The Flanders Classics organisation announced today the 26 teams that will race on the biggest raceday of the year. With CAS giving Katusha their extra super-special invitation to the World Tour the number of WT teams at the start stand at 19. Completing the field are 7 invited wildcard teams.
First there are the three local Belgian teams. Topsport Vlaanderen of course with their batch of fresh cobbles talent. Perhaps no obvious new Sep Vanmarcke but some good prospects and a few older veterans to guide them. Crelan-Euphony is the old Landbouwkrediet team. Slightly weaker-looking than in the last few years but with a roster full of classic Belgian hardmen who are sure to give everything to be in the early action if nothing else. Last of the belgies is Accent Jobs-Wanty who, besides Mr Unibrow Napolitano and no less than 4 riders with last names starting with "Van", have old Staf Schierlinckx. If you aren't impressed enough by his name, remember that he has always been good for a surprise ride in De Ronde even if he seems to be off to a rough start to the season.
Europcar are in of course. Crazy (like a fox) outsider Voeckler plus a team that always seem to put their stamp on these races even if we don't count them among the big sin the pre-race discussions.
ViniFantini-Selle Italia and NetApp-Endura look like the most anonymous invites of the seven. Vini are without Pippo this year and will presumably be hoping for a standout performance from Oscar Gatto( or maybe they will bring Garzelli to bat his fabulous ashes at the photographers or send DiLuca as some kind of cruel joke? )
NetApp sans Endura managed to DNF 7 out of 8 riders last year. The eighth rider Jerome Baugnies is no longer with the team......
Perhaps most interesting will be the Swiss IAM Cycling. They have now gotten invites to practically all the big races except the Giro. Haussler will of course be the name everyone will look out for but Bandiera and Elmiger both did well in the Omloop too so they bring some depth here. They will definitely be interesting to watch. I've heard from very well placed sources that this is Haussler's year and what reason would there ever be to doubt such a thing?