The Spring Classics continue tomorrow (Sunday) with the Tour of Flanders, a 262-kilometer romp over the pave (cobblestones) from Brugge to Ninove, including famous climbs such as the Koppenburg and the Kapelmuur. Here's the route map:
Will Fabian Cancellara be able to ride away from Tom Boonen again, as he did a week ago? Other riders who cannot be ruled out of a podium place include Daniele Bennati, Edvald Boassen-Hagan, Phillippe Gilbert, Thor Hushovd, and last year's winner, Boonen's teammate Stijn Devolder. Oh yeah, and a guy named Lance will be there, though he's not expected to compete for the victory.
Live coverage in the US will be restricted to the internet. Check out live links at Steephill.tv. Same-day coverage at 5 pm Eastern time on Versus.
UPDATE: Right now, the riders are heading up the Koppenburg, which is a cobbled climb with a 22 percent gradient. For some reason, I take a perverse pleasure from watching several pro cyclists having to get off their bikes and walk them up a hill, just like normal humans often do.
UPDATE: Cancellara had a mechanical, made a brilliantly quick bike change (he was lucky to be on part of the course where team cars were able to follow closely), and he's chasing back up to the lead group.
Skies look threatening. Rain is the last thing the riders want as they have several more steep cobbled climbs that are slippery enough when dry. By the way, I'm watching a broadcast in Flemish; if this goes on much longer, I might even start to understand what the announcers are saying.
UPDATE: Note to self: Never count out Lance Armstrong. With 50 km left, he's at the front of the lead group, with Boonen, Cancellara and all the other favorites. So too, by the way, is George Hincapie.
UPDATE: Cancellara has just attacked with 45 km left, and Boonen has gone with him. The two of them quickly opened a 100-meter gap. We'll they be caught? Still a long way to go, but I wouldn't bet against them.
UPDATE: With only 17 km to go, it's clear now that, barring an accident or mechanical, the winner will be either Boonen or Cancellara. If it comes down to a sprint, Boonen will win. Cancellara must get a gap on him in the last kilometer or two. No sooner did I write that, then Cancellara attacked on the Kapelmuur and gapped Booner. Cancellara stayed in the saddle and turned on the afterburners, and left Boonen gasping as he jumped out of the saddle in a vain effort to match the pace. Is this the decisive move? Cancellara will now ride the last 14 km as a time-trial, a discipline he owns. On the Bosburg, he increases his lead over Boonen to 50 seconds. Cancellara is telling the rest of the peloton to HTFU!
FINAL UPDATE: Cancellara wins by about a minute over Boonen. Philippe Gilbert outsprints Bjorn Luekemans for third place, another minute behind. Bravo Fabian!