1) The following riders will not make the top 10 at G-W:
Cancellara, Boonen, Fletcha, Pozzato, Boom, Langeveld, Leukemans, Martens, Marcato, and Felline. Look familiar? Those are the top 10 of E3.
Why? Two reasons: a) Chris said so in one of his E3 pre-race threads. Since Chris is in Belgium then by definition he's smarter about these things than the rest of us and, b) the reason why Chris made that prediction is that G-W is not only just one day after E3, but there will be a whole lot of rested riders competing with the top ten from E3. The rested riders are of two types. First you got your E3 riders who looked like they were putting in quite a lot less energy into E3 than the top 10 were. Guys like EBH, Ivanov, Ballan (did anyone on BMC really push it today? I think not.) , Devolder, Hondo, Arvesen, Hoste, and Ista among many others. Second you got riders who didn't ride E3 at all, including whole teams like Tyler Farrar's Garmin or Maxim Iglinsky's Astana, or Lars Bak's Columbia (now there's a phrase that probably has never been written before), plus individuals like Breschel, Roelandts, Bennati, and freakin'Oscar Friere. Gotta admit it: if one of the E3 top 10 wins G-W than CHAPEAU! is all you can say.
2) After all the winter talk, the course is not much longer than last year: 219 km as compared to 203 km. A trifle!
3) But the hills are something else. Last year we had the basic course of flat, flat, flat until the Monteberg/Kemmelberg duo that crested around 30 km before the finish. This year... those extra 16 km are pure hills.
This year we got 16 climbs instead of four. Look at the course profile on the right and the blow up of the course map showing that the little loop of the Monteberg and Kemmelberg. The climbs are now blown up to resemble some hellish geomorphological torture device you see that the riders have to deal with. Gneiss! I'll name the first pass of those hills the Ered Lithui and the second the Ephel Duath.
4) Still there's the same flat 30 km (plus or minus) after the Kemmelberg for sprinters to get reorganized. And this to me is the interesting part. In years past with fewer climbs often there was a bunch sprint at the end like two years ago when Oscarito whipped the bunch. But sometimes like last year one or a couple riders would get clear and stay away till the end. What's it gonna be this year? Will the extra climbs defeat the sprinters? Hard to imagine the likes of Freire being all that worried even if other sprinters like his teammate "Heckuva Job" Brownie might well cry uncle upon seeing the climbs coming right after the other-twice. I tend to think the extra climbs will serve lessen the chances of a bunch sprint but not eliminate them.
5) Finally, and this is a total aside, of the riders who aren't entered, you know who I wish was riding this race more than any other but who isn't? Lulu Sanchez. I think he''s big enough to deal with the cobbles and I'd love to see him try to TT away at the end. Anyway, enjoy the race and vote in the poll!