Roeselare > Waregem 183.4km
Dwars door Vlaanderen is a race that offers the sprinters a lot of hope, but it rarely ends in a sprint. In fact, just once in the last ten editions has it been one for the fast men, that was all the way back in 2016 when Jens Debusschere took the win. Compared to last year, the organisers have made a few tweaks to the finale, adding in more cobbles to make the race harder, but we still have several of the best sprinters in the world on the start line. Will we eventually get another sprint?
A bit on the grey side, there’s a threat of rain showers for much of the day. The wind is coming from the south and will sit around 20km/h, but it could gust up to 40km/h. Echelons are a possibility.
Same as last year, the main action kicks off after 100km with Berg Ten Houte. The cobbles aren’t as hard as they used to be, but this is where the race winning move went in 2022, despite it “only” being 1km at 6%.
This is quickly followed by the Kanarieberg (1.1km at 8.8%), and then they head towards the Côte de Trieu (1.1km at 7.5%) and then the Hotond (700m at 5.3%). The final climb of this section is Ladeuze (1.2km at 5.2%), this is crested with 38km to go. The good news for the attackers is a lovely tailwind up the Trieu and most of the way until the lap circuit.
The race finishes with one and a bit laps of this circuit. Just before entering the circuit the riders must tackle the cobbles of the Huisepontweg, you should remember them from Nokere Koerse, the cobbles aren’t too bad, and this is quickly followed by the Nokereberg, which leads straight into the circuit.
As usual, the circuit is on narrow roads and there is a little climb as they approach Nokere from the west, but it’s only 800m at 4.3%.
Who’s recovered well from Sunday? Several of the favourites for this race took a beating in Gent-Wevelgem, their recovery will determine whether they’ll be a factor in this race. These riders include Philipsen, Laporte, Merlier, Wellens, Politt, Pedersen, Gaviria, De Lie, Ewan, and Kristoff. Quite a few of these guys gave everything they had; I doubt even they’ll know how the legs will respond until about halfway into the race.
The race is always about who wants to attack versus who wants a sprint. With 1574m of climbing, it’s a race that sprinters should really be challenging for, but I’ve already given you the stats around this, it rarely ends with a sprint. If the right group of riders escape on the climbs, there’s not enough teams to chase and the race is gone.
The script for this race is pretty simple. A strong group will go clear on the climbs, the number of teams willing to chase in the bunch will determine if it stays away. The earlier the race opens, the better it is for the attackers as there will be fewer domestiques left to chase in the finale. However, the composition of the front group is crucial, they can’t afford to have any passengers, everyone must pull their weight if the move is to succeed.
Jasper Philipsen – looking at the Alpecin team, they should be going all in for Philipsen. His current form is excellent, but he did race on Sunday, there’s no guarantee his legs respond well.
Tim Merlier – another who raced on Sunday, he looked very impressive, despite only finishing 14th. He gives Soudal – Quick Step an excellent sprint option, but the team will also be looking to attack.
Lotto – De Lie and Ewan are their headline acts. I would save Ewan back for a sprint, allowing De Lie to see if he can follow the moves. De Lie has shown that he can cope with short climbs, he’ll back himself to make the front split and hopefully take the win. I wonder if Ewan will still be paying for trying to follow Wout up the Kemmel!
Ineos – they arrive with the strongest team, but the inclusion of Ganna did surprise me. After crashing out on Sunday, I thought he would have been resting, but his knee is obviously fine. Not only do they have the Italian, but Pidcock is back racing after sitting out a few races due to concussion. Given his lack of racing, form is unknown, but he’ll be keen on testing himself ahead of Sunday. I think Turner is the rider they can count on, he’s looked good in recent weeks, since returning from injury, and he was excellent here last year.
Mads Pedersen – will he use this as training for Sunday? This is something that’s happened in the past, we’ll have to wait and see how Trek-Segafredo approach the race. If he is going to try and win, it’s a good route for him, especially considering how he’s been climbing in the last year.
Christophe Laporte – after a brilliant win on Sunday, he comes here full of confidence. This is a good race for Laporte, but will he be tired after going so deep just a few days ago? As he’s lacking race days, it makes sense for him to be here, he needs more kilometres in the legs before Flanders. He’ll form a key part of the Jumbo-Visma strategy, expect to see him in the front split.
Julian Alaphilippe – when are we going to see the real Alaphilippe? He won in the Ardèche and was 2ndbehind Roglič in the grippy uphill finish in Tirreno, but the former world champion has disappointed in the big races, he’s not even been close. With Flanders just a few days away, he’ll be worried about his current shape, but he’s one of the few riders who can suddenly find great legs. I don’t think he’ll be keeping anything back for Flanders, this is a chance for him to ride an aggressive race and get his confidence up before Sunday. I don’t want to be rude, but if he can’t challenge for the win in this race, I wouldn’t bother turning up on Sunday.
Tiesj Benoot – 2nd last year, 5th in 2019, 7th in 2018 & 2017 and 6th in 2015, Tiesj has a brilliant record in this race, but he’d like a win. The climbs here are perfect for him, especially the Côte de Tiesj (Trieu)! With a strong team here to support, he’ll go on the attack once on the climbs and hope the group stays away until the end. The issue he has is bringing a faster finisher to the line, it would be perfect for him if he has a teammate in the group, allowing him to pull off a similar move to what he did in Kuurne. Current form is good, he was a DNF in E3 as he punctured just after the Taaienberg, and it was game over.
Tim Wellens – he’s spent most of the season riding as a deluxe domestique for Pogačar, and doing a great job, now he gets a chance to ride for himself. The types of hills in this race are perfect for Tim, it’s a race where he should be fighting for the win. UAE have a strong squad; I think they’ll be keen on a hard race.
Valentin Madouas – this is a perfect race for the Frenchman. When the front group forms on the climbs, he’ll be there, then it’s about staying away and getting the win. 8th in E3 was a decent result, but he’s capable of more, and getting it right just before Flanders would be a welcome confidence boost. FDJ don’t just have him, Stefan Küng is also here, hopefully he’s regained feeling in his fingers.
Neilson Powless – I’m delighted to see him here, he’s been one of the best riders of the season, so far. Never afraid of attacking, it’s exactly that style which makes me thinks he’s well suited to races like this. EF have impressed of late; they’ll be hoping for another good result in this race. With Honoré and Bettiol, the team have multiple cards to play.
Michael Matthews – first race after pulling out of Paris-Nice with what he later found out to be COVID. That was over two weeks ago, so he’ll likely be missing a little intensity in his legs. This would normally be an excellent race for him, but I’m not sure he’ll at the level required to win against those who have already been mentioned.
Fred Wright – still waiting for his first pro win, but it’s hard when you only ride big races. As this is a slightly smaller race, it’s a great chance for Fred to get that monkey off his back. His form has been decent this season, and he’ll like the look of the route. He can cope with the climbs and has a fast sprint from a reduced group, today could be the day…
We’ll see a strong group go clear on the climbs and stay away until the end.
Can the real Julian Alaphilippe please stand up!
You must be logged in to post a comment.