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My sporting month: April 2011

April is an extremely hectic month in the sporting calendar, with most of the major European football leagues and cup competitions nearing their climax, the end of the cricket World Cup (yes, at last!) and an endurance event of a different kind – the London Marathon.

The month also hosts a number of iconic sporting events. For fans of the green baize there is the start of the World Snooker Championship, and I’ll preview two of the great events in horse racing and golf below. But first, cricket …

1. Cricket World Cup final (2nd)

It has taken a long while for this World Cup to gather momentum, with the group phase taking a month to put the top eight teams in the world into the last eight, and then seeing two of the four quarter-finals won by ten wickets. However, both semi-finals were tense, uncertain affairs which showcased the ability of the 50-over format to ebb and flow from over to over in a way that the bish-bash-bosh adrenalin rush of Twenty20 cannot ever hope to match.

Finally we have the final the tournament has deserved. India and Sri Lanka – two of the three co-hosts – have been the two best and most consistent teams, and the potential confrontation between the slingy action of Lasith Malinga and Sachin Tendulkar, who is just one ton away from completing a century of international centuries, could yet provide the most compelling and enduring story of this cricketing year.

2. Champions League quarter-final: Chelsea vs Manchester United (6th & 12th)

With Arsenal now departed, two of the Premier League‘s three surviving teams go head to head in this Champions League quarter-final. Roman Abramovich‘s side will be looking to avenge their penalty shoot-out defeat in the 2008 final. The reward for the winner will be a semi-final against either Inter Milan or Schalke 04 at the end of the month.

As if this match-up isn’t spicy enough, victory in this tie will give the winner a psychological advantage ahead of what could yet prove to be a title-deciding confrontation in the league on May 8th.

3. The Masters (7th-10th)

Phil Mickelson beat current world number two Lee Westwood by three strokes to win his third Masters title at the Augusta National last year, and will be back to defend the championship this year.

Expect Tiger Woods – who has slipped down to number five – to be the main focus of media scrutiny, which will ease the pressure on both Westwood and Germany’s Martin Kaymer, the current top-ranked player, to spearhead the challenge to produce the first European winner since José María Olazábal in 1999.

4. The Grand National (9th)

Aintree will be hard-pressed to repeat the romance of last year’s race when Tony McCoy, the national hunt champion jockey in each of the past 15 years, finally won his first Grand National on board Don’t Push It. The same combination will be back this year looking to complete a double, and will undoubtedly start among the favourites in this most gruelling of races: two laps of Aintree’s National Course, jumping 30 fences and covering a fraction under 4½ miles.

5. Paris-Roubaix (10th)

April sees us delve into the heart of European cycling’s one-day Classics, with names such as the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders), Amstel Gold, La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège accorded legendary status among fans of the sport. But perhaps the most revered and difficult of them all takes place on Sunday 10th: Paris-Roubaix, the aptly named ‘Hell of the North’.

Run over a punishing 258km course which features 27 cobbled sections, Paris-Roubaix is one of cycling’s oldest races, dating back to 1896. It has often been the domain of hard-man Belgian riders, having been won by them on 53 out of 105 previous occasions, including three for Tom Boonen, who won in 2005, 2008 and 2009. Boonen and Fabian Cancellara have won five of the last six editions between them, with the Swiss rider coming out on top last year. Having won last weekend’s E3 Prijs Vlaanderen, Cancellara will undoubtedly start as favourite to win his third Paris-Roubaix.

It will be brutal. It will be spectacular. And, no matter what, it will have a deserving winner. Nobody flukes their way to a win in this punishing race. If you’re going to watch one race other than the three Grand Tours of France, Italy and Spain, watch this one.

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About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

2 Responses to My sporting month: April 2011

  1. Sheree says:

    You are so right about Paris-Roubaix and I’ll be there next week end to watch it. I’d like to do the Flanders/Roubaix double but sadly can’t spare a week hanging around in Belgium.

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