Tom Boonen won Flanders again, and there is ample criticism (read Angelique Van Petegem’s comments at the bottom) directed at pretty much anyone not affiliated with Team Quick.Step. Dirk Demol has offered a few excuses (scroll down) but it’s unconvincing; if no mortals dare to challenge the dominance of LeFevere’s squad next weekend, I’m hoping that higher powers will intervene with a forest fire or snowstorm or something, just to keep it interesting. They might be calling Boonen the new Eddy Merckx, but thing is, The Cannibal got attacked every once in a while. The one-day wins in Merckx’s not-so-long career came against riders like Roger DeVlaminck (4x Roubaix champ) Francesco Moser (3x Roubaix champ) and Eric Lemen (3x Flanders champ), while VanPet is the only challenger Boonen has with more than a single classics win to his name. As Bernard Thevenet, the man who vanquished The Eddy at le Tour, said: “Tell me who was second to you and I will tell you the value of your victory”.
But enough bitterness. If the ProTour and the Grand Tours can squash the beef, anything is possible. Like Alejandro Valverde pipping Oscar Freire on the line. Remember when pundits were criticizing Valverde last winter, because he’d never won a race outside of Spain? Then he put it to Armstrong at Courchevel, and now he’s winning bunch sprints against Oscar Freire. Panaria’s Paride Grillo took a different bunch sprint at the GP Rennes in France on Sunday. Grillo’s (not to be confused with il grillo, a nickname of Paolo Bettini’s) young, and he’s been getting faster every year – I think this year’s Giro could be his coming out party. Speaking of Grand Tours, the former winner of the most recently held three-week event is trying to pull a Hondo, though is currently meeting with limited success. And if you just can’t get enough Ronde action, Jeff Jones and Pez Cycling have some first hand accounts of the course condition this weekend (though that last link sounds an awful lot like an ad, at times).