I've gotta say I felt like the man for calling Leif Hoste as the winner for today's Ronde de van Vlaandren. Right up until the 10 meters to go mark. That's when Allessandro Ballan up and discovered he had enough real estate left to pip Hoste for a huge win. Oh well...
Quickstep put on an impressive display of how to put all of your eggs in one basket (aka How to lose a big bike race). Tom Boonen looked less than invincible (with the exception of an impressive turn of speed up the first half of the Muur). Unfortunately for Tom, you had to do better than just the first half of the Muur and that little tutorial was put on by none other than today's eventual winner Ballan. Allessandro made Boonen look like he weighed anchor and pulled into port he went backwards so fast. The only man able to bridge and stick was Hoste. It wasn't so bad that Quickstep was trying to get Boonen a 3rd in a row victory at De Ronde, but they made the impudent mistake of not seeing the forest for their big sprinting tree. With the ammunition they had (Bettini, van Petegem, and the on form Steegmans), they could have been playing cards left and right to insure a QUICKSTEP win, instead of a Boonen win.
And for those who still cling to the blue and black of Team Discovery, FrankenStijn Devolder had chances, but you've gotta have more than just Matt White to work for you in a classic. True, he's a belgian hardman, but Disco' seems to be the kiss of death for any rider that has an ambition for the classics. Bruyneel just has too much invested in big name stars to think beyond the Tour de France. Every other racers ambition seems to be an afterthought.
As for other notables, I want some of whatever Fabian Cancellara is on 'cause that guy looked like he was on a motorcycle he was flying so fast. It was unfortunate to see him having to pull 9 guys as he attempted to make a long break. Again, if Quickstep didn't have it's head firmly implanted up it's butt, they could have let Steegmans work with Cancellara and the two most likely would have been gone 'til the end. Instead they get caught right before the Muur and Cancellara was too blown to do anything else of significance.
Big props to all the racers who managed to stay upright. There were more crashes for stupid reasons than I've seen in a long time. Eric Zabel looked pretty rough after crashing on a descent with about 94km to go. He looked both dazed AND confused. Big props also to my man Jason D for picking Ballan as his man for the win. congrats on the call (and give me a call, I lost your #).
And now we've got Gent-Wevelgem on Wednesday and Paris-Roubaix next Sunday!