So for those of you who’ve been under a rock for the past week, there’ve been some protests in France over a new job law, designed to decrease youth unemployment by making young workers easier to fire. Young folks are upset about this, I guess (not to further any stereotypes about the French being lazy, but apparently they just don’t like working…), so upset that they’ve gone out and delayed the start (scroll to bottom) of some bike races. Fortunately, Sammy Dumoulin, one of they very few young Frenchmen both employed and able to be fired, took the win at that event, as if to say “you go and you sign that law, Monsieur Chirac!” It seems that Spain and England (or is it Germany?) must have similar laws protecting less-effective workers, as otherwise all of Euskatel (the squad is winless thus far this season), and ProCycling (the site just put out this DauphinÃ© preview when it’s still three monuments and a Grand Tour away), would be out of work.
But enough French labor squabbles – T-minus two days until Flanders. Odds are up and you-know-who is the 3:1 favorite at Unibet. History is against a repeat win, though, and no-one’s pulled it off since before Tommy B was born. If BiciRace’s odds-man Paolo has a good grasp of his art, Unibet’s 13:1, 20:1 and 28:1 odds for Ballan, Hoste and Flecha, respectively, are absolute bargains. One man not on the betting rolls? Nico Mattan, out because he couldn’t find a neutral-support car to tow him to the line. Cyclingnews tips the World Champ, both for Flanders (additional previews) and much of the rest of April. Despite all the fuss, perennial top-ten George Hincapie thinks Boonen is beatable (so long as you don’t finish with him), but some questions remain as to whether he or anyone else will be able to clear the Koppenburg this year. Velonews has blurbs on the top teams and contenders here, but I think this will continue to be the year of the domestique – my money’s on Stijn Devolder at 28:1.