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Panel of Temporary Experts: Gent-Wevelgem!

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You know the drill, and so do they. Today's previewer is Dan Beringhele, below the fold.

Player

Winner

 Second

 Third

 GW Score

Season Score

Edredon Browny Tyler Farrar Matt Goss Chris Sutton 1 4
Millsy 89 Tyler Farrar Luca Paolini Romain Feillu 1 2
KOM Vuelta Sep Vanmarcke Romain Feillu Peter Sagan 0 0
Rubesandbabes Tyler Farrar Phillippe Gilbert Filippo Pozzato 1 6
JSallee Matt Goss Daniel Oss Tom Boonen 1 1
Popup Rolen Tom Boonen Alessandro Ballan Matt Goss 5 5
French Kheldar Mark Cavendish Tyler Farrar Tom Boonen 2 2
Margin Walker Tyler Farrar Tom Boonen Matt Goss 2 3
Dan Beringhele Peter Sagan Matt Goss Tom Boonen 1 1
Stevie Dexter Tom Boonen Tyler Farrar Alessandro Ballan 6 6
Gavia Tyler Farrar Bernhard Eisel Kelly Slater 1 2
Chris F Tom Boonen Tyler Farrar Peter Sagan 6 6

Panic in the Streets of Wevelgem

By Dan Beringhele

The race from Gent (or Deinze apparently) to Wevelgem should be frantic and unpredictable.  Most of the climbing is packed into two trips around a 70 km circuit before finishing with a dangerous descent and long flat ride into the city. Forecasts call for a 14 kph headwind into the finish so I’m expecting that the wind, cobbles, and hills cut down the peloton to a smallish (20-30) group that will have to fight it out for the win.

Many in the peloton are likely using this race and Saturday’s E3 as a tuneup for Flanders, but valuable World Tour points are on the line so a number of riders should feel pressured to perform.  Foremost among them is Tom Boonen who is skipping the E3 to focus on G-W.  A win with panache here might pull his career from the coke-induced spiral of injury and shame its been in for the last 2 years.  I have to wonder if he’s quietly happy to be avoiding another conflict with Cancellara though.  No one is looking more desperate than Boonen and QuickStep right now.

If Heinrich Haussler and Thor Hushovd can't pull off a win on Saturday, then Garmin should be in full panic mode.  I’m sure their main goal is Roubaix but with a such a stacked team, they are expected to be taking these kinds of races. Their chances will depend on how fresh Thor is feeling and whether Tyler Farrar can find the nerve to make it to the finish at the front.  I see their chances looking better on Saturday though.

Phillipe Gilbert has been at the front of a lot different races this year but I suspect that he doesn’t want to burnout before Flanders and might play it cool here.  I doubt that strategy will sit well with the Belgian fans who want to see one of their own take a win this Spring.  If he has a chance, he’s going to have a tough decision to make.

So who’s going to make the podium?

3rd:  Boonen-  While a win would be revive a sagging career and an equally sagging cocaine market in Wevelgem, I think he’ll come up just short.  Again.

2nd: Matt Goss - HTC will be present in any sprint finish and he's been their best lately.

1st: Peter Sagan- Coming off a disappointing performance in Paris-Nice and an anonymous MSR debut, Sagan can ride with no pressure and less suspicion from his competitors than the bigger names.