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Scheldeprijs men’s and women’s preview: Crosswinds and bunch-kicks at ‘festival of sprinters’

Brace for chaos in Wednesday's classic: 'It's traditionally a sprinter’s race, but there may be an added factor as it looks like there will be a lot of wind.'

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Mark Cavendish, Fabio Jakobsen, Caleb Ewan, and most recently Jasper Philipsen – a look down the list of recent winners says it all.

Wednesday’s Scheldeprijs is a race for the fast finishers. Some of the speediest in the bunch have taken victory at this flat-out “Flemish festival of the sprinters.”

And the story’s no different for the women’s race. The 1.1-tier classic is back for its second edition and it’s fast, furious, and all about a bunch kick.

Here’s your quick guide to the two races:

What does it look like?

Don’t go looking for any of Belgium’s hellingen on Wednesday’s route.

The men’s 199km second-division race rumbles out of the Dutch port city of Terneuzen and tracks a pancake-profile-parcours exposed to the North Sea.

With the waters on both sides, crosswinds are common and echelons are on everyone’s mind, especially in the front half of the race.

A series of closing circuits add a healthy handful of cobblestone sectors into the mix for added chaos-factor before the surviving sprinters gallop for the finish in Schoten, Belgium.

“Scheldeprijs is traditionally a sprinter’s race, but there may be an added factor tomorrow as it looks like there will be a lot of wind and the potential for rain,” said BikeExchange-Jayco director Mat Hayman. “We go through the open fields in Holland before we get to the circuit at the end, so we will have to deal with that as a team.”

Scheldeprijs men’s race.

 

The women’s race has a different route but similar dynamic.

Starting and finishing in Schoten, one large wind-swept loop makes way for the finishing circuits in Schoten. Like with the men’s race, crosswinds could shape the situation before those still at the front make a mass gallop for classics kudos.

Scheldeprijs 2022 women’s race.

The timing, the contenders

The Scheldeprijs sits in an awkward spot in the season.

Most years – aside from the COVID calendar confusion of recent seasons – the sprinter’s classic makes for a diversion in the middle of the heavy monuments of the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

This year, the mid-weeker sits between Flanders and Amstel Gold after the Ardennes race switched dates with “The Hell of the North.”

Many top cobbled classics racers will be resting legs after the bergs and bumps of a bruising edition of Tour of Flanders. Meanwhile, the more lithe-legged with eyes on the Amstel prize won’t be found elbowing in the echelons so commonly seen in the Scheldeprijs.

But that doesn’t mean there are no big names.

Fabio Jakobsen (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl), Alexander Kristoff (Intermarché-Wanty), Dylan Groenewegen (BikeExchange Jayco), Pascal Ackermann (UAE Emirates) and defending champ Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) will be among the men muscling for the finish in the Belgian city of Schoten.

Quick-Step will be looking for a fast fix for its Tour of Flanders flop, and Jakobsen, recent winner of Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, will start as a five-star favorite.

“Fabio is very motivated, he likes echelons and wants to fight for the victory,” Quick-Step director Wilfred Peeters said. “We are confident and ready to go for a good result.”

With the women’s Scheldeprijs sitting in the second-tier of competition, some top teams like SD Worx, Jumbo-Visma and FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope are bypassing the race to focus on the newly beefed-out WorldTour.

Other WorldTour squads at the start in Schoten will be resting some of the “A-Team,” with riders like Elisa Balsamo (Trek-Segafredo) and Emma Norsgaard (Movistar) staying home.

In their absence, Chloe Hosking (Trek-Segafredo), defending champion Lorena Wiebes (DSM) and recently crowned Dwars door Vlaanderen champ Chiara Consonni (Valcar Travel&Service) will be riders to watch.