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The End of a Bumpy Road

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Last week I wrote that Flemish cycling was having a rotten time of it in general, and Quick Step in particular. This morning's 100th running of the Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen marks the close of the Flemish classics season, and confirmed what I wrote earlier. Here's your podium:

1 Mark Cavendish, T-Mobile
2 Robbie McEwen, Predictor-Lotto
3 Gert Steegmans Quick Step

Yikes. Another pair of foreigners blitzes the homeboys. Wouter Weylandt and Stephen Caethoven also graced the top ten for Flanders, but that's a pretty weak haul. I'd also opined that Quick Step and Flemish Cycling could save its season with a big performance at Paris-Roubaix. Whoops: no podiums, three in top ten, six in top twenty. Not pathetic, but utterly, utterly forgettable.

Today kind of sums it up: Tom Boonen would have been a strong favorite in the finale but came down with a stomach bug and missed his home race. It's not that these guys suddenly can't win, it's just that, well, things aren't happening. Strange weather, inopportune crashes and illness, you name it. And as for the fans, surely in Flanders people are asking, how long until Het Volk?

Update [2007-4-18 19:19:33 by chris]: Others have noticed:

Patrick Lefevere looks back on his team's performance in the Belgian cobblestone Classics this year with mixed emotions. The Quickstep manager told the Gazet van Antwerpen, "I have no bad words for Tom Boonen," but he was disappointed with Gert Steegmans and Peter Van Petegem. "In the Ronde van Vlaanderen, Boonen was still handicapped from a fall near the start," Lefevere noted. "Sunday [in Paris-Roubaix] he was very good."... Lefevere admitted that he had expected more from Van Petegem and Steegmans. "I was disillusioned with Peter on Sunday, and he was, too. If he had jumped with Wesemann on the cobblestones at Cysoing then he could have won." Concerning Steegmans, Lefevere said, "He was strong in the Ronde, but was nowhere in Paris-Roubaix. We still have work to do there, because Steegmans has too little faith in himself." ...

How do the experts rate Tom Boonen's performance in the Spring Classics so far? "There was a clear difference between the Boonen of 2005 and 2006, and the Boonen of now. He is showing less strength than earlier," said Eddy Merckx noted to Sportwereld, who conducted a survey. "But we do not condemn him. He still has a lot of his career before him." "Boonen has set himself very high standards," according to Eddy Planckaert. "He doesn't like to lose. Now he must win the green jersey at the Tour." Walter Godefroot noted that Boonen could use some more luck. "Nobody can be satisfied with a sixth place finish at Paris-Roubaix. In the big races, Boonen just came up short or he wasn't lucky." As to whether Boonen should ride Liège-Bastogne-Liège or Amstel Gold, Godefroot said, "Not a good idea."