Ride. Sprint. Win.
Same as ever.
Photo by Jens. No, really.
Photo by Chris Fontecchio. Yes, really.
The lead article at Sporza is about how the organizers agree it's a sprinter's race. No shit.
Here's the course, which also never changes, which is why the result never changes:
Yup. just a big bowl of nothing to see...
ALEXANDER KRISTOFF IS STARTING!
Yeah, OK the startlist. It's pretty rare that you get a Ronde van Vlaanderen winner coming here to do something, but Kristoff, a sprinter by trade most of the time and a guy who seems to benefit from racing more than not, might be an exception. And a rather exciting one, for once.
The other big news is that Marcel Kittel won't be here, nor will Mark Cavendish, making Tyler Farrar and Alessandro Petacchi the only former winners returning to the race. Farrar hasn't done much lately, but he's a year removed from a pretty strong classics campaign and the setting for him is as comfortable as it gets. So maybe. With Matt Goss, Theo Bos and Reinhardt Janse van Rensberg joining him, I think you can expect a lot of MTN-Qhubeka on the front of the peloton.
But the favorite, if Kristoff does the usual post-Ronde thing and steps aside before the race is over, will be Elia Viviani. The Italian, who looked OK in Driedaagse, has an incredible Sky team at his disposal -- Wiggins, Thomas, Eisel, Stannard, Fenn and others -- which should be more than enough firepower to control the race. Etixx-Quick Step won't simply roll over for the Brits, however, with Vandenbergh, Trentin and Maes setting up some combination of Mark Renshaw (most likely) or Guillaume Van Kiersbulck (wishful thinking) or Yves Lampaert (really wishful thinking).
Oh, and Peter Sagan. Notwithstanding his underwhelming 2015, he's here and might be interested in the win. Probably not but we'll see. He could use one, even more than Etixx. Edward Theuns (TSV), Jack Bauer (Cannondale) and Andrea Guardini are among the others to watch. Petacchi might be sighted at the end, for old time's sake. Jacopo Guarnieri, if Kristoff takes a pass. Nikias Arndt. Others. Sprinters.
Who ya got?