Dwars door Vlaanderen 2018 Preview – Ciclismo Internacional

Dwars door Vlaanderen 2018 Preview

By David Hunter

Roeselare – Waregem 181km

Now slotted into it’s new spot in the schedule, it will be interesting to see if this has an impact on the race.

The first thing to note is that this route is significantly easier than last year. Out go the Paterberg and Oude Kwaremont, a terrible decision by the organisers. As the race now takes place four days before Flanders, it looks like they didn’t want to scare off riders who want to win on Sunday. We still have lots of climbs and a few cobble sections, but most sprinters will be confident of making the finish. It looks like only the weather can stop this from being a sprint.

Weather

Mother nature is smiling on the attackers, she must have been annoyed by the change in route! There will be lots of rain and the temperature is going to be very low. Not only that but we are in for lots of wind! With gusts of around 45km/h, the peloton will be smashed to pieces. We won’t be getting any type of sprint.

Tactics

Given the weather conditions, this race will split around the 100km mark. We have lots of exposed roads, with perfect wind conditions. Teams will look to take advantage and make a big selection, probably after the second ascent of the Kruisberg. The fast downhill means the bunch will be lined out and when they turn left, the fun will start.

Given the climbs, I would then expect another selection on the Taaienberg and it will be day over for most of the bunch! Once on the top, there is more crosswinds. If you are not at the front of the race, you won’t make it back.

From this point, a small group of riders will not be seen again. It will be a brilliant day full of Belgian fun! The word epic is overused, but this is going to be EPIC!

Main Climbs

Taaienberg – 530m at 6.6%.

Kruisberg – 1800m at 4.8%.

Knokteberg – 1900m at 4.9%.

Vossenhol – 1400m at 6.5%.

Holstraat – 1000m at 5.2%.

Nokereberg – 500m at 5.7%.

Contenders

Edward Theuns – this is a race Eddie will win at some point. He’s finished 2nd and 3rd here in the past, all that’s missing is the top step of the podium. This race is a big target for the fast man and Sunweb have a strong team to match his ambition. If the wind blows, he will be in his element.

Alexander Kristoff – another rider that loves horrible conditions. I have previously questioned Kristoff’s ability to win big races, but this is one that he should be challenging for. He disappointed in Gent-Wevelgem, especially when you consider some of the riders who made the front group. Can he make me eat my words?

Luke Durbridge – was very strong here last year, but still seems to be lacking a little after his crash in January. He’ll like the tough conditions, but he’ll need to be 100% given the conditions.

Gianni Moscon – the Italian looked impressive in E3 and GW, making him a contender for this race. Still just 23, he really is a huge talent. Like most cycling fans, I cannot forgive him for his previous actions, but I can still respect his talent. He should be challenging for the win.

Tiesj Benoot – already has six top 5 results this season, including his big win in Strade Bianche. That is a seriously impressive record for this time of the year. After animating E3, he skipped GW, meaning he’ll be nice and fresh for this race. If we get a tough race, he’ll be right at the front. Don’t expect him to hold anything back for Sunday.

Oli Naesen – he’s knocking on the door! Naesen was the revelation of 2017 and he’s maintained his progress. Finishing 4th in E3 and 6th in GW are excellent results and I firmly believe a win is imminent.

Greg Van Avermaet – as usual, he’s been very aggressive in the recent races. Van Avermaet is in good form and law of averages say he’ll win soon! BMC have looked incredibly strong in E3 and GW, they have a team that can destroy most pelotons. While Sagan has decided to rest before Flanders, Van Avermaet is a rider that likes to race. Will he have one eye on Sunday?

Stefan Küng – looked super strong in E3 and GW. The Swiss star is really stepping up into a super domestique role for Van Avermaet. BMC will hope to have multiple riders in the front group and Küng could end up with some freedom, a thank you for his recent work. Not only is he strong, but he loves tough conditions.

Jasper Stuyven – made the front selection in both E3 and GW. Currently, we are blessed with a large group of elite riders and Stuyven is firmly in that group. Similar to many riders, he just needs a little bit of luck and the win will come.

Niki Terpstra – the best in the world in high winds. Simple as that!

Yves Lampaert – the defending champion has looked very strong in recent races. Winning this race in 2017 was a huge moment in his career, a sign of what he can achieve in the future. As we’ve all witnessed, QuickStep have been dominate in the recent Belgian races and they would expect this to continue.

Timo Roosen – after a strong start to the season, it’s gone a little quiet for the Jumbo rider. He’s a strong classics rider and one that should continue to improve over the next few years. A relatively strong ride in GW will have encouraged him, hopefully he gets a chance to shine in this race.

Wout Van Aert – he’ll enjoy the filthy conditions. After strong recent performances, he would love to take a win against some of the best in the world. Given the conditions, he’ll be challenging for the crown.

Alejandro Valverde – this is going to be exciting. I can’t wait to see what Bala is going to do on the Taaienberg, I really hope he leads the bunch up the iconic climb. Despite not being a cobbled specialist, he can’t be written off for this race. Valverde is currently the best rider in the world and he’ll love the challenge of riding in Belgium.

Prediction Time

Looking at the weather forecast, I think we’re in for a very selective race. The tough race will be perfect for quite a few Belgians and I think Oli Naesen will take the win. His time is now.

David Hunter

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