Mar 25, 2017

Gent Wevelgem: Cobbles, Bergs, Hero Worship & Wind

Gent-Wevelgem in Flanders Fields is 249.2km with 11 steep climbs and for the first time 5.2km will include three semi-paved roads called, 'Plugstreets.' Puncturing here can spell your race is over. The Kemmelberg will be climbed twice and be the good for an attack. I think Peter Sagan will rebound from his bad luck in E3 and attack on the Kemmelberg to win!

My podium: 1- Peter Sagan, 2- Arnaud Demare, 3- Oliver Naesen

The 50mph winds proved too much causing many crashes and 160DNFs in 2015
photo: Tim De Waele

Belgian ladies love a hero.

King Kelly sprints to win in 1988.

Mar 24, 2017

Friday File: Belgian Tripel

After Oliver Naesen's third place in E3 Harlebeke, he's closer to the big classic win.

It was Flemish fun this time at E3 Harlebeke as an all Belgian 'tripel' or triple tore away in the last 37km to set up a marvelous Flandrian finish. 

Canadian, Hugo Houle rides in support for Oliver Naesen and provided his services for a fantastic podium finish. Houle confirms that AG2R-La Mondiale means to go further and build on his podium for the next monuments, Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

"The objective was to place Naesen well for the Taaienberg. Then he did it all alone with the strength he had. He took the right group and managed it like a leader and a great rider! It's good for the team, because we've been looking for a podium on a classic. The team has found a great leader for years to come. Everyone is so hyper motivated and it pulls us up. Everyone wants to work to do the best for Oliver. We know that the guy ensures and that he has chances to win the race, so it is a great motivation to surpass me and make sure that we win races."

- Hugo Houle, 66th

Final standings here

Mar 23, 2017

E3 Harlebeke: Return of the big 3

The return of the big three.

Flemish week happily continues tomorrow with E3 Harlebeke now 60 years young. There are numerous cobble sectors and 15 climbs on much of the same route as the Tour of Flanders. Known as the mini Tour of Flanders it's route is 206.1km that starts and finishes in Harelbeke. Dwars door Vlaanderen was fun to watch as the Quick Stop Floors duo of Yves Lampaert helped by Philippe Gilbert pull the first Flemish win. They will return for E3 along with Tom Boonen looking for two in a row. Defending champ, Michal Kwiatkowski will not defend but Peter Sagan (2nd last year) and Ian Stannard (3rd) will want revenge.

Lampaert and Gilbert were masterful in Dwars will Quick Step Floors do it again?

My podium: 1- Peter Sagan, 2- Oliver Naesen 3- Tiesj Benoot

darkhorses: Edvald Boasson Hagen, Sep Vanmarcke

Mar 21, 2017

Flemish Week kicks off with Dwars door Vlaanderen

King Flandrien:
Sean Kelly, Mur de Grammont Tour of Flanders.
photo: Graham Watson

Flemish Week kicks off tomorrow with mid-week Dwars door Vlaanderen! My all time favorite set of races that really begin the Belgian cobbles classics consisting of: Dwars door Vlaanderen, E3 Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem, Three Days of De Panne and finishing with the Ronde.

Dwars is 203km with daunting dozen climbs and there is an added new sector of cobbles with 6km to go just for a little added spice. Despite the big contenders not present; Alexander Kristoff, Greg Van Avermaet, Tom Boonen and Peter Sagan there will be plenty of contenders for the early Flemish Crown. 

My picks: (1) Tiesj Benoot (2) Oliver Naesen (3) Sep Vanmarcke (although he is recovering from a rib injury suffered in Strade Bianche and reports are that he's feeling better and will compete, I'm still going for the Flandrien to podium).

Mar 19, 2017

A race of champions, a champion leaves

Roger Pingeon, winner of the 1967 Tour de France and 1969 Vuelta a Espana, has died at the age of 76. The French nicknamed him, L'Echassier - the wading bird because of his long, slender legs. After Ferdi Kubler and Roger Walkowiak, Roger Pingeon is the the third Tour de France champion to die in  a few months. That leaves 23 Tour champions led by the 88 year old, Federico Bahamontes, the 1959 champion.

The thrilla in Milano,
What an amazing photo finish!

Chapeau! To a champions race.

"I tried it this year because there was a tailwind on the Poggio. I had nothing to lose, I tried. I got away and then Kwiat and Alaphilippe came across. I still thought I was faster than them. I thought we'd go away but it's hard to get some help from different teams. But that's cycling. Not always the best can win. Results don't matter. The important thing is to put on a show."
- Peter Sagan

The night before the big race, the champions food...

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