Since it occurs the Wednesday between Milan-San Remo and the E3 Prijs/Ghent-Wevelgem, Dwars door Vlaanderen is usually a race won by lieutenants, up-and-coming classics riders, and every once in a while, a sprinter. But don’t let that fool you into thinking the 203-kilometer trip from Roeselar to Waregem is an easy day in the saddleâ€”with 13 climbs and several cobbled sectors, it certainly is not.
That said, while an important warm-up, Dwars door Vlaanderen is not typically predictor of success in the Tour of Flandersâ€”the last Dwars winner to find success ten days later was Johan Museeuw in 1993.
So while Boonen, Cancellara, Devolder, Flecha, Haussler, Leukemans, Pozzato, and Van Avermaet are all racing, I expect weâ€™ll see them saving themselves for the weekend.
As for the rest, hereâ€™s a rundown of the teams and riders with hopes for Wednesdayâ€”along with my usual predictions:
1. Rabobank fell flat in Saturdayâ€™s Milan-San Remo, with both Oscar Freire and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad-winner Sebastian Langeveld falling victim to crashes. In Dwars, look for Lars Boom to try his chances in a breakaway, with Maarten Wijnants possibly playing a role as well.
2. Vacansoleil-DCM brings a packed roster to Roeselare, minus the exciting Thomas de Gendtâ€”a rider I would have tipped for the win had he taken the start. While Stijn Devolder and Bjorn Leukemans will bide their time for the weekend, look for Lieuwe Westra and Marco Marcato to try theirs hands in a break while Borut Bozic waits for a sprint.
3. As one of Belgiumâ€™s top two teams, Quick-Step brings its full complement to Dwars door Vlaanderen including Tom Boonen, Sylvain Chavanel, and Kevin Van Impeâ€”winners of this event from 2007 through 2009. Chavanel and new-recruit Niki Terpstra are the teamâ€™s best chances from a breakaway while Geert Steegmans will look to build upon his sprint win in last weekâ€™s Nokere Koerse.
4. Belgiumâ€™s other major team, Omega Pharma-Lotto, leaves Philippe Gilbert at home Wednesdayâ€”a smart choice considering the riderâ€™s impressive early-season program. Instead, the team will rely on Andre Greipel and Jurgen Roelandts to bring the squad its first win on home soil this season. And watch out for Adam Bylthe and Marcel Sieberg, two riders capable of an upset.
5. Katushaâ€™s Filippo Pozzato has said he has no interest in winning Wednesdayâ€”heâ€™s riding just to reacquaint himself with many of the bergs and cobbles heâ€™ll see between this weekend and the next. In his place, Leif Hoste and Sergei Ivanov will fly the flag for Katusha.
6. As for Leopard Trek, Fabian Cancellara takes the start, but donâ€™t expect to see him burying himself to take the win. But Domink Klemme, Stuart Oâ€™Grady, and Joost Posthuma, are possible breakaway candidates for the squad, while Robert Wagner and Wouter Weylandt will wait for the field sprint.
7. Ag2r brings Lloyd Mondory, Anthony Ravard, and Sebastian Hinault to Dwars this yearâ€”all bear watching as the race unfolds with Mondory the teamâ€™s best sprint candidate.
8. Poggio-animator Greg Van Avermaet will hope to make it stick this time for BMCâ€”unless heâ€™s looking ahead to the weekend. Should he treat Wednesday as training then Manuel Quinziato will be the teamâ€™s best chance for victory.
9. HTC-High Road brings a relative B-squad to Dwars door Vlaanderen following Matthew Gossâ€™ impressive win Saturday in Milan-San Remo. Germanyâ€™s John Degenkolb is a possible contenderâ€”he rode well in the Omloop and won a stage in the Driedaggse van West Vlaanderen; the climate and terrain clearly suit him.
10. Saxo Bank is a shadow of its former classics self following the exodus of many of itâ€™s stars. Baden Cooke won this race in 2002 however, and Nick Nuyens might just try his best to take whatever he can getâ€”even if it means risking his chances for a bigger win over the weekend.
11. Team Sky dominated the Belgian Opening Weekend with a second-place in the Omloop for Juan Antonio Flecha and a win Sunday in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne with Chris Sutton. They bring almost an identical team to Dwars, with Flecha likely resting for the weekendâ€™s bigger events.Â In his place, Kurt-Asle Arvesen and Jeremy Hunt are two veterans with several years of experience on these roads, while Matthew Hayman and Chris Sutton will be called upon in the event of a sprint.
12. Garmin-CervÃ©lo takes the line in Roeselare as one of the raceâ€™s deeper teams with both Heinrich Haussler and Tyler Farrar. Will they try to take the win following Saturdayâ€™s disappointing Milan-San Remo? Or will they bide their time, waiting for the weekend before showing themselves at the front? Roger Hammond and Andreas Klier might be better options, while Iâ€™ll be rooting for Johan Vansummeren.
13. Francaise des Jeux was one of the more aggressive teams at Saturdayâ€™s Milan San-Remo as both Yoann Offredo and Steve Chainel tried their hands in a breakaway between the Cipressa and Poggio. Both riders take the start here, and must be considered contenders for the winâ€”if theyâ€™ve recovered from the weekendâ€™s efforts. Anthony Geslin, William Bonnet, and Dominique Rollin are good candidates to emulate their teammatesâ€™ MSR exploits.
14. And last but not least, one can never leave An Postâ€™s Belgian stalwart Niko Eeckhout off the list of contenders for Dwars door Vlaanderen, a race he won in 2001 and 2005.
My Prediction: I see this yearâ€™s race closely resembling last yearâ€™s: a talented lieutenant will finally break through for his first important winâ€”and heâ€™ll do it while wearing the jersey of his countryâ€™s national champion. Take a bow, Niki Terpstra! His former breakaway companionsâ€”Lieuwe Westra and Dominik Klemmeâ€”will round-out the podium, while Tyler Farrar will take the sprint over Greipel and Degenkolb.
Dwars door Vlaanderen: 1. Terpstra; 2. Westra; 3. Klemme
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