|Edward Theuns (far left) upsets Jetse Bol, Taylor Phinney |
and John Degenkolb at the 2010 event.
This isn't to say that everyone who wins stages here will go on to bigger things. Remember Ivan Terenine? Perhaps Ronald Mutsaars? While virtual no names have previously won stages here, among previous winners include Tom Boonen, Jurgen van den Broeck and Taylor Phinney. Good enough for you? While this race is very popular with U23 racers because of it's proximity to the U23 Ronde van Vlaanderen, it is not strictly a U23 event with some teams bringing a few riders in their mid-20's but no one over 25 usually.
- Hainaut, Wallonia, Belgium
- March 29th-31st
- Kilometers: 451.5
- 2 full road stages, one split road stage + TT
- Participating teams: Topsport Vlaanderen, Wallonie-Bruxelles, ColorCode-Biowanze, T.Palm-Pôle, Verandas Willems, Ventilair-Steria, 3M, Soenens-Construkt Glas, VL Technics, Ovyta-Eijssen-Acrog, Lotto-Belisol U23, EFC-OPQS, Rock Werchter, Ottignies-Perwez (BEL) Leopard-Trek (LUX) Astana Continental (KAZ) De Rijke-Shanks, Rabobank Development (NED) Latvia, USA, Denmark, Germany and Norway (National Squads)
- Startlist and Race Website
- Prize Money: 20,180.00 Euro
Stage 1 Mouscron to Quevaucamps 178km
The first stage winds its way around Hainaut, hitting 5 climbs (one cat-1 and four cat-2s) in the early stages of the race before heading to a flat circuit around Quevaucamps. Historically, this first stage is usually where a breakaway gets time and establishes the riders that will be fighting it out for the G.C. but it all depends on how the stage is races. With small teams, it is hard to control the bunch unless you have cooperation between squads so if enough teams are represented, a break could take the day. If the breakaway isn't cooperating or enough teams are upset, this stage could easily come back all together.
Stage 2a Bernissart to Bernissart (TT) 10km
A short TT is obligatory for Monts et Châteaux and the winner of this TT usually finishes very high on the G.C. and is usually a big time trial talent. Let us go back to last year when Dylan van Baarle won the 9km Mont de l'Enclus TT by a healthy 11 seconds overal Tim Wellens, now of Lotto-Belisol. Just an FYI, van Baarle could well repeat his TT win as he has been on some amazing form so far this season.
Stage 2b Vieux-Condé to Mont de l'Enclus 103km
After a short break, the racers will only have 103 kilometers to cover but it will be anything but flat and easy. Starting from the French town of Vieux-Condé, the race quickly re-enters Hainaut, heading north towards Mont de l'Enclus, where the race will transition to circuits, where the Côte du l'Horlitin will be climbed 3 times while the Enclus du Haut, which reached a maximum of 12 percent, is climb twice. The last ascent of the l'Horlitin climb comes just 2 kilometers from the finish line, which will implode the field as the climb briefly touches ramps of 19%. The race descends into Mont de l'Enclus quick after hitting the summit and there will be zero time for recovery.
G.C. should be decided on this stage so attacks will be going left and right, especially from those who might have underperformed in the TT. The wick will be lit, the elastic will be snapped, the screws will be turned, riders will be chewing stems and every other tired cycling metaphor, ad infinitum.
Stage 3 Château de Beloeil to Tournai 160.5km
So you remember how I said G.C. would be decided? Yeah, I lied. Well sort of. The final stage will feature 10 categorized climbs, many of which are STEEP. Take the 8th climb of the day, the Mont Saint-Laurent, which reaches grades that briefly touch 20%. Ouch.
Lots of pain will be dealt out but how much will this impact G.C.? The last climb comes some 10km from the finish line so if one is to escape they need to be time trial abilities to be able to stay away from a charging elite selection. Last year, a group of 11 came to the line for a sprint with Wouter Wippert taking the honors while the majority of riders came in nearly a minute behind. So this stage can go about every which way possible but expect a select group finish.
I'll update this preview when someone decides to publish a full-start lists. Right now, I think Dylan van Baarle is the big favorite. He was 3rd in Tour de Normandie overall and with a little more luck, he could have won the race.
Until then, here are highlights from last year's race...
Riders to Watch:Like I said up above, Dylan van Baarle (Rabobank Development) is a big favorite after his excellent performances so far this year. Another contender for the overall will be his teammate Ivar Slik, who crashed on stage 1 of the Tour de Normandie in the final kilometer and then suffered for it nearly the rest of the week while putting in good work for the team. Slik was 2nd overall here last year and will be looking for another good ride. Sean De Bie (Leopard-Trek) seems to be back to health this season and along with italian Eugenio Alafaci, they will be leading the Luxembourg squad. Mads Würtz Schmidt (Denmark) and Oskar Svendsen (Norway), 2011 and 2012 junior world TT champions respectively, should both be going for the G.C. Other non-Belgians to watch are Daniel Fominykh (Astana CT) Lawson Craddock (USA) and Wouter Wippert (3M)
This is the only 2.2. rated Belgian stage race so Belgian riders will be trying to go for big results here. Lotto-Belisol U23 is bringing guys like Belgian U23 champion Jorne Carolus and last year's 7th place rider Niels Reynvoet. Other Belgians I will be watching (among others) include: Frederik Verkinderen (3M) Sander Helven (Topsport Vlaanderen) Antonie Demotié (Wallonie-Bruxelles) Boris Vallee, Florent Mottet (ColorCode-Biowanze) Dylan Teuns (Ventilair-Steria) Paco Ghistelinck, Jens Geerinck (EFC-OPQS) Robin Sténuit (Ottignies-Perwez) Edward Theuns (VL Technics)