The Big Race is drawing closer and I know you're all updating yourselves hour by hour on the condition of Tom Boonen's knees, elbows and other assorted problem areas. In the unlikely event that you're not, here's the latest: all is well on the west-flandrian front. Doing his part as the first launch-rocket for the OPQS leadout that ultimately led to the Cavendish win he was motoring like he never heard of a knee injury. Boonen's fitness is the least of Lefevere's worries for Sunday.
The roadside spectacle.
As much as we are getting ready for SuperSunday here at the cafe, in Oudenaarde and nearby areas preparations are in full swing for a massive invasion. Just the logistics of getting all the people to the popular Kwaremont/Paterberg viewing areas is going to be a huge project. Organizers are having free shuttle buses all day getting people in and out to avoid chaos. Check out the photos of the building and arrangements already in place. For a sport where there are no admissions fees for the large majority of the venues it serves to highlight the huge sums that are on the line for a race organizer like Flanders Classics. Anyone who wonders about the background to the conflict that lead to the exodus from Geraardsbergen and the Kapelmuur need only to look at these photos and do some quick calculations. How many VIP packages can they sell and fit into these places? How many liters of Jupiler per minute will be pouring here on Sunday? You can think what you want about the commercialization of an historic event but these guys are putting on the biggest party in cycling and trying to build successful races in tough times.
Saxo Tinkoff jump on the video bandwagon
I'm guessing the makers of the promo video for Saxo and Matti Breschel were hoping for Matti to be in a more high profile position when it was time to release the first in their series of videos. Teams like Cervelo, Garmin and Orica in particular have used selfproduced video to great effect. Saxo are going for more of a slick promo look than the news-y Orica backstage passes though. With Breschel looking a little anonymous so far these races the video may not go viral just yet but there's still hope. Breschel, like many others, was set back with some Sanremo after-effects and with any luck he can do himself justice on Sunday and above all in his preferred race Paris-Roubaix.
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The big story in todays Driedaagse stage was the leadout work for winner Mark Cavendish. Having three favorites for the Ronde flogging themselves in the final kilometers to put you in position to win the sprint is quite something. Boonen did the early work, clearly treating the exercise as a chance to do some speedwork for Sunday. Cahavanel dug just as deep if not deeper before floating back on Cav's wheel to perform a sneaky sweeper move in the penultimate curve at 2 km. When Mini-Boonen Guillaume van Keirsbulck had done his turn it was Keisse to the front and as he accelerated out of the curve is when Chava conveniently freewheeled to allow Keisse, Terpstra and Cav to open a healthy gap to the rest of the peloton. Had they been a little closer to the finish Terpstra could have piloted Cav to a comfortable win but the train was just a little early and a man short (Maes) and so Cav was swamped by the frenetically chasing bunch and forced to fight tooth and nails for the win in the end. Still it was an impressive display and even if Cav had to go early his opponents were pushed to the limit and weren't at great advantage anyway.
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The power of Terpstra and above all Chavanel has to be the key to Sunday if the race is to become anything but a Cancellara/Sagan duel. I'd love to say at this point that a bunch of the outsiders were looking to be on fire because the truth is that should Sagan and Spartacus cancel each other out it leaves a tremendous opening for some of the outsiders to steal the race just as jsallee pointed out in his race preview but it's not really the case. Greg van Avermaet is really the only on that has shown a threatening level. Langeveld, Thomas, Haussler and Flecha are looking decent but flawed. Offredo and Leukemans have been invisible and as much as I'd like to sell Voeckler as a real threat I just can't. Gilbert remains an enigma to me, I had him pegged as one of the giants for Sunday but if he is he has done a briljant job of flying under the radar so far. I think we'll have to wait a few weeks for any fireworks from him and that leaves Oss to carry the flag on Sunday but he can't be ready for a Ronde can he?
With two stages left in De Panne, the morning sprint loop that can sometimes be vicious racing and the afternoon TT, Omega are in a good position to take the GC. Terpstra and Chava are right up there while pre-race favorites Westra and Durbridge have both left themselves 23 seconds off the pace which should be a bit too much to chew off in the short 15 km timetrial. Remember that both two stages are shown live.
TOP 5 Stage 2 Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde:
1, Mark Cavendish
2. Elia Viviani
3. Francesco Chicchi
4. Arnaud Démare
5. Alexander Kristoff
1. Arnaud Démare
2. Kristoff + 2 sec
3. Cavendish +5 sec
4. Sylvain Chavanel +6 sec
5. Maxim Vantomme s.t.
6. Niki Terpstra s.t.