Wednesday, April 8, 2009
The odds are against a rider who hopes to win any race two years in a row. Guys like Eddy Merckx, Sean Kelly, Lance Armstrong, Miguel Indurain, and even more specifically Fiorenzo Magni, Achiel Buysse and Tom Boonen, are not just in the minority, but statistically improbable. Prior to Boonen's 2006 repeat at Flanders the last repeat win at Flanders occurred in 1973.
Such knowledge is unlikely to soothe the frustration Filippo Pozzato, Philippe Gilbert, Martijn Maaskant or Heinrich Haussler feel at Stijn Devolder's escape at the Muur de Gramont. After all, you're supposed to bet against the dark horse ... but just how dark a horse is a Belgian strongman whose greatest annual rendezvous is with the muur? Odds aside, letting last year's winner go at any race is unwise, to say the least.
Somehow Devolder was able to recover and attack and leave the other strongmen—favorites all—gasping on the Gramont's steepest pitch. Neat trick. The unlikelihood of Devolder's win evaporated as soon as his gap reached 10 seconds.
So what's this spell for the future? Devolder will find it more difficult to punch his card in a solo break. And Boonen now has undeniable competition within his team for leadership at Flanders as long as he and Devolder remain on the same team. Thanks to Devolder for making the a bold, memorable and ultimately fruitful move, but what's Boonen to do?
Image courtesy John Pierce, Photosport International.