Tour of Belgium – Mini-Preview

Fotoreporter Sirotti

 

The Tour of Belgium has the potential to be a top-tier race, if only it didn’t have to compete with the Giro d’Italia for attention. While the race’s pancake-flat stages may not be the most exciting,  the middle stages are usually run on parcours familiar to spring classics fans. For example, this year’s Stage 3 will romp around Ieper, climbing the Kemmelberg twice and finishing not far from the second ascent. Perhaps it is a last-chance race for cobbled pretenders who didn’t shine in this year’s races?

Stijn Devolder (with Vacansoleil this year) certainly took advantage of this last year, using it as a launching board for his double-national champion quest. Other classics stars scheduled for appearance: Philippe Gilbert, Tom Boonen, Greg Van Avermaet, Filippo Pozzato. Last year’s second-place finisher Dominique Cornu is certain to figure in this race, as do some talented riders from smaller Dutch and Belgian teams such as Kenny Van Hummel and Staf Scheirlinckx.

My prediction is that Cornu will be gunning for a GC win, counting on his TT skills to carry the day. It all hinges on his ability to limit losses in tricky Stages 3 through 4. The second stage climbs the Kemmelberg twice, with a fairly fast run-in to the finish. The fourth stage is in Wallonia, including an early climb of the Muur de Huy, middle climbs of Stockeau and Haute Levee, and a rolling finish. These are a better fit for one-day racing than for stage racing, even in Belgium. Tellingly, last year Devolder won the GC without winning a single stage, almost as if by accident.

In terms of stage hunters, I predict a very aggressive Pippo Pozzato. Katusha left him off the Giro d’Italia squad, and recently announced an all-Russian squad for the Tour de France. Pozzato is running out of opportunities to earn a contract for next year. I also don’t think Boonen or Gilbert will take risks as they build up to the second part of the season. Boonen is sure to aim for Tour de France stage wins and Worlds, while Gilbert is likely to aim for a strong autumn campaign. I am actually surprised to not see Sylvain Chavanel on the start list, perhaps to taper off his very strong spring in time for Tour de Suisse and TdF as he did last year.

Skil-Shimano and Van Hummel traditionally do well in the Tour of Belgium, and it serves as a good team drill for summer’s big race. My outside bet is for Staf Scheirlinckx of Veranda’s Willem-Accent to make a good showing. He’s figured in several spring races and lady luck may turn on his favor this time.

Who do you think will impress at this year’s Tour of Belgium?

About Julius

Educated by Dutch and Belgian priests halfway around the world from the cobbled classics that he loves, Julius' aspiration is to someday earn Belgian citizenship.
This entry was posted in Featured, Races and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Tour of Belgium – Mini-Preview

  1. gilbert says:

    as a new cyclocross fan I'd like to see what zdenek stybar can do in this ronde considering his 3rd place in dunkerque gc in his first road race for quick-step. it'll be also interesting watching the others crossers on the road like team fidea telenet tom meeusen and bart wellens or the bkcp world cup winner albert as well as kevin pauwels with brand new team sunweb. but the one I hope will be able to fight in the sprints is VANGENECHTEN, not to mention schets that won this year the handzame classic just before falling down with raised arms hit by another rider. should be glad to see some stages but as italian I'm forced on the giro. take a look for jans keukelaire revenge after not a brilliant spring and rafa chtioui acqua&sapone(water&soap). thanks

    • Julius says:

      Hi Gilbert, agree on Stybar, what a great debut in Dunkerque. Think he'll make QSI's Tour team to show the worth of the Czech investment? Imagine a battle between Stybar and Albert on the third stage, over the Kemmelberg.

  2. Julius says:

    Agh, make that "Stage 3 has double ascents of the Kemmelberg". They count the Prologue as Stage 1, so I am all confused. Similar to how "Floor 1" has different meanings in Europe vs. North Am.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>