Cycling Weekly sticks its neck out to predict how the top 10 will turn out at the Tour of Flanders on Sunday.
1 Tom Boonen
Boonen didn’t look too good at Milan-San Remo, and it’s been a low-key spring so far, but something says he’s saving it all for this week. He’s won it twice, and could have won it last year, although he was marked so tightly, Quick Step let Stijn Devolder off the leash. This year there’s no Alessamdro Ballan, who has a virus, and Fabian Cancellara is only half fit. So Boonen is the last remaining heavy weight. We think he can take his third win.
2 Filippo Pozzato
In great form after beating Boonen last week, and winning a stage in De Panne. He will struggle with the number of hills to contend without, though. However, we expect him to be in the front group at the finish.
3 Heinrich Haussler
Thinks he has a chance. Why not? He’s been one of the form riders of the spring, he rode well at Het Nieuwsblad last month so he can handle the hills and cobbles. Milan-San Remo proved he can cope with the distance. He’s a dangerous rider to take to the finish.
4 Juan Antonio Flecha
The Spaniard and Nick Nuyens will be Rabobank’s two protected rider. Nuyens seems to tie up in the later stages. Last year Flecha and Nuyens joined together to mount that fruitless chase of Stijn Devolder in the final stages. This time they’ll be on the same team and, with Sebastian Langeveld, they’ll be very strong. But Rabobank need to sort their tactics out. They have thrown away some big races this season.
5 Leif Hoste
Just like last year, and the one before that, Hoste has done the square root of diddle-all this season. But he’ll be ready for Sunday. With Philippe Gilbert in the team, they should be stronger, but Gilbert has not been flying either. They’ll be in among it but it’s very hard to tell just how effective they’ll be.
6 Sylvain Chavanel
Stijn Devolder is not in the same form he was last year. Boonen’s the leader, so does anyone want to bet against the Frenchman being used to do all the leg-work, just as he was at Milan-San Remo. Chavanel should be Boonen’s last surviving team-mate and so could get a decent result of his own.
7 Thor Hushovd
Winner at Het Nieuwsblad, third at Milan-San Remo. Getting stronger all the time. Will have to sort things out with Haussler, but will be in the mix at the end.
8 Marcus Burghardt
The Columbia team don’t have an outright winner in the ranks, but they have great strength in depth. Former Ghent-Wevelgem winner Burghardt is their best bet, but watch for George Hincapie, Bernhard Eisel and perhaps even Edvald Boasson Hagen.
9 Karsten Kroon
Saxo Bank have Fabian Cancellara returning to fitness, so he won’t be a factor. Stuart O’Grady is injured, so team leadership duties are up for grabs. Kurt Asle Arvesen is another option, but we reckon Kroon is their best hope.
10 Frederik Willems
Belgian rider who has room to breathe in the team in these races now Pozzato has moved to Katusha. He’s not going to win it, but he could hang in their doggedly for a top ten place.