Scheldeprijs 2017 Preview

The “festival of sprinting” returns again this year and once again we have a whole host of fast men on the start line.

Last year the race saw Marcel Kittel just edge out Mark Cavendish, with Andre Greipel coming home third.

gettyimages_519385346_670

We had horrible conditions last year, with rain pounding the peloton almost all afternoon. Nonetheless, the sprinters weren’t deterred and we ended with the traditional bunch sprint, although only 28 riders finished within 10 seconds of Kittel.

More of the same this year?

Let’s take a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

The organisers have decided to honour Tom Boonen in his last Belgian race of his career, changing the traditional route, and starting the day in his hometown of Mol. They’ll do a local lap there before heading west towards Antwerp (Schoten).

scheldeprijs-2017-1490956118

Parcours wise the race is pretty much pan-flat, but what else would you expect in a race that’s often dubbed as the unofficial sprinter’s world championship.

scheldeprijs-2017-1490956107

Once we reach Schoten, the riders will complete laps of the same closing circuit that we’ve had for the past few years. This does feature 1.7km of cobbles but compared to what we’ll witness on Sunday in Roubaix, they should be of no real influence in the race unless they cause an untimely puncture.

plan_omloop_Scheldeprijs_2017

Positioning at the end of the race will be important due to the two 90-degree turns at 1.1km and 700m to go. We saw last year Quick Step lead through this part of the course with two riders in front of Kittel and he was dropped off perfectly at around 200-150m to go.

It’s also important to be at the head of the peloton so that you can take the shorter inside line through the sweeping bend at the finish line, rather than have to go around the rider in front.

Weather

The wind didn’t have much of an impact on the race last year but it was the rain which turned the day into one of attrition.

I’m sure the riders will be happy to know that it looks to be a dry edition this year. However, I’m intrigued to see if the wind has a bigger part to play with the changed route. I say this as the riders will be travelling in mainly the same direction (west) for the majority of the day before they reach Schoten.

 

Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 13.11.49
Forecast for Retie (78km done) Source: Windfinder

The constant 20km/h NW wind looks ideal to split the race up on some of the more exposed sections, as it will be a cross or cross-head wind for the peloton. Unfortunately for us the viewers, the riders won’t be traversing anything like De Moeren, and the road isn’t as exposed as I was hoping for! Nonetheless, there are some sections where there is no tree cover and open fields so fingers crossed for some splits. It all comes down to how aggressively the teams ride the course though, they can make it tough enough for echelons or ride at a more conservative pace and keep everything together.

Sprinters

Ultimately though, the race should come down to a sprint, barring something crazy happening, it’s just a case of how big the peloton will be. Most of the sprinters tend to be good in windy conditions so they should make the splits if we do get any echelon action!

Marcel Kittel will start as the big favourite. Last year’s winner and most successful rider in the history of the race, the German looked very good at the back-end of De Panne. His win in the sprint (stage 3A) after coming from far back was truly exceptional, and the performance in the TT wasn’t bad either. He’s the rider to beat! (Unless of course they decide to work for Boonen but that is very, very unlikely.)

Aside from the fantastically haired German, there are a lot of sprinters here looking to take his crown if he falters. Although notable in his absence is Mark Cavendish.

Andre Greipel, on paper at least, looks best of the rest. The Gorilla as he is affectionately known, was just putting in the training miles in Flanders on Sunday…He made his usual daredevil attack but was eventually brought back to heel. Nonetheless he managed to bag a top 20 and arrives here in good form. More importantly for him, he arrives with an almost full strength lead-out train that can challenge the likes of Quick Step.

C6fXavFXEAUYp5b

Smarting after his crash in Flanders, Peter Sagan may well want to have a hit out here before going on to Roubaix this Sunday. If he does, then he is fast enough to challenge after a tough day. Yet, he sometimes goes missing in this type of race, so Bora may turn to Matteo Pelucchi instead. Although, if Sagan sometimes goes missing, Pelucchi never turns up to start off with! A team to avoid backing with any sort of confidence.

