If there’s one race that stands out in the Classic season it is the Tour of Flanders and this weekend ‘De Ronde’ holds special significance as it is the 100th edition of a race that has shaped riders careers.
And this weekend will see the end of a rivalry which has shaped the last 10 to 15 years of cycling; it will be the last time we see Trek Segafredo’s Fabian Cancellara and Etixx Quickstep’s Tom Boonen face off in the Classics as ‘Spartacus’ is retiring at the end of this season.
Flanders has a fabled history; there have been some absolutely superb scenes of racing over the years. The race stretches back to the First and Second World War and during the years the likes of Eddy Merckx, Johan Museeuw, and Frans Maassen have all won Flanders titles.
But after the millennium it was the turn of Cancellara and Boonen who have won three Flanders title’s between them, making them two of the most successful Classic riders ever.
Team Sky will hope they can finally break their monument duck
All the media coverage and pre-race speculation has been centred on two men: Cancellara and Boonen. But there are other riders and Teams that will be looking to make a splash this weekend in the hope of spoiling the party.
For all their dominance at the Tour de France in recent years, Team Sky hasn’t won a monument yet; but with squad that will be lining up at Oudenaarde tomorrow they could have a winner in the midst.
Not winning a monument is something that Sky have tried to rectify a lot in the past years; but with a squad of Ian Stannard, Geraint Thomas, Luke Rowe, Michal Kwiatkowski, Michal Golas, Christian Knees, Gianni Moscon, and Salvatore Puccio they have their best chance in years.
A part from Sky there is other riders that will be in the final reckoning; Peter Sagan who finally won in the Rainbow Jersey at Ghent-Wevelgem recently is considered as a threat, as is Katusha’s Alexander Kristoff who has won Flanders before.
Cancellara and Boonen face off one final time
In cycling you don’t come much bigger than Cancellara and Boonen; they have lit up the sport during the Classics and have provided spectators with some truly memorising moments – none more so than in 2010 where Boonen and Cancellara had a truly captivating battle when they broke clear in the latter part of the race.
But this year holds more significance, it will be the last time we see Cancellara ride the historic race; and heading into it the bookies have made him favourites alongside long standing rival Boonen.
If you take a glance at Boonen’s and Cancellara’s record, you can see why they are such special riders. Their monument records speak for themselves: they both have seven wins apiece in the Spring Classics, Spartacus has been on the podium 15 times whereas Boonen has finished inside the top three on 12 occasions and between them they six Olympic and World titles to their name.
But focusing on this weekend, and who could potentially come out on top is a difficult prediction to make; as in Flanders anything can happen – but if the race goes to plan expect to see Cancellara and Boonen fight it out for the line one last time.
Whatever happens Sunday afternoon it is sure to be entertaining, and if Cancellara can grab a victory it will be the start of the farewell season, as cycling says goodbye to one of the all-time greats of the sport.