|"Vlaanderen's mooiste" - Flanders fairest - is coming up this
Sunday and I bet everyone in Belgium can't stop talking about it. I
definitely notice it at the office as the Belgians keep on asking me what
the latest news is in the peloton.
Especially after the Three Days of De Panne everyone is eager to know
who are the riders that are in shape to go for the ultimate podium spot
in the second leg of the Worl Cup.
One of the first riders that comes to mind if asking about the serious
contenders is Peter Van Petegem, riding for Lotto-Adecco. He just won
the time trial and the overall in the Three days of De Panne and this
is normally one of the races where you can
see who is in shape and who's not. Peter Van Petegem is definitely one
of the riders that is in great shape. He finished very consistently in
all recent races. Winner of Omloop Het Volk in the opening weekend of
cycling in Belgium, fifth in Harelbeke
at 28 seconds from the winner Pieri, second in the first stage of the
Three Days of De Panne and now first in the time trial today. Peter Van
Petegem already won the Ronde once and hopes to win it again.
Normally, he would have shared the
leadership within the team with Andrei Tchmil who also set his mind on
the Ronde, but who crashed in the second stage of the De Panne and
will be out for several weeks. One of his strong helpers will be Nico
Eeckhout who finished third in today's
closing time trial in De Panne.
For Domo-Farm Frites, the man to keep an eye on will be Johan Museeuw.
Most likely his last Ronde so even more motivated than
otherwise. (and one doesn't need to explain how motivated he is otherwise I
suppose?) Johan Museeuw also performed very
consistently in the previous races, although the results aren't the
same as Van Petegems. But then again, everyone knows that Museeuw is Museeuw and if he sets his mind to something, he does everything within the possibilities to achieve his goals. And if he manages to win this race, he will have broken the record which he currently shares with Achiel Buysse, Leman and the Italian Magni. Can the roaring lion of Flanders make it four?
Other candidates in Belgium are for example Jo Planckaert (Cofidis). He kept a bit hidden in the peloton during the Three Days of De Panne, but he was always present. Another rider that would have been one of the riders that will be kept an eye on, is Chris Peers, but he crashed in the second stage of the race together with Tchmil.
Outsiders for Belgium might be Serge Baguet (only in the race as Tchmil's replacement) and Nico Mattan, but he already admitted he didn't feel in top form, like last year. And Nico Mattan is not the Armstrong of Alpe d'Huez in last years Tour de France.
A very important factor of course in the race will not only be the hills they have to climb, but the wind. According to the weather report, it will be quite a sunny day, but with heavy winds. No-one will be able to hind in such weather. Only the strongest will survice. But who knows, maybe the same as last year will happen when a few riders escaped and managed to work together good enough so that the favourites didn't get any closer.
Well, I must say, I wouldn't mind if there was no wind at all, I just want two things: an exciting race and a winner that deserves it (although everyone deserves the win if you survive all those nasty little climbs), oh yeas, and let's hope the winner is Belgian of course!! I at least need to support the riders from my home country! I just wish I could be there and smell the excitment in the air when the riders are coming up the Koppenberg or any other climb and the weakest are getting dropped!
Are you interested in cycling? Do you speak Dutch or French? Would you like to be part of the funniest Daily Peloton team?? If the answer is yes to those questions, we can definitely use more writers for the Belgian news as I don't have enough time to translate everything myself (unfortunately), but if you would like to help out, email me any time! I would love to hear from you.