'Too many times we've been postally pipped.
We've loaded the saddles.
The mickeys are slipped.
We're swapping the turf for the sand
and the surf and the sin.
'Cause the fix.
The fix is in.' - The Fix by Elbow
A loose conection as the song is about horse racing and not bike racing, but as I sit here and pull my thoughts together it seems kind of appropiate. Why 'the Fix', well my reference is to being a bit of a pave (riding) and watching junkie. So I will have had my pave fix again, and instead of having that long wait from the middle of April to Feb I am being spoilt again. The first few stages are run through Cycling's Hinterland of Belgium, with Stage 3 being lined up as a possible stage that will throw the cat among the pigeons. Interestingly this isn't just media hype as the Teams are concerned as they have been out checking the pave in preparation for the Stage.
This could be a scene repeated over the next few days, windmills, pave and splits in the field. I'd expect that the Classic's guys will be showing why they are so good over the pave and wouldn't be surprised to see the likes of Devolder, Flecha or a wildcard a Rabobank rider finishing the day with a stage victory. Rabobank have had a quiet year and a stage victory early on would really improve their standing with the sponsors. I doubt thye will manage to bag the Prologue, but I would expect them to be active over these days. Lars Boom is probably there best hope for Stage 3. He's had a great first season and I have been really impressed at how he has worked for the Team. Not familar with Lars, look up his palmares and it says it all, a humble ex World Champion. His skills on the pave are very impressive and I'd really like his to bag it, if for only the reason when Sporza get excited and have to get saying BOOM every couple of seconds as the finish line approaches.
Do I think it will be a decisive Stage? Well in truth the weather, as well as the tactics, speed and who is in Yellow will all come into play when the peloton hits the sectors. The stage is also the second longest of the Tour so the toughness will be dished out in double measures. Out of the big GC Teams I expect Saxo Bank to dominate (and frankly would be bloody shocked if they don't) come out on top of the pile. Evans will have the pave monster that is Hincapie guiding him through these sections and I expect he'll be glued to the Tall guys wheels. Cervelo should do well over this Stage as they have experience to guide Sastre through, but Hushovd could be a contender also for the Stage win. I don't think the HTC-Columbia Team will be able to deliver Cavendish to the line in the place (or speed) he'd like, and if any rider that might triumph on the day Eisel may be the man. If a Classics type of rider/sprinter doesn't grab the victory on the day I will be really surprised.