Dan Martin to lead the team in Liege-Bastogne-Liege
The Spring Classics are about to run – in September and October! Thank you, COVID-19, for forcing us to wrap our brains around this one. We shall simply say that it is spring in the Southern Hemisphere, so it is only fair that they can watch the Spring Classics in the spring for a change.
Now that that important problem has been dealt with, let us look at the sporting aspects. Within just over three weeks we will have Fleche Wallonne, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Brabantse Pijl, Amstel Gold Race, Gent-Wevelgem, Scheldeprijs, Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix. All within only 25 days…
Are we ready? Of course we are! For whatever happens because who knows?
COVID-19 has already turned the racing calendar topsy-turvy in 2020, and with the “second wave” hitting Europe, it is certainly possible that there will be more changes. So, keep watching our social media to stay up to date.
The team in the Ardennes races will be led, of course, by Dan Martin. He won Liege-Bastogne-Liege in 2013 and finished second there in 2017. He has ridden the race every year of his pro career! Add to that ten times Fleche Wallonne (where he has twice finished second), and seven times Amstel Gold Race.
“The goal is simple – to win with Dan in the Ardennes,” says Sport Director Eric Van Lancker.
For those Ardennes races – Fleche Wallone, LBL, Brabantse Pijl and Amstel – the team will look to a mix of Dan Martin, Ben Hermans, Omer Goldstein, Reto Hollenstein, Krists Neilands, James Piccoli, Rory Sutherland, Travis McCabe, Alexis Renard and Patrick Schelling.
From there, we move on to the so-called Cobbled Classics – Gent-Wevelgem, Scheldeprijs, Ronde van Vlaanderen, De Panne and the ultimate race, Paris-Roubaix. It is too early to know which riders we will use there, but Sport Director Dirk Demol promises a strong squad and much excitement
Herve – Huy, Belgium
Originally scheduled for April 22, and usually run between the Amstel Gold Race and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Fleche Wallonne this year kicks off the Ardennes races.
The “hilly” race wends its way for 117 kilometers before hitting a tough circuit course. Tough? Yes. Three laps with three climbs each: The Cote d’Ereffe, the new-to-the-race Code du chemin des Gueuses, and the ever-feared Mur de Huy.
The race in fact ends atop the Mur de Huy, which at a mere 204 meters may not sound too bad. The fact that it’s 1.3 km and has an average gradient of 9.6% adds to the drama, but then factor in the sections of 15% to 26% and you will be able to imagine why this is the ultimate challenge.
Liege – Liege, Belgium
“La Doyenne”! “The old lady” is the oldest of the five Monuments and is usually the last of the spring Classics. But “usually” plays no role in 2020, as we all know by now.
Dan Martin will be looking to repeat his success here, having won the race in 2013 and finished second in 2017. In fact, our Irishman has ridden this race 11 times already.
So, what is there to expect? 11 climbs altogether as it circles south from Liege to Bastogne and then back, with nine of those climbs coming in the last 100 km.
Amongst the climbs is the 1 km climb at 12.5% up the Cote de Stockeu, also known as the Stele Eddy Merckx. With only 37 km left to go, the riders will face the Cote de la Redoute. Only 2 km, its average gradient is either 8.9% or 9.5%, depending on the source – either will be hard enough. The Cote de Saint-Roch throws an 11% average gradient into the mix, as does the final climb, the Cote de la Roche-aux-Faucons, a mere 13.5km before the finish.
De Brabantse Pijl
Leuven – Overijse, Belgium
Ben Hermans’ eyes light up at the thought of this race – he won it in 2015. Our daring Belgian took the win from a breakaway, finishing a mere 2 seconds ahead of none other than Michael Matthews and Philippe Gilbert.
This race features 24 – count them, 24! – of the dreaded Belgian “hellingen”, those short, steep leg-killing climbs. Throw in some cobblestone sections and you have the recipe for some exciting racing!
Amstel Gold Race
As we write this, it is still unknown whether the race will be held, due to COVID restrictions. Let’s hope for the best!
Ypres – Wevelgem, Belgium
Not only the date has been changed but also the start city. Should we not call the race Ypres – Wevelgem this year? And incidentally, this is not the first time that the race has been held in the autumn – 86 years ago, when the race was first run, it was on September 9.
Due to COVID-19, the race has been shortened slightly and the course changed so as not to cross into France. Therefore, other “hellingen” have been added for a total of 11, including an unprecedented three times up the Kemmelberg.
The Kemmelberg often plays a decisive role in the outcome of the race. Fall back or crash here, and you can forget it. Be at the front or take off on your own, and you have a good chance. It comes at kilometers 148, 179 and 198. Not only is it steep (up to a 22% gradient near the top) but also fully cobbled.
Terneuzen, NL – Schoten, Belgium
The oldest Flemish Spring Classic is a sprinter’s delight. Flat as can be, but with some cobblestones to add a little excitement. The race was first held in 1907, and since 1926 has ended in Schoten.
It is scheduled to start in the Netherlands, as it has the last few years, and run there for 82.5 km before crossing over into Belgium. 52 km later, the peloton will take on three laps of a fast and furious 17.5 km circuit course, heading into an even faster and more furious bunch sprint finish.
Ronde van Vlaanderen
Antwerp – Oudenaarde, Belgium
Vlaanderens Mooiste – Flanders’ Finest! One of cyclings’s five Monuments and always a highlight. It will be a little shorter this year, “only” 242.5 km, and sadly the Muur van Geraardsbergen as fallen victim. But the Valkenberg is added as compensation.
The race starts in Antwerp. The Oude Kwaremont is the second “helling”, coming at km 119, and then again at km 187. From there, the last 50 km feature the Koppenberg, and three lovely stretches of cobblestones. That is of course not enough, so Oude Kwaremont and Koppenberg come in a quick double pack. Then they only have to cruise the final 13 km to the finish line Oudenaarde.
Easy enough, right? Yeah, right….
Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne
Brugge – De Panne, Belgium
Ok, let’s get things straight right off: This is not a Classic – but it is in the middle of the Classics, so it is included here. And the three-days race is one day. Just another one of those things we simply must accept without question.
Normally we would give a description of this year’s course, but nothing has yet been published. Thank you, COVID-19 for changing and confusing everything!
However, we can look at last year’s course, which ran 206 km from Brugge to De Panne on the coast. A mere three climbs in the middle of the race and the rest flat. A sprinter’s delight, for sure. Our top finisher there was Mihkel Räim, who finished in the same time as the winner in the bunch sprint.
Compiegne – Roubaix
The Hell of the North. The Queen of the Classics. Many riders love it, others hate it. For many fans, it is the ultimate race of the year.
Thirty cobblestone sections to jar and bounce the riders along the extremely long ride northwards. Once again, there are very few details available at the moment.
But let us not forget last year’s exciting finish, with none other than our Nils Politt, then riding for Team Katusha. He and Greg Van Avermaet broke clear with just less than 15 km left, and entered the velodrome together for the finale, with the experienced Belgian nipping him for win.
We are sure that Nils is planning on a better outcome this year!