[editor's note, by chris] Reposted... keep the comments rolling in.
The Queen of the Classics may be about the hardest to pick a favorite. The requirements for victory -- experience, brute strength -- are familiar, but lady luck makes the final call. Still, this wouldn't be a Cycling blog if we didn't give it a shot.
Update [2007-4-11 13:13:56 by chris]: This is now first order of biz, along with an upcoming feedbag.
On the flip:
(chris) He's finished as high as ninth two years ago, and is a good fit for the race, if he's making it enough of a priority. But his main interests lie in July. I frankly have no idea if he's after it this year. He was middle of the pack last weekend. Can't rule it out though.
(chris) Third last year, at least til the judges got involved. He also showed great form at de Ronde, finishing fifth, and the newly-aggressive Discovery Channel squad might just manage to put him in position this year, rather than missing the key break.
A top contender My pick to win.
(Jens) because he is a gutsy rider who looks to be in great form at the right time, didn't waste energy in G-W, has been up there before and won't be super-guarded like Boonen-Cance-Ballan. Also it's more fun betting on an outsider.
(Koppenberg) I've decided that Gusev is in my top three for a lot of the same reasons. He's been super strong in this race for years, and he's still young. Plus he should be able to hide and escape major attention.
(chris) 1997 winner is always hanging around the top 20 here. Of course I don't think he'll win, I just think it bears mentioning.
(tikigiant) We all know the amphibians on Francaise de Jeux simply don't have the legs to hang in a serious break or win in a sprint, but these pesky Frenchmen have shown a nice knack, this season, to pick the right break at the right time. Sure Christophe Mengin did little more than cling to the back of the break at Gent-Wevelgem, but that was enough to earn him a very respectable 5th just days ago. I'd put Philippe Gilbert in a similar category. Can he get lucky and pick the right break at the right time, then cling and claw to put himself in a position to finish top ten? Very possible. Top three? Unlikely, but you never know. More interesting is if these experienced veterans can help propel one of the younger members of their squad onward and upward. Not likely in as big a race as this, but something to dream about for those of us who are fans of the French (and their much-maligned cousins, the Belgians).
(DZI) Apart from believing that Cancellara will make it two in a row, Ballan suprised everyone on the collbled hills. He's also proven to be able to manage the cobbles of Roubaix. While failing his exam as the new catwalk model, his built is similar as Cancellara, and he's already won. IMHO he's the best side bet around to beat the field.
(chris) Can you win the world's biggest single day race (according to some) after so much inactivity? His offseason has been anything but ideal, after an entire year of health issues. That's a huge handicap.
(Jens) A swedish curse on you for doubting the magnificent power of The Bäckstedt. Blonde women around the world will turn their faces away from you in disgust for uttering such heresy. Being so well rested Magnus will probably go solo fom Arenberg, making Boonen et.al. cry for their mommies.
(chris) Is it crocodile tears this weekend, or revenge? That's the choice for Flanders' eternal second-mooiste (almooiste?)... Thrice second in the Race for Flemish Deity Status, and second last year in Paris-Roubaix but for the rail crossing. Hoste never looks like the strongest guy in these races, and last Sunday was no exception, but he's either second-strongest, or in the mix with outstanding race-smarts. He has all the qualities and good form for a podium spot if he isn't still bumming.
Peter Van Petegem
(Mr Van P) What would be a better way for the 37 year old De Peet to leave the sport than with his second win at Roubaix (not to say he's retiring). His form is there, although not visible by results and the recent comments/threats by Lefevere may have sparked a more every-man-for-himself attitude over at QSI. He knows how to win there and there may be no better tactician out there. If Boonen stumbles don't rule out Van Petegem. This would be almost as cool as Museeuw's win in '02.
Juan Antonio Flecha
(Kevin) I am a little worried about my main man. He has been around at the front of races recently, but hasn't figured in the serious action since the season opener. Races like Flanders, though, don't seem to suit him as well as PR. PR is a singular, event, which grinds away at the field until only a select few are left. And that select few has been the same for several years now, and has invariably included Flecha. If Flecha is around at the finale, he has as much of a chance as anyone.
(chris) Once beat Fabien Cancellara for a podium spot; he's the natural replacement at the T-Mob for Steffen Wesemann. Is Hammond healthy for once?
(TC) Hammond was a tower of power today in GV. I'm hoping he improves on his prior P-R 3rd place finish.
(Kevin) He's got the power, the grit, and the motivation and appears to be peaking at just the right time. His 'cross skills might help him if PR is a mud-bath.
(Koppenberg) There is no reason not to believe that Tony Montana is just as strong as last year. He tried to ride away from the leaders in Flanders like he did in PR last year, and while it didn't work, he did show the world that he's still got the power it takes.