A former Pro Tour rider, Kopp is used to mixing it up with the big timers
Omloop has won his nation's road championship, and could contend in FlandersMitubishi-Jartazi has a good team for the spring Classics, as Geert Omloop is a rider built to last in the tougher races. Barloworld, the revelation of the 2007 Tour de France, will take big bad Baden Cook to Flanders, as well as Enrico Gasparotto. "Gaspa" will look to assume team leadership in the one day races for one of the best Continental teams in cycling today.
"Gaspa" tasted victory in last year's Giro, as he took the Maglia Rosa in the opening team time trial on the island of Sicily in 2007Slipstream-Chipotle will come into Flanders with a very strong team. The "Mustached Maurader," Steve Cozza, will look for valuable experience at Flanders, as he supports veteran strongman Magnus Backstedt. Another American, Tyler Farrar, could be a dark horse to place high in Flanders if Backstedt fails. One thing is for sure though: Slipstream snuck up on some teams in the early season, but the secret is out---they're a powerhouse team that is probably only a year away from receiving Pro Tour status . . . . . . if they want it.
Troublemaker: Cozza rides angry, and is a nightmare to control in any race for opposing teamsSkil-Shimano, a strong Continental team over the past few years, will bring Maarten Den Bakker, 2nd at the Amstel in 1998, and Sebastien Siedler, stage winner in last year's Bayern Rundfahrt to the cobbled Belgian challenge. Finally, the Landbouwkrdiet-Tönissteiner team will take Jan Kuyckx, stage one winner in this year's Etoile de Bessèges race, the traditional opening race of the French racing season, to Flanders and hope for the best.
Jan Kuyckx takes the season's first win at the Etoile de BessègesOf the teams not invited, none should feel more wronged than the Tinkoff squad. They have a few riders that could do real damage in Flanders if given the chance. Mikhail Ignatiev is a young Russian talent that has explosive time trialing ability and toughness, both of which are required for a Flanders victory. His team, tested earlier in the year at both the Tour of Qatar and the Mallorca Challenge, would lend him excellent support, putting him in position for a possible result.
Mikhail Ignatiev will be missed at the 2008 RondeAll things considered, the organizers for the Ronde did a good job in choosing the wild cards for their event. A healthy mix of Flemish-sponsored teams will keep the crowd in the race, while the other teams will add firepower to the struggle for the win. Flanders is about a month away, but already there are many riders dreaming of victory on the cobbled roads and steep bergs of the Tour of Flanders.