We’ve got a special Ronde van Vlaanderen edition of our Pro Cyclocross Rumors and Rumblings for you today. Cyclocross is a huge part of the cycling lifestyle in Flanders, and with the Ronde van Vlaanderen set to start this weekend, let’s take a look at which of our own we can cheer for:
Enrico Franzoi (No. 124) – Liquigas
Probably the biggest name taking part in this Sunday’s festivities in Enrico Franzoi. Franzoi has usually been more of a roadie first, cyclocross rider second, but has become more and more prominent in cyclocross in recent years, thanks in large part, to his move to Liquigas last year. While with Lampre, Franzoi was a big part of the team that catapulted Allesandro Ballan to victory in 2007. Franzoi’s cyclocross season was decent, but not up to what we’ve come to expect from Italia, despite winning the Italian National Championship, so he may be out for blood in this weekend’s race. Liquigas doesn’t have a designated classics specialist for this year’s Ronde, but will be looking to keep things together for Daniele Bennati. If Bennati has some trouble over the Bergs, Franzoi may be given a bit more of a leash by his team.
Steve Chainel (No. 42) – BBox Bouyges Telecom
Steve Chainel was a revelation at last year’s World Championships, hanging with the leaders for much of the race, and finishing an eventual 9th. Chainel is relatively new to the elite levels of professional road racing, but in a race like Flanders, his experience in the cyclocross world should serve him well. While he doesn’t have the team to compare to the big guns of the race, he will be hoping to have what it takes to stay near enough to the front to help his team leaders.
Marianne Vos (No. 26) – DSB Bank
Marianne Vos is among the out and out favorites for victory in the women’s edition of the Tour of Flanders. Vos notched a win in the first women’s world cup of the year – the Trofeo Alfredo Binda – after putting a stunning 3:34 into the rest of the field. Vos has been world champion in so many disciplines that it is impossible to count her out of any race, and in a race that usually has riders fighting not only the field, but the weather and the roads, there’s no better place for a cyclocross star to shine. Vos is also the current women’s Dutch national road and Cyclocross champion. Watch for Vos to give it a go in the critical stage of the race, and if anyone is able to go with her, it will most likely end up being the winning move. Last year, Vos finished 5th, 21 second behind the winner.
Helen Wyman (No. 103), Christel Ferrier Bruneau (No. 105) – Vision 1 Racing
Ferrier Bruneau was last year’s 5th ranked rider on UCI points and finished 12th at the year’s world championships. She was also the runner up to Maryline Salvetat at the French National Championships for cyclocross. Wyman was last year’s British National Champion and ranked 8th in the world, and finished 16th at the world championship. Each woman would be a threat to this race on their own, if they weren’t expected to ride in support of World champion and Olympic Champion Nicole Cooke, who will be looking to take home victory on Sunday. It’s a good bet that Wyman and Ferrier Bruneau will be close to the front for most of the race, but whether or not either will get a crack at the title will depend on Cooke’s fitness. Last year, Wyman was 89th, at 7:20, while Ferrier Bruneau was 53rd, at 1:50.
Saskia Elemans (No. 76) – Team Flexpoint
Elemans was last year’s UCI 12th ranked rider in the world. On the road, Elemans will be riding in support for her team leader, Susanne Ljungskog, who is always a threat for victory. Ljungskog finished a fairly pedestrian 29th at the first world cup, and will be looking to her team to catapult her to victory. Elemans will be critical in that battle. Last year, Elemans finished 59th.
Eva Lechner (No. 66) – Gauss RDZ Ormu – Colnago
Lechner, usually a mountain bike star, who has made somewhat of a conversion to the road in recent months. Lechner is the Italian national cyclocross champion and also finished 9th at last year’s cyclocross World Championships.