Age and experience may be a blessing in Flanders and Roubaix but Anthony Tan says there’s still good reason to believe our young stars can be up there.
7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:36 PM

I've just done some quick and dirty calculus and if I'm right (which, when it comes to maths, is a long shot), I've discovered that, looking back at the past 10 winners of both the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, the average age is identical: 29-and-a-half years.

Does that mean this Sunday and next, aside from 37-year-old Stuart O'Grady, we should rule out Australia's three other best bets: in Heinrich Haussler (27-years-old), Matthew Goss (24) and Michael Matthews (20)?

No way, man!

Because in Flanders, Tom Boonen, Alessandro Ballan and Stijn Devolder were less than 29-years-old when they won (24, 27 and 28 respectively).

Iin the case of Boonen and Devolder, I'm referring to their first victory. In Roubaix, Boonen and Fabian Cancellara were 24 and 25 respectively when they triumphed in their first Hell of the North.

Clearly, Boonen and Cancellara, the defending champion in Flanders and Roubaix, were particularly precocious in their formative years as a professional. But there's no reason we can't say the same of Haussler, Goss and Matthews, whose name appears on some start lists but not the official one, dated 28 March.

Okay, 'Bling' Matthews, in his neo-pro year with Rabobank, is perhaps a little too young to contend for the podium in either – though I would not be surprised in the least if he manages a top 15 or 20 in Flanders - a race suited to his characteristics, having finished second in the U23 version last year.

For Milan-San Remo champ Gossy, Flanders and Roubaix are still relatively new and intimate knowledge of the course and its obstacles rates a close second to your form on the day.

Speaking of condition, the Tassie Tiger's been going flat-stick since the Tour Down Under, and the priceless condition he's enjoyed since mid-January must surely be coming to an end.

"I love it – it's the only race where you feel like you've been beaten with a baseball bat when you get there," Goss said of Paris-Roubaix, speaking to AAP a few days after his win in San Remo.

"Probably my expectations are a little bit different [after winning San Remo] and I look at [Gent-Wevelgem, Flanders and Roubaix] a little bit differently," he said, where last Sunday in Wevelgem he did not finish, in a race won by Boonen.

"Some days at Flanders there can be a bunch of 25-30 guys and other days you come in in ones and twos, it's split to pieces."

Come Sunday at Flanders and in light of the weapon of mass destruction that was Fabian Cancellara last year, I believe we'll see the latter scenario.

After the way Spartacus rode in the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke, where, compared to Gent-Wevelgem, the results are a good pointer to Flanders (out of the last 15 editions of the E3 Prijs, those that have finished on the podium have gone on to win Flanders on 10 occasions) it is a fair bet we'll see Cancellara Romper Stomp his way up the cobbled Kapelmuur en route to a second victory.

As for Haussler, seventh at the E3 Prijs, I'm not quite convinced he's found the superlative condition he was in two years ago, when he finished second in San Remo and Flanders and seventh in Roubaix, before taking that oh-so-memorable triumph on Stage 13 of that year's Tour de France to Colmar.

Though I'd love him to prove me wrong as we witness the mouth-watering smack-downs on the Oude-Kwaremont, Koppenberg and Kapelmuur, with
Heinrich's rivals watching helplessly as his hiney bobs up and away.

Australians riding the Tour of Flanders (based on preliminary start list; age in brackets): Stuart O'Grady (37), Heinrich Haussler (27), Adam Hansen (29), Michael Matthews (20), Matthew Goss (24), Baden Cooke (32), David Tanner (26), Mathew Hayman (32), Robbie McEwen (38), Allan Davis (30), Mitchell Docker (24).

Anthony Tan joins the Cycling Central's online commentary team to interpret, answer questions and take literary abuse throughout the Tour of Flanders, supporting SBS' live broadcast of both events on SBS ONE and streamed live online.

Follow Anthony on Twitter: @anthony_tan