Clear skies, pleasant temperatures and huge crowds greeted the riders as they assembled in Roeselare for Dwars Door Vlaanderen on Wednesday. After Saturday’s shoot-out in San Remo, the Classics focus shifts north, and the race from Roeselare to Waregem sees the countdown to the Tour of Flanders begin in earnest.
Many of the big names who will be battling for Ronde supremacy in ten days’ time were on the startline in Roeselare’s Grote Markt. As ever in Flanders, Tom Boonen drew the largest cheers from the passionate fans, and he will be looking to ignite Quick Step’s season with a big showing on the road to Waregem.
He will face stiff opposition from Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek), who looked in ominous form in Italy at the weekend. Alessandro Ballan (BMC) is another man in good condition, but although the former world champion is still seeking his first win of the season, he told Cyclingnews that BMC’s plan would be to set Greg Van Avermaet up for the sprint finish.
However, André Greipel, who leads Omega Pharma-Lotto in the absence of Philippe Gilbert, said that a sprint finish was unlikely in Waregem, with the climb of the Oude Kwaremont at 165km likely to rip the field to pieces.
Garmin-Cervélo have brought a strong line-up, and both Tyler Farrar and Heinrich Haussler will be seeking to make amends for a disappointing outing in Milan-San Remo. Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky) and Lars Boom (Rabobank) also lined up at the head of solid teams in Roeselare.
Yoann Offredo leads the FDJ challenge, although his manager Marc Madiot was less than expansive on his chances. Madiot described his charge’s performance in San Remo was “good” and told Cyclingnews that Offredo would be hoping to finish “near the front.”
He certainly wasn’t the only one with such ambitions at the start of Dwars Door Vlaanderen, as spring arrived in Flanders.