Hey guys, I'm back! And guess what - so are the bumpy roads! We had a little hiatus after Het Nieuwsblad (look, I spelled it right without using google! Or did I?), but cuddles the cobble and Chris' Power Polls are back in full force for a few weeks. So while Chris uses his magic eight ball and a glass of Jupiler to look into the future, I look to the past to see who's been on the up and who is down on their luck.
Personally, I think I got the better end of the deal. I mean, how can you snark about what hasn't happened yet?
Tom Freaking Boonen: 7 victories already in 2012. By my count, that's the most since 2009, a year in which it took him until October to garner that many victories. Yesh, this is truly the year of the return of Tommeke. Plus, have you seen the way teammates Terpstra and Chavanel are riding like men possessed recently? I want some of whatever they're drinking. Or maybe rubbing Levi's head for good luck really works.
Peter Sagan: Yeah, yeah... he got second at Ghent Wevelgem and then won the first stage of 3 Days of de Panne. But Sagan's biggest victory is in saying loudly (if not verbally) to the world "Shut up fools, of course I can race some cobbled races. I'm Peter effing Sagan!" Yes, the Slovak Assasain (we really need a proper nickname for this kid. Please dudes, work one out stat in the comments!) is on fire right when it counts. Now lets hope he sorts out that indecisiveness about whether he wants to play with the attackers or the sprinters, because it's about to cramp his style.
Marianne Vos: 'Nuff said. When she stops winning, it will be something to write about.
Lizzie Armitsted: It's amazing how she can sound so modest after soloing away for 40 kilometers to win the inaugural Women's Ghent-Wevelgem. Really, it wasn't the plan, they just couldn't keep up and I didn't want to wait and... Lets face it Lizzie, you opened up a can (or two) of grade-A whoopass. Don't be modest, girl! Embrace it. Own it.
That guy who decided he wanted to have his own cobbled climb and built the Paterberg: Little did he expect he would have de Ronde go past his front door THREE TIMES a year for at least two years. You hit the jackpot, dude. Now can I come crash at your place? I'll bring the Leffe.
Mark Cavendish: Dropped on the descent of La Manie. Dropped over and after the Kemmelberg. The peleton has your ticket, dude, you're screwed in the harder races you want to win. Sure, he's peaking for the olympics... But I bet Boonen is too, and he doesn't look like a tortoise right now.
Cav's team doesn't look much better now. Sky looked ridiculously strong at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne where they squelched any attempt to derail the sprint and ushered Cavendish to victory. But since then, it seems like they've been stuck in mud while everyone else has continued to get faster. Run out of marginal gains, dudes?
Vincenzo Nibali: Last year, he attacked on the Poggio. He dropped a lot of dudes. Except for Fabian Cancellara and Matt Goss and a handful of other dudes. This year? Same story, except it was Cancellara and Gerrans. Lets face it Nibs, Milan-San Remo isn't for you. It's like that chick you took to prom but ended up going home with your mate. You're much better at playing wingman than sealing the deal.
Fabian Cancellara: Fabu has returned to the form that saw everyone mark him out of contention in Flanders and Roubaix last year. The only problem? He hasn't been able to win any of the other Belgian races in the process. His spring season is about to go stratospheric or be another disappointment-fest of podiums-but-not-quite-wins. And with Boonen closing in to warp speed, I have a feeling it might not be the former...
Tour of Catalunya: Reeling from financial troubles and hoping for a year to turn things around and re-establish itself as a major stage race in the early season, it had to shorten, and ultimately neutralize its queen stage. To be fair, they had it coming - who rides up to a ski area in early March? Not I. But the biggest loss wasn't the route, it was the complete lack of a backup plan. Their return to glory looked like a farce in the end, which is a crying shame because I love me some hilly Spanish stage races.