Welcome back, Nick! With a fantastic win in yesterdayâ€™s Dwars door Vlaanderen, Saxo Bankâ€™s Nick Nuyens resurrected a careerâ€”and a classics teamâ€”that many felt had been left for dead.Â Hereâ€™s what we noticed:
1. So let me get this straight: Rabobank signed Matti Breschelâ€”last yearâ€™s Dwars winner, to replace Nick Nuyensâ€”this yearâ€™s Dwars winner. Funny how that worked out, huh?
2. And speaking of irony, the score is now Saxo Bank 6, Leopard Trek 2.
3. But seriously, letâ€™s give Nick Nuyens credit for his terrific ride today. After breaking the race apart on the Oude Kwaremont, the Belgian bridged with Skyâ€™s Gerraint Thomas to Frederic Amorison and Rob Gorisâ€”the final two survivors from the dayâ€™s long breakawayâ€”and held-off a charging field that was eager to produce a field sprint. After two seasons of more or less anonymity, Nuyens appears to have found the talent that earned him wins in the Omloop Het Volk and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and finished second in the Ronde.
4. As for Thomas, the man from Wales is someone to watch over the next few weeksâ€”especially in a race like Ghent-Wevelgem where a small group sprint is a distinct possibility.
5. Run without radios, todayâ€™s race certainly produced an exciting finish. But you canâ€™t attribute the outcome to the absence of earpieces as Nuyens and Thomas were well within sight of the pelotonâ€”they knew who they were chasing and how much road they had left.
6. Speaking of the chasing peloton, Garmin-CervÃ©lo and Quick-Step had the race (more or less) right where they wanted it and came away with nothing to show for it. With each passing race, the pressure mounts on the two super squads.
7. That said, Quick-Stepâ€™s Tom Boonen seems to be coming along quite nicely. He put in a few exploratory attacks to soften the bunch and had little to no trouble following the important moves. I think weâ€™ll get a better idea of his form
Saturday Sunday, but for now, he looks to be on-track for Flanders and Roubaix.
8. Despite his penchant for playing â€œcabooseâ€, Stijn Devolder laid down an attack inside the final 30 kilometersâ€”before promptly heading back to his usual spot at the back of the field. Peter Van Petegem made a living gambling at the back of the bunch; can Devolder get away with the same strategy?
9. Even though they didnâ€™t win, Leopard Trek looks as if itâ€™s ready to dominate the cobbled monuments in much the same way Saxo Bank did last year. Four and five riders-wide at certain points during yesterdayâ€™s race, Spartacus and his army seem primed for battle.
10. Team Sky rode a terrific race as wellâ€”Flecha looks storng and he has a team surrounding him that has the ability to give Leopard Trek a run for its money. Of the three biggest races held in Belgium thus far this season, Sky has a win and two second-placesâ€”an impressive record.
11. Greg Van Avermaet is clearly enjoying the form of his life. While BMC is not on the current list for Saturdayâ€™s E3 Prijs; Sundayâ€™s Ghent-Wevelgem is a race perfectly suited to the Belgianâ€™s talents. Heâ€™s been one of the pelotonâ€™s most exciting riders since the start of the seasonâ€”hereâ€™s hoping he ends up with something show for it.
12. Did you see Johan Vansummerenâ€™s move to get himself to the front right before Knokteberg?
13. At what point will Tom Veelers earn himself a World Tour ride?
Well, thatâ€™s enough for one race, I guess. What did you notice?
Share your comments below.