delivered a monument (though his general consistency and results in some of the lesser classics have been hugely impressive since Omloop last year), and he could very easily not win this time. Gilbert seems revitalised this year just by the change in environment at Quick Step.

Interestingly I saw something from Lefevre the other day saying that to contend in the Ardennes now you pretty much have to be an out an out climber. Has the course at LBL changed any since Gilbert and Gerrans won? I didn’t think it had apart from that little cobbled climb they’ve put in near the finish?

gabriele March 31, 2017 at 3:51 pm

@Richars S
I think that, as you wrote quoting Peiper, their mentality was already peaking, hence the pressure from GVA allowed them to do something they already thought might bring benefits (as I said: “perhaps thinking that Gilbert’s results in the races which supposedly most suited him were going to improve”).
But I believe that at the time GVA was being very vocal about being bothered by Gilbert’s presence, it never was any sort of secret.
GVA was performing decently in a quite consistent way, but the key factor was that Gilbert was underperforming – in a overwhelming way – on the cobbles.

irungo txuletak March 31, 2017 at 3:57 pm

Think it was GVA’s call, too.
GIlbert constantly repeated he would have like to ride flemish classics.
Plus in his case I don’t think it makes him worse off for the ardennes. He is a racer whose form grows with racing and he usually needs quite a lot of racing in order to be top. I won’t be surprised if he is good in the coming weeks as well. In his magic year he also did flemish classics before winning everything in ardennes.

J Evans March 31, 2017 at 4:30 pm

Interesting stuff, all. Time will tell, I suppose – will BMC’s faith in GVA finally pay off; will PG get back to his Ardennes best having done the cobbles? I don’t the latter is likely, but he does look so much better this year, thus far.

Augie March March 31, 2017 at 1:43 pm

Quickstep’s recent history also shows that having multiple big talents doesn’t necessarily result in the big wins. It was probably unfair on Gilbert, but BMC’s constant faith in GVA really appears to be paying off of late.

CA March 31, 2017 at 10:25 pm

Didn’t PG and GVA hate each other so wasn’t it BMC management separating it’s two prima-donas?!?

gabriele April 2, 2017 at 1:21 am

It wasn’t that symmetrical, at least according to Gilbert:
http://www.nieuwsblad.be/cnt/dmf20170330_02809321

Richard S March 31, 2017 at 11:24 am

Sagan and GVA are obviously the stand out 5 star favourites, and Gilbert seems to be somewhere near his best so 4 is definitely a good shout for him. Kristoff I’m less sure, he hasn’t looked great over the cobbles yet this year and has said his form isn’t there, but he was flying in the De Panne TT yesterday so maybe he’s talk about form was just sandbagging. I’d probably have Terpstra on the same level as Degenkolb, Vanmarcke and Naesen, and I’d have thought Lampaert deserves a nod too – certainly if Felline does. I think a move will go off first time over the Kwaremont and then get wittled down from there. This course seems to preclude random/surprise (Devolder/Nuyens level) winners and the strongest will always out, so a showdown between Sagan and GVA, and perhaps Gilbert, the last time over Kwaremont/Paterberg seems inevitable. Can’t wait.

Steppings March 31, 2017 at 11:52 am

Who wouldn’t like to build their own Paterberg? never knew that fact. Should be a “classic” on Sunday.

jollygoodvelo March 31, 2017 at 1:41 pm

Instead of building my own Paterberg I think I’d build a Lacets de Monjardin. Less gradient, more hairpin.

Ablindeye March 31, 2017 at 12:33 pm

Great preview, thanks. Undeniably the highlight of the racing year for me, this race has everything with beer and frites on top. I think Gilbert might crack it this year with his form and uninhibited free role, plus it’s a contract year for all at Quickstep, much like the 2011 avalanche.

Yodi March 31, 2017 at 1:13 pm

In a perfect world, Quick Step would win with a standout performance by Tom Boonen as team player performing a key role and he would go on the next week to win Paris-Roubaix. Thus completing a fairy tale ending.

But the world is not perfect. This would probably never happen. 😀

L'Islandais March 31, 2017 at 1:09 pm

Here’s hoping to see a 3 man breakaway including the Olympic Champion, the World Champion and the Belgian Champion.

Megi April 4, 2017 at 12:06 pm

How about the Belgian Champion in a 50 km solo winning ride with the Olympic Champion and World Champion chasing in a small group, the World Champion taking himself out and the Olympic Champion picking himself up to take second? That must be close to a perfect world.

Sam G March 31, 2017 at 1:54 pm

Alexis Gougeard doesn’t like fighting for position in the bunch – Im shocked at this from a pro-cyclist!

Is this more common in the wider peloton?

Netraam March 31, 2017 at 3:00 pm

Yes, for instance Remmert Wielinga and Johnny Hoogerland from the Netherlands struggled with this during their careers. I don’t know about a lot of others, but they’re surely there.
(Most rumours are about breakaway specialists, I’ve heard rumours about Cummings and de Gendt as well but nothing more than a few stray forum posts)

StevhanTI March 31, 2017 at 4:41 pm

Oh Yeah, Thomas De Gendt has been vocal about this too. He goes on the attack so often because he doesn’t like the bunch. He’s either on front, dragging the peloton back to a break, in the break or way back.

betabug April 1, 2017 at 8:03 am

David Moncoutié was famous for riding at the very end of the peloton, to avoid the pressure in the bunch. In his book he says riders used to say: “Oh, there’s Moncout, we’re at the end already!”

J Evans April 1, 2017 at 10:03 am

Steve Cummings is another – unless he just enjoys staring at a legion of backsides.

hoh April 2, 2017 at 2:08 am

Wouldn’t be surprised if a few GC leaders are the same. When they ride at the front, they are usually sherperded by their team before roads go up.

Wondering if Froome’s dismal performances in one day races and vernability to early attacks when team is not around is somehow related to the fact that he couldn’t fight for positions himself.

Ronin April 1, 2017 at 4:21 pm

Turns out I have something in common with the pros after all. I usually race at the back, on the front, or off the front. Occasionally, I race off the back as well. This may be related to the former.

Larry T March 31, 2017 at 3:30 pm

Great stuff as usual! I’m wondering if Sagan hasn’t been “crazy like a fox” and set things up so GVA’s the man with the target on his back? Kind of wish I could be there again http://cycleitalia.blogspot.com/2013/04/belgium-cobbles-and-beer_6.html but then again, maybe once was enough? I get cold just remembering it!

Maglia Nera March 31, 2017 at 7:00 pm

If only you had made it last year Larry. It was so warm I got sunburn!

Larry T March 31, 2017 at 7:52 pm

Really? Wow. Seems odd for a hard-man’s race to be run off in warm, sunny conditions – that’s what July and LeTour is for! For all the fans who ARE going there, enjoy a beer and a couple of frites for me! In 2018 I hope to complete my monument visits with L-B-L after missing out on attempts the past couple of years.

Maglia Nera April 1, 2017 at 11:55 pm

It did seem odd.Grey and misty the previous day, pouring with rain on the Monday but like summer on the Kwaremont that Sunday, which contributed to a great atmosphere. I think perhaps the sun came out for the hundredth edition.

irungo txuletak March 31, 2017 at 3:59 pm

I think boonen is stronger that he has shown to the moment.
Not sure he is still explosive enough to win this against Sagan/GVA, but it should better be watched out.

noel March 31, 2017 at 5:28 pm

Sagan, GVA and Quickstep to stare each other out while Felline steals away… maybe… oh, and Greipel to get in the break

ScarredPony March 31, 2017 at 7:33 pm

Kristoff was dropped like a sack of potatoes just a few days ago on the Muur. Seems strong on the flat but I expect the race to be hard on Sunday and don’t see Kristoff being a factor at all.

Kevin March 31, 2017 at 10:16 pm

I’m looking forward to Greipel ripping it up with 70km to go. One of my favourite parts of the race and often the start of the mid game battle to see who ends up in a winning position. Hopefully Lotti’s woes don’t affect his inevitable attacks to soften up the bunch.

Bemused April 1, 2017 at 10:20 pm

Totally agree, that puts a big smile on my face when the gorilla busts out the wattage bazooka! Paying it forward for the work his team does for him in the summer – top fella.

CA March 31, 2017 at 10:23 pm

Not even a 1-star mention for Stybar, Terpstra, Boonen!

Mr. Inrng’s definitely not a Belgian!

Othersteve April 1, 2017 at 12:01 am

So much for home field advantage! Thanks all for the great dialogue.

channel_zero April 1, 2017 at 2:02 am

FYI: Info on the Women’s race from another very dedicated blogger: https://prowomenscycling.com/

channel_zero April 1, 2017 at 2:10 am

Can GvA keep his form? He’s been on fire for 1 month now.

Gilbert is just now really coming onto form.

The best part of the season is almost over… One week to go. It’s too short! 🙁

Marsman April 1, 2017 at 9:31 am

I expect crashes to decide who loses the race. To me It seems the riders are taken bigger risks this year in the run in to the bottom of the climbs (riding on the pavements/elbowing). And that was only in the lesser classics.

MJJ April 1, 2017 at 1:28 pm

I really do not understand Sky’s use of Kwiatkowski. Seems like he would stand a chance a better chance of a result at the Ronde than at Pais Vasco.

Anonymous April 1, 2017 at 10:43 pm

If Boonen has the legs he’s surely going to roll the dice. Never mind next week.

JT April 2, 2017 at 12:23 pm

I might be very unpopular with this opinion but I really hope that Peer Sagan doesn’t win. If better, that he doesn’t feature in the race.
There are two main reasons for this:
– Firstly, everybody is racing their race around him. It makes for boring racing. Just like the TDF with Chris Froome where everybody waits to see what he does and then tries to follow. But what makes it even worse is when people do follow Sagan and then he looses.
– This is my second point, last year at MSR Kwiatkowski attacked on the pogio, held on the descent and then got caught. He tried he failed, fair enough. This year Peter Sagan does the same but people follow and he came second in the sprint. Who gets all the coverage ? Sagan. Not the two other people on the podium, not the actual winner but the person who came second. It got so bad that a lot of people, including journalists, were saying that he was the real winner, the moral victor. I just feel bad for the two other people who got on the podium and worst of all Kwiatkowski who won.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Sagan but I feel like there is an overreaction to everything he does. And it means that teams (such as QS) prefer to race against him instead of racing to win. If he could just not feature in races from time to time it may mean there is such hype about him attacking on the pogio like so many have done before.

I would be intrigued to know if I am the only one who is slightly fed up with everything being about Sagan or if it is just me.

gabriele April 2, 2017 at 12:59 pm

Well, in the Sanremo it’s all about Sagan precisely because he made it happen what nobody else (Kwiatko included, as you say), even came close in recent years with this course. The other guys “just” took advantage of what he did; and since that’s quite a feat in itself, they deserve appraisal, especially the – deserving – winner. But the athlete who made something extraordinary was Sagan. They couldn’t even afford to share a little bit of work… well done on their part to keep a winning chance, but that made even more apparent that without Sagan, or if Sagan had decided otherwise, they wouldn’t be fighting for a victory. That’s why the story is mainly about him.

In other occasions, I’d agree that he’s being more “mediatic” than anything else, but it wasn’t Sanremo’s case. And probably it isn’t most of the time. He’s both a media magnet (and that’s good for the sport) *and* a huger rider.

That said, I’d prefer to see Gilbert or Boonen winning… 😉

CM April 2, 2017 at 5:18 pm

Well Gilbert was phenomenal.

The Inner Ring April 3, 2017 at 6:13 pm

Sorry for the missing comments that have gone astray, this was because of some behind-the-scenes tech work that’s still ongoing to make the site smoother, faster and more reliable and some changes, including comments posted, during the first part of Monday have been lost.

BenW April 4, 2017 at 4:53 pm

Not a problem Mr Ring, I did wonder if I’d been moderated! Here’s to a faster, reliable site. And more analysis 🙂

TomH (calif) April 4, 2017 at 9:07 pm

re Boonen’s mechanical failures, it was not clear in my livestream feed what exactly happened.
Some reports indicated chain got wedged between frame & chain ring, but surely all the bikes are using chain “watchers” or “guards” to prevent this from happening ?!
Then, it seemed Boonen’s _2nd_ bike also suffered a similar problem?
I’d think the Quickstep mechanics would have had a very tough inquisition that evening.

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