Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde 2018 Preview

By David Hunter

Brugge – De Panne 202km

After arguments between the organisers of this race and the Flanders group, we’ve seen this race getting moved from the usual slot. Not only that, but it has been reduced from 4 stages, to just a one day race. Such a shame, I was a huge fan of the three days of De Panne.

The organisers have decided to borrow some the route from the old 2nd stage, which includes the ascent of the Kemmelberg. The section of climbs does allow attackers to move from the peloton, but with around 100km still left to race, staying away is a big problem.

The main issue for the peloton isn’t the climbs, but the wind. With many sections of open countryside, any wind in the right direction will create echelons.

Weather

There will be some rain around and the wind is coming from the north-west. It is forecast to be around 20km/h, which isn’t overly strong. This means we’ll have a headwind as the peloton head towards De Panne, but we could get some action in the lap circuit. I was hoping for more wind.

Finale

Once into De Panne, the riders do two laps of the 25.5km circuit. We don’t have too many corners to worry about, but most of these roads are relatively narrow.

As the finish approaches, we have big turns with 3km and 2km to go. The road then opens up for a fairy easy final 2km. It will be very important to be near the front of the bunch for the final 3km.

QuickStep v The Rest

The Belgians have been in dominated form, on home soil. They have bullied the rest of the teams in Le Samyn, Dwars door West-Vlaanderen, Nokere Koerse and the Handzame Classic. Not only have the won all of these races, but they have done so with four different riders.

This race has QuickStep and four other World Tour teams, it looks like we are all set for another spot of bullying! If we get enough wind, they will blow the peloton to pieces, placing multiple riders in the front group. If there isn’t enough wind, they will wait for the sprint, as they have two sprint options.

Contenders

Florian Sénéchal – has enjoyed a fine start to his QuickStep career, he has played a large part in their wins in the last three Belgian races. He is great on the cobbles, but also has a very fast sprint. It won’t be long until his first QuickStep win.

Elia Viviani – I’m a little surprised to see the Italian here, but also excited. After enjoying a fine start to the year, he would have disappointed with his sprint in Milan-Sanremo. Despite a great lead out, he simply didn’t have the legs. With that race now behind him, he’ll be looking to rediscover his winning touch.

Max Richeze – the loyal domestique deserves a little bit of glory. He can handle himself in tough conditions and provides the team with a very fast sprint option.

Davide Martinelli – the Italian has raced in all four of QuickStep’s Belgium wins. Still just 24, he can handle a tough day in the saddle and also sprints well. We usually see him in a domestique role, but time will tell what he will do in this race.

Fighting for the Podium

Jens Debusschere – he’s enjoyed an okay start to the season. The Belgian is a fine classics rider, but he hasn’t quite delivered on his promise. The pressure is on Lotto to do something, after their big rivals have spanked them in recent races.

Jelle Wallays – a former winner of DDV, Wallays is a good rider in the wind. He doesn’t have much of a sprint, which will make it very hard for him to win. After a win in Argentina, I hope 2018 is a good year for him.

Luke Durbridge – form seems to be coming good for the Aussie. He seems over his collarbone injury from the Aussie road race and always enjoys riding in this part of the world. He needs the wind to blow, if he’s to stand a chance in this race.

Amaury Capiot – I was delighted to see him finishing 2nd in Nokere Koerse. After such a frustrating 2017, he seems to be back to near his best. Packing a fast sprint, he knows he stands a good chance of making the podium, but he likes a tough day in the saddle. If the wind blows, his chances of success increase.

Kenny Dehaes – took a brilliant win on Sunday, in GP Denain. He endured a full year without a win, it was good to see him back to winning ways. He’s another rider who sprints well, but isn’t afraid to attack. He’ll be hoping to challenge for another win.

Bryan Coquard – the fast Frenchman is one that will like this race. His season has been a little mixed, his team will be hoping for a big couple of weeks. He certainly has the speed to challenge for the podium.

Luca Mezgec – illness forced him to miss Milan-Sanremo, but he should be fine by now. He provides Mitchelton-Scott with a good sprint option, remember he has won a stage in a grand tour.

Wout Van Aert – if you’ve watched any of his recent races, you’ll have been very impressed by him. He seems to have taken some large strides forward, in terms of his road racing. Always a huge talent, he now seems to have the legs to seriously challenge the big names.

Prediction Time

Take your pick from the QuickStep team. I don’t think the wind looks strong enough to split the race and we’ll get a sprint finish. That being the case, I’ll go with Elia Viviani.

David Hunter

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