Today's stage of the ENECO Tour served as a nice not-ready-for-Ronde-time stage in the Flemish Ardennes, and shook up the race rather drastically in one or two respects. Koos Moerenhout drew out Tony Martin in a counterattack on the Mont d'Ellezelles and the two stayed away for the last 32km or so, with the soon-to-retire Dutchman taking a spirited stage win. Is the race over? Let's take a peek... Power Poll Style!
1. Tony Martin, HTC
Um, yeah, it's over. Martin is the undisputed world #2 against the clock, so only if they can crack him in the other Ardennes do any of his challengers have any hope. And Martin is a climber too, at least compared to the Boasson Hagens and Booms of the world. The only thing that can stop Tony is Tony, and I only mention that since he claims he was just in town to work on building his worlds crono form. Now, I think he'll take the win. It's HTC. They win races like this.
Here's another question to which I don't know the answer: can Martin be competitive at the Tour of Flanders? On the flip...
Flanders, unlike Paris-Roubaix, doesn't eliminate the little guys before the starter gun. It does favor bigger power dudes, but Martin isn't exactly little: 6', 165lbs or thereabouts. Also consider, he's almost even with Cancellara, the current RvV champion, when it comes to powering across an open road. IMHO this should correlate directly with getting over the cobbles, including the uphill stuff. The other big challenge of Flanders is the constant stops and starts, the narrow roads, and the need to brake and accelerate about a million times. Oh, and the distance. I'm not sure Martin is there on these latter two points, though as he and his body mature I wouldn't put anything past him.
2. Koos Moerenhout, Rabobank
Only 10 seconds down on the overall, Moerenhout is one sprint win away from the lead. OK, that's not happening. And overcoming Martin will be an exceptionally tall order for big Koos. But he's got an outstanding shot at second place. Moerenhout is a B-list time trialler, finishing second in the Dutch Nats and sixth in the final Tour de France crono although the weather changes that day make this a tad misleading. A more useful result is perhaps the 16km Ronde van Belgie time trial in late May, when he was second to Dominique Cornu and basically tied with Stijn Devolder. Bottom line, he'll more than hold his own in a sub-20k crono, particularly if he's as motivated as he seems to go out on a high note.
3. Richie Porte, Saxo Bank
Porte gets the nod here because among the prime chasers in the I-just-blew-90-seconds-to-the-world-#2-time-trialler group, he shouldn't have any real trouble in the ups and downs before Tuesday's finale. Hey, maybe Boom, Tuft, Klodi, Boasson Hagen, etc., won't either. But the Kid has no reason to hold back.
4. Edvald Boasson Hagen, Sky
Does he ever take a day off? IMHO he should think about packing it in. No way does he win the overall here after his strategic gaffes today (hindsight, I know...). If there are sprints to contest, fine. But assuming the gaps hold over the weekend, Boss Hog should start thinking about that flight to Australia next month.
5. Andreas Kloden, Radio Shack/Svein Tuft, Garmin
Take your pick. I can't quite make out Klodi's motivations, but you'd think he will be good over the next few stages. Tuft, meanwhile, could win the final ITT and nab a podium place. He's got to be gearing up for the two Quebec races, so unlike Boom his form is on a tighter schedule.