Tour of Flanders 2006

Tom Boonen continues to have a ridiculously good year in the World Champion's jersey. His repeat victory at the Tour of Flanders (Ronde van Vlaanderen) will certainly have his stock flying high for a repeat victory at Paris-Roubaix.

QuickStep had all the cards in this one. After several cobblestone sections had whittled the lead group down to the main contenders, QuickStep still had four riders in that group. Three of those riders -- Boonen, Bettini, and Pozzato -- had already won stages this year. Discovery, the next strongest team, only had two riders in this selection: Hincapie and Hoste.

Hoste put in a spur-of-the-moment attack that pretty much guaranteed Boonen the stage victory. With 33km to go, Boonen was the only rider to follow Hoste's attack. Even with Hoste's victory at De Panne just several days prior, there probably isn't a tactic in the world that would have let him beat Boonen. Hincapie might have had a slim chance, but he was forced to sit in the chase group and mark the other riders, including Bettini. Discovery still managed second and third place, which is probably the best result that could have played out on this day. Hincapie sounded a bit disappointed in the post-race interviews to have been stuck back in the chase group, but this was Belgian territory and it was up to the Belgians to duke it out.

Hincapie will certainly have Hoste's full support in Paris-Roubaix. Unfortunately, he probably won't have Roger Hammond, who got 14 stitches to his knee, and he certainly won't have Michael Barry, who will be out for several months with face and vertebrae injuries. The cobblestones are wicked.

related articles: Pro Tour 2006
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