The Scheldeprijs is a flattish 200km mid-week classic run up near Antwerp, and passing pretty close to Tom Boonen's hometown of Mol. It's a nice way of spreading the sport's love all around the Flemish half of Belgium, since they wouldn't have it any other way. And if you're waiting for me to sound excited, well, it might be a while.
Nothing. well, it's 3km shorter than last year, but I think that may be due solely to not adding in the neutral start. As far as I can tell, the course is identical to 2013, and never really changes much.
The fact that it never changes? OK, I'll try a little harder. This is a race to determine who is the fastest sprinter among the guys who can handle the classics. Sprinters come in many flavors, including the Giro bunch finisher types (for example) who can't really make it to the line in time after 200km of Flemish spring weather and the occasional cobblestone stretches. It's selective in that way. But unlike reputed sprinters' classics like Gent-Wevelgem and Milano-Sanremo, the race is devoid of sneaky-selections and really doesn't offer non-sprinters a chance. Think of it like a Tour de France first-week stage: in theory, a few enterprising lads can get up the road and steal the show, but when the sprinters' teams are motivated, the likelihood of that actually happening approaches zero. Well, this is a classic, and the sprinters' teams are very, very motivated.
Where Will the Race Be Won?
In the last 50 meters. This is nearly an iron-clad certainty. Hunt around and you'll see 'twas ever thus: Achiel Buysse in 1948, Didi Thurau in 1978, Etienne De Wilde in 1987, Raymond Vrancken in 1958, and so on. The one exception in recent years was the 2005 edition, where something very, very strange happened... Rabobank won a classic! Also, Thorvald Veneberg beat Thomas Vaitkus in a two-up sprint with the peloton nearly five minutes in arrears, having given the two a full 15' lead and not left enough in the tank to reel them in. Curiously, there was a spate of solo wins, published today in Sporza, between 1993 and 2003. I wonder why that was? No, actually, I don't. Anyway, will an escape succeed this year? Um... sure. Yeah.
Who Do I Need To Know?
The sprinters, starting with defending double-winner Marcel Kittel, arguably the fastest man on Earth right now. Or as of last time we saw him against a star-studded peloton. Kittel's track record leaves little to discuss, but the competitors might yet get in his way, and they include victory hog Peter Sagan, Tyler Farrar, Kenny De Haes, Borut Bozic, Theo Bos, Thor Hushovd, Alexander Kristoff, Bernie Eisel, Kenny Van Hummel, Francesco Chicchi, Tom Van Asbroeck, Danilo Napolitano, Tom Boonen -- who typically rides for someone else here -- and someone else (2009 winner Alessandro Petacchi).
Pick to Win:
Bozic. He's been very, very consistent this spring, and won't draw as much attention as he should.