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Speaking at the start of the Tour of Flanders Sunday in Brugge, several riders who hoped to play a part in the finale gave their thoughts about the race. Teams tend to keep their cards close to their chests but some indications were given about how those riders and squads hoped the Classic would unfold.
Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka):
CyclingTips: You had a bit of a mishap in Milan-San Remo on the descent. Does that give you extra motivation today?
GC: I think anyway I would be motivated for today. It is one of the biggest races in the season and a main goal for our team. Anyway we are all motivated.
CT: How is your form?
GC: I think I was in good shape for the last races. Hopefully it will be a bit better today. Normally it should be good.
CT: What is the ideal scenario for you today in how things unfold?
GC: I think the main thing is to be in front on the climbs in the final and hope that you can follow the best riders there. That would be the ideal scenario.
CT: You have guys who can go up the road earlier to take pressure off the team…
GC: Yeah. We have a good team here and they are supporting me so that is good.
Heinrich Haussler (IAM Cycling):
The form is okay, I am feeling good. I am very motivated for today. I am just glad that there is no rain and bad conditions as pretty much the whole European season so far has been just terrible weather so I am looking forward to this.
CT: You obviously have the Australian champion’s jersey which is going to motivate you. What is the ideal situation for you? Is it to stay with the guys, try to get up the road earlier or how do you want things to unfold?
HH: The best situation would be that three or four of us can actually pass the Kwaremont the second time, put us in a good position for the Koppenberg. Then you have to see who has the legs. If you have the legs after the Koppenberg then it is all in and try to attack. Try to go early, because if I or the other guys on the team try and wait for them to go on the Kwaremont or the Paterberg, when Sep Vanmarcke and Geraint Thomas, when these guys go, there are only one or two other guys who can follow.
I think it is better if we try to race aggressively and attack early.
CT: What is better for you – this or Roubaix?
HH: Actually, the way Flanders is turning out, it is just more and more climbs. So I see my chances being better in Roubaix.
CT: So which would mean more to you if you were in a position to win either?
HH: I would take what I can get, it doesn’t matter!
Tyler Farrar (MTN-Qhubeka):
We will have to see how the race unfolds but I think Gerald is looking really, really good. He is strong on the hills, he is a quick guy. I think the goal is to take care of him as best as possible early on and hope he can make the final selections over the Kwaremont and the Patersberg. If he can be in a small group that sprints for the podium or the victory, that would be ideal.
CT: Are you also a protected rider today?
TF: We will see. I am a bit of a joker card. Certainly Gerald is our leader for today but I will hide as much as possible early on in the race and try to save my legs so that I can play a backup role if something goes wrong or be there to help him in the last hour of the race.
CT: How has the move to the team been?
TF: It has been great. We have put together a good group of guys. We are all having fun racing our bikes and the ambience is nice on the team for sure.
Matt Goss (MTN-Qhubeka):
The last ten days, twelve days haven’t been ideal. I crashed in Dwars Door Vlaanderen two Wednesdays ago now. I dislocated a rib and it has been a bit of a process to get that back to being okay. It is getting better but not 100 percent. But it is a sunny day, we are here racing and I am feeling okay.
CT: What would be the ideal scenario for you and your team today?
MG: Ah, Tyler [Farrar] has been good here in the past. Gerald [Ciolek] is going really well. I will be playing a bit more supportive role today, the circuit has changed and is even harder again. Not being 100 percent, I will try to do as much as I can to support those guys and get them as deep into the final as possible.
CT: Does Boonen and Cancellara being out change things for your team?
MG: It is going to make it a little bit different, that is for sure. Those two guys are usually the ones who split the race up and who drag a bunch of guys away with them. Maybe we see a bit bigger group coming to the finish today but it is still a hard race, it is still 260 plus kilometres and it is not going to be easy, that’s for sure. The strongest guy at the end of the day is going to win.
CT: What chance to you see for yourself and your team to show yourself?
MG: We will be there, we will be in the front. But it is going to depend on how the race plays out. You can have the strongest guy in the world and anything can happen. We have a good team, a dedicated team. Everyone is motivated and that is one of the biggest things for this race. If everyone is motivated you are at the front, you are in a good position. Hopefully we will be right at the pointy end when it comes to the finish line.
Jasper Stuyven (Trek Factory Racing):
CT: How does Fabian Cancellara’s absence change things for you?
JS: Of course with Fabian we have an absolute leader. Now we just have to play the cards we have and maybe don’t need to wait until the last time up the Kwaremont but go before.
CT: Stijn Devolder showed strong form in De Panne. Does he feel like he can contend for the win today?
JS: Yes, for sure. He is the only one who won the race. He knows how it is done. He knows how it is done. Stijn is a really strong guy and I think he can pull off a result today.
Jim Ochowicz (BMC Racing Team’ s general manager):
CT: As regards tactics today, presumably Greg Van Avermaet is the big guy for your squad?
JO: Yeah, in our group. Any of our riders…the thing about our guys is that everybody can go the distance. Everybody can do the 260 kilometres, which is not the normal…every team can’t actually say that.
We can play a few different cards. Greg is of course our team leader so the object is to get him to the finish as close as we can and let him try to finish it up with the leaders.
If someone else gets in the break, that is not the worst thing in the world either.
CT: Tactically, what is the ideal scenario for you?
JO: Well, we have to watch certain people and certain teams. We can’t let anything go at the start here that might get too crazy. Last year we had Taylor Phinney in the break at the start which helped us. That puts us in a more guarded position, makes the tactics easier at the end of the race.
But that was a pretty big group, 11 riders. If there is a group of ten, 11, 12, we want to have somebody in there. If it is less than that, it is not such a big deal.
But this race happens pretty quick. It is going to be fast, the weather is really nice today. Unlike in years past when they were wrestling with rain jackets and all that other stuff, this makes the race faster as the workers don’t have to do as much running around through the peloton.
It is going to be a quicker start, I think. You are going to see a lot more brakes. We come to the Taaienberg in 70 kilometres, that could be in an hour and 15 kilometres depending on fast they get out of here.
So the race is going to happen pretty quick.