A gravel one day race. They usually create a good race to watch. We’ve had a change in the route.
Last year saw a 36 km solo. The move happened on “dirt road 5”. We have lost a lot of sectors this edition due to weather conditions not being optimal.
If you ask me, it will all come down to the laps. In the 2023 edition, the main selection happened in the middle of the race – 100 km out. That has been removed. Here are the last 40 km. The hardest climbs are from 40.5 km – 27 km left. This must be where the main selection happens.
1.1 km at 8.7% will get the first teams moving, followed by 500m at 8.1%. With 27 km left, 500m at 10.2% will be where the big boys make the move. The last notable climb is 13 km out, 600m at 8.6%. From here, there is not much climbing left.
Main gravel area
We will see how big the group is but positioning is key. Two roundabouts inside the last 1000m.
Wind blowing from the West (5 m/s). It makes the last-climb-is-the-most-important scenario shine in my book. Expect wet gravel – that should make it more selective.
How will the race unfold?
1.1 race. Some teams are just better than others. UAE, JV and INEOS.
UAE have options. The question is, can they match Wout? Ayuso and Wellens can in terms of the climbing but he will beat them in a sprint.
JV have Wout and Kuss. I’m fairly certain the latter rides gravel in his spare time. The thing not going for him is the flat finish but with a tailwind, for such a distance I wouldn’t rull it out.
INEOS bring Turner (2nd here in 2023) and Kwiatkowski. Solid options but the removal of the gravel sectors is not optimal for these two.
I think we will see UAE attack the climb 40 km out. Then, use the climbing section until 27 km left to attack left and right. See if they can create a man advantage or not. In the end, I don’t think this is selective enough. A move will be made with 13 km left and that move will stay away.
Wout van Aert – starts as the man to beat. The last 40 km is where the team needs to work for him, and they should be able to do so. 158 km is not a long race, he will be very fresh for the finale.
Kuss – not a tough enough edition. But I do think he will be very good on the gravel sectors.
Tratnik – don’t leave him out. He can be used as the “now you chase” card. He is a very good rider.
Ayuso – let’s see how he starts his season. He is a class rider but he will have to drop Wout, otherwise he doesn’t win the sprint.
Wellens – Mr. February. A top-10 is certain.
Kwiatkowski – good in this terrain. Former x2 Strade-Bianche winner.
Rodriguez – his quality should ensure a strong result tomorrow. He will have to finish solo, otherwise he likely will not win. He is a good one-day racer.
Turner – background regarding this terrain. 2nd here in 2023 shows he will be tough to drop.
O’Connor – form carries you a long way early on. He already has a win to his name this year, but he is not quick on the line.
Lazkano – breakaway rider who will get caught last.
Who will win?
Wout van Aert.