The Jury Is Still Out On Tour of Flanders Changes
It's 24 hours later and people still aren't sure if they like or dislike Flanders.
The day after a major race there's always the post-event analysis and the armchair team directors have a lot to say about the Tour of Flanders. As you know the route had undergone a change: gone were the climbs of the Bosberg and the Muur - both iconic hills that were tied to the history of the race. Their exclusion angered some people so much that a group threatened to throw tacks down on the course in protest.
Instead riders did large finishing loops, which featured the climb of the Oude Kwaremont and the Paterberg. The Kwaremont is 1.5 kilometers long with cobbles thrown in for good measure. Oh, did I mention it's climbed three times? Like Kwaremont, the Paterberg is climbed three times, but is much shorter at 350 meters but with an average gradient of 12%.
In the end we still had three worthy riders fighting it out: Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quickstep), Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia) and Alessandro Ballan (BMC Racing Team). We all know what happened next - Boonen's dream season continued with a third win in this Belgian classic.
"Today Pippo was the strongest," is what team director Luca Scinto told Cyclingnews after the race. Looks like the Italian director is taking a cue out of Johan Bruyneel's playbook of stating his rider was the strongest and still managed to lose. I must have missed that chapter in his book "We Might As Well Win."
Speaking of Bruyneel, his RadioShack-Nissan team suffered the misfortune of star classic rider Fabian Cancellara crashing in the feed zone, breaking his collarbone in four places. The Swiss rider was a five-star favorite for Flanders and was sure to be a protagonist in Paris-Roubaix. But that's all gone now.
In addition to the teams weighing in post-race, journalists let their feelings be known before the riders rolled out of the start town of Brugge.
Velo Magazine's Neal Rogers didn't mince words and called the new route "blasphemous" stating that the removal of the two iconic "bergs" would take away from the drama.
Rider's thoughts were mixed from Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Barracuda) calling the change "stupid" to Boonen saying he had no preference.
Now that the race is completed views are still split. I asked on Twitter what people thought of the race and I got answers from "meh," a comparison to a transitional stage in the Tour de France, to it was still a good race.
Sporza conducted their own poll and discovered that 48% of the people surveyed felt the new Flanders course wasn't an improvement, 23% thought it was better and 28% said it there was no difference.
The always insightful Gerard Vroomen didn't feel the love for the new parcours. For him the absence of the Muur and the new finishing town of Oudenaarde took away from the race's luster.
After watching the race and mulling over past drama filled editions so far this new course didn't thrill me. That said, there was a worthy winner in Tom Boonen.
Like Vroomen, I missed the Muur and I always loved the