I managed to get over the bronchitis that dogged me for the last few weeks and eventually found some form.
Unfortunately it was all a little too late and my 2012 classics campaign is over before it really began. As I mentioned before, my whole pre-season was geared towards these two weeks so this has been a pretty big blow for me.
The only solace I can take from it is it was totally out of my control: I did everything I could to be in the best possible shape, but lady luck wasn’t on my side.
I’m now in Majorca, riding my bike with some friends and family (I’ll fill you in on that next week), sitting on the beach writing blogs and working on my sun tan! I have a week easy and then I’ll be back in the swing of things and on my way back up to top condition ahead of my next big goal.
Anyway, enough about me and more about what is for sure the most exciting two weeks of the year for any worthy cycling fanatic. For this reason the Ronde and Paris Roubaix are two of the most important days of the year for every team. My team on the other hand see it a little differently. These two races are everything to us, the biggest goal of the year and an absolute necessity to perform. Forget the TDF, the world championships, the Olympic games – the Ronde is the Ronde and dwarfs every sporting event on the calendar according to us.
The history of this event in Belgium is just unbelievable. Two weeks ago, ‘Classics fever’ was already in full swing. Everywhere you go you can feel it, where ever you look you see it. It’s an incredible passion and love for what is considered the toughest most brutal race on the planet. Picture England in the world cup final: once the TV coverage starts, the streets are empty. This is the case for each and every classic. Last week I had to go and do a few things in the afternoon and E3 Prijs was in the last 50km, so I hit record and would watch it when I got home. As soon as I left the house I knew it wasn’t going to be possible to avoid seeing how the race was developing. First the neighbor stuck his head out of the window, “Matt – Tom has attacked, he’s killing everybody!” Then I started my car, live commentary on the radio. The staff in the post office were transfixed by the widescreen images of the race, and those in the supermarket too. It was a sure sign the Classics had truly arrived.
A lot of talk has gone on about the new Flanders parcours and the decision to miss out the famous Muur [van Geraardsbergen]. On paper the new route is harder and will suit the more punchy riders who can climb well. The biggest reason for this is the distance too the finish from the last climb. It’s designed perfectly, so any kind of a chase back on after the climb will have to be full gas and without any hesitation what so ever. Kind of like the finale of San Remo. I think this along with the finish in Oudenaarde and the chance for the fans to see the riders pass three times will make the most electric atmosphere we have ever seen at a bike race. If you ask me the race won’t change much. The race isn’t on the climbs anyway – the race is before the climbs.
As for my prediction, it has to be Tom. As you have all seen he’s in absolutely fantastic form and he just wants it more than ever this year. Each one of the classics so far have been pretty low-key so far for him. He has given the other guys their chance, taken a bit of pressure off the team and himself and when all else has failed he’s just gone and won himself! The next two races are different: he will be fighting even more than ever and we are on for a great show. Then we have Chava [Sylvain Chavenel], Nikki [Terpstra]and [Gert] Stegmans. All of these guys can win. We just have the most fantastic classics team I have ever seen this year.
I’ve lost count now of how many wins we have but they are all pretty insignificant as far as the next week goes. If we can have a guy on that top step on Sunday, the season is already a success. Forget the rest. The Ronde is the Ronde and we want it more than the rest.