Flemish week happily continues tomorrow with E3 Harlebeke now 60 years young. There are numerous cobble sectors and 15 climbs on much of the same route as the Tour of Flanders. Known as the mini Tour of Flanders it's route is 206.1km that starts and finishes in Harelbeke. Dwars door Vlaanderen was fun to watch as the Quick Stop Floors duo of Yves Lampaert helped by Philippe Gilbert pull the first Flemish win. They will return for E3 along with Tom Boonen looking for two in a row. Defending champ, Michal Kwiatkowski will not defend but Peter Sagan (2nd last year) and Ian Stannard (3rd) will want revenge.
Lampaert and Gilbert were masterful in Dwars will Quick Step Floors do it again?
My podium: 1- Peter Sagan, 2- Oliver Naesen 3- Tiesj Benoot
Flemish Week kicks off tomorrow with mid-week Dwars door Vlaanderen! My all time favorite set of races that really begin the Belgian cobbles classics consisting of: Dwars door Vlaanderen, E3 Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem, Three Days of De Panne and finishing with the Ronde.
Dwars is 203km with daunting dozen climbs and there is an added new sector of cobbles with 6km to go just for a little added spice. Despite the big contenders not present; Alexander Kristoff, Greg Van Avermaet, Tom Boonen and Peter Sagan there will be plenty of contenders for the early Flemish Crown.
My picks: (1) Tiesj Benoot (2) Oliver Naesen (3) Sep Vanmarcke (although he is recovering from a rib injury suffered in Strade Bianche and reports are that he's feeling better and will compete, I'm still going for the Flandrien to podium).
Roger Pingeon, winner of the 1967 Tour de France and 1969 Vuelta a Espana, has died at the age of 76. The French nicknamed him, L'Echassier - the wading bird because of his long, slender legs. After Ferdi Kubler and Roger Walkowiak, Roger Pingeon is the the third Tour de France champion to die in a few months. That leaves 23 Tour champions led by the 88 year old, Federico Bahamontes, the 1959 champion.
The thrilla in Milano,
What an amazing photo finish!
Chapeau! To a champions race.
"I tried it this year because there was a tailwind on the Poggio. I had nothing to lose, I tried. I got away and then Kwiat and Alaphilippe came across. I still thought I was faster than them. I thought we'd go away but it's hard to get some help from different teams. But that's cycling. Not always the best can win. Results don't matter. The important thing is to put on a show."
- Peter Sagan
The night before the big race, the champions food...
The first Monument of the season rolls out tomorrow. And, with Spring officially beginning Monday it's time for Milan-San Remo. Despite being known as the 'sprinters classic', the race is not a straight beeline to a group sprint, instead its long, winding route, exciting finish, and the fine balancing act it requires riders to go between sprinting and attacking.
It's hard not to pick Peter Sagan to take the bow as his early season performance reflects... Winner of his first Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, 2 wins and six podiums. His clash with Fernando Gaviria on Stage 6 of Tirreno-Adriatico could signal another showdown in San Remo. Ben Swift is another sprinter that holds promise to win the Spring Classic. Now with the new UAE Team Emirates he previously finished in second and third places in 2016 and 2014 respectively.
World champion, Giuseppe Beppe Saronni, 1983 M-SR
photo: Graham Watson
UAE Team Emirates General Manager Giuseppe Beppe Saronni was the the last World Champion to win M-SR wearing the rainbow stripes, said:
'Milan-San Remo is the dream of every young Italian kid when they start cycling. My advice to Ben is that if you want to win Milan-San Remo, everything must be perfect: from your training the day before, to your dinner choice. You need to be on your best game and be focused to avoid common mistakes that can throw you off. The nature of the Milan-San Remo route means that a lot of riders can tackle it which makes for such an exciting race as all riders need to put their best performance forward.'
'I hit the target of the Classicissima after a series of unlucky attempts, but I did it in the best moment, when I was wearing the rainbow jersey as World Champion. It was 1983, I still remember the moment vividly, and crossing that iconic finish line in Via Roma in Alassio was a highlight for me and an achievement. Milan-San Remo is charming because it is a pure cycling challenge to a distance of 300 km, it is an unpredictable race with a long plot and an epilogue that is often a sprint, but everyone wants to change this epilogue and tries hard to obtain a place on the podium.'
Arnaud Demare outlasts Ben Swift, 2016 M-SR
Happy St. Patricks Day and let's celebrate with Sean Kelly's famous 1992 Milan-San Remo win...
Famed photographer Graham Watson has retired after 38 years covering cycling. Here is his top 10...
And, just one more look back at the 1982 M-SR. The unknown Marc Gomez, just three months turning professional captured his Monument as compatriot Alain Bondue fell, he freewheeled solo to the finish line...
It is always with joy that Classics season is underway. Today is the midweek Belgian semi-classic, 71st edition of Nokere Koerse. A race for the sprinters it was a delight to watch. Nacer Bouhanni easily won not having to throw a jab for his first victory of the season.
"Power sensors tell me I'm ready for Milan-San Remo. I am even in better shape than in 2016 (4th after being disturbed in the sprint by a chain jump). I will not be a great favorite, but rather a good outsider."
- Nacer Bouhanni