A few days back we announced the formation of the above-ttiled, soon-to-be-august group of folks daring enough to challenge Gavia and me to a month-long contest of prognostication excellence. Well, here we go: below is the first round (of ten)... names of our panelists, picks for tomorrow's E3 Prijs, and the opening writeup by Rubesandbabes. Enjoy!
|E3 Prijs Score||
|Edredon Browny||Heinrich Haussler||Stijn Devolder||Vlad Gusev||3||3|
|Millsy 89||Heinrich Haussler||Seb Langeveld||Fabian Cancellara||1||1|
|KOM Vuelta||Lars Boom||Yoann Offredo||Bjorn Leukemans||0||0|
|Rubesandbabes||Fabian Cancellara||Thor Hushovd||Heinrich Haussler||5||5|
|JSallee||Yoann Offredo||Heinrich Haussler||Leif Hoste||0||0|
|Popup Rolen||Yoann Offredo||Bjorn Leukemans||Nick Nuyens||0||0|
|French Kheldar||Stijn Devolder||Lars Boom||Thomas Voeckler||0||0|
|Margin Walker||Thor Hushovd||Fabian Cancellara||Heinrich Haussler||1||1|
|Dan Beringhele||Heinrich Haussler||Yahueni Hutarovich||Bjorn Leukemans||0||0|
|Stevie Dexter||Heinrich Haussler||Lars Boom||Thomas De Gendt||0||0|
|Gavia||Filippo Pozzato||Heinrich Haussler||Fabian Cancellara||1||1|
|Chris F||Lars Boom||Thor Hushovd||Niki Terpstra||0||0|
Treks and Bets and Garmin Dilemmas
E3 Prijs Vlaanderen 2011 – An important spring race in Northern Belgium, a cobbled classic, and the best final warm-up race for the Tour of Flanders, covering a similar, if shorter par-course, and including many of the same Flandrian cobbled sections and climbs as Flanders.
Lacking results in the early results this year, several of the big ‘classics’ teams are pretty much under the gun to get it going this weekend, or at least make it look good heading into the biggest races in the next few weeks: Quickstep, Garmin-Cervelo, and Omega-Pharma Lotto, for sure, and maybe this group includes cobbles-ambitious teams Vacansoleil, Team Sky and BMC, too, though Team Sky and BMC are not lining up for the E3.
From the teams mentioned, only Garmin and Vacansoleil are sending their A squads, Heinrich Haussler and current World Champion Thor Hushovd from Garmin, keeping Tyler Farrar in reserve for Sunday’s big race of the weekend, Gent-Wevelgem. Some other notable E3 absences, Team Quickstep and Omega-Pharma Lotto are choosing to save their respective stars, Tom ‘Mr. E3’ Boonen and Philip Gilbert for Sunday as well.
Garmin-Cervelo, the super-team, is particularly under pressure to demonstrate that their stars Hushovd and Haussler can ride together effectively AND WIN. There is a 99% chance at least one of Garmin’s three star sprinters will leave the team after this year, and the classics guys on Garmin will always be remembered for how they do in the next few weeks. Farrar looks pretty strong, they all do at times, but they have to win one of the biggies, or be forever judged by the fans. When summer comes around, even if they get the Green jersey in the TDF, without some spring results and no big GC favorites, well it all comes down to the next couple of weeks, and the results need to come from the stars. It won’t be good enough if one of their younger riders does something, they need big results from Hushovd and Haussler. Can they work together?
Okay, so the contest begins - how to pick the order of finish? Easy - just stay with the heavy favorites and play for 1-point over trying to nail the exact order. Luck is such a huge factor, it will be hard for someone to get the correct dark horse, harder still in the correct placing. Had the contest started with Dwars door Vlaanderen two days ago, most likely nobody would have picked Saxo Bank's Nick Nuyens for the top 3, and somewhere along the way, Astana's Maxim Iglinsky is gonna sneak in there, too, but when? Overall the biggest races in this contest might turn out to be the easiest to predict, and likely the highest scoring for most of the punters.
The betting odds for the E3 (from Unibet – stay away from the evils of gambling, kids) say the E3 is a three-rider race: Leopard-Trek's Fabian Cancellara, Haussler and Hushovd. Past winner Cancellara has already made the claim that this race is a goal for him, and likely he will be at the sharp end of the race when it counts. Going down the start list, there are lots of riders who could surprise:
Astana’s Iglinsky, Lampre’s Grega Bole, another Nuyens type of rider who finally might have the team behind him, Europcar's Thomas Voeckler, known to all and along with FDJ's Yoann Offredo, the two real French threats in the race. Pretty much half of the Vacansoleil team could surprise, with the odds-makers even providing odds on Vacansoleil’s upcoming Belgian Gorick Gardeyn. More guys: Omega's Jurgen Roelandts, Rabobanks's Lars Boom, maybe other Rabobank riders, and the usual cast of characters including Wednesday's winner Nuyens.
OK, that's how the panel rolls. Check their picks, play along at home, and remember to ridicule us tomorrow afternoon when we all completely blow it.