The Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders), Sunday April 3, 2011

The Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders), Sunday April 3, 2011

Warning: Cycle Crazy Week Ahead!

A high of 13 degrees Celsius with showers in the morning becoming cloudy in the afternoon. That’s the forecast for Sunday’s Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) on the ProTour circuit. One of the five so called “monuments” in the sport, this 95th edition of the race will see many of the top names in men’s professional road racing at the start line.

A week before Paris-Roubaix (another monument in the spring classics), the Ronde is perhaps the biggest day for bike racing in Belgium. Regardless of the weather, enthusiastic fans, fueled with Duvel and Leffe, will be out in force, lining the roads and urging the riders along. At least a few of them should be cheering on their countryman Sebastien Rosseler of Team RadioShack (TRS), who’s prospects for the podium are looking good.

Rosseler just finished up the Driedaagse De Panne with his TRS squad, where The Shack took two of the three podium spots. In fact, it was Rosseler who stood in the middle, finishing first in the GC after a blazing time trial effort in the final stage; teammate Michal Kwiatkowski
finished third overall. Finishing ahead of such notables as André Greipel of Omega Pharma – Lotto, Peter Sagan of Liquigas – Cannondale, and Sylvain Chavanel of Quickstep (among others), it was another great effort by Team Radioshack, who’s realizing plenty of success so far this season.

Lining up for the Ronde van Vlaanderen on Sunday will be a strong Shack squad including Sebastien Rosseler, Manuel Cardoso, Michal Kwiatkowski, Fumiyuki Beppu, Geoffrey Lequatre, Robbie McEwen, Dmitriy Muravyev, and Gregory Rast. A strong group of riders to be sure, and they’ll have to be, because the rest of the field for the Ronde is packed and stacked!

One of the favorites on the line at the Ronde is Fabian Cancellara of LEOPARD-TREK, who last year scored back to back wins at Ronde van Vlaanderen and then the next wee at Paris-Roubiax. Garmin-Cervelo will be there with a strong team, including Thor Hushovd and Heinrich Haussler.

Another favorite to win has got to be Tom Boonen of Quickstep. After finishing on the podium’s top spot last week at Gent-Wevelgem, and riding along with Gert Steegmans and Sylvain Chavanel in search of Flemish glory on Sunday.

Team RadioShack have their work cut out for them, but with veteran Belgian directors Johan Bruyneel and Dirk Demol bringing all manner of experience and guile to the race, they should have a good strategy at the ready.

Follow all the action on the official race website: http://www.rvv.be/en

The 2011 Vuelta al Pais Vasco is Monday 4 April through Saturday 9 April 2011

As if all THAT wasn’t enough racing excitement, Monday will see the beginning of the “Tour of the Basque Country” or Vuelta al País Vasco (Euskal Herriko itzulia in Basque), 2011.

With a mixture of sun and showers forecasted throughout the week and daytime high temperatures in the 20s (Celsius), the six day stage race should see reasonable racing conditions with all the promise of excitement and racing conquest for Team RadioShack.

The Shack’s own Chris Horner returns wearing the #1 racing bib to defend his 2010 title. Last year Horner had one of the biggest wins of his career, ending up on top of the podium in the txapel, the oversized Basque beret the champion is given.

Looking to have another go at the podium, TRS brings a solid squad to support Horner, who’s showing good form as his season gets underway. The Shackers will include Horner, Andreas Kloden, Levi Leipheimer, Sergio Paulinho, Matt Busche, Ivan Rovny and the two Basque riders, Haimar Zubeldia and Markel Irizar. Irizar brings particularly good form for the week, having won the Vuelta a Andalucia (Ruta del Sol) in February.

The Shack will have plenty of strong competition as they racy race along the roads of northern Spain.

Tony Martin with his HTC Highroad squad, Christian Vandevelde with Garmin-Cervelo, Andy and Frank Schleck with a strong Leopard-Trek team, Alexandre Vinokourov of Astana, Carlos Sasre of Geox-TMC, and even the veteran Ivan Basso with Liquigas-Cannondale, are among those who will be vying to stand atop the podium at the end of the week.

And of course, several Spanish teams will be at the start line too, including the Basque Eskaltel-Euskadi, all looking for glory in their homeland, as well! All these factors should make for an exciting week of racing, and good fun as the spring classics and stage racing continues.

Follow the Tour of the Basque Country all week: http://www.steephill.tv/vuelta-al-pais-vasco/

Enjoy!

By Jeff Ludlum, staff writer