The Spring classics are almost upon us and more importantly, the cobbled classics of northern France and Belgium are almost upon us. This year they more than ever there seems and air of unpredictability about the outcome of these races. So many new teams and team structures. So many new faces in the pro peloton. An era of clarity maybe upon us? Large swathes of the peloton may have suddenly stopped seeking outside assistance. I personally think this year more than ever is wide open. Who could win. I mean its the first time since 1936 the George Hincapie hasn't taken part.
The first race of the season (that matters) is Omloop het Nieuwsblad. Mid February. The sadist in me prays for snow to really give the tough guys a shot. Remember Chris Sutton winning Kuurne Brussels Kuurne when i think only 23 riders finished. This is what I love about these races. 200 guys may start but only 20 could finish. I love races that just destroy the pack. I really think the best rider genuinely wins.
This still doesnt answer who will reign on the cobbles this year though. Last year was definately Tommeke's year winning four races E3 Harelbeke, Gent Wevelgem, de Ronde and paris Roubaix. He is certainly looking fit and strong currently but is he strong enough to dominate again? You certainly cant count him out.
Then we get to Fast Phil. He is certainly the man of the moment especially as he sporting a new tramp stamp on his ankle. A shocking year last year until he won the worlds. The stripey jumper will just fire him up even more. He'll be out to prove a point and settle some scores. My money will always be on Phil.
The other rider to have a poor spring campaign last year was Fabian - crashing in de Ronde stopping his campaign dead. You really cant count him out. If he is fit strong and motivated it will be hard to hold him back.
So picked a winner yet? Lets just mix it up a bit more then. I'll chuck some names in and you tell me if they have a shot...
Ian Stannard - big aggressive steam train. so strong and powerful. he has already said he is targetting the spring classics
Steve Cummings - has proven he can just ride away from the world greatest riders
Iljo Kiesse - big strong belgian just coming into his own
Peter Sagan - young arrogant and strong. He could?
Alessandro Ballan - Nine feet tall and very strong.
Juan Antonio Flecha(aka Norman Stanley) - a new team VacanSoliel - if his name is picked out of the 'attack bag' in the morning he has to attack. its the VacanSoliel way.
Johhny Hooligan - why the hell not?
Thomas de Gendt - why the hell not?
Any VacanSoliel rider - why the hell not? depends who's name comes out of the 'attack bag' on the bus in the morning.
Some wild outsiders for my own perverse amusement;
Adam Blythe - very capable of winning tough Belgian one day races. If he can just hold his attack to last 2km and not try from 20km out(paris-tours 2012)
JTL - who wouldnt love to see him fly up the final climb? I have no idea what he is like on the cobbles
Zak Dempster - I think he has a real talent and given a chance...BOOM Aussie rules
So who is going to win?