Friday Group Ride #64

Ronde! Ronde! Ronde! Ronde! Say it like that a bunch of times in a row, and it sounds like you’re revving a motorcycle in preparation for a jump over some absurdly large number of buses. Instead, you’re getting ready for, arguably, the most exciting week of bike racing all year, a week that begins with the Ronde van Vlaanderen (The Tour of Flanders) and ends with Paris-Roubaix.

Cobbles! Cobbles! Cobbles! Cobbles! goes the muffler on your vintage Triumph. The crowd’s collective stomach is all tied in knots. That’s a lot of buses, and the landing ramp looks a long, long, long way off. Is that a ring of fire they’ve lit on the end of the ramp?

We’re getting ready to launch the peloton’s hard men over many kilometers paved with bowling balls and bowler hats, narrow, twisting lanes that rise and fall like consumer confidence. Rain makes legends, but so does dust. Regardless, you’ll want the DVD.

The gambling houses stopped taking bets on Fabian Cancellara to win either race at the end of April last year. His current form must have every last rider on the road terrified. If I were Tom Boonen, I’d bring my Gent Wevelgem trophy with me so I had something substantial to hold while Cancellara is getting kisses from podium girls.

Who else could win? Hushovd. Flecha. Haussler. Gilbert. Ballan. Sagan. There, I’ve named a few. The rest is up to you.

Today’s Group Ride is a double dipper: Who will win the Ronde? Who will win in Roubaix? You get no points for guessing Cancellara, but do you really believe he can do the double? Again? If not, who is most likely to dethrone the rampant Swiss? Will anything less than a broken chain deny him his growing legend?

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  1. amityskinnyguy

    I gotta vote for Hushovd in the Ronde and Haussler in Roubaix. It’ll be Cancellara all the way though…

  2. James

    RVV= Flecha (for no real reason)

    Paris-Roubaix= Thor (for the hell of it)

    I never guess winners well so the race is always a surprise for me!

  3. Champs

    The winner still has to race, though it would be easier to just call it for Cancellara.

    Some favorites complain about losing because they were marked, but not Spartacus. He’s got the physical and mental stamina to catch you napping, on the chance you actually can hold his wheel.

    But who knows, maybe Garmin’s awesome-on-paper classics team will finally hit its target. If they find some accuracy to match that power, I’d guess a ruse by Hushovd to set up Haussler. Or it just might be time for one of those erratically thrown darts to finally hit the bullseye.

  4. Robot

    I’m not picking a winner, in the same way that employees can’t win sweepstakes contests put on by their own companies, BUT…I will say that anyone who waits for Cancellara to make his move will be waiting for second place. Once Spartacus attacks, he wins. I think the best strategy is for a team like Garmin, with more than one potential winner, to put in multiple, early attacks to shake Cancellara loose from his teammates. Then, once he’s isolated, attack again, before he can put his own plan together.

    You’ll still probably lose, but really, trying to hold the guy’s wheel is about as good an idea as last year’s Footon-Servetto kit.

  5. sophrosune

    You’re right, Robot. The strategy to beat Cancellara will take attacking. Since I get no points for picking Cancelleara, I will say Gilbert for Flanders and Thor for Roubaix.

  6. dvgmacdonald

    I’ll take Chavanel in the Ronde, Boonen in Flanders. Yeah, I’m thinking we’ll have a replay of ’09. In the Ronde, they let Sylvain slip away while marking Boonen. In Roubaix Cancellara & Thor go down in a crucial late race section of cobbles. VanSummeren stops to help Thor, leaving Boonen to ride away to victory.

  7. j

    Fabian will most likely win… we all kinda know this. He’ll probably win with panache and by simply out powering, out thinking and out racing everyone else. And for this we won’t resent his dominance.

    What will be interesting to watch and perhaps more telling about everyone else and their respective teams is how they choose to race. For sure one could wait for a Cancellara mishap (though that doesn’t seem to stop him) or to play the game of locking on to the Glacier Express in hopes of stealing the win, or by banding together in an everyone-vs-Cancellara melee. But none of these will satisfy us and will do more damage to the other 199 riders, their teams and reputations than can perhaps be erased in short time.

    I would like to see the other teams race like mad men, race like they’re jobs and pride are on the line. I want to see favorites attacking and laying all their cards out, I want to see opportunistic domesiques attempt the impossible. I want to see a brawl.

    For if the other teams in the peloton (yes I’m looking at you Garmin, Sky and Quick Step) don’t go out in a blaze of glory utterly destroying themselves it will be as much of a condemnation of them as cohesive units as it will be a confirmation of Fabian Cancellara’s dominance.

    Race like your job is at stake, ride like you stole it and save nothing.

    (someone insert a Braveheart moment here)

  8. DavidA

    The Last 1 and 1/2 hours of the thrash-fest called The Ronde will produce the winner. The sheer stress of finishing something like Flanders probably takes 2 to 5 yrs life expectantcy off the riders. I like Phil Gilbert and Fabian. If it comes to a small group and Boonen is there…look out. Ive watched the Tour of Flanders in person, about 6 of the last climbs. Boys to men in about 6 hrs. You see these guys who are just studs get their asses handed to them in about 3 to 4 hours!!!!! Insane world of the PRO bike racer. Lets all break out a Leffe or Trappist or Duvel and toast these warriors tomorrow

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