One rider who is always confident in his abilities is Nacer Bouhanni. The Frenchman had a disappointing Paris Nice and had to drop out due to illness, but since then he’s looked good. People seem to forget how fast he is at times and is certainly a rider not to give an inch to because he will certainly take a mile!

Edward Theuns has performed consistently well here on his first two appearances, placing 2nd and 4th. He arrives with the full backing of his team and they have a strong lead-out train to support him. On stage 2 of De Panne he looked fast, but appeared to struggle in stage 3A when he looked to be very well positioned. Maybe it was a case of hesitancy? Or he just didn’t have the legs and is tired after his classics campaign? We’ll have to wait and see but I’ll certainly be watching with interest. A top 3 result would not surprise me!

Dwars door Vlaanderen

Dylan Groenwegen arrives after a fairly poor race in Limburg and he’ll be hoping to go much better tomorrow. He started the year off very strongly but is without a win yet this season which might dent his confidence a bit. Nonetheless, he is very talented in a tough race and if the wind blows you would expect him to make the split. In a tired peloton, he is a danger for the win. Like Bouhanni, he is fearless and will go for any gap if you give him half a chance!

Demare has a chance but he’s went off the boil since his barnstorming start to the year.

Bonifazio goes well when you least expect it, and I expect him to go poorly tomorrow. Top 5 result incoming!

Viviani is similar, he has been poor this year but might pop up with a top 5 if he follows the right wheel.

Planckaert, Jans and McLay will be in or around the top 10.

Prediction

I expect there to be a small-ish peloton fighting it out for the win again come tomorrow afternoon. Whether that be through the race breaking up due to the wind out on course, or just becoming disengaged and disinterested in the final lap of the race.

Kittel is the favourite and should win, but keep an eye out for a flying Frenchman too!

Marcel-Kittep-De-Panne-Victory-_c_Tim-De-Waele-1021x580

Betting

No value in Kittel and almost tempted with the odds on Sagan, but…;

Bouhanni 1pt EW @8/1 with Bet365. (Wouldn’t take much lower, but you might get a better price from elsewhere later on, I’m just in a rush to get this published.)

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win? Will the wind play any part in the race? My Pais Vasco stage 3 preview will be out soon as well so keep an eye out for that. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Eneco Tour Stage 1 Preview: Bolsward -> Bolsward

Eneco Tour Stage 1 Preview: Bolsward -> Bolsward

No proper GC preview from me, but I’ll give a quick insight into how I think it will play out. The TTT will probably shape the race and with BMC the likely winners of that stage, they should have at least 4 riders in the top 10 going into the tougher stages at the end. Playing the numbers game, they should hold on for the win, with GVA or Dennis being their best candidates. I’d go with Van Avermaet to win it!

However, if some teams can stay relatively close in the TTT, such as Tinkoff, then they have a chance to upset the apple cart. The ITT won’t play a huge part in the race, as there won’t be massive time gaps because of it, so it will come down to the TTT and the final two road stages. After Sagan crushing the opposition today at the Euro Champs he’ll be brimming with confidence (like always!) and could claw back some time here. My dark-horse for the week is his team-mate Michael Valgren. A top 5 would be, and require a fantastic performance but a top 10 does look achievable!

13892283_1179624252090254_1113626158160242218_n.jpg

Anyway, let’s have a look at the opening stage.

The Route

The organisers aren’t entirely helpful and there are no official profiles. There are GPX files which you can download so I’ve attempted to make my own stage profile. However, Strava seems to get a bit confused at some point and the route it makes is 6km longer than the official 184km for the stage. Nonetheless, here it is…

screen-shot-2016-09-18-at-16-36-41

Pan-flat pretty much all day, although with some tiny changes in elevation, but that’s me really scraping the barrel for something to talk about! It is a nailed on sprint stage.

screen-shot-2016-09-18-at-16-45-40

The final 3km should be fairly straight-forward, although it is important to note that the roads aren’t large open highways. Instead, they’re normal two-lane roads, so there won’t be lots of space for every team at the front. This is particularly interesting with the number of sprinters and lead-out trains that we have here. Speaking of which…

Sprint Contenders

We have a whole host of sprint talent here, as they gear up towards the World’s in Qatar that start in just under a months time.

The fastest man in the world, Marcel Kittel, makes an appearance here. After a poor TDF, only picking up one stage win, he finally returned to racing at the end of last month. He re-found his race pace in Germany doing some work for team-mates, and managed to win GP Fourmies a fortnight ago. However, he was physically sick during the race in Belgium on Friday, forcing him to abandon. I’m not sure if he’ll have recovered fully by tomorrow and he won’t make the podium. Bold claim, I know!

6be499ed73cfe5841498aefd95a9fd3e.jpg

In fact, if he isn’t feeling 100% Etixx may turn to Boonen as their sprint option. I just think he lacks the top end speed now to match the best on a pure sprint like this. No Etixx rider in the top 5 tomorrow!

Looking to seize his opportunity will be Andre Greipel. The Gorilla has had a very solid season, he always seems to deliver! Winning the opening stage at the Tour of Britain comfortably he then turned his focus to team duties, riding for Debuscherre for the rest of the race. He’ll be back to team leader in the sprints here. With the simple run-in he’ll want to take advantage and remind everyone, particularly the German World’s selectors, that he is the man to beat. With a solid lead-out, the stage is certainly there for the taking!

One rider who will have something to say about that is Nacer Bouhanni. The mercurial Frenchman has his full lead-out train with him here. Having felt hard done by in the past few months with being relegated in a sprint and supposedly the whole world against him, he’s going to come out fighting! A very fast rider on his day, people seem to forget he has a great kick. With Kittel not 100% and Greipel not a fan if things get messy, Bouhanni is a serious threat!

watson_00004522-006-630x420

Kristoff comes here after dominating his local race, the Tour des Fjords. Admittedly, the level of sprinters there wasn’t that high but confidence is key for sprinters, so Kristoff will come here with high levels of expectations. Can he deliver? Quite possibly. He’ll be hoping for a headwind sprint!

Orica come here with two options, Matthews or Ewan. I think they’ll go for the latter in tomorrow’s sprint. With it being pan-flat, it suits Ewan’s characteristics a lot more. However, as fast as he is, I don’t think he’s at the level to win against this competition consistently, not just yet. Maybe next year and certainly in years to come!

One rider I am interested in seeing how they go here is Giacomo Nizzolo. The Italian has had a bit of a so-so season, but as his country’s main hope for a medal at the World’s he’ll be coming here in good form. He crashed in Britain, but seemed to be over that, winning Coppa Bernocchi midweek. The Trek team here is surprisingly strong, with Stuyven, Van Poppel and Bonifazio to lead him out. A rider who’s promised a lot in the past, I think he’ll get a win this week. Is tomorrow his day?

WATSON_00004575-004.jpg

How can I leave out the new European Champion too! Sagan was incredibly strong today, but can he pull off back to back wins? It will be tough but he his capable of doing it. He’s looking in great shape for the Worlds, but will he risk that chance to mix it up in the sprints here?

Aside from those mentioned above, there are still several guys who could get in the mix; Groenewegen, Degenkolb, Danny Van Poppel, Wippert, Démare, Modolo, Kreder, Capiot, Van Lerberghe, Jans, Dehaes, Van Genechten, Renshaw, EBH & GVA. Quite the list! Eat your heart out CyclingQuotes 😉

The first three in that list are most likely to challenge.

Prediction

Flat sprint, straight roads and a team that normally starts with a bang. Greipel to take the win and make a big statement!

watson_00004604-005-630x419

Betting

With a stage that could cause a few surprises, a sensible decision would be a no bet. But we all know I’m not very sensible and don’t like sitting on the fence!

Greipel 1pt WIN @ 5/1 with Bet365

Nizzolo 0.25pt EW @28/1 with Various bookmakers.

 

Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed the preview?! How do you think the first sprint stage will go down? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.