Would Tom Boonen have won if Fabian Cancellara hadn't hit the deck? My guess is that probably, yes he would. Does the Cancellara crash take something away from the race? I think it does. The Spring Classics provide probably the best viewing for any cycling fan. The drama, the passion, the cobbles, the steep hills, the agony, the crashes, the sheer hard-bastardness of the riders. But in recent years, alongside this, the classics have provided the backdrop for one of the greatest rivalries in professional cycling. Emerging as the two best riders and cobbled specialists fit for the classics are obviously Boonen and Cancellara, this year both have been in fantastic form, they both started the season in some of the best shape of their lives. The scene was set, Boonen set the marker early with wins in the middle east. Cancellara put on a display of pure power and dominance at the Strade Bianchi and again at Milan-San Remo, so when he crashed out halfway through today's race, it was with a great sign of disappointment.
It takes nothing away from Boonens victory, after all Flanders is a tough, gruelling race, and Boonen and Cancellara were not the only two people riding, nothing in the Classics is a foregone conclusion, its unpredictability is what makes them, well, Classic. What the crash does detract from though is the story. It wasn't in the script - this battle was supposed to run on to Paris-Roubaix and beyond. As a cycling fan I wanted to see every pedal stroke, every spent bidon, every grit of every tooth as each race played out before me and one of them was eventually crown Classics King 2012. Sadly, it's not be.
Thankfully the classics have a way of throwing such spanners in the works. New rivalries constantly evolve, new hero's are made, new stories emerge and this season will be no different. Today's race was still a blinder, no matter what you make of the change in route, nobody can deny that it was nail-biting to the end. I know that next weeks Paris-Roubaix will be just the same, better even, and I would love to see Tommeke do the double. By Friday I will be as excited for Roubaix as I was for today's Ronde - as it stands though, it all feels bitter-sweet, I am slightly less excited as a result of today. Cancellara will miss Paris-Roubaix, and I suspect Paris-Roubaix will miss Fabian Cancallara.