Traditional Flemish cycling roads, the hallowed ground for aspiring one day specalistsSylvain Chavanal became the first ever Frenchman to win the Belgian semi-classic Dwars door Vlaanderen this past Wednesday, cementing his name forever into Flemish cycling lore. Long considered an enormous talent by the French public, Chavanel may be best known to Americans as the man who kept Chris Horner from having a chance to win a stage in the 2005 Tour de France. Now, Chavanel will forever be known as the first Frenchman to crack the true Belgian hard man's classic. He did it with help from his team and old-fashioned panache, riding away from a quality field for the semi-classic win.
Chavanel has been off the front many times, but in Dwars he made his break stick
According to race reports, Boonen, Cancellara, Ballan and the other torch-bearers of the cobbled-cycling classics played down their efforts in anticipation of Flanders on April 6. Really? Boonen won the event the last four years, this year he decided he wanted to save himself? Doubtful. And tell that to Chavanel and his teammate Nick Nuyens, who is showing excellent form in his own right. Nuyens had a down 2007 but seems ready to be at the front once again in 2008. He'll have full support at Flanders after having ridden himself into the ground for Chavanel at Dwars. The two riders combined to overwhelm the field at Dwars, and Chavanel can thank Nuyens for chaperoning him to the finish line. Nice to have a Belgian on your side in a Belgian race.
Cunego already has a Giro overall, he'll set his sites on Le Tour in 2008
Meanwhile, in Italy, "Il Piccolo Principe," Damiano Cunego, has destroyed the hearts of his loyal tifosi by announcing that he'll forego the Giro in 2008 in favor of trying for the overall in the Tour de France. Cunego, 2006 white jersey (young rider) winner of the Tour de France, likes that there are fewer time trials in this year's TDF than in the Giro. Plus, he already has an overall title in the Giro, having bested then teammate Gilberto Simoni in 2004. After a down year attributed to Epstein-Barr (heavy doping) virus, Cunego has built his form slowly back up and appears ready to contend again in the Grand Tours.
Cunego's tifosi come in all shapes and sizes
All in the family: The climbing-minded Schleck brothers will ride together at the Tour in 2008