Well, my favorite week of cycling got off to a great start on Sunday with a hard fought race in Flanders. Tom Boonen looked human and Alessandro Ballan proved both strong and smart in taking the victory from a well deserving Leif Hoste.
After an unsuccessful attempt by Fabian Cancellara to ride away with the race early, Ballan launched the winning attack on the Muur. Here, only Hoste found the strength to respond. Leif must be wondering who he will tow to the line next year as he seems to be destined for the second spot on the podium. I really thought Hoste had things wrapped up. He timed his pull to end at the final kilometer flag and maneuvered Ballan into the lead spot. The two were able to spar and keep a hard charging chasing group at bay. I’ve never seen that before. Then Hoste launched a sprint just 150 meters to go. At that point, I thought the race was over and Leif Hoste would take the top spot. Here is where Ballan used some good old fashioned street smarts. He recovered from the acceleration, ducked in behind Hoste and then launched a counter sprint to pip the young Belgian at the line.
Next up, Circuit de la Sarthe starting today through Friday and Ghent-Wevelgem on Wednesday. On Sunday is, of course, Paris-Roubaix. The finish line weather in Roubaix calls for sunny skies and a high of 68 degrees F (20 C).