De Vlaeminck likes Cancellara for Roubaix:
“He can win on Sunday by dropping Boonen. I like Cancellara, he attacks and races with panache. Everyone rode against him at Flanders, even the mechanics of the other teams who wouldn’t give him a bottle. That was scandalous. But he was the strongest. Boonen is a good rider but he’s not as strong as he once was.”
The Gypsy doesn’t his mince words, does he?
“I was a bandit. If Boonen is the God of Belgian cycling, then I’m the devil.
“Our generation was classier, too. Look at Saronni? He won the Giro at just 21. We always raced to get a result and me and Merckx fought even for the criteriums. These days they use 50 races a year as training. We were more complete and could win in a sprint, on a climb or in a time trial. And there were far stronger rivals. At Roubaix I was up against Moser, Maertens, Kuiper, Raas and Hinault. Today, apart from lucky cases like Nuyens at Flanders, there’s just Cancellara and Boonen.”
Despite being Flemish to the bone, De Vlaeminck admits he’s a fan of Philippe Gilbert, from the French-speaking Walloon part of Belgium, even if the Omega Pharma-Lotto rider always avoid the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix.
“I like Gilbert far more than I do Boonen. He’s a nice guy, kind and not at all big-headed. He races all year, right up to Lombardy and can win alone. I wish he’d try Paris-Roubaix. I’ve nothing against Boonen but you can’t be a fan of both of them in Belgium and I’m not going to change my mind.” Id.