Scheldeprijs Preview

Tomorrow brings the 98th running of the Scheldeprijs, a 205-kilometer semi-classic in the region surrounding Antwerp.  Traditionally run on the Wednesday after Paris-Roubaix, this year’s race takes the spot vacated by Ghent-Wevelgem’s jump to the Sunday before the Tour of Flanders.  While the start list gains a few big names as a result of the move (including Flanders protagonists Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen) with no categorized climbs and less than 10 kilometers of pavé, the race is likely to come down to a field sprint.  As for the men hoping for a big day come Sunday, their only real challenge will be staying out of trouble—crashes occur here frequently, especially with so many of the home teams considering the event their last chance for glory before the action heads elsewhere. 

Here’s a run-down of this year’s notable teams and riders:

1. Last year’s winner, Alessandro Petacchi, will be wearing #1 for Lampre.  With a quietly in-form Danilo Hondo leading him out, tomorrow just might be Petacchi’s day.  And if it isn’t, Hondo could take the glory for himself.

2. Quick Step’s clearly feeling the pressure to win a race in Belgium sometime before the summer kermesse season begins—otherwise Tom Boonen might have been given a day for some Roubaix recon.  Keep in mind: Boonen’s won this race twice already, a third win would certainly satisfy some of the sponsors—at least until Sunday.  Aside from Boonen, Stijn Devolder’s hoping another long day in the saddle will help his form for Roubaix, while Nikolas Maes, Wouter Weylandt, and Maarten Wynants are hoping to pull a surprise—or at least ride themselves back into favor with Patrick Lefevere.

3. The other big-budget Belgian team feeling the pressure is Omega Pharma-Lotto.  For the most part, Omega seems to be treating the Scheldeprijs as a chance for some good training for Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix.  The bulk of their Sunday roster is taking part, including Leif Hoste, a man who seems to be rounding into form quite well as of late.  For next year, Lotto needs to find a sprinter if they hope to have a realistic chance in a race like this one.

4. HTC-Columbia brings a stacked roster to the starting line in Antwerp tomorrow.  Andre Greipel gets to put his money where his mouth is in a race his teammate/nemesis, Mark Cavendish, has already won twice.  With Ghent-Wevelgem winner Bernhard Eisel, Mark Renshaw, and Matthew Goss forming the bulk of Greipel’s lead-out train, Greipel could easily take the win.

5. Last Sunday’s big winner and big loser both happen to ride for Saxo Bank—they’re both racing tomorrow.  While Ronde-winner Fabian Cancellara is certainly using the race for training, Matti “It Is About the Bike” Breschel will certainly be hoping the Scheldeprijs brings him more luck than Flanders did.  With Aussies Baden Cooke and Stuart O’Grady riding support, Breschel might just grab his second Wednesday win of the year.

6. Team Sky is another squad with its sights set squarely on a win in Roubaix this Sunday; they’re bringing the bulk of their pavé-team to Antwerp, led by Juan Antonio Flecha.  That said Sky’s best bet for the win might come from the speedy duo of Greg Henderson and Chris Sutton.

As for the rest of the field…

Katusha is still waiting for word on Filippo Pozzato’s health.  In the meantime, Robbie McEwen will fly the Russian squad’s flag at the Scheldeprijs.  Rabobank brings Graeme Brown and Nick Nuyens, with the latter likely training for a solid result on Sunday. On the other hand, the Scheldeprijs is a race almost tailor-made for Garmin’s Tyler Farrar.  Following his solid performances in Ghent-Wevelgem and the Tour of Flanders, he’s certainly capable of taking the win here. 

BMC’s Marcus Burghardt and George Hincapie are taking the line as riding—Burghardt might be the team’s better shot, as Hincapie’s likely along only for the ride. Milram’s pinning its hopes on Robert Forster and Niki Terpstra, while Theo Bos hopes to score his first major win on the road for Cervelo.  Vacansoleil hopes Borut Borzic and Romain Feillu can take the win, while Bjorn Leukemans continues his preparation for Sunday.

BBox brings the bulk of its surprisingly competitive classics team including William Bonnet, Steve Chainel, and Sebastien Turgot; although it’s hard to see them finding much success here.  But their compatriots at Saur-Sojasun are hoping Jimmy Casper can steal a victory; while Cofidis will be relying on the talented Belgian Jens Keukelaire to score another win for the men in red and white.

As for a prediction, I think Greipel takes it over Keukelaire, Farrar, Bos, and Casper.  His team is stacked for a race of this sort.  There will be a crash or two, but hopefully no Roubaix contenders are affected.

So enjoy the race—even though it won’t be the same as watching Ghent-Wevelgem.

Who are your picks for tomorrow?  Share them below.

About Whit

My experiences might easily fit many cycling fans' definitions of “living the dream.” Since getting hooked on the sport watching Lance Armstrong win the 1993 U.S. Pro Championship, I've raced as an amateur on Belgian cobbles, traveled Europe to help build a European pro team, and piloted that team from Malaysia to Mont Ventoux. As a former assistant director sportif with Mercury-Viatel, I've also seen the less dreamy side of the sport – the side rife with broken contracts, infighting, and positive dope tests. These days, I live with my lovely wife in Pennsylvania and share my experiences and views on the sport at Bicycling Magazine, the Embrocation Cycling Journal, and at my own site, Pavé.
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