The cobbled classics resume on Friday with the Record Bank E3 Harelbeke.
The last few years, riders have either won solo or won from a small group of 3-5 riders. That shouldn’t change this year.
Quick-Step Floors arrive with the strongest team and the team in form at the moment. You can make a case for any of their riders and they will probably attack one after another to wear everyone else down. Philippe Gilbert, Zdenek Stybar and Niki Terpstra can all win this race solo, and Gilbert can win from a small group of 3-5.
The strongest rider, and man to beat in this race, however, is from Bora Hansgrohe. Peter Sagan will be powerful enough to go with any move and will also be able to outsprint anyone on the line with the form he is in. He doesn’t need to attack. All he needs to do is follow moves. When he is in super form though, he will attack and can ride away solo, but with the stronger teams, he will find that hard to do this year and is better off waiting to outsprint everyone and take his second win in this race.
BMC will be led by Greg Van Avermaet and Stefan Kung. Kung is a chance to win from a solo attack and Van Avermaet can do that or win from a sprint. With that said, Van Avermaet’s form isn’t quite there yet. He needs to have a big showing here though and that will tell us if he is going to be able to win the Tour of Flanders this year. I don’t think he will win this race, but he is heading in the right direction and should be fine for the bigger races. You may check out CrownBet for the latest odds on cycling betting and see how the races will unfold over the next couple of weeks.
Tiejs Benoot will lead Lotto Soudal and he is a strong chance to take this from a solo attack. After winning Strade Bianche, he will be looking to add another major win. He is going to be hard to beat if he makes the right move and if he gets a gap on everyone in the finale, he is going to be hard to chase down.
Astana have three riders to look to in Alexey Lutsenko, Magnus Cort and Michael Valgren. Lutsenko is suited to the Tour of Flanders more, so I don’t think he’ll figure and Cort will wait for a sprint. Their man should be Valgren. In good form, Valgren is also one that can win from a solo attack. He won’t be able to win from a small group as he will face better sprinters, but he can ride away from them.
FDJ have French sprinter Arnaud Demare. Demare has slowly been developing over the years and is going to be a threat in the cobbled classics eventually. It may be this year, it may not, but he is good enough form. If this comes to a group sprint, he has the legs to beat Peter Sagan.
Australian Luke Durbridge has recovered well from his crash in the national road race in January. He’s back in full flight. Last year he animated the race and attacked and finished fourth. He will be looking to win, or the very least get on the podium here and he has the class and form to do this.
Dimension Data will look to Edvald Boasson-Hagen and his countryman Alexander Kristoff will lead UAE Team Emirates. Both can win from small groups. They won’t be able to win solo.
Team EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale will have Sebastian Langeveld also as their leader. Matti Breschel and Taylor Phinney will provide great support.
Michael Matthews leads Team Sunweb. Matthews surprised with a top 10 in Milan San Remo after only having ridden twice this year before that race. He obviously has the form, but this race is different and thus he will find it hard. He needs it to come to a sprint. I doubt he will be able to follow attacks in this type of race on the limited racing he has done.
Trek Segafredo have a two-pronged attack in John Degenkolb and Jasper Stuven. The latter will be the guy to win from a solo attack. Degenkolb will be hoping for a sprint where he will like his chances against Sagan.
Team Sky will be led by Ian Stannard. They don’t have a strong squad compared to previous years so hard to see them making an impact here. Likewise Ag2r, Movistar, Bahrain Merida and Lotto NL Jumbo.
Other riders to mention are; Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Wanty – Groupe Gobert), Stijn Devolder (Verandas Willems-Crelan), Alex Kirsch (WB Aqua Protect Veranclassic), Sylvain Chavanel & Damien Gaudin (Direct Energie), Pim Ligthart (Roompot – Nederlandse Loterij) and Bryan Coquard (Vital Concept). It is hard to make a case for either of these riders but they will look for strong results.