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Four Aces and a Straight Flush

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Ronde_mediumLooking back on today's events, it's hard to add to the typically thorough, lively analysis in the Post-Race thread, but I do want to take stock of today's events in light of what comes next.

That Quick Step stole the show today should come as a surprise to exactly nobody. I really thought that they owed this one to Boonen, but while I counted on a different result, I wouldn't go so far as to call myself surprised. Going in, we knew they had the weapons -- three very dangerous riders, plus ample support to get them in position to make trouble. We debated how to deploy them, but in hindsight there was only one choice: see which one gets in the right move and go with it. Chavanel said afterward he thought he could win, but this is debatable. His first big move contained Leif Hoste and his second Manuel Quinziato, both of whom were threats to steal the win. Boonen, meanwhile, couldn't go anyplace without half the pack reacting. That left Devolder, and you can't lose when you solo home.

I don't blame Pozzato for his tactics. Yes, he could have reacted to Devolder, but if Boonen reacts to him, then he merely weakens himself for the eventual showdown with Tommeke. You can complain about negative riding, but imagine the howls if he'd chased Devo and got hammered at the end by Boonen. "How could you not focus on Tom Freaking Boonen?!" would be the topic of the day. Pippo's great strength forced Boonen out of the equation, but the reverse is equally true too. I am a little miffed with Columbia, who seemed to be in a position to ride more aggressively but again found themselves merely chasing. Quick Step may be the big bad bully of Flanders, but that doesn't mean you should sit there and take it. But beyond that... what could anyone really do?

The story over the rest of Holy Week won't change much, though I am interested in how Lefevre deals with his next big problem: too many hands to play. As the headline suggests, there is no such thing as a team of multiple Flanders champions. However decent and friendly they may be, I absolutely cannot see Devolder and Boonen on the same team next year. I am sure someone will correct me and point out their contract statuses, but regardless of such things, I think one or the other will force his way out of the Lefevre monopoly. Boonen is an icon, but he's also the most likely to get restless. Unless Lefevre can get the team to deliver him another Paris-Roubaix, I suspect Boonen will at least explore the idea that Quick Step isn't big enough for the two of them. Stay tuned...