[*Is my Dutch getting better or what?!]
I have to say, not only is the Tour of Flanders my favorite single day race in existence, it's my favorite week for blogging. And picking the favorites is my favorite regular exercise. So you might say that my Flanders Favorites post from last night is my favorite post of the year. And now, I will shut up.
- I didn't watch the first Day of the Bread (de Panne), but it sounds like there was some George Hincapie aggression, albeit unsuccessful. Who cares though, success isn't why Hink is in Koksijde; he's there to get ready for Sunday. Which he may very well be. Yay!
- Other aggressors include the trio of Italians who won the race, especially Luca Paolini and Manuel Quinziato, both of whom have designs on the overall. Alessandro Ballan was seen making some plays, as was Wouter Weylandt (a one-two move with Boonen joining a counterattack) and a recently rather frisky Bernhard Eisel. On the flip side, Stijn Devolder dropped 17 minutes (not a typo), meaning he's either got intestinal problems, or is just in training. He certainly set himself up for joining an early breakaway tomorrow too. Leif H\o/ste hit the deck but is presumed OK after chasing back.
- Tomorrow's course looks like a sprinters' stage. Assuming they're using the same course along the coast to Koksijde, that is... which I believe to be the case. Last year that course produced a 109-man peloton finishing together. The more I think about it, the more it seems likely Devolder will try something silly...
- Sitting out the race is the top "Waal" (Franco-Belgian) in Flanders right now, Philippe Gilbert. In the CN Notes Gilbert talks about the solid help he's been getting lately from former Paris-Roubaix winner and grizzled cobbles vet Frédéric Guesdon, and how he's out on the Flanders course this week, honing his familiarity, rather than risking his health at Dreidaagse. From what I can tell, he's only been at the start in Brugge once before, so experience is his biggest achilles right now. And for the record, I'm all-out rooting for a Gilbert win Sunday.
- Obviously Cancellara is team captain any time he wants these days, but CSC is either sandbagging slightly or more likely thinking broadly about team strategies this week. The captain-by-committee includes Cance, Kroon, O'Grady, Arvesen and Bak. With a better chance the following Sunday at his second Monument (Paris-Roubaix), it won't come as a shock if Cancellara lets a better-placed teammate go for the win this weekend. Yeah, he wants Flanders, but among Cancellara's many virtues is a respect for his mates. Once again, CSC will be holding many of the cards.
- JJ Rojas Gil is on the Flanders startlist. Not a surprise, but... I'm just sayin.