The Tour of Flanders may take place on Sunday but the mind games ahead of Belgium's biggest cobbled race have already begun with RadioShack's Dirk Demol claiming that Tom Boonen (Omega-Pharma QuickStep) is the favourite to win.
Demol, a winner of Paris-Roubaix and currently directing RadioShack's squad at the Three days of de Panne told Cyclingnews that Boonen is the favourite for a third Flanders win due to his superior sprint. The Belgian rider has been in scintillating form this spring, racking up wins in E3-Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem. However arch rival, Fabian Cancellara, has looked strong as well. Three punctures and two crashes destroyed his E3 chances but he was one of the leading riders in the race, almost blowing the race apart before his final puncture and crash.
His ride in Gent-Wevelgen, where he attacked on the final climb, demonstrated no apparent lasting damage from his crashes and Demol added that the new Flanders route will suit the Swiss ace.
The route, on paper at least, is widely regarded as tougher than previous years, giving Cancellara a greater chance of playing to his strength and riding his rivals off his rear wheel.
Demol also tipped Peter Sagan (Liquigas) as a favourite for the race. The Slovak rider had just crossed the line in first place at the first stage of De Panne when this video was recorded and Demol pointed to the rider's sprinting strengths and current form as possible indicators of his potential for Flanders.