*****Peter Sagan The Defending Champion over this trip after attacking Vanmarcke on the Paterberg last year from a 2-man breakaway, and soloing some 13kms to a most emphatic victory. Previous best here was in 2013 when finished 2nd to Spartacus, some 90secs down.
Is having a very strong season with a cobbled classic already secured in the palmares when 1st across the line in KBK, and has also claimed two wins over 200kms in Tirreno-Adriatico. A last start 3rd-place finish in GWinFF looks like a disappointing effort on paper, however it would appear he wanted to send a strong message that he is no patsy in the breakaway when essentially forming a 3-man group after Terpstra stopped riding and Sagan refused to close the gap, and he did attempt an escape some 15kms out with a destructive attack against Terpstra and Soren Kragh Andersen, showing his power but ultimately failing to bridge solo to race winner GVA and 2nd-place finisher Keukeleire.
Rock star rider who is showing a distinct preference for the biggest stages on the WT, and there's no bigger stage in Flanders than here. Moreover, he has the natural dour characteristics to make any point of this race his staging ground for victory. The softer the race the better his chances to win.
Opened as an unsurprising 15/8 short-priced favourite with PP, and has been on the up-and-down around that price before firming now into 2/1, best. Really should be a 5/2 favourite with GVA, however given his W/O terms, it might be best advised to put some bids up on the exchange at a more favourable price and look to get matched that way. Barring any unforeseen misfortune for his chances here, he will likely trade much lower in-running and some profits might be made on the slide.
Needs no introduction. Racing against inferior opposition. Top pick.
**Philippe Gilbert Ever since three-time Flanders winner Tornado Tom announced his retirement in mid-2016 this race was always going to be only about him for QST, however Gilbert's improving condition this season and excellent pair of runner-up finishes in DDV and E3 earlier, along with his vocal assertions of rediscovering cobbled classics riding and enjoying a peak in his condition, suggests he is a legitimate candidate for the win here, and QST have validated his potential by confirming he will indeed share the leadership role with Tornado Tom.
He hasn't ridden here since 2012 when he finished in 75th-place, and only has the one race win this season, in the first stage of 3 Days of De Panne over 200kms last start -- however he is much better suited over this course than any of his previous starts this season on account of the stiff climbing coming in quick succession, and his condition is difficult to fault when read in conjunction with his testing ride in MSR, where he finished midefield in the peloton group. Moreover, he has twice finished on the podium here, in 2009 and 2010.
Opened-up as a 16/1 shot, however the strong form line out of 3 Days of de Panne established by Kristoff in 2015, when the Norwegian dominated his tune-up for his Flanders win with 3 from 4 race wins -- set the Books hearts-a-flutter upon Gilbert winning the first stage over 200kms -- that they duly slashed his price into 10/1 in an instant. He has since rebounded a bit into 12/1 best, and whilst he won the race on GC comfortably, he didn't really dominate in the way Kristoff did and his price should be at 15/1, where E/W terms suggest about fair value.
Can give a very good account of himself, and he is a handy type when at the top of his game as he is presently. Treat warily.
1/4*Tiesj Benoot LTS have been the bane of not a few jokes recently, with their tactics and results leaving a lot to be desired at the WT level so far this season. Nevertheless, the Belgian outfit can turn things around in their main target of the season, and they have gone about it the right way by installing Benoot as the leader of the team whilst at the same time deflecting high expectations in him by suggesting they have a well-rounded team with different options in the race. They don't! Benoot is their best chance after a highly-impressive 5th-place finish when on debut here as a 21yo in 2015, he showed his suitability for the biggest race in Flanders. He crashed-out early in the piece, last year.
Still winless as a pro, and he did not finish OHN earlier in the season after walking-away from a big crash in the finale, however in the semi-classic of KBK the next day, he rode in impressive fashion for a 4th-place finish after doing good work to bridge to the Sagan group which Stuyven instigated. Next-up, showed strength-of-character to finish in 8th-place in Strade Bianche some 140secs down, when attempting to search out the 5th-place, solo. Rode out Tirreno-Adriatico, but admittedly was disappointing when tailing-out in MSR. Nevertheless, he has come back strong in his last two starts, both on the cobbles, with a 7th in DDV and a 14th in E3 last start, where he looked set with his condition in not lining-up in GWinFF.
Opened at 33/1 with PP and 50/1 with others, and has maintained that price discrepancy throughout. Should be at least 66/1 on an E/W basis.
Coming into this at the right time. Solid claims for the podium. Worthy of close consideration.
As the weather forecast takes shape it would appear that the riders will experience pleasant and cool conditions on the bike, with some sun and interestingly some increasing wind in the afternoon. Whilst negligible from the morning, by the time they round the village of Kerkhove and follow the Scheldt river to the finish in Oudenaarde, the wind should be at its strongest and have some impact and it's likely to be a tail/cross.
As the weather forecast takes shape it would appear that the riders will experience pleasant and cool conditions on the bike, with some sun and interestingly some increasing wind in the afternoon. Whilst negligible from the morning, by the time they
Strange race that one, but am certainly not complaining with Gilbert landing the win after going for a long 55km solo ride. Gilbert first came to the front with about 96kms to-go with Boonen sitting just behind, and he was really working hard. So the thinking there by QST was quite obvious in that they wanted a "tester" or "first course" on the Muur, which is a stiff climb prominently used in the Eneco Tour. Here, it was Boonen who allowed the hammer to drop, signalling quite clearly that hostilities were under way, and rightly it formed the first proper selection of the race, with about 20 riders going clear, which turned out to be the race-winning move as the race favourites were caught-out as bb66 observed. It was a quality group but there was still over 90kms to-go, so unlike BB I wasn't convinced it was over for the chasers but was happy Gilbert was involved as both options were covered, in the race re-joining or the breakaway holding out.
...It took the chasing peloton an overly long time to organise a proper chase, there was really only one rider there for a very long while, while the breakaway were combining very well, indeed. That's where such a highly-respected rider like Boonen tends to be a big advantage in a breakaway -- when he says work other riders respect him, and they did!
I wasn't worried about Vanmarcke and Krsitoff, and thought Stuyven was just taking another big step, but as I stated in my write-up about Gilbert, the hellingen were always going to suit him down-to-the-ground, so there was really only Boonen who could match him in that group as far as I was concerned, and when Boonen's race was shot with mechanicals and Gilbert got a proper sniff on the Oude Kwaremont, it was "suffer-stations" for Gilbert and enjoying near career-best form he was free to go for home, which was still admittedly a long way out. Remember though, we have seen veterans ride very well in breakaways over the years, it seems that as they age they can measure their reserves so finely that it often carries them a very long way in such situations, and in this case all the way for the Belgian Champion.
Lovely scenes and reception from the home crowds. A very big win for the Belgians, they'll remember that one for a long time, I believe.
On face-value Sagan looked to be riding well, but I actually thought he was a little off all day, and from the social-media evidence it would appear that his crash was all his own fault. I think for such a superlative bike handler to come down like that, just showed that his concentration levels were down, he might have been suffering from fatigue after giving it a fair injection of pace just then. So, whilst I agree that we will never know what could have been had he not caused that crash, seeing GVA go "bury-mode" for long stints with the help of Van Baarle and only eating-out a small gap within the last 5kms, it would be difficult to think that Sagan's contributions would have changed the equation so much as to bring Gilbert back. In fact, I would argue that the equation was firmly on the back of Gilbert, his to lose if you will, it was simply up to him to find that extra something when there was nothing left, and he did do that with aplomb actually, he dug very deep, so I would tend to think he would have done it regardless of Sagan's involvement. But of course that is just an opinion, speculation. The best rider won, and that is what counts.
Some good rides for Roubaix...
Strange race that one, but am certainly not complaining with Gilbert landing the win after going for a long 55km solo ride. Gilbert first came to the front with about 96kms to-go with Boonen sitting just behind, and he was really working hard. So the