Leuven > Overijse 205.1km
A few years ago, the organisers changed the route by removing the final climb (Schavei), I think this might have been due to roadworks, but I can’t remember. It also meant they introduced the Moskesstraat before it was used in the 2021 world championships. This will be the third year of this “new” route, and the previous two editions have been very selective, both won by Ineos riders. This was a race which gave the fast men some hope, with fewer of them deciding to come, I think the route is now too hard for them, but it all depends on how it’s raced.
Light rain showers and it could be quite windy. I don’t think we’ll see echelons as the lap circuit is mainly in housing estates, but there is a headwind of doom section beside the canal.
The climbs on the circuit are the following:
Hagaard – 300m at 10.2%, max 13.5%.
Hertsraat – 700m at 4.7%, max 9.4%. Cobbled climb but the gutter is open, positioning is key as you don’t want to get stuck behind a slow rider. Remco hated it last year.
Moskesstraat – 500m at 9.2%, max 14.9%. Cobbled climb, which is hard but not as hard as it used to be. I still hate they re-laid the cobbles for the worlds.
Holstheide – 1000m at 4.2%, max 11.5%.
S-Bocht – 1300m at 4.2%, max 5.7% (this is the climb to the line). They used to descend this back in the old days.
This is a race made for a strong group to get away and take the win, it’s happened in the previous two editions, but no one knows the size of the group. Ineos would love to take a third win, but they don’t arrive with the strongest team, I can’t see them repeating what happened last year in terms of getting three riders in the front group.
Looking at the start list, I don’t see a team that looks stronger than the rest, it looks much more even compared to previous years. It was going to be Soudal – Quick Step, but Schmid isn’t here, which is a serious blow to their hopes. They’ve still got a great option in Bagioli, but Schmid’s presence would have given them a big advantage.
I think everything is pointing to a front group of between five and ten riders, and hopefully no one has a teammate as I want a “fair” fight. Back in the peloton, the teams who miss out will have to chase, but it’s very difficult to close it down in this race as the gaps between the climbs are quite small. The climbs might be short, but they are hard enough to blow the domestiques and eventually there’s no one left to chase.
Andrea Bagioli – he looked good in the Basque Country; his form seems to be coming along quite nicely. The Italian is perfect for this type of race, and Soudal – Quick Step will be keen on getting a win before the Ardennes properly kick off. Bagioli looks the best option for the team, but Cavagna cannot be underestimated.
Søren Kragh – was a little sick before Flanders, but he’ll be fine by now. Kragh has been good since joining Alpecin, and with the team on a high, they’ll be looking to continue their fine run of form in this race. The route is a good one for the Dane, he likes short climbs and has a fast sprint.
Quinten Hermans – Alpecin will be hoping they can get two riders in the front group, Hermans and Kragh will be their protected riders. I’m still waiting for Hermans to properly start his year, the results up to this point haven’t been anything to write home about, but the next 10 days are his big target for the first half of the season.
Benoît Cosnefroy – basically, forget about everything he’s done in the year, his season starts here. He was 2nd last year and 3rd in 2020, this is a race that suits him very well. I’d be amazed if he didn’t make the front selection.
Mikkel Honoré – leads a strong EF team. His form is growing, and like most of the contenders in this race, he’ll be hoping to be at his best over the next 10 days. Mikkel has everything required to win a race like this, I’m looking forward to seeing EF ride aggressively.
Quinn Simmons – speaking of riding aggressively, I’m expecting Quinn to launch a number of bombs throughout the day. His form has been decent in 2023, and he’ll now have a chance to chase some personal glory over the next few weeks. The climbs suit him well, and I’m looking forward to seeing him tackle the Moskesstraat, this is where he can do some damage.
Matteo Trentin – going very well just now, he’s held a high level for several weeks. He was 3rd back in 2021, so it’s a race he knows he can do well in. UAE have a good team, but I think Trentin is their best bet for the win.
Tobias Johannessen – after a series of injury and health issues, it was good to see him get through Catalunya without incident. With that race in the legs, I hope we’ll see him back to his best over the next few races.
Corbin Strong – another rider who’s going very well just now. He’s not taken a win yet this year, but he’s posted several good results, including 7th in GP Miguel Indurain. Saying that, he’ll need to have amazing legs to win this race.
Andreas Kron – form is growing, the win is coming.
Arnaud De Lie – probably going to be too hard for him, and he knows that no one will want to take him to the line. I like that he’s here, he does climb very well for a fast man, but the frequency of the hills will make life very difficult for him.
Alexander Kamp – just won Région Pays de la Loire, so the form is good. Kamp’s performance in last year’s Amstel Gold is a sign that this race is within his capabilities, and Tudor will be delighted to see him challenging for the win.
I liked what I saw of him in the Basque Country, so I’ll take a win for Andrea Bagioli.
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