By David Hunter
After the fun of the Tour and World Championships, the races are coming thick and fast. Next up is the Binck Bank Tour.
The opening stage finishes in Ardooie, home of the best sprint finish in the calendar, but the organisers have committed blasphemy and changed the finish! How dare they.
The second stage is an 11km ITT, which will have a massive impact on the GC. To win this year’s edition of the race, you must do well against the clock.
Another standard sprint stage.
It might not look much, but this will be a big day in the GC battle. The issue isn’t the steepness of the climbs, but the narrowness of the roads in the final 20km. Think farm track and you’re close! Also, the long-range weather forecast suggests a wet and windy day, just what the organisers would have hoped for.
The final stage is the usual Muur stage. Despite what we all want, this stage usually isn’t hard enough to split the GC riders.
Mathieu Van Der Poel – he’ll start the race as the overwhelming favourite, thanks to his ability to win stages and take bonus seconds. He took a brilliant win over in Tirreno, a crucial race in his build up for the classics. He is also good on the TT bike, especially compared to the other GC riders at this race. Racing on home soil will also provide some extra motivation, he’s going to be a hard man to beat.
Yves Lampaert – for me, he’s the best QuickStep option. He broke his collarbone in Milano-Torino, but returned to racing in the Tour of Slovakia. With that race in the legs he should be ready to fight for the GC in this race, but he will need a strong TT to put him into contention. This is a very important race in terms of his preparation for the classics.
Sep Vanmarcke – he only has three one day races in his legs since racing returned, that doesn’t sound enough for me.
Alex Edmondson – the former winner of the under 23 Tour of Flanders has long been touted as a future classics star. Now twenty-six, time is running out for him to deliver on his promise. Edmondson is very strong against the clock, which should put him into a strong position for the weekend stages. We’ll then see if he has the legs to compete against the big-name riders.
Søren Kragh Andersen – what a Tour de France for the Dane. Two stage wins and a handful of strong performances has seen him now climb up the ladder of professional cycling. He arrives at this race full of confidence and the route looks very good for him. He is strong against the clock, and is climbing better than ever. We’ll have to see how his body reacts to his efforts over in France, but I expect to see him benefit from Tour legs.
Mads Pedersen – another who will like the look of the route. Strong against the clock, punchy on the climbs and fast in a sprint. Pedersen ticks a lot of boxes, especially as bonus seconds will be very important throughout the week. Now back racing in normal kit, he’d love to remind everyone of his talent.
Iván García Cortina – the Spaniard should do well, but the TT could stop him from challenging for the overall title.
Mike Teunissen – a crash ruined his return to cycling after the lockdown, but he’s back injury free and looking to shine. Strong against the clock, fast in the sprint and good on the climbs, Teunissen will hope to be at the pointy end this week. With just Tirreno in his legs, he might be a little undercooked, but I hope he’s not.
Stefan Küng – it’s all about how much time he can take in the TT. He finished 8th last year, which was a harder edition of the race. If Küng can take 30 seconds on his main rivals, he’ll have a good chance of winning the overall title. One problem is that his team don’t look strong enough to defend the jersey, which means he’ll come under a huge amount of pressure at the weekend.
I’m going to support the Tour Legs theory. As much as MVDP is the deserved favourite, I’m going to go with one of the riders coming from the Tour. This is going to be close as Küng, SKA and Pedersen all have a great chance, but I’m going to go with Mads Pedersen.
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