By David Hunter
I’ll cut straight to the main news……the weather is going to be horrible. There’s going to be a lot of rain, it’s going to be cold and we could get winds of 60-80km/h. The wind will be coming from the South-West, which means long sections of crosswind.
2014 saw the organisers change the route and it resulted in the riders watching each other and very little attacks. That can often happen in the first year of a new route, it won’t happen this year. The weather is going to ensure that we get an epic race.
Most Belgian and Dutch riders are experts in the wind. We should see Etixx, Lotto Jumbo and Lotto Soudal try to animate and dominate the race. At the beginning of the season, most sprinters would have looked favourable on this race. That’s why we have a huge number of talented sprinters here: Degenkolb, Cavendish, Greipel, Demare, Cimolai, Modolo, Lobato, Kristoff, Hofland, Sagan, Nizzolo, Bennett, Bouhanni, Farrar and Roy Jans. That’s quite a list of talent, but I’m sure everyone of them doesn’t like the weather forecast.
A sprint finish will now be plan B for the teams. Etixx have the most to gain and look the strongest for a break and sprint. They have Maes, Stybar, Trentin, Vandenbergh and Terpstra for the break. I think they’ll leave Sabatini, Velits and Wisniowski with Cavendish, in case of a sprint. Cast your mind back to the 2014 KBK, where they blew the race apart and got 5 men in the break, enabling Boonen to take the win. I see a similar plan for them here. They have some of the strongest riders in the peloton and in-form riders, if they get away, the race is over. Without Boonen, I see them turning to Matteo Trentin. His early season was disrupted by injury and illness but he’s back to top form, finishing 3rd in E3. The Italian, won a sprint stage in the 2014 Tour de France, adding to his 2013 breakaway success. He is a very fast finisher, even beating Kristoff and co in E3. If we get a reduced bunch sprint, not many are capable of beating him.
Sep Vanmarcke is one of those men. Yet again, he survived from bad luck in E3. As he attacked, he lost control and nearly crashed. The Belgian is an incredibly strong rider and one who is destined to win many big races. The conditions are perfect for him and his team will ensure we get echelons. A podium for Vanmarcke is very likely in this type of race. His team have been dropping like flies recently, leaving them weakened. Vanmarcke is going to have to look after himself and pray for good luck!
Other riders who will look to take advantage of a breakaway are Jens Keukeleire, Jurgen Roelandts, Daniel Oss, Sylvain Chavanel, Dylan Van Baarle, Geraint Thomas, Edward Theuns, GVA, EBH and Marco Marcato.
On a high, after winning E3, is Geraint Thomas. Clearly one of the best riders of 2015, Thomas will be looking to take advantage of this purple patch. He will be part of the select group and will look to attack from it. The problem for the Welshman is the last 30km. It’s flat and easy. Riders will try and escape from the elite group, but if Etixx have numbers(and they will), the race will finish the way they want it to.
If by some miracle the race holds together, the battle between Degenkolb, Cavendish, Kristoff and Greipel will be very interesting. Greipel has made this his first big target of 2015. He has shown form and is fresh, due to an easier racing schedule, he needs to deliver a big performance. Kristoff seems to be struggling to maintain his early season form. Cavendish is still battling back from illness and Degenkolb is flying! However unlikely, a sprint finish would be fun to watch.
The wind and rain will ensure a small bunch as we approach the second ascent of the Kemmelberg. This is where the elite group will be decided, thanks to an 800m section of 9%. The size of the group and how many Etixx riders will determine the type of finish we get. If Etixx have 5 riders, including Trentin, they will ride for a sprint. If they only have 3 riders, they will attack, attack, attack! That’s the beauty of their team. I think Trentin will be there and expect him to take a huge win. Look for Vanmarcke getting on the podium.
Follow us in facebook https://www.facebook.com/CiclismoInternacionalLatinoamerica?fref=ts … or Twitter @CiclismoInter
Copyright © 2015 Ciclismo Internacional. All Rights Reserved