Ypres > Wevelgem 158.9km
With the last two world tour wins going to Elisa Balsamo, she will fancy her chances of taking three in a row, which would be one hell of an achievement. This race is one that usually ends in a sprint, but you cannot discount the attackers.
Sunny and very nice. The wind won’t get above 20km/h, which will make it hard to create any meaningful echelons.
This is where we see who won’t win the race. In quick succession the bunch must tackle the Monteberg, Kemmelberg, Baneberg and another ascent of the Kemmelberg. There is 34km to go from the top of the final climb.
Last weekend in Italy we saw Trek – Segafredo nailing their colours to the mast and riding for a sprint, which Balsamo won. There is every chance of them doing something similar in this race. They arrive with a similarly strong team but holding together a race like this will take an enormous effort by the whole team.
Team DSM will also be keen on ensuring we get a sprint finish, and they have a couple of riders who should last deep into the race. Joining Trek and DSM in wanting a sprint are Movistar, Jumbo-Visma and UAE, which means we have a lot of the strong teams all pulling for the same outcome.
In the opposite corner with be SD Worx. Kopecky will be competitive in a sprint finish, but they would prefer a tough day and a small front group at the end. The problem they’ll find is that most teams are happy with a sprint, so they’ll be looking to anchor any move that SD Worx manage to get away. Last week we saw Longo Borghini do this brilliantly, she made sure a strong breakaway got caught, it could be another frustrating day for SD Worx.
The weather is also good news for those wanting a sprint. We have a block headwind from the top of the Kemmel, all the way to Ypres. That’s great news for those in the chasing pack.
Elisa Balsamo – her confidence must be sky high. She took a brilliant win in Trofeo Binda, and then followed that up by beating Wiebes in De Panne. Those two performances mean that she starts this race as the favourite. Trek – Segafredo have been very impressive this season, especially the way they have supported their world champion. Expect to see big performances from Longo Borghini, Van Dijk and Van Anrooij.
Lorena Wiebes – she was second the other day but had to sprint without all of her spokes. She already has three wins to her name this season, and she’s climbing better than ever before. DSM have a good team to support her, we’ll have to see if she survives.
Emma Norsgaard – four races so far this season, she’s finished 6th, 2nd, 1st and 6th. Her form is clearly good, but does she have the speed to beat Balsamo? A tough race would suit the Dane, slowing down the sprinting speed of some.
Marianne Vos – she’s only raced Strade Bianche so far this season, she’s recently missed out due to illness. It’s therefore hard to predict how she’ll get on in this race, but as the defending champion her motivation will be high. We all know what Vos is like, if there’s a sniff of victory, she’ll suddenly produce something very special.
Marta Bastianelli – winner of the race back in 2018, and her recent form is good. She’s already picked up three wins this season, she’s currently looking very strong. Experience is valuable commodity in a race like this, I hope to see her sprinting for the win.
Lotte Kopecky – 2nd here in 2020 and 2021, can she eventually land the win? It will be interesting to see how SD Worx approach the race, do they put faith in Kopecky’s sprint against the likes of Balsamo and Wiebes? I doubt they’ll ride defensively, expect to see them pushing hard on the climbs. It’s in their best interests to make this a hard race and try to reduce the size of the peloton. As usual, they arrive with a strong team, one full of attacking options.
Marlen Reusser – I think she’s one of their best attacking options. Reusser really impressed in Omloop, especially the way she climbed the Muur. She’ll likely attack on the Kemmel and see who can go with her. Her TT ability will also be crucial in trying to keep the front group away from the chasing bunch.
Three in a row for Elisa Balsamo, both her and Trek – Segafredo are looking very strong just now.
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