A race for the fast men and if you did not know, the oldest Flemish spring classic.
A very flat race with four sectors of cobblestones. They finish the race in Schoton, east of Antwerp.
This is a look at the circuit. They do it four times in total.
Broekstraat is the cobbled sector. They pass it four times as well as it is a part of the laps. The cobbles look nice a smooth.
This is the finale. Sharp right turn with 3.5 km left, another with 2.25 km left. With 1.5 km to go, they take a right turn. On Google Maps it does look like there are road furniture here – I can not remember this finale by heart but it could make it tricky.
Then, what it all comes down to is the roundabout with 250 meters left. Only one option, the left side.
I have never seen so slow winds in this part of Europe before. 1-3 m/s, 10 degrees C and no rain. Very nice weather for a day on the bike.
How will the race unfold?
2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021 all saw a bunch sprint while 2022 saw Kristoff win solo. The thing last year was, it was rainy and windy. With no wind on the menu, I doubt we can see anything else than a bunch sprint.
What is important is your leadout. In 2018 and 2019 Jakobsen had Mørkøv as his lead out. Ewan had De Buyst in 2020, Phillipsen had Rickaert in 2021. I see a pattern – you must have a strong train to win. The roundabout with 250 meters to go is so vital, you must be in a very good position here.
Kristoff – took a win here in 2022 after a solo ride. I think it is unlikely he can do so again but I will say, he is a difficult rider to give a little push in the finale. He is big as an ox. He is looking to be having Wærenskjold as his last rider and the two of them got a win together in Algarve. Kristoff also looked very strong in Dwars door Vlaanderen recently.
Jakobsen – here with a strong team to support him. I think it will be something in the lines of C. Pedersen – Senechal – Van Lerberghe. They are definitely a tough team to beat inside the last two km. Now, Jakobsen may feel a bit under pressure as his new teammate Merlier has been flying this spring. A win here would definitely change how people are looking at him now and bring QuickStep a win they need.
Phillipsen – talk about a good lead-out! Mathieu van der Poel – Rickaert – Sinkeldam. Very, very strong. The thing is, Mathieu van der Poel sometimes make it difficult for his own sprinter to win as he is so strong. I think they have it sorted after Tirreno-Adriatico. This makes Phillipsen the prime candidate for taking the win.
Thijssen – he is a very fast sprinter but the lack of world class support makes it difficult for him to win.
Meeus – he will be having brilliant help from the team with D. Van Poppel, Haller and Mullen. He currently has a lot of DNF’s in his race history and I personally think he is not very good in the battle for position. On the team bus, they should just tell him to follow Van Poppel, that could bring him all the way to a surprise podium.
Welsford – a designated team to help him. He is going well this season, the two wins in Argentina came as a surprise for me. However, he is missing that strong lead-out man. It is more vital tomorrow than speed.
Groenewegen – he will be having Mezgec by his side which is a big plus in my book. He has not had that in a few races which has led to some poor results as of late. With Mezgec, he becomes one of the riders to beat. Looking at his record here, it is not very good. I think the will get a good result today perhaps even take a win.
Ewan – they have shaken things up at Lotto-Dstny! De Buyst, Guarnieri and Selig. Three good lead out men, Selig not looking up to his best, one could fear another DNF. I think De Buyst and Guarnieri will have the task to help him the most. It seems he has lost a bit of morale as of late, he has been losing some photo-finish-sprints this year, not something you want as a sprinter. There is also the issue of him sometimes not believing in his sprint train, making him starting sprints far to long back. I think he will trust De Buyst, making him a strong shout for a win.
⭐⭐ Jakobsen, Groenewegen
⭐ Welsford, Kristoff, Ewan
Who will win?
I think Phillipsen will continue his good run lately and take a win. He has one of the strongest lead-outs here, if not the strongest, and that is more vital than being the fastest today.