March 25, 2011

Ghent Wevelgem - Spring is Here!!

Ghent Wevelgem is often considered a semi-classic, but in a true underdog run it is striving to raise it's profile. Previously held on the Wednesday between the Tour of Flanders and Paris Roubaix, G-W moved to the Sunday before RVV last year, presumably in an attempt to become more relevant. I like the mid-week slot ties the week together and, frankly, the cycling world needs to embrace the mid-level race instead of always looking for bigger-better. I am curious to see how the lack of a mid-week race may impact the riders freshness and agressiveness though.

They call is a 'sprinters' classic - and a quick persusal of the results bears this out for the most part, but it is equally likely that an all-arounder will win as evidenced by the variety of winners since 2000...

Sprinters: Van Bondt, Cipollini, Hushovd, Freire, Eisel

Roulers: Boonen, Mattan, Boasson Hagen, Hincapie, Burghardt, Klier

Ok, enough history - who's gonna pull it this year? Well...the list of POTENTIAL winners is as long as any other spring race..perhaps longer given the sometime selective/sometimes not nature of the course - in which case weather is the likely decider. Belgian wind and rain can take the measure out of any favorite who isn't on the sharp end at the right time. Unforunatley it's looking sunny.
Among the interesting storylines that might develop would be Andre Greipel getting a huge helping hand from Philippe Gilbert after his selfless riding at M-S-R last weekend. I don't think Gilbert will want to put it all on the line for this race with RVV coming up, so it's a natural tactic...and I wouldn't be suprised to see him working. Similarly Hushovd may well be at the disposal of Farrar given the proximity of RVV and Roubaix, if Farrar can make the selection.

Being a fan of the underdog I have to give a shout out to a few other potential spoilers. Yoann Offredo and Dominuqe Rollin could be a really deadly combination if the weather is deep (wouldn't you love to see that?). Thomas Voeckler is another shadow player in previous classics who is on better form than he's ever known (even when in yellow!). My regard for the Frenchman has gone up quite a bit since his World Cup win in Canada last year. I'm just sorry Stijn Devolder won't be on the start line.

Ok, enough writing - I'm going somewhat against the grain's just too tempting given the vast array of commentary that is picking Cancellara or Gilbert (both of whom would be very deserving winners) is my list of possible winners, not necessarily their finishing order (but hey, why not)...
1. Thos Husovd
2. Leif Hoste
3. Juan Antonio Flecha
4. Sergei Ivanov
5. Yoann Ofredo

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