The last test before Ronde van Vlaanderen on Sunday. We have a few favorites from the weekend skipping the race, and some of them are here to get that extra race rhythm in their legs.
We have quite a change to the route this year, but I doubt it will change the outcome that much.
The changes and the new climbs.
In 2021, the race before the last 80 km was easier than this year. However, we have fewer cobbled sections in the finale this year and fewer climbs. Overall, it means a harder day but an easier finale. Something good for the sprinters some may argue. I think it means we will just see a harder race overall, as the finale is more likely to start early.
Kortekeer comes with 84 km left. Normally, it comes way later. First little kicker, it might be too early for the finale to start. On the other hand, we have the Mariaborrestraat just after.
Mariaborrestraat starts just after they have descended from Kortekeer. A long cobbled section. The first time is with 82 km left, the second time is with 41.5 km left.
The next up is the Berg Ten Houte which is used quite often. The first 400 meters are on cobbles. I would be very surprised if no one makes a move here! It starts with 71 km left.
Short after comes the Kanarieberg. It was not a part of last year’s race. As mentioned, just after Berg Ten Houte with 66 km left.
Next up is the Knokteberg – Trieu. Normally we have this climb twice, to start the finale and in the finale. It starts with 53 km left. In between here and Ladouze, they do the Mariaborrestraat again.
Ladouze is the last real climb before the finish. It starts with 38.5 km left. If I’m not mistaken, this is the debut for this climb in this race.
Not too cold, no rain and almost no wind. What is going on in Belgium this year? I doubt 4 m/s is enough for echelons, but do keep in mind the terrain is quite open lots of places. From Ladouze and home, they mainly have crosswind or tailwind, which is good news for the attackers.
Who wants a hard race and who wants a sprint?
Let’s kick it off with the sprinters. Jasper Phillipsen and Fabio Jakobsen are the two fastest men here. Both teams bring strong classic riders but there is no way they will solely work for these two. On the other hand, Quick-Step is without Asgreen and the others have not looked very strong this year. Kristoff is the next rider I think off, with quite a good team but one dedicated team is not enough – one must remember the narrow roads and constant climbs make it so difficult to chase. Mads Pedersen is here. He would love to sprint, just not against Jakobsen or Phillipsen. We have no team which solely wants a bunch sprint.
Then we have Pogacar and MvdP. They want to attack. It’s quite simple. We have Jumbo-Visma without WvA and Laporte, which means Benoot gets to shine. SKA is also a man who loves a fierce pace and to attack early. A mention to Küng and Madouas who both looked good in E3. They will not wait for a sprint.
No need to ramble on, it will not become a bunch sprint.
Pogacar it is time to show us what you’ve got up your sleeve for Sunday. My logic is quite simple if Loulou can do cobbles, so can this phenomenon. We know he will attack, the question is when. He already has a lot of experience in one day races, I think he will do well.
MvdP gets better and better by each day. Even at 95%, he has tough to beat. He will attack too at some point. Last year he was cooked here, I think it was just an off day. He already has a win here from back in 2019 and just like Pogacar, he wants to sprint from a smaller group.
Mads Pedersen looked very good in E3. The question is, none wants to work with him. A bit on the backfoot in E3 but this is easier than E3. If anyone brings him to the line, they have most likely lost the race already. Stuyven is not starting tomorrow which is a big hit, but Kirsch has looked great this season.
SKA with his last cobbled race this season. He wants a hard race and is climbing very, very well just know. It will be hard for him to win, as we have Pogacar and MvdP here who will not hesitate to follow any moves, but a late sneak attack in the finale is an option.
Campenaerts always works himself a bit too hard. He has been fairly unlucky this year but he could go very well tomorrow. He has the same problem as SKA, they will not let him go.
Benoot with a chance to shine. He would have loved worse weather but should still get a good placement. Jumbo-Visma do not have all their cards to play tomorrow, but from DSM is quite used to being alone in the finale.
Turgis was second here in 2019, the year MvdP won. He is getting better and better each year and always is in top shape around Flanders. A win will be hard, but he is quick.
Kristoff – A solid option for a reduced bunch sprint, which is unlikely to me.
FDJ with Küng and Madouas. They may be the only team with multiple options tomorrow, something that could be very useful. Their performance in E3 was very, very good.
AG2R with the Belgian duo. None of them looks strong enough to beat the field tomorrow.
INEOS with Pidcock and DvB. The young Brit is missing some form after illness, I think we will see him do well in the Ardennes but for now, he is missing a few percent. The Dutchman soloed last year with an attack on Berg ten Houte with 53 km left. Stunning. Good performance in E3, I think he is where he needs to be.
Who will win?
It will be a hard race tomorrow and we often see a group of 4-5 people fight it out. The same is possible tomorrow. I think MvdP will take it.