Dwars Door Vlaanderen 2016 Preview – Ciclismo Internacional

Dwars Door Vlaanderen 2016 Preview

By David Hunter

Roeselare – Waregem 200km

After the tragic events today in Belgium, the organisers are still saying the race will go ahead. A final decision will be made tomorrow, depending on the terror alert level in Belgium. We really do live in sad times.


It’s almost liking putting on a pair of comfy slippers! Eikenberg, Taaienberg, Oude-Kwaremont, Paterberg. Words that bring a smile to cycling fans all over the world. This race is still underrated as it’s not on the World Tour, but make now mistake, it’s one of the best races in the cycling calendar.

Coming just after Milan-Sanremo, and just before E3 and Gent-Wevelgem, it does open the door for a surprise result. That is exactly what we got in 2015. Jelle Wallays was in the morning break, and hung on with a secondary attack, to take a sensational win. He is back this year, now riding with Lotto. Looking back a few years, Niki Terpstra has won twice, but names like Oscar Gatto, Nick Nuyens and Matti Breschel also appear in the last 6 years. It is another race where anything can happen.

Three weeks have passed since Omloop and KBK, I will refresh your memory. In Omloop, Luke Rowe caused a massive selection on the Taaienberg. He was followed by Greg Van Avermaet. Tiesj Benoot managed to come from a little deeper, as did Peter Sagan. Only the four men managed to survive the Taaienberg.

In KBK, Sagan and Stuyven were the best on the Oude-Kwaremont. It did come back together with the Lotto pair, Roelandts and Debusschere, working well together. Just behind them were Luke Rowe and Jens Keukeleire. Three weeks have passed, some riders are in better form and some are not as good as they were. That’s cycling!

Not on the same route as this was Le Samyn. In brutal conditions, Niki Terpstra, reminded everyone of what a talent he is. Just as well really as Scott Thwaites was outstanding. From these three races, it’s save to say that a handful of riders have really shown:- GVA, Sagan, Benoot, Rowe, Stuyven, Terpstra and Thwaites. Of those, Sagan and Rowe are not here.

Time to focus on this race. It starts to really get interesting as the riders approach the Eikenberg.

Eikenberg  – 1.25km at 5.8%, max 10%. 57.5km remaining.

Taaienberg – 530m at 6.6%, max 15.8%. 51.8km remaining.

Oude Kwaremont – 1.5km at 4%, max 11.6%. 34km remaining.

Paterberg – 365m at 12.9%, max 20.3%. 30.5km remaining.

Vossenhol – 1.4km at 6.5%, max 9%. 19.8km remaining.

Holstraat – 1km at 5.2%, max 12%. 15.4km remaining.

Nokereberg – 500m at 5.7%, max 6.7%. 7.9km remaining.

In the recent races, it was Lotto who emerged as the dominant team, although they didn’t take a win. They are constantly in a power battle with Etixx, trying to show everyone that they are the strongest Belgian team. This looks to continue here. As in all races, the strongest team have a great chance of taking the win.

Etixx – Terpstra, Gaviria, Lampaert, Maes, Tony Martin, Van Keirsbulck, Wisniowski.

Lotto – Wallays, Benoot, De Bie, Debusschere, Ligthart.

Trek – Stuyven, Devolder, Theuns.

BMC – Van Avermaet, Burghardt, Vliegen.

IAM – Devenyns, Naesen.

Movistar – Lobato, Amador.

Wanty – Marcato, Claeys.

Cofidis – Senechal.

Bora – Thwaites.

Southeast – Pozzato.

Jumbo – Groenewegen.

AG2R – Gougeard.

Orica – Keukeleire.

Katusha – Politt.

Tinkoff – Gatto.

If you don’t have teammates to help, you can still win this race, but he need to be lucky. Some of the “solo” riders are in great form. I really like what I’m seeing just now from Dylan Groenewegen and Oscar Gatto.

The young Dutchman has made quite an impact since joining Jumbo. He made the move from Roompot for this year and already has won stages in Valenciana and West Flanders. Add in 4th in KBK, 6th in Samyn, 3rd in Drenthe, 3rd in Nokere and 2nd in Handzame. His start for Jumbo has been nothing short of sensational and they must be delighted with his transition. He can cope with the cobbles and packs a really fast finish. This can often be his downfall as other riders will be reluctant to take him to the line. This is a problem that Sagan, Kristoff and Degenkolb have had to deal with over the years. At just 22, it might take Groenewegen a few years to work out how to cope with this difficult aspect of cycling.

Gatto is looking like his old self. Winner of this race in 2013, he took a good win in Andalucia already this season. Riding in support of Sagan he has looked in fine form. Now he has the chance to be team leader, he won’t have many chances this season, so he needs to take it.

Greg Van Avermaet is the best rider in the race. Already a winner in Omloop and Tirreno, he went close in Milan-Sanremo. It’s great to see GVA at this level, after years of struggling to compete with the very best. At 30 years of age, he really has started to excel and he’ll be keen to win as many races as possible. He has 3 big races in the next 5 days: DDV, E3 and GW. Most of his rivals have chosen to skip this race, allowing them a rest before E3 on Friday and GW on Sunday. I like the fact that Van Avermaet has chosen to race, I doubt he rides this as training. His BMC team aren’t as strong as usual, so he might find himself outnumbered by the Etixx and Lotto riders. Marcus Burghardt will be very important.

IAM have two excellent options in Naesen and Devenyns. Both riders have had great starts to the season and love this terrain. They were left frustrated in Omloop, missing the key move due to poor positioning. I really like Naesen, a rider overlooked by many in 2015. Riding for Topsport, he didn’t get the results like Theuns and Wallays, but he did play an important part in the success of the team. IAM have signed a gem of a rider. A local to the area, he knows all the climbs very well and is keen to shine on the biggest stage. This is his chance.

How Trek manage the ambitions of Stuyven and Theuns will be very interesting. Stuyven took a huge win in KBK, with Theuns also riding aggressively. Given his chance in Paris-Nice, Theuns took an impressive 2nd on stage 4. He was instrumental in the win of Jelle Wallays in 2015, he will hope for another chance this year. I do like the look of the Trek squad, they should be able to compete with the biggest teams here, both Stuyven and Theuns have a chance of taking the win.

Etixx arrive with a number of riders who have shown some recent form. Terpstra has to be their main rider, as he looks to claim his 3rd title. His problem is the number of challengers with a faster sprint than him. If Terpstra is going to win this race, it has to be solo. He is very experienced and knows when to attack. As the peloton slims down through the Taaienberg and Kwaremont, he will look to strike when teams lack numbers to chase him down. There is no point attacking early, when Lotto have numbers to chase behind. In Terpstra’s favour is the presence of Gaviria. The Colombian sensation is the fastest rider here and will win any sprint. The longer he stays in the peloton, the better it is for Etixx. The youngster might just be successor to Boonen. They also have the fast finishing Wisniowski, don’t underestimate him.

Lotto Soudal will want to get Gaviria dropped. In Tiesj Benoot, they have a rider just waiting to take his first pro win. In Omloop, he was very impressive on the Taaienberg. He was a few wheels back so had to come across to Rowe and GVA by himself, this was achieved quite easily. I was very impressed by their team performance in Omloop and KBK, I don’t remember seeing them so strong. If they can dictate this race, they have options in Benoot and Debusschere. I just hope that Debus is over his crash from Strade Bianche, as he was hampered by it in Tirreno. They will hope that Benoot gets away with Terpstra, as Tiesj would take a sprint win. If he goes to the line with Van Avermaet, it will be tight.

The weather looks set fair. It should be a nice sunny day, with little wind. That increases the chances of a biggish group arriving together, but the parcours dictate that this group won’t be too big.

Prediction Time

I think Lotto Soudal will again be the dominant team. They have two cards to play in Benoot and Debusschere, but they need to be able to respond to the attacks of Greg Van Avermaet. I will go with Tiesj Benoot, please get that first win!

David Hunter

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