After decisive wins at the 2010 Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, Fabian Cancellara found himself a marked man. Indeed it appeared as though the peloton’s collective 2011 classics strategy was to hug Spartacus’ wheel as if it were a long lost relative.
Clearly frustrated by this tactic (employed to great success by Simon Gerrans at Milan-San Remo just two weeks ago), Cancellara has set out to ensure that one team, in particular, shares the work during Sunday’s Tour of Flanders.
“Tom and [Omega Pharma-Quick Step] will have to bear the weight of the race,” Cancellara told Belgian reporters. “After his recent string of wins, it’s clear that Boonen is the favorite at Flanders — so if you’re asking me who’s responsible for putting in the effort, it’s got to be them.”
Speaking at his team’s hotel in Kotrijk Friday, Boonen brushed off Cancellara’s assignment.
“Fabian says we’re responsible for the work?” the Belgian chuckled. “Oh, I don’t know about that. Did you see what that guy did to me in 2010? I’m pretty sure it’s still his job.”
Asked if he’d be willing to pull his fair share, Boonen (who, like Cancellara, enjoys a certain “heartthrob” status throughout Europe) suggested a novel approach.
“How about this? Let’s let the ladies decide. We’ll hold a vote and whoever’s most-handsome gets a free ride Sunday. What do you say, pretty boy?”
Boonen’s idea, while unorthodox, seems to have resonated with female cycling fans, who have flocked to the team’s website to participate in what Omega Pharma-Quick Step describes as a “binding vote regarding their level of effort” during Sunday’s 96th running of the fabled Ronde van Vlaanderen.
As of Saturday evening, Boonen had been deemed “most handsome” by 56% of the site’s nearly 80,000 voters.
Reached for comment late Saturday, Cancellara thanked his supporters but conceded that the burden of carrying Flanders would likely fall upon his shoulders once more.
“The people have spoken, I guess. You know, even I must admit that,” he said.