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It's Still Winter in Belgium

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Pez reads my mind this morning... all this lush, sunny California scenery seems a little out of place this time of year. Aren't we still six weeks from Flanders? Shouldn't we be recycling slang terms like Belgian toothpaste?

And, isn't it time for Het Volk?

The usual suspects (VN and CN) are too wrapped up in the ToC to focus on the Belgian semi-classics Het Volk and its next-day partner, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, but Pez has a great rundown of the race up today. Some quick hits: the weather shouldn't be a huge problem this year, though you never know; the race is peppered with climbs; and yet sprinters Boonen, Van Petegem and McEwen top the Unibet.com odds. Check out the graphics and pics too.

Yesterday Cyclingnews.com noted the organizers' determination not to get snowed out again:

"If it snows, we have to cancel the race," Lucien Van Hoorde announced. "But we'll wait until the very last moment. We can also take an alternative route by riding around the Oude Kwaremont, the Muur van Geraardsbergen and Molenberg."

Oh, and it will all be streamed live at cycling.tv. Both days start at 8am GMT, whenever that is.

The Davitamon boys gave a presser previewing their two-headed ambitions this week:

After the awful weather conditions of the last (too many) days, our racers finally had today the possibility to do some training.

Several racers, including Robbie McEwen and Peter Van Petegem, have spent five hours in the saddle, and have made a reconnaissance of a large part of the "Volk" Omloop Het Volk. Afterward, a press conference was organised at the new headquarters of Omega Pharma.

For Robbie, the period until the E3-Prijs at Harelbeke is very important. He wants to be in top condition for Milan-San Remo, this year he fells 10 times better than a year ago, and he wants to fight for the win. But his presence at the start will depend of the good will of the baby McEwen! Robbie hopes that his wife Angélique will deliver a fine baby tomorrow or Friday, and that he will then bring her the winner's bouquet on Saturday.

Peter does not stress any more at the beginning of the season, and he feels really great. With the Ronde van Vlaanderen, Omloop Het Volk represents for Peter the most important race of the season, as it brings a lot of publicity for a rider and his team. He feels very well, and he hopes that, without accident, he will be able to battle for a fourth win in the race.

Races like this deserve a little historical background, which you can peruse at wikipedia.org. If you don't know Wikipedia, it's the online encyclopedia that is in wiki format, which people who understand the internet better than me will describe as some sort of interactive format which lets the readers do some or all of the writing. Hey, just like this site! Anyway, I've found Wikipedia a handy source for quick background on races (including origins and results), as well as riders (bios, palmares, etc.).

Het Volk -- Dutch and/or Flemish for "the people" -- is the name of the newspaper which got the race going in 1945. Unfortunately, Het Volk is apparently a stepsister paper, and their rival Het Nieuwsblad had started the Ronde van Vlaanderen. You can see a certain pecking order in all this. Anyway, check out the site, it's a fun if basic read.