Assen > Hoogeveen 155.2km
The world tour continues. After last weekend’s brilliant race in Strade Bianche, we head to the Netherlands for a race that’s better suited to the fast riders in the peloton. Yes, we have six cobbled sectors, but they happen very early in the race.
Cloudy, but relatively warm for this time of year. The wind is fairly strong, reaching close to 20km/h. It will be coming from the south-east, which does mean sections of crosswinds, but will it be strong enough for anyone to split the race?
The Col du VAM is covered on four occasions, the final time up crests with just 13km to go. I’m sure you’ve all seen this cobbled climb, it’s harder than the numbers suggest. If you are a rider without a fast sprint, this is where you need to do the damage, but it’s a little on the short side to see big gaps between the very best.
There are a few twists and turns in the final 5km, which is perfect if someone is solo after the final climb. Out of sight, out of mind.
For most teams it’s all about trying to drop Lorena Wiebes. She’s the defending champion and has started the season in fine form, her 3rd place in Omloop was a clear indication that she’s climbing better than in previous years. If it ends in any type of a sprint, she’s likely to be the winner.
That means we’ll see SD Worx and Trek – Segafredo look to make this an attacking race. They’ll try to split the race in the wind, hoping to eliminate some of the DSM domestiques, then smash up the VAM berg. SD Worx do have sprint options in Kopecky and Uneken, but I think they’d rather have a hard race, to take advantage of their superior options. Someone like Marlen Reusser is very dangerous in this type of race, if she goes solo, it’ll take a huge effort to catch her.
Trek – Segafredo also look strong to me, they have multiple options to play, just like SD Worx. They have Balsamo and Hosking as sprint options, which will allow Van Dijk and Cordon-Ragot to attack. This is going to be a hard race for DSM to control.
Lorena Wiebes – she must start as the favourite to win the race, but it will take good legs and a clear tactical head to retain her title. She’s started the season in fine form but will need a teammate to help in the closing stages of the race. The good news is that Floortje Mackaij has also started the season in good form, her presence in the front group could be the difference between winning and losing this race.
SD Worx – I would expect them to have Kopecky, Reusser and Uneken as their protected riders. Just like in Strade Bianche, they’ll follow the same play book as usual. Rotate the attacks, slim down the group and hope to have most riders in the selection. Then they can decide on how to play out the rest of the race. Time after time we’ve seen them use this tactic and it continues to work because they are the strongest team in the peloton. Kopecky’s win in Strade Bianche was outstanding, she’s clearly got great legs just now and most will be worried about her.
Trek – Segafredo – it’s a good race for Van Dijk, she has the power required to deal with the wind and climbs. Balsamo is a good option for a sprint finish, having her in the front group will be important for Van Dijk, it will be easier for her to attack with a teammate marking moves from behind.
Grace Brown – she’s been her usual self in the first races of the season, full of attacks. The form is good, but it’s very hard for a rider from a smaller team to attack early and hold off the bigger teams. In this race FDJ should one of the strongest, they have Copponi and Guazzini as other options, so it should be easier for Brown to hold off the other teams.
Ruby Roseman-Gannon – I’m interested to see how she goes in this race. The young Aussie has a very fast finish, but she can also cope with climbs. She’s a newcomer to racing at this level, but it looks like she’s a fast learner. She’s one to watch.
Elise Chabbey – she’s started the season in good form, 7th in Valenciana and 6th in Strade Bianche. She won’t be winning this one from a sprint, she’s one of the many riders hoping for an attacking day and a small front group.
Chiara Consonni – fast and doesn’t mind a cobble or two. Consonni has been close to winning this year, she was 2nd in Le Samyn and GP Oetingen. The problem for her in this race is the extremely high level of her rivals, she’ll need the front group to be relatively big to have any hope of winning.
I’ll take another win for Lotte Kopecky, her form cannot be ignored.