Terneuzen > Schoten 198.8km
You’d better hold on to your hat, otherwise it might blow off.
The red in the above picture shows the crosswind sections in this race, as you can see there’s quite a lot of them!
Rain and lots of wind. At the start of the race the wind will be around 40km/h, which will feel a lot more in this exposed part of the world. It’s crazy to think that the opening 75km of the race is an exposed crosswind. When you throw in some rain, this is going to be one of those epic days.
It’s not a question of if it splits, it’s when. By the time the tv cameras turn on, the peloton could be very small indeed. Which teams are best suited to the conditions? It looks like Alpecin-Fenix, QuickStep, Lotto-Soudal, Wanty and Bora are the teams best suited to echelon riding. It’s going to be a delicate balancing act, they’ll want to make it hard, but they don’t want the front group to be too small. The most likely way for most teams to win this race is in a sprint, so we’ll still get one.
Slightly different to last year, with the introduction of a couple of corners near the end. This would normally make the sprint safer, by slimming down the bunch, but it will already be slimmed down due to the wind.
Alpecin-Fenix – it looks like Merlier will have freedom to ride an attacking race, but if it ends in a sprint, the team will go with Philipsen. The rest of the squad are full of strong riders, and all but one is Belgian, they won’t mind the conditions. With Merlier to help, Philipsen will likely start the sprint from an excellent spot, the rest is up to his legs.
Fabio Jakobsen – has Mørkøv with him, and that normally means a win. The team is a nice mix of experience and youth, they’ll be the main squad looking to split the race early. When this happens, QuickStep have a lovely habit of dominating the front group, I’d be surprised if that didn’t happen again. I don’t see them looking to attack and go solo, their best chance of winning is a sprint with Fabio, that’s what they’ll ride for.
Sam Bennett – he’s not gone well in the last couple of races, but a win shouldn’t be too far away. Bora arrive with a strong team to support him, he’ll be hoping to be challenging for the win.
Dylan Groenewegen – of all the big sprinters, he’s the one I worry about in the wind. Mezgec will make it, Groenewegen needs to make sure he does too.
Alexander Kristoff – he’ll be loving it! These days are when he gets about 10km/h faster. His team look strong, and Kristoff seems a certainty to finish on the podium.
Arnaud De Lie – his win in Limburg took me by surprise. I mean, I knew he was an impressive young rider, but his climbing was outstanding. Given his current form, he’ll be hopeful of surviving the wind and sprinting for the win.
Pascal Ackermann – he doesn’t have many teammates, but the German isn’t bad in tough conditions. Winning will be hard, but he should be challenging for the top 5.
Nacer Bouhanni – confidence is up after a recent win in France, Bouhanni has started the season in fine form. Arkéa-Samsic are flying just now, it really wouldn’t be a surprise to see Bouhanni finish on the podium.
Edward Theuns – go fast Eddie! The weather is great news for him, hopefully he’ll be up there challenging with the best.
It’ll probably be a sprint from a group of 20-30, and I’ll take a win for Fabio Jakobsen.