Bredene > Koksijde 190.5km
The race will follow a normal scenario. An uneventful opening 80km, then the bunch splits on the climbs, then the peloton see if they can catch the front group. Normally, the cat wins the chase, but the weather can always cause havoc in this part of the world.
Could be rain and definitely wind. The direction is perfect, but will 20km/h be enough to split the race?
Twice up the Kemmel and then the Rodeberg.
Right turns with 1.6km to go and just 300m from the line. Positioning is crucial but isn’t it always! It’s a different finish to last year.
Who’s strong enough to be in the front group after the climbs? The race is lacking classics specialists who’ll smash up the Kemmel, but it does have quite a few sprinters with domestiques to chase. Lotto will be the team who push on the climbs, they are one of the few teams who want to stop a sprint, but it’s not quite worked out for them in recent races.
Then we have the crosswinds. 20km/h is just about enough to cause echelons, especially in De Moeren, a village where a fart causes splits. For me, this is where the race can be won. It’s very likely the sprint teams will stay together through the climbs, then chase the attackers down, but the wind is where those who are waiting can cause some damage.
The race will be the usual game of cat and mouse, with the wind thrown in to keep us entertained.
Tim Merlier – took an excellent win in Nokere Koerse, thanks to a huge pull by Bert Van Lerberghe. What I did notice was the lack of other teammates in the finale, this must be a worry for Tim. No doubt, he’s the fastest in the race, but his team will be expected to shoulder a lot of the burden in the peloton. Merlier is excellent in the wind, but he won’t be in the front group after the climbs, he’ll need teammates to chase down the attackers. Given his recent run of form, he starts as the big favourite.
Sam Welsford – DSM will be all in for the Aussie, they’ll try and bring it all back together for a sprint finish. Welsford is enjoying a fine run of form, he’ll fancy his chances of giving Merlier a run for his money,
Pascal Ackermann – after today’s win for Molano, UAE will approach this race with confidence. This is a race Ackermann loves, he’s won two out of the last three editions. I wouldn’t read too much into his DNF today, he’ll have been saving his legs for this race.
Gerben Thijssen – arrives his usual support team, and he’s got a great chance of challenging for the win. A late crash took him out of contention in Nokere Koerse, he’ll have extra motivation for this race.
Edward Theuns – 3rd in Le Samyn, 2nd in Nokere Koerse, the win is coming. Trek-Segafredo have a depleted team at this race, but Eddie has the quality to challenge for the win. If the wind blows, expect to see lots of him mixing it up in De Moeren.
Victor Campenaerts – he’ll attack on the climbs and hope to stay away.
Florian Vermeersch – he’ll hope to join his teammate and hold off the chasing bunch.
He’s sprinting very well just now, it should be another win for Tim Merlier.