Update [2007-4-5 14:21:28 by chris]: New entries added! I am culling as much as possible from the comments... let me know if you want any of your words stricken, and keep those entries coming! I think this will be a pretty interesting pre-race guide when we're done.
Update [2007-4-4 1:20:18 by chris]: Sorry, was away all day... but things are underway with the predictions wiki. I'll get a few more of my takes in, though I don't want to take this over. Keep 'em coming. I'll reset this as the top story at least once a day so we can keep this moving. If people like this format we could conceivably do this for lots of races. Maybe not so long a list, but hey.
Here's an idea to make the predictions game fun: let's do this Wiki style. Here's how it will work. I've listed below the riders I think have at least a snowball's chance on Sunday. Please add riders to the list, it's intended to be inclusive. Then, whoever wants can write a short summary of the rider's chances. Each entry will identify the writer, and if there are multiple posts for a rider, all the better.
When it's done, this will be a pretty long piece, so I'll put the riders on the flip and start with a few examples. Use the comments to add to the list, or dive right into handicapping, and I/we will paste them into the Wiki. Oh, and keep them brief, please.
(Jiggs) Who's quickly becoming the next Hincapie with his inability seal the deal is my sentimental choice Sunday. But I can't help thinking that sprint we saw at E3 between Boonen and Cancellara will be replayed, with the same result. Tornado Tom really does look unbeatable.
(Paolo) He's super motivated for flanders and boonen could use his support later in the year. Paolo has already worked extensively for Boonen and its time to let bettini take his alusive ronde win. UNLESS, the sponsors have setup the pay scales to get boonen all the flemish wins this year (likely).
(Chris) My not so secret favorite. If he's unable to go, so be it. But if Bettini is ready, I pick him to win. There's nothing he can't do, and he just has the most irrepressible energy, a real force of nature. I also think the star studded cast means lots of people will be waiting for each other to make a move, and the aggressive Bettini thrives on indecision.
(Brian) If he was trying to peak for the cobbles, he'd probably have a decent shot. Instead, he's probably trying to win Amstel Gold, so he'll be working his ass off for Freire.
(Jens) Boogie is their no 1 guy not Freire. Gambling on Freire making it over all those climbs with attacks going left and right is a bit farfetched. Boogie has spectacular form and could be an outsider to win.
(Chris) A nearly prohibitive favorite, he almost seems like he was engineered in some lab in Gent for this race. His size is an asset on the flats, and his power is just far enough off-the-charts to propel that frame up the bergs. His closing speed is lethal, and he/Lefevre have mastered his timing. That all said, he's beatable if it doesn't all come together, and while there's no support for this, I just think it won't be his day. For once.
(DZI) Burghardt will be the only man able to follow Boonen on the climbs. He's made a huge step forwards since last year and proved he's got what it takes in the E3 prijs' cobbled hills. Yet, he needs to get some distance between him and Boonen before the last climb. If he can get away, he's my guy to win on the day.
(Kevin) He's definitely strong but appeared to be hanging on by his fingernails at times. I'm not sure he'll be able to power away.
(Koppenberg) No. But if he's a danger man, he can either wear down the QSI armada by attacking and set up Kirchen (who does look strong this year) or Klier (who broke his face on a tractor last week, but is ALWAYS strong in the Ronde). At 24, he's a good wildcard for the team's captains.
(Chris) If Bettini can't go, Cancellara is my pick. Flanders rewards power, initiative, and speed. He's got the first two, which could nullify the need for the third. In general, I like a mild surprise this year, and Cancellara is coming on, just in time.
(Brian) He's shown some great form in the earlier races, but he's got some DS problems. If he had Bruyneel (or even Ekimov) at his side, he'd probably have a half-decent shot at it. Unfortunately, he's stuck with Dirk Demol. Therefore, he'll probably attack too early, only to get chased down by Quick Step and lose his shot at winning.
(Clydesdale) I have been revising my opinion of Devolder's chances as I see more and more how in form his teammates Vaitkus & Gusev are. He will have solid help deep into the race with their current form. We also know he has the power to cover attacks (even his own).
(Kevin) He seems incredibly strong, but perhaps not very aware of his limits. If he doesn't get his nose in the wind until the final 20k, I think he'll be a real threat.
(Lyne) he seems very strong physically but for some reason (bad DS? bad race tactics? or ...?) he can't close it.
(Brian) He's looking good right now, even with the broken rib from the crash in Stage 1 of De Panne. I don't think the favorites will be watching him too hard, but we could see him make the final selection, and probably be a fighting part of the race. Unfortunately, I can't see him winning. Too weak a team to not work, and I don't think he's as strong as some other favorites.
(DZI) Said he wasn't up for de Ronde, in too much pain after his fall. Fancies his chances in Gent Wevelgem though, and maybe Roubaix. All depends on how his injury heals this week. At this time, can't pull the handlebar of his bike.
Juan Antonio Flecha
(Kevin) He discounts his chances at Flanders, but he should figure prominently in the action. He also tipped van Bon and the Boogie man.
(Chris) There's no way he can win, okay? He's on the form of his life, and is generally good at just about everything, so people will want to say he might be a factor. Not a chance. If he's around on the Valkenberg his sprinting form means he will be attacked mercilessly... and as good as he is, he can't hump it over the Muur with the power climbers.
(Koppenberg) seem to say that he's relying on Flecha's help to stay w/ the leaders. That is a diesel/thoroughbred combination that would win many races.I'm just not wagering it will be enough on the high holiest day in all of Flemish cycling.
(Jens) To bad Gusev has had problems this spring , I was really expecting him to rise to superstar-level this year.
(lyne) Gusev will be a superstar... next year.
(Clydesdale) has 2 2nd places ('04 &'06) in De Ronde. With his move back to the Belgian Lotto team I expect him to be very strong this year. His experience in this race is pretty remarkable considering he is only 29 years old. Look for Hoste to try and break the final selection earlier in the race. Both times he has come in 2nd he lost in a sprint to the finish with much better sprinters. He needs to use his superior TT ability (2 time TT champion of Belgium) to break the legs of any sprinters early in the break if he is to have a decent shot at winning. The bad news for him is that the Tornado is far from a bad TT'r himself. He will have to outclimb Boonen at some point and then keep him from coming back to him to make it to the line without him.
(Chris) Coming off injury, not enough support... forget this year. He's young, he'll have a few more good shots at it.
(Koppenberg) I keep waiting for Leif to show some form, but I guess he's following De Peet's schedule at Predictor: wait until the big race to show anything.
(Jens) Hoste is back in! but Pred-Lotto aren't expecting too much in Flanders. They are hoping for a good result in P-R.
(DZI) Hoste OK now. Watch TT today, and find out. May not be a winner on sunday, but predict he won't be far off the lead.
(Chris) Not really his turf, and like Freire, if somehow he made the late selections, he'd be under attack. Nobody's going to escort him to the line. But Thor has looked OK and should be on track to defend his win at Gent Wednesday.
(Chris) Just because he's Belgian and won Het Volk doesn't mean his ceiling is high enough to include winning De Ronde. He's solid, but a win Sunday would more or less be out of nowhere.
(Chris) Kind of a throw-in. His best result is 6th, and it's been a while. The former Paris-Roubaix winner should be kept in mind the following week, but doesn't have a Flanders profile.
(Chris) Was the sexy sprint pick for a week or so in late winter. Not much is known about where this young'un is headed, but it's cool they're bringing him to Brugge instead of sheltering him.
(Chris) Looking strong. He should be in the final mix, although there's no reason to pick him to win. Well, except that with Klier and Burghardt the T-Mobs could shake off their doldrums and make things very interesting.
(Chris) Old tractor face ready to give it a go. If he wins, that tractor will be worth millions in Belgium.
(Brian) (Millar and Ignatiev) Have we ever seen them ride cobbles? Enough said. (After the 3 Days of De Panne, we might be able to better handicap Millar)
(Chris) Just a shade behind Boonen and Cancellara in pretty much every phase, though with some timing he could make it interesting.
(Kevin) If Stuey can get into an early break with someone from QS, and perhaps a Liquigas, he might be able to stay away all day. I don't know if any team will chase to help Boonen. To me, this scenario doesn't seem that remote. QS has so much firepower, and such a sure-thing with Boonen, that the attacks from the other squads will start early.
(Koppenberg) I think a much more likely scenario for Stuey Being the locomotive that chases dangerous breaks before launching Tony Montana on the Valkenberg. Similar to the role I expect Flecha to play for Friere and Petito to play for Pippo. Keep the dangerous breaks at bay and keep the boss-man out of the wind until it is time to earn their money.
(Brian) I can see the opposite. O'Grady's been in better form, I think, and Cancellara probably has a better chance in Roubaix.
(Jiggs) O'Grady's been in better form?!? Maybe he's featured in more races, but Cancellara is clearly set to tear the legs off the peloton for the next week.
(Jens) When I woke up this morning it was all clear to me. I'm almost 100% certain that Pozzato will win De Ronde. Why? ... Because he is not desperate, he doesn't have to win it, he can afford to lose and therefore he won't. My guess it will be a tight tactical race with strong teams keeping the favourites together until late in the race. We will see attacks from favourites but it will come together again and at some time, probably after the Muur, there will be an elite-group of about 6-10 riders.Pozzato will be the one with the coolest head and he will let the others attack and chase each other down much like he did at Het Volk. All the others are more desperate for the win and will be more likely to waste energy. Pippo doesn't have the homecrowd demanding victory, he's young and will have plenty of chances to get a win plus he has proven that he has a great tactical mind. There you go, no hedging my bets, one name - Pozzato
(Jiggs) That scenario sounds a lot like Hoste last year. Nothing to lose riding for Hincapie he puts in an attack on the Valkenberg and who goes with him??? We all know what happened after. Pozzato might feature in the finale, but Sunday's race is between three riders: Boonen, Cancellara and Ballan.
(Koppenberg) Speaking of good vets at flanders, one big reason to expect Pippo on the podium is uber-vet Roberto Petito. he's been in the last 3 Flanders top 10, if I remember correctly. He may not be a household name, but like Klier, he comes ready to perform on the cobbled power-climbs.
(Chris) Like Boonen, he's tailor made for this race. He's very similar in size, a little less power but with blazing speed. At 26, he's coming into his own... but is on the wrong team to show what he can do. And honestly, what's he ever done? Maybe next year... if he changes teams.
Peter Van Petegem
(Kevin) Zabel, Wesseman, Van Petegem: They've reached a certain age when you have to start trimming your nose and ear hair and perhaps start using hair coloring on it as well. (I know of these things all too well) I'd love to see one of those old horses figure in the finale.
Francisco Jose Ventoso
(Mr Van P) Zabel's name on the list. He's been quiet this year as he patiently waits for his leader to find his form. He's been close in the past here.