Yes, for the next seven days I will be fluent in Dutch. Or that's the plan anyway. Anyway, congratulations on surviving another 11.5 Ronde-less months -- a true test of any devoted cobblophile's resolve.
We'll be breaking this race down every which way all week, though don't ask me how yet. Every year it's a challenge to place the proper emphasis on this race without feeling like I need to out-do what I did last year. Why? I simply love the Tour of Flanders more than anything else on the calendar. We're not monogamous, de Ronde and me. I'm not the World's #1 Fan, and there is plenty of love to go around the rest of the calendar. But the combination of tactical intrigue, horrible stones, epic climbs and cultural outpouring make de Ronde Cycling's mooiste. The fact that this year's event is shaping up as an incredible heavyweight bout, with an especially long list of supporting characters, makes it all the better. Now hopefully that rain forecast for next weekend is real. Sunny days are not what this race is about, deep down, though it'll be fantastic in any conditions.
Stick around, it'll be truly op de hoek.
Shut up Cuddles. Power Poll update coming tomorrow.
Photo © Fotoreporter Sirotti