It’s time. While kolo t.c. is off at St. Fatty’s, start your Flanders prep for Sunday with this collection of preview videos courtesy of Specialized, TREK and a variety of other outlets.
Omega Pharma-Quick Step has very quietly assembled a rather startling collection of Classics talent led by Tom Boonen. As tough as Tom has been this spring in Qatar, Dwars, E3 and Gent, his OPQS squad has been the real surprise. The squad has dominated the front of nearly every event and done the bulk of the work at races like Gent-Wevelgem, keeping a hard-charging Fabian Cancellara in check over the course and launching Boonen to the win. They are a multi-faceted threat to the other squads, with not only Boonen as the leader. Sylvan Chavanel is fresh off his victory at the Three Days of De Panne, and has been solid working for Boonen. Nikki Terpstra, too, has been alongside the leaders, as has Gert Steegmans. All four have realistic chances of winning in their own right, but three will have to torch their own chances for one to succeed.
The OPQS squad filmed a recon ride and shared the following video as their riders checked out the new finishing loop and a few of the famous cobbled climbs.
It is probably somewhat telling that while haf the OPQS team is featured in the Flanders preview, the big news from RadioShack-Nissan is the new bike Fabian Cancellara will be on, and only Spartacus appeared. TREK has finally launched their Classics effort, a modification on the Madone that offers some added comfort. Cancellara was spotted on a prototype on his way to winning the Strade Bianche, and he took a second to share the bike a few days before its first big Belgian test. The bike, called a Domane, featured a total of 25mm of travel, but TREK hasn’t said exactly where that travel comes from, though it is assumed the number is an aggregate of movement in the fork, the bars and the seatpost/top tube hinge. It’s called ISO-Speed, adding a bit of comfort for Spartacus as he pounds over the cobbles. Under a similar idea as the gel inserts on the Specialized frames, the ISO-Speed dissipates the amount of shock that travels up the seat and reaches the rider. The biggest advantage is a more stable platform and a massive reduction in fatigue from all the pounding. Some have already started accusing Cancellara of being “Soft Spartacus”, which greatly ignores similar measures in myriad other cobble-specific frames from other manufacturers. No doubt Cancellara’s results Sunday will play a part in how the product is received in the months to come.
Tom Boonen is getting ready and is very confident about his chances against the like of Cancellara and Sagan. He gave interviews frequently this past week, and the following videos is one of the better collections on his training, outlook on Flanders and Roubaix and his goals for the season.
And how is this whole dang thing going to play out? Cyclingnews was all over it, talking with Dirk Demol about the parcours changes, how Cancellara and Boonen stack up, and the role Peter Sagan will play if the two favorites don’t ride away from the pack. Demol, a RSNT manager, fingered Boonen as the favorite, citing the Belgian’s better sprint as a reason for teams to work to get rid of him before the line. Good luck with that, and it really means there is more pressure on Cancellara to get rid of the former World Champion well-before the final kilometer.