Rumblings continue ahead of this weekend’s cobbled classic, the Tour of Flanders (or De Ronde van Vlaanderen for local flavour). Not only has the decision to move the finish – which has been in place for 40+ years – from Meerbeke, on the outskirts of Ninove, to Oudenaarde proven controversial, even causing rumours of potential sabotage, but the Elite Women’s edition remains somewhat clouded by Team GB rivalry.
Lizzie Armitstead faces off against rival Nicole Cooke (they ride for different teams when not flying national colours) and there is little love lost between them particularly in the wake of last year’s World Championships in Copenhagen when Cooke struck out on her own following a calamitous wipe-out. Adding further fuel to the fire is the fact that victory in Flanders is a step in the right direction for a place in Team GB for the Olympic Road Race, with a final decision for those spots not being made until June 7, much later than many other London Games disciplines. Although Cooke last week reported that hostilities had ceased and that she had ‘moved on’, Armitstead has made it equally clear that Flanders is a key objective for her, telling the BBC that the cobbles were, ‘…the main goal of the spring.’