By David Hunter
One of the best stage races, is back! The peloton returns to Holland and Belgium, for a rerun of the Spring Classics. Every year, this race delivers excitement and brilliant racing, I don’t expect anything different in 2015.
The opening 3 stages are flat, and provide opportunities for the sprinters. However, if we get some wind, the race could be blown wide open.
The opening stage, is typical Eneco Tour. It hugs the coastline and echelons are possible. Currently, the wind is not forecast to be strong, but this can change, especially as this part of the world is always windy!
The second stage takes us around the streets of Breda, where the 2014 TT was held. Again, this looks like a sprint finish.
Stage 3 heads into Belgium, for another sprint finish. This time, we end with a lap circuit in Ardooie. The first 3 days are great for sprinters, but there is nothing left for them, after this stage!
Stage 4 is a 14km ITT. The organisers have increased the distance of the TT and this will shape the GC and the next 3 days of racing. The route doesn’t contain many corners and will be one for the specialists in the field.
Stage 5 is the mini-Amstel Gold. This was the final stage in 2014, but has been moved this year. It ends with a lap circuit containing 4 climbs. A difficult stage and certainly one for the Belgian and Dutch riders.
Stage 6 is the mini-LBL. Not as many climbs as the previous stage, but it does contain Cote Saint-Roch, 1km at 11%. This climb is covered 3 times, in the final 70km, and is sure to split up the race. The final climb crests with 12km remaining, so we could see a small bunch approach the line together.
The final stage is a mini-Tour of Flanders. This is the best stage of the week, featuring some brilliant climbs:- Leberg, Berendries, Valkenberg, Bosberg and Muur van Geraardsbergen. Greg Van Avermaet, won the stage in 2014. It finishes half way up the Geraardsbergen, a brutal cobbled climb. You need lots of power to win this stage.
Lotto arrive with a serious team. Backing up Greipel, they have Henderson, Roelandts, Sieberg and Debusschere. Even though Henderson is still recovering from his rib injury, this is an amazing squad and one that should dominate the sprints. The other sprint team is Trek. The have a strange line up, more sprinters than lead-out men! Supporting Nizzolo, is Stuyven, Danny Van Poppel, Boy Van Poppel, Felline, Alafaci and Coledan. They will be the team fighting Lotto for control of the closing kilometres. Their help in controlling the break, will also be welcomed by the Belgians. Other riders looking to contend in the sprint finishes are:- Viviani, Guardini, Modolo, Cort, Porsev, Haussler, Hofland, Van Genechten, Arndt, Demare, Rojas and Theuns.
To win this race, you need to have a competent TT and be strong in the Ardennes. Having a strong TT, obviously gives you a better advantage. Tim Wellens won in 2014, with a well calculated attack. He’s a competent TT rider, but not one of the best. The increase in distance, is not great news for him. Some teams come with multiple options, a huge advantage over the weaker teams.
Lotto – Wellens, Roelandts, Benoot.
Etixx – Terpstra, Boonen, Alaphilippe, Lampaert.
BMC – Gilbert, Van Avermaet, Drucker.
Tinkoff – Juul Jensen, Valgren.
Sky – Stannard.
Astana – Boom, Grivko, Westra.
Jumbo – Kelderman.
Katusha – Spilak.
Orica – Keukeleire.
Cannondale – Langeveld, Navardauskas, Slagter.
IAM – Haussler, Devenyns.
Giant – Geschke, Waeytens,
FDJ – Le Bon.
Movistar – Izagirre, Amador.
AG2R – Bakelants.
Topsport – Wallays, Campenaerts.
Wanty – Marcato.
Having a strong team is vital here. In the last two editions, the yellow jersey has been exposed and a lack of teammates has cost both Boom and Dumoulin the overall victory. Looking through the teams, it’s clear that Lotto, Etixx and BMC are the strongest. That means a rider from one of these teams should really take the title. Being a fast sprinter is also important, as you will be able to collect bonus seconds along the way. That swings the advantage in the favour of GVA, Gilbert and Alaphilippe. However, the TT is going to be very important and that swings the advantage over to Terpstra. Being bold can also pay off, that swings the advantage over to Wellens and Benoot. This is why we love the Eneco Tour!
Some riders have great form:-
Terpstra – Won Tour de Wallonie. Although, that was thanks to a stage in horrible conditions.
Alaphilippe – 8th in San Sebastian.
Gilbert – Won GP Cerami and a stage in Tour de Wallonie. Plus, he was 2nd in San Sebastian.
Van Avermaet – Stage winner in the Tour de France. Was, possibly, going to win San Sebastian, until a moto knocked him down.
Drucker – Won RideLondon.
Juul Jensen – Won Tour of Denmark.
Boom – Stage win in the Tour of Denmark.
Marcato – 3rd in the Tour of Denmark.
I’m very interested to see how Simon Spilak goes. Mr Consistent is fresh from winning Tour de Suisse, a well deserved victory. A good TT will put him in a strong position, but he doesn’t have much experience of the Ardennes. He could go well, or he could bomb. What can be said, is he always delivers in stage races. I will watch him with interest.
The Lotto boys, are fresh from a week at altitude, in Livigno. Benoot and Roelandts were there and Benoot reacted well, to finish 19th in San Sebastian. Roelandts didn’t react as well and struggled in Wallonie. Both riders are looking for big weeks, especially as Benoot has hopes of making the Belgian squad for the World Championship. Wellens, the defending champion, comes from the Tour and we’ll have to wait and see what his form is like. Lotto will have options, but the longer TT is not to their favour.
Astana seem like the only team able to challenge the big 3. They have Boom and Grivko, two consistent performs here. Boom should be hitting some good shape, after racing in Denmark. However, it seems unlikely that they will be able to push around the local teams.
The other teams have good riders but lack strength in depth, something that is vital in this race.
This is a very close call. I think it’s between Terpstra and Van Avermaet. Both have great teams and the stages suit them. I think I’ll side with GVA. He’s in great form and his sprinting skills should be able to take bonus seconds. He’ll need to stay close to Terpstra, in the TT.
Follow us on @CiclismoInter
Join us on facebook: Ciclismo Internacional
Copyright © 2015 Ciclismo Internacional. All Rights Reserved