Eijsden > Eijsden 193.5km
The Limburg Classic is one of those races that some riders hate, in fact, quite a lot of riders hate. Constantly up and down, narrow roads, horrible weather, I can understand why most don’t want to be here. The good news is that it’s much better for the watching fans, it usually serves up an exciting and unpredictable day.
Lots of rain, lots of wind, and it’ll feel quite cold.
Once inside the final 100km, the race can explode at any point. You can see all the little climbs, and when you factor in narrow roads and wind, this is going to be a hard day in the saddle.
The finish is the same as usual, with a final turn at 250m to go, and a sprint on cobbles.
We have 5 “big” teams, bad weather, 2848m of climbing, there’s no way this ends in a big group sprint. This is going to be an elimination race; especially given it’s going to be cold and wet. The big teams will dictate the tactics of the day, and the elastic will eventually snap somewhere in the final 50km, creating a strong group of favourites who’ll fight for the win.
The climbs aren’t long, but they are relentless. Last year we saw Arnaud De Lie take the win, it’s more than possible for a fast finisher to survive this day, but they must be going well. With only a handful of “top” riders in this race, it opens the door for a surprise win, it’s a good day for those looking to secure their first big win.
Most of the big teams arrive with young squads, but they are still talented. It would be good for the race if the front group doesn’t have multiple riders from one team, I want to see a fair fight. If this happens, the strongest on the day will take the win, something I would like to see. To win this race, you need to be climbing well and be able to survive tough weather conditions.
Pascal Eenkhoorn – the Dutch champion is a good fit for this race. He climbs well, and he packs a fast sprint, which is perfect as the race could well end in a sprint from a very small group. Lotto arrives with a strong team, and Eenkhoorn should be their star card. His recent form has been quite good, and this is his first chance to go for some personal glory, a chance he’ll be keen to take.
Maxim Van Gils – he provides Lotto with a solid back-up option, especially if it kicks off on the climbs. Saying that, he’s got a very fast sprint too, and he and Eenkhoorn would be hard to beat if they both make the front group.
Dries De Bondt – the former Belgian champion is a rider I like a lot. Usually seen in a domestique role, he’s one of those who seems to enjoy riding his heart out for others. When he does get a rare chance to ride for himself, he performs well. Expect to see a lot of him in this race.
Kaden Groves – he’s the fastest man in the race, but with that comes extra difficulty. As no one wants him in the front group, he’ll come under pressure throughout the day. Groves had an excellent Catalunya; he’ll arrive here full of confidence and raring to go. Even though this isn’t as prestigious as Catalunya, winning here would be a big deal.
Timo Roosen – he should be Jumbo-Visma’s main man. With very few opportunities to race on home roads, the team will be keen to impress, but they arrive with several youngsters. Roosen isn’t one of them, he’s one of the most experienced riders at the start, and he’ll be looking forward to a rare chance to chase a win.
Johannes Staune-Mittet – one of the Jumbo-Visma youngsters, the Norwegian is an excellent climber, he’ll be keen on pushing on and making this a hard race. He’s going to be a big star in the future, but he’s more than capable of already winning a race like this.
Oscar Onley – normally, riders find their first Catalunya a draining experience, but I was impressed by how well Oscar seemed to cope. He’ll have taken a couple of days rest, before looking ahead to this race. DSM have a young squad at this race, but as their devo team is based near here, they’ll hope that knowing the roads will give them an advantage. The weather won’t be an issue for Oscar, us Scots cope well with a bit of rain.
Loïc Vliegen – there’s a growing theme in the contenders section, strong riders who rarely get a chance to go for a win. Vliegen ticks many boxes for this race, he should be challenging for the win.
Rune Herregodts – gives Intermarché a good second option. He was very close to taking his first win for the team earlier in the season, he’ll see this is a massive opportunity to open his account. I’ve been impressed by what I’ve seen of Herregodts this season, I’d be surprised if he wasn’t challenging in this race.
Mark Stewart – I can’t remember the last time I was able to include two Scots in this section! Mark was born in Dundee, a place that rarely sees the sun, the weather won’t bother him. He now rides for Bolton Equities Black Spoke, and the Kiwi side have been doing very well of late. After finishing 2nd in Per Sempre Alfredo and 3rd in GP Industria & Artigianato, he’ll come here full of confidence and with a real chance of taking the win.
Jordi Warlop – he’s here with the Soudal – Quick Step Devo team, but Jordi is no devo rider. They picked him up after B&B folded, which he’ll be very thankful of, and I expect him to reward them with some big results. This season he’s already gone close to a win in the Muscat Classic, and he’s finished in the top 10 in his last three one-day races. Warlop is a very fast finisher, but he also copes well with short hills, which makes him perfect for this race.
Milan Menten – the third Lotto rider I want to mention, they’ve got great options for this race. Milan is enjoying a great season, and he’s super motivated to perform well on his home roads.
I think we’ll get a similar race to last year with a strong group of favourites fighting for the win.
I’ll take a win for the Dutch champion on home roads. It’s a day for Pascal Eenkhoorn.
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