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Why de Ronde is great, or, how to predict the final of RvV and PR

In The Scarlet Letter, that noted practitioner of dark magic Patrick Lefevere . . . oops . . . Roger Prynne (although he calls himself Chillingworth) claims an ability to peer into the souls of tormented people. I'll leave you to ponder why black unicorns run from him on sight. I don't have that ability.

I do have, however, a need to avoid serious scholarly writing for a few minutes. Clickez Vous if you want to play along with my "how to predict the final" game for RvV and PR (and in doing this and considering, I've concluded that RvV is the better race because it almost never rewards the lucky).

So, lifted from the comments of a power poll (and hoping to avoid bringing cuddles along)--here's the basics of my thoughts about how to pick the 10 or so riders who make the final in RvV or PR:

1. List the top 5 favorites (Boonen, Cancellara, Langeveld, Leukemans, Pozzato, or whoever). Randomly eliminate 2. The odds of getting the correct 2 to suffer crashes or punctures are long, but the principle’s the thing. 3 down, only 7 to go. Sorta random: I eliminated Cancellara and Leukemans, leaving Boonen, Langeveld, and Pozzato for RvV.

2. List the next 5 second-tier riders. Randomly eliminate 3, unless it’s a Rabobank rider, in which case eliminate one or two depending upon whether you included Boom and/or Breschel. 2 more, which gives 5—only 5 more to figure out. Flecha, Hushovd, Ballan, Chavanel, Sagan. Sorta random: buh-bye Flecha, Hushovd, Ballan. Hello Chava and Sagan.

[of course, this is where it gets tough—we’ll call this bunch the Hammond/ Backstedt/Devolder group.]

3. List 10 riders who seem to have done ok—been in the results, but not won, are either on a 2nd or third-tier team, or are the 2nd or 3rd string rider on Omega (so, you’d have put Knaven here too). Eliminate 7 arbitrarily. Play no favorites since the courses don’t. 5 plus 3 = 8. SVM (Garracuda = 2nd tier team), Voeckler, Lastras, Kroon, Steegmans, Devolder, Boasson Hagen, Gatto, Chainel, Oss. Hey, Voeckler, Lastras, and Kroon: it's yer lucky day!!

4. The Maaskant/Boonen group awaits: List 6 (why 6? no idea . . .) neo-pro or 2nd year riders who have shown something intriguing so far this season. Arbitrarily eliminate 5. [And here, since I'm not vlaanderen90 or tgs and have not really followed the young'uns closely enough, I can't really play . . .

This method results in 9 riders chosen out of 26 possibles that might make the final selection.

5. Don’t choose the 10th—leave some margin for the Durand’s and Demols . . . (And it's this category of riders who might make the final that convinces me that RvV is a better race than Paris-Roubaix. Luck plays a much bigger role in Roubaix than it does in Flanders: I'm probably missing a couple, but off-hand, I can't thing of a "random" winner of Flanders since Durand in the 90s. (Nuyens was smart and a little lucky, Devolder was lucky, but not in a random way). Backstedt? Lucky.

Anyway . . . what are your final predictions? Rankings of the Holy week monuments?

The main point of this though-experiment is to develop a healthy dose of respect for how luck affects the finals--and how (don't listen Cuddles) the best riders and teams manage that randomness by asserting control of their chances.

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