Bredene > Koksijde 199km
The route is very similar to last year, with the bunch heading south from Ostend, two times up the Kemmelberg, before heading north through De Moeren and then taking on a lap circuit in Koksijde. Most of the riders will be keeping an eye on the weather.
Sunny, but the wind is the most important factor in the race. When the bunch start, we’re only talking about 12km/h, but by the time the bunch head through De Moeren the wind will be 22km/h. At this point it’ll be a crosswind, and 22km/h feels like 40km/h in De Moeren!
Two times up the Kemmel, that usually blows the bunch to pieces.
What type of race do you want? A group will escape on the Kemmelberg, but if the bunch play it smart, and stay together, they still have the advantage. The problem is the wind as the bunch head north towards Koksijde. The vast majority of the next 40km is exposed and they’ll be a strong crosswind from the right. This usually means the chase group splinters, making the catch harder than normal.
Last year we did see a second group get back to the front, but it wasn’t very big. This second group will contain the sprinters, they are unlikely to make the front group after the Kemmelberg. If you want a sprint, you need domestiques in that group.
The problem for those who don’t want a sprint is the lack of quality attackers, the field isn’t the strongest I’ve ever seen. The likes of Campenaerts will certainly give it a try, but a sprint finish is more than likely.
Tim Merlier – his sprint on Wednesday was very impressive, he starts this race as the man to beat. Alpecin-Fenix don’t have their strongest team at the race, but they should be good enough to have a couple of riders at the head of the race. Merlier is clearly going well just now but Dries De Bondt is going even better. The two of them will likely form a strong partnership, with the likes of Thwaites and Taminiaux providing support. They’ll be the team to beat.
Arnaud De Lie – he’ll likely lose a lot of ground on the Kemmelberg, and with his teammates up the road, he’ll have to hope that someone else does the chasing. The youngster has a fast finish, but he’s not as quick as Merlier.
Pascal Ackermann – his recent results have been poor. I really like the German sprinter, but his career is in danger of quickly fading away. This is a guy who can beat the very best in the world, I hope to see him back where he belongs soon.
Max Walscheid – a rider currently in great form. He was 2nd on Wednesday and took a brilliant win today, it’s rare to see him hitting such a purple patch. This is a good race for him, he’s the right size to go well in the wind. Winning against Merlier will be hard, but his confidence will be sky high.
Hugo Hofstetter – crashed on Wednesday, we’ll have to wait and see if he’s recovered. He’s a good enough climber to make the front group after the Kemmelberg, to win this race he’ll need to hope that front group stays away until the end.
Rasmus Tiller – the big lad has a big chance.
QuickStep – we’re currently going through a period of the team not been as strong as usual. This group of riders have been together for the recent races, they’ve never looked like winning. Steimle and Vernon look like their best shots, but both are in the underdog category.
Victor Campenaerts – he’ll give it a bash, but winning solo will be very difficult.
I see the race unfolding very similar to last year. A group will escape on the climbs, chased by a relatively small second group. They will join together and fight it out for the win. Alpecin-Fenix will take the win, I hope it’s De Bondt, but it’s more than likely we’ll see Tim Merlier take another win.