Tour of Flanders: The outsiders who could surprise the favourites
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Friday, March 29, 2013

Tour of Flanders: The outsiders who could surprise the favourites

by Kyle Moore at 10:32 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour of Flanders
 
Van Avermaet, Breschel, Offredo, Haussler amongst those who can’t be counted out

Greg Van AvermaetMany eyes will turn to Fabian Cancellara (Radioshack-Leopard), Peter Sagan (Cannondale), and Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) this Easter Sunday in the Ronde van Vlaanderen, and rightly so, with the sparkling form that each has been producing in the lead-up to the race.

But there is a lengthy list of riders who could pull off a stunning triumph, similar to the surprise victory by the in-form Nick Nuyens, then of Saxo Bank, two years ago.

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing):

The big news for BMC coming into the race was that world champion Philippe Gilbert and American Taylor Phinney would not be competing. This leaves the primary leadership duties up to veterans Thor Hushovd and Greg Van Avermaet, the latter of whom has quietly put together a very solid semi-classics campaign so far. Van Avermaet has racked up a host of top ten finishes, taking fifth in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, sixth in Strade Bianche, and third in Gent Wevelgem.

“I think I’m ready for the Ronde, because I’ve trained well this week,” Van Avermaet said at the BMC pre-race press conference. “Fortunately, I’m not sick and I’ve been able to recharge the batteries with my family this week,” the Belgian added. “The Ronde is always a goal, and I’m happy to be in good condition at the start.

“The absence of Philippe changes a lot. I’m a little disappointed, because we lose an important rider for the finale. But the rest of the team is strong enough. The two favourites are Cancellara and Sagan. I hope that the race is made difficult very early. One thing is certain: the Oude Kwaremont and the Paterberg will be decisive.”

Matti BreschelMatti Breschel (Saxo-Tinkoff):

The Danish sprinter has had relatively few results to speak of so far, but has importantly stayed healthy and upright. Breschel was active in the final of Gent Wevelgem, eventually finishing 13th. He’ll be Saxo-Tinkoff’s protected man in the Tour of Flanders, according to director Lars Michaelsen:

“It’s no secret that Matti is our best card on Sunday,” he stated. “Naturally our primary goal is to escort him unscathed to the finale, which starts after 200 kilometres of racing. Unfortunately, we have been struck by illness and injuries, which means that we are not as strong as I could have hoped for. Matti is feeling strong, and he is absolutely in the shape necessary to be in the finale, but as it is often seen in the race history, you’ll need a good amount of luck as well.”

Yoann Offredo (FDJ):

The French classics specialist is into his first full season back from a whereabouts violation. The former Milan-Sanremo top ten finisher has been active again at the front group in the major races this year, though he has yet to achieve a top result in the Tour of Flanders. The thoughtful Frenchman offered his view of the Belgian Classic in an interview with Velochrono:

“What is certain is that a Milan-Sanremo like this year [with the cold and bad weather] is not my favourite race. But it’s still my favourite race in acceptable conditions,” Offredo admitted. “But in the Tour of Flanders, there is this magic that only exists in the races there. You feel that you are in the real land of cycling, in real races with history. In Flanders, and in Roubaix, when you’re on the road, in the Arenberg trench, the Kwaremont, the Koppenberg, you feel like you’re part of the history of cycling. When you see all the fans, huge tents erected at the strategic points of the race, it is what a good rider lives for.

“[A successful Tour of Flanders] would be a podium finish,” Offredo stated. “It will be successful anyway, just because I’m starting the race. You just want to enjoy every moment. In any case, even if I end up disappointed with my result, one thing is for sure – I am one hundred percent invested in the race. I’m going for a podium, but a top ten finish would satisfy me.”

Heinrich Haussler (IAM Cycling):

In the new atmosphere at IAM, Haussler seems to be finding the form and confidence he used during his breakout 2009 season with Cervelo Test Team. Haussler grabbed quality finishes at Milan-Sanremo and the E3 Prijs Harelbeke, culminating with a fourth place at Gent Wevelgem. IAM director Serge Beucherie believes Haussler could be a major protagonist on Sunday.

“The fourth place for Heinrich Haussler at Gent Wevelgem proves that we have some cards to play,” Beucherie stated. “It is reassuring, and it also shows the organizers were right in giving us a wildcard selection. For the Tour of Flanders, we will continue with the same objective. We can’t pretend to be the big favourites, but that won’t stop us from influencing the race. Happiness for us would be a podium finish for Haussler. Who knows, maybe ‘Heino’ can repeat his feat from 2009 when he finished in second place.”

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