April 1, 2006 – A total of four Canadians will be racing the Tour of Flanders tomorrow, three men, one woman. One of the most storied classics, the Tour of Flanders is considered one of the toughest one-day events in cycling.
The men will race 258K, with 17 climbs, and over 20K of cobbles. Last year, Quick.Step’s Tom Boonen won the race with a dominant performance, and with his incredible spring this year, it’s highly possible that either he or one of his teammates – including Olympic champion Paolo Bettini – could take top honours.
Discovery’s Michael Barry, coming off a good ride at Depanne, will ride in support of his close teammate George Hincapie, but don’t discount the chance of the tough Canuck getting into a pivotal move. More likely, Barry will be there on the final climbs to get Hincapie to the front. Other Canadians at Flanders include former MTB’er Ryder Hesjedal (Phonak) and Charles Dionne (Saunier Duval) in his first year racing in Europe.
On the women’s side, Lyne Bessette (T-Mobile) is the lone Canadian woman racing Flanders. Last year Buitenpoort-Flexpoint’s Mirjam Melchers took a solid win, which was marred by the peloton being sent the wrong way as it sprinted for third place. The women will race 111K and take in 12 climbs, and ride on the flat cobbled sections of the men’s race.