Brakel > Haacht 199.9km
The racing continues in Belgium with the 12th edition of the Primus Classic. It’s a race with a little bit of everything, one that can be won by different types of riders.
Wet, windy, and quite cold for this time of year. This will significantly increase the difficulty of the race.
The image shows a 50km stretch of road that starts after 120km of racing, and finishes with 30km to go. The hardest climb in this little lap is the Moskesstraat, which you’ll remember from the worlds. It might only be around 500m at 8%, but the cobbles make it harder, even though they’re easier than they used to be.
This climb is quickly followed by the Holstheide, 1km at 5.2%, and the Smeysberg, 500m at 7.6%. First time round, the three climbs are only separated by 6km, it’s perfect for those wanting to attack and slim things down a bit. On the second passage, the Smeysberg is a good 20km after the Holstheide, it’s the last climb of the day and one final chance for those to stop it being a day for the sprinters.
What type of race do the big teams want to have? A lot of teams arrive with a fast man, but last year it was a very selective race. The weather conditions this time round is much worse, everything is pointing to a tough day in the saddle and a relatively small group fighting out the win.
The late withdrawal of van der Poel has thrown the tactics section upside-down, the poor weather forecast means he’s taking no risks and will head out training instead. Without him bossing the race, the door opens, but who will step forward?
QuickStep don’t have their usual team for a race like this, most of them are already in Australia. They do have Jakobsen, but I don’t think the team are strong enough to control this race, but Israel-Premier Tech could well fulfil this role. They are still looking for valuable world tour points and they have several riders who can challenge in this race. Their best options will be Teuns, Strong and Vanmarcke which makes them the strongest team in the race for me.
The Moskesstraat is where I expect Teuns and Vanmarcke to go, but they’ll want another couple of teams to be involved. With the final climb cresting with 30km to go, having three or four teams involved in the front group will ensure it stays away until the end. Given the route and the weather conditions, this is how I see the race playing out, I can’t see it ending up as a big sprint, but the withdrawal of van der Poel does give the sprinters a better chance.
Jasper Philipsen – didn’t quite have the legs for the uphill sprint on Wednesday, but this race is another chance for him to challenge for a win. No van der Poel is a big blow for his chances, but the climbs in this race won’t be a worry for him. The problem will be controlling the race for a sprint, that will be very hard for his team.
Israel-Premier Tech – they have lots of options for this race, Dylan Teuns is looking very strong just now. He’ll be looking to go with the attacks of van der Poel, but the team will hope to have multiple riders in the front group, Vanmarcke is their other option. If it does end in a reduced sprint, then it’s time for Corbin Strong, a rider who’s hit a lovely spell of good form.
Victor Campenaerts – all eyes are on De Lie, but this is a race that suits the attacking style of Campenaerts. He’s very dangerous when the front group is small, there’s not many who can follow him on the flat. The climbs are on his limit, but he’ll hope to make the front group and play for the win.
Alexander Kristoff – did someone say rain and wind? The Norwegian is always a rider who performs well in tough conditions, they always seem to get the best out of him. The short climbs are also good for him, this is a race he’ll be confident of winning. He’ll have to decide on how he approaches the finale, it would be a big risk to sit back and wait for a sprint, he’ll need to get involved in the attacks himself.
Axel Zingle – I’ve got a massive soft spot for the young Frenchman, I firmly believe he has what it takes to reach the very top. He doesn’t mind a bit of rain, I hope to see him in the front group fighting for the win, especially as he’s got a fast sprint.
The weather should ensure a selective day, and with Israel-Premier Tech looking very strong I’ll take a win for Dylan Teuns.
It turns out that Dylan Teuns is no longer riding, that’s twice I’ve now had to change my prediction. The chances of a strong group getting away from the bunch is now not as strong, looking at the start list, I think most teams will be happy with a sprint finish. The only issue is the weather, it could still mean the sprinters are disappointed. I’ll hedge my bets and go with a wet weather specialist, it’s a win for Alexander Kristoff.