We have the exact same route as in 2022.
Starts in Leuven and they start going SW towards Beersel, Lot, Huizengen and Dworp before heading to the laps near Overijse.
A deeper look unto the circuit.
First climb on the circuit is Hagaard. It is not cobbled but the road is narrow. Last time is 20 km from the line.
Next up is Hertstraat, a cobbled climb. Last time is approximately 16 km from home.
Now, for the most selective climb of the day – Moskestraat. That steep bit on cobbles decides who is able to win and who is not.
Holstheide is the penultimate climb. On tarmac.
This is the finale.
A headwind for the first half of the stage before a tailwind to the circuit. Wind up to 6 m/s but looking at it, the route does not really invite for echelons. It will rain all day making it more selective with temperatures around 10 degrees C.
How will the race unfold?
The circuit makes it difficult to organize a good chase which we saw last year as well. A group of 9 got clear 54 km out – having three INEOS riders in the group. In 2021, we saw the attack come 38 km out, which was on Heerstraat and not Moskesstraat. It is those two climbs that are vital.
Therefore, you mainly need two things to succeed – a strong team to play the numerical advantage card in the finale (2022) and a strong group going clear together. The rain will make it more selective. Usually, the group of favorites going clear are stronger than the remaining domestiques behind hence the reason why the favorites have attacked further out and succeeded the past three editions.
Another factor is, it suits both puncheurs and cobbled-classics riders. I would tip someone who can manage Moskesstraat, that one by far the toughest climb.
Alpecin-Deceuninck – the look to have one of the stronger teams here with Q. Hermans, SKA, Axel Laurance and G. Veermersch. Now, that is multiple options. Hermans has not had a good result this year but since we are approaching the Ardennes, he should start to get near his best. SKA with a DNF in Ronde due to having to work very early on to close the split the team missed. Laurance had multiple strong results in Circuit des Ardennes – he is right near his very best and G. Veermersch started to shine in the late spring cobbled season. My best guess from them is Axel Laurance and SKA.
Arnaud de Lie – is it too difficult for him? It depends on the team orders as they have Kron as well who showed promising form in GP Miguel Indurain and should be near his best with the Ardennes approaching. It is not an easy race if you are having the chasing role. I hope De Lie still has something left in the tank, he has had a very tight schedule this spring.
Cosnefroy – they breakaway day in Tour of Flanders proved he is starting to get in the right shape for the Ardennes. So far, the spring has been a bit underwhelming from him. He has participated three times with two podiums, it suits him to the bone.
Honoré – a season with bad luck. He looked good in Dwars door Vlaanderen in the breakaway. He should be near his best – which is very good despite his long run of bad luck. He is not too slow in a reduced sprint either. The team also brings Healy and and S. Quinn who is in good form.
Trentin – the team they are sending is very strong but as of late, Hirschi and Covi do not have any good results to show for themselves. Therefore, Trentin looks to be the better option with Mikkel Bjerg. We will have to see how they have recovered from Paris – Roubaix.
Corbin Strong – 4th on the last stage in Catalunya! Now, that is some result for a “sprinter”. He is climbing very well just now. He does not have a lot of history on the cobbles but a 5th in Grand Prix de Wallonie in 2022 is not a result you get if you can’t handle a kick uphill on cobbles.
Barguil – 3rd here in 2022. He has a kick and he has the attributes on the cobbles to be on the mix for this race. It has been a very quiet season from him so far, let’s see how he goes after coming back from altitude training. I think rather well.
⭐⭐⭐ Trentin, Cosnefroy
⭐⭐Barguil, Laurance, Honoré
⭐ Kron, De Lie, Bjerg, Strong
Who will win?
A bit Dane biased as of late but SKA was doing very well in both Milano – Sanremo and E3. Tomorrow, the weather is absolute shit. I think the wind and the rain favors the classics-riders more than the puncheurs. Alpecin-Deceuninck has a fantastic team too, they should be able to play their numbers too.