Kuurne > Kuurne 195.2km
The Oude Kwaremont has been taken out of the race; the organisers feel it’s done in enough races. Removing it has a massive impact on the race, it’s no surprise to see most teams arrive with a top line sprinter. Can the attackers steal the day?
Very similar to the weather in Omloop but the wind will be stronger. It will be around 20km/h and coming from the south-east. Temperatures won’t get very high, but there will be lots of sunshine.
This is the important section of the race, we have six climbs in 40km of racing, this is where the race is shaped. The Côte du Trieu is the hardest of the climbs, it’s one of the new additions to the race. The problem is it crests with 60km to go, that’s a long way out. The final climb is the Kluisberg, then we have 54km of flat.
The same finish. We have a final turn with 600m to go, which will help to line out the bunch.
Who doesn’t want a sprint? Of the main teams, I think Trek, Ineos, Bora and AG2R are those who want the race to blow apart. When the Kwaremont was in the race it was perfect for the attackers, as the gaps at the top were huge. Even if we see huge attacks on the Trieu, the peloton will still be big, and the gap won’t be any bigger than one minute. This makes it very hard for the attackers to stay away.
The wind could maybe help a little. There are a lot of crosswind sections as the bunch head back to Kuurne, a wind of 20km/h is enough to split things up. This should help slim the bunch down a little, especially if a number of teams want to join together and try to put pressure on the sprinters.
Kuurne is always a weird race to predict, especially as it’s very hard to close down any gaps once on the circuit. The change in route gave the sprinters a big opportunity, but they’ll be a little worried about the wind.
Fabio Jakobsen – he’s started the season in brilliant form, taking four wins from five sprints. QuickStep want a sprint; they usually get what they want. Positioning in the finale will be very important, it looks like they’ll have the best sprint train with Lampaert, Štybar, Sénéchal and Van Lerberghe. It will be interesting to see how they approach the hilly section; will they look to get someone in the attack and refuse to work? Will they work and put the pressure on the teams who miss the move? We’ll see how the race develops, Jakobsen starts as the favourite.
Caleb Ewan – another who’s started the season well, with wins in the Saudi Tour and Haut Var. Lotto Soudal seem to have brought a team fully focused on a sprint, Ewan will have Sweeny and De Buyst to help him in the closing kilometres. If we get a sprint, I’m really looking forward to Ewan take on Jakobsen, the last time they crossed horns was back in the 2019 Tour of Turkey.
Alexander Kristoff – he’s started the season in fine form, as has his sprint train. The Norwegian will be hoping for a hard race, sprinting after such a day is what he does best. He’ll be a little disappointed about the weather, he would have preferred a rainy day.
Tim Merlier – got his season off and running in the Algarve, he’ll be better in this race. Alpecin-Fenix have been doing a great job over in the UAE Tour, but as that’s where most of their lead out riders are, Merlier won’t have his usual support men. He has the speed required to challenge Ewan and Jakobsen, it all depends on his position.
Sonny Colbrelli – that was a solid start to the season by him today. The Italian seems to have started at close to the level he finished 2021. He doesn’t have the speed to beat the likes of Ewan and Jakobsen, he’ll need a tough race if he’s going to win.
Tiesj Benoot – attacker number 1, he loves the Côte de Trieu.
Oli Naesen – attacker number 2.
Tom Pidcock – attacker number 3.
Jasper Stuyven – attacker number 4.
Matteo Trentin – attacker number 5.
I’m hoping the wind blows and rips the race apart, but with a couple of the big teams wanting a sprint it’ll probably be a race for the fast men. I’ll take a win for Fabio Jakobsen.