You've seen the polls, you voted, you've gotten us to this point, when all accounts will be settled. Without further ado, let's review who's here in the finals. And yes, I mean finals. We have been doing one-on-one matchups throughout the competition to determine the winners, but now with four champions of very distinct character, let's go straight to a four-way matchup to pick our champion.
Niuewe Vlaandriens Regional Champion: Tom Boonen
How He Got Here: Picking the "best active rider" in one discipline or another is not terribly tricky sometimes. And so it was with Boonen, about whom virtually nobody had a second thought. He dumped Johan Van Summer Ale 74-2, following two rounds where his opponents got a total of one vote. Oddly enough, his stiffest challenge was from Stijn Devolder (11 votes). Wins are wins, especially in Flanders.
Why He Should Win: The numbers. His four Paris-Roubaix wins are tied for the most all-time. His three Ronde van Vlaanderen wins are tied for the most all-time. His five E3 Prijs wins are the most all-time. His three Gent-Wevelgem wins are tied for the most all-time. He is the second rider ever to win the Triple (Flanders-GW-Roubaix) and the Quadruple (E3-GW-Flanders-Roubaix), though the Triple is now for the taking since Gent-Wevelgem moved. Anyway, until last week he was the only rider in history to do the Double-Double (twice winning Flanders and Roubaix in succession). He has won the Scheldeprijs, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and Dwars door Vlaanderen... every cobbled race except the Omloop. He's won in sprints and long breakaways. He's done it all.
Why He Should Lose: When he is at his best, and Cancellara is at his best, who do you think wins?
Nieuwe Buitenlanders Regional Champion: Fabian Cancellara
How He Got Here: Like Boonen, Cancellara has barely broken a sweat, scoring 90% or more in his various matchups with Alessandro Ballan, Sylvain Chavanel, Thor Hushovd and Thomas Voeckler.
Why He Should Win: When we spoke of the Triple in the past, we considered it to be sweeping the single Holy Week lineup of Flanders -- Gent-Wevelgem -- Paris-Roubaix. Since the lineup changed in 2010, Gent-Wevelgem has reverted to being more of a one-off piece, while E3 Prijs has taken its place alongside the two monuments as the next biggest thing. That year and this year, Cancellara swept the three main events in utterly devastating fashion. In between he was no slouch, winning another E3 in 2011, though he was outsprinted in 2012 and then injured, and he got boxed out of the monuments in 2011. It's the Classics, shit happens.
Why He Should Lose: If he could sprint -- at least compared to Boonen or Nick Nuyens -- his numbers might be within shouting distance of those of Tornado Tom, but they aren't.
Oude Vlaandriens Regional Champion: Rik Van Looy
How He Got Here: Took down, in order, Cyrille Van Hauwaert, Rik Van Steenbergen, Eddy Merckx and Roger De Vlaeminck.
Why He Should Win: Did you read the previous sentence? It's hard to stack up the retired guys on numbers alone, when we don't have the benefit of seeing them race head-to-head, so it says quite a bit that you guys, rather decisively, rated him superior to all of those others. Also, Van Looy is the only rider ever to win the real Holy Week Triple, back when Gent-Wevelgem was the creamy center in the monument Oreo. Would he beat Boonen or Cancellara in his prime right now? I have no idea, but given all that's changed, I don't know we would view that anyway. Would they beat Van Looy in his time?
Why He Should Lose: I gather he was more of a sprinter than a pure classics warhorse?
Oude Buitenlanders Regional Champion: Sean Kelly
How He Got Here: Knocked off top seed Jan Raas in the regional finals. Previously, he'd stuck to beating Italians, including The Sheriff (Moser), the only rider to win three consecutive Rondes (Magni) and il Gladiatore (Tafi).
Why He Should Win: Like Van Looy, he's beaten the best. Kelly was a rider who dominated his profession in a very competitive era.
Why He Should Lose: He never won the Ronde van Vlaanderen.
OK, take the poll! Which closes Sunday night.