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Myself I'm torn between two different ideal races tomorrow. As a general rule I like the underdogs in cycling (and sports in general) and for me the best races are the open ones where multiple riders are in the mix. A predictable competition, one where you know it will come down to Federer vs. Nadal or Real vs. Barcelona in the end never holds the same allure to me the competition where the winner can come from out of left field to grab the win. This is partly why cycling is such a superior sport to me, the differences are so small among riders and the nature of the races are such that the winner can always come from a wide range of riders depending on how the race is ridden.
On the other hand there is something just and appealing in the idea that in the biggest races the winner should fall to the best rider in some objective sense. We wanted to see Federer vs Nadal in the Wimbledon final because they were the most worthy adversaries and it does the competition justice if the greatest have their name inscribed on the winner's list. So before the whole cobbles campaign I had the wish for Flanders to come down to a showdown between the three kings of the latest years: Boonen, Gilbert and Cancellara. All still in their prime years, all healthy and focused on the Tour of Flanders. I even had a story all but finished on it that I thankfully never got around to publishing since of course it was never to be. Instead the battle royale is set to take place between Fabian Cancellara and Peter Sagan. To be serious, any other winner would be a major upset at this point. And somewhere I find myself hoping that the race will really boil down to a duel between those two in the very last phase of the race, especially with the deflation everyone experienced last year when Cancellara was taken out of the race all too early, nobody wants a repeat of that scenario.
So for me I'm struggling to decide what I want but as there will be enough people keeping their fingers crossed for Cance cruising gloriously into Oudenaarde and Sagan doing wheelies on the Minderbroederstraat I think I'm going to stick with my original instincts. Therefore I'l be hoping for a group with Breschel, Offredo, Thomas, Kristoff, Chavanel and Edvald getting away somewhere around the Koppenberg,with Cance and Sagan chasing desperately but never quite getting it right. Then it will be up to the group to settle the race between them somewhere on the last hills and on the race towards Oudenaarde. It wont happen like that of course but this is what Rondemas Eve is all about, dreaming beautiful dreams.
FINAL STARTLIST MEN : FINAL STARTLIST WOMEN
P:S. Don't forget to join us tomorrow morning. The festivities begin already at 9:00 CEST (03:00 US EDT, 18:00 AUS EDT, remember Europe goes to summer time tonight) when Sporza have their traditional broadcast from the sign-in and start in Brugge. Then things go quiet for a few hours before the images from the race go live again at 12:00 CEST Briljant!