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Johan Museeuw: “There are many favourites for the Tour of Flanders”

Johan Museeuw

One of the biggest races in the world, born more than one century ago, the Tour of Flanders is on Sunday and everyone expects a great fight between Fabian Cancellara, the 2013 winner, his arch-rival Tom Boonen, Peter Sagan, and Sep Vanmarcke. The course is different than last year, with the Koppenberg now being closer to the finish and only two laps over the Oude Kwaremont – Paterberg circuit, but this doesn’t mean it will be easier.

What is the likely scenario of the race? What are the strong points of the favourites? Can there be a surprise winner? Johan Museeuw – the “Lion of Flanders” and a rider who left his mark on the history of the race in the ‘90s – was kind enough to make some time this week to answer all these questions for Cafe Roubaix.

– Mister Museeuw, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix are coming and people are rating Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara as the main contenders. Do you agree?

I agree, they are the only riders who can win both the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, but let’s not forget that Boonen had some problems and his chances depend on how he will recover this week. Cancellara was great on Friday in E3 Harelbeke and has a small advantage over Boonen, but I expect to see them both in great shape on Sunday.

– What are the strong points of Cancellara and Boonen when it comes to their teams?

The strongest point of Trek Factory Racing is Stijn Devolder, who gave a real demonstration last week-end. He is the main key of Cancellara’s win, but he can also win this years’ Flanders considering his condition. I don’t know if he will go for the win or if he will work for Cancellara, but he’s in great shape. As for his other teammates, I don’t know if they’re strong enough to help him in the final. Boonen has an important advantage when it comes to this, because Omega Pharma-Quick Step is much stronger. They have Zdenek Stybar, Niki Terpstra, and Stijn Vanderbergh, who are capable of winning. I think Stybar can do something and be the surprise of the Tour of Flanders, and even more in Paris-Roubaix. Still, even if they can dominate the races with the whole team, Omega Pharma-Quick Step can’t take nothing for sure, because you can have bad luck, crashes, or punctures; it all depends on how the race is going.

– How do you think the final will be?

I expect to see a small group, with Cancellara, Sagan, Boonen, Vanmarcke, Chavanel, and other big riders. Boonen and Sagan can wait for the sprint, but Cancellara has to do something on the Oude Kwaremont or on the Paterberg. I’m sure he will attack there.

– You’ve mentioned Sagan and Vanmarcke, can they be genuine contenders for Flanders?

Yes, I truly believe this. Vanmarcke is in very good condition, he had a great sprint in Gent-Wevelgem and has strong legs. Sagan won E3 and is ready to win for the first time the Tour of Flanders. I also wouldn’t count out Devolder, considering his form.

– Can John Degenkolb and Alexander Kristoff be among the protagonists?

They have a chance to show that they are not only sprinters. Both come from the new generation of sprinters, but they are very strong as well in the one-day races. I expect to see Degenkolb more in Paris-Roubaix than in Flanders, but he’s a strong rider and can win in the future Flanders and Roubaix. Degenkolb is much more a sprinter than Kristoff is, who has a good sprint when the race is very difficult. This is the difference between the two of them, so I think Kristoff has a better chance of being in the final of the Tour of Flanders.

– Is there room for a surprise in this years’ Flanders?

I don’t think so. The circuit is very hard, Koppenberg comes with only 45 kilometres before the finish and after it there are other difficult hills. I don’t think there can be a surprise. Maybe a rider we don’t expect, like Luca Paolini, can win the race, but that wouldn’t be a surprise, as he had good results in the past.

– Speaking of the new Flanders parcours, should we expect a more open race then in the previous two years?

We changed a little bit the parcours, especially by putting Koppenberg closer to the finish and having just two times the circuit over Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg, which was three times in 2012 and 2013. For me, this is similar to the old races, like in my generation, and by this I mean there will be a much difficult race.

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