The Tour of Flanders is a race that I look back on with mixed emotions. Some good, some not so good. It is a race that I finished second in three times and is the one major classic that got away on me.
In 1986 I was having a pretty good start to the season winning Paris Nice and Milan San Remo. I headed to Flanders in good form and part of me was already looking towards Paris Roubaix the following week. I was feeling really good and was probably a little over confident. I led out the sprint and Van der Poel came around me to take it on the line. Why did he win? Because on the day I wanted to win, but he really really wanted it more.
In 1987 I was again in the break as we approached the finale. I suppose having been beaten the previous two years I was a little more cautious about the finish. When 'Criq' attacked I was not going to be the one to go after him immediately. We sometimes worked together in races so it was really up to the Panasonics to do the chasing. Criq held on and once again I finished second beating Vanderarden in the sprint.
And so, to this years race. With Cancellara and Boonen out, the whole dynamic of the race will change. Etixx Quick Step will be less inclined to take control of the race early on so it could be very open.
Peter Sagan would be an obvious choice normally but he looks like his legs are staying a little too long under the dinner table at present. This year he faces a new challenge. Liquigas had a small budget so his contracts were never really huge. This year however, he has signed a real big contract with Tinkoff. Sometimes, when that happens it can be very difficult to have that real hunger that you would have in the lean years. It can take a while to get that hunger back, but when he does the victories will follow again.
Last year John Degenkolb was just a few bike lengths off the Cancellara/Vanmarke train when it left the station on the Oude Kwaremont, but this year, just like Milan San Remo he would again be my top choice for victory.