Here are my predictions:
Men's podium: Nys, Vervecken, Wellens. Nys takes off with one of the other two, with the second blocking, and complete yet another Belgian 1-2-3. Could be Vervecken *or* Wellens in either order after Nys. We'll see! Page in 23rd or 24th, with the next closest U.S. rider in 37th or 38th. Women's podium: I know the names, but not all the strengths, but here it is: Melchers, Vos, Kupfernagel, with Bessette just missing in 4th. Could be a toss-up between those three though. Much closer race than the men! Best U.S. riders in 15th-20th, probably Ann Knapp and Barbella, maybe Vardaros.
How about them apples? Let's see how I did ...
- Men: Big group stays together. Nys, Vervecken and Wellens take turns trying to break things up. Wellens even dangles 50m off the front for 2 laps. BUT, on the last lap, Nys lost his front wheel on the descent, hit a tree (the same one as Bjorn?), and DNFs. Holy (Dutch) cow! Vervecken reclaims his lost title (2001), with Wellens in 2nd. And Page put up a huge ride, coming in 10th! According to cyclingnews.com "Standing in the crowd of fans watching the giant television screen in the middle of the course, Page got more screen time than many of the other members of he leading group (barring the Belgians, of course)." Other U.S. riders: Wicks in 33rd, Powers 35th, Tonkin 48th, Baker 49th.
- Women: Dominated by a 3-rider break. But then the pre-race favorite (whom I did not have in my picks!) flatted, the remaining two pushed the pace hard and eventually set up the home win. Vos took the V, with Kupfernagel second. Van Den Brand (the favorite) took 3rd, with Melchers (my pick) in 4th. Says cyclingnews.com: "Canadian Lyne Bessette is a strong enough rider that with a better starting position, she might have picked up third place when Van Den Brand lost time to her flat, but considering she's been chasing away a flu for a week and started mid-pack start on a course that absolutely favoured good starting positions, her 10 place shows real promise." And Ann Knapp pulled out a fantastic ride to finish 9th, one ahead of Bessette. Other U.S. riders: Mazza and Howe 24th-25th, Vardaros in 33rd, Bruno-Roy in 36th.
So both Page and Knapp surprised! Not a bad way to end the weekend ... and definitely some serious promise shown by all the North Americans this year!
More later, after I'm done cleaning the bike ...
ONLY 320 DAYS TO NATZ!!