ORICA-GreenEDGE names squad for open Ronde van VlaanderenThu 2 Apr 2015
After the past couple of races in Belgium, particularly the Gent – Wevelgem last weekend, it’s hard to believe that the race considered the ‘hardest one-day race of the year’ is still to come. But it is.
The second ‘monument’ of cycling, the Ronde van Vlaanderen or Tour of Flanders, will be raced and won this Sunday and ORICA-GreenEDGE has named a reasonably young, but strong, eight-man lineup to tackle it.
The carnage of recent weeks has seen two of the big-name favourites in Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen forced to miss due to injury, leaving a more open than usual race for those remaining.
“There are generally only a handful of guys in the world that can win this race,” sport director Matt Wilson said.
“They have select attributes that even some of the best guys in the peloton don’t have – guys like Cancellara and Boonen, they just have something else. But with those two guys out, the race is wide open this year.
“We have a couple of guys who are going well in Jens Keukeleire and Mat Hayman. With Mat, the course doesn’t necessarily suit him well, but depending how the race plays out and as I said with a lot of the big players out, anything can happen and he can be there.
“But really, we have a team here looking towards the future and the big picture so a top ten would be a great result and a success story for us on Sunday.”
Hayman and Keukeleire will be supported by the power of Luke Durbridge, and Sam Bewley. The speed of classics specialist Mitch Docker, Leigh Howard, Adam Blythe and Danish neo-pro Magnus Cort complete the roster.
The 264.2km Tour of Flanders course negotiates 19 ‘hellings’ or hills, many of which are cobbled. On a day where a lot can go wrong, the bunch has a high attrition rate and only few will survive to contest writing their name in the history books.
“It encompasses basically every iconic climb in the Flanders region,” Wilson said. “You have a long time before you even hit the climbs from the coast.”
“Generally you have bad weather and then once you hit the climbs for the nuts and bolts end of the race you’ve got 100km or more of just constant up and down, one after the other.
“Together with the cobble sections, it makes a pretty epic race.”
The challenging parcour is one major obstacle but as one of the biggest days of the year in Belgium, the atmosphere can also add a significant volume of stress, particularly for younger riders.
“This race is huge in Belgium,” Wilson said. “It’s like any national sporting event that everyone in the country knows and identifies with.”
“Everyone has their favourite riders and favourite teams and half of Belgium tries to get out a see some of the circuit and that feeling is felt from within the bunch.
“Even at sign on you have 20,000 people there to watch it. And every metre of road, you can be going down a ‘nothing’ part of the race and the crowd will be ten deep.”
ORICA-GreenEDGE at Ronde van Vlaanderen (5 April):