Deinze > Nokere 193.1km
The same route as last year, which means the usual mix of cobbles and little climbs, it’s a race that usually ends in a sprint, but it does offer the classics riders a little hope.
Temperatures will be around 7 degrees, so it’s not going to warm. The wind will be 15km/h, which is unlikely to cause splits.
The finishing lap circuit is done on three occasions, and it features seven cobbled sectors:
Herlegemstraat 1.1km – nice cobbles.
Lange Ast 500m – uphill sector, not quite long enough to create big gaps.
Driesstraat 300m – blink and you miss it.
Lededorp 200m – same again.
Huisepontweg 1.6km – easy, especially if they don’t barrier off the side of the road.
Hoevenstraat 200m – another, blink and you miss it sector.
Nokereberg 400m – tough uphill sprint finish.
It’s a very fast run to the bottom of the Nokereberg, teams need to save riders for this crucial lead out. Quite a few of the sprinters have done this race before, experience is an advantage. Then final bend comes with 250m to go, being on the left-hand side of the road gives a natural advantage.
The circuit promises to be hard, but without bad weather, it rarely splits to pieces. The peloton is always reduced by the end of the day, but it nearly always ends in a sprint. Can anyone stop that from happening this year?
The world tour teams all arrive with sprint options, Soudal – Quick Step, DSM and UAE will likely shoulder a lot of the chasing work. I see a lot of fast men on the start list, and there’s not too many classics style riders who can attack in the final lap and stop it from being a sprint. Someone like Campenaerts will give it a try, but he’ll need to get significant help if the front group is going to stay away.
This race usually ends in a sprint, the weather doesn’t look too bad, most teams arrive with a sprinter, this all adds up to a sprint finish.
Tim Merlier – the defending champion starts as the overwhelming favourite, and rightly so. Soudal – Quick Step arrive with a good team for a race like this, but they’ll want to only commit one rider to the morning chase, which means ensuring the right break gets up the road. In this race, it’s important to save as many men as possible for the final lap. Despite what I’ve already said, we will get some big attacks, the likes of Černy, Steimle and Van Tricht can be used to monitor these moves, hopefully saving Vernon and Van Lerberghe for the lead out.
Sam Welsford – has enjoyed a fine start to the season, he continues to sprint well and impress. In recent weeks he’s been over in Belgium and the Netherlands racing in tough one-day races, which will have been good preparation for Nokere Koerse. The cobbled finish shouldn’t be a problem for him, he’s got a lot of horsepower in his legs.
Gerben Thijssen – arrives with his usual lead out of Johansen and Boy van Poppel. Gerben recently tasted success in GP Monseré, doubts over the validity of the win aren’t his fault, it still counts as a win in the books. Intermarché will be keen on riding for a sprint, Thijssen is a good option for the uphill finish.
Pascal Ackermann – it’s not been a great start to the year, but his form should be growing. Last year, he was near the front for the sprint, but faded badly and finished in 9th. He’ll be hoping for better this time round and he arrives with a strong team to support.
Edward Theuns – 3rd in Le Samyn, he feels he could have won, this is another chance for Eddie to take a win. He didn’t get a chance to show what he could do in Tirreno, hopefully his team can support him better in this race.
Kaden Groves – the uphill finish is a good one for him, but his positional problems have continued to haunt him this year. He’ll hope that De Bondt and Krieger can survive until the end, they’ll make sure he starts his sprint from a good position.
Milan Menten – confidence will be up after a brilliant win in Le Samyn, it’s exactly the start he needed with Lotto. This type of grippy, uphill finish is ideal for him, he’ll expect to challenge for another win.
Sam Watson – I’m hoping FDJ give him the nod and not Bram Welten, Sam is in my fantasy team! He’s just 21, but the boy from Leeds is very fast and he can cope well with cobbles. He was a solo attacker here last year; this time I hope he’s sprinting.
Victor Campenaerts – he’ll attack in the final lap; current form is good.
Lewis Askey – another likely attacker in the finale of the race. Askey is one of my riders to watch in 2023, I’m expecting big things from him. The length, and difficulty, of this race are perfect for him, hopefully he’s allowed the freedom to chase a win.
We’ll see attacks, they might look like they’ll stay away, but they won’t.
Another win for local boy Tim Merlier.
